Last Monday, I missed a phone interview with the California Employment Development Department. I don't know what happened to the pre-interview notice they promised me; I do know that when I got back from my New Year's Eve Trader Joe's run, Mary from the State of California was disappointed to have missed me. The phone number she left was unstaffed, and their email told me to call the main line. This, I now know, is the first rule of the California Employment Development Department: Don't miss a phone call with the California Employment Development Department.
Nine days and about a hundred phone-dials later--I literally called twenty-eight times yesterday--I still haven't gotten through. Sometimes, the system is up-front with me: I dial, please call back later, goodbye. Click! Other times, it leads me on. "Welcome!" it says. My heart beats fast. I have my reference number handy. Five menus and my Social Security number later...please call back later. Goodbye. Click.
This is like the worst radio call-in contest ever.
Rumor has it the system maxes out when the on-hold wait gets longer than ten minutes. Which, okay. Let's think about this. First of all, this is a phone system for every unemployed person in the state of California. A ten-minute hold line is something you have for a popular dentist in a small town, not the social safety net for the most populous state in the union. Second, I'm a big girl. I have a phone with a speaker function. I can be on hold for more than ten minutes if it means I don't have to spend a week of my life calling this phone number. Give me twenty minutes! Half an hour! I can be on the phone all afternoon if it means you'll start sending me the benefits I applied for.
What will I do, you ask, while I wait my turn? Well, I'll search job websites. Futz with my cover letter. Sing along with your hold music. Memorize that message about Congress extending benefits. Make scrambled eggs. Watch "30 Rock" reruns. Catch up on The New Yorker. Clean my bathroom. Clean my kitchen. Clean my living room. Make sure my professional website works. See if anybody's visited my professional website. Make my bed. Check Facebook. Decide what to make for dinner. Make a grocery list. Knit. Write a thank-you note. Write a note of ungratefulness. What does it matter what I do? At the end of it, I will have spoken to someone. The social safety net will have triumphed!
Some day, EDD, I hope we can do these things together.