Tuesday, September 22, 2009



Department of the Weather

Washington, D.C.

Dear Sir or Madam

I am writing you to volunteer my services. Seeing as how I am one of the 30 billion still hopelessly unemployed Americans, I can begin immediately or possibly even sooner.

I've been told by the people down at the unemployment office that one of the best ways to get hired in the new millennium is to get attention of a prospective employer by doing volunteer work---i.e. “...work for free for awhile, Mr. Cantrell and let them see what you've got.” I also saw one of those TV pundits, Suze Something-or-other, who seems to think that she knows know everything say it too, so I guess it must be true. Seems like a counter-intuitive way of paying one's bills if you ask me, but then again, what do I know? When the next threatening bill collector calls demanding immediate payment and I tell him that I am working for free in hopes of “getting noticed”, I hope that he will be as enthusiastic about the whole idea as Suze Something-or-other seems to be. ( Of course, given the broad swath of the recession, maybe the is the oft chance that the bill collector himself or herself, is also volunteering for the collection agency although I am not counting on it.)

This 'work for free' business seems kind of a hair brained idea thought up by somebody who's probably never been unemployed a day I their life. Wouldn't you think that the best “How to get a Job” advice would come from people who were formerly unemployed and who have just recently been hired. Unfortunately it seems as if that cross-section of people doesn't exist. I think that they were killed off long, long ago by that same asteroid that knocked off the dinosaurs. But having tried damn near everything else under the sun including sending out thousands of resume's, attending dozens of job fairs, re-inventing myself and even considering, for a few terrifying brief moments, becoming a Republican in order to get a job. Alas, I remain unemployed in this dumb ass recession and thus, I am volunteering my service, and trying Suze's Something-or-other's approach to finding gainful employment.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will admit that I am not an expert on weather although I know that we seem to have a lot of it. I picked the Weather Department as the place to volunteer as it seems like a fun place, you have a lot of neat equipment with flas

hing lights----I really like those fancy charts and storm tracking equipment----and you weather people seem to have an awful lot of enthusiasm.

I like the way that as soon as there is even the hint of a light breeze in the Azores, you once again talk a whole crew of men climbing into a old rickety airplane, flying directly into the storm and gathering data. I've always wondered how you got these Hurricane Hunters to actually go up in the plane. I figure that if one just had to get involved with a hurricane the best way was to let it find you as opposed to actually going to the trouble of actually tracking one down. (Isn't this is like teasing an angry bull with a red cape.) I can understand the first guy who did it. I figure that he was actually lost and because given the track of most hurricanes that he'd gotten himself lost inside of the Bermuda Triangle----maybe had even been briefly abducted and then released by aliens.

I have no idea of why the second Hurricane Hunter took off but it wouldn't surprise me if drugs, liquor, or hot women were involved. I would ask what kind of drugs and or liquor were involved but there is absolutely nothing that I would want to ingest that would make me even want to think about becoming a hurricane hunter. In the meantime, if I just have to hunt something, I'll stick to hunting for my missing left shoe, glove or something of that kind. Anyway, it seems to me that hurricane hunting is just asking for it! In a way, it reminds me of those guys on cable TV do who go out into those jungle rivers, play “chicken” with the crocodiles in the pursuit of science.

I also like the enthusiasm shown when your guys wander outside during a Category 5 hurricane to show the TV audience just how bad the weather conditions are and then almost get blown out to sea. When you do this I have often wondered whether or not you were married, had a mother, or in fact knew any females. Females usually have better sense than we males about certain things and will say, at the drop of a hat, or even the first sight of a hurricane.”Are you nuts? Get your ass back inside. Don't you have damn sense?”

Those Weather Satellite pictures from space are pretty cool too. I especially like the ones showing

say Hurricane Hattie, engulfing the entire planet. I understand that with the satellite camera that you can read the license plate on a car from 300 miles put in space. I wonder what else the guy in the space station is spying on? For instance, I wonder if he can see Melanie, my hot next door neighbor, out on the back deck? It is rumored that she sunbathes in the nude although I have not been able to confirm this. Do you think that the guy in the space station knows?

Speaking of Melanie, that's the other reason that I am writing you. I am specifically asking that you stop using Melanie's name, or anybody else's name, for that matter in the naming of hurricanes.

It seems to me that the use of people's names is also counter productive. Hurricanes are ferocious, powerful storms that oftentimes cause massive destruction. Most of the time you need people to get out of the way of the storm, maybe even evacuate their homes (i.e. “...get the hell out of Dodge or Miami or Norfolk or wherever else the storm may choose to stagger). Naming a hurricane “Bob”, or “Mindy” or “Barbara” or “Suzette' does not motivate anyone to evacuate. It encourages them to stick around for a party. What self-respecting hurricane wants to go around with a name like say “Jimmy”? No hurricane that I know would be caught dead with that name. The name “Mindy” for example, does not say “You better get the hell outta my way”, but rather, “Please, please stay for dinner. I'll make quiche and we'll have a fine ol' time”. How many mean, obnoxious people do you know whose name is Bob? Or Suzette? Or Robin? Right. Me neither. Instead of using these mild mannered “names”, I think that you should use nouns and adjectives such as “Crazy” or “Vicious” or maybe “Planet-eater” Another good name for one of these hurricanes is “Satan”, “Beelzebub”, or “Psycho”. That'll get people to evacuate. Hell, everyone has had a psycho ex-girlfriend, ex-boyfriend, or ex-spouse that you NEVER want to see again as long as you live. Names like “Joaquin” , “Odette”, “Mil house” just don't get people scared enough. You might as well name the storm “Sunny” or “Happy”.

You will find immediately below the list of the names that you have already chosen for 2009. Below are some better names chosen by me.

2009 Actual List of Names from National Hurricane Service

Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erika, Fred, Grace, Henri, Ida, Joaquin, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa, Victor, Wanda

Better Names for Hurricanes

Atrocious, Bonkers, Crazy, Dizzy, Evil, Ferocious, Goofy, Heinous, Insane, Jackass, Kooky, Loco, Malicious, Nut-so, Onerous, Psycho, Quinetta1, Reprehensible, Satan. Treacherous, Ugly, Vendetta,

Wrong, eXtreme, Yelp, Zany.

You can bet your ass that you can get all of Florida to evacuate if need be with a name such as Hurricane Psycho, Hurricane Jackass, or any of the names on the “Better Names” list. Yeah, I know that we'll need names for the second and subsequent years. No problem. Just hire me. I'm available.

Best regards,

Will “JustPlainWIll”Cantrell

1 O.K., you've caught me speeding a little. Do you have any idea how hard it is to come up with a synonym for “terrible” that starts with “Q”? It wasn't easy. I was forced to use my cousin, Quinetta's name as a suggestion. It's all right though, because most people who actually know Quinetta think that she is psycho.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Dear Reader:

Let's face it, when confronted with the prospect of economic peril (i.e "being broke"), most of us “cave-in" , choke, or otherwise bow down to the pressure. Under "financial duress", we behave much differently than we do when "times are good". The divorce rate, the suicide rate and the crime rate -----all go “kaflooey” when the economic gun is put to our head or our back is up against a
brick wall. We commit sins, sometimes crimes, and do things that that we, ordinarily, would never dream of doing in easy times. It's just human nature, I guess. These actions also refer to taking jobs. During rough economic times we will even perform jobs that we would NEVER consider during better times. As an example, I seen hard working mothers taking on the foulest of paid tasks such as emptying bedpans at the local hospital or cleaning up after the elephants at the zoo. I’ve even seen God-fearing women become strippers or prostitutes in order to make ends meet during tough or recessionary times. Once, a couple of years ago, I even witnessed a few women taking really drastic measures and becoming contestants on Flavor Flav’s reality TV show. (One of them even reputedly ---not “repeatedly”--- had sex with Flav). When money is tight, I’ve also seen men---good men----- turn to burglary, cocaine trafficking, armed robbery, white slavery------or even doing the worst job that a human being can possibly do: automobile sales. Even I, for a brief time was an automobile salesman. Below, in a flashback to last summer, I confess the whole sorry episode. (Reader, as Monsignor Pat [see footnote below] says, there is just a "...wee bit of blarney" in Chapter 7, but it is mainly all true----although I have changed the names of the characters and firms in order to protect the innocent ---mainly me.)

The guy on the phone was manic....and insistent. He was Zombie Collection Company’s heaviest hitter, Zombie himself. He took on the collection cases when the low-level rookies had failed and their second tier, “reasonable man” approach had not worked. It did not matter to Zombie that my previous employer had gone "belly up" over a year ago and despite my best efforts to find another job had had no luck. It did not matter to Zombie that I was living like a caveman with no heat, gas, or water at the house because I was "dead-ass broke" and "couldn't pay attention" let alone "pay a bill" of any kind. Zombie wanted his client's money and he wanted it now. He didn’t officially threaten me (the guy knew the law), but did ask me a ‘rhetorical question’. “Do you know", he asked, "that most people find it extremely difficult to walk around on top of the planet with two broken kneecaps?” Zombie had asked me the question twice. I guess he was trying to be sure that "I'd gotten the message".

While Zombie was the most threatening of my callers, he wasn’t the only bill collector who had contacted me lately. After having lost my job about two years ago, my Land Rover had been repossessed----right after my 401-K had crashed and my remaining meager savings had dwindled to nothing. The power company had also ‘temporarily’ disconnected the electricity just yesterday morning. (Do you have any idea of how hard it is to get dressed in the dark or not be able to watch Letterman at 11:34?) Even the eighty–year old Sicilian woman who lived next door, who’d lent me $20 three months ago, was badgering me for repayment ---repeatedly asking me ‘how was my family’.
While I had been really busy, sending out thousands of resumes trying to find work during the recession, going to job fairs, networking, and literally begging employers for jobs, I had had no luck. Now, Zombie said that I HAD BETTER pay him ---or learn to walk with crutches. Fast. I NOW HAD to make a decision between the only two alternatives currently “on the table”: either start robbing liquor stores or take the job recently offered me at a new car dealership whose management was known to be ‘morally challenged.

So despite requests from family members not to besmirch the name and legacy of our ancestors, an intervention staged by a few of my closest friends, a plea from the Monsignor Patrick at Our Lady of the Pines[1], I became an automobile salesman. (Reader, it should be noted that none of the above people were forthcoming with any cash to make my decision easier---or to spare my kneecaps.)


On my first day at Family Imports, I met Mr. Hurley, the General Manager. Hurley told me that he'd teach me everything that I needed to know about the car 'bidness', so that I'd make a lot of money the very first month of employment.
I did learn a lot that first day at Family Imports , but hardly any of the stuff that I learned was good news, however. For example, I learned that the 70/30 commission splits heavily favored ‘the Family’. I also quickly learned that although the 70 hour work weeks were mandatory, we only got paid for 36 hours and that was at minimum wage. I also learned that the distance between my house and the “store” (as Hurley called the dealership) could best be measured in light years. (At the same time, gas was $4.00 a gallon, and the auto industry was in such a deep slump at the time that even Og Mandino would’ve had have trouble making his sales quota.)

No matter, I needed money---fast and now.

The dealership was undergoing some renovations in the area known as the salesman’s “bullpen”, so at least temporarily, what was to be my desk had been relocated to just outside Hurley's office. It’s not like I purposely eavesdropped. The thing was that there were so few people coming in to “not buy” cars, sometimes one had little else to do.

Here are some of the things that I heard from Hurley's office over the next several weeks. Sometimes he was speaking to me but mostly he was speaking on the telephone:

1. “Just because your so-called pre-employment research said that this dealership had 573 complaints last year on freakin’ Rip-Off Report.com doesn’t mean a goddamn thing. A lot of customers are just whiners----especially the old ladies. They bitch about everything."

2. " Customers enjoy being treated like shit. They expect the negoiations to take hours. They expect to be lied to. It’s the American way of buying a car. “

3. “Goddammit, didn’t I tell you last week, the ‘K’ on those VIN Numbers does not stand for Katrina. Only 20 of the cars in the lot came from New Orleans this month. Besides we cleaned ‘em up as good as we could.”

4. “Yeah, I don’t care what you say, it is statistically possible that every single one of the possible trade-ins that we evaluated last month had been in a serious accident. Not only are they whiners but a lot of these customers are real bad drivers. Besides, the guy who originally made that crack about the whole thing defying common sense is "...no longer with us."

5. “Just because we've have had a 95% salesman turnover ratio for the past ten years, does not mean that this is a bad place to work. Be thankful that you have a freakin' job, ya hump."

6. “I’m going to fire the next goddamn person that I hear use the word “rundown”. We are in a transitional neighborhood. Just because this dealership is the last one of the six that used to be in this transitional neighborhood doesn’t mean that things won’t turnaround and people will be coming in here in droves.”

7. “ It’s not price gouging…it’s your job, ya hump. Customers expect that you are going to charge them a lot more than they could buy the car somewhere else. It’s a status symbol to pay a lot more money than its worth. It's kinda like stayin' at one of them swank hotels when you would be just as fine at a Holiday Inn Express. Besides its the way that you get paid. The more you charge, the more you make."

8. “We don’t care what the customer wants. Make them drive what we got on the lot. Yeah, I know that the customer said he wanted a green car. Look, we only have red in that model. It costs us too much money to order a car special for some hump. When you take him on the back lot to look at the car make him wear these color filter glasses. The car will look green to him. If you sell him the car, and if you know what's good for you, you will---sell him the glasses too."

9. "You need to get your friends to come in and buy a car. If they won’t pay our prices for these cars, they are not really friends anyway."

10. "It’s not every dealership that will even hire people who all live 75 miles from the store. We do this for the protection of the salesmen. You don’t want the customers to know where you live."

About a month after I started working at Family Imports, I heard the following:

“Yep, we hid the car keys from Will Cantrell’s customer. Now the woman had to stay here and buy a car or at least talk to us about it. Sure, Cantrell was pissed off. I don’t he’s got what it takes to work for Family Imports. I mean hiding the car keys is just one of the more harmless tricks that we use to keep prospects hanging around the dealership. If you let them leave, they ain't comin' back. Of course, Cantrell got a little upset a couple of days ago when he found that dead body in the trunk of that used car. He asked too many questions. Yep, the guys were going to bury it later that night.”

I left Family Imports for good after that. Finding the bodies in the trunk was unnerving but also confirmed soome suspicions I'd had----- and I had been paid just enough that morning to get Zombie paid off. Hurley was right, I just didn’t have what it took to work at Family Imports or maybe any other automobile dealership. I wonder if anybody does. As I left Family Imports for the last time, I surmised that even although Monsignor Pat was almost senile, he might have been right about the automobile sales business. Of course, I was officially unemployed again -----but with a cleaner conscience.

Ex-automotive salesman,


[1] Monsignor Patrick, an old Irish Catholic priest is the Pastor Emeritus at Our Lady of the Pines where I have been a member since I was a small child. The Msgr. told me that despite my financial situation and my recent and severe reversal of fortune that I should be aware that automobile sales was really the eighth deadly sin in addition to pride, envy, anger, greed, gluttony, lust, and sloth. Didn’t I realize, he asked, that becoming a car salesman was going to magnify by a factor of at least a thousand, my chances of going straight to hell when I died? He'd said: “Willy, I’ve known ya most of yer life and yer already on thin ice me boy. I remember that episode with that Jones woman of whom we’ll speak no more. But, why take any more chances with yer soul? Hell is full of car salesmen. Chock full me boy. Why you would have an easier chance of getting into heaven after having slept with Pamela Anderson or Paris Hilton---both of them at the same time---- than having been a car salesman.” After he told me this, I thought fleetingly for a moment that sleeping with either one of them was a far better alternative to my problem than becoming a car salesman. But somehow I didn’t think that either Pam or Paris was going to be coming over anytime soon. And besides, that wouldn't solve my problem with Zombie. (Besides, JustPlainWilma would kill me, the Monsignor, as well as Paris and Pam if she found out.)

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Dear Reader:

Admittedly, I haven’t posted here for the last several weeks. To be honest, I have been extremely occupied looking for work. I MAY even be one the verge of actually getting a real job. Say some prayers, keep your fingers and toes crossed for me------ and for some good news. As crazy as it sounds, I don’t want to blog about the possible job until it happens. I don’t want to screw up the karma. I’ll keep you posted.

Earlier this week, I attended a job fair. This particular one had been promoted in the local news media for more than a month and was being billed as the largest and “best-est” job fair ever offered in this part of the country. With seemingly almost everyone in America having been laid-off from work, job fairs are popping up everywhere---- churches, hotels, restaurants, government offices, companies, and surprisingly, even unemployment offices. I've heard on the street that there are even some job fairs being held at landfills as well as a f ew houses of ill-repute. It seems as if wherever four or more unemployed people get together, there is a potential for a job fair to take place. (I've even heard about a job fair that took place on a bus last week!)

If you are new to the unemployment arena, job fairs are events where employers and would-be employees meet each other for the very first time---kind of like singles bars except that you meet employers instead of a member who is necessarily of the opposite–sex. A similarity is that as a job-seeker, you hope that your new "friend" will take you back to their place. Having hopes that your new acquaintance will still call you "in the morning", you also exchange phone numbers. Of course, these phone numbers have your resume attached. (If you are new to the job fair scene, you should be warned that although job fairs are, in their own fashion, a lot like singles bars, you probably won’t get laid at a job fair-----unless you really get lucky or unless you are exceptionally charming.)

Having been “on the job market” for a while now, I must confess that I have my suspicions about job fairs …about some of them anyway and who they really benefit. For one thing, I have never met someone who was actually hired as a result of going to a job fair. I am sure that some people have been hired in this manner ---- it's just that I’ve just never met one. (I guess its kinda like people that you see on the local TV news as an eyewitness to a plane crash, or a murder, or a fire etc. You see them on TV once, but you never ever run into those same people on the street. Never. Seems to me that you should occasionally run into that “…fat woman with the bad hairdo who told the local news reporter all about how the fire at the neighbor’s house actually started.” Once you see these eyewitnesses on TV though, you NEVER see them in person. I figure that some of them must go into an eyewitness protection program or something.) All of the people that I've ever known were hired in their jobs because of someone that they knew at a company or was a friend of a friend of a friend who worked for the same company. It's the all-American way. But in the spirit of “trying something new” ---as well as being desperate----I decided to give job fairs a chance.)

The job fair that I attended this past week was held in an airplane hanger-sized building located near, oddly enough near Atlanta’s airport which, when you think about it is where an airplane hangar ought to be located. This building was brand new and reputed to be the size of twenty football fields laid end to end! It was HUGE. I think that you could've actually flown a Cessna around in this building. (I’ve noticed over the years that the owners of big buildings often describe the building in terms of the number of football fields that it could contain. This seems a little strange to me unless you’re actually going to play football in these buildings. It seems to me that you should describe it in terms of the number of people that it can contain as opposed to the number of football fields that you could put on it.) This building could obviously hold a lot of people, which was a good thing since it appeared that every single one of the 13,500,000 unemployed Americans was in attendance. Every damn one of us! The only time, I’ve ever seen more people in one place was the time that American Idol was in town to audition (or embarrass) all of the bad singers in Atlanta, who actually think that they can sing. But, I digress…

This was truly a crowded affair, and although it lived up to its billing in terms of size and attendance, everyone was on their best behavior and dressed in their Sunday finest even though this was clearly a Tuesday. (Acute unemployment will bring out the best behavior in almost anyone…sort of like sitting next to your mother in church when you were a little kid.) Even though a number of the open jobs were for positions such as like landscapers, fry cooks, janitors, and security guards, most of the men were dressed in dark suits, white shirts, and their best guess at what a “power tie” was. Women were dressed in two piece business suits, although there were a couple of women who were dressed in very short mini-skirts. I figured that they were either hookers or were auditioning to be back up singers for an R&B Group. Quite frankly, I was glad to see the odd dress of the two women in what could only be disappointingly described as a vast sea of conformity. You’d think that at least a few more of the other people, desperate to set themselves apart from the pack of conformists would have dressed in a cowboy suit, a clown suit or perhaps worn some of those floppy clown shoes. I was really rooting for this reader, but there was no such luck. Everyone there was dressed like they were a member of the Republican Party (including myself). Drat!!!!!

While job fairs are generally free---at least, officially----- you have to give the management of the “Tuesday Job Fair” credit, they knew a money making opportunity when they saw one. For although the vast majority of the attendees were unemployed and presumable as broke as I was, they charged $5.00 for parking. They even had a bunch of concession stands opened for your convenience while you waited all day to see the employer of your choice. (Maybe the management was confused and set up for one of those 20 simultaneous football events.) They charged $3.00 for a small glass of coke and $2.00 for a bottle of water. Hot dogs were $3.50.

After I demurred on any kind of refreshment, I glanced out of one of the huge glass walls on the side of the building and noticed a eerily familiar site----a man driving a tow truck, circling the parking lot and checking license plates. I recognized the same repo-man, an ex-linebacker type, whose name was Rupert. I have been playing cat and mouse with him for several months now. I then saw two other tow trucks driven by two other big, burly white guys come into the lot. These repo men apparently knew that a big job fair would likely be the site of probably at least several dozen of the cars that they had been looking to repossess in the past couple of weeks. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of the "hooker or back up singers" run out of the building cursing a blue streak and questioning whether or not Rupert’s parents had ever been married. Suddenly I was glad that I had taken the bus...and wondering who really benefited the most from such a large gathering of the unemployed.