Archive for Monday, September 7, 2009

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Funemployment: Making the most out of being jobless

Sarah Skaggs sweeps her living room floor at her home near Ozawkie. On July 9, Skaggs was laid off from her job at Line-X of Lawrence. In an effort to make the best of her unemployment, Skaggs has spent time remodeling her home.

Sarah Skaggs sweeps her living room floor at her home near Ozawkie. On July 9, Skaggs was laid off from her job at Line-X of Lawrence. In an effort to make the best of her unemployment, Skaggs has spent time remodeling her home.

September 7, 2009

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On the street

What would you do if you didn’t have to work?

I would definitely travel everywhere I could.

More responses

Sarah Skaggs slices celery as she prepares tuna salad, which she refers to as “the official food of the unemployed.”

Sarah Skaggs slices celery as she prepares tuna salad, which she refers to as “the official food of the unemployed.”

Picking out a movie and getting ready to enjoy his afternoon as an unemployed student, Matt Mendoza says he spends a lot of time watching movies and just hanging out.

Picking out a movie and getting ready to enjoy his afternoon as an unemployed student, Matt Mendoza says he spends a lot of time watching movies and just hanging out.

Matt Mendoza is an unemployed Kansas University film student and spends his spare time watching movies.

Matt Mendoza is an unemployed Kansas University film student and spends his spare time watching movies.

Intermittently cursing and squealing, Michael Barber smashes buttons on the Super Nintendo controller as he races Mario through a castle.

He makes the character hop over lava pits and dodge flying fish. And at the end of the level, he spits fireballs at Bowser and frees a sack full of Toadies.

This has to be better than work, right? Barber, 22, who lost his job in early June, says it can be.

“The good thing about unemployment is you don’t have to get up to go to work, so you can sleep in,” the Lawrence resident says. “And you have a lot of free time. I spent one whole day doing nothing but watch ‘The Office.’ I watched an entire season in a day. I’ve never been able to do that before.”

Clusters of happy jobless people are popping up across the country, allowing a new word to enter the lexicon: funemployment. The fun-employed are typically in their 20s or 30s, bolstered by a shrinking savings account and a stack of student loans. They also tend to be single.

Not having a family to support makes the job search less urgent, says Dustin Miller, 25.

Miller, a former Lawrence fast-food employee, says drawing unemployment has its setbacks, but the free time makes up for that.

“Getting laid off was the best thing to ever happen to me,” Miller says. “Before I was waiting on people all day, making just a little bit more money than I do now without a job. Sure, the (unemployment) checks are small, but I can do what I want, when I want.”

Miller spends most of his time watching movies or hanging out with friends. Not having a job has let him catch up on pop culture. He recently watched the first and second seasons of “True Blood.” Next, he planned to watch “Dexter” to prep for the release of the third season on DVD.

Sarah Skaggs, a new member of the unemployed, is using her time to remodel her house. She’s already ripped up the carpet and put down tile. She’s going to paint her kitchen and bathroom. She’s picked out colors — icy gray for the kitchen, and deep green for the bathroom.

Skaggs also gardens, which helps her save on groceries. And she plans to help paint a house and get paid under the table.

“If my life has shown me anything, it’s that as long as you keep moving, no one can take your birthday away, and that’s the only thing you really need,” Skaggs says. “I try to make sure my time is still worth something, to make sure none of it is wasted.”

Matt Mendoza, a KU film student, subsists on student aid. Without a job, he’s learning how to write screenplays. He basically tries to live the life of the artist, he says. He pores over film books, watches flicks, always consumes and appreciates art.

Getting by without a job comes at a cost, though. Mendoza doesn’t have a car. He can’t afford expenses like gas and insurance. When he needs to go somewhere, he snags a ride, catches a bus, or shuffles around on foot.

Barber limits himself to one meal a day. He can’t afford more than that. And that meal is more often than not a generic box of mac and cheese. But through all the drawbacks, he says unemployment has its benefits. After defeating boss after boss, Barber eased his way through Super Mario Brothers, until he finally arrived at the last castle, where he pelted fireballs at Bowser and effortlessly freed the princess.

“That’s what unemployment gets you,” Barber says. “Not having a job has certainly improved my mad skills on Mario.”

Comments

workinghard 5 years, 7 months ago

Another case of using the system, meanwhile unemployed workers with families struggle, lose homes. At least Sarah is productive. Matt should have a 4.0 grade average since he has so much time to study and do his assignments, if not , he's wasting our money (student aid). As for the other two, well they're just sponging off of the government. Hope their parents have to pay lots of taxes. Any time I was unemployed I never collected unemployment, hope they remember they have to pay the taxes on that unemployment money.

Jama Crady Maxfield 5 years, 7 months ago

Michael Barber and Dustin Miller are two prime examples of why unemployment needs to be revamped. Absolutely ridiculous. So sad that times have changed to this. During the Depression most people were too proud to take the "dole" and did everything in their power to get off it as fast as they could. These two worthless individuals are "enjoying it" and have no pride in trying to get off government assistance OR find a job. Unreal.

zzgoeb 5 years, 7 months ago

The "mystery" factor for most of these folks is "daddy/mommy money." I agree with the posts about unemployment for folks who have just barely or never paid into the system. Assuredly with out cash from someone other than Uncle Sam, these folks are out in the street. Shame on parents that enable such sloth...the nation needs to get serious about work, recovery and reviving a national spirit of hard work and pride in self-reliance.

Bassetlover 5 years, 7 months ago

The worst part is that Michael, Dustin, and even Matt had apparently no qualms about being interviewed for this story. There's no "shame" anymore. How embarrassing.

puddleglum 5 years, 7 months ago

no shame for any of them, including the paid under the table person...watch your back for irs

overthemoon 5 years, 7 months ago

Perhaps it should be noted that there are few jobs out there above minimum wage or the don't require very specific experience and education. In some professions, there is absolutely no hiring going on. Believe me, going from a well paid 20+ year professional career to unemployment is no cake walk.

I'd like to hear that these folks get out and do something for someone else. Volunteer. Great way to meet people nd even develop some new skills for a new job.

Beyond that, remember that you are reading what the writer wrote, not necessarily the whole story about these people.

chansirlong 5 years, 7 months ago

This article centers on how unemployed people are trying to enjoy their time off. Just because that was the focus, that doesn't mean these people aren't doctoring resumes, or applying for jobs. The story catered to a specific angle, and not all details could be included.

Michael Barber has a job now as an aid at a nursing home, and he's going to KU fulltime, studying to be a doctor.

Dustin is still unemployed, but looking diligently for a job.

And Matt Mendoza receives good grades and is heavily active on campus.

Mel Briscoe 5 years, 7 months ago

wow. playing mariokart all day.... what a life. altho i prefer the N64 version.

Cartemus 5 years, 7 months ago

thanks for the update, chansi. i liked the story.

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