Unfolding the City

Robert’s Problem

Posted in People by Chris on Saturday, October 11th, 2008
Corn Plastic Cup

Today, I decided to walk up to Javamonkey. I got an iced coffee, considering it was about 11am, and I wanted to leave the store. I wanted to go sit on the benches on Ponce de Leon and people watch. I got my coffee, found a good bench, and just sat down and watched. Saturday tends to be a good day for this, since there are a lot of people out and about. One of my friend’s mother died recently, and I intend to go spend some time with him today. This made me think about my own situation, and it made me appreciate people more. I saw a guy walk across the street, a little distressed, wearing a blue shirt, and scraggly baggy pants. He was walking quickly, and passed me. I didn’t think anything of it, and kept people watching. I looked to the right, near Starbucks, and saw that he was talking to some people down there. He and another guy walked up to the turn around, and the other guy was pointing towards something, and he was shaking his head. He walked away, looking a little distressed, and the pointing made me think that he was looking for the courthouse, since the other man was pointing in the same direction.  He walked by looking at the old courthouse awkwardly, which made me think that the other man was directing him to the wrong place. Decatur has two courthouses, an old stone one that is used for weddings and such, and the new one, the official DeKalb County Courthouse. Being the official courthouse for DeKalb county, it is the reason a small portion of the population in Decatur is there in the first place, so very often locals are asked where it is. The man stood by the bench next to me though, looking confused. I decided to get up, and I asked him if he was lost.

He said that he wasn’t, he was just looking for a job. He told me about how he had spent the whole day in Starbucks, calling fast food restaurants around the area, but none were hiring, and most were laying off. He did find two jobs that were willing to hire him, but one, at Waffle House, said they didn’t have time to train him to cook, and the other, at another fast food restaurant, said that they needed the help, but the district manager said that it wasn’t in the budget. We talked about the economy a little bit, deciding that this was part of the losses. He told me that he was a plumber by trade, and that he couldn’t find a job – both the commercial, where he worked, and the residential construction industry were slowing down. I said that I knew this, being in the architecture field. I told him that any projects that were not being built before the crisis are on halt. Things just aren’t being built anymore. I always felt really secure in my profession choice, since architecture is one of those things people need. It turns out though, when there is a financial crisis, that people don’t really need anything new. He talked about one of his friends, in Charlotte, NC that just got laid off, and he was a plumber for 6 years in Charlotte’s top commercial plumbing company. We talked about the AIG scandal among other news issues, and how the scandal seems to be slighting us as a population.

It is disconcerting to see someone fully capable of work not to be able to find a job. He asked me my name, and I asked his; he said “Robert.” I gave him $5 – he didn’t ask, but he said he was hungry, and darted off towards McDonalds. Seeing the crisis through the eyes of the unemployed makes me worried about the future. I guess all there is to do now is hope it gets better.

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