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play-acting
April 8, 2009 8:21 AM   Subscribe

Look around you. On the train platform, at the bus stop, in the car pool lane: these days someone there is probably faking it, maintaining a job routine without having a job to go to.
posted by plexi (49 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
The DFENS license plate is a dead giveaway.
posted by localroger at 8:24 AM on April 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


Only one comment and localroger beat me to it.
posted by champthom at 8:26 AM on April 8, 2009


That Twitter filter is one of the most depressing things that I've seen in the fairly depressing recent past. People begging for money and jobs to anyone who might be reading. This is our century's version of this classic.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:37 AM on April 8, 2009


I'll take 12 of those place-mats with the maze on them.
posted by jester69 at 8:37 AM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've long suspected this was the case.
posted by smackwich at 8:40 AM on April 8, 2009


Twitter: the new insta-poll of the internet-connected masses.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:42 AM on April 8, 2009


um:
@DonnieWahlberg.NKOTB is soo hot..I wanted to meet u sexy guys! But I lost my job in Nov. and the job market sucks! Come to C-bus...
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 8:43 AM on April 8, 2009


In Judiciary Square here in DC there used to be (don't know if there still is) a woman who was clearly mentally ill and perhaps homless just hanging around all day. Everyday, however, she was dressed in her business suit. Her hair was a mess, her make-up crooked, her hose was full of runs, and their were stains on her blouse, but it was a business suit none the less. Now, I know we all feel like her at the end of a tough work day and some of us may resemble her, but she also had the habit of screeching at anyone who got close to her. I always wondered about what her story was.

In my office building there is a man who is retired from the Federal government and old and crippled. He is clearly lonely and has no family. Every day he sets up an "office" in the corner of a coffee shop. He takes notes on books he's reading and makes files and then carts these back and forth from home each day. He's a very interesting guy, but it'a a little sad to see him since he certainly is missing his working life and the comaraderie but just couldn't physically keep up any more.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:46 AM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


ok, what the hell:
@JoeMcIntyre I just lost my job last week and the only reason I'm not losing it is cause I'm meeting NKOTB in July. I love u guys
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 8:47 AM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


All of a sudden I am reminded of cargo cults.
posted by malocchio at 8:50 AM on April 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Every day he sets up an "office" in the corner of a coffee shop. He takes notes on books he's reading and makes files and then carts these back and forth from home each day.

Grad students are fanning out across cities everywhere to engage in such 'sad' behaviour this very moment.
posted by regicide is good for you at 8:59 AM on April 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


I've had several colleagues laid off recently, where the company allowed them to keep their desk phone, work space and email address for their job search, on the theory that it's easier to get a job when it appears that you already have one and haven't been laid off. Obviously, you can't do this with everyone, but I thought that was a pretty cool thing to do in a bad situation for both parties.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:00 AM on April 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


I wonder how many of these people don't tell their family and friends that they got laid off. Just keeping up appearances until the facade eventually falls apart.
posted by dr_dank at 9:01 AM on April 8, 2009


Every day he sets up an "office" in the corner of a coffee shop.

Hell, that's my dream for retirement. Drinking coffee and reading books, what's sad about that?
posted by octothorpe at 9:03 AM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


From the first link:

“If showing pride in these kinds of situations was always maladaptive, then why would people do it so often?” said David DeSteno, a psychologist at Northeastern University in Boston.

Hm. So everything people do often is good for us? GREAT!
posted by nosila at 9:03 AM on April 8, 2009


“If showing pride in these kinds of situations was always maladaptive, then why would people do it so often?” said David DeSteno, a psychologist at Northeastern University in Boston.

The Logic Prize laureate went on to note that that fat people are probably healthier than others and smoking is really great for your lungs.
posted by DU at 9:03 AM on April 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Eh. I'm looking for a job, but damned if I'm going to fake employment by commuting.

That said, I'm am siting on StackOverflow (it's like askmefi for programming questions, with people "rated" by favorites), racking up the maximum possible daily favorites/upmods.

Maybe that's my faking it.
posted by orthogonality at 9:06 AM on April 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Some years ago, when the economy was ok, I had to wait in a train station in Ct to get a train to NY City. Began chatting with a well-dressed guy at coffee counter in the station. He told me he was retired but had taken the same train at the same time into the City for so many years
that it was a habit and he had to take the train in daily, get to the station (Grand Central) and then catch the next train back to Connecticut. But his was habit. He had not lost a job.
posted by Postroad at 9:09 AM on April 8, 2009


What sane person chooses to squeeze themselves into an overcrowded, smelly subway car twice a day, if they don't have to?

Other than creeps like this hapless idiot, that is.
posted by zarq at 9:10 AM on April 8, 2009


All I can think of, reading about people maintaining their work routines after having been laid off, is my friend's pug, Van. He had to be put on a diet, such that he only got one feeding each day instead of the two to which he'd grown accustomed. Every morning he would walk over to his food bowl (where there was no longer any breakfast), and he would mime eating — licking the bowl, chewing on phantom kibbles. Kind of adorable, mostly heartbreaking.
posted by wreckingball at 9:11 AM on April 8, 2009


Hell, that's my dream for retirement. Drinking coffee and reading books, what's sad about that?

Sure, mine too, but there is more to it than that. He's clearly quite lonely at home and has trouble with certain day to day functions in life (he's physically disabled and his money often runs out long before the next check because of his expensive medications). Several folks around the offices here sort of take care of him and without us I'm not sure what would become of him. People bring him a sandwich or give him a note pad for his little notes. One guy went so far as to get him some new clothes. At the end of the day though, there is nobody left and he shuffles off home or to a homeless shelter for a meal. It would be sad if he were upstairs in a cubicle too, certainly, but he just happens to be going through the motions of a simulated work routine at the same table everyday.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:13 AM on April 8, 2009


On the train platform, at the bus stop, in the car pool lane: these days someone there is probably faking it

Some of us don't need to be laid off to fake it, thank you very much.

Thanks for the Stackoverflow tip!!
posted by msalt at 9:14 AM on April 8, 2009


Reminds me of Hatchiko.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:15 AM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of Hatchiko.

That is one of the saddest things ever. The saddest was when my girlfriend's mom rented out a football stadium for her 16th birthday, invited the entire school and five people showed up, counting us.
posted by odinsdream at 9:26 AM on April 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Probably straight mental illness more than any indicator of pride, but I have a cousin who has been doing this for years (20+ if I'm not mistaken). Every day he gets up at 6AM, puts on his business suit, grabs his briefcase, and takes the bus into downtown Hartford. He sits in the area of Cigna all morning long reading the paper, and then he eats his lunch. Reads the paper until it's time to go home, takes the bus home with all of the commuters, and then does it all again the next day.

The only two things in his briefcase are his lunch and the Hartford Courant, and unless he finds a newer one left behind somewhere the paper he's reading is usually weeks or months old.
posted by rollbiz at 9:27 AM on April 8, 2009


I wonder how many of these people don't tell their family and friends that they got laid off. Just keeping up appearances until the facade eventually falls apart.

I'm going to guess: very few. Is being laid off shameful somehow? Keeping your unemployment a secret is pretty much the opposite of what a sane person would do in order to get a job. The more people who know I'm out of work, the better the odds that one of those people is going to hook me up with my next job.

Also.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:28 AM on April 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Reminds me of the movie: Time Out/L'Emploi du temps (2001):

Recently fired from his job, but unable to confess the truth to his close-knit family, Vincent spends his days driving around the countryside, talking into his cell phone and staring into space. Vincent fabricates a new job for himself so his family and friends will not know that he is out of work. At one point, he even sneaks into an office building. As Vincent roams the building's sterile halls, peeking into meeting rooms where men are busy at work, we see a man who yearns not just for a new job, but also for a place in the world. While this pantomime of work initially registers as sad and even a little pathetic, it slowly and unnervingly becomes terrifying.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:32 AM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine it's terribly uncommon, but a friend of mine, so adverse to the notion of getting a real job, once convinced his parents he'd been hired as a paralegal, and kept it up for a good six months.

He was still living at home, which was in Princeton NJ, and convinced them he'd been hired at a firm in Manhattan. Every morning he'd wake up, put on a suit, take the train into the city, and then (I believe) crash at his friend's mid-town apartment, mostly doing bong hits. Sometimes he'd come home, sometimes he go out partying that night. (Working late tonight, mom!)

The fake business cards were impressive, but the fake legal documents were truly a masterstroke. He bought a file cabinet, put it in his bedroom, and filled it with hundreds and hundreds of pages of briefs he stole off the internet, and then filed meticulously. Then, he had friends call his parents minutes after he left the house, asking him to bring specific documents. They'd call his cell, he'd "get off the train at the next stop" (usually he was just around the corner), and ask them to sift through this faux file cabinet and find something. Breathlessly, he'd run back into the house, grab the docs, tell them he loved them, and run right back out.

Eventually, his friend got sick of him using the apartment as a day-waster, and told him to make other plans. Most of us were really rooting for a spectacular collapse, but I think he was able to pretty successfully wrap the whole thing up by announcing he was going to Art School in Europe. I *think* that's actually legit.

He also failed a class in college. for plagiarizing. Shocking, I know.
posted by SpiffyRob at 9:32 AM on April 8, 2009 [21 favorites]


...on the theory that it's easier to get a job when it appears that you already have one and haven't been laid off.

I was at a swanky bar in downtown Boston the other day (not a usual occurrence for me) where I engaged in a conversation with a female recruiter who obviously had waaay too much to drink during her night out with the girls.

We got to talking about all the layoffs happening in the area and I said, "I should probably start looking for a job, even though I'm currently employed" and then she sorta blurted out, "yeah, you don't want to be in the Suck-Bag Pool!"

Apparently that's an inside reference these head-hunters use for the initial several rounds of unemployed. So, kudos to your company, for keeping their people out of the Suck-Bag Pool of workers.

*sigh* I really should start looking...
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 9:38 AM on April 8, 2009


why doesn't it let me add "http://edfoley.net/" as a tag?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:43 AM on April 8, 2009


great question PA. Maybe it exceeds the allowable awesome per tag.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:49 AM on April 8, 2009


SpiffyRob: That sounds like something out of a sitcom plot.

Every day he sets up an "office" in the corner of a coffee shop. He takes notes on books he's reading and makes files and then carts these back and forth from home each day.

That sounds pretty normal. If I didn't have a job, I would probably want to get out of the house and have some kind of routine.
posted by delmoi at 9:56 AM on April 8, 2009


Reminds me of the movie: Time Out/L'Emploi du temps (2001):

I was reminded of the book L'Adversaire (The Adversary) by Emmanuel Carrère. It is a biography of Jean-Claude Romand the inspiration for the above movie; a man who pretended to work for WHO as a doctor, when in fact he had failed his exam and never earned his degree. He made his living by pretending to invest money for relatives and when he was about to be exposed killed everyone in his family including his parents, wife, children and others. The book is excellent and I strongly recommend it, the movie is good as well, but they fictionalized the story which made it less chilling to me.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:02 AM on April 8, 2009


Brady Bunch, episode 91, 23 February 1973:
9)What did Peter do when everyone thought he was working?
9)he went to the park to feed the pigeons
I swear I've never seen it, but I remembered a friend mentioning that strategy a couple of times.
posted by pracowity at 10:05 AM on April 8, 2009


My guess is a lot of people "fake work" even when they have a job.
posted by elwoodwiles at 10:08 AM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, just got laid off myself from a job I rather liked, but these things happen. I took the first week to sit around and do nothing, to which I feel I was entitled as I was about to take a vacation week anyway. Then the next week, I spent being productive around my house - organizing, cleaning, making sure all of my bills and plans were squared away, getting errands done that were hard to do while working, etc. And now week three is begun, and it's time to go find a job.

I hope I do soon. I'm one of those people that feels best about themselves when they have a purpose to strive towards. And right now, that purpose is finding work.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:29 AM on April 8, 2009


"Hello, I'm Barb from the HR department at ConHugeCo."
"HI BAAAARB WHATS UP DO YOU HAVE GOOD NEWS FOR ME?"
"...We reviewed your application and I think there might be an opening for you."
"WOOO YEAH GO TEAM OH YEAH GOD YEAH YEAH YEAH!"
"...So I'm calling to set up a time we can talk--"
"I CAN BE OVER RIGHT NOW! RIGHT NOW! NOT RIGHT NOW BUT IN... THIRTEEN EIGHT! SECONDS! THIRTEEN POINT EIGHT SECONDS! RIGHT OVER THERE! YES MA'AM!"
"Er... Well, I can't schedule anything before next week; Bill from the IT team wants to meet you and he's out today."
"OKAY! WHERE'S BILL! I CAN MEET HIM! TOTALLY MEET HIM! YES!"
"So would next Thursday at 1:00 be good?"
"THURSDAY GOOD! WEDNESDAY GOOD! I'M AT STARBUCKS! RIGHT NOW! I CAN BE ACROSS THE STREET IN THIRTEEN POINT EIGHT SECONDS! I LIKE MORNINGS! I'M A GO-GETTER! I CAN MEET BILL AND BARB BOTH!"
"Is that a 'yes' for Thursday?"
"OH YES GOD YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES!"
"Good. Er. Can I send you a packet? Directions to our office?"
"I KNOW WHERE YOU ARE! I'M AT STARBUCKS! RIGHT NOW! I CAN BE ACROSS THE STREET RIGHT NOW! NOT RIGHT NOW! THIRTEEN POINT EIGHT SECONDS FROM NOW! YES! FIRST I FINISH MY LATTE! I CAN SEE YOU IN THE WINDOW RIGHT NOW I CAN BE THERE IN THIRTEEN POINT EIGHT SECONDS! I CAN BRING YOU LATTES! I HAVE A LOT OF LATTES!"
posted by ardgedee at 10:41 AM on April 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


Another fantastic French film about unemployment: The Axe (Le Couperet, 2005). Its a magnificent, very very dark, somewhat tragicomic look at one man's murderous path out of long-term unemployment.
posted by foodmapper at 10:41 AM on April 8, 2009


I wonder how many of these people don't tell their family and friends that they got laid off. Just keeping up appearances until the facade eventually falls apart.

I know a guy who did just that for several months.
posted by caddis at 10:59 AM on April 8, 2009


I was attached as a translator for 2 German journalists reporting the IMF crisis in Korea summer of 1998. They were specifically looking for human interest aspects, such as the horde of patriots donating the family gold trinkets to be melted into ingots in an effort to lessen the national debt, salary men in suits hanging around subway stations or feeding pigeons in the park, and extreme thrift.

One of the places I scouted was a day centre at the base of a mountain for the mostly middle aged men to hang out during work hours. Phones were available to find work, as well as a huge stack of classified ads. They could also relieve some of the tension of having to save face at home with Go games or hiking in the mountain. Understandable, most of them didn't want to talk to me (I was probably around the same age as some of their daughters) but translated for the man who was running the centre. It was achingly clear these men were deeply ashamed they were in this situation. The news at the time was quite hysteric, and full of reports of men fake commuting, footage of men in suits drunk in the middle of the afternoon, their faces carefully mosaic tiled. I was heartened to see this operation and wished I could express this sentiment to these men, but knew they would take it as pity and be even more ashamed. It was very uncomfortable for me, and not helped by the journo who seemed to be selectively looking out for hard luck extreme circumstances.
posted by slyrabbit at 1:03 PM on April 8, 2009


It would seem that workers aren't the only ones making up stories. Employers are doing it too.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:16 PM on April 8, 2009


invited the entire school and five people showed up, counting us.

This makes me want to shoot myself, and I've never even met either of you.
posted by aramaic at 2:16 PM on April 8, 2009


In the film Canadian indie film from about 2005 "Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity", one of the main characters is an old man who has had the same job for several decades, and after losing the job, he continues the illusion by putting on his suit and "going to work" each day. It was really a sad but good movie.
posted by archae at 6:41 PM on April 8, 2009


Oh, Faint of Butt! That story is sadly spot on. As an HR lackey in the late 80's and early 90's? The stories I could tell....
posted by jeanmari at 6:46 PM on April 8, 2009


oh man that Hachiko story is sad.

The permanent fixture at the train station that was Hachikō attracted the attention of other commuters. Many of the people who frequented the Shibuya train station had seen Hachikō and Professor Ueno together each day. Realizing that Hachikō waited in vigil for his dead master, their hearts were touched.[citation needed] OHFUCKYOUANDYOURCITATIONSWIKIPEDIA
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:02 PM on April 8, 2009


this phrase, "Look around you..." is certainly making the rounds...
posted by wallstreet1929 at 9:37 PM on April 8, 2009


It is a biography of Jean-Claude Romand

Thanks, I was about to google that name up. Horrible story.
posted by Wolof at 11:00 PM on April 8, 2009


Good article. Thanks for posting, plexi.
posted by homunculus at 12:35 PM on April 9, 2009


this phrase, "Look around you..." is certainly making the rounds...

Yes, it certainly is.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:15 AM on April 10, 2009


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