Unemployment, a.k.a. “The Road”

By Piper Bayard*

“The Road.” A post-apocalyptic tale of starvation, cannibalism, and the struggle to preserve that which is human within ourselves. Not only has this tale substantially increased the ranks of vegetarians, it is a great analogy for that extreme form of the personal apocalypse so many people are facing right now. Unemployment.

The Road

Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee in “The Road.” They’re busy avoiding cannibals.

When we’re cut loose from our source of survival, it’s an apocalyptic event. Sometimes we can see it coming, and sometimes it leaves us like the man and the boy in the book wondering, “WTH?” But even when we do see it coming, there’s this flash—that conversation that can never be unsaid—and suddenly the whole world goes to crap. We’re left on The Road, not knowing where we’ll live, or where we’ll find our next meal.

Yep. It’s happened to me.

During the recession of the late 80s, I had a temp job as a secretary in hospital administration. Here’s a little hospital secret. Those $50 aspirins they bring you in your bed? Secretaries have dozens of them in their desks for free. They’re samples from the drug companies. Little white pills wrapped in foil-backed plastic.

That temp job led to a permanent job as a sort of Julie the Love Boat Cruise Director, setting up educational programs for visiting doctors. My first day, I had a headache so I opened my drawer at my new desk and saw the friendly white pill I thought I knew from admin. Ok, so maybe it was a little smaller, but what else would be in the desk drawer, right? I took it.

I know. Incredibly stupid. Moving right along . . .

An hour and a half later, I was passed out snoozing in a hard-backed chair in front of my new boss and a visiting doctor. Bad day to discover I was a Benedryl lightweight. It was my turn on The Road.

I learned invaluable lessons about my fellow travelers on the apocalyptic path of unemployment.

  • Some people do all the “right” things and end up on The Road anyway. I wasn’t one of them.
  • Some really bright people make The Road their way of life because they can’t tolerate the shallow, meaningless existence of thing-based, mindlessly bureaucratic mainstream. They need the struggle to feel alive.
  • Some people are there because they are cruel, shifty bottomfeeders by nature.
  • Some outstanding people are there because they are too broken to be anywhere else.
  • Some are too busy taking care of others to get ahead themselves.
  • Some are there to learn and move on.

I also learned a great deal about human nature.

  • We don’t know who we are until we’re faced with that lost wallet full of money when our stomachs are rumbling.
  • There’s a certain level of grubby that makes people lock their car doors when they see you coming, no matter what your race or theirs.
  • If you overlap your electric bill and your phone bill just right, you can alternate paying them and never get services shut off.
  • Food is a medium of exchange.
  • Poor people have the best parties because they provide their own laughter, song, and dance.
  • A Christmas when we have nothing to give is far worse than a Christmas when we have nothing to receive.

With luck and perseverance, the ash eventually cleared, the scenery greened, and I found my way back to mainstream civilization. As much as a recovering attorney, belly dancing author who hangs out with spooks can be called mainstream.

Looking back, The Road was a blessing for me. It broke down my delusions about myself and made me real. Because the hard fact is that we don’t know who we are until our ethics are diametrically opposed to our survival. I now know what I am and am not willing to do to survive, and I’m at peace with what I found.

Don’t get me wrong. I really, really don’t want to go there again, but The Road doesn’t scare me any more. . . . Except for the book, “The Road.” Masterfully written, but creepy. I highly recommend it for anyone who loves literary fiction or who just has too much happiness in life.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

*Piper Bayard is a belly dancer from way back and a recovering attorney with a university degree or two. She currently pens post-apocalyptic sci-fi and spy novels with Holmes when she isn’t shooting, SCUBA diving, or chauffeuring her children.

‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. Piper is the public face of their partnership. Their debut spy thriller, APEX PREDATOR, will be available this fall.

Bayard & Holmes blog at Bayard & Holmes. You may contact them in blog comments, on Twitter at@piperbayard, on Facebook at Piper Bayard, or by email at piperbayard@yahoo.com.

© 2013 Piper Bayard. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

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