Monday, August 19, 2002

Near the entrance to our building is a sad little table and chair reserved for job applicants. When some poor soul comes in, hat in hand, seeking employment, he's sent over to the table to fill out an application. Then everyone else, those lucky folks who have jobs in this economy, can walk by and peer over his shoulder, wondering at the turn of affairs that landed him here in such a sorry state.

This morning, the job applicant was particularly heartbreaking. Stocky, middle-aged, balding. Not attractive, but respectable-looking. Married (gold ring on his finger). He reminded me of my dad.

If his resume were an ad for a used car, it might have read: "Clean, dependable transportation. Good gas mileage. Some wear on body & interior, otherwise in good shape. Best offer."

Because my dad has had a comb-over for as long as I can remember, I have a sort of familiar affection for other men who do. I get defensive when people make fun of them and wonder why he doesn't just shave his head. My dad would joke about how little hair he had as if it didn't matter to him, and then painstakingly arrange those few hairs as if he were bargaining for just a little more time with each one of them.

And so it seemed to be with this man. He had a certain look of earnestness as he penciled in the addresses of former employers. The lines around his eyes reminded me of the periods when my dad was out of work and spent long, tedious hours scouring the want-ads, visiting potential employers only to return home tired and defeated. I wanted to go with my dad on those visits, to stand next to him holding onto his hand and enthusiastically explain to the bosses how wonderful my dad was, how hard he worked to care for us, and how smart, how dedicated, how kind he was.

I wondered if this man had kids at home who would have gladly stood beside him at the lonely applicant table, met my curious gaze defiantly and announced, "This is my dad. Anyone should be glad to hire him."

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