If Poop Drips from the Bag

Just take a little hard snow and wipe it off your snowpants. You’re wearing snowpants, right? C’mon, it’s cold outside, you’re walking the dog, it’s all good if you’re wearing snowpants.

In keeping with my recent lifestyle, I headed out with the dog this mid-morning for a brisk walk and hopefully a little freestyle running to tire him out. He’s really a lovely companion when he’s sleeping, no different from a toddler, now that I stop and think about it.

As luck would have it, a man was lurking around the schoolyard. (Relax, the kids are all at home, inside where they belong, playing video games.) I’ve decided to stop reacting to men as if they’re potential rapist/murderers and pretend instead that they’re just ordinary everyday people.

Also, he saw my hesitation as I approached the parking lot where my Beau (who is working today) and I normally throw a ball for Bernie to chase so we can chase after him (it’s how Bernie plays fetch).

He quickly called out, “Hi, he’s friendly!”

Ah, so there was a dog behind the snowbanks. Perfect.

And while the dogs wrestled we chatted about this and that, it was crazy how much like me he was, in spite of our gender difference, and I came away from the encounter feeling better about our neighbourhood, our job prospects, the future – everything.

He had been on employment insurance after being laid off from the government – an IT guy, too – and now he’s working in the private sector making less than he was on employment insurance.

But it’s all good because just like me he adjusted down and just like me it’s turned out to not matter what his income is. A job’s a job (his words, not mine). He’s not doing what he trained to do because, of course, technology marches on but the people who do the hiring in government don’t, and the people who do the hiring in government don’t hire people who have a general aptitude for the work involved in doing the job, they hire people who know enough to claim on the application that their specific skills match exactly the specific requirements listed on the job posting.

Everybody who’s anybody in Ottawa knows by now that you have to match the specific requirements listed on the job posting – on your application – or there’s no point in applying. That’s because, everybody who’s anybody in Ottawa knows that the job you’ll actually end up doing will relate in no way whatsoever to the job for which you applied.

Yes, you’re often flat out lying, but it’s a victimless flat out lying. And it’s not like you can lie on the exam, which is more or less a general aptitude test, kind of but not really related to the work you’ll actually end up doing if you get the job. But you only get to do the exam if your application is screened in, which it won’t be if it isn’t an exact match of the job posting. And then there’s the interview, one of which I’ve yet to pass, even though I’ve successfully worked in three different categories of hire in five different ministries over the past few years.

I think to pass a government interview you need to take a four year degree in public administration at Carleton. And I’m just not willing to make the effort, I guess. (I know, I know, nice attitude, Sooey. No wonder you always fail the “Ability to Communicate Orally” and “Ability to Exercise Sound Judgment” and “Ability to Not Be Snippy and Sarcastic to HR Drones During a One Hour Exercise in Futility and Humiliation” parts of the interview.)

Luckily, the strange man I met lurking around the schoolyard, who is so much like me it’s uncanny, is out of the employment insurance phase of the great Ottawa downsizing, and is happily employed in the private sector. Sure, he’s making peanuts, but he doesn’t care. Sure, it’s completely unrelated to his degree, but he doesn’t care about that, either. Why not? Because, get this, he LIKES his new job. It’s FUN. He’s HAPPY at work.

Permanent, full-time, under-employment. It’s good times here in Ottawa. (Although my sister swears by temporary, part-time, underemployment as the real key to success in life.)

So there you have it, all ye depressed public servants I keep reading about in the Ottawa Citizen. Haven’t been laid-off yet? Why wait? Quit. There’s a whole world of work waiting for you outside the government bottomless pit of despair. (Yeah, yeah – with decent pay and more than adequate benefits – what the hell good are they when you have to work for the government to get them?)

All you have to do is downsize your lifestyle and lower your expectations and you too can live well, just differently than you lived well before.

For instance, my new best friend lived downtown in a house, but now he lives in my semi-suburban neighbourhood in an apartment. He gave up his car and takes public transit. Also, he’s a runner, so he uses his legs a lot (distances are greater out here so it helps to have muscle power). He gave up cable, stopped eating out, and buys any needed clothing items at the thrift shop.

And get this – he feels fine (fingers crossed, though, because he doesn’t have much in the way of sick benefits and works with the public and it’s flu season so he may have to, you know, get used to working sick). In fact, he feels better than fine, he feels lightened of the burden of his previous lifestyle and expectations.

So see? It does get better. I mean, I thought that was just a bunch of feel good hooey to prevent gay teen suicides, but it’s true. Take it from me and my new best friend, a strange man lurking around a schoolyard (with his dog) – it gets better, brother and sister laid-off public servants.

Because, as everybody who’s anybody in Ottawa knows by now, less is better.



  1. Heh. You’ve just described the direction that the MB. civil service is heading in terms of hiring. Fuck I’m glad to be out of that mess. 2013 is looking grand already. HappyNY!

  2. I was hired for my last job as a term after an informal interview. Lasted three years, too. Really good manager, though, which is rarer and rarer these days. Had an interview where one young man snorted, laughed, shook his head and started writing, after one of my answers. Turned out he was the manager. The other two interviewers just looked at me and shrugged. They were middle-aged women.