For over ten years, I worked for a large engineering company, with 35,000 employees around the world. We did a lot of government work, for several agencies of the government such as defense; NASA, Interior; the Hurricane Center; Lightning Center; etc. We also did work for Universities around the country; the big airline companies; and for governments around the world.
I don't think any or us realized it at the time when layoffs started to come down, that our problem started with the crumbling of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The job layoff for me came a few years later in 1992, when I was 48 years of age. I didn't know it at the time, but the next 12 years, would be the worst of my life.
Job loss #1: You usually think of job layoffs starting at the bottom, and working their way to the top. But, not this time, and that issue is what these layoffs made this round of layoffs so different and peculiar. The job layoffs started at the top, with department heads getting the pink slip first, and so on down the line. Some people who got laid off had 30 years with the company; 26 years; 22 years; 18 years; 12 years; I had ten years and so on down the line. These layoffs were scary, and I knew at the time, that these layoffs meant terrible times, not just for me, but for all the American people. In my mind, this was the start of something ugly in the American workplace.
At the age of 51/52, I completed three computer courses at the local community college, which I thought would enhance my job search. And, the computer classes did in fact help me to survive, because I would have the ability to go to an office setting or to a manufacturing setting, etc.
Job loss #2; After being on unployment insurance for awhile, I signed up with several temporaty employment agencies, and I got an assignment with another engineering company called Sparton Southwest, who was a sub-contractor for Martin-Marietta, who was building sorting machines for the US Post Office. While I was on this job, I still tried to find a permanent job elswhere. This job lasted about a year, and the contract at the Post Office was given to another company, and the layoffs started. At one time, the company had about 350 employees, and over this period of time, the employees were down to about 60! I managed to hang on until the end, but in the end, I got the pink slip as well. I went back on unployment insurance. This was my second layoff in a year.
Job loss #3; After working as a temp for over six months, I was hired on as a machine operator. This was the worst place I had ever seen or worked in my life. The attitude of the 200 people was awful, and I endured this place for over three years. It was a plastics manufacturing place, that manufactured parts like smoke alarms; televivision and computer housings and sewing machine parts, etc. All during the time I worked at this dreadful place, I continued my search for another job, but getting another job was not to be. The quality of the parts manufactured in this place, was so bad, that I knew this place would close some day...and it did! The announcement of the company closing, as people were laid off right away. Me and my supervisor were among two of the last people to leave.
Knock; knock; Who's There? the Sheriff calling; I could never in my lifetime, that I would be paid a visit from the sheriff's department, to collect on a credit card debt. If my life was not already in ruin...this incident had to happen as well. At the time, and with about five credit cards in my possession, my debt was about $10,000 with the lowest being about $430.00. Me and the attorney for this credit card, couldn't agree on anything, and we argued and faught each other for months. We were both called to appear before a judge to settle our differences. The judge ruled in my favor in both appearances.
This didn't sit well with the attorney for the credit card campany, so she executed something called a "writ of execution,' which meant that the sheriff's department could come to my apartment and look around to confiscate anything of value to pay the credit card dept. This was a hateful action on her part!
One day, there was a knock on the door, and it was two duputies from the sheriff's department. One of the deputies got on the phone right away, and was talking to the attorney for the credit card company. The other deputy and I chatted for awhile when he asked me, "How much is the debt you owe?" I got an invoice and showed him the total owed. He was shocked when he saw the total, and then said, "We see debts of 10...15 and over 20 thousand in debt...and your debt is only $437.00 on this card?
"That's right," I told the sheriff's deputy.
"We have never been anywhere to collect or satisfy a debt with something this low," he said.
This is sort of a hate crime, by the attorney for the credit card company. She had the legal right to do this, and after her two losses to me in front of the judge, she exercised that right by execicuting a 'writ of execution" in this matter. "She did this as a hate crime against me," I told the deputies. They wanted to see my vehicle, so I took them outside and the car didn't have much value, so they left empty-handed.
Job loss #4; My supervisor got a job at another similar company across town. Because I knew him for over three years at the company that closed, I thought I might be able to get another job where he was now working. It wasn't to be, as I worked there as a temp, but I was never a regular employee, and as I worked at this company for about a year, when there was an announcement that the company would be moving to Mexico. For the second time, me and my supervisor were the last ones to leave, as the company closed! (Trend Technologies)
Discrimination Against Older Workers; (Ageism);
About this time in my life, I was about 55 years of age and hanging on for dear life. There was an article on the front page of the newspaper, that horrified me, and I couldn't believe was I was reading. Another article came in online, that was essentially the same. Discrimination against older workers. The newspaper article, said that the number one complaint at the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commision) was age discrimination, and the complaints were rising at a rate of 15%. I nearly fell off my chair! "Could I be discriminated against because of my age," I asked myself. If true , this could be the end of ME!
So, could it be that I was having trouble finding a job because of age discrimination? This thought really put a monkey-wrench into my life. I had never given this issue any thought...never! The online newspaper said that 88% of older workers said that they felt they were discriminated against...and 92% said they were discriminated against when they tried to get a promotion within the company. These are astonishing numbers, and data, and I felt like the bottom had fallen out of my life when I read these two articles. I think I was in shock at the time...no wonder I was having so much trouble finding a job! I wrote the following article outlining my work efforts.
Discriminating Against Older Workers (Ageism)
Job loss #5; After my fourth job loss, I found out about a program at the VA Medical Center, to help veterans get back on their feet. I applied for it and got it, as things were getting really bad, as I had just suffered through my first eviction at the appartments where I lived.
I moved to the VA Medical Center, and lived in a dorm on the grounds for the next four months and participated in the work program for veterans. I lived in a dorm with about 15 other homeless veterans. At the time, I was homeless, and I was given a job on the base, to try to help me get back on my feet. The job was at the VA Canteen, as a dishwasher! How could my life come to this...washing dishes at the VA? Where has my life gone wrong? Little did I know at the time, that the worst thing was about to happen to me, and that worst thing was just around the corner. Could things get any worse for me...I was about to find out!
February 7, 2005 (the worst day of my life); After completing the work program at the VA, I saved enough money ($5.00 an hour) to move off base, but I still continued to work in the program. I washed dishes five days a week, and I cleaned the hospital on week-ends, as I worked 7 days a week. I couldn't have done it any other was, but al least there was some glimmer of hope.
Then it happened...as I went to work as usual on this Monday morning, and there was somebody else doing my work. About two minutes later, Dr. Pilgram showed up, and with one motion of the hand and arm...he threw me out of the work program! This was another act of hate against. The week before, I had just been given a 3 month extension by the program counselor, Mike Evans, because there was no counselor in the program at the time I went through the program. I had perfect attendance in the work program, and I had earned my certificate of completion months before.
I lived about one mile from the VA Medical Center, and that awful morning, I clocked in as usual at 7 in the morning, and I clocked out at 7:05. The longest walk of my life, I was depressed; shaken; outraged; emptiness in my soul; and worst of all...I felt like a dead man walking after the incident that just happened. I had money at the time, and I even thought of going back and shooting Dr. Pilgram because of this hateful act against me. But, I'm not a person of revenge or pay-back, so that thought was quickly extinguished.
About 30 minutes after I got home, I received a call from a social worker at the VA Medical Center. She wanted to know if I was alright. Dr. Pilgram told her to call me...I guess he thought I would do harm to myself, or that I would buy a gun and come and take him out!
After this awful incident happened, I knew my days were numbered. Living off base, I now had to pay the rent and buy groceries to survive, as I felt like I was a dead man walking. I fell into the dark and ugly hole of depression, and I would stay there over the next two months...a black hole I would never recover from!
Now...with no income, I had to ration all groceries...there were some days I ate very little...and there were some days I didn't eat at all. I knew my second eviction in five years was around the corner, so there wasn't much hope in my life at the time. When my second eviction came about a month later, I had no money to put gas in the car and I had no bus money, either. So, I walked to the courthouse, which was about 12 miles, and took me two hours to walk...to get evicted!
All I had in the apartment in the way of food, was a little ketchup and mustard in the refrigerator and a little pancake syrup. I had a partial box of corn flakes, but no milk...so I ate them with water...soggy cornflakes for a week. I was desperate at this time, and I did something I thought I would never do...write a bad check...to get something to eat!
With no gas money for the car, Wal-Mart was about two miles, so I walked there and back and carried back what I could...about 40 dollars of groceries. In today's greedy world, $40 doesn't get you very much. But, it was a wealth of groceries to me at the time. The rationing of the groceries continued...as I ate something some days, and some days I ate nothing at all. This rationing lasted for about a week or so, but the $64,000 question still had to be answered;
"After over a decade of this stress and depression, age discrimination against me, and betrayed by my own doctor...did I have the courage to commit suicide? The answer to this question was YES!
"Mr. Aragon, the emergency room at the VA hospital won't take you because of the slash to your neck...so, we're taking you to the University of New Mexico, where they can close the wounds and stop the bleeding."
Those were the words of the ambulance attendant who picked me up, as she told me where I was headed after a botched suicide attempt. There were 14 cuts on my body that had to be stictched up...two to my throat and right side of the neck; and about twelve on both wrists...about 6 slashes on both side of the wrist. It took two technicians in the emergency room about two hours to stich up all the wounds!
To do this kind of act to oneself, has to be a person who has crossed over the line of insanity! As I lay there, and the stitches were being put in, I thought to myself, "How could all this come to this? "How could I do this desrespectful act to myself?" How? I had to be insane to do this act of evil?
I spent the night and day at the Mental Health Center at the UNM hospital, and then I was transferred to the VA Medical Center, where I was a patient for 3 1/2 months in a psychological lock-down ward. I entered the ward on June 11, 2005 and was discharged on September 16, 2005. Since I lost all my possesions while I was a patient, I had to go the the Thrift Shop at the VA to get some clothes. I only had the shirt on my back when I came to the hospital. This is the first time in my life, that I had to wear somebody else's cloths.
After three months in the hospital, I got some good news, as the non-service connected pension was approved by the VA, and now I would have a little money in my pocket. The pension was for $850.00 a month, and now I could maybe get back on my feet. I was pleased about all this, but I knew that, upon discharge, I would have to go live in a homeless shelter, because I couldn't get a room or apartment, and pay my existing bills, which amounted to about $400.00.
I lived in the homeless shelter for about two months and ate at a soup line, and I was always grateful that I had a roof over my head and a meal on the table. During this awful time in my life, I was disconnected from the Internet and my website for nearly three years.
And, then the most incredible and wonderful thing happened about Thanksgiving of 2005. I went to the post office, and there waiting for me, was a check from Social Security for over $3,000.00! During the last several months the Social Security disability was approved, and the check was for three months back-pay. I was jumping for joy, and doing back-flips in the post office and down the street. FINALLY...I could get back some semblance of a life. The Social Security money was not tax money, such as SSI...it was the money from which I had worked for over 45 years. Social Security just did it this way...and was I excited.
Six months later, the VA pension was terminated, and I was left to make a living with only the Social Security. This meant that I would have to make the necessary cuts in my life, to make ends meet. I applied for Section 8 housing and subsidized housing at the senior center and I was approved for both. I moved into my new apartment at the senior center in 2009, and I have lived here ever since. I also applied for Medicaid to pay Medicare which was also approved for the last two years, and the recertification for this will be up again in June, 2012. This has given me a little bit more wiggle-room and has allowed me to save a little money.
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Symtons of hunger;
Weight loss; frailty; prone to disease; hampers decision-making abilities; loss of concentration/focus; stress; anxious;
Over the last seven years, since all this has happened, I have never been able to write about it, and to post it publicly, because it was to depressing and painful for me. But, I chose writing to help people...especially when I have experiences good and bad to share with people. There are many people out there suffering just as I did for so many years. But, I just want to tell the reader to have faith in God, and good things will happen for you, just as good things happened for me.
God Bless You...and good luck to everyone!
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Copyright; 2012; Jerry Aragon; The Humor Doctor