A Christmas Wish

I’ve been stuck on a topic to write about for a while. I guess after over five years of writing about my past homelessness and current chronic unemployment situation, your well runs dry. Don’t worry, I’m sure I will come up with something.

I created a comic on the Pixton site, as part of a contest for what I would like to have for Christmas. While I admit my chances of winning are pretty slim — we have a lot of very talented individuals on Pixton — I gave it a go. It was shortly after I published that comic that I in fact had something to put here as well, so here is the comic I posted, along with the link to the original copy.

Thanks for viewing, and Merry Christmas.

David.

pixton_comic_what_i_wish_for_christmas_by_moggie-1

Just What The Doctor Ordered?

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GP’s waiting room in France, taken by Migmoug on 1 October 2014, 17:37:19 and obtained through Wikimedia Commons.

This was originally written on Minds.com but since it pertained to my situation, I’m repeating it here with minor alterations.

Ask anyone their opinion about the size of government and you’ll get a spectrum of opinion so wide you’ll need Star Trek’s warp drive to traverse it within a lifetime.

On the left, you’ll hear arguments — even the well-thought-out ones — of how important it is for government to play a part in our lives. On the right, you’ll hear about the minimalist government model — which focuses primarily on tasks such as trade, national defence, and law — that keeps its collective nose out of business and individual determination.  Such diversity of opinion is a good sign of a healthy democracy but it does lead to heated debates.

My own opinion on the size of government, particularly where Canada’s social safety net is concerned, is that there’s certainly a lot of budget fat to trim. My favourite rant topic is subsidized provincial health care which first of all is NOT free: it’s paid for through paycheque deductions. Ontario’s government-run health care system, OHIP,  costs $51.8 billion Cdn or 39% of the provincial budget of $134 billion Cdn  (Feb 2016 report).

I personally find the system wanting. I waited six weeks to get a specialist to remove a mole on my back plus an additional 2 weeks to wait for the results (lucky for me the mole was non-cancerous). Some parts of the system like vision and dental care are not covered (unless you are an immigrant).  Having a mobian cyst on my left eye removed would have cost me over $200 because it’s classified as COSMETIC SURGERY (and they don’t accept cash!) so I said hell with that that and used a homeopathic solution I found on Google that worked. Disclaimer: that was a judgement call on my part. See a licensed medical professional first before trying anything like that.

Ontario’s health care system delivers one lousy ROI. I mean, if we are throwing that much money in a system that still makes you wait for a long time and does not cover everything, there is definitely waste somewhere.

Having said this, I also believe having a subsidized health care system is VERY important, as I found out on October 16th, 2016.

What happened to me was totally out of the blue. I was wrapping up a stay at Tim Horton’s after reading comments about a blog post I wrote on Minds.com on poverty and homelessness. I took note of the time and realized I was due at my mother’s place to help her with the dusting and vacuuming. I took the bus to my mother’s apartment and rode the elevator to her floor. I was about 15 to 20 steps to her suite door when suddenly the simple concept of walking, maintaining balance and fumbling for my keys to open her door became a feat as difficult as designing the CN Tower. Everything became VERY hard to do. My brain was sending signals to my body that were not translating into action and I began to panic while seemingly locked in mid-stride.

I managed to regain enough control  to reason (idiotically) that if I simply went back down the elevator to the first floor and try the attempt again, it will work. You know, like how a plane retries a runway landing when the wind is too strong.  So back to the first floor I go, struggling with fear and bewilderment at how difficult things have become and found the second attempt even harder than the first. On the third try I actually did make it to the door but at this point I’m having a hell of a time breathing, my heart is hammering  in my chest and I’m sweating  a waterfall. I can’t hold on to my keys so I drop them, nearly fall over while trying to pick them up, and made my way back to the elevator to try yet again. Inside the elevator I’m pounding the wall with my fists while screaming like a banshee. Just as I almost roll out of the elevator,  a man walks up to me and asks if I’m okay. From the look on his face, it’s clear things are not okay and I feebly squeak out a “take me to the hospital”.

Once I get to the hospital ER, I’m soaked in sweat and I let the man do the talking. He tells the contact there what happened but he reported my left arm was twitching. I did not recall that happening but I had enough going on with me to probably miss that detail. After what seemed like a lengthy wait (I’m not sure of the actual wait time) I’m taken into a room, asked to grip the ER nurse’s hand with first my left and then my right hand, balance on either leg and confirm my vision was clear.  When asked, I told her this never happened to me before and I am not taking any medication.

A CT was taken of my head and I was told to wait some more in another room. By then I’ve been in the ER for a little over three hours and I’ve calmed down enough.  A doctor comes in with a clipboard and what looks like my CT clipped to it. He asks me (once again) to grip his hand with first my left and then my right hand, balance on either foot, and recall what happened to me and how I felt. He said he could not see anything physiologically wrong but arranges an appointment with a neurologist who will review my CT the hospital will send.

Nearly a week passes and I’m at my appointment with the neurologist who has my CT enhanced in a way to appear more blue and lighter. He points out a teeny tiny spot in an area bordering the frontal and parietal lobe about the size of a period in this sentence and not too deep in the brain. Because it’s so small, he cannot determine for sure if it was a micro-hemorrhage that would have been measured in red blood cell counts, an abscess, or something as harmless as inert protein matter which rarely happens yet is normal development. Having said this, he assured me I’m fine, that it’s not brain plague or a tumour, He concludes that it could have been was an anxiety attack, triggered by a sensory flash like light refraction off my glasses, or I burned out from stress over not finding stable housing and employment. Having been given a clean bill of health, I contacted my mother to apologize for not showing up and to explain what happened.

So why did I share this with you? Because had there been no universally accessible affordable health care system in Canada, I would have been — how should I put this…

UP

THE

CREEK 

I would have had to pay for being treated in ER, seeing a nurse, seeing two doctors and getting a CT scan done. As a person of no fixed address suffering from lack of full-time employment, there was no way I could have paid for that.

Let’s take it one step further. What would have happened if I didn’t get that clean bill of health? What if I required medication? Surgery? Radiation and chemotherapy? I shudder at the thought of what I would be on the hook for, and the idea that health care would only be for those who could pay for it.

Look, I get it that government is wasteful with our tax dollars. A few specific politicians need a smack upside the head in order to make them understand it’s OUR goddamn money (*whack* “Just Him” Trudeau).  We have every right to demand transparency in the government services our tax dollars pay for.

Let’s not forget everyone has a right to get better from an illness and to heal from an injury, though. Healthy people means a healthy society and a healthy economy.

Thanks for reading!

David.

The Ties That Unbind

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My mood after reading yet another berating Email from “Riley” and the last bit of correspondence I’ll ever accept from that person again.

Over a week ago I had to go to the ER because of a medical issue.  (I’m okay, but I’ll talk more about that in the next blog post). This prevented me from seeing my mother to help dust and vacuum, but now I had to explain to her and someone who I will call “Riley” why I did not show up as scheduled.

Because I cannot afford a phone, I could not call anyone until after I got to the nearest WiFi hotspot and fire up Skype. This finally happened after a stay of nearly 4 hours.

I felt it was best to explain the truth to my mother to ensure she did not think I forgot or played hooky, yet at the same time reassure her I was fine and apologise for what happened.

Riley was a different story. Riley and I have been at odds since my unemployment situation began and I suspect Riley believes I’m lazy and not looking for work. We argued about the cell phone being cancelled because it was inconvenient for Riley to use Email who insisted that I simply had to continue it, money or no, as this text message showed.

Text Example

Some of our Email arguments got to the point where I had to put Riley on block for a week, two weeks, or longer. I was just tired of the abuse and being treated like I was the one causing all the trouble.

I explained to Riley what happened. Not one note of concern or worry. Just a directive not to tell my mother that I was in ER. Well, okay, how else was I going to explain not showing up, least of all without calling? Lie? Absolutely not! My mother is my medical contact on all my correspondence in case something happens to me. On top of that, she can smell a lying son before he got off the bus to see her. I was going to tell the truth and that’s exactly what I did.

Once Riley found out, I received the following Email, and it was a slap in the face.

screenshot-from-2016-10-24-11-25-21

No recognition that what happened to me could have been cancer, a stroke, or Alzheimer Disease. No inquiry of how I was doing or what the results were from the CT scan I had done. It was all about Riley and how David was once again making everyone’s life a hassle for — wait for it — being unemployed and homeless.

I was horrified by the response sent from Riley’s no-doubt expensive iPhone. Cold. Brutally insensitive. Not something you would say to a brother and it was the last straw for me. I may be down and out but I’m not going to be treated this way any more. Not even by family.

I replied back to that Email that I was going to stop having my mail sent to Riley’s house over the next few months and Riley won’t have to be ashamed of me any more.

Pardon my language, but go to hell, Riley. I deserve much better than being treated so badly to the point I want to apply for a C-14.

Thanks for reading.

David.

UPDATE November 20th, 2016: Riley posted a comment to this blog post, which in itself is not a surprise. The surprise was that Riley did it using a full real name.

When I wrote this blog post, it was to showcase what homelessness and unemployment does to society, in specific how it tears families apart and it is no secret it has done irreparable damage to mine. Having said this, I chose never to reveal the name of the person or people when I bring things like this up for two reasons. The first was that Riley is a public person with a very visible profile that intersects with those from all aspects of the Region of Waterloo. The last thing I want to see happen is someone doing a Google search on Riley’s name and seeing a public catfight on a blog that could damage the reputation Riley has with these people I mentioned. The second is that I don’t want this blog to be turned into the public catfight I mentioned before. This is not an attack blog. This is a blog about me and my struggles with part-time homelessness and unemployment that I hope will educate you about the Age of Austerity and the Jobless Recovery we now live in.

Riley has the right to post a reply with the true name in the clear on another blog, or make response videos on YouTube where I have my now-discontinued “David Needs A Job” series. It’s just not going to happen here.

I originally had a reply made here but I have decided not to carry out that action. I also believe that it’s high time to have a conversation with my entire family about the way they are handling my unemployment and lack of stable housing. If we cannot find a common ground to work from without bickering and fighting, then I believe we both should go our separate ways in life.

 

Such A Creep, Revisited.

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An applicant for a Red Lobster dish washing position must ensure customers have a clean plate to eat off of, and be Tim The Toolman as well! (image from Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Black_and_Decker_FS1300CS_loaded.jpg?uselang=en-gb

Before I begin, I just received a notification from WordPress that I’ve been a member for five years. I want to take a moment to thank the people of WordPress for offering a free, stable and well-designed platform to allow me to publicly promote my job search which has been running for longer than that.

The fact that I have been out of full time work for so long is galling but not surprising when I have to deal with job openings like this that ask for the most unreasonable qualifications.  This is not an example of an exceptionally rare case. This is quite common. Throughout my time on WordPress I have posted 5 such examples, my “favourite” being the warehouse position one where you are required to know how to play a musical instrument.  I’ve heard of whistling while you work, but strumming while you strive? Preposterous.

Positions like this are the result of credential creep and downsizing, a point I’ve raised many times during my stay on WordPress over the last five years. When I hear employers bitch and moan about how hard it is to find the right person for the job, I want to tell them to look at their hiring requirements and ask themselves, “is this asking too much?”. In most cases, it is. In the linked advertisement, while most people can wash dishes, not everyone can safely handle a power tool, nor are able to lift 50 pounds on a regular basis due to a past work injury, are physically challenged, or simply put not built to lift 50 pounds on a regular basis.

Look, I believe employers have the right to set whatever requirements they want for hiring. It’s their business and their right. If that’s the path they want to take, though, they can’t claim a position of authority to condemn those who do not live up to such unrealistic demands. Not everyone is Superman (errr and Superwoman) but there’s a lot of Clark Kent types out there who are honest, ethical and hard working. How about giving them a chance to at least make sure customers have a clean plate to eat off of, and worry about the shelves and counters some other time?

Thanks for reading!

David.

If It Seems Too Good To Be True…

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A megaphone in a yellow icon symbolizing hype; changed due to image standardization. Source: Wikicommons library

I come across a lot of these during my job search. It’s not surprising I get these often since the algorithms for determining valid Email addresses are approaching Skynet proficiency:


SUBJECT: Job opening.

FROM: HR MANAGER (email omitted)

Hello,

Looking for a job? We have an opening for a Coordinator in your area.

Salary: up to 50$/hour

RESPONSIBILITIES

– Support customers;

– Manage payments;

– Organization of fiscal documents.

QUALIFICATIONS

– Excellent computer skills and proficient in excel, word, outlook, and access;

– Excellent communication skills both verbal and written;

– Excellent interpersonal skills and a collaborative management style;

– Ability to look at situations from several points of view.

We have a trial period, so you can decide if this job is a good fit for you or not.

APPLY NOW: (Email omitted)

Regards,

(contact details omitted)


I spotted several suspicious points in the Email:

#1: The wage is shown in the offer. Even with an out-of-the-blue job offer like this, it’s bad form to mention details about the wage or salary.

#2: The wage is $50/hour. For a coordinator position.

Assuming the following is true at the time of writing this post:

  1. The rate is  in US dollars.
  2. My last full time job was in I.T. and I earned $60,000 a year (Canadian dollars) including overtime for project work. One Canadian dollar is worth $0.76 US which means my annual salary was $45,600 US.
  3. Because that job gave me paid holidays, and using the website convertunits.com to convert from an annual salary to an hourly rate, I earned an equivalant of $21.84/hour. US. Yes, I got benefits but that does not change the formula that much since it was only 80% coverage and the most I used my benefits for was for dental work.

this would mean I would earn double the hourly rate I used to get, for less work. Either my last employer paid me poorly (which is debateable), or this hourly wage in the offer is bogus (which is extremely likely if not an exaggeration).

There’s also that “up to” part that implies it can be variable. You know, like a sales commission would be variable.

#3: Word, Excel, and Access are not capitalized. That is a big red flag for me. Most individuals I know would capitalize, and it’s a stunning lack of business professionalism if a company referred to Excel as  “excel”: the former is a product name and the latter is a verb.

#4: Job description is very vague. Support customers doing what? Answering customer service inquiries? Handling complaints? Being a strong shoulder to support them while they are putting on their shoes?

#5: The name of the company is very close to that of a very well known financial firm. Yes, I did omit the name but trust me, it’s very close.

#6: The offer states that there is a trial period to see if the job is a good fit for me. A trial period in itself is not suspicious. New hires always go through a trial period but it’s at the employer’s benefit, not the employee’s. To let the employee decide if it is a fit implies it might be a job the person will neither benefit nor enjoy doing.

#7: The opening is supposed to be in my area (which could be either Toronto or Kitchener) yet the head office is in INDIA with no mention of branch office addresses anywhere else. Just a telephone number.

This sounds like a gig where you run your own business using your own personal space and resources.

Sorry, not interested.

Thanks for reading!

David.

More For Less, Revisited.

ServiceGreeter
Sure. That sounds exactly what a service greeter does. Wash cars and moving vehicles to the service area. Got it.

It’s been over a month since I wrote, mostly because I’ve been very worried about my temporary lodgings. I was not sure if those who are supporting my rent would continue to do so after the end of September so I had to make arrangements to stay with other people, go back to couch surfing, or worse go back to sleeping on the buses and subways in Toronto.

I got a reprieve of sorts. It’s been extended to the end of December with planned discussions for extending it into the spring of 2017. That buys me a little time to get the word out about my chronic unemployment and my not-so-stable housing but that takes time, which is why I have not written much in this blog or even made a video on YouTube under my “David Needs A Job” channel.

While I’ll make a video tomorrow, I’ll update my blog status by revisiting a point I wrote about earlier. I just finished YABJS (Yet Another Boring Job Search) and came across more of the following “compressed description” jobs where the title no longer means what it says. An example of such a job I found today is in the image. Click it and read the description, then come back to this post.

When you see the title, “Service Greeter” and it’s at an auto service place, you would assume it’s like an appointment taker or reception position. It probably was a long time ago, judging from the line “welcoming and checking clients and their vehicles into the dealership”. It now has expanded to include the following, quoted:

  • “performing a quick walk-around of their vehicle,”
  • “moving vehicles in and out of our service drive,”
  • “running vehicles through our car wash.”

This is speculation, but there was probably once a separate junior service position that did this a long time ago.

That was the past. The position is now a jack-of-all trades where the candidate would be asked to do a lot of things that used to be handled by two if not three people. While the only positive I see is that a benefits package is included as part of the position — benefits are becoming an endangered species in this Age Of Austerity and the jobless recovery — I would be interested in learning if the “competitive hourly wage” rose in direct proportion to the number of tasks added in the description as a result of the rightsizing.

I’d apply for the sake of answering that question, but I don’t have a driver’s license.

Thanks for reading.

David.

 

 

Blocked From GoFundMe For Being Poor

Locked Out Of GoFundMe
Not in a good mood. Apparently I am too poor to be allowed to use GoFundMe

At the beginning of July, GoFundMe Ireland took over the administration of all North American GoFundMe fundraising drives. Why this was done was something I did not care about for as long as it did not interfere with my own GoFundMe initiative: to raise awareness about my homeless situation as well as funding to be raised to help me return back to financial self-reliance and sustainability.

I guess it was too much to ask for.

I logged on my GoFundMe account dashboard to post another update, but I was blocked by a prompt asking for a telephone number for two-tier verification checking. Try as I could, I couldn’t get around it. It’s a modal window designed to receive a prompt from the user before allowing access to the frames underneath.

I’m sure you are familiar with this security feature if you use FaceBook or GMail. When enabled by choice, the telephone number you entered in your account information receives a text code sent after you try to log on. Before you can continue with your log on, you must enter that code or you are kicked out. It does not matter if the user ID and password combo is correct.

The feature is supposed to protect you if your user ID is compromised by another person who figured out your password. It’s great on paper, but to me it was never something that was needed for as long as you kept your password to yourself, made it hard to guess (don’t use your birthday for example), and changed it regularly. As I stated above, some services like FaceBook and GMail make it an optional choice. They recommend they use it, but you do not have to so it’s optional.

GoFundMe decided that was not good enough and decided to make it a mandatory feature. By doing so, they effectively killed my initiative which has raised $90 Canadian and ran for nearly a year.

How did this happen?  Let me explain.

For those who follow this blog regularly or at least have watched a few of my GoFundMe updates on YouTube, I had to cancel my mobile phone service because I could not afford to pay it on the scant amount of money I was making doing odd gigs and jobs. Some members of my family hate me for doing that, a few of my friends have complained that it was damned inconvenient for them to use Email to reach me, not to mention dangerous for me to not have one in case of an emergency. I don’t dispute the latter part but it does not dismiss the fact that I did not have the money for it. The money that was freed from maintaining that service went straight to my groceries and transit costs. I don’t regret making that decision, it saved me from a lot of health problems I would have gotten down the road for not eating properly. Anyone who disagrees with that? Well, I hope we can agree to disagree at least and you respect my right to deal with my problems my way, especially if you did not offer to foot the bill for my expenses.

But now I’m stuck at this modal window and I can’t get to my GoFundMe dashboard to post an update. I contact customer support and to their credit they were not only amazingly fast in their reply, they were very friendly in their first response:

Hi there David,

Thanks so much for taking the time to write in today. No worries, I can definitely help you with this!

To verify your account and eventually make a withdrawal, you do need to add a phone number to your account. This is called 2-step authentication and ensures that in the event your email address is compromised, your account and its funds are still secure. This is why we can’t send the code to an email address directly.

Is there a close friend or family member whose number you’d like to use instead? They’ll need to give you the code each time you log in to GoFundMe on a new device. The codes expire in 10-15 minutes so make sure it’s someone you can quickly chat with.

Please let me know how you would like to proceed and I’ll be right here to help!

Maybe this was their standard stock form they used for every reply to a customer inquiry, but it gave me some hope I could ask for an alternative or at least allow me to post a final update to my donors know not to continue to donate through GoFundMe. They said no to the alternative but went with the update, which they did for me:

Thank you for getting back to us, David.

I’m afraid you’ll need to enter this verification code before proceeding, but if you’d like, I can post that update for you!

Just let me know what you’d like to say in the update and I’ll get that added to your campaign right away.

Thanks so much,

Olivia

So the update went through, and this was what I stated, my final update:

Hello all.

You may have noticed I have not been updating my GoFundMe initiative lately. This is because of a new security verification system implemented by GoFundMe that requires the mandatory use of a phone to return a verification code.

For those of you who have been following my situation, I cannot afford a phone, either smartphone or land line. Until I find someone who is local and can be trusted with my verification code of my GoFundMe initiative, I cannot access any part of this page, including posting updates, and accessing the money that has been donated to me.

This ends my GoFundMe initiative. This does not end my quest for finding full time work that will keep me off the streets, and return me to full self-reliance and self-sustainability. This is a serious setback but I will not give up. I won’t go down without a fight.

Please go to my Youtube Channel ‘David Needs A Job!’ and also my job search and homelessness blog at davidalangay.wordpress.com for continuing updates on my efforts.

I thank you for your past support

David Gay

So just like that, my GoFundMe initiative came to a screeching halt. I can’t use that service any more. I can’t even withdraw the money raised. I’m sure that will piss off the donors.

Some people may object to me using the phrase “I was blocked by GoFundMe for being poor”, arguing I was not being disciplined for having no money. The literal may be true but I cannot afford a land line or a mobile, so  I can’t use the GoFundMe services, even though I could before for the past 11 months, and had verified both my personal identity and my bank account information.  I know my user ID and password but I cannot log on due to a process GoFundMe added. I can’t afford to start up a phone service that would help me get around this and for security reasons I won’t ask for someone to access my codes.

That counts as being blocked for being poor.

The very idiocy of GoFundMe’s decision to block me defies the reason why I started the initiative on their service in the first place: I’m not financially self-reliant and self-sufficient enough to afford things without donations.

Such as rent so I don’t become homeless again.

Such as a phone that is now a requirement for using a service that was supposed to help me from not being homeless.

I’m not sure if it is some kind of example of cruel irony or hypocrisy in why GoFundMe exists in the first place, but I want to state I disagree with their decision. It’s a form of discrimination to the economically challenged, and it hurts those who only want to get out of the hole they are in through no fault of their own. Such as myself.

Thanks for reading.

David.