Anonymous voice of America's unemployed
Anonymous voice of America's unemployed
Mon Mar 8 11:45:27 2004
Anonymous voice of America's unemployed

Mar. 4, 2004 12:00 AM

This week I got a call from America, who happens to be a 43-year-old unemployed woman living in the Valley. She is angry. She is sad. America got my answering machine and left a message. George Bush's line must have been busy. John Kerry was probably out of town.

The woman on my recording does not actually claim to be America, but she is. She is a mother and a wife whose husband also recently lost his job. There are millions like her, she says, and no one is paying attention.

Perhaps she called me because our politicians spend too much time talking and not enough time listening. They should listen to America. I have her voice on tape. She didn't leave her name or number, but I will print her message here. I also have made arrangements for you to listen to the recording yourself, provided you have a computer.

Hear the tape
What 'America' had to say

It begins with the automated voice on my telephone answering machine saying that a call came in at 9:37 a.m. on Tuesday and that it lasted two minutes, which is the point where the caller's message is automatically cut off.

"I'm calling in, and I'm promising myself not to cry," says the woman on the phone. Even as she says this, however, her voice quivers. She often hesitates as she speaks, seemingly to compose herself.

"You always write about things that are going on and the current events," she continues. "I'm wondering, has anybody noticed in America all of us that are unemployed? I'm 43 years old, and I've been working since I was 16. My husband is 45. We've been married 22 years, and we've always worked. A year ago I lost my job. Six months ago his job was outsourced to India. We have three children, one that's 18. We were going to try to help them get through college but, um . . . anyway, I was just wondering. There are so many of us and people don't seem to notice what's going on.

"I read the paper, and I don't see a lot of people writing about it. And I know there's a lot of them out there, because I talk to my friends every day that I used to work with, and there are no jobs.

"And, it just seems that somebody ought to write that a lot of jobs have gone overseas, and there's no jobs in this country for people that have worked all their lives.

"And . . . I mean, yesterday I was on the phone looking around for shelters because we've got another two months before we're going to get thrown out of our house, and we were part of that middle-class section there. This wasn't . . . I mean I never thought this was supposed to happen to us. And, I know there's a lot of people out there like us.

"So, anyway, if you need . . . if somebody would write and make the country aware that . . . I mean I feel invisible.

"You go to the grocery store, and it's like, we're an invisible section. But I think there's millions of us. Anyway, somebody ought to write about it. And you always write about everything, and you make it good. And nobody hears us . . . so I . . . "

Then the machine cuts her off and an automated voice tells me: "To respond or forward, press 1. To delete, press star 'D.' To skip, press the pound key."

If I could transfer her message to each of you, I would. I'd also send it to Bush and to Kerry, and to every congressman and senator. You can listen to it yourself by typing "" on the address line of your computer and following the instructions.

We are America, too, after all. Too bad we are a country that does not listen very well, even when we're talking to ourselves. This anonymous unemployed woman from the Valley is someone we know or someone we know about. She might even be us.

She is what the election in November will be about. More so than any war. More so than terrorism. More so than gay marriage or gun control. More so than anyone's military career or lack of one.

And although she didn't leave a name and number, I knew when she got cut off and my answering machine was listing my options that I wanted to respond to her message. Wanted to forward it. Had no intention of deleting it. And could not skip it.

Reach Montini at  or (602) 444-8978.

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