Mr. Unemployed

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A multitude of men congested the cold, unfriendly room, pale walls confining them in the impersonal atmosphere. Orange cones outlined the trail which they were strictly required to follow. One step out of the line meant sacrificing their spot to the many men that followed behind. As they all stood there packed like a tin of sardines, the damp air filled their lungs with an unpleasant reminder of their current situation. Since they had been waiting in line for countless hours, some tapped their feet in hopes to recirculate their blood. Others were not affected by stiffness; instead, they shook their legs in anticipation of what may come. Worry and frustration mixed into a furry of aggravation as time slowly passed. Many thoughts flustered their minds, but one thought surpassed it all, receiving the golden ticket, their unemployment check. The loud industrial fans circulated an aroma of sweat and cheap cologne throughout the room; the nauseating smell added annoyance to the already irritated men. Amongst the crowd of frustrated men, one man stood out from the pack.


He shared many of the same physical attributes: scruffy baseball hat, rough face, distressed t-shirt, tattered jeans, and well-worn shoes, yet his stance revealed so much more about himself. Rather than standing slumped over in defeat, he held his head high with confidence. While many of the men moved like robots, he took each step resistant to becoming a machine. He was determined to not let his circumstances break him. Knowing that this was simply a mere set back, he was able to carry himself with esteem. Unlike the irritated men, anger was not dominating his attitude. His shoulders and arms remained relaxed, while others were bound in tension. Many of the men around him clenched their fists, yet his fingers fiddled with the little numbered ticket. His hands displayed a calm demeanor. As they slowly continued down the line, his peers grew hostile. Some became violent and consequently were removed by security, and others fought aggressively with their words. No matter how belligerent the crowd became, he abstained from the crude behavior. Even though earlier in the day he had forgotten to pull a numbered ticket and was forced to walk to the start of the line, his attitude remained hopeful. That momentary hindrance moved him back fifty people, yet he still held more optimism than the next man in line. A glow of hope radiated from his eyes; there was a greater purpose to his life. Everyone else was consumed by the exasperation of waiting for their check, but his mind drifted to a better place. He was filled with thoughts of his family and how important this one check was to them. The other men in the room held a stern, harsh expression, focusing only on their current unemployment.


After hours of waiting, the lengthy trail was coming to end. Everyone in front of him griped and complained as they received their check, showing pure ingratitude as they stomped out of the room. Unlike the men before him, when they called his number, a smile spread across his face. As the agent handed him his long-awaited unemployment check, he firmly shook her hand and thanked her for her assistance. A spark of appreciation radiated across his face. The agent was taken back; he was the first friendly face she had seen all day. For a moment, his gratefulness light up the cold room, shinning a glimmer of hope for the others in the crowd.





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