It was an hour-plus before the unemployment benefits office opened this morning and already there were about ten people waiting in the cold, morning dawn. By the time the doors actually opened, there were close to 30 people, me among them.
The guy I was standing next to was a miner. His work strip-mining marble for upscale counter-tops and other uses traditionally shuts down in winter: The stone was hard to work in the cold weather and then there was snow and ice: "Steel treads don't work well on ice," he commented. He had tickets to a professional basketball game tonight. "I bought them when times were good," he said, "and we really shouldn't go, but the girlfriend loves basketball, so I guess we will." Luckily, since in hard times there are still a lot of rich people (how could times be tough otherwise?) his work will resume in the spring.
Thirty people at just one center. Extension benefits were approved just last Friday, so there was bound to be a rush of people filing for extensions. But there were a lot of first-timers as well. I wondered how many centers like the one I was at dotted this state ... or the nation.
In the morning chill, it seemed to me to be a reality check for everyone there. It was nice in the sense that individuals did not have to feel so lonely. And it was nasty in the sense that this was proof positive -- the country really is in trouble and those who helped caused it have not yet shown the decency to consider their responsibility and, at a minimum, apologize.