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Living on the Dole

By Christopher Schonberger

Last year, when my friend Cheddar Ted and I were living next to New York’s Amsterdam projects and coaching middle school sports part-time, we often found ourselves sitting around watching The Tudors on demand and wondering if we were eligible to collect unemployment checks. After all, we had both been laid off from an online startup through no fault of our own, and we were sending out the required two job applications per week. I guess that when the temperature started creeping over 70? and the ice cream truck showed up at 2PM to cater to the 95 people chilling on the basketball court outside, we couldn’t help but think, “Yeah, this is the life. Working is for suckers!”

Ultimately, we decided that it was unethical to even inquire about our dole eligibility. Even though we both fancied ourselves “writers,” we knew that leeching off “the system” while writing horrible screenplays would not benefit anyone in the long run.

Apparently, Franklin Schneider doesn’t share our moral qualms. In the latest issue of the Washington City Paper, he defends decision to live off the dole whenever possible. Despite its many flaws, Doing more with less: In defense of creative loafing [via Metafilter] is worth a read. Schneider’s loafing does not appear to be very creative, and his self-satisfied smugness is a bit abrasive, but the experiences he recount still resonate with the recent grad life as they are based primarily on eating the cheapest possible food and sending out loads of résumés (though his are purposefully awful).

Of course, the general notion that work can suck sometimes is widely accepted. Unless you are extremely lucky, you spend the majority of your waking hours each day doing things for other people and stressing out over a paycheck, and that can be a frustrating experience. But most people who have experienced unemployment will tell you that it’s even more stressful, especially when you get sick and realize you have no healthcare. Or when you hit 65 and have to start working at Arby’s.

Better to keep looking for the job you love than to rely on government kickbacks, especially at this age. That said, if you do go through an extended period of unemployment, be sure to make the most of it. Because, yeah, it’s true, working on that novel is tough after you’ve just sat at a computer for 10 hours on the job. I know, because to this day I still haven’t finished any of my horrible screenplays. On the flipside, I also don’t live next to the projects anymore.

Related: The Abolition of Work, by Bob Black

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