It was around 8:44 a.m. when I knew I would be in for the headiest jam of my life. Every 30 or so seconds a lilting sax riff comes in, rising like the number of folks with infected COVID-19. Is it a buff guy with a sax or is it a white squirrel playing a pipe as a sax? This is the Minnesota Unemployment hotline music and baby is it hot!
For the 10 minutes I closed my eyes I thought the song was transforming into the 1987 Grateful Dead hit “Touch of Grey.” while imagining myself turning into a Jerry Garcia skeleton, nine fingers and all.
The guitar solo gets dirtier each time. I start to picture Gov. Tim Walz slamming riffs on a Rickenbacker with an unmistakable stank on his face, Frey tickling the keys wearing sunglasses much like Mayor Pete, all to the tune of “Hey, you idiot, you don’t qualify for unemployment benefits.”
About a minute out from each loop is a hypnotic ding, the ding that I hope is not the bell each time a customer service rep gets coronavirus. And as my larynx tightens I’m thinking, couldn’t we just Zoom?
It took me two hours of hold music to realize I am a hapless dumbass, but I was becoming a slave to the groove, the elevator anthem of labor, the cry of the comrades. Is the music jazz? Is it blues? Is it Boz Scaggs?
You see, self-employed jerks out there like myself -- all 16 million of us throughout the United States -- do not qualify for unemployment benefits because, get this, we don’t have cool barking-dog employers paying into it for us. Yes, it’s a fact that dweebs like myself don’t pay attention to when we do our taxes each year because after counting each Taco Bell write-off, there is no more brainspace for chalupa math.
Mind you, I had the wherewithal to hold in my bowels for the chance to hear the Velveeta soothsaying of a real human (of which we are in short supply these days). Closing in at an hour and 44 minutes, I finally spoke to someone. He seemed smug, having a job as he did, merely a prop to remind me that I have lost at the game of capitalism and will not be receiving an abundant flotilla of cheddar.
Please, Minnesota, just take my weekly unemployment payment of $51, buy yourself a new pack of strings, and maybe get Melvin Carter into the band?