A couple of months ago, the marketing agency where I worked full-time laid off our entire creative team. I was the Senior Copywriter. I wrote about wine, vodka, baby food, rice, microprocessors, cell phones and other products that keep the economy flowing. For five years, I spent many 40+hour weeks, late nights and several weekends with a small group of extremely talented art directors. The things we created appeared in-store, as well as on websites, radio stations, bus shelters and coupons. In the time we worked together, our group became extremely close.
Since the layoff, we’ve been meeting nearly every other week for lunch and cheap drinks. Over half-priced tacos and $5 margaritas, we share stories of how we actually hated what we did, yet we miss the financial stability. We complain about how freelance work is hit or miss. We discuss the fact that California’s EDD is a joke. (No one can ever get through to a live representative. My friend Anne, who speaks Chinese, suggested we call the Chinese EDD line. She said she only had to wait two minutes until she heard a human voice. And the voice on the other end spoke Chinese, as well as English–which is helpful if the only Chinese you know is, “Ni hao.”) We talk about what we really want to do. It’s like we’re the The Legion of Unemployed Drinkers–a group of three to ten creatives who gather to reassure each other that we’re not alone in this temporary situation. Over potent libations, of course.
How it works is one of us selects an inexpensive lunch spot in L.A., and we meet up. In the past two months, it’s been Cabo Cantina for Taco Tuesdays, Barney’s Beanery and Veggie Grill, which doesn’t exactly fit within the budget constraints of the jobless. Today, it was Gyu-Kaku on LaCienega. They have a happy hour that lasts from 12 – 6:30 pm–which equates to one very happy afternoon.
In a way, our lunches are therapeutic. We catch up, share stories about who’s in job purgatory at our old office, and swap ideas of how to find our next gig. We try to help each other figure it all out. When it comes to freelance work, I feel as if I’m doing the least out of the group–even though I’ve probably done the most when it comes to pounding the pavement. Then again, I’m the only writer. Everyone thinks they can write. Not everyone has InDesign skills.
Our [almost] bimonthly meetings sparked an idea today. If there aren’t already, there should be Meetup groups in various cities for the unemployed who like to imbibe. It’s encouraging to be amongst people who can relate to what you’re going through. Plus, it gives you something to do with your excess free time–besides knit kitten pillows or hit the gym twice a day. There should be a Twitter feed or website dedicated solely to food and drink on a limited budget. I could certainly contribute, as well as benefit, from such a list. And if you, oh savvy reader, know of any places to add to the list, feel free to share the wealth.