Saturday, January 24, 2009
Another Story From the Second Depression
Meet Charles James Isler. He doesn't have a steady job. He hasn't in twenty years. He stands by the side of the road with a sign reading "I Need Work". You'd think he's one of those desperate souls who has hit hard times and is hoping for an odd job to keep him going. Or maybe he's got a hard luck story, an addiction - maybe he's homeless. Why else would he spend two or three hours standing in the winter cold, bundled against the biting wind as his nose runs, hoping someone will stop and give him something to do for day or two?
According to Mr. Isler, his back to basics career hunt has kept him working on and off for twenty years. "You go to those employment centers and they give you the run around," he told me. "I've always gotten work this way."
That's more important than ever now, as he recently got married. He proudly showed me a photo of his wife when she was a model. Those days are gone, the money's gone, and Charles Isler has responsibilities now.
"She has a sleeping problem," he said. "I have to buy her sleeping medication and she has a high tolerance - I have to buy a lot of it." His wife's name is Lucy. He made a point of telling me.
And so Charles James Isler puts on his coat, his scarf, his gloves and his hat, picks up his sign and stands by the side of a busy street in a small New York town. "I Need Work" his sign proclaims.
I wondered if he worried that as the economy worsens, the work will dry up for him.
"Nah, nah. People need help, they need something done in a hurry and they see me standing out here and take me off."
"And do you do this seven days a week?"
He smiled. "Sometimes. Sometimes. And sometimes I get lucky."