By Ray Zalinsky
With the normal throng of tourists still absent, Times Square was nonetheless packed yesterday with a chanting mob of the newly unemployed.
Having stoically stared down job losses caused by the shuttered US economy during the COVID quarantine, the mass of otherwise hard-working Americans erupted in fury at the news the economy was re-opening, and they were welcome back at their jobs.
“This is an outrage!” fumed former Olive Garden waiter Jeremy Wilkins, “I was just saving up for the down payment on a new F-150, and now they want me back serving tables this weekend. You just can’t get ahead.”
With combined federal and state unemployment benefits far exceeding their normal income, the workers echoed demands of other protestors in cities across the country, insisting that governors extend quarantines.
“This used to be the land of opportunity,” said former Bank of America teller Jeremy Wilkins, as he gingerly climbed through the shattered front window of this former employer. “But now, as soon as you finally earn the right to double dip from both severance and unemployment, you’re smashed under the fascist bootheel of the system.”
Not everyone shared in the anger. As flames started to blacken the shrimp sign outside Bubba Gump, long-time Roc Center custodian Walt Jackson looked on in despair. “I have not missed a day of work in 23 years. When they laid me off in March, it was the saddest day of my life. But this nonsense is just crazy.”
When asked whether he was looking forward to returning to work next week, Jackson blinked. “What? Hell, no. I’m making three times as much now as I ever made in that goddamn place.” He coughed gently. “And it just happens I caught the COVID today.”
Employers expressed shock at the response. Barbara Mattingly, owner of Dragonfly Shoes, laid off seven employees in March. “We all held each other and cried together, COVID be damned,” Mattingly said, “We were a family.” She called them joyously last week to announce the re-opening. The response was uniformly furious. “They asked me how could I be so heartless.” They have all refused to return, except her stockboy Greg, who stopped by to lob a brick through her window. EAT TURDS, BARB!!! was scrawled across it.
Across town, restauranteur Edwin Gomez sat on the floor of his darkened taqueria, surrounded by boxes. “Come in here any Friday night and you were hit by a wave of happy voices. Now there is nothing but silence,” lamented Gomez, pulling a metal rod from a box, “Two weeks after I laid off my kitchen, I was on my laptop at midnight, trying to be first in line for a PPP loan.”
Gomea snapped the rod into a metal housing and inserted a final screw. “We got it three days ago, but no one will come back. They sit at home and play FIFA and earn twice what I paid.”
Gomez stood with his creation. “So I decided to spend all of my PPP on five of these WaitBot 3000s.” Gomez turned it on with his Ipad, launched a routine, and watched as Waitbot prepared tableside guacamole. Gomez dipped a chip. “From now on Waitbot, your name is Juan.”
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