Losing a job can be an education

Opinion: Arlene Jones

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By Arlene Jones

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Losing a job is always tough. But losing one right before Christmas is even tougher. And that is what happened to me. As my manager mouthed the words, "I'm sorry to tell you …," I knew what was coming.

I took the loss with the optimism that flowed out of everyone else's mouth as they tried to console me. When one door closes, another opens is what they said. And as much as I love that phrase, it's hard to see an opening when everything around you appears so dark due to that closed door.

I knew I had to find another job and fast. Something about "eating" will make most folks stop clowning — sometimes. As I began my new job search, I opted to use the Internet. The Net has more options than the daily newspaper or the tired ads shown on the wall at the unemployment office.

Since I have a Commercial Driver's License (CDL), I started in the transportation area of the website. And there I saw what makes me happy: Job after job listed for drivers. And so I began the process.

I finally found and accepted an offer to drive for a company in the suburbs. As part of their hiring practice, I had to do training to learn their way of doing things.

In my training class was a young man whom I will give the fictitious name of Joe. He is 23 and treated getting hired as no big deal. During the first week of training, he acted as he probably did all through school. He yawned. He slouched and when called on to answer questions from the training material, he acted as if it was a joke. He also spewed the "MF" word so much that I had to ask him to please find some other verbiage. In return, he called me a "snitch."

During the second week of training when we all had to drive, Joe, who claimed he knew the city well, couldn't understand a very basic concept. He was asked, if he were at Devon Avenue and had to go south to Fullerton Avenue, how many hundred south would he go and how far north would he still be? Joe guessed and guessed, but it really wasn't funny.

Later on that week, when we had to drive with the instructor who was going to help Joe get his CDL, Joe came to class exhausted and probably hung over from the night before, celebrating his BM's (baby mama) birthday.

I didn't see Joe for a week and when I did, he looked different. He told me one of the instructors was doing her best to make sure he got fired. Joe, who had been the class clown, now looked and sounded serious. His entire demeanor had changed. The reality of losing a job before he even got started was sinking in.

Alas, that change in behavior, which should have happened after the first day when he saw how serious the company was regarding being a safe driver, was now taking place too late. Joe was fired. If there was any redeeming value in his experience, he did manage to get his CDL and can try for a different company.

I have advocated and will continue to maintain that driving commercially is one of the few industries that cannot be outsourced.

The potential for advancement for young people who come to the industry and take it seriously is unlimited. Joe, unfortunately, represents far too many young black men who don't "grow up" until something happens to make them do so. For Joe, it was losing the job. For others, often, it is going to jail.

Thankfully, Joe can get another job opportunity because of that CDL and will hopefully not blow it. Driving professionally has a lot of responsibilities.

And the "Joes" of this world are the reason so many employers have taken jobs out of this country. It is time our young people stop helping to give employers the excuse.

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