Meet Dominick. He’s a native of Connecticut, now living in New Hampshire. I’ve known Dom online for about 10 years or so.
Here’s a photo of Dom. He’s the dude on the left. No slacker there, right? Nice shirt, nice tie, no long hair. Very … businesslike. Very … professional. Very … buttoned down. No tie-dyed hippie threads there, no sirree! Civil engineers don’t usually go to work in hippie threads. Not the kind of person you see out of the “freak show” they somehow seem to display most often on the news when it comes to the Occupy movement.
I guess you could say Dom’s pretty much full-tilt middle class after having studied civil and architectural design and drafting at Porter & Chester Institute.
That’s what Dom’s trade has been, working as a civil engineer. That takes some smarts, right? His specific discipline of expertise is roads, highways and bridges/structures. He’s also done work in the environmental impact/study aspect of engineering. He has a specific skill in the field, as a computer aided drafter and designer (CADD).
“I take the finitely calculated solutions engineers come up with and apply them to paper, in a readable, working drawing format to be used in a construction or advisory way. I’ve been doing it for over 20 years,” Dom says. “It’s funny, you would think the acronym CADD would be common knowledge to most these days when it is mentioned, as it has been around about 35 years. But when someone asks what I do and I use the word CADD to get it across, I get a dog-like head tilt more often than not. So, then I typically have to spell it out for them and say ‘computer aided drafting and design.'”
Dom has had three different jobs over the years, with three different firms. There have always been slowdowns in his industry and he’s been laid off twice before. The longest time ever for him to be without a job before his current situation was 2 1/2 months back in 1992.
Now, he’s been out of work since March 12, 2010.
“This is much different than the little bump -in-the-road slowdowns of those days,” Dom says. “Everything, infrastructure-wise, has ground to a standstill over the past couple years. Hence the elimination of my job. Our biggest client, MASS Highway, took two of the biggest jobs we were doing for them and put them on indefinite hold. So, there’s no backlog of work to sustain a design staff? Then there’s no need to keep staff on hand to do nothing but add to overhead costs. Myself and a recently re-hired traffic engineer were let go two weeks after those jobs went on indefinite hold. I’m sure more heads have rolled since then too.”
Dom mentioned infrastructure work grinding to a standstill. To me, it brings to mind the repeated pleas of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). If you’ve never heard Sen. Sanders speak on the need for investment in infrastructure — and how far behind we’re falling in comparison to other countries when it comes to repairing existing and working on new infrastructure projects — here’s an example:
Keep that in mind as we continue with Dom’s personal story.
“My last day of work was Friday, March 12, 2010. But the funny thing is, I started looking for work about a year before that day came. I was looking for work because I was commuting back and forth from a bedroom community west of Concord, NH, to Boston every day, a four-hour commute total, back and forth. Do the math, a minimum of 20 hours of every week was spent commuting, provided there were no traffic issues … but, I still had a job, so I was grateful for that. I was doing this insane commute because a year before, my company had decided to close our Concord, NH, office location to cut costs. They offered the core staff positions in the Boston office. Three of us, including me, took the offer. So, that is when my job search actually began, on January 1, 2009. Meanwhile, other things were happening during that wonderful year of 2009. My relationship with my girlfriend fell apart, she eventually moved out. I was struggling to pay a mortgage I could not really afford on my own, pay my child support on time and find a job to bring me closer to home again.
“Needless to say, I had no luck finding another position, in my field, during my 15 months of commuting hell going back and forth to Boston. My time ran out in March 2010, I was now free to go. I was a free-range human! By mid-April, I was collecting unemployment benefits for the first time in many, many years. Meanwhile, I was behind in my mortgage with no hope of catching up, even after a restructure attempt. That clock ran out in August when the foreclosure came through and the auctions began. I was offered a ‘cash for keys’ (plan) to vacate the premises by a certain date, which in retrospect, might have been the wrong thing to do. But so be it, I was so stressed out at the time, I probably would have jumped into a bottomless abyss if they offered me a feeling of some sort of relief. By the graces of a good friend who was also going through a similar tough financial time, I was given a place to live at her little farmhouse in Hollis, NH. Fifty miles from where I lived previously, but still only 25 miles from my daughter, I’m just situated south of her now instead of north of her. I still live here and while I’m appreciative of my luck in finding such a low-cost living arrangement, I’d like to get some semblance of my life back again soon.”
Dom has been looking for work from that southern New Hampshire location ever since. In that time, he’s had exactly three real job interviews but nothing has come of them.
He says that region of the country is not a very booming area in the construction/maintenance/rehab aspect of engineering right now, so many firms are still working with their skeleton crews and just getting by and don’t need any costly CADD techs on staff.
“Lots of bigger road/structure design and rehab jobs rely on federal funding in order to get paid for, and we know that is not happening too soon either,” Dom adds. “If I was single, I could probably find a good job in my field elsewhere in the country where this business might be slightly better, but I don’t want to be out of my daughter’s life. She just turned 14 and this would be the worst time for me to up and work at some remote location away from her for months, possibly years at a time. It is not an option right now.
“So, I have been applying for jobs I never imagined doing again. From package handler/loader at UPS to a highway maintenance crew member to school bus driver (they train me to get my CDL in exchange for a year of service to their company). I am even in the process of trying to become a conservation officer for the state of New Hampshire, which is a very long shot, but something I can see myself loving to do. My biggest obstacles in this search are most likely my experience level, my specific, specialized talent and my age, which is 44. Most places see my resume and figure I’m over- or under -qualified for whatever position I may be applying for or they don’t want to take on such an old geezer at this juncture. My (unemployment) benefits run out at the end of December, and I have no real prospects out there that even come close to the career I once had. I’ve presented a lot of input into the effort, but not very much has come back and the daily news makes it sound like things will be getting much worse before they even show hints of getting better.”
Now, let’s get back to the issue of infrastructure in the U.S. Does Dom feel that the slowdown in infrastructure is partly or mostly because this nation hasn’t invested enough into it?
“Oh, definitely,” he answers. “With the GOP takeover in 2010 and the Tea Party mindsets and all that clownery, they don’t want to pay for anything. They expect things to magically appear and not to be ‘tread on.’ Much of it is coming from that, along with the bank bailout disaster, the mortgage crisis, all of it. And the GOP’s only goal for the past two years was to try to unseat the ‘foreign born’ black man who is ‘masquerading’ as our president.”
What kind of emotions has Dom been going through as a result of his struggle to maintain some semblance of a decent way of life?
“I’ve been mostly pissed off for almost two years straight,” he says bluntly. “But I manage to maintain as easygoing an attitude as humanly possible, so as to not affect the life, feelings and emotions of those around me too much. Especially my daughter, she’s seen enough without the emotional shit that I could put out on top of it all.
“Other emotions meander between hopelessness, despair, mental anguish, constant frustration with the human condition, humongous disappointment with the human race in general, but super stupid Americans, specifically.”
As you can see, Dom doesn’t mince words.
And now, to keep this blog’s musical sense intact and to show who he is musically, Dom offers some of his own selections — tunes that have helped him to keep his sanity, to keep him rockin’. We need that in times like these.
I would encourage anyone who knows people in similar circumstances — long-term jobless either now or in the recent past, aggressively searching in order to turn their lives around — to get in touch with me so I can share their stories as well. I’ll get into the causes of their unemployment, and — as I’ve shared so intimately in my own posts — the feelings that go on inside of them as they face their individual struggles.
If you know of anyone, send me a message on Facebook here.
This nation needs to start thinking about putting politics aside for good and start solving the problems for real.