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Jewish World Review August 13, 2002 / 5 Elul, 5762

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

Braving difficult steps | NEW YORK He wanted a job.

Like everyone else heading to last week's job fair at Madison Square Garden, that's all Nick wanted. But as a Brooklyn grandpa who had served 29 years with the post office, recently went blind and walked haltingly with a guide dog, his chances frankly didn't look so good.

Then again, neither did anyone else's at that dismal fair.

I'd met Nick only that morning. He introduced himself on the 34th St. bus as everyone was admiring his gorgeous yellow Lab, Ned.

But if Ned looked perfectly urbane blocking several charmed commuters, Nick looked hangdog. His tie was knotted near his heart. His MetroCard was AWOL. He wasn't quite sure how to get to the Garden, so I offered to take him. Then I figured I'd skedaddle.

Oh, what a sad scene met us there! Hundreds of job seekers corraled like cattle, in power suits radiating anything but. No power, just the patience to spend several hours - and $5 - for the chance to meet representatives from 35 companies.

With all this competition - most of it decades younger than Nick - I felt justified hustling him to the head of the line. Hustling, that is, with time out to negotiate the steps. These were very tricky for Nick, and the escalator was worse. As we neared the top, I wasn't sure exactly when to say, "Walk!" So I missed my chance and Nick went flying.

Time to bid ta-ta, I reckoned. But what was he supposed to do now? Stumble around the card tables with his wrinkled résumé? So I stayed put, and the first reps we came to were from the Air Force.

"Um, I don't think this one's right for you," I said. But Nick was more optimistic. "Maybe I could do some recruiting?" The guys smiled kindly but didn't hold out any job applications.

Neither did the nice ladies from American Express. "I'm highly motivated," Nick told them. "In my time at the post office I worked every conceivable day, so my hours can be flexible. My days off can be flexible. I can be a dispatcher if you have a car service, or maybe you have some freight elevators?"

Unfortunately, the ladies were looking for financial advisers - savvy numbers people to inspire confidence in investors.

That's an impossible task even for Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan. Ditto Nick.

Neither did Nick seem very qualified to be a Bally's fitness instructor, a Home Depot employee or a Madison Square Garden hot dog guy, trotting up and down the stands. As we took the lapel pins offered as a kind of consolation prize, I told Nick we had to leave.

"So soon?" asked the guard escorting us to the "handicap-accessible" exit through several miles of hallway - and about 20 steps.

Nick seemed surprised by the brevity of our visit, too. He'd probably taken hours to get there. Now I was hurrying him out.

But really, everyone should have hurried out of there. The jobs were no better than any you'd find in the want ads. The recruiters looked about one rung up from the fairgoers. I'd be shocked if anyone found a decent job there.

When we finally reached sunlight, Nick begged me to hold on a sec. "That was hard," he panted. "The steps."

The steps? How about hunting for a job when you're blind and getting old and hundreds of young people are just as desperate as you are? That's hard.

I salute all those job seekers, but Nick especially. Talk about guts.

So if you need a freight elevator operator who can work nights or weekends, lemme know.

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.


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