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"I suppose that it's nobody's fault."

On August 24, 2018, Geoffrey Weglarz (alias Geoffrey Corbis) drove into New York City from his home in Connecticut to sell a camera tripod at a photography shop. They gave him a check for $275. He next went to his bank to cash that check. The bank had a policy of calling the source to confirm that the check was good, but the shop had closed for the day so the bank refused to cash the check. Geoffrey drove to the Lower East Side, parked his car, and drank a vial of poison he'd acquired on the dark web. He texted his sister in Florida saying that the stuff tasted every bit as terrible as he'd feared, then he died sitting in the driver's seat of his car. His family contacted the NYPD several times over the following week seeking their help in locating Geoffrey. They found him a week later, still sitting behind the wheel of his car.

Geoffrey started his adult life as a dinner theater actor, a passion he continued to pursue until shortly before he took his own life.
Along the way, he'd become a software developer, rising to supervise other developers before his company was sold. The acquiring company offered him a lateral (at best) position after the acquisition, but he'd clearly lost his mobility. By that time, he'd acquired a wife and a son and a house in Connecticut. He took a position with more promise with another company, but that job required him to fly to Texas every week. After a few years, the travel took its toll. He quit that job, thinking that he'd have no problem securing a replacement position.

When the PBS News Hour interviewed him in 2013, he reported that he'd applied for 481 jobs wth no offers. He and his wife divorced. He'd run through his saving by then, and his 401(k), and was a month away from receiving his last unemployment check. He melted down one evening in a McDonald's drive thru when he received something other than what he'd ordered. He threw the offending item at the clerk in the drive-in window and was charged with disorderly conduct. The charge was later dropped but any prospective employer Googling his name would first encounter the reports of the charges. He took on an alias to avoid the prejudicing effect.

He was able to pick up the odd consulting gig, a thousand here and there, but nothing like living pay and nothing in any way permanent. It appears that the $275 check he'd received for selling that camera tripod was the only money he had left to show for his long and distinguished careers. I suspect that he figured that he had no home in this world anymore. The crashes of the past came and went, a few hard years giving way to better times again. The current unemployment rate ignores all those who somehow got frozen out of the job market and misrepresents the waste our society tolerates when skilled professionals drive Ubers or volunteer at the local library to avoid stir-craziness. Tip over a certain age and nobody wants to hire you, regardless of your knowledge, skills, or experience. I suppose that that's nobody's fault.

Modern credit allows one to maintain the appearance of a middle-class life lifestyle long after they lose the ability to sustain it. Home equity loans, money set aside for retirement, and rainy day savings can maintain appearances for years, for almost as long as the hope holds out, until just before the faith in the future evaporates. The sense of irrelevance and the feelings of utter uselessness do more damage than than any physical threat possibly could. The feeling of fading away, of no longer belonging anywhere, these can gobble up anyone's future. Their clock just runs out.

When The Muse and I went bust back in 2008, we figured that we had a month before we'd lose everything we once had. Another four weeks and the bank would want our home back and those thoughtful people who had stepped in to subsidize us through the downturn would catch on that no upturn was coming. The Muse found a job during that last month, one that called her to relocate clear across the country. I followed. Had that job not come, had innumerable angels not arrived just in time, we might have ended up like Geoffrey ended up, finally accepting that what we once believed we'd earned had simply gone and would never return again.

Geoffrey's story hit me particularly hard because it hit so damned close to home. None of any of this, I learned when we almost touched bottom, is ever anyone's fault. The Muse went to lunch today with a retiring senior scientist at the lab and he told her of his mid-career plummet, where he went from a prestigious position with a major oil company to living in his RV for a few months. Angels appeared and introduced him around at the lab and his option got picked up and his career finally ended a decade later with an orderly retirement, like all of the retirement planners presume every career will end. I don't have numbers to back up this assertion, but I believe that an increasing number of people no longer experience anything like an orderly retirement at the end of their career. I suppose that it's nobody's fault. Just the way it's become. Still that story in The Times hit me particularly hard today.

Rest in peace, Geoffrey.

Here'a a
link to the Times' story:

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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