These guys have got it tough, but at least they're employed. Photo via
After my sweet release from prison last year, I struggled for about a year looking for a decent job. I badly wanted to work—it was like I like I had to take an explosive urination in my pants, that’s how urgent it was. I quickly became discouraged when my first ten applications were shot down. This was unusual for me. In my former, preprison life, I had been hired on the spot a number of times for waiter jobs, but it just wasn’t working this time around. I figured that maybe it was the bad economy, maybe it was my long hair and moustache, or maybe restaurant managers checked on my name and found out about my checkered past. Regardless, I was frustrated quickly and basically quit.
It wasn’t like I was totally broke. Between the columns I wrote for VICE and welfare, I earned enough to scrape buy. Plus, thanks to the good credit rating I had built up back when I was living high on the hog during my drug-dealing days, I bagged up a $20,000 credit line with 0 percent APR. Suddenly, getting a job wasn’t really all that necessary. My girl wasn’t working either, and we had just suffered for two years without each other, so we took a long vacation together.
However, I fell into a self-destructive state with my idle hands doing dirt—though I gotta admit, it was actually a helluva a good time. A whole lottta drinking, rapacious bone sessions left, right, up, down, and all around from the ceiling to the floor and up against the garage door... Eventually I got reckless with my drug use, which I thought of as consequence-free since welfare was giving me money, and I didn’t have to work for it. Besides, I had spent a couple years of living like a monk in prison, so I felt like I deserved to BALL until the downfall. That downfall hit when I got in legal trouble again, and parole put their boot on my neck.
It was obvious to a retarded duck and also everyone in my family that I needed to get a job more for the structure than anything else—that way I wouldn’t get stopped-and-frisked for no reason by some cock-smoking pork chop in Queens. I went hard on round two of the job search. I had all these outpatient rehab groups to go to every week, so I needed flexibility with my hours, which really made waiting tables the only option, and that was what I was most experienced at anyway. After getting shut down at 25 or so places, my confidence and self-esteem were shot. I was in disbelief. I felt lower than low, and stress was mounting, ‘cause I was dropping dough like a dummy all over my credit cards. I couldn’t help but think about selling drugs again… Only weed this time 'cause it’s so much safer, but thank baby Jesus’s penis, my girl is smart enough to tell me to shut shut shut my fuckin’ cock-polisher any time I even entertain those thoughts.
I applied to be a nude male model and was told I wasn’t boner-able enough, which was a solid shot to my manhood. I thought I was mucho fuego, and there I was telling this sleaze-breezy pimp that I’d happily let my nuts hang for the camera, and he sneered, “Nah, you’re not tall enough.” I was very close to agreeing to being in porn or sacrificing myself to the fat horny ones at bachelorette parties.
I was due for one more indignity before things really got ugly. Part of my prison routine consisted of fastidiously exercising like a crazy man, so I’ve always seriously considered personal training or something like that, but I was too busy being a doped-up and drunk toto-eating bum to take the classes and get certified like a responsible go-getter. I decided to try to get a position to train at a top health club by sliding in the backdoor, working as a janitor before ascending to the top of the training game. I was ready to pay my dues and live out the American rags-to-riches melodrama, and the guy at the gym was ready to hire me. He was laughing at the notion that a skinny cracker with a BA from some pretentious college was going to be emptying his garbage can and laundering his sperm socks, but lo and behold there was an impasse. As we got my hours straight and agreed that I would be paid $8.25 an hour for the first few weeks, while it was established that I could properly mop a floor and dispose of gym members’ discarded sperm socks, the manager received an email from HR—the background check came back, and I was not fit to be a lowly fuckin’ janitor, thanks to the time I got caught with an amount of cocaine that was above the arbitrary cutoff that makes me a felon for life. The manager told me he was sorry, but absolutely nothing could be done. I was not janitor material.
Finally, a couple months ago by some magical miracle, a highly bonerable restaurant in Brooklyn hired me as a server. I’m 99.9 percent sure that they googled me, but they were forgiving enough not to care about me playing with some cocaine back in 2004.
I cannot stress enough how lucky I am to have found this job. Most parolees are not this lucky. Most parolees cannot pronounce Beaujolais or rock a look that makes you acceptable to all the moneyed hip people who show up at the restaurant. Sometimes all a cracker needs is a chance. Unfortunately, many people on parole are never given that chance, so they revert to doing dirt, like I almost did. It’s better to be lucky than good, I guess.
Bert Burykill is the pseudonym of our prison correspondent, who has spent time in a number of prisons in New York State. He tweets here.