Essay: Job Hunting

Much has been written about American jobs moving to China. Finding myself full of the free time joy of unemployment, last week I flew over there to visit my old job and see how it was settling in.

I could not afford the airfare on my own, but as luck would have it the Industrial Commercial Bank of China was more than happy to float me a loan. While I was in the office I simply could not resist borrowing a little extra to make a down payment on a sweet short sale I have had my eye on since it went into foreclosure.

Fifteen hours later I unfolded myself out of my United overhead compartment seat at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport. It was the only seat they had available. First and business class were completely taken up by American manufacturing, which had upgraded using frequent flier miles. Economy class was sold out but the seats were empty, purchased by the Chinese because they did not know what else to do with the rest of their three trillion of our dollars once they had filled every swimming pool in the country with Ben Franklins.

My job had been as a regulatory attorney for a medium-sized financial planning firm. Pulling out my pocket Mandarin phrasebook, I approached the airport information desk. The closest thing in the book to “Where is my job?” was “Where is the bathroom?” After several mangled attempts at producing the proper tones, I gave up and pointed at the page. The guide pointed at the male silhouette sign down the hall.

At baggage claim I bumped into the jobs that had been on my flight. They were waiting on a shuttle out to the industrial park. There was room for one more on the luggage rack, so I tagged along.

My job was not at the industrial park, and let me tell you something: whosever jobs that were there had really let themselves go. One job was sticking Intel Inside stickers onto laptops as they came off the assembly line for twelve hours a day. One job was pushing the on/off switch of new cell phones to make sure they could turn on. One job was pushing it again to make sure they could turn off.

As many jobs as got off the airport shuttle at the industrial park also got on for the return trip. I flagged down one that was carrying a ball of yarn and asked if it was going home to America. It laughed and went back to studying its Vietnamese phrasebook.

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