Working It: Struggling Through A Layoff
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This month, we're presenting a series of audio portraits that we call Working It - personal stories about finding and keeping a job in a difficult economy. And sometimes losing a job, too. We're meeting people in Nashville, Tennessee, including Graham Gray. She's 44 years old, college educated, a married mother of two. Recently, she lost her job in computer-related sales for the second time in a year. Still, her days are full with the work moms do - school pickups and dental visits, soccer practice and bedtime stories.
GRAHAM GRAY: Oh, hi, honey. How are you? Lost my job in April and then actively looked throughout the summer and then found a job. And was really stoked about the job. It seemed like a great opportunity. You say bye-bye to Ayo(ph)?
AMORY GRAY: Bye, Aunt Marie.
GRAY: And it was a really good feeling to have this job when our washing machine just died and we were able to go and get a new washing machine and breathe easy about it because we'll be fine. OK. You ready? Can you undo your belt?
GRAY: (unintelligible) breakfast?
GRAY: I am sure.
GRAY: Are you sure?
GRAY: I'm really sure.
GRAY: Are you sure?
GRAY: I'm sure. Thirty-five days later, I was let go. I don't know. Some people even said, gosh, did you even know where the coffeemaker was then? You know, it was abrupt. And like I said, I'm still stunned. And now we're not fine. We're not.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Welcome to the Tennessee Employment Security Information and Payment System.
GRAY: Unemployment checks certainly aren't a lot but beats poke in the eye.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Spanish spoken).
GRAY: So, when I lost my job in April, I did have insurance. That was taken care of by the company for the two months. When that two months was up, there's a thing called COBRA that kicks in. And unless you've seen how astronomical those prices can be, there's just absolutely no way.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Amory Gray - he's ready to go.
GRAY: OK. (unintelligible). So, let me just show you my COBRA bill that came, the billing notice. For health insurance for me and my children, dental and vision: $2,032.69 for the month. And I don't have that money monthly. Not many of us do. How are you feeling, Cal? OK. Calvin had got pneumonia a couple of years ago when we were sort of in this boat and in between jobs and we had cruddy out-of-pocket insurance that only covered X amount. He was 5 years old. He's now 9. I think I just stopped paying those bills. OK. So, sweetie, need to go in, get nice clean jammies on. Brush your teeth and then we'll hop into beddie-bye and we'll get a book, OK? When I was in about second or third grade, my dad lost his job, and I remember being fearful that, wow, a mom or dad could lose their job just like that. Can you get Amory jammies and you got to brush your teeth too. I definitely want to protect my sons from that feeling of insecurity that I had as a child. I don't even want them for one moment to feel one bit of angst over the fact that mom or dad needs to find a job so that we can have health insurance. They're too little. They don't need to know about health insurance.
CAL GRAY: Can I read "Tuna" tonight?
GRAY: Yeah, well, let me read - do you want me to read that one first?
GRAY: OK. All right. So, that is cat got your nose. And my older son, I just told him that, said, you know, this job that I just took might not have been a very good fit for mommy. And I'll be close by if something, if I'm needed during the school day and I can get to you a lot quicker. And he sits well with that. He says, OK, mommy, well, I hope you find another job that makes you really happy. Me, too.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTIN: That's Graham Gray of Nashville, Tennessee. Her story was produced by Kim Green, and you can hear more stories in our Working It series at npr.org.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTIN: And you're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.