I have been meaning to write this for awhile because it’s such a sad story. This is a true story of a friend of mine named Lennie. Lennie is his real name and everything I am about to say is true.
I met Lennie in 1992 through a mutual friend. Lennie was interested in me but at 40 he was too old for me (I was 21).However we realized we had mutual interests and became friends. One of his hobbies was collecting music, vinyl, CDs and some cassettes as was mine and his favorite music tended to be classic and alternative rock, just like mine. At the time he was living with his parents to save money for a condo and I was in college and we would go to record stores to buy music. He made good money working at a railroad foundry and between putting money aside for his condo he was going to buy in downtown Chicago on the lake he had additional money, which he loved to spend. He was big on going to dinner and he always paid, and always bought me gifts. He did this partly because he thought we would date but also because he loved spending money in general.
In 1994 he finally bought his condo and he was happy! He had me and a few friends over for a dinner (he also liked to cook)and show us around his new home. It was small as most condos are on the lake that a middle class person can afford. These condos are expensive and I found out that he paid more for his tiny one bedroom condo than many pay for houses in the suburbs but he wanted to live downtown. It was nice taking walks during the summer on the beach and being downtown during summer is Heaven on Earth. Life was going good for Lennie and he even found a girlfriend. He was making great money and putting aside for retirement.
Then 1996 came and with it NAFTA. At first the railroad foundry started sending factory jobs to Mexico. Lennie wasn’t worried because he assumed his office job was safe because they couldn’t do that job in Mexico. A few years later his job was sent to Mexico as was the rest of the jobs. Lennie still wasn’t worried because he thought with his experience someone would be dying to hire him. At first he got a lot of interviews but most resulted in nothing. A few offered him jobs but they were low paying and wouldn’t pay his condo, let alone bills. I helped him write his resume because it was a mess but still nothing. He got a job selling cigarettes to stores but after a few months they fired him because he wasn’t selling as much as he was supposed to.
The jobs by now weren’t coming. He would often see that the person who got the job instead of him was an immigrant and he became very hateful towards immigrants. He would also see himself lose a job to a recent college grad. Lennie had two things against him: he was by now close to 50 and never finished college (he had three years of college). He looked into going back to school to become a chef but found they wouldn’t give him much money to do so and he didn’t want loans. By now he had gone through his severance and his unemployment dried up. He had to do the one thing he dreaded and that was sell his condo, the one he saved up for many years and including living with his parents to afford.
This bring me up to him now. After he sold his condo he moved back with his parents, who by then had moved about a half hour from the city. He ended up getting a job at the deli at Wal-Mart. His mom passed away not long after he moved back in (she had been suffering from cancer). His 81 year old dad, long retired had to go back to work and got a job as a bag boy at the local grocery store. I haven’t spoken to Lennie in a few months but last time I spoke to him he was still working there and HATED it. He was making considerably less than he has in years. We were chatting about the Clinton’s 3 million dollar wedding of Chelsea and he was visibly angry that a family could afford that, considering Clinton signed NAFTA. Lennie was a long time Democrat but now hates both parties and blames them both.
Lennie who is 61 shouldn’t have to work a job like this. He should be working a decent job and still have his condo. He should be looking forward to retirement but instead looks forward to still working.