Friday, January 9, 2009

How To Spend Your Involuntary Vacation

As anyone who isn’t living in a pineapple under the sea knows, the economy stinks and it’s going to get worse before it gets better (or so I’ve been told). More “layoffs” are announced every day but rarely is anyone told they are “fired”. I wasn’t informed the word was deleted from our lexicon. What’s next? Is “laid off” going to become an “involuntary vacation?” Whatever term is used, there’s been enough people sent home this year to occupy a small country. If this applies to you or anyone you know or care about, you have my sympathies. It’s is hard enough to lose income relied on to pay bills and support families, but it can be downright maddening to sit at home after spending so many hours away from it. I mentioned last time that I hoped everyone in this circumstance uses this time to its fullest and spends more time with their family. Time with the ‘fam can be a two-way street, however, as many experiencing an involuntary vacation have found out. People who have worked their adult lives now have quite a lot of time on their hands and may have difficulty finding things to occupy this period of employment exile. After consulting with my trusted economic advisor, Mr. Whoopee (the man with all the answers), I’ve provided below several suggestions to fill the void and hopefully keep your sanity intact.

Go fishing. Possibly one of the oldest hobbies in existence, fishing provides many benefits. You can feed yourself and your family, if you wish, although this involves gutting, slicing and dicing real, sometimes still-alive, fish. For those who think they can’t stomach this step, you can always throw the fish back into the water, hoping the metal hook you removed did not damage their entrails (bad for the environment – and for the fish). Blood and guts notwithstanding, sitting in a boat or on a dock for hours on end provides a Zen-like feeling. Those of us living in the northern part of the country have the added experience of ice fishing. For approximately two months, people can haul a small, rectangular cubicle onto their favorite lake and fish. It’s not clear how much fishing is done, but I’m pretty sure those who ice fish have a good time doing it. Ice fishing also provides experience living in a small box, which may have to be utilized permanently if things don’t change.

Become someone else. The late Timothy Leary once said, “You can be anyone, this time around.” Too bad Tim didn’t live to see the full impact of the internet. Websites and programs such as “Second Life”, “The Sims” and “Worlds of Warcraft” can provide escapes into realities Dr. Leary only dreamed of. You can reinvent yourself entirely in alternate versions of the real world in “Second Life” or “The Sims”. A fry cook can become a model, a model can become a businessman and a businessman be a janitor. The choice is yours. Date, have a family or just putz around. You can do anything you want with your fake identity, just don’t let it collide with reality. There’s enough dimensional instability already. “Worlds of Warcraft” provides a more intense online experience, letting users become powerful warriors and magicians embarking on quests and battles. Intensely engaging and possibly life-threatening, “WOW” provides endless hours of entertainment if you can afford high speed internet. However, it should be noted that many people use these programs, people you wouldn’t expect to find online but are hiding their true identity. Bernard Madoff is online, true believers, and he’s out to steal your fake assets! Look out, Ozzy! Bernie’s coming for you!

Kill your friends and complete strangers on the internet. First-person shooters have become the new national past time. Games such as “Halo” and “Gears of War” have millions of users, what could possibly be wrong with that? Run around with gigantic guns and bazookas and blow the heads off your opponents. Verbally taunt them! I hear it’s pretty therapeutic and fun for the whole family.

Catch up on TV shows. The advent of DVD box sets and online streaming makes viewing your favorite shows in chunks a snap. Up for a “Facts of Life” marathon? I am.

Play board games. This used to be a big teenage time-waster until Mario threw a fireball at Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley. Ironically, many of the classic board games have not fared well in computer transitions. “Clue” and “Yahtzee”, are best played in their original forms, without digital enhancement. Buy the “The Mad Magazine Game” on EBay. It’s cheap! If you lose, you win! It’s the best board game ever. Sink someone’s “Battleship”. Play the game of “Life.” Build a “Mousetrap”. Take over the world in “Risk.” Mess with your opponents mind in “Chess”. Outwit an army in “Stratego.” Screw your neighbors by taking their property and forcing them into bankruptcy in “Monopoly.” On second thought, it’s probably best to avoid playing “Monopoly.”

Learn a new skill. There’s no better way to spend free time than to find new ways to make yourself employable. Harness an activity that can get you noticed amid piles of job applications. The ability to “Yo-Yo” is vastly underrated and could provide an inside edge to that new job. Duncan Yo-Yo’s are as low as $2.99. A little practice and you might become an indispensable cog in the company. After all, who wants to fire the “Yo-Yo” guy?

Practice a musical instrument. Too many people are playing fake instruments on “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band.” Get a real instrument and practice, another great way to impress potential employers but also your friends. Pick an instrument like the Moog. There’s not enough Moog musicians out there. Become a proficient plucker at the tooth harp or maybe start your own jug band.

Apply for a job with Barack Obama or the FBI. Think you’re not qualified? Don’t be so sure. The advent of 24-hour news and Web 2.0 has shown over 90 percent of all government employees are mindless twatburgers. Go for it! Maybe you could be the person restraining William Shatner on the plane or scoring Obama his pack of smokes.

Be like most people, follow brain-sucking reality shows, watch 24-hour political analysis describing exactly how screwed we are and babble incessantly on the web. Wait..I’ll be back in a second. Got a message on Facebook…

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