Thu, Apr 02, 2009 - Page 19 News List

New York jobless flock to Unemployment Olympics

AP , NEW YORK

Kim Weinstein tosses a phone during the Unemployment Olympics in New York on Tuesday. Weinstein placed third in the event. The competition included such games as “Pin the Blame on the Boss” and “Office Telephone Toss.”

PHOTO: AP

Who hasn’t secretly wished he could pin the blame on his boss? Or slam office equipment against the pavement?

Dozens of unemployed people got the chance to do exactly that during the tongue-in-cheek Unemployment Olympics on Tuesday.

In a twist on the classic game Pin the Tail on the Donkey, participants pulled a hat over their eyes and spun around before using a pushpin to attempt to Pin the Blame on the Boss. Those who missed the target sometimes hit some of the other options scrawled on the colorful sign: The War, ARMs (adjustable rate mortgages), Consumer Spending, the Fed and the economy.

The Manhattan event, organized by a laid-off computer programmer, was decidedly low-tech, with most games arranged with the help of cardboard, children’s paint and chalk.

Competitors also played a game of Office-Phone Skee-Ball, hurling a black phone toward chalk goal marks on the pavement. A group of schoolchildren from nearby cheered them on.

Prizes were offered by merchants from the surrounding Lower East Side neighborhood.

Nick McGlynn was among those who lined up at Tompkins Square Park in front of a cardboard hutch labeled with bright green paint as the Unemployment Office, where participants were required to show proof they had lost their jobs. The 26-year-old, who worked with video for Gawker Media until he was let go in November, said he was thrilled to have something to do besides searching the Internet and updating his blog.

The gaiety of the event was enough to make Maria Tapia smile, a welcome relief from the anxiety that accompanied her layoff in January from a job as a finance executive’s personal assistant.

“I never knew that I wanted a job this bad until I didn’t have a job,” Tapia said.

But at least at these simple games, “people are trying to look at it in a positive way,” she said.

The organizer, Nick Goddard, said that sort of reversal was pretty much his aim.

“Just to get unemployed people psyched that they’re unemployed,” he said.

That might be pushing it for 36-year-old Gary Ross, standing at the park outfitted for a race just a few weeks after being told he was losing his job as a lawyer working with capital markets.

“I did read the other day that all the cool people in New York are unemployed and looking,” he said. “For the first time in my life I’m cool. Hopefully I won’t be cool for long.”

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