“Rare Autograph & Interview,” by David Conte

Nov 2nd, 2022 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

When I first moved to NYC in 2010, I arrived without a job. I was, of course, the trailing spouse as my wife had arrived to Manhattan with a lucrative banking job downtown. Every day, I would wake up late, shower and eat breakfast, and then walk two blocks up the street to my favorite coffee shop in all of New York, a yellow and brown facaded Italian cafe which no longer exists called SiCafe. It was mostly frequented by affluent Upper East Side folks and college students (Hunter College was located just a block away). With my laptop in hand, I’d order my standard cappuccino and take my spot near the picture window in front. Then I would begin searching for jobs online. One particular day, I found myself becoming very frustrated over my fruitless job search, and so I penned the following:

What if being unemployed held some special power, I thought, as I imagined people lining up in the streets to pay me for an autograph or interview. I could be celebrated, revered for my status in the public’s consciousness. At the Upper East Side café, I took a sip of my piping hot, overpriced cappuccino, and began writing:

Exclusive, one-time opportunity to meet a real unemployed man!

Hear the beautiful, gripping story of how one man’s life has been drastically altered due to joblessness.

Learn the astonishing details of how a thirty-something college graduate and former supervisor sits in coffee shops folding napkins to pass time, while fascinating about getting a “real life”; the origin of his sleepless nights spent watching YouTube videos on an iPad with a shattered screen; the wild comparisons to people on the street who look like they have “real problems”; the anxiety-ridden mornings spent in front of his computer staring at three-week-old job ads, with occasional breaks to engage in hysterical fits of laughter at the thought that his family likely stereotypes him as a muttonhead who moonlights as a lazy man-child; and the insomnia contests with imaginary friends.

But that’s not all. Here’s what else you might learn:

  • How responding to the question “Have you found any work yet?” with rants about “the meaning of life” has made him sound highly intelligent.
  • Why he chose to start memorizing labels on store items and how doing so has contributed to a lower blood pressure reading.
  • How sleeping daily until noon, although unattractive by normal adult standards, has improved his sex life.
  • How repeatedly telling himself, “It’s not that bad” has triggered intense panic attacks.
  • Why he considers himself a part of the new elite, since he’s not one of those silly people who burdens himself with having a job.
  • How compulsively drinking coffee every hour on the hour has been his best coping mechanism, since it prevents his mind from developing into “an empty attic of dusty old books and dirty clothes.”
  • How staring at pebbles on the street corner during bouts of depression has been cathartic.
  • Why looking in the mirror and squeezing his cheeks with BBQ tongs hasn’t always translated into the most effective confidence building tactic needed prior to sending out employment applications.
  • Why he may not have been very successful with his cover letters that have started out with “Let me tell you what’s wrong with the world today.”
  • How being unemployed has gotten him to the point where he’s having constant psychosomatic aliments, which in turn has lead him to endlessly scour the Internet in search of all the weird medical conditions he’s convinced he has.

Don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity. (No photos please.) (Or handshakes.)

Then I had a sobering thought:

How many more of these unwritten advertisements are out there?


David Conte lived in a shoe until the age of twelve and could strum a ukulele with his feet. Previously, he sold meats, cheeses, and bread at a market he owned on the corner of Chestnut Street in Everett, MA. He would talk to the lions standing in line at the store counter, waiting for their fresh morning bread. Last year, he stood on his head on the turbulent waters of the North Sea. He wants to become a romance novelist.

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