This is not your grandfather's bread line. The first ever Unemployment Olympics was held yesterday afternoon in Tompkins Square Park. Organizer Nick Goddard, who's been unemployed from computer programming since February, said his goal was simply to cheer up his fellow layabouts and give them shot at the gold with gift certificates from local businesses. And because the press photographers and reporters often outnumbered the participants, we're guessing the local merchants were delighted with the exposure.
Some 20 contestants took part in events such as Pin The Blame On The Boss, Office Phone Skee-Ball, Office Phone Pinata, and the "You're Fired!" race to the cardboard Unemployment Office. Phone Skee-Ball, where an old office phone was tossed across the park for points, drew much fanfare and even had students from P.S. 34 cheering participants on. Phone Pinata, which involved hitting a pinata with an office phone, only took two strikes to burst. Unfortunately, the much anticipated Fax Toss, which reminded everyone of the infamous scene in Office Space, was canceled at the last moment due to Parks Department concerns over tossing large office equipment around.
Ilustrating just how hard the New York economy has been hit, contestants came from a diverse group of industries, including law, marketing, entertainment, retail, tutoring, and textiles. Jing Zhang, an unemployed opera singer, serenaded the park throughout the Olympics. She is going to every audition she can find, and remains hopeful!
Other contestants maintained an upbeat mood, despite the bleak job market, and many said they're making the most of the free time they’ve been granted. Sara, a former paralegal at a LGBT not-for-profit, is exploring her new neighborhood of Crown Heights. And Jesse Fallick, formerly a project manager at a retail chain who trades stock options for income, thought of his unemployment as a time to pursue new interests and possibly a new career: He’s organizing a Laid Off Camp in NYC this May, so you can look forward to more ironic Gen Y coping mechanisms in the months to come!