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I had been dreading the day for a long time, so I can’t say I was surprised when I called myself into my office. I sat down with a sinking feeling. “Close the door,” I told myself. I got up and shut it quietly.

“You’re probably wondering why I called you in here.” Actually, I didn’t. Business had slowed to a crawl. Clients took forever to pay invoices. Cash flow had turned into cash dribble. “I’m afraid I have to let you go.”

“But I’ve been here 30 years,” I stammered.

“Yes, but you haven’t been on time since 1994. And don’t blame traffic this time – you’re working out of your spare bedroom.”

I put my head in my hands. “What am I going to tell my wife?”

“I don’t think she’ll be shocked. She catches you napping at two in the afternoon.”

“I don’t understand – why now?”

“Well, I got a letter from the State of Illinois. It said that the company’s unemployment insurance was fully reinstated. So I asked the lady who sent the letter if I could fire myself and collect unemployment. She said that if I dissolved my corporation, I would be eligible for benefits.”

“Oh, so that’s it. You’re finally realizing your lifelong dream of lying around, living off the government.”

“Hey, I’ve never taken a dime – well except for the census. My legs are still sore from that.”

“Not so fast. I’m pretty sure you have to pay half of my benefits.”

“Really?” I sounded flustered. “I’ll check with the unemployment office.”

I called the state office and listened to a long recording. I couldn’t reach a human and was instead referred to a website. Unable to find an answer online, I drove to the office in Maywood. There was a sign warning I would need my Social Security card. I hadn’t seen that little blue square in years. I don’t understand why the government considers it a key form of identification. When it was my turn, the clerk wouldn’t answer my question without the card.

I went back to the office and started filling a box with my belongings. My Swingline stapler, Rolodex and magnifying glass – it was heartbreaking. My wife said she would disconnect the fax line.

I took one last stab at saving my job. “Hey, you can’t work and collect unemployment. What if the unemployment people come across one of your columns?”

“I didn’t think of that. They’d find it hard to believe that someone paid me for doing it. But you’re right. It could be a red flag.”

“OK,” I said to myself. “I’ll give you one more chance. But is there any way you could start getting here by 9?”

That would cut into my bath time, but it beat paying me half my salary to stay home.