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My Moment with the Doorman

Editor’s Note: This exchange was relayed to us and took place between the author and the respondent. Their interaction seems to capture the economic maelstrom many Detroiters find themselves living through; it speaks to our collective experience.

When I went to the Jewish Federation building to teach my class one recent morning, the door guard pressed the buzzer to let me in, as always. I greeted him with a friendly “hi,” and asked after his well being, as always.

He said: “I’m doing fine on my last day of work here. Wish me well.”

“Oh, what’s happening?”

“I got hired again.”


“At Ford, where I used to work. I am a designer. I got laid off six years ago. They just hired me back to supervise the people who are doing the work that I used to do. The designers are all in India, and I will manage a designer shop from here.”

“The design work all got shipped overseas?”

“Yes, my old job got shipped overseas. The folks who held on at my job a few years longer did much better than I. When I got laid off, the government did not think things were bad yet. I had six months of unemployment. The folks who held on a couple of years later, got two years of unemployment. They also stayed on the job long enough to learn the newest computer design program, so they got rehired before me. I got laid off before the new program came in, so I have to learn it now.”

“You are an automotive designer and you work at this job?”

“No complaints at all. This job enabled me to keep my house.”

“It must have been stressful.”

“No kidding.”

“Well, good luck in the new job.”

Louis Finkelman, Ph.D., is a professor at Lawrence Technological University. He earned his doctorate in Comparative Literature from City University of New York and ordination from the rabbinical school at Yeshiva University.



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