Longform

The View From the Bottom

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Bennett finally received his MBA in August 2001. "I thought with an MBA, I could finally reach my ultimate goal of being the guy in charge. Now I have more modest goals: getting food on the table, making sure the mortgage is paid and the cars keep running."


How can he make his wife understand? Ted Woods is convinced he made the right call, coming to The Samaritan Inn in McKinney. There is something about being at the homeless shelter that makes him feel safe. Its rules, its bunk beds, even the cinder blocks, remind him of his days in the military. His life feels structured here, his anxiety harnessed. He doesn't blame his wife for not joining him, what with their baby and all. But this is the first step in putting his life back in order and, selfishly, he wants her to be there. Small steps, that's what his therapist keeps telling him. Forget telecom for now. That's why he got a part-time job driving a forklift at the Blockbuster warehouse. Small steps, that's why he wants her with him. To be part of his life as he restructures it, getting it back on line. "Everything has a line it has to follow," he says. "And if it doesn't, it has to be brought back to it. I am trying to bring myself back to it."

They prayed about it and his family agreed: If John Bennett got the job with Deutsche Telekom, they would move to Bonn, Germany. If nothing else, he had an interview; the Germans would be calling at 10:30 a.m. sharp. He tries to remain upbeat, optimistic. It's the only way to survive the times. It was a long shot, answering an ad from an international online job board, but he fit the job requirements to the letter: MBA, fluency in German, background in international wireless support. He has done his homework; he understands their business model; he even worked with the same carrier during his tenure at Alcatel. His mellifluous voice should sound impressive even in German. He stares at the phone. It's 10:30. It doesn't ring. Thirty minutes go by and still nothing. Quickly, he e-mails his German contact, but the call doesn't come. It's enough to test his faith.

Late into the night, champagne is flowing at Walter Jenkins' house. It's cheap champagne, but champagne nonetheless. He found a job, or rather the job found him. A stroke of luck, really. He started October 7 doing business development for a telecom software supplier. When the offer came, his feelings soared from worthless to elated. No longer would he have to worry about losing his home. The bankruptcy and the job would give him a fresh start. It was a "tremendous rush," he says later. "But there is a sobering part." He was only out of work for three months, but what about those less fortunate than he was, people unable to find work for a year, two years, people in breadlines or on the dole, bright, talented people who got caught up in the meltdown through no fault of their own? "When your mom told you life isn't fair," he says, "this is what she was talking about."

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Mark Donald
Contact: Mark Donald

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