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Buddy, Can You Spare a Job?

Buddy, Can You Spare a Job?

Monica Gagnier / Business Week

November 12, 2008

If you were in the vicinity of Grand Central Station or Rockefeller Center recently, you may have noticed a well-dressed man wearing a sandwich board with the words “Almost Homeless.”

The sandwich-board man isn’t trying to shine your shoes or get you to step into a jewelry store in the Diamond District. He’s not pretending that he lost his wallet and that he needs $10 to catch the train back to the suburbs. No, he’s trying to find a job.

I learned about the unemployed professional, whose name is Paul Nawrocki, from market maven Barry Ritholtz, who blogs at The Big Picture.

Ritholtz ran a picture of Nawrocki and published the job-seeker’s e-mail, which is BeaconPaul@aol.com. I decided to interview Nawrocki when I learned he is a resident of Beacon, N.Y., where I live.

Because Wall Street has been hit hard by layoffs and because Ritholtz said Nawrocki was looking for a job in operations, I assumed he was in the financial services industry. However, that’s not the case. His business is toys.

Nawrocki’s story is a chilling one. It could happen to almost anybody I know. It could happen to me.

If you want to learn more about what led Nawrocki to wear a sandwich board in midtown Manhattan, check out this edited Q&A.

How long have you been doing the sandwich board outside Grand Central?

I did it last Friday and again Monday.

What corner are you on?

I was on the corner of 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue when I was photographed. Monday, in addition to Grand Central, I was in front of 30 Rockefeller Plaza for about 20 minutes when an NBC doorman and a policeman told me I had to leave because it was private property.

I asked if it wasn’t open to the public because there were so many people there. They said it was open to the public, but if they wanted someone to leave, he had to leave. I left, but I never did understand why they wanted me to leave or who “they” were.


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