"After all these years, it's hard to start all over again at my age. Especially now around the holidays. This is not the time of year to be on your own. It can really knock the heck out of you. A lot of people do a swan dive off a bridge or overdose on sleeping pills. You wonder if you can make it."
Voss, who lives in Westchester, said he has found support in his friends. And that has been reason enough for him to keep going. "I never realized how many true friends I have. They've really helped me through it. It's a good feeling to know, that even in this chaos, they're there to lend a hand."
No one could accuse Xavier Rodriguez of not trying. When he was laid off because of the recession in the summer of 1990, he sent out 372 letters and resumes to various companies, met with 38 employment headhunters, attended 11 job fairs and, in a desperate attempt to make a better impression, dyed his graying hair black.
He is still out of work.
"At first, it really hurt," said Rodriguez, a 43-year-old former aerospace budget analyst. "Then I said, to hell with it. Just do it. Get tough. Don't dwell on the past. Look to the future."
That attitude, as upbeat as the holiday message on Rodriguez's answering machine, has kept him going even as the aerospace industry continues to be bludgeoned by the recession some experts thought would be over by now.
A Nevada school district recently invited him for a preliminary interview. The meeting with the personnel director went well, Rodriguez said.
"He told me he was going to do his best to get me the final interview and the job," Rodriguez said. "It looks real good. He wined and dined me. If I hear back . . . I'll be happy as hell."
Before McDonnell Douglas Electronics Systems Co. laid him off, Rodriguez--who has a degree in economics and 15 years experience--was earning a salary in the high $30,000 range, he said. After the layoff, he survived on $760 a month in unemployment benefits and whatever money he could earn from selling off his collection of 30,000 baseball cards.
Were it not for Rodriguez's family and modest lifestyle--he owns his car outright and rents a small apartment in Lakewood for $555 a month--he doubts he could have survived.
He has half his baseball cards left, with some sets worth more than $1,000. "I never thought I'd get rid of those things," he said, choking back tears. "And I'll never get them back."
Then he stopped, composed himself and observed more brightly. "Whenever I feel that way, I say to myself, 'Hell, Xavier, you'll get more when you get a job.' "
The job search is long and frightening, and he struggles to keep his plight in perspective. "I tell myself not to be in the dumps. There's 5.8 million other people like me in this country without a job. Seven percent of the people in this state ain't got no damn job."