Blue Ridge Muse was open for a year before the first job seeker walked through the door. Now someone comes by at least once a week asking for work.

A strong indicator of just how desperate the job market has come is often reflected in the faces of those who come by asking for work without knowing what it is we do at Muse or if they can do a job if we had one.

The conversation usually goes a little like this:

Can I help you?"

"Are you hiring?"

"Are you a photographer?"

"No sir."

"A writer?"

"No sir."

"Do you know anything about shooting or editing video?"

"No sir."

"How about web design?"

"No sir."

"Web server technology? Web hosting?"

"No sir."

"I see. Well, if I was hiring, what could I possibly hire you to do?"

"I don’t know. I just need work."

This is, I’m afraid, a sign of the times. With layoffs multiplying, people seek work…any work.

I wish I had work for these folks. I can see their desperation. Unemployment is a terrifying thing to too many people in today’s dismal economic times. Like so many others, we’ve cut back. Ad lineage is down on our web sites. Some of our clients fall behind on their bills. Others have gone bust. I often refer to our 401k as our "01k." It’s not a joke.

The economy will improve…eventually, but eventually is a much too long for some. We get too many emails or phone calls from friends saying they have lost their jobs. We have friends who lost their homes or face foreclosure. Some say bankruptcy is no longer an option but a necessity.

For too many people today, "going to work" means going from door to door, asking that desperate question:

Are you hiring?