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Posts in Category: Day Jobs

Tanktop Lady

There’s this middle-aged lady who annoys the crap out of me by merely existing. Both of my regular readers know that this isn’t an unusual occurrence. What is unusual, I guess, are my reasons why. I only have two:

  1. To quote Roseanne, she has a voice that bends steel. She has one of those heavy South Side accents at just the right frequency to torture my ears. On top of that, I’m convinced that (much like me) she doesn’t do any actual work; she just wanders from cubicle to cubicle, all day long, yammering as shrilly as possible. I don’t think she’s doing this specifically to drive me nuts, but…she drives me nuts anyway.
  2. She’s constantly overheated. I’ll admit, the office isn’t exactly cold, but I’m a fatass who sits around in flannel shirts all day (on the rare occasions I work all day), and I don’t break a sweat. So for somebody who’s little more than skin and bones to get hot enough that she feels the need to traipse around all day in a tanktop, it’s…just weird. But she has this weird air like she’s metaphoric hot stuff (as every man in our giant compound rolls his eyes in unison), so she wants to show off. “If you got it, flaunt it,” unfortunately, lacks a contingency plan for those who think they’ve got it but…don’t. At all.

In the grand scheme of things, these issues aren’t huge. With the exception of escaping through the stairwell right next to my cubicle, I try to avoid leaving my cubicle as much as possible, so I don’t generally bear witness to her traipsing around in less clothing than anybody else in the office. And when I do hear her voice—well, sometimes even turning up the headphones isn’t even enough, but usually it can drown her out. So really, her annoyance factor is minimal.

That doesn’t mean I’m not gleeful when she gets busted down a notch. Call me mean, call me bitter, call me the unrepentant king of schadenfreude: I love it when bad things happen to people I dislike. Especially when I dislike them for ridiculous, superficial reasons. Somehow that makes it sweeter, as if it’s confirming my superficial reasons have merit.

So last week, we had a staff meeting. These are, by and large, utterly boring and a complete waste of time. When some new people took over the department a few months ago, they threatened to have weekly staff meetings but, thank God, that plan fell by the wayside. We actually haven’t had a staff meeting since they announced (then retracted by email a few hours later) that we’d be having them weekly, and I think that was way back in November. So a few hours every four months isn’t so bad.

But seriously, one of the items on the agenda was: “Dress code reminders.” Dress code reminders? Are you kidding me? Does anybody even violate the dress code?

Answer: yes. One single person in the department violates the dress code, and she—and only she—was the reason this was put on the agenda. It was almost like an intervention, because right up there on the big screen, “No tanktops.”

Tanktop Lady, who happened to be leaning against the wall next to me because she came late (I would have offered my chair, but I have a policy against being nice to people I can’t stand), was stunned and horrified. “What about summer?” she shrieked, and as she spoke the screen flickered and a ceramic vase shattered.

The Big Boss said, “Well, there are some tanktops that are a little more formal, and those are acceptable. But those thin, just-came-from the-gym-type tanktops—”

“Wifebeaters,” another employee added helpfully, which prompted a five-minute discussion from old fogies about whether or not that was an actual accepted term for the type of tanktop; most of them had never heard of it.

“So those aren’t allowed,” the Big Boss finally said and watched Tanktop Lady’s face fall. I almost want to say the Big Boss had the tiniest bit of glee herself. I hate this job, but I like the cut of her jib.

I snickered, and Tanktop Lady looked down at me, so I pretended to cough as I stared down at my feet.

I think life is better this way, although with our recent heat wave (it got up to the 50s yesterday, and only yesterday) the office has been warmer, which has prompted a lot of bitching about the heat from Tanktopless Lady…oh man, now that just gave me the image of her topless. I have a cyanide capsule for just that purpose. Hold on while I

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The Cover Letter

With my recent failure to land a job still stinging, I’ve decided to adjust my method for job-hunting. Applying for dozens of jobs in a given day seems like a good strategy on the surface, blanketing the universe with my resume, in the hopes that a few places will get back to me, but I have to face facts: I’ve received three requests for interviews in the past two months, and because of my willingness to apply for virtually everything, the two I decided not to interview for were either part-time or a shit job that I probably wouldn’t have applied for had I read the listing more closely.

And most of this, I believe, has to do with my sketchy, working-around-college-classes employment history, and the fact that I’ve essentially created a generic cover letter template that makes it easy to add a sentence or two to tailor myself to what they’re looking for and a few blank spots to add a company name and job title, so as to create the illusion of originality. It doesn’t really explain too much about me or why I want the job, or why I think I can do the job, because when you’re applying for that many jobs, it gets extremely time-consuming. As it is, I fall behind in sending out the applications because what little I do to alter the cover letter (and occasionally alter the work history) takes awhile.

And then, at random, I got an e-mail from my cousin. She’s a few years younger than me, and she was going to film school briefly but decided to drop that to go to the community college while doing as many internships as she can. Lucky for her, she grew up just outside of New York City, so there are a lot of internships to be had.

The e-mail she said was a correspondence with some internship guy in west New Jersey. I’m not sure why she sent it to me—she’s worked half a dozen internships before, and she’s mentioned them in passing, and I didn’t see anything special about this one that would necessitate sending the entire correspondence. But I’m glad she did, because her initial e-mail contained an astonishing cover letter, whoring herself to the fullest, going into an excess of details about why her work history sucks, why she dropped out of film school, but why she’d be totally awesome for this internship. I know from experience that, when there are a lot of internships available, they’re exceptionally easy to get—the 450,000 interviews I had in Los Angeles are a testament to that—but I’m not going to tell her that, because she’s proud and pleased as punch. I congratulated her, because it is awesome. If nothing else, I’ll have some coattails to ride in a few years when she actually gets paying industry jobs.

But the main thing I focused on was that ingenious cover letter, and I realized what mine was missing: heart. I’m basically sending a generic form-letter, tailored on the surface to a job but still utterly generic. Worse than that, it does a pretty horrendous job of selling me, which is the purpose of the cover letter.

This e-mail also happened to correspond with a writing job I found for a new MMORPG, produced by a reputable company outside of Seattle. Now, personally, I think MMORPGs are about the lowest of the low as far as video games are concerned, but I do think it’d be fun to write one. More than that, it’d open a couple of doors in the nerdy world of writing video games, so perhaps I could work my way up to writing for a cool game.

But here’s the problem: I don’t know shit about writing video games. I imagine it can’t be terribly different from writing screenplays, which I know how to do, but I was sending a piece of short fiction as my writing sample. I realized for this job, which I really want, I need to exploit pretty much everything I have to offer. It ain’t much, but it works: I have the work history in Seattle, so I can hop on the idea that I’d love to move back there (I wouldn’t, but I also wouldn’t say no, which is why I’m trolling for jobs out there); I’ve got the brief but seemingly impressive work in Hollywood; I have my college career and the illusion that I’m a young go-getter; and I have my writing sample, which will hopefully provide evidence of versatility in my writing (it’s not a screenplay, though college and internships prove I know that realm; and I made up some bullshit about the idea that an MMORPG creates a universe, which essentially was what I did in the story).

In short, I rambled on about why I felt I could do the job, but I did so with an excess of what my cover letter previously lacked: a desire to do this job to the best of my ability, and totally personalized for this one job. Since then, I’ve done that with five or six other decent jobs I’ve found. I’ve only started doing this on Friday afternoon, so we’ll see if it actually works or if it’s another dead end. I have to assume that, once again, my laziness did me in, so I hope that rectifying said laziness will help. Probably not, but a man can dream.

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The Conspiracy

There’s a scene in All the President’s Men where, and I’m going from memory here because it’s been several months since I’ve watched the movie and a few years since I’ve read the book, Deep Throat tells Woodward that he and Carl Bernstein are being bugged and to be careful what they say. Woodward immediately goes to Bernstein’s apartment, and when Bernstein opens the door with a jovial “Hello!” Woodward silences him immediately by placing his index finger over his lips. He turns on a Vivaldi record and types the information he received from Deep Throat.

I always love it when my life turns into a movie, especially a ’70s conspiracy thriller, but reenacting that scene today was almost too much.

There’s a woman at work, Athena, who I’ve kinda been buddies with since we started. Not bestest, share-all-our-secrets buddies, but we share daily moments of friendly banter (which is more than I can say for most of these drones) and occasionally, when we can get away from the office, have lengthy bitch sessions about what a miserable fucking job we share. It’s cool. So she came up to me in my cubicle today, while I was working on closing out some invoices. I was listening to music, so I paused it and greeted her with a jovial “Hello!” She silenced me immediately by placing her index finger over her lips. Unfortunately, I had neither a record player nor a Vivaldi record, and the computer is a poor substitute for the endless rattle of a typewriter, so she just stood there, about three inches away from my ear, whispering as quietly and monotonously as possible (in fact, she didn’t even take pauses for the commas and periods that I’ve added—it was just one steady, rambling stream):

“Andrea [my direct supervisor] is having Joanne [one of the new contractors, who happens to sit near my cubicle] spy on you when you leave your desk and come back, writing down when you come in late* and leave early and take long breaks, stuff like that, and she’s been reporting it to the Big Boss. I don’t know how long it’s been going on, I think only a week or two, but I thought I should tell you because I don’t want you to get fired. The Big Boss said she didn’t want to fire you, and she wouldn’t because she didn’t have anything concrete, but if you keep it up she probably will, so you really gotta straighten up because Now They’re Watching You.”

Je…sus…Christ. I’ve always been what many people—including myself—call “paranoid,” but as I’m often quick to point out: just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean They’re not after you. But this kinda rattled me. After she told me, and just walked away as if nothing had happened (I acknowledged her with a stunned, wide-eyed nod, so she understood the message was received), I was literally shaking with fear and anger. I was so pissed—not about getting caught taking a lot of “personal time,” but about the way Andrea went about it, as well as her reasons for it**—that I considered giving my notice on the spot. I’ve had enough of this fucking shit-ass job, and the money’s nice, but I’m at a pathetic point where I don’t really need it—what little money I would spend over the months and possibly years searching for another job could come directly from the ever-increasing nest egg I’ve stockpiled so that I’ll have some “wiggle room” before I move out. The only thing I’d change from the equation, if I quit, is the “move out” part.

But then I decided if I quit, the terrorists would win, and I can’t have that. “Fuck her,” I thought, and then I hatched a rather simple scheme for revenge: she is, if you read the double-asterisked footnote, trying to “make an example of me” or something to mask the fact that the work she gave me was her responsibility to begin with. I enjoy the poetic justice in approaching the Big Boss as soon as I get in tomorrow morning, an hour or more before Andrea’s start time, and laying it all on the line: my unethical extended lunches and early quitting times; my awareness of the conspiracy against me and my side of the story, which will in large part damn me but will mostly take Andrea down further than I’ve ever gone; the fact that I’ve only had a few “catch-all” things to do for the past month, in large part because she (a) hoards her work like a maniac and (b) clamored and conned her way into too many temps, thus depriving me of said work because she’s doling it out to all of them to justify the necessity of all these extra people; and that I’ve done good work in the past, and will continue to do good work, as long as I have something to do. I’m guessing there’s something personal in there—I’ve been generally pleasant to her, but I really can’t stand her, and maybe she realizes it and doesn’t want to work with me. I can’t really figure out any other reason—work-related or otherwise—why she’d launch an offensive to get rid of me when we could, much more easily, get rid of a temp or five.

So if the Big Boss has a problem with any of this, I’ll put in my notice and leave without a fuss. Hopefully she’ll accept that over firing me, which reflects badly on both of us (or maybe just me…I’m gonna go ahead and hope “both of us”). I’m thinking, though, that while this is kind of a gamble, the end result will be “a semi-severe reprimand for Andrea, followed by the dismissal of a temp and an increase in work for me.” The only foreseeable problems are my obsession with finding a better job (and if I do, I am soooo out of there, which might burn a few bridges with the Big Boss if she plans to get in my corner) and the consequences of admitting that I’ve essentially been a slacker. I’ve been hiding the information, rather than going to the Big Boss directly and immediately, because let’s face it: I’d much rather sit in my car reading a novel for three hours than sit in a cubicle slowly melting my corneas. I’d risk this shitty-ass job for the privilege of doing that, because I’m any Conspirators’s worst enemy: a Gambler. But, as it happens, I’m a Really Shitty Gambler who rarely thinks of consequences beyond my own immediate gratification. So I’m gonna go in and bluff, and I’ll either win, lose, or fold like a cheap card-table and leave in shameful silence.

Wish me luck!

*I make no bones about leaving early and taking long breaks, but I’m never more than five minutes late, and usually I’m there before Joanne. But whatever. [Back]

**Dateline: Late November 2005—Andrea hands me a stack of work for our end-of-the-month close, but as usual, she didn’t sort through it carefully and handed me a bunch of crazy shit that I have no idea how to do and don’t know who to give it back to, so I handed it back to Andrea and told her the problems, and she…did nothing. Now, in mid-February, she sees all of this work in my computer “bin” (this, to me, is the equivalent of her coming into my cubicle and rooting around in my filing cabinets to dig up dirt) and demands to know why it hasn’t been done. I explained, in a polite but mildly condescending tone, that I gave her this work to do months ago, and if she intended to blame me for not getting it done, she’d better bark up a different tree. She took her frustration out on me, by forcing me to sit in her cubicle for four hours while she attempted to process two—of eight—invoices, showing me how to do both of them. I have no problem with learning new things, but she pretty much abandoned me shortly before I had to leave anyway, so I went home. The next day, she brushed past my cubicle on her way to, I assume, conspire with Joanne, and she asked, “Did you finish that stuff in your ‘bin’?”

“Um,” I replied, but she kept on going, somewhat unwilling to hear a negative answer. So I let it go. She has the hard copies; she can finish it. But I suspect my unwillingness to, uh, do work that I can’t feasibly do has…pissed her off, and she wants to take me down to prevent her from looking bad. I have no evidence to confirm that this is her reasoning, but the time-frame lines up and it’s really the only time she’s ever gotten pissy with me. [Back]

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The Gambit

When I got into work yesterday morning, I decided that I should finish what I had started working on yesterday. Since the woman who gave me that stack of work is someone who (a) I actually like and (b) is nothing but pleasant to me, I thought I should get it done in case the talk with the Big Boss that I mentioned yesterday didn’t go well.

Also, when I woke up yesterday morning, my anger and spite had diminished, and I really was at a point where I wouldn’t want to continue working there if I had to work closely with Andrea (as I almost certainly would). On top of that, everyone I discussed this with—friends, family, coworkers—agreed that, since I don’t really need this job and it’s really just a way station until I find something that I don’t hate, I should just say “fuck it” and quit. Even my father voiced this opinion, before I even told him about my plan to save face while ruining Andrea, and he was the one most critical about me leaving Los Angeles and most frustrated about me not finding a job within three minutes of getting back to Chicago. These opinions reenforced my original gut reaction, before the spite took over and I felt the need to ruin Andrea’s life—for fun!

With that in mind, I reshaped my mental talk with the Big Boss to reflect my newfound maverick attitude: I didn’t care about saving my job, although I did care about being outright fired, so within that small limitation I could say whatever the hell I wanted. If it forced me into a position where all I could do is quit, boo-fucking-hoo. If we couldn’t possibly work out some sort of compromise to allow me to continue working without having any interaction—even just, say, running into her at the printer—with Andrea, I’d take a walk.

That perspective can lead employers to bend to your will if you’re valuable enough—remember how I accidentally became a legend at Borders?—or it can explode in your face like a trick cigar. And I’ll have you know, I was wishing it would be a trick cigar that doesn’t fire people after the explosion.

The work I had left took me a couple of hours, and when I finished I handed the stack back to the woman who gave it to me. Then, mustering up my courage—yes, despite my carefree attitude, I was nervous about getting caught in a web of Andrea-spun bullshit that would result in my getting fired and looking like a jackass—I marched to the Big Boss’s cubicle, mentally preparing myself for the gambit.

“Big Boss,” I said, “we need to have a talk.”

She gave me a semi-frustrated, knowing look, and nodded for me to sit down. I sat and explained that somebody—I wouldn’t name names—had made me aware of a conspiracy to get me fired, and that I knew the Big Boss knew the two people who had formed this conspiracy because I had already been ratted out. I said that while I admit (very vaguely) that “on occasions” I would “sometimes” leave “a little bit” early or “once in awhile” take a “slightly longer” lunch, I appreciated her giving me the benefit of the doubt and, essentially, telling the conspirators to go fuck themselves, but the conspiracy itself cropped up certain issues that we needed to address.

“Such as…?” the Big Boss asked, seeming genuinely unaware of any problems that could come from my knowledge of the conspiracy.

“If Andrea comes within 10 feet of me, I’ll have to fight an uncontrollable urge to shout obscenities at her,” I responded. “And that, to me, presents a problem because nearly all of the work I do comes directly from her, and unless you start shuffling around everybody’s responsibilities so I don’t have to work with or anywhere near her—which obviously isn’t fair to anybody else in the office—or you can think of some other compromise, I think I should give my notice.”

She sat for a minute, her head cocked to the side like a puppy that’s just noticed a long line of ants marching on a sidewalk, then looked me straight in the eyes.

“Okay,” she said.

“Okay”? That was it?! No “maybe we could can the temp and have you go back to doing what you used to do,” no potential solution of any kind, no “when you calm down, we should have some sort of discussion to resolve the issues between you and Andrea,” just “okay, I accept your notice, now leave me alone”?!

“Okay,” I parroted, then added, “Thanks,” for some reason, before I went back to my desk. Thanks for not firing me on the spot, I guess.

After fucking around for a little while—remember, a significant chunk of the problem is that I don’t have anything to do, primarily because Andrea doesn’t give me anything to do, even when I ask her, and I certainly wasn’t going to ask her now—I thought I should brave going somewhat near Andrea in order to thank Athena, who both saved my job—I guarantee you if she hadn’t come to tell me, I never would have figured out the conspiracy for myself and would have ended up getting fired within a few weeks of hardcore spying on me—and gave me the courage to finally quit, even though I have very little on the horizon.

When I left my desk, I thought about going to the temp and saying, “You can let Andrea know I’m going to Athena’s desk, then I’m going to use the can; I shouldn’t be more than five minutes, but if I am, feel free to alert the Big Boss.” And yes, I am that mean, but I decided against it. Why be openly hostile to her when I could save my anger and frustration for Andrea?

I thought I should thank her subtly, because even though I didn’t give a shit if Andrea knew I knew about her little plan, I didn’t want her to hold it against Athena because she told me all about it. Maybe I should have even taken her out to lunch or something, but I didn’t want to give her ideas. Not trying to sound like the office stud (I assure you, I’m not), but I know for certain she’s attracted to me, and it’s not that I don’t feel the same for her—she’s another single mother looking for a surrogate father. And much like her kids’ actual father(s), it’s Splitsville for me when I hear the siren squeal of toddlers.

So yeah, I didn’t want to give her ideas. I thought about taking her aside, maybe inviting her to go “on break” with me, and then thanking her once we’ve reached a safe distance from Andrea, but to be honest, I thought as I walked to her cubicle that if I just said something vague like, “Thanks for your help yesterday,” she’d know exactly what I meant but Andrea would remain clueless.

So that was exactly what I ended up doing. She gave a knowing smile and told me it was no problem at all.

“Stan!” Andrea piped up, noticing my tremendous carriage blocking the entrance to Athena’s cubicle. “Did you finish that work in your ‘bin’?”

Yes, this is the same work she referred to last week, the work that started this whole conspiracy mess, the work that I didn’t do two months ago because I didn’t know how to do it then, and I still don’t know how to do it because she never taught me. At this point, two things happened in my brain:

  1. I realized that quitting and blaming her was the right move. On Tuesday, I decided not to quit because I figured that would play right into her hands—she wanted me fired, so if I quit she would win. Now, I realized what a good night’s sleep had force me to suspect: she never wanted me fired—she wanted the Big Boss to threaten to fire me, or maybe even to say she would fire me but then Andrea would come and rescue my job (at which point I would be beholden to her), because she wants a toady. She wants me ot sit there for eight hours, doing nothing if I have nothing, but certainly not sneaking out. When she says “Jump!” she wants me to be there to say “How high?!” But I’m usually sitting in my car, in a parking lot two miles away, reading a Chandler novel. So my quitting is actually the worst thing for her.
  2. The anger and spite came back. Oh boy, did it ever come back.

Everybody who knows me is fully aware that I have no skills at all, but I have one magical power that, when used for evil, can simply destroy a person. You talk about emotional scarring—this is emotional disfigurement. Okay, maybe not. Maybe it’s just scarring, but it’s usually something people remember. Maybe not on a constant, I-have-to-kill-that-Stan basis, but definitely in a periodically-flashing-in-their-mind-and-reopening-the-wound kind of way.

I can, most of the time, size up a person and, within minutes of observation (even if I’m not talking to the person—just watching them silently fidget from across a crowded auditorium) size up their character. I say “most of the time,” because on occasion I learn from others (often when bitching about a person I barely know and grossly mischaracterizing them) that I’ve been wrong, but usually I’m so right it’s spooky. And I don’t usually use this power for evil—much like Harry Block, I just exploit it for creative gain—but sometimes I’m prompted or feel compelled to rip into a person, and that’s when it all comes out.

The problem is, when I’m angry at a person, and the compulsion to start yelling at them overwhelms me, I just destroy them. Because part of the instanalysis of their character includes full awareness of their fears and insecurities, and that’s what you hone in on when you’re mad.

So obviously, as I lumbered around to her cubicle and spoke very quietly and rapidly to her, I started laying into her about her insecurity about this job—how part of the reason she wants to “control” me stems from the fact that she’s fully aware that I could do her job with my eyes closed and still sneak out for five hours a day—and ended, through a long procession of obscenity-laced browbeating, launched into a tirade about her fear that her husband is cheating on her with—gasp!—an American woman (she’s Filipino). I didn’t even know about this fear in any specific way. I could just…tell.

And the way she looked at me when I started talking about that, especially her prejudice against “white” people, made me know I was dead fucking right. At the same time I felt triumphant, I knew I was the worst person in the entire world. Incidentally, this magical power is the reason why I instinctively dislike almost everybody on the planet.

After I finished speaking, Andrea said nothing. She just sat there, jaw agape (especially at the end). I turned back to go to my desk and caught a glance at Athena, who I could tell was looking at me the same way I looked at myself: with a combination of pride and horror. Then I turned back around to say what I realized I hadn’t even gotten to—the actual response to her question—so I said, “I haven’t done the shit you gave me because, as I’ve already told you three times, I. Don’t. Know. How. To. Do. It. Okay? You have the invoices, you’re the one who never taught me—you do it!” This was the only time, during a tirade that felt like half an hour (it was more like two minutes), that I raised my voice.

I went back to my desk and, once again, fucked around for a few minutes, at which time the Big Boss came to my cubicle. She told me that I’d made Andrea cry (I figured…) and perhaps I should just go. No hard feelings, she wouldn’t give me any black marks or even give me a bad reference (this led me to believe that the Big Boss felt Andrea deserved what she got from me), but she’s not going to put up with two weeks of me making other employees cry. It was interesting to me that she said “other employees,” not just Andrea. Did she know there were a few other people I really didn’t get along with? I don’t have to work directly with any of them, at least not on a regular basis, so I’d really have no reason to say anything to them, but that’s fair enough.

I thanked the Big Boss, took my cabinet keys off their chain and set them on my desk along with my ID badge. I shut down my computer, grabbed my jacket and slipped away down the stairwell next to my cubicle, as I had done so many times while sneaking out over the past several months.

I doubt I’ll ever see any of these people again—disappointing, since a couple of them (like Athena) seemed pretty cool—but if I see Andrea, I doubt our next encounter will be any better than our last one.

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Systems Support Specialist

I’ve been a nerd for awhile, but never really a competent nerd, in the sense of writing code or soldering diodes to, uh…thingies that make stuff go. In fact, I’m not even strictly competent at the one thing I’m kinda good at: fixing shit I break. Usually I figure it out, but sometimes it takes me hours, days, even weeks, and oftentimes I have to go and ask nerd friends on the Internet probing questions until I have the answer.

Because of my incompetence, I’m always hesitant to find jobs in the general computer-nerd world, even though my Microsoft-employed brother-in-law has been encouraging me to do so for years, saying things like, “You know more than I do.” (MSN users: clearly you’re in good hands.) I’ll apply for them once in awhile, usually when they have such low qualifications that any idiot could do the job. And even then, I don’t get called.

So when my sister first told me of a job opening at her place of employment, and that the title was “Systems Support Specialist,” I said, “Sounds good,” while thinking, “I hope I can successfully ignore this until the position is filled.”

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Krispy Kreme Mocha

When the Krispy Kreme opened a few years ago, it was like an unhealthy man’s heaven. The first—and for awhile, only—in Illinois, and for some reason half a mile away from my house, I used to go there constantly and gorge myself on those hot, greasy, glazed confections. I had so many, and for such a long period of time, that it finally reached a point where they disgusted me. The lack of variety—sure, Krispy Kreme has donuts other than the original glazed, but they’re all terrible—and just the overkill of my excess made me never, ever want to touch a Krispy Kreme donut again.

So far, I’ve stuck with that, but I’m also extremely lazy. The Krispy Kreme is between my bank and my house; however, the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts—vastly superior in every conceivable way—is ten minutes down the road. Ordinarily, Dunkin’ Donuts is worth the extra drive, but as I said, I’m extremely lazy.

So yesterday, after depositing my last paycheck, I stopped at Krispy Kreme and ordered a mocha. Because I love the caffeine, and she loves me, and there was a time not long ago when I squinted into her eyes and muttered through a mouth full of chaw, “I wish I could quit you,” but she knew I didn’t mean it, and I knew I didn’t mean it, so the trial separation ended and we got back together. Now, we’re unstoppable…

…except when she hurts me by forcing me to stop at Krispy Kreme for a mocha. Now, their mochas are pretty good. Not as good as Tully’s, but much better than the rancid ichor those Starbucks assholes call chocolate. But I don’t mind stopping for one if I’m too lazy to go down to Dunkin’ Donuts for a slug of sweet ambrosia.

One thing is unsettling, though. Whenever I get a mocha from Krispy Kreme, I…smell the glaze. I almost taste it in the mocha, which shouldn’t have any actual glaze in it. But maybe it does, who knows? But I smell it all over my fingertips after handling the cup, and it takes days for it to go away, even if I wish my hands every hour. And because of that sense memory of gorging myself to the point of hating that original glaze, every time I, say, scratch my cheek or nose or chin…I feel a little bit nauseous.

So do particles of glaze odor get all over the cup and/or its contents—because the whole thing does stink a little of glaze in its own right—because of the powerful odor in the kitchen? I mean, it really is powerful shit. I used to take walks up a residential street that runs parallel to the street the Krispy Kreme is on, about a quarter-mile north of it, and I can smell the glaze. It’s…disturbing. But I suppose it stands to reason that such a powerful odor would cling to anything and everything it can. I think I read somewhere that milk is an odor absorber, so that could explain the whole thing.

Still…it’s unsettling.

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Tully’s Closed

During the summer of 2004, I spent the bulk of my days and nights working at a branch of Tully’s Coffee, located at 99 Yesler Way in downtown Seattle, across the street from Pioneer Square. On the exact corner on which I worked, at 1st Avenue and Yesler Way, a huge saw mill owned by Henry Yesler once sat. Yesler Way consisted of skids, going all the way up the steep hill. At the top, loggers would chop the trees and send them down to the mill at the bottom of the hill by way of these skids. The mill-loaded neighborhood in this early version of Seattle was a filthy cesspool, and it was on the corner of 1st Avenue and Yesler Way that a reporter from Chicago stood, surveyed the disgusting sight of this new city, and coined the phrase “skid row.”

In the intervening 120 years, little had changed. It had become a tourist trap (two blocks away is the Kingdome and Seahawks Stadium, and across the square is the hugely successful Underground Tour), which is important because it spurred the profitability of the shop in which I worked for a long while. The original manager was apparently some sort of service-industry genius, because he took a brand new shop in a place where there are at least five others within short walking distance (and a dozen within slightly longer walking distance) and made it one of the most successful in the entire company. Unfortunately, when he left, so went the success. I don’t know for sure, but from the stories I’ve heard about the previous manager running the store into the ground, it seems like he had a “service last” mentality, which drove away both the regulars and the tourists.

I was hired by an interim manager, brought in to try and whip the shop into shape before moving on to run his own branch permanently. There was a lot of office-politics turmoil that led to this, and in a way led to my hiring. The interim manager worked at a store in a nearby mall. They brought him to 1st and Yesler because he had been training to manage a store for awhile, and they wanted to oust the actual manager, so they said, “Give us a month to pink-slip him, and in the meantime you can get your feet wet and 1st and Yesler, then take over Westlake.” In that month, they also gave the manager who would take over a crash-course in managerial skills. In that month, they also hired me.

I got along pretty well with the interim manager. He was also a writer, also a huge Woody Allen fan, also couldn’t decide if Manhattan or Hannah and Her Sisters was his best film—we were two peas in a pod, and I’m certain if he hadn’t noticed I was a film student and started talking movies with me, I never would have gotten the job. At the same time, if the previous manager or new manager had been there when I applied, I don’t think I would have been hired. It’s all about timing.

The problem, when the interim manager took over, is that he was both too nice and too gullible. I don’t really know what went on after I left, but while I was there, he managed to find himself under the tenuous claws of two different, subordinate employees, and as a result he largely ignored the rest of us. One of them was a guy I worked with a lot, and he ended up getting fired because he made a long series of stupid mistakes. I think the biggest was closing up the store one time without setting the alarm. Nothing happened, but that’s still frowned on by the company. The other was a fairly attractive girl who made an inordinate amount in tips by flirting with the customers (like hardcore; I wouldn’t be surprised if some guys got phone numbers), and she managed to get a stranglehold over the new manager in much the same way. She was angling for his job, and he knew it, but he didn’t seem to be able to resist the powers of her charm.

Then there was the turnover problem. When the one guy got fired, that started a disappointing revolving door. I was the next to give my notice, and I knew the timing was terrible but I had to get back to school (I was willing to delay going back a semester, but nobody on the planet but me and my coworkers seemed to think that was a good idea). I found out through the grapevine (a.k.a., the flagship store, where I had befriended far too many employees) that the shuffling they were doing in order to accommodate my quitting was ridiculous. And the fact was, they just didn’t have enough people. With me and the other guy gone, they had a total of three employees. They hired a fourth just before I left, and transferred somebody else, but neither of them were permanent. I could see in the new girl’s eyes that she was a short-timer (and I was right, I found out), and the girl who had transferred knew it would only be until they hired more people.

I kind of lost track of my Tully’s friends after that, but I’m guessing the downward spiral continued. Maybe somebody made a power play that got out of hand, but here’s the fact: my sister just called me up and said she was driving by Pioneer Square, and my store was papered up, and its sign had been removed. I checked the website, and she’s right: my store is gone. I love Tully’s as a whole, but I grew attached to my branch. I really hate saying this, but working at Tully’s was the most fun, most difficult, most rewarding, outright best job I’ve ever had. If it paid enough for me to actually support myself, I’d probably never have left. But it doesn’t, and I did, so now what?

Well, the store’s closed, is what. And I can’t help feeling a little depressed about that. I used to have a dream about one day going back to Seattle and seeing all those old faces again. I knew they’d never last—not the employees, probably not even the regulars—but I have memories of them, and those memories translated into one day going back. It’s like the really shitty, retarded ending of Titanic. She’s 279 years old, but she jumps off that fucking boat and dies and goes to Titanic heaven. It’s not populated with all these hundreds of thousands of people she probably knew over the course of her life; heaven, to her, is just that one moment in time. I wouldn’t necessarily call my time at Tully’s heaven, but I do have that same type of feeling, where everything’s frozen and someday I can just go back and pick it up like I never left.

Now that the store’s closed, that dream is gone. So in honor of my coworkers (especially Sandy), the regulars (especially Drunk Dennis, whose bizarre life and hilarious code of ethics will someday form the basis for my greatest written work), and the crazies (I’m looking at you, Krazy Kelly and Crazy Crackhead), I’m filling up my Tully’s Statesmen with 16 ounces of fresh-brewed French Roast and having one more cup for you all, and for the memories.

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Fortune

I just found, among piles of paper on my desk, a little slip of paper that I thought was the fortune from a fortune cookie. I unfolded it and read the message:

Your food is Prepared to Order

PLEASE PRESENT THIS STUB

WHEN YOUR NUMBER IS CALLED

010

What a crappy fortune.

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The Load of Shit

Over Memorial Day weekend, my sister called. We had to set up file-sharing so she could download some pictures of her house that she thought she had lost. This led, not surprisingly, to an hour-long conversation about my hilarious efforts to find a decent job (or any job, at this point) in an art-related field in which I’m competent. Since she also failed to find employment doing anything resembling what she wanted to do, it’s one of the few areas where she commiserates with me instead of condescending to me.

She gave me all these pointers about her perceived problems with my cover letter and resume (which she hasn’t even looked at—she just happened to take a class in how to make a “bitchin'” resume) and then the conversation gradually turned toward a bombshell she had never before revealed:

“So yeah, a few weeks after you left L.A., I got an e-mail from Cam asking what happened to you because you kind of fell off the face of the planet,” she said. “He said he’d e-mailed you a couple of times but didn’t hear back, so he was wondering what happened. I told him that you ran out of money and had to go back to Chicago, and he said, ‘Oh, that’s a shame, because he said if you’d stayed another week, they’d have hired you on full-time.'”

At first I was livid. Cam happens to be engaged to my school’s L.A. internship coordinator, arguably the least helpful person on the planet. I was angry first at her for again proving her uselessness by not telling me something like that, then at myself because I kinda blew her off when I got back to Chicago. I was jaded and bitter, but she did call me once; I picked up, thinking it was someone else, but got her off the phone really fast. The last thing she said to me was, “Don’t blow this off.”

In that instant of lividity, I was thinking, did she tell me not to blow this off because when I had called back, she was going to tell me an employment offer had been extended? But as the shock and anger wore off, I gradually began to realize that what my sister had told me made no sense whatsoever, and I explained to her why:

  1. As an initial side-note, I pointed out that Cam hadn’t e-mailed me at all after I had left. Not once. And, even after getting ahold of my sister and hearing back from her, I still didn’t hear from him myself.
  2. I had given notice at both of my internships. Not a whole lot, and I ended up skipping out earlier than I had told them, which probably didn’t go over well, but they were aware that I was leaving, and they were aware of one reason why. If either of them had intended to put me on full-time, they had ample time to speak up. They didn’t.
  3. Of the two internships, Cam’s fiancée only knew of one. Ironically, at the one she didn’t know about I was treated with respect, felt somewhat like I fit in, and was made to feel like I was competent in what I was doing. At the one she was aware of, I didn’t fit in at all. The people there would ignore me if they could, they gave me worse than menial tasks (I know, I know—that’s part of being a lowly intern, but at least at the other internship they didn’t make me feel like I was doing all the piddly crap they wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole), and just generally treated me like an outsider. Since this was the only one the internship coordinator knew about, I find it really surprising that of the two, this was the one that intended to offer me a paid position.
  4. Before I even gave notice, I took a half-day off from the internship where I didn’t belong so I could go to Santa Monica for an open interview at a café. When I came back thinking the interview went well, the women at the production company were excited that I’d be getting a paying job somewhere and also recommended various other places where I might be able to make more money (none of which were hiring). Doesn’t really sound like the kind of place that planned to hire me…
  5. One of my friends worked the exact same internship at the exact same place—she was Monday-Wednesday-Friday; I was Tuesday-Thursday—and she actually got along well with the people there. Yet, she interned there for a whole summer and then, in the end, was cut loose, with the typical promises about how they would have loved to hire her but just couldn’t afford it. I suspected that was how things would end from the moment I interviewed, when the women who interviewed me kept talking about how great the previous interns were, and I was just thinking, “So why did you let them go?” Answer: they didn’t plan to hire anybody; like most places, they just wanted the free labor.

I had always had the feeling that Cam’s fiancée would say or do anything to keep her job or make herself look good, so long as it didn’t involve actually doing her job well. This just seemed to me like proof of that, with the truth hidden even from even her fiancé. It’s not the most unreasonable thing in the world. If I had people breathing down my neck from all sides, saying, “What’s up with this kid who just bailed?” I’d probably make up a similar lie. But I also wouldn’t dangle the lie in front of the other person (or his sister). It’s just more of the school’s empty promises, which had stranded me out there in the first place.

Why wouldn’t I dangle it? Because here’s how I reacted: I said, “It’s a bunch of bullshit and here’s why,” but…it nagged at me. I was in a foul mood for the rest of the weekend, and I let it kind of gnaw at me all week, going back in forth in my head, with a 99.9% certainty that everything Tracey had heard from Cam was a total load of bullshit, but I just couldn’t let that 0.1% go. What if they had wanted to hire me? What if they had intended to offer me a job on the very day I stopped showing up, after giving my two weeks’ notice one week before? Maybe I was just that much better than my friend who never got hired at all. They had just hired a director of development, whom I actually clicked with, who liked my coverage—maybe she would have needed an assistant. Maybe I had fucked myself out of a nice (to start with) career opportunity for some really, really stupid reasons.

When Friday rolled around, I could no longer tolerate all this horrible, horrible thinking I had been doing. I had to take some kind of action. Should I call up the production company and ask about it? No, no, that’d never work. Maybe I should just call and try to make amends, apologize for walking out on them so abruptly. Not trying to pry any information out of them, but perhaps the information be divulged. “Sorry I ditched you.” “Oh, the only person you fucked was yourself—I was just about to offer you a job.” “Oh, how silly of me. Let us now laugh.”

I stared at their business card, which I had discovered while cleaning out a bunch of old shit, contemplating whether or not I had the guts to actually call them and—gasp!—apologize.

Not today, I thought, and instead sent an e-mail to my friend, the other half of what we jokingly called “Team Intern,” the tactic we had used to get hired together—we knew each other in advance, so we could talk to each other and coordinate the way we ran the office, to make sure everything ran smoothly. If there was something she found out on Friday would happen on Tuesday, she could call me up and let me know. Team Intern, yes, that’s the ticket.

She responded to me a few hours later, quelling my fears and neuroses by reminding me of various other factors that would have prevented us both from being hired full-time. This just wasn’t the place for that. They were a relatively small operation, they obviously wanted to keep the overhead low, so by having two interns in rotation working for three months and then replaced, they had all the additional help they really needed, and for free! In exchange, the very purpose of an internship: payment in experience and maybe—just maybe!—a shiny new reference.

My irritating conscious mind allayed, I was able to continue sending out a resume that, I assume, human resources people print out and hang up on the bulletin board in the break room for everyone to first laugh at, then sigh with the relief one gets in knowing they don’t have somebody like me working for or with them.

Let the good times roll.

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Degas’s Hecklers in Shitter

So my mother has this job now, and she has a co-worker who she says loves to hear himself talk about himself. He was late to work today, and the explanation as to why disturbed her:

He recently moved to our little slice of suburbia (although he’s a west-of-53’er, which is why it comes to no surprise that he’s a self-obsessed yuppie) and, last weekend, took his kids to a pool park we have called Rainbow Falls. It was recently rebuilt, which I guess is a detail that isn’t germane to the story, but I feel compelled to share it. I guess it accounts for the lack of any kind of detail or knowledge in the rest of the story; it’s been at least a decade since I went to the old Rainbow Falls, but I’ve never been to (and probably will never go to) the new one.

At any rate, at some point during this little trip to Rainbow Falls, he needed to take a shit. So he goes into the can, he’s by himself, he’s doing his business, and—three junior-high-aged kids rush into the bathroom. They’re making all kinds of noise, screaming, heckling, beating on his stall door. All this culminates in what I’d consider an ultimate act of humiliation: they crawled under the stall walls and doors and basically watched the man finish his shit, all the while heckling him in a Beavis & Butt-Head manner.

Why did something that happened last weekend make him late to work today? Was he trapped in the stall all week with these three depraved boys? No; after the incident, the guy immediately tracked down somebody who works there and had her file a report. But that wasn’t enough to quell his outrage and disgust; he tracked down some “big-wigs” at the Park District to not only explain the situation in more detail, but to politely tell them how to handle it. His scheduled conference call with them was this morning, which made him late to work.

He felt they should post high-school-aged attendants in all the bathrooms. He also apparently felt they should act like bouncers, and that any kids under 16 should be forced to use the “family bathroom*.”

My thought on this? Well, after the initial disbelief regarding certain aspects of the story (the most gaping hole was how he got out of the stall; they’re tiny, so I can barely imagine that many people crammed into it—another flaw of the story—and with these borderline-sociopathic attempts at intimidation, I really don’t see them just lettin gthe dude walk away without a fight), I kind of chuckled at the idea of high school students trying to ward off gangs of bizarre, creepy kids only a few years younger than themselves. Sure, they’ll stand watch, but at Park District wages, you’re gonna have a lot of kids unwilling to get involved in such bizarre situations. They might run and try to get security**, a cop, or some other kind of adult authority figure, but it’s not really a great preventative measure.

My mother, who worked at the Park District for many years, didn’t quite have the heart to tell him that they probably burst out in uncontrollable laughter as soon as he hung up the phone. She also felt like he should be pursuing this with the police rather than telling the Park District how they could prevent further incidents (especially when his idea was fairly half-assed). Kelly, one of my best friends from high school, is a part-time manager at Rainbow Falls, has told me enough disturbing stories that, combined with this incident and with the pedophilia issues, maybe having an actual security guard—not a high school student but possibly, a dude with a gun or a huge, bouncer-like fellow—wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. They apparently have some kind of security surveillance that was installed after the pederast stuff, but that doesn’t really prevent so much as it helps them catch suspects.

The whole thing seems unfeasible to me, however. How many more people would be creeped out by some armed man or gentle giant just standing there, probably in sunglasses, watching everything that happens? I’m sure it’d prevent a lot of unseemly incidents, but wouldn’t it be perceived as just one big unseemly instance itself?

With the overall disbelief still fresh in my mind, wondering why somebody would not just share the story in general but want to share it with everyone in the office on an individual basis, I turned to Kelly for answers. I wanted to know, before I put too much thought into this, if it had even happened. I know about Park District gossip, and I know Kelly herself as an almost pathological need to spread gossip to every corner of the universe. If something this odd had happened, she would know either from the rumor-mill or just from the bosses over her head telling her and other managers to do something about it.

Conveniently, right as my mom was finishing telling me the story, Kelly IM’ed me, from—even more conveniently—the scene of the crime, Rainbow Falls. I told her the entire story, and after “lol”-ing at a few key moments, she said, “Never happened. There’s no way.” Of course, she also said things like, “Around here, that would actually be a normal thing. It doesn’t even put a dent into the crazy-ass shit I’ve seen over the past 10 years.” This prompted a flood of little nuggets from stories I had, until that moment, blocked from my mind.

So from that point, I realized the story was total bullshit, which led me to the even more disconcerting question of why? Why would this guy make up a story like this, with such elaborate detail, just to explain getting to work late? What happened to “I had a flat tire”?

Did it start with a little granule of truth—maybe some obnoxious junior high kids actually were harassing him, but in a much milder way—and he just rolled with it? Because he has to be the hero of all his stories?

I don’t know. Stuff like this confounds me. Sometimes, when I have no interesting stories to write on this blog, I’m tempted to just make shit up, but that just seems so lame and half-assed. Instead, I go for weeks—possibly months—without a post.

* One of the many things I know almost nothing about, I’m told they installed a “family bathroom” in addition to the men’s and women’s rooms to circumvent reported incidents of pedophilia. Understandable.

** I don’t even know if they have security guards. It would stand to reason, what with the pedophilia, but I don’t remember them having security when I went there many years ago.

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