Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 699 of Double-barrel Unemployment: A Humane End

Friday October 29, 2010

Well gang, what can I say? The Double-barrel Unemployment stories will continue for a bit, but it will quickly become difficult for me to remember the bitterness and desperation, as I have found a job. Looks like a good one, too.

Seven HUNDRED days after my departure from Vortex of Doom Communications, I will start being indispensable for a new employer. I am nearly speechless with joy, with relief, with hope.

Don't worry -- I still have snark to spare, and I don't plan on slowing down here or on the photo blog. Plus, no matter how good the gig turns out to be, work is work, and I'm sure I'll have plenty to prattle on about - like it or not.

See you on the other side, suckas!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Lost Revelation

So, what happened was...

The year was 1986. Having been left behind by friends and girlfriends who had gone off to Real College, I was living with the 'rents, attending Montgomery Community College and working at Erol's Video Club in Rockville, MD. I was working open-to-close (we called it "AFD") at the tiny Store #6 on a Saturday in March. On the 30-minute parole I called break time, I scampered over to Yekta Deli for my lunch of Funyons and Cherry Coke. This routine was relatively new, thanks to the closure of the Chesapeake Bay Seafood House, where I used to annoy the host/hostess by coming in only for to-go hush puppies.

It was when I reached into the fridge and pulled out my 16oz glass(!) bottle of (NEW!) Cherry Coke that it happened.

This post is going to be painfully short, thanks to the fleeting nature of what happened to me that afternoon. It's small and simple, yet unfathomably massive and complex. I had a spontaneous, overwhelmingly powerful revelation. Yeah - that kind of revelation.

There's a scene in one of Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide" books, in which an unremarkable young woman in an unremarkable café comes up with the simple, brilliant, perfect answer to the "ultimate question of life, the universe and everything," a notion that transcends religion and human existence as a whole -- only to be vaporized with the earth moments later to make way for a hyperspace bypass. That's how profound my revelation was. It was THE answer. It was as simple as "love each other," but way bigger, more complete. It was deep and clear and powerful and it shook me to my core.

I literally staggered to the cashier. I remember with photographic clarity the register's display of $2.65, and the black turtleneck the owner/manager was wearing. What I don't remember - at all - is the revelation itself.

I KNOW! How cruel is that? As suddenly as it had manifested itself, it vanished. The only thing sadder than the desperate deflation I felt at that moment is the fact that I am not making any of this up - including the fact that I actually went back into the deli a minute later and retraced my steps, up to and including going back to the soda refrigerator and chips rack and purchasing another Cherry Coke and Funyons. I was disconsolate for the rest of that weekend, and I couldn't articulate to anyone exactly why.

I had had it. It was simple and right and true and universe-changing, and it was in my head. And it was gone. Forever.

I have no doubt whatsoever that, had I been able to get to a piece of paper - or even a friendly ear - before that notion had left me, I would have been instrumental in the salvation of not only all humankind, but the planet itself. Such is the depth of my frustration and regret.

I had it. For just a second.

And I lost it.

It's still out there somewhere. I know that the odds against me finding it a second time are just silly, but someone else - maybe someone with a better short-term memory - can find it. I hope they do so. Like, soon.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 277 of Double-barrel Unemployment: Whaddaya Know - The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Really IS A Train!

SEPTEMBER 3rd, 2009
(A Thursday)

Okay, so I promised myself I wouldn't do this again. Ever, ever, ever - as I recall. In March of 1994, when for the last time I stepped out of the Suncoast Motion Picture Company store where I had paced the floor as a miserable slumming assistant manager, when I for the last time hiked up my pant legs and patted myself down to prove to my boss that I wasn't stealing (we had to do this at the end of every shift - I kid you not), when I handed my keys to said boss and smiled "See you in hell, asshole!"* -- I promised myself - aloud - that I would never work another day of retail for the rest of my life, so help me FSM. I promised.

Well, desperate times and whatnot. I hadn't had an interview in over five months. Also, I rationalized that this hardly counted as breaking that promise. My friend Godfrey Ozzenbarq III (not his real name), himself a frequently laid-off and fed-up-with-the-grind kind of guy, had been managing a small model railroad hobby shop for almost a year, and he needed an extra body in the store for a few shifts. Godfrey (not his real name) and I are railfans, so spending a couple of days surrounded by model trains and the retired men who buy them, working with my old friend again for the first time since about 1991 seemed to not really count as breaking my promise. The pay was negligible and it was only for a few shifts, plus it got me out of the house, so there I was. In retail. Again.

I have to admit, working with a product that I really like went a long way toward transforming a retail job from unbearable to downright pleasant. That wasn't the only factor, though (as I recall, I loved movies when I worked at Suncoast). Not being in a sunless cave in a snooty upscale mall, not being forced to work with bad people, not having to frisk myself (unless I really wanted to!) before being allowed to leave the premises, and selling fun stuff to an odd mix of fun customers made this hardly seem like work at all. I offered to let them pay me in trains, but a lot of those things are extremely expensive, and I only had enough hours to have earned a battery-operated "Thomas" train (batteries not included) and some plastic N-scale cows and trees, so I took a check instead.

Sadly, this "gig" lasted only a few days, but it was refreshing to see that not all retail is as I remembered it from my past life. It's still a low-paying field with long hours and nights and holidays and weekends and so on, but given the right type of product, it can be fun.

I was right back to work with the job boards and recruiters the next day. Someday, when he wins that big-but-not-big-enough-to-just-retire-to-the-Caribbean lottery, Godfrey (not his real name) is probably going to buy that store from his friend. I will totally work there.

Next up... Something Else!
* - I didn't really say that, but to this day, I'm not sure how I managed to resist.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day 254 of Double-barrel Unemployment: Lie To Me (about something other than flying cars)

August 11, 2009
(a Tuesday)

With no job prospects in sight, my unemployment switching from "regular" benefits to the double-secret probation that was Obama's "Emergency Unemployment Compensation" and the summer dragging on for me and killing [Maris] (now in full-on Vortex of Doom mode at her job), I re-watched the masterfully subversive "Hamlet 2," one of our favorite pieces of escapist ridiculousness. I cranked up the volume, not just for the best musical numbers since "Sweet Transvestite" and "The Time Warp," but also for bits of dialogue like "I could clean your rain gutters." "We have no rain gutters." "You're a LIAR - everybody has rain gutters!!"

[Maris] and I have incorporated that last line into our everyday vernacular. Upon hearing it this time, the desperation behind the word "liar" had a deeper resonance than usual. I started thinking everyone was lying - and not just about their rain gutters. I received one of my daily emails, informing me that I had "matched new jobs" and I promptly - alone in my house - barked "you're a LIAR - I didn't match anything!"

I was right. I opened the email to find a couple of dozen job postings, ranging from "I guess I can see why this one came up, maybe..." to "What words on my résumé led your software to believe that I should be a cyber security specialist with a top-secret clearance???" Every day this happens. And yes - I do know what I'm doing with my search terms.

It made me think of all the lies that surround me every day - many of which have been around since I was a child. Thinking back to this muggy August afternoon, I'm having trouble remembering all the lies and the lying liars who lie them, but I can wing it. It's getting late and the Braves are trailing :) so, briefly...

"We're converting to the metric system." Really! They taught us meters and liters and kilograms like it was an emergency. Hurry, children! If you haven't mastered this material by next Monday, you won't be able to measure a THING, ever again! I lost sleep over this stuff, and I'm still not really ready for the big switch. I know it's coming, though - any minute now.

"Breaking up AT&T and allowing more telecommunications providers to compete for your business will lead to lower prices for the consumer." Yeah - it didn't. Oh, these Baby Bells and their descendants went out of their way to make sure we couldn't compare their "prices" to anyone else's, but no, we did not pay less. This goes double for competition among cable TV providers.

Now, I am NOT going to start yammering about flying cars. Nobody promised me a flying car. EVER. I saw them in cartoons and maybe "Logan's Run" or the first "Star Wars" movie - although really, those just flew a couple of feet above the ground. But no one ever said "when you grow up, there will be flying cars" to me. So let's just get over this one. I'm talking to you, douchey Coke Zero guy.

What they did promise, however, was that technological advances would make our lives simpler and easier than those of our parents. "Computers will be in every home and will save everyone massive amounts of time," they said. Okay, so technology has made LOTS of stuff better. I won't try to say that it hasn't. BUT -- for most of us, it has done the opposite of making our lives simpler and easier, and we're not saving any time at all. Sitting here typing this drivel (mainly to share with a handful of Facebook friends), right next to my wife (who is using her laptop to play mah-jongg and listen to SiriusXM radio), I am certainly not SAVING time; I'm wasting it. We all are. Tons of it. And it's not just blogs and Facebook and games. I spend ridiculous amounts of time just trying to get this stuff to work at all. When it works, it's great, but I think we can count the "computers will make life easier" promise as officially broken.

Politicians. Yeah. Don't even need to cover this, do I? I will say - they used to at least fake it. They used to just twist the facts and deliver convincing half-truths. Now, they're not even trying. "Obama is going to turn this country into Stalin's Soviet Union." "Muslims are plotting to take over the country." "Republicans are going to deport ALL immigrants." "All the jobs lost and businesses closed in Maryland are due exclusively to the actions of Governor O'Malley." "If the Republicans take over, they're going to not only repeal Health Care reform, but they're also going to reverse the Civil Rights Act and send women back to the kitchen and reform our constitution so that it reads like the Bible, repealing all rights except gun ownership (men only, of course)." Not even trying. Lying right to our faces. Both parties are telling us their opponent's plan is going to destroy the world. They're both lying liars who lie. This is not funny. Moving on...

Commercials. I used to be skeptical of their claims. Now, thanks in part to Steve Coogan's brilliantly blurted "You're a LIAR..." line, I have achieved a certain peace with advertising. I don't care what they claim; I know - I KNOW - it's just a bold-faced lie. Oh sure, sometimes I still catch myself bellowing "how stupid do you think we ARE!" at the TV, but in general I'm okay with it. If I assume they're ALL lying, then it doesn't much matter whose ad I listen to, or if I bother listening at all.

One more (for now): Employers. This could be a whole separate post. OR... we could just include it in the advertising bit above. It's not a fun place to work. It's not fun at all. If it was, they wouldn't have to pay you to be there, would they? "A great place to work." Really? Work is for chumps. Yes, as you might have guessed, I'm losing momentum. Quickly. We'll revisit the lies of prospective employers, as well as those of job candidates (hey - I said EVERYbody lies, right?) in some later posts. Wait 'til you see some of the actual job board listings/descriptions I have saved up...