Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Job Jobs 6: The Gentleman of Leisure at Whole Paycheck

Previously on Job-Jobs: PART 5.

Being unemployed was a nervous, fun, scary, giddy existence. And I needed something to keep me grounded and centered and focused as all of this was swirling around me.

And so each weekday I would write a summary of my activities for that day and post it on Facebook. I did this for 22 months, or 369 workdays. The average word count for a "Gentleman of Leisure" report was 325 words - ergo, lets do the math - 120,000 words. I wrote a book, basically. 

Buuut, considering the two most used words in the thing are "Dishes" and "Siesta" - I don't think I'll be optioning the movie rights anytime soon.

Still, there are some interesting moments, So here's some baguettes, in no particular order:

Don't have lasagna for dinner when watching the Walking Dead.

Don't play Mario Kart for 3 hours and then jump in the car to do errands.
The Culling of the T-Shirts

Does Lucy Lawless need a personal secretary?

You never see a good toupee. You either see a bad one, or you don't see anything at all.

The Culling of the T-Shirts. Each year I put on all of my t-shirts in turn and hold my arms over my head; if my belly button is exposed, then off to the rummage sale it goes. 65 t-shirts became 40 and an entire drawer was liberated.

At the gym it was nice to tell Carl the Trainer that I was a Triathlete and have him reply, "Ah, your insane."

Unemployed meant that I had more
time for Triathlons and 5K races.
Toughest writing job in the world: Feature articles for Walking Magazine. Real publication, saw it during my years at Borders. First as a monthly, then as a Quarterly, then as an Annual, as the editorial department slowly went "Yeeeeahh. Huh." What is there to write about a skill that we all had pretty mastered by 18 months old?

Toughest TV sports job: Color commentator for a bowling tournament: "What do you think he's gonna do here, Bob?" "Weeelllll........I THINK he's gonna try throw the ball down the lane and knock all the pins down." "Ah, he got 9 of them." "What do you think he's gonna try to do with that last one?" "Weeelllll......"

I like voting on the day of the election; The crowds, the smells, the clueless senior citizens that can't find my name on the list even when I'm pointing right at it - I want to EARN my voting right.

A Haiku for Roomba

With tinny fanfare
I happily clean your floors
Please Empty my ass.

And I can dress up, when called
upon to do so.
Peanuts. The comic strip. It’s just so unrelentingly sad. In the big page of newspaper funnies it was always this black hole of nihilism and sorrow. Specifically though I have a hard spot in my heart for Charlie Brown. His baseball team never won. His Christmas tree never had an erection. And he was forced to wear the same ugly sweater to the 3rd grade for 40 years.

What would make me truly happy would be for Chuck to pick himself up, dust himself off, grow a pair, step over to Lucy, take the football out of her hands, and ram it up her ASS.

In the evening I re-edited a ritual of mine that had been edited by an editor. Begun, the Editing Wars have.

What did game show hosts want to be when they grew up?

Phone interview with the EDD, It had been set up because the money stopped for two months.
The exchange went like this:
“Why did you stop sending us the completed payment forms?”
“Because you stopped sending the blank ones to me.”
But we cannot send you payment until you provide us with a filled-in payment form.”
“And I cannot send you a filled-in one until you send me a blank one.”
“But why would we stop sending the blank ones to you?”
“Because I was suddenly ineligible, or the fund was dry, or the Republicans were being dickheads again – I don’t know.”
“But your account is still active.”
“Good to know. Can I have my money now?”
“We’ll need to have a payment form from you.”
“I’d fill one out if I had one.”
“Well we cannot provide payment until we have received a completed form.”
“You don’t have any? What did you do with them?”
“I stopped receiving them from you.”
“Why would we stop sending them to you?”
“I don’t know. Look, YOU CALLED ME, food-for-brains.”
And on and on for a good half hour until we were both dizzy.
During this 'downtime' there was also some epically
silly adventures, like Somewhere, Over Lughnasadh.

I visit this particular Taco Bell now and then, but always through the drive-thru. I hadn't used the walk up counter in years. And now I remember why.....!

It's not really a walk-up counter: it's a stagger-up, lurch-up, crawl-up, limp-up-bleeding counter. Downtown Taco Bells are the beach upon which Society's human detritus washes up.

I placed my order while ignoring the......smell behind me. I then sidled quickly right, upwind, and the grizzled woman behind me crow-hops forward and places three prescription bottles on the counter. The college kid in the paper hat then does the right thing and immediately calls for the Manager.

Some music gigs happened too.
Grizzly woman then orders by waving inarticulately at the menu above her. This eventually devolves into an argument between the grizzly woman and her pill bottles, I think.

I was off to the side, as far as possible, intently staring at my receipt. The manager tries his best to decipher her waving and raving.

I am then distracted by a loco-commotion as the style criminals behind me spotted a cop car stopped at the light outside and decided that the wisest course of action would be to yell "Its the COPS!" And run out the door and scatter in all directions with their arms waving. (Because nothing is less interesting to a Police Officer driving by than 5 young men pouring out of a Taco Bell, yelling.)
There was time to organize one of Community
Seed's MASSIVE Yard Sales.

Soon sirens were harmonizing with the grizzly pill woman, who was now threatening to bring in the FBI to investigate how she had just been short-changed.

But no money had switched hands yet.

The next fellow who wandered in thought it would be a great idea to pick up the 'wet floor' plastic sign off the floor and put it on his head, while he did a soft-shoe dance around the lobby.

I soon found myself trying to triangulate myself equidistant from all of the various archetypes of nutjobs, keeping the maximum distance between me and the Insane, the insober, the dropped-on-my-head-as-a-child-too-many-times, and the Mixed Doubles.
The Giants won the World Series, AGAIN.
This little minuet of terror of mine went on for 13 MINUTES until my order was ready.

Yes, 13min. I was a retail manager - I keep track of these things, and the time stamp was right there on my receipt, which I now knew better than my own Social Security Number.

The nice lady handed me my bag and apologized for the delay, waving to the sea of psychotic humanity currently occupying the lobby, and offering me a coupon for some cinnamon twists. I declined politely and ran out the door, waving my arms.

Back home I ate my gordita-doritos-chalupa-supreme-crunch-wrap and then I turned on my Legend of Zelda game: Me and Link went on a quest to find the mushroom spores that would heal the wing of the 15 foot bird that would help
Lego sculpting always happens.
me find the ancient flower that would fix the prehistoric robot that would retrieve the pinwheel from the volcano so we could fix the windmills which would then give me a new song for my harp.

And this side quest seemed perfectly sane and rational when compared to the ongoing Theater of the Surreal that is my local Taco Bell.

Whole Foods (2013 - 2016)

I got this job because I finally stopped looking at the places that I thought would hire me, and made a list of the places that I wanted to work at. Ones that do not sell Salad Spinners.

And just in time too: I got the email confirming my 4th and final interview on the same day I got a clear letter from the EDD stating calmly that my benefits were now suddenly, completely exhausted.

I had a real photoshoot, which
yielded gems such as this.
No pressure! And Whole Foods interviews can easily take 45 minutes or an hour. I sat down with the Store Manager, and my whole future, my past and my butt were on the line.

Seth flipped through his pages of questions and started with the first one: Why do you want to work for this company?
I need to work for a company that has Honor.
Seth stared at me with a frozen smile like I had just stated that I wanted to work there because the Bibles Awesome Number Code told me to.
He eventually glanced down and got question #2:
What does Customer Service mean to you?
Costumer Service to me means that Walt Disney himself comes through our door and is so floored by the care and attention that he receives from me that he whips out his iPhone and writes a five star Yelp review on the spot.
And Seth said "I'll be right back". 
And the next person I saw had me sign a W-2 form.

Which is like jumping to the other side of the bottomless chasm just as the burning rope bridge beneath you gives way.

First day!
Being a cashier is the hardest work I've ever done, and the most fun. Basically I wear my non-skid shoes, stand on a rubber mat, make boxes beep, and I speed date for 8 hours. I meet, on average, 200 people a day, and since they're in Santa Cruz, roughly 200 of those are wackjobs.

I love the parents who grew up rebelling against Authority - who now keep their kids on leashes.

The no-filter folks, who get $100 cash back and ask sincerely if that’s enough to buy heroin. To which I reply "Conventional or organic?" "Free range, artisanal, non-GMO, gluten-free Smack?"

Not all of my customers are drug addicts of course, but I do refer to the last hour we're open as the "hour of enabling".

I've also done some emergency shifts in the coffee bar, as a baristO, a barrier, a balustrade, a bannister, er - a hot drink technician. I do this usually the day after a Tool concert, when the entire coffee bar staff suddenly calls out with sick and/or dead grandmothers.

Its never fun, because I get customers like this:
Oh, Hi. You're not my regular person.
You're not Alex. Where is Alex?
My office. And yes, I'm wearing a mandarin
box on my head.
Alex is out sick today after spending last night at a Tool Concert, having 17 Jaeger shots, and is currently driving across the country blindfolded in a stolen golf cart towards her dead and/or dying grandmother.
Well. Then. I'll have the Usual.
My usual.
I see. Unfortunately Alex neglected to tell me what your standard order is, and her cell phone lost signal somewhere in central Nevada, so maybe you can tell me what the fuck you want to drink. K?
FINE. I'll have The usual: decaf
 1/2 – half / half standard
 6 shots vanilla hazelnut
 toffee nut 
 almond sugar free hazelnut
 one pump 2% milk soy 
organic breve whipped cream extra foam mocha americano 
brewed white chocolate macchiato
 cinnamon dolce latte gingerbread pumpkin spice iced green tea
 strawberries and crème vanilla bean eggnog double chocolate chip light sugar free vanilla blended crème. I always get the extra tall Italian style with an added protein shot Are you listening? Not half for here but half to go add froth mochaccino lungo shot Snickers moo-caccino with a couple extra packets of Splenda triple doppio free trade cortado too sweet gibraltar with caramel drizzles on the bottom, chocolate sprinkles on the top and peppermint on the left hand side of the cup only. Dirty. Vitamin D milk only. With room, for whipped cream, bacon, a quartz crystal and my hopes and dreams, you idiot. Namaste.
Listen, I can make you a cup of regular, or decaf. With room for you to Get. A. Life.

Pic I took on a rainy night cart run.
I like the check out lines much better, even though we are often the last stop on people's errand list, or their only stop after a hard day at work, and so we see people with their guards down. "Hurry, I'm late for my time management class!"

I love Hippie parenting: "Tang! Carlson! Caramel! That gentlemen doesn't want to play piggy back. 
Greystoke! Geo! Thorpe! Please stop eating the soaps. What is wrong with the non-invasive self empowering aspect of your being? 
River! Creek! Inlet! Stream! Seasonal Pond! Why can't you be a good - individually worthwhile free citizen residing along the gender continuum at various points of your choosing?
Isis! Osiris! Come here now. Isis - what are you doing to your brother?!

Yes, I wear some "Flair".
There is something worse than someone talking on their cellphone during checkout, and that's someone talking with the cellphone on SPEAKER. And these conversations are never about anything interesting. It's never "I'm meeting the linebackers at the Motel, and I remembered the cheerleading outfit, but I need the trampoline rental place to show up a half-hour BEFORE kick-off!"


So 34 years after starting work for Sal's Pizza I am back in the food service industry, and I get to wear a silly apron to boot. The Wheel ever turns, but it IS a circle.

And that's the history of my employment. I'm not proud of it, to be honest. I've spent 4 decades boundering along like a 3 year old who just walked into a spider web. My employment trajectory has been a series of loops around the lowest rung of the career ladder, an endless circle just above the drain of financial ruin.

But yeah, I still do the dishes a lot.
But all of these entry-level cul-de-sacs have kept me afloat and amused and occasionally aroused.

And "What do you do" is a far different question than "What do you do for a living", right?

Angus McMahan
P.S. Was that all of my jobs? Hardly. But that's all the main ones. Your jobs are like your relationships. The major ones get mentioned, and you skip over the two-week wonders, right? "It was okay, but he never really spun my salad."