Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Why is this Book in Your Freezer?

I think I got eleven minutes of sleep last night. Don't expect this blog to be coherent. Hell, don't even expect me to finish it. At any moment, this text could disintegrate into a line of bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb when my forehead hits the keyboard. You have been disclaimered.

I don't know what's going on, but lately I've turned into the twitchiest would-be sleeper this side of an eleven-year-old staying home alone for the first time on Halloween after an 8-hour Freddie Kruegerathon and a dinner of Ho Hos. Every wee weird noise has me flipping over to turn on the light. This is bad for a couple of reasons: first, I have two cats and therefore quite a few weird noises on any given night, and two, the light on my bedside table has a short in its wiring and is likely to suddenly, heart-stoppingly turn itself off. Which it did twice last night.

The worst, though, is hearing some odd little noise in the house, assuming it was a cat, getting up to check and finding both cats sound asleep on their respective couches, miles from whence the strange sound cometh. I hate that. What's the point of having cats if you can't blame spooky night noises on them? (and yes, Aa., there are plenty of other reasons, so shaddup)

I've lived alone a lot of my adult life, and while I do have an overactive imagination at the best of times, I've mostly been able to stifle it when I need to sleep. I don't watch scary movies unless Toasty's going to be around for awhile, and scary books go in the freezer to stop them oozing out their bad characters like ectoplasm. But it's like I've suddenly regressed into the eight-year-old me who would wake up in the middle of the night, parents and brothers mere feet away, and be certain if I rolled over, a face would be at the side of my bed, looking back at me. (did I mention that overactive imagination?) I used to call for my dad and ask him something banal like what time it was (crucial information for an 8-year-old at 3 in the morning). My dad has always been a light sleeper and could be counted on for comfort, even if it was just to hear a familiar voice say, "It's 3.30. Go back to sleep." Instead of the expected, "It's time for you to die, little girl! hahahahhaahahaha!"

I'm off in a moment to take my asthmatic cat to the vet. I wonder what her inhaler will look like?

Sorry -- bit of a tangent there. Anyway, if you get a phone call at 3.30 in the morning, and a tremulous but rather familiar voice on the other end asks what time it is, just tell me it's OK, there's no such thing as the bogeyman, and that noise I just heard came from one of the cats, don't bother to go check.

Meanwhile, I'm going to buy a new lamp today. Possibly some earplugs.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Less a Street Walker, More a Street Stander

So in my on-going quest to do every weird job in Seattle, I recently accepted a one-time, please-can-you-bail-me-out-I-need-one-more-body temp gig. My instructions were: "wear a black jacket, black pants (no jeans) a white shirt with a collar and black shoes. Meet this guy at this place and do what he tells you." Ooooookaaaaay.... "Oh, and wear a watch." First off, doesn't everybody know that as soon as they tell you "white shirt, black pants, black jacket" that the job is going to be (a) tedious, (b) uncomfortable and (c) low pay?

Well, I'd just lent my only working watch to my mom, so I left early for the gig (clad in the proper I'm-one-pair-of-sunglasses-short-of-killing-aliens attire) in order to stop at Rite Aid and buy a fancy timepiece. Said $16 timepiece strapped to wrist, I went to the address, only to find that there is no such address. I wandered around for awhile, carrying my little sheet of paper of woefully inadequate instructions (I would soon find out just how inadequate they were) until I happened to ask directions of a guy who knew the guy I was supposed to be meeting. The place where I was sent to isn't exactly a "place" as such. It's actually a wide spot in a tunnel. So, more of an absence of a place than an actual building. As I'm standing awaiting instructions, I see more Men and Women in Black, looking confused and waving inadequate bits of paper at people, so I gesture them over.

Once there are six of us, we are led upstairs. I got a walkie talkie, a clicker-counter thingy, a clipboard and a pen. My job, it seems, will be to stand outside for the next six hours, directing people onto and off of buses.


There's a convention in town, and the convention-goers have a party to go to. Shuttle buses will pick them up at their hotels and take them to the party. My job is to get them onto the right buses and presumably to tame the savage beasts with some singing and tap dancing when the shuttle buses are behind schedule. Then after awhile I'll go to the party and shove the same people --only slightly drunker now-- back onto the buses and send them home.

Six hours. Outside. In late October. Did I mention the inadequate instructions? Yeah, the whole "you'll be outside the whole time" bit was missing. Fortunately, I had worn a jacket. It wasn't warm enough, but it'd prove to be the difference between doing the job with good humor or telling everyone to f*ck off, get on the bus or I'd attach my clipboard to their left nipple and spin it. My black shoes were completely wrong, having high-ish heels and a thin sole, and I would have worn gloves if I had known, but I was in better shape than some of the rest of the Temporary Six who hadn't worn overcoats at all.

The party people were, by and large, in a good humor and didn't mind waiting a bit, the bus drivers were very nice and very professional, and the people I was working with (though I only saw them for a few minutes here and there) regarded the whole thing with the same horrified humor that I did. It was an education conference, so I had some fears of ushering one of my former colleagues onto a bus and having to answer questions like, "So, how's that whole freelance-writer thing working out for you?" but fortunately that didn't happen. There was one woman who just seemed mad at the world and who got a bit mouthy, but I stuffed a passing homeless person in her mouth and that calmed her down.

All in all, it really wasn't a bad evening. It was actually quite good fun most of the time. I got to talk to people and be chatty, which I can do for short periods, especially if I know I'm getting paid at least a little. The people running the event were organized and on the ball and genuinely appreciated having temps with brains and a decent work ethic. And when I headed home at midnight, I got my bus after waiting in no-hoperville (in front of the Benaroya, for those of you who know what I mean) for less than a minute. All in all, a reasonable evening, even though it meant I missed this week's Office.

I wish they'd let me keep the red vest, though. And the clicker.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Press the 9 and I'll Kill You.

It's Nuclear Toast's fault that I even noticed this. His post about the things that annoy him got me thinking about the things that annoy me, and I came to two conclusions: (1) my list is a whole lot longer than his, and (2) dragging into the light the things that annoy me, annoys me. Add that to your list, bucko.

So yesterday I was in Seattle's interesting but rather unfriendly new downtown library, doing research for some articles I hope someone somewhere will want to pay me for, when I had to make a few photocopies. Why photocopies? Because I was on the 10th floor, in the Seattle history section, and you can't take books out of that area. Fair enough. There's a copy machine right there, I can do that. Except I can't. I have no change, just a $10 bill, and the machine takes only fives and ones. Natch.

"Where can I get change?" I whisper to the librarian.

"First floor," she barks back. Why don't librarians have to whisper? Is it one of the perks of the job that we all have to be quiet but they don't? Damn. Another thing to add to my list.

First floor. I'm on the 10th. This is a busy, big-city library. To do this, I must pack up my laptop, because she's already warned me to take it with me with that "I'm not going to watch it for you, don't even ask" look in her eye. I can't take the book with me to photocopy down there because the books in this section are sacred, and like that episode of Twilight Zone where everyone lives forever as long as they don't leave the town, the book will crumble to dust the moment I go beyond the perimeters of sacred Seattle space. Right.

I close up my many windows (sorry, Windows), shut down my computer, dismantle the whole thing (seriously, shuttle launches involve fewer plugs and pieces), pack it up in my bag and head to the elevator.

When it finally arrives, it's packed. There are at least eight people in there already, but there aren't many elevators in this very large, very busy library, so I shove my way in there, laptop in front of me like a battering ram. I prepare for a lengthy descent. We pass floor 9 without stopping, then 8, then 7. Then it's floor 6, and people are starting to notice. Then it's 5, and someone breaks the cardinal rule of "don't hex a good thing" by saying, "Are we going to make it all the way?" We punch him in the head, gag him and shove him in a corner.

Then it's floor 4, then 3, and the excitement in the elevator is almost too much to take. Are we going to make it? We've all been holding our breath and we let it out and grin at each other as we whiz past floor 2 like we're too good for it.

It's amazing, and put this on my list of "miracles that made my moment," but we went all the way to one without a single stop. Like Willy Wonka's factory, no one got on, and no one got off. Everyone was so excited, that when the doors opened on floor one, we all hesitated a moment, then broke into applause. I doubt any floor of the library has seen a more congenial group of elevator riders as we get off, whooping victoriously and high fiving each other. One guy suggested having t-shirts made that read "I dropped from the 10th floor and didn't die." We traded phone numbers, swore to write often and went our separate ways.

I got my $10 bill transformed into a bunch of smaller bills, then took the elevator back up to 10 for my photocopies. Never again (in the 2 more elevator rides that day) did I make it all the way without stopping. No, that would be asking too much of ThyssenoeusKrupptophanes, ancient Greek god of vertical lifting devices.

But I never will forget that for one shining moment, the gods grinned at me in my puny mission to get change for the photocopier. And all I got was this lousy t-shirt.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Oh, I Don't Think So

Have you ever had a job interview where you knew the job wasn't right, you knew you wouldn't take it if it were offered unless there were some seriously astronomical money attached to it, and still you had to sit there and gut out the interview? No? Well, lemme tell you what it's like.

It's a bad blind date without the benefit of alcohol.

Now, I've had bad blind dates. It is the nature of Internet dating that until you find a Toasty, you have to work through a lot of Milquetoasts. There was the guy who brought along a manila folder full of pictures of his cats. There was the other guy who only wanted to impress me (and not necessarily me, anybody in a girl suit would've worked) with the fact that his play was about to be published, win a Tony, resurrect the dead, whatever. One guy chewed me out for cutting tomatoes (for HIS party!) on his sacred stone kitchen countertops, though I was using a cutting board. (I think he slaughters goats there for his rituals and, to his credit, he was worried about cross-contamination.)

I KNOW from bad dates. But all of these, without exception, involved a drink. Not that I drink a lot, I really don't. Alcohol impairs judgement. Now granted, in order to do anything with these guys, I'd have to have my judgement impaired with a two-by-four, and a couple of cocktails isn't going to turn them into anything more than dry, tasteless, mystery-nugget-laden British Christmas puddings without benefit of being set on fire, but still, I prefer to keep my wits about me.

What was I talking about? Oh right, job interviews.

So I go on one. As ever, on paper, the job sounds pretty good. It has the title I'm looking for, and while it's more of a commute than I want, I'm willing to live with it for the right gig. I get the call at 3.45 on a Friday afternoon. Can I get 25 miles away in fourteen minutes? (I'm kind of a lead-foot, so that wasn't as impossible as it might sound.) I'm actually having lunch with my parents at the opposite end of the world right now, but yes, I can make it. I choke down another forkful of salad, grab the key from my dad and race to their car.

I made it by 4. The interview, which lasted until 5.20, is a bit hazy. The guy I was talking to was so desperately dull, I glazed over like a donut. I remember him rattling on and on about something, but as I sit here, I can't bring up a single topic we discussed. And the office? Plague wards have happier, livelier people in them. I wanted to grab a shovel and start banging heads before they realized they had a warm body in the office and started coming for my brains. The interviewers (there were two) showed me a sample of the "writing" they wanted me to do, and it was like a potential date showing me a photo of the baby deer he'd shot with his nine-ought and skinned himself with a letter opener. There would be no happily-ever-afters here.

I don't know about you, but I get, like, indignant when bad dates think I might want to see them again or even see them until the bottom of this beer. I'm actually insulted that they would think my taste is this bad or I'm this desperate. Now I realize this is ridiculous -- these guys don't think they're so awful that it's insulting to their date to ask to see her again -- but I do get this reaction and I have to struggle to keep it off my face.

It was the same with the interview. They gave me homework for the weekend. Homework! "Take this material and try to duplicate what it is we do; I want it on my desk Monday morning, or it's detention for you, Missy." I acted thrilled to have homework on the last sunny weekend until June. I grasped the papers in my hot little hand like someone might want to snatch them away from me, trilled some goodbyes, and ran the zombie gauntlet out of the office to the safety of my parents' car.

Had this been a Hollywood horror, the car would not have started, and in fact, it didn't. I cursed at it for awhile, sure that the door of the building would open and the walking-dead contents would spill out (slowly, but still . . .) and surround my car, smearing their hands on my window until one of them figured out how to break it, and then they'd drag me out and into the building where I would become one of the shuffling undead. What actually happened was I realized that I was driving my parents' automatic, not my stick shift, and the car was not in park. It took me almost a mile before I stopped saying, "no no no no no way huh uh no" under my breath.

Now, I exaggerate, perhaps. The job likely isn't the horror slick it appeared on the surface, and give me a few more weeks or months of trying to eke out a living as a freelancer, and I'll probably be going around there with my little begging bowl asking for another chance. But I took this leap of faith in order to find work that works for me, if that makes sense. I'm not counting on the "perfect" job, and I'm willing to accept less-than-ideal, just not that much less than ideal.

Somewhere in the ideal-ballpark would be nice.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hell Temp

Yesterday was my last day in the shoe section of the Crap Factory. For the past few days, I've been going from meeting to meeting, trying to explain to people the work I've been doing and what next steps they need to take after I'm gone. (They always look terribly sorrowful when they hear I'm leaving; I always act distraught and ready to rend my clothes with grief that I have to go.) So for the last few days I've been the Temp With Nothing To Lose.

It's fun when there are no worries about being fired. I'm the temp who's been there for two whole weeks, and I'm totally running roughshod over the meetings and everyone in them. They graciously allot me an hour to sum up the last two weeks' of extensive work and the next three months' of stuff they'll need to do, and then try to spend the next 54 minutes of my time yakking about bullshit. You wanna yak? Go to Tibet. Hell Temp says work now, babble when I'm gone.

It was great. Everytime someone went off topic, I beat them with information, grabbed them by the hair and dragged them back to the Pertinent Cave. Socialize with someone who likes you, we've got work to do. I was all over the projector, whipping up screens full of necessary information like a crazed shoe-zealot who went to prison and found Sneaker Jesus or something. (Oh Mary, Mother of Espadrilles, hear our prayer). I was Donald Trump minus the comb-over and the penis envy.

Maybe it's working with Junior High School Students, but I suddenly lost all patience for diplomacy in the face of immaturity. I realize that these people must continue working together, and so for them, being polite, reaching for consensus, avoiding conflict -- these things have value. When you've already packed the contents of your desk in your backpack and can literally count the minutes till final departure, then it's hell bent for leather and Katie, bar the doors. "This is what you're going to do," I told them, on the strength of two-weeks' knowledge and experience. "Not that. This. This is what you've been doing wrong all along. This is how I've set you on the path to rightness. Don't screw it up; I'm not coming back to fix it again."

Even the Shoe Fairy couldn't keep up. Now, he was a challenge, but Hell Temp never shirks a good fight. Shoe Fairy is well over 6 feet and has a voice that manages to be simultaneously shrill and booming. That boy goes to 11. That's OK -- Hell Temp goes to 13. We had those flimsy cubicle walls rattling with the sheer force of our dedication to each being louder than the other. Shoe Fairy thinks it's OK to have unisex shoes. Hell Temp disagrees. Hell Temp says it makes sense to have men's shoes in the men's section and women's shoes in the women's section, even if you have to list some shoes twice or thrice, even. Hell Temp doesn't like the "industry convention" of listing men's sizes as the standard and women's as the deviation. It's messy to have a "size 9" and a "women's size 9" in the same size listing, but Hell Temp graciously accedes to having a "Men's 9, Women's 11" which is what she was shooting for in the first place.

I whirlwinded through my last few days like the Tasmanian Devil on meth. I cut through meeting-babble like a hot knife through tofurkey, leaving bodies and bruised egos in my wake. I wasn't deliberately unkind (except for treading on the Shoe Fairy's Weejuns, smoked hickory, Men's size 11), but I brooked no bullshit. And when my replacement arrived, I dumped it all in her lap, apologized for the remaining chaos and headed for the door like Sneaker Jesus himself had ordained it. Hallelujah!

Nothing More Humbling than a How-To

I was perusing some sites this morning that offer great advice on how to become a professional blogger (don't worry -- I'm not going to ask you to pay for this crap), and one bit of advice I came across over and over again was that One Must Build One's Portfolio. Very well. My portfolio is a little lean on acceptable blogs for job hunting, so, I thought to myself, I'll just quickly cobble together an article or two, toss them into the old 'folio and fling them at target blogjobs.

One sample article should be a "how-to," according to the advice-givers. Fine, I thought. I can do stuff. I'll just sit right down and write myself a set of snazzy instructions on something fun, worthwhile, low-fat and environmentally friendly. It took me almost a full minute before I asked Toasty for help.

Turns out, I don't know how to do ANYTHING. Seriously. I have somehow bumbled along to nearly-40 without mastering a single skill. Now that's impressive. (How-To Survive on the Kindness of Others? No . . . )

I'll write a how-to on climbing! Yes! I refuel my brain juice (coffee), flex my fingers, crack my knuckles, and . . . hmmmm. OK, where to start? Gear? Technique? Terms? I decide to dive in and figure it out later. "So you want to start rock climbing," I type. Ugh. But I soldier on, thoughts of job offers dancing in my head. "First, you'll need a partner." How do you get one of those? "Try posting a notice at your local gym, or failing that, hang out at popular local crags. Unless, of course, you live in a crag-free area like vast portions of the midwest in which case, you're on your own." Not terribly helpful.

I witter on like this for another 150 words or so before giving up. What I really know about climbing is that singing helps when you're scared and never do a double rappel with Ed.

As ever, Toasty comes through in a pinch. He gave me a great idea for a post (which I'm not going to share as I may post it here later), and while it'll require fairly extensive research in order for me to look like I knew how to do this all along, it is at least an idea that'll work.

How to Pick a Fabulous Boyfriend and then Exploit Him for All He's Worth. by me.

Friday, October 05, 2007


I've decided to start smoking and tell people I'm trying to give up chewing gum.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Bye Bye, Crap Factory

Well, so much for my perfect arrangement of "freelance in the morning, work part-time at soul-snatching, life-sucking Crap Factory in the afternoon." The glorious arrangement that allowed me to (pretend to) be an artist without the starving part lasted a total of . . . one day. The Crap Factory giveth and it taketh away. Apparently it was just kiddingeth. They gave me the old "40 Hours or Else" ultimatum, and I told them where they could dunk it. Ok, I actually pretended to hem and haw for 24 hours, I "thought about it," I "gave it serious consideration," and then I sadly, with great reluctance and a private happy dance in the disabled stall, chose "or else."

The decision actually took about 24 nano-seconds, but I wanted to let them down easy.

Seriously, the junior high kids are nice. They offer me bubble gum and candy necklaces and they invite me to sleep-overs and try to trade my veggie burger for the pb&js their moms made them for lunch, and my boss says we're "like, best friends forever!" but as soon as I finish signing all the year books tomorrow, I'm outta there.

There have been great things about the job. Like, I'm pretty sure I'm going to get a paycheck soon. And as I'm culling their on-line catalog (that's what I do -- I cull the catalog) I occasionally come across things like the Disney 4-pk High School Musical Panties which cracked me right the heck up there at my stupid desk. Or today's Friggin' Pants. Not just any pants, mind you, but Friggin Chino Pants! Or the Prissy Sandals! Seriously, is no one paying attention but me? Am I alone on this, or are these fucking hilarious?!

But, as Toasty mentioned and DK seconded, the job has been a gold mine for bloggable moments. The other day I decided to take the bus to work. As usual, I was running pretty late, so I quickly made myself a scrambled egg sandwich and raced out the door. I hurried several blocks to the bus (nearly having to do a self-Heimlich at one point when a chunk of egg tried to wrestle its way down my windpipe), jumped on the bus and thought to myself, "Did I turn the stove off?"

I dithered. I called my upstairs neighbor to go check for me, but she wasn't home. I'd have to get off now or the bus would carry me away. No one was around that could help and I wasn't about to enlist poor E. to save me AGAIN. So I got off the bus and hoofed several blocks back to my apartment. (Hey, I have cats. If I leave the stove on, the next thing I know, they'll be stir-frying a tufted tit-mouse in there or something.) I race in the door only to discover that yes, I did actually leave the stove on. I shut off the stove, lock the back door which I've just discovered is open and offer up gratitude to the universe. But now I'm going to be late for work. It's my first day of working part-time, and I REALLY don't want to discuss the fact that I'm running this late to be at work at NOON, just shaddup about it, I know, I know.


The only option now is to ride my bike. It's raining, I don't have time to locate my rain gear and change clothes and pack up the good clothes, blah blah blah, so I just change into my bike shoes, loop one of those goofy velcro thingies around one ankle and take off. Halfway down that giant hill by PacMed/, I discover that my brakes aren't really working very well (translation: not at all) on this wet day, so I do a semi-truck-style-escape-route and duck into the Amazon driveway which is mercifully free of traffic. I scoot up their drive (speed dropping now from world-is-giant-blur to world-is-hazy-plus-my-glasses-are-foggy-and-covered-in-raindrops-which-might-explain-some-of-the-haze), zoom across the front of their building, and rocket out the other side. OK, not the greatest strategy, but I did slow down a little bit, at least. I manage not to broadside any of their shuttle buses, and I'm off and racing down the hill again, this time on the east side. My brakes still aren't gripping too well, but I'm late and don't care anymore. After all, the Crap Factory awaits!

I was 3 minutes late to work. I was dripping, sweaty, red-faced and incoherent, but I was (nearly) on time. Never mind that I nearly splattered myself against the far side of the parking garage because it's a pretty steep ramp to get down there and my brakes STILL haven't dried out. Never mind that I'm soaking from the knees down and my bike shoes make squealing sounds like maybe I store cat toys in them. Never mind that I still have to navigate the three elevators and two escalators it takes me to get to my desk in this building that's more paranoid than a pot addict in a room full of mirrors. As I grumbled and squeaked and dripped my way to my desk, I comforted myself that this was great blog fodder.

I won't miss the job. But I will have to go back to making shit up.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Tea Badging

So, there I am, first day at my brand-spanking-new temp. job. I'm already feeling those stomach quakes of, "dear god, this is going to suck, what did I let myself in for," but I'm gamely ignoring them for the moment.

After staring at the same spreadsheet for a couple of hours, I decide to wander to the kitchenette area for a cup of tea. (I love how companies give you lousy jobs at crap pay, but the "free tea!" and "free hot water!" are always enthusiastically pointed out on the introductory tour.) I have on my proper plastic ID badge, suspended around my neck by a neon purple string, so that I can move about the company at will, unchallenged. The color of the badge identifies me as a temp, so I can almost feel the smug as I move through the endless, twisty corridors.

After fruitlessly consulting the map on the wall and finally asking directions, I locate the kitchenette and, shortly thereafter, the Free Tea! and Free Hot Water! I make my tea and wander back to my desk. This takes some time. I wish they had Free Sherpas! to guide us around the bloody place -- the layout was apparently designed by an agoraphobe with a grudge.

Back in the office, I stand taking orders from the junior high school student who is nominally my "boss" and will be, until I throw myself off the building. We've been chatting for several minutes before I realize my fingertips have stopped sweating and I can probably take a sip from my tea now. I raise the cup to my lips, only to discover that my badge has been resting in my tea for god-knows-how-long. There is a neon purple bridge between my neck and my cup. Embarrassed, I dunk my badge in and out of my tea a few times and then pretend to squeeze it, trying to make a joke of the stupid thing I've just done.

The junior high school student is horrified.

I am clearly damaging precious company property. I apologetically dab the plastic badge with a napkin (the JHSS has handed me several, plus she's trying to shove an entire box of Kleenex down my shirt) and go test it on the nearest door. No harm done.

It's not like I poured my tea into the DVD slot on my computer or dunked my laptop in it. It's a cheap, plastic badge with an appallingly bad picture on it. I guess it's too much to ask that these people develop an even rudimentary sense of humor about such things. My first thought when I realized my badge was soaking in my tea? This is so going in my blog.