Thursday, February 28, 2008

but is it ironic, alanis?

The "president" is complaining that he doesn't have enough intelligence. As far as I know, this is the first time that idiot has ever told the entire truth about anything.

Observations from my job:

1. Would a man ever wear something called a "shootie"? Would he ever be asked to? It's a real thing -- a cross between a shoe and a boot. The cutsey ending is presumably intended to clue us in that it's for women. I think we should rename all guns "shooties." Would rednecks be so keen to collect them in vast, decorative stockpiles if they had to bring their buddies in to check out the new shooties?

2. Overheard at work: "I went to my parents' church on Sunday. The place was packed and everyone was shouting 'holy jesus' and 'praise the lord.' It was like a hallelujah palooza."

3. (Not at all related to my job, but one day I was bored enough at work to think of it.) The words I want engraved on my tombstone: "Fashionably late."

4. I was down near the photo shop when a man rushed by, absolutely laden with bras. He must have had 10 of them draped all over him, more gripped in his hands. I desperately wanted to tell him, "You're doing it wrong," but he looked unhappy enough.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Wouldja believe it

Last Tuesday I had a job interview at the place I've been temping for the past several weeks. The interview went pretty well; I didn't say anything terribly stupid, and despite being at the start of a nasty cold, I managed not to spray the place with sneezle juice. I wanted the job but not desperately, which helps with the nonchalance. I was marginally witty at key moments, and the atmosphere was one of convivial colleagues rather than sycophantic wanna-be sucks up to potential boss-persons. A pleasant change.

Wednesday the cold could no longer be ignored, and I called in sick. Thursday I made it in, only to be told, "Yes, we likely would have given you the job, but yesterday the entire department got downsized and will be closing in the next few months."

Well, color me crabby.

Did I mention that the place I've been working at is a venerated institution, readying to celebrate an impressive number of years in business (as in "more than a century"); the kind of place your grandmother invested in in 1956 to ensure a comfortable nest egg, a place with decades of steady growth, layer upon layer of successes and quietly impressive gains? It took me less than 24 hours to close it down.

It's a family thing. We have the worst timing since that guy moved his wife and children to Pompeii so they'd "get a good view of that interestingly smoky mountain." Let me explain: for a reasonably bright and educated bunch of people, we have the worst possible luck when it comes to making big decisions at the right time. My brothers spent many years and many dollars and an enormous amount of personal blood, sweat and etc. to make a movie in which dog-fighting 747 airplanes engage in a firefight in New York City, accidentally bombing a couple of towers. When was the movie finished? September 10. 2001. Think about it.

Just about any time my father invests in a company, it’s certain to lose value almost immediately, often long-term, occasionally fatally. Recently, my parents and brothers partnered up for a little speculative property buying. Not a month later we had the crash of the housing market. Well, of course.

Operating on the belief that there’s got to be a way to turn the curse into a blessing, I give you this list of positions for which I plan to apply:

Michael Vick’s lead defense lawyer
Head of Republican National Committee
George W’s Secretary of Defense
Huckabee Hound’s Campaign strategist
Lead NRA congressional lobbyist
Head of Marketing, National Right to Life Organization
Ann Coulter’s publicist
Director, National Cattlemen’s Beef Board

I'm hoping to make appearances on Rush Limbaugh's show and celebrate the return of Don Imus. After that, I'm planning to move to either Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. It might be pushing it to see if the Raggedy Curse can shut down an entire national government, but it's either that or move to Texas, and I'm NOT moving to Texas.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Notes from the Cubicle Jungle

Seriously, folks, how have you done this all these years?

I admit it: I wanted to give up teaching. I wanted out of teaching like a butterfly wants out of a chrysalis. I wanted to expand my damp little wings, I wanted to feel the warmth of sunlight, get the antennae moving around, do some stretching, breathe some fresh air, luxuriate in all this new-found student-free SPACE. And now I'm in a four-foot by four-foot beige box with berber carpeting on the walls and not a window for three floors. What happened here?

I knew the transition would be hard. For example, in academia, I never really had anyone I could point to and say, "that's my boss." Instructors don't have "bosses," not in the traditional sense. There's a pecking order, no question, but whenever I referred to the guy that I had to call in sick to as my "boss," I always felt it necessary to qualify the term with "only not really." For many years, I had supervisors, peers-with-power, stuff like that, but no "boss." Now I have three. Huhwhat?

I don't get to dismiss myself 10 minutes early because I behaved "really well that day and worked hard and learned a lot." I can't bring in "guest speakers" and give myself some time off. There's no pop quizzing for a wee little break, no developing lesson plans solely around their time-sucking potential, not anymore, oh nooooooo. Now it's get here at 8.30, stay all day, then come back and do it again tomorrow. Really? Are you serious?

I could have taught in sweat pants. I could have worn slippers, and my students would have thought I was absent-minded, my peers would likely never have known, and I would have been comfy and content. Now I have to dress like I mean it. This sucks. I have never had a profession that encouraged or afforded decent clothes, and suddenly I have to dress like a grown up?! I sit in my beige box all day; my computer couldn't care less if I showed up with my toothbrush caught in my hair and my t-shirt so covered in strawberry jelly I had to fight off the CSI team to get to my desk. So why the dressing up malarky?

But I like it. I have to admit it. I have no idea what I or anyone around me is talking about (I giggled in a meeting the other day because these grown men were talking about "baby dolls" with great seriousness and purpose. They were talking about tops, not toys, but either way it was damn funny), but it's kinda fun. Like, they pay me to be funny. I get paid for word play. I've never gotten paid for that before, not directly. I've gotten away with it before, but it's never actually been encouraged. OK, there are issues, like when Nervous Nellie, hunched and trembling in her corner office lest someone write a joke that's not on the Permitted List from Corporate, hacks and slashes her way through my copy, but I sense that with time and kindness and maybe some snacks, I'll be able to work with her.

But the dressing up has got to stop. I've started whittling away at that: I'm already down from tights and skirts and clicky, fussy little shoes to corduroys and hiking boots and big, chunky sweaters. The other women in my office may wear sleek little tops and silky little blouses, but blue is definitely not my color -- it's frickin' COLD in there. I figure from corduroys and hiking boots, it's a mere hop, skip and wee little leap of the imagination to jeans every day and not just on TGIFridays.

I had a bad day last week in which hardly a word I'd written survived the threshing machine, but it's been better since and a few good lines have slipped past here and there. It's not the perfect job. I'm not making the world a better place -- only, occasionally, a mildly more amusing one for the very few people who actually read the text of a clothing catalog. I'm not helping the environment or setting religious nuts on fire or otherwise improving the world. That's too bad. I'd like to be. One good thing about my former profession was having students tell me that I'd made their lives a little bit easier, a little bit less chaotic, a little more sensible. Helping immigrants and refugees make a life in the strange new world of the U.S. was rewarding, no doubt. And periodically futzing with people whose ideologies conflicted with my own was fun too.

This all leads to the fact that tomorrow I'm supposed to have a "conversation" about the possibility of a permanent position (I'm a temp now). This is that moment when the Big Boss and I sound each other out for a decent fit. The great thing about ambivalence is it's so calming. I wouldn't mind getting the job, I guess; I'm sure the money's good, and the benefits, and best of all is the chance to beef up (tofu up?) the resume and portfolio. And like I said, I do actually like some aspects of the job very much. But if it doesn't happen, then I go back to what I was doing, only with a slightly chewier resume and portfolio for the experience, thank you very much.

I'll keep you posted.