Friday, April 29, 2005

What we've termed "quarterlife crisis"

Today was the first actual busy day at the bar. On Monday, I split four tables with another waitress, so naturally today I worked alone when the owner knew ahead of time that we had a 20-top of 30something women, which are perhaps my least favorite customers. (I was a women's studies minor, I subscribed to Bitch, get off my ass). When they come in alone they will always get burgers and fries, but when a whole parade of them marches in you can count on 20 spinach salads with fat free ranch, and specified lemons for each water. I swear women try harder to look like they're dieting in front of one another than they even do with men. There's a lawyer across the street who has been meeting the same girl at the bar every day for a week or so now and yesterday she ordered a pork tenderloin as big as her head (I live dangerously close to Iowa). I wanted to shake her hand.
To be fair, the bartender and the owner tackled the bigass table while I juggled the dozen or so smaller ones that arrived NONSTOP from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. I know I shouldn't bitch because it's money momma needs for a haircut and a car payment (also knowm as my one-stop credit shop).
I dealt with a little of everyone today: a man who complained that his ketchup was too thin, a hatchet-faced man who felt the need to tell me "we're in kind of a hurry," a child molester in a Hawaiian shirt.
We get a lot of suits because we're downtown and most of them are very polite, but occasionally you'll get one who talks to you like you were born to lick his smelly anus. Thar occurred today when, for the first time, a dickwad came in who was pretentious enough to ask for the portobello burger with no bun ("I'm on Atkins," he tells me.) He says "Tell you what..can I just get an extra portobello mushroom with that? You can do that, can't you? Thanks." Returns to conversation with woman who will pay for both meals. Yeah, I can do that, motherfucker, but it will cost you. He also tried to pull the gender assumption card when I started handing him the iced tea and her the diet Pepsi (someone else had taken their drink order). The fact is, like most humans, I have two hands. I put the pop in one and the tea in the other and walked over to their table, then ASKED whose fucking beverage was whose. "Bet you thought it was the other way around!" What goddamn difference does it make to me? The point is I touched both of your straws with my dirty (ketchup, bleach, snot, sweat) hands. And those mushrooms grow in the dumpster. Fuck you.

I have a deep, clawing fear of my life becoming a cliche, but sometimes it seems so unavoidable. Maybe because our lives can only truly follow a handful of paths and we've thought of names for all of them.
My previous cliche was the cliche of natural privileged ascent. The suburbs-college-job-living alone and being bored all the time ladder that we were all taught to climb, well on my way to a lot less partying overall and a lonely death in 50-60 years.
I am now in the cliche of the quarterlife crisis, a concept documented by more famous 20-somethings than myself (i.e. John Mayer and "Scrubs" star Zach Braff, who wrote/directed Garden State, as we all know, the seminal Gen Y film). But something tells me both of those individuals are a bit less conflicted than they were when they wrote about their good intentions, self-preservation insticts and libido clashing in a storm of ambivalence, giving rise to their respective artistic endeavors. I think they are now both very successful, fulfilled individuals, comfortable in lives that include great purpose and lots of people wanting to fuck them.
Originally I wanted my life to have meaning. I wanted a job that I believed in, that I could love because I knew I was making the world a better place, even if it was hard sometimes and stressed me out a lot. I thought I had found that in journalism but it turned out I hadn't. I don't hate journalism or those who choose to stay with it. But I didn't have that feeling working at a newspaper for a lot of reasons. Part of the problem was also the toll my work was taking on my mental health. Sometimes, when you report the news, you get exposed to a lot of things that everyday people routinely choose to ignore if only to spare themselves the pain of knowing what really happens to other people. But reporters don't have that privilege. If cars crash into each other, if a house burns down, if a dead body washes up in a creek, I have to get in my car and drive to it, interview everyone connected to it, then distill a tragedy that upturned countless lives into 500-700 words. The whole process is not only counterintuitive, but it sometimes leaves you feeling like the whole weight of human sadness and suffering is swallowing you.
Anyway...the point is I don't know what I want anymore. Recently, two job opportunities have manifested themselves and they are both in the vein of marketing/PR which is rife with the very same moral bankruptcy I was trying to escape when I left journalism. I don't want to be useless, but sometimes it seems a better fit than trying to find a job I love and leaving it in a year, feeling betrayed by the system.
Anyone who has found their way out of a similar black hole is welcome to comment.
Coming soon: e-mail the Perennial Failure!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Fuk dis

I've avoided blogging for a while because I've been feeling a little shitty about where my life is lately. I'm trying to keep it light, for my sake and for the sake of whoever reads it. Zoloft is a bit pricey without health insurance, so I'm trying to duplicate the effect with some self-deprecating (and other-people-deprecating) humor.
But I know this looks pathetic. I know exactly what it looks like because I've been that person. I've been the person who looks at someone ringing up light fixtures or mopping up some asshole customer's mess at a restaurant and felt sorry for them. Wondered how I was lucky enough to be able to avoid such a life.
I'm an atheist. I don't believe in anything that remotely relates to fate or things happening for a reason. I think I got to go to college because of my parents' chemical stew, the inheriting of their relative intelligence and the effect of their relative intelligence on my upbringing. That's it folks. I'm not a better person than the girl who will do nothing all her life than what I'm doing now and neither is anyone else. It's all a crap shoot and I was winning for a long time. I had it fucking good throughout college. I got the internships I wanted, made great connections, won a few awards and worked my way up the student press hierarchy. All my shit was coming up roses and now it looks like its in the can.
But I have to remember it isn't, not by a long shot. I'll always have my degree and my skills. I can do a lot of things well. But it's a fucked up economy for one thing; that combined with low cash flow and a few bad financial decisions on my part have brought me to this particular station in life. I'm trying my goddamn best get on my feet financially, find out what I really want to do and learn to do it. Call it continuing education. But I'm tired of feeling like a bottom feeder. The part of me that looked at people who were doing menial jobs and felt sorry for them needs to die. These people don't want my pity or yours. Let me tell you, they work their asses off. I'm not going to be ashamed to be among them. I'll be the better person in the years to come because of this experience, because I swallowed my pride and did what I had to do to get shit done.
Really, everyone should be so lucky.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Time for the talk

Yes. The "this is not working out" talk, with the owner of the bar where I work.
Today being my one-week-iversary, I took a moment to reflect on my employment as a waitress. Some thoughts:
1) I make about $15 a day in tips
2) I make about $10 a day in wages
3) I am not making any money
4) A trip to the orthodontist today confirmed beyond all doubts that I do in fact need health insurance
5) I do not have health insurance
6) I am also, technically, out of birth control pills (piss off, I have ovarian cysts)
7) I do, after all, have a college degree and maybe should try again to flex some of its muscle

So while I enjoy the opportunity to wear ketchup and refill 25 salt and pepper shakers every day, I think it's time to break it off.

Tomorrow I'm working a dinner shift, so I think I'll spend part of the morning checking out various temp agencies. I don't really know what to expect but I think it has all the makings of success. Note:
1) The commitment is already removed from the equation
2) I guess that's it really

Monday, April 18, 2005

Mustard follies

So on Saturday, my first time working a dinner shift, here is what I did:

1) Pulled a gallon plastic jar of smelly mustard out of the fridge, dropped it so that the bottom rim of it hit the floor with enough force to blast the lid completely across the kitchen and spew a river of mustard snaking down the floor, across the side of the garbage can and into a giant box of saltines.

2) Began cutting lemons, took a call from my mother, hung up, thought to myself "Self, it is dangerous to cut lemons and talk on the phone at the same time," then cut my all-American finger open.

3) Gave somebody the wrong change, corrected the error by pulling $10 out of my pocket, was accused of stealing and stiffed on a tip for a $45 bill.

Honestly, though, waitressing is really fun. None of the ethical dilemmas of journalism, but followed each day by roughly the same amount of alcohol.

People are more or less nice and not too bizarre, and most of the people in this town tip decently. But I feel like I can tell when someone is going to give me a crappy tip the minute they walk in the door. When that happens, as it did today with a table of 6, I don't overextend myself. Don't like it? Well then don't eat out if you can't tip, you cheap shit. More on this philosophy at this blog.

A few of the regulars came in today for drinks. Nice guys, but classic pervs. For some reason I wind up having to chat with men like this at all of my jobs, so I managed to handle it pretty well. They talked me into staying for a beer when I clocked out and even sprung for a Jager bomb and some songs on the jukebox. Oldish and creepy they were, but guys my age would sooner take up the unicycle than do stuff like that for a classy young lady such as myself. And these guys didn't expect anything in return, at least not realistically.

I was walking through the mall today and saw a girl about my age helping a woman buy a bracelet. While there are many more thankless tasks on this earth, I briefly felt relieved that I wasn't doing that. I spent a few minutes today trying to help this poor weird guy pick between a burger and a wrap and I wanted to stab him. I don't know what is going to make him happier. I don't live in his stomach. I am happy to fetch him anything on the menu but I don't know how to help a stranger pick things out. I mean part of it was that this dude was so pathetic but part of it is that I can't stand when people agonize over totally inconsequential things. I'm sure there are several menu items any person would find tasty. Just pick one for Christ's sake: it's a bar with burgers and wings. It's not the Bachelor.

Well clearly I'm cranky.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Mmm...working

Now I'm a waitress, which has its perks.
Serving people isn't all that hard, at least at a cheapish bar in a smallish town. I am having trouble with the whole tray thing, though. It isn't so much the weight as the balance. I imagine its something I'll learn.
Everything was pretty much as I expected, except for one thing. The SQUALOR.
Yesterday, when I started, I was never once asked to wash my hands. I never once witnessed anyone doing it. The soup spoons always look dingy, so we have to serve them already planted in the soup. The lettuce is brown, so we have to cover it with cheese when we make a salad.
Today I saw a nasty bug, though I couldn't be sure it was a roach, near the drink area. I pointed it out to my co-worker. Her response?
"You should have seen the fucker I saw in the cooler last week."
When she and I were rolling silverware, we dropped about a half-dozen knives on the floor. She just wiped them on her shirt and kept rolling. I decided I like her.
The people are really fun. Laid back, friendly, helpful. And the customers are pretty low-maintenance. But because we're downtown, we get a fair number of suits coming in for lunch. If they only knew...
It is kinda cool to work someplace so half-assed. I worked at a suburban ice cream parlor in high school and it was so fascist. This is nice.
More to come.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

You must try this

My Unitarian Jihad name is Mother Mutual Assured Destruction of Appreciative Joy.
Take Unitarian Jihad Name Generator today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Name Generator Generator.

Friday, April 08, 2005

I'm sorry this blog looks so fucked up. I swear it is not my fault.

This morning I interviewed with the home improvement hole. I applied because my dad knows someone who works there and supposedly they're always looking for department managers to enter a training program.
Now you may remember I already got hired somewhere, but I'm playing the field.
So when I applied last week, I had to sit at a computer and fill out the usual info, which was actually nice in a way (easier on the hands). But at the end, they ask you a bunch of questions about stealing from your employer framed in such a way that a really huge asswipe might actually admit it.
What is the total value of items not belonging to you that you have taken from your employer(s)/place of business in the last five years, NOT INCLUDING minor office supplies?
* $0
* $1-$5
* $5-$20
* $20-$50
* $50-$100
* $100+
* Not sure

So really, while the question appears to allow you to choose from a range of options, some seemingly worse than others, you're probably not going to get a phone call unless you say, um, $0!
A similar question follows, asking the total dollar amount of money you have taken from your employer(s)/place(s) of business.

At the interview, we talked about the positions. Now the position my interviewer started in was one of assistant to the department manager which pays way, way more than anything I've interviewed for so far (though still less than the job I quit). But get this--the fucking place opens at 6:30 a.m.! Who needs a garden hose at 6:30 a.m.? Shingles? A shower enclosure? Can't one wait until the sun rises to install new cabinets? The only time I see 6:30 a.m. is coming from the other side.
Honestly, the job sounded like it had a lot of promise in terms of upward mobility, but I am not capable of committing like that. I can't just waltz into a job that admittedly involves heavy lifting, coldness and getting up early and say, yes, one day I want to manage my own store. I'm not committment-phobic, generally, but I know me well enough to know that that may be a recipe for living hell.
My interviewer was pretty cool and saw me squirming. She said I could be a seasonal cashier and then join apply for one of these positions later if I want to. Thanks, think I will.
Then I had to do more of these "How Big a Drug-Addicted Fuckup Are You?" tests. The first was literally a fill-in-the-bubble test about lying and stealing. I understand they have the entirety of the great unwashed applying for jobs here, but seriously. How many goddamn times do I have to say I don't lift from the register? I got to thinking maybe it was one of those tests where they ask you the same question 95784760475086 times and see if your answer changes. I had to answer, also, whether I would fire someone who stole less than $5.
Then there was the computer test about what kind of person I am. Now, I was just interviewed, I think they got a few shots of personality from me, but I have to answer more questions about friendliness and courtesy. The real bitch was, I had already answered all these exact same questions in an online application for another retail giant. There's a company that just processes electronic applications for enormous companies and these two both use it. I briefly thought about asking if we could get my answers from the other company because I was just about sure my answers would be exactly the same.
This thing is brutal. It makes you really question the kind of person you are. Yes, I think it's annoying when people talk all the time. Not everyone, but assholes. I used to work with a girl who would ask herself, loud enough for the entire office to hear, "Now what should I have for dinner? I had Chinese last night. Pizza sounds good." How about a big slice of who gives a fuck? I'm pretty tolerant but I just did not understand why we all had to be included in this decision. It was one we were all facing--why should anyone give a shit about her personal struggle with it? Oh, and one question was "I swear a lot when I argue." I clicked "agree."
Because it's an enormous retail chain, I have two more interviews ahead of me and that much more time to ponder my options and wait for a call from the mall store.

The best part of any interview, I've found, is trying to explain what I used to do. As in the mall store interview, I had to draw parallels to retail sales and customer service because I don't have legitimate retail experience.
Here, we talked a bit more about nutcases coming in. My interviewer said sometimes contractors will show up drunk from lunch break. I found this funny. A hardware store is not someplace I'd think to go drunk in the middle of the day, but what do I know? I told her a little about dealing with meth addicts, and she told a story of a girl who came in barefoot in December to buy 100 yards of tinfoil. Yeah, I think she was jacked. She probably also bought a gross of lightbulbs.
Apparently a lot of people my age come in for beer bong supplies. I'm thinking, why not have beer bong workshops? Shelve funnels and tubing next to each other, then teach ways to enhance them. When I was in college I knew a guy who had some sort of plumbing valve in the middle of his beer bong, which was great for timed release and head reduction.
He actually taught me how to use one, too. The first time I tried to bong a beer, I wound up with literally an entire 16-ounce Keystone in my mouth, which I spit all over the bathroom wall. The guy holding the funnel, after about a 5-second pause, said "OK, I've never seen that before." But that's why you do it in the bathroom, kids.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Gratification

I arrive at the first important step in finding purpose: I have a job.
I applied at a cute little downtown bar I think in the first hunt. I didn't fill out an application, just wrote my name and dubious qualifications on a piece of paper, then called yesterday.
Well today the owner called back, scheduled an interview, and by 8 p.m. I was hired. She has yet to ask me for proof of American citizenship, but I imagine that's coming.
I still have my hardware store interview and am still waiting to hear from the mall store, but for now I'm at least progressing. I'd like to tack a retail job onto my schedule so we'll see.
Hopefully if the hardware thing isn't a go, it'll at least lend some humorous bits to this increasingly boring blog.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Some progress

I have another interview!
Friday, 10:30 a.m., the proximate home improvement behemoth. Glory be.

Still waiting on the mall store, may know tomorrow.

Also I'm now volunteering at a GLBT community organization where I was once a "youth participant."

But most of today I spent doing very little productive anything and felt tremendously guilty. Everyone I know is working or in school or somehow bettering themselves and/or the world. I know if I were still working I'd be resentful of me, and while no one has expressed this, I'm sure they feel it to some degree.

I'm also going a little stir crazy. I mean television sucks. You can't blog all the time about nothing. I can't find the book I was going to read. I have no money and no gas in my car.

Being idle just eats away at my ability to task-manage. I set an appointment for days ahead of time and spend the interim wondering if I'll forget to go and leaving myself reminders. I'm careful to schedule everything else around the appointment. This is, of course, ludicrous (ludacris?). When I was a reporter, I had a million appointments all the time, and while I often forget the weekly staff meeting that was always at the same time, I managed to remember the other stuff, and juggle it with whatever shootings, stabbings or meth lab explosions popped up that day. Now I actually think to myself I have a busy week, because I'm volunteering tomorrow for probably all of 3 hours and because I have this one-hour interview on Friday. I keep thinking I should schedule everything (procuring health insurance, finding my student loan bill, etc.) for Thursday. I need help.

I guess I should go to bed.

Monday, April 04, 2005

One step closer

On Saturday I interviewed at a trendy mall store. I probably wasn't, but I definitely looked like, the oldest person in our group interview.
In my previous job as a newspaper reporter, I was accustomed to people thinking I was still in college, something that still happens. People are always asking me if I'm "home on break." I don't understand how, at the one time I need to look 20-21, I look 35.
The other girls in the interview all had retail experience. We were asked about a time we turned "no" into "yes" and made a sale, and they all had experiences at the ready. Most of them seemed to have worked several retail jobs. To answer that question, I related a tale of a time I got a call from an irate witness in a murder trial, threatening to sue me about her name being "all over this fucking newspaper." I calmly offered her the opportunity to tell me her side of the story, and she did. So far, no lawsuit; not that she had grounds for one anyway but that doesn't stop some people.
That is one skill of mine I can identify but can't market: the ability to talk the insane down from the edge or at least out of my place of business. The receptionist/security people at the newspaper where I worked were expert at getting screaming nutcases to depart the office without incident, but I was often called in when a persistent one was encountered. One favorite was a guy with about nine teeth who walked about 2 miles from the most horrifying neighborhood in town with $2,500 in his pocket. This dude was upset that his friend was in jail for what sounded like the fourth or fifth time and that he was somehow, carlessly, getting her to school every day. He said her bail was $25,000 and the jail folks wouldn't let her walk with the 10 percent he somehow obtained.
Maybe at this point I should stop and answer the question you most surely are asking yourself if you are not one of my reporter friends: what does this person's problem have to do with a newspaper? Shouldn't he speak to the jail commander, the judge or perhaps a lawyer?
The answers: Nothing and yes.
But for those who are insane, broke or both, a newspaper can be judge, jury, detective and attorney for whatever injustice you mistakenly think you have suffered. To this guy's credit, he had at least exhausted all of the avenues except that of seeing a lawyer, which is understandable because talking to us, the jail and the judge was free.
It took me a while to figure out what he wanted me to do about it and came to the usual answer: He wants me to write a Pulitzer-winning expose about the corruption of the local legal system.
If I had a nickel for every time someone called me up to say the cops were targeting them and someone was being paid to ruin their lives, etc. etc. etc., I would not be a goddamn jobless ho begging for a mall job right now.
So I did what I always have to do: explain to him why this was not a story. I explained that judges often decide that certain people, such as 23-year-old mothers who have been arrested for drugs a dozen times, are not allowed to front 10 percent and swing the doors. I explained that the fact that his friend had children did little to distinguish her from the rest of the jail population. I don't mean to be insensitive; I fully believe that this woman's jail time was indeed putting a strain on her family. The problem is, there is nothing particularly uncommon about that, and certainly nothing in this situation to indicate a conspiracy.
You may also wonder how it could be that this man could have $2,500 in cash, which I have never even had in a line of credit or a checking account, and had neither a car nor teeth. Well, where I live, it all boils down to our little friend methamphetamine. That was the whole entire root of this problem: why the woman was in jail, why she had been there many times, why this man had more benjamins than teeth, why he was delusional/hysterical at the office of the freaking local newspaper.
Cops will tell you: you don't fuck with tweakers. Friends, they are correct. But this was one of the many times I was forced to, one of the many occasions that eroded my ability to continue doing what I was doing.
I told the man I was sorry, but if he still felt wronged he was welcome to write a letter to the editor.
It turned out he already had, and he unfurled a second copy which had been balled, until that moment, in a fist clenched so tightly it could probably shatter a gallon jug of Carlo and Rossi.
"It's called 'travesty'I don't know why they ain't run it it ain't discriminatory but it's called 'travesty' and I promise it don't discriminate..." etc., etc.
I asked when he had turned it in, and he said Monday. That day was a Wednesday. I assured him that if he waited a few weeks, he would likely see his letter. That seemed to satisfy him, and by the grace of God he left.
All I can hope now is that this same skill, which I related in far less detail to the store manager, will translate into sales and customer service skills.
The job did sound pretty cool. The manager was very laid back and admitted up front that the job was easy and that it should be among the less important commitments in our lives, which is exactly what I seek. It's part-time though, and starts at minimum wage. Experience can boost your pay but somehow I don't think a college degree will.
Remember children: lies, lies, lies.