Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

This is what it’s like. In a desperate attempt to extract yourself from the Land of Entrapment (a.k.a the Land of Enchantment) and move to a state with an actual economy, you drain your bank account. Every single penny.

Unfortunately, you do this just as the nation's economy is getting bent over the couch by Wall Street. The entire country becomes the place you're trying to leave.

Every day you get out of bed, you fall further into debt. Every bite of food, every watt of electricity, every drop of gas consumes a non-renewable resource called cash.

It gnaws at you. It infests your sleep.

You once enjoyed the luxury of being self-supporting. But that requires a job. You wonder why you get headaches every day. And you wonder how long before the stress and the strain and the mounting hopelessness splits you and your girlfriend.

There isn’t any government assistance. You’ve got a dried-up carcass of an IRA that, seven years after 9-11, still isn’t worth now what it was then. But that won’t stop the government from snatching a third should you decide to cash it in for impulse items like food, gas and rent.

Or from finding hundreds of billions of dollars for the vermin who flushed us down the toilet in the first place.

You mull over the fact that because you have an IRA that wouldn’t cover an appendectomy, you’re too well-off for food stamps. You attempt to reconcile this with the fact that you have given-up taking pictures because you can’t afford to develop them.

You haven't gone to a movie in a year and-a-half. But the government says you’re rolling in it.

You make a note of it.

You haven’t held a job in over a year, unless you count the two-months you spent in a hell-hole known as the Van Ru Credit Corporation. Fifty-percent of the employees don’t see their three-month anniversary because the training isn’t worth the shit up your ass.

If that's not enough, your supervisor is delusional.

Joyce Tillis sees herself as the Oprah Winfrey of the collections world, and will lead her team of inner-city African-American women not just to meetings, but to life-changing empowerment. She will then receive national exposure and a talk show of her very own.

There are just two problems: you have a penis. And it’s white.

When she’s asked what’s wrong with this picture, the answer is you. You’re the speck of plaster the paint didn’t cover. She humiliates you. Lies about you. Makes no effort whatsoever to conceal her resentment of you.

She accuses you of stealing another agent’s call, and becomes apoplectic when you deny it. She threatens to run a report. You suppress the urge to tell her you hope she runs reports better than she runs teams.

When it becomes clear you are innocent of all charges, it goes without saying the bitch doesn’t have the balls to apologize.

On the other occasion you impress decision-makers, you have a job offer withdrawn because after receiving two, you inexplicably choose the permanent one over the temporary one.

You’re not some poor, dumb fuck trying to stay dry in the sewer-bound torrent of 2009. No. You’re a sneaky, manipulative con-artist who pulled a fast one on the company and needs to be removed before you spread, virus-like, throughout the chain.

At least that’s what Laurie Colson, the manager who low-balled you with the offer of temporary employment, says when her inflamed ego can't bear the indignity of seeing you work for a competing Half-Price Books store.

Your continued employment is an affront to her self-perception as a savvy, experienced manager.

The remaining companies who express an interest in you are the backbone of newspapers and job sites everywhere because their openings are permanent. The only way they could retain an employee is to dress them in a straitjacket and lock them in a burial vault.

In an act of transformation Dr. Phil would appreciate, employees in these jobs morph into Harry Houdini with alarming regularity.

You’re over or under-qualified for everything. Apply for menial jobs with a college degree and employers assume you’ll be bored and unhappy.

Go up market and there’s invariably some twenty-three year-old with a master’s degree, fifteen-year’s experience and every one of the one-hundred fifty-eight characteristics the ideal candidate should possess.

This includes setting-up and collapsing a Mongolian yurt in under ten-minutes.

Which isn't to suggest business is unreasonable. Far from it.

You recall an article from the Wall Street Journal titled "Only the Employed Need Apply" which attempts to explain business's belief that only the employed deserve consideration. The thinking is that those still employed are a strain of super-employee, impervious to the cutbacks, layoffs and rampant downsizing so many of the rest of us have fallen prey to.

Despite the fact that 60% of jobs are currently found through networking, business insists the time-honored maxim of it's who you know, and not what you know is untrue. That those drawing paychecks aren't just friends, pals and buddies.

This is very different from performance-based employment. This is also very different from being good at what you do.

But then, what do you know? You forget that in America, intelligence is measured in dollars.

And you're broke.

Confronted with your six-billionth attribute inventory, you want to retch. That these are gateways to mansions in Florida for the slicks who sell them seems invisible to every HR department in the country.

You want to get this straight: no business using them has ever had to fire a single, solitary employee, because every hire was a perfect fit. Is that correct? Because you know differently.

Then you remember the expression “Monkey see, monkey do” was inspired by the business world. And if it wasn’t, it should have.

If America’s corporate managers aren’t the most-obedient bandwagon-jumpers in existence, you're too big to fail. If personality profiles are this year’s model, you can bet the thirty-five incher in the living room that business will be the first in line and want one in every color.

While applying at the local supermarket, you answer one-hundred eighty questions about your moods and self-esteem and whether feelings are important in the workplace. About how strongly you believe in rules and hierarchies for a minimum wage, part-time job placing boxes of cereal on a shelf.

No health insurance, no benefits, no vacation.

Just one-hundred eighty questions bent on finding out how hard you’ll squeeze your eyes shut and pretend the shit you’re being served is caviar. The piss you're drinking is champagne. One-hundred eighty questions bent on finding out how desperate you really are, and just how much you'll take.

You’re a fucking circus dog. Beg. Roll-over. Sit.

Afterwards, you visit the supermarket you applied to and buy a newspaper. The cashier is able to wordlessly express a multitude of thoughts and emotions. Namely, that she'd rather be the subject of a televised gynecological exam than ring-up you and your goddamned paper.

She snatches the dollar bill and pounds the register keys. She accuses you of wanting a bag. The register drawer springs open. You say you don’t. She slams the drawer shut, rips the receipt from the printer and hands you your change in an angry blur.

Before the quarter hits your pocket, she’s reaching for the next customer's purchases. It couldn’t be more clear you’re in her way.

You wonder how she answered the questions about moods and leaving problems at home and not just meeting, but exceeding customer expectations.

Yeah, you wonder.

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