Friday, October 8, 2010

In Spite of Spite or The Unemployed and the Anxious

Have you read "The Courage to Be" by Paul Tillich? Quite the pivotal read for me. In it, he speaks having the courage to be [yourself] in spite of the things that antagonize or the dark consequences that may come out of having such in attitude. He speaks of having the courage to have hope in spite of things seeming hopeless. The courage to affirm your individual life in spite of it being social fabric-death.1 I struggled with writing this blog post because: 1) I wasn't really sure what point it had, 2) I am always reluctant to be more than a certain level of personal on here and 3) of the possibility of hurting my working-man future. But in spite of these things, the reality is that a certain matter or idea comes up in my life and begs me to be written. I then have to fight with finding how to properly word it and then putting it on loose-leaf paper/blog page/toilet paper2, which in this case is my recently acquired unemployment status. I cannot have lunch or go to work or even work on my novel in peace without putting it down and expressing it satisfactorily, in spite of a missing point or a fear of a perception of self-importance. Spite, however, has been an unfortunately common theme in the recent areas of my life, and not in ways that inspires courage.

I have to move out of my house. Not in a my-lease-is-up-and-they're-raising-the-rent sense, but an it-is-sometimes-absolute-torture-to-live-with-my-mother sense, or an I-am-way-too-old-to -still-be-here-sense. And there was a tangible fight to change these conditions embodied in me working at a furniture store company in Tribeca, Manhattan, with a company that I've been employed by for 10 years. My job as customer service was fine and I worked very hard I might add, not just on the job but with myself in reducing what I spend money on so that I could save up and be gone, but tons of individual factors were a bit more than frustrating to deal with.

Customers would come up and ask for things that were clearly against the store's policies, such as returning a piece of furniture way past time the allowed time to do so or asking to purchase a table for more than half the price the store was asking it to be purchased for (excuses used including "You know that if you don't let me buy this table now, it's just going to sit here for years and years afterwards and you'll lose money. It is impossible for any other single person in the world to be interested in purchasing this table." or "I've been shopping at this store for years. This, in my mind, means I have complete control over how you conduct business"). Of course, I do not have the authority to make decisions on these kinds of matters; the customers have to talk to managers. But, in spite of the fact that it is their job to be present for such times, half of them would usually be nowhere to be found. I would actually go as far to say that one particular manager would purposely hide somewhere or have a cigarette or feign being busy with absolutely nothing just to avoid dealing with customers like he's signed up and obligated to do. So the customer frolics around in their own frustration and I'm forced to tell them to wait while I fetch someone to make a decision. And if the customer ultimately ends in being unsatisfied, the blame falls on us, in spite of the fact that I’ve done all that I could to ensure satisfaction.

If not entrapped in this, I'm usually busy doing tasks assigned by the President of the company that are obviously in someone else's talent to do. Now, don't get me wrong, I have no problem at all doing tons of things outside of the jurisdiction that the company has hired me for, I've been doing it for years. But I mean that, following the resignation of an office worker, the President would just ask us (the team of customer service people) to pick up her slack without actually considering whether we were capable of doing such things or not. In addition, he would demand that huge tasks that obviously and inevitably take some time, due to the disorder that the authorities persistently and lazily kept things in, be done in a matter of minutes. As a matter of fact, I remember certain times when he'd ask me to look up records for a customer whose name he did not have and whose files were buried somewhere deep in a pile of old binders that require Indiana Jones' efforts to dig out, then walk away and turn around literally two seconds later and ask me if I've found it.

At any rate, after applying and sending out resumes by the thousands, a museum finally decided to give me a face-to-face chance and, after 3 interviews and periods of nerve-wracking and frustration, I got the job! I finally obtained an opportunity to move on with my life!...........only to be fired two weeks later.

My immediate boss, a savvy, intelligent and understanding young woman, was fine. She always worked with me and answered any questions I had about things in the office. I would’ve proudly tied her shoes and spread jelly on her bagels in a clockwise motion every morning if she wanted me to. Unfortunately, she herself was under the employment of an illogically manipulative, narrow-minded and unskilled moron who had the highest expectations for employees, in spite of himself being nowhere near able to fulfill these things. In spite of just coming from a 10-year employment in one place where they have their own way of doing things, he expected me to come in and learn all the specifics of working in that office in a matter of just 13 working days. For the most part, I did, but this apparently wasn’t enough for his infinitesimal amount of patience. He criticized membership letters for new members of the museum that I printed, in spite of the fact that I printed what he and employees before me have been using for however long that company was there sans me adding the date of that day and the new member’s name (and I mean he criticized things like there being one space more behind someone’s name, or a semi-colon being where a comma should be). He criticized the way I stapled some papers; apparently it was done too sloppily (it went into the paper too deep), in spite of the fact that he had drawers filled with files that were stapled in all sorts of disorderly ways. He fired me because “my performance is not what the company needs right now”. My mother and a friend told me that I should write him saying how unfair he was, but for reasons I don’t fully understand myself, I decided not to. However, I still fervently believe that that idiot belongs in a place particularly designed by our favorite 14th century poet.

So, I am now still stuck with a mother who is constantly trying to tell me what to do with my life instead of respecting my decisions and is constantly getting upset because I don’t follow her instructions on how to live. She believes her living longer than me and being “experienced” somehow means that I don’t know what to do with myself. The consequences I have been dealt make her believe she’s correct, because I’m not living somewhere on my own with an income of thousands of dollars a month (like I’d like to be). But she has no clue about trying to move on in life and desiring some sort of change and independence. Desiring to be in a place where I can help others who are in need of food or money (which I can still sort of do for now). I used to try diplomacy with her, but it just turns into her yelling and telling me what opportunities she thinks I should’ve taken in the past and how I should’ve listen to her. No more of her crap. I just need to move out.

I was reading an article on a Pre-rally for the Unemployed assembling a few days before the One Nation Working Together rally at the Lincoln Memorial, and it mentioned a promo video for them which showed footage of Republican Senator Orrin Hatch proposing to drug test everyone who applies for unemployment because “you know, we shouldn’t be giving money to people who……basically are just going to go blow it on drugs…..and not take care of the children and their own families.3 He’s just doing his job as a Republican, which is to just take miniscule problems out of thin air, magnify them, put them in contexts where they don’t belong and then push for adverse and ridiculously wasteful/unnecessary solutions. But in spite of businessmen hiring and firing people at will for the most absurd reasons or even no reason, and demons like Hatch who want to continue people’s misery in struggling to keep a living, I am fighting to be working again. Because in spite of hope seeming like it moved out long ago, I am trying to choose to believe it’s still there.

1) He, of course, means for people to pursue this rationally and with consideration for others. He also goes through pains to define the word “courage”.
2) I confess that I am a reference fiend. I don't know why, but it gives me the illusion of depth in writing. That particular reference was to a part of this graphic novel.
3) When I originally seen the clip of him saying that, it was in a promo for the Pre Rally, but they cut it up and made it seem like he said that on The Kudlow Report, which I disagree with.