Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Soul Sucking Work

Here's another teaser from the book. I debated between naming this "Soul Sucking Work" or "My Day-Job is eating my Soul"

I know a lot of people have shitty day jobs--here are little glimpses into my first godawful dayjob in New York where I worked at a newspaper, taking ads over the phone and doing data-entry.

Soul Sucking Work

A man calls me to ask the current price for placing his required ad.

“It’s 80 dollars, Sir,” I tell him.

He is taken aback.

“What? You guys raise the price each year. That’s just not fair. I hope you make 10% more each year. Do they increase your salary year after year?” I can hear that he’s smiling through the complaint but that doesn’t make it less annoying.

What sort of approach should I take to these questions, the same that I hear several times a day?

“Yes, they let me set the price. Anything over $50 I get to keep, so you’re actually paying me right now for my annoyance.”

“Well, no, I don’t have any control over the prices, it’s just company policy.”

“Are you serious? If I had to work here year after year, I would kill myself. I can’t believe I’ve actually been here as long as I have already.”

“Even if they did raise my meager salary, it still wouldn’t enable me to support myself. Thanks for inquiring; I am making less money than all of my friends, even the stupid ones.”

He is trying to make small talk and banter with me, but I can’t do it. I can’t even try today. I hate it.

* * * * *

Today I am wearing a letter opener as a hair stick. I twisted my hair up and somehow threaded the metal through the bun. Like most days, I’m just trying to amuse myself.People stare at me and laugh with/at me. It is Friday and I don’t feel good, so I care even less than usual (if that’s possible at all, which I doubt). My boss walks by smiling, unsure of how to approach me.
“Do you get good reception with that thing?” he asks, chuckling.
I manage a wry smile.
Maybe if it slips and stabs me in the neck I won’t have to come to work for a day or two.
* * * * *

By all accounts, I should feel a lot worse than I do. After all, I didn’t get home until after 3 and how many drinks did I have? As usual, too many. Instead of merely brown-bagging into the city with a bottle of Smirnoff Ice, Adam and I varied our routine by filling a water bottle with vodka and 7UP. I made an exception to my diet soda only rule since this was for medicinal (ok, partying) reasons. The vodka on the subway ensured I would get drunk and I did, having a great time until I fell asleep drooling against Adam’s shoulder while on the ride home.
Waking up late for work, I threw on a dress (how I love dresses with their all-inclusive one garment simplicity), corralled my mess of curls into a ponytail, and raced out the door.
The surprising part is how I feel now. I don’t feel terrible. I don’t need to puke. Where is the hangover? I can stumble to the bathroom just fine on my own. It is in the bathroom (the scene of my twice or thrice-weekly crying jags) do I realize that I’m not hung-over. I’m still drunk.
This is a new low for me. I’ve never gone to any type of work drunk before. When I was a waitress at a 24 hr diner I got high a couple times during shifts, but that was on purpose. I would sneak into the large freezers with one of the cooks to smoke. Besides, customers almost expect college girls who serve pancakes at the 2 in the morning to be as high as they are.
As unfun as going to work with a hangover is, getting one while you’re at work is even worse. I’m wondering if I’m obviously misjudging depth and distances. If people can tell that I’m not merely trailing my fingers along the wall, but using it as a brace in my journey to the bathroom. If I am hitting corners of walls and desks not in a hi-I-meant-to-do-that-on-my-way-to-talk-to-you way, but in a where-did-that-suddenly-appear-from-and-why-do-you-keep-looking-at-me way. If my constant needs to squint, sigh and rub my arms are reminding anyone else of a disadvantaged Wal-Mart greeter or the retarded cousin in a movie.
Of course this would be the day that I have the appointment with the guy at the staffing agency who called me out of nowhere last week for a job I applied for nearly 4 months ago. My appointment is around lunchtime (so as not to attract undue attention to my leaving), but as I head toward the elevator, so does my boss. Fuck. Ordinarily this would constitute basic, awkward chit-chat about my mundane job. Today, however, I have to concentrate just on making sense instead of sounding business-like or savvy.
“Off to lunch?” he asks. I nod. Maybe that will be the end of it. I’m actually on my way to a recruiter’s office. In addition to talking to my boss drunk, I’m on my way to not impress a headhunter while drunk. My self-destructive nature is astounding.
“I have to buy Kleenex.” Is he still talking? Why? “Do you know the closest place to buy Kleenex around here?” Is he serious? How am I supposed to answer this?
“Um,” I look to the floor of the elevator for help but it’s moving up to greet me and instead I have to shift my gaze to the doors in front of me. “I’ve actually not done any Kleenex shopping around here. I guess Duane Reade would have something like that?”
“Duane Reade. Right.”
I watch him leave the building, wondering how it is that he’s the boss before realizing it’s probably because he’s not drunk.

* * * * *

Morgan, my work friend, and I like to play “Let’s Pretend.” Today we are standing in front of the vending machine.
Let’s pretend you didn’t have to worry about fat or calories—what would you get from the vending machine?
Let’s pretend you were stranded here and starving—what’s the last thing you would ever eat from the vending machine?
Let’s pretend you could redesign the packaging for a candy bar—which one would it be and what would it look like?
Let’s pretend you could make your own candy—what would be in it? Let’s pretend we could give ourselves advice when we were freshmen in college—what would it be? What would we have changed?
Would we have told ourselves that our art degrees were ridiculous? That soul-sucking day jobs were in our future? That every grey day seems longer than the last? That we should get a more practical degree so that even if we got jobs we hated, we’d still be making a lot of money? That floundering with shit day jobs would leave us desperately unhappy without any idea of what to do next?

* * * * *

Morgan says we get to be in charge of putting up the Halloween decorations. We pull out the large envelopes filled with black streamers, pumpkin garlands, and flattened witch hats from the filing cabinet. It seems so wrong to me that all this color and fun should be locked away in a miscellaneous gray cabinet. We’re here to liberate the fun!
Today Morgan and I have permission to be silly. We are given an excuse to mooch around the office, giggling and asking the boys for help because they’re tall. And maybe the best part of all is that the day after tomorrow we’ll be having a pumpkin carving party in the afternoon. How fun. How random. How weirdly uncorporate for this insidiously stifling place.
“Do we get to wear costumes?” I ask Morgan.
“I don’t know, but that would be so awesome.”
“What would you wear?”
“Pajamas. I’d just come is my pajamas and be comfortable all day long.”
Interesting. I wouldn’t have thought of that. Mainly because I a) don’t sleep in pajamas and b) pretty much wear the most comfortable thing I can find to work anyway. I figure if these assholes are going to make me show up, I’d better be comfortable. And if I’m going to have the responsibilities of an eight-year-old, I’m determined to dress like one.
“What would you be?” She asks, taping a cut-out of a black cat to the wall.
What would I be? Standard Halloween costumes are most girls’ excuses to dress like a slut; I won’t even try to deny that I don’t deign to this kind of aberration in my dressing. It’s the one time of year when girls can pretend cleavage is an accessory, a necessity even, and not just an obnoxious way of showing off. But I would never wear anything tight or revealing to this office. Gross. So what then?
“I’d be a ghost,” I say.
She just looks at me.
“I’d wear a sheet over my head all day long and I’d float through the halls.” I could ignore everyone and have the whole day to pretend that I wasn’t here. It would be like I was still in bed all day long. It would be perfect.


Blogger hazel said...

I actually prefer my day job is eating my soul. Great blog btw, I am trying to move to NYC this summer after a 2 year affair with DC.

2:57 PM, June 06, 2007


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