Tuesday, January 26, 2010

interview dos and donts

shake hands without wincing
bring all the application info you need
wash crud out of eyes
arrive on time
thank the interviewer

admit to spending 8 months on the beach in Mexico
explain your hand is swollen because you were playing pick up basketball
tell the truth on your application so it appears you are insane
admit to living in a group home "That really sucks"
say things like, "Does it really matter?"

Fortunately, I interviewed in Laconia for a job in Laconia and the job pool is at an all time low here. The interviewer was doing a reference check on someone else while I filled out my application and she asked, "So did he work for you before or after he got out of prison?"
Unfortunately, I'm still easy to pass over.

The stop after that was the food stamp office where just sitting in the waiting room was enough to make me not want to apply. I'll lick paper tray liners at McDonalds before I accept food stamps.

It was kind of research for the social services element in my santa cruz story but it brought back bad memories of incomplete applications, mysterious forms, criteria to be elegible that make my head spin, babies crying, out of work men standing at the window (they kept it closed because of the swine flu) shouting, "What am I ghhona eat? Ya cancelled my caahd. I ghot cancah ya know?"

So it was on to the family dollar store to buy peanuts and prunes as part of my fruit and grain diet. rice and beans. no more milk. no more bread and cheese. Grain salads and fruit from now on.

Then a few hours at the goodwill reading room otherwise known as the old chair closest to the book shelves. I was looking for a grain and nut recipe book but I ended up reading an essay by a tramp in 1934 California. He described the conditions in federal camps. 200 men kicking stones in a dusty town. He decided these men were pioneers in a world without new places. It's hard to leave behind somewhere familiar and take to the road but that's how America was colonized and also Australia (island prison). But in 1934 the land had ceased giving back and there was less of it to farm so the men wandered. They were maimed by accident and drink and disease but they were no less intelligent than your average man. Their ambitions were simply obsolete. They merely wanted something extraordinary to do and that opportunity had changed from pioneering to technology...and the majority of the men couldn't make that transition so they picked apples and drifted with the wind. That was the author's conclusion. He wasn't a journalist but his writing was very good. He'd probably been a school teacher in the past and now slept on a blanket near the road and observed.
None of them expected a hand out but with a maimed hand or foot they only had their brains left, and that was helping them survive.

I thought it interesting that I read the essay at the Goodwill in 2010 after visiting the food stamp office and an employment agency as my day trip away from the group home. I had to hold the book so as not to hurt my swollen finger. When I coughed my ribs ached. The author was trying to make sense of it all. He wasn't just reporting. He was writing an essay on the condition and philosophical essence of the hobo. I felt close to this man, Eric Hoffer. He didn't need to write that essay and by the time he wrote it (the essay compilation was from the '60s) he'd probably made it in life. But the need to share this experience and this opinion impressed me. The book had essays by B.F. Skinner and Jean Paul Sarte. And this one time hobo from 1934 who slept on a blanket and played checkers with a guy who only had one hand. I just checked up on Eric Hoffer and he's an unusual person.

At the Goodwill, a couple nearby was reading the off a rack of used CDs. "Charlie Daniels, Fire on the Mountain....Celine Dion...."
An old french guy with a walker and those gigantic black shoes you get when you have diabetes was talking to the sale lady, telling her about another time. A woman picked up a sparkly blouse, looked at the price tag and moved on. A guy with a cane was browsing the diet books. Outside it was starting to snow after two days of rain so a clerk went to put salt on the sidewalk. Cars rolled by with their lights on.

The opinions in the book were like the snowflakes falling on the wet sidewalk. If the conditions were right they would collect and you might even be able to notice them and make decisions because of them, but with rain they would go away and in the spring a child going to play basketball at the park would never know they existed. B.F. Skinner devoted his life to understanding behavior...but look around a Goodwill on some afternoon and tell me what impact B.F. Skinner has had. At the social services office there were handouts on everything. I looked at one that gave advice on brushing teeth, going to the doctor, getting food stamps, getting work, getting a GED. One that sticks out was a colorful page with children's songs on it.

"This little piggy went to market
This little piggy went home
this little piggy went to church
this little piggy went to school
this little piggy went to work"

Then there were instructions on how to wiggle your kids toes or fingers (if they had 5) and sing the song. It was about singing and bonding with your kid. And how to get them to read. And I guess it's a little bit of brainwashing. Market, home, church, school, work. The little piggy never goes and robs a bank. He never drifts aimlessly to Mexico; the little piggy has a pattern and he sticks to it. Brush your teeth. The food pyramid. Exercise 30 minutes a day. Stay in school. Don't do drugs. There was one pamphlet that had a circle with three stages:
1. Honeymoon Phase,
2. Buildup/Tension,
3. Abuse.
It asked, "Does this look familiar to you?"
The office wasn't filled on a Tuesday at 3 pm but it wasn't empty either. I stayed an hour just reading all the pamphlets. They kept asking me if I'd been helped and I kept saying I was all good. I just wanted to see what was going on in there. I'd heard tales and I'm getting to the point where emergency assistance is needed.

I've been reading Hesse's Glass Bead Game again and dreaming about Waldzell, the elite school for musicians and glass bead game players. He talks about a bent toward universality that the students are recognized for. This is interesting because I wonder what kind of universe they think they lived in. There were no social service offices in Castalia. No car mechanics on disability. No mothers who need to set up a ride to interview about food stamp extensions. No this little piggy songs to teach kids. So, they studied history through the eyes of others. But is that the same thing? Can you really refer to the human condition once you read someone else's opinion? The students of Waldzell lived like monks. Outside the walls a world of politics and war took place but they only read and wrote histories. There were no infants. No parents. No mothers. No econoline vans. No jammed fingers or bruised ribs. No dust bowl tramps playing checkers. I wonder if that influenced his decision to call the school Waldzell. Kind of a play on Wall. Like a walled city that only analyzed experience. But universal theories require more than just book knowledge.
Who knows? Shawn just dropped by and told me the poker game starts in 5 minutes. I gave him the chips and now I'm off to play some cards. That's what we do here in this hobo camp. we play cards and ponder the human condition. B.F. Skinner just got paid better.

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.