Thursday, October 13, 2011

Document Processing

I tell myself not to be too picky. The whole problem is that I decided my career path long long ago, so long ago that I forgot I decided. I would be a creative writer and I would not rest until I had written a book worthy of Hermann Hesse and I would not write for any other market than the memory of a genius. I would not consider "THE MARKET" or "AGENTS" or "COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL". No. Because none of that pertains to the material that I want to write, which is the exploration of the human condition in all its many shades. One can write to sell or one can write the truth...and hope it sells. And, while writing prose is the most conventional of the creative arts, I would not care about conventionality either. Basically, the two boulevards of "marketability" and "pure expression" would never cross the main boulevard that I walk upon.
Would you hire this man?
Writing is sacred and good writing is not for sale. You can buy it but it isn't written to please the masses. The masses are irrelevant. Look at the New York Times bestseller list for authors who think the masses are relevant. I'm not resentful of the masses (yes I am) but I can not let anything distract me from my impartial and unimpeachable investigation and analysis of humanity and life. I made that decision 20 years ago and I knew then that it would one day bear great fruit and that in the mean time I would alienate almost everyone I meet. For a while I thought that I would naturally attract like-minded artists and that has proven totally false. The world is full of used car salesmen who think everyone should sell used cars.

Now, this quest began so long ago that sometimes I forget I'm on it and wonder how it is that I arrive at the Frank Jones Convention Center eating stale brownies and drinking weak tea, alone except for some company salesmen in off-blue shirts, in a sterile room decorated with sad baroque paintings and cheap home depot crown molding.
"Oggy?"
I pop the remainder of the dry brownie into my mouth. Wipe my face with my sleeve.
"That's my name. Don't wear it out."
"Why don't you come in?"
I shuffle through a fake ivy barrier, my Beatle Boots clicking on the floor, my purple herringbone slacks swaying over my emaciated legs. Inside it looks like an Izod convention. In fact, it's so close to the waiting area that I could hear the bulk of the interview before me. It was so depressing that two humans could sit down and not say a single genuine or unrehearsed sentence to one another. I vow this will not happen. I might sell out but I won't sell out for the chance to sell out.
"Hey, guys! My name is Oggy!" I almost add, "...and I'm from the future," but quickly remember that role is over with.
I'm trying to stay positive because to succumb to the depression of this job fair would bring everyone down. It's a fair, after all, and I am an artist. If I want to play piano and guitar and write without getting paid then I must whore myself out to some awful jobs. What kind of job?

"You will basically be taking documents out of a folder," says the bespectacled woman seated before me, pretending to read my hastily scrawled application, "stacking the documents in order, taping any post-its to a separate piece of paper, then handing them to the "stacker" who will feed them into the scanner."

It's like my worst nightmare. I can already hear the same 25 songs on heavy rotation that will erupt from the "office friendly" radio station we all agree on. I can taste the microwaved lunch. I can feel my neck throb after 6 hours of looking down at paperwork. On a scale of Frivolousness, this job is a 9 out of 10.

"We have a warehouse of visa applications that will need to be digitized so they may be shredded."

I burp in my mouth and wonder the name of the lady's lipstick. Velvet Cake? Raspberry? Ante-bellum? Baboon Ass?

"Blah blah blah $10.50 an hour......blah blah blah $11.50." She's telling me the price differential between first shift and 2nd shift. The scanners will run from 7 am to midnight every day for 6 months. 9000 pages an hour, 17 hours a day, for 6 months. The passport and visa office has a warehouse full of documents and until they are digitized they can not shred them. I wonder how bad living on the street will be. Could it be as bad as microwaved lunch in a leased room next to a visa document office as "More Than a Feeling" screams from the radio for the tenth time that day?

"And when I impress you, I can go to the embassy in Argentina?" I blurt out. "Or Tibet? And shred documents there?"
My interviewer pauses.
"We're global. Anything is possible."
"That's what I like to hear. I'm very interested."

See, I do not shirk from these jobs because I've decided it makes no difference what I do. I'm entertained and educated by every scenario. The aluminum factory was one of the most interesting places because it was ultra-mechanical and artificial. I swear natural light was repelled from that factory and people morphed into robots. In fact, most people who work there never tell their stories because your humanity is naturally sapped by the smoldering fumes of baking aluminum. But I survived and can now assimilate that information into my worldview. This job as a "document processor" is no different than a bull fighter. I swear it is equally as dangerous because most people will never meet and discuss the ethics involved with paper processing. Why? Because document processors become robots. No personality survives 6 months of processing documents to talk about it. A bull fighting ring is a friendly environment in comparison. The florescent office with the three microwaves destroys men. Our society has created a need for jobs that are incompatible with humanity. That's what I'm out to prove and the only way to prove it is to do those jobs and retain some ability to speak about them. It would be easier to stab a bull in the heart. There is no surprise in my voice when the lady tells me of 70 scanner positions available they have filled 10.

I admit that I have placed several ads looking for ride shares to Mexico but I do that every winter out of habit. I have some goals here in NH but the main goal is to write my book, play piano at the Clipper Home and save enough money to pay tuition in Madrid.

"Is Thursday a good call back day?" says my new boss.
I'll be sleeping at the park and ride on Thursday but I don't tell her that. Without reliable work I'm not renting a room. I also have not a single piece of furniture so I'll be renting a room at the halfway house near Hanover St. on the corner of Crack and Whore. And that is the best case scenario because I spent a few hours the other day battling with Citizens Bank for my penalty fees back. I have less than no money and they stole some of it.
"I have to keep you honest," I said to the pretty account manager named Lindsay. She was trained well because she offered nothing but a benign smile and helpless frown.
"What can I do for you?"
"Give me the money back. You weren't there when I made sure that my account had no fees attached to it."
"We changed the conditions. You didn't get the email?"
"Why would I leave the money in the account if I had gotten the email?"
"We changed the conditions."
"I realized that when I saw that half of my account had been devoured by your predatory fees."
"So what is it you want?"
"FOR THE MONEY TO BE PUT BACK IN MY ACCOUNT! I have nothing. People are selling apples on the street and you vipers are sucking me dry!"
"I can't do that."
"I can't leave here without my money. I'm completely broke. You're looking at my account figures right now. Take a good look. Yeah, that's all there is. Not a pretty sight."
"I...I can't comment."
"I don't have money in the mattress at home, you know."
"That's not for me to say."
"I don't have any investments, no expensive cars, no bricks of gold. I'm eating crumbs off the carpet."
"I..."
"What you see there is all I have."
She seemed genuinely interested in getting me out of her office. My chances at dating her evaporated as soon as she laid eyes on my three figure account balance.
"So, you know, when your own bank makes you poorer by half because they decided to change the rules 8 months after you get an account. It sucks."
"I can't..."
"I can't leave without that cash."
"I only see three fines."
"Keep looking. I was in Canada and the whole time you were sucking me dry."
"Ah...two...three...four...five...six..." She clicked the keyboard and tried to hide the smile of pity when she saw my pathetic balance dwindle away. She probably had more money than that when she was 12 years old.
"Why would I keep my money in there when you vampires were taking five percent of it every month?"
"We changed the conditions."
"You couldn't call me? How many customers do you have that have so little money their savings account?"
"I can't say."
"You have a computer. Type "Broke" into the keyword search. It'll have my name all over it. I mean, have a heart. Call me. Say, 'Oggy, you might want to close this account before we suck it dry to pay for a new floor in the bathroom.' Right?"
Lyndsay finally had a heart and sent the money back into my account. I promptly withdrew it and bought some much needed groceries.

So, that is why I'm not being picky when it comes to work. The whole country is out of work. The most responsible thing you can do is pay your bills. I had my fun and now it is time to pay.
Creative Commons License
Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.