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.
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."
"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.

Job Hunt

Skilled Craftsman/Handyman (Naples/Ft.Myers Florida)

"We're looking for 2 skilled individuals to assist us with our increasing workload. Must have strong skills with carpentry, tile work, painting, drywall, etc.--basically an all around knowledge with almost anything in and around the home. This is NOT a supervising position--it's a hands-on job that requires skills."

I love that last part, inadvertently expressing the frustration of the working man.

Falling Leaves, Aching Back

Oggy, Hard at Work on His Resume
I've been playing tennis and researching the transmission project. The parts have been ordered and with the cold weather I feel in the air this job has to be tackled asap. I changed the starter solenoid in Laconia in January in the snow and I had to run back and forth to the halfway house to keep warm. I don't want that kind of pressure when I'm under the van with transmission fluid dripping in my face.

I am scared of my own shadow and hesitate to apply for any job because I keep thinking that's where the movie of my life will end, with me walking into some factory. Speaking of scary shadows, I watched The Kings Speech and found it mostly maudlin. The final speech, as presented, was grotesquely manipulative. ("Forget everything and just speak to me like I'm a friend.") but it did remind of the 2nd movement of Beethoven's 7th symphony which is perfect. If you have 8 minutes to devote to cultural betterment, Beethoven will not disappoint. He never ever disappoints.

In other news, I've done a bit more research to support my ranting and the "Declaration of the Occupation of New York City" reads quite a bit like my own "Motion to Dismiss" essay I wrote in Santa Cruz. They both are a little vague but mostly accuse the status quo and a mysteriously anonymous "THEY" as being evil and unsustainable and wrong.
Ex: "They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts."

"They" refers to "corporate forces"

Oh, where is Thomas Paine when you need him?

The New Hampshire Gazette gamely tries to legitimize the protest: "What the protestors are saying is that the system is not working for 99 percent of the people. That's their bottom line."

In Santa Cruz the law that banned sitting on the sidewalk (used to criminalize the poor) was found to be "Constitutionally Vague" and thrown out. It was "prone to selective enforcement". In effect, it was a Jim Crow law aimed at hippies. Well, on the flip side, I'd say this "Declaration" is "Philosophically Vague" and "Devoid of Inflammatory Content"
I mean, The Simpsons series has been mocking this very problem for 20 years. You think we need some hipsters to remind us that shit is fucked up when Bart and Homer perfectly embody the inequity? The Onion has built a huge readership on making fun of the absurdity of our country. The protestors might as well include in their declaration, "NY Taxi Drivers are not considerate." Ok, real groundbreaking stuff.

I would not call it a "bottom line" to point out:
"They have profited off the torture confinement and cruel treatment of countless animals and actively hide these practices."
Really? You mean McDonalds Hamburgers don't grow on trees?

The worst thing I can say is that I'm not entertained by their declaration. Beyond that, I'm not impressed. At the very least they need to call for the end of a rent based housing paradigm. That would shake some apple pie trees up. I mean, Lisa Simpson has been the voice in the wild for 20 years regarding vegetarianism. IT DOESN'T DO ANYTHING. People will laugh at her righteous futility probably until mankind becomes extinct from cancer and AIDS.

The IWW is an interesting crew that is heavily represented in my Santa Cruz saga. The idea behind the wobblies was to have every worker in the world in one union and then we could all go on strike whenever we want better conditions. The reason it hasn't caught on is because ethics and philosophy aren't big crop producers. Migrant vegetable pickers from Mexico and Honduras have no problem getting short money because at least it is money. If you need a scab to cross the picket line then you only need to speak Spanish. "Trabajo Aqui. Mucho Dinero para ti!" I sometimes worry that the protestors think manna from heaven will fall from the sky if the supply chain (corrupt though it is) collapses. I would personally not cry many tears if famine eradicated 200 million people from North America, but at least I know that's what would happen if Monsanto decided to Go Green.

America is like Germany except on steroids. And anyone who has ever taken performance enhancing drugs knows, you can never stop or the crash is often a disaster. The declaration of Occupy Wall Street basically asks corporations to clean up and stop taking steroids. That would leave America on a par with Argentina and Iceland...which I wouldn't mind. I'll plant cucumbers. I'll hoe beans. But how many cappuccino drinkers would go belly up? Instead of an urban utopia like on Friends where everyone hangs out and worries about the next vapid job promotion, I'm pretty sure the east coast would morph into something that resembles Ghana. I'm all for it. Are they?
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.