Lucy D. Barker 6:13 p.m., May 23
Yesterday, I decided to feel even worse about my current state of unemployment by going into Blockbuster at the corner of El Cajon and Florida Street, to see if they were hiring. They were not. I called them last week, and I was told the same thing. But I thought that maybe once they saw that I am Asian, they might hire me to fill some sort of quota. But affirmative action was not on my side. Then, being a glutton for punishment, I stopped in at a bunch of stores that are within walking distance of my North Park apartment. Since my husband and I only have one car, and he works in Point Loma, me not needing a car to get to work would be a good thing. I found out that there's a Sally's Beauty Supply store right near the 7-11 where I usually buy my cigarettes (the Blockbuster is right across the street). The 19-year-old behind the counter told me that they weren't hiring, but that they always take applications to “keep on file.” Since I hate filling out forms (I always start on the wrong line or put my first name where my last name is supposed to go – it’s always a big whiteout disaster), I asked her: "It's really not worth filling this out, right? You're not hiring anytime soon." The girl was like: "Yeahhh, we aren't hiring. But damn, girl, you're all 'give it to me straight up, don't waste my time.'" Before I left the store I, of course, made a purchase and left my resume and list of professional references with the girl who was running the register. I said, "Make sure you staple these to my application," as I was quietly thinking to myself, "I could run this place."
I didn't realize how many Tibetan, Hindu, Asian-inspired furniture stores one neighborhood needs, but apparently, mine needs several. I can't imagine how they are all staying in business, which leads me to believe that they must be money laundering fronts. Just kidding. If anyone asks, I know and saw absolutely nothing. After I was told by every person in every store that no one was hiring, I stopped myself (or rather the lack of cash in my wallet made me stop) from buying anything else, and I went home feeling rather defeated. I didn't expect that any place would be hiring, but there's always that stupid, fleeting moment of hope that maybe this time, things will work out.
When I had the job that I left of my own volition, right before the economy tanked, I became very good friends with another girl who happened to work on my floor. We both hated our jobs, but were too lazy and beaten down by the brain-numbing monotony of day-to-day life to try to find better jobs that would pay us a salary that is higher than what a public school teacher makes. I knew that I was in the wrong industry, when I found out that one of my friends, who is a youth pastor, had a higher starting salary than I did. What Would Jesus Do? My friend and I always said that anything would be better than our current jobs. But, as it turns out, we were both wrong – things can always be worse.
I don't miss my old job at all. It was a two-year position that I somehow stretched out over six years. When I was 23 and still wet behind the ears, I thought my job was pretty cool. I was thrilled to move into a space that was brand-spanking new. My desk, computer, chair, and even my bright blue garbage can for recycling were all waiting to be christened for the first time by me.
After the dust settled, and I had arranged all of my post-its, pens, and binder clips of varying sizes at right angles in my drawers and on my desk (yes, I am OCD and yes, I am properly medicated), I realized that my job really sucked. For example, I would come in on the weekends, so I could print out all of my manager’s emails and respond to the ones that needed to be dealt with immediately. My manager “worked from home,” yet he did not have access to a computer, email, printer, fax machine, or phone. I blame poor management, as being the main reason why I hated my job so much, but I’ll be the first to admit that my increasingly snarky ‘tude didn’t help matters, either. Somehow, I feel like I got lost in the shuffle, and once again, I was the odd one out.
When my first manager resigned, I started reporting to another man, who I felt didn't really like me at first. But when I found out that he loved hearing gossip about my other manager, we became bff fairly quickly. Nothing brings two people together faster than realizing that they have a shared enemy. The man is also a closeted homosexual, so it was only a matter of time before we hit it off (gay men seem to love me; I think it's the Cher-like hair). But as soon as we started working well together, he relocated to Texas, and I then had to report to the lamest man in the world. That's probably a bit harsh, but trust me when I say that this guy never got laid in high school, and I’m assuming college wasn’t much better. He had a reputation of being a bit skeevy with all the girls who worked under him (every pun intended). He is married with two kids, but I'm sure if the opportunity presented itself, he would be more than happy to “dip his pen in the company ink,” if you catch my drift (and I hope that you do, because I am not being remotely subtle). He tried to reach out to me at first by asking me out to lunch, so "we could get to know each other." I cannot imagine anything worse (I can, but I’m prone to hyperbole) than being forced to sit across a table from such a milquetoast, pasty-skinned, middle manager who couldn’t make proper eye contact. The fact that he couldn't make eye contact was disturbing to me. I'm sure it's a result of being shy, but it made him appear uncertain of himself, and it presented me with an opportunity to act like a complete and total jerk with little to no repercussions (i.e., I was a bitchy bully, and he was totally scared of me). I made it very clear that I was not his personal secretary. I would rarely do the busywork he assigned to me, because it was a total waste of my time. He once asked me to take minutes in a meeting, and I told him that it would probably be better if he just took them himself, since he would be the one using the notes. If he came over to my desk, I rarely took my eyes off my computer screen, where I had just minimized perezhilton.com, and made it appear as though I was working on something very complicated in excel. I would sit there, in my pinstriped pants and black merino wool and cashmere blend turtleneck, totally annoyed that he was in my personal space, especially when he took it upon himself to hop onto my desk, so his scotch-guarded Dockers ass was exactly where I ate my lunch every day. There are reasons why I had a bottle of 409 at work.
I pretty much hated the guy. But to be fair, he is not the only thing that I hated; he was simply a living, breathing symbol of my unhappiness at my workplace. When he became my manager by default, he had absolutely no clue as to what my department did (neither did I for about the first year I was there), and I was one of the only people left standing who knew how to do everything. But I made absolutely no effort to teach him. Why would I have to teach a manager how to do his job? Give me a break. No one taught me how to do my job, and I'm not in the hand holding business.
My time as a minion made me realize that life is not fair. If you don't have someone in your corner who is well-connected, pulling for you, you're basically screwed. None of my managers ever gave a rat's ass about me, because they were too busy trying to impress their own boss. It was like watching a bunch of high school nerds, falling all over themselves, trying to attract the attention of the devilishly handsome and charming captain of the football team (or whatever hierarchy John Hughes would have us believe existed during those formative years).
During the six years I was at this company, I came to the realization that I hate Corporate America. I hate getting up early every morning, I hate having to pick out a "corporate casual" outfit (I believe this means that you're not required to wear a suit, but I pushed the envelope a bit by coming into work wearing ripped jeans, halter tops, sneakers, and a facial expression that tacitly screamed, "Please don't f*ck with me, not today, not like this."), and I hate making sure that my makeup and hair look perfect every day. I hated my commute. I hated my lunches. I hated the fact that, somewhere along the way, I had lost my uncynical joie de vivre. This is not to say that I wasn't cynical at age 23, because I was, but I was still naive enough to be excited about the possibility that I would do work that actually mattered.
My mother gave me some really helpful advice - she said that I just need to find something that I love to do and then get a job doing that. Yeah, because that's how it works. I have a really hard time not getting annoyed at a person who's never worked a day in her life due to the fact that she was a stay-at-home mom who just mooched of off my dad, until she inherited a large sum of money when she was in her late 30's. Yet, she still feels the need to dole out unsolicited work-related advice. I would love to watch my mom try to not only turn my work computer on, but actually get online, after figuring out my email password (it was "default," btw).
I'm sure that I wasted a lot of time and unused potential at my old job, but I'm assuming there's a reason for that - maybe one that I can piece together 20 years from now. Or, maybe there's not, and I should just stop trying to find or fabricate a silver lining. I think it's best if I just shrug my shoulders and say, what everyone in Corporate America loves to say, "It is what it is." That means absolutely nothing, but sounds important, not unlike my job description.