Archive for January, 2013

Job Hunt Mach 2

Posted: January 26, 2013 by S. Trevor Swenson in Life, Me & Mine
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
I am the 81st down from the right

I am the 81st down from the right

Like millions of my fellow Americans, I am out of work…again. A few years ago my employer of 17 years and I engaged in an F Bomb exchange which excused me from the ranks of the employed for a couple years. Do I regret our four letter word rock opera? Yes and no, but it is spilled milk now. I felt slightly vindicated when I put an “I Hate Pigs” bumper sticker on his BMW to celebrate my one year anniversary away from the job. I actually ran into him during the holidays this year. We shook hands and were cordial to one another.

I have landed 3 jobs since then. One where the owner took an instant and intense dislike to me. Not much one can do about that. (I once asked my former employer “What the Fuck is your problem with me?’, and we know how that worked out.) The general manager hired me and on my first night of training I was introduced to the owner. I extended my hand to him and he gave me a look of utter and complete disgust. I was actually impressed as I have been working on that look for over 20 years. Well played, Sir! It was a facial expression reserved for finding a hair in your food and it was depressing. I thought I was finally turning the corner, only to have a job dangled in front of me and ripped away after 4 hours. I felt a little better after noticing that this place has a “Help Wanted” sign in their window every week. It seems the owner takes an instant and intense dislike to lots of applicants. Finally! It’s not me, it’s you.

"Oh, darling, I simply must have a Sazerac. Do be a lamb and fetch me one."

“Oh, darling, I simply must have a Sazerac.
Do be a lamb and fetch me one.”

The second job was at a posh and stuffy four star restaurant. I’m not posh or stuffy. (I’m…puffy.) They wear white dinner jackets. I’m more of a leather jacket kind of guy. I lasted 3 whole weeks on the job. It wasn’t for me, and I wasn’t for them. I’m accustomed to fast, turn and burn bar tending. This place demanded that each drink take half an hour to lovingly construct. The drinks were excellent and the man who designed them is world renowned. I just wasn’t the right man for a place that wanted a 28.5 millimeter lemon twist to rim the glass 6 and 1/2 times counter clockwise, while whistling Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers, and precisely measuring 16 ingredients to craft a gin and tonic. I’ve checked the want ads; this place is always looking for staff as well. So, I got that going for me . . . which is useless.

Finally, I landed a job at an Irish pub in my neighborhood. I really liked my job. I liked my co-workers, I liked my bosses, I liked the customers, and those who I didn’t care for so much provided me with some fantastic material for my writing and comedy. It was never extremely busy, but I was working again, making money and going to school… what I like to call “having some semblance of a life” I was doing well and considered myself lucky.

I was at this job for a year…almost exactly a year. I spent the slow summer months anxiously awaiting the lucrative football season in Fall. As luck (or lack thereof) would have it, during the first football game of the season, while traversing three little steps in the pub, I felt a sickening pop above the heel of my left foot. Apparently the warranty on my Achilles tendon had just expired. I would be in a cast for the next 3 months. With the exception of McLimpy’s Tavern on E 14th St, no one was hiring staff members in casts so I spent that time catching up on “PARQUE ALEGRIA” my favorite Spanish language soap opera, applying fat from various comfort foods to my thighs, butt and stomach, and fighting my very own version of the Hundred Years War with the New York State Workers Compensation Board and my employer’s insurance company; Apathy Mutual of Hoboken. “We Truly Pretend to Care”

After I recovered, I discovered that my job was not waiting for my triumphant return. My boss told me to bring a note from a doctor and then promptly stopped returning my phone calls and had always “just stepped out” whenever I stepped in. My (former?) co-workers greeted me with a slightly embarrassed humble-mumble-chumbles. People don’t get fired anymore…they become more of an Orwellian “un-person” or more accurately an unemployed person. New York is an “employment at will” state, meaning a company will fire you if so inclined. And it seemed my boss was SO inclined.

It was back to the job hunt for the boy.

"Hi, my name is...."  "YOU'RE HIRED!!!"

“Hi, my name is….” “YOU’RE HIRED!!!”

Had I learned anything during my first crack at being a man of leisure? Yes. I learned that the job market sucks, that many bar owners prefer breasts to experience, I learned that I had gotten spoiled having the same job for 17 years. However, I am a firm believer that we cultivate a great deal of our own luck. The more I am out there, the better my chances of experiencing some good timing or luck. I am also glad that it is winter. The cold weather has added to my motivation in terms of not having to relocate from my apartment to a refrigerator box with a breakfast nook out by where the buses don’t run. Plus, I don’t show up to open calls and interviews drenched in sweat. It’s a bummer to call and thank someone for an interview and have them say “Oh yeah, you’re that sweaty guy, I remember you, Uh, we’ll let you know” I can just imagine some manager writing “Too sweaty” on my soggy resume. Yuck.

Sometimes I go out and just drop resumes off in various neighborhoods with good street traffic and lots of bars and restaurants. I shower, shave and. dress to resemble a responsible and productive member of society. I zip into places and ask “Hi, is there a manager I could possibly drop my resume off with?” Some people are nice. They take my resume, smile and wish me luck. Others are just overtly unpleasant. Last week a haughty Maître’s D sneered ‘”You can leave it” (meaning my resume),” as if it took every fiber of his being to not follow this with “But really, we shant be calling you back.” Lots of hostesses have an utterly charming, smelling-a-fart facial expression when I swing by to drop off a resume and speak to the (never present) manager. Aren’t these women hired to be the “face” of the venue? When did friendliness and basic politeness leave this job description? Should a hostess act as a deterrent? “Sorry to interrupt your texting Ms. Evangelista, I know it’s a lot to ask, but would you be a dove and take my resume, lie about passing it along to the manager and maybe even smile? Judging by your demeanor, you’d think I shambled in here bleeding profusely from both ears and barking in an inappropriately loud voice “Hey toots, where’s the crapper in this joint?”

"Before you hand me your resume, allow me to fetch my rubber gloves and tongs."

“Before you hand me your resume, allow me to fetch my rubber gloves and tongs.”

This time around I seem to be getting more call backs and interviews, which is encouraging. The first time around I could literally go weeks without hearing back from anyone. Of course, I have been to 3 interviews in 2 weeks where the interviewers were incredibly rude and cold. This makes no sense to me. I can understand seeing someone for the first time and deciding that this isn’t the person you had in mind for the job. As much as we like to deny it, we do judge books by their covers, but it’s a good business strategy to paste a smile on one’s face, shake hands, ask a couple questions and muster a friendly “Thanks, We’ll let you know.” Really, the entire industry is based on acting pleasant and nice to people, and especially being able to fake it. Plus, it would be too easy for someone less well-adjusted than I to take offense and call the Heath Department or leave a review on sites like Yelp or Urban Spoon with fictitious tales of rat droppings in the ceviche, food poisoning or rude staff. Plus, you called me. I am merely showing up to an interview that you requested, Smiley.

I step into some places and immediately realize that I stand no chance whatsoever of working there. Lots of Irish pubs only hire illegal Irish aliens, I’ve tried to fake an accent, but I always blow it by humming “Danny Boy” and making some ridiculous reference to Irish Spring soap or Lucky Charms cereal. Other places have nothing but Charlie’s Angel’s rejects struggling with the intricacies of a vodka and tonic. I’m not young and fabulous, so I don’t even bother with chic lounges or trendy nightclubs. I make it a point not to go to places that wont let me in.

The NYC service industry is a unique microcosm. Many places want head shots, bi-lingual a plus and all kinds of other criteria. “A strong background in Northern Italian wines preferred” (For McGinty’s Pub?) This becomes a slippery slope. I think people expect us to embellish, exaggerate and..OK….OK, lie on our resumes and during interviews, but one can’t go too far with this. We’d be found out day one, embarrassed and fired….and being unemployed is embarrassing enough. There was a coffee shop in Union Square that only hired Brazilian models. Another place designed as a honky-tonk that only hired models with a special cocktail dyslexia. “I’ll have a Red Stripe please.” 25 minutes later she would produce a glass of red wine. If you decided to stay and try for a second round, she’d bring Johnny Walker Red. These are the people who are getting the jobs. Yeah, life’s fair.

Maybe I should apply

Maybe I should apply

Years ago I went into a bar in the Village to use of their bathroom. Since there is an unwritten law that people are not allowed to use restrooms without a purchase, I bought a glass of wine that I really didn’t want. It was officially a gay bar (Something cleverly named The Dude Ranch), but in neighborhoods like the East Village, the lines between gay and straight became blurred. People went were they liked the music or the prices. The bartender that day was a swishy, middle aged gay man who was balding with a pot belly. His appearance was decidedly un-fabulous. Still, as I drank my wine and he held court with the handful of customers who were there, I quickly realized he was really funny, engaging and warm. I ended up staying for two more glasses of wine because I had nowhere to be, and we were all having a good time. It dawned on me that this terrific bartender wouldn’t stand a chance of getting a job at 99% of the gay bars in the city. They’d laugh at him and make bitter, queeny jokes about his weight or appearance the second he walked out the door. Then they’d promptly hire the Chelsoid gym rat with no personality, no experience, but who had stapled a beautifully photo-shopped and shirtless photograph of his fabulous self to his misspelled resume.

My point is that the resume my mommy thinks is “Very nice honey” with legitimate experience and references can matter very little. There are many places that are always hiring. They only want the beautiful people working for them. In this economy, the owner of the corner gin mill gets to act like Steve Rubell from Studio 54. I have worked with some very good looking people, and some of them were crackerjack staff members. Yet, sadly it is all too common to find a pretty, yet aloof bartender busily text messaging while hapless patrons wave $20 bills at them in a futile attempt to get the bartender to actually tend to the bar. Eventually, after updating their Facebook status with “My job sucks”, they glance over at the customer, roll their eyes, slam down a bottle of Budweiser in front of them and fetch their change without a word of thanks. Or, when someone orders a scotch and soda, they tilt their pretty little heads and ask “What’s in that?”

Having a resume; it makes me feel all grown-up. I look over my references and continuity and feel proud of myself. Another thing that gives me minor internal hissy fits is when an interviewer takes my resume and wants me to fill out an application. I had thought that the point of a resume is to save time on things like applications. Of course, we can’t roll our eyes when we are handed an application. We have to be cheerful and act as if we were given one off those huge checks from Publisher’s Clearing House. “Oh, goody-gumdrops! You mean I get to hand write everything that is already typed neatly on the paper I just gave you on to a whole new piece of paper?” I loathe these modern redundancies, like when we punch in our account numbers when calling our cable company, and then being asked for the same number 40 minutes later when we finally reach a human being.

It is an employer’s market. I read ads of what they are seeking and it is an extensive laundry list of sacrifice and dedication for the privilege of working for someone. Under “compensation” there is usually a single euphemistic business-speak word “competitive”. Translation: as little as we are able to get away with. Some companies at least try to be creative “Work with a first rate team who are able to think outside of the box.” Well, I suppose that does sweeten the sub-minimum wage pay. While I was working I would look over resumes other people had dropped off. I was also always nice to perspective applicants. It was not uncommon to come across people with Master’s Degrees and Ph.D.’s looking to wait tables and schlep drinks. This made me feel better, while also scaring me a little. I remember showing up to an open call at a popular hotel years ago. I had shown up 20 minutes early, only to join a line of applicants that looked like one of the black and white photos from The Great Depression. In line were stunningly beautiful and handsome young men and women holding professionally designed resumes in sexy binders. They wore beautifully tailored, designer clothes and seemed so sure of themselves. These are the people I am competing with, and many of them are more educated, younger, better looking and possibly more desperate than I am. Personally, if I was in a position to hire, I’d exploit any and all desperation. “Well, you’re certainly qualified; but would you be willing to give me a foot massage and to address me as ‘Most Exalted Daddy Pants’? And by the way, how are you at ‘thinking outside the box?” Looking eager and upbeat takes energy too, more energy than one might think. This made me understand why people stop looking for work after a year or year and a half. It’s tantamount to being pumped up in the locker room for the big game, yet week after week getting slaughtered on the field. The job hunt can be exceptionally draining and soul sucking. It’s hard to keep from taking rejection and a lack of response personally.

Be it ever so crumbled....There's no place like home.

Be it ever so crumbled….There’s no place like home.

I’ll get another job sooner or later, hopefully sooner as my landlord is a little funny about my bringing in partial rent payments in rolled up pennies and nickels and saying “I’ll try to get the rest of it to you next week.”

srsly?

srsly?

I am a lover of language, nuance and expressiveness. While there are certainly terms of this generation that I have no truck with (Oh, it’s like dat huh?” comes to mind); there is one I that I have become quite fond of: the sarcastic and facetious use of the word “Really”.

Since childhood I have referred to the dictionary as “The Big Book”. Maybe I couldn’t pronounce “Dictionary” as a child, but I also like to think that this title empowers the book somehow, like the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone. I have always enjoyed arguing and take an especially smug and obnoxious glee in being correct in a debate. “Oh yeah, ma? Well, let’s just see what The Big Book has to say, shall we?” One of my more nit-picky tactics is to rubbish someone in an argument when my definition is ranked higher numerically than the person’s I am engaged in a debate with.

“It’s right there.” says my unfortunate opponent pointing to the disputed definition.
“Yeah” I retort “It’s number two, mine is number one!”
“So?” they ask when really they should know better.
“If number two mattered more than number one Al Gore or MItt Romney would have been president.”

Now here is where my obnoxiousness differs from your garden variety pest or annoyance. For up to the next 72 hours I will shove this in their nose in the most creative manner I can find.

“Hey, um when a little kid has to go to the bathroom and they say ‘number two’, what does that mean exactly?”

For weeks after a debate with my mom I would leave copies of the Big Book everywhere, open to the page of the disputed word. My mom started hiding her highlighters.

But I digress…

According to the Big Book “Really” means:

Definition of REALLY
1
a : in reality : actually <things as they really are> <there was nothing peculiar about her doing this, really — Peter Taylor>
b : truly, unquestionably —used as an intensifier
c : very 2
2
—used to emphasize an assertion <really, you’re being ridiculous>


Examples of REALLY
1. The dog runs really fast.
2. The water is really hot.
3. She’s a really nice person

I remember this was an important word as a child. First because little kids have next to no decision making power. It’s a delicate and precarious life resting on the whims of parental units and other grownups. So we need a lot of confirmation:

“I thought we might have dinner at McDonalds tonight.”
“Really?”
“Nah, let’s try the kelp and tofu quiche recipe from that hippy cookbook you love so much.”

My mom had her tiny torments too.

“Really” was also used as filler when we were assigned essays and reports of X number of words. Remember counting and re-counting the words as a kid? 500 words seemed exceptionally unreasonable when I could just as easily say “It sucked”. So, we filled our book reports with as many “Really’s” and “Very’s” as possible and hoped that the teacher didn’t notice. Ever the rebel, I made a point of handing in essays with 498 words. (Sticking it to the man since 3rd grade.)

“Tom Sawyer was a really, really, really, good book. It takes place a very very long time ago. It’s about a boy named Tom Sawyer who is really, really ,very, very smart…”

See? I stretched 23 words to 32.

The contemporary definition and use of “Really” is among my favorite terms today. This definition hasn’t made it in “The Big Book” yet, so I had to visit a favorite website; Urban Dictionary.

REALLY

1. An exclamation used when you can’t believe that someone has said, asked or done something so stupid, or unbelievably stupid. Often said very sarcastically.

2. A brief way to question the integrity of a person or an act. Implies, “I am so unimpressed with this, and disappointed in you for doing such a thing.”

That’s perfect. This fits my repertoire of constant disappointment and disbelief in the world and most of its residents. A fair estimate would be that I say or think “Really” approximately 3000 times daily…perhaps 4000 if I am running late, doing errands or using public transportation. Since it is my S.O.P to take things too far, I am frankly amazed that I haven’t taken to staring at various offending parties with my patented annoyed face and asking aloud “Really?”

Another facet of “Really” is that it requires a specific tone and a unique facial expression. How many words can claim this honor?

My ex-girlfriend when I was naked except for socks and glasses. “Really?”

I have been going to the same Dunkin Donuts for over 10 years, with the same coffee order, from the same woman…to this day; she repeats my order back to me, getting every aspect of my coffee wrong.

Me: (Said slowly in the hopes that today will be the day where she finally gets it right)
“I’d like…a small coffee,… with a little milk….. make it dark,…. and two Splenda, please.” I cringe and brace for impact.

Dunkin Donuts employee with the lazy eye and severe coffee dyslexia:
“Large coffee, with cream and three sugars?”

Really? REALLY?

A mother of 8 at the laundromat decides that the folding table for everyone’s clean clothes is the perfect place to change her baby’s rancid and over stuffed diaper, when there is a bathroom 5 feet behind her.

Really?

At the grocery store, after all her items have been scanned, the woman who has been on her cell phone suddenly realizes they will have to be paid for and spends approximately 40 minutes digging pennies and nickels from the change purse that took her 10 minutes to find.

Really?

A public toilet seat covered in urine with its contents unflushed.

Really?

Maybe we live in a “Really?” kind of world. People post excruciating minutia on Facebook and get butthurt (another most excellent contemporary expression) when all 306 people they are “friends” with don’t comment, like or otherwise stroke them. Not me, of course, I have a strict rule of posting 40 times or less the daily antics of my cats.

“Really” comes from “Real” as does “Reality”. Reality TV may be the most popular entertainment medium in the world today. Yet, the many of the successful reality TV shows generally have lots and lots of “Really?” moments.

Honey Boo Boo.

Really?

Her disgusting family.

Really?

On The Learning Channel.

REALLY?

3 million viewers.

Really?

"Nice attitude"

“Nice attitude”

In the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ferris Bueller has a bitch-on-wheels sister named Jeannie who resents (among seemingly everything else in her universe) her brother’s popularity and ability to buck the system. She storms down to the principal’s office where the secretary asks her blandly, “Well, hello, Jeannie. Who’s bothering you now?” This brief movie snippet popped into my head during my morning exercise session. It’s a question I could be asked daily…probably several times a day.

“Who’s bothering you now, Scotty?” could be a regular column for me if I possessed any kind of continuity whatsoever, and if there was a market for reading my daily grievances. So far I have found 19 people in the world who are even remotely interested in this… and that took me 6 years. I consider it a major achievement.

So who (and what) is bothering me today? Hmmm well it’s only 8:43am, but I’m a pro and managed to find some people who are bothering me already (yeah, I’m that good)

On my way to the park to exercise I encountered 2 separate sidewalk hogs. One was a woman with what looked to be about 400 children. It may have only been 5 or 6, but it was difficult to tell as they were an unruly swarm running amok. I stopped short to avoid one, waddling into my path. I tried to take a step forward just as his brother strayed in front of me and stared off into the distance. I tried to take a step back, but there were 2 more there behind me. They were so beautifully and efficiently underfoot, I would swear they had Navy SEAL training to coordinate this. After a few more seizure like dance steps I was forced onto the road. I glared angrily at mom, who was pregnant (of course she was). If she can’t keep them on a leash or shock collar, she should at least stop pumping ‘em out. I’d be a happy man if 1/10th of the people I glare at angrily on a daily basis would catch my glance, realize the error or their ways and apologize. Of course she paid no attention to me, or her brood. She was most likely on her way to a doctor to see if it was possible to get pregnant, while being pregnant.

The second sidewalk hog was an old woman with a yappy little Maltese dog. Granny and pooch had their leash stretched across the entire sidewalk waiting for Fido to drop a deuce. I stopped and waited… and waited. I glanced down at the pooch who looked up at me with a bored “speak to the management” expression. I then looked at the management. Granny ignored me until I heaved a loud, impatient sigh at her. It should be noted that the volume of my impatient sighs has, in the past inspired people to call the police with noise complaints. The blue meanies show up at my door and ask if I have been sighing again, and then announce that they “don’t want to have to come back here again”. Eventually granny spoke up. “Come on Angel, don’t you have to go?” It made me think that there might be a need for an invention of a new retractable leash and harness for little dogs. Push a button and they go flying back through the air “Arooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo”. Practical and entertaining. Eventually I stepped over the leash, because God forbid she would actually pull Angel back and allow the human being use of the sidewalk. Another reminder of where I sit in the world’s pecking order…right behind a dog’s BM. I growled at the dog and glared angrily at Angel’s mommy. She ignored me too. Is it too much to ask for people to pay attention to the perpetually scowling angry man?

I made it to the park and started doing my laps. This went well for a short time. I had my tunes with me and most of the others in the park were elderly, so I felt young and fit. I made it a point to burn by an 80-something year old bag and her walker. I can roll along at a pretty fast pace, especially after I have had my morning coffee, cigarette and annoyances. The smooth sailing was short lived of course. On my last lap a father and his 3 or 4 year old daughter on her new Christmas bike played a beautiful defensive scheme on this Tom Brady. Her bike was pink and frilly with training wheels, sparkles and pictures of Dora The Explorer giving the world the finger on its wheels. It reminded me a great deal of my first bike…when I was 16. Daddy’s little princess was zig zagging all over the track and the joggers, homeless trash diggers, dog walkers and most importantly I had to dodge her version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. The theme for the day seemed to be obstruction. I was half expecting to find a VW bug parked in front of my door on the second floor of my apartment building when I got home. I spared dad and brat my scowl. They had taken their obliviousness to a group level. I did, however, cup my hands over my mouth and yell after them; “There’s no Santa Claus, you know! Mommy and daddy are big liars!!!”