Archive for June, 2014

Hot For Teacher

Posted: June 28, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in Uncategorized
“They say “Those who can’t do, teach, and those who can’t teach…teach gym”- Woody Allen Annie Hall
After submitting two articles to 3 magazines for publication and being rejected I feel I have spent far too long and more than enough time in chasing my elusive fantasy of being a writer  . I’m going to do what I do best in times of difficulty.  I’m going to quit.    It’s time to get serious and utilize my talents.  I’m going to teach creative writing.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before. I need a career, and I’m entirely too awesome for anything as mundane as going to school, grad school and working my way up at some profession. I am a child of the 80s.  We have a warped sense of entitlement, and those of my generation who don’t…well people like me more than make up for it.  I love writing, and even more than that I love feeling smarter than others and dashing their hopes.   Being paid for doing this?  Even better than my all time favorite job of being a roadie for a garage band,
Today there are all kinds of learning annexs and community centers that offer night classes.  This is a bonus for me as I am quite nocturnal…blame it on TV Land, Nick At Nite and Turner Classic Movies.   These learning centers and night classes charge big bucks and I am convinced that many of  the instructors all have fictitious degrees.   I can put together fake qualifications with ease. I have friends in England and Germany who would love nothing more than to give me an extensive contrived work history. Hint:  Accents and bogus qualifications from foreign countries are great.  Who checks on these things?  I could have my friend Silvia write me a glowing recommendation…in German.  Very few of us are strangers to the little white lies that have become mandatory with job histories.  Hell, my current resume has been praised as one of the great works of American fiction of our time. I’ll study some pretentious and obscure words for an interview, invest in a tweed jacket, grow a beard, buy a pipe and voila…I am now Professor Swenson your creative writing teacher.
I have rather pronounced problems with my attention span.  Experts have called it ADD or ADHD, but “disorder” is too mild a word for what I am afflicted with.  I have petitioned the psychiatry and neurology community to come up with a new ailment based soley on me.  “ADC”  Attention Deficit Catastrophe or ADM Attention Deficit Meltdown.  I have even volunteered to be a case study.  I pictured myself contentedly living in a nice clean laboratory with my own tire swing, fresh shredded newspaper, and pretty college co-eds giving me fun experimental drugs, watching me play with colored blocks, etch-a-sketches and trying to teach me sign language. My point I am demonstrating( rather well if you read the last paragraph) is that I have trouble staying on topic.  How in the world could I expect to read and grade 25 or 30 creative writing assignments.?   Well I have thought of this.  I’ll just ask that all assignments to be turned in as a word file so I can just hit the spell check feature, which also corrects grammar.   Then I will print up the papers, grab a red pencil and commence in dashing the hopes of young writers.  Surely no one can fault me for wanting a bitter outlet for my failed writing career.  You can’t keep too much bitterness bottled up inside or you begin to exhibit a  socially unacceptable level of mumbling to yourself or wackaloon persecution theories.  Case in point?  Mr Donald J Trump.
I want to print the papers as one of my many teaching fantasies involves storming up and down rows of desks and publicly humiliating students by throwing their papers at them and announcing their grade to the entire class coupled with biting commentary
“Mr Blatt….F”
“Ms Chestworthy….C minus”
“Ms Corsette…D”
“Mis-ter Mar-Za-lek….D minus…maybe if you spend more time on your work and less time drawing little scribbles in your notebook you might get a better grade”
and so on.
I’m sure I’ll read, or more accurately skim (because that’s how we ADDer’s read) some of my student’s papers.  If I have enough love or hate for a person or a thing, I can muster enough attention to dissect every milligram of minutia.  I’d love to discover a passionate new writer and inspire them.  I would just as passionately assassinate the self esteem of a student who sauntered into my class 3 minutes late, or sends text messages during my brilliant lecture on why George Orwell is the greatest author of all time and anyone who disagrees with me are mistaken.  One of my last English teachers told me that my college banned the use of the dreaded red pencil used by teachers to correct papers since the dawn of time.  She told me that the red pencil was banned because the college had made the decision that it was detrimental to students self esteem.  Upon hearing this, I died a little bit inside, rolled my eyes and blurted out  “But how do you let students know their stupid?  Stickers?”  Like countless teachers before her she glared at me and hissed “Shhh”.
Speaking of stickers, that is one trend in teaching I was sad to see go in first grade.  I loved getting stickers on my papers.  Gold stars, red stars, little Sesame Street characters like Grover giving a thumbs up sign with a big “Great Job” caption.  Teachers had to edit themselves a little back then too as I noticed that Karl Kane our school’s less intelligent version of Forrest Gump never got the Oscar the Grouch sticker with Oscar yelling “Scram” and flashing a green furred middle finger.  I collect stickers now and have some terrifically appropriate ones for  term papers.  I got a sheet of stickers with the “Elmo Goes To The Potty” activity book that sits in my bathroom this very minute.  I bought it for the Cookie Monster images which I collect as well as to combat occasional irregularity.  The “Going to the Potty” sticker set would be perfect for correcting adult ed papers.  There were plenty featuring a smiling Ernie and Bert with a caption reading “Great Job”  or “You learn fast!!” for my favorite students, as well as some with a less than happy  Cookie Monster and the words “Don’t Forget To Flush” for my less than stellar students.   Of course If I wanted to be cryptic and make a student think, I could adorn their paper with a Guy Smiley sticker that reads “Make Sure To Wash Your Hands”.
Yes, stickers will definitely be a part of the curriculum.
Now if you’ll all excuse me, I have a fictional resume to work on.

People Matter

Posted: June 27, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in Uncategorized

Today I was browsing through my inbox and happened across this old piece of mine.  It was written over a year ago when I was in the midst of a soul-sucking job hunt.  I hope my readers will enjoy it.  It is slightly Orwellian and depressing, but hopefully I’ll manage to garner a few laughs too.  Thanks for reading.

Today while browsing the want ads I happened across an ad for servers, bartenders and other staff for a brand new Ruby Tuesdays set to open in Times Square.  During this particularly horrifying and lengthy job hunt I have moved well beyond applying where I’d like to work. In fact, I’ve moved well beyond total and complete desperation…I’m actually a few days short of coming up with a clever sign to hold while begging on subway platforms ( maybe something cute “Please Help” with a backwards letter “S”…  “Aw he’s illiterate honey, give him a quarter”).  So, suffice to say I really don’t want to work for Ruby Tuesdays, and especially not at a Ruby Tuesday’s in Times Square which is a homing beacon for the most annoying, idiotic and cheapest tourists in the universe. However I am not, as my friend Boring Brian used to say, “Too proud to be unemployed”. A job is a job.
So I followed the link to the online application that Ruby Tuesday’s  had set up via a company beautifully ironic name “People Matter”.   I started filling out all the questions…Name, address, references both professional and personal…No, I haven’t been convicted of a felony etc ( at least none that Ruby Tuesdays would ever find out about heheheheh). After 20 minutes of basic info I came to a personality test that according to People Matter should take 40-60 minutes.  Apparently the folks at People Matter assembled a team of sadistic feebs with degrees in psychology and business to assemble the single most idiotic, mundane and redundant hour long questionaire… ever .One could pull more useful information from my ex-girlfriends old Cosmopolitan magazine quizzes that I used to fill out while in the bathroom. “Hey honey, do I satisfy your inner goddess?”   Predictably, most of the  questions  People Matter came up with dealt with honesty, morality and viewpoints on team work.  I happen to love team work except for the other people ( ie The TEAM) involved.  Did the geniuses at People Matter or Ruby Tuesday’s really expect people to answer that they have always found most of their co-workers do be more useless than tits on a bull. Back when RTs had paper applications was there an avalanche of too many applicants who claimed to hate being part of a team. “Hey there is no “I” in “Team”, but there sure as Hell is a there is an M and an E…  ME”
In regards to honesty, had they found that dishonest people generally answer their little survey truthfully? If they wanted accuracy, they should have employed my step mother.  She had 9 kids ( 10 with me) and could always tell when someone was lying. At the very least she could narrow things down to 2 or 3 of her children and punish those culprits.  It prepared us for the justice of adulthood.  I’ll bet she works cheaper than the drones at People Matter .  All of the answers to these questions had vague replies to choose from,”Strongly Agree, Somewhat Agree, Occasionally Agree, Somewhat Disagree, Strongly Disagree”  After the first half an hour of this incredibly redundant stupidity, I started to get annoyed…but hey, I needed the job. Finally I had a minor meltdown at the question: “I obey the law more often if there is a chance I will be caught.” Huh?  Let me see if I understand this question correctly given the answers I am allowed to use.  “I strongly agree that I obey the law more often if there is a chance I will be caught?”  So, if I think I can get away with something I will break the law? Then there is a other end of the  answer spectrum. ” I strongly disagree that I obey the law if there is a chance I will be caught”..I have to be honest here, I  just wrote that last sentence, but I don’t know what it means.
“Have you ever taken anything from work that didn’t belong to you?”  “You mean besides those $50 bills and the wet naps…no, oh wait, I did steal lots of urinal cakes and several gallons of low fat Italian dressing and 6 , no…wait  7 toothpicks, but I can honestly say I have reformed since then…Oh sorry, I mean  Uh  ‘Somewhat Agree”  no… no, scratch that…I mean “Occasionally Agree”
Remember, perspective dishwashers have to go through this rigmarole too.
I want to pause here and say that I have only dined at RTs a couple times in my life. The food was average American chain restaurant fare. If you were to line up the burgers, fries, the chicken stir fry,or buffalo wings from Ruby Tuesday’s, Applebees or TGIFridays, nobody could tell the difference.   RT’s  did have a salad bar complete with…Jello? The only memorable experience I had at RTs was when my moms and I were at a mall and stopped in for a couple burgers. I vividly recall the waitress, a perfectly pleasant young lady, who was overly attentive, bordering on being a pest.  Now this becomes an awkward situation. On one hand I’d like to be able to manage 2 bites of my burger without being asked how everything is 3 or 4 times. On the other hand, one can’t very well get angry with a person who is both trying to be pleasant and attentive as well as doing what their employer tells them. So our options as diners was to be annoyed or be a little rude to a working person doing their best at a difficult job.  Think about it, there is no polite way to tell someone to back off, or leave you alone.  “Can I get you folks anything else?”  “Yeah sweety…20 feet of distance and half an hour free of you…thanks, you’re a dove”
It dawns on me that many of the policy makers at RT’s probably have very little hands on restaurant or service industry experience. They are suits who may have studied restaurants, but probably never worked in one.  These are the people who throw all encompassing statements around like “The customer is always right” .  Oh really?  So, if Customer A drinks 3 or 4 martinis and harasses Customer B at the bar and loudly calls her a “stuck up bitch” when he is rebuffed…then Customer A is always right? Gotcha.  I wish this was a bad example, but things like this happen on a weekly ,if not daily basis in restaurants and bars. Interesting that the brainiacs at People Matter didn’t have any situational or contextual questions like this.That test would have a great deal of validity.  They did, however want to know how many nickels there are in $17.  Does this situation frequently arise at Ruby Tuesdays?  ” I’d like the surf and turf with the fake lobster, the salad bar, but only if the jello is fresh. and a Coors light…and I have this bag of nickels here…” Let me get the manager.  As I continued with the test, I began to wonder what kind of damage a sock full of $17 worth of nickels might cause if brought down repeatedly upon the CEO of People Matter’s pointy little head.
Online applications are a waste of time. Conceptually speaking they sound good  like online dating sites, but all too often they miss the mark, and produce a bad match. “Oh hey this guy sounds great, he likes the opera, he’s a devout Christian and is a New York Rangers fan”  What his little questionnaire probably didn’t cover was how much he delighted in blackening the eyes of his past 3 girlfriends when they burnt his toast or put too much half and half in his coffee.
 People lie, people embellish, people exaggerate and most frequently people just aren’t that self aware.  Online applications punish the honest and self aware and reward liars and the seriously deluded.( If working at Ruby Tuesdays in Times Square could be seen as rewarding) This experienced reminded me of something  I learned  many years ago and that is to immediately cease and desist all conversations with someone who utters the phrase “But, the computer says…”  This person is incapable of complex thought and it is a fools errand, or perhaps more accurately a tools errand.
I am guessing I am not the only person who sees the delicious irony in the company’s name “People Matter“.  The very fact that you designed this exercise in idiocy for a multinational corporation that treats it’s staff like dried dogshit goes to show that people really don’t matter so much… I suppose in fairness “People Don’t Matter” isn’t really a corporate name that inspires interest and trust, unless perhaps if it is an advanced robotics company. One would think if people mattered then they’d have, oh I don’t know, a person doing the interviewing. According to my mother and my best friend, I am both a nice boy and a special, unique little snowflake…and I strongly agree.
 I’m a firm believer in letting punishments fit the crime.  I would love for the people who designed these tests to be locked in a stuffy and humid room and told to fill out their own questionnaires with broken pencils and to have a violent gun totaling amphetamine addict twitching while pacing back and forth and keeping time for them.  The real pity was the meltdown I experienced 40 minutes into the questionnaire causing me to quit….According to People Matter, this makes me what is known in the industry as a  “Quitter”. It’s probably also a little sad to note that 40 minutes is my meltdown point with such things.  Maybe the folks at People Matter know this and that anyone who can manage to plow through and finish will actually be hired.  I wish I was a little more sad at the prospect of not being Ruby Tuesday’s material.
In addition to People Matter, I am having a small spat  with a recruiting company called “Harri”.  Over the past 3 weeks I have received responses to the resumes I have sent out.  I see the mail in my in- box and instantly cheer up a little.  Finally someone is responding, finally a potential job, only to be denied. simply wants my resume and application to pad their numbers.  I resent the deceit.  I resent my situation being exploited.  I resent pretending that I will have a job if I just fill out their questionnaire.   I tried to be a well adjusted and wrote a couple nice emails to and asked them that while I understand that they are trying to grow their business, but would it be possible to not do this at my expense?  I expressed very clearly that I had no interest in dealing with Harri ( Short for Harried I’m guessing).  Harri wrote back and expressed sorrow, but, no they were not going to leave me alone.  Then they signed me up for their mailing list..  Sites like Harri make me understand why people design computer viruses.
I just want a damn job. I have an extensive resume filled with a solid work history and great references.  Furthermore I am a good worker.  I am reliable, hardworking and I take a lot of initiative to go above and beyond the call of duty regularly. Being unemployed, I am already jumping through plenty of hoops in the hopes of landing a new job.  I spend time, effort and money to dress nicely, to travel to and from interviews and open calls, to print up copies of my resume etc.  I’m an honest person. With the exception of the occasional stray buffalo wing, I don’t steal.  With the exception of needing to take a personal day or two every year, I don’t lie to my employers either, and i wouldn’t have to lie if I was given 2 personal days a year.  
People looking for work in today’s job market have more than enough flaming hoops to jump through without adding more hoops or applying more lighter fluid.