So, my mom tells me on Tuesday, "I'll be in town for the next five days."
I think, "cool" and then regret everything.
I'm working at the moment. I'm working in Wilmington, so I have about three hours of commute time each day. I leave home before dawn, and return home after dark. It's inconvenient, but it'll be over soon. Not, however, before my mom comes to town and leaves again. So, for the first three days of her visit, I'll be largely unavailable. I make this clear to her, and let her know that I'll be holding Saturday for her visiting enjoyment. I have to cancel plans on that day, but I don't mind.
My mom lives in Vermont half the year, and Florida the other half. There are years where I do not get to see her AT ALL, except for the brief window when she's moving from one state to the other.
So I'm glad that she's coming to town, I get to see her, and then it'll be months until I see her again. That last part is a bummer, but at least she gets to live in nice places and select her climate and all.
So I don't get to see her Wednesday or Thursday. On Friday, I risk angering my project manager and sneak out a little early, and get to see her briefly at my brother's house on Friday night. It's late, though, and we're all tired. I drive her back to my sister's house and tell her to call me if she needs a ride down to my house on Saturday, or if she'll just show up whenever's good.
On Saturday, I have a four hour CLE class in the morning. It sucks. It's all about how you can make hundreds of thousands of dollars off millionaires trying to screw other millionaires out of money. The lawyers are awful, the accountants are drones, the bankers keep trying to make it seem like they have interests other than charging you interest, but failing to accomplish anything of the sort.
It sucks, but I'm going to have a much better afternoon. I skip out of there and call my mom, who, after a morning of trying to help my sister run a garage sale in her trainwreck of a house, is probably looking forward to getting out of there.
That's fine, she's probably busy. She'll see I called and call me when it's time to get lunch, or hang out and watch college football, or whatever.
I wait five hours.
I get a text from her that makes no sense. That's fine, old people aren't good at texting. I wait a little longer, and get a text that makes a little more sense. "We have left Jen's".
I text back, "Are you on your way here?"
The response is in broken English and an old person's attempt to use text slang. It basically says that her husband came back from wherever he was, and told her they were going to go have dinner with some people she's never met. And she hopes she gets to see more of me next time.
It's been about two hours since then. I'm upset, but I'm not certain about what.
My sister monopolized my mom's time since she got to town, so I could be angry about that. I'm not, because that's just what my sister does. I could be angry that my mom lets herself be manipulated like that, but again, that's just what my mom does. I could be angry that her husband didn't take my plans into consideration, but... you get the point.
I basically have no room to bitch. Everyone else wanted something, or wanted to please someone, and they got it. They got it by acting (or failing to act) in accordance with their selfishness. Good for them.
I just let my mom know that I was happy to see her, and it would have been nice to have seen a little more of her. But other people's needs are important, and that's fine.
I turn 40 in a week.
--7:22 PM EDT, Philadelphia, PA, come pick me up / I've landed
I'm lying awake in my bed listening for the sound of little claws on hardwood floor.
We took Abby to her last vet appointment on Friday, and I am not okay yet. I've had to be "okay" the whole time, because that's Ingrid's best friend for most of the last 14 years, and she is absolutely entitled to be as broke up as she wants, for as long as she wants. I have her back on that. But man, I did not think I was going to be lying up at night thinking about a little dog.
Ingrid asked me today if I thought I projected a tough guy image, if I thought I had everyone fooled. I assured her I had no such delusions. But still.
There's dog food, and dog beds, and a coat hook rack on that wall that says "WOOF". There's the treats we bought for her last week, when we got her new medicine for her other problems, and the special dog food the vet let us have as samples. I checked to make sure her bowl was where she could get it earlier tonight.
This dog is not gone. This dog is going to be in my head for a while, making me ask if I made sure there was water, or if I took her for enough walks, or was a good human? Was I her human?
Ingrid is already talking about our next dog. I understand that. Fill the empty spot with another little friend who needs a home, who needs love. It's an ideal solution. I need a little time though, or the dog in my head is going to torture me for replacing her so soon.
I didn't mind Abby when she came to live with me and Ingrid, but I firmly established that she was Ingrid's dog. I'd help out, but I wasn't going to form some kind of bond with some little froofy, punting-sized stuffed animal.
I had no goddamn idea.
--2:11 AM, EST, Mt. Airy, PA, isn't it rich?
You should not try to post a really long, really passionate journal entry from your phone.
You will accidentally hit the "back" button with your clumsy fat thumb enough times to delete three journal entries' worth of text.
--7:56 PM, EDT, Philadelphia, PA, damn the man
So. No work since October. Ingrid goes away for three weeks to visit her nephew. I am home alone with the dog. If you look back an entry or two in this journal, you'll notice that I got an interview -- but only at such a time as would inconvenience me.
The universe wants me to know that I can try and get a job, but I won't get any bites until it is problematic for me to pursue them. In this case, I am the only one watching Abby, therefore, I will be needed for ninety minutes of interviews in the city.
IT GETS BETTER.
I did not get that job. That job was for one person, not the usual group hire, and among any group of candidates I'm sure there's enough that looks iffy on my resume' for a hiring partner to turn her nose up at. That's fine. However...
A few days later, I get offered another gig. Mind you, I haven't heard fuck all from recruiters and placement agents in eight months. Now that it's inconvenient for me, twice in one week. [french] Remarkable' [/french]
This job is in Wilmington. I do not live in Wilmington. I do not even live in Delaware. And yet, here is this offer.
I inquire about the possibility of differential pay to reflect the pain in the ass location of the position. My agent does not so much laugh as withhold his full contempt, repeating the pay rate. Which is not impressive. I state my diffidence, but reaffirm that I will take any work whatsoever. At this point, I cannot be a chooser.
A day or two later, I am selected. My agent wants to know for certain if I am on-board. I repeat my misgivings and my desperation, which translates in the affirmative. The first week of work is only two days, so I decide to drive one day, and take the train the next.
Driving to Wilmington from where I live is the Platonic ideal of an inconvenient car ride. You can't get there from here. You have to go a couple towns over, pick up the highway, take that to the bigger highway which happens to be the main conduit for all traffic between Philadelphia and Wilmington (and all points north and all points south). Add to this a recent bridge collapse in Delaware closing the bypass around Wilmington, causing all, ALL, traffic to flow on the main route.
It is not a nice time. It's too long, when you're done you're in fucking Delaware, you have to pay to park, and then you have to go to work. Not that I'm not grateful for the job, but I've been quite content with my job as dog-walker and tea-brewer to Miss Goree. This is a far sight from my last eight months. A far sight.
Then you have to do it all again to get home. At rush hour both times, worse south when going south, and worse north when going north.
I naturally prefer the next day, when I take SEPTA regional rail to and from work. There's more walking involved, but that's good for you and it's nice to spend a little time in the fresh air (or whatever they have in Wilmington) when your job is clicking the mouse for eight hours. Now, sure, the ride home was delayed, and Amtrak screwed up things for SEPTA, and the train I was riding got cancelled while I was riding it, but so what? You just wait for the next train, read your book, work on your afghan (still working on that) and relax. Enjoy.
Now, if you've been following the theme of this post - a cruel universe working to personally inconvenience me - you'll know what happened with SEPTA at 12:01, Saturday, June 14th.
--6:33 PM, EDT, Philadelphia, PA, You're the Great One, I'm Marty McSorley / I make the dough, but you get the glory
The government did something.
The media - part of it - got up in arms about it.
The media - the other part of it - got up in arms about what the first part said.
People hear these rumblings and have opinions about the rumblings.
Those people post things on the internet to express their opinions about it.
Some of those things are objectionable to me.
I was briefly upset about them until I thought about how goddamn meaningless it all is. Literally, I was going to get worked up about a meme posted by someone who felt that news coverage of someone reacting to government action was judgmental and overweening.
Christ, I need a job.
2:15 PM, EDT, Philadelphia, PA, I could feel something's not right / I could feel someone blasting me with hate
In the temp ("Document Review") business, in 2013, in Philadelphia, you get paid $28/hour with a chance for $42 overtime (not guaranteed) or you get paid $30/hour with no chance for overtime pay (work after 40 hours may be required, you will not be paid extra for it).
As a temp, you earn this rate based on your capacity to practice law. You need to have passed the bar exam in at least one state to do this work.
The people who pay you are the temp agencies. They pay you $28 for each hour, and are in turn paid about three or four times that. They are paid by the law firms. The law firms bill the work that you do at two or three times what the temp agencies are paid. One example I've seen is $28/hour to the temp, $75/hour to the agency, and $225/hour billed to the client by the firm. You need to have passed the bar so that these law firms can tell the client "Your matter is being handled only by licensed professionals, and there's so much work we had to bring on additional lawyers."
The law firm earns thousands of dollars every hour off the work that a dozen temps do, and pays them a couple hundred. It is a great business practice, as long as you are not one of those temps.
--yours truly, one of those temps
--9:11 AM, EDT, Philadelphia, PA, this is not my beautiful house
The last seven months: sitting on my couch, sending out resumes, trying not to feel like a complete failure.
Last week: went to Santa Fe for part of a week to visit family. Felt very conflicted about it, since I haven't had an income in over half a year. But we had a lot of help getting out there, and it was a great trip. That part of the country is beautiful.
This week: home without Ingrid. That's a change, since we've basically been joined at the hip since moving in together. She's staying out west to spend time with her sister and new nephew, and I'm totally in favor of that. I just miss her. But I have Abby to watch, so it's not like I have nothing to do.
Yesterday: the jackoffs who find me work -- and who haven't found me sweet F.A. in seven months -- want me to come into the city Monday to interview for a project "estimated to last one month". (Translation from bullshit: Estimated to last about as long as it takes you to get used to working there.) Interviews are almost unheard of in the temp business. I mean, they're temps. You hire a coyote to go get you some, and they show up in their stupid suits, hoping to impress someone with their hard work and maybe get a job as a real big boy lawyer. Which will not happen, because your job is to minimize costs, not create opportunities.
Today: I have to hire someone to watch my dog while I go ACTUALLY TRY and get back into this bullshit job treadmill again. So, regardless of today's interview outcome, I will be out a couple bucks (which I do not have, mind). And the outcomes are either: 1) get a job for a few weeks, which will not be enough to resume getting unemployment benefits, develop no chances for full time work, pay for a train pass which will probably outlive the project, pay to have the dog walked while I'm in the city, or 2) stay unemployed with no benefits, no prospects, no girlfriend, and a dog who ostensibly likes me.
This is what I can hope for today.
--9:02 AM, EDT, Philadelphia, PA, they can kill you, but the legalities of eating you are a bit trickier
Ingrid and I leave in a few days for a trip to New Mexico. Ingrid needs to see her baby nephew real bad and I am obligated to attend her. I am currently out of work, so the very concept of a trip to another part of the country is abhorrent to me. I cannot align Not Having Income with Doing Anything But Looking For Work.
We have two full days between now and departure. I am already developing cold sores from the stress of it all. We have someone housesitting (after my niece failed her responsibility roll and bitched out on us), so we have to prepare the house for company and make it a place that our sitter won't just say, "You know, screw this whiny dog, I'm out."
This morning, I decide to get a mile or two of walking in, since we'll probably walk about that much between trains and planes and layovers and rental car places. I do not do this in the morning, for fear of a rain forecast. In the afternoon, having done some dishes and made a list of things for our housesitter, I decide to go.
I pick up my messenger bag (manpurse) and notice that my headphones are dragging along with it. Why is this? Apparently, left unattended, headphone wires infiltrate zippers. And not even the wholly-predictable "got caught in the" zipper, but actually entwined in the zipper's head. The little eye that holds down the zipper pull? Somehow, my headphone wire is THROUGH that eye. It looks physically impossible. And yet.
So, provable noncausality aside, this is not a big deal, I'll just fix it. It's a small problem, I'm a grown man, I (and when I say "I" I of course mean "Ingrid") have a tool kit. Let's just apply our minds and our leverage to see this through.
Ten minutes later, I have ruined the finish on the zipper head, the wire is still in there, and I'm cursing at an empty stairwell.
Since the zipper is already Baghdad, I don't really display much concern in my further efforts. Maybe this is why it finally works - having accomplished its goal of enraging me, there's no need to retain the wire any longer.
Momentarily relieved, I separate the zipper and the wire and then renew my efforts to go out and walk the earth like Caine from Kung Fu. I place the headphones around my neck and go to zip up the bag.
Except now the zipper pull is gone, since I just opened up the eye that holds it in place.
Resume impotent rage and cursing. (Keep in mind, Ingrid is about seven feet from me for most of this process. She's working. She has a job. What's my problem?) I have to search on my hands and knees for a bit before locating it, and then I have to figure out how to re-close the eye so it won't promptly drop the pull again.
Okay, there. Good. Deep breaths. We have a bag that can zip shut, we have headphones so we can listen to Adam WarRock music on our errands. We will accomplish things and feel a sense of peace. I do not have much, and look forward to less, but I will have this.
I step outside and a raindrop smacks me in the forehead.
--4:15 PM, EDT, Philadelphia, PA, i don't sleep, cuz sleep is the cousin of death
Today I applied for a job where I interview sexual offenders to see how they should be treated after release from prison or treatment. The job description specifies this will be "hazardous" and "you will not be permitted to carry weapons".
In related news, my unemployment benefits ended.
--5:13 PM, EDT, Philadelphia, PA, it's just like going to sleep
Still no joy. This economy is killing me.
I don't use credit cards because I don't like the nebulous nature of fake money. Is my balance zero? It is, except there are fees, and you owe us $0.03 on the $1.00 we charge you for not using the card, and while you paid the $1.00, we did not receive the $0.03 and now you owe $25 in nonpayment fees, for which you also owe us $0.75, which will not appear on your statement.
So, last year, I call up the company and I say, "Cancel it, you people are vultures, why should I pay $100 every year to be allowed to have your credit card, which I do not use?"
They reply, "No sweat. Though, you'll lose all the flyer miles you've built up."
"...how many miles are we talking about?"
"About 25,000. Enough for a free roundtrip anywhere in the US."
"...dammit. All right, keep it open, here's $100."
Later that year, they said I had forfeited all those miles because I did not use my card. I didn't understand this concept, but I gave them some more money to return my accumulated miles to me. Understand, I didn't get anything in return for that money. It was just $30 or something for them to say, "Okay, yeah, now I see the 25,000 miles."
In a different context, this is called extortion.
So, this year, again having not used my credit card, they told me I had again forfeited my miles. At this point, I'm ready to accept the loss of one roundtrip flight (without Ingrid, unless we pay for it) just to get off this damn treadmill. To wrap it up completely, I called the credit card company and told them to cancel it. I'd read ahead and knew they'd try to convince me to stay, but I wasn't going to agree to pay $100 annually in any circumstance.
I call in, and they're a little short, a little rude. (And why not? Can you imagine if your job was to talk to people about money, in this economy? Everyone's poor, and you have to tell them they owe you an extra $25 this month. Everyone who isn't poor is pissed off about not being richer than they are, and everyone who's rich is pissed off about everyone else hating them. Okay, actually, the rich people have people who handle this sort of crap for them, but still. Not an easy job.) I tell them I'm canceling because I don't want to pay $100 every year to have a credit card I don't use.
"Shall we change your account so that there is no annual fee?"
Okay, fine, great, but look here: what the hell have I been paying $100 a year for for the past eight years? Flyer miles, sure, but then the CS person tells me I will still earn them with the no-annual fee card. So, basically, I was paying them because I agreed to pay them.
I feel like this is just further evidence that no two people perceive money in the same way. It makes me feel like my class-struggle perceptions are needlessly attenuated; a copy of a copy of a handwritten note describing a photograph.
My next step is to stop acknowledging money altogether and begin using a system of moral and ethical economics. Do good, or do well, and be paid in kind.
--12:28 PM, EDT, Philadelphia, PA, my pastor, and my grandfather, who is dead
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