While I was in Vermont, visiting my mom and remembering how great Vermont (and my mom) are, I got some emails about a new project coming up from an agency that hasn't gotten me any work for quite some months. Years, even. My phone was ringing too, but fuck that, I was on a mountain somewhere in New England. If you answer your phone for work reasons, they're allowed to deport you.
So, this project: usual pay rate, two week duration, and the unusual step of requiring a background check before you can be considered. Not sure what that's about, but I've been unemployed for about two weeks, I should get back in the rut. I mean, groove. No, actually, I think I had it right the first time.
I get home, and the emails continue, and there's this whole online application rigamarole I have to go through to apply. Not to get the job, just to apply. And the damn thing is only going to last two weeks. A bunch of nonsense, sure, but as stated: I should really get back to having a paycheck. And they... they want my social security number.
Understand, this never happens. Sometimes they ask if you've ever had an ethics violation or what kinds of doc review you've done. But never this level of scrutiny. This is weird. I almost don't hit "submit" at the end, because I have no idea who will be receiving this.
Anyway, I get the job. They send me a location and instructions to wear a suit on the first day. I think that's a bit stupid, because we aren't working at a law firm (this agency has its own review space), but whatever. Small price to blah blah blah, whatever you do, do it 100 percent blah blah.
Then it gets good.
This douchebag with 90's hair and his shirt unbuttoned to his nipples tells us we've all been vetted so stringently because this project is REALLY confidential, you guys. OH MAN, the client is MAJOR LEAGUE CONFIDENTIAL, for reals. (Being very confidential is like being a little bit pregnant. Or very unique.) And all of us in our suits look great, but there's no need to dress up, ha ha.
...so, why were we told to do so?
Next douchebag announcement: We really want to hit the ground running so we can get this project wrapped by Friday. (murmuring and discussion among the temps) "Do you... do you mean next Friday?" No, no, we think we can really accomplish a lot up front and get it done by this Friday. (flat murmuring) "We were told this would be a two week project." Oh, sure! Yeah, we're going to have more for you do, definitely. This is just the first part. Yeah.
Please note: this is Labor Day week, so the work week started on Tuesday. That means we were sold nine days of work, and then bait-and-switched for four.
Well, great. At least doc review is still full of liars and assholes. It would be jarring if I went back to the grind and found that integrity and decency had taken hold and all the people were good to one another. HA HA HA HA HA
So, we temps will be working for the agency that hired us (who shall remain nameless for exactly as long as they can still find me a buck). They are subcontracting the work from another company that does doc review from South Carolina. They are only handling this matter - they are not counsel for the client. The SC firm is subcontracting this matter from another firm that is handling the larger universe of litigation for YET ANOTHER law firm that actually represents the client. So, I think that makes me an independent contractor (because god forbid we get benefits or humane treatment) working for a subcontractor handling local efforts on behalf of a general subcontractor handing specific matters for a general contractor handling general matters for a law firm which represents a client.
And the punchline is they think I should treat the "attorney-client relationship" between me and the client with respect. I can't even see the client at the end of this fucking corporate line of bullshit. I don't even know if there is a client. Maybe I'm on a nightmarish reality TV show. Maybe I'm dead, and this is purgatory.
Additional hits from the worst haircut in law, three years running: "If you see (Account Exec)'s name, be sure and look hard for reasons to make it privileged. (Account Exec) was involved with a lot of important communications, so we'd like to keep those protected." Temp: "But... he's not a lawyer?" Douchebro: "That's correct. He talks to a lot of lawyers, though, so try and use that." Temp, to me: "...did he just ask us to make non-attorney communications privileged?"
"The office will be open from eight to eight. So, if you can work twelve hour days, please do." Insert sound of overly competitive failed lawyers lunging at their computers to try and get as many hours in as possible before we all get fired. "Overtime will be paid after forty hours." Collective gasp of astonishment until some cynical bastard points out that since we started on a Tuesday at 9 AM, we can only work 47 hours this week. And the thundering herd of nincompoops working themselves out of job will guarantee that there isn't enough work to last that long to even get 40.
I confess: I am that cynical bastard.
The work itself was fine: privilege review for an insurance merger. The bright-eyed kids all want to talk about antitrust and other shit that's way above their pay grade. I worked three eight hour days and didn't worry about it too much. One day I ate my lunch in Rittenhouse Square and watched dogs walk by. It was nice.
You may be wondering why I said "three eight hour days" above. Well, consider the part further up where I say this industry is all liars and assholes. Afternoon on Thursday, people start notice the work is drying up. I advise them to make it last, and we probably won't be called back for Friday. They scoff and remind me we were told it would go THROUGH Friday! They said! They... they said.
I confess: I am that cynical bastard.
We were all fired via email that night. Nothing about this project was unusual. No one fought it, no one objected to it, no one insisted that words have meaning and that by contravening what they had stated, they had become liars. It was understood.
--9:29 PM, EDT, Philadelphia, PA, nobody speak, nobody get choked
So I have been employed at this current project since October (?) 2015. I know this because when I enter my timecard in the system, I have to click through each month that has passed since then. It's getting ridiculous.
The job has been very undemanding, and they really thought it would have settled by now, but it hasn't, and as a result I continue to report for billable hours. (Fewer now, they reduced me from 40 hours to 30 when the SEPTA train shortage occurred. Basically, I couldn't get to work on time without getting on a 5:55 AM train to catch the 8:39 Wilmington. And fuuuuck that.)
I was planning on a trip up to Quebec when this project ended. Go see my mom, travel off the beaten path, see more of Canada. But between deciding to travel and now, Ingrid got pushed around at work, and began thinking about quitting. Ingrid is the reason we have a house and food and are not dead, so I am not about to suggest she do anything but what's best for her. But it means I can't be spending walkabout money when we might have an immediate need for staying-alive money.
Though, this just fits into my usual routine: Either I'm working, and I can't afford to take time off and "leave money on the table", or I'm not working, and I can't afford not to be available for when work makes itself available, and I can't afford to be spending money I'm not earning. It's bad logic, and I'm afraid it's informing a lot of the modern day "middle class."
I wonder if I'm middle class. It could go three ways, right?
Sigh. Everything is really good right now. The Waffle King visited the hemisphere this month and I curried favor to gain an audience, and we talked about the range between "how you'd like things to be" and "how things are." Things are really good right now, and being able to focus on that should help with the things that aren't: uncertainty, debt and career.
--11:19 AM, EDT, 8/13/2016, Philadelphia, PA, Feather elves aren't elves at all!
Usually, when Ingrid goes away, I jokingly tell members of my family that they will need to feed me, or else I will starve to death. Well, it's 4th of July weekend, so Ingrid is in Boone. So far, my sister is in Dallas, my dad is in Binghamton, my brother is at Weezer, and my mom lives in some other state. So, probably no updates after this one, after they FIND MY SHRIVELED, MALNOURISHED CORPSE.
(I'm only joking. My corpse will still be fat in the gut, and skinny at the extremities. Unless the dog starts eating me.)
So, yeah, three day weekend with Lennie, the dog who wants to play ha ha no just kidding she wants to bite your finger off if you even THINK about petting her again. She's definitely a cat. I just wish the shelter had told us before we took her home.
The best thing about the Saturday of a three day weekend is not having to read all the whining on Facebook about how you wish you were on vacation already. "Ugh still at work on Wednesday blech THE WORST" was the peak of it, I think. Got me thinking about #firstworldproblems: you have a job. You have a job that gives you July 4th off. You get to go away for a few days. And your response is to bitch about it?
I get it, everyone bitches about something, it's healthy to do so. It's just frustrating to know that while people are going hungry, dying in the heat, and unable to care for their children, my friends are sooooo despondent about only getting a four day weekend when Lance in accounting is getting six.
Sigh. Fuck it. I'll go back to sitting in my air-conditioned mostly-paid-for-by-my-girlfriend luxury accomodation. I may be alone, I may have bite marks on my fingers, and I may have student loan payments that I've been deferring for a year show back up this month, but I'll try and maintain a sense of perspective about it.
--11:24 AM, EDT, Philadelphia, PA, everybody needs a hobby
What I've been up to:
I'd write more but I have a train to catch. Summer is here, and it's cooler than we deserve.
--6:43 AM, EDT, Philadelphia, PA, when I want to say I love you, I say boop
No updates in a couple months because I've been WORKING YEAH BOY THAT'S RIGHT
Couple-week project turned into two month project turned into four-five month project, the last month of which has been a lot of not actually working. Getting paid, mind you, but not really doing any real work. It's been great.
So, I have long commutes and time to read and time to crochet and money coming in and it'll all be over soon, I'm sure.
--9:06 PM EDT, 4/1/16, "you'll be back / time will tell / you'll remember that I served you well"
I wrote and deleted a post from December, and saved this excerpt:
"So, good news, that thing I was worrying about was true and I should’ve done the thing."
--6:31 AM, EST, Philadelphia, PA, never let me down
It has not been a great week.
Last week, I went in for a physical. Generally speaking, I don't care for doctors, or the parade of bullshit that going to the doctor entails. My current doctor has an online site that you have to use if you want to schedule an appointment. Each of the last three times I tried to use it, they called me on the phone to schedule it.
At the physical, the doc tells me my blood pressure is high. Of course it is, doc. She bumps up my medication by a fraction, which means I need a fractional prescription, which I can add to my existing prescription. No big deal. Just another kink in what could have been a simple transaction.
Then my mom came to town. I recently asked her for some financial assistance, since I am (four months now?) unemployed, and Sallie Mae keeps asking for their monthly pound of flesh. She said she couldn't help me, which is a pity, but it's not her job to be responsible for my financial failings. (Actually, she cosigned my loans, so she literally is responsible for my financial failings. Which makes me feel super good, I tell ya.)
On her visit to PA, I took her to see our cousin and his new baby, and then our other cousin and her less new babies. It was basically a "you've made me a failure as a grandmother" tour. I cannot apologize enough, ma.
Later that week we had dinner, and then pie and cake for a family birthday. (Not mine. Forgetting my birthday is the new family tradition.) And it turns out a significant percentage of my family smokes weed, and my mom is tired of lying about it. I thought that was a good thing, though she's not willing to let my teenaged relations ask open questions about it or try it. Little does she know...
So this week, I get a job offer. First one in months! I say yes, they ask if that means I'm interested, I remember that this is a business of liars and the lying lies they tell, I say I really really want to work. It starts Thursday. It's in Wilmington. It could be worse, but it's still pretty fucking bad. But work is work. I'll take it.
I also have to have an uncomfortable call with the student loan people. See, I asked them if I could go on income-based repayment, because the rules for that are very sweet and supportive to the failed loan-taker. They said yes, but then they screwed up all the details so that not only can I not get any help for my private loans (I knew that) they treated each of my loans like a single debt, so I didn't get the help I needed, and the minimum payment I was offered by the federal government became 7x the minimum payment - one for each individual loan.
Fuck. Well, some light will dawn with this job. Right?
Except, the stress of all this shit is hovering around me like a vulture. And naturally, it strikes when I need it not to: right before this job. Sudden crippling back spasms, impairing my ability to walk or stand upright. It's impossible for me to imagine getting to Philly and then Wilmington - even on a train - with this pain and weakness.
So, I better go see the doctor again. HA HA HA. Actually, I lucked out, I got in to see a doctor. It went like this:
DOC: So, back spasms?
ME: Yeah, I wouldn't be in here complaining about it, but I really need to go to work tomorrow. I've been unemployed for months.
DOC: Cool. Try yoga, and call us back if you think you want to eventually get a physical therapist.
I could go on, but you get the notion. I ask about medication, and he gives me some bullshit about positivity and core strength. He also drops this pearl on me: "It's all connected. If you hate this job you're going to, find something you really love. Then the stress and the back pain will resolve itself." But for right now, no, you can't have any medication that will help you get a job you need to stay out of default. Sorry. Next.
If one more happily-employed, independently wealthy motherfucker could say this to me, that would be great. My unemployed, can't-stand-up, miserable ass loves hearing all about it.
So here I am, at home at 3 PM on a weekday, back hurts, might not be able to stand up tomorrow morning. And I'll find out at 6 AM when my alarm goes off for the 2.5 hour commute to Wilmington whether I get to do it or not. And I cannot believe that staggering to work in Delaware while my back periodically stops working... this is my preferred outcome.
--Philadelphia, PA, 2:48 PM, EDT, 10/21/15, "was it a millionaire / who said imagine no possessions"
amusing postscript: The loan company made me promise them a $150 payment for "good faith" when I asked for a couple of months of grace. This doctor visit cost me $25 to be told "you should stretch some". Being poor is expensive.
So no work through September, and none on the horizon. I will probably default on my loans before New Year's -- well, they warn you a few months before actually sending you into default, but I'll owe so much by then that it won't matter.
Refreshed some of my job search site information. Got my PA website data up-to-date and available to all employers, which means I should see an uptick in spam statistics any minute.
Applied to be a bodily injury insurance claim reviewer, an AUSA, and a contracts project supervisor. I won't get the first one for inexperience, I won't get the second one because of networking, and I won't get the third one because of overqualification.
It's hard trying to figure a way out of your situation when all the routes say "This probably won't work".
Sorry again about the sadness. But hey, think how I feel.
--10:17 AM EDT, 9/17/2015, Philadelphia, PA, it's the money
No work at the current moment. There's a mention in a journal entry from June that says a project got postponed 2-6 weeks. It still hasn't happened.
My loans are down to $87,000 but my savings are exhausted. Ingrid has about had it with me sitting around the house, but nothing but the shitty work I can get through temping pays well enough to make my loan payments.
It was good to see Icculus.org this weekend, since he had forgotten I still had a journal on his server. I meant to ask him what the FTP protocol was to change the intro and title files was. I don't even think I have Fugu installed on this computer.
Same old, same old. You could probably graph the content of this journal by moaning despair content, and get a flat line.
--12:38 AM, EDT, 9/1/2015, Mt. Airy, Philadelphia, PA, beware folks, dia de los muertos
That last post was written God-only-knows-when, and posted tonight. I gotta remember to datestamp these things.
Work is terrible. I've had two projects since the first of the year, total time worked about six weeks. And it's goddamn June. Had a lead on a project, but in Wilmington, and it's been postponed for two to six weeks.
I took enough money out of my savings to cover my student loan payment for July, but there's not enough left in there to cover August. I guess I hope I get work, and a lot of work, between now and then.
Things are bad. Ingrid's going to leave town for a week for her daddy's birthday and Boonestock. I have to stay home with the dog, or work reduced hours to leave for Wilmington and get back before her bladder bursts. Also, the dog has demonstrated in the past that she doesn't like it when we leave her. All of this assumes there's even going to be work, in the first place.
My choices are no work, which will destroy my credit and eventually stick my mom with my debt (co-signed); and work, which will enrage the dog, remind me that the only thing I can do as a career is high-priced data entry, and take three hours a day coming and going.
Things are bad. I don't really have options. I apply for jobs that I am either unqualified for, or too qualified for, and never hear back.
And this crap is why I don't post journal entries for months at a time.
--9:40 PM, EDT, 6/15/2015, Not enough ice cream in the world for this
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