Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Building of an Immaculate Resume, Pt. 2

While I was looking for a job I started writing a little about the jobs I've had in my past which run the gamut from mundane to kind of insane. Last time went from 16 to 18, basically my junior year in high school to the summer after my freshman year of college.

Upward Bound: During my sophomore year of college, I worked for Upward Bound, a federally funded education program for "at-risk" youths. I was a tutor working with a couple students in Tacoma. Once or twice a week I would go up to Tacoma to meet my students after school and go over their homework in specific subjects. As someone only a year and a half removed from hardly ever doing their homework for the majority of the second half of high school, it was difficult for me to put much feeling behind convincing my students that it was indeed important for them to take care of their homework. Looking back on it, this was probably the first time I was really prompted to think about how having an ambivalent attitude towards achievement and success means something completely different to someone of whom those things are expected and the groundwork is laid for versus someone who is not particularly expected to do anything special (by themselves, their family, society, etc.) While I didn't do a particularly great job of following up with my students towards the end of the school year, I did have a couple of moments of success and feeling like I was making some sort of impact. At one point I was explaining to one of my students something very basic about how the economy works, and at one point he stopped and said, "damn, that's the first time that's ever made sense to me." That was pretty sweet.

Next was a very short-lived but quite memorable experience. It was the summer after my sophomore year of college and I moved off campus with a couple of friends to live in Olympia proper. As per my (quite reasonable) agreement with my parents, while I was not in school and not living at home, rent would now be completely my responsibility. I went to an employment agency in town, took some test, and was called in a couple of days to start work as an assistant maintenance worker on the 4 PM-Midnight shift at the Dart Styrofoam Factory. Did I have any type of maintenance experience? Absolutely not. Luckily the job didn't take too much technical know-how.

While I had clear moral issues with working for a styrofoam producer, it was actually pretty fascinating. If you've never actually been in a real factory before, it is like an elaborate game of Mouse Trap. In a styrofoam factory there is a huge vat of little particles which are basically like a fine dusting of powdery snow. The particles are then sucked up through a tube and sent to the various stations, each of which make a different product. Some combination of the particles and very hot water are pressed onto a mold for a couple of seconds forming the particular product. A poof of air then shoots the cup (or bowl or what have you) off the mold and onto a conveyor belt where they stack themselves as they are packaged in the bag then get shot into a plastic bag which is cut off, and voila! you've got a styrofoam product ready to be shipped.

I worked at the factory for an epic 6 days, cleaning out the moldings, vaccuuming styrofoam particles, mowing the grounds on a riding mower (!), taking naps in the warehouse, and fanticising about starting the worker revolution. The my roommate hooked me up with a job at the bakery half a block from our house, and I said to myself, "two minute walk to work? unlimited bagels and baked goods? Sorry worker revolution, but I'm a sucker for a chocolate macaroon."

Next Time: Bakeries and selling my body to science


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dip Dip Dippin'

The other day I took some pictures on my blackberry hoping to share some of the non-suckiness of my work-life. However I have been in a fight with my computer and the blackberry all day trying to get the proper software onto my computer, and so far I am losing. I would have taken pictures with my camera but that was in my bag which got stolen out of the truck a few weeks ago. So no pictures for now.

Instead, I will provide you with this, which has been in my head for days:

I've always been fascinated by the crowd/performer dynamic in these types of performances from the early days of tv when it seems like both the crowd and the performer are still learning about how they're supposed to act. I'm sure there's been some analysis of this that is far more articulate than anything I'm going to come up with here. I will just describe it as a captivating mix of awkward and amazing. Also, I love this type of very simple choreographed dance, although this is a bit of a lackluster example. I would be very excited to amass a collection of the best examples of vocal-band choreographed dance steps. If you've got any ideas, please do share.


ps, there is nothing lackluster about this:

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Strict Policy of Isolationism

Things went well today, which I'll get to some other time, but I just wanted to post a quick response to Jeffrey Beaumont's comment from a couple posts ago:

my heart was seizing with anxiety just reading this. a few blog posts on your job is working harder than anything to dispel all my romantic notions of the isolationist glories of being a truck driver.

The potential for isolationist glories is definitely there. When I am actually on the road, have gotten enough sleep, and there are no imminent crises on the horizon, this stuff can be pretty great for a person with isolationist tendencies like myself. Getting to drive upstate and see the intense changing of the landscape from week to week is pretty awe-inspiring when you're a city kid. A couple weeks ago I thought I somehow got lost going to one of the farms that I know my way to inside and out, but then I realized that the leaves had just changed so dramatically over the last week that it looked like a completely different place. Also, thanks to the tape deck in one of the rentals I've been driving, I've gotten to rediscover some of my old mix tapes which make for stellar singing your lungs out opportunities (as well as some feelings of embarrassment.) The unfortunate part of this particular situation has been that the times when I'm well-rested and belting out pop-punk hits of yore have often been outweighed by the time spent worrying about everything going wrong and yelling not out of pleasure but out of the need to keep myself awake. But the glory is there.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

One Good Thing About My Job Is Getting To Say 'Keep on Truckin' Literally and Figuratively

So after starting the drive up to Goshen on Friday, I got a call from my boss again saying that he had found someone else to drive the truck down. This was great news, except that I was already in the Bronx at this point, so I turned around and went back home and took a 45 minute nap, which felt great. The day actually ended up not going too terribly once we finally got going. Mystery driver #3 ended up being a guy named Drew who actually possesses a CDL (commercial driver's license) and was totally down for doing whatever he needed to do to help out. Thank you Drew. You have redeemed my view of the work ethic of the entire workforce of Orange County, NY. Seriously, who says they will show up for a new job and then just decides to not do it? Especially in a situation when it is very clear that you are being depended on. I guess the problem is that we've put ourselves in a position where we need to rely on completely new hires just to get the job done in the most basic way.

But despite all of this, I'm actually feeling good about things. I'm having a meeting with my boss tomorrow morning in which I plan to get a clear picture from him of what I can expect in terms of making this job worth my while. I think he's got this wacky idea that despite all the madness, low pay, etc., I'm in it for the long haul no matter what. And while I do feel a certain amount of commitment to the company and our mission, I think it's time that I am showed an equal amount of commitment.

After much frustration the past months (year?) over knowing that I need to make a plan out of my life but not feeling any pull in any certain direction, I'm starting to see a path laid out in front of me that seems to make sense. In a lot of things, and particularly when it comes to work, I have a tendancy to feel that I need to get out cold turkey right away as soon as I conclude that the situation is not right for the future. This tactic has its pros and cons. When I quit UHAB (my non-profit housing job) I felt that I couldn't have the space while at the job to plan out a next step so I just quit without a plan and spent the next three months or so frittering away my savings and doing only vague planning. While I refuse to regret that decision based on the positive effects it had on my soul, it sure put me in a hell of a financial whole that I'm working on digging myself out of. For the last month or so I've been feeling that I need need need to have an out from this job, and maybe NYC as a whole, right now, but I also knew that I couldn't do it with the financial position I had put myself in. More importantly though, I've known deep down that just picking up shop and leaving isn't what I want to do anymore. If I really wanted to I could quit my job tomorrow, decide I'm moving to Arizona, and feel confident that I was going to land on my feet. But the reality is that I'm 27 years old, and while I don't want to abandon any of my carefree outlook on life, I do want to enter a shred of thinking about the future into my frame of reference. That's been a hard pill for me to swallow, but I finally feel comfortable thinking about things that way. I think.

So then it comes down to what do I want to do. And I'm still not sure about that yet, but I'm feeling a little clearer in my process. I've been thinking about grad school a lot, but I'm leaning away from that. There isn't a subject that I specifically want to pursue, or a specific job that I want that I need to go to grad school for. I was thinking that I should just study something I'm interested in and hope that it would lead me somewhere good, but I think I have to admit to myself that I'm just not a school person, at least not just for the sake of being in school. I love learning, but the idea of going to school for two or three years and racking up tons of debt (on top of the debt I already have) without an end goal in mind sounds terrible.

Then I was kicking around the idea of just trying to get some seasonal work in the southwest somewhere so I could save some money and have some time to reflect or find a farm/ranch-type place to work or volunteer for a while. But I've already done the farming thing, and while it was a great experience I know that it would just be a time filler. And as for the seasonal work, would I really be happy in the middle of nowhere (even if it is beautiful) waiting on people at a guest ranch? Not bloody likely.

There was also the option of picking up and moving back to Olympia where I know and love people and would certainly be welcome back with open arms and could probably even crash on a couch or two for a month while I find work. I have to admit, this is an amazingly attractive option, but I think ultimately it would feel like a defeat, like I was giving up and moving backwards.

So what now? Phase I is to talk to my boss and figure out if in the very near future I will be able to get more money (read: enough money to live), better hours, and insurance. If not, I begin looking for a job that will provide me with some combination if not all of the above necessities, and I don't worry too much about whether or not it is a job that I care passionately about. That's taking care of the short term. Phase II is to continue to look into long-range plans. What I'm feeling excited about right now is enrolling in a Maritime Industry training program, probably next fall. The idea of working aboard boats has always been intensely appealing to me, and the time I've spent on boats (mostly sail boats) has made me felt great. There is a Maritime Technology program at Kingsborough Community College that actually looks pretty perfect. Phase III: Success!! For an illustration, see below:

Will I actually pursue this without getting discouraged? Who knows? But either way I'm feeling like I've got my head screwed on straight about this shit for the first time in a while, and it's an exciting feeling.

Okay. I think I've gotten my processing out of my system for a while, so next time I write I'll try to continue to compile the last of past jobs, from tutoring high school students to combing the beaches for incredibly fallic clams to fighting the good fight for low-income housing in NYC. Huzzah!


Friday, October 9, 2009

This shit is bananas

What am I doing writing a blog post at 5:30 AM, especially when just a mere 4 hours ago I wrote that I had to be on the upper east side at 6:00 AM, you may ask? Well let me tell you a story. It is a story of a man I have never met and now appear likely to never meet. This man's name I believe is Brandon. Brandon was supposed to make his debut for our company driving a truck full of food from Goshen, NY to the city, where he would be meeting me at the aforementioned time of 6 AM to deliver said food. Brandon apparently decided that he did not want to do any of this, triggering a chain of events that involved me getting a phone call from my boss at 4:45 informing me that our new driver never showed up, me calling my coworker up in Goshen who was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and me again talking to my boss and concluding that the only reasonable solution to this mess would be for me to drive the hour and a half up to Goshen to get the abandoned truck, drive the hour and a half plus morning traffic getting into the city back, deliver the food about 4 hours late and then drive the hour and a half plus evening traffic getting out of the city back to Goshen to drop off the truck and pick up the car then drive the hour and a half back into the city. Luckily, I don't have to do this. The thought of this made me want to poke my eyes out. Actually, where I'm currently at is wanting to poke my eyes out, the thought of the previous situation made me want to poke my eyes out, stick them back in my head, squeeze lemon juice directly into my eyes, then poke them out again. So here I am, now at 5:43, waiting to hear from mysterious driver #2 of the day to call me in about two hours to say that he is getting into the city. To borrow from the lovely jeffrey beaumont (who was in turn borrowing from me) this shit is deprarious. Fucktactically so.

It's pretty amazing. I have now been at this job for around 6 months, and the amount of hellish scenarios that have popped up has been constant. I have managed to put myself in a situation where I combine the physical stress and exertion of a blue-collar job with the getting-by-by-the-skin-of-our-teeth-plus-low-pay-ness of the most dysfunctional non-profit. I'm sure there is something here about myself that I am supposed to be learning in relation to the amount of crazy I invite into my life and put up with, but I'm not quite sure what the lesson is other than I need to stop being an idiot with a martye complex and pursue some semblance of normalcy that will provide me with the perks of life like not being called at quarter to 5 in the morning with terrible crises or not having to be up and driving a large vehicle for 24-36 hours straight. I guess that is probably the lesson.

***Update: Just received a call from my boss that mystery driver #2 lives an hour away from Goshen, not the 20 minutes he had been told by the driver. Fucking great.***

The good news is that I now probably will not have to be in the city until 9 AM at the earliest. The bad news is that I will now be driving through midtown in the middle of the morning, delivering to angry customers, and not getting done until well into the early evening.

A list of some of the other deprarious situations this job has presented to me:
- The time a different new driver was supposed to pick up our rental truck in New Jersey and pick up goods from a farm in PA. He arrived at the rental spot, deemed the rental spot unsafe for his really nice car, and promptly left, causing me to have to take the truck out to PA four hours behind schedule.

***Update #2: Just got a call from the boss. Mystery driver #2 is a no-go. Driving up to Goshen. Fuck. My. Life.***

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Back In the Driver's Seat

So. I've taken a long break from this thing. Lately I've been in a general state of bummed out-ness, and the part of my brain that is very conscious of the things that are good for me and pull me out of a funk would say to me, "Mark, you like writing and it makes you feel better, you should really start writing on your blog again." But then the part of my brain that is very conscious of the futility of things such as throwing your words out into the wide open world and tends to feel defeated before getting started would respond, "But Mark, what's really the point? Is anything your writing really going to be that valuable?" would speak up, and of course I would listen to it. And then today I got an e-mail from my friend and nerd basketball teammate Katie telling me that she had just read my old blog posts and inquiring if I would be taking it up again, and while I pride myself on being a self-motivator and not needing outside influence to do anything, having someone say to me that I should keep doing this provided the impetus I needed to get back on the blogging train. Because I like doing it, and if other people read it and enjoy it or get something from it, total bonus. So, thanks Katie.

Looking back on my last couple of posts, it seems like I'm in much the same place as I was in March, which is a little depressing, but also revealing in a way that I'm sure I can make good for me if I take the time to process it enough. But there have certainly been changes. For starters, I'm now a truck driver. If only I still owned any hipster trucker hats, I could wear them with occupation-appropriate sincerity. I work for a company delivering farm goods from farms in the area (spanning from eastern Pennsylvania to Upstate New York) to restaurants and markets in the city. It's an interesting social experiment to pay attention to the different reactions you get when you respond to the What Do You Do (hereafter known as WDYD) with "I bring local farm-fresh food to the city," vs. "I drive a truck." The responses are often, "Oh, that's awesome" or just, "oh..." respectively. The type of person I'm looking to hang out with is the one who gives me a high five either way.

I was about to keep writing a bunch more, but got hit by a wave of sleepiness and I have to be on the upper east side at 6 AM, so I think it's quitting time, but I'm ready to re-enter the world of writing shit about my life that at the least will prove therapeutic for me and at the most will provide some amount of interest and entertainment to the world of the interweb.