>>> Bang for Your Buck July 23, 2006
By staff writer David Nelson
July 23, 2006
Essential New Word of the Week: redneck stomp (definition hint: keep the rhythm)
Almost everybody in the world who has a job complains about it. Most jobs suck, and for some reason, downtrodden workers need for other people to hear their tales of woe. Many come to me with their complaints, since I’m a good listener, and I can give advice while impersonating the “Inconceivable!” guy from Princess Bride. When he gives career guidance, you pay attention.
In fact, unless you manage a team of poisonous animal masturbators at the zoo, you probably don’t hear as many work complaints as I do. And the ones that I hear are astonishing in their variety: commuting is a long and smelly ordeal, office furniture makes my ass go numb, the vending machine only carries Dr. Soy’s Deliciously Healthy Chocolate Peanut Soy Protein Bars. You get the idea.
As much fun as complaining is, I can’t get into the spirit of it, because I actually like my job. Objectively, it’s not even a great job. The pay is far below what I deserve, and I have yet to be rewarded for my perfect attendance with a complimentary basket of fruity soaps. But it’s all a matter of perspective. You see, before obtaining this position, I spent several years floundering at some hellish ones. After that, killing time at a desk seems like a god-given present.
“I took odd jobs, all of which sucked and made me feel about as low as an ant. And not one of those self-determined ants that star in Pixar movies.”
At a young age, I nearly fell into the vortex of spiritual emptiness called telemarketing. Before I was even out of junior high, I was conducting goddamn telephone surveys. Yes, at a time when many of my peers still received an allowance, I was out in the workforce, earning minimum wage and saving for my future via baseball card investment. However, it didn’t take me long to learn that calling strangers during dinner in order to ask what toothpaste they use is an open invitation for abuse.
It’s said that Canadians are excessively polite, but let me assure you, that doesn’t extend to market research survey-takers. When you’re 15 years old, there’s only so many times you can be called a worthless sack of shit before your life becomes the kind of NBC after-school special where you need the services of a magical, self-esteem enhancing genie.
I got so bummed out, I just stopped making calls altogether and forged the survey results. To my credit, I invented people with very specific and credible toothpaste preferences. However, I needed to appear to be conducting the surveys. So, I did what any brilliant slacker-in-training would do—I pretended to do surveys while actually listening to 1-800 numbers. Yes, my boss could listen in on the calls. Yes, I was fired. But at least I heard about some interesting things I could do with a goat and a road flare.
From telephone surveys, it was a short trip into telephone sales. And what did they have me selling? Cable TV, a service everyone in the early 90’s should have wanted. How else could you learn about “Things that make you go hmmmm?” It’s not like Arsenio Hall was making house calls at that time.
But nobody would even hear my sales pitch. People who don’t watch TV are perversely proud of it, for some insane reason. They would pat themselves on their pseudo-intellectual backs and lecture me for trying to earn college tuition. Hey, I don’t like telemarketers either, but it’s not like I was trying to sell heroin-soaked guns to crippled orphans. It was about this time I started sneaking into bars. I may have been underage, but the defeated look on my face told the bartender all he needed to know.
By the time I headed off to university, I had quite a bit of sales experience. So, I quit telemarketing and got a job selling memberships at a natural history museum right next to my campus. I would walk around the museum trying to convince people that they’d like to come four or five more times a year, and that a membership would enable them to do so.
It sounds pretty crappy, but I had it all figured out. For whatever reason, a lot of people would want to buy a membership of their own accord. When this happened, I took measures to ensure that I was credited with the sale. All it took was a little creative bribery for the guy who processed the applications. He didn’t care whether it was properly a “sale” or not, but he did like whiskey. Our arrangement made him happy, and left me free to wander around all day and look at dinosaurs.
Life was grand for a while, but inevitably I grew sick of fielding questions from retarded tourists, and pretending I gave a flying crap about history and culture. I’ve looked at every square inch of that museum, and I can honestly say that I’d rather watch reruns of Perfect Strangers. There’s nothing about a collection of Chinese perfume-boxes that can top Balki saying “Get out of the city!”
That job paid for most of my education, and for spending money. I took odd jobs, all of which sucked and made me feel about as low as an ant. And not one of those self-determined ants that star in Pixar movies. I lugged cement blocks in the blistering heat for some guy’s pool. I was a stockboy, laboring away in the hot, smelly bowels of a mall. I even looked after some bratty kids when their overmedicated parents had finally had enough.
There was seemingly no end to these crappy jobs. Some didn’t even last more than a month. I’ve been a tutor, a hotel concierge, a trade-show greeter, and a door-to-door salesman. For a while, I was worried that I might have to run away from it all and join the circus. In Canada, though, that would likely mean “Cirque du Soleil,” and who needs that kind of gay schmaltz in his life? Besides, the looming addition of a university degree brought new hope.
I graduated, and after dicking around Asia for a while, I started to settle into what I thought would be a long and rewarding career in the field of book publishing. I was warned right from the start that publishing is a career you should choose only out of a love for books. I should have expressed my love by simply reading them, or occasionally caressing them with my penis, because trying to make money off them is a dead end.
My first foray into the publishing world took place as an intern at a small press that was so left-wing, I had to pose as a flag-burning lesbian just to land the interview. The problem, as with so many internships before it, was that nobody quite knew what to do with me. So I just tried to occupy as little space as I could until it ran its course. Oh, and I put together a metal shelf, once.
Soon after, I secured a position at a literary agency, where I had high hopes. I had seen Jerry Maguire, and figured that representing authors would be as exciting as representing athletes. Well, a year went by, and I still didn’t have any black guys shouting catchphrases at me. Sure, I was working with some of Canada’s top authors, but that’s like saying I’ve skated with Mongolia’s best hockey players. The field is too narrow to be impressive.
I had a nice little office, and could take home all the paper clips I wanted, but the simple truth was, I was little more than an administrative assistant. At that point in my life, the megalomania hadn’t set in yet, and I was more than willing to do the office filing and photocopying. But fetching coffee and emptying the garbage was just too much. I signed on with a different agency, where I would be “Office Manager.”
Up until this point, the jobs were horrifying, but at least I didn’t have any interpersonal problems with my bosses or co-workers. I like to think that I’m a pretty agreeable guy, but I must have molested baby panda bears in a former life because karma soon dealt me a deadly one-two punch of bitchy bosses. No, “bitchy” is far too mild a term. These women are the most objectionable human beings walking the face of the earth.
At the literary agency, I was saddled with a fat, ugly beast who sincerely believed that other people were put on the earth to endure her endless abuse. Flowers in the office had to be arranged a certain way. Water had to be chilled to the right temperature. And if something wasn’t to her liking, she would screech like a menopausal banshee. Her sense of entitlement was astounding. No force in the universe could make her so much as crack a smile, not even the hilarious prop comedy of Carrot Top. (I can’t actually prove that, but it’s a pretty safe assumption.) One time, I got her a salad that had a ladybug in it, and I thought I might have to sedate her with some kind of tranquilizer dart.
I didn’t last too long, and soon after, I found myself working at a bookstore that specialized in business books. My new boss was a lizard/human hybrid of some kind, all wrinkles and pantsuits. This was a woman who had clearly eschewed all forms of human feeling for the sake of her business. She must have been in her 60’s, yet I’ll swear she was a virgin. Her specialty was telling me in advance how awful I was, and how hard she was going to work me, probably to compensate for the lack of joy in her own life.
One beautiful winter’s day, she broke her leg, and couldn’t come in to work for a few weeks. When she finally returned, I had to push her around in a wheelchair. I’m telling you right now, with all the staircases we passed by, I could easily have sent her brittle ass tumbling down to hell, and made it look like an accident. The fact that I didn’t is a testimony to my infinite mercy. I’m like Mother Theresa, only a better dancer.
I’ve paid my dues, and now my working life has stabilized somewhat. It’s been a long and bumpy road, though. It’s scary to think that I’ve actually had it pretty good compared to some people. If the tools of your trade are a mop or a shovel, you probably know what I mean. And if your career path can be charted from Assistant Fry Cook all the way up to Senior Burger Flipper, you have every right to grumble. But I’m not going to indulge any more complainers unless they pay me for the therapy.
On second thought, nah… that sounds too much like work.
Essential New Word of the Week:
redneck stomp [‘rEdnEk ‘stamp]: We were all relaxing one night at the cottage with copious beer and good tunes, when one of my buddies started stamping along to the music. It was kind of cool, watching him rock out and shake the floorboards with his energetic stomping. The song gave way to a slower melody, but he didn’t stop. The album ended, and he didn’t stop. We’re all trying to go to bed three hours later, all is quiet, and this guy is still stomping away to the music that’s rattling around in his brain. After that, any kind of prolonged behavior was dubbed “Redneck Stomping.” Interestingly, this term evolved independently from the appalling Jeff Foxworthy bit of the same name.