Monday, October 23, 2006

Charmed, I'm Sure

Well, having a slow time lately turning up new work, which has me pretty annoyed as I’ll have to chew into some savings if it goes on too long. My cost of living has nudged up over the past few years: paying $100 more a month on rent than when I moved into this place, and paying a little over $100 a month on cable (TV and computer), which used to be just TV and dial-up, and about $30 less a month total.

But what it really means is that I’ve been inexplicably drawn to turning the sound down on the TV between 8 and 10 and leaving that horrible show Charmed on the TNT Network. Don’t know if you remember it – one of those “groovy witch” shows starring Shannon Doherty, Alyssa Milano and eventually Rose MacGowan. There’s just something so bizarre about the show. You have three hot, very attractive women, all done up with page-boy hair cuts and the most K Mart-looking clothes so the net effect is to dull their down their erotic charms. They’re supposed to be hot … they’re witches. And all the guys on the shows, even if they’re detectives, are all hot guys in their 20s, I guess so chicks watching the show could have something to gawk at. They appear to have jobs. Why would witches have jobs when they can stop time with a blink of an eye, predict lottery winning numbers and conjure up any object at a moment's notice?

It’s sort of depressing watching the show, so I’ve broken that brief habit. The show had such a disorienting “bad TV” quality to it that only added to my annoyance with the pause in work assignments. And I’ve found it’s best just to get busy with my own shit – writing, cleaning the place, doing other projects. The problem is it’s very easy to get used to these sort of lulls, when I fully recognize I’m just not cut-out for hanging around the apartment during work hours, whether I’m getting paid or not. Some people – freelance writers, graphic artists and such – work from home. I could never do it. I need that sense of going somewhere else to work, even if it’s a hassle, maybe because it's a hassle, to delineate home and work lives. (I think I mentioned earlier one of my old bosses had the sage advice: “It’s all the same thing.” No. No way. Some people and situations I put up with in my work life wouldn’t stand a chance in my home life – I simply wouldn’t allow them in, the same way I’d keep out crack dealers. I can't choose the people in my work life -- damn straight I can choose who I have in my home life.)

What annoys me most is the economy is pretty good right now, and there should be tons of work to go around. It makes me think my person at the agency, whom I followed from another agency because we had such a good connection, is dropping the ball on me or just not getting good jobs in her new agency. I’ve gotten in the habit of turning down a fair number of things she’s offered, mainly because I know they’re shit jobs from the way she describes them: “Bill, this woman you’d be working for is known for being a little headstrong … could you work until 6:30 at night … there’s a lot of phone work with this one … these people want to interview for this two-week position … would you be willing to take a drug test.” Red flags galore that let me know I’d be having a very bad time at the place. I’ve been doing NYC office work for almost 20 years – I know the world like the back of my hand and know shit situations when they’re described to me in a line or two.

In my mind, I’ve grown to love the simple act of working, which wasn’t always true. A lot of people don’t like to work – they consider it a necessary evil. On the contrary, I don’t care what kind of work it is, so long as it keeps you occupied, pays you reasonably well and give you some kind of focus, that’s a really good thing. But I also believe in balance, and a lot of office jobs, people have no balance, especially in terms of time. If there’s one thing I knew even before Dad died, it’s that time is vastly more important then money. Chances are, it will run out on you first. I like the idea of a basic eight-hour work day, followed by some type of physical exercise (going to the gym is something I plan on doing the rest of my days), then going home and doing whatever. I’ve seen way too many office scenarios, especially in more creative fields like advertising, where people regularly spend upwards of 10 hours a day at work. What’s worse is that they’re clearly hanging around as some sort of macho “I won’t be the first leave” stance workers will take with each other to prove how valuable they are to a company. And I just refuse to live that way. Forget about unhealthy, it’s just not right. I think some people simply become addicted to both the amount of money they’re making, and the rush of making it at work, to which everything else takes a long second place.

By the same token, not having enough work is even worse. Because you’re at loose ends and not bringing in any money. It’s just a way of life I have no urge to get used to, and it grates on me when I get put in these positions work-wise between spots. Lord knows, some people would love to do nothing more than lie around the house all day, but I have no idea how their minds work. I thought like that when I was a kid, even when I was in college, but it seems like an abhorrent thought to me as an adult.

I remember in my 20s, when I was unhappy at a job, I’d fantasize that having the ability to walk around on the streets during work hours would be pretty cool. I must have been feeling like I was in prison or something to feel that way. As I recall, some of the jobs I had my 20s were pretty ragged – either dealing with the usual office politics and bullshit, or getting my ass worked off. Well, when you actually do get the ability to walk around during work hours, you realize there’s not a whole lot going on. Weird night people are just getting up and moving around. Old people get out on the streets. Every intelligent person in the city vacates the streets between 2:00 and 4:00 pm – when all the little assholes are let loose from the schools and run rampant for those few hours. (You want to have a bad experience, get on a NYC subway car between, say 2:30 and 3:30 on a weekday – chances are good you’ll get stuck on a train with a bunch of kids, some in ties and dress skirts, acting like total animals, and you’ll be too out-numbered to stop them.)

So, I make myself busy and hope something good comes in soon. I may have to consider getting full-time work, or a long-term spot, or another temp person. Shit, I’d love to freelance for myself and cut out the middle man, thus making about $10 more per hour, but I haven’t quite figured out how that happens. People seem to think you just walk into an office, there’s work for you, and you immediately start at $30 an hour. I wish. It grates on me that I have to work through an agency, but most companies are so geared to using them that it seems very hard to turn that nut on your own. It also grates on me that I don’t get paid much more, if anything more, than some dolt with a fraction of my skills and experience, and nowhere near my work ethic.

And the whole getting another person thing – there’s very little in life more humiliating than dealing with temp and freelance agencies. They make you come in and take these idiotic tests to prove your computer skills, no matter how much experience you have, and then you generally get interviewed by some young girl who’s just a hustler, not very good at what she does, doesn’t give a shit about you, and treats you accordingly. Maybe you’ll get work through her, maybe you won’t. Generally, if you don’t click right off the bat, you’ll just fade out.

At least I haven’t gotten into soap operas. So, for now, while away the hours. In the process of putting together my Christmas CD, which is always a ton of work, now got the covers in place and going through the lugubrious process of cutting them down to size and inserting them into the cases. Must get done. Seems like now’s the time. I wish the girls on Charmed would get naked just once.

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