Ten months ago I took a job with a production company to get a crash course in the film business. The job is going pretty well, except for the thing that impedes me at every job I’ve ever had, which is that I don’t really like having a job very much.
I love earning a paycheck so that I can spend it traveling around the world, which – to my constant surprise – is not something employers desire. So whenever a gig offers the chance to go somewhere, especially if it contributes to my foolhardy national park adventure, I jump at the opportunity. Suddenly I become a model employee.
My boss needed a coffee table picked up from her cousin’s storage unit in the middle of Arizona. Google Maps had the storage unit two hours from Petrified Forest National Park, so I packed a backpack and took off to hang out in the Sonoran Desert just in time for a mid-June heat wave.
The first thing I noticed after my LAX to PHX flight was that every Arizona bathroom I entered – from the Phoenix Airport SkyTrain to the national park pit-stops – contained an insulin needle disposal bucket. It was kind of nice to know that if I picked up a light case of diabetes on my adventure that dropping off my copious accumulation of sharps would not be a problem. I picked up the coffee table in a pleasant mountain town called Payson. It was sort of like Phoenix’s answer to Big Bear, except there were a lot more places to buy assault rifles. So far my impression of the local experience is an insulin needle in one hand, AR-15 in the other while I ask the park ranger to kindly stamp my national park passport booklet.
Getting out of an air conditioned car so you can look at old tree fossils in the Arizona desert is one of those moments that makes you question your life choices. There’s no actual forest in the Petrified Forest, which I had to explain to a disappointed biker. He kept looking at the sparse shrubs and tumbleweeds asking if they were part of the forest. I was braced for my disappointment in advance.
Three hundred million years ago when Arizona was in a rainforest on Pangea, some trees fell into a river. The few trunks that didn’t disintegrate got wedged in the riverbed, where, over the course of few hundred million years, they filled with silt, copper, carbon, micah, quartz, crystals, iron and manganese. The river, rainforest and Pangea are long gone (never forget Pangea), but these tree fossils are now mutated into rocks that reflect beautiful colors in the relentless Arizona sunshine.
And that’s pretty much the main attraction. There’s a cool painted desert lookout, some old adobe houses and petroglyphs (Native American graffiti), but the park ranger assuaged my guilt when I arrived at the visitor center. I was deeply apologetic that I only had three hours for the park, but she couldn’t have been friendlier when she told me the average time that visitors spent was a two hour drive-through. She just seemed happy that I was there. It was like an old relative who I see once a year. “A short visit from you is better than nothing.”
And if I’m going to tie this whole thing together, it would be that not every national park has a spectacular vista or jaw-dropping attraction. They’re not all Yosemite. But they tend to offer one specific thing better than anywhere else. And if I’m going to go for one hell of a stretch, it would be that I might not be the most inspired employee at every company I’ve worked for, but maybe if I can do one thing really well I’ll actually find some success. I’m the tree-rock mutant fossil of employees, and that is sitting proudly on my resume as I begin my next job hunt.
And sometimes the best part of going to the smaller national parks is knowing I don’t have to go back. That was the best part of West Texas, was that I never have to return to West Texas. And now there is another excellent national park with a niche and unique attraction notched on the belt. With many more national parks to look forward to visiting that, someday, I’ll never have to see again.
My dream superpowers used to be awesome. I don’t know if I had fewer demands, less practicalities or just a better imagination when I was a kid, but my imaginary world superpowers used to be really cool. This weekend, I posed the same question to myself and found the results to be a really sad reflection on everything I want out of life.
When I was a kid, it was a tough call between being invisible and being able to fly. Flight had an early lead since I could soar over New York City, see everyone’s homes, hang out with the birds and scare the hell out of window-seat passengers on airplanes.
I always thought that would be kind of neat to share casual hellos with people staring out the window of a 747, never taking in mind the suction of the nearby jet engine. That’s not what a superpower entails. I could take huge leaps, impress everyone at school and catch any fly ball, thus earning a starting spot with the Yankees. Then puberty hit and invisibility made a roaring comeback.
Flying was useless in the face of staring creepily near the showers of the popular girls of Staples High School. Yeah, I could rob banks and sneak into any event that I desired, but who cares when you’re thirteen and naked girls can’t see you? There is no superpower greater in the world to a tween boy than the prospect of seeing boobs in the pre-Internet age. Hell and high water and the like.
Of course now I could simply walk into a strip club with my current income level and would have no problem with seeing boobs and being invisible to those same naked girls whose high school hotness led to too many bad life decisions. I don’t really want to fly, I could get hit by a jet, I’d run out of energy halfway across the Pacific Ocean. What if I get hungry and I’m too far from the nearest Quiznos chain? Yeah I could forgo traffic, but why would I want to fly to work earlier than necessary? Great, I could be told by my boss that I suck ten minutes earlier in the morning. Thanks, flying power.
Invisibility? Still has its allure with getting to go places and stealing money, but I want to be useful. If no one can see me then it takes the luster away from the already-useless college degree. There was a period in college when I wanted the superpower to have sex without protection and never get an STD or knock a girl up. It was both unimaginative and creative at the same time.
Lately, though, my dream superpowers have become sad and pathetic. They are a terrible reflection of how much I have completely resigned and thrown in the towel with my entire life. Let’s go through some of my dream superpowers I have recently listed:
I feel as though the only way to make my life to work out this ideally would be if I was a victim in a toxic spill. I could also have been trapped in a radiation chamber or found myself on a new planet where my body reacted differently than on Earth.
The moral of the story is know what you want out of life. If you set your goals and clearly define what you want to accomplish, then you’ll know how to properly answer “What would your superpower be?” since it’s the only way your dreams will come true.
First off, let me start by saying how fortunate I am to have a job in the first place. There are a lot of people who are hurting and too many of my co-workers and bosses are my Facebook friends for me to say anything that would get me fired.
That all said, I am way too useless of an employee and undeserving of a reasonable salary to earn what I describe to my creditors as “A living wage.” Between splitting my time between working various day jobs and being a full-time student in screenwriting, the hours don’t exist to make a living. Even if they did exist, I made the massive error of choosing an education in inventing dialogue between imaginary people, so it’s not going to pan out from a day job perspective regardless.
So considering the facts that I get paid poorly, don’t deserve to be paid any better or don’t have the available hours to work a full-time job, it’s left me only one option to earn a reasonable living: office supply theft. And on a grand level, too. This is not to disrespect my employers or hurt the company. Rather, it is the only way to earn a respectable living in accordance with the Department of Labor. I steal office supplies to do their work for them.
This isn’t your occasional pencil or paper clip stealing either. That isn’t going to add up to enough to justify the work that I am taking off the hands from The Department of Labor. Essentially, I need to steal enough office supplies to add two or three dollars-per-hour to my hourly wage.
This is how the middle class was formed.
It is a sort of subset of the middle class. One existing entirely on ink toner, file cabinets and ergonomic chairs that are stolen to edge my way into some sort of tax bracket. Any tax bracket. One that justifies that I have a high school diploma. This raises a separate question: why don’t tax brackets have names?
You could do this the way that divisions in the NHL used to have really nifty names to them. They used to have the Adams Division, Smythe, Norris, Patrick, etc. It was really nice before they switched to the boring Eastern, Central, Northwest and so on. We could have tax brackets like the Wendy’s First Date Tax Bracket at the lower end. Work our way up to the Groupon Dinner Party Bracket a little higher. Step up to the Android Beta Bracket. All the way up to the Wiping Ass With Hundred Dollar Bills Tax Bracket.
And if I am going to make the jump from the Procrastinating Starving Artist Tax Bracket to the Soulless Day Job Failed Artist Tax Bracket, then the only way to do it by stealing enough office supplies that does the Department of Labor’s job for me.
If I can slowly roll an office chair out of the building. Or hide a filing cabinet under my shirt. Or place a hat on top of the printer and pretend that it’s my robot friend. Tell one of the interns that he has to sell one of my fledgling screenplays. Something that, over time, adds up to an extra two dollars an hour, then at least I can feel like a respectable member of society.
A respectable member of society with stolen ink toner all over his hands and face because I don’t know how printers work. Only then can I feel like a true American tax payer. One that knows how to steal and how to complain.
Dear Sir or Madam,
Hello, my name is Max. Through supportive parents and a liberal arts education, I am under the misguided impression that I am above this, but my checking account balance says otherwise. Therefore I would like to apply for the assistant position you posted on CraigsList.
I am well-versed in all Microsoft Office programs, phones and data entry because I am not retarded. Even if I were retarded, I would probably do at least a decent job of alphabetizing your files. I am a team player in the sense that I will laugh at the stories about your kids and will ask questions about your worldview that vaguely sound like I was listening. Although I am seething with bitterness, you will never know this.
Let’s be honest. You want a human being to screen your calls in case last night’s horror-story jDate calls and I need a paycheck so I can put a couple hundred bucks away for a cool trip that will carry me through my next job. You need someone who can put your expenses into an Excel sheet, I need to be left alone so I can browse Reddit while I chastise myself for not using the down time to write my breakthrough novel about a twenty-something’s relationship with his day job.
Don’t get me wrong, I will think outside the box when I make photocopies and will get your coffee 110% of the time, but please don’t hold the opportunity of advancement over my head. I do not want a future here, I want to answer your phones and make copies until something better comes along. Maybe I have a go-getter attitude, maybe I don’t, but if I do, it’s certainly not in regards to an office, so you give me the work, I’ll do it, and let’s not have there be questions about my commitment when I leave work the second the clock strikes five.
It is my total responsibility to get my work done, which I will do, and we’ll leave it at that. I will show a complete commitment to being in the Christmas, Thanksgiving or Joyce in accounting’s birthday spirit. I will ask you how your weekend was on Monday and what you’re doing next weekend on Friday. After I have left, if we run into each other in a bar, we are drunk and of the opposite sex, I am open to having boss-former-employer sex, but please don’t hold it over my head in case I need a future reference.
Your job posting is neither my dream nor ambition. It is, however, more-than-tolerable and I am competent to do all the things your bullet pointed job listing requested. Anyone with all the qualities you listed has probably started their own business or pursued a dynamic career, but I am perfectly resigned to writing in my downtime and saving up to go to New Zealand in a year and this seems like a fair deal for both of us.
I have a flexible schedule in that most afternoons I will go for a jog so as to keep my sanity during the rest of the time that I’m in the windowless cubicle– sorry, “open air environment.” My resume is attached and I look forward to speaking further about whatever it is I’ll be doing for 20% of the eight-hour workday.
So the economy is in the toilet and all my friends are losing their jobs and companies are cutting back in every facet they can find.
I get that this might be a necessity in the current times, but what I don’t get is that if they do all this when the economy is bad, why don’t the splurge in an opposite manner when things are going well?
I want the positive equivalent of what’s going on now when the economy is booming. Right now, everyone is on edge. They’re scared and nervous and snap at you all the time. So I want the flip side when the money is rolling in. When things pick up again, I want clowns and midgets rolling down the aisles of work hallways for no reason other than to brighten your day.
Or some sort of prostitution day would be nice. One day a month where everyone gets a hooker. If things tighten up, we can all share hookers, but I think there should definitely be more hooking in the workplace to atone for all this garbage going on now.
Being back in school I thought it would be a productive use of my time to find an internship. Found a great one, but had to deal with a massive load of paperwork to get the unpaid internship in motion. I feel like there is way too much bureaucratic work that goes in to being a slave.
Know whose fault this is? Abraham Lincoln. The guy screwed the slavery process up for those of us who want to be a slave.
I don’t see what the guy’s problem was. I mean, I understand that there are people who didn’t want to be slaves, but this was a position that I was eager to sign up for, and instead I had to waste a good two days running around from building to building, and trying to fax things from one department to another. All I was looking to do was to work for no pay and maybe get whipped around a little bit, but that’s a private matter.
Abraham is like Jesus. He might have died for our sins, but he didn’t ask first or run it by anyone. Next time you’re going to do some grandiose humanitarian action, just make sure everyone’s cool with it, is all I’m saying.
Ever see a homeless guy who’s so organized and efficient at collecting empty bottle and soda cans that you’re shocked he’s unemployed and homeless?
Every time I see one of those people (and by ‘those people,’ obviously I mean black people), it doesn’t cease to baffle me. Not because of the fact that they’re doing it, but because they do it with such gusto that surely they could be better than me at any job I’ve ever had.
I’m talking about the guys with hooks and pulleys and levers and balanced equilibrium put into motion. The shopping cart is more like a tow truck than a broken grocery transporter.
It’s like they’ll equalize the torque by factoring the weight of each specific soda can measured exponentially against the rotational force rationalized off the decreasing density from a 40 of Miller Genuine Draft. But somehow, they can’t get their resume together and get a job. You can have mine, because I will never be smart enough to do yours.
I get way too infuriated when I’m waiting for an elevator with the up or down button already pressed and lit, when someone comes over and presses it again.
Do you not trust me, madam? Clearly it’s pressed. Clearly I’m standing here. Clearly I’m not retarded.
Have you ever seen someone just hanging out by an elevator alone not getting on? They’re lost, probably, or they have an innate fear of pressing elevator buttons and are just waiting for someone to come by and handle it, and we all know how common that is.
It’s so unfriendly, I think is my issue with the matter. It’s one thing if the lightbulb is burned out. It’s another if you get into the elevator and instinctively you reach for the button, which just happens to be pressed.
But why press it when I’m standing there obviously waiting there? What are they expecting of me? “Oh, you had to press the direction I’m going!? Thank you so much for the lesson. You’re my hero!” Asshole.
The title of this post sounds like I’ve allowed black people into my dreams.
I like it when you’re in a deep sleep and your alarm goes off or your phone rings or a lawnmower starts outside and instead of waking up, you just integrate the noise into whatever dream you’re having.
I got a new phone and the first night it’s alarm went off, it started playing some sort of xylophone beat that you’d hear in Trinidad or the 34th Street subway platform.
The thing was that I was in a deep sleep having a great dream about sitting on the beach with all these beautiful girls and friends I enjoy hanging out with, all having a blast. And then some idiot was like, “Hey, who’s up for a xylophone contest?”
But instead of putting up with, “No, no, I’m sleeping and comfortable and don’t ever want to leave this because it’s awesome,” the guy was like, “I’m just gonna bang these xylophones really loud until you leave this utopia dream land.”
Even if you hit the snooze button, head back to sleep and get back to the perfect beach, goddamn xylophone guy is like, “Has it been ten minutes? How bout another xylophone contest everyone!”
Have you ever taken a job, not because of the benefits package or salary, but because the have the best lunch policy from your job offers?
My current company offers a very competitive lunch-bought-for-you-every-day salary offer, which topped any work-for-regular-money offer I had encountered. But the side effects of this were incalculable.
It’s not just me, it’s the entire office who’s in for this. So what you have, in effect, is an entire corporate environment filled with people who have sacrificed their dreams and hopes to make a difference with their professional careers, all in the name of free lunch.
On the one hand, everyone wants to live a vigorating life, making a noticeable difference in America and the lives of others. On the other hand, that’s like eight bucks we’re saving every day!