Friday, December 17, 2010

Second Life

I deal in seconds. Not the seconds that come after firsts or those that follow already generous helpings, but those that measure the passage of time, degradation of life. My breaks at work are 15 minutes each. You shouldn’t clock back in more than 15 seconds before your time is up, and you’re late if you stay on break for more than 15 seconds after.

OK, I went on break at 12:57 and 30 seconds. I have to be back at 1:12 and 30 seconds, but I should leave the break room at 1:10 and 30 seconds. Wait, I have to get some water, don’t I? I better get up from my chair at 1:10 sharp, then.

Oh, dammit. One of my friends just walked in. It’s 1:08:17, and she likes to talk. I should stand up so she knows that I have to go soon, but I don’t want to do it just as she’s walking in, or she’ll think I’m trying to avoid her. Dammit, it’s 1:08:32; I’m just going to stand up. And she caught me. Fuck. And she has drama going on that she wants to tell me about.

Your roommate’s mom and sister did what? That’s fucking stupid. You don’t have to put up with that shit.

1:09:40. Time to walk over to the sink to get some water while listening, hoping that she’ll get the hint. 1:10:21 – a break in between sentences where I can tell her good luck and that I have to get back. I can’t stop glancing at my watch. This is ridiculous. Life is meant to be savored moment by moment, not counted down second by second. 1:12:30.

There’s so much more to life than this.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Leaf Blow Me

Autumn is a time of decay and hibernation. Squirrels gather the last of their nuts for the coming winter, trees shed their leaves so that they may better weather approaching storms, and the warm, playful spirit of summer retreats into its annual exile. It seems that the volume of the entire hemisphere is lowered a little every day leading up to the winter solstice.

That is until some jackass with a leaf blower comes by at five in the damned morning and jerks you out of the restful cocoon into which you’ve nestled yourself for the night, unaware that leaf blowing is in fact an utter waste of time. Leaf blowers are the bane of my existence, and if I never had to see or hear a single one ever again, I could die happy. Leaf blowing is perhaps the least productive activity performed today, ranking firmly ahead of doing absolutely nothing. At least when you’re doing nothing, you’re not making a detrimental contribution to the environment by burning up gasoline and generating a ton of noise. Leaf blowers contribute to degradation of auditory senses and air quality just to push leaves around—not to dispose of them or turn them into something useful like mulch, but just to move them around.

It is with this session of bitching that I entreat you leaf-blowing people of the world to put down your instruments of annoyance and pick up a damned rake. Thank you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Professional Empathy Service

It’s getting close to election time, and that means some important decisions have to be made. I’m not going to pump up or knock down any candidates, nor am I about to launch into any political agenda, but I do have a last-minute proposal that I feel needs to be put on the ballot. Just as many countries have compulsory military service, the United States should implement government-mandated professional empathy service.

“Professional empathy service? What the crap is that?” you may be asking. Well, I’m glad you may have asked. Professional empathy service entails spending a year working in several different occupations to gain appreciation for the work that people do everyday. The year would be broken up into three four-month periods during which people would work in one of three fields: blue-collar work, custodial work, and customer service. People would learn what workers in these fields experience on a daily basis, as well as learn to empathize with a greater portion of society in general.

Actually, forget putting it to a vote—let’s just make it law. A program such as this would reduce the number of miserable bastards in the country, and if it catches on elsewhere, reduce their numbers around the world.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Photography Pholly

Photographers, camera-wielding people of the world, we need to have a talk. I understand that there is a need within many people to create art, and I am no exception. Whenever I write, I feel fulfilled, like I’m chipping away at a monolith of marble to reveal the figure captured by my mind’s eye. The need to write is right up there with food and shelter. Creation of art is a worthy pursuit from which I could never in good conscience dissuade anyone…

But let’s be realistic.

Let this thought set the tone for the rest of this post: taking black and white photos of flowers with a DSLR does not make you a photographer. What separates photographers from people who take photos? Technical skill, knowledge of how to properly use equipment, and perhaps most important of all, an eye for the art. I know I’ll never be a photographer, or even anyone who is decent at taking photos. Why? Because I don’t have an eye for photography. Photos I take tend to turn out crappy or mediocre, and though I’m sure there are ways I could make improvements, they will only be marginal. Seeing as this is the case, I know full well that I should just stick to writing.

A constant source of annoyance for me is seeing someone I know take an interest in photography, instantly label themselves as a professional photographer, and start pimping out their new business: [insert last name here] Photography. Please be realistic. If you’re going to try to make a living out of this, at least put yourself in a position to do so. Read up on technical details, ask people (not friends) for honest feedback on your work, and get the right equipment. Blurry, noisy 1024x768 photos of baby nieces and nephews taken with a three-megapixel point-and-shoot with a smudgy lens are not going to cut it.

As I said before, I would never discourage anyone from creating art, and if it satisfies your needs, then by all means please continue to do so. Please follow your dreams, because you never know whose art will be recognized as something exceptional. If you just try, you have at least a small chance of success, but if you never even put forth the effort, then your chances of success are those of a fart in a windstorm.

Is this post going to keep any of you out there from snapping sepia-toned pictures of your pets? No. Does this post make me seem like a person who understands the plight of the amateur photographer, set adrift upon the deluge of like-minded photography enthusiasts who have flooded the professional photography market with their entrepreneurial ambition? Not at all. Does this post make me feel better about denying requests on Facebook to “like” three new photography businesses per day? Absolutely.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Friendship Struggle

Three weeks ago, a sweet couple I met had me over to their apartment for dinner. I had a great time, and made tentative plans with them to come over to my apartment for dinner the following week. Seeing as I’m a space cadet, I have yet to follow up on the invitation and actually have them over. Or even hang out with either of them since then. Or even speak one word to them since then. Whoops.

I am awful at maintaining friendships, if you couldn’t tell. It seems I either try to hang out with people so much that I smother them, or I make them feel like I never want to see their ugly mugs ever again. I feel that I have the best intentions when it comes to keeping up with friends, but when it comes to making an effort to spend time with them, I am unable to keep myself from cranking the volume knob to either a shade above mute or a tremor-inducing, deafening roar. Why is it so hard to remain on an even keel with people? How can anyone be expected to consistently maintain a balance between when you want to see them and when they want to see you?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Mediocrity

It’s Monday. No one likes Mondays. Even as a person who has Thursdays and Fridays off from work, I can feel the weight of a Monday with the same acuteness as someone who is lucky enough to have weekends off. There’s a certain gloom and gravity that seems to weigh down the day, and just about everyone feels it. Garfield has even dedicated his life to avoidance of this day of the week. But what is it about Mondays that gets people? If you work or go to school Monday through Friday, you have an obvious reason to be bummed, as an entire week of work is lies ahead of you, but what about the rest of us? Does it stem from the years of a Monday through Friday schedule to which we became accustomed in school? Since most people don’t work weekends, does their depression about the start of the work week rub off on everyone else? What do you think?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Customer Service Chronicles: Body Odor

Yes, it’s that time again. It’s time to continue our discussion about how customers stink. I know right now you might be thinking that I covered the spectrum of stench in my July post about this same topic, and I couldn’t possibly have more to say, but I only scratched the surface then. I also know that you’re worried that I might be taking on too much at one time in trying to delve deeper into the world of retail stank, but I can reassure you that I know what I’m doing, and that I’ll be biting off a chunk of the topic no bigger than either you or I can handle.

Today, we will be focusing on body odor, or BO. BO is the most pervasive and enduring of customer smells. It can pack a wallop and even give you pause, but regardless of its intensity or effect, it is unmistakable and easy to distinguish from other lingering smells. Summer is the prime season for BO, as several days’ worth of sweat and dirt accumulate on unwashed customer bodies coalesce to create a pungent aroma that travels long distances in the hot, low-density air. One customer in particular, a regular at the store where I work (joy), and a notorious non-bather, could be smelled approximately 20 feet away in the heat of August.

We all know what BO smells like, but most of us are fortunate enough to be able to escape it, either by walking away from the source and/or locating the nearest fire truck to request a good hose-down of the source. If your job is to work face-to-face with people reeking of BO, however, you are not so lucky. Continued exposure can have some unusual effects, such as leading you to characterize and distinguish between individual people’s BO. One recurrent customer (who is a gigantic pain in the ass) has the typical BO base with notes of corn bread, while a few others I’ve encountered recently smell as if their BO were spiced with Top Ramen flavor packets.

Join me next time as we continue our journey experiencing the spice of customer service life that is stench.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Motivation Contemplation

Every night around 11 o’clock, I’m hit with a nice glob of anxiety, and it’s all your fault. Yes, you. Don’t look around like I’m talking to someone near you—I’m talking to you. You come around here every day or two looking for a new nugget of joy that you hope I’ve deposited for you here on my blog, and you’re used to leaving unsatisfied every once in a while, but I haven’t posted anything here for over a week. Now you’re resentful. You sit by the computer and wonder why I haven’t posted even a tiny morsel for your hungry brain for several days. Was it something you said? Was it because you didn’t have dinner ready on time last Tuesday? Was it because you applied mustard to my delicious Ball Park frank (they plump when you cook ‘em, you know) when you know damned well I loathe mustard? Wait, why are you blaming yourself? It’s no one’s fault but mine. Yes, you should be making me feel guilty for abandoning you, leaving you out to dry!

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Motivation can be hard to come by, so whenever or wherever I can get it, I’ll lap it up like a thirsty kitten. I prefer that motivation to write comes in the form of a song, or a movie, or the words of a friend, but if guilt does it, I’ll take it.

Perhaps guilt isn’t really it, though. Maybe you’re all cheering me on, and sometimes I can’t hear it for a few days, as it gets drowned out by the din of work and social commitments. Yeah, that’s more like it. You wouldn’t have come here in the first place if you weren’t at least mildly interested. That’s the kind of motivation I like to receive.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


For the past five weeks, I have been tutoring a pair of seven-year-old twins in English on the recommendation of my friend Sandman Moon. When I asked their mother when I should come back for the next tutoring session, she told me that she would call me if they needed me, and that she was going to reenlist Sandman Moon’s superior services. I then picked up my supplies, was practically pushed out the door (which happened every time—Do I give off an odd vibe?), and left with a polite smile on my face.

Wait, what?

I just suffered a fairly important job rejection, and I didn’t say or do anything about it? Not that I was going to get gangster on her ass and beat the crap out of her or anything, but I left smiling? That’s pathetic. As the South Africans say, “Shame, man.”

What could I have done, though? If I had insisted that I should continue tutoring the kids, I would have just looked like a belligerent ass. If I had flown off the handle, I would have secured a position outside the realm of possibility of ever being invited back. What can you possibly do in a situation like that? You’re staring down the barrel of a rejection, and all you can do is smile at the one wielding it in hopes that they just graze you instead of blowing your dignity all over the wall behind you.

To be honest, I’m not sure where I was headed with this, but I feel we need to open up a dialogue about what I know we’ve all experienced before. So come on and give me some rejection stories and tell me how you dealt with each experience.

Friday, August 27, 2010


People often ask all types of artists where they get their inspiration, and they will reply with what inspired them to create whatever work being discussed. These same people will then try to find inspiration in that which the artist mentioned, and find only that they are no better off having done so. They listened to the crashing of waves on a beach and heard only noise. They peered down the slopes of an alpine valley and saw only a cleft in the earth. They tried to feel empathy for refugees from war and felt only that they had gas.

Inspiration is different for everyone. Just as there is no daily routine, religion, or diet that works for every person, neither is there a set of experiences that will guarantee creation of a masterpiece. I suppose that’s one reason why artists exist in the first place: to contribute to an exposition of sources of inspiration available to humanity. Though trying to generate an inspirational experience that is identical to that of someone else won’t get you anywhere, you can look at their experience to show the enormous variety of sources waiting to be tapped.

Wouldn’t you like to be the first person to find inspiration in bellybutton lint? Of course you would.

Monday, August 23, 2010

America's Next Top Doofus

One of the biggest bunches of morons in America today consists of people who you probably could not single out on the street, nor might you know whether they were even in the same room. They skulk about retail stores by day, and they lurk around product review websites by night. Even your very best friend might be one. These insidious dunces are customers who feel that they need to be convinced to buy something they already want.

This afternoon I was graced by the presence of one such idiot. He had come in just a few days prior with his girlfriend (!) to compare three products with very similar features and specifications, but he was back to ask a few (thousand) more questions. From this past experience I knew this simpleton’s face, but that didn’t make my stomach turn over with any less violence when he opened the door, triggered the classy convenience-store style chime, and started gunning me down with inane queries begging subjective answers. When he was with his girlfriend and under the bubbly spell of hormones and Axe body spray, he was filled with overweening ignorance, dismissing each of the products offhand. On his return trip by himself, he was markedly more considerate, taking the time to inspect the products an unnecessary number of times and rattle off questions that might have undermined his significant other’s confidence in his knowledge.

He was there to buy something. He wouldn’t have made a second trip if he wasn’t going to buy something. The guy settled on one product, asked even more questions, had me convince him that that one was the one he wanted (even though he already knew that that one was the one he wanted), and… didn’t buy anything. He said he’ll be back tomorrow. Awesome. Dumbass.

I know some of you are reading this, rolling your eyes, and thinking that all I write about is writing and how customers suck. While that may be true, this needs to be said so that maybe a few of you can relate, and so some can learn from the mistakes of others.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Humiliation Situation

I’ve realized that much of what I do is driven by embarrassment and humiliation. Because I’m so often embarrassed by mistakes I make, my lack of grace, or just looking foolish, I seem to feel the need to do something to make up for such events; something that requires exceptional skill, effort, and time to counteract the awkward, humiliating moments for which I’m responsible.

The awful part is that in these attempts to do something exceptional, the likelihood that I’ll fall on my face is high. I suppose it’s a good thing that I’m a writer, then, because I can take my time and work toward creating a piece that will (with any luck) make me feel at least marginally better about being a dork.

The road between where I am and where I want to be is long, steep, uphill, narrow, and flanked by sheer drop-offs, but it’s one I'm compelled to travel. It’s completely irrational thinking that there’s some sort of balance between the inflation and wounding of pride that needs to be maintained, but it’s something that is inextricable from my mind. I’m sure I’m not alone in this ridiculous pursuit, so please let me know what you think and whether you’ve experienced anything like what I’ve described.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Summer and the Universe

It’s hot as balls here in Seattle. It was 95 degrees today, it was 95 degrees yesterday, and guess what? It’s going to be 95 degrees tomorrow. I suppose I’m pretty strange in that I suffer from seasonal depression in summer rather than fall or winter, but I would imagine that weather like this is too hot for most of you out there as well. The only good part about a hot day is the night that follows. Summer nights seem to be filled with subdued energy, where people are out and active, but are outside to relax and escape the heat that is trapped indoors.

It’s nights like these where I find myself studying the clear sky and thinking (because it’s still too hot to do much of anything else). Thinking not about the mundane, persistent topics that normally roll around in my mind, but about the universe and our place in it. Every time I’m blown away just by considering how distant other celestial objects are, the potential for life to exist on other planets, or just how small and isolated our home planet seems to be.

Though such thoughts are filled with wonder and awe, they are also seasoned with melancholy. I look forward to mankind’s development of technology that will allow us to travel the galaxy, discover planets capable of sustaining life, and even make contact with other intelligent beings, but I can be almost certain that I will not live to see any of these dreams come to fruition. I suppose I should consider myself lucky to live in a time where men have landed on the moon, probes have explored and given us amazing data about the planets of our solar system, and where we are only a stone’s throw away from sending manned missions to Mars, but I still wish I could stick around to see more of the future.

What about those of you reading this right now? Does anyone else ever consider our place in the universe? Does anyone else feel bad that they will miss some of the greatest advancements in human history, or am I just a gigantic nerd? (Don’t answer that last part.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

On writing (and sticking with it)

I have written every word to ever leave the tip of my pen or be transmitted through my keyboard because I have persevered to do so. I’m not really in the mood to write tonight, but I know that if I don’t, what’s to keep me from skipping writing a blog entry tomorrow night? Or the night after that? Or forever for that matter? Nothing. Nothing except a little gumption. But you know what? Most of the time, that’s all it takes. Sometimes obstacles appear to be monolithic structures blocking the path, but often they are only thin membranes of resistance, rent with ease by maintaining just a little perseverance.

Sticking with a project is one of the most consistently difficult things I’ve had to do in my life, but I know it has to be done. Just knowing that it has to be done isn’t enough, though; I need a push in the right direction from time to time. I’m very lucky to have a supportive, understanding group of friends who encourage me to keep on keeping on. One in particular, my friend Minima, has been invaluable in my blogging endeavor. When I started this blog, she charged me with the task of writing 20 entries (this one being the twentieth) to get me going. This may seem simple, but it was precisely the kick in the ass that I needed. Had she not encouraged me to write, it is quite likely that this blog would have only three or four entries, thrown on when inspiration struck.

Now that I have those 20 entries under my belt, I’m going to do what I think Minima would suggest that I do at this point: write another 20.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Closeness and Imperceptibility

Another oddity in social networking that I’ve noticed is the suddenness with which you can be thrust back into the lives of people with whom you may have completely lost contact. Just the other day, I was added as a friend on Facebook by someone I haven’t seen in over six years. Within minutes I was up to speed with what he looks like now, what he has been doing in the past few months, and plenty of details I never learned during the course of our in-person friendship.

This abrupt update in a friend’s life makes me consider the relationships I have with the people closest to me. I have perceived six years of growth and change in one person to occur in a single moment, but in my closest friends and loved ones, change in their appearance and daily lives seems so gradual that it is almost imperceptible. Perhaps the observation of such change is a good gauge of the closeness of a relationship. If you see someone make obvious leaps in the progression of his/her life, maybe it’s time to take a deeper interest in him/her before he/she has leapt off your radar.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On writing (and not knowing how to get there)

Now that I’ve written quite a few entries, I feel it’s time to explain where I’m going with this blog. Wait, scratch that. Writing, as with most pursuits, is about the journey, not the destination. Besides, I haven’t even a clue where I’ll end up. Having no idea where you’re going, but going despite the fact, is the very essence of writing.

For those of you who don’t write beyond blog posts or papers for work or school, you should know that most writers don’t actually come up with everything they put down on paper. Stories aren’t thought into being, but rather they are revealed. Revealed from where I doubt anyone knows, but just about any serious writer will tell you that they just write down what they’re told. Fighting against this and attempting to write only that which you have created results in pretty crappy writing, and gives your story the flair of a final paper written for a class that bores the living hell out of you.

My friend Sandman Moon puts it so well that to phrase it any other way would diminish its meaning: “I cannot live without writing because writing is the one and only thing that frees something blind and hard-packed at the core of my being.”

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rodents of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist.

Remember the talkative lady I mentioned a few posts ago? The one whose presence at my place of work I was downright dreading? Well, it has been almost two weeks, and she has yet to show. (If you hear incessant, frenzied knocking in the distance, it’s just me rapping on every piece of wood in my apartment in hopes that I haven’t just jinxed myself.) It’s a definite possibility that she came in on one of my days off, or even found another store that had lower prices or catered better to her needs, but chances are she’s still out there.

And it’s making me better at my job.

When the idea that my fear of her coming in to the store was making me more knowledgeable about the store’s products and services, I was reminded of The Princess Bride. As Westley and Buttercup are trudging through the Fire Swamp, he tells her about his experience working on a ship with the Dread Pirate Roberts. He mentions that every evening, Roberts would say to Westley that he would most likely kill him in the morning, but each day he found himself alive, so he would try to learn any fighting techniques anyone would teach him to try to defend against Roberts if he ever made good on his threats. Roberts never tried to kill Westley, but after three years of preparing for the worst, Westley was ready to take on anyone.

Yes, this has been a long-winded explanation of a simple concept, but I feel the illustration is necessary. Because I don’t want to be caught off guard when that lady finally comes in, I’ve been gathering all the information I can to prepare myself. Even if she never shows up, I’m now in better shape to do my job than ever.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Information Exclamation Observation

The Internet is a strange place (as if we needed any reminders). Not because of the fact that anonymity combined with an audience turns people into hateful twits, or the eerie speed and ease with which you can find pretty much any variety of pornography, but run-of-the-mill social networking. It strikes me as strange because there’s just so much you can find out about people you thought you knew well.

What I find of particular interest is information about my friends’ religious orientation. I’ll get back in touch with someone I knew in high school and often find that their profile page is so Jesus-laden that I’m surprised that he/she hasn’t already killed him/herself in an attempt to get closer to their lord. Then I start to wonder if these friends of mine were very religious when I met them, and if so, how could I have missed it? I know people who will shove their religion down your throat any opportunity, and I also know people who are kind enough to keep it to themselves, so they could very well have been part of the latter group. Has anyone else experienced this sort of surprising discovery about the nature of their friends in their adventures through social networking?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bachelor of Arts in Mediocrity

In life I’ve been fortunate enough to be generally well-liked. There have been exceptions, of course, like mean little turds I had to endure in elementary school, and the occasional grown-up turd in my adult life, but such people have come up only on occasion. I worked hard and did well in school, becoming a favorite of some teachers and professors (or so it seemed). I even received the Unsung Hero award and a $500 scholarship at my high school just for being someone others could look up to (the words of one of the teachers who came up with the award, not mine).

I was able to continue stirring up this sort of positive sentiment in people even in college, but I have not met with much success in trying to do so in the working world. At every job I’ve ever had, I’ve gotten along well with my co-workers, and customers seem to at least not hate my guts, but my job performance seems only mediocre. I put much of the same effort into my job as I did my school work, but I’ve been getting unremarkable results.

Why is school so different from work, at least in my case? I’m sure this is one of the reasons people become professional students. School proved to be a good environment for me, I think because if I stuck with a particular group of students long enough, like when taking a foreign language class, a comfortable, stable atmosphere developed that never develops in a workplace where new people traipse in and out on a daily basis. This is probably why I took almost nine years worth of foreign language classes during my school career.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Endless Bummer

It sucks trying to get any sleep during the summer. Even if you’re about to fall over dead from fatigue, it’s still often difficult to get the rest you need to function like a normal human being for the coming day. I know most people share this affliction with me, but there is another that may have targeted fewer people, including myself: ownership of a mind in a state of vicious unrest. I find myself often bombarded by thoughts and ideas, but the bombardment has seemed particularly acute in the past week or so. It seems to be worst just before and after sleeping, as those are the times when I’m the least preoccupied with tasks and responsibilities. Some thoughts will recur throughout the day, reminding me from time to time of how crazy I am, and others will stick and ride in grooves deeper than ocean trenches, pounding my brain with the persistence with which the earth rotates. Am I alone in this situation, or are there others to whom this is happening?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On customer service (and humanity)

At work today, I was stuck [read: trapped] on the phone with a customer who knew the exact thing she wanted, but neither knew what it was called nor knew how to describe it using terms that could point me in the right direction. It became apparent early in the conversation that this customer knew more about the products than I did, as she was louder and more insistent than I was. It took a 20-minute session of explanation and re-explanation to assure her that I knew (kind of) what I was talking about, and then she asked for my name and schedule so she could come in and continue our delightful conversation in person. Grand.

During the phone call, I drifted between varying levels of concern and consciousness, ranging from mild interest to near-comatose, and at one point I settled into a rather dangerous line of thought: Why is it so rare to encounter a polite, empathetic customer? Such a thought is not dangerous in and of itself, but when it pops into your head at a moment of lowered inhibitions, such as when you’re about to smack a customer because they won’t listen to a damned word you’re saying, you could utter something you would regret. Well, I’m sure plenty of you out there wouldn’t regret speaking your mind, but I bet that you would rue the decision afterward when considering your new employment status.

Anyway, I digress. Why are polite, empathetic customers so hard to find? I guess that question begs a bigger, broader question: Why are polite, empathetic humans so hard to find? It’s not difficult to be nice, to be friendly, or to have manners, but I encounter incapable individuals on a near-daily basis. Everyone needs some reassurance from time to time that if life is getting you down, it’s just a matter of time before things turn around, but why is it that all too often such empathy is nowhere to be found? If you find yourself asking these same questions, make an effort to effect the change you wish to see. Smile at somebody, throw out a “thank you” or two, and remember that we’re all in the same boat together.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Application Trepidation

Neither the job where I smell people all day nor the one where I run my ass off all day represents my desired career path, so I am doomed to continue doing that which I despise: applying for jobs. There’s nothing like fretting over the use of each word in a resume or cover letter to make you feel so insignificant and bent to the will of a potential employer. Running over the same list of the same information over and over again on countless applications has served as a fine alternative to ipecac.

What is it about applying for jobs that is so depressing? Is it the constant, pressing fear of rejection? Is it having to bottle yourself into a single-page resume, knowing in all likelihood it will be tossed without ceremony into the same receptacle as snot-filled tissues and empty bags of Cheetos? Is it the feeling of inadequacy? Yes. It’s all of them and probably more.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. No, not the light that you head toward when you die, but, you know, hope. It’s an awful, dehumanizing process, but I know it’s going to get me closer to where I want to be in life. Then I can ditch the smelly customers and move on to a job where I’ll only have to deal with smelly co-workers.

Friday, July 16, 2010

On writing (and getting the hell on the stick)

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was ten years old. I remember writing my first story at that age, penned with care on ten sheets of tiny notebook paper. I had done creative writing before for school assignments, but this was the first time I had ever written anything for myself. When I was 12, I started the horrid first draft of the novel that I’ve been working on at least once a week for the past year. I’m 24 now, so I suppose you could say that I’m well-invested in this story, you know, having spent half my life toying with the concept and all.

I did a lot of growth as a writer from then until now, generating a style, finding genres that suited me, and sharpening my command of the English language, but there was one thing that that I barely did at all: write. I wrote a page or two of junk every few months, and stared at discouraging blank pages a little more often. I was never going to get anywhere at that pace, I was never going to reap any sort of reward for my work, and I was guaranteed never to get even a whiff of what I could have accomplished. I created maps of new worlds, a new language, and a history of a people who existed only in my mind, but it didn’t matter because I hadn’t told any sort of story.

My writing ability would not have allowed me to produce a novel of even mediocre quality when I first had the idea, but now I have no excuse. I knew it needed to be done, so I made the commitment to write, and with a lot of encouragement from my diligent writing companions whom I met in the pursuit of my dream, I now have something to show for my efforts: a concrete body of good-quality work. I can read through the 40-or-so pages of writing I’ve done over the past year and see that I’m getting somewhere.

If you want to create that piece of art that’s been gnawing at the inside of your head, don’t put it off another day. It’s so easy to get mired in the swamp of creative procrastination (also known as research, creating the background, and someday) that you may miss the perhaps years-long opportunity to start and never even notice. Make like a Nike shoe and just do it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Nose Knows or The Smell of Clientele

Let’s take a moment to discuss how people smell. Some people smell good, and some people smell bad. According to a study I just made up, a staggering 93.7 percent of the customers at my main job fall into the latter of the aforementioned categories. I’m getting dehydrated because breathing through my mouth all day is drying me out.

Dealing with stinky customers has made me feel better about myself, however. I’m beginning to believe that I’m of some exceptional ability, because buying and applying deodorant, something which must prove to be a monumental task for most of the store’s clientele, is something I can do with ease.

I would be remiss if I limited this discussion to the variety of odor that can be dealt with using deodorant, which is only a part of the fetid rainbow that is the spectrum of human stench. Let’s break this stink down into a few categories:

Breath: I don’t know if it’s something you ate (week-old roadside coyote and road apples, I’m guessing), or if it’s the smell of your mouth trying to escape one dying cell at a time, but the right kind of bad breath can flatten the very person who has been paid to stand in front of you and make sure you get what you need (besides a healthy dose of mouthwash). I know your diet and hygiene are none of my business, but I’d appreciate it if you brushed your teeth one of these years.

Feet: If I can smell your feet at you’re walking around, your stink has reached my nose. I’m about 5’ 10”, making my nose a little over five feet above the ground. This indicates that the area of effect of your foulness has at least a five-foot radius, which is about four feet and eleven inches greater than the area generally accepted by society. Changing every 3,000 miles applies to engine oil; not socks.

Body: This is the most common, and in my opinion, worst, affliction among the customers with whom I work. Perhaps the worst aspect of body odor is that breathing through the mouth doesn’t always do the trick. Sometimes I can taste how bad you smell, and that’s just the highlight of my day. Some may be worried about the potential negative health effects of deodorants containing aluminum, but these are eclipsed by the negative health effects of my hands choking the life out of these people.

Good hygiene is a wonderful thing.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tomorrow is the first day at my second new job. The second job I had to take because I can’t get enough hours at my first job. The second job I had to take so I can cover my budget. My modest budget.

I’m thrilled.

I’m trying to keep a positive attitude about the whole thing, but it’s difficult not to think about the last time I had two jobs. When I was 19, I got a full-time job as a greeter at a semi-fine-dining restaurant in a hotel near Seattle. I was making pretty good money, but this was the during the year I took off between high school and college, and I thought because I wasn’t doing anything but working, I should try to make as much money as I could while I had the opportunity. After being at the restaurant for a couple months, the sick and twisted idea of getting an additional job chomped its teeth into my brain. The fact that it would be a second job wasn’t the sick and twisted part, but the idea that I should go back to work at my last job was. The only job I had held before the restaurant (not counting the week I spent at UPS—that’s another story) was when I was 18 working as a bottom-rung customer service lackey at Blockbuster for minimum wage, and as you can imagine, it sucked balls. I know this now, and I knew this at the time, so the reason why I thought this would be an even partially good idea escapes me. My old manager hired me back on, and I spent one day doing the job I had grown to hate, learning an important lesson: coming back to an old job is like putting on a pair of dirty underwear. Not long after I got home from work, I called the manager at Blockbuster and told him I wasn’t coming back, labeling myself as the perfect turd of an employee. I didn’t even get paid for the day.

Let’s hope everything turns out better this time. (However, if it does, I’ll have a lot less to write about here. A writer’s dilemma, huh?)

Friday, July 9, 2010

On confidence

Over the past few years, I’ve come to find just how important confidence is. Being confident can make the difference between getting what you want in life and being the person people walk all over to get what they want. Feeling confident makes you look confident and turns you into a good-vibe generator. I had dinner this evening with a friend who just had her braces removed after wearing them for a year. She just had them removed, and this was the first time I saw her braces-free. She normally has a good level of confidence, but today she exuded such rich self-esteem and happiness with her restored smile that it was thick and palpable in the air around our table.

There is something to be said about a person’s level of confidence. Different parts of society prescribe different proper levels, but it doesn’t seem difficult to determine what most people feel is best. You don’t want overconfidence, where you’re so much of a self-indulgent boor that no one can stand to be around you, nor do you want a lack of confidence, where few people want to be around you because you’re such a drag. Surround yourself with supportive friends, practice what you do best, and do your best to have a positive attitude, and you’ll achieve a level of confidence that will not only make you feel good about yourself, but will make others feel good about you as well.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

On writing (and not vomiting on the way to work)

Is it just me, or does everyone feeling like heaving up their breakfast when they hit the road to get to their job? I felt awful this morning just because I dreaded going to work, and it took just about everything I had to keep from turning my car around and heading back home, which left me brimming with energy for the day ahead, of course. After my stomach settled, I started thinking about how I need to put more time toward writing if I ever want to leave behind jobs like the one I have for good. Then I thought about why I started writing in the first place. I’ve always been compelled to write, and though I have not had much confidence in my writing or spent time writing on a consistent basis until the past year or so, the desire to write has always sat upon the couch in the living room of my mind, stinking up the place with ideas.

That has been my experience, but is it like that for all writers? Why do others write? Do they do it because they feel the need to do so, or are they doing it for some far-off money-making potential? Do they write to escape reality? Do they do it to work toward breaking free from a life with which they’re unhappy? The likelihood that there are far more reasons than I am able to generate is high. I suppose the same goes for reasons that anyone does anything.

Perhaps now is as good of a time as any to think about why you do what you do, whether it’s your job, your creative work, or anything else. If you’re not happy with something, start taking even small steps toward changing or eliminating it from your life. There’s no reason tomorrow can’t be the day you’ll remember as the day that everything changed.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fireworks have been sporadically going off in the alley since sunset yesterday, and the smell of propane from the neighbors’ grills has been wafting into my apartment since noon, which means that it must be the Fourth of July. Just about everyone gets patriotic today. Even people who disapprove of our country’s presence abroad or handling of domestic affairs can be spotted hanging out at barbecues, waving flags, and watching fireworks displays. However, few of these people seem to think about what it means to have national pride. It seems to be the same as yelling out, “Hey! I happen to be from here, so this is the best country in the world!”

Americans are often singled out and accused of being boorish when they say they are proud to be American, but almost every nationality and ethnic group is guilty of this behavior as well. You are part of a particular group, so you think that group is the best, right? Sorry to be a party pooper, but perhaps that sort of energy should be redirected into something constructive.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I was talking to a friend today about plans we have for the near future. When we worked our way back from the next couple years and the next few months to just the upcoming days, and started talking about plans with friends, there was an abrupt change in her tone. She was talking about one of her friends who always flakes out on even the least involved events, and she asked me, “Why can’t someday be now?” Someday. It’s so damned easy to just throw it out there.

“When are we going to go to Europe?”
“When are you going to take that Kung Fu class?”
“When are we going to try that Indian restaurant on the corner?”

We often convince ourselves that the odds in many situations are insurmountable, so we think that our time is better spent sitting at home having never even attempted to break down barriers that, for all we know, could be made of tissue paper. If you give it a shot, you have at least a small chance of succeeding. If you sit on your ass, your chance of success is nil.

We put things off until "someday" because putting a concrete date on something can be scary. It’s also often the only way to motivate yourself to do anything. You’ll always be able to make excuses for why something can’t happen now, so make excuses for why it needs to happen. Make someday now.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Work has been going well, and I’m surprised. Being the new guy is awful, having to learn a job almost from scratch, dealing with an entire new set of clientele, learning who thinks their ass needs to be kissed, stuff like that. So far it has been a pretty easy transition into this new job, I suppose because I’ve done before much of what I’m doing now, but still it’s hard to shake the anxiety. Whenever a customer walks in, I’m struck with a feeling of dread, and it just reminds me of how much I need to get out of customer service. Perhaps it’s experiences like this that drive one to improve their lot in life. This isn’t such a terrible experience that I feel the need to completely change my life, but I think it’s just what I need to spur me on in a different, better direction.

Monday, June 28, 2010

On customer service

Tomorrow is the first day at my new job, and being the nervous kind of guy that I am, I’m, well, nervous. In trying to calm my feelings of anxiety, I tried to think about how I already have a general idea of what to do, how it’s a small store in a part of town inhospitable to window shoppers, and how I’ll have to get up at only 8:30 everyday. But what really put me in the right frame of mind was something I had never thought to do before: make this job what I want it to be. I will always be courteous to the management and keep busy, but who’s to say I can’t have fun with the customers (as long as I don’t piss any of them off, of course)? Why can’t I not get nervous when I don’t know something, but admit that I don’t know and send them in the right direction? Why can’t I make fun of a snotty customer right to their face in a manner they won’t pick up on, but still get them what they need? Why can’t I bullshit with a customer who seems like a bullshitter? There’s no reason at all.

I’ve spent a total of about four years in customer service jobs, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, but still have had trouble taking to heart, is to not take things personally. Put in an order for a cheeseburger, but forgot to tell the kitchen to make it without onions? Didn’t know the yield of a particular toner cartridge or the size of the cache on a particular hard drive? No big deal. Mistakes happen, and you just won’t know things from time to time. The customer got upset? Fuck ‘em. They won’t remember tomorrow, and you shouldn’t think about for days after it happened. Take the opportunity to learn from mistakes, but don’t let guilt or worry swallow you whole.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Today was a lazy day. A very lazy day. The kind where undies make the fashion statement no one wants to hear, and where the available time to make a five-course meal meets the ambition to make a peanut butter sandwich. The only event of note to happen today was that I received an e-mail from the assistant manager at my new job that I needed to schedule a time for orientation on Tuesday. Orientation. For a company I worked for just a year and a half ago. Doing essentially the same job. I apparently need to be reoriented. Yes, I probably should have my head put on a bit tighter and be reoriented that way, but spending a couple hours going over company policies I don’t care about, meeting people with whom I’ve already been acquainted, and going over benefits I won’t be getting? Now that sounds necessary.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A journey of a thousand miles...

My main goal in life is to achieve at least mediocrity in everything I do. I’d like to not look stupid doing it, but I understand that’s asking for kind of a lot. Bumping myself up onto the plateau of success known as mediocrity is an arduous task as it is, and I probably shouldn’t burden myself with the weight of trying to save face, but what can I say? I guess I’m an overachiever.

The level of effort it takes to maintain mediocrity has become quite apparent while looking for a job over the past few months. Two weeks ago, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Geography (Is that the one where you study rocks?) from the University of Washington, and for approximately 37 minutes, the worry of what I was going to do about paying the bills was alleviated. Champagne bottles blew their corks. Doors opened. I even peed a little. But as it turns out, the only purpose graduation serves is to increase your nervousness and flop sweats, as the urgency with which you need to find a job has shot up like a pet owner off the couch upon hearing their cat in the throes of puking up a hairball...on the carpet.

So, as you might have guessed, I have spent the past two weeks with my job search in top gear. Well, I guess I haven’t been in top gear the entire time. I have downshifted for a couple coffee breaks. All right, several coffee breaks. And to make tuna salad and bacon sandwiches. And for four-hour sessions of playing Final Fantasy XIII. And to do important research on the Internet (Watching a video of someone hitting themselves in the face with a speed bag is considered important research, right? How about watching it 16 times?). Fine, I’ve been a bit lazy, but the fish aren’t biting. Nothing but rejections, non-responses, and waiting for responses. Until today. I contacted my manager at my last job, and she was able to put my name out and get me hired on at another store in the chain where I worked, this time near where I live in Seattle. Here’s where the mediocrity marches in, banging its loose drums, slobbering into its bent horns, and smacking together its dented cymbals. The only job I’ve managed to snag is doing customer service, which I loathe from the deepest, most cholesterol-spackled regions of my heart, for a wage that covers only 80% of my modest budget. This appears to be the best I can do, folks. Awesome.