Saturday, November 2, 2013

Stress and romance and other job hazards.

So what's up with my new job, grasshoppers? Remember when I was a trucker? I can't believe I ever did that. Like I actually went to trucking school, passed my CDL test, and worked as a trucker for a trucking company delivering huge loads across the country. That is so crazy. So completely out of character for me. But hey, you do out-of-character things when you're desperate for money. I'll do almost anything for money. Paint houses, wash cars, deliver pizza, slice head cheese, be a test subject for medical experiments, sell my body fluids, sell infomercial gizmos, dance topless on tropical islands, drive 18-wheelers, clean toilets. Well, looking at that list, it seems the only thing that's out of character for me is having a steady, respectable 9-5.

So I quit trucking in July, because that job sucked a fat one. Then I stayed with Springtime Lover for a few weeks, then took a road trip to the East Coast in August, then came back to Hometown and stayed with my mom for a week. I'd been looking for a new job all summer, and one listing I saw on Craigs List seemed intriguing. It was for a "cellular account manager" in a city 90 miles southwest of Hometown, which we'll call Capital Town. 

The strange thing was that this was the first position I ever applied for where the hiring process was like what you read and hear about as "normal" and "typical" in the mass media, but which I had never personally encountered. For the first time ever, I saw a posted position for an office job, I sent my resume and cover letter, got an interview, researched the company beforehand and came up with really good interview questions, went to the interview dressed in business-y clothes and conservative heels, was hired on the spot, and started training six days later, in early September.

It was so surreal, like in a movie. I didn't think jobs and interviews like that existed anymore, because I've never experienced such a thing and because the media tells me those jobs don't exist nowadays and that the workforce (and workplace) is changing. But this was like a textbook case of job-hunting, and for the first time, it wasn't a massive struggle. It was smooth and normal and easy. I didn't feel like I had to trick the resume-scanning logarithm software to get my foot in the door or like I had to pretend I was someone else. Real humans actually talked to me and looked at my resume and at least pretended to give a shit about my college degree. It was wild! I couldn't believe it.

It's the only job I've had that's been full-time, 8-5, Monday-Friday, with no nights, weekends, or holidays, and that pays a living wage and has opportunity for advancement. Employees get paid time off, paid training, health insurance, employee discounts with local vendors, tuition reimbursement for any subject (hello, comedy school!), and access to an on-site cafeteria and free fitness center. We have a dress code, and my coworkers actually come to work wearing button-down shirts and ties, and sometimes blazers. It's one of the very few jobs I've had where the outside has nice landscaping and the inside is decorated and color-coordinated and isn't a grimy fluorescent mess. Our cubicles are gray but we can decorate them, and there are lots of windows, so I can see what's happening outside. It's the first job I've had where I drive to work in the morning, park in the employee parking lot behind a big, imposing, 11-story mirrored office building with marbled floors and ambient lighting, wait in line for the elevator, go up several floors, and swipe my little name-badge to get in the glass door. It's the first job I've had where I keep things like paper clips and pens and highlighters in my desk drawer because I use them during the day. I know! And the story gets even crazier from here.

I know I've blogged before (in the second half of this post) about not wanting to join the working stiffs on their cubicle farms, about never wanting Dilbert or Office Space jokes to apply to me, and I've made fun of former lovers who aspired to climb the corporate ladder. But like I said in this post, I'll do almost anything for money. Besides, I'm 31 now, and while it's fine to bounce from menial job to menial job in your 20s while you "find your way," in your 30s you need to have a respectable job if you want to be viewed as reliable and mature. I don't want to spend another five years finding my way, fantasizing about some distant point in the future when I'm living a grown-up lifestyle. I want to be working and making headway on my student loans. When people ask me what I do for work, I want to have some sort of title in some sort of industry so I sound like an adult who can be trusted and taken seriously. I don't want to be a ne'er-do-well. I don't want people to laugh behind my back about my string of crappy jobs. I don't want people to keep assuring me that "someday" I'll find a job that's right for me, if only I just keep searching. Eventually you reach an age where you don't want to search anymore, but just pick something and roll up your sleeves and get to work.

So when I got hired by this company--let's call it "Weinerdoodle Business Solutions"--I thought, "Wow, at long last, things are happening. Changes are afoot. I'm becoming the adult person I've always wanted to be. Finally." Finally I'm being given the chance to move from blue-collar to white collar. That kind of a mental shift is a big deal. That kind of wardrobe change is a big deal. Going from being the kind of person who lifts heavy objects and gets dirty at work to being the kind of person who is expected to look professional and clean at work is a big deal, man. 

I've been employed at Weinerdoodle for two months now, and what do I do there, you ask. Well, there's a major national phone company that is known for its horrible customer service, so that company hired Weinerdoodle to improve its poor reputation, especially for its business customers. I was hired as an account manager for those business customers and assigned a portfolio of 200 or so businesses that each have multiple phone and Internet accounts, and I help keep their services running right. If their contract is expiring, I make sure they get a renewal. If they need to add or remove phone or computer services, I make that happen. If they have billing issues (which they almost always do), I submit the mountains of paperwork to get that fixed. If their services are about to be disconnected due to their not making a payment on their multi-thousand-dollar bill, I have to kiss the billing department's ass to prevent the disconnect. Many of these business accounts are very large and extraordinarily complex and so unbelievably screwed up, solving one aspect of one problem can take an entire morning. What I really am is the middle man between that phone company and their business customers so that the business customers don't have to call the phone company's generic 1-800 customer care number. I do that for them after they call me directly to complain and make their demands. My job is like hyper-advanced, super-complicated customer service on crack.

I don't hate it though. From that description it sounds like a job I should hate, but it's not horrible. I don't dread going to work or dread any part of my workday. It's just very busy and very tiring, because there are always so many pots in the fire. We account managers spend our days playing whack-a-mole and battling crises and every now and then we enter a big sale. It's the kind of job where it's possible to stay late, which is odd for me because with my previous jobs, when the day was over, the equipment was shut down and everyone went home. If you tried to stay late, you'd just be sitting alone in the dark. There was none of this staying-at-your-desk-for-an-extra-hour-or-two-to-finish-putting-out-a-fire shenanigans. And it is the kind of place where we have ridiculous, time-wasting meetings and where other people can easily take credit for your ideas and revel in the praise. But still I don't hate it. I've met a handful of really cool people there and we IM each other jokes and eat lunch together every day and commiserate over what a waste of time that last meeting was.

It's a high pressure job, not just for me, but for all the employees. A lot of people there have mini-meltdowns and storm away from their desk or stomp around or throw papers or run off crying, and some don't come back. Turnover is high, but those who stick it out apparently make good money.

Still, I don't hate it. There are a lot of things about it I'm grateful for. For instance, I've been amassing a collection of really cute clothes over the years in hopes that someday I'd have somewhere to wear them, and now I do, and I take pleasure in dressing up and being fashionable. I also like that I can't really take work home with me--once I leave the office, I'm done for the day. I appreciate that I have weekends free to blog and read and unwind and socialize and enjoy a little art. I would say I like my evenings too, but I'm usually too tired to really do much on weeknights, except maybe run a couple errands. I can barely keep my eyes open past 8:30pm. 

There are also quite a few good-looking men who work there. All but one of them are married, though. The one single guy, let's call him Mr. Wickham, is very dashing and quite handsome. No...he's GORGEOUS. He's so yummy to look at, it hurts. Like it literally hurts my pelvis to look at that man, he is so attractive. The first time I saw him and didn't see a wedding ring, I thought, "There's no way he's single; he must have a girlfriend or fiancee." Then he mentioned that he was single, and I thought, "He must be a ladies' man then, looking so delicious." Not only does he have good features, but he's confident and assertive and debonair of the managers. Yeowm. Totally out of my league and totally off limits. Bummer, I thought. So during training I avoided him and just focused on acting professionally and being a good trainee. 

When the three weeks of training were over and we were sent out to the floor, though, I was assigned to the cubicle right next to his, which made me extremely uncomfortable. When you're brand new at a job, you don't know anything and you make a lot of mistakes, and I didn't want him seeing me making a lot of mistakes and asking dumb questions. Plus I was taking this job seriously. I was there to work and have a career and be a professional, not to flirt with the managers like some hussy. But right from that first day he was unusually attentive to me, and a few days later he started passing me very flirtatious paper notes. Which kind of blew my mind, because hot men never hit on me. Homeless men hit on me a lot, but not good-looking, nice-smelling, well-dressed career men. And how often does it happen that anyone you're attracted to is attracted to you back? That NEVER happens in my world.

I tried to pace things slowly and practice a little caution at first, but Mr. Wickham was quite aggressive and disarming. The blitz of paper notes very quickly escalated into texts and IMs and naughty whispers, discreetly taking lunches and breaks together, making out in the deserted flights of the stairwell, and trysts outside of work. Only a week or two had passed, though, before I noticed that he was...kinda weird. He showed up to our first date in his pajamas, for example. Our second date he pressured me to drop what I was doing to see him that day, then cancelled at the last minute with no apology and no plan to reschedule. A week later he started texting me at 6am and sent several texts and phone calls saying he wanted to come over before work, and he later told me he'd been sitting in the parking lot of my apartment waiting for me to answer those texts, which I didn't have time to answer. Yeah, you read that right: Dude showed up at 7am, unannounced, again expecting me to drop everything to see him, which I did not. When I asked, "Why did you do that?" he griped, "It was supposed to be a surprise--I was just trying to do something nice!" Then he started insulting my sense of humor, throwing candy at me at work, and for our third date he stood me up completely, again with no apology or offer to reschedule.

You know, I'm aware that I'm no supermodel or anything, but I've still been treated very well by past lovers and once you've been treated well, you can never go back to being played and jerked around. That shit's fucking rude, and I'd had enough. So even though Mr Wickham was devastatingly handsome, I told him not to contact me anymore, and he hasn't. We've totally avoided each other since.

What a shame. The whole affair was so fast and furious but burned out so quickly, I still sometimes wonder what hit me. He pursued me so intensely and insisted up and down that he wanted a relationship, but when I pointed out that his actions were not congruent with that, he was full of excuses. Now I see him at work every day and it's uncomfortable to be near him and listen to his beautiful voice and still feel that intense physical attraction but to know in my brain that he's a turd on the inside. Since then I've overheard all kinds of rumors about his exploits with other female employees and I can't help but think that Wickham is the perfect blog name for him. 

Blech. Story of my life: I meet very nice, sweet, unattractive men who love me unconditionally, and in between them I meet throat-achingly gorgeous men who know they're attractive and have the worthless personality to match. There was still a little part of me that was holding out hope that good-looking men can be nice, but this experience was the final nail in the coffin. I'm now completely confident in declaring that good-looking men are NEVER nice. Unattractive men can be either jerks OR they can be total sweethearts, but attractive men are ALWAYS jerks. Successful men are often, but not always, assholes as well. I assume because the testosterone that makes them aggressive, driven, and ambitious is the same testosterone that makes them tend to step on other people. 

And still I don't hate my job. In one of our department meetings two weeks ago, a middle-aged lady was sitting on the floor and as she was rocking to get herself back up, she let slip this epic fart, and the whole room started laughing. There's another kid at work who hides under people's desks when they're gone and scares them when they come back. He's like Ellen. So there are amusing aspects.

Last night I attended sangha (a group meditation for people of Buddhist persuasion) here in Capital Town. There was a really good sangha in Green Bay that I enjoyed attending while I was there this summer, but the one here in Capital Town was entirely too long. Two hours! On a Friday night! I don't know about y'all, but 20 minutes of sitting meditation is as much as I can handle, especially at night at the end of a long, dirty week. They did break up the two hours with a 20-minute walking meditation, and as we were doing that, the lady in front of me cracked a huge fart. Which wasn't really possible to disguise since everyone was walking in total silence. I guess the ladies here in Capital Town are a bit gassier than elsewhere in the state.

Anyway, my point in bringing up the sangha is that during the walking meditation, a few monkey-mind thoughts drifted through my head, and one of them was, "I need to see a chiropractor again." The other was, "Wouldn't it be cool if I could write all day, instead of be an account manager? Wouldn't it be cool if I actually found a job where I could be creative and exercise my artistic muscles? I've always thought it'd be great to do that."

But as I'm writing this, I'm remembering that the world is already flooded with fantastically talented writers and unappreciated literature, and that profession has its own hazards, like getting in trouble and receiving hate mail for the things you write, not making hardly any money, and pouring your heart and soul into something only to have it widely dismissed as garbage. It takes a very special kind of person to write full-time, and I don't think I have the discipline or the courage. Wouldn't it just be trading one set of problems for another? And looking for a new gig would entail more searching. I'm so tired of searching.

I don't know.

I'm just going to hang out at Weinerdoodle for the winter and see how it goes, and keep blogging. 'Cause I need the money. And I'll do almost anything for money.