Once in a Lifetime

 

I’ve never made friends quickly. You all should know that by now. At my previous job, my boss told me that I seemed to have put up a shell around myself. That’s not entirely true, but he meant well. I heard recently that he walked out of the store he’d been transferred to because the district manager is a total bitch. I flatter myself that I might have started a bit of a trend by walking out when I did. I wasn’t the first person to walk out, but still. They started a dangerous precedent by pushing good people out, and anyway, I didn’t come here to gloat. I’ve learned by now that what they say about living well being the best revenge is true. It doesn’t mean that the bad guy always gets his comeuppance. Oftentimes, they kinda just drift away. Most of the time, they never learn their lesson. They go on being shitty, and the most you can hope for is that the people around them realize what shits they are and keep their distance. But they don’t ever just go away.

It was a big decision when I decided to be a blogger instead of a vlogger or whatever. I have a very animated speaking style and a rather distinctive voice, but I would prefer not to go on camera. I don’t like having my picture taken. Sometimes I think I might have fit right in in one of those cultures where they believe that having your picture taken robs you of your soul or something like that. Then again, maybe not. I’m not a Luddite (it’s actually a common myth that the Luddites were anti-technology, but never mind); I just try to resist the temptation of going with trends. That’s why I’ve always felt so out of my own time. I know that we all like to think of ourselves as special snowflakes, and that’s great. But there are a lot of people out there who don’t think of themselves as ordinary who, to my eyes, appear rather conventional. I don’t believe that’s entirely subjective. I think that most people are boring, and that interesting people come in all shapes and sizes. There’s nothing wrong with being boring, I suppose. It’s all in what you want out of life.

cybermenIt’s frustrating, working in a medium that doesn’t provide you with any immediate gauge as to what people think. Actually, I think that might be a strength. Facebook has the “like” button, and actually, so does this blog. But it’s not like there are message boards where people discuss my stuff at length. If they did, I probably wouldn’t read it because I need my headspace. That’s the problem with the internet: it’s all just nerds with opinions. I still don’t understand why so many Whovians hate “Nightmare in Silver” so much. I remain convinced that it’s the best Cybermen storyline since “Earthshock”, not that the competition is particularly steep. It’s definitely overstuffed and yeah, the kids are kind of annoying, but it also has some arresting visuals, a great performance by Matt Smith, and some of the snappiest dialogue the show ever produced. (“I trust the Doctor.” “Are you saying he knows what he’s doing?” “I’m not sure I’d go that far.”) For once, the Cybermen act like Cybermen (sort of proto-Borg, although I don’t know if there’s any truth to the rumor that they inspired the Borg) rather than substitute Daleks. Go Gaiman.

There’s nobody I agree with 100% of the time. This leads me to believe that nobody is right 100% of the time except for me. But seriously, I do believe that there is such a thing as absolute truth. I believe in subjectivity as well; I just think that while most human beings might, on some level, be more or less the same, that doesn’t mean you have to get along with everyone, and it’s okay to think somebody’s a shithead if they’ve wronged you. I guarantee that there are folks out there who think I’m a shithead, although I think most of them are shitheads too, so I guess it kind of evens out. There’s no bigger waste of time, in my opinion, than trying to make friends with everyone. A lot of my idols probably wouldn’t have much to say to me if they met me. Then again, maybe they would and I just need to get a little bit better at making overtures.

I’ve always believed that endings aren’t bad so long as you get to end things on your own terms. I talked to an asshole on an online dating site just now who couldn’t believe that I choose to work in retail and customer service jobs despite having degrees from two of the best universities in the world. Well, I am a smart motherfucker. Right now, I need my headspace, that’s all. You can’t get back at everyone who has hurt you. Robert, the near-sociopath who screwed me out of my living situation about two years ago, is probably living quite comfortably now. Whether or not he’s happy is debatable. I’m not very happy, but it’s all in how you define happiness, isn’t it?

In case it’s not obvious, I’m signing off here. I’ve cranked out these last few posts in what could be considered a binge (albeit the tamest binge in the entire history of the word) because sometimes, you just want to get it over with. Oh no, don’t take that the wrong way. I’m glad I did this shit. I used to think that you needed to have all your shit figured out before you ended something, but it turns out you don’t. Is death the only part where that happens? I don’t know. But it’s not as scary as it looks. Not that I plan on doing it anytime soon.

I’ll leave you with something silly. I’m still kind of a funnyman despite spending most of my time here sharing Deep Thoughts. See ya around.

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In God’s House

The challenge is to resist circumstances. Any idiot can be happy in a happy place, but moral courage is required to be happy in a hellhole.

—Joyce Carol Oates

The thing about anxieties is that they don’t go away so much as migrate to other areas. You can never really stamp them out, and even if what you’re obsessing over is, on its face, ridiculous, it’s hard to just forget about it and move on no matter how many times you’ve been through this before. So forgive me if I’m even more self-pitying than normal here, but I’ve been in kind of a reflective mood lately. The holidays are right around the corner, and I’m starting to understand why they’re so stressful for so many people. I mean, the whole point is that they’re fun and festive, right? But it doesn’t seem to go that way for most people. I’m not buying anyone gifts this year. I found a second job (it’s seasonal, but still), which will hopefully enable me to make ends meet for the time being, but beyond that, I’m out. Right now, I have to look out for myself and no one else. It’s just where I’m at.

The crazy thing, of course, is that now I have to fight the urge to indulge in all those things that I’ve been holding back on lately. Even with my income nearly doubling, my personal budget sheet is going to be only slightly in the black. I’m not sure how long it’s going to be before I can move back to NYC. I’m hoping to do it by next fall, but at the rate things are going, who knows? This is one of those cases where I wish I had one of my optimistic (or is it fatalistic?) friends around. You know, one of those people who says, “Oh don’t worry, if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.” I hate that attitude, but it can be rather comforting. I think the universe is a pretty cold, indifferent place, but it’s not completely without order. I also have to figure out what’s going on with my healthcare and other such adult things. I was not happy as a child, so all things considered, that’s kind of a step forward. Even so.

prayer in schoolMy problem isn’t that I’ve never been able to accept responsibility; it’s that I’ve never been very good at kicking back. It’s part of the reason that I spend most of my time off sitting in my room dicking around on my computer: after a long, hard day of doing shit, that’s usually all I have the energy to do. And I’m still not working nine-to-five, which is good, as I don’t want that kind of schedule and likely never will. I think part of my fascination with religion comes with my inability to function in the gritty, messy reality that I live in. I like to think of myself as pragmatic, but since I’m an obsessive perfectionist, I’m probably more idealistic than I care to admit. Some of my favorite co-workers back at the coffee shop weren’t even particularly good at their jobs; they were just fun people to be around. I don’t know how much fun I am to be around, but I try not to let every tiny slip-up at work get to me the way I used to. My father said once that 90% of success is showing up. It’s one of the few valuable things he taught me.

In case it’s not obvious, I’m starting to wind down. I’ll keep writing these posts for a little while yet. I think I am finding better ways to communicate with people than blogging. This thing still doesn’t get many hits, but as I’ve said many times, I don’t even know who the fuck reads blogs anymore. These days, it’s all Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, or what have you. Nobody gives a shit about WordPress. In a way, it’s liberating to know that you have a small but devoted group of followers. It means that you don’t have to work as hard to keep everyone happy. I finished 30 Rock not too long ago. Maybe the reason I like that show so much is that it’s unafraid to include jokes that are so specific and obscure as to appeal to only a tiny percentage of the population. Jenna had a line at one point that was like, “You’ll have to move to the Bay Area. Have fun always carrying a light sweater everywhere.” I know millions of people live there, but still.

I have found that people tend to use their free time more efficiently when they have less of it. This is not at all surprising. I’m working full-time now, so I don’t have too many days to just sit around doing whatever. It’s only natural that I might miss that. Then again, part of my problem in the first place was that I had all this time to do nothing and no idea how to fill it. I loved computer games as a child, but even I could play them only for a few hours every day before thinking I should find something else to do. I actually did spend a lot of time with my friends in those days, it’s just that everyone seemed to think that because I had no obligations, I had nothing to worry about. It doesn’t work that way. My pursuits at the moment are still fundamentally selfish. I’m not looking for a job that will make other people happier, just one that will pay the bills and not bore me to tears. If it benefits other, great. But my motives are not altruistic by any means.

In the Morning

I said when I left New York for California that I was going into what I thought of as an exile. It’s been over a year since that happened, and it really wasn’t my choice. I’ve never been able to uproot myself completely. I had a very awkward experience my freshman year of college when I returned to my high school to see the improv club perform and ended up performing in the show. It wasn’t like I was trying to pass myself off as a student, so I don’t suppose there was anything wrong with it, but man, did it ever feel weird. When I was in grad school, I frequently found myself wishing that I could pop by California for just a few hours or the same way that I spent many weekends in my first year of college at my parents’ house and still revisit my college town on occasion. (I’m not always there just to walk around. I have friends over there and sometimes, there’s a movie showing that isn’t available where I live.) I’m starting to worry that some of the people I hang out with are a bit too much like me. So maybe it’s time to get out of this town.

It’s probably better to feel as if you are leaving shit behind rather than getting out just to get away from all this stuff. And I definitely won’t be able to move back to NYC anytime soon, for reasons both financial and otherwise. What I know for certain is that I’m getting tired of this shit. I’m tired of this wussy climate. I’m tired of having to commute sometimes several hours in order to spend time with a friend. I’m tired of being reminded of shit that I did growing up but don’t really care about anymore. I don’t know if my high school has reunions, but if it does, I’m never going to one. That’s a promise.

A lot of my coworkers at the coffee shop knew each other previously. I didn’t know anyone there when I walked in and was older than most of them anyway, if only by a few years. I can’t help that I prefer to hold myself at kind of a distance from the LGBT community. I hate it when people say, “Being gay is only a small part of who I am” because no, it isn’t; I just think that it’s a mistake to define yourself in terms of how well you do or don’t fit in with a particular group. It is one thing to look at certain issues through rainbow-colored lenses and quite another to make everything about gender and sexuality. The former is not only fine but vital and perhaps even inevitable. The latter is dull. Dull, dull, dull. And I know I’ve talked about this before but that doesn’t make it any less true.

I worried for a long time about how I was going to keep in touch with all my friends when we lived on opposite sides of the country. The obvious answer to that is that sometimes people drift apart. The ones that don’t stay in contact via Skype or social media or Pony Express or telegraph or whatever the hell else you’ve got. And I think the rocky quality of my social life up until this point is due to the fear that my friends will forget me if I don’t stay in constant contact with them. One of my best friends from college is getting his Ph.D in condensed matter physics at Urbana-Champaign Illinois. I haven’t seen him in over three years, but you had better believe I want to see him again. I hope he feels the same way about me. Because we haven’t talked in a while.

Maybe the frustration here is that I can’t seem to distinguish between people who are really important to me and people who are only kind of important. It’s okay, I guess, to have friendly acquaintances with whom you exchange Christmas cards but don’t actually see much if at all, but then again, writing Christmas cards sounds like a real drag. My parents sit down to do them every year around December and…God no, I don’t want to go there.

There are a lot of nice people in the world, but as for people I would actually want to get to know, the list is rather short. Someday, I might like to meet my heroes, but of course, there’s nothing that says I should have to be friends with them. When I leave this state for good, perhaps it will feel necessary more than anything else. I’m not itching to get out of here, but the fact remains that I never really liked it all that much to begin with. And I might return periodically for the holidays and whatnot, but don’t count on it. Because people need to reach out to me from time to time, and while I didn’t write this to point fingers at anyone, I think some of them could try a little harder on that front. Of course, the ones I’d really want to see this probably aren’t the ones reading it. So it goes.

It should not come as news to most of you that reading YouTube comments is a bad idea. I still do it sometimes for reasons I can’t begin to fathom. After reading way more of them than any reasonable person should, I have concluded that most people are fucking idiots, and that most of the racist/misogynistic stuff attacking Obama/Anita Sarkeesian/Nelson Mandela/Dora the Explorer/whoever the fuck the trolls are after these days are left by a small group of people with diagnosable mental disorders brought together by a shared need to live in a bigoted fantasy rather than the real world. It’s pretty much the only way I can maintain my faith in humanity. Not that there was much of that to begin with.

 

Piece of Mind

manipulationWell, I quit my job. I tried to hold out, tried to at least wait until I could find another one to tell them I was leaving, but this situation was impossible: my manager was a manipulative bitch, my assistant manager was a power-hungry control freak. So fuck ’em. Fuck ’em both. Customers loved the assistant manager. Some of them even hugged her. But that’s the problem. She didn’t give two shits about us. She was bossy and insisted that we follow the rules even when it made no sense. One time, I rang myself up for a free drink when I went on my break (which is an employee benefit) and, as I was about to make it, she tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I need to make it for you. That’s how it works.” No acknowledgment that I might have been used to doing it another way, not even a “Look, I’m going to let it slide this time, but next time…” Just a flat, indifferent statement of what, to her, was a fact. As I stood in my apron with the customers waiting for her to make it, I felt humiliated—dehumanized even. Never mind that it was against the rules; tell me who I was hurting.

I am always suspicious of people who follow the rules just to follow the rules. Everyone jaywalks or pirates TV shows, and if you don’t drill sergeantdo one of those, you almost certainly do something else that is illegal but not really that big of a deal. So don’t give me any of this “The rules are there for our protection” bullshit. If I ring on somebody else’s register rather than my own, it’s because their register is closer and I don’t feel like walking fifteen feet to get a pastry. They kept putting me on a register that was off to the side of the others. I’m starting to wonder if that was intentional, to punish me, but more likely it was just because they didn’t give a shit. Keeping three registers open makes sense during peak hours, but for the guy on the third register to ring on that one only is not only inconvenient, but slows down service. So they didn’t even give a shit about customers. They just liked giving orders.

There were one or two customer complaints. One guy called in ahead of time for an order of two large cartons of coffee to take to some sort of an event. When he walked in and they weren’t ready, the assistant manager neither apologized nor instructed me to comp his order. When he told me how upset he was, I apologized, and it wasn’t even my fault. I told him to email a complaint, because that’s how little respect I have for these assholes. Towards the end of it, I wasn’t even trying to hide my contempt for them. When I walked out, I didn’t bother to give notice. Because barring a three-hour stint as a dishwasher in a pho bar (they tried to cheat me out of my money, but that’s another story), I have never felt as disrespected and unappreciated in a job as I did with this one. I’m the second person to walk out in three weeks. And I seriously doubt I’ll be the last.

business

Substitute “job” for “life” and it applies here.

I’m honestly kind of amazed that the message doesn’t seem to be sinking in. One of our shift leaders was a quiet, even-tempered fellow with a wife and son, and even he could barely restrain his desire just take off. At the time that I left, he was the only person who had been there longer than I had, which is just under a year. I imagine most coffee shops have a high turnover rate, but this is fucking ridiculous. My former manager was disorganized and inconsistent with scheduling, but he was basically a decent guy. He worked very hard to make sure we all knew that he saw us as more than just faceless automatons. The new management didn’t even try. Who the fuck told them that this was how you run a store? I know people who greatly respect the assistant manager, and I have no idea what they’re smoking. This woman has been in the coffee business for years, and on what turned out to be my last day, she asked aloud, “Why is Robot King brewing coffee instead of ringing?” She referred to me in the third person AND I WAS STANDING RIGHT THERE. Seriously, what. The. Fuck.

It doesn’t really take much to make me feel wanted. My previous manager would routinely schedule us for five hour and 45 minute shifts because giving us a six hour shift would necessitate giving us a lunch break. He was up front about it, so I didn’t mind. The new manager, on the other hand, scheduled me for a six hour shift, then, when I asked about my lunch, told me that she was just going to send me home early so she didn’t have to give me one. This was over four hours into my shift. Seems like the sort of thing I should have known going in, don’t you agree?

I could tell more stories, but what’s the point? In any job, the people you work with are more important than the work itself. I don’t care about coffee. I never did. I have the occasional mocha, but that’s about it. And yet I will miss the crew that we had when I first started out. But for my own sanity, I had to leave. Before long, I think customers will start to realize that they don’t like the store as much as they used to. They may like the new management for now, but that’s only because they work so hard to make customers like them. And as paradoxical as it sounds, that’s not how customer service works. You give the people the best you’ve got, not just whatever they ask for. But not these guys. The best they’ve got is pure shit.

I applied to another job the same day I walked out. With any luck, I’ll find something else fairly quickly. I’m perfectly capable, and what drives me nuts about this is that the new management is driving away people who actually know what they’re doing for anyone desperate and indifferent enough to put up with their bullshit. Yeah, see how long that lasts, assholes. Because one day, you will regret what you’ve done. And by then, I’ll be long gone.

I guess the takeaway here is that there are shitty people in the world. And no matter how obviously beneficial the alternative is, most will just continue being shitty. There might be hope for some of them, but only if I put my foot down and say that this will not stand. It’s all I’ve got, really. And at the very least, I now have a little bit more time for other shit. I really need to catch up on Mad Men.

The Robot Warrior

redwallMan is least himself when talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.

– Oscar Wilde

I think I need a new job. I just got written up for shitty customer service. Again. I think it’s even less my fault than it was the last time. I was making drinks, and some lady told me that her latte was supposed to be iced. The order said hot, but I remade it anyway. Then she complained that I showed attitude in correcting a mistake that wasn’t even mine. There was also something about me taking a sip of it and saying that it tasted fine to me, but I didn’t do that in front of her. I think I set the latte by the espresso machine and took a drink while I was remaking it, remarking to no one in particular that it still tasted pretty good. My memory of the whole thing is a little fuzzy, but I guarantee that I didn’t do it to taunt her. So essentially, I took the heat because somebody else fucked up and I let my true feelings show. Oh, what a wonderful world.

We also have new management in my store. I’m not going to go into detail there, as that would be unprofessional, and anyway, it’s generally a bad idea to go whining about your job in a public forum, even when it’s an anonymous blog that some of your Facebook friends read. So I’ll just say that we have new management and that they may or may not do things the same way the old management did. And I may or may not be looking for another job. That’s all.

I have a thing or two to say about Michael Sam. As of Monday, he is signed up to be on the practice team for the Dallas Cowboys, making him technically the first openly gay man in the NFL. This is a milestone, but something smells fishy to me. Chris Rock once said that if say, his test scores are lower than a white dude’s, it would be wrong to give him a job or whatever over the other dude, “but if there’s a tie, fuck him”. Because he’s white, he’ll figure it out. See, affirmative action is about the acknowledgment that nothing is 100% merit-based. There is a symbolic value in seeing people who are like you on the field/in office/on TV/wherever. And there are biases in our system so deeply engrained that most of us can’t see them that are designed to prevent anyone who doesn’t make people feel comfortable from making it that far. So if a gay player performs as well as a straight player but the straight player makes the team, I am prepared to go ahead and call that homophobia. Because the straight guy had a head start.

Because I am not in the best of moods these days, I should talk about things that aren’t so shitty. I saw a movie last weekend that I think deserves more attention, a 2006 family film called Penelope that stars Christina Ricci as a blue blood girl who is born with a pig’s nose. It basically aims to be a modern-day fairy tale, and while it doesn’t completely succeed, it was a lot better than its 53% Tomatometer suggests. The big problem with it is that it expects us to believe that prospective suitors would be so repulsed by Penelope’s deformity that they would run screaming from the room. Then again, the film itself acknowledges this by having other characters basically shrug and say, “She has a weird nose, so what?” I think what worked about the film is that it didn’t pretend that all Penelope needed was a man to make her complete (not even a man who is played by James McAvoy) and approached the subject of learning to love yourself and your body with more subtlety than expected. The lesson isn’t so much that you can feel proud of your appearance even if you’re not conventionally attractive, but that you’re probably not that ugly to begin with. Also, Peter Dinklage is in it. With an eyepatch.

When I was a kid, there were three things that I spent most of my time doing: playing computer games, watching TV/movies, or reading. Problem was, that’s not enough to occupy all of my time. My social life has never been where I’ve wanted it to be, and if I had to find the root of it, I guess it would be my need to attach myself to a routine, even if it’s not exactly what I want. Whenever I ate lunch, I would pop in a VHS tape and watch one of the several dozen or more movies we had lying around. Not surprisingly, I saw a lot of them quite a few times. I’ve seen Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Clue more times than I can count. At least two of those are endlessly rewatchable, but that’s not the point. I get very anxious when crashing at a friend’s place because it upsets my sense of rhythm. I’m probably not the only person who has that problem. It’s still a problem.

I haven’t missed an episode of The Daily Show in years. I love Jon Stewart, but I do get tired of him returning to the same old jokes about how deep dish pizza is not real pizza and stuff like that. (Other running jokes, like the Lindsay Graham/Southern belle impression, never get old.) I don’t know what it would take to get me to stop watching. (And in case anyone is wondering, no, I don’t have Asperger’s. There’s a really good animated movie on Netflix about a dude with Asperger’s called Mary and Max. Check it out.) I don’t know what it would take to get my life where I want it to be. I just hope I get there before I die.