The Misadventures of a Career Misfit

In Uncategorized on September 26, 2008 at 3:40 am

WARNING: Unfortunately, like many blogs, this one endorses self-indulgent drivel. Read at your own risk. Cruel and unnecessary comments or the hurling of rotten tomatoes are welcome.

Given that this is my inaugural posting, I feel like I should probably be writing some kind of formal introduction to this little blogette, bound to flounder along in the great wide sea of blogs, but I can’t think of anything fitting (already, I’ve proven myself useless as a blogger). Plus, it’s eight minutes past five o’clock, which means that I am temporarily freed from my windowless cubicle, and I am no longer obligated to sit here hunched over my desk staring bleary-eyed at this computer screen while the negative effects of sedentariness slowly ravage my body. (Yes, I have broken some cardinal rule in the handbook of work ethics and am blogging at work…about work).

Work. What is it that I do, exactly? Well, here’s the first red flag: For exactly 640 days, I have been employed as a fill-in-the-blank at insert-name-of-slowly-bleeding-to-death-company-here, and I still have no f—–g clue what, exactly, I do.

A typical day goes something like this: After sitting in an hour’s worth of standstill traffic among some of the most obnoxious drivers in the country simply to transport myself a mere 6.4 miles, I generally arrive at the office about four minutes late. No big deal, right? Al contrario, mi amigo. The head honcho, whom I shall call Mr. B, is a real stickler about punctuality. Four whole minutes might as well be an eternity. Thus, I am forced to park directly outside the building — in the fire lane, illegally — to avoid tacking on another ten minutes to my criminal tardiness by parking in the “convenient and complimentary” parking garage, which is really a near-neolithic cave, ever in a state of construction and in no way safe, strategically located almost a mile from the building.

By the time I sneak into my cubicle, Mr. B, who has an odd air of cantankerousness mixed with stunted adolescence, is already making his morning rounds, tooting some sort of mini foghorn and blasting the eardrums of those poor souls who have had the misfortune of arriving late. With this lovely morning reveille still ringing in my ears, I hunker down and face my most daunting daily task — rewriting Mr. B’s disturbingly nonsensical e-mails to imaginary clients while he flies a remote controlled airplane around the office, targeting various employees at random and making strange sputtering noises.

Sometimes, I write manifestos that chronicle the company’s intentions to uncover the origins of crop circles or to take over NASA. Mostly, I just sit in my cubicle, playing Rorschach with an unidentifiable green wall smearing (the fitful, coded scrawling of a past prisoner, or a remnant of an office food fight?) and eavesdropping on the phone conversations of my cube neighbor, Darla, a 320-pound Wisconsin bumpkin who has a psychic hotline addiction, supported by company funds, and hums gospel tunes off key while crocheting bizarre little amigurumi food dolls — a happy little Hostess cupcake, a strip of bacon enamored with a fried egg, a weepy hunk of moldy cheese.

Last year, she drew my name in the office Secret Santa gift exchange, meaning that I am now the proud owner of a slightly-used cheesehead hat, which I wear around the office to amuse myself, and which I often forget to remove when I sprint down to rescue my car from the local tower, Ramone, who is now only accepting hefty monetary bribes to unhitch my clunker from his truck.

I suppose I should provide a rough overview of the events that have led me to my current state and, hence, to the creation of this blog. Thus, I begin my story at the moment of my inglorious departure from one of the East Coast’s stumpier ivory towers, after which my career took off. Took off, as the saying goes, like a herd of turtles in a sea of peanut butter. I’ve been inching along ungracefully ever since.

Perhaps the rather obvious root of my stagnancy (besides my apparent leper-like undesirability in the eyes of sane employers) is the fact that upon graduation, I didn’t have an inkling about what I wanted to do with myself and spent months parked on a friend’s vintage neon-green sofa in a near vegetative state, my post-college aimlessness somewhat reminiscent of Ben Braddocks’ in The Graduate, without the nice pool to lounge around in and a sexy Mrs. Robinson (or, I should say, Mr. Robinson) to distract me from my quandary of purpose.

Ironically, with $100,000 of student loan debt looming over me (yes, us Ivy Leaguers may all be bratty smarty pants who were pummeled in playgrounds across the nation as children, but we were not all born with silver spoons in our mouths), my inaction was a luxury I could not afford.

Driftlessness was completely normal, a rite of passage, I convinced myself, but as my fellow graduates percolated into the workforce, my sole charge remained feeding the curmudgeonly pet newt (who happened to live in an enviable reptilian mansion) of the friend whose rash-inducing couch I’d taken over. Panic sunk in.

As an English major, I’d had a vague and misguided notion that I could easily find work at a newspaper or, more glamorously, a magazine, getting snarky editors their toasted almond latte fixes or holding up photography umbrellas or something of the sort. This was not so.

After peddling my resume across Beantown, I received one response from an anonymous do-gooder at a small literary magazine, not expressing interest, however, but kindly pointing out that my resume contained an egregious typo which had resulted in an unintentional and rather vulgar profanity. F—, I thought, and went back to the security of my Astro Turf couch cushion.

With no other options on the horizon, I was ecstatic to finally land a job as an “assistant” to a novelist. Unfortunately, this was a flamboyant, bi-polar novelist who was floundering in the wake of a messy divorce and grappling with the perceived (somewhat wrongly, in my point of view) lacklusterness of his writing career, which only compounded his madness. Though he was quite a riot, and though his daily antics might have provided interesting fodder for, say, a social psychologist examining the shenanigans of men in mid-life crisis mode, the job itself felt sort of like sifting through the gleaming wreckage of a massive train collision.

At twenty-one, I was ill-equipped to mend the badly bruised ego of a 53-year-old man or to pick up the shards of his broken life or to function as his crutch, which seemed to be what the position entailed. I spent the majority of my time sorting through years worth of unopened mail in his cluttered carriage house, lavishing unsolicited praise on his forthcoming title (which I had not read) in a juvenile attempt to bolster his spirits, painstakingly selecting his attire for meetings with his bigwig publisher, and consoling the poor guy when he was often snubbed by his crushingly young editor, who was, fairly, the editorial equivalent of a rent-a-cop.

Other times, he’d drop me off in Harvard Square, and off I’d go on a wild goose chase for culinary salts from the Isle of Noirmoutier or narwhal tusk ivory or some other such item of fancy which may or may not have actually existed, but which certainly did not exist in Cambridge. Thank God, his mind was like a rackety Tilt-a-Whirl, and he was so busy pivoting around the next loopy idea when he returned to retrieve me that he never noticed my mission had failed miserably, that I had come out utterly goodie-less.

As it happens, these loopy ideas of his were quite costly. It soon became clear to me that our good novelist had a bad habit of squandering large sums of money and was not breaking the bank but pulverizing it using hulky sticks of dynamite before my very eyes. It also became painfully clear that I was one of his many frivolities. One day, in a rare streak of common sense and lucidity, he pulled the plug on his cable service. I knew I was next.

Finding little consolation in the fact that I had, for a short while, taken priority over Comcast, I was forced once more into joblessness. Around the same time, the aforementioned curmudgeonly pet newt vanished mysteriously from its terrarial paradise, leading to my prompt resignation as caretaker and swift eviction from my sofa fortress. Meanwhile, I was being harassed by a nasally little debt collector who seemed to take unusually schadenfreudenic delight in making his daily collection call. It was time to move on to the Plan B of starving artists and wannabe writers everywhere: Starbucks baristahood.

Alas, in a final blow to my ever-more-dented self-esteem, which now resembled a rusted and banged up 1939 Jalopy, I was told by one of the lumpy managers of this overpriced and ailing coffee giant that I “just wasn’t right for the job.” Why? I wanted to know. “Honestly,” she said, her voice gratingly chipper, “we want our employees to be shiny, happy wrapping paper. You’re really more of a brown paper bag.” (Yes, it’s true, folks, an Ivy League degree just doesn’t cut it with ol’ Starbucks. If, by any chance, you’re one of those parents who’s spent years scrounging and scrimping and painstakingly cultivating your child to be packaged and shipped off to a prestigious private college, I hope you’re not reading this near a tall building or, God forbid, the Golden Gate Bridge.)

Berating myself for my brown paper bagness, whatever that actually meant, I headed off to a newspaper kiosk to snag one of those freebie employment guides. They were out. The fact that I had company did little to elevate my mood. I scuffled off to the Boston Public Library, where, in my current state of shabbiness, I hoped I wouldn’t be mistaken for a vagrant, which, I realized, I was on the brink of becoming.

To be continued…


Workday Doodlings

In Uncategorized on September 26, 2008 at 8:11 pm

A sample of the fruits of my labor! At this rate, I’m going to make partner in no time!

P.S. If you happened to read my first post, these doodles are inspired by dear old Darla’s plush creations.

Click to enlarge.