Tag Archives: career

Um…About That Last One

Email experts advise checking your ‘Spam’ folder periodically, since some communications you actually want or need might accidentally drop into it.  I do that on a relatively regular basis, especially for my business email address, from where I solicit jobs for my freelance technical writing.

Going through that folder this past May revealed the curious “Certified Python Expert” communication highlighted in the above screen shot.  I kept thinking someone had confused me with a herpetologist.  Then I thought, no, they must believe I had worked in the gay male porn business.  If you think about it, there’s not much difference between the two.

However, a thorough search for “python” will produce information on a software program – something that isn’t necessarily related to reptiles or porn.  But the fact the sender addressed me as “Dear” made me wonder about their ultimate intentions.  If you had the same thoughts about snakes or porn, you’re either in serious need of mental help or you’re just plain perverted.

Either way, you’ve found the perfect blog for both!

Leave a comment

Filed under Curiosities

Daymares

image002

Within the same week a few months ago my parents had nightmares about their former jobs. It’s unsettling because they’ve both been retired for a while. My mother worked in the insurance business for nearly 51 years before retiring in 2003 at age 70. My father worked for two different printing shops; starting when he was 17. He got laid off in 1994 from the last one. They’re old school; in their day, you went to work for a company and stayed there for decades. Thus, I’ve had some trouble explaining my career as a freelance technical writer to them. They each worked roughly the same number of years I’ve now been alive.

But why, after all these years, they have occasional bad dreams about work is beyond my comprehension. I suppose they gave so much of their time and energy to those places that it’s dug an emotional trench in their respective souls like a gunshot wound.

I’ve only had three dreams about work. The first occurred in the late 1980s, when I worked for a retail store. I was being harassed by a manager who already had a nasty reputation. Strangely, though, (and what dream isn’t strange?) my parents were at the store with me. They knew I’d been having a tough time with that asshole of a manager and had come to help me out. When he shouted at them, I lost my temper and screamed at him. My own yelling woke me up. Not long afterwards, that manager was transferred to another store. I guess someone in the company’s echelons of power heard me yelling.

The other two dreams came within months of losing my job at an engineering firm in the fall of 2010. I had been so stressed out there in the last few months it was almost a relief to get laid off. It even cost me a back tooth. Just a few weeks earlier I had begun experiencing pain on the left side of my mouth. I didn’t know what to think when I realized that tooth was loose. Neither did my dentist. But, by the time I visited him, I knew my job was the crux of the agony.

“You have two choices,” he told me. “I can pull it or try to do a root canal.”

“Pull the bitch,” I calmly told him, thinking of my then-supervisor and then-manager. As he wrangled it from my jaw, I tried to think of ways to make it look like that supervisor and that manager had freak accidents. At work. On the same day. With no one else around.

Stress does that to a person – especially work-related stress. It makes them physically ill and emotionally drained. At various times during my eleven years working for a large bank, I felt the impact of job-induced stress. Back aches and short bursts of rage were the most common for me. Back then, though, I was able to fight it off because of my strict exercise regimen: pushups and crunch sit-ups in the morning; weight-lifting; jogging; and taekwondo. In one martial arts session, I almost beat the crap out of a close friend. We were fully padded up, so neither of us felt much. But he told me afterwards that I literally scared him. I apologized, but he just laughed. I explained to him what was happening to me at the bank, and he understood. Still, at that moment, I felt angry enough to send Chuck Norris screaming from the room. Despite my tenure at the bank and all the crap I endured, I never once dreamed of the place.

So, it’s still a mystery why I let my eight-year stint at the engineering company affect me in the nocturnal hours.

In the first dream, I was at corporate headquarters in Southern California with my former project manager, Dagwood*, who had hired me in 2002. He was a quirky character who’d joined the company right out of college. But I liked him and stood up for him, whenever I felt another associate was disrespecting him. In the dream, the building sat right along the coastline, separated from the water only by a strip of sand and a road. Dagwood had been there many times, but this was my first visit. And everyone was on edge. A major quake had pummeled the seabed a few miles offshore, and local officials anticipated an equally massive tsunami. The coastal areas had already been evacuated, and building management had informed us they were monitoring the situation closely. When the first wave approached, they’d sound the alarms, and everyone on the lower levels would flee upwards, which in real tsunami reactions, is known as vertical evacuation.

I’ve always been fascinated by the more extreme elements of the natural world and recall being fascinated with the prospect of witnessing a tsunami up close. But I was also frightened, since I’d never been through something like that. Dagwood had, though; a similar incident had occurred a few years earlier, he told me, before I started with the company. A massive seaquake had struck, and a tsunami was expected. But it was almost a false alarm; the tsunami waves turned out to be merely inches. This time, however, officials anticipated a real disaster.

“Don’t worry,” Dagwood reassured me. “Just stay with me, and you’ll be alright. When those alarms go off, we’ll just head upstairs.”

Cool, I thought. I felt better.

Then, as I labored over my laptop, seated right beside a window overlooking the beachfront, the alarms went off. I heard a loud thundering sound and looked out the window to see the first monstrous wall of water rushing towards us. I panicked, as I leapt to my feet and began looking for Dagwood. He was nowhere. Some people started screaming in fear, as others headed towards the stairwell. Where was Dagwood? I kept asking. He’s supposed to be here. Good God! Did he just abandon me?

I ran from one office to another, searching for him, thinking surely he wouldn’t be so cruel towards me. Several other people were also scrambling around; consumed more with hysteria. But I still couldn’t find Dagwood. Finally, I just stopped and, as the sound of the encroaching tsunami drowned out every other noise, I turned to the ceiling and said, “Fuck him.”

I proceeded towards a stairwell, and – amazingly – everyone else stopped screaming and followed me up the stairs. We all made it safely and could only watch as the water rumbled over the sand and the road, before tearing into the building’s ground floor.

But I kept asking myself that question over and over: where was Dagwood? He was nowhere to be found. What had been trepidation just moments earlier turned to anger. He really did abandon me.

I woke up.

In the second dream, I was back in downtown Dallas, at the government agency where I’d worked most of the time I was with the company. We had an important meeting; one where we’d learn our fate under the new contract. I simply couldn’t be late. As the meeting time approached, I was trying desperately to finish a critical task. I finally tore myself from my computer and headed towards a nearby meeting room. No one was there. I darted to another conference room. It, too, was empty. Where is everyone? Where is this damn meeting being held? I can’t be late!

I began scampering about the building; running into every conference room I could find. They were either empty or occupied by someone else. But, by then, I’d realized something even more disconcerting: I was stark naked. At some point, my clothes had come off. That usually happens only to porn stars and politicians, not to technical writers. And not in a government building! No one seemed to care, though, and I was only slightly bothered by it. I was more concerned with finding out where that damn meeting was being held. I finally gave up and sauntered into the break room. I dropped into a chair, still butt-naked, and resigned myself to an uncertain fate.

I woke up.

Both dreams are rife with symbolism. I know what they mean to me, but you can make your own inferences. Yet, once I recovered from that second dream, I vowed never to dream about work again. It wasn’t worth the aggravation. No job is. After years of dealing with bully bosses, hostile coworkers, office gossip, impossible deadlines and paltry raises, I want to occupy my mind with something far more significant and meaningful than a fucking job.

And it’s worked. I haven’t dreamed about the engineering company again. I told my parents they need to let go of their old jobs. “That was years ago,” I said. Those places shouldn’t hold such a strong grip on their minds.

We spend so much of our lives at work, or doing something work-related, and we don’t always get something positive after expending all that time and energy. People, especially men, have often defined themselves by what type of career they had. Blue collar, white collar, no collar. Whatever they did to make a living is who they were. One of the first questions people ask when they meet someone for the first time is, “What do you do?” And, of course, they don’t really mean, ‘What do you do in your spare time?’ Or, ‘What do you do every third Saturday of the month?’ They mean, ‘How do you make yourself a valuable part of your community?’

But I know people are generally worth more than the way they earn money. I define myself as a writer; always have and always will. So I proudly tell people I’m a technical writer. That’s how I currently earn my living. Eventually, I hope to make a living from my creative writing. Regardless, I know for damn sure that slaving over a hot keyboard is not all that I am. And whatever type of job or career you have, dear readers, should not be all who you are. We’re worth a hell of a lot more than that.

And, next time I’m on the west coast, I may see a real live tsunami, but I won’t be thinking of Dagwood.

*Name changed.

3 Comments

Filed under Essays

Just Bend Over and Pretend It Doesn’t Hurt

On Friday, the 17th, I lost my contract job with an IT firm.  Friday also marked one month since I started.  It was supposed to be a 6-month gig.  Now, it’s gone.

They hired me to be a technical writer and editor.  But, it turns out they wanted someone with a strong software development background.  Actually, they’d prefer to get an individual who is both a software developer and a technical writer.  They’d have better luck finding a black unicorn.

At least this job lasted one whole month.  In July of 2011, I landed a 90-day contract technical writing job that lasted all of 3 weeks.  The client pulled it because they weren’t getting the anticipated work from their vendor.  And, I never again heard from the recruiter who got me that job in the first place.  They just dropped me; the way a vulture abandons a cow carcass once they’re through picking over it.  This is starting to give me a complex.

I sort of saw this coming; the way people on Japan’s northeastern coastline saw that tsunami coming after the devastating earthquake struck the region in March of last year.  I know that’s a bit dramatic – almost an unfair and disrespectful comparison – but that’s how I felt.  It was a slow-moving disaster; gradually creeping towards me with no way to stop it.

It had taken me almost a year to find this job.  So, here I am – in the job market again.  As I’ve stated before, contract work seems to be the popular trend in business these days.  Most of the people at that IT firm were contract.  Less than a third, I believe, were full-time employees.  There were a lot of foreigners, too; people mostly from India, but also Asia.  Wait a minute!  Aren’t companies shipping these jobs over there?  There was even one man from México who earned his U.S. citizenship on the 13th, a woman from Romania and another woman from France.  I feel I should reinvent myself as a refugee from Nicaragua and somehow get an H1 Visa.  I might stand a better chance.

I’m just not used to this contract stuff.  A contract worker is a glorified temporary the way a hair dresser is a glorified barber.  But, that’s all there is in the early 21st century working world.  People bounce around from place to place.  My parents – who each worked for the same company for decades – just can’t fathom that kind of lifestyle.  I think my generation is the last accustomed to going to work for a company and staying there long enough to earn a reserved parking spot.

What can I say?  Well, I say to hell with corporate America, which I mention in my biography on this blog.  I used to play well with others in business; now, I just demand to be left alone.  What can I do?  Jump start my writing career of course!  I consider myself a professional writer anyway – although I haven’t gotten anything published yet.  I’m determined, though, to change that once and for all and get my book published before year’s end – hopefully before the Mayan Apocalypse.  Yea, yea, I know.  Believe it when you see it.

My father and a few friends have already told me things will “work out for the better.”  I suppose I could be that optimistic.  But, I’ll be more cynical and state emphatically that things never just “work out.”  Someone has to make it work.  You can rely upon other people to help shape your future, or you can grab the shit by the throat and shape it the way you damn well please.  Ultimately, every able-bodied, able-minded person has to fend for themselves.  Damn!  I’m starting to sound like a Republican!   I knew nightly doses of Bacardi and Coke would eventually have an impact on me.

2 Comments

Filed under Essays

Working Enemies

If you’re experiencing problems at work, here are your 2 best courses of action:

  • Deal with it.
  • Get the hell out of the company.

Sometimes, the latter choice is the best, especially if the organization’s culture seems so incredibly corrupt that nothing will change for you.  Eventually, those companies self-destruct under the weight of their own arrogance.  It happens all the time.

You actually have a third choice: complain to the human resources division.  But, I’ve learned this can actually backfire and makes things worse for you.  Business news flash: HR is not your friend.  Their purpose is to ensure the company functions smoothly, which means simply making a profit for their shareholders.  If said company perceives an individual to be part of a problem, they’ll do everything short of murder to get rid of that person.  Filing a complaint of some sort – any sort – means something has gone awry.  Managers and supervisors can easily twist things around to make it look like you’re the source of the trouble.  Yes, sometimes they really do target people.  If you’re shocked, then you either haven’t been around long enough, or you live in a fantasy world.  Get over your denial and wake up.

Corporations don’t care about people.  As stated above, they’re only concern is to earn revenue.  That’s why companies rarely do things out of the goodness of their own heart.  They don’t have a heart.  It’s a company.  Mitt Romney may think corporations are people, too, but he’s as clueless as his trophy wife when it comes to the realities average people face every damn day of their lives.  Companies will only make things right, when their profits are threatened.  Then, they’ll jump through hoops and do cartwheels, especially if things have been documented, and an employee or former employee has stuff in writing; i.e. emails.  Believe me – I’ve experienced and seen this firsthand.

I know I was targeted several years ago, when I worked in the wire transfer division of a large bank.  One day in August of 1995, the entire system collapsed, and hundreds of transfers didn’t get sent.  They had to be printed up and dispatched manually; not surprisingly, a few got duplicated.  The largest was in excess of $200,000.  When the account officer called the unit in which I worked late one afternoon, the associate who answered the phone couldn’t handle her.  So, I talked to the account officer and took on the responsibility of contacting the receiving bank to get the second transfer back.  It looked simple on paper.  But then, my supervisor and manager decided to write me up over it; saying I hadn’t acted on it quickly enough.  I tried protesting, but was afraid to lose my job.  In retrospect, it probably would have been best, as I realized later they did everything they could to get me to resign.  But, I didn’t.  I made it through that period and stayed on at the bank until I got laid off in 2001.

That particular manager – who literally walked around with his nose stuck up in the air – resigned his position in early 1996 to work for an insurance company.  Only one year later, however, he lost his job at that company and then tried to return to the bank.  But, they didn’t have a spot for him.  My immediate supervisor – who turned out to be a mentally unstable hypocrite – didn’t fare much better.  She got transferred to another unit at the end of 1995, then booted out of the department altogether because of poor performance.  She came very close to losing her job.  When I saw her a few years later, she told me she was an administrative assistant; a step down for her.  I was an executive administrative assistant by then.  I emphasized the word “executive,” and I think she got the hint.  I don’t know what happened to either of them afterwards and I never gave a damn.  What goes around comes around.  Both those fuckers got what they deserved.  It was my only consolation.

That ordeal was nothing, however, in comparison to what a friend of mine endured around the same time.  He was a CPA for a large software firm and had become the butt of crass jokes by coworkers, which happened to me on a few occasions.  And, as in my situation, it seemed his managers had targeted him.  But, unlike me, he filed complaints with HR; thinking, as do most people, they would help him out and ease the situation.  That’s when things worsened, he told me back then.  But, something else was happening; something that ultimately would turn things around in his favor.  He suspected his superiors were deliberately sabotaging his work just to make him look bad.  I almost didn’t believe him.  In my infinite naivety back then, I didn’t think that would actually happen.  One manager tried to make a game out of it, he said, rejecting his work with coy notes and sad attempts at humor.  They didn’t think it was funny, though, when he walked into the office one Friday – and then, left at noon.  He’d resigned without the requisite two weeks’ notice – on the last business day of the third quarter in 1996.  He contemplated suing the company for harassment, but didn’t have the energy for it.  He was just glad to leave.  But, he said, they paid the price.  He learned from a former colleague that all the work his managers had mutilated simply to make him look incompetent and lazy ended up causing more damage for the company.  They had to spend time and money correcting those alleged “mistakes.”  Heads rolled, he told me with an evil glint in his eye.  What goes around, comes around.

There was more drama at the engineering company where I last worked than in an entire season of The Guiding Light.  And, just like the show, it was perpetual; it just went on and on, over and over; the same crap.  Much of it was self-induced, but other concerns were legitimate.  It was during my 8-year tenure at that company that I realized the truth about so-called human resources.  Because the company handled a multitude of government contracts, they were allegedly concerned about employees’ ethical behavior on the job.  Therefore, some of my colleagues tried to make use of the company’s much-heralded ethics committee, which turned out merely to be an extension of HR.  Every single person I knew who filed a well-meaning grievance with the ethics committee either resigned or got fired.

In the spring of 2008, three women took a leave of absence; one after another.  The first two resigned while still on leave.  The third managed to make it back and eventually became my supervisor; a hyperactive, emotionally-distraught creature who reminded me of that one perpetually-menopausal bitch at the bank in 1995.  But, I learned later that those first two women filed harassment suits against the company after submitting their resignations – and settled.  I also found out that other former employees had sued the company.  It doesn’t look good when a company that boasts high ethical standards finds itself in court, combating harassment allegations.

But, a company’s human resources division is much like a city’s police force.  Both are there to maintain a sense of order and discipline, but they really won’t help you.  You can respect them to a certain degree and work with them when absolutely necessary.  But, you just can’t trust them.  They’re not your friend.  That’s not their purpose.

One of my coworkers at the engineering company was a proverbial good old boy from Louisiana.  He didn’t have any college education, had spent 4 years in the Air Force and had a penchant for daiquiris, cheese and big-breasted women.  But, he was smarter than most people with a string of letters at the end of their surname.  He predicted some of us would get laid off before the end of 2010; months after we lost the prime contract with a government agency, but were kept on as sub-contractors.  He had dealt with the same people and endured the same level of stress and frustration the rest of us did.  But, he never felt compelled to complain to HR about anything – not even an ethical issue.  “HR is not our friend,” he told me, after one of those women who’d gone on sick leave had resigned.

Yes, I knew that; deep down inside, I’d always been aware of it.  But – in my past efforts to hope for the best – I guess I just didn’t want to admit it out loud.  In the cold, brutal world of 21st century business, though, things are much like medieval Europe.  We each have to figure out a way to survive.  We’re all left unto our own devices.  And, sometimes the best device is a resignation letter.

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays