Sunday, October 18, 2009

An update about the me of the present... (Poop house post below.)

We've been delving into my archived daily log sheets from the poop house case and re-examining the mentality I had back then. Today it occurred to me that you have no idea what is going on with me in the here and now.

At this exact moment in time, I'm parked in a starbucks because I got a gift card for my birthday, so the otherwise ridiculously priced coffee-based beverages are not ridiculously priced, and they have wi-fi... The final four words, (counting the hyphenate as one word,) of that last sentence made me cringe a little bit at my own nerdery and poverty.

Sitting here, otherwise enjoying my Sunday afternoon and the "fancy" coffee that doesn't taste nearly as good as the coffee I make at home, I realized that while age might merely be a number, I am in fact getting old. I support this theory with my overwhelming disdain for the small group of eighth graders who just sat down and appear to be dressed in a way that could really only be described as the incarnated lovechild of Urban Outfitters store mating with the ticket line for "Where the Wild Things Are." Seriously... Tie-dyed socks, silver ballet flats, tunic tank tops over long sleeved shirts, and backpacks stitched with patches or other adornments seemingly intended to be ironic or indicate some kind of apathy, but placed in the hands of children who have no idea what irony or apathy are as they sip an over-sugared $4.50 venti house blend because ordering the hot chocolate that they really wanted would've made them look juvenile in front of their cohorts who all secretly wanted hot chocolate too. No twelve year old really wants coffee. They want the appearance of maturity. Which is why I think no one under the age of sixteen should be allowed into a coffee house of any kind, nor should they be allowed to order anything stronger than that aforementioned hot chocolate from the drive through as they ride around in the back of mom's minivan.

If you're too young to work at the coffee house, you're too young to be a patron of the coffee house.

A thousand pardons, my adult bitterness has caused me to delve into an overly-detailed digression railing against the douchebags of the future.

Moving away from my hostility towards the youth that I can feel all too rapidly slipping from my once-firm grasp, I feel the need to expand the picture of my little corner of the world, which means I should probably mention my work life. Work is mind-numbing and soul-killing.

This past week I was offered a promotion, which was, in reality, more of a lateral move, meaning that they wanted to give me additional duties without any additional compensation for my efforts. My bosses were pretty upset when I pretty bluntly turned them down. (I guess they figured I was dumb enough to fall for it, or meek enough to accept it without a second thought.) It took them a little while to regroup, during which time I returned to my office, and my normal workload. About a half an hour later I was called back into the boss' office where they shot my refusal down, saying I would do it 'because they said so.' Knowing that I am not a recent lottery winner, nor a trust fund baby, and that my ability to pay my rent and buy groceries depends on having a reliable paycheck, I relented and said, "Ok, fine. Whatever you want." And as I left the room, deflated and defeated, I found that my previous inklings of displeasure were rapidly calcifying into a solid mass of anger-driven certainty that I will wait them out until December. I will collect my Christmas bonus, and I will promptly tell them where to shove it and march out the door upon securing other employment. Basically, you're not going to tell my that my refusal of your offer wasn't good enough, and that I'll do it because you say so. You're not my mom, and in case you've forgotten, I'm a Northerner. I am not all sweet and demure like the Southern debutantes you're used to dealing with. That's not the type of thing that I will take lying down. My response might take a little while to come to fruition because the job market here is still in shambles, but they sure as hell aren't paying me enough to take that kind of treatment without an appropriately measured response in kind. You can't refuse my refusal with "because I said so" and think that everything is going to be fine and dandy.

On Friday, a co-worker of mine, Bill, and I were the last ones left in the office. The bosses and the other drones had all gone home. Bill came into my office and confided in me more than he ever had previously, and more than I had ever expected. Bill currently occupies the position that they are grooming me to do. The position I am unwilling to take on fully without a raise tantamount to doubling my current salary.

Bill generally comes across as a nice, mild-mannered, sweet, southern guy who will do whatever he is told because it is inherent to his nature. So of course I was surprised when he opened up and unloaded his real impression of things.

Bill sidled up to my office doorjamb, man-bag slung over his shoulder, "Hey... You ready to train with me on Monday?"

I spun around in my office chair, "In all honesty, no. And its nothing against you, but I was told I had to, so I guess we're in it together."

"They told you that you had to? I don't get it, how did that work?" Intrigued, he slipped into my office as though he suspected that someone was watching him, suspecting him of being a communist defector in the making, even though he knew we were the last two people left.

"I told them no, and they pulled the mom-card and told me that it wasn't really up to me."

"Oh." Bill appearing perplexed, I waited for him to process what I'd just said.

"...Wait, you told them no?" The shocked tone of his voice and look on his face told me what I already knew; telling them no simply wasn't something that one did.

"Yeah, I told them that I have ABSOLUTELY ZERO interest in doing your job, and that taking on new responsibilities relating to your job one at a time didn't appeal to me in the slightest. And they told me that it really wasn't my decision and that I would do it because they wanted me to do it."

Bill's face lifted in surprise. "Wow... I think I just gained a new level of respect for you... I don't know anyone else around here that would've had the balls to tell them no. I mean, I knew you were pretty cool before, but I suddenly find myself rather impressed."

"Well, don't be too impressed, I mean, I still got shot down and forced into it anyway."

"Doesn't matter. They know you're not going to just roll over for them, you're going to at least tell them how you feel about it."

"A lot of good it did me." I said with an eye-roll.

"Well, I was pretty sure that you were cool enough to talk to before, but now that you've just told me that, I know I can safely tell you that I fucking hate it here."

"OH THANK GOD! YOU'RE NOT ONE OF THE POD PEOPLE!" A wave of excitement and relief swept over me as I found that I now had a new confidante.

"No. I'm miserable here, and I'm just waiting for my Christmas bonus."

"You're not alone in that boat."

"No, I didn't think I was." Bill shrugged, already having a good estimate regarding the head count on that boat.

"I don't know too many jobs where I've heard such vocal displeasure, and its gotten worse lately. I know I've heard Leslie say pretty much the same thing about leaving. I mean I heard a lot of grousing at my social work job, but there we dealt with poop houses, child abuse, and the constant threat of physical assault, or being stabbed with a dirty hypodermic needle. And as things got worse there, not only was I vocal about my displeasure, I quit that job in a hurry because it made me miserable and I didn't like who I was while I had that job."

"Poop houses?" The look on his face told me he had heard the phrase 'poop house' and despite the fact that it captured his full attention, he didn't really want to know.

"Another time... That's too much for most people this close to dinner time."

Bill nodded and looked relieved.

"While I know that my social work job was worse, and that in the scheme of things this is a 'cushy' office job, one of the things that I have to tell myself to keep me shuffling papers for these assholes is, 'well, at least its not a poop house,' and that's how I know things are bad enough that I need to be looking elsewhere."

"Yeah, I hate this place, and I hate what it has done to me. I am a pathetic shadow of who I used to be before I started here... Which might be why I have started taking interviews."

"If you're waiting for your Christmas bonus, you might be jumping the gun a little bit," I questioned in a more matter-of-fact statement kind of way.

"Well, maybe," he shrugged, "but with the peanuts we get paid here, I can't imagine that any Christmas bonus we get would be good enough to convince me that it was worth it to stay on... Even if it has been a record year for us."

"Its been a record year for us because it's so bad out there. We benefit from a crappy economy."

"Still... You and I aren't going to see any extra even if we are working four times as hard as the other teams. This isn't a company where they show much gratitude to the little cogs that keep the machine going."

"You don't have to tell me... They know there are plenty of cogs out there looking for work, why would they show appreciation for us when we're so easily replaceable?" I questioned as I shut down my computer.

"Another reason to get out of here. High turnover in our position, so no matter what er do, we're never really secure, and its not like there is any genuine room for advancement here."

"Yeah, they threw possible advancement in when they told me I had to take on this 'promotion,' made mention of eventually becoming a team lead."

"Really? You're the first I've ever heard that claim made to." He looked surprised.

"Yeah, but there are over 300 people working here. There are only 5 team leads. And there are a whole lot of people who have been working here whole lot longer than me who would actually want a team lead job... Whereas I can scarcely imagine much of anything more appealing to me than a quick exit to greener pastures."

"Shouldn't be too hard to find a pasture greener than this."

"From your lips to God's ears!" I said, looking to the ceiling, and raising my hand as though he were a preacher at some pentecostal church, preaching about fire and brimstone while handling snakes. I knew he was speaking the truth, and wouldn't have me drinking cyanide-koolaid.

"...But speaking of quick exits, it's after five, what are you still doing here?"

With a smirk, he said, "Milking overtime. I'm approved for five and a half hours this week. I've only got about two hours worth of work over there. But I think we're both ready to be done with today."

"Yep. I'm done with this place... I only wish I was done with it for longer than a weekend."

"Soon enough."

"I envy your confidence."

We left the office and parted ways, both a little better off, each with the knowledge that the other was professionally miserable, and ready to defect.

Combine that with the fact that I haven't been getting much sleep, largely because my upstairs neighbor seems to find unending enjoyment in playing horrible music at top eardrum piercing volume until 4 AM, even though I knocked on his door at midnight despite being in my pajamas and asked him to turn it down so that the rational and employed people of the world could be up for work at 7:30, and well, yeah, I'm a bundle of joy. The upstairs neighbor compounds my loathing for him by having guests over and not taking issue with them as they drop beer bottles off his balcony and into my shrubs, and drop their cigarette butts between the deck boards down onto my porch.

Man, I'm complaining like an old person... Next thing you know, I'm going to be buying bear traps to keep the neighborhood kids off my lawn.

Sorry if I'm all doom and gloom here. But at least I'm back, and there's a poop house post down there for you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

After far too long, may I present without further ado, "The poop house chronicles 13: It can get worse..."

As I stood lecturing Mitch about his chore list, sounding not entirely unlike a broken record, Millie rolled in like an unwelcome rain cloud at public hanging, something unpleasant on its own coming along in a timely way and making an already really unpleasant situation just that much worse.

Millie bounded around with all the energy that an enraged overweight 5 year old could possibly muster. First she terrorized the animals. She selected the nearest, slowest or sleepiest feline she could find within grabbing distance, (and with the outrageous number of cats in the house, she had plenty of options…) and grabbed it in a way that made me wince. I anticipated deep scratches and yowling from the cat and tears and screaming from Millie. But much to my dismay, the cat seemed relatively resigned to its fate. It hung uncomfortably in her arms, draped over her pudge, and not seeming to mind that she was clinging to it only by its shoulder blades. Shortly after growing bored with merely holding the cat, she decided to make it dance on a pile of laundry which could only possibly be described as filthy, even if Mitch had just taken it out of the dryer, (which was doubtful). This, inevitably, pissed the cat off. And about 4 seconds into the dancing, the cat began to twist and writhe in determined attempts to escape little Millie who seemed equally determined to hold onto the cat.

With a sudden burst of unanticipated vocal rage, Millie made the announcement that she was hungry. It was an announcement made in a much more hostile and loud way than what I would’ve considered standard for a kid informing a parent of mild after-school hunger. This was worrying. Mitch told her to wait and he’d make her something in a few minutes. She screamed and stomped and made a big production. And as I stood there, mentally tabulating the reasons for this kind of aggression, Mitch just yelled back at her screaming that he would fix her something in a few minutes. Mental tabulations resolved. She simply mirrored what she had available as a role model, which was poor at best. As the shouting match continued, I stood there observing, shaking my head in disbelief at the lowest level of parenting, (if one could call it that,) which was displayed before me. After a few minutes I’d had enough and interjected that if they weren’t so busy yelling at each other a snack would’ve been prepared by now. I suggested that Millie go play in the other room while Mitch got something ready. They both seemed displeased with this, and gave me a sneer of disgust… If only they knew how mutual the feeling really was.

Mitch jumped on the first opportunity to prove that he was not the lone culprit in this pile of filth they called home, by showing me that Millie wouldn’t listen to him. He screamed at Millie to put the still-struggling cat down. Millie screamed back that she was playing with him, and didn’t want to let go. If a sigh had been possible without engaging in a deep breath, I’d have rolled my eyes and deeply sighed at this interaction, because obviously I was misinformed in my middle-class upbringing, and this screaming is the best way to communicate effectively, especially when standing about 5 feet apart. I settled for rolling my eyes and mentally cursing profusely.

When the cat finally clawed its way free, Millie screamed and stomped out of the room to chase after it. Mitch stopped her long enough to tell her to go clean her room. Millie retorted that she had to go to the bathroom. Mitch told her to hold it for a few minutes until I left because the dogs were in there and if she let them out they would proceed to bark and nip at my ankles. Knowing that the dogs were likely carrying all kinds of crazy diseases not known anywhere else in the civilized world, and knowing that Millie’s impulse control wasn’t all that great on a good day, and that having to go to the bathroom would only worsen anyone’s impulse control, I thought that was my cue to head for the door. It would’ve been a handy excuse to get the hell out of there into fresh air, only speaking to Mitch over my shoulder as I made a beeline for the exit. Clearly that exit strategy was not meant to be.

Millie then ran across the garbage and feces-littered living room, chasing after one of the cats, and upon cornering and capturing the poor creature, began tormenting it. Meanwhile, Mitch plodded over to the pantry door to retrieve god only knows what from one of the shelves. As he opened the door, another cat shot out from one of the lower shelves and bolted toward the relative safety of the dining room table which was, as previously mentioned, heaped with piles of soiled laundry. I couldn’t entirely blame it, as I turned in time to see Millie squeezing whichever of the many other cats she’d managed to capture and naturally proceeded in a clear plan of action by screaming in its face. As she turned more directly toward me, I noticed that the screaming was a consequence that we all suffered as the poor feline desperately clawed her, I hoped the clawing was as much for punishment for the squeezing and screaming, as an attempt to escape. I was admittedly surprised that she hadn’t yet taken to swinging it around by the tail. I turned the half of my attention which wasn’t devoted to controlling my shallow breathing, and not vomiting, back to Mitch who was apparently trying to satisfy Millie’s after-school hunger, I noted that he was seemingly perplexed by the pantry, either unsure of its mixed contents, or trying to dream up some kind of remotely appetizing snack using any of the ingredients he had on hand. As I tried to figure out what it was that he could make using the alleged “food products” in the pantry, possibly by covering some of them with the stocks of government cheese I knew they kept in the fridge, I had a thought. Essentially, my thought was that while I wasn’t the wealthiest kid on the block growing up, (in fact, FAR from it,) I know that my upbringing afforded me some luxuries that my client base was not privvy to, but even if I were stranded on a desert island, and I were all out of coconuts, and I had depleted all my other resources, and fished the seas barren, I still would not have ever consumed anything that was prepared in this kitchen… As this thought reached its conclusion, I noticed something disturbing, in hindsight, the thought might have been abbreviated by my noticing that the walls of the pantry were speckled black and brown, and worse yet, the speckles were, of course, MOVING.

Of course the pantry, like the rest of the house, was totally infested with cockroaches. It was folly to imagine otherwise. I don’t know why it shocked me so deeply when I actually SAW the many legs and antennae traipsing about among the household’s food supply. My gag reflex was being tested more than usual… I knew I had to make a quick exit or risk yacking all over the place. I would not have felt any guilt over the mess my vomit would’ve caused in the house, as my vomit would arguably have been the cleanest and healthiest thing to show up in the residence since the family moved in. My concern over vomiting was more related to knowing that when one throws up, the general impulse is to be crouched low to the ground, or clutching a toilet, and then gasping once the regurgitation is complete. The crouching, toilet-clutching, and deep gasping breaths were not rationally feasible here. It simply could not be done.

“Well, I know she mentioned that she had to go to the bathroom, and you’ve got the dogs pent up in the bathroom… If she’s got to go to the bathroom, let her go, I’ll just get out of here. Be sure to keep working on the chore list! And I’m going to reiterate that I don’t care if you have to wash those dishes in the bathtub, or rinse them off using the hose outside, make sure they are done by tomorrow! I’ll see you then. Bye.” I said all of this at a frenetic pace as I practically ran out of the residence, because once you have vomit backing up enough to feel the chunks rising in your throat, and you recall that freedom was dangled in front of you like that, all wrapped up in a neat little excuse not unlike a glistening Christmas present in shiny gold paper with a giant crimson bow, you lunge at it and you tear it open because you’re pretty sure it’s got to be the new game system you’ve been begging your mom for over the course of the last three to six months... Or pure and simple freedom.

I celebrated my the end of my shortened visit to the Poop House by changing out of the poop shoes, racing home with all the windows down and taking the requisite sanitize-mode shower and having a stiff drink or six with my slightly-earlier-than-planned dinner. I would pay for this later… I knew it. There is no such thing as getting off easy when it comes to the Poop House.

In hindsight, I did pay for that quick exit… Though the problems I’m about to face were in no way something that could’ve been solved by me staying longer, I knew that karmically, this was all going to keep compounding because I ran out when I did.