Category Archives: Work Sucks

We are doomed!

I am freaked out enough these days.

I go into to deposit my portion of the TFT in the bank.  I mean I walk into the actual back to deposit the check rather than use the ATM machine because I am afraid the ATM machine will screw up, I guess.  I really don’t know what I am doing since I haven’t deposited stuff in a long time, and as I start to walk away, the person at the counter says you want your receipt, don’t you.  Why of course I say, pretending just to have forgotten sort of absent mindedly.

And then still trying to operate in the adult mode, I go over to the other side of the bank where the so-called “financial advisors” all sit behind their desks.  I have learned through my dealings with the Tingle Family Trust that there are these things called CD’s and that they fetch more interest than just leaving your money sitting there in a checking account.  By God! I am for the first time in my life actually “investing” some money, I guess.

This guy waves me over to his desk and I tell him what I have got and was thinking about CD’s and he says that’s a good idea though maybe—and he is sort of mumbling—it would be better to buy some Euros.  And I sort of go what, and he says Euros or Yen, and then he says or maybe some Gold.  I know enough to know that when people start talking about buying Gold they are preparing for the end of the world as we know it.

So I say, things don’t look so hot, huh.

And the guy says, “We are doomed.”

Jesus!  I just wanted to ask a couple of questions about CD’s and rather than trying to sell me on CD’s, as he should be doing, the guy says, “We are doomed,” because he says the housing market is in a free fall and there is no end in the sight.  Last year, he says, at this time, there were exactly 70 properties on the real estate market in the general Santa Barbara area; this year there are 900 and nobody is buying.  So things don’t look so hot, I say.

And the guy says, “We are doomed.”

I ask does the bank sell euros and he says they certainly do and he gives me a card with a number on it to call, as he hands me some info he has printed out on something called a CD ladder.

So I leave the bank all upset because “We are doomed,” and am befuddled too because I have never really understand the idea of using money to buy money and what would I do with the money that I bought if I bought it.  I mean would I keep it in my house or something, or would I just own it on paper.  But any way I cut it, it doesn’t sound good because buying Euros would mean I believe that the dollar will soon go down the toilet, money-wise.

Junk Disposal

Carol and I spent most of yesterday working on our half garage.  We share our garage with our next door neighbor in the condo. Our half of the garage has always looked worse than the other half, though most of the time we have been here the other half belonged to the nuns who lived next door and they were like ultra neat people.  Still I would look at their half and then at our half and the half that was ours looked even more like a mess compared to theirs.  Now a young couple lives next door.  They have more stuff than we do, but it still looks neater.

Anyway we getting rid of years and years of carelessly disposed and stored junk.

Books, books, books, tapes of all kinds and paper—those are the dominant disposables.  Six filing cabinets of paper, plus several boxes of paper.

We went out and bought Carol a mega-shredder to shred the paper.  She is proud of her new shredder and says she feels like a man with his chain saw.  We have a basic philosophical difference about paper disposal.  She is worried about identify theft and wants to shred every piece of paper.  I think this identity theft thing is grossly exaggerated and so don’t understand why she needs to shred every piece of paper.  Or maybe I don’t care if somebody steals my identity.  I mean, here, take it.  I could use another one.

I took bags of dead batteries and ink cartridges and old cans of paint and paint thinner over to the toxic disposal site at the university.  The guy there said they get 10,000 pounds of toxic junk every weekend. We didn’t want to use up all of the space in the trash containers everybody in our three units use so later we drove over to trash dump place nearby and unloaded paper.  Then we went to Osh and bought some shelves to go next to the shelves we already have.

I believe people all over the USA are now overflowing with junk.  I saw a truck with “1-800-Got Junk?” on it, and I looked them up on the web.  They will pick up every thing practically but a corpse and dispose of it for you.  They say they are the nation’s foremost junk disposal company and have grown 500% over the last three years.

In the late afternoon I spent a little time working on Tingle Territory and put together some pictures of Cemeteries and Churches.  Rather than try to move these from the google site to my site on yahoo, I decided to use the google photo site instead and it looks pretty good.  You can check it out at:

Systematic Labor Unrest

So March—just about a year ago—things get stranger.  The boss says she will retire, and I am starting to feel overwhelmed, what with WB’s death, and Joan’s health, and the need to sell the house.  Really overwhelmed.  So I figured I needed to cut back some though there is not much to cut back on, but there is one thing.

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So I let my colleagues on the Executive Board of AFT Local 2141 know that I will not be able to serve as the President of the local anymore and that they will have to get somebody else.  I had been President for three years I guess, and it hadn’t been that much work.  But I had to call meetings and get people together and I had to go to meetings over in the Administration building to talk about Lecturer workload and I had to fly up to Oakland to testify, I guess it was, at some sort of hearing.  I forget what that was about; but they had lawyers there and that made me nervous.  And I kept insisting that we turn out our local newsletter that we had been doing since the union began way back in 1985, I think it was.

Well I did a bit I guess, but really there wasn’t that much to do.  But still there was stuff to do, and I just didn’t feel I could do it anymore and feel I was doing it responsibly. So I quit being President of the Local; I thought I would keep going to meetings but stuff would come up about the time of the meeting and I even stopped going to those.  That was a bit strange because I had been going to meetings for about 8 years maybe.  Before that I had taken a few years off, and before that I had been at it about 5 years, having been one of two people to get the Local started at UCSB clear back in 1985.

Looking back, I think dropping out of the union like that—when it had been part of my almost daily work for years—was a pretty big thing to do and a sign of just had worn down I was getting to be about that time.

 I put up the sign in that picture when the we lecturers engaged in a couple of days of systematic labor unrest when our negotiations with the UC Administration completely stalled.

 

 

Meet the Old Boss

So I waited and I guess at the end of January I got a letter from some official body or other saying Congratulations.  You have received a 3 step merit increase.  A strange letter, with no acknowledgment that an error had been previously made and since there was no acknowledgment of an error there was of course no explanation of the unacknowledged error.

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Well, I was happy to get the merit increase, and when I checked with our highest level secretary, I was told that I would get the money I hadn’t gotten for the six months they had taken to ok my merit raise.  So I would get retro pay, and starting in March my check would show the new adjusted amount.  At this point, though, I haven’t seen a penny of it since some mistake was made and instead of getting more money my check for February was completely cancelled and some strange accounting had to be done to get me my salary that couldn’t account for my raise or the missing money.

Someday I will see it. 

So I had my merit review last February and at the end of March I went to a convention of college writing teachers in Chicago I think it was and, of course, because it happens every time, I got sick about a week after I got back with some stuff that settled in my lungs and just wouldn’t seem to go away for the whole stinking quarter. I hate conferences.  I hate airplanes.  I hate airports too.

And then around in there maybe April or June we all get an out of nowhere email from our boss saying that she was retiring.  This was like completely unexpected and out of the blue, and in itself a cause for tension and concern.  This boss was the first boss of the writing program who a real tenure track professor.  In fact, she had been hired in as a Full Professor, which is a pretty big deal.  And now out of nowhere she was going.

We had one other Professor in the program but she didn’t have tenure and the rest, well, we were all top to bottom lecturers, and we felt—or at least I felt—that it had been good to have a full real professor as our boss since she might be able to talk with the guys up in the administration in a way that a lecturer, such as myself, could not.

So that was upsetting: to have the boss split like that after five years.  She had been a pretty decent boss, I think.  Nothing really had changed for the better in terms of our pay or workload or anything substantial like that but she was not nuts for one committee meeting after another and having been for years at another institution a full senate faculty member she brought with her a senate faculty ethos.  She treated us more as if we were professors and that meant, most importantly, that she mostly expected us not to be in our offices, which is the case with most Senate faculty—they are not in their offices. 

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That’s my office again.  Part of a bookshelf featuring one of those singing fish.  I don’t know why the hell I bought that.  But I actually bought it.  It sings "Splish Splash, I was taking a bath."  I don’t think it sings now though because the battery is dead. 

Slighted Again

I thought about taking the rejection of my three steps to the union, but then I thought that maybe I should look into whatever official channels for redress or reconsideration there might be.  My boss said that, according to the academic manual, I had the same right as anybody else to write a letter to the appropriate parties asking for a copy of the official report upon which the rejection of my merit increase had been based.

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So I wrote said letter and waited.  Throughout the summer.  When fall came I asked my boss if she would ask for me at the end of September, then I asked if she would ask at the end of October and finally, some time, in October I got a copy of the official report.  It didn’t make any sense.  For one thing, my boss had said that the committee had whole heartedly back my three step merit; but the person writing the report remarked that the backing could hardly be considered whole hearted since one person had voted against my getting an increase.

This clarified one thing right off.  Different people over in the administration building had reviewed the different merit cases. How could one vote against me be taken as a sign that I didn’t deserve my three steps when one person who had three votes against him or her had received the three steps? This could only mean that one person had approved a three step for a person with three no votes, and another person had reviewed me and taken one no vote as a sign that I didn’t deserve the merit.  Not only had two people done the review of the cases, but clearly these two people had never sat down in the same room or talked to each other to standardize the criteria they were using to evaluate the merit requests.

Second, and glaringly, the author of the report said that he or she didn’t see why I should get a three step merit for this last four year period of review when I had done at least as much, if not more excellent work, in the three years before that and yet I had not requested a three step at that time.  So why should I request and get a three step this time, when I hadn’t requested or gotten one before.  This was a major gaffe indicating that the person writing my review had not been given much information about lecturers and their contract or he or she would have known that the last time I was reviewed it was not possible, according to the then existing contract, to ask for a three step merit.

This was like more than annoying.  It was damn disheartening.  I couldn’t help but feel, while of course there was nothing personal about it, that my case, and probably the cases of other lecturers as well, had been handled in a cursory, offhand, and desultory manner.  But I screwed myself up, and sent a copy of the report off to my boss, along with my analysis of it, and more or less agreeing with my analysis, she wrote off a letter to the appropriate parties requesting that my case be re-reviewed.

So again, I waited.  Till the end of November, when I ask my boss to send off a letter asking what was happening with the re-review.

 

The photo shows a slightly different view of my office.  That’s my official campus supplied computer there, and the viewer will note that it has been adjusted to the proper height by the very latest in phone directories.  Next to the phone directory sits my modern up to date touch tone phone that will not allow me to phone anybody outside my immediate area code.

Three step

I have been a lecturer in the UCSB Writing Program since 1980 and that’s all I have been.  I have not moved up in any way shape or form.  I have not, for example, become senior lecturer or super senior lecturer or anything like that because there are no such things.  Part of a career, as I understand the concept—and possibly I don’t—involves moving up.  But that didn’t happen so I guess I didn’t have much of a career.

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About the only way to move up was to get a raise.  For whatever reasons, my bosses have never told me I was doing a super job or expressed how grateful they were that I continued to exist.  So getting a raise was about the only way to get a pat on the back.  But it was a sort of private pat on the back because none of us ever talk about how much we do or don’t make, maybe because we make so little.  So a raise was not really a social status thing; you don’t go around bragging about how much you make.  It’s better to have something by your name that says “Super Senior Lecturer.”

So some time, in this last horrible year, February or March, I guess it was I was up for a merit review and a possible pat on the back.  It had been four years since my last chance at a merit increase.  And at that time I got a two step merit increase which was the most a person could get according to our union contract.  But the contract had changed and I made sure that the boss knew that people could now get three or even four merit steps depending on degree of accomplishment.

I wanted to get a 3 step because, well, that would be like a super pat on the back and also I am close to retirement and wanted to get my salary up as high as I could because my retirement benefits are based on my 3 most highly paid years of service.  So this one was a big deal for me.

I felt I deserved a three step (heck, I felt I deserved a four step), and after the review, which is always just awful, like a beauty contest or something and you are wearing no clothes, I got a nice letter from my boss saying the committee had approved a three step increase for me and congratulations.  So I got the pat on the back and some money too.

But, whoa!  These merits aren’t automatic; they go from the program up to the Dean’s office, and I got a letter from the Dean’s office saying I had received a two step and not a three step. And of course, this is the university and no reason whatsoever was offered as to why I got two instead of three.

 Well, that hurt.  Screw it, I thought.  I will just suck it up.  But that didn’t seem right, so I went to the boss and told her what I had been told and ask her if anybody else had received a three step because I figured that if I hadn’t gotten one that the Dean’s office had decided not to give a three step to anybody.

But, no, my boss says that three of my colleagues had received three steps, and that one of them at least, as my boss remembered it, had received fewer votes than I for those three steps.  I tend towards paranoia and this didn’t help.  Not only had I not received my secret pat on the back, I felt as if I had been slapped in the face, for what reason, I knew not.

And to top that off, because of my fatigue no doubt, I sent an email to my boss discussing my not getting a three step and pushed the wrong button I guess and sent the email to all of my colleagues.  So my slap in the face went public.

That was back in March and February, not long after WB died.

 

That’s a picture of my office at UCSB.  It must be from a few years ago because that’s a lexmark printer amid all the junk there, and now I have an HP.  That’s my trusty scanner to the left of the Lexmark.  Jeez, I must have gotten that thing back in the mid 90’s.

Sophisticates

Hindsight they say is 20/20.  But really it’s not.  Or let’s say it depends on what you are looking at or for.  I have spent a long time looking and reviewing and contemplating to come to the teaconclusion—or sort of conclusion—that the persistent angst I felt at college was not entirely the result of my having no social skills, or being emotionally stunted, or being tortured by my inability to get rid of my virginity, like it was the plague or something, but at least partly from my just not fitting in.

I attended a relatively exclusive, tiny, liberal arts college that affluent middle class people sent their kids to.  I was a poor white.  That’s why I got all the free money I got to go there.  I was like part of their quota for poor white people, and it was no skin off their nose because the government gave them money to help people like me. Naturally, I didn’t know or think of myself as a poor white person.  I didn’t really notice even that only a tiny percentage of us worked in the student union and that alone put me in a different category.

 That was part of the deal I got.  The college made sure I got a job to cover my books and stuff like that.  I didn’t mind, really.  I worked 20-25 hours a week, and that was nothing.  All I did was go to classes and study, so working in the student union was a break and good for a little exercise especially when I worked washing dishes.  Sometimes I didn’t wash the dishes; sometimes I bused the tables after everybody ate.  

Sometimes I worked the line tending the tea, the coffee, the milk and making sure the deserts didn’t run out. The soft drinks were out in the open so I didn’t have to mind those unless one ran out. I wore a sort of super-starched white smock, I guess it would be called, and a floppy version of a chefs hat.  I didn’t like the hat thing at all, but was happy they didn’t make me wear a hair net. 

So the sophisticates who were too good for soda pop, would look at me and say, “Tea, please.”  And I would get a cup and a saucer and put hot water in the cup, naturally, and place a tea bag on the saucer and they would say, “Thank you.”  And I would say, “You’re welcome.”  And somebody would say, “Coffee please.”  And I would do it all over again except I would put coffee in the cup rather than hot water, and so on for twenty minutes or so, till most of the stragglers came in.  By that time, people were leaving and I would go out with a cart and start picking up the slop they had left behind.  The amounts of wasted food I could not believe.

While most of my peers constantly complained about the dorm food, I didn’t.  Well, I did so I could fit in, but really I liked it better than home food because a) there was a lot of it and b) there was more variety.  Once I was eating with a group of guys and I said, “Damn. This is good.”  And jabbing my fork at it, “What the fuck is it?”  The guy across from me, the guy who later went to jail busterrather than be drafted, laughed and said, “Lamb.”  The laugh was good natured; a laugh of recognition, or rather non-recognition, like, “Who the hell is this guy?” 

 I didn’t know anything about Chinese food either; I mean I knew of course that the Chinese ate food and that it was called Chinese food.  But I hadn’t eaten any of it.

Punch Press

 The summer between junior and senior year of college, three of us rented an apartment.  I needed money for rent, so I went to the unemployment office per usual and picked up a job quickly at a punch pressfactory in Glendale for maybe 25 cents more than minimum wage.  The factory made earphones for headsets to be used by soldiers in Viet Nam.   Mostly women worked there doing the finely tuned digital stuff that women are supposed to be able to do well, soldering wires and the little speaker into a metal casing that was then covered with rubber.  I was hired to work with two Mexican American guys who were already there running a punch press.

Punch presses come in all shapes and sizes.  Our seven foot high jobs were run by a single operator.  You sat on the stool in front of the punch press, and in our case we then pulled, following a guide, a five inch wide strip of metal under the punch part of the press, and then you pushed a petal and the damn press would come down like with ten thousand pounds of force (crash!) and punch out the metal container that the electrical stuff would go into. Then you picked up the metal part and threw it into a container, and then you did it again, and again, and so on for eight fucking hours.

Working as a brick mason tender caused me great physical pain; working as an assistant manager of a Newberry’s Department store was an act of despair, but this damn machine was petrifyingly boring.  I couldn’t day dream because you had to busy your hands and be conscious of the machine or you might mash your whole hand.

Sometimes, I don’t know why, a young Mexican American woman with large breasts would work at a table across from me.  The press was in the way so I couldn’t see her face except now and then but when the press was up, as I adjusted the metal to its proper place, I could see her breasts.  So I would punch the press, up the press would go, I would look at the young woman’s breasts and then I would punch again.  Sometimes when I was looking, her movements would make her breasts sort of jiggle and that was a special treat.  

The two Mexican American youths got through the day smoking grass.  They started at the 10 o’clock break, reloaded at noon, and topped it off at the afternoon break.  They were friendly and ask me to join them, but I was afraid to.  They would start to talking in Spanish and laughing (a universal language) and I would get worried they were going to crush their hands.  The smaller skinny one was already married and a father of two; they had been fucking around and he got her pregnant and that was that.  The other guy was sort of fat but he was engaged, he said, to be married.  I was astonished, but I was a college boy.

I always go to work.  That’s my training.  So I went to that job every day, but one day it was just killing me.  I started to get a stomach ache.  Actually I think I convinced myself that I had a stomach ache.  So I went to the boss and said I was sick to my stomach.  I expected him to be annoyed, but he wasn’t even that.  Then go home, he said.  I didn’t want to go home.  I was in some sort of moody despairing place.  So I got in my old Plymouth, went to Griffith Park and lay down on the grass near the carousel and lit up a number.

I don’t know if it was the grass or the day or just me but laying there but I remember feeling that carousel was about the saddest thing in the whole fucking world.

The Egg Factory

When I was getting low on money, I would go down to the unemployment office and look for a day job or temporary fill in work.  Once I got a job driving around and administering medical questionnaires to people out the boonies, and another time I got a job at an egg factory.  Many, many eggs and not a chicken anywhere in sight.  But the eggs were brought in on racks in big trucks.  Then they were cleaned because they had chicken shit all over them.  Then they were candled to make sure the eggs weren’t bloody or didn’t have a little chicken in them.  These eggs were sold to people who make cookies and stuff like that, so who knows, maybe every now and then a person gets a little ground up chicken embryo in a cookie. 

Uuuummm, uuummm good!

Then the eggs were packed in big brown boxes because these particular eggs were being sent to feed the troops in Viet Nam.

The chicken factory was pretty far inland and hot.  I wasn’t there long enough to get to know the people; they were mostly women and Mexican Americans.  The main topic of conversation in the coffee room was how nobody could eat chicken any more.  Somebody would say, “I drove by this barbeque place and it smelled good.  But then I remembered it was chicken.”  Or:  “I haven’t touched a piece of chicken in a year.”  Or: “Even thinking about chicken makes me want to gag.”  I couldn’t quite figure it since there were no chickens there; but as I said the place was hot and was rank with the smell of chicken shit.

The other topic of conversation was the woman, who quite recently, got her hair caught in the conveyer belt and was scalped.  Contrary to popular belief, the act of scalping a person, though quite painful, does not kill a person, though I supposed if one remained scalped for very long infection would set in and one would die.  But they saved this woman’s scalp and they eventually got it back on her, though she had not returned to work.

I worked there for a couple of weeks I guess for minimum wage doing whatever they told me to do.  I helped unload the trucks.  The eggs came in flats that were stuck in racks that were about six feet high and had wheels on them, so you could push them around to where they had to go.  And I did a lot of sweeping and washing stuff down with a hose to keep down the stink.  I wanted to do the candling where you stood at the end of the line and a bright light would make the inside of the egg visible so you could tell if it had blood or not.  But I never go to do that job since it perhaps required an expertise I did not have.

One day, they had to move a truck away from the dock for some reason, and as they pulled it away, the truck went up a slight incline in the blacktopped lot, and all of a sudden rack after rack after rack of eggs came falling out of the back of the truck.  Somebody had forgotten to refasten the restraining chain.  Man what a mess.  The whole lot turned into a giant omelet and within a matter of minutes, it seemed, every fly within a square mile had gotten the message that plenty of food was available.  So I was sent out to hose and started to wash down the lot.

 I never saw the owner of the place.  It was run by the “foreman,” a skinny white guy who went around telling people what to do and how to do it.  When he saw that omelet, he went berserk.  He started swearing at the top of his lungs.  Spit came flying out of his mouth.  He picked up things and threw them.  H jumped up and down and pounded his feet on the pavement. He got red in the face and I thought he was going to have a fucking convulsion.  I had never seen anything like it.

I had heard the phrase “straw boss” and really hadn’t understood what it meant.  This guy was a straw boss; he gave orders like he was the boss, but the orders, whatever they were, really came from his boss.  He had no power but what his positioned conferred on him, and if things got fucked up, like with the omelet, he could scream and curse and maybe fire somebody, but he would be the one that ultimately got the shaft from his boss.  His fury arouse from his impotence.

Me, I hadn’t been anywhere near that particular truck.

 

candling

 

 

Unemployment

During my seven year stretch in the green hole, I had various jobs and also collected unemployment.  That was after I got laid off from the brick layer tender job.  And because that was a union job that paid maybe seven bucks an hour, collecting the unemployment, $65 a week, was invisible manworth it.  (How much you get from unemployment is based on how much you earn)  I didn’t try to collect unemployment when I got laid off from the Newberry’s Department store because the pay was so low that the 30 or so bucks a week I would get wouldn’t be worth the agony of getting it.

You had to go to the unemployment office on a particular day of the week and sometimes the line would stretch clear out into the street.  You could stand in that line for hours as it slowly moved into the building and toward the three or four clerks, I guess they were, that stood at the their posts behind the counter.  And then you had to wait in suspense since it was a single line to see which of the people behind the counter you got, and that did make a difference because one of them, at least, made me feel like shit when I walked up to the window.  When he asked me if I had been looking for work and where I had been looking (which I hadn’t been doing), he made me feel like a lying thief.

I had enough problems in the parasite department as it was.  I had gone off to college to stand on my own two legs and flopped instead.  I paid my parents, when I had some extra, for my roach infested room and the food I ate.  But I didn’t pay them regularly and mostly used the money I made to pay for gas for the car and insurance and to buy cigarettes and some clothes now and then.  They never asked me for more money which was good of them, I guess, but I still felt like a parasite and a loser of the first order.  And my parents sure as hell didn’t do anything to assuage that feeling.  They didn’t speak once about or ask questions about my so-called “mental” problem.

But collecting unemployment I sure felt like a parasite   I was a cigarette smoking parasite that, at times, looked pretty much like a derelict, with my untrimmed beard and my hair sticking out every which away.  And I had real bad BO and also terrible dandruff both in my hair and my beard.

So I was a chain smoking parasite with real bad dandruff.  The appearance situation was made worse by my inability on occasion to go into the barber shop because if I did the barber would know I had come in for a hair cut.  I guess you could say that the barber made me self-conscious, but it wasn’t exactly like that.  I felt he could read my mind maybe, or see right through me, as if I were made out a very thin plastic, to my real intention which was to get a hair cut.

So I felt real shitty collecting unemployment and I guess I looked pretty shitty too.