Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Am Not My Job.

"Getting fired is the best thing that could happen to any of us. That way, we'd quit treading water and do something with our lives." -- Tyler Durden

Even as a veteran comedian, I am apparently not a good fit as a "host" on the Riverwalk in San Antonio. I say "host" because the job is actually "mindless and loud barker". By being fired after a day and a half, what the manager basically meant by not being a good fit for the job is that I did not repeat the designated phrases enough and at top volume, annoyingly drawing attention to myself. Okay, I can live with that.

What I found hard to live with was that this was the first job I was able to find after months of looking. I felt this was going to be the start I needed to get back on my feet, financially speaking. Nope.

Before June 2010, I had never been fired before. Losing this latest job was my third firing in a year. Needless to say, I did not feel very hopeful.

In retrospect, that job would have broken me in about two weeks. I am not a dancing monkey...or, at least, not anymore. I didn't pull back from the bottom to wear a sign that there's a burger special for lunch.

Before I go into my current employment status, I need to go back about 12 years. It almost seems like my views on life and work have been building since then.

I'm working at Apple sales. I see three movies within a year with some common themes: "Fight Club", "American Beauty" and "Office Space". I come to the realization that the money I was making at Apple didn't make cubicle life any less shitty. I endured for a few more years (laid off in 2003).

I start working at NCsoft, customer service at a video game company. Cool people, nice atmosphere and not having a drinking policy (seriously) allowed me to enjoy that job for a few years. In the end, though, I felt trapped in my cloth-covered box assisting people I didn't like with meaningless problems. Did I do anything about it? Of course not. I grew accustomed to the lifestyle...the hours...the pay. I mean, come on, I had a drug habit that needed funding.

You can't hit bottom if you're managing to stay afloat. Luckily, I finally got fired and things went to shit. I was left with no unemployment benefits and a felony on my record...enjoy job hunting and competing with teens and college grads, you 30-something burnout!

May, 2011. I came out of a 90-day treatment center in a Zen state, hopeful and upbeat. I had the support of family again and my girl Isla. I was motivated to start a new job. But I knew one thing: I didn't want to work in an office farm again. The felony on my record helped keep me out of these jobs in case I was tempted by the impressively mediocre pay.

Job hunting was brutal. I applied everywhere I could, regardless of what the position was. I tried to doctor my resume or creatively fluff up applications...nothing.

In the aftermath of losing the "host" job, I reflected on my work history. I also focused specifically on "Fight Club", both the book and movie for a little inspiration. I really felt the urge to do some fucking actually DO SOMETHING for once...not talk on the phone to jackasses while I surfed the 'net. "We wash your clothes, we cook your meals...we watch you while you sleep. Do not fuck with us." I thought, fuck it, let's get into a kitchen. I'll wash some dishes.

Isla said something to me at the same time I made this decision...about how she liked that she and I didn't always do what we were "supposed to". That really stuck with me. I'm supposed to dress up for interviews. I'm supposed to go get a shirt and tie. I should shave. I don't think I will.

I walked into a particular restaurant after seeing a new ad for dishwasher posted the night before on Craigslist. I was there when they opened, and I was the second person interviewed. The chef who interviewed me was as unshaven as me that morning. Criminal background never came up...but what was important was if I could start that same day. Yes, I said. The guy interviewed before me could start the next day. Tough shit, guy. I was in...three-day trial to see how it goes.

Any idiot can wash dishes. Being a "dishwasher" means putting endless plates, pots and pans into racks and running them through the machine fast and efficiently. Scrub quickly, put them up and reuse the racks. Hurry, more is coming. I got the fuck kicked out of me that first night. Nobody in that kitchen thought I would come back.

I came back the second night, mostly out of spite. The manager was almost surprised to see me. I worked as hard as I could and became overwhelmed by Friday night dining. I needed two other people to help me finish everything. However, I learned from those guys the right way to do the damn job (no training, btw). Don't clean the dishes so much before putting them in the machine...this ain't the p.o.s. dishwasher your mom owns, respect the industrial strength dishwashing machine.

The third night (Saturday) was mine. I had a game plan and finished the night without any help. Hooray. My hands and feet ached, I had little cuts on my whole body was sore. But I prevailed...and I kept the job.

I've almost been there a month. That calm state I had is back now...the no-job stress is gone. I've got my shift down to a science, and I can even ride my bike a few miles after a shift home without tiring. I'm mentally and physically fit at my job.

When I work, I don't answer to a bitchy customer or an immediate supervisor. The dish pit is mine. I own it. It's me and my thoughts for 5-7 hours. I get to see fruits of my labor every night by end of shift. I'm not feeling my soul die in a cloth-covered box. I I get paid shit, but I don't care.

"Free." At the moment, I have the job that I wanted. I get to feel alive and watch people around me zombie-stagger to work. I get to live my little "Fight Club" wannabe life (sans getting punched in the face weekly).

"May I never be complete."

"May I never be content."

I need to remember those...because I don't want to get comfortable or complacent. I don't want to be "married" to the job and just keep doing it until life has to separate me from it. I have to grow...evolve. Come August 1st I'm living with the girl I love and start a new chapter in my...our lives. I want to give her everything and take care of things. Who knows what job I'll take next. I just don't want it to define me...or rob me of will and creativity.

Until then...I get to be all Zen in everyone's little hostile face.

**** Update: See my rebuttal, I Am My Job.