Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Watch This Space!

I have just come back from seeing "The Martian" and am in the sort of anxious state that can only be produced from eating an entire box of Mike and Ike while watching a charismatic young man trying to survive on Mars.

Seven years of underemployment allow me to empathize with that situation.

No more.  Before I started whining about the upcoming presidential election (and who can blame me?  have you seen the Republican candidates?  this is why people are afraid of clowns), I related that I finally had my dream job at a museum, though it was only for the summer.  Well, my summer job at the museum ended and I declined the offer to make it permanent.  Instead, I signed on with them as a volunteer.  Because I am inspired.  And my volunteer experience will support what is now my new life's quest:  to become a scientist.

You read that right.

Why a scientist?  Because I learned this summer that I like scientists.  And because it is possibly the most preposterous thing I can do. 

I am studying like a demon.  Math, astronomy, and physics.  For now.  Chemistry next.  And Italian, just to mix it up.  The volunteer experience will provide training, and my goal is to one day be worthy to join the museum education team.  My brain is in mega-fucking-hyper-drive. 

And I am very, very happy.  Who knew?

At first I thought I'd keep things at amateur status, because I have sworn to never write another academic paper.  But now I'm thinking that there are probably math and science courses out there that might benefit from the presence of a grey-haired old lady.

What a wonderful luxury to have the choice. 

In addition, I'm in the process of preparing this blog to be published.  In two books.  The first will be titled "Underemployed Is the New Organic" (surprise!), with the second title TBA (I'm thinking "Pass the Vodka").  I thought I had already done the hard part by writing the thing.  Silly me.  As usual, I gravely underestimated the new task.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  Many-a-time, my naive underestimations lure me into the undertaking of  absurd tasks, and vanity (also not necessarily a bad thing), dictates that they be completed.

Works for me.

So watch this space.  And thank you for your patience.  Someday (hopefully) soon, people be able to purchase copies of my books as presents for underemployed friends and family.  Much, much cheaper than therapy.  

And it will support my math habit.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Winning Ticket

Here it is, and you heard it here first:


'Nuff said.

I hope someone out there is listening...

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Real Issue

The minute I saw the Republican candidates all lined up on the stage, chomping at the bit to get debating, I knew who the nominee would eventually be.
And how did I know this? 
Hair.  It was all about the hair.
Needless to say, my vision of next November's election began with noticing that Donald Trump's hair looked a little weirder than usual.  Donald Trump's hair has always befuddled and, dare I say it? disturbed me.  It has befuddled me because it's not like he's poor, or clueless, or doesn't care.  He's a gazillionaire and goes to great lengths to get his hair to look that way, which can only be described as "surreal".  And I have been disturbed, because it creates an eerie connection with Bill Gates that can't possibly be coincidental.
Jeb, I promise you, Woodrow Wilson would never have been elected president if TV had been around back then.  Along the same lines, Mr. Huckabee, your likeness to Hubert Humphrey is doing you no favors.
Rand.  Dude.  If that's a perm, stop it.  If it isn't a perm, cut it.
Chris, are you trying to look like "Big Boy"?  I mean, is it necessary to have the hair, too?  You haven't noticed?  Don't get me wrong, darling.  Personally, I find the resemblance rather endearing on account of the nostalgia I always feel when I see you.  Because I knew, as a small child, that we were near Grandma's house as soon as I saw that jolly guy smiling down at me from the top of his restaurant.
Scott Walker?  A walking ad for Hairclub for Men.  To be fair, some of the hair on the back of his head may have defected and moved to Megyn Kelly's eyelids.
Ben, your hair is okay.  But you're going to need more than okay to distract people from the growing suspicion that you hear voices.
(Where did this Kasich guy come from?  Did I spell that right?)
So who's going to be America's Dream Date?
Marco Rubio, of course.  With Ted Cruz (the thinking man's Donald Trump) right behind him. 
It's so obvious.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Underemployed Geezer

Merriam-Webster defines underemployment as: "the condition in which people in a labor force are employed at less than full-time or regular jobs or at jobs inadequate with respect to their training or economic needs."
That's a pretty fair assessment, though I would argue that one may not be a trained burger-flipper, but a job flipping burgers may hasten the onset of dementia in those who are predisposed to it.  In other words, you can be intellectually underemployed, too.  This type of underemployment occurs in many positions where one is dealing with the public and is provided with a "script" (the most imbecilic of which always begin with the word "welcome") created by people with marketing degrees and very little knowledge of how Earthlings actually talk.
You can also be morally underemployed, and these are the people in fields like politics, law, medicine, entertainment, and education who find themselves waking up in the middle of the night, pondering what sort of assholes they've become as a result of their daytime activities.
Then there is age-related underemployment, where you are required to do things on the job that are ill-suited to the mature person.  This can be:
  1. Physical ("Can you be on your feet for nine hours, with one 45-minute break?"  "No. Do you know anyone who can?  I mean, without repetitive stress trauma?");
  2. Cultural (listening to FM radio "lite rock" all day.  Every day);
  3. Experiential ("I know what happens when you cut back on payroll.  It's not good.").
The underemployed geezer is a class all its own.
If you think I'm talking about the AARP crowd, think again.  I am using the word "geezer" in accordance with the evolved meaning currently in use by our society i.e., anybody over 40.
This is especially true in the workplace, where very young and inexperienced people are often given supervisory and management positions beyond their abilities because:
  1. They make an attractive dating pool;
  2. They perform their jobs acceptably if you take away their smartphones;
  3. They are more flexible with their work hours, because they haven't yet reached the age where they need to sleep;
  4. They're cheaper than old and experienced people.  At least in the short-term;
  5. They don't question authority.  Mainly because they don't take it seriously.  I would say with good reason.
Whereas geezers:
  1. Are, by definition, undateable;
  2. Want more money.  Sometimes, lots;
  3. Need to eat and sleep.  Sometimes, lots;
  4. Are usually recently-fired refugees (which they desperately try to sugarcoat during the interview process), or moms returning to the workplace with computer skills the same age as their oldest child;
  5. Will, often as not, greet corporate mandates with responses like "Really?"
Hence, it is difficult to find any employment when you are a geezer, which is why geezers so easily settle for underemployment.  But once the 24-year-old hiring manager gets over his or her complete lack of personal interest in giving you a job, what happens next on the career path of the underemployed geezer is both a blessing and a curse.
Here's the blessing:
If you have anything on the ball at all, within one month at your new place of underemployment you will be enthsiastically embraced as the go-to, relied-upon, can't-live-without, employee-of-the-year.  I promise you.  Not that you will be offered a full-time position with a decent salary and benefits.   You won't.  But this is a wonderful thing if your self-esteem is dragging in the dust due to the dismissal circumstances of your previous job and/or the more visual effects of menopause.  And you will happily respond by turning in a stellar work performance.
Which leads to the curse:
At that point you will be scheduled for exactly 34.5 hours a week.  Every week.  Given the work typical of most underemployment, this is not so wonderful unless you are desperate for money.  Even if you ARE desperate for money, being at work almost full-time, all the time, tends to rule out any attempts on your part to look for something better.  Or, if you're not desperate for money, to enjoy any of the potential benefits of underemployment, like free time.  Furthermore, you will never take a sick day because you've already had, and are immune to, most of the endless cold and flu bugs that take down your younger workmates.  (Yes, geezers get broken hips and have oral surgeries.  But we bounce back quickly, having had practice with bouncing back from things like childbirth.) 
In summary, you just can't win.
I write this after working 60 hours in the last seven days, most, cleverly arranged to straddle two weeks so that I wouldn't go into overtime.
Being a geezer, I'm tired. 


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Losing It

Last Sunday was, officially, not a good day.
Or maybe it was the best day ever.
You decide.  I had to work, so the day began with getting up at 5:00 am, facing a ten-hour workday, and racing the clock to make the train.  More importantly, I was racing to get to the Starbucks across the street from the train in order to grab a cup of coffee to comfort me on my ride into the city.  A cup of coffee is crucial at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning, and timing at Starbucks is everything.  You have to be there early in case the place is mobbed by joggers ordering "skinny" decaf vanilla lattes.
There were no joggers when I got there.  In fact, nobody was there.  Starbucks was closed (!) and I stood at the door reading the note that said - apologetically - that they were remodeling and that there would be a beverage truck to attend to the needs of their cherished customers.  I turned around to look at the street.  No beverage truck.  Though I did see a man with a cup of coffee who, upon questioning, admitted that he bought it at Einstein's Bagels, a block away and on the far side of the train tracks.  There would be no time.
(I believe Starbucks is remodelling in response to the threat of a Dunkin' Donuts opening soon just a few steps away.  Dear Starbucks, this is not an effective response to that threat.)
No big deal, I finally decided after a few deep breaths, thinking of how much cheaper Dunkin' Donuts is than Starbucks.  I could be at the exit door and waiting to dash off the train as soon as we reached Chicago.  I would glom some coffee in the station.
Then there was an announcement (also apologetic) from Metra:  The train would be boarding from the OTHER side of the tracks, so if their valued passengers would please make their way to the other side...?
In my town, making one's way to the other side of the tracks involves going down a block to the next street, crossing the tracks, and then walking another block up to the point where the train will stop.  In doing so, I passed within 50 feet of Einstein's Bagels, where coffee was surely perking merrily away. 
But I still had another block to walk, and the train was coming.
Once on the train, I fought against caffeine deprivation to stay awake.  If I was the first one off, I could score coffee.  I tensely awaited my moment.
As we neared the station I sprang to my feet and sprinted to the vestibule.  But a mere seconds before pulling in, the door opened.
And in walked, not one, but two blind people.  With canes and service dogs.  And the need for space.  And courtesy.
I would be the most evil bitch in the world if I:
  1. didn't back way off and give these people the consideration due to them; or
  2. resented their very existence. 
Caffeine deprivation can seriously mess with your mind.
I went back to my seat and did what the nuns told me to do in grade school:  I offered up my suffering for the starving children in China.
I wondered if my commute was a bad rehearsal for a fabulous performance, or an omen of things to come.  Upon making my groggy arrival at work, I learned that three people in my department had called in sick and that the computers had crashed.  Which pretty much answered my question.
At the end of the day, my legs hurt.  Specifically, my left leg was killing me and it was difficult to walk from the bus stop to the train station.  My left leg has been bothering me ever since I began working again, but I chalked it up to being old, washed-up, and not lately used to being on my feet for ten hours, the hallmark of underemployment.  I was exhausted, too.  I mean really exhausted.  Kaput.
As I walked, my mind was focused on the pain.  Suddenly I realized that it centered around the area where my large crossbody bag was slapping against my thigh with each and every step.
When I got home I weighed the bag:  4.5 lbs.  Four-and-a-half pounds??  Pounding against the same nerve in my leg for weeks?  I weighed my backpack, too:  7.5 lbs.  So after ten hours on my feet, I was putting on twelve pounds worth of equipment and walking up floor flights of stair, a block to the bus, six blocks to the train, and another block or so to where my chariot awaited.
Being a contemplative sort, I contemplated, "Why do I need to take twelve pounds of shit with me every day to go to work?"
And I looked in my closet.  An overwhelming wall of STUFF.  I checked my dressers, too.  I was swimming in stuff.
It's one of the few downsides of thrift store shopping.  One can afford everything.  Thus, I have been buying everything. 
All at once, I felt suffocated. 
I realized that having stuff, and having much of it accompany me everywhere I go, is my way of exerting control over my environment.  No blame, because my experiences with life are such that I have been, at times, transported suddenly to places where I had little or nothing of my own for long periods of time.  As a result of those experiences, I have been trying to be eternally prepared for any eventuality so that, if it ever happens again, I will have something of myself with me for solace.
I have now come to the conclusion that I could accomplish that with a flask and a credit card.
Since then I have been downsizing.  Before I buy, schlepp, eat, drink, or smoke anything, I asj myself, "Do I actually need that?"  The answer is almost always, "no". 
The results have been encouraging.
And the next time I have some time on my hands, I will be doing a major "stuff de-tox".  I'm at the age where I can accurately determine whether or not I'll be using something in this lifetime.
Hopefully, my "loss" will be other people's gain.  A lot will be recycled back to the thrift shops.
Except for my purses.  I no longer have any desire to own leather bags, and I have a veritable treasure trove.
Girlfriends, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Purse party at my house! 
You'll be doing me a favor.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Compassionate Commuter

In some ways, I am truly a terrible person.

I don't want to be.  I try to be nice.  One of the benefits of getting older is that one's reflexes slow, so I've developed a delay that gives me a few seconds to pause and contemplate situations which heretofore would have elicited an immediate "fuck you" from my younger self. 

Some of it has been a conscious effort.  I carry around, in my wallet, some pages I once saved from a "Zen Quote of the Day" calendar.  They are:
  1. "Let life happen to you.  Believe me: life is in the right, always." (Rainer Maria Rilke);
  2. "If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are." (Zen proverb); and
  3. "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion." (Dalai Lama).
These are my commandments.  These are the words I try to live by.
But - damn! - it is so hard.  Try as I might, my first reaction to a clump of chubby suburban tourists standing posse on the escalator, and blocking any and all of my attempts to get to work, is:  "Move it, heifers!"

The compassionate reaction would be:  "Oh, how sad!  These poor women are:
  1. trapped in a prison of fat, due to an inability to overcome the genetic programming that prompts us to hoover up as much food as possible at every meal because we don't know when our hunters will be bringing home the next mastodon,
  2. unfamiliar with the protocol of urban public transportation, which might cause them some difficulties on what should be a delightful visit to the city,
  3. wearing khaki shorts."
I know I complain a lot about public transportation.  There's a lot to complain about.  I would like to cite as example the person behind me on the train last night who jabbed me in the back with her knees all the way home.  ("She is just trying to take a nap.  She must be SO tired after getting dumped by her boyfriend.  Ommmm...")

I have learned recently, however, that Chicago public transportation is much, MUCH better than NO Chicago public transportation.

I love my new job, but one of the downsides is that it is near Soldier Field, a venue in Chicago that accommodates large gatherings of people for concerts, football games, sports rallies, etc.

Last weekend, it was the Grateful Dead farewell concert. 

Nearly a quarter-million people attended, over three days.  So what did the Grand Poobahs of Chicago Government do, in a spectacular display of sheer idiocy?  They stopped public transportation to the venue and, by extension, my workplace.
They wouldn't even let cabs through.

So, in addition to being on my feet all day, I had no choice but a forced march of a mile or more at the end.  Swimming upstream against the throngs of yowling, hairy, overage flower children, I entertained dark thoughts about them, the city, the band.  Yes, I was letting life happen to me.  I wasn't trying to make sense of it.  But I couldn't summon up the compassion.  I was in pain.  And nobody even offered to share their weed.
Fuck them.  AND their mayor.   Ommm...

Starting today is Taste of Chicago, the city's annual five-day food orgy.  So far, I haven't heard of any more genius ideas to modify public transit.  For that I thank all the gods.  On the other hand, I am anticipating invading hordes of suburbanites in search of sanctuary from Olive Garden.
For that, I will practice compassion.  And cherish profound hopes that they will find nirvana in the scungill'.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Whence Cometh the Muse?

I went back to work for several reasons:
  1. I was beginning to imagine the results of a good taxidermy job on my husband;
  2. My "hood-rich" spending habits required funding; and
  3. There is no street fashion in the suburbs.  There are Moms, who are inevitably dressed in yoga or running ensembles.  There are kids, with better wardrobes than their Moms.  And there are Geezers, who seem to be doing a dress rehearsal for their own funerals.
I am not a fan of Yoko Ono.  But if she has left one enduring legacy to this planet, it's that she managed to cross the Rubicon of 60 Years Old and did not start wearing stupid clothes.
I also went back to work in search of inspiration.  There is nothing like real life for inspiring rants.
I thought that a $10/hour job at a Chicago tourist destination would be a goldmine for great stories about the standout members of our species who manage to survive to adulthood and occasionally spawn offspring without the aid of a measurable IQ.  I was wrong.
Not that they don't exist at my new job.  But the job itself is so much fun and my co-workers are so nice that one is never left to the mercy of idiots.  Consider the following snippet of conversation, overheard on my second day at work:
"I'm relieving you for lunch now, because I'm leaving early today."
"You're leaving early?"
I never thought to hear anything like that in an American workplace.
So I have nothing to rant about.  And no complaints.  No complaints!  In fact, I am quite happy.  Yes, there are annoying people.  But for the most part, I am free to ignore them.  Which I do, happily.  If they choose to override my lack of interest, I call a supervisor and leave the situation to them.  A comfortable set of circumstances, indeed, but counter to my purposes.  Which would I rather have?  The comfortable circumstances, of course, as I seldom find rant-worthy situations amusing until much later and only then after altering my state of consciousness in ofttime illegal ways.
Thank God for public transportation.
Summertime is the worst for public trans.  Teenagers (many in possession of fake ID's) and children are out of school.  Parades, festivals, and the beach beckon from the big city.  Suburban "tourists" venture commuter rail, with all the trepidation of taking a canoe down the Amazon.  And everybody who just wants to get to work is utterly miserable.
Regular commuters try to cope via strong coffee (in the morning), cocktails (in the evening), headphones, and books.  We try to keep in mind the future well-being of our planet as we stand with aching feet staring wistfully at the six seats taken up by bicycles.  Babies wail, neophyte riders knee you in the back, underage drinkers shout with abandon, and the word "fuck" ricochets loudly through the cars with more frequency than a Quentin Tarantino marathon.
Seldom is any summertime commute completely free of these transgressions, though most of us count ourselves lucky if there are no weapons involved.
I am pleased to announce that I have already had a richly unpleasant encounter with one of the "summer folks".  I was on my way home from work, at an hour which unfortunately coincided with the mass exodus from Chicago's Pride Parade.  The costumery was a treat, but the ride home promised to be sardine-like.  In the crowd waiting to board the train, I noticed someone with a debilitating handicap.  I tapped the shoulder of the blond party-goer next to me.
"Let's see if we can make some room for this lady to get through."
She looked at me with utter - and unwarranted, I think - contempt, and snapped,  "There's someone in front of her with a buggy."
I tried again.  "I see that.  But I just thought..."
She turned away in a huff, while I muttered something lame and ineffectual like, "Some people..".  Which caused her to giggle and whisper into her friend's ear.  Then she shrugged her sunburned shoulders and said, "You can't move everybody."
Well yes, actually, you can.  Rosa Parks.  Mahatma Gandhi.  Etc. 
But not if you don't try.
To be fair, I wasn't feeling very Mahatma Gandhi-ish at that moment, so I let it drop.  Which cancelled out any brownie points I might have otherwise felt entitled to.  Self-congratulatory opportunities, sadly, are few and far between.
However, my confidence in the incidental muse is now restored.  And for that I want to thank you, sweetheart.
My one day both you and I be famous.