Category Archives: work

finding and holding down a job; working towards a career; relating to paid work, not including sex work

Why I don’t mind paying taxes

I’m a writer. I get paid almost nothing, at this point, for writing. Like most other writers in the world (the ones who have jobs at all), I have a crappy day job that barely pays the bills, and sometimes not even that.

On Thursday, after I had finally clocked out, I took my usual route home via the 210 West. My grandmother allows me to use her car for work purposes, so I am able to cut my travel time by more than 80%, something for which I’m continually grateful. I was taking the exit closest to my house when I saw a large, dead cat lying on the pavement in the right-hand part of the off ramp. It looked like a pretty cat—fluffy with grey and white stripes—except that it was lying there, obviously dead.

As I turned onto the surface streets, I thought about pulling over and going back, but what was I supposed to do? After I parked my grandmother’s car in front of the house, I went inside and asked my father if I should do something about the cat on the off ramp.

He looked dubious, asking, “What are you planning on doing?”

“I don’t know; just move it off into the bushes, I guess,” I responded, and he could tell it was really a half-question. I hadn’t really thought about what I was going to do, after all, only that I didn’t want the cat to lie out there until kingdom come.

He scrunched his nose up in distaste, as if I was asking him to go with me, but said nothing further. My grandmother, who loves cats, poo-pooed the person who’d kill a cat (even by accident) and not do something about it in good faith.

I decided privately that if the cat was still there when I went by again in the next couple of days, then I would do something about it. If not I, then who?

Unfortunately, I was called into work yesterday (Friday) to cover a closing shift for one of my coworkers. I’d completely forgotten about the cat, but when I drove past it on my way home, I pulled over immediately and put on the car’s hazard lights. I sat there for a minute while other cars sped by me in the dark.

Did I have anything with which to pick up this cat in order to move it? I searched around in the back seat and found tissues, some kind of store brand Kleenex. I frowned, waited until the coast was relatively clear, and opened the door into the lane so that I could go back to see what could be made of the situation.

I tried using the tissues to move the big cat—it was more than fifteen pounds, I figured—but the animal had been lying out there for more than 24 hours by that point, if not longer. It was stuck to the ground by its own dried blood and entrails.

I needed something more heavy duty. I drove the rest of the way home and called my dad as soon as I parked. He and my mother were out of town on some kind of fun thing that wasn’t really fun for my mom but she wanted to spend time with Dad so she was willing to put up with it.

“Do we have any shovels around?” I asked.

“Um… yeah, they’re in the shed in the backyard. Why? You digging a hole?”

“No,” I replied, “the cat’s still there. The one I mentioned yesterday.”

“Is…” he paused, “Is anyone going with you?”

“No. I mean, no one’s here. Grandma’s here, but I don’t think she’d be very helpful.”

He sounded wary. “All right, well, put on your hazard lights and be very careful.”

“I will, Dad. Thanks. Sorry for calling you so late.”

“It’s all right. Be careful.”

“Okay; talk to you later.”

I explained the situation to my grandmother, who seemed put out (again) that anyone would ever consider killing a cat, accidentally or otherwise. They’re her favorite animal—she’s most definitely a ‘cat person’—and she spent her time asking me what the cat looked like while I was searching around for a shovel.

I found a spade exactly where my dad had said the shovels would be and fit it awkwardly into the back seat of the car. Driving back down the main drag in order to get on the freeway in order to get off the freeway at the correct spot, I ruminated. Why hadn’t anyone done anything? The off ramp is well used; fifty cars had driven by me in the twenty minutes I’d been sitting there trying to figure out what to do the first time, and it had been nearly 10 PM by then.

As I pulled to the side of the road and flipped on the car’s hazard lights for the second time that night, I wondered whose cat it was that had been lying in the road for so long. Was anyone missing the poor beast? I pulled the spade out of the back seat and realised that it was 10:30 PM and I was wearing all black, head to toe. Great. Work clothes, but I hadn’t thought to change them and now I was essentially invisible, relying completely on my car to warn other drivers for me.

I stood next to the railing when I saw a car coming up the exit ramp, my car’s flashing lights between it and me. I was temporarily blinded by headlights, and then, so long as there wasn’t another car coming, I stood in the road and tried to move the cat with my shovel. It was slow going, and also I was squeamish. The cat didn’t feel like an animal should—it felt like heavy cooked spaghetti against the metal when I tried to move it. Most of its bones were broken, I figured, and that didn’t make me any more motivated to get the thing out off the pavement into the bushes. It felt… unnatural.

Finally, I pulled out my phone and called my best friend. When he picked up, he sounded concerned. (I never call him or anyone, nearly, because I have a phone phobia, but even I can get a handle on myself sometimes.)

“Hello?” he said.

“Have you ever buried anything?” I asked.

“Um… yes,” he answered slowly. “Why?”

“There’s this cat. On the road. On the freeway. I’m trying to move it into the bushes or something, but I—”

“I can’t get there at this moment.”

“Can you just tell me what to do, then?” The combination of the cars rushing by me, the smell of death in the air, and having to talk on the phone was making me panicky.

“Uh, you should probably call the sheriff. Wait a second; let me ask my dad. He’s the one who deals with dead things around here.”

He and his father had a conversation, of which I could only hear his side. I wasn’t listening; I was just trying with all my might not to freak out and hang up the phone immediately.

“Okay, call the non-emergency number for the sheriff.”

“Can you give me the number?”

“Yeah, one minute.”

“Can you text it to me?”

“Oh, yeah,” he said, just realising that I’d had the phone up to my ear for longer than I could really handle. “Yeah, sure. I’ll text it to you so you can get off the phone.”

“Thanks,” I said and hung up without waiting for anything more.

After a minute or two, the text message sounded on my phone, lighting up with the non-emergency phone number for the local sheriff. I dialed and put the phone back up to my ear.

“Sheriff’s office; how my I help you?”

“Uh, yeah,” I started, trying to focus. “I’m here with a dead cat on the 210 West, Ocean View off ramp. Should I just shovel it into the bushes or call animal control or…?”

“Yeah, you’re going to have to call animal control. Let me give you the number,” she said, rattling off another phone number from memory. I thanked her and hung up.

When I dialed animal control, there was a voice message that said the shelter was closed for the day, but if I needed emergency services to please press “0”. I pressed “0” and waited.

“Animal Control,” a man’s voice said. “What’s your emergency?”

“Uh, hi,” I said, repeating what I’d told the sheriff’s office. “Should I just shovel it into the bushes or what? It’s… um, it’s kind of stuck to the ground.”

The man made a disgusted sound. “Yeah, scraping a dead animal off the road isn’t something I’d ask you to do. Animal Control doesn’t actually deal with animals on the freeway, though, but I’ll put in a call to CalTrans. Is that all right?”

“Yes, that’s fine. Thank you. Sorry for calling the emergency line. I wasn’t sure what to do.”

“It’s fine, ma’am. Thanks for informing me. We’ll let CalTrans know the situation. Have a good night.”

“Thanks.” I hung up.

I shoved the spade back into the back seat of the car and hauled my butt home. I smelled like dead animal and coffee and I really wanted a shower more than anything in the world at that moment. I mentioned on Twitter, “So, um. Dead things have this particular smell. >_>” and my best friend—the friend whom I had originally called for help—texted me to say, “Yes, they do. It is best described as rancid.”

“I didn’t know there was a word for it,” I responded. “But I don’t think I knew what rancid smelled like, so… I don’t think I would make a good coroner.”

As I hopped into the shower shortly thereafter, I thought to myself, Thank all the gods there’s someone else who can deal with dead animals on the freeway.

And that’s why I don’t mind paying taxes.

How I do the season

How I do the season

So, I work in a retail store wherein Christmas songs are playing nonstop every single day from November 15 until Christmas Day. I don’t dislike Christmas songs, generally speaking, except for “Santa Baby” and “It’s Cold Outside”, but hearing any song over and over and over for any extended period of time is going to make me hate it.

Here’s how I do Christmas where I work. A customer says, “Merry Christmas!” and I say, “You, too!”

A customer says, “Happy holidays!” and I say, “You, too!”

A customer says, “Happy Hanukkah!” and I say, “You, too!” I’m sure you get the idea, here.

I’m not against anyone celebrating their own version of the winter holidays. Seriously, I’m not. And I say it as non-curmudgeonly as I can, which—I admit—after a few hours, isn’t saying all that much. But I honest-to-gods try to be nice about it.

What irritates me is two-fold. First, that people assume I celebrate what they do. That’s… overlook-able, I suppose, since (1) people are afraid of what they don’t understand, (2) they incorrectly assume that everyone is like them, and (3) it’s in the “giving spirit” of the holidays, no matter what words actually came out of their mouths.

Second—less common and more irritating—that when they find out I that I don’t celebrate what they do (let’s just be honest here and say that it only happens with Christmas because it’s never happened with anyone except the Christians) they get offended and either (1) try to convert me on the spot, or (2) immediately tell me that I’m “part of the problem” in the “war on Christmas” (seriously??), or (3) immediately try to guess whatever holiday-of-the-moment I do celebrate and then explain how that’s actually just another way of celebrating Christmas because Jesus is in everyone no matter what.

I mean, really. You think all that is going to get me into the “spirit of the season”? Ugh.

Since before November 15, I have been complaining trying really hard not to complain about the Christmas music, putting up with the ridiculous Santa hats and reindeer antlers, tolerating everyone’s apparent (and, I hope to gods, temporary) lack of taste in clothing (when else, after all, is it acceptable to wear such gauche sweaters and jewelry?), and trying not to be bitter about everyone suddenly being “nice” and “caring” when I would rather just have them be decent all year round instead of hateful the rest of the year and sickly sweet for a month at the end.

So, fine. I’m Scrooge. I’m the Grinch. Whatever. During the holiday season, I just (1) accept presents that are given to me—because who doesn’t like presents?—and (2) try not to strangle anyone.

“Requiem for a Dream” and “Labyrinth”

NOTE: This is more the story behind why I watched these two movies in the first place, and why I’m featuring them here together, rather than an actually honest-to-gods review of the material. Fair warning.

Requiem for a Dream poster

At the end of March, one of my coworkers—Nate—and I were closing the store and since it was slowish, we had time to banter back and forth about our lives, at least as much as can be shared in 3-4 minute clips between customers and cleaning.

Somehow, I learned that his longtime girlfriend/fiancée was out of town and he wanted something to do to pass the time. He said he usually watched movies that she didn’t like in situations like this but he couldn’t think of any couple of movies that would go well together.

We got off topic for a while and then one of us (I don’t remember which of us) mentioned something about Jennifer Connelly. I said jokingly that he should watch Labyrinth (wiki) and then Requiem for a Dream (wiki) while his lady was out of town because who doesn’t want to watch the awkward, teenage Sarah Williams “blossom” into the lovely Marion Silver?

“Oh, that’s evil,” he said with a grin on his face. And that was the end of it for a while because we had to deal with Real Work™ and customers, etc.

Since I had been joking, I thought that was the end of it completely, but he’d apparently been mulling it over because when there was another lull, he said, “I’m going to do it. And I’ll bring in the films for you to watch, too.”

I laughed but agreed that, if he watched them, I would watch ’em, too, and report back. The next couple of days we didn’t work together because of our different schedules, but when we did next, he—as promised—had the films in hand for my viewing pleasure.

Labyrinth posterHe said, “I watched Labyrinth first and then Requiem, so I think you should do the opposite to see if the impressions you get are any different.”

Out of chronological order?” I asked, meaning I should first watch the film in which the older Connelly stars (Requiem for a Dream), and then the one with the younger actress (Labyrinth).

He grinned. “I think it might be worse that way than how I watched it.”

So, when I finally managed to sit down and take a gander (I watched the two movies back to back on an evening late in March), I realized that the first time I watched Requiem was at the prodding of another Nate, who I was dating at the time I first watched the film (in college). That’s neither here nor there, I suppose, but it was strange and discomforting for a minute or two before I was absorbed in the movie.

Well, here’s my verdict: Yes, it’s worse watching Requiem for a Dream first before Labyrinth. If the movies are watched in order of their production year, it just feels like the teenage character grew up and became a whore. I mean, it’s not pretty, but it happens in real life. But, if they’re viewed in the order I saw them, with Requiem first, it’s practically impossible to watch any of Labyrinth without thinking of that last ‘party’ scene in Requiem. Seriously. It’s a mild mindfuck. If I hadn’t already seen Labyrinth, watching the other one first might’ve ruined it for me; so I’m glad, in retrospect, that I’d already seen both movies.

Dear strange woman…

Dear strange woman who didn’t want the “drink” I made you because you thought I was sick because I was wearing a convention bracelet that apparently looks like a hospital bracelet,

Yaoi-Con braceletYOU ARE AN ASSHOLE.

I do not work in a tiny, corner coffee shop. I work at a place that has a behemoth corporation of coffee behind it. They are also assholes. Do you think, if I was actually too sick to be making drinks, that they would allow me to make drinks?

Also, when have you ever seen a hospital bracelet that wasn’t white? I never have. I’m pretty sure hospital bracelets are white or off-white. And, seriously, if I had been in the hospital, don’t you think the bracelet would be the first thing to come off after I got out? Being sick enough to warrant a hospital visit isn’t exactly something to be proud of. (Unless, of course, I’d overcome cancer or something, but in that case, my theoretical sickness wouldn’t be contagious anyway, so…)

Also, stage whispering over the counter to my supervisor that you’d like your “drink” (and yes, I mean to use the quotation marks; see below) remade because you don’t want to get sick from whatever I have is just going to put her between a rock and a hard place. Sure, she’ll stop that more important thing that she’s doing and remake it for you, and she’ll even do it with a smile on her face because she’s a nice person and being nice to assholes like you is part of the job, but as soon as the door swings shut behind you, we are going to laugh at you and lament the waste of good Chai (from the cup that I made for you). You are the reason this behemoth corporation of coffee is considered so uppity and wasteful; not us.

Someone who’s not going to cut off her convention bracelet just to appease your sorry ass.

PS: The “drink” you ordered… wasn’t one. I don’t know if you know this, but “six pumps of Chai in a venti cup with ice” isn’t a drink. It’s the beginning of one, yes, but not something I’d give you just for funsies. No milk or anything? Seriously?

I guess I’m happy that I’m needed?

I guess I'm happy that I'm needed?

So, I apparently have a reputation at work for being able to cover other people’s shifts and come in early or stay late if it becomes necessary. I’m pretty low on the totem pole, but I get the work done and so far no one has complained.

Last Sunday morning, I was working with a group of people during a busy shift and during a lull in the crowd, one of them asked if anyone could cover her shift this Saturday late afternoon (that is, today). One of the other workers was already working then and the others already had plans, so I said I’d check the schedule when I had a break and let her know.

As it happened, I had Saturday off, so I told her I could cover her shift without a problem. The days go by; I get not one, but two phone calls asking me to cover separate shifts on Tuesday, both of which I decline because I know that, including the shift I’m covering on Saturday, I’m not going to have a day off for seven days starting on Wednesday. And, I get called in early on Friday.

Saturday rolls around and I go in to cover her shift. As soon as I step in the door, the supervisor on duty says, “Oh thank God you’re here, V, we’re completely shorthanded.” I put on my apron, clock in, and get to work.

As the two supervisors, the manager, and I dance around each other helping customers and cleaning the backroom, etc., I learn that the manager actually opened the store this morning at 4:45 and hasn’t had much of a break since then. I glanced at the clock shortly after and it was almost 4:30 pm by that time. What the hell? Were we really that shorthanded? Sheesh.

While I’m cleaning up the customer area, the manager tells me that another worker called in sick this afternoon and one of the supervisors will be leaving at 5:30, so after that, it’ll just be the other supervisor and me to close the store.

One supervisor (the one leaving at 5:30) leans over the counter and says, “Yeah, A— called in sick today.”

The manager says, “I said, ‘Call Viannah; she’ll come in.’ And then W— said, ‘She’s already coming in today.’ And I was like, ‘You have got to joking. What are we going to do now?’ So it’s just going to be you two; I’m sorry. Thanks for coming in, though.”

I’m a little slow making customer orders, but still no complaints yet!

Today, I drove

Today, I drove

Sometimes, it’s not worth it to chew through the restraints in the morning.

Today, I had an appointment to meet with my writing professor at the community college I attend (mostly for fun) to go over the new part-time position I’ll be holding for the college’s literary journal, Eclipse. The intern who is leaving was also coming to this meeting to show me the ropes and basically transfer all the paperwork, etc., to me. And, the department secretary (or chair, I’m not sure which) was going to be there to meet me and file all the paperwork and make it official and whatnot. Three people coming together to teach me something. It’d be in my best interest to show up, wouldn’t it?

The appointment was at 9:30 am. I had been planning on taking the bus, but I woke up later than I meant to; still, I wasn’t late yet. If I drove, I wouldn’t be late at all. I had time. For those of you who don’t know me, I don’t drive. I have a disorder called OCD that, in shorthand, prevents me from driving. It’s not that I can’t drive—I do have a license—but, well, I can’t. It’s somewhat complicated, but trust me when I say that getting behind the wheel is a big deal for me.

My sister was still asleep and, though I’m sure I could’ve woken her up and asked her to take me, I thought to myself, This is a good time to test my skills. I have to jump in sometime, right?

I grabbed the extra key from the wall (where we hang our extra keys) and headed out. I knew if I thought about it too much, I’d freak out, so I tried to do what my father says he and my brother do when they drive: be angry. Be angry at other drivers, poor parking jobs, traffic, whatever… so as to distract myself from the monumental task (at least for me) I was about to undertake.

I got in the car and turned the key; the engine sputtered to life, a good sign. I decided to take it slow (ie: avoid the freeway) since I hadn’t driven in, well, a while. I rolled down the hill and to the first stop sign. So far, so good. Turned right, then left at the next stop sign. When I got to the light, I turned on the radio to distract myself.

I thought, This could end up having been a Very Good or Very Bad Idea.

I turned left at the light and eased into a stop at the corner of H— and V—. When the light turned green, I slid through the intersection and headed down toward the college. After Verdugo, it’s basically a straight shot down to campus, so I relaxed a little and took a look around me. I started thinking about the position I was about to inherit (a paying job in my field of work!… even it was only a student job).

Right before I got to the part of the street where V— and L— meet (in front of the Magic Wok, if you know where that is), I glanced to my right. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a car roll out of a parking lot—right into the side of my car. There was a huge jolt, like I was playing bumper cars, and then nothing.

My first thought was, Blue sky and spidered windshields.

(That probably doesn’t make sense to anyone, so let me explain briefly. On 31 December 1999, my cousin and I were driving on a hilly gravel road in Texas outside of Austin in a Suburban SUV-type vehicle. The road was really only wide enough for one car, so when another truck came hurtling over the hill in front of us, my cousin (who was driving) swerved to avoid hitting it. He swerved back the other direction to avoid hitting some trees, and we flipped the SUV and landed upside down in a ditch on the other side of the road. I remember looking at the beautiful blue sky through the front windshield, which had cracked to look like a spider’s web.)

When my brain thinks there’s danger, I usually work well until the (immediate) threat has passed, at which time I completely fall apart. That instinct kicked in. I pulled over, put the car in neutral, and got out to wait for the other guy. He immediately pulled to the side (he’d just been pulling out of the parking lot, anyway) and got out with profuse apologies. I looked over my car where he’d hit it—there wasn’t even a dent. Not a scratch. It was practically a miracle. His car wasn’t that much worse off for the wear, either—just a dented bumper, which is exactly what bumpers are for, after all. He was an older man in a fishing hat and coke-bottle glasses; it’s possible he miscalculated the distance between my car the space his car was taking up—I have no idea. We exchanged information and I headed back home; no way was I going to have a break down in my professor’s office in front of people I didn’t even know.

As soon as I got home, I called my professor and tearfully explained the situation. He was sympathetic and, amid my repeated apologies, rescheduled all of us for another time. I sat down immediately to begin writing what happened (just in case something comes of it, which—admittedly—I doubt) when I remembered I’d left something in the car. I headed back out to get it and, for some unknown reason, decided to start the car again. I mean, I guess I was amazed everything was okay and it looked like nothing happened at all, especially because I felt like I was falling apart inside. My reaction was completely disproportionate to the occurrence, it seemed to me, but that didn’t stop me from reacting so.

The car didn’t start. The engine didn’t turn over—not even a sound. Turning the key to the ‘start’ position did… nothing. I started to panic; I’d just killed the car.

Why did I even do that? I thought to myself angrily. It’s not like I want something to be wrong with the car. Maybe it really was too good to be true.

I went back inside, debating what to do. I looked at the clock; it was after 11 am by this time. Shortly, my sister came down dressed for work. Oh no, I remembered, today is her first day of training.

I explained the situation as briefly as I could manage. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“Physically, I’m fine,” I said. Then, everything started to rip at the seams in my mind. “It was scary.” I started to cry.

She came over to me and hugged me tight around the shoulders. “We’ll figure it out. As long as you’re okay, we’ll manage.” We headed out to inspect the damage together. She couldn’t see any scratches or dents—as I’d told her. We got in and she turned the key in the ignition; no response.

We went back inside. I called my dad. He was angry. Or rather, he was frustrated with the whole thing. (We’d just had the clutch replaced for almost more than the car was worth, for example, among other things.) This was just another worry on his plate.

“When you tried to turn on the car, did you hold down the clutch pedal?” he asked my sister. She couldn’t remember. “Check the lights,” he said. So, we went out and tried again.

“Are the lights on?” I asked.

“Oh.” She turned them to the ‘off’ position and said, “That might be it, actually. Did you have the lights on when you went down to school?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t mess with the lights,” I said.

My sister headed off to her training with more assurances that we’d figure it out when she (or Mom, or Dad) got home. Since she drove another car, obviously, I was left alone with the dead one.

Well, the day’s not over yet.

20th Amendment

I found this card on my way to work yesterday on La Granada Way around 1:30 PM local time. (I walk up to Foothill and catch the bus from there to work on days when the bus runs.)

Front (I assume):
20th amendment

It reads “20th amendment.” in orange marker.

Lame duck

The back is written in black ballpoint pen and reads:

“Lame Duck” session (1933)
(Jan. 20)
The terms of pres. & vice pres. end on
Jan. 20, & of Congress on Jan. 3
instead of in March.