Patrick McGinlay's Internet Tendency

- - - -


April 16, 2003

- - - -

I recently quit my job. This is not the first time this has happened, but it is the first time I've given pause to think about why I hate working so much. In my self-centered analysis, I came across some conclusions that I found interesting, and you will also find them interesting, being as they are conclusions about something of interest.

I graduated from high school in 1997, which didn't seem right at the time. Not only did I put no effort into my studies that year, I actually managed to forget things that I had already learned. Basic things, like forming coherent sentences and fishing from why some glue. I also paid no attention to university applications, figuring that I would work for 6 months and then move to the States to become a famous actor and writer. Writing that last sentence and realizing that I actually believed that is making me cringe so hard right now that my brow has furrowed past the point of no return and caused my face to cave in on itself.

My first job out of high school was working in a ladies' accessories warehouse, packing boxes. I learned valuable things, like how certain "blue" things are sometimes called "azure" things, and that I have a really bad back. I started looking for other jobs, and for a few weeks I even did door to door sales in Melbourne's furthest reaches.

One time, out in Lilydale on a ridiculously hot summer's day, I was wheeling my box full of crap along a dirt road leading to a business park and got beset by flies. Not just a few annoying flies mind you -- this was like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. I was literally black with flies until I got into a building, where I sat and waited until the sun went down so I could make my way back to the train station for the 2 hour train ride back home. The company had called my parents, and they were frantic until I trudged in at 11 pm, sun burnt and covered in horsefly bites. I quit that job.

Eventually, I landed a job in a call centre, calling innocent people during sex or dinner and asking them if they wouldn't mind buying something very much. I was surprisingly good at it, finding that people reacted well to my verbal agility and still strong American accent. I made some decent money, and for a while I was a "gun". Unfortunately, I spent that money surprisingly fast for a guy with no expensive drug habits or rent to pay. Soon, I decided to look at other options. I quit. It was becoming a habit.

Over the next few years, I worked at various versions of the same jobs. I worked retail and warehousing, but for the most part I worked in call centers. It got to the point where I could get a call centre job without having to actually wake up in the morning: apply for job, attend group interview, talk about long range career goals to manage a team one day, perform skills test, repeat. I had a little GOTO 10 line in my brain for dealing with the situation that I could run at any time, while the rest of my brain worked on important things like eating and masturbating (it's surprising how little pussy a fat, antisocial 19 year old with a boring job and no car actually gets, but then that's life for you).

3 years after I had finished high school, and I was basically right where I started. The only thing I had really gained was 3 years. I decided to try something drastic -- I packed my bags, cleared my credit card, and headed to the States, where I had not lived since I was 6 years old. I had no fixed destination and very little cash. I had put as much thought into the whole affair as I put into just about everything else I had ever done.

After 100 hours of traveling via plane then Greyhound, I found myself in a hostel room in downtown Seattle. A few days after that and I was paying rent for a broom closet with ambitions of being a room in a drafty, dirty boarding house in the University District. Not too shabby for someone with no discernable skills or ambitions.

For a week or two I easily forgot that I would have to get a job, until one day I went to the supermarket and realized, in horror, that I was going to have to forsake Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese for regular, Stalinist Macaroni and Cheese. By the next morning I was posting resumés.

At this juncture I would like to point out the differences in work cultures between the two countries I call home. In Australia, I had always seen employment as a means to an end, something you do to pay for the weekend. In the states, and especially in an upwardly mobile city like Seattle, you cannot escape the lust for money and material goods. Here in Oz, it's kinda low key, in the states it borders on the pathological. Everyone is working 3 jobs and trying their hardest to invest, while at the same time bankrupting themselves with credit card bills.

The same thing happens here in Australia, but it doesn't have the same animus -- it feels like nothing more than a reflection of what's happening in America. I felt extremely uncomfortable in this environment: everyone was jaded, but not in the same jocular way that Australians are jaded. In America, you're so close to the bullshit that you get used to the smell. Let's see if I can expand upon that in the next part of my stirring narrative.

I soon got a job with a mobile phone company in their… call centre. It was regrettably the only work I was cut out for. I managed to hold the job for the entire four weeks of training. The day before we were set to start taking calls I was fired for being too much of a smartass (these were the words the lady used, honest injun'). Mind you, I had more experience and did better on the tests than anyone else in the training group -- what did me in was my Australian attitude. I joked, I cajoled, I raised uncomfortable questions and took nothing seriously, which made me quite hugely popular with my future teammates (honestly, I had never been so popular in my life) but a definite bad fit for an American company.

Ever been to "Employee Sensitivity Training"? It's hilarious. You sit around and read ISO9000 directives from the "head office" about what subjects you can and can't joke about for fear of offending the delicate sensibilities of anybody with the cognitive capacity to search for the word "lawyers" in the Yellow Pages. In Australia, these meetings are met with a general cynicism from all involved, even the company bitch holding the clipboard (I use the word "bitch" to mean a person of either sex who bends to the will of another, like black people use it in prison. I mean, like African Americans use in State Sponsored Correctional Facilities).

In America, these meetings are deadly serious. No irony, no eye-rolling, no paraphrasing. Completely deadpan. Americans are so afraid of getting sued that they're even afraid to make fun of the Swedish, those lousy cocksuckers who think they're so big with their delicious meatballs and pragmatic furniture.

In the end, it was for the best. I had enough money to get by another month. Eventually, I swung an arrangement with my boarders: I would clean the entire establishment daily in return for rent + $300 a month. I could now add "janitor" to my resume. I soon got another job, working the counter at a bakery/deli for $7 an hour. All in all, if you factor in my $100 a week rent, I was making about $425 a week, but I was working in excess of 60 hours. Pretty soon, I added a 3rd job on top of that, as a youth counselor for an after-school program, which paid about $300 a month.

Best fucking time of my life.

- - - -

Part Two of this story will be online on Friday April 18.


- - - -