Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Four of the Worst Jobs You Will Never Work

I'm sooo tired of hearing the faux liberal Bourgeoisie expound on stuff they know nada about. 

They think $10 an hour is a living wage. Go get a job that pays $10 an hour and work it for a couple of months ... if you can find one. Make your house payment/rent and your car payments with it. Pay the sitter/daycare that watches your kid while you work this supposed living wage. Buy gas, buy food and watch your paycheck disappear literally overnight, a day after it deposits into your checking. Forget internet service, your phone, car insurance, etc. -- you can't afford that on $10 an hour.

Take the eternal We Hate Walmart gang. Listen, Walmart ain't that bad. If you tell me it is, you're implying that working for Bed, Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, Chili's or CVS is heaven on earth. It's not, it's just as shitty. Ninety percent of retail work pays less than $10 an hour and raises are fairy tales.

Before you get your bought online, hipster panties in a twist I'll enlighten you. There are much, MUCH worse places to work than Walmart. Day jobs that beat you psychologically so badly you have to go on antidepressants or you start engaging in Mad Max road rage, temp gigs so dehumanizing they make wiggling your tits in some slob's face at Hooters seem entrepreneurial. Jobs so fucking awful, office shooting fantasies are the norm.

Some of the worst places to work in America are right here in Reno. Not surprising, since Nee-va-Duh is one of those Bend-Over-For-Corporations stupid Libertarian states.

Take this place for example. On the surface, their website seems legit and they're an affiliate of Microsoft so what could possibly be wrong with working there? First of all, the entire reason this creepy German temp agency was appropriated by Microsoft is because of Enron and corporate accounting scandals which led to the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002. Basically, Microsoft might not have been telling their shareholders how many millions they rake in every fiscal quarter in software licensing agreements, so Arvato-Bertelsmann was created as a way to "process" all licenses. The software and database the company uses is draconian, there are redundancies on top of redundancies, unreadable pull-down menus, etc. because it was created over a decade ago and has never been updated. While temping there I was 1) required to sit and take notes for 9 hours a day, 2) my notes could never leave the office, 3) if I went to the bathroom, I had to put my notes in a drawer or risk termination and 4) I wasn't supposed to "ask too many questions" about the archaic business process. I got reprimanded for trying to type my notes up, this was seen as a waste of time. This place has about a 50% turn-over rate in the first three months. I saw people get fired for refusing to work 16-hour days, failing to punch in and out for breaks and taking more than 28 minutes for lunch.

This place is one of the shining jewels in Reno's light industry crown. It's an example of how well things can work out for a tax-revenue bankrupt state with zero social infrastructure when they fling the gate wide and let any old corporation slink in during the night when OSHA isn't looking. It's a massive refrigerated food processing facility that, until January, paid it's employees $8.75 an hour. They work in a 37F (2.7C) environment for 10 to 12 hour shift while wearing many, many layers of  safe food handling gear. Here's an abbreviated list of the Dos and Donts at SK Foods:
No earrings
No jewelry
No wedding rings
No gum
No hard candy
No water
No drinks of any kind
No piercings of any kind (including earrings)
No iPods
No radios
No talking

If you sneeze, even while you're wearing your "beard net", you have to leave the food assembly line. If you fail to remove the right gear when you go to the bathroom, you're fired. Although they don't pay you, all employees are required to show up 30 minutes prior to their shift. That means if your shift starts at 5:30am, you have to be there at five or they fire you. They have conservatively, a 70% turnover rate within the first week. There are labor temp offices that do nothing but advertise for them. Constantly. One former employee described it as "like prison". Anyway, it's something to think about while you're eating your low-fat egg sandwich at Starbucks which was made by this place.

Yes, this is what a call center looks like ... one that
has clean cubicles and chairs that aren't broken.

This place has been up and running since the 1990s. Everybody in Nevada was jazzed when it opened. I've met people who were fired because they were late for work due to a car accident. I knew one person who worked on one of the loading docks during Xmas. He got pneumonia, probably from breathing the frigid desert air mixed with diesel exhaust. They fired him for being sick. I met a young woman who worked there for six months. She was tough-as-nails, a real company person and even she described Amazon's fulfillment center as horrible. She worked 10-hour shifts and got two 15-minute breaks and one 30-minute lunch. If it took her 14 minutes to walk from her picking station on the lower level to the break room and back, guess how long her lunch was? Whatever your quota is at Amazon, it doesn't matter. You will be pushed to always do better. There is no acceptable quota. Everyone is in a constant state of 'not good enough'. Oh, and they strip search people. At random. All the time.

In the rush to condemn Walmart most upper-middle class people are unaware that some of the worst job environments are call centers. They're stressful by design. You're dealing with pissed off customers because their phone, TV, car, internet service, etc. doesn't work right. AT&T runs some of the worst in the country. They have chronic turnover, won't provide references for their former employees even if they leave on good terms, and their pay and raises are laughable.

This place is -- hand's down -- one of the worst I've ever worked for. They psychologically abuse their new hires starting on day one. As a long-time call center employee put it: "The whole thing is a hostile work environment." We were told not to wear jeans or tennis shoes ... by supervisors wearing T-shirts and flipflops. We were given a giddy rundown of who had been fired that day by our trainer at the beginning of every shift. And they fired people every single day I was there. If they fired someone who had been there "a long time" (more than five months) they high-fived each other. Supervisors regularly cruised the break area (a sort of pen with a tiny awning in the parking lot) to eavesdrop on new hires' conversations. People were fired for saying "crap" during break while they weren't anywhere near a phone line or an incoming call. People were fired for using their personal cell phones ... in the bathroom while on break. People were fired for "having a bad attitude" or "asking too many questions" about AT&T's absurd 20-some different databases and software we were required to use to answer dead-simple questions like "how can I order a new phone?" The call center insists that they "want you to succeed and become long-term employees." This is a lie. They only really make money if their workforce is in constant turnover. 

This corporation makes money by billing AT&T every quarter so many thousands of dollars because they "have to train more new hires". It's this silly pyramid scheme where new hires lose every time. The whole thing from start to finish is designed to either get you fired or make you quit. When I was actively encouraged to rat out my fellow workers by telling supervisors if someone was "using their mute button too much" I quit.
Actual note forbidding personal cell phone use in the restrooms.

This company mismanages its workforce so badly that one of their call centers in the Philippines filed a labor suit against them. The Philippines! A part of the world where teenagers are regularly chained to sewing machines to work for pennies a day making clothes for rich Westerners.

I'd like all the people Thom Hartmann calls the "Bourgeoisie petty rich" to please shut the fuck up. If you and your spouses' combined income is $75,000 to $250,000 annually, just shut up about Walmart. You don't know what it's like to work at one of these places day after day, month after month, to have to choose between worse and much worser, to have to choose between crashing at a relatives indefinitely until this Recession (read: Depression) subsides, if ever, or checking into a homeless shelter (if they aren't already full). 

If your annual gross income is between $75,000 and $250,000 you have no idea what life for the working poor is about. Poor is something you drove by in 1989 on the way to your graduate classes at a prestigious university your rich uncle or generous grandma paid for so you would never have to endure this kind of slow spiritual death. If your dotcom startup has finally taken off, if your career as an anesthesiologist or a real estate agent or software engineer is stable, you have no idea what I'm talking about. Poor is just a bad rumor to you. Poor is somewhere you went slumming in 1992 when you worked for Cinnabon for a month between semesters at that nice private college I never so much as toured. Poor is something you contemplated when you pulled $15,000 out of your $300,000 trust to get yourself through that "rough patch" between 2009 and 2011 when you were trying to find gallery space for your performance art.

P.S. I hate the Waltons and everything their grasping, despot family stands for but they are not the only monsters in this new Gilded Age. The real Godzilla is what it has always been, apathy.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

More online publishing

Two of my short stories have been published in two different online lit sites.

They're very different sites. One is very hipster-ish and the editor is very Los Angeles.

The other is survivalist-meets-vegan-sci-fi-fan and is rather Portland-ish.

Grays Harbor at

Love You Long Time at the Los Angeles Review of Los Angeles.

I take no responsibility for layout, readability or art work though, these two are actually quite tasteful.

Thank you Trevor and Robin.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dystopian on Subtopian

I'm published again. No money for any of this but it's still nice, especially when I'm getting shot down for day jobs right and left.

Ironically this story is about real class warfare in a dystopian America 50 years from now.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Existential attitude turning on a dime

When I was backpacking through Australia a dozen years ago, I saw something early one morning that has stuck with me for years. It was maybe 6:30am on a Sunday. Sydney was still waking up. The hostel I'd been staying at was in Potts Point, north of the crazy vibe of Kings Cross.

I was walking near Bourke Street which is kind of steep and overlooks the Botanical Gardens to the west. It's an area with elite cafes and arty gentrified Victorian townhouses most Australians couldn't begin to afford.

I was coming up this steep section of old sidewalk using all the physical fitness I'd gained while working for the Forest Service in Colorado earlier in the year. The morning light was golden and everything was misty and haloed, even the parked cars. The numerous cockatoos and parrots that permeate the city were making their wild morning ruckus. The air was cool, limpid and the harbor gave everything the exotic tang of salt air.

At the top of the hill I was scaling were a pair of birds making a joyous clucking and buzzing sound as they pecked at something on the asphalt. They were dandy creatures in neat brown feathers with neon-bright yellow beaks. They kept pausing in their pecking to squawk at each other as if they were having an intense conversation.

Indian myna birds are one of many invasive non-native species in Australia.

This was one of the few times I've felt at peace with myself and Sydney was one of the few cities I ever felt at home in.

When I reached the two birds standing in a pool of gold light I realized they weren't eating crumbs from a sandwich or something equally agreeable. They'd found a puddle of puke left by some blind-drunk tourist and were nimbly eating it.

I walked past them carefully, suddenly feeling like I'd mistaken some gauzy spiritual moment for another crude foul example of human imperfection. It was like witnessing two people in a graveyard and assuming they were mourners or relatives paying their respects only to realize they were grave robbers looting the dead.

I've been juggling the contradiction of that scene in my head ever since. On the one hand, it was a beautiful morning and the birds did look sublime. Everything looked right. On the other, the ugly reality of vomit in the streets.

If I ever meet the Dalai Lama I'll ask him what he thinks of this.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Inertia ... creeps

Essential rain/snow blowing down over the eastern Sierras into Nevada.

I've been staying in a friend's spare room for four months. I spent two of those months working a funky, seasonal warehouse job for 10 bucks an hour. It was a nice diversion from the reality that I'm almost 50 and -- for all intensive purposes -- homeless.

I've been working since I was 17. I'm flabbergasted by the whole Pirates of Wall Street /Predatory Lending/One-Percenter economic ass rape that precipitated this current Recession (read: Depression). I have never in my life seen anything like it.

Even at the nadir of Reagan's regime, in 1986, I was able to find a myriad of temp jobs while living in Sacramento. Jobs where I put shit in boxes for a month and then that ended. And I moved on to cleaning luxury homes in the Sacramento Valley for seven bucks an hour. Homes with ridiculous floor space, sunken living rooms, multiple hot tubs and three-car garages overlooking the baked, flat haze of central California.

I lugged turf on landscaping crews and pulled thousands of weeds alongside Interstate 5 in 100-degree heat. Thinking back, the outdoor jobs were usually the best ones. Something about the Pink Collar Ghetto always made me wince. My mother was a slave in that ghetto almost until she died. Her servile role in office bureaucracies was the reason why I balked at learning to type until I was 23 years old. I just took a typing test the other day and I'm now clocking at 62wpm, which is 7wpm faster than I was a couple years ago. It's like the older I get, the less needed I am in the workplace, the ironically more efficient I become.

I've been misled, deceived and had smoke blown up my ass by so many contract temp agencies, I've lost count. I've been promised jobs that were a "shoe in", that were "virtually guaranteed" and that I'd be "an ideal fit for" only to have the recruiter lose my phone number three days after submitting my resume to Intel, to Microsoft, to Amazon, to (insert dotcom name here). The IT industry does not like women, especially women over 40 who come from a non-technical background (English and journalism) and they openly despise older job applicants.

Usually when my resume gets flown by some tech firm, I slack off a bit, some weird naive part of my brain thinks this is it, the tide's turning. And almost always, I don't get picked.

Maybe Michael Ruppert is right. Maybe this is the last gasp of our petroleum and consumer-based society. I had no idea collapse would be this anti-climatic, this monotonous.