Thursday, April 24, 2008
I am the Michael Jordan of low-level employment. I have been since I was sixteen. And I'm okay with that. A little compensation would be nice, though. Something other than verbal praise.
A dialogue with the new guy:
"I've been with the company about three months. Transferred from Chicago."
"How much were they paying you there?"
"Eight, but now I'm getting eight-fifty."
"You get eight-fifty?"
"Yeah, that's what [manager's name] said. Why, what do you get, nine?"
"You get eight? How long have you been here?"
"Since last July."
"Oh... Well maybe I'm wrong..."
An extra fifty cents per hour would net me $60 more a month. That's a bill. Or a trip to the grocery store. It's not about that though. It's not about those extra quarters. It's about what those extra quarters represent.
A kick in the fucking teeth.
I used to think athletes were greedy. Not the case. All these big signing bonuses and record-breaking contracts have nothing to do with money and everything to do with worth. They'll never spend all that money. And it doesn't matter. They want what they think they deserve, a sum that's representative of their talents. Plus, you know, when you're super-rich, money and assets become a game. Points. It's about having more than the next guy. Sending him back to the change machine to get more tokens. Those are the guys lined up around the new, expensive arcade games.
I'm the guy playing Tekken 3 in the corner, trying to see how far I can get on one coin.
I'm not going to pretend my job is important. I work desk. Management can spout all the team-building, corporate bullshit rhetoric they want about how the member experience starts with me. At the end of the day, I'm a pair of hands and a voice. I scan barcodes and validate parking and answer phones. I know my fucking role.
But goddamn if I'm not good at what I do.
You should see how I reach over my coworkers, how I update billing, how I flick my fingers across the keyboard. The clicks, the clacks -- tiny orgasms of efficiency. Multi-tasking has never been so sexy. Or so beautiful. My technique, my hustle, my enthusiasm. Hell, I even remember names. Members stare in awe like it's the 1800s and I'm a negro who can read.
"Wow. Very good."
"Thankyamuch, suh. Been practicin', I have."
"Here's my parking."
"Swing low, sweet char-iot..."
Yes, I have a functioning brain. Yes, It interferes with my ability to wear a smile at ALL times, even though the employee handbook requires me to do so. As much as I want to like my simple, shitty job, I'm mentally incapable of doing so. Especially when the 17-year-old brat in the Kids Club is making more than I am.
"I can't wait to go tanning!"
I asked for a raise a couple months ago and, with a straight face, I was told that because I'm such a stellar employee I could possibly qualify for a fifty-cent boost. I laughed and apologized for doing so.
But I'm not in a bad position. It sure as hell beats working at the Coffee Bean with all the other asshole writers (I think). I feel like I have a better chance of being "discovered". After all, I'm exposed to a lot more industry players on a consistent basis. I can forge relationships and build rapport. I'm living on hope. Trying to, at least.
Most days schadenfreude keeps me going. Besides unprotected sex, there's nothing more pleasurable than telling some South Beach d-bag in an Ed Hardy cap and a pair of Tom Fords he has to pay the guest fee. You can practically hear the rusty train wheels screak to a stop in the stubbled desert that is his head.
Sometimes these dickheads are members and have guests of their own:
"Excuse me, do you have your card?"
"He's my guest."
"It's a twenty-five dollar guest fee."
"Who can I talk to about that? I pay a hundred-fifty dollars a month and I'm never here. I should be able to get guests in for free."
Right, because the exorbitant membership fee coupled with your own stupidity gives you free rein to do whatever the fuck you want. These guys don't do shit anyway. They just text message between light sets and look around to see if anybody's checking them out. It's all about making an appearance -- the ever-popular coke-and-situps workout.
But as much as I like to crack on them for being dumb and empty, they are infinitely richer than me, so they must be doing something right, right? When I get in these moods, these funks, I often picture myself a pipe-smoking academic judging the world from the comfort and solace of his dimly-lit study. Am I truly any better than them? Or is that just an illusion?
Being poor and intelligent is romantic. Being rich and stupid is fun.
Management recently changed the computer screensavers to display pages from the front desk manual, which is insulting to just about anybody who knows how to breathe through their nose. That's not enough, though. No.
The screensavers trigger every fucking minute. And we can't change that.
Escalation flowcharts and employee do's-and-dont's are slowly being burned into my brain. Did you know gum is evil? Another month and I'll be the rehabilitated version of Alex from A Clockwork Orange.
Then I won't want a raise.