WON'T WORK FOR SHIT: An Autonomous Footsoldier Takes on THE JOBHUNT
After I busted all of the junk cigarette butts from the van's ashtray into loose rolling tobacco for my antique Union Leader tin, I washed my hands and mixed up a batch of Sweetbiscuits, then set the percolator back on the stove for another go at the morning's coffee grounds. Fifteen minutes later I was sipping hot, tan water and feasting on delicious Sweetbiscuits and Karo Syrup. I began to leaf idly through the Thrifty Dollars classified newspaper.
"'79 3/4 TON DODGE. Needs motor, no rust - $700 obo," "Make seventy grand filing tax audits from home! Easy X-tra cash. Send $15.99 and SASE for free booklet"...Wait! What's this? "Competent free thinker needed for No Questions Asked / Immediate Employment as person who sits home and receives regular Big Fat paychecks in the mail. Interested applicants should make their desire for employment known by utilizing one of the many New Age techniques for personal success currently in circulation among the Hip and Aware."
Tempting, I thought, but no; if I'm going to have ethical objections to the honest revelation of my "past five years employment history - please explain any gaps," I'm sure as hell not going to submit to any sort of ...Tantric affirmation of the transcendent nature of the third chakra - wherein lies the key to emotional AND economic security. Not me, man; I'm an independent!
My buddy Big Mike tells a story about a middle aged southern guy who grew up thinking of white "wonder" bread as cake. As a child, the bread on his family's table was boring and bread-like-but at a neighbor's house, why, they ate bread that tasted like cake! Goddamn, Buddyroe! This fella grew up, became a man, took a job - and ate white cake bread every damn day of his life. He didn't even like the synthetic garbage, but the idea - the Glorious Notion of cakebread when and how he wanted it, and no nutritionally conscious authority figure to stand in his way. Well sir, he was hooked. Wonderbread had a vice grip on his precious sense of Autonomy. It probably still does.
Yeah, I know all about that guy. We've all got our cakebread in the closet, our occasionally embarrassing personal weaknesses. Who doesn't know a thing or two about an unrelenting, psychosomatic addiction to some trivial little bullshit item that, if confronted directly, could blow our entire hard-earned psychological balance? White bread, big trucks, facial hair...women who come on strong, and a paralyzing inability to be rude to old people or minorities. Like old Puritans prattling on about how it's tough to spot a person who is saved, but there's no way to miss someone who isn't, these things that tempt us control us, and any sort of probe into the nature of that control is bound to turn up some unsettling images from the neurotic regions of a man's soul. We're all liars and frauds, it's just that some of us are good at heart-and I'm beginning to think that a body has got to make himself up off the top of his head if he's going to BE anything in this blended fruitdrink of a culture-a culture with far, far too many holes in it for any one mythological system to fill.
Balances against the dubious workings of Everyman's soul, the challenge of trying to secure even a paltry three hundred and forty dollars a month in rent money without submitting to the real or imagined indignity of any and all conventional routes to gainful employment is an almost overwhelming task. The real challenge, for me anyway, is to maintain the courage of my convictions-in this case, that I am too good to ASK for a job like some sort of beggar without the social leverage to even admit that, "No, I don't actually like digging ditches, but you moralizing bastards with your psych tests and self serving lectures about the diminishing American work ethic won't even pay me to sling gravel like a prisoner condemned to hard labor unless I shuffle around and stare at my feet saying something like, "Oh, gee, yessir...I take no greater pleasure in This Life than to lay my wary head to rest each night knowing that I busted my everlovin' ass that day for an honest wage and in the knowledge that I was a crucial part of a well organized, dedicated, and, above all else, proficient team of venture capitalists, contractors, skilled craftsmen, and warm bodies with calloused hands and a Can Do attitude!
"Why sugar coat the harsh realities of the jobhunt? I know where I stand. I made my choices and have even come to understand a few of the consequences of those choices. I am obviously no iconoclast or fearless entrepreneur-or at least not a very successful one. Otherwise I wouldn't be standing here in workboots asking you to please bless my humble soul with the Opportunity to work this suck-ass that no one without fourteen starving mouths to feed or a hopelessly defeated ego would stoop to. Kiss my white trash butt, you pathetic management flunky; I made this sweat stained bed and I'm happy enough to lie in it, but don't you dare expect me to respect you, this company or anything you sorry geeks stand for-'cause IT'S NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN!"
This is where the job interview generally goes bad for me. I'd say I learned my lesson and never go through that sort of harassment again, but that I simply don't have the funds to claim my rightful place among the leisure class. The most important thing is to put off humiliating labor until the very last possible moment-and then quit as soon as you have enough money saved up to last a few months. I am actually quite surprised at how long an able bodied young man like myself can stretch his forgotten emergency hoard of dried black beans and cornmeal. Cornmeal and water makes a terrible pancake, but does it really taste as bad as a two week pay stub from a shop job that could be more efficiently performed by a trained monkey (provided the monkey wasn't too bright)? Hell, the only reason they have men slapping your overpriced pieces of automotive junk together on the assembly line is that the damn monkeys cost too much to train. With Manworkers, the public school system has already covered the cost of training.
Plus, the monkeys are, in their own way, really above that sort of work. Historians claim that, when the Spanish enslaved South American Indians, only the ones who were already sedentary farmers would go for it. The Nomads threw themselves down the shafts of Peruvian silver mines rather than accept slave life. Very little has changed for modern hunter/gatherers; wage slavery is only a slight improvement-in that we don't always have to kill ourselves to get out of it. All we have to do in this day and age is commit ourselves to a living death of cheap American beer and moldy house trailers parked on some middle management lackey of a disapproving brother in law's investment property. It may not be a deadly mineshaft, but to buck the production ethic far too often amounts to a one-way plunge into a dark and threatening chasm...
Unless you throw out everything-all the values and ideals that support the production ethic-and head underground....like all the other fallen boy scouts and failed little league heroes who are too proud to suck ass (what the late Mr. Zappa referred to as "wearing brown lipstick") and too good to seek the dole. I'm not talking about peddling drugs or trafficking in stolen credit cards; I simply refer to the Underground Work Ethic-which says, "Stick to your guns, you seeker of justice and dignity. Keep on writing your own brand of work history in the margins of those job applications and wait for someone with a sense of humor to bite." I remember one guy I used to know who went to an interview and was asked at the last moment, "Oh yeah, one more thing: Do you smoke dope?" The fella panicked briefly and then thought, what the hell? Gathering his dignity, he stood proudly and answered, "Yes." The prospective employer gave him a minute to feel the full bore of his adrenaline rush before smiling and delivering the cautious punch line: "Cool, see you Monday morning."