(Editor’s Note: In February we ran a three-part series from Leah Kaminsky on what to do with Post-MFA life. For the next three Wednesdays, we’ll be offering here a quasi-response from WBN compatriot Mike Britt, who finds himself having a … different experience. DD)
Housing bust. Bailout. American automotive manufacturers. Rising oil prices. Hydro-fracking. European debt crisis. Angela Merkel. Occupy Wall Street. I can’t find a job.
Newt Gingrich. Mitt Romney is half-Mexican. Rick Perry isn’t very bright. Rick Santorum thinks homosexuality is tantamount to pedophilia. John Huntsman, who? I can’t find a job.
The Japanese tsunami was unbelievable to watch. It really made me wonder if the Mayans might have known something we don’t. In which case, if this is the last year of the Earth, why am I even trying to find a job? Even if the Rapture does happen, I’m going to need health insurance, because I’m pretty sure I’m getting left behind. Although if I happen to effervesce from this world into the next I bet it’s going to feel weird.
The whole idea reminds me of Star Trek and the transporter. Scientists are currently working on technology that allows them to create identical particles wirelessly from great distances; this process taken to the Nth degree could be applied to moving large, complex objects from point (a) to point (b) via electronic signal. Except it wouldn’t be the original object, it would be a copy, an atomic clone, and the original would be destroyed. I wonder if every time you passed through the machine you’d be 28 grams lighter on the other side.
I’m not sure if any of it has to do with my not being able to find a job, but it can’t help, right? Maybe it’s just me–maybe I’m unemployable. I finished grad school in 2008 and I haven’t had a real job in all the time since. Going on four years now, and yes it’s a terrible time to be looking for a job, but come on. This isn’t what I was promised. They told me if I got my education, the world would just lay down in front of me like a Geisha girl. She hasn’t.
I did work for the U.S. Census Bureau off and on for over a year, and that was cool. I got to drive around chain-smoking cigarettes and invading my neighbor’s privacy. And so many fun stories, like the guy who came out of his house in a pair of nylon short-shorts and a Cornell sweatshirt who told me, “No offense, but get the hell out of here.” You can always tell an Ivy League man. Or the guy with a neck tattoo and cane who told me I was lucky I didn’t get shot because he had a lot of money in his garage. His garage was a single-wide trailer with the end cut off and a tarp over it. My favorite was a guy working for the Census who got really cagey when he found out they were going to be fingerprinting everyone. I was in charge of the training and he kept asking who was looking at the fingerprints; he was saying, “You know I rang a lot of doorbells in Orange County (N.Y.) back in the 80’s.” I don’t even know what that means, I just wanted to tell him, “I get it, you committed a crime, and I don’t know if this will get you caught.”
But of course the Census didn’t last; it’s not meant to. I was working with a woman who had her J.D. and she was knocking on doors. What hope do I have with an M.F.A? Brian Williams has a new primetime new show and I saw the other night that the worst major you can have in college right now is architecture. Architects suffer from a jobless rate of 14.5%, which is only slightly higher than fine arts majors at 12.5%. I think it speaks volumes about what we value as a society. Expression in all its forms is a luxury item. If I had only known this before I decided to become a writer … but maybe that isn’t the right way to say it, maybe I should say, before I decided to let writing determine the course of my life.
The sextant has fallen overboard.
I also worked at a local college in the dining hall as a catering manager. The boss at that job was a special kind of prick. On my first day I rode with him to the bank where he backed into a car and then pulled away. Immediately following that we went to a trailer park to pick up the kitchen’s dishwasher’s things from his ex-girlfriend who had a restraining order against him. Standing in that woman’s trailer watching her smoke a long menthol cigarette while wearing an oversized Tasmanian Devil t-shirt, her tween daughter watched me with hollow, zombie eyes and I think I knew the job wasn’t going to work out. I quit after five months of the same routine: Work for ten hours. Stop at the gas station. Buy beer. Drink until gone.
Interestingly, in the “best revenge is living well” category, the boss got fired a few months later for some kind of embezzlement; he was escorted from the building by corporate security, an ex-coworker told me. He was not on my list of references anyway.
I waited tables at a restaurant where the manager tipped herself out from my ledger. I was a mason’s assistant for three months last summer, helping pour basements and garage floors while soaking up the sun. A mole on my back keeps getting bigger and Obama-Care still hasn’t found me. Freelance writing for a college’s marketing department. Roofing with a high school friend and his father for a summer. I was a copywriter for four months at a job that was an hour and twenty minutes away from my home. My cubicle mate was a middle-aged man who wrote fan fiction for Lord of the Rings and touched me whenever he had something to say, which generally included the phrase, “Please child,” always spoken in a sing-songy way. That company unceremoniously fired me along with thirty other people in an email that contained spelling errors. The temp agency I work for now doesn’t have temporary work for me. I’m beginning to think the new job is looking for a job.
It’s the waiting that is the worst. You send in your resume, cover letter, list of references, most times some kind of writing sample and then you wait. You fill out the electronic application with your phone number, address, email, blood type, height, weight, phobias and sexual inclinations and then you wait. You click complete and it goes somewhere, or to someone, and if you’re lucky you get a confirmation email saying “We’ve received your application and you will be contacted if your skills meet our current needs.” What skills would those be, patience?
I’m waiting right now in fact for a company to call me for an interview. They said they would be looking to make appointments this week for interviews next week. I’ve followed up with the person in charge of hiring half-a-dozen times, I’ve asked current employees to put in a personal recommendation, I live seven minutes away and my resume says I have all the skills they are looking for.
And still I wait.
I clean the house, I do laundry and I write at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee watching snow blow into a tiny drift through a gap in the doorframe. I imagine what it will be like to have a real big boy job and if I’m lucky I might even like it. The cat stretches her nose to sniff the snow and sneezes so loud it scares me out of my daydream. My phone chimes that I have a new email. Apparently my resume has generated a monster job opportunity, Senior Embedded Software Engineer for New Product development in Atlanta, Georgia. Sounds like it’s right in my wheelhouse.
This could be a story, or it could be my life.
Mike Britt is a writer and aspiring villain. He is a master of Krav Maga, diabolical plots and loves turtlenecks. Follow his twitter feed @TheNathanFiles for updates on his plans for world domination.