Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Feeling Stupid

There are days I feel pretty stupid. And then there are days like today, where feeling pretty stupid would make a vast improvement in my overall self-esteem. Another of the jobs I applied for went to someone else. I suppose I shouldn’t be worried about it, since I have this job. But it still makes me feel as useful as something really useless, like sunglasses for cinnamon bears. Yuck. I hate cinnamon bears. I think it’s time for a little break from work. Michelle is going off on her Akela’s Trail campout for her Cub Scout calling next week starting Wednesday. I may decide to take both days off, just to get a little time away from work, to see if there’s something I can do to recharge the batteries. I just feel tired. The weeks here are fast, but the days sure are long. Whaa whaa listen to the well-paid weenie boy cry. I ought to slap myself back into reality. But who wants reality? I’m not sure I want that. I probably told them too much. They ask that question I hate: What’s one of your weaknesses? And I always answer it honestly: When the workload is low, I tend to coast. I back that up by saying I always look for other things I can do, talk with people I might help. Maybe my answer to that question dings me. Maybe it’s something else entirely. But since the only feedback most of us tend to get back on interviews is silence, I’ll never know what the deciding factor was. Hiring and getting hired, I’m growing to know, depends on whims more than reason: I was hired for the job I have now because the guy who hired me was a former newspaperman and liked that I had newspaper experience. He’s now moved on, so if I were applying for the same job now, that experience wouldn’t mean jack – or, at least, a lot less – to the current boss. (Not bad-mouthing the boss. Just expressing an opinion that it was Art’s presence in the drivers’ seat that helped me get my job due to a whim of chance, and that this whim would have been lessened or non-existent had Danny been in the driver’s seat. Just trying to figure out the play of politics and chance in this whole job-scurrying thing. It’s something for me to keep in mind next time I find myself unemployed in Greenland.)

I don’t really know what’s eating me lately. What I’m afraid of is that it’s the same kind of gleeful angst that got me tired of newspaper reporting. Mercifully, as I work here at RWMC, I don’t feel tired of the work. I feel a bit tired of all the running about trying to get signatures, but that’s about it. I like the people I work with. I like the people I work for, and that’s going a lot further than I ever felt at the papers I've worked for, at the end. (I think I’ve written about this, but the last paper I worked for recently closed its Rexburg office. They’re also contemplating quitting their Monday paper. Also, my ESOP stock tanked to the tune of nearly $6,000 last year, or about 35 percent. So I don’t think they’re doing all that well financially. Glad I’m not there any more.)

Maybe I’m just feeling mediocre. I don’t know why that should bother me, as I am mediocre. But it still irks, I suppose. Maybe it’s a point in my favor, to at least acknowledge my mediocrity so I can some way overcome it. Or learn to live with it, at least. I know a lot of it is that it’s just slow at work, which leaves time for listening to heavy German music and lots of idle introspection, which gets the brain to thinking about stupid stuff like this. Mister Mediocre. Ah, listen to the spoiled American. I’m caught up in what George Orwell describes in his book “Coming Up for Air,” viz:

I had the street pretty much to myself. The men had bunked to catch the 8.21 and the women were fiddling with the gas-stoves. When you've time to look about you, and when you happen to be in the right mood, it's a thing that makes you laugh inside to walk down these streets in the inner-outer suburbs and to think of the lives that go on there. Because, after all, what IS a road like Ellesmere Road? Just a prison with the cells all in a row. A line of semidetached torture-chambers where the poor little five-to-ten-pound-a-weekers quake and shiver, every one of them with the boss twisting his tail and his wife riding him like the nightmare and the kids sucking his blood like leeches. There's a lot of rot talked about the sufferings of the working class. I'm not so sorry for the proles myself. Did you ever know a navvy who lay awake thinking about the sack? The prole suffers physically, but he's a free man when he isn't working. But in every one of those little stucco boxes there's some poor bastard who's NEVER free except when he's fast asleep and dreaming that he's got the boss down the bottom of a well and is bunging lumps of coal at him.

Of course, the basic trouble with people like us, I said to myself, is that we all imagine we've got something to lose. To begin with, nine-tenths of the people in Ellesmere Road are under the impression that they own their houses. Ellesmere Road, and the whole quarter surrounding it, until you get to the High Street, is part of a huge racket called the Hesperides Estate, the property of the Cheerful Credit Building Society. Building societies are probably the cleverest racket of modern times. My own line, insurance, is a swindle, I admit, but it's an open swindle with the cards on the table. But the beauty of the building society swindles is that your victims think you're doing them a kindness. You wallop them, and they lick your hand. I sometimes think I'd like to have the Hesperides Estate surmounted by an enormous statue to the god of building societies. It would be a queer sort of god. Among other things it would be bisexual. The top half would be a managing director and the bottom half would be a wife in the family way. In one hand it would carry an enormous key--the key of the workhouse, of course--and in the other--what do they call those things like French horns with presents coming out of them?--a cornucopia, out of which would be pouring portable radios, life-insurance policies, false teeth, aspirins, French letters, and concrete garden rollers.

Not that I’m at this may as well slit my wrists and plunge them into saltwater stage, but there is some of that angst brooding about. Brooding angst. Brooding angst. I like it when the German in this language comes out. (And, yes, the anal retentive inside me made me verify that these words are indeed of German origin. Certain on the angst. Certain enough on the German in brood to let it slide. I said I’m anal retentive, not OCD.)

Ben is now home, and up to those common just-returned-missionary tricks, namely running off in all directions trying to regain the life he set aside two years ago. Al and Serena – we saw them at the Iona Community Days celebration on Saturday – say he’s doing well enough, which is good for him. He’ll start school in Rexburg in September, which seems weird. We’ve let him know he’s welcome to come to our house to watch TV or whatever, but we’re not holding our breath on him actually showing up. Uncles and aunts can be so embarrassing.

I think I have a hole in my head. Or I think I want one. Ready to go home, am I. And speaking like Yoda. Speaking of which, we’re going to have to watch “Return of the Jedi” sometime soon, because the kids keep asking about it. They’re just as anxious to see what happens to Han Solo as we were back in 1979, when Empire came out and we had to wait four years until we got to see Jedi. They’ve not even waited a week. Next on their list, I know, is the Indiana Jones trilogy. That’ll be put off for a while longer, because, frankly, it’s all a bit scarier than Star Wars is, at least in my warped opinion.

Back to the angst: I guess part of my feelings of inadequacy stem from the fact that a lot of people around me are leaving and getting better, more stable jobs (engineers, mostly). It puzzles me as to why I can’t accomplish the same thing, but then again, tech writers are a dime a dozen and engineers are much harder to come by. Maybe I should have been an engineer. Of course, maybe I should have flapped my arms and flown to the moon as well, since both are just as likely. I don’t like math enough to be an engineer. I’m not as precise as an engineer needs to be. I’m like Bob Newhart, whose accounting motto was “Oh, that’s close enough.” Which is, of course, why he got into advertising and then stand-up comedy. I need to write that novel. I know I’ve got a good start on a good story. I just need to punch it up and bring in more sensuality (His pulse exploded as he ripped off her babushka, to steal a line from B.C.). OK, not more sensuality. More absurdity. Just more of what I’ve got, because what I’ve got is just a start and nowhere near being completed. I mean, if idiots like Max Barry and Neal Stephenson can write crappy novels, why can’t I? Certainly they don’t corner the market on crappiness.

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