Tag Archives: change

Hate Your Job?

This morning I woke up with a sore throat, a headache, and a weird, slight phlegm rattle when I take deep breaths. Obviously the change in weather (finally) has brought other changes with it. I took a sick day today. Since not everybody understands that there is an important protocol that you must establish and follow in the event that you take a sick day from school, work, or regular life in general, let me help you out: there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Thus, then, you are joining my morning in progress.

I brought something like eighty sick days with me when I transferred classrooms. I didn’t even know something like that was possible, but in more than ten years in education, I am still not fond of taking a sick day, as it invariably creates more work in a field where the last thing needed is something more to do. Regardless, here I am, typing away, hair super-trendily unkempt, clad in an old white t-shirt and blue basketball shorts. It is unlikely I will shower for many hours. I’ve taken the first of many Alka-Seltzer daytime remedies. It goes down like hot, grainy lemonade. My classroom is the last thing on my mind.

Next to me on this desk is a DIY CompTIA A+ Certification book, a package of lemon Oreos, and an Xbox One. My mind has been wandering all morning, and now that I have opened my eleventh tab in Firefox, it’s time to write something.

Dear friends and readers, I hate my job.

This is nothing new. I have hated many jobs over the years, for a variety of reasons. “Hate” is an interesting word, and perhaps it is inaccurate. None of us probably want to work, but at some point, we find it necessary to subscribe to lifestyles, and that usually costs something, depending on the categories involved. When I got all noble-like and decided I wanted to “make a difference” by entering the education industry, one of the categories that comes with it is, has been, and (most likely) will always be: lack of pay. I knew it going in, so I’m not going to go on and on about it. Until this year, I have had extra jobs to supplement my pay. It’s not a big deal.

Let’s agree that “hate” is kind of a ridiculous term. I experience personal mental and emotional discomfort in my current position. My discomfort stems from a very real and long-running knowledge that I want to do something else. So I am.

I want to share a couple of obvious things with you, and maybe some of it will resonate. Maybe we can all be together on this one. Most of us are not doing what we want to be doing.

“You’re not your fucking khakis,” says Tyler Durden, psychic and physical manifestation of the Narrator’s real wants and desires. Fight Club is Palahniuk’s best work for a reason. Don’t take Tyler’s word for it, though. Especially if you don’t wear khakis. I Googled “change jobs every ten years” and had some interesting hits. I vaguely remember some statistic from when I was in high school or just entering college.

“You Are Not Your Job” by Alyson Madrigan is an interesting article about the author’s failed startup, which she details. Alyson had a fantastic idea that didn’t work out, and she put her all into it. Read about it Joyo and life after Joyo here. Ray Williams’ “You Are Not Your Job” for Psychology Today (posted May 2009) extends the theme, but there is one line early in the article that drops like an 808: “When your job defines you, your world becomes very narrow.” If you need confirmation of what you already suspect, head here.

“Breathe” by Telepopmusik just switched to “Hey Now” by Odesza on Pandora’s Chill Out radio station. I don’t need any more open tabs. Here is my declaration of purpose: I am returning to Imagination Land. I am sorry I ever left it. I am hoping to see some of you out there, in whatever form you wish to take. It’s going to take a while to Create, but that is all I want to do. I think we can do it together.


Slots of Fun: The Cashier Cage in the Early Days

Image result for video lottery

This is it! This is your lucky machine!

After a few weeks of staring out of my cancer booth, I had a chance to become a full-fledged video lottery cashier, which came with a pay raise and a ridiculous amount more in tips. Something important to remember about casino life in the early 2000s, at least in West Virginia: our tips were “gifts” from patrons. Translation? We didn’t claim them. Here’s the scenario: if you make, say, $8/hr for a base pay and you have even the smallest amount of the Gift of Gab, you will easily make another $8/hr per hour in tips, which effectively doubles your take. Any cashier with an actual personality made more than $100 per day in tips, which, when combined with his or her take-home pay after health care, insurance, and $100 more worth of random deductions came out, made for pretty impressive earnings. For being a cashier. In a place where customers weren’t actually buying anything. The shit was unbelievable.

I’d like to take a moment to explain something to those of you who might happen upon this post but have not worked a customer service job…the seemingly friendly folks on the other side of your transaction hate you. Maybe not in a permanent, they-actually-hope-you-go-to-Hell kind of hate, but it’s not too far from it. No, it isn’t your fault, unless you’re an asshole. See, there is a dynamic at play, dear guest, and it can be reduced to this: you’re spending money, and the facilitator of your transaction would also like to spend money. However, he or she cannot, as the balance at that moment is that you are the consumer, and he or she is part of the pleasure of the provided service or product. And dear God, what a sickening display. Forget about regular, even necessary transactions, like buying something at the grocery store, or pumping gas, or even copping that skunk weed from your hillbilly dealerI’m talking about an entirely different form of consumption, and people outside of casino life may not be able to fathom this, so strap in for a minute.

The rules of commerce, polite societal exchanges, and the underlying principles of behavior governing otherwise decent human beings go right out the window when it comes to money transactions in a casino. Gamblers are junkies. There is no other way to describe it. The American Psychiatric Association updated the DSM-5 to classify gambling as an addiction, as opposed to its previous designation as a compulsion. Now, before you offer some ridiculous opinion on how gambling is okay, stop. The APA is smarter than you. It is smarter than I am. No excuses here. Neuroscience wins.


Image result for gambling brain damage

Dopamine feels good, Fam! Lemme get some more! Just one more win, so I can get break even! And some lucky bills!

Those of you who have been in customer service know. It’s just one of those things. Kevin Smith covered it in Clerks, and the staff in Ryan Reynold’s Waiting are amazingly accurate. It doesn’t make any sense, but if we have to wait on you, there is contempt. I’m sure all of us know one customer service provider who is genuinely happy with his or her life, but I’m not writing about those kind of people. They are deranged. Who could be happy running coins through a machine and fingering Cleveland sweaty bra money all day? Oh, sure. Load up on that hand sanitizer. Won’t make any damn difference. You’ll forget and rub your nose, or maybe even use the back of your hand for an itch near your eye. Mucous membranes, jagoff. Casino SARS for you. I can’t tell you how many times someone in that damn cage had whooping cough or some other shit from the 1800s. On top of that, for some unknown reason, most of the cashiers smoked the same shit cigarettes they also inhaled secondhand from the doomed customers! It was unreal. My blood pressure is skyrocketing as I relive it. Okay, let’s focus. Here’s a typical cashier transaction, mid-shift:

Where the hell did these guests come from? Is this a Cleveland bus?

Cleveland? You mean Cleeland?

Oh, right. Yeah. Cleeland.

The girls in the Players’ Club said they watched six buses unload this morning.

Jeezus, dude. That’s it, then. They’ll be with us most of our shift. There goes my tips.

Shhh. Here comes one.

HI, Mrs. Wallace! How is your day? How are the machines treating you?

Now, obviously Mrs. Wallace is an alias. Mrs. Wallace represents anyone who comes to the cashier window. All cashiers working a window are like Amsterdam whores. We want you to like what you see, so you’ll give us some money. We’ll even give you a little conversation and pretend like we’re not praying for a giant meteor to crash through the ceiling and seal everyone’s fate at that exact second. And it’s all for an extra buck. Every transaction, for the entire shift. Do you know what kind of psychological fortitude it takes to pretend to be interested in some gambler’s winnings? It’s sickening. And we all did it. For months. Many did it for years and years. Anyway, I can’t describe to you the potentials level of self-loathing that can grow in such customer service positions. Towards the end, I couldn’t tell what I hated worse: the fact that I allowed myself to get accustomed to such bullshit to make a rather obscene amount of money, or the fact that I can recall what it feels like so easily. Moving on…

Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that, Mrs. Wallace. Here, let me give you some lucky fives. (Insert a signature customer service move, the most popular of which is a hearty flick or bizarre and meaningless charlatan hand gesture on the filthy bills)

Now get back out there and make some money! HA HA HA (Mrs. Wallace leaves, smiling)

Dude…that was kind of sickening.

Yup, it was. And she gave me a five. Now kill yourself.

Image result for gamblers

No, Mrs. Wallace. Those weren’t really lucky fives. And those machines are programmed to take your money. But I’ll smile just the same and grovel to you every time you come back to the window. For a dollar. Every time. Ugh.

In high school, I worked in fast food. More than once. I used to think those were the worst jobs. They’re not. At least some fat ass is getting a fix on the horsemeat Whopper I hand him through the window. In the drive-thru window, we either wore a headset or stayed hunched over a microphone, droning orders to the sandwich preppers. Always with a Diet Coke, too. The noise of those shitty drive-thru communication systems sounds like Vivaldi when compared to the CLINGETY-CLING-JINGLEY-JANGLE of a coin hopper. Modern casinos utilize ticket systems. Coin hoppers have been gone from machines like those in the picture above for a long, long time. But they were alive and well when I was a cashier. We stood there in our little vesties, and we smiled, and we loathed the sight of almost everyone on the other side of that cage. And it got so much worse.

Time to Live: An Invitation

One of my chief regrets is not following my energies earlier in life. Looking back across the Void, I see that habits affected most of my efforts. For three decades, I have entertained bursts of ideas, but I have never spent time cultivating. I fell into the trap. I ran up debt, drank myself silly, stayed in jobs longer than I wanted, and every once in a great while, I had a moment of clarity. My plan is simple: create. That’s it. That’s my one word.

In the coming days, I have some ideas I’d like to bounce off of you, but mostly, I would really like all creatives to get back to doing what they would like to do. I’d like us to really be honest about where we are and where we are going.

As I return to this site with a re-imagined view of what I need to do, I extend an invitation to any and all of you. Let’s write. Let’s draw. Let’s paint. Let’s explore.

For heaven’s sake, let’s do anything other than just pay bills until we die.

Old haunts

Dear friends,

Today I sold a house–part of a copy & paste steel-mill-expansion neighborhood that I came to love for all of its quirks.

It was terrible to own. At times, I struggled mightily to afford it, and for many years, I only got by.

I never met my own expectations in it, and I certainly never excelled. But sometimes, throughout those long years, the house bought me a Quiet unmatched.

A puppy ran up and down the streets in front of it, and perched on the back of a love seat as she grew older, surveying the neighborhood during the day, waiting for my return from work. Snow days were fun. Cosmic conversations painted the back porch, which afforded beautiful sunsets and cold, clear moons, when I could be bothered to stop to see them.

Friends came and went, and during the time I was there, I learned more about myself than I am likely to do again.

Sometimes our burdens provide us with priceless insights.

With the ceaseless help of family, I endured that house, and in our final months together, we began to turn it to something more than I could alone, for all of my effort.

A place is what you make of it, and sometimes that house was a home. More importantly, it helped me understand the true meaning of home, that I might forge one wherever I go now.

I am humbled. I never could fully make it on my own during this time, and I am grateful for the months that led to my departure from that house. Today was a subtle finish from a long race I lost a long time ago. Thank you to all who knew me while I was there.

Here is to what lies beyond the walls behind which we are lost for a while.



Abandoned dream

At 10:37, I take a left onto W 28th Street and enter the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and I slowly drive through the campus until I pop out on the other side in a sketchy neighborhood. I circle under and around the southern end of the campus, take a right onto University Avenue, and this time when I enter campus, I park in a remote northern parking lot. I don’t have a pass, but where I pull in looks like the end of the land development, so I’m not too worried about a parking ticket. I walk at a decent clip (might as well try to raise the cardio a little and make the steps count) to arrive at the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology building. I’m early for my appointment, so I slow my pace and take my time looking around the lobby before I decide to take the stairs to the next floor. The building is impressive, and I decide to check the directory to make sure I don’t do something stupid, like assume the floor number for the room where I’m headed. I feel a measure of relief when I see that room 547 is, indeed, on the fifth floor.

At 10:49, I sit at a small composite round table adjacent to 547, and I flip through an issue of Arkansas Living. In the July 2016 issue there is a two-page spread about the Bachman-Wilson House at Crystal Bridges. It’s a Frank Lloyd Wright house, acquired in New Jersey, and transported and rebuilt in Arkansas. I make a mental note to actually see the house, instead of just making a mental note to add this to a future unfulfilled To-Do List. Three minutes have passed. Thomas Wallace, Program Coordinator for Web Design and Development and the Information Technology Minor program (among others) says, “Vincent?” as he walks down the hall toward his room. I stand, shake his hand, and walk inside his office. He has an iMac and a MacBook Pro on his desk. His room is Spartan (environmental irony) and he has a genuine delivery. His hair is cut short and he wears a darker blue UALR polo shirt. His age is indeterminate, but I feel that he might be close to my age. He is in shape, physically. We make small talk before the information starts to flow, and he tells me that he has climbed in West Virginia a few times. He encourages me to check out northwest Arkansas, as it is clear that I like the outdoors and Arkansas has much to offer.


Where have you been?

Before the actual appointed time of 11:00, we’ve already begun to get down to the heart of the matter–why I have contacted him, and why I asked for a face-to-face with him. I explain how I am ready to leave my English classroom, but that I am not quite “through” with education. I explain how I have a deep love for technology, but that I have not formally studied it. I offer truncated versions of why the education industry, at least at my level, is fairly terrible, and why I am attempting to evolve my employment. I talk about a failed online school with massive funding and zero buy-in, and I share three anecdotes about students really not knowing how to do anything with technology. I throw in the term “digital native” and scoff at it, mostly due to the fact that I will never miss a chance to mention Mark Bauerlein’s Dumbest Generation.

I have been a teacher for 3,711 days. That is 5.34 million minutes too long.

Mr. Wallace breaks down the details of what UALR’s IT departments aim to do. He profiles some of the partnerships, and he shares some insights as to how he thinks certain programs may benefit me. He mentions that he feels I could also be an asset to a few of the programs. I shake his hand at 11:36, and I am filled with something I do not understand as I walk out of the EIT building. I cross two parking lots and stop to take two pictures as I try to sort out what I am feeling. It is hope. It is a different kind of hope.


Where are you going?

At 11:47, I drive east through run-down neighborhoods that eventually lead to the area near the capitol building. Barred and boarded windows abruptly become Starbucks and the Childrens’ Hospital, and I’m on 13th Street, looking left and right at scores of businesses, some of which I might not ever see unless I take an errant route. My phone keeps updating my route and offering multiple upcoming turns in the hopes that I may course-correct and take the most efficient path. I decline.


At 12 noon I am drinking a scarlet red Berliner Weisse at Lost Forty, and although it looks like fruit punch or a sorority girl’s jungle juice, I don’t care. It’s delicious. I eat a small lunch. At 12:26, I am unexpectedly near tears when I hear Thom Yorke’s falsetto voice float down from the warehouse ceiling. Denial, deniiialll. It’s “House of Cards.” That strange hope that now made it hard to swallow, and I have to lean back to redirect my watery eyes. I crane my neck to make sure it’s Radiohead, and I pay the bill as I listen to the rest of the song. I snap a picture of Bald Bull on “Punch-Out!” on my way out to the car. I have a Crowler of Wet Hop Ale for when I get home.


Retro hit machine

I listen to a few songs as I drive north across the bridge and head west toward home. I have my phone plugged into an FM modulator and I am playing a few songs from a Playstation video game soundtrack. At a long red light, I pull off to quickly check out a sizable junkyard hidden in a grove of trees right off of the main artery of Maumelle Boulevard. I’m surprised by the gems hidden inside. There is a miniature mansion across the street from the entrance. I leave the Acura running; I don’t know who runs this forest, or if there are surprise guard dogs. I snap a few pics and retreat. Before I climb back in, I look north behind my SUV and see the sun reflecting from the Arkansas River.


Rusted treasure chest

Hope persists as I pull into the driveway, and I realize that in one hundred and fifty school days, I will not teach English again. I may not be in a classroom again. Ashley has become a pioneer (O, pioneer!) and has 2,400 classroom minutes remaining, if she finishes her notice. She is free. I am not far behind.

I will finish the school year. I would like to break contract right now–today–but I won’t. I can carefully shape the clay of this dream, and I can cultivate the energies to direct them efficiently.


*An immediate disclaimer, as I genuinely enjoy the fluidity of memory: some of this could have happened as early as 1995, and may have stretched into 1997, but probably not. 1996 was pretty important.*

In no particular order, here is how I construct it: Lauren was responsible for Underworld, Meggan was a go-to for rap (hip-hop) and random industrial, and Phil guided me to the best of the best. Many others contributed heavily, and you know who you are. This is a necessary trip back.

Dan had more skate- and ska-inspired rock than I knew. I borrowed or was gifted countless CD samplers, and honestly, to this day, Gracie is responsible for some remote part of my brain randomly surging forth an energized rift and Oi Oi-stylized vocals. I couldn’t ska-dance for shit, but he would break out mad custom moves right by the register or the fryers without hesitation. Dan is the reason I know a tiny bit about NY Hardcore. I might never have found the Wrens without you, good sir.

Lauren handed me Second Toughest in the Infants one night after work and said, “Hey, you might like this. I got this disc through WaxTrax (I think she had a subscription or something very similar), and it’s not really my style.” I had bought a Panasonic head unit from Chris (double-floating anti-vibration system) in a 1986 five-speed hatchback Accord, and I inserted the disc on a Sunday night. The parking lot lights made the empty streets amber, and there was a slight haze on my windshield. “Juanita” started playing, and it has not stopped playing in my head since. I even get a little upset when other fans play the remix of the song–the original was that strong. Thanks, Uncle L.

Meggan could finish any lyric I started. It was super-weird. Fast food (or most teenage jobs, for that matter) are tedious at best, so it’s kind of a big deal if you can entertain yourself and each other while going through the motions. I must’ve thrown everything from “1nce Again” to “Doin’ It” to “Wish” at Megs, only to have her immediately complete the lyric and send it back my way. Sometimes, like a true fool, I’d be so excited I’d sort of hop rapidly while completing some mundane task. I can’t be positive, but I feel like maybe she was the first to show me mustard and lettuce directly on top of a chicken tender, with no bun. You can’t learn that type of thing yourself. It’s taught to you. To this day, a raised eyebrow or a slight head tilt can signal, “Look at that asshole over there.” I bet it always will.

Phil and I went to see Depeche Mode. Millie dropped us off way back at the entrance to Star Lake (it will always be Star Lake, regardless of corporate sponsor), and I got to see Dave Gahan command a stage under purple lights. Phil always had the drop on The New, but it was his portal to the Older Unheard that really blew my mind. I think he took a lot of pride in casually, stealthily introducing super-rad shit. I was listening to NIN before I met Phil, but I’ll be damned if our combined Trent efforts didn’t result in a brand-new universe of sounds and art to which I definitely would not have been privy. For the thousand nights of sitting cross-legged on carpeted floors and feeling unholy rage at bad A.I. to a few dozen live shows, thanks for being that guy who can pick up where he left off six months or six years ago without a beat missed. This is where I should slip in a “First” reference, but it’s true, and we all know it.

In about an hour, I’m taking a meeting that will likely set the stage for the next ten or twenty years of my professional life, even if it begins with the smallest of steps. It helps to look back before we storm forward. Always forward.

Play a tune for me, and send some energy out there.