Sunday, December 25, 2016

Anti-Xmas 2016: A Holiday Screw You, An Orwellian Interview

Ramen Noodle Nation's 
Movers 'N' Shakers (w/LOVE):
Have An Anti-Christmas...
...And An Anti-New Year>

<"Anarchy Recipe">

Every time I visit a retail shop around this time of year, it only takes a second for my vision of Hell to register: Christmas music pumped over the speakers, making me eternally thankful that I don't work here. My chief aversion is "O Holy Night," but not for its religious content, honestly. That aversion started at my last day job, where I heard -- over 'n' over, to the point of Chinese water torture -- some crack-brained parody of  someone garbling the song in a shredded wheat-style falsetto. It was funny the first time -- barely -- at noon. By five o'clock, my eyes and ears felt glazed beyond recognition, having heard my clueless co-workers crank it God knows how many more times. Such experiences put the "nausea" back into "ad nauseum."

That said, why do so many of us feel so ambivalent about Christmas, then? I reckon it's the disconnect between the approved sentiments (birth of Christ, comfort and joy, goodwill toward men, blah-blah-blah) and the reality (crass relatives, food pantry visits, rich jerks bragging about their endless foreign junkets). For me, this season carried an especially bitter sting that dropped in mid-November -- when I got an email from my writing outlets, entitled, "Next Seven Weeks." That heading, as I quickly found out, provided ample reason to say "Oh, crap!"

The email duly informed me that the corporate masters were making immediate budget cuts, so I'd have to skip some meetings, and clear any other ideas in advance. That freeze will lift on Monday, in conjunction with that organization's new fiscal year, but the damage has already been done. Thanks to this sudden email stinkbomb dropping, I've lost about half my monthly income. There's nothing like a big "screw you" before Thanksgiving and Christmas to show you how little you matter in the scheme of things.

And I don't know what pisses me off more -- the lack of notice, the havoc wreaked on my household budget (slender as it is), or all the extra (rmainly, transcription) work I'm doing to staunch any further bleeding. So while I'm not out to dampen anybody else's holiday, I'm not getting caught up in all this artificial, enforced holiday cheer, either. When a financial landmine blows up in your face, "Bah, Humbug!" hardly seems like the ravings of Ebenezer Scrooge -- your favorite elderly, friendless, financially endowed killjoy, and mine. Right now, it seems like the only honest, sane response.

The Damned - There Ain't No Sanity Clause.jpg
<The Damned: "There Ain't No Sanity Clause."
1980 UK SIngle (Chiswick Records>

The story doesn't end there however. Squawker and I gotten a couple breaks to make the last eight weeks somewhat tolerable. A friend sent us $200 here. I made $195 there for helping track our county's vote results last month.  I'm cranking out transcription files almost every night, which will likely be necessary until February 1 rolls around, when my prospects might finally pick up again. (Remember, as a freelancer, you're typically paid next month for everything that you did last month. Hence, that email should have read: "Next 12 Weeks.")  And I've been pounding the pavement, searching for new opportunities.

Anyhow, last week, I spent half an hour interviewing with a transcription firm that works with the insurance industry. My test results looked good, the recruiter said. Only 2 percent of the initial applicant pool even gets an interview, she confided. (But I didn't feel that "space cadet glow," as Roger Waters calls it. Statements like those are part of the recruiter's repertoire, to make you feel: gosh, maybe I'm one of the Fortunate Few!) We had a cordial conversation, or so it seemed, and hung up. I'd hear something by the end of the week.

Word came last Friday: thanks for your time, I've no idea why, because -- like so many of these situations -- you never hear the rationale (anymore than I did for the budget axe wielded against my paycheck). All I got was a vaguely worded puff letter whose verbiage would have done George Orwell proud: "Unfortunately we are not able to offer you a position as an independent contractor at this time...Again, thank you for your interest in [NAME WITHHELD] and we wish you much success in your job search."
Huh? Come Again? Say What?

Uh, not to sound like a killjoy, old chaps, but...we have a language disconnect, don't we? An independent contracting position is not a job. They're recognized categories of labor, but they're not created equal, either. Jobs, however poorly they pay nowadays, tend to come with health insurance, 401(k) plans, and paid time off -- items that you rarely (if ever) see in the Gig World. (But if you do, take a photo, and email it to me. I'll keep it next to the flying pig that I just snapped cruising past my window.) Now that I remember it, the recruiter also repeatedly used the J (Job)- word during our interview. Either she really buys her own spiel, or it's another piece of ammo in her ass shining repertoire, I don't know. Take your pick: you're probably right either way.

 In some ways, I'm not upset. Like so many of these outfits, they were demanding a lot. Sign a nondisclosure agreement. Buy a foot pedal and three software programs, just so you could do their piecework. Submit to an annual criminal background check. I'm surprised they didn't ask me to Fedex a urine sample, really!  Of course, they waited until the eleventh hour to drop these little details. But that's not the point, is it?

Crappy as these experiences have been, they've hardened my will to carve a different path that doesn't involve giving away so much power to such outfits. I'm working on a few ideas as we speak; I'll let you know how they end up. The moral here? Whatever business relationships you enter, keep a keen eye, and a clear head. Why feel buddy-buddy with someone who doesn't see (or treat) you as an equal?  So, in that spirit...have a Merry Anti-Christmas, an Anti-New Year...and Bah, Humbug," all the way. -- The Reckoner

Links To Go: Some  Anti-Christmas Faves
(Hurry, Before The Copyright Nazis Yank 'Em Down)

Crass: Merry Crassmass

Damned: There Ain't No Sanity Clause:

Fear: F#ck Christmas Snoopy Video:

Kinks: Father Christmas:(W/Lyrics)

Graham Parker: Christmas Is For Mugs (W/Lyrics):

UK Subs: Hey Santa:

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