Hello, nice to meet you. Do I call you William,
or Bill, or..?
Bill's fine, thank you.
Okay Bill, have a seat. Now what made you decide to come see
a career counselor?
I don't have a career. And I need counselling.
What is it that you're looking for?
Oh, you know. Any job that doesn't involve lifting boxes will
..All right. Why don't you start out by telling me a little
bit about yourself.
Right. Well, my favorite color is purple. I prefer plain M&M's.
I own a copy of the original pressing of Final Fantasy Tactics,
not that Greatest Hits rerelease with the shitty green edging. Also,
I have never, this is true, I have never ridden a horse.
I meant more in terms of skills.
Oh. Okay. Well, I got all golds in Blast Corps. I only managed
a couple platinums, but I think you'll agree, those things are pretty
Skills that would apply to a job. Why don't you just tell me
about your educational background.
Ah. Well.. I graduated high school.
What was your GPA?
Um.. I don't remember.
You don't remember.
Well, dammit, I didn't care about any of that stuff. I was in
high school. My all-consuming goal was to not be in high school
anymore. I didn't want to go to college, I didn't want to plan for
my future, I just wanted to exist in a state of being that did not
involve taking notes on the stamp tax. So I didn't pay any attention
to my GPA and now my records are in a box in my parent's attic somewhere
which is just as well because my grades weren't great because I
didn't pay attention which is why I don't remember my GPA.
So what did you think you were going to be doing after high
Um.. I guess I figured I'd land a shit job temporarily while I
prepared to do something more worthwhile.
And yet you're here because..
..I'm sick of my shit job and I can't find anything else worthwhile.
Well it's not like I'm not doing anything else. I write, you know.
Oh, do you? Novels?
Why don't you just tell me what you write.
I write articles. On the.. ahem. On the Internet. Don't look at
me like that. I write on the Internet and entertain people all across
Articles about what?
Well, my last one was about.. a man in a costume making suggestive
gyrations with a large gun extending from his crotch. In front of
children. Look, just forget I said anything about writing.
All right.. Let's focus on your work history then. Tell me
about that. Start from the beginning.
The first job I ever had was in high school. My mom worked as
a bookkeeper at a car dealership, and she suggested me to her boss
when they were looking for a file clerk. I came in after school
about three days a week, changed into a polo shirt and slacks in
the bathroom, and worked until 6. Just taking a stack of papers
and putting them into their respective folders, and trying not to
slip in the trail of goo the car salesmen left behind.
And you were dissatisfied with this job?
I certainly didn't enjoy it, but I only worked about 10 hours
a week, so I didn't mind it all that much. I'm not even sure if
10 hours a week qualifies as a job. It's like having a really boring
Do you feel that you gained any experience, or learned anything
on this job?
One day Gallagher came in to buy a car. So I learned that Gallagher
lives in Florida, I guess.
Or maybe it was his brother pretending to be him buying a car.
You remember that?
When did you leave that job?
When I graduated. I moved away to Virginia. Once I was there for
a while I got a job at Wal-Mart. Eventually.
It took some time. When they first showed up they had a big cattle
call for everyone who was interested to come on down and get an
application and be interviewed and all that. This is a little town
in the rural south where the only thing more popular than NASCAR
is being laid off from a manufacturing plant. Saying "hey does anyone
want a job in the air conditioning where there is a low likelihood
that your hand will be detatched via a bandsaw" is equivolent to
walking into a boy's summer camp and asking if anyone's interested
in a blowjob. There were more applicants than there are people living
in the county. And in between Larry who's worked in a saw mill for
15 years and Joe who's got three kids to feed and helps out at his
church is me, wandering in with a 10 hour a week filing job under
my belt and hippie hair and a yankee accent. And then they ask me
the question, you know that question. The worst Goddamn question
in the world. The one I knew was coming and yet I still had no answer
Why do you want to work at Wal-Mart?
Why in God's name does anyone want to work at Wal-Mart? They want
money, dammit. I wanted money. I was too much of a pussy to say
so, of course, so I had to come up with something fast. Something
positive about a company I have no positive feelings about. I tried
my best. My best wasn't very good.
What did you say?
I said I liked Wal-Mart.
What about them did you say you liked?
No, that's exactly what I said. Those exact words. "I like Wal-Mart."
Like a fucking mental defective who responds to the question "How
are you feeling?" with "I LIKE SOCKS." And that's all I could get
out. That's all I could manage. I couldn't -- stop laughing, dammit
-- I couldn't even come up with something to say after that to support
my flimsy statement, partly because I had no reason to like Wal-Mart
and partly because I had stunned myself into silence with the utter
stupidity of what I had just allowed to escape my festering maw.
I am not good in interviews. But I'll bet you know that already.
So you didn't get the job?
No, I didn't. Presumably I lost out to someone who loved Wal-Mart.
Maybe I would've gotten in if I had applied to be a cashier instead
of only cart pusher or unloader, but given this history of public
relations I'd be afraid that I'd see someone come up with a cart
full of groceries and shout "HEY ARE YOU BUYING FOOD" then open
the register and start eating pennies.
So I applied again later. I got interviewed again, and was actually
all set to go until I had to provide ID. I don't drive, so I didn't
have a license, and I'd never bothered to get a state ID, so it
degenerated into a debate over whether I could use my student ID
from high school as verification of identity.
I don't think that works.
Well of course it doesn't. It's a piece of laminated paper with
my name and address in Florida on it in my own damned hand writing.
But that should make it the most authentic ID in the world, shouldn't
it? I mean, if I wanted to fake an ID, why would I create something
So you didn't get the job again?
Yeah, I think she found a replacement for me by the time I got
back to her about the ID thing. So I waited some more. Finally someone
I knew who worked there got me another interview a few months down
the line and I finally got in as an unloader.
So.. Twice thus far you've had to have someone on the inside
get your job for you?
..What are you implying?
Nothing. So what does an unloader do?
Takes shit off the truck, stacks it on pallets, takes the pallets
out to the floor. Some of the dumbest hicks in the building stacking
tens of thousands of dollars of merchandise haphazardly on planks
of wood and then yanking them at 30 miles per hour down narrow aisles
packed with customers. Ever wanted to know what a paint can does
going around a corner at high speed? It ruins my damn shoes, that's
I take it you found the job unsatisfactory.
Throwing boxes around is dull, but that wasn't really the problem.
Everything else was the problem. Co-workers were the problem. Managers
were the problem.
What was wrong with your co-workers?
The truck was an important factor in our jobs, as you can imagine.
The bigger the truck, the more stuff on it, the more work we have
to do. So it became a routine to clamber up over the boxes to look
out over the tops to see if you could see where the back of the
truck was, and how many loose packages were back there. I usually
did it because, hey, I'll admit, I'm not exactly a commanding presence.
I probably don't weigh as much as some of the boxes on that truck.
But there was this one guy, let's call him Dickface, who wanted
to be the one who gets to announce to everyone how much is on the
truck. Because clearly if he's just given the chance, everyone will
be so impressed with how he did it that a Hollywood agent will pop
out of the dairy cooler and say "That was beautiful! I'm gonna make
you a star! And this milk is out of date!" Now, Mr. Dickface is
about 6'4" and about 300 pounds. He starts his ascent by delicately
and deliberately choosing the smallest and weakest boxes to step
on, and eventually gets up to a long, thin box laid out flat. He,
of course, jumps on it, and it makes a delightful crunching sound.
He gets off and lifts the box up to the light to see.. ah, what
does that say.. "GE Flourescent Tubes." Well, nothing to worry about
then. He then giggles like a little girl and throws the damn
box on the conveyor belt that we use to roll boxes out of the
truck, and when it lands a cloud of God knows what puffs out and
all over us. What's in those things, anyway? I don't remember. I'm
pretty sure you're not supposed to inhale it, though.
Always try to keep that in mind whenever you're shopping at a
big retail outlet. Look at whatever you're considering buying, and
remind yourself that a 300 pound amateur wrestler jumped on this.
And possibly rubbed his bare ass on it as a joke.
What was wrong with your managers?
Dickface was never fired for any of his shit. In fact, he still
Well that can't be the only--
One of the unloaders who used to open bottles of fruit punch and
drink out of them, he wasn't fired either. He was in his 40s and
he was always leering at 15 year old girls. I should've dropped
a box on him.
The guy in sporting goods who shot a crossbow bolt out of his
department, through hardware and into a shelf in domestics while
demonstrating it for a customer, he wasn't fired. He also claimed
he was an ex-Hell's Angel and Secret Service agent. Because when
you want to protect the president, you pick the biker who beats
the shit out of people with chains. And you know how many former
goverment agents are demonstrating weapons in discount retail outlets.
The one unloader who knew what he was doing, who had a decent
head on his shoulders, he loaned his employee discount card to his
brother. He was fired on the spot.
I see. But you didn't mind the job itself?
The job I was hired for, no. I'll lift some boxes, I'll pull pallets.
Fine. Unfortunately that accounted for about 4 hours of our day.
Inexplicably, unloaders are required to work 40 hours a week without
exception. So the rest of our time was spent stocking. They were
cutting everyone else's hours because payroll was too high, and
they even had a sign over the time clock that said "NOT ONE SECOND
OF OVERTIME OR I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL KILL YOU," but I'm putting
rolls of Charmin on the shelf at midnight waiting for the last hour
of my shift to drag by.
And you know what they tell you if you finish stocking a department?
If you've just finished doing the work that is supposed to be done
by the full fucking crew of overnight stockers they hired specifically
for the purpose? "Go zone." You know what zoning is?
Can't say I do.
You are instructed to walk up and down the aisle, adjusting packages
so the labels face forward and they are all even on the shelf. It's
the intangible concept of futility granted physical form. The same
friend who got me this job is freaking out because she's being yelled
at for not getting all her work done, because she isn't scheduled
enough time in which to do it all, and I'm standing in paper goods
at 12:30 in the morning adjusting paper towels by one micron so
when 6 rolls around the first mound of pork rinds and beer shaped
into a mocking imitation of a human being to ooze out of their trailer
can knock them all down again by the sheer force with which waves
of stench emminate from their pores. And then their mutant spawnlings
can snatch the rolls off the floor and pretend they're bongos until
they get bored and toss them back on the floor again somewhere in
the automotive department.
I hate Wal-Mart.
..So.. What do you think you learned from this job?
The people above you have nothing to do with you. I thought I'd
learned it, finally, in my last years of school, skipping classes
and shirking work and seeing my grades and even my attendance record
be entirely unaffected. But I guess I still held on to the primitive
notion that your supervisors may at some point take time to actually
examine what it is you do. Instead, it became increasingly clear
that the work you perform has absolutely no bearing on your bosses'
perception of you. I could've gone out onto the floor, found an
old woman, beat her to death, cut off her head, shoved my hand up
her neck into her mouth, and used it as a clamp to haul the bigger
boxes around and all my manager would have in his notes would be
how many boxes I moved. And he'd probably mark me down in my evaluation
for being slow because I took the time to remove her tongue.
People say the public school system is in shambles. It's a world
in which people of low to moderate ability can manipulate and charm
their way through while those who work tirelessly are laid as the
foundation for the roads the aforementioned charmers walk on. I
can't think of a more accurate simulation of real-world experience.
Not that I'm claiming to be one of those workers, I know I'm not
that dilligent. Nor am I really a charmer, though. I guess I'm the
guy on the side of the road shouting "I LIKE ROADS" until I eventually
wander too far in and get hit by a car.
So what came next?
Next is the job I have now, the job I'm contemplating quitting,
which is why I'm here. I'm an inserter.
I put the ads into the newspaper. By hand. Standing all day.
And what, besides the obvious, don't you like about this job?
They say it's a part time job with "variable hours." Just a note
for the future, variable hours means "whenever the fuck we feel
like letting you go." Last night we worked from 1 PM to 3 AM. Variable
hours means you can be working a part time job that gets you 5 hours
of overtime on bad weeks. It's one of those things with inherent
negative spirals, where more work means longer hours which means
more people quit which means even longer hours for those who are
left which means even more people quit..
I don't think anyone would blame you for wanting to leave a
job like that.
Wouldn't they? I'm not so sure. I have a horrible guilt complex
about this sort of thing. I mean, I'm writing a whole article about
it, aren't I?
Shit, my fourth wall just fell down, be right back.
After all, that's the whole point of this. Am I the bad guy? Am
I lazy? Am I an ungrateful little brat for hating the jobs I take
when there are people all around me in this town who have to work
60 hour weeks in saw mill or a coal mine? I mean for Christ's sake,
it's a part time job where you can have a 13 hour shift. That sounds
bad. I've been there 8 months and I want out. Yet there are people
who have been there for 10 years. 10 Goddamn years of putting papers
into other papers. How can I feel right complaining when there are
people who take all this shit year after year?
Or is it their fault? Do they deserve what they get? Are they
the goldfish with 12-second memories, realizing the bowl is closing
in on them right before they forget they're in a bowl at all? They
could leave at any time too.. or can they? Does their willingness
to suffer negate my own problems? Do my feet ache any less because
someone else decided this is their zenith of their professional
lives? Or is my own suffering simply an amplification of minor concerns
to fill the void left by lack of any "real" problems? I don't have
a family to feed, I don't have debts to pay.. But are such things
required to justify unhappiness?
That's deep, man.
I'm not trying to be deep. And I honestly don't want to sound
like a 14 year-old angsting in his Livejournal.
Too late for that.
But the question just keeps coming up in my mind.
I know why I hate my jobs. I didn't at first, but I've learned.
I hate them for the same reasons I take them. I'm afraid to do anything
I'm not sure I can do. I'm scared to death that I'll be standing
in front of a customer or a boss or anybody and I won't have the
answer any reasonable person in my position should have. So I take
jobs that are so far beneath my ability that I could have a fence
post lodged in my brain and still manage to perform my duties so
long as I could find an appropriately dapper hat. Then the tedium
and the uselessness of my job grate on me enough that after a few
months I'm in a desperate panic to get out so I can start the whole
process over again. That's what makes me feel guilty in the first
place. It's not that I can't do it, it's that I don't want
to do it. But hey, life isn't fair, there are starving children
in China, etcetera, etcetera.
So what is it you're looking for?
...Someone to give me a weak justification for something I'm arguing
about whether I need to justify to begin with so I can feel better
superficially. You really don't make this easy for me. And you're
Fine. So there isn't an answer. Some help you are. I'm going back
Try instructional pamphlets.