« Bummer »

Well, it's not often I get called to the boss' office at work, but it happened this Tuesday. I was told there was a problem with the entire company's numbers of people being served, and that as a result, there would be one lunch site cut out, and one home delivered meal route merged with the others, and the drivers reduced to three. I was the fourth, hired a year and a couple months ago. The boss did have a little bit of wrangling to do with the county agency that ordered the cost cutting, but she wasn't holding out a lot of hope. Sure enough, two days later there was an envelope with my name on it awaiting me at the office, confirming it all. I still have two weeks there.

As a job, and as a source of income, it didn't amount to much in quantifiable terms. The money was a little under $10 an hour, but there were some basic benefits that I could get, and for the first time, a share of PTO, holiday pay, and even vacation time. So it was a better job than other ones I've had, and way more solid in terms of hours—30 every week, regardless. Sometimes, there was a lot less work than that, but they still paid for 30 a week, for which I am grateful, because it meant that as there was less work, I didn't need to do this part time. They have a desire to keep people who want to be there, and until now, they did just that. I didn't have to do other stuff to make ends meet, so I was pretty relaxed and enjoyed doing the work.

It doesn't take a uniquely qualified person to do my job. I drive a truck and deliver meals to people, and talk to them. Minimal paperwork, lots of time out and about, dealing directly with my clients, some of whom have become friends, and in some cases, almost like surrogate grandparents. I've said it before, but it bears repeating—this job took on a meaning to me greater than just the money I got, and that's the real loss I feel. I never really chose this line of work, per se. Actually, I got a short lived driving gig at Poway Senior Center in September 2002 that I spent a year at, initially doing a two week fill in for one of the drivers there. Kelli got me that job, and I had no reason to believe it would last longer than the two weeks. At the time, I was doing a lot less music tech work than a year before, when 9/11 happened. I was barely holding stuff together at that point in 2002, so a $600 gig was nice. But then they asked me to stay on as a driver for the meals (instead of the shuttle driver), but the pay would be a quarter less, and there would be fewer hours. Well, that sucked less than nothing at all, and it kept Kelli and I working in the same office, which was nice. I did that for a year and a month, with a few weeks off in March 2003 and later in September. When that office totally cut out the single paid meal delivery driver spot, I got a transfer to Clairemont where the program was much bigger, and about 20 miles closer to home. That alone was a raise for me. So was a fixed schedule, and the benefits offered once I got past my probationary period. I easily got more than twice the compensation, let me say. Poway was pathetic, but I lived with it, and augmented it with some other stuff—usually music work of one sort of another.

I got the Clairemont gig the day after I left Poway, which gave me a couple weeks notice that that gig was over. And even that notice came within about two weeks of my desperate September episode of 2003. I was pretty scared about not working after getting past that stuff, but I got lucky and Clairemont had me down to meet and I got the job. Disaster averted. Maybe it was disaster delayed. I don't know what I'll do now. I never really applied to Clairemont. My resume and application were mainly just formalities, but I've never really done the honest job hunt thing with resumes and three interviews and stuff. It scares me. I hate selling myself that way. As a result, I'm pretty sure I'm not getting the best jobs I could be getting.

But that depends on what "best" is.

I worked for piss at Poway. Did better at Clairemont, and probably topped out anyway. But to me, the real charm of the job was that I didn't get up every morning and curse it, or curse my fate that I would be at such a place working for such wages. To me, they were fine for the way I live. The feeling that I operated under was that I was doing something useful and intrinsically satisfying. Sure, I made more money doing gigs and being crude like a sailor, but I was typically pretty depressed and angry in that scene. The value to me in this job was in how I could go in and talk to someone and maybe make them smile, or listen to them and just be witness to their lives. Maybe I got a deeper understanding of history from hearing how these people lived. Talking to people was in itself a liberal education. Witnessing how people lived helped give a face to some of the things I have read and learned in the time since starting this work. Feeling like a useful person (I don't say "productive" because there is nothing to produce, but I can be useful despite that) was good for recovering from depression. I don't remember many times when I woke up and hated my way through the day since taking this job. If I did, it was hardly ever to do with work or the people I encountered. I could enjoy the job because it didn't suck my energy or my soul from me. It was a good platform for developing my relationship, going to school, doing my church related stuff, and doing all the studying and activism that has defined the last year and a quarter for me.

Seeing it go, I can just hope that I can get into something that gives me some comparable feeling of accomplishment, while not robbing my life so much I can't do what I want to do to develop. I don't envy the people who work 40 hours, or even 80 hours. I just don't think that that is the road to happiness. It's more of a desperation, I think.

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