Thursday
Dec012005

« Wealth, Reconsidered »

Today I woke up at 9:30. It was a rare day off from work. It was one of those days that, as a day off from work and one where I would lose a day's pay, I dread seeing on the schedule. I have more of these days to come in December since the company falls into the typical holiday slow period. I hope I don't have enough days off to cripple my income—that would be too many. But there might be a kicker of a week next week, with predicted overtime that might help bouy up the weaker time ahead by a small margin. Last night had a couple hours of OT dropped in at the last minute which made me feel a little better about today's "loss."

Almost as soon as I woke up, I got a call from Eric with whom I used to work in the sound biz. I approached him about doing a site survey at my church since there has been some interest in getting a proper PA system there. I had also booked another contractor for today but he couldn't make it. Eric told me he could meet as soon as I could. I got to the church an hour later, getting caught in some wicked traffic until I could take another route which was probably equally slow but less tedious. It used to take less than ten minutes to drive two miles. Now it takes 20 minutes to drive ten miles if everything is working my way. Today took 40 minutes. Eric and I did the site survey and were done in about 30 minutes. I didn't know Mike (the other contractor) wasn't able to make it, so I busied myself with breakfast and some reading on James Kunstler's book, The Long Emergency while I waited, supposedly until he called a while later to get directions.

Then I went to the church office at the beckoning of the secretary Beverly who was stumped about how to receive her e-mail (such people still exist, yes). So I did the usual battery of send/receive tests and concluded things were fine. What I didn't know is that somehow she didn't know about the "send and receive all" button, and was startled to learn that the inbox doesn't just magically update itself upon launch. Oh well, not everyone was born with a silicon chip in their mouth (they didn't exist when Bev was born). I hate Windows OS, being a Mac guy, but really, I learned Mac from making all sorts of mistakes, and since her email hadn't been checked since I gave her the church address a few months ago, all of a sudden there came a few dozen emails. So I showed her how it all worked, and after endearing myself to her for my troubleshooting effort, then some other "hurdles" of hers surfaced, and I helped her with those too.

Then I called to find out that Mike K. from Pro Sound would not be able to make it to the church, so it was time to get on with the next part of the day. After doing my trustee's job of being the technical go-between and getting bids for the PA system project, and offering expert advice on computers (both of which would fetch some handsome cash if I were billing), I then called Dee, the lady who writes the church Christmas play each year. Back in the day, I used to be one of the thespians. Now I provide expert audio editing and production services.

Dee needed a list of songs edited down in clever ways to enhance their play. So she came over here and spent a couple of hours as we took a variety of Christmas songs and diced them up to accomplish certain things that the script required. Some were simple fades, but some took some digital surgery. For a retired schoolteacher, digital audio editing is quite a new thing. For me, it's standard fare. She never realized how deep I was into all this. And today, I didn't even have the luxury of using ProTools. Nonetheless, Peak is capable if the imagination exists to use it that way. So I wrangled samples of Bing Crosby and the Chipmunks into form and she left. I spent another hour tidying it all up and cutting the CD.

Then it was time to clean up after my hard day at work. I had my solo counseling appointment at 7 pm. Today, it was said that I seemed in a far better mood than before, despite the range of thorny and complex things I often report on, and still reported on tonight, but with some levity. I left there feeling better that maybe things are better and that I can deal better with things. I've been going continuously for over two years since I was in the throes of clinical depression in summer of 2003. I am thinking of discontinuing for reasons that are primarily financial, but also it seems that it's time to take the training wheels off and see how things go when I soar without a net.

I left there and took Dee her CD. She was delighted. It led to a conversation that took the next hour and a half or so. I've known Dee for years and years, but this was a totally unique conversation. It was real validating. There was a lot of peak oil talk because it's impossible to have anyone understand what makes me tick without encountering that topic. But it carried us through talk about music, my old recordings, and the one that Kelli and me did some years ago, and through literature and politics. It was great. It was, as Martin Buber would say, meeting. And, actually the Buberian reference is appropos to this talk with Dee at her house. It was in 1989, and again this summer when a small group of church folks did a detailed study of Buber's I and Thou, in which a central tenet of the book is that all real living is meeting.

Then I left and chased all over North Park for a grocery store that was open after 11. I got some stuff and ate a tasty salad and reflected on my day.

I didn't earn a damn cent today. In the morning, when I got the phone for Eric's call, I noticed that there was a call from work asking if I'd come in for three hours. I didn't reply. Nor did I reply to the call three hours later. I'm not boasting; I just decided my day was valuable to me in its own right, using the skills or talents I have to make myself useful to individuals and to my church community as a whole. On a day like today, I didn't complain for getting gypped of hours or pay. I didn't complain for what I didn't have. I only enjoyed what I did have, and shared it freely. I had a whole different experience even within that aspect of things—I've done lots of "free" work for people before, and some of that is what drove me to depression. I've done a lot of audio work and recording work for too little. Either it was on spec or an outright lie that I would be paid but wasn't. I've done years and years of work for peanuts. I often still feel that I have never really gotten my fair share in some deals. But today, I did a lot of things that if I billed as a professional, I could do pretty well. I used to pay out of my own pocket the cost of studio time to accomplish what I did for Dee today: I paid $200 for this same type of work back in 1994-1998! Who knows how much Bev would be in for if she really called a tech to fix her little email issue, but let's say that its at least $30 an hour. I'm already anticipating doing the church PA installation myself, probably as assistant to whoever we hire.

A day like today reminds me that money is not everything. In some ways, I wish I had gone to work, but really I wish that only because my wage would be handy when it comes time for bills this month. I have enough to get by, but I worry about it a lot because Kelli can't work, and any money she has to offer now is from financial aid loans. But today was so rich for me. So validating. I often feel that my contribution at work is so little valued, even at the wage I get. I feel often that I am very replaceable. But at my church, and with folks who stem from that central relationship, I am someone. Someone who can do something unique, or someone who sees the world in a different way that challenges them. Some days I use my computer chops, or today my musical ear and ability to edit like a composer. Two weeks ago it was my ox-like ability to move staggeringly heavy furniture on my own before anyone arrived to the work party. It's weird. I get paid to do that sort of thing but feel devalued. But if I do it for free without being asked, I feel like someone special.

If I had other ways of coping within the economic system of the present, I would just quit my job altogether. For now, it's time for bed. I get up at 6:45. It's 12:30 am.

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