In which the author admits to how completely she misunderstands the American way
I have been out of work for nearly 3 months. I had a contract with the loss prevention (LP) department at the headquarters of a niche retailer. And then I took a contract that turned out to be a scam: on payday I woke up to check my bank account and it had been wiped out, demolished, overdrawn. The company to which I contracted was non-existent and offshore. All the email addresses of all the contacts I had were now invalid. Of course unemployment was denied because I left my previous contract a week early. (Take that RTW.)
I had attempted to keep a healthy distance between my own perspective on crime and those of the employees in LP. Because I was contract, I could get away with this to some extent, but daily I got more disgusted with the whole concept. First, I don’t have any principled issues with theft. I don’t commit theft, but I don’t see all theft as necessarily bad. Second (and a bigger problem), the managers and representatives in the LP dept were perched so high up on moral horses but were profligate liars. Everything was false: from how well they were doing on their diets to how I should fuck about with figures in analyses, it was all facade. The director denied how disabling was her back pain so she could keep working, the analyst pretended she didn’t mind not being the boss, the manager faked caring about anyone but himself, the coordinator was jealous of everyone. The whole purpose of the department was to ensure that The Business could make more money by “preventing” theft and grift and prosecuting “bad people.” And to do this, mostly, they avoided telling the truth. It was so twisted. When I was offered another job, I vacated the last week of the LP dept contract without much communication. I fled towards anything else.
You see, I have no fondness for corporate mostly, and very little understanding of what the fuck good is capitalism. I don’t care at all for the consumption culture. I don’t get it. It’s a weird problem for an American.
But I love the City. After living in rural areas and a city with fewer than a million residents, I’m easier and more myself in L.A. I know L.A. is not a cheap place to live. I know I do not subscribe to a popular ideal. I am trying to hammer this out.
I am terrible with money, as good as I am at logic and math. I don’t understand it at all. I budget to the dime and I lose tens of dollars to things I can’t recall. (I gave away a healthy bit of my paycheques.) I once visited a banker on my lunch hour and asked with the sincerity of a novitiate for advice on how to save. He said, “put a picture of something big and expensive you want in your wallet, or on your bank card. Every time you go to pay for something else, you’ll be reminded that you need to save for that bigger thing.” I didn’t have anything “big” I wanted. “A nice TV? A new car?” No, nope. I made up that I wanted to travel, but that’s not totally on the radar.
Really, I want to give it away. Right now I want to make money so I can send it to the Moth and to Much and to Ipso and pay artists to be artists. I want to pay for my rent and bills and get groceries and spend all my free time writing and fucking and laughing. Seeing the sunset. Drinking coffee and wine and smoking cigarettes. But I have to figure out how to mortally wound this looming loathing I have for corporate. Otherwise, I remain an unemployed beneficiary of other peoples’ good wills.
I avoid supermarkets. I go to a local poulter, a local butcher, farmers markets, a sole-proprietorship tobacconist. I bite my tongue and fingers when I enter a chain market to get coconut oil and butter. I have made friends at the nearby Starbucks, admittedly, and I pay for coffees there a few times a week , though I can appreciate the sensibilities of that corporation. (And I know them from having worked there for years.) My clothes are all second hand, from charity thrift shops. (I guess not my socks and shoes, but these are usually from discount warehouse type places. Generally, I just suck at retail.)
Please let me point this out in case it isn’t clear: I am not saying any of this to proselytize. You can do whateverthefuck you want with your money. It’s yours. This is my own shit. I do not carry any aconsumerism/acorporate(ism) torch to win souls to my side. This is how I do my life, and I am aware it’s mine to figure out. If you feel like I’m trying to convince you to do it my way, you’ve missed the point. I am writing this to process. I do not want to chase a paycheque for the sake of it, but at the same time I’m so confused as to any other way around this shit. Lacking any poker face, I am uselessly honest in interviews. “I realize that business is business, and there’s a bottom line to tend, but nobody’s life is on the line. It does no one any good and does nothing to serve the project if I lose my cool under pressure.” Perhaps this is too casual for most employers.
I wish I could give a fuck.
Or I wish I could give up giving a fuck.
How do I do that? Being penniless is bothersome because it’s tenuous. When does goodwill run out? I despair the dependency and I’m flirting dangerously with depression because I am so unsettled. I want to work but how come it has to mean nothing? The job market is not such that I can expect someone to give me a chance on a new career/job title, even with the skills I have and the intellect and creativity I possess – there are too many candidates with finely precisely the skills required. I’m chained to the shit I know I can do, that I can say I’ve done, which of late is big corporate and is mired in ugliness. “How to make more money for people who have embarrassing amounts of money.”
I have the heart of a barterer, but I do not have the will of a bargainer. I can barely see corporate wageslaving as trade for my time.
Would it be too bold to say I miss sex work? Fuck it, I don’t care. Sex work is negotiated and upfront. There was no bullshit, no licensing, no fucking litigation. You want me for X many hours to do Y things for Z much money. What about this for that? Yeah? We good? Awesome. Let’s do this.
I’d love to sum this up in a tidy conclusion that makes the previous 1100 words at all useful beyond a plaintive whingefest, but I’m still mixed up. Though I’m somewhat less sour. Of course the mellow might be because I’m sipping tea I got from a tiny shopkeeper who doubled the amount I requested (not charging me) with a wink and said, “feel better soon, come back and see me.”
And that I will.