Friday, August 29, 2003

I had an old friend over for dinner last night. We've known each other for many years. Grew up together. It was another place and another time, and I certainly never thought we'd end up so closely linked in this far away land after all these years.
Now the funny thing is that our situations are very similar. Not our personal lives - I've opted for a family, house and pets, while he's doing the bachelor thing with a cool car, condo by the beach, and no attachments - but our professional lives. Though our fields of expertise differ and the work we do is of a dissimilar nature, we both find ourselves having the owner of the company himself as our boss.
This type of situation is not to be compared to that of much smaller business enterprises, such as a small corner grocery store, where it's basically the owner, his wife and a hired clerk. No, though the two companies I speak of clearly belong in the realm of "small business," they each employ somewhere around 30 workers.
In both our cases the operation is entirely run by us and the company employees are under our supervision. We answer directly and only to the President and owner of the company. This has its pros and cons. Obviously there's a great deal of autonomy allowed, but there's also a lot of direct pressure on us to keep things within certain budget restrictions.
The most bothersome part of such an arrangement is the tacit understanding there is between the owners and the managers, that the manager is obligated to "willfully" sacrifice his time and personal needs for the good of the company. It is silently acknowledged by both participating parties that, though not directly benefiting from the net profits gained by the company, it is the manager's duty to treat the business as if it were his own.
This creates a conflict of sorts, since the manager's hard work is not complimented by bonuses or overtime. His base salary is supposed to be handsome enough to cover any extra hours he may have to put in. But after a while that early eagerness we have when we first get hired on, to work restlessly in pursuit of lofty unselfish goals for the overall good of the company, gets lost in the bitterness inevitably born when we tire of the thankless rewards we reap, day after day.
The bottom line is that you are just an employee, and like other employees you would like to be reimbursed for the time you spend on the job. It isn't fair for the owner to put you in a position where you are expected to think and act like a partner while in actuality you're just another poor working stiff.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

The entrance to hell lay beyond a short white picket fence, through a broken gate that was barely hanging on a single hinge. It wasn't the type of fence you envision in your 'American Dream' landscapes. It was a rickety, old, cheap looking and splintered, nasty set of paint chipped boards that were loosely arrayed together in a crooked line. They divided the dirt sidewalk that almost seamlessly joined the street from a front yard that was splattered with color. There were odd things laying about, randomly calling to your attention or begging you to look away. Broken toys and rusted car parts...a broken window frame...blue plastic tarps, stuffed behind a leafless bush...a baby stroller with a tire rim inside. A small potted plant stood in the pathway to the front door, but the plant had withered away to a twig. There was no grass. Whatever ground you could see was dirt, layered with trash and the droppings left about by the house bitch's latest litter.
The smell permeated your senses before you arrived there. Once you crossed the gate you began to develop a numbness of sorts. Your subconscious allowed you to brush the smell and overwhelming filth aside. The candy they served at the end of this journey made the suffering well worthwhile.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

It was a crappy job, but still...it got me through nearly four years of college. Playing rent-a-cop at an abandoned brewery in L.A. Yet I let it go just to keep my long hair. It wasn't really the long hair that mattered so much (or so I told myself), it was "the principle of the thing." I didn't believe anybody should be able to control me to such a point that they could tell me I needed a haircut whenever they felt like it, regardless of my job performance or my overall personal grooming, or how it affected my work related tasks. I'd already spent three years in the Army being told what I could or couldn't do. When I got out I promised myself I'd never be pushed into a position like that again.
So, I quit. As it was, I'd been suspended without pay until I gave in, so I wasn't getting anywhere. Besides, quitting seemed to give me the moral upperhand somehow.
Now I found myself wihout any source of income, no immediate family within 5000 miles, and no savings. All I had were 3 months of school left (to finish the semester, not to get a degree); tons of debt and an overdue rent payment.
I began to pay my half of the rent by giving my roomate some of my things - VCR, stereo, movies and records, that sort of stuff.
Things weren't coming together for me, they were falling apart. I tried to find any kind of a job where they didn't care how long my hair was, but I couldn't find a thing. I saw lots of people with long hair, just never quite understood how they managed to make a living.
Eventually I had to move away from the city. I was sick of it, with all its false pretensions of freedom and liberation. It was all so plastic, so phony. I imagine it still is. I couldn't stomach the people anymore. Mind you, I had so few friends that it's not like the city was begging me to stay, either. There had grown a mutual lack of fondness between us. I felt we both knew it was high time I left.
My life would change completely after that.