6-18-03, 5:45 PM -

I won't do it. I won't let them make me care.

No, no, no, no, no.


Two days ago, they move me down to the 7th floor. Desk reorganization, systems realignment, whatever. My assumption is that the rest of the Loan Processing staff, usually 5 to 7 people strong, will follow. My assumption is wrong.

The leader of that staff, a near-elderly woman named Essie, comes down with me. The rest of the staff is assigned new duties, and me & Essie are now the Loan Processing department. Well, almost.

Newly added to the ranks are Tarim, a witless wonder with a neck the size of an asteroid worm, and Sam, a cool old black hipster who nonetheless has the data entry skills of...well, an asteroid worm.

But wait, wait, there's more. Not only are 4 people (3 really, since Tarim's and Sam's output combined equals mine) going to do the work of 5, but--that's right--OUR DUTIES WILL BE EXPANDED.

I should be a goddamn fortune teller.

I knew this would fucking happen. So now, for the last 3 days, Essie has endlessly fretted about the growing stack of unfinished work, cowering before managers who cheerfully insist, "You'll find a way," and asking me once a day why it is that I can't stay past 5:30.

I'm not going to feel sorry for her. I'm not, I'm not, I'm not. But I do. But I can't. Because if I do, then they win. These MBA-totin', staff-firin', work-increasin' fuckmonkeys get to take home an extra bonus dollar while Essie worries herself into an early grave, or at least a heart attack.

I will not fucking do it. The work that's not finished at 5:30 stays not finished, and the rat bastards will have to hire enough fucking people to do the job, or their clients will start making like Martha Stewart and jumping off the capsizing party boat.

I am tired of this shit. Maybe it's because of my lack of Official Business Training, but I fail to see where reducing staff, increasing work, and driving up stress levels nets you anything but high turnover and the possibility of someone showing up for work in fatigues, carrying a violin case. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I don't care. Get the hell out of my life.

Matters are complicated a bit by the fact that two of the team members can barely speak to one another. Those two would be me & Tarim. I don't have this happen often, really I don't, but there is such a thing as hate at first sight.

I don't know Tarim from Adam, nor he me, but somehow, on what seems to be a cellular level, we hate each other. His slitty eyes bother me. His shit-eating grin bothers me. His single-syllable utterances, usually not even actual words, bother me.

And yet it's more than that. There's a certain knowledge in our rare instances of eye contact, that we have absolutely nothing to say to each other.

If I were a woman, and this were a novel, now would be the time when I'd tell you how we started fighting one day & ended up fucking each other's brains out. But I'm not, and this isn't, so those of you looking for hot butt-lovin' will have to settle for plain old hate.

In fact, what scared me most about the present sweatshop situation was when we all had a moment of Victim Solidarity, borne of a bitch session following some unconvincing executive back-patting.

No sir, thank you very much, I am NOT going down the David-n-Goliath Us-n-Them path with two deflated old farts & a knuckle-dragging sack of meat. I'm not doing it. Fuck that and the monkey pox-carrying prairie dog it rode in on.

It may seem from all of this that my life is some heretofore unexplored circle of Hell right now. This is actually quite far from the case, as I have recently gotten my album back from the mastering lab, & all ships are a-sail for the pressing. Caveat time: After we finish the artwork.

Which isn't really a big honking deal. I just wanted to prove that my reputation for dithering was consistent. I'm setting deadlines for myself though, so fear not. (it's available now, have a look - ed.)

Right, enough of that crap. Back to workplace hatred.

Our "department" is headquartered in an unused conference room next to Big Jimmy's office. Big Jimmy is the only goyish boss in the whole of Bigass Bank, and he is apparently in the throes of a midlife crisis. Any 50-year-old bank manager who cranks Tears For Fears' Shout five times a day at wall-shaking volume is definitely wrestling with some demons.

The fact that he follows it up with Lyin' Eyes is also something of a red flag, not to mention a bad mental image.

Funnily, while Glen Frey & the boys were singing cheatin' songs through the office wall, Sam, eyebrow raised, posed the question, "What IS that hillbilly shit?". I couldn't help wondering if whiteys are pretty much whiteys, regardless of latitude.

Our cozy closet seems to be a prime target for bored tech guys in search of conversation. Particularly One-Joke Louie. For three weeks now, starting when I was in my 9th floor corner, One-Joke Louie has cracked his own fat Dominican ass up by calling me Agent Smith, on account of my somewhat Matrix-like radio earpiece.

Once is fine. Twice is a chuckle. Every hour on the hour is playing with homicide. And it's not bad enough that he still thinks it's really funny. He has to ask the whole room--the same three people every time, mind you--if they can see how much I look like Agent Smith.

Sam doesn't even answer anymore, and Essie, of course, hasn't the foggiest idea what he's talking about. Which seems to slip One-Joke Louie's mind every hour on the hour as he puzzles over why no one's laughing. He's convinced we just don't know what he's talking about.

"Didn't jou see The Matreex?" he implores his captive audience, "Doesn't he look like Agent Smeeth?" At which point he attempts a fat Dominican impersonation of said agent, putting his hand on everyone's shoulder and intoning, "We've been looking for jou, Meester Onderson."

I must admit a break in the clouds of hatred towards Tarim when at last he said, "Yeah, well as least he doesn't look like the Oracle. Why don't you go use your powers on Big Jimmy?" I'll give credit where it's due. Though I would've been happier if One-Joke Louie's response hadn't been, "Didn't jou see The Matreex?"

In other news...

I've been using my lunch hour to pursue universal balance. No, really.

See, there's this one cashier at Kentucky Fried Chicken who, for some reason, gives me five pieces when I order my four-piece Original Recipe meal there on Tuesdays & Thursdays. It costs exactly $7.05. Because I empty my pocket change into our household change bucket at night, I never have the five cents it would take to keep her from having to give me 95 cents change.

For the past five months, she blithely dismissed my proffered eighth dollar, insisting, "It's only change. No biggie." But sometime in the last two weeks, it became a biggie.

It started with a slight reduction in tooth cleavage when she smiled her KFC smile. This reduction escalated (if a reduction can do such a thing), until by last Thursday, she was giving me a look that I suspect has only rarely been seen outside a divorce court. I had ridden the ride, and now I had to pay the coachman. Fearful of losing my extra chicken piece--which is juuust enough to top off the tank, something the four-piece strains to do--I had to think fast.

It wasn't until I sat down to my Sesame Chicken at Lichee Nut--eaten every Monday, Wednesday, & Friday--that it occurred to me: I get exactly five cents back from this restaurant on the days before my KFC visits. If I merely keep that five cents in my pocket until the next day, I can get my extra piece AND make the chicken lady happy. Huzzah!

So on Tuesday, Operation Keep The Chicken was set to deploy. Stepping up proudly to the always rather suspiciously sticky counter, I thrust forward my bills, topped by the shiny nickel I'd saved the day before, and announced, "Four-Piece Original Recipe, please."

You'd have thought I'd proposed marriage. There was the smile. Even a wink. Upon sitting down at my usual downstairs table, I peered into the patented red-and-white box. TWO extra pieces. Universal balance restored. Let's hope that's all she wants...

Been exploring our new neighborhood a bit. Lots of cool-looking restaurants, but the move is sapping our fundage a tad, so we'll have to try 'em out next month. It still doesn't feel like 'home' yet, but neither did Sunset Park when I first showed up.

I feel a little pang of good memory when I venture into that part of Brooklyn now, which is hardly surprising. That's where I learned to be a New Yorker, which is one hell of a process, & you always bond closest with those who weather the nastiest crises with you.

One thing that's making it difficult to bond with our new place is that there are so many trains. You can get home any damn way you please. The A, C, E, 1, 9, N, R, W, all of 'em take you home. In Sunset Park, if you wanted to go somewhere, the R train was your ticket. Your only ticket. Which was a real pain in the ass in the middle of the night when the damn things only came every half-hour.

But after a hard day's work or a hard night's drunk, that little yellow circle with the "R" on it said 'home'. 'This is the train that takes you home'. Now everything takes me home. Seems impersonal somehow. Funny how total reliance on a limited option makes one feel strangely attached to that option. I sometimes just take the R train home now just because it feels warm & fuzzy to me, even though the others are technically closer.

The only equivalent in our present location is the bus, which, if you happen to catch it, shuttles you over the two avenues you would have to walk in its absence. It's the only bus that goes over to our block, but it's really not necessary, which makes it hard to bond with.

Been doing a bit of people-watching, too. I get the feeling that I'm the only one who's not wearing his costume around here. You see 'em walking around trying to be correctly identified, like some sort of adult urban Halloween.

"I'm an indie rock guitarist."

"I'm a personal trainer."

"I'm GAY, GAY, GAY!!"

"I won't mug you, but I want you to think I will."

I was used to being stared at in Little Puerto Rico, but I get a lot of the same looks from whiteys in Hell's Kitchen. I think they're trying to decipher my costume.

"Unemployed screenwriter?"


"Public radio host?"

The little glasses may denote something vaguely intellectual, and the old Converse sneakers keep me a bit out of the mainstream, but what's with the hair? That Man on the Moon shirt might make me a half-assed anarchist of some kind, but there are no piercings.

"Comic book store employee? No, too thin." I can see their little gears turning as they stroll the sidewalk, fashion-show style, feeling very pleased with themselves for being cool enough to live in New York.

And you know what? I am, too. And before long, maybe people here will know what a nerd-rocker costume looks like.

All right, time to pick up a six-pack of Michelob Ultra (yeah, it's horse piss, but Atkins calls) and shake this crappy workday off. Soon, very soon, the matthew show will go on the air. Pete help us all.



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