It's raining in Brooklyn. Big, fat drops making a strange sort of music on our A/C window unit. Kind of like an oversized music box that hasn't been tuned in a long, long time.
Interesting few weeks. For those not in the know, I made a bit of a foolish mistake. Suddenly realizing that the pittance I was making at Royalties R Us wasn't going to be enough, I quit that job in a fit of confidence that Jelly Temps would find me something relatively high-paying as quickly as they usually do. This would've worked, except...well, I'll get to that in a minute.
So two weeks go by and nothing. I mean zippo on a friggin' stick. I call around twice a week, and have conversations with the various Jelly offices that go something like this:
"Hi, this is matthew, one of your temps."
"Yeah, I was just calling to see if there were any assignments starting soon."
"Okay, what's your social?"
I give them my number.
"Hm. Umm, well, nothing at the moment, but I'll put your name on our available list."
"Thanks for calling!!" (perky smiley voice)
Something isn't right. The fact that the economy is still crawling out of the tar pits is all well & good, but my bullshit detector is going nuts, & I can't tell why.
I try calling some other agencies, and they don't even want to talk to me. One of the larger ones practically laughs in my face, saying to call back in a month, if then. "Okay," I think, "Maybe it is just the economy." No. Something else is going on. These Jelly Temps people only start giving me the pushoff once I give them my social security number & they see my file. What are they seeing?
I'm tipped off to a possible answer when the Brooklyn office says they have a data entry job, but they don't see any data entry scores for me. I start to protest, & she gives me the name-on-the-list maneuver. Okay, that's it.
I decide to march down to the main office where I originally registered. I have Evelyn The Perky Phone Lady pull up my database file with me standing there, & sure enough, there I am on the screen: an unskilled laborer. I am a barnacle on the economic butt of New York City. I have no qualifications whatsoever, and have I ever considered a career in fishmongering or turkey insemination? I have been waiting for two weeks under the assumption that these people have actually been trying to employ me, when in fact they were staring at their screens, wondering how the fuck this ass-thumbing hayseed got past the screening process.
I suggest to Evelyn that there might be a few things missing from the computer record, and would she mind pulling the paper file? She says she will. I ask her if she would mind doing it RIGHT NOW while I watch her? This seems to do the trick. My goodness, these are the highest data entry scores she's ever seen. Yeah, no ffffffucking shit. That's kinda why I expected you to put them on the fffffffucking computer so that I could MAYBE get a job. I don't suppose you know how many VIN numbers, trucking routes, and ffffffucking movie showtimes I have entered in order to provide Jelly Temps with such a mind-boggling data entry wunderkind? Ranties, ranties.
Well, she'll put these in right away. Perhaps she would like to do it RIGHT NOW while I stand here and watch her? Ah.
Sooo, the rest of the story is that I have a job, starting on Monday. Working for a womens clothing designer, no less. Oddly, my prime selling point for this assignment (other than the aforementioned bedazzling data entry scores) was that I happened to include AS400 on my list of computer familiarities. Apparently they don't find nearly enough old farts who can work the nasty old mainframe shit, so now I'm a rare find. Well, zippity doo fucking dah.
Aside from the above-referenced Chinese water torture, I'm having a mostly good time. Went to the Met and saw a great exhibit on old musical instruments. (They have the world's most complicated bassoon, with 12 keys for the left thumb alone) Went to Coney Island, an experience that everyone should have at least once in their life. Little kids catching big shitloads of crab and selling it to passersby, Islamic women hoisting their coverings up an inch to run through the waves, a rusty old ferris wheel that's sure to come down and kill hundreds of people if you're there on the right day. It's great.
Went halfway across Brooklyn (it's a big ass place, I'll tell you now) in an attempt to find a closer Sam Ash music store than the one in Times Square, but just because something's in the same borough don't mean shit. The subways eventually run out around the Bensonhurst neighborhood, & you've gotta take the bus. The slowwwww bus. I spent half the day getting there and back, and part of it was spent walking down a long stretch of highway shoulder between the bus stop and the store. There are parts of New York where you just need a damn car, apparently.
That lower, far-out section of Brooklyn is very nice, however, and really should qualify as a suburb of its own. If I didn't want to go to Manhattan very often, it would be a great place to live.
Struck up a conversation with a rather friendly real estate agent/failed painter on the sidewalk in Windsor Terrace (southern edge of Prospect Park) who proffered that Sunset Park (my hood) is supposed to be the next big commuter residence destination. I told him I found that unlikely, & he surreptitiously revealed that he did, too. He lives a few blocks away from me & he's just as bewildered by the Spanish menus at the local delis as I am. So of course, maybe I'd like a brochure for some places in Windsor Terrace...sure, gimme your card. Who the hell knows? Nice neighborhood, and I do like Prospect Park.
I did some wandering around in my current hood & I think I like it better than I did, though. I still can't read most of the signs on the shops, but everyone's friendly. And the residential blocks are actually very well-kept when you get a little farther from the freeway than we are. It was on one of these blocks where I saw the world's fattest little Hispanic kid getting out of a car holding the most gigantic ice cream pop I've ever seen. And you've never seen a smile as big as the one on this kid's face. Damn.
But none of that is on my mind right now. No. That's not why I felt compelled to write something. Not really. The reason I'm up and sleepless is because tonight while I'm washing dishes in the shared kitchen, I run into Oliver, the German tenant who lives two floors up. He usually just stares at me in that detached, narrow-lidded, amused way that Germans look at Americans. It's quite unnerving, but nowhere near as weird as the following conversation.
"So," he begins, in perfect Raiders of the Lost Ark Nazi tones, "Your wife. You live in ze same room with her?"
"Uhh, yeah," I respond, cautiously. Where might this be going?
"Do you enjoy zis?" Okay, now it's just gotten weird. Oliver ze upstairs German ist tryinck to get inside mein head.
"Well, I don't think I would have married her if we couldn't live in the same space," I venture.
He cocks a brow under his invisible SS fedora. "I suppose zat is one vay of looking at it." He goes on: "My girlfriend, in Germany...ve cannot...I must be having some space, you know?"
I'm thinking that maybe he's trying to work through some issues here, maybe a little male bonding or something. Okay, I'm game.
"I know what you mean. I lived with an old girlfriend for a while, and it didn't work out at all. It's much better if you have the right person," I say, with a sympathetic head nod and my best attempt at a Harrison Ford lopsided grin.
Nothing. Just narrowed German eyes studying me, as a German spider might study a trapped French ladybug in his web, deciding where to insert the poison first.
"Ze beer is very expensive here," is what I get, finally.
What? "Yeah, um, well, it is New York."
"Mm. So. Your music," he offers, as if trying to top his previous non-sequitur. I remember that he saw me fiddling around with my guitar on the stoop a couple of weeks ago.
"Yeah, I'm recording an album. I have a studio setup in my room," yaddah, yaddah, ramble, ramble.
"And your wife, she is in zis room with you?" A difficult concept to grasp, it seems.
"Oh, yeah, she's very supportive. Moving to New York was actually her idea."
"I...am used to, you know, having some space. My girlfriend, in Germany, you know, it is not possible."
Okay, this is the second time we've hit upon this topic. "Well, it helps if you have the right person."
Silence. Then, "Perhaps." Another long pause, eyeing the prey. "Perhaps. Well," he says, lowering his brow, "Good night."
And with an amused smile, Oliver goes back to his very own space. What the...who the...why the...? Fuck. Now I don't know WHAT just happened. Either the language barrier has just triumphed, or Oliver is one weird Kraut (I can say that, because I have the same general genetic background). Or maybe he's a guy who just needs a lot of personal space, and feels compelled to tell his housemates about it, lest they think they can move in one day.
I would be inclined to think that Oliver is a lonely man in a foreign country, estranged from his girlfriend in Deustcheland, and is looking for romantic advice. I would be inclined to think that, were it not for the creepy manner in which he studies my responses. Maybe I've just watched too many movies, and I'm waiting for the part where he pulls out the hot fire poker.
I go back to our room, and I don't come out again. Something's definitely wrong with Oliver. And one day I'm gonna have to answer a lot of police questions about him. "Yeah, he was kind of a quiet guy. Liked his space. I think he made a few Indiana Jones movies."