Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Flying Toasters

It is just another cruelty that there is no free coffee at work.

I have never worked in an office where coffee was not free. In the high-flying nineties, caffeine and high fructose corn syrup, believed to be the key ingredients of creativity and productivity, were in abundance. Today, austerity is the rule, cost-cutting the norm. I fear the future of the workplace. First they make you pay for coffee, what’s next? Personal phone calls? I shudder at the thought.

flying toasters by after darkIt was only 10am today and I was already getting sleepy. Too cheap to go get Starbucks at a buck sixty-five, I decided to tough it out. Eyelids heavy and drooping, I fought to keep my mind from shutting down, trying to stave off the mental flying toasters.

Realizing I was losing the battle, I instinctively positioned myself so that I wouldn’t look like I was sleeping from the passing, casual observer. With my back to the entrance of the cubicle, a pen in my right hand, and a stack of paper in front of me, I could pretend that I was intently reviewing documents. I leaned back into my chair to prevent my head from nodding.

For obvious reasons, this technique is only used for general short-term sleepiness. Eventually, somebody will notice that you have been in the same position for too long. Most people will be discreet and make noises to warn of their approach and even ignore the dried-up drool on the side of your mouth. Only the truly heinous will gloat in catching you.

Occasionally, the urge is so powerful that it requires a “power nap.” This will involve some absence from your desk. Once, I tried sleeping under my desk, but it was too cramped and uncomfortable, I had a kink in my neck for the rest of the day. It’s not worth it.

For most people, the only recourse is the bathroom. Sure, you’re not supposed to shit where you sleep, but nobody said anything about sleeping where you shit, as long as you’re not one of those people whose bowels move as soon as their ass touches a toilet seat. You don’t have to pull your pants down. But if you’re a stickler for “authenticity,” make sure your badge is not sticking out from under the stall. If nobody else moves into the next stall with Montezuma’s Revenge, you’ll emerge refreshed, ready to tackle the rest of the day.

A friendly note to alla you’s with your own offices, trust me, when your door’s closed, everybody knows you’re sleeping.

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For those who don't remember, "Flying Toasters" was the grandfather of the modern screensaver created by After Dark.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

My Inner Doublewide

the eisenhower expressway (with the sears tower in the distance)Is it a highway or is it a parking lot? At 7:30am, the Eisenhower is most definitely the latter. Cars and trucks sit side-by-side, occasionally inching forward, laboriously, like caterpillars. Windows are shut against the unseasonably cold March weather. The sun is my line of sight; bright and low, making my eyes squint and disappear into slanted thin lines, like an Asian caricature. Inside the car—my trusty Helen—I am yelling at the man on the radio.

The man, “Charles,” had called into the Drex Morning Radio Show talking about how he had banned his daughter from playing basketball because she’ll become a lesbian. He claimed that women in sports, particularly the WNBA, are lesbians. The man spoke deliberately, calmly articulating his position. Drex, knowing a good subject when he sees it, abandoned the previous topic of “My Kids are Making My Life Hell” and let the man hold court.

Immediately, the phone banks are full, with people waiting up to twenty minutes to get on the air to respond.

Female caller: I played sports in college, basketball, soccer. I like keeping myself fit and healthy. I have a husband and a daughter. I’m not a lesbian—

Charles: It doesn’t mean you’re not a lesbian. A lot of gay people are married and have children, trying to hide themselves. I think you need to think about yourself... (incoherent screaming)

Affronted by the man, I found myself dialing the number to the show.

The lines were busy, thank God. The anonymity of radio spurs otherwise respectable and sane people to descend to the level of a Jerry Springer audience. Relatively respectable and educated people routinely call and become the equivalent of the guy standing up in the audience to diss the “Overweight Stripper Who Stole My Man.” I normally cringe at the humiliation of people that passes for entertainment these days. Shows where people will air their dirty laundry for the price of a plane ticket and weekend hotel accommodations, where people get in line to be rudely Dismissed, where a t-shirt can get girls doggone wild.

Maybe it’s the boredom of the drive to work that makes people do things. Yes, in boredom I have done things that I normally wouldn’t do elsewhere, like pick my nose. I am not apologizing—you’ve done it too, I’ve seen you! Truckers, mothers, suits or sandals, young and old; I’ve seen you dig for that sweet buried treasure and flick it away with satisfaction!

Or maybe deep down, with my penchant for potted meat and White Castle hamburgers, I really belong in that trailer park. Maybe despite my urbane veneer, it only takes a radio show and long boring drive to work to bring out my inner doublewide.

Does this sound like you? Call me now at 1-800-MILKLESS.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

The B-List

I am experiencing something that has never happened in the previous three decades of my life: I am losing friends. Not to anything dire like death or diarrhea, but to changes in circumstance: relocation, marriage, gender reassignment. I am losing friends faster than I make them. How Monica, Chandler, Joey, Phoebe, Ross and Rachel managed to stay Friends for ten years and hang out at same coffee shop at the same time is for me, quite incredible.

In high school, I made friends because I didn't want to be miserable alone. In college I made friends because they owed me money. I had lots of friends.

Just a scant five years ago, I had to juggle my social calendar just to fit in my friends and keep track of them. Sometimes, I had to turn people away. I felt popular and had the tight-fitting, lycra-infused wardrobe to go with it. Now, I have barely a handful of people to call to go see a movie or have dinner with. They’re too busy to fit me into their schedule. The platform shoe is on the other foot.

I have not made a single new friend since. Without school and its general lack of responsibility to throw people together, it's hard to make friends. And I don't care what you say, unless you're fresh out of college or have better than a "C"-cup, nobody makes friends at work. For closeted gay people, it's also hard to make friends when you have to keep the fabulousness bottled up inside.

You know you have no friends when you start hanging out with your brother.

Part of it is my fault, of course. I have been accused of being attached to Brian's hip, unable to make a social commitment without his input. He may have committed us to a Psych department event, a dinner, or a rousing night of Parcheesi. I don't like to make plans to do something he doesn’t want to do and possibly have to deal with "the sulks." It works both ways. I once threw a fit when Brian told me we were going to see Elvira's Haunted Hills. People will put you on their B-list when you become indecisive, unavailable or a flake.

Maybe I have just lost the ability to make friends. Or maybe it is just because I am older. When you first meet someone, like say, in a bar or a party, it's cute to say "I wanna hang with you!?!" when you're in your early twenties. Not so cute when you're in your mid-thirties. The guy will likely look strangely at you and say, "what are you, a homo or something?" It's like you're a weirdo if you're 35 and have no friends. People expect to find you in the basement leering down on some girl you've trapped in a deep hole, muttering in a guttural voice, "It rubs the lotion on it's skin or else it gets the hose again."

Maybe it's the way of nature. When you're young and single, you need to travel in packs, roam about, pee in alleys. When you’re older and coupled, you're preparing to have or already have a brood (of cats, if you're queer). You have your loveable rugrats—you are a pack.

Part of me wishes that I am back in the social whirl, the late nights, the boozing, sporting a thick, lustrous mullet.

Part of me is content to be where I am, falling asleep on the couch, on a Friday night, on the top of that B-list.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Solitary Confinement

click to see ASCII hunkMy cubicle is nested in the center of the floor, farthest away from the windows. The light in the office is slightly tinged with blue, as if filtered through plastic terrarium walls. There is a faint smell of disinfectant. My fellow consultants are hunched over their computers, spinning the wheels of industry. On this floor, there is no one playing solitaire, no one surfing the Internet.

For consultants like me, Internet access is restricted, strictly for business. To underline this, each time you open your browser, you have to key in your user ID and password, as if to remind you of this restriction. Regular employees have full access. I guess it is fair. For IT consultants, who charge a butt-load an hour for their services, the client wants to make sure that they are getting the most out of their money. It doesn’t make me happy though.

I feel like I am in solitary confinement. I don’t know what’s going on in the world. The stock market could be up or down, a hurricane could be in sight, somebody could have discovered whether that is a hair piece or a comb-over on Donald Trump’s head. Without Instant Messaging, I actually have to call somebody and talk on the phone. I won’t be able to hide behind a :-) anymore. Without smilies, people will hear the impatience, the contempt in my voice. The only time I can look for a job is after work. But after the long drive, making dinner and the after-dinner blowjob, I have no energy left to browse CareerBuilder.

I don’t remember how it was before the Internet. A little over ten years ago when I entered the workforce, we barely had e-mail. We got excited over ASCII porn. Even spam was exciting. Yes, spam! We were hungry for it. Send me more jokes, Reader’s Digest anecdotes, bible verses! Ah, the good ol' days.

I am writing this at work in a Word document and e-mailing it to myself. This assignment is honing my skills of goofing off. The Internet has made me complacent. But I will prevail.

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More ASCII pin-ups, hunks, and porn.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Something Better

Fuck Buddies. How Sex and The City. Everyone’s had them. It’s the new black or orange, or whatever’s de rigueur these days. It’s like if you don’t have one, you’re like shallow or something, too immature to commit to no-strings sex. Some people call it “friends with benefits” but I disagree, there is a very important distinction: a fuck buddy is not your friend, even though you know his last name.

Sometimes, one gets a sense when you meet someone that this person is not going to be your boyfriend. Maybe it’s in his eyes, or his hair or the way he looks at his mom’s picture on his nightstand when he comes. Whatever. He’s clean and he knows how to push your buttons. And it helps that he’s a proctologist.

It’s fun while it lasts, but it is not without its own pitfalls. After all, it’s not like you sit the guy down and negotiate the terms. It’s not like you discuss when you can call or agree on a cover story in case someone other than him picks up the phone. By definition, this type of relationship is short-lived, although a friend of mine found out after two years that he was just a fuck buddy. He thought the reason he never saw the guy before 11pm was because the guy was into Goth.

Here are some signs that your fuck buddy is getting too attached:

You’re on his speed dial.
You have your own toothbrush at his place.
You got a teddy bear that says “I love you.”

If you see these signs you have to break it off immediately. Be ruthless, like Elmer Fudd. Playing the nice guy will only bring about the need for a restraining order. After all, you were only doing it for the sex, until something better comes along.

I had a dream I was at the ATM and all it would give me was Monopoly money.

I decided to take a contract job this week. I had avoided it because I thought it would interfere with my job search. The thing is, the longer you stay unemployed, the more employers will wonder why you haven’t been scooped up even though your resume sounds impressive. The contract is supposed to be for four months. I hope I don’t have to work there that long.

The commute is long, almost three hours a day. The air is crammed with DJs and their wacky sidekicks talking about the same hot topics, punctuated with the same five songs in between commercial breaks. I am crabby when I get home from work. It’s a job. After all, I’m just doing it for the money, until something better comes along.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Halitosis

What is there to write about when there’s absolutely nothing going on? The past week has literally been limbo, and no Caribbean music to dance to.

I have nothing to say. That took ten minutes to write.

After a rollercoaster of being excited about a job, then not getting it, I am pissed off. I don't want to turn on my computer. I don't want to get on the Internet. I am afraid of the flurry of Instant Messages, like mosquitoes in the presence of a warm body, all asking how things are. I am drained, trying to keep an optimistic front.

For almost two weeks, I didn't look at the job boards. The jobs listed all want the online version of Prince Charming. I'm no Prince Charming. I'm not Brad Pitt. I'm not even Chandler Bing. I'm just a guy who wants a job. I'm not asking for too much: an honest day’s pay. "Sick" days. Maybe some Post-It's to take home once in awhile. I'm easy. If this were a bar, you could cough in my direction and I'll give you my phone number.

Everybody's looking for the perfect candidate. Who has these qualifications? Knowledge in sales, finance and production. An MBA and an MCSE. At least six years experience in C++, RPG and COBOL. I feel like I should put down my three week experience with VD as a qualification. I already put in the fifteen minute drunken discussion I had about where to get the best online porn as "attended seminar in E-commerce."

Maybe if my twin Peter and I decided in my mother's womb to become conjoined instead of splitting up, I could get a job. There's no way one person can have all these qualifications.

I feel like I have the job equivalent of halitosis: I look great on paper, but once they meet me face to face, something or other causes me not to get the job. I try to tell myself that the job market is extremely competitive with businesses laying off IT people everywhere. It's hard to keep your chin up when there’s a midget hanging on your necklace.

I'm exhausted. Leave me alone.