Back (Somewhat) From The Wilderness

We’re in the process of finding a worthy successor to Comcast for our home internet service, so I’ve pretty much been stuck on my phone when I’ve been online this past while, and I’m not going to attempt to write anything sizable on tiny screen without physical keys. A lot has happened since I last posted something, and even as I’m typing these words, I’m trying to sort it all out in my head, so that I don’t tell a rambling, disjointed anecdote (not that that has stopped me before!). For the handful of you that have been checking back daily to see if I’ve actually written anything: thank you. I’m hoping that, by the end of today’s column, you will have reason to look forward to the coming months. Well, that is, if I can get the interwebz at home again. As much fun as it is trying to write at Cafe Milano in Berkeley, I believe that I’ll most likely want to mosey on home when my days are done, and the fact is that there are sometimes bloodsports involved in gaining access to an outlet (which I need because my laptop is a 4-year-old Acer, and hates being without a source of energy).

So, big news first: I am no longer working at Big Lots, which I do not believe I actually mentioned by name during my time there. It was an… interesting experience, and the tens of dollars that I made while working there enlightened me further to the plight of the working poor. What surprised me the most (viscerally, as I’d known it intellectually), was just how hard the job was, and just how little we were valued. Even as I was pushing for a promotion (because dozens of dollars are better than tens), I could almost not believe just how little they were willing to pay us. In the department where I’d been working, there was only one employee allowed to have Full Time (not me), and everyone else had to try to live off of minimum wage rates at less than thirty hours per week. Now, it wasn’t as bad as that winter I had to work for Labor Ready in Seattle, excavating frozen earth, but it was a close second. And to add insult to injury, after the good manager left (I wrote a piece about him), not a single other manager really wanted to take his place. They were pushing for me to advance to a supervisory position (a position which lay vacant long before I’d been hired- one of the sticking points of my former boss), not as way of recognizing my skill set, but as a means of avoiding physical labor, and the warehouse entirely.

So,when I got an email, out of the blue, from someone with whom I’d worked during my time at the Kenpire, informing me of an opportunity, I responded immediately. As it turns out, it couldn’t have come a moment too soon. The morning of my interview for this new job, I had another interview at Big Lots, this time with someone higher up the food chain. It was a good conversation, and perhaps if I had been dealing with him instead of the GM I was under, things may have been different. But no matter how well it went, they weren’t going to offer me more than $12/hr, and considering all that they wanted me to do, I kept my fingers crossed that the afternoon offer would be better. I have not always had the best of luck with interviews, and knew better than to throw away a pittance, if I pittance was all I’d got. It turns out that my fears were unfounded. The interview went swimmingly, and I was offered $3 more per hour than the level at which I’d set my minimum. Taking into account the fact that I no longer have to commute to San Francisco, and was also offered real benefits, I’m actually making more now than I was when I was GM of Blondie’s in San Francisco.

Of course, I’m terrified with every passing day that I will screw everything up, and come face to face with indisputable proof that I should never have quit Big Lots, but I also know that this is normal (for me) and that I do actually know how to ride upon the sword’s edge of despair, sliding along the sharpened blade in cut-resistant slippers, down to the sweet spot of my neuroses, where I am invincible. Part of it is that we’re still in that time before the restaurant is even open (it’s still under construction), and there are too many variables for me to properly calculate the outcome using my superhuman pessimistic powers. It is coming together, though.

I’d planned on giving nearly two final weeks to Big Lots, but when faced with the enormity of the task, and the time frame in which it needed to be accomplished, I cut my losses, and dedicated myself to the job which paid me twice the rate of the other (with more hours, to boot). I felt bad as I was penning my letter of resignation, especially as I could do no more than say say, “So long, and thanks for all the fish!” I’m glad I had the opportunity to see just how bad people have it, so that I can do my best to make sure that no one working for me ever feels that way again. And I’m grateful that I got so see the inner workings of a corporation that couldn’t give less than rabbit turd about its employees. I’ve spoken out against them, but now I know just how bad they are (and I’m sure I didn’t even come close to working for the worst). It isn’t done with terror, at least not overtly. They get you by whispering lies into your ear, and pretending that they’re looking out for you. And then when they finally crank the heat up, they remind you that there are people out there who somehow make even less than you, and that they’ll replace you if you get out of line.

I’m in a better place now. I’m also out of time, as I have to start getting ready for my workday. I’ll do my best to stay in touch.

Thanks again,