Sunday, February 27, 2011

Playing Spiritual Yahtzee With My McJob Under A Sober Moon

by James Jarvis

I've been trying to decide for months now how and when to quit my security mcjob. Every time I get close to saying, "Okay, that's it!", something comes up: my granddaughter needs $200.00 for her teeth, I need $400 to buy out everything in my ex-roommate's fire sale, the old man is in trouble again, something. it's always something.

Finally, I found the key to my escape from this dead end, fattening, mind numbing mcsecurity guard job. The 90-day review. My employer had ignored my 90-day review three months ago. WONDERFUL! An insult to the fine mcwork I have been doing at this luxury apartment complex, guarding their couches . . . and I MEAN the word 'mcwork' in the same sense as I meant the word 'mcjob'.

Why didn't I think of this before? GREAT! Now I'll be forced to look for a REAL job. You see, I couldn't spend much energy looking for a real job because I was wasting all of it on my semi-real job and I couldn't just up and quit my semi-real job because everybody loved the work I was doing on it: the apartment manager, the residents, my supervisors and, I heard through the grapevine, even my employer.

It's just damned hard to leave a job you're good at, no matter how lame the pay.

Finally, I could quit my mcjob in moral indignation at not being appreciated financially. I could take the high ground here. I could say to them, "Hey, you didn't give me a raise, so I went looking for other work."

But then Ranger Mike butt in and ran point for me and got my employer to do the 90-day review for me, gawldagnabbit! Oh, I guess his heart was in the right place. I had helped him get his job with my employer and he was trying to help me keep mine, but I was almost out, Mike! Almost! I was on the frigging ten yard line, dammit!

So tonight, I trudged in to work, resigned to my fate of working this mcjob a few more months if the raise was right. Little did I know that I would be playing spiritual Yahtzee with my mcjob all night.

It all started with a simple prayer I was making while foot patrolling parking lot C. The prayer was––and I should have known better knowing as I do God's tendency to show me His humorous side when I send him stupid prayers––"Give me a sign, Lord. Should I stay or should I go?"

God is the fastest operator I've ever seen. He knows how to get things moving, how to move people and circumstances around on the old chessboard. His I.Q. must be even higher than my dorm buddy Gordon The Hollywood Anarchist's, though I wouldn't tell Gordon that. No sooner had I made my little bowel movement of a prayer and stepped around the corner to parking lot B than I saw them: the strange ones.

The strange ones were an odd looking couple who were loading stuff in to their two SUVs parked in the towaway zone. It was a full moon tonight and the moon was bright and sober, so I could see this strange looking couple well. The female was thin and smart looking, maybe in her fifties. The male was fat and dumb looking, maybe in his twenties. They were stacking boxes in to their respective SUVs, businesslike, in tandem, like a well-oiled machine.

Now normally I don't allow such towaway zone shennanegans and scofflaw hoohahararey. I run a tight ship. The towaway zone can be used for loading and unloading, yes, but not for moving or long term parking. I've had cars towed off the property before and I'll do it again, but something about this couple smacked of . . .of . . . of divine providence, or skulduggery. I couldn't decide right away which.

The dumb looking one saw me standing in the shadows of the night and came over to me.

"We're moving out," he said.

"Gotta get away from here, eh?" I smiled.

"Yeah," he answered.

"I know the feeling," I said, wondering as I said it if this was my sign from God. I had asked Him if I should stay or go and He was showing me someone who was going.

"We unplugged the refrigerator already and have a bunch of stuff that'll just spoil anyway. Would you like it?" he asked.

"Sure, thanks," I answered, confused now about the sign. I was getting food from these movers. That reminded me that the dumpsters here have always been good to me, providing me with all manner of manna, dry goods, CDs, and even entertainment. How could I leave these fine dumpsters behind for something as esoteric as a better job?

The dumb looking fella brought me out a large cardboard box of unopened frozen food: baked ziti (2 pounds!), crab cakes, chicken breasts, frozen dinners, lasagna (6 pounds!) boneless chicken breast (3.5 pounds), ice cream, beef bologna, duck liver, brie . . . it was a whole smorgasbord!

All right, God, I thought, just what the Hades you trying ta tell me here? I turned to scurry the frozen food to my guard "shack's" refrigerator when I spotted it.

"Vodka?" I said. It was the largest bottle of Absolut I have ever seen. Full. Seal unbroken. Aha, I said to myself, they're from the devil. The devil does that, you know. He disguises his demons as kindly, harmless looking people who are generous and quick to flattery. The dumb looking guy turned back to me when I had called vodka's name.

"Uh, yeah," he said proudly, "We have some really, REALLY nice bottles of wines we're not taking, too, if you want them."

"Uh, I can't," I said, looking at the damned big bottle of vodka, "I can't take this vodka, either. I live in a sober-living facility and they see me with THIS and I get kicked out. Thanks, though."

The dumb looking guy smiled at me strangely as he took back the vodka and got back to his moving chores. I once again turned to scurry the frozen food to my guard "shack's" refrigerator. I walked along the moonlit footpaths toward my sanctuary, my guard "shack", trying to decipher this Godsend. Was it a good sign? Was it a bad sign? Am I meant to stay in this job a while longer and enjoy the horn of plenty coming forth from residents and dumpsters or is the devil trying to bribe me to stay where I should have left months ago?

As Harvey Pekar said, "Ordinary life is just so damned complicated."

I arrived at the door of the apartment complex's party room, the clubhouse, my guard "shack", and unlocked the door. It was almost pitch black dark inside as I entered with my big box of goodies and my eyes had a while yet to adjust from the strong moonlight of outside. It's about 50 feet from the door to the maintenance man's refrigerator and as I was walking through the dark, the main door automatically locking behind me, my arms full of freezer booty, I got the feeling that something wasn't right.

OMIGODSHITPISSONASTICK! There's somebody in here! Somebody in the dark! I could feel it. I kept walking. Nobody could be in here. I have the only key. Nobody could be in here unless they broke in, unless they jimmied the lock and . . .I kept walking. I could still feel it, this malevolent presence.

Nobody would break in and then just hide in the dark, laying in wait like a murderer, unless they . . . I looked to my left. There he was, sitting on the couch, motionless, yet looking directly at me. Death . . . no . . Pedro. Gudammit! It's fucking Pedro, my kid supervisor, Fat Fucking Pedro. That's what the demonic sulfur smell was . . . he'd used the maintenance room toilet!

I resisted the urge to throw the box of frozen food at him. I resisted the urge to grab the six pounds of rock hard lasagna and just smash his stupid skull in . . . barely. I said hello. Fat Fucking Pedro moved on the couch. His eyes opened.

Wait a minute! Wait just a cotton-picking minute! He'd been napping. On MY post. Napping! Other supervisors had caught Fat Pedro sleeping on his own duty posts, so now he was coming to MY post to sleep. No, man, no. I can't have the guy who's been sneaking around my post trying to catch me sleeping so he can be mister bigshot and write me up . . . no, man, no. I can't have HIM sleeping on my post. It's not right. Plus he just scared the crap out of me.

Fat Pedro explained, with an evil grin on his mug, that he'd "found" a key to the Casa Del Toro security guard mailbox and in the mailbox was my spare keys to the clubhouse, my sanctuary, the one place on the property where I thought I was safe. There were three spare keys in there. Pedro took one for himself.

That's it. That's the sign. I gotta quit. This guy is just too creepy. If I stay in this mcjob, I've gotta put up with his hypocritical bullshit. I'm outta here. No mas. Done deal.

After the unpleasantries were over, Fat Pedro told me he'd brought mail from the office and he left. I opened the sealed letter. It was a memo stating that anyone at the Bluffs––the post where Fat Pedro sleeps in his car all the time––anyone who got caught sleeping on the job would be terminated.

Anyone except Fat Pedro, I thought. I wonder who he's blowin'.

So there you have it, my clear an unequivocal sign from God that I should quit this crackerbox mcjob and move on to better things . . . but wait, there's more signage to come.

I hastened back to where dumb looking and smart looking were loading their SUVs.

"Good thing I didn't take that bottle of vodka," I told dumb looking, "One of my supervisors just showed up and if he'd a seen me lugging around a bottle of vodka on my shift . . ."

Dumb looking laughed. The smart looking woman walked over to me and put a twenty dollar bill into the palm of my hand.

"What . . .?" I asked.

"For watching our cars," she said, "You did a good job of watching all our cars and I just wanted to show our appreciation."

Fuck, I thought, now I'm confused again. Had I asked for a sign earlier? Had I asked for a sign that I was appreciated on this job? Lemme think. Lemme think. No. I hadn't specifically asked for appreciation. So was this the devil trying to bribe me again?

"Thanks," I told smart looking, "Thank you very much."

Yahtzee, I thought as I watched their two SUV caravan depart Casa De Toro forever. The full, sober moon shone down on a lone, solitary figure standing in the middle of parking lot C: me. I looked hard into the dark shadows behind the dumpsters, looking hard for signs of my predator, Fat Pedro . . . any sign would do: a scat trail, the momentary gleam of a badge, the smell of sulfur, the sound of snoring.

After I checked behind the dumpsters and underneath all the rocks to satisfy myself that my kid supervisor Fat Pedro had indeed left the building, I returned to my regular patrol of the place, still in a spiritual quandry over all the signs and portents I had seen tonight.

Should I stay or should I go? Does God want me "bloom where you've been planted" or to "stop casting (my) pearls before swine"? Is this job "fertile soil" or the "thicket of tares"?

I walked along the moonlit footpath towards the jacuzzi, holding my hands out like a balancing scale. On this hand, this. On that hand, that. I stood over the jacuzzi, the symbol of our American culture, deliberating my theological dilemna. Is Casa de Toro good or is Casa de Toro bad?

This question, whether my post at this luxury apartment complex is a good post or a bad one is the central factor in whether I continue to work for my employer or not. I can't just ask for another post within the same security guard company because I have become married to it. Involuntary married. A shotgun wedding. I had a few other posts with Sinko Security, a parking garage and the Poltergeist III construction site, but here is where I made the career-ending mistake of shining. Now I'm married to this bitch.

Okay, since I'm standing over this icon of American culture, this shallow jacuzzi, what does American culture tell me about staying in this job or seeking a higher paying one? American culture would go with the higher paying job. Definately. No matter what the other circumstances are. American culture says poverty is immoral. Competing for more and more pay is the American way. The more pay, the more morality you are displaying.

Wait. There is something wrong with that. By that standard, Bill Gates and Martha Stewart are saints worthy of beatification. Rush Limbaugh should be an uber Cardinal by now, a qualified candidate to be our next Pope.

Scratch American culture. Back to the bible for my struggle between good and evil, for my decision whether to continue shilling Daily Activity Reports to Casa de Toro management for low Sinko Security pay or to move on to Fence Post Inspection Supervisor Trainee.

I walked away from the American icon jacuzzi. (You see, here at this point in my story, I go from ethereal ruminations and foggy rhetoric, symbolized by the bubbling, steaming jacuzzi, to "walk away" from the jacuzzi as a metaphor for "walking away" from the mores it represents so I can transition to an opposing epistemology.)

I walked away from the jacuzzi, following the moonlit path towards my guard "shack", wondering again what the good book might have to say. (Here, in this transition sentence, the moonlit path represents the spiritual path, the often patchily dark an unexplored journey away from the bright and steamy familiarity of our cultural mores. Also, the moonlight path might conjure up, to the spiritual traveller, Jesus' bitter cup prayer in the garden of Gesthemenie.)

I walked away from the jacuzzi, following the moonlit path towards my guard "shack", wondering again what the good book might have to say about my careeralogical delimna. How do I know? How do I know the difference between good and evil? Between good job and sinkhole?

And Jesus answered, "By their fruits ye shall know them."

I hope to high hell that you know that I don't really give two barfs in Barstow about dialogical dialectics and on the other hand that even though I am writing most of this story tongue in cheek I do most certainly care about the struggle between good and evil. I'm just having a little fun with that struggle, using my stupid job as the butt of the joke, that's all.

On the other hand, this is a nonfiction story.

And Jesus answered, "By their fruits ye shall know them." Aha, I said to myself as I stepped out onto the sidewalk in front of the apartment complex and turned left towards the underground parking garage.

Okay, the fruits argument tips the scales back in favor of staying here on the job at Casa de Toro. Lord knows the dumpsters here have been fruitful . . . and just tonight I got a box full of food and a twenty dollar tip. It's settled. The sign is to stay here. I have finally come to my irrational decision, and that's saying something because our American culture teaches us to be rational thinkers and we all know that the smarter you are, the easier it is to become paralyzed by rational thinking, just ask Gordon (The Hollywood Anarchist).

Ahyup, the smarter you are, the easier it is to become paralyzed by rational thinking, because the smarter you are, the more you know the pros and cons of every issue, and the pros and cons all cancel each other out, leaving you only with inertia. It's best to come to an irrational decision early on in your problem solving, I have found.

Just as I was making that irrational decision, a large silver SUV came roaring down the street at very high speed. I was standing in the driveway entrance to the underground parking garage. The SUV hit its brakes as it flew up parallel to me, turned wheels screeching like tortured demons in hell and came roaring up right towards me.

I jumped back. (Here is a foreshadowing metaphor for "jumping back" from my irrational decision to stay on at Casa de Toro)

I jumped back. The silver SUV came to a screeching halt just where I had been standing. The tinted window electrically rolled down. The driver was a baldheaded man with slightly pointed ears. He attempted a sheepish grin at me, but it looked wolfish. His eyes gleamed as he inserted his gate card into the slot, waited for the electronic gate to open and drove into his underground lair.

"You don't scare me, Satan," I shouted at the SUV. The old devil was trying to scare me off my irrational decision to stay, I thought. Okay, that tips the scales even further towards staying at Casa de Toro.

I gotta admit, Jesus' fruit arguement and the smart looking woman's twenty dollar tip weighed heavily in this decision. Wasn't her tip a prime example of fruits? Or had I decided that tip was a satanic bribe? No fruits. Definately fruits.

I stepped back in to my guard "shack" and went over to the box of frozen goodies the strange couple had given me. I wanted to reassure myself that the frozen goodies were indeed fruits, that it WAS a pro sign and not a con sign. I noticed for the first time the edge of an envelop stricking up out of the packages of frozen food. I pulled it out. Maybe this was another sign.

It was addressed to Lolly Hellman.

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