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25 July 2014, 01:00

About a year ago, I was unemployed. It’s a state I’m very familiar with. Unemployment makes me (and others) feel like a failure. My dad was a terrible employee and he kept his job for 20 years or so. I’ve seen other artists keep jobs for 10-15-20 years. The longest I’ve kept one was for 5 or 8 or something like that. Some of the employment that I really loved, things I could have done for 10-15-20 years, ended through circumstances beyond my control, but that’s still little comfort. Layoffs or closings riddle my resume. Maybe I could have picked situations better. And that would be another failure on my part. I should have a t-shirt printed up "Who KNEW?".

Well, back to the latest "WHO KNEW?" story.

A year ago, I was unemployed, in Horsey Track country, with nothing to do but run in the mornings and clean in the afternoons. It was a big dry spell of no bites on my resume for 4 months until about June. Then I got interview after interview. Then I got the call. Come please indefinitely contract for BCBS as an e-learning specialist. Now I don’t know what a e-learning specialist is, but if they think I can do it, hell, I’ll give it a shot. The salary was about double of what I have EVER made, and it was 30 minutes from my house. SWEET. Except for the e-learning part. Who the HELL knows what that was? Whee. I had a gig. A gig that could lead to a situation more suited to my limited scope of talent and skill. At the same time, I got an interview with a start up food company in Saluda (lets call that Satan’s Noodles) and a sports manufacturing company (guns and boats) in Chapin. I went to Satan’s Noodles which was in the midst of costruction – no offices, no floors, no ceilings - nothing. A HOUR AND A HALF AWAY. Satan’s Noodles had this paunchy, vulgar little Arab man who seemed to be in charge. My interview was with him in a sweatbox office. I should have notice the red flags when the interview consisted of personal questions on whether I was married, had a baby, wanted a baby, whether I was religious, yada yada yada. But the little vulgar man, promised the MOONBRAND NEW MAC, UNLIMITED BUDGET, HEAD OF MY OWN DEPARTMENT, MONEY MONEY MONEY. I was snowed by the vulgar little man. He said "You work? You know how to do? If you know how to do, I hire you and if I find out you don’t know, we fucking fire you after a month." So after a handshake and some more bombastic rhetoric from the vulgar little man, I agreed to work there. No paperwork, and in two or three weeks. Named my own salary, which, in hindsight was FAR TOO LITTLE.


Well. Okay. The other Arab dude was really nice, and he was going to be plant manager and seemed normal. And it didn’t occur to me, because I’m a stupid, stupid woman that this could be a con job.

So now, I have two jobs. I have to decide really quick because the start date of the first one is coming up.

I get another interview with the gun company. Really great company. Established, professional, but a lot like Viega. Paid less and I would work on a PC. That PC thing got to me. I really hate working on PCs. Paid the least of the three. But. I got that one too.

So after a lot of thinking, I took the Noodle gig. Now remember this: I am a very stupid, stupid woman. This is critical to the story.

I start at Satan’s noodles, not in an office but in a trailer with EVERYBODY (not a big deal), but I have to bring my own computer and my own software. I not only did all the graphics, but all the IT, all the software support, purchasing, all the everything. And I did it with a smile. I drove for an hour and a half, at 80 mph on I-20, which is a death gauntlet of auto disaster to work in a increasingly stinky trailer. After the first month, I noticed something very disturbing. The little vulgar man was a giant bombastic racist and mysogynist. He was loud, prancing egotistical, abusive little man. I just sat at my desk, hearing all the cusses and epithets fly. He seemed bipolar and sleazy. It was unreal. Everybody else seemed normal and even keeled but when the head of the fish is insane, it can’t go well for the rest of the body. And all the promises were slowly being broken or forgotten. Construction fell hopelessly behind and the commute was getting to me.

I had no health insurance, no retirement, no benefits of any kind. I didn’t have an employment contract or offer or anything in writing about what my job was, what I was entitled to, the little man had cornered me and cussed me out for NO REASON and threatened me and I went to work everyday unsure about my job security. It became kind of a mexican standoff since I made it clear NO one talks to me in a disrespectful manner and I would leave if it happened again.

But the checks cashed.

There were all sorts of sorted little dramas, from one of the management team trying to stage coups on the vulgar little man, to this same woman having breakdowns at work, and at one point, throwing a basket at me. One employee threatened to beat up another one, and NOBODY got fired, one was taking kickbacks, another was doing inappropriate things with the vulgar little man, and still others were stealing. I’m not entirely sure if this was normal for companies just getting started. I started just sitting at my desk, listening to podcasts. It was just getting surreal and crazy – everyday watching some new drama happening.

After six months, the vulgar little man suddenly left the country one weekend he was suppose to be back from business trips. Three days after the vulgar little man left, the office girl took me to lunch to unload a giant ball of "eww" on me. He had been sexually harassing her – threatening her, drugging her, etc. YEEPS. I pretty much said what anybody would say. If this is happening, you need to report it – you probably need to report it and leave or press charges or something – at least tell someone who is not me. She also unloaded all the things the vulgar little man was saying, personal insults and inappropriate things about other employees, amongst was a little nugget of "He’s just going to wait till he gets all the art from you and fire you". SPIFFY. I didn’t take everything she said to heart, it was horrendous behavior she described, about attacking her, drugging her, stalking her. Something wasn’t really right about her, but I wasn’t about to take any sort of report like this lightly. I gave her my advice and left it at that.

Two days later she quit.

This was to foreshadow a shitstorm. A week after that, police were showing up at employee’s homes, one of my bosses pulled me aside to say that the sheriff would be talking to me (since I befriended the office girl) and things were really tense. At this point is when one of the management was angered by me because I took a basket off her desk to use. She went sort of potty and threw it at me. There was chaos and rumors churning.

It seems the vulgar little man was being charged with rape by the first office girl, and the second was talking to the police about sexual harassment. And the vulgar little man skipped town. Well. Skipped the country.

Yeah. That’s where I worked.

The insane, basket throwing boss was trying to seize power, or at least that’s what she said. The vulgar little man stayed gone for about 6 months. Nothing was ever said nor explained. It was tense, but that six months was the best time I’ve had that job. We worked as a team and had a little bit of fun, too.

Then he came back. Nothing was ever said, except there were rumors of a payoff.

At this point it had been about 10 months without benefits, without a raise, without an employment contract. And everybody else was getting official offer letters of employment. The money they poured into the new plant was astounding. The construction mistakes and overspending was astounding, too. I had some art work to do but not much, so since I spoke english, I started doing a little bit of office girl work of which I hated but gritted my teeth and got through – the answering of the phones, the customer service type crap that I hate with a passion.

Then we moved into the building, and I was stuck on the receptionist desk. I was really unhappy. I was really unhappy for these reasons:

• No benefits.

• No career opportunity – no path of advancement – no FUTURE.

• No job security. A biggie.

• No appreciation, no respect.

• No money.

But I did the receptionist job/art director job.

By nature, I show everything I’m thinking on my face. And my unhappiness showed. I started looking seriously for another job. My coworkers who liked me and didn’t want me to leave, said everything they could think of to get me to be happier, but I was unsmiling and unhappy. And very quiet. Apparently, its not like me to be very quiet.

I was taken into the office about a week ago, "This is not a meeting to fire you", but it turned out to be an opportunity I took, right or wrong, to vent about all the things I had a problem with, number one being the vulgar little man. He took that opportunity to disrespect me and belittle me in the meeting, with the normal person they just hired as operations manager looking on kind of like a deer in headlights as the little vulgar man was verbose in his insults and peacocking. They are going to be generous and have me contract out the artwork (they really can’t have me disappear – they are at the point where all that is critical and a new person wouldn’t begin to have a clue as to what was going on) and if the new operations manager want to hire me back in two months and I wanted to come back, I could.

So that’s where I am.

But. I’m not looking back. I’m not going back. I’m not contracting with them.

There has been too much water under the bridge. The new operations manager is a good man, and had I been hired at this stage, and not been aparty to the dirty past of this company and this vulgar little man, I think it would have been a better situation. As it is, there is nothing short of an apology from the vulgar little man for his behavior that would get me back.

I know in this economy, its damn lucky to have a well paying job. And I’m probably a very stupid, stupid woman for not just taking it all, and keeping this job. But at some point it was too much to take, it was taking a toll on my state of being. I’m feeling apologetic and guilty  for being so selfish as to not stay at this job and be grateful for it. Feeling like a failure because I put my own desires above being employed. Are all employment situations like this? Am I just being too sensitive? Do I just need to suck it up and plod through?

So. Feeling like a failure. Feeling guilty. Feeling selfish. And feeling like I’ll never get another job and be poor and homeless.

Yup. That’s how this crappy week has gone.