Tag Archives: jerks

Stop This Rain (or Poverty-Induced Nightmares, Part 2

The repo incident, continued from here.

I don’t know how I fell asleep after that, but I did. Sleep is my escape. On the morning of April 6, I woke up earlier than usual because I had to take the bus all the way to work without using the Park & Ride like normal. Not having my car added an extra 30 minutes to my commute each way. I was already a partial bus commuter, so I didn’t have to make too big a change, but I still spent well over three hours each day on buses. Ghetto buses. I used my breaks at work to call the car loan company to figure out what to do.

When I first called, they told me that I would have to pay off the entire remaining balance on the car in order to get it back. That’s on top of about $400 in repossession fees and more in late fees. There was no way for me to get that kind of money in the time they allotted me. I reminded them that I had told them at least twice in advance that I would pay them in full on or before April 7. I also told them that I had tried to pay on April 3, both online and over the phone. I had tried to contact them at a reasonable hour, but I was thwarted by their business hours and my time zone. I reminded them that I had been unemployed for 15 months and that I had still managed to pay them on time every month for more than a year, but I’d had some additional difficulties and I fell behind after a long struggle.

The representative was sympathetic, and said she would see if they would make an exception for me. She was unable to tell me immediately the exact amount I needed to pay to get my car back.

I called back day after day. The silliest thing about it was that if they had actually listened to me, they would have already had their money, but because of their own haste, I was just sitting on it. Towards the end of the week, the representative at the car loan company told me that I could have my car back if I paid $1500. I was initially about $700 behind, and my third car payment had been due on April 12. They wanted the three full car payments and $450 in late fees and repossession fees. I hadn’t spent much money from my student loans, and I was working, so I was able to come up with $1500 on my next payday (during the week of April 13). I would have had to ignore other bills, but I could do it. I was also unable to buy books for school, which is what a large portion of that money was for. Technically, it was illegal to use a federal student loan to pay for something completely unrelated to school. I just wanted the car back so I could put the ugly mess behind me, and that was the only money I had.

After a repossession, they will not allow you to pay with a check or credit card, and the representative told me that the fastest way to pay would be through Western Union. There was a Western Union kiosk at a grocery store that was a ten-minute walk from my office, so I went there during my lunch break.

Prior to wiring the money at the main counter, I had to call Western Union on a phone at the customer service desk. When a customer picks it up, the phone calls Western Union automatically. It’s like the Bat-Phone only it connects you to the depths of customer service hell.

As soon as I picked up the phone, I was given a long list of automated warnings and instructions. I was told not to send money to any Nigerian princes or to anyone who may have informed me that I won a foreign lottery I had never entered. The message went on a long time, describing various ways that I could be scammed and warning me not to send money if I was in a situation that resembled any of their examples. After all of that, I finally got to speak to a customer service representative.

I asked the representative if I could give her my bank account information and wire the money that way. She said that there was no problem with that. She asked all of her questions (which took about 15-20 minutes), and then she gave me some kind of confirmation number. I went to the main desk with my confirmation number, and they told me that they only take cash. I did not have $1500 plus fees in cash. I couldn’t withdraw that much from my account in one day. I wanted to have the money wired directly from my account. I called back on the Bat-Phone. I’m not sure why. I guess I wanted to plead.

I listened to the automated warning about Nigerian princes again. I answered all the ridiculous questions again. I told the customer service representative what I wanted, and she said that she had to transfer me to a different department. She did –and I had to answer all of the questions and listen to the stupid message a third time. I had been doing this for about an hour at this point, I was supposed to be at work, and I had initially predicted it would take no more than twenty minutes.

I gave the next representative all of my bank account information, but then the bank refused to authorize the transaction. I realized that $1500 (actually $1564 with the fees) was an uncharacteristically large amount for me to withdraw at once. I begged the representative to stay on the line just a few minutes until I could call my bank on my cell phone because I was really pressed for time and I simply did not have 20 more minutes to call back and answer all those questions again. She agreed.

I called my bank and they verified my identity and lifted the hold. I was free to spend $1564. I spoke again to the Western Union representative and said “Okay, the bank lifted the hold! Can you run it again?” She said “no.”

“What?!”

“I’m sorry, your transaction declined, please call back another time.”

“But there was just a simple hold because it’s a large amount of money! It’s fine now!”

Again, she refused to process my transaction. I was pissed. I told her that I had just spoken with my bank. In fact, she probably heard me on the phone with my bank because she was just sitting there while I was talking on my cell phone. She continued to refuse to request the wire. I got very angry at this point and demanded to talk to her supervisor. Her supervisor came on the line and immediately started asking me the same questions I had already answered multiple times. Once she got to the Nigerian prince stuff, I just hung up.

I picked up the phone again and once the automated message started again I just hit zero zero zero zero zero zero zero until the zero button just stuck. I slammed the phone down so hard I think I broke it.

I stormed out of the store and walked towards my office. I glanced at my cell phone to see what time it was, and I saw that I had missed a call and had a voice mail. The voice mail message was from a man at Western Union. He asked me to return his call in regards to some money I had just transferred. I called back at the number he gave me, and I got through to someone right away. I gave them some basic information, and they told me to disregard the call because no money had gone through.

There was a payday loan establishment close to my office, and they had a sign out front that said that they would send money. I figured it was worth a shot. I was already late in returning from my lunch break and probably going to get in trouble at my brand new job. Might as well be shot for a sheep as a lamb, as my mother would always say.

I was a bit dismayed that the payday loan office also used Western Union, but I really just wanted to send the money off. I never knew it would be so difficult to give money away.

The process at the payday loan place was simpler, but once again the transaction was denied — this time for insufficient funds. I knew the money was there. It had been there when I had the other representative on the phone, and I had just lifted the hold, so what now?

I called the bank again. My bank gives account balance once you enter in your account number, before you ask to speak to a representative. There was over $1500 missing from my account.

I called Western Union customer service to tell them that they had somehow wired my money after telling me that they hadn’t, and I wanted a confirmation number so that I could give it to the car loan company. They asked me some questions and went through their records, and told me that they had not sent any money on my behalf. I even gave them the original confirmation number I was given the first time I called. They said that my original transaction had been canceled and that they absolutely had not wired any money from my bank account.

“But clearly you have. My money has vanished.

They told me over and over again that they had not sent my money. I called the bank again. They verified that Western Union had definitely sent my money, and they gave me a transaction number. The number did not help me deal with Western Union, but was good for my own verification. I called Western Union again and told them that my bank had verified the transaction and gave me a transaction number. This may be obvious, but my bank’s transaction number did nothing to prove or disprove any of Western Union’s claims. The bank’s transaction number could not double as Western Union’s confirmation number, and was no good to my car loan company.

I called the car loan company. They told me that they had not received any money from me, and actually could not claim the money from Western Union until I provided them with a Western Union confirmation number. I called Western Union again. And again. And again. A few times, I got disconnected. A few times I hung up to call either the bank or the car loan company again. Several times, Western Union would transfer me to an automated system that would ask me to enter my confirmation number — which was what I was calling to get from them. If I pressed zero, the call would be disconnected. If I just waited and didn’t enter anything, the call would be disconnected. I was then forced to start over. Every single time I had to start over, I would have to answer the same set of questions and tell them my name, the spelling of my name, my address, my phone number, the name of my bank, and my account number. I did this over and over and over for three hours.

I wanted to die. Or kill someone. Or both. I had been trying to send money (or at least find the money I may or may not have sent) for three hours, all the while missing work and (possibly worse) missing pay and annoying my new boss.

I called Western Union one last time. I don’t know what the problem had been the other many times I had called, but the woman I spoke to was finally able to give me the confirmation number to give to the car loan office. I asked her why it was such a huge ordeal to get such a simple thing, and she had no idea. Before I got in touch with her, I had spoken to at least 13 different Western Union employees who had no clue about anything.

I called the car loan office to give them the number –and once again it was after 5pm their time, and they were closed.

That night when I got home, I checked my e-mail with my stolen wi-fi to find out that my job had cut benefits for temporary employees.


Share

Leave a comment

Filed under Depression, fml, Home Life, jerks, Materialism, Obstacles

Jinx

Good Luck by Mark Ryden

Good Luck by Mark Ryden

Those I interact with regularly tend to react to me in two different ways: they ignore me or they ignore my problems. For quite a while now, I’ve been somewhat of a shit magnet. Is there more dignified term to express that concept? I can’t think of one. I’m kind of like the jinx in Li’l Abner. When I’m not writing in my secret blog, I generally keep my problems to myself. Once in a while, however, I’ll get into a conversation with a trusted friend and I’ll let a few details about my life slip. They say things like “Oh, I’m so sorry,” or “I don’t know what to say.” Then the phone calls and e-mails stop and I’m left keeping things to myself again. In other instances I have friends who don’t seem to pay attention to anything I say. I was IMing with a friend the other night, and he expressed surprise that I “seemed a bit down.” This friend is aware of my situation, so why would he express surprise? Gee, I’m about to be homeless and lose everything that’s ever been important to me while I admit absolute defeat, I’m in a perpetual state of emotional breakdown, I don’t know what to do, but other than that life’s peachy. A different friend of mine (who is aware of certain aspects of my situation but none of the more recent developments) gets visibly uncomfortable if I speak of anything negative in my life, such as my horrible family. Once when I mentioned that I was worried about having enough rent money, he said “Why don’t you just move in with your parents?” I had previously told him that my mother had been dead for years and I hadn’t spoken to my father in even longer. When I mentioned it the first time, he changed the subject very quickly. He later forgot that the conversation even took place. He doesn’t want to hear things like that because bad parents don’t exist in his world where all the pretty white houses have picket fences made of lollipops. He is a good guy, but he doesn’t understand my situation at all and has repeatedly made insensitive and ignorant comments to me about money. He has never had a real job, but he owns an iPhone and lives with his rich parents. Then he admonishes me for living the only way I can. He also once told me that I “just need to be more optimistic.” I didn’t tell him I quit my job. He doesn’t know I’m getting evicted. I may very well disappear and he’d never know.

Speaking of disappearing, I am at a strange crossroads. I am friends with a guy I used to volunteer with about five years ago. He is a barely functional alcoholic. He is caring and funny and genuinely kind, but he’s trouble. His financial situation is not much different from mine. He is incapable of holding a job due to his alcoholism and (as a former employer of his put it) his “inability to keep his mouth shut.” He did not finish college, he never pays his bills. He can’t even get a bank account because he wrote several bad checks and never paid overdraft fees. He can’t get a driver’s license because he owes $5000 in tickets for moving violations and associated fees. He sent me a text message today asking me if I’d be interested in living in a house with him and a few other people. In Philadelphia. Rooms are $425 a month and I can bring my cat. Tempting. I’ll never find anything like that here. He has asked me to move out there before, and I’ve always said no (for the record, we are not dating). Until now, I had not seriously considered his offers because I had hope for something good to happen in Seattle. I don’t have that hope anymore. Quite frankly, I’m at the end of my rope and I have no idea where I’m going. Moving there is a bad idea, but is it a worse idea than staying here? I get so overwhelmed with choices. I get frozen because there is always something in the way and I don’t know which obstacles to conquer first. I can’t declare bankruptcy yet because I don’t know what I’m doing with my car. I can’t figure out what I’m doing with my car until I figure out if I can move to the United Kingdom or not. I can’t move to the United Kingdom until I get my passport and see if I can get a job and secure things with my relatives. I can’t do all of that until I save money and get a job here. This line of thinking gets me nowhere, literally. My thoughts just whirl around and around and I just stand there, dizzy.

Share

3 Comments

Filed under Depression, fml, Home Life, Obstacles

Magnifying glass

Last weekend I left a phone message with my landlord about my failure to pay rent for August or (so far) September. I explained I had been unemployed six weeks, and that unemployment was backed up and they had not yet responded to my claim. I told them that unemployment should respond this week and I would pay immediately.

This morning I missed a phone call from the agency that might place me at the company I used to work for. They left a message, but I cannot retrieve voice  mail because my phone service has finally been cut off for nonpayment.

I went out to my mailbox to check the mail to see if unemployment had finally responded to my claim. This is the magic week, after all. On my way to the mailbox I saw a letter taped to my door. I have received a three day pay rent or vacate notice. I’m getting evicted unless I can come up with $1400.

I walked to my mailbox. It was mostly junk mail, but I got a letter from unemployment. They are still processing my claim. No money. And I can’t even call them, or my landlord, or my recruiter because of my phone.

More nuisance –for the past six or seven years, I have sold used items on Amazon.com. I have done so dozens of times without incident. So, of course, during my most desperate hour, I have my first incident.

I have always made it a point to describe the items I’m selling as accurately as possible. I disclose flaws that most people wouldn’t notice or even care about. I charge very little (compared to other Amazon sellers) because I don’t want to piss anyone off, I want to sell things, and I don’t want to deal with refunds and returns. This isn’t my business; I just use the Internet as a high-priced garage sale. If it were a full-time job, I’d probably have less time to put into each listing. But as it stands I have all the time I need.

I have sold numerous books, DVDs, CDs, and video games. I sold a video game a few weeks ago, and for the first time ever I got an e-mail from the buyer asking about my return policy. I told her politely that I couldn’t really accept refunds. If it was defective or something, we could work something out, but I’d tested the game myself with a friend and had no problems.

She returned with some story about how the game didn’t work. I don’t believe her…not just because I played the game myself, but because she didn’t tell me that when she first e-mailed. If I bought a game that didn’t work, I would write and say “Hey, this game doesn’t work. I keep getting error messages. Can I get my money back?” She just said “What’s your return policy?” I sense buyer’s remorse. The game does suck. It works, but it sucks.

I’m being pestered about $10 I don’t have that I was paid for a used video game by someone who obviously needs the money less than I do. After all, she is the one buying video games, and I’m the one who won’t have a home on Monday.

Strangely, I haven’t started crying yet, but I’m sure it will come. I’m definitely in a state of panic. I don’t even understand how I am coherent right now, if I’m coherent. I can’t call a crisis line, I can’t call for help.

I feel like I have too much to do with life. But I can’t cry and I can’t breathe either.

Share

Leave a comment

Filed under Depression, Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles

The Kids Aren’t Alright

Damn Straight.

Damn Straight.

I have been reading a lot about President Obama’s speech scheduled for tomorrow. There is a lot of controversy surrounding this speech, and I really don’t understand why. I live in a very liberal part of the country, but even some local schools have chosen to block the speech to prevent his message from reaching the children. There was so much hullabaloo over this issue that the White House decided to release the president’s prepared remarks in advance (you can read them here.) I have now read the contents of the speech, and even though I am not the intended audience, I thought it was a nice speech and some parts of it even motivated me a little. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that one thing I currently lack is motivation, so it says a lot that reading this speech on my computer screen woke me up, even if just a bit.

Obama points out that children often get left out in the discussions about education. Children are talked at, and about, but not to. I was lucky to have had a good education for most of my youth. I played musical instruments, I studied art, etymology, I played sports (reluctantly), I read a lot, and I had some brilliant teachers. I also spent most of my youth in expensive college preparatory schools.

From a social standpoint, my experience at those schools was a nightmare. Twelve-year-old girls are the meanest people in the world. They’re even meaner when they’re rich and pretty. That aside, my education was excellent and I carry it with me to this day. When I was an instructor at a technical college, my students (who were mostly older than I was) often asked me where I learned medical terminology or how I remembered algebra so well or why I knew so many obscure facts. The truth is, I learned most of what I taught while I was in junior high. I’m not sure what magic my teachers were conjuring, but everything I learned in those classes is still with me, especially the etymology. If I could make a living by tracing and learning about word or idiom origins, I would. Anu Garg is my hero. (Mr. Garg, if you read this –would you like an intern?)

My social difficulties at the prep school became too much to bear in addition to my home drama, and I transferred to a local public school for 11th grade. More accurately, I deliberately got expelled from the prep school because that was my only way out. I failed 10th grade so that I could leave there and go to public school like a normal kid.

I had no idea how sheltered I was. On my first day at a public high school, I met a female classmate who was showing off pictures of a toddler. I said “Oh, she’s cute. Is that your sister?” “No,” she said. “She’s my daughter.” Well, knock me over with a feather. The prep school girls just got abortions and kept quiet. You can’t go to cotillion with a baby on your hip, and it’s damn near impossible to find a maternity ball gown in the juniors’ department.

The teachers at the public school were mostly inattentive. My AP biology teacher used to type up notes and put them on the overhead projector for us to copy. We would then get a 100 just for copying the notes. Most of the curriculum covered things I had already done in 9th grade biology at the prep school. My 11th grade history teacher did nothing but yell at us and tell us to shut up, shut the hell up, and shut our damn mouths. He gave us xeroxed copies of worksheets and we just sat and filled them in during class. If he heard a single whisper, then the yelling would start. I didn’t learn a damn thing.

There were two teachers at the public school that I remember fondly, and one of them wasn’t even my teacher. I used to spend my free period in the library reading books, and there was a teacher who struck up a conversation with me one day because I was reading something-or-other by Carl Sagan. We would talk a lot about science and literature, and he would lend me books. He lent me A Brief History of Time when I was 17. I frequently wore a Sub Pop “Loser” t-shirt to school, and he would jokingly admonish me for wearing such an awful, self-deprecating shirt. Nowadays, people would think it was creepy for a male teacher to interact somewhat socially with a female student, but there was nothing sketchy about it. I suppose he just saw some potential in a wayward teen. I had pink-streaked hair and wore black nail polish, but I was clearly a geek.

Despite failing 10th grade, I was actually able to graduate high school a semester early. Don’t get impressed. The truth of the matter is that my prep school had been a year ahead of the public school, so even though I had failed the whole year, I was right on track. I went to summer school anyway, and I tested out of a couple of classes, and I set to graduate a year in advance. My mother would not let me graduate a full year in advance because she felt I was too young. I eventually was able to convince her to set me free a semester early, three months after my 17th birthday. I went to a community college for a semester before I began working on my bachelor’s.

I was an inconsistent student. I wobbled back and forth between straight-A’s and many C’s. I graduated with a 3.1, I believe, and that was with me failing classes. After my prep school experience, I had no interest in Ivy League education (unlike my brother, who fits the Ivy League stereotype in nearly every way). I wish that I had tried harder, but I also wish that my public school had the same opportunities as the prep school, just with with fewer kids being jerks. The school lacked funding, and no one on the administration appeared to take pride in the property, the supplies, or the classes. The students didn’t take pride in those things either. Worse, I think that many teachers had given up on the students (including me), causing the students to act out. This is somewhat of a trivial example, but I took art classes at both schools and my experience at the prep school was far superior. Not only was the equipment better, but the supplies were better because the students took care of them. At the public school, the students wouldn’t even clean their paintbrushes (rendering them mostly unusable once dry), and they frequently stole or destroyed other students’ art assignments. Yet another public-school wake-up call.

So, in this “controversial” post-Labor Day speech, President Obama has the following to offer:

Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.
I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work — that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.

But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.

That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.

No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself.

It all seems like common sense or general feel-goodery –but why didn’t anyone tell me anything like that when I was a child? Why don’t children hear that from their teachers? From parents? And what’s wrong with hearing it from the president? These are words I need to carry with myself now, and I wish they were ingrained as deeply as my generally unnecessary knowledge of Latin and Greek roots. Again, if you read this blog, you know that I never ask for help, even when I need it.

There is too great of a divide between the education and attention that the wealthy children get and what the poorer or even middle-class children get, and it doesn’t end once high school is over. One of the more heartbreaking accounts of these discrepancies is in Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol. I read this book in 1998 or so, but the image of East St. Louis children walking through sewage on the way to class will stay with me forever. Children who go to school in that environment aren’t going to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and get into college. Even if they want to, the odds are against them. Part of why I am in favor of Obama’s speech is because he is not just talking to children who are likely to succeed, but all children. Of course there are problems with funding, and I hope we will make strides towards solving at least part of that problem, but there are so many other factors, and even those who are better off need to be involved.

Share

7 Comments

Filed under Obstacles, Politics, Soapbox

Hope in shambles

Today I had the phone interview with the manager at the company that has (once again) been toying with me. I think it went well, except he asked me some very specific questions about Microsoft Excel that I was unable to answer. I was able to answer his questions about conditional formatting, but not the questions about pivot tables. I hope that was acceptable. The pay for this job starts at $14 an hour and it requires 5 years of publishing experience. Jobs of this caliber typically pay $25 to $30 an hour…if not more. When I was hired for my last job, my recruiter told me “I realize that this pay rate is abnormally low, but they know that people will work for it, so they’re not going to budge.” I imagine that this other company holds a similar stance.

The job actually sounds somewhat exciting. They have made a few changes since I last worked there, and there have been some innovations that I would genuinely love to be a part of. I became very nervous when I realized that they want the new hire to begin this Tuesday. That made it much more tangible, more real. My bills are so steep that a $14 an hour job is not enough to save me. My basic bills will not be covered –even if I were to move without accruing any moving expenses, even if I gave up my car. I’m in far too deep.

I had a flexible spending account for medical costs at my last job. I am still eligible for reimbursement. It’s difficult, however to spend money in order to be reimbursed when I don’t have the money to spend in the first place. I sent in my receipts last week, and was expecting a $95 check. I received a $20 check. That $95 would have gotten me out of the red. Weeks ago, I deposited money in my bank account to prevent an overdraft, but I was a few hours too late, apparently. That set off a chain of events and I have been charged $140 in fees just in the past two weeks. That’s more than I made last month. I have not yet deposited the $20, but my current bank balance is -$88. I have fourteen cents in savings. Now I have to call customer service and ask what happened to my extra $75. I have a feeling that they want extra documentation. I wish I didn’t care. I wish that $75 weren’t so damn important. I wish this all didn’t seem so life-or-death, but it does. It fucking does.

Every few hours it seeps in and I become hyperaware of my situation. I’m always aware of it, but most of the time it does not seem real. I have always been able to detach myself from reality to the point where I feel like I’m watching a movie where I am the star. It isn’t really happening. I don’t like it, but I’m powerless as I watch the world interact with me, attack me, reach out to me. And it won’t matter because in my head it isn’t real. I’ll meander around online, looking up resources about panhandling and sleeping on the streets. I remain detached, not even processing it or thinking it through while I do such things. The most mundane activities are always a trigger. I emptied my dishwasher this morning, and as I handled each dish I pictured myself wrapping the clean plates in newsprint to pack away. But after I pack them, where will I put these things? I can’t pay for a storage unit. Although my plates are inexpensive, I don’t want to get rid of them because how will I replace them? I will need plates, just like I will need a bed and somewhere to sit. If I do end up on the streets, I know (hope) it will be only temporary. I can’t get myself to part with things I know I can’t replace. Things I know I need.

My father is a doctor and my mother was a nurse. My father grew up in an impoverished country. I won’t say which one, but it is one of the poorest nations in the world, and my father has known more poverty than anyone who is reading this now. I can come onto this blog and whine all I want about not paying my rent or my car payment, or having to sell my things, or having to go to a soup kitchen, but that’s not real poverty. That’s not what my father’s family went through. He and I do not get along and have not spoken in seven years.

I hate him. I’ve hated him almost as long as I can remember. Sometimes I feel guilty for hating him because I know he has had it rough and perhaps he cannot help the things he does. His upbringing warped him.

He was terribly abusive to both me and my mother. Especially my mother. I don’t want to blame him. He’s hurting. He’s awkward. He doesn’t know how to communicate or express himself. He doesn’t know how to talk and he doesn’t know how to listen. And I don’t think he cares.

I will always remember every hurtful thing he said and every hurtful thing he did. I wrote recently about horrible things said to me in job interviews, and part of me wonders if I somehow project a persona that people want to yell at, belittle, or humiliate. I am more accustomed to cruelty than I am kindness. A friend said to me once “It seems like a lot of people say really awful things to you.” It’s true.

My father always thought I was disgusting and stupid. When I was 13, he physically cornered me and wouldn’t let me walk away as he yelled in my face for nearly 30 minutes telling me over and over that I must be mentally retarded because it was impossible for a normal person to be as stupid as I am. That incident happened in 1992, but it might as well have happened last week. When I was 15, my father yelled at me in front of an entire class because he saw me eat frozen yogurt. He said I was “like a farm animal, always eating.” I couldn’t eat in front of him because he would bring me to tears –even in restaurants. Months after the classroom incident, I ran away from home (however briefly) after he chased me around and whipped at my legs with a belt. Out of all of that I was the one who got sent to a psychiatrist. He told me to change my last name, so that no one would associate him with the retarded girl. He regularly made fun of my face and my voice. He told me that I should never speak again because every word I said made me look more and more stupid. To this day I hate eating in front of people, and I am on a constant quest to prove my intelligence while avoiding conflict. I have a high IQ and a master’s degree, but I would really like a PhD. I don’t have a very good reason for wanting a PhD; I just feel that people would be less likely to treat me like I’m stupid if I have one.

My older brother is a far scarier, more abusive version of our father. The difference is that he didn’t have an upbringing that warped him, at least not any more than I did. There is no excuse for his behavior, and I haven’t spoken to him in nearly five years. If I were to list the litany of crazy, mean-spirited things he has done to me, most people would probably think I was making it up. After all, who is really that cruel, especially to a sibling? Well, my brother is. Two friends of my mother’s observed his behavior towards me and they were absolutely confounded. I suppose one day I will get revenge by writing about his misdeeds in a tell-all book, but until then I’ll just be vague.

But I don’t want revenge. I just don’t want them to win. This, to me, is the worst thing about being poor –the shame of failure. I grew up being treated like a failure, and here I am failing at life. I worked through college and graduate school, put all of my focus on my career in an effort to prove that I could take care of myself and succeed on my own. But I haven’t. They’ve already won, but I’d rather live on the streets than let them find out.

I hope I don’t hate myself for writing this.

Share

6 Comments

Filed under Depression, Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles

You Are Not Your Job (or Awkward Interviews I’ve Had, Part 2)

“You are not your job. You are not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You are not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.” --Tyler Durden

Pardon me for invoking the over-quoted Fight Club.

All too often we’re judged not by our potential or our abilities, but by our status. Two of the worst job interviews I have had have been the result of cocky executives deciding that I must be stupid, incompetent, or worthless just because of the assortment of bad jobs I have held. My longest stint of full-time employment was at the most boring receptionist job ever. Prior to my years of poverty, I had been an instructor at a technical college. I taught basic math classes, computer skills, and medical terminology to aspiring medical and dental assistants. I quit this position to go back to school to get my dream job, but my plan completely backfired and I ended up poor. I have not had a higher-level or higher-paying job since. My career peaked when I was 24 years old.

By 27, I’d become resentful of having low-level low-pay jobs I hated. Especially since I had been job-hunting almost nonstop for three years. I am good at writing and editing, and I wanted to work in corporate communications. No one would hire me, so I saved as much money as I could and I enrolled in a yearlong certificate program for editors. I felt that this would make up for my lack of experience.

I received word that the administrative assistant in my company’s corporate communications department was quitting. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to get my foot in the door. First of all, it was an admin position, so it was barely a step up from what I had been doing. Also, it paid more. Best of all, it was in the department I wanted to work in, and I knew that once they saw me at work, they’d realize my potential and I would actually get a job on my chosen career path.  I spoke to the director of the department about it, and she encouraged me to apply and said that I would be a good fit. Unfortunately, she stepped down from her position before the hiring process was completely underway.

As the receptionist, I knew everything about every department at the company. I knew everyone’s names, I knew everyone’s jobs. I was generally among the first to find out company news because a lot of information crossed my desk each day. I thought that this would work to my advantage in applying for a corporate communications position.

I was wrong. The stink of reception work takes years to wash away.

I spoke with the admin who was quitting, and she told me a lot about the job. She was annoyed that it was strictly an admin position, and she did not have much corporate communication work to do. She told me that she had to do things like attach files to the VP’s e-mails, because he just couldn’t figure out how to do it himself.

The VP would pass by the reception desk and give me random tasks, which I assume were just to test me. He asked me to find the phone number for the CEO of a rival company. Thank you, Google. He asked me to compose a press release based on a laboratory study of one of our products. I’m comfortable with medical and scientific jargon, so this was a relatively easy task once I found information about press-release formatting. I did find the VP’s request strange because the admin said that she never once had to write a press release; the most she had to do was proofread.

After a couple of weeks of catering to his arbitrary whims, I was called in for an interview. I was so excited. I dressed up, I studied, and I printed copies of my current resume on ivory resume paper. I had worked so hard to get my resume to highlight my skills rather than my experience. One of my best friends (who is an accountant with an MBA) had helped me get my resume into a better format for highlighting relevant experience.

I walked into his office, sat down, and handed him my resume.

“So,” he said. “What is it about handing out people’s paystubs and bus passes makes you think you’re qualified for a career in corporate communications?”

Ouch.

I laughed –probably because I was nervous and offended, but I tried to play it off as casual. I mustered up some answer about how I had tutored writing for years, written and designed workshops about writing, was a talented editor, and really wanted a more challenging position.

“If you’re so interested in communications, why didn’t you get a job in the field when you were finished with college?”

Sigh. When friends ask me that question, I can answer it honestly, but I had no idea what to say in such a formal setting. How is that even a valid interview question? I don’t even remember what I said. I think I just babbled on about how I was versatile or something.

“When did you graduate college?”

“2003.”

“So I guess you’ve just been screwing around for four years.” He had that “ha-ha-I’m-making-a-joke-but-not-really” tone. I did my best to laugh it off.

Towards the end of the interview, I asked him how he got his job. He told me that he worked at a store that sold stereo equipment, and after college he got some job at a small-time newspaper and he worked his way up. He was in his early 50s, and he’d been in communications for over 30 years. He was coming from a completely different place, and he didn’t understand why I hadn’t done the same thing.

Then he dealt the final blow: “When I look at you and your resume, I think ‘this girl would make a good receptionist.'”

Triple ouch.

I was not offered the administrative assistant job. An HR representative came out and told me that I just didn’t have enough experience, and then she told me about another department in our company that needed “someone to do some filing.” I burst into tears. Later that week, the corporate communications department hired a random temp from an agency, and they paid her more than I got paid at the front desk.

I felt I had been wronged. It was as though they felt it was “cute” that the receptionist wanted a big-girl job. I was more hurt than anything else. It wasn’t even the job rejection. It was that I’d never had a chance.

I complained to my supervisor about how frustrated I was with my experience trying to get out of my stifling job. I was literally and figuratively trapped behind that desk –I wasn’t even allowed to get up and move away from the desk at any time.  I made an offhand comment that “in an ideal world, I wouldn’t be a receptionist another minute.” Two hours later I received a random voice mail from the woman at the temp agency who had placed me at that job. Three hours after that, I was fired. I was unaware at the time that I had already been replaced with a temp, hence the random call from the temp agency.

I was fired for being “unhappy.” They said that it was “risky” for the company to have someone answer the phone and greet visitors when they were so “unhappy.”

They knew I was trying to get a job in another department, and they knew why. I was bored and I never hid that fact. I was there about a year and a half, and I had been told repeatedly that I was the first receptionist to last more than six months. The boredom was excruciating; had I not been so desperate, I wouldn’t have lasted there nearly that long.

I was so bored that I invented games to play with the postage meter. I was so bored that I read the spam faxes just to look busy.

They had known for months, but when I spoke up about the way I was treated, I was “too unhappy.” They were okay with me being unhappy –just not too unhappy.

I was not unemployed for long that time around, and my next job was one that I loved. After about four weeks of unemployment, I got my very first editorial job at a big company. I was getting paid less than I had been as a receptionist, but I loved the work. Unfortunately, I got laid off.

When I found out that I was getting laid off from my first editorial job, I was understandably upset. My pay was terrible, but at least I made it through each day without wanting to bang my head through a windowpane. To avoid a lapse in employment, I applied for an associate editor job at the same company. The company had a very specific hierarchy, and the job I was applying for was one step above the position I had.

I requested an informational interview with the woman who would have been my supervisor if I were chosen for the job. I e-mailed her my resume and she sent me a meeting request for that afternoon to talk to her about the position. I wasn’t dressed for an interview because I had only heard about the position after I had arrived at work that morning, but since it was an informational interview, I was less concerned. I created a list of questions to ask and I brought them with me.

I didn’t ask a single question. The minute I walked in the door, she started grilling me job-interview style. Even though this was a job within the company where I already worked, she was completely unaware of what I was talking about when I tried to explain my job. I had signed an NDA and was not sure if I was allowed to discuss certain details outside of my department. She kept pressing it, and I answered as best as I could, though I admit I remained vague about specifics. If I was going to violate my NDA, I sure as hell wasn’t going to do it in a way that could come back to haunt me.

I failed to answer her questions about my current position to her liking. She then began to tell me that she was looking for someone with a lot of technical writing experience. The job was not a writer position, let alone a technical writer position. It was an editor position, and the job listing did not mention technical writing at all. The job listing also mentioned that all applicants would be given an editing exam. I asked her if I could take the exam. She said “we’re just evaluating people by their experience.”

I told her about my editing certificate program, and she asked me to describe specific assignments I had done. Again, I was expecting an informational interview, so I was not prepared to answer questions about classes I had taken several months or a year before.

We talked a few more minutes, and then she said “I’m not going to lead you on and pretend that we’re interested.” Direct quote.

Hanging on to whatever composure I had left, I asked her if she could think of any departments where my skills would be useful.

“No,” she said. “We don’t hire beginners here. Maybe you should try to get a job at a newspaper.”

I left. I was either going to say something vulgar or cry, so I walked out. I’m completely baffled as to why she requested this interview with me if she saw my resume beforehand. If I wasn’t what she was looking for, why did she choose to waste her time and mine? Her “we don’t hire beginners here” statement stung the most. After all, I already worked there and she knew that.

The following day I went out to lunch with a coworker, and I told him about my ordeal.

“That’s so weird!” he said. “I interviewed with her last week and she was totally nice to me.”

“What?!”

“Yeah.”

“How come she didn’t know what my job was if she interviewed you first?”

“I don’t know. She didn’t ask me too much about it.”

What. The. Hell. He and I had the exact same job on the exact same team. We were hired two months apart, and we were at a similar level of experience.

“Maybe she’s one of those women who just doesn’t like other women.”

Whatever. I’m glad I’m not working for her.  I’d have gone crazy looking at her scowly face all day. My coworker didn’t get the job either.

I’m not sure what I learned from all this, except that people can be jerks. Unfortunately, I already knew that.

Share

1 Comment

Filed under Awkward Interviews I've Had, Obstacles, Soapbox, Work