12/2/2018

Happy Hanukkah! 

Although it is beginning to feel like Christmas in New York, Hanukkah decorations have been present for weeks. I LOVE that! I even love Christmas here. Probably because it is not so overbearing and assuming as it is in Southwest Michigan. There it is assumed to be the only religion. Also, I think I love New York so much because I grew up in rural Idaho, living vicariously through movies and television. So, Christmas, is only really Christmas in New York, reflecting all of the movies set here.

Hanukkah at Rite Aid

It has been a very event-packed two weeks. Where to start? My visit in Kalamazoo was pleasant. It starts off so sweet, with Vincent and Gali greeting me at the airport full of the absence of five missed weeks together. Vincent cooked all day and made a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner for just the two of us (Gali subsisted on crescent rolls and cranberry sauce). Then on Friday the rut started to set in. We went to the dog park, went to a movie, started sitting on our computers in the living room, not talking – just like old times. But Monday and Tuesday I got to visit with people, and things became busier – I put my Subaru on Craigslist and sold it the next day which equals two months rent!

Getting to the airport was a New York adventure. I had loaded my MetroCard the day before with $40.00. I took the train (one swipe) to116th street, but when I tried to use the card to get an SBS bus ticket to LaGuardia it said invalid. I had to trudge with my large (empty) suitcase back down to the subway where the agent told me she was unable to transfer the balance to a new card and gave me paperwork to send it in for a refund. Okay. I bought a new card, went back up to the bus stop, got on the bus and everything was fine until the bus stopped outside of LaGuardia and told all us passengers we would need to walk from there or catch a shuttle. We all got off and crossed the street to the nearest shuttle. The driver seemed a bit discombobulated by the number of passengers suddenly swarming the bus. There were also a group of airport workers already onboard who speculated about the possibility to walk to the terminal from there, as construction had interrupted normal pedestrian passages.

After about 20 minutes, and less than a mile the driver announced that anyone wanting to go to Terminal B should walk, because he wouldn’t be there for another half hour. Some did. Thirty minutes later we pulled into Terminal B and the driver announced that we should all get off and catch the shuttles in front of him because they would get there faster. (“There”being any and all destinations.) Everyone got off and some ran to the front of a queue of shuttle busses. I went to the next one in and asked if he stopped at Terminal C. “No, you want the bus behind me, Purple.” The bus I had just exited.

Myself and the two others who had gone as far as me returned to the Purple bus. The driver asked us why, and we told him. In the mean time, the entire queue had moved on so the bus moved forward to its official stop where all the people who had gotten off and run also returned to the bus. This included two of the airport workers who sat next me and carried on a delightful conversation, full of wit and teasing. When one moved away I asked the other first if we were coming to Terminal C, and then complimented him on his wit. “You guys are funny,” I said. He smiled and then started to expound, “why not just be funny and nice? All these people on their phones, ignoring everything, I like to talk to people.” His spirit mirrored mine. I thanked him and finally exited the bus. The rest of the trip was uneventful.

The first few days back in Kalamazoo reaffirmed my decision to move to NYC. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just that I feel so much more energetic and happier in New York. In the depression years I would ask myself (and Facebook) is it more important to have a job you love in a place you detest or live where you love with a job that’s not ideal? Which question came to form the thesis for the entire move. Occasionally, when applying for technical writing positions, something I did at Pfizer in Kalamazoo before they laid off the company I worked for, I consider if I should just return to Kalamazoo and try to get that kind of job there. But the truth is, I did consider that, I sent out a couple of applications and never heard back. And I am so much happier here. Everyone I meet comments on my energy, my smile. It just feels right.

There were two job possibilities when I left New York beforethe holiday weekend. One, I played phone tag with for a few days. We finallyspoke on Monday, but she said up front that the job paid $35,000, was Iinterested? Um, no. Not in New York. The second job is for “WorkflowCoordinator” Saturday and Sunday from 8pm to 8am. The pay is crappy, but it would be steady – no “pauses” – and is in legal word processing, so could lead to more opportunities. Plus giving me time to pick up more shifts during theweek. That interview was scheduled for Friday morning. I flew out of Grand Rapids on Wednesday. In the morning I sent little nudges to Niaz, asking for anupdate, now that the holiday was over. He responded that he’d submitted me tosome things, and that I’d gotten an 88% on my proofreading test, which he saidwasn’t bad. Then, while waiting for my flight, he called me and asked if Icould work a midnight to 10am shift as a proofreader. MY FIRST TEMP JOB IN NYC!I knew this guy would get me something. Of course, I said yes. I had planned onreturning to the contract review job, as they had seemed a little disappointedI would be gone for so long, but getting into the field is more important.Maybe I could do both?

I arrived home around 5:30, chatted with Anthony for a bit, got ducks in a row, etc., and then tried to sleep until 10pm. Just dozed, not real sleep, then I took my first Uber to the job. We drove through Times Square near midnight, the lights were blazing, people everywhere. It was crazy as the tree lighting ceremony had happened a few hours earlier, and there were traffic barricades everywhere.

Once I arrived, I was a bit nervous. I didn’t want to ask too many questions, so I had to tell myself I knew this. My weeks of contract review helped, I think, because the documents I proofed had the same sort of lingo. My first job was splitting 150 pages with the other proofreader. So, close reading 75 pages, looking for mistakes. At one point a man who I think worked security came up to chat with other employees on the floor (there weren’t many) and I found it difficult to read with his voice in my ear. I might have missed some mistakes there. The other proofer left at 6am and gave me her pile which I took a quick glance at and I think we were on the same page. I really liked the manager, she laughed a lot, and had a great sense of humor. She called the word processing center, based in Phoenix, to ask about status, etc. and I listened to that because I think it is what the job, I will be interviewing for on Friday will do. At one point she seemed upset with the woman she spoke to in word processing, and I think she was doing WP work herself. I let her know that I could do word processing as well, if needed.

They required a one-hour lunch break, which I took from 6:30to 7:30am, walking around the area to a Starbucks. I passed the place where tourists crowd to watch a morning show through the windows. Fox and NBC are right next to the building I work. Radio City is down the street. I love being in the city at the odd hours, midnight and early morning. Different feels for different times.

When I left at 10am, the manager asked me if I could return at midnight. From there I went to the contract review job where I was greeted with a hug from Efrain, and general warmth from the rest. One young man I haven’t spoke with got me all up to speed on the project. As I worked Niaz kept calling me, and I’d have to step out of the room to the kitchen to confer. When he heard I had gone to my other job he complimented my work ethic, but voiced concern that I would burn out. Then he confirmed they wanted me back that night. Then it switched to the following evening at 5pm to midnight, so I told my Project Manager I could stay all day. Then it switched back to midnight, so I had to tell the PM I would be leaving early, and possibly not be in on Friday.

Niaz confirmed that it was a good thing they wanted me back, that meant I had done well, but also assured me I could turn it down to get some sleep. I had hoped to work at least four hours at the contract job, but once I knew I would be working another graveyard I left after two and a half hours and tried to get a full “night” rest.

I climbed into bed decked out with my eye mask and earplugs, and I managed to achieve some REM sleep. When I woke at 10pm, I said goodbye to Anthony (who is returning to direct at Kalamazoo), and once again took an Uber to midtown. This time at the job they gave me 180 pages of numbered columns of prices for car service. The directions were terribly vague: “Proof  by morning.” But for what? There was a 2013 version, a 2018 version and a 2019 version, all in different formats. When I asked for more direction the managers both just said, “I have no idea, just do your best.” Okay, it feltlike a test. It felt like no one wanted to take responsibility for doing it wrong, so give it to the temp to mess up. Since the document was 90% numbers, I concentrated on making sure each one was accurate. We’re talking 20 columns at a time, in tiny print. The only markups I could do were on formatting issues. Sometime around 3am the manager asked me how it was going, because she wanted to give me a different job. I told her I still had 150 pages to go. Around 5am, she finally came and looked at the job. I told her I was correcting formatting, had found a few alphabetizing issues, but had yet to find an incorrect number. She then finally directed me to just check for formatting and alphabetizing and forget the numbers, which made the project go much faster. I finished it around 6:30am. Took my required one-hour lunch break (I hate this, if I’m going to be somewhere,I’d rather get paid for every hour I am there, not force in an unpaid hour. In the old days, I loved that NYC didn’t do that. Or they paid for your lunch.)She then gave me another cold read, which I nearly finished before leaving for my job interview at 8:45am.

I had been scheduled to come back at 5pm that night (Friday),but before I left the manager told me she’d like me to be “on-call”. I told her that would be fine but found myself hoping she wouldn’t call. I was getting overwhelmed and losing track of time. I knew I needed a break.

The interview went extremely well. I was confident, having just done two graveyard shifts in legal. I did comment on the low pay, and she agreed, saying it was hard to get someone willing to do it, but it was a good atmosphere. I assured her I was looking for long term stable employment. We spent the last five minutes recommending books to each other. From there I returned home, rather than going to the contract job. I was just too tired. Just as I got in bed Niaz called. Once again he assured me I could say no if they called that evening, to get some rest. I tried for an hour to sleep but couldn’t, so I got up and read for a while, finally falling asleep on the couch. When I woke, I decided to go grocery shopping, I’d been out of the apartment for over a week and it was time to do some errands. At 4pm someone from the agency called to ask me to come in at 6pm and I said no. I really wanted some “me” time. The contract review place sent me an invitation to work on Saturday at 10am and I thought that would be perfect, because I could make up hours and honor there. Then around 9pm Niaz called me and asked if I could go back to the proofreading job at 6am. I said no. 10am beat 6am, even if the pay was $5/hr more.

I felt bad about turning down two temp jobs in a row, so I wrote a long thank you to Niaz, and I am hoping to get sent out more. I worked in Brooklyn all day Saturday, then returned to a quiet night in my apartment which is mine alone again for the first time since moving in. For a week. Then another friend is coming to sleep on the couch, then Vincent and Gali, until early January. Still, I am enjoying the solitude while I have it.

So, here’s the thing. I feel like great leaps and bounds are being made towards the goal of working in word processing, legal. If I get the weekend job, I will learn a lot of the little things I don’t know (new systems, processes, etc.), which will help lead to better jobs. On the other hand, I am hoping for more from the temping gigs, that they will lead to something better. I have always assured the agencies that I can quit my contract job, because it’s temporary and constantly ending, but quitting for a long term or permanent gig is different from being available for day to day and not knowing how long the temp gig will last. I don’t want to burn bridges. The current contract job should end in a week or two. They say. But that has changed before. It is a delicate balancing act between the regular gigs and the temp gigs. I will have to wait and see what Niaz says in response to my note, and what kind of work I get. But also, there’s sort of a mental health priority in keeping the job where I now know people, and they know me, and I am not afraid to ask questions.

Today, Sunday, I slept in until 1pm. Mostly because when I woke at my normal hour and realized that I didn’t have to be anywhere for the first time in days I indulged in deeper dreaming. Hopefully, this marks an upswing in the job market, the promise of more coming my way. There’s a new elfin town, “Inchy” the Incremental Elf. Things are happening, just in lesser pay and smaller ways than hoped for.

Some observations of New York. The food truck man I always say hi to when exiting the subway was there the other night, behind a plastic shield to keep out the weather while he cooks. It is a Halal food truck, making chicken and rice. I haven’t eaten his food yet, but it smells delicious. The truck is about six feet long and contains an entire grill that he cooks on. Once, a few months ago a woman in front of me saw the piles of raw chicken heaped on the metal and started proclaiming “ooh, that’s nasty!” to herself. I’m not sure why, because it was outside? Was she vegetarian?

The other day I passed the truck and the man was on the outside of the weather panel. I looked back at him, and I realized he was praying. He had a small prayer rug, and he was getting up and down, facing East. There’s a young woman at the contract job that also asks for accommodation to pray, and the woman I interviewed with on Friday was in full hijab, and long dress. Upon entering her office, I placed my coat and bag on a prayer rug laying over the back of a chair. The US, and New York in particular has always been the landing place for different waves of immigration. Where once everyone I met was Italian, or German, or Latinx now there is a clear majority of Arabic folks. Many of the small delis and groceries in my neighborhood are either run by Latinx or Arabs. Pax loves to hear different languages and identify them. He will often interrupt total strangers to ask them what they are speaking, or guess. We visited the grocery across the street from me together, a place I haven’t been, and he seemed to piss off the older man behind the counter by asking him if he was speaking Spanish. The next time I visited I asked a younger man and he confirmed it was Arabic. I think the older man was insulted anyone would think he was Hispanic.

As the weather grows colder there are more and more homeless on the subways. I grabbed one of the end seats that I like, only to realize it was vacant because the man standing next to it smelled like burnt chocolate. Not pleasant. I waited as long as I could and then exited to another car. More and more people talking to themselves, NOT on the phone. A woman next to me on the train to Brooklyn yesterday was mumbling for most of the ride. I glanced at her sideways, and didn’t see evidence of a phone, she was nicely dressed from the waist up, but from the waist down she wore a light skirt, bare legs and flipflops. The further into Brooklyn we got, the louder she became. I didn’t understand what she was saying, it seemed to be a complete conversation with someone only she could see.

Returning home last night the cars were crowded, I stepped into a very packed car and moved towards a large space I perceived as empty, only to realize there was a huge pile of packages, (or a body under a blanket?).When the crowd thinned the old man sitting next to the bundles slowly uncovered what turned out to be five or six bags, which he arranged about his body to carry off the train.

These aren’t people asking for money. They are simply existing the best they can. Trying to find warmth the best they can. There’s an air of “don’t bother me and I won’t bother you” about them.

As for the jobs. Next week may bring great things. Or, may dry up as we head into true holiday season. I am hoping for the former. In the meantime, I skip around the predatory job ads. Once you start searching thereare so many algorithms that will spew jobs to your inbox with exciting subject lines like “Christine! You are perfect for this job!” and “So-and-so Big Name Company is interested in you!” but when you click on the link it takes you to an advert to drive for Lyft, or Uber, or some other type job. Then if you click past that the company advertised may or may not be buried in a list of unrelated jobs. Everything from truck driving to nursing.

The more “honest” job boards also get aggressive. It’s nicethat they pick up what I search for and deliver lists to my email, but sometimes they deliver the same lists three or four times a day. It took me a while to cotton on to the fact that they recycle jobs on their lists, so even though they are advertising “NEW” the jobs listed are the same as they’ve been for months. The Monster job board has a habit of advertising jobs that have long since closed, and if I click on the link, they ask me for weeks after if I applied, and have I heard. (No, Monster, the job was closed months before you showed it to me.)

And yet, even with the bombardment of jobs something will pop up from time to time that I didn’t see and is already weeks old. Out of thejobs I apply to, however, I do get the occasional call and interview, so it isworking on some level. And some jobs I really would like to get. Which is conflicting, because I almost don’t want to get a job that closes the opportunities out there, but I need to get a job. Conundrums.


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