Thursday, January 29, 2009

Unemployment, Day 30: LOST

Last week Jennie and I watched the season premiere of LOST. Jennie has been watching the show from the beginning, while I had never seen an episode before in my life. Strangely, the two of us seemed to have about the same understanding of what was going on (though that was nice, because it made me feel smart, or something). Having watched three episodes of the series now, I can safely say a few things about it.

Thing #1: I love the crap out of it. I like it because it makes no sense at all, and because the few characters that I've met are interesting and entertaining. I'm eventually going to go back and watch the whole series, but for now I'm really enjoying being confused (though, based on conversations that I've had with other people who watch the show, even if I go back to the beginning, I'm still going to be confused).

Thing #2: Jennie likes it a lot, and I enjoy watching her reaction to it. She gasped no fewer than three times during the episode we watched last night. During the premiere last week, the utter confusion on both of our faces was very amusing. As enjoyable as the show is, watching it with someone that is invested in it and clearly enjoys it as much as Jennie does makes it even more entertaining.

Thing #3: I think Grant Morrison is secretly behind the whole series. A button you have to push every 108 minutes in order to save the world? An island that (spoiler alert!) moves through time at apparently random intervals? And that's just the stuff I've seen! The only other thing that I know about is the polar bear (A POLAR BEAR?!), but I don't know how or why it's on the island. Whatever the reason, though, only a mad genius, a practicing magician, a former hallucinogenic drug user, and the author of ANIMAL MAN could be behind this, and luckily we get all four of those things in Grant Morrison. I'm telling you now, if you watch LOST and you've never read anything by Grant Morrison, you should check him out.

So those are my thoughts on LOST. With more to come, I'm sure.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Unemployment, Day 24: Storytime! the third

It was with a heavy sigh that I undertook the maneuverability challenge that lie behind me. I backed up cautiously, cutting the wheel as I did, attempting to maneuver the tail end of the Cadillac into the space between the two cones behind me. At the last moment, I realized that I had cut the wheel too hard. I stopped. "That's one," the instructor said, marking something on his clipboard, still refusing to look up. I pulled the car forward and reset in the starting position. "That's two," he said again. What? I exclaimed in thought. You can't count that as two stops! That was only one stop and then one reset, which doesn't count as anything! Jackass. From that moment on, I hated the examiner, and I vowed to make this the most unpleasant experience that he had ever had in his life. And I would do that, just as soon as I finished the maneuverability portion of the exam.

Slowly, deliberately, I backed the car up again, cutting the wheel just as I had done before - too far. This time, however, I didn't realize it until it was too late. In a flash, I remembered that I had a rear view mirror, and I looked into it just in time to see the tail end of the car strike one of the cones and knock it to the ground. I stopped.

That was it. I was dead. A downed cone was the end of the game. You knock a cone over, you fail automatically. I looked at the examiner and waited for him to say something.

"That's three," was all he said, and he marked something on his clipboard and did not look up.

He hadn't noticed! Now I was stuck. There was no way I could get out of this without failing. As soon as I finished the course he would notice that the cone was down and he would fail me. Nevertheless, I pulled forward again and stopped. "Four," he said.

My mind raced. I looked in my side mirror and saw the cone lying there on the ground, so lifeless, so still, yet accusatory, as if it had been betrayed by me and my inability to maneuver. It was then that I saw him.

I don't know who he was. I don't know where he came from. All I know is what I saw. And what I saw was an African-American man in his 30s wearing a stocking cap and a heavy coat walk up behind the car, pick up the cone that I had knocked down, set it back where it was supposed to be, smile at me, and walk away.

All of this, of course, was lost on the examiner. He hadn't seen me knock over the cone, and he certainly hadn't seen the stranger replace the cone. And there was no way in hell that I was going to tell him.

Backing up a third time, I finally remembered to use my mirrors, to cut the wheel the appropriate amount, and to not hit any of the cones or stop along the way. I finished the maneuverability test with a score of 80 points, and I went on to complete the road test with a score of 90 points. I received my driver's license that day, and said goodbye the days of bumming rides from my parents.

After completing the maneuverability test, I looked around the parking lot to see if I could find the stranger who had picked up my cone, but he was nowhere to be found. Over the years, I have begun to doubt the truth of my story. Had it actually happened, or had I simply imagined the whole thing, having been delirious with anxiety over the test? Perhaps the stranger was a guardian angel, stepping in at my time of greatest need, or perhaps he was a homeless man who decided to help out a kid who couldn't drive very well. I have no evidence to prove the facts of my story, nor do I believe I ever will have any such evidence. I leave all judgments regarding the story to you.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Unemployment, Day 23: Storytime! Part Deux

Having corrected my course, I made my way towards the maneuverability course, which was nothing more than five cones set up in a deserted area of the parking lot. I stopped before entering the coned rectangle, and wiped my hands on my jeans. My palms were sweating like it was their job. My confidence was shaken by my inability to follow simple instructions like 'go to the right.' Would I be able to do this activity which I had so adeptly completed several weeks before? It was do or die time, and I was about to find out just what I was made of.

"Pull forward and go to the right and stop," the examiner said flatly. "Don't forget, you lose five points for every time you stop without having completed the course." He seemed helpful, although he never looked up from his clipboard. I imagined that I must be the ten thousandth kid to which he had given a driving test, and that all of this must be dreadfully boring to him at this point. I thought that I would get this over with quickly and perfectly, and that he would be so impressed with my ability at maneuvering what was surely a boat of a car that he would tell me to skip the road portion of the test and simply give me my license right there. My confidence had returned. But for how long?

I pulled the car forward and to the right with ease, maneuvering past the cones smoothly, like a duck gliding across a still pond, my hands spinning the steering wheel, my feet caressing the gas and brake pedals as if the car was an extension of myself. I was one with the Cadillac, and the Cadillac was one with me. The instructor simply grunted. "Okay," he said, still not looking up from his clipboard. "Now go back."

This was the challenge. To back up through the maneuverability course, one had to draw upon everything that he had learned as a driver's ed student. Hand positions on the steering wheel. Awareness of the location of all of the cones. And, above all else, mirrors. One could successfully maneuver the course with ease by relying solely on his or her mirrors.

It was at that moment that I forgot how to use my mirrors. I forgot that I even had mirrors. The car was an extension of me, and I do not have mirrors, so why should the car? It was preposterous to think that mirrors would help me in any way whatsoever. It was also at that moment that I realized that I had never completed maneuverability in this behemoth of a car. The car that the driving instructor had driven was a Honda Civic, which was at least half the size of the car I was currently driving. Finally, I realized a third thing at this moment. I realized that I had no idea what I was doing. I was screwed. It was going to take one thing to get me through this. I needed a miracle.

Next: the miracle.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Unemployment, Day 22: Storytime!

Today I'd like to take a slight detour from relating my escapades in unemployment. Yesterday Jennie asked me to tell her a story, so I did, and it was a pretty good story, and it was all true, so I thought I would share it with you today. It's in three parts. Here, then, is part I of the epic tale of how I failed my driving test but still got my driver's license.


It was a cold day in February, 1999 that my parents and I ventured out to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in search of vehicular independence from each other. No more would they have to take me everywhere I wanted to go, and no more would my mobility be limited by lack of a small plastic card with my name, address, and picture on it. I was going to get my driver's license. It would be a day long remembered.

I had been practicing for months, naturally. I'd been on the road many times with my parents, and a few times with an instructor. My final outing with the instructor lasted about fifteen minutes. The instructor decided to have me practice maneuverability first thing, and I did it perfectly in one try. It was a thing of beauty. He looked at me and asked if I wanted to do anything else, and I said no. I wanted to go home and watch cartoons. I didn't tell him that, but it was true. So that was the end of that lesson. I figured, given the ease with which I had completed the final practice of the maneuverability test, the actual exam would be a breeze.

I took the written test and missed one question, though what they were and what the correct answers were escape me now. I'm sure it was something trivial having to do with school zones or what to do when you accidentally get caught in a funeral procession. Having completed the written section, it was time to get behind the wheel. The car: a 1987 Cadillac, my dad's old car, and the largest car ever built at the time (this was in the halcyon days before the rise of the SUV). Or at least it felt like the largest car ever when you were driving it. There were no fewer than 27 blind spots, and as I slid into the driver's seat, I could feel them all glaring at me, laughing, daring me to forget about them, to make one false move.

The instructor buckled his safety belt and said, "Why don't you go ahead and pull out of this spot and go to the right. We're going to do maneuverability first." I smiled and nodded. Maneuverability was my bitch. It was time for me to take it from behind until it begged for mercy. I placed the car in drive and proceeded to pull out of the spot, and I got halfway out before the instructor yelled at me. I had gone to the left instead of the right. Oops.

Next: The Test!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Unemployment, Day 14: What I Did on My Unemployment Vacation

At 5:04 today, I plan to drink a toast to The Mazer Corporation, for it was two weeks ago today that the following e-mail went out to all of its employees:

Date: Tue, 30 Dec 2008 17:03:56 -0500
Conversation: Creative Services Closure
Subject: Creative Services Closure


To: Our Employees
From: David Mazer, CEO
Re: Closure

Please be advised that there are on-going negotiations with a potential buyer of the Creative Services Division. As of the end of the day today, all Creative and Corporate employees are terminated. We hope that the business will be reconstituted with a new owner who may ask you to return as early as next week.

The Mazer Corporation began 44 years ago and has provided service to the community of Dayton, its employees, customers, suppliers, and the youth of America since that time. A combination of events in the publishing market and the state of the general economy has taken their toll on Mazer Corporation. The Mazer Family still believed in the company's potential and recently increased its investment to continue operations but could not secure additional future funding.


David Mazer
The Mazer Corp.

It's important to note that the second paragraph is more or less a form paragraph that was included in an e-mail that went out not ten minutes earlier informing employees that the Printing Services Division of the company was shutting down. It's also important to note the complete lack of any sort of human emotion evident in the e-mail. This simply reinforces my long-held thought that David Mazer is, in fact, a cyborg, sent from the future to kill John Connor and to screw the employees of The Mazer Corporation with their pants on.

Honestly, I'm not bitter. I'm not even a little angry. I'm mostly just amused that it happened the way that it happened. Also, that Mavericks, the comic book store I have been frequenting for the better part of my life and that is run by an insane old man who seems to be doing everything in his power to run the store into the ground, outlasted The Mazer Corporation. Bravo, Mavericks. Bravo. And bravo to you, Mazer Corporation. Your dedication to screwing your employees at the eleventh hour knows no bounds.

Days that I have been unemployed: 14
Jobs that I have applied for: 7
Jobs that I actually wanted from those that I applied for: 1
Jobs that have been offered to me: 0
Days on which I have gotten out of bed at 10:00 AM or later: 4
Days on which I have showered at 4:00 PM or later: 1
Days on which I have not showered at all: 0 (but give it time)
Days on which I have compulsively cleaned my apartment: 3
Movies I have watched: 5
Books I have read: 1
Comics that I have read: dozens
Parties I have hosted: 1
Fun I have had during my two weeks of unemployment: a lot

Tomorrow, I'll talk about all of the problems that this abrupt closure has caused, and about all of the things that the Mazers did wrong (spoiler alert: there are many, many things).