Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Vicissitudes of Capitalism

I quit my temp job almost 2 weeks ago. The call to the temp agency went unexpectedly smoothly. I told them I found another job that started the following week. "Can you give us any more notice than that?" the guy said. "Fuck you, you fucking corporate lackey!" is what I wanted to say. "No, I'm afraid not." is what I actually said. Two days' notice is the royal treatment in TempWorld. They should have had a fucking parade for me in gratitude for my gift of two days' notice. Would they have given me any notice if the assignment was about to end? Maybe, but most likely not. So why do they expect consideration when they show us none? I tell ya: Corporate Love is a one-way street.

The stress was gettin' to me. They placed a strong emphasis on productivity. We were reviewing mortgage documents, a process that required 6 weeks of training and plenty of continuing assistance. The floor was big, dozens of us working at computers, not much in the way of privacy, but precious little socializing either. The only reasons I lasted 4.5 months were the amiable folks (many of them immigrants) in my training class and my revitalized outlook. In the last few weeks the stress combined with my righteous indignation to create an untenable work environment. I'd listen to Democracy Now! and KPFA, the Pacifica (leftist) radio station out of Berkeley, and ask myself, "What the fuck am I doing here? Why am I working my ass off at a meaningless, mindless job just so some Wells Fargo (Cat's outta the bag!) execs can embroider their Golden Parachutes? If I had any balls and/or soul, I'd quit!" So, after a few weeks of that, I did.

What really pissed me off was how they pressured us to do overtime, even though they admitted that, as temps, we didn't have to. I submitted to it for a while, putting in 50 hours for 4 straight weeks, before I mustered the courage to refuse anymore, knowing it would put my chances of getting another temp job from ProStaff (The other cat's outta the bag!) in doubt. I let this be known the day before my first performance review at Wells Fargo, prompting my WF supervisor to postpone the review from Tuesday to Friday. That was a pretty shitty week. I spent a considerable part of the time wondering if the guy would turn the screws on me for more overtime. When that Friday finally rolled around, he never once brought up overtime. Instead, he told me (politely) that my productivity was only 60% of what it should be, and, unless I brought it up, we'd need to have more meetings. It was a Pyrrhic victory to be sure. Those of you with experience in the Corporate World will know that no further meetings were scheduled. Just another idle threat. I should've seen it coming.

I know I said it in the previous paragraph, but lemme tell ya what really pissed me off about that job, and capitalism in general lately: They were pushing us to work our asses off... in the middle of a FUCKING RECESSION! And not just any recession, the MOTHERFUCKING GREAT RECESSION! Am I the only one who finds that a little fucking retarded? It's just the Invisible Hand of the Market fisting us yet again. You see, while the rest of the economy is on life-support, Wells Fargo's Home Mortgage business is going great guns, thanks to refi's sparked by the Fed frantically lowering interest rates to stimulate borrowing and new sales that take advantage of plummeting home values. Of course, when people can't make the payments on all those mortgages Wells Fargo is buying, you know WF will either be first in line for their bailout, or they'll just shutter the whole operation so the management can spend their golden years in Rio (or Fiji or wherever Golden Parachutes land these days).

SIDEBAR: If you like the style of this post, you can thank James Howard Kunstler. If not, you can leave a comment on his blog.

Suffice it to say, most (if not all) of the employees will go straight from mandatory overtime to pink slip. That's what really sucks about the current Market Correction (piggybacking on the last 2 paragraphs): There's no in-between. You're either chained to your desk or cut loose for good. The same thing happened with my one-week temp job in December. I was working 12-hour days, but it only would've lasted a few weeks if I'd had any stomach for phone customer service. It took ProStaff 3 months just to find me that gig. The Great Recession has produced a wildly volatile job market, yielding long periods of lethargy punctuated with short bursts of frenetic overtime. I find it endlessly irritating that Capitalism makes greater demands on us when it has even less to offer in return.

I didn't realize how good I had it at ING. Easy-going atmosphere, no real deadlines and 12 hours of overtime in 5 years. Although, even after "pulling my personal thing together" (as Dennis Miller used to say), I still wouldn't be happy there, because I don't believe in those corporate pursuits. Never have, never will. The difference is now I know which work is worth giving your life to. Also, perhaps more important, I finally have the emotional security to relocate away from friends and family to pursue that work, whether it's organic farming, saving the rainforest or whatever. Yet the question remains: Will I make that leap? My Fringe show will keep me here until early August at least. After that, I won't really have any more excuses. Am I ready to self-actualize? Only time will tell.


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