Wage Slavery 9: Sadly temporary

When last we left the WildeRix, he discovered a telepathic gorilla who explained the problem of civilization while waiting tables in NYC. Let’s see what happens next…

After the “Season” had ended, and TGI Fridays didn’t need their surplus of employees anymore, I had to get back to what would become a regular routine for me: scouring the Village Voice and tweaking my resume in order to sell myself to the flavor-of-the-moment job I thought I might have the tiniest chance of getting.  A few really desirable jobs passed by, but they never panned out for me.  I had high hopes of working at Columbia’s library, but while waiting for them to never acknowledge my presence, I had to hoof it (literally) in order to pay the rent as a foot messenger.

Okay, I don’t have literal hooves, but you know what I mean.  I had to do a lot of walking for a living.  The foot messenger industry (note: I use that last word very loosely) has a core of very dedicated messengers in the city.  You can see this in almost any job market there.  You could visit a hotel in New York as a kid and come back as an adult to find the same doorman carrying your bags for you.  But, of course, you have a lot of turnover in these kind of jobs as well.  So while Career-messenger Carl has the best routes, a lot of Johnny Come Latelys get left taking the lousy pickups and deliveries that the career boys wouldn’t touch.

I fit the latter category, so I had to make the long uptown runs or the bridge-and-tunnel runs to the Bronx or Queens.  Nobody wants those routes, especially when you get paid by the run.  If your livelihood depends on making as many $4 trips as possible, you want really short, close-together trips all in the financial district or midtown.  You don’t want to have to take a non-express train into the outer Boroughs in order to have to walk way to far to deliver a package to somebody you probably can’t even find because the map of Queens make no sense to a Manhattanite — and a noob Manhattanite, at that.

But the guys that ran the foot messenger business had big plans for me.  I had this golden skill that never walked through their door: computer experience.  If I could just stick it out taking the lousy routes for a couple weeks, they would promote me to an office job where who knows what kind of money would start pouring in for me.  So I stuck it out, only to find that they wanted to waste my precious talent by having me do schmuck data entry for minimum wage.  It barely panned out to more than hoofing packages.

So I went back to the Village Voice and back to revamping my resume.

I found a few temp positions.  And when I say “temp” I mean as temporary as you can imagine.  I got a few gigs stuffing envelopes.  Those both amounted to less than a day of work.  Although, they graciously paid me for a full day on each occasion.  I also got a job passing out fliers for some lady’s state senate campaign.  I didn’t know her name or what she stood for, but I knew that I would get paid at the end of the weekend, so I put up with the cold sidewalks of Murray Hill for a few days.

I landed a good temp job for a while doing proxy soliciting for a Mergers & Acquisitions company during the HP/Compaq merger.  We spent our 8 hour shifts calling stockholders, trying to convince them to vote for the merger.  For the most part, you either got someone’s answering machine, or you got blown off.  But occasionally, you would land a doosie who vehemently opposed the merger and would keep you occupied for a long time explaining to you just how much they opposed it and why.

I kind of liked the proxy soliciting.  I had the late shift, calling the west coast stockholders.  You had some kind of lame goal that the supervisors gave you to get through so many calls each night and get a certain percentage of commitments to vote for the merger.  But everybody knew that the M&A company just wanted us to keep making as may calls as possible for as long as possible because they got paid by the call.

I did a lot of schmoozing with the supervisors there in the hopes that I could take a permanent position after the merger went to vote.  I even hit a lucky break when I learned that the consultant who handled the hiring process grew up in Searcy, AR, and knew the family of my wife’s best friend.  In the end, though, even that company had to succumb to the recession that swept through the City in the post 9/11 era.

It felt disheartening to work so hard to get each one of these jobs that lasted for so short a time.  It reminded me of that scene from the original Muppet Movie where Dr. Bunsen Honeydew explains his growth solution: “…it’ll work on anything, but the effect is sadly temporary”, and Beaker echos with his falsetto mumbling, “Sadly temporary”, and shakes his cylindrical head.

As I walked out into the cold, damp air of the lower West Village to get on the train home from my M&A job for the last time, I grabbed a copy of the Village Voice again for what felt like the hundredth time and scanned the ads on the train ride home.  If only I could land a break in this big, heartless City that didn’t feel so sadly temporary, then I just might make it.  I could only hope and keep on trying.

Next: Wage Slavery 10: The Avenue I’m Taking You To

3 responses to this post.

  1. […] Next: Wage Slavery 9: Sadly temporary […]


  2. hey there,
    i really feel for you. this post reminds me of so many of my struggles in the past for a job that just meets my basic needs. i am a graduate student, and i often get sucked into this insular academic society (complaining about my problems and dramas), and then i suddenly remember the reason why i am in here is because i don’t want to be out there. this is another prision, a prision of the mind in which liberation is stuck in a cul-de-sac of theory or in allyways that look like paths to wide open spaces but then turn to dead ends. but here, i can at least manage my time and find some brief moments to relearn life skills.

    not to compound your difficulties, but this is how civilization gets us. leaving is extremely difficult because we’re deprived of the decades of skills we need in order to leave. and then, aware of the critique of civilization, and how it forces dependency, we are stuck in monotony. we spend all our time just making ends meet, when we realize this is the time we have to learn how to break dependency.

    as someone who resides on the close periphery of NYC, i’m definitely feeling the coldness and despair of the city and degrading environmental conditions.

    hope this post doesn’t seem too presumtuous. hope you are able to find a job in which you can continue to eek out a space for primitive skills…

    with respect,


  3. Posted by Rix on 12/07/2007 at 8:47 am


    Thanks for your comments.

    I used to want to stay in the academic world for that same reason, and perhaps some day I’ll go back to that as a transitional step toward breaking out.


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