Monday, February 28, 2005

Grease Pit of Despair 

Do you ever see middle-aged people working in fast food restaurants? Does it make you sad? It does me. I'm much more comfortable seeing a homeless middle-aged person than one working in fast food.

Mostly younger people work in fast food joints. Guys still in high school, or perhaps working their way through college. And there's nothing really wrong with that. It's just a temporary thing. Maybe college money, maybe spending money, maybe work experience. They'll be there a few months before they get canned by the faceless bureaucracy of managers, heads, and the store owner. And they'll probably get canned for something normal, like taking a sick day when they're sick, or get caught sitting down after they've been standing for four hours. Big deal. It's fast food. They pride themselves on a high employee turnout rate, and some of those kids have their whole lives ahead of them. Some are destined to be losers, but not all. One of them might even own the store one day.

Likewise, it doesn't bother me much to see older people in the industry either. They're probably retirees making ends meet. They've already lived, now it's time for them to settle for what little social security they have left after the guys in Washington are finished fiddle-fucking around with it. And in order to afford things that old people buy, like diapers and cat food and eggs and 19 large bottles of prune juice (I still mad at that old bastard), they have to take up a job that pays a little money for them to do a job that a monkey could do, provided it's a monkey with sufficient training. Hello Burger King.

But people between 30 and 50...that bothers me. These are the people who can actually feel their lives slipping away from them, but can't do anything about it. They have to kiss ass and try desperately not to offend their "superiors" by leaving grease on the fry hopper. After all, if they lose their job, they'll have to spend 6 months or more attempting to find a new job. Who wants to hire a 40 year old with no education, fresh from Steak & Shake?

I spend a few months in high school working at a fast food joint (I won't name it, but it rhymes with "WcZonald's"), and found the whole thing to be a negative yet worthwhile experience. It taught me valuable life experience, and proved to be a metaphor for the passing of time. No, really.

Birth is the moment of hiring. You're brought forth into a brave new world, slapped on the ass, and given a ball cap. You immediately go to school, also known as one night of on-the-job training, where you are repeatedly told how the Steak Dildofucker Lobster wrap is prepared. Try not to wince when that fat woman comes in and orders 20 of them.

Marriage is your ten minute break. You don't really want to do it, but it's expected of you. After a while you come to terms with it and even come to appreciate it, but you have another one every day and all of them are too short.

What is product of marriage? Children, usually. What is the product of your ten minute break? Trash, usually. Trash from all the free food you consume waiting for the ten minutes to be up. Therefore, when you have to take the trash out, you're driving your children to school. You don't want to, but no one else will. Buncha lazy deadbeats.

Any unexpected yet benign turn of events is the announcement of a new sandwhich. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but you'll have to learn to deal with it. Likewise any breakdowns in communication between you and those you depend on is the Coke machine on the fritz. That'll happen pretty often, trust me.

All the negative things in your life is the Grease Pit. Now, depending on where you work, that could be an actual pit in the ground, or it could be a big watertight above-ground container which looks not unlike a dumpster. You walk out into the bitter, probably rainy night and wheel along with a little container full of grease and old eggs that were stuck in the grill's grease channels all day, and then open up that pit and start pumping the grease in with the big handle, trying the whole time not to vomit at the sickeningly vile stench of the old grease rising from the murky depth (I just referenced my own blog - go me!). Taxes, dead-end jobs, and your own impending death can be likened to draining the grease. It's awful, but it must be. It will be.

Finally, there's your inevitable death. That's when they suddenly stop scheduling you to come in, then tell you a week later when you pick up your latest paycheck: "Oh, by the way, you're dead".


You know what? Maybe all this is a bad analogy. More likely, this was just a sucky job that I did and lots of other people do. And it depresses me that people who aren't old yet aren't young either are often stuck doing it.

That's all. See you next entry.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Real World 

"If you think it's tough now, just wait until you get in The Real World."

Did you ever hear that one in high school? I sure did. Constantly. It always used to bug me, too. The people who said that never seemed to be too worried about their peers ganging up on them and beating the shit out of them in the restroom, or having their cars vandalized for not going to church, or having someone steal their writing utensils and laugh when they couldn't find them. As such, it always bugged me more when they added this part:

"Wait until you have to start paying bills."

OH MY GOD. PAYING BILLS. What better representation of the treachery and aggression of man? I mean, there's this money in the bank, and then you write a check, and lo and behold, you have less money in the bank and have to wait until next week to get more. IT'S SO COMPLICATED! And if they don't get their money, they might have to reposess your 25 inch color television, and then how could you ever hold your head high and be proud when someone comes to visit and sees that bare spot in your Ikea entertainment center?

Of course, it's because they're successful. Or at least trying to be. This is another thing that's been pounded into all of our heads since when were young. "Grow up and be successful". "Go to college, or you won't be successful". "Strive for good grades, don't just accept Cs. You should try to be successful". And of course, by "be successful", they mean "switch your brain off and dive head first into our wonderful consumer culture". The media helps them all along. We get these wonderful "inspirational" films like Coach Carter, where some crabby old bastard shoves around a bunch of kids and teaches them to fear and never question authority, and wear a suit and tie because then they'll be successful.

You know what success in this capacity means? It means getting a job with an annual salary instead of an hourly one. I mean, it might only be $30,000 a year, but at least you get to (read, have to) wear a suit and tie and carry a briefcase. But you'll get things like health insurance and a 401k to make up for that. And stock options, which are all-important, even though you have no clue how the stock market works. Sure, your boss is a 50 year old dick who has a wife the size of a subcompact automobile and is taking it out on you because he can't get it up for her and she's making him go to a marriage counselor, but that doesn't matter because you'll have a "corner office", which you love because it's in the corner, which apparently is good for some reason. And you'll have your own computer. Golly gee!

And if you finance it for five years, maybe you can get one of those fancy "sports sedans" - so named because they're too slow and boring to be sports cars but ride too harshly and don't look elegant enough to be luxury cars - made by some upscale-sounding manufacturer with a lot of "x"s and "i"s in the name, and is actually a branch of some Japanese corporation that normally makes cars so lame you wouldn't be caught dead near them. Imagine the surprise on the face of your coworkers when you glide into your "Employee of the Month" parking spot in your new Lexifinicura GSXR-487600-2000. They'll marvel at your ability to blend in with traffic with your car's "sleek", lozenge-like exterior, painted some non-offensive color like gold - oh, I'm sorry, I mean Cairo Sand Mica - and your plain tan-colored leather interior that looks just like every single other upscale car interior these days, except yours has that lovely LCD screen in the middle of the dashboard that lets you control everything in one place by navigating a series of menus. Or maybe, better still, you'll have "voice recognition", which will of course never recognize your voice. And you have the manumatic transmission...an automatic that lets you twitch the shifter up and down occasionally because you're too lame to know how to use a clutch.

And then you get the split level ranch house. Never mind that it has as much to do with ranches as Hidden Valley dressing, it's still called "ranch", which makes you all rugged and stuff. And it looks just like every other ranch house in your gated community where everyone tells you how often to cut your grass and what colors your house can be and get all jealous and contact the housing administrators when your new redwood deck is larger than their back patio. But that's okay. It has double-glazed windows! And four bedrooms! And three bathrooms! And a bar in the kitchen, but alcohol is evil, so you'll only serve cereal at this bar. It's a safe bar! Don't forget your plush carpeted family room with the fake fireplace. And screw that 25 inch television...you've got a plasma TV. It's got plasma in it. And that's good, because plasma in an important part of your blood. Even though you're making good money now, you're still in as much debt as that guy you went to high school with who is managing a dine-in restaurant for seven bucks an hour. You just have more stuff to show for it. Most of it you didn't really want, it's just that that big house you have looks SO BARE without lots of potted plants and shelves and doo-dads and what-nots and odds and ends and you don't want anyone coming to your house and seeing all that bare space and thinking that you can't afford to fill it with something, now do you? No. You have to keep up appearances.

Success also includes marriage. Oh yes. Your spouse will have a similar job, only he or she will commute in a minivan - not an SUV, because you're an environmentally conscious citizen who is "in touch with nature", even though you've never left the suburbs in your life - to haul the children around in. That's right, the inevitable children. Because once you get married, it's just a given that you have to stop using birth control and contribute to overpopulation. Maybe you'll do this four or five times, or even more if you're Catholic. Then your wife (or you, if you're female), having fulfilled the goal of most women to procreate, can stop trying to be attractive and fulfill the second goal of most women: Eat a lot of chocolate.

And then maybe 25 years from now, once you become a senior executive and your spouse is insisting on marriage counseling and your kids are taking all of your money to go to college but still insist you're an asshole because you won't let them get their genetalia pierced, you can take out your frustrations on the new guy. That one that's just started coming to work in the dandy new sports sedan, thinking he's hot shit.

Then, yes then, you will know you have been successful. Welcome to the Real World.

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