Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hugging The Cactus

I now know what it is to relive junior high school in an adult workplace.

At least in radio I've had some allies, and you can't rewrite the Arbitrons. 

But WOW it's amazing in the work world when you are over 50.  The most common jab is a little jab...and there are lots of them.  Condescensions, insults, mocks, up-and-down stares...the jabs run the full gamut of Mean Girl artillery.

They're called microaggressions, and they add up.  A jab now and again is one thing, but a battery of them will bring your mood down, even when you've done yoga for a half hour and meditation for another half hour and gotten enough sleep and are in a decent mood when you get to work.

They are unavoidable.  The people who are younger than you are and know more than you do have the golden opportunity to look down upon an "authority figure" and to even the score for every parental wrong, every slight by a teacher, every need unmet by an administrator or judge or case worker, and to relish the jabs.  And we, who are by definition more mature, must grin and bear it or be cast as "unfit" for the culture.

Humans aren't always mean, but competition drives most humans to mean, predatory moments.  I've already seen the winners from my class start spitting down from the top; they can't muster the grace to raise up their team mates, because the craving to be better-than is just too powerful.

Another aspect of being an older worker is invisibility, and I mean as a sentient BEING.  Younger superiors want to spill every hideously boring detail of themselves to you regularly, but don't hold your breath for them to ask about you in any way.  You are there to serve, is the subtext.  You are there to serve younger egos-it's somehow considered your function to meet their psychological needs, in addition to performing your duties.  And if you happen to do that well, there will be a line for your advice.  If you don't do well, the jabs and jokes fly freely.

Why the fuck should I stay silent on this?  Because I need the job?  I'm applying officially and unofficially for more radio jobs now.  I wanted a new skill, and I still do, but why subject yourself to psychological BRUTALITY?  Well, mainly because it is pretty brutal out there.  It's not easy to find a work culture of productivity NOT based on competition-so it's going to get mean and nasty at some point.

Still, I've got less than 10 years before social security kicks in, unless the robber barons in the Federal Reserve skim it all off the top by then.  So why dive into a shark tank?  Which also begs the question, is the whole fucking world a shark tank now?

No, of course not.  No one is here to take big bites out of you.  Just little jabs.  And you have to be magnanimous about it.

You have to hug the cactus.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Machiavellian Capitalism

This (name left out to protect ME) class places an enormous emphasis on how great they are to work for.  It's supposed to be very rewarding, because:

1.  This is not a shark tank.  Don't be a jerk.  We are nice to each other here.
2.  This job is really about You.  The people around you care about your personal minutia.
3.  This is not a job where you continually lie to customers.  In this job you help customers (except for those important instances in which you lie).  Because of how we treat each other at work, we give the best "customer experience" in the business.  The culture permeates the work.
4.   It's not openly stated, but is forever implied, that Air BnB is part of the future.
5.  You can move up here, and FAST.

I actually believe #3 and #4.

I believe that when we stop being codependents in a dysfunctional relationship with work itself, then workers won't be the easily exploitable resource we have been before.  If people can't be made to tear each other to shreds competing for jobs, then you can't run a shark tank.  People might jump in the water, but they will not swim in circles for you if they've decided not to. In this way Millennials, so infamous for their "lack of work ethic", are in my opinion are the solution to the shark tank.

But this is still capitalism.  We are still being exploited.  The pay is 12.00 an hour, which is barely above food stamp territory.  It's the method of exploitation that's new.

We're exploited by being "happy at work".

This company understands why people "rage-quit".  A number of people in my class have done just that.  They've rage quit jobs at banks and nursing homes and retail and day care, and it's always the same punch line: "And for minimum wage!".  The stories begin with tales of how poorly the business is run, escalate into stories of abuse at the hands of bad managers, and then end with the final insult, minimum wage.

This company was founded and is run by educated entrepreneurs.  They are not working class guys.  But they found themselves in an impossible financial situation and entrepreneured themselves out of it by being very resourceful.

It's great capitalism, in that sense.  It's just tough for me in class.

We spend about 1/4 to 1/3 of class time on "ice breakers" and Sal and on everyone's personal minutia.  I know a lot more about Sal and my classmates than I know about the material.  Rather than running scenarios all day, we yak about our dumb shit.  Well, it wasn't yakking yesterday-yesterday it got to the point of YELLING.

My ears were buzzing when I got home.  In fact, they still are hours later.

Yes, I'm the oldest person in the class.  So my ears will buzz when other's ears won't.  And I don't actually HAVE ADD, unlike everyone else in the class, so it's very difficult for me to think when there's blasting music and people talking.

I'm soldiering through.  It really can be best described that way.  This class wears on my patience horrifically.  We aren't being drilled with the material.  And yet, I will be responsible for knowing it.

Supposedly, there's a ton of support.  But we need to show resourcefulness.  Well, I can do that.  I just need a lot more time and practice with the material than the rest of the class does.

I'm still in the fight.  I mean, what choice do I have?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The New Fight

It is very difficult for an auditory learner (not visual, as most people seem to be) to learn in the atmosphere I've thrown myself into.

Stress is not a good learning aid, though bastions of teachers with Little Napoleon syndrome and drill sergeants, from present day all the back to the Spartans, would disagree.  We know better now. The science is clear: stress burdens the brain and makes learning harder.

My instructor of last week would love this, particularly in my case.

From the first moment I said Hello to him I noticed a marked change in his demeanor. When he speaks only to me he never makes eye contact.  He turns his face, and nearly his whole body, in the opposite direction.  His voice sinks to inaudible levels.  Sullen fumes of contempt and resentment waft in my direction.  I've had people respond to me this way before at first sight, especially since I entered my fifth decade on Earth.  And it is commonly men under 30, and frequently men who aren't Caucasian.  NO idea why, but I make special efforts to make these people as comfortable around me as possible.  But sometimes they are just walled-up in my direction.

It happens.  It's a part of the human condition, even if it's a creepy, persistent discomfort during the 9-hour-long training days. I can deal.  I'll just be very kind and open and respectful.

There is a lot to learn during training, and especially for me.  I come from voice tracking and sound editing platforms, and I have raging dyscalculia.  It's going to take me more time and effort than the majority of the 20-somethings in the class who worked in banks and such.  I'm ready to work my ass off.  I'm ready to learn.

But learning isn't the priority for my instructor, though you might imagine that.

Like so many who've never had a captive audience, he is luxuriating in our attention like a hog in mud.  At the pinnacle of his performances for the week he was standing on a chair, hands splayed on his puffed-up chest, saying (with the questioning, up-ended sentences so prevalent among those who study reality shows to learn social and moral codes):

"I smell so good?  Right?  Like, when I'm in the elevator?  Like when I'm in there, right?  And I'm like, in the elevator and some girl walks in and she like goes, "Like, oh my god, you smell so good?  And it's like, so awkward!"

I've clocked his narcissistic diatribes at a maximum of 40 minutes.

When another instructor enters the room he's back to business, cramming in massive amounts of material, from safety protocols and admin search methods to international currency conversion rates at the end of the day when we are tired and worried.  I especially am worried.

But like a Spartan, I fight back when I'm held down.  I arrive a half-hour early to study before class starts.  I take copious notes.  I meditate.

While I'm not exactly grateful for the abuse I endured for decades in radio, it has taught me about my neural capacity.  I will endure this guy.  Better dickheads than he have tried and failed.  I will learn how to do this job, despite his efforts to the contrary.

It's not my first battle.  It's just a new one.