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I’ve decided to get personal about Issues in the Modern Workplace for my first diary.

I became unemployed December 31, 1999, in a happy ending to the story of The Little Company That Could. There were only three of us, and Best Boss Ever smiled when we said we were totally spoiled for any other job. I figured I could work a few more years and then reduce my hours and be semiretired.

Here’s what really happened.

I had been a freelance editor for 15 years before helping to start The Little Company in 1990, so I Got Back Out There. Little did I know, to coin a phrase.

I'll start with the Dept of Health and Human Services job in 2001 or 2002. The Bushevik political thumb was already on the HHS community mental health programs. It crushed the earnest employees and their programs and finally crushed me too, causing me to behave irrationally and get fired. This has nothing to do with your work, my boss said. You're  a very good editor and I'll give you a good reference. I soon recovered from the digestive problems I hadn’t realized were job-related.

An overview of interviews and temp jobs follows.

There was a translation firm that paid freelance translators 20% below the normal hourly rate for little-known languages. My job was to search out freelancers online to work on projects. When they accepted, they would email This is a one-time thing. I normally don't work for this rate. Then they’d come back for more work.

I spent some time at a small medical research foundation that received $$$$ at Christmas from poor widows, rich families, and lawyers in a hurry for a write-off. The executive director had her husband and her son on the payroll. At their Board luncheon I heard her say We're going to try to fund more research next year to improve our public image. I couldn't work fast enough and I got tangled up in their kludgy software. I became mildly hysterical on frequent occasions and was eventually let go for not following the dress code. The data clerks wore heels to enter the widows' donations into the system. (I looked up the foundation online. They're way down the list of admin funds vs. research funds.)

The "information research firm" sounded intriguing; I looked forward to the interview. I was greeted by The Guy in the Polo Shirt (Why do arrogant young men who run little companies always wear polo shirts?) and we sat down at a table surrounded by file cabinets and earnest women in tiny cubes. He leaned back in his chair, laced his fingers behind his head and said You spelled copyeditor two different ways in your resume.

After that I just looked around at the hardworking women who were either entering data or scurrying around, sometimes asking Polo Shirt Guy a  question and then disappearing into their cubbies again. It turned out the firm gathered government data through FOIA and sold it to pharmaceutical companies.

The transcription company said they were a "sweatshop for editors." I should have taken them at their word, especially when I saw boxes and boxes of output labeled with deadlines that were times of day instead of dates. We had to listen to tapes and proofread transcripts, with deadlines at 11 am, 2 pm, 4 pm. On the third day I had to listen to a trial that centered on the grisly murder of a man in his 20s by a local teenager. The guy had made a move on the teenager's girlfriend. I freaked, ran outside, called my therapist, and quit.

I've had good jobs too.

I loved working at Target. While I was there they sometimes shouted Jill!  when I came in the door, I was so smiley all the time. I loved my stint at the local chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness; I ended up volunteering there. Both those jobs ended in a positive way, and there have been great temp jobs. I can't say enough good things about Sparks Temps.

I've been on Social Security for about a year now, and it keeps a roof over my head and my computer connected. Still, I want the Senate to pass the farm bill so I can get food stamps. The new version doesn't include retirement accounts as assets. I still have a little money left. And I have a line on a freelance job that looks really, really good . . .  

Originally posted to Lookups on Fri Nov 30, 2007 at 12:58 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  ps - fabulous user profile... (6+ / 0-)

    I live halfway between the White House and Camp David. Every time a helicopter goes over, I make a rude gesture at it.

    Just call their form of government Hypocracy.

    by lineatus on Fri Nov 30, 2007 at 08:48:50 PM PST

  •  Thanks (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    triciawrites, NonnyO, jlms qkw

    I was feeling invisible. Thanks for the good words.

    The gods are in the balcony and I can smell the popcorn.

    by JG in MD on Fri Nov 30, 2007 at 08:56:13 PM PST

  •  tipped for a good smile (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NonnyO, jlms qkw, JG in MD

    and hoping that you'll find a great freelance job.

    no catchy signature from me

    by triciawrites on Fri Nov 30, 2007 at 09:09:20 PM PST

  •  Kepp writing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NonnyO, jlms qkw, JG in MD

    now that you have your toes wet

  •  i'm going back to work somewhere (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NonnyO, JG in MD

    in january - so i can pay my way to netroots nation and the dnc.  eeek.  i abandoned the fulltime career when pregnant with the first child, and gave up on the parttime option when the two kids starting going to different schools.  

    my dad is newly retiring from iowa state university (staff) and is trying to figure out how much he can work.  he's 68, and i think they are comfortable, but he's not used to not working.  

    •  Not Working (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NonnyO, jlms qkw

      I hope your dad has lots of conversation with friends and family about how to spend his newfound time.

      Some people are more suited to retirement than others. My dad was a world-class retirer, and I'd like to follow in his footsteps.

      The gods are in the balcony and I can smell the popcorn.

      by JG in MD on Sat Dec 01, 2007 at 06:21:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Intellectual Boredom (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jlms qkw, JG in MD

        For people academically inclined, intellectual boredom is the enemy... speaking from personal experience here.... ;-)

        My first "obsession" in life was reading.  I used to read 2-3 books per week right up until I got my first computer.  I have the largest library of anyone I know.  I now read many things online, and fewer books, but I refuse to stop learning....

        My back surgery in 2000 didn't quite take, so I'm never free of pain, and only last month I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and a heart condition.  However, I got a computer in '01, discovered tons of genealogy data online, and I "use" genie research to keep my mind off of pain (it works most of the time!).  Luckily, I have Scandinavian ancestors (of seven countries my ancestors came from, three are Norway, Denmark, and Sweden), two of the Scandinavian countries have their documents and transcribed data online - for free, their taxes pay for all of that! - so I've been working on not only my own direct lineages, but the lineages of the spouses of siblings of my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, almost all of whom were Norwegian immigrants or offspring of Norwegian immigrants.  The only "cost" to me is the time to do the research and documentation (all to the good on a limited income, since I have a lot more time than money).  I've been able to document these lines back to the 1600s, in some instances (my own, too), and when I finish with one line I turn to another, as well as work on ancestral lineages of my own that arrived in the US in the early 1600s, and a few have documentation from the 1500s.

        I got interested in genealogy in my sophomore year in high school (early '60s), but only after getting a computer was I able to work on genealogy full-time.  I also taught myself how to restore old photos, make photos from old negatives (ended up going through a couple of scanners), and how to make my genealogy web sites (also used seamless backgrounds that I taught myself to make with graphics programs) and upload them to my ISPs web server.  All that after my first computer was built for me in the fall of '01 and I had to ask where to turn it on and off and didn't know the difference between a GB and MB (I now almost have a working computerese vocabulary); I got a Mac laptop with my genealogy program five months after my first PC.  Within the first year I had to have the PCs hard drive upgraded twice because the photos I was working on were overloading the system.  I now have an international network of correspondents, most of whom are involved in genealogy.

        My second current interest is the political situation in this country; I've known about Georgie's lies since watching the 2000 "debates" and then watching the US turn into a surreal political landscape; not much feels real any longer.  To say I'm ashamed of the illegal war, torture, and most politicians, not to mention being horrified that our Congress Critters have a do-nothing policy and refuse to stop the top two war criminals who sanctioned such horror in our names by impeaching them, is a gross understatement.  When I get sick and tired of being disgusted with politics, I return to genie research.  It's easier to think in pedigree lines and work with foreign languages and Gothic penmanship than it is to think about how our country has fallen apart.

        The long and short of it is, if your father (or you) are academically inclined, pursue your passions so that you keep your mind occupied with anything and everything that interests you.  Many long years ago I was bemoaning my ennui and my best friend said to me "The only thing that you're suffering from is intellectual boredom.  You need to find another hobby."  She was well aware of my penchant for taking up new interests at the drop of a hat, obtaining books about my latest interests, doing all sorts of arts or crafts, writing..., and going to college as a non-traditional student was the best thing I ever did.  I don't plan to ever stop learning... anything and everything that piques my interest and keeps my mind occupied is fair game.

        One's life does not end, nor does one's brain cease to function, when one leaves a formal workplace or a profession....

        Life is too important to be taken seriously.
        Oscar Wilde

        None of us gets out of this world alive, so we may as well have some fun while we're here.  If intellectual pursuits are your passion, go for it!


        by NonnyO on Sat Dec 01, 2007 at 11:14:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Many Thanks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to the person who fixed my tags.

    The gods are in the balcony and I can smell the popcorn.

    by JG in MD on Sat Dec 01, 2007 at 06:42:44 AM PST

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