Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Fascists in the Suburbs

I'm temping again. The office is located right above a steak house that I have always wanted to go to. I walked in to the lobby of the building and straight ahead of me was some weird back entrance to said steak house. This means that the whole day I have been able to smell steak. Steak is an expensive food that one can generally not afford while one is unemployed. Usually this sort of cruel teasing on the part of God would make me slightly bitter, as I am a huge fan of eating dead animals. Lucky for me I got to eat flank steak last night, served with string beans and oca. (Bet you don’t know what oca is, and if you do, you still get no prize, as I’m still unemployed.) How on earth did I afford such an extravagant meal? I mooched ladies and gents, I mooched off of my parental units.

My parents currently live in Northern Virginia. Mooching off of them does not happen as frequently as one might think, given my close relationship with them. They knew about the infamous blog and warned me repeatedly not to keep it because they feared it would lead to the loss of my job. Needless to say, they have now taken to making sure I know that they "told me so" on a regular basis, so I tend to avoid them. (When I am not eating their steak, that is.) They like to make sure I know that this is a problem I got myself into and will subsequently have to get myself out of, sans their help. Seems the world of blogging is a subject that many older generations just don't "get" anyways. Well, that and I'm in my mid-20's and have already graduated and it would be sad if I continued to mooch off of my parents. (Mind you that if given the opportunity I would totally mooch, unabashedly.)

My parents live in a McMansion in a gated community in Northern Virginia. It is like one of many that seem to keep springing up in the Northern Virginia area as it continues to grow wealthier. Houses are huge, beautiful, and overpriced as well as overflowing with nuovo-riche types who along with their new high incomes have new snotty attitudes and senses of entitlement. I don't think my parents knew quite what they were in for when we moved into this area a few years ago.

What my Father did not realize when he fell in love with this house is that with such beautiful neighborhoods come Neighborhood Associations. These associations tend to be made up mostly of the spouses of the newly rich, who seem to have become drunk with the realization that with money often comes power, and if you don't have power, you can often use your money to try to create it. When they aren't blowing their noses with their bills, they are finding ways to implement new rules for other people to follow, for reasons unbeknownst to me, but I imagine horrible sex lives and spouses who are never home might have something to do with it.

So with this the Stepford Fascists are born, and along with them comes a number of nosy nuisances that have only increased over the years my parents have lived in this neighborhood. Things like being reminded when to paint your fence if someone else decides the shade of white is too "dull", or that you cannot plant flowers in your own garden unless the Home Owners Association approves of them first. My parents were some of the first to buy in this neighborhood, back when bored rich wives didn't feel the need to dictate the wants and desires of a neighborhood and everyone left everyone well enough alone. Needless to say my parents now want out, and are preparing their house for sale.

Anyways, so the 'rents have been having all sorts of work done to the house to make it sellable in this horrible market. Because of this they are often unable to park in their own driveway. Now there is very limited public parking in my neighborhood, and I'm sure it will be of no surprise to you when I tell you that this is because of the Stepford Fascists. A few years ago a group of them decided that they didn't like people parking in front of their homes, despite the fact that other people might not have a problem with their guests parking in front of the house they are visiting or that it is generally a temporary thing, so these people petitioned and then petitioned some more to have almost every inch of curb painted bright yellow, thus forbidding you from parking your vehicle within reasonable walking distance of your destination. As a result the only place nearby where one can legally park is a rotunda located behind a row of houses near my parents home. There are no houses directly in the rotunda, only on the street surrounding it, so when you park on the rotunda, you are in fact parking across the street from someone's house, but not on the curb directly in front of it. These spots are all public parking. They do not belong to anyone. They are free for the taking.

Except there seems to be one up-tight asshat in particular who seems to have decided that the two spots directly across the street from his home are his and only his and he doesn't feel the need to share. My parents had been parking in these spots as they are the closest to their home and their driveway was full, and one day they found a note on their windshield. It asked them not to park there and accused them of being rude. My parents were miffed. They certainly had no intentions of being rude, so they stopped by the person's house to introduce themselves and to explain that they were in the process of selling their house and moving, so were often not able to park in their own driveway. They were polite, and I guess they assumed they had cleared up the situation.

But clearly, asshat neighbor felt differently. Soon after this they got a storage pod. The only place they had space for it was in the driveway. This meant that one car had to be parked in the rotunda at all times while they filled up the pod. A few days later the up-tight neighbor showed up at my parents house -get this- dressed in his FULL military General's uniform. He informed my parents that he didn't want them parking there. They pointed out that they didn't have a choice, as one spot in the driveway was taken up by a pod and the garage was filled with boxes. They pointed out that this parking space was not on his property and was in fact PUBLIC property, so they were not breaking any laws by parking there. As I think most logical human beings can see, they were doing nothing wrong, and didn't understand why this man in his Military garb felt the need to interrupt their dinner to chastise them.

Maybe 2 days later they received a letter from the neighborhood association telling them they had 48 hours to remove the storage pod because it was creating a visual disturbance in the neighborhood. Guess who is a member of the neighborhood association? Yes, the fascist up-tight militaristic asshole. My parents were a little shocked that someone seemed to feel the need to let a parking space that was not even on their property consume such a huge portion of their every day lives. I myself am unemployed and have an absurd amount of free time and can still find more important things to worry myself with than whether or not someone parks directly across the street from my home. (God help me if I ever do come to a place in my life where this is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night. These assholes should move to a third world country for a little while, perhaps then they will find that things such as your neighbors parking their car near your property are more than a little trivial.) Lucky for my parents they were almost done packing the pod, so it was quickly removed before they suffered a tragic and mysterious fate at the hands of the Home Owners Association. They shared the story with some cool neighbors who don't have sticks up their asses, and these neighbors were so appalled and flabbergasted that they decided to start parking their car in those spots too. (I love our neighbors, by the way.) Oh the maturity, the pettiness, the scandal of life in the suburbs.

I'm not sure as to the time frame of the next series of events, but for some reason or another my parents had to park in the rotunda again. I suppose if they had wanted to they could have just parked in another space. However I'm glad they didn't, because to me this whole situation is the most ludicrous thing I have heard since, well, I got fired for my blog, honestly. Why on earth do you care if someone parks in a spot THAT ISN'T ON YOUR PROPERTY? It's not like my parents decided to hoist their 1968 paint stripped Buick onto some cinderblocks in front of their home. They aren’t parking an RV. They drive a convertible and an SUV. But sure enough, underneath the wind shield wiper of my Mother’s car was a note that read, "You are mean and unneighborly."

WHAT??? ARE YOU ON CRACK? My parents are unneighborly for parking in PUBLIC PARKING? What's next? You showed up to their house in your United States Military uniform, does this mean that my parents hate the troops now too? All because they dared to park in front of an anal retentive asshole who happens to be in the Military?

Folks, if I thought I would get away with it, I would try to organize a neighborhood TP and egg event targeting this asshole's home. Or forks, yeah, I'd fork that bastard's lawn so quick. Oh, the ideas. (DISCLAIMER: Keep in mind that this is not a threat to anyone's home/lawn and I am joking and/or describing fantasies that I would never actually act out.)

You bet your ass I parked in that spot when I went home yesterday. The second spot was occupied by a beetle. I later found out that this beetle belongs to the militaristic assmonger. Sure enough, when I left my parents home around 10ish, the beetle had been moved out of the public parking spot and into the driveway of the house itself. Seems they have now taken it upon themselves to occupy the controversial parking spots, so that, God willing, they can look out their front window and see a lamp post and grass as opposed to a Mustang or a Mercedes.

I wonder if the CEO of my last company has recently moved....

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tales from Temp Land

I just got yelled at because I didn't know where the conference room was located in a large office building that I began temping in 2 days ago. I'm only here for a few days and my duties include answering the phone and.... answering the phone.

"Are you blogging on the job, UEB? Have you learned nothing?"

I have in fact learned a lot, and will never blog at work once I find permanent employment. I am blogging now because:

A. My job consists of answering the phone. When it rings. Every.... 30.... 40... minutes.... Therefore I shall blog.
B. I was told to amuse myself. I was given a temporary login name and told to surf the net or bring reading materials. Therefore I shall blog.
C. I am only here for several days. Do I care about job security in this particular position? No. Therefore I shall blog.

Now that I've cleared that up, on to the complaining, er... I mean blogging.

Someone entered the office and informed me that he was meeting with XXX, so I called XXX and informed them of this, only to be told that the meeting was in a certain room. Neither myself nor the person attending the meeting had any idea where this room was, so I called XXX back. XXX felt the need to bark at me, "IT'S RIGHT BEHIND YOU!!!" Seeing as I have only been here 2 days and was never given a tour, I had no idea that there was a conference room located behind the heavily frosted glass to my back. Thank you XXX, oh how I love being condescended to, especially by complete and total strangers.

Fortunately most of the people I have encountered thus far are nicer than that, with the exception of this one other grumpy old guy. He had started to introduce himself and ask me my name, but then interrupted himself to find out how long I would be working here. After I told him I would only be here for about a week he quickly retracted his hand and scurried off muttering about how he didn't bother to make friends with people who were only here for a few days. At first I thought he was joking but when I laughed and he glared over his shoulder instead of smiling jovially and reintroducing himself I realized he was not. It may be pointless to attempt to learn the name of someone who is only working in your office for 4 or 5 days, but it is still nice and creates the illusion of being welcome in a new environment.

There is one lady in particular who is quite nice to me and makes an effort to talk to me each time she uses the elevator. The only problem is I simply cannot understand a word she says to me. She’s always smiling and laughing about whatever it is she’s telling me, so I’ve grown accustomed to smiling and nodding and laughing in return because Lord help me I have no clue what she is saying. Perhaps she doesn’t project her voice well, but for whatever reason her words sound like gurgles and each time I silently pray that she isn’t asking me a question because I most likely won’t know to respond. English is definitely her first language, so there is no foreign accent to fall dead on my ignorant American ears. So far from what she has told me all I have been able to decipher is that she has very chapped lips and enjoys the movie Peter Pan. Both of these topics of conversation make me slightly uncomfortable.

There is also a man who pushes a cart of something around (I have yet to figure out the purpose of this cart, I just know it’s not mail) from floor to floor who seems to enjoy ogling me while repeatedly muttering in slightly mangled English, “Concentrate! Work! Get the Job done!” and then laughs as he stares at me as I type away. Ordinarily I’d find this quite creepy, but fortunately my sleazy-guy radar tells me that he is genuinely trying to be nice and just doesn’t speak much English, so I just giggle or smile until the elevator door closes, which seems to delight him.

Eccentric employees aside, temping is not all that bad. I don’t have to be here until 12ish and can leave around 5ish, so I can sleep late, which is a plus. I have lots of free time for blogging and job hunting. Now if only I was paid $50 an hour as opposed to $12, then I could really make a living.

Oh well, at least I can earn just about enough for this month’s car insurance payment.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Cost of Free Speech...

Yeah, so I got fired because of my blog. This of course means that now I must start a new blog, in which I can complain about the loss of my last blog. It’s only logical.

Allow me to clarify. Technically speaking, I didn’t actually get fired, I was asked to resign. This of course is a load of horse@#$% and I might as well have gotten fired, since I was given no choice in the matter. You know now I'm just itching to use them as references on my resume after this whole ordeal. The only difference is that I got a severence check, which covers at least one month of rent.

I will try to make a really long story really short, both for the sake of keeping me shrouded in a cloak of anonymity, and because if I explain what happened in uber detail one more time I might shove a stapler up someone's ass. At least I would if I had one within arms reach, but I don't, because I'm unemployed and am not at a well-equipped desk.

One day I was minding my own business when the VP called me into the conference room. I automatically had a bad feeling about this special one-on-one meeting, the same sort of feeling you get in elementary school when you find out the principal wants you to pay him a visit, but I certainly did not anticipate what waited for me behind the conference room doors. Laid out in front of the VP were 2 huge folders, labeled “PART 1” and “PART 2.” I had no clue what they were for; at least I didn’t until the VP asked me to tell him/her about "insert-blog-name-here.” I'm already a pale individual folks, but I guarantee you that at that moment I must have been transparent because I think I turned 9 shades whiter than my usual tone of “pasty” as I slowly realized what was in those folders.

Did you guess my blog? If you did you get a prize, except I can’t afford to give it to you right now because I have no money. Every blog entry I had ever written for the entire year I worked at this joint was in that folder. Every single one. People automatically assume that I must have written about my place of employment. Yeah, you’re right, I did. But before you start calling me an idiot let me inform you that I never once mentioned the name of where I worked, and I never once mentioned the names of any of my coworkers either. You could tell I worked for something that was only slightly related to Congress sometimes, but that was it. The VP even acknowledged that I never wrote anything defamatory about the company.

I'm sure at this point you are wondering what it is that I wrote that caused such a ruckus. I assure you it was nothing out of the ordinary. As I mentioned before it wasn't a well-known blog, sort of just a thing my friends read once in a while, and the content covered the events of what I consider to be a typical 20-something's lifestyle. Mostly I talked about weekend plans, things I wanted to buy, boys I wanted to make out with, boys I did make out with, and the alcohol involved in such situations. Far too scandalous for the uber-conservative Bible-thumpers I worked with. Oh the shock and shame of finding out someone you employ likes to get drunk and kiss boys. Horror of horrors.

As I sat there looking at the folders that contained my thoughts and musings of the past year everything seemed quite surreal. I had heard of such things happening to others but I sort of regarded it as an Internet Urban Legend. My blog wasn't publicized and only had a small handful of readers. Despite the fact that it was after all still the internet, it all felt quite intimate. Realizing that an unknown amount of employees had pored over these posts, looking for incriminating evidence, was a rather sickening feeling. The most incriminating evidence they could find was the fact that on occasion I did blog while I was at work. This was the reason given to me to explain why I had to resign. I stepped up to the plate and I admitted that I should never have blogged on the company dime. Honestly, I never thought it was a problem because the employee handbook stated that we were allowed to use the computers for limited personal use, and everyone else in the office did so at their own discretion. I didn’t think it would be a big deal if I used my personal computer time to write in a blog every now and then when things were slow, as opposed to say, playing solitaire or shopping like some of the other employees did. I've certainly learned my lesson, but the fact that I know I was in the wrong doesn't change all the little bits of evidence that kept piling up that led me to believe that was not the real reason, but just one they gave me so I couldn't sue them for all they were worth. Well, the fact alone that the VP straight out said, "Someone called the main office and asked how we could possibly employ someone that wrote the things you were writing" comes to mind, perhaps VP needs a lesson in tact. Combining this with the fact that the Office Manager basically confirmed my suspicions as I cleaned out my desk didn’t help either.

As much as I would like to know why they felt the need to do what they did, I find it pointless to obsess about what transpired, and am forced to look to the future as my bank account grows smaller and the due date of my next rent check draws nearer. I suppose I should consider myself lucky because in the end I did get a nice severance check, but I can’t help but feel that the fat check doesn’t quite make up for the feeling of being judged based on what you wrote about your lifestyle while simply exercising your right to free speech.

I suppose I should start searching the employment section of Craigslist now...