Monday, June 27, 2005

Childhood Obsession & The Digitized Pilgrimage

I’ve been dealing a lot with memories of my past here on my blog within the last couple of weeks. I guess I feel like this electronic medium is my opportunity to introduce myself to the world. And I’m pleased to say that all three of you who read it have made feel as if the world is happy to know me. So to continue in the same vein, I’m going to discuss one of the many memorable aspects of my childhood.

Let it be said first of all that I am, despite all appearances, quite a nerd and I love video games. Just so you know what you are dealing with. You see, this fascination with electronic entertainment began when I was quite young. I blame my father, because, to the best of my memory, the first game I ever played was a pseudo-text based, crappy ASCII-graphics DOS game called CASTLE, which my father introduced to me in the computer lab at the university he was attending. At some point we actually owned an Atari, that ancient precursor of the modern home video game console, but it vanished under quite mysterious circumstances when I was very young and obviously very addicted to it.

I was still in elementary school when Nintendo released its top-of-the-line entertainment system. With the iconic Mario, the Italian/plumber/hero (who thought of that?), at the lead, Nintendo effectively began to steer the video game market away from arcades and in to people’s homes. It’s 8-bit color graphics tantalized the young imagination. It supported two controllers for multiplayer modes, an actual freaking gun you could shoot ducks with, a pad you could stomp on to make the little guys run (“but its exercise, Mom!”) AND could be played on any TV, anywhere! My cousins even put one in their fort in their backyard. And the games! Super Mario Bros., Excitebike, Duck Hunt, Castlevania, Contra, Double Dragon, Mega Man, and of course the original Zelda; a veritable plethora of pre-adolescent lust magnets.

And I had never in all my eight years lusted after anything so strongly. I wanted a Nintendo so badly my body shook with desire. My head swam with visions of the enduring bliss and happiness that simply possessing this magic device would bring. My parents, tragically, were firmly opposed to purchasing one. I was convinced that this was only because they hated me and wanted me to be miserable. I don’t quite remember, but its possible that it was an argument over the Nintendo that led me to cry out threateningly to my parents, “Well then…. I’m just going to go outside and BLEED.” How was I to know, so young and unacquainted with the world as I was, that we were struggling to put my dad through school and raise two children? That money was, at best, scarce if present at all? I believed, innocently and intently, that my behavior was the only determining factor in winning the prize. I promised to be good, to share with my brother, to go outside now and then. Nothing worked.

As a result, I gravitated then to those whose parents were less cruel than my own, which seemed to be just about everybody. I was sure I was the only boy in my entire class whose family didn’t own a Nintendo. I know because I was at their houses whenever possible, invited or not, waiting for my turn, my precious few minutes of nirvana stolen quickly and desperately. When I couldn’t play, I watched, learning, trying to master the techniques in my head. And I was pretty dang good, if I do say so myself; nobody could rescue the princess like I could, even if she was always in some other blasted castle. It was the quest, the journey, a digitized pilgrimage to that ever elusive goal that entranced me. Mushrooms, coins, power-ups, the flower that inexplicably granted flame-throwing powers, turtles, pipes, extra lives, warp zones, vines that grew out of nothing… it didn’t have to make sense. It was a world all of its own, one that I loved dearly.

I went through a particularly bad phase where I’d often dream that my parents had broken down and purchased the blessed device. With bounding joy and enthusiasm I would open the box – and open my eyes, realizing after a few seconds of disorientation that it was just a dream, the princess was in another castle, the coveted prized obtained then suddenly pulled away and hidden forever. I’d cry a little, then, with all the frustration my little heart could muster. You may roll your eyes all you wish, and shake your head at the silly little things that occupied the most important places of my mind, but the world of the child is so unobstructed and carefree that those things we adults think of as most trivial become for him the most important, the vital, the essential. There was no debt, or work, or war, or politics, or bills, or violence to occupy the mind; how lucky we were!

Eventually, the Super Nintendo came out, blowing away its predecessor with the sheer might of its 16-bit graphics, smaller game cartridges, and extensive line of quality games: new Marios, new Zeldas, F-Zero, Actraiser, Battletoads, Final Fantasy III, just to name a few. As you might guess, I now cared nothing for the older system – my eyes were now set firmly upon the mighty SNES, the next in what I thought for sure was a never-ending Nintendo dynasty of home entertainment systems. Sure, other consoles came along, the Sega Genesis most notably, but my heart belonged to the little man with a mustache in the red suit and everything he stood for. I continued to exploit my friends for a few minutes of game time, and to negotiate with my parents with every bargaining chip I had in my possession (I now realize I had absolutely none), but nothing ever changed.

I entered junior high, and high school, and the Nintendo 64 was released. This was beyond anything I could ever imagine that video games could be. 3D environments, moving camera views, tiny cartridges, and games like the newest Mario, James Bond, Star Wars, Zelda, and more. Surely my parents could not fail to see that the most advanced gaming system in the world belonged in my able hands! They could. I kept waiting, hoping that this Christmas, this birthday would be the day they finally made their first-born son’s little dream come true. My eyes would wander over the delicately wrapped presents under the tree, passing uninterestedly over the small rectangular boxes that were obviously clothes, homing in on the big, promising packages that would later turn out to be just a big box of clothes or perhaps a really neat board game whose pieces would inevitably disappear or break before New Years.

Well, my story does have a happy ending, of a sort. My junior year in high school my entire English class was forced by the teacher to write an essay for a state-wide contest, and I won third place and one hundred dollars. Another girl in my glass took second, and so an article appeared in the school newspaper about our victory. We were both asked how we would spend the money. She said, “I’m going to put it in my college fund,” and I said, “I’m buying an Nintendo!”

And so it came to pass that I walked out of Toys R’ Us one day with the box containing my lifelong dream under my arm. The sun shone brightly, and all the world seemed happier, kinder, lovelier. I had reached the final castle, overcome the last and final obstacle; there would be no false prizes this time, no mushroom people in drag snickering to themselves, waiting to reveal that my quest was not yet over, my reward delayed yet again in a painful cycle. The princess was here, and she wasn’t going anywhere. I put my free arm around my brother and pulled him close. “Never forget,” I said, my voice filling with emotion, “your dreams can come true.”

A few months later was my brother’s birthday, and my parents bought him a Playstation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Telephonophobia

I'm afraid of telephones.

Let me clarify: I’m not particularly afraid of the actual physical devices themselves, but of having to use them. It’s been like that as long as I can remember. I get this knot in my stomach every time a phone rings, even if its not my phone or somebody else answers it. I can't stand to pick up the phone, or have a conversation on it for longer than five minutes, and don't even ask me to call somebody I don't know or haven't called before. I can’t, I freeze up. My friends and acquaintances are confused to learn that, despite the fact that I can talk your ear off if we are having a conversation in person, I’m generally monosyllabic on the phone and have to be coaxed to talk at any length.

So the phone and I have a troubled relationship, but that hasn’t stopped it from creeping up into all aspects of my life, no matter where I go. In high school there was even a phone in my bedroom, though I never used it. It was connected to the phone line we used for our dial-up internet, so its presence was more to give an illusion of popularity and social capability than for any actual purpose. However, due to some sick joke on the part of my parents, the phone number for this line was listed in the phonebook under my name, resulting in telemarketers calling my bedroom and asking for me personally, even though I was just sixteen.

On one memorable occasion, an aggressive man was pitching an upgrade in long-distance service to me. I tried weakly to deflect him, but he was not to be denied. He kept insisting that it was a free service and all I had to do was authorize it. Finally I gave in, unable to stand up under the constant barrage of his refined sales technique. I’ve purchased several things in recent years (subscriptions to newspapers and magazines, those student discount cards, etc.) for precisely the same reason. I’ve always had a hard time saying no.

At any rate, the sale guy says he needs some information to seal the deal. So I give him my name and address, and then he asks if I am over eighteen. I responded that I was not. Apparently, you had to be legal to authorize the long-distance plan. I was relieved to discover this, for I assumed it meant the end of the conversation, but I was mistaken.

“Are you sure you’re not over eighteen?”

“I’m pretty sure.”

“Are you Mr. Matthew Haws? Isn’t this your phone number?”

“Yes, but I’m under eighteen. Its my parent’s phone line, its just in my name.”

“Are they home?”

“No.” They were, but I was sick of this guy.

“Well, that’s ok. What we’ll do is authorize this service for you anyway.”

“Oh….”

“So, here’s what’s going to happen. A representitive from our company will be calling you back in a few minutes” (I begin to panic) “to authorize your fabulous new long-distance plan. They’ll ask you a few questions, and you just tell them you are over eighteen, and we’ll be good to go.”

“But I’m not over eighteen.”

“Yes, but you just need to tell them that you are so they can process the upgrade.”

“What?” Awkward pause. “I’m not eighteen.”

“I know,” the man said, impatiently, “but just tell them that you are.”

I was quiet for a very long time. “Hello? Hello??” the man said. I hung up. It was one of the more courageous things I’ve done in my life.

As difficult as calls to strangers or from telemarketers are, sometimes calling a friend can be just as bad. As a teenager, it once took me more than an hour to summon up the courage to call up a friend from school, just because I had never called his house before. I may laugh about that now, but I currently have a friend who I avoid calling simply because he’s almost never home and I find it awkward to leave a message.

With this antipathy towards phones in general, you can imagine my feelings when the cell phone craze hit the mainstream. It’s bad enough I had to put up with the dang things at home, but to carry one around with me all day? I could imagine nothing more worrisome and potentially terrifying. I came up with a excessive number of reasons for my dislike of cell phones and refusal to purchase one: they are annoying, they are a potential distraction and cause of accidents in a car, they can cause cancer, etc. But in all reality, when I look back, the underlying reason behind my anti-cell phone phase was purely my fear of talking on the phone.

Well those who know me at all now can tell you that I did end up getting a phone. I became so busy during several of my semesters at college that I was never home and never could be reached by anybody. After not getting a few important calls from directors and stage managers, I realized I needed to cut these people a break and give them a way to find me. So it was with great trepidation that I went with my friend, who is now my roommate, to buy a phone. It wasn’t long, however, before my determined reluctance melted away in the face of glowing LED lights, color screens, classical music ringtones, and all the features that come with the modern cellular phone. I’m a sucker for electronic gadgets, and suddenly I saw a cell as a potential toy, and not just a phone. That helped.

By the way, in England they call cell phones “mobile phones,” if you were wondering.

So the phone and I have begun a phase of reconciliation. This is not because I’m no longer intimidated by them; far from it. Every time I am required to use the phone in anyway outside what I’m used to I experience a moment of panic. My boss at work says, “Matt, I need you to call our office in California and ask them….” Panic. My cell phone rings and a number I don’t recognize appears on the screen. Panic. While writing this blog entry, my roommate called to ask if I would call up a business in Provo and ask them how late they were open and where they were located. Panic.

The trick, for me, has not been getting rid of the anxiety, but simply dealing with it. I take a deep breath, and tell myself that I’m an attractive, confident individual who can make phone calls without thinking twice about it. I don’t really believe myself, because I know I’m a shameless flatterer. I dial the number once or twice, then put the phone to my ear, my teeth set in grim determination, my fingers drumming furiously on my thigh, my whole body shaking in quiet terror.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Trials of the English Major

For some reason I’ve been thinking lately about something that happened to me a couple of years ago. I was right in the middle of my undergraduate education with a major in English. Now English majors are used to getting a certain kind of reaction when they tell people what their major is. I thought that once I graduated I would not have to go through the all-too-common scenario of having to justify what I had decided to major in to other people who I didn’t even know. It turns out that post-graduation the question “What is your major” transfers fluidly into “What was your major?” resulting in the exact same problem. Most English majors I know got so sick of the reactions they get when announcing their major that they began to try to avoid the subject all together. It is not uncommon to start the sentence, “I’m an English major” with a kind of reluctant sigh, an “oh-boy-here-we-go-again” sort of feeling expressed in a brief hesistation. “Oh,” the other person says, clearly puzzled. Once and awhile that’s all they will say. Most commonly, however, they invariably say, “And… what are you going to do with that?” English majors hate that question.

The question assumes two things that bug me. First, it assumes that the only value of any knowledge gained in life is what you can do with it. By “do,” of course, we mean make money. This is perhaps why nobody reads anymore. Nobody is going to pay you for making your way through Moby Dick. But I like to believe that some knowledge is worthwhile in itself, as an end unto itself. Not to mean that it doesn’t have any practical use or can’t affect your life. I believe that some knowledge simply makes you a better person. But in our capitalistic society, that which does not make you money has no worth. But I digress (and exaggerate). The point is, I liked my English studies, and I feel that because of them I am a better person. That, for me, is worthwhile reason enough to major in English.

The second thing the question assumes is that, as an English major, you aren’t learning any skills which may prepare you for the job market. In some people’s eyes, majoring in English is like flushing tuition money down the toilet. I suppose these people believe that being able to think analytically, understand big words and complicated sentences, and write clearly and eloquently are not in high demand by employers. After all, aren’t computers doing all that for us now? Admittedly, it is a bit more difficult to sell yourself as a potential employee with just an English major on your resume. It isn’t as clear what you can pursue, like if you were a computer science or microbiology major. But I have already found that at my new job, my employers are very impressed with my clear writing and verbal skills. Reading and writing well is becoming a rare quality, mostly because people don’t think it brings you any money, and so I predict a higher and higher demand for English major types. That or a total breakdown of communication between human beings.

At any rate, I was lucky enough during college to be able to usually avoid talking about my major with people who didn’t understand it. I spent a great deal of time with other English majors and the rest of my time with acting majors. And if there is anybody who is not pre-disposed to give you grief about having a worthless major, it’s an acting major. I loved them for that. So I eventually got into my own little bubble in which I no longer even thought twice about the validity of my academic studies. And I worked hard in my classes. I was mostly a straight-A student and thats not necessarily easy to do in English. I never had hours upon hours of homework like my accounting roommate, but I feel like my courses were just as challenging, if in a different way, than those of any other major.

Then came the day I went to get my haircut at the BYU Barbershop. The only reason I used to get my hair cut there was because it was close and because I didn’t know where the heck else to go. I now have my own personal hair stylist named Melanie who is better at her job than words can possibly describe and to whom I will go for my haircut until I die (or move). If haircuts were art, then the BYU Barbershop draws stick figures while Melanie rivals DaVinci. But I digress again.

It was a couple of years ago, as I said, when I got my haircut at the Barbershop by some guy who seemed to be more or less about my age, maybe a little older. He was one of those barbers who seem unable to cut my hair unless they carry on a conversation with me. I myself am more disposed to sit quietly and think during the procedure, excepting only the case of Melanie because she’s a great conversationalist. But this young guy, lets call him Bob for the sake of the story, starts chatting the minute I get in the chair. If memory serves, he started with something like, “Can you believe the Pistons lost?” Have you noticed that for a lot of college-aged guys sports is a neutral topic of conversation, much like the weather is for normal people? He was assuming that I, as a guy, knew immediately what he was talking about and somehow cared about it as much as he did. We were already having communication troubles.

Knowing me, I probably considered faking interest for the sake of the conversation, but I probably chickened out since I don’t know enough about sports to appear convincingly interested. “Yeah, they sure got the ball in the thing at lot, didn’t they?,” I might say, “That one tall ugly guy sure is good.” Most likely, I said something neutral and sat quietly, hoping he’d take a hint and be quiet. Instead, he popped the question. No, not what you are thinking! Asking me to marry him when we had just barely met and clearly had nothing in common is a bit extreme, even at BYU. He asked me what my major was. Oh-boy-here-we-go-again.

So I told him. As I feared, I got even a greater reaction than normal. In fact, Bob didn’t even seem to know that English was something one could study in any depth beyond the class you have to take as a freshman. “But you seem to speak it O.K.” he said, confused. I thought he must surely be joking, since it was a joke I had used myself at times to ease the awkwardness of discussing majors with other people. But he wasn’t.

“What do you do?” he asked. “Just study spelling and stuff like that?”

“Well,” I said, patiently, “actually we spend a lot of time studying literature.”

“You just read books?” he said, incredulously.

“Well, yeah… sort of.”

“Wow, I hate to read,” he said. Go figure.

“I love it.” I said. He didn't know what to say to that for a while. Who likes to read?

“Still, I’d love to just have to a read a book instead of the homework I have to do,” he said, clearly being dismissive of my classes as being easier than his. I got this a lot. I agree whole-heartedly that Calculus classes are harder than American Lit, for me; but I bet some of the people who get A’s in the former would struggle through the latter. Its all relative.

“We don’t just read the books,” I said, defensively, “We also write a lot of essays about what we read.”

“So, you just write book reports,” he said. I could tell he was feeling sorry for me, because my major sucked so bad and was totally unimportant.

“No,” I said, quite upset by this time. I was just starting to fall in love with literary theory at that time (which, by the way, has literally changed my life), so it hurt to have it dismissed so easily. I tried to explain, “We analyze what we have read from a variety of different interpretive strategies. We put what we read into the context of history, or psychology, or sociology. We try to understand the nature of symbols and their influence on how we perceive and interpret the world.” I was rambling.

“Oh,” Bob said, sounding like he was already bored with the conversation, “So basically you just make stuff up.”

He said it with such dismissal in his voice that part of me wanted to jump out of the chair and attack him with his own clippers, or shout, “Well, you cut hair all day, you loser!” or just sob in frustration but I sat there and stewed. Bob didn’t say much to me after that. I guess he decided that I was beneath his conversation. Somebody who spent all his time making up book reports on stuff written by dead boring guys clearly didn’t have anything worthwhile to say. And anyway, the TV in the barbershop was showing a basketball game.

Its two years later and I’m still bitter.

Friday, June 17, 2005

A Depressing Little Anecdote

So I was driving home from the bookstore today after having celebrated two full weeks of employment by purchasing a book by the mysterious Thomas Pynchon. I was driving down a street in a residential area, near an elementary school in fact. Suddenly, I saw movement on the road ahead of me.

A mother pheasant was attempting to cross the street with a gaggle of little pheasant babies in tow. It took several seconds to register what I was seeing, but finally I put on the brakes and brought my car to a halt quite a distance from where they were crossing. The mother had seen my approach, however, and was now frozen in fear in the middle of my lane. "Go," I said, as kindly and encouragingly as I could, as though she could hear and understand me. A car was coming up behind me, obviously upset that I was stopped in the middle of the street. "GO!" I shouted to the mother pheasant. If I lived inside a Hollywood movie, I probably would have said, "For the love of God, save yourself! Protect your little ones! I'll hold off the evil monsters while you escape!" or something like that.

The point was, I suddenly took upon myself the responsibility of caring for this tiny family. The car behind me honked, but there was no way I was moving until the pheasants were safely out of my lane. I continued to urge them on mentally, and finally the mother snapped out of her panic and kept moving. They crept across the dotted line and I cheered. Elated, I put on the gas and started to continue on my way.

At that moment, a car came flying through the opposite lane. It either didn't see the mother and her babies or didn't care. I followed the vehicle with my eyes, transfixed. The wheel barely missed the mother, but it hit two or three of the chicks dead on. I watched them get flattened under the wheel, watched one get fly into the air before falling still on the pavement. The rest of the pheasants scattered in terror. It was the first time I can remember that I've seen a living being larger than a fly go from alive to dead before my very eyes. I burst into tears. I didn't know what else to do, so I drove on quickly in a panic until I reached home.

The morale of the story is either that I was reminded how fleeting and fragile our existence is, or that I'm extremely over-sentimental and dramatic. You be the judge.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Some Quotes of the Day

So I'm feeling like I ought to write something on my blog, but I don't really have anything to say at the moment. I'm feeling quite political today for some reason, and so I could very well write a whole post about my feelings on the US prison at Guatanamo (summary: should they close it? Yes. Will they? Not a chance.) However, I have decided the last thing my happy little blog needs is a heated political diatrabe, so rather than invite your wrath or apathy or whatever by rambling on about those sort of things I will simply post a couple interesting quotes to make of what you will.

#1- A very passionate political commentator on the News gave us this great quote. I wish I could remember his name, but he was squaring off against another pundit who was arguing that the Guantanamo prison should remain open and who gives a crap about the human rights of terrorists (which is by far the most popular position on the subject I have heard around here). The quote was, from my memory:

"We are fighting for something here. We are fighting for the rule of law, and we cannot become as bad as those we are fighting."

#2 - Lets read this one too:

"The United States is unequivocally opposed to the use and practice of torture. No circumstance whatsoever, including war, the threat of war, internal political instability, public emergency, or an order from a superior officer or public authority, may be invoked as a justification for or defense to committing torture. This is a longstanding commitment of the United States, repeatedly reaffirmed at the highest levels of the US Government."
US Second Periodic Report to the UN Committee against Torture

#3- And one more on this subject, a really long one:

"The protection and promotion of the universal values of the rule of law, human rights and democracy are ends in themselves. They are also essential for a world of justice, opportunity and stability. No security agenda and no drive for development will be successful unless they are based on the sure foundation of respect for human dignity…

I strongly believe that every nation that proclaims the rule of law at home must respect it abroad and that every nation that insists on it abroad must enforce it at home…

It would be a mistake to treat human rights as though there were a trade-off to be made between human rights and such goals as security or development. We only weaken our hand in fighting the horrors of extreme poverty or terrorism if, in our efforts to do so, we deny the very human rights that these scourges take away from citizens. Strategies based on the protection of human rights are vital for both our moral standing and the practical effectiveness of our actions."
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in a report to the UN General Assembly

#4- I was reading Kurt Vonnegut last night, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, and he gave this beautiful little quote that I just love. It fits very nicely with the comments on my last "Quote of the Day" post:

"Unlike my Socialist grandfather Ben Wills, who was a nobody, I have no reforms to propose. I think any form of government, not just Capitalism, is whatever the people who have all our money, drunk or sober, sane or insane, decide to do today."

Which also brings to mind that great quote from Disney's Aladdin:

"Ever heard of the golden rule? He who has the gold, makes the rules!"

Well I thought I had more quotes but I'm done for now. If you are interested, you can check out my new blog which contains some stuff I've written; short stories and poems and the like. The link is over on the sidebar to your right. Enjoy.

Friday, June 10, 2005

My First Photo Shoot

An old friend and former roommate of mine, Nick, has a passion for photography, among other things. He also has a really nice camera. He wants to get into doing potraits, so he's been asking a lot of people he knows to be subjects for a shoot. Yesterday he took me up to the canyon and took about a million pictures of me in what was to be my first ever photo shoot (first of many, mark my words!).

Here I will share some of my favorites with you. In about 85% of the pictures he took, my eyes were closed. I had a knack for timing my blinks exactly with the camera shutter. But these worked out pretty well. Some of them have been touched up by Nick on the computer. Enjoy!

I love this one. I was trying to be tragic and sad in a tortured artist kind of way. Looks good in black and white. Posted by Hello

In case that last one made you too sad, here's a happy one Posted by Hello

A fun mid-air shot, with vibrant color thanks to Nick Posted by Hello

Another action shot Posted by Hello

Attempting to be cool in shades that are too big Posted by Hello

This one is nice and sort of casual Posted by Hello

Look how rugged I am, enjoying nature... in my Gap ensemble. Posted by Hello

I was a little shy at the beginning of the shoot Posted by Hello

I really love this one. It's so awful.  Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Quote of the Day:

I usually wait a few days in between posts, but I just had to write about something I heard today during my extensive orientation/training meeting at my new place of employment. The plant hygienist, explaining all the precautionary measures taken to prevent something contaiminating the food product and thereby causing illness or death in consumers, gave us this quotable quote:

"We don't want to kill anybody, because-"

OK, already warning signs are going off in my head. The use of the word "because" here suggests that the previous statement requires some kind of explanation or clarification. Things are really bad when it has to be explained why being responsible for the death of another human being is a bad thing.

But, perhaps I'm being too linguistically picky. It may be a little redundant to explain why we don't want to kill anybody, but being redundant isn't really a crime worthy of a searing outcry on my blog. He might very well go on to say, "because life is sacred," or, "because we care about all human beings and wish them life and happiness and don't want to have the weight of their untimely death upon our shoulders."

This is not what he said. What he said was this: "We don't want to kill anybody, because that's not good for business."

He seemed like a nice man, a decent man. I'm pretty sure that what he said wasn't how he himself as an individual person felt. I'm sure that the death of another human being would bother him for more reasons than just the loss of business for the company. In order to properly understand this statement, we must realize that he was speaking "coporatespeak" - he was, in effect, speaking as the voice for the company as a whole and not for himself personally.

I don't think any single member of my corporation or any other really is so heartless to see death only as "bad for business." But we're talking about the company as an entity of its own, which is made up of the interactions of a large number of individual human beings and follows the rules framed by the economic system we live in. The company, as a whole entity, could care less about the life or death of human beings unless they interfere with the one thing that the company, as an entity, cares about: a profit. Cold hard financial numbers. Money.

That is capitalism, in its purest sense. People can't seem to understand why the concept of a capitalist economy makes me so nervous. Things aren't as bad as you say, they tell me. Well, they are right. We are fortunate enough to live in a country at a time where there are a significant number of factors in place to dilute to cold hard realities of capitalism to something much more tolerable. There is a significant expectation among the American population (largely, I believe, as the result of long-standing government laws and policies) for companies to be responsible to their employees and to their consumers. This was not always the case. We are lucky. But that doesn't mean we can't be aware of the inherent dangers of capitalism, which can still rear their ugly head today.

Thats all I'm on about really. I'm not trying to incite a revolution, I don't hate America, and yes, its true that I receive personal benefit and enjoyment from the capitalist system. I'm just thinking out loud, thats all. So sue me.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Working Man

So I haven’t posted on my blog for a while, partly because I’m lazy, partly because I wasn’t sure what to write about, but mostly because my last post was a hard act to follow. In fact, I was so impressed with my own wit and cleverness that I was downright afraid to post again for fear I’d simply prove to really be an idiot after all. But then something happened to me that I had just had to share with all of you, and so the spell was broken.

So you remember the job interview I had two weeks ago? The one where I saw all the weirdos? Well, I got the job. Yes, I called the Vatican and they confirmed that this is clearly a miracle (though not a very big one; they called it a Class Eight miracle, nothing on par with the parting of the Red Sea which was a Class Two or the raising of Lazarus which was a Class One). So anyway today was my first day at work. I am now employed at the Nestle/Stouffer plant in north Springville. I work with Quality Assurance there, and all the weirdos from the temp office waiting room work on the production line. They get to wear cool hair nets, I get to wear nice shirts. To each his own.

I won’t try to explain what exactly I do at my job. Its technical. Lets just say it involves lots of paper clips and staples, and about thirty microwave ovens. So far, after one day, it doesn’t seem too bad. I was told that I was being hired as a temp, and then later would be hired as a full-time employee of Nestle. I assumed this was so the powers at be there could get to know me and decide if they wanted me for the job. Now I’m beginning to be under the impression that its so that I can get a feel for the job and decide if I wanted to stick with it or run away screaming. Apparently they’ve had a few people choose the latter option. As I met people around the office today, I heard a lot of strange comments like, “Oh, you’re doing that job now…. Good luck. I feel for you.” This isn’t exactly what you want to hear on the first day, and yet nothing (so far) has been awful or even tedious; indeed, the eight hours flew past in blur. I was just fine with everything I did today, and there seemed to be a certain amount of pleasant surprise from my co-workers at this.

The fact is they are desperate for somebody to actually fill this position. They’ve gone through quite a few employees who just couldn’t handle it, and they are hoping that I will pull through. I have every intention on doing so. Mind-numbing paperwork? I love it. I spent the majority of my eight hours today sorting and filing papers and it was great. Work Saturdays? I’m all over that. Prepare a bazillion TV dinners all at once for a taste panel? That’s what I live for. I know that I’m the guy who gets all the crap nobody else wants to do, but in this case I don’t mind doing it at all. The real crappy job, in my opinion, would be working on the factory floor – standing in once place, doing the same thing over and over for ten hours. At least I get some variety, and I’m out the door by 4:00. And getting paid very well, for an English major with few practical skills.

All and all, I’ve nothing to complain about. Nestle, I’m your man.