23 November 2014

A View From The Place Where Blog Month 7 Went To Die

This post is a protest against Operational Need; as in, "applicant must be able to work a flexible schedule depending on operational need, including evenings, weekends, and holidays." Those of you reading this who know me personally know that holidays in particular and weekends to some degree as well don't mean all that much in my world. Evenings don't have to either, except of course when I've already spent all day, week, morning, and afternoon in the unique state of imposed intellectual deprivation mandated by the private security industry and, to varying degrees, its clients.

Though I've had some long days and weeks of teaching and touring, and though I'm no stranger to the Day Job scene, I'm always a bit embarrassed to admit that until 15 months ago I had worked 40 or more Day Job hours in a week only a handful of times. What I now know is that while 40 hours in five days can in fact be made to coexist with my musical life, 46 hours in five days definitely cannot, and 54 hours in six days sure as hell cannot. And the kicker is that the line I quoted above didn't actually appear when I applied for this particular job. It was a pretty decent scheduling situation for a while. Then I tempted fate, wrote a bunch of stuff about privilege and non-privilege, and vowed to keep doing so for an entire month. Me and my big ideas. What about my operational needs you guys?

Security is the most un-zenlike profession on the entire planet, one where you are not allowed to trust anyone unknown to you for any reason, and even those known to you only incrementally and symbolically over time. Security itself is an abstraction, not something you can simply install in your building or hold in your hands. The industry is, contrary to everything you might be lead to believe by the severe overrepresentation of men in its front lines, a soft-skills, people-skills, customer-is-always-right driven one. It is ornamental masculinity at its most purely symbolic and, in most cases right up through the Secret Service, dysfunctional as well. The facilities department "runs" the school; the security department merely holds red-faced conferences on how to look busy when you're really not.

And so this post would be remiss if it did not address what the phrase "operational need" really means. This is what it really means, and this injustice has no place in our country or our world. Fortunately for me there is no child relying on me for support, just a lonely weblog project which is already fully accustomed to not getting much action. I am not tied down by breadwinning duties or institutionalized prejudice against my kind, but merely by adolescent hubris and recreational verbosity. It could be worse. Even so, I take exception to being asked to work on 24 hours notice when officially, if not always practically, getting a day off requires two weeks advance notice; and I chastise the very notion of contracting out services, understanding as I now do that this creates a buffer zone of responsibility between a client that never has its shit together vis-a-vis The Schedule and the front line employees who are held hostage by said incompetence but have no direct recourse against an entity that does not legally employ them.

Once upon a time, a certain newly minted MFA spewed the following venom all over the internet:

In many ways, the day jobs I have held have engaged, challenged and utilized my entire physical and intellectual capacities to a much greater extent than many of the paying tuba gigs I have played. Those prone to hawking music as the ultimate multi-disciplinary task for the developing brain will of course accuse me of exaggerating, but I'm not so sure I am. In fairness, it is true that I have invested quite a bit more time and effort in improving my tuba playing than I have in becoming a better security guard, and that this has made certain kinds of tuba gigs much easier than they would otherwise be. That being what it may, in facing the transition from academic to civilian life for the second time, I find myself far less fearful of the indignities associated with low-wage jobs than of those which inhere in the musical cultures I inhabit.

I stand by those words. Indeed, the problem with the current situation is that once again, after a long and frustrating several months of job hunting and a dozen interviews with HR neanderthals who saw in me only an overqualified, distracted artist type destined to play by my own rules and bail in short order to go on tour, I have predictably outlasted scads of less qualified, less educated, less competent people who have managed to get themselves fired in every conceivable way, from urinating in public to smoking on campus to having their dad pick a fight with a homeless guy on their behalf. And now, somehow, some way, the one that's leftover after all of this, that long-haired hippie with a graduate degree and gaping chasms in his employment history, is too important to the operation to be scheduled for a mere 40 hour week. No, instead we must extend two of his shifts from 8 to 11.5 hours, netting him several hours of time-and-a-half and a few precious hours of double-time by the end of the week. If anyone else doubts that there is dignity in this in some circles, simply witness my co-workers bickering over who is chosen for overtime scheduling and who isn't. And then there's long-haired, distracted, ungrateful, overqualified me trying to give mine away and having a hell of a time. Color me privileged on payday and exhausted the rest of the time.

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