Saturday, May 03, 2008

Sorry about the wait...

I'm sorry to have let this blog die. I've realized just how important it is to choose jobs you don't hate. Not necessarily jobs you love, but jobs that don't drain the life from you. Big box retail, for me, is one of those life-suckers. I still haven't quit, but I've stopped waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel to get brighter. It's a damned cave, and that light bulb's burning out, so I'm going back to the surface.

That aside, working in the corporate-controlled world has taught me a few things about myself. In college (and for a time thereafter), I felt like I could make a difference. Not because of the Republican Club, the Libertarian Club, the school newspaper, or any of the other things that students often think might have a lasting impact. No, I was already cynical then. I knew the school paper was a joke that no one read, though I put a LOT of work into editing it. (It seems literacy is not a prerequisite to taking journalism classes.) I had fun with that one, writing opinion pieces and never trying anything seriously.

It was an underground publication that let me make a difference. My senior year, a new president took over at my college (which was dubbed a university at the same time). Some would say that I seemed to dislike him from day one. It's probably true. Right away, I knew he and I weren't going to see eye to eye, and I did not like the direction he was going to be taking the college. The first freshmen to come in under his regime were greeted with a speech including such key lines as "at any university, there are parties every night of the week. But you shouldn't party every night. You should pick two nights a week that you can party, and stick to just those two nights." I quickly opened MSPaint and created a quick comic. It was poorly drawn, but it became the centerpiece for the first issue. (There were a few more issues after that, and they all had similar stick figure comics)

People thought that I went into the school in the middle of the night to distribute the paper, but I did something less conspicuous. While evening classes were still in session, no one paid much attention to a guy sliding a couple papers under teachers' doors. After all, it was probably late homework. And they certainly didn't notice a few papers being left in various accessible areas where they'd be discovered by students killing time before class the next day. From the beginning, I was the prime suspect. The fun was letting everyone go on accusing me without letting them have their proof.

It was fun seeing the reaction and watching the administration try to trick me into taking credit for my work. It was expensive, but it was worth every penny and more.

By the end, I was getting sloppy. A few supporters learned who I was because they happened to be in their offices when I was delivering. It just made me even more brazen. The final issue was delivered while quite a few offices were occupied, and I was caught by someone who had no love for the publication. She didn't end it, though. She told the head of security who had done it, and he told me to keep my head down. It didn't matter. I knew it was ending. I had finally found the story that would be impossible to top: a letter from the faculty to the president, outlining the various problems they had with him. After that was public, the local newspapers picked up on it and the president resigned. Though it was nothing on even a statewide scale, it was a massive event for the college. The paper ended because it couldn't top that. It had done its job.

Even when I was working on a larger level, things looked brighter in those days. When I wrote about wasteful government spending in Washington State (things like unaccountable gas spending by the state, building a rehab facility that didn't actually make residents sober up, or painting a plane like a salmon), I saw my stories picked up around Washington and even in other states (in small doses, and never really changing things). When I wrote about Michael Idland, a state trooper who was still receiving pay while imprisoned on charges of molesting women he'd pulled over, I had the satisfaction of knowing the State Patrol knew who I was. Sure, they dodged a lot of my questions and only partially answered some, but I knew they were getting nervous. And the judge made him pay for his incarceration, though the plea deal left him pretty much unscathed. (Of course, that wasn't really my doing, but it was good to see some sense on the bench.)

In the corporate-controlled world, I find myself just keeping my head down. If a policy is terrible, I complain to those above me and never see a change for the better. I can't subvert the process, since the head honchos don't want to listen and aren't around to be forced to listen. In the short time I've been in this world, I've seen them change to an automated scheduling system, which means no one gets a decent schedule; I've seen the employee discount range cut because their research saw that the average was 25%, so that should be the new top of the scale (instead of 40%); they've given customers ridiculous discounts and free meals to make amends for things that the customer screwed up or made up; I've had to return guns that I KNEW the customer had broken; and I've seen that they don't give people better pay for having more responsibilities or even for the risk of felony charges (after all, a screwup at the gun counter could really bit a person in the ass).

That was kind of a long post just to complain about work. But I think I'm going to be starting this blog back up fairly soon. And I'll get back to regularly reading some of my favorites, as well.

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