My days at the library were pretty strict: 19 hours a week, can't go over or under, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the main branch for job help classes, perhaps an off site class here or there, but I could not exceed 19 hours a week. I thought that was a strange number but...sure.
A friend of mine who owns a local pub heard that I had gotten a job with the library.
"Oh man," he said as he poured me a beer. "I worked for the library back in the eighties and nineties, when you didn't need a master's degree to be a librarian. It was run by the city then. I quit because of an issue with a flashlight."
He then told me that he had ordered some rechargable flashlights, to be kept here and there plugged in about the library, in case of a blackout. The ordering had to be done through the city, like he couldn't just pop into a hardware store, make a purchase and that would be that. All things, everything, was regulated and needed the approval of the city. Once again, very strict.
Apparently the situation had gotten pretty weird and overly difficult regarding the flashlights. There were meetings upon meetings concerning his order and the necessity of the flashlights, tons of paperwork had to be dealt with and filled out, endless conference calls were had, unnecessary red tape piled up - just because he wanted some flashlights for an emergency.
After a few months, MONTHS!, a package finally arrived for him. When he opened it, there were two old flashlights with some loose batteries rolling around. He specifically wanted rechargable. It was right then and there that he decided to leave the job and go into business for himself. So he bought a bar. Dealing with the city ordinance bullcrap had just gotten too much for him. Getting people drunk seemed like a much better option.
Luckily I didn't have to deal with stuff like that. All I had to do, for the most part, was sit in a small room on the 2nd floor surrounded by a bunch of laptop computers and wait for people to show up. When they did, better yet if they did, I was there to guide them through a fairly user friendly resume building program, show them the basics of applying online, being a second pair of eyes for their applications and cover letters and just being a guy who was there for them, even if that meant listening to sometimes insane, if not often racist and/or depressing, rants about how and why they can't find a job.
It was because, and this was an immediate observation, most of the people that came to my job class sessions were within the "iffy" category. A bunch of homeless looking folk would walk in and set up shop then sit there and either sleep or complain, some just got released from prison, some on the tail end of a meth binge, others harnessed mental problems, others with bad face tattoos. I got the hint real quick that the quality library people don't come to a job assistance class. Although I did see a librarian deal with some nut holding a copy of 'Mein Kampf' and screaming about how shoes are the real enemy. That was fun.
"All I wanna do is work in a warehouse," one gruff sounding/looking/smelling middle aged white guy in an old NAVY (not the clothing company, the actual military branch) shirt said. "But I don't know how to use a computer. I don't wanna know!"
"Sir," me trying to invest some 21st century modicum into his 60s robot scare dictum, "everything is computers these days. In fact, to find a job you're going to have to use a computer. To make a resume, yes, it's gonna be using a computer."
"Well I don't. It's stupid. I'm computer illiterate!" He said this rather proudly.
I was trying to be gentle. "Computers run warehouses now, and factories. No matter where you go you're going to have to use some kind of computer."
"I wish things were like they used to, before that Kenyan took over as president. You just walk in and do a job. I just don't understand this."
That guy was not uncommon. Men and women in that same ilk skulked into my job help lab and would be pissed off that they had to use a computer. In a room full of computers. The term "computer illiterate" got tossed around. A lot. They wore it like a badge of honor. It was pretty jarring to be honest. It'd be like a strict vegan walking into an Arby's and yelling "Well I don't eat meat! What are you gonna do about it?" in a temple filled with animal flesh butchered products. Don't wanna use a computer? Don't go to a place filled with computers! Would I go to an AA meeting and order a scotch and water? Probably. But at least I can identify irony.
One guy came in: older biker looking guy with a leather vest, handlebar moustache and eagle tattoos, asking about truck driving jobs. I gave the name to several job search sites that might have an answer, but, he didn't want to hear about any of that. Again, yes, computers. Then I told him to just go to the truck driving (yeah, no idea on this, I think I said 'Peterbilt' but only because I watched "BJ and the Bear" as a kid) websites and apply to them directly. For some reason he "didn't have time to deal with their tracking device nonsense". Huh boy.
Then I made the usual, computer literate, go-to suggestion:
"You could always just Google whatever you're looking for."
He didn't understand what I had said. So I repeated, "You know....Google." He then gave me a puzzled look.
"What's a Google?", he asked.
Oh. Wow. Um....I was not prepared for this. During training I was poised to deal with some patrons that "may not be too savvy with the internet"...but a patron that doesn't even know the internet? Oh man.
So I reached over him, typed in Google and stated: "I give you kind sir...the universe."
After showing him how it, Google, worked, he took over, but with a distinct glazed look, as if a child was seeing the real Santa for the first time. Both the awe and the horror. As I walked around helping other patrons, I checked back in on Google man, only to find that he was muttering to himself and shaking a bit. It was as if he was staring into the eyes of infinity. Or the maw of Hell. Every time he typed something into that search bar, zing!, in .005 seconds thousands of links would appear. Imagine very early man emerging from the primeval forest, seeing the moon for the first time then throwing rocks at it. That was this guy.
"Sir," I said. "Are....you okay?"
The man didn't say a word. He didn't have to. He just got up, said he needed to take a smoke break, that he'd come back right after and then left the room.
He never came back.
One particularly slow day (aka, I was alone for the first hour or so, just Facebooking and playing Tetris and getting paid for it) this woman walks in asking if she can update her resume and apply for a few jobs. Absolutely, I said. She was pretty computer comfortable (whew, finally!) but said her internet was down at home. No problem, I said.
She was maybe in her late 20s, thin, pink hair, tattoos, wore thick glasses and had narrow penciled in eyebrows. She inserted her flash drive in a laptop, opened up her resume and started going to work. We chit chatted, enough to where she said her last job was at Fascinations, a sex shop up on Speedway Blvd, where she did the ordering, budgeting and accounting. She also worked at the strip club next door to it, the Bunny Ranch; sometimes as a dancer, but mostly as the staff admin and bookkeeper. I told her my story of working at a strip club, Curves, for two nights when I moved to Tucson in 2006. I was having a very hard time finding reasonable work. Back in San Francisco I spent some time being a Heavy Metal DJ, which meant I had some skills, and the only place that was hiring way above some minimum wage gig was Curves. For a DJ. It was the 2nd night I quit. Just plain left. The guy I was training under thought I was ready to do the next announcement. So he handed me the mic and asked me to read the info off of the dry erase board, which were the next 'dancers' coming to the stage, which 'dancer' was entertaining in the private VIP rooms and that you-call-'em shots were now $4. So I grabbed the mic, took a deep breath and prepared to do my best strip club DJ voice.
"Aaaaaall right guys, that was Cinnamon on the silver stage, coming up next is...*giggle*...uh, Sashay on the, uh...*snicker*...stage, and, um..."
I couldn't do it. I dropped the mic and ran out. Hearing my voice over the PA system just broke me. In various ways. Luckily I got a job managing a kids dinosaur and science museum that same week, but due to the owner's financial incompetence it shut down within a year. Oy, me and my luck with day jobs. Ugh.
The girl said that she was pretty much done with dancing and had been doing the Fascinations and Bunny Ranch accounting for a few years now. Those are easily very hireable skills. She knew spreadsheets, budgeting, file management, all sorts of marketable experience. She even got a certification in bookkeeping. She really wanted to move away from the 'adult' industry and go more mainstream. She also seemed really frustrated.
"I get it that I worked for a club and adult shop for years, but my skills are legit. Like who wants to do the budget and books for their business? No one. But I totally will and can. I just can't seem to get hired. Sucks"
When she was done updating her resume, I printed out a copy and took a look at it. Yeah, it read well, except for the porn-ish aspect. She had mad bookkeeping skills, all sorts of boring pencil pushing work that could easily land her a $50,000 a year gig somewhere. That is if employers can get over her previous employment business exchange. Meaning: boobs.
It was then that I noticed something that most potential employers probably wont get over.
"Um," I said. "If I might make a suggestion here. You, uh, need to change your email address."
"Why?", she asked. "I've had it for years. It's the one I always use."
"Yeaaaaaaah. But if you wanna go more legit, you're going to have to get a more legit email address handle."
She totally looked confused. "I don't understand."
I then had to just break it down for her. Tough love style.
"Your email address is sexywetkitty.69.4U@hotmail."
She thought for a moment before slowly tilting her head up and knowingly murmur a reticent "Oooooh."
"Yeah. That might give off a certain vibe from your past that you want to move on from."
Between the library job and the after school gig, I was doing pretty good. That is until one day I got a visit from the main library HR guy.
It was a Thursday and I was wrapping up for the day before heading off to the elementary school. As I was turning off some computers and reminding the two people who were sitting in there job hunting that the class was ending in ten minutes, he came in and looked at me with a funny grin.
"So," he said. "You wanna go full time?"
Oh wow. Way to be put on the spot. And kind of out of the blue. But yeah!
Full time meant government benefits, it meant insurance, it also meant having to leave my kids at the elementary school. But if I gave them a couple of weeks warning, it shouldn't be that bad. Still, it made me kind of sad. I really liked most of the kids at the school. Except that one kid that always had snot coming out of his nose. He was gross.
"Oh. Sure. Yeah. Great. Thanks," I said.
"Super. We're sending you to the Central branch. You start Monday."
Then he left.
Part 4 coming soon