The Penalty for honesty… at work.

What’s the penalty for honesty at work? I wondered as I pretended to work.

I stared out the window for a moment.

My heart skipped a beat when my boss entered the room. I froze.

Gotta look busy. Look valuable. 

She quietly entered her office and shut the door.

What’s the penalty for my honesty? I pondered at I scrolled desperately through my social media feed for good news, a motivational post, or photographs of the nieces, nephews, and godchildren I never get to see.

There’s a seemingly immovable forty hour a week boulder in the middle of my existence. Unshakable. Immovable. Virtually unbreakable. Boulder.

I yawned. I stretched. I checked my text messages as I stretched.

I wondered. If I revealed to them… I’m overwhelmed. Can’t seem to get a foothold on the work. Can’t seem to get it together. Can’t tell whether its boredom or incompetence on my part. 

My stomach hurt. Terrible gas.

I skipped breakfast. Late for work again. So much to think about. So much to do. So little time. Vacation was nothing more than the space between misery. Like work release or yard time. I was being melodramatic.

What if I revealed to them that they need not smile in my direction. I know you don’t like me. I know you think I’m incompetent– when I make a mistake– and beneath you. I know you think I was hired to work under you and serve you– which I probably was. 

I stood. Stretch my legs.

What if I was honest with them about myself? What if I admitted to myself and to them that I was equally as fake? I don’t like you either. But I return your illusion with one of my own. Because I understand my role is to make them comfortable. And how crucial it is to the job, and my livelihood, 

I sat. Powered the scanner.

Error.

I restarted the machine.

Same results.

I softly pounded my fist on the desk.

I’m the only tool in the office not allowed to malfunction. And, the easiest to replace.

I slumped in my chair.

Can they tell I dig my nails into my forearms when they dress me down in front of my peers? Can they read in my eyes how much sleep I lose thinking about all the stuff I have to do the next day? Or the people I have to deal with. Or, how I can’t handle the amount of work they are tossing my way Probably not.

“Good Morning,” One of my smiley supervisors greeted.

“Good Morning,” I replied with a smile bright enough to overload a solar powered city.

“How’s everything going?” Smiley Supervisor asked.

“Excellent!” I replied as my face started to get sore from smiling. “Working on this and then I’ll head back and work on your stuff.”

“Okay, great!” Smiley Supervisor said, returning to her office.

Couldn’t afford to be honest. No matter how hard I crunched the numbers, I just couldn’t afford it.

A real man would…

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He remembered quietly leaving his seat, pretending the next stop was his. He remembered wanting to be subtle. Not wanting it to seem to the young mother as if he was offering his seat her. He didn’t want the attention. Especially since the young mother’s husband -or boyfriend- called out all men on the train for not giving his wife and daughter their seat. Didn’t want it to seem he gave up the seat on account of the guy.

He left the conference room.

He wanted to speak freely.

Nosey coworkers lurking.

“Is it a man’s responsibility?” He asked Marcey over the phone.

How old’s the child?” Marcey asked.

“About five,” He replied.

Hmmmm… I’d give them the seat,” Marcey declared.

He clasped his eyes.

“Hold on a sec,” He lowered his phone and walked further up the hall.

He was hungry and felt a headache forming.

He hadn’t gotten a break since he sat down to log into his desktop. It was the day of the Christmas party. He wondered how the hell he got caught up in coordinating the event. Especially before he drank his morning coffee. Sure, it was nice to be away from his work, even though he knew dam well it was all piling up as he decorated the cheese and cracker tray. But being away from his desk didn’t mean he was away from hard labor. All so his coworkers could show up, eat, and leave him and a few others to clean up the mess.

He yawned.

He was just cranky. And tired from the six miles he ran that morning. From the Wing Chun class the night prior. And he was even crankier and more tired on the train. He needed the seat, but he gave it up to the woman and child anyway.

“I don’t know that I would,” He told Marcey. “Is that bad? I guess if the kid can’t stand on their own. What do you think?”

What do you think?” Marcey asked.

“I don’t know,” He replied. “The woman’s guy declared men should stand for mothers.”

Okay,” Marcey said.

“Makes sense right?” He said “Women have the children. Its the least a man can do.”

I guess.” Marcey sounded uncertain. “Eat anything?”

“I’ll eat something at the party,” He replied.

“Okay dear… Talk later?” Marcey said .

“Sure, talk later,” He ended the call.

He wondered…  Does or should a real man give up his seat for a woman with a child? A woman with child? An older woman. He would. He should. As long as he could. But is that something he should do as a man? Or is it a societal construct weaved into basic human decency. Or was he thinking too much?

He rejoined his coworkers in the conference room.

More work to be done. An hour until party time. He decided he’d have to ponder the idea of what it meant to be a man later. After coffee. Whence cleaned up after his adult coworkers.

 

 

 

Applications are a drag. (Thank goodness the apocalypse is coming).

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He knew they made the application process mind-numbing-ly long and tedious on purpose. It was to scare away unqualified applicants and people who did not truly give a flying shit about working there. People like him. Unqualified. Not unqualified because they could not do the work. Unqualified because they didn’t give a shit about doing the work.

He squirmed in his seat.

It’d been an hour but it felt like longer.

Why the hell would they ask him to input his full job history and upload his resume. Seemed redundant to him considering everything they needed and asked for was included on his resume. What a drag, he thought.

“What?” Marcey asked him.

“Boring,” He replied. “And a waste of time.”

“Everything bores you.”

“Just this… this  worthless piece of shit process.”

“Well, its the process.”

He wondered why Marcey put up with his impatience. His immaturity. His stubbornness. His questionable attention span.

He completed his work history and saved his progress before moving onto the next section.

Training and Education. 

He took a deep breath.

Almost complete. Or so he believed. Or so he hoped.

He finished his wine.

If she could put up with him and his attitude for years then he could put up with filling out a single stupid application for a night. It was only fair. Though, the idea of sacrificing the few waking hours he had to himself to complete some stupid application for a job he didn’t want anyway filled him with dread. So much dread. Feelings threatened to cripple the application process.

“Shit.” He sank in his chair.

“Language,” Marcey warned.

“Browser froze.” He tried returning to the previous form. “Didn’t save nothing.”

“Oh man,” She replied. “Do it over.”

“Can’t,” He panicked. “Won’t let me.”

His blood started to boil

A whole hour of his life, potentially wasted. There was no way in hades he would waste another doing another application.

“No way,” He said. “I’ll wait til it thaws.”

“What?” Marcey asked.

“Thaws… Unfreezes,” He replied.

Marcey shook her head. “Strange man.”

He threw his head back against his chair.

“Could have been halfway done with a new one,” Marcey said.

Of course, Marcey was correct. He could have halfway completed another application in the time he was waiting for the window to unfreeze.

“Damn.” He closed the browser.

“That computer is trash,” Marcey said.

He restarted his trash portable laptop.

“So stupid,” He said to himself.

“Sorry, babe,” Marcey said.

“Didn’t want to start over.”

He was furious but kept how he felt to himself.

He restarted the browser.

None of that nine to five plantation bullcrap was going to matter soon anyway. He planned to be self employed. No more putting in stupid applications and begging people for work. He’d rather be homeless or die than to spend the little youth he had left than taking peoples orders. And those horrible commutes… If he wasn’t so afraid of Marcey, he’d pound his fist on the table in disgust.

He entered his username and password.  Logged into the job site. Returned to the application.

A newsfeed window popped up on the bottom corner of his screen. Something about a conflict. Threats of nuclear war.

Soon that nine to five torture wasn’t going to matter. The direction the world was heading, the apocalypse was going to wipe out everything anyway. And only people like him were going to survive. People who understood how fragile and volatile the illusion of living a responsible adult life really was. One nuke. One meteor collision. One caldera eruption. One viral or zombie outbreak away from total anarchy. From wiping away the illusion. Christ will return Oh… he thought in his best Yoruba accent. The thought of judgment day and the impending doom filled him with joy. After the application he’d search Amazon for early Black Friday deals on survival gear and a crossbow.

His application loaded. Everything he’d input…. was…. there.

No survival gear or crossbow shopping now, he thought. The apocalypse would have to wait until after his interview. Marcey tweaked his resume. He was confident there would be an interview in the coming weeks.

“Hey.” He scrolled through his application. “Looks like it saved.”

“Great,” Marcey said.

“Yeah,” He replied. “All there.”

Marcey blew him a kiss.

“Thanks,” He said.

He wondered why she put up with him. But knew why he was able to be an adult and put up with another job application…. For her. Marcey was all the reason he needed.

 

 

Hero Complex pt 1: “Rise -and fall- of the Puppy Guardian”

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My hero complex was going to get me killed. Or fired. I knew it would. Death and unemployment would not stop me from being a hero and protecting that puppy.

I stopped traffic. Snatched the lost puppy from the street and carried it to the sidewalk.

“Calm down,” I begged as the baby pitbull tried to wiggle its way out of my grasp. “Chill yo.”

My work clothes were a wreck. I looked like a construction worker covered in many shades of brown. Dirt and god knows what. I didn’t want to to guess what was on that dog’s paw.

And I was already thirty minutes late for my new job. I sent an email from my smartphone. Considered lying to my supervisor. Stomach bug. The runs. Nobody questions loose bowels and I wouldn’t need a doctor’s note or further explanation. Everyone gets diarrhea and nobody questions it.

I put a leash on the puppy’s collar.

I thought the pup was a boy. Couldn’t tell and I didn’t want to lift its leg to check. I thought that would look weird to anybody walking by.

“Who’s your owner?” I asked the pup. “You live around here?”

I tried to recall the dog owners in the neighborhood. There were many. And the puppy’s breed was common in my community.

I walked the pup across the street to my block.

A woman with a dog walked towards me.

“Excuse me,” I said to the woman. “Do you recognize the dog?”

The woman shook her head and kept going.

“Thanks…. for nothing,” I said.

The neighborhood was full of rude and antisocial assholes, I thought. That’s what I get for trying to help an innocent creature, I thought.

I walked to the house. Opened the door.

Considered opening the front gate leading to the backyard but that would required me to tie the dog to the front door and go through the house. Didn’t want to just leave the dog outside. Didn’t want people in the neighborhood to think I was an animal abuser. If I saw a dog tied to a front door I would think it was abuse.

I opened the door. Walked the dog through the house, living room, and basement leading into the backyard.

“I’ll find your owner after work,” I said to the pup. “Gotta go to work.”

I shut the basement door.

Dog whimpering. Scratching the door.

There was nothing I can do then. I was already an hour late to work on my third day. Or… was it my second? Could have been my fourth, I thought. Didn’t matter. There was nothing I could do other than keep him safe in my yard. If I let it go it’ll wander.

I ran upstairs. Changed out of my sweaty, dirty button-up shirt and replaced it with a fresh short sleeve polo. Put on a second coat of deodorant. And I was out of the house and on the way to the Metro rail within five minutes of changing.

My phone vibrated. Marcey was calling again.

I sighed. Reluctantly answered.

“Yes?” I said.

“Where’s the dog?” Marcey asked.

“The yard,”  I replied.

“Which yard?” Marcey asked.

“Our yard,” I replied.

“What?” Marcey shrieked. “How’d he get there?”

“Through the house,” I replied.

“You walked a strange dog through our living room?” Marcey said.

“He’s not strange,” I shot back. “He’s a puppy.”

Marcey laughed.

“What’s funny?” I asked, feeling a bit offended.

“Nothing, yeesh,” Marcey replied. “I was talking to my coworker a-”

“Why tell your coworkers?” I asked.

“Oh come on,” Marcey said whilst laughing.

I didn’t understand what she found so damn funny about the situation. I just rescued a puppy from being flattened by multiple cars. I just preserved precious life! She should be praising not mocking him. She should be begging to give me a back massage for all the heroic work I put in that day. Asking how I would like my eggs prepared for my heroes breakfast. And what made it worse was she brought her stupid coworkers in on the joke. I was the joke, I guessed. She didn’t appreciate my heroism. No surprise.

“Don’t leave him in the yard,” Marcey said. “Let him go. He’ll find his way home.”

“And let him get run over?” I said.

“That’s not your problem,” Marcey said. “Someone could be looking for him.”

I sighed.

Stupid dog. Stupid girlfriend making fun of me for wanting to be a hero. Stupid me with the hero complex that will one day get me killed by a dog owner. Or a speeding car. Or a stray dog. Stupid situation, I thought.

I returned to the house and to backyard.

The pup was waiting for me on the backyard balcony. The pup sprinted down the stairs and immediately jumped into my arms. Left dirty paw prints on my fresh shirt.

“Come on little guy,” I said as I hooked the leash to the pup’s collar and lead him out of my yard.

I took him a block away to a small park away from the main avenue.

I was going to let him go. But I didn’t want to let him go onto Main Street where he could get flattened by a speeding car. I couldn’t sleep comfortably knowing I contributed to the death of a puppy. Maybe Marcey could. But I couldn’t.

“Good luck, little guy,” I said as I released the puppy onto the side street.

Maybe its owner will find it. Maybe someone else from the neighborhood will discover the pup and give it a new home. I tried. Lord knows I tried.

The dog ran to the nearby playground, sniffed around the grass before lifting its leg to pee.

Oh, its a male, I realized.

I wished him -the puppy- well before sprinting home. Quickly changed into a fresh shirt and rushed out of my house and towards the bus stop.

I hope I could catch a bus. I was more than an hour late to my new job. But I saved a life so it was worth it.

The puppy -the same one I spent an hour rescuing– narrowly avoided two cars as it darted across the street.

“Shit,” I said to myself. “Are you kidding?”

The puppy disappeared into an alley.

“Damn,” I cursed myself.

My phone vibrated.

At first I thought it was my job reaching out to see whether I had returned the lost dog. Whether or when I would be reporting to work since nobody else among the pool of PhD’s and Masters degrees know how to make photocopies or pivot tables. Part of me hoped it wasn’t the job. I didn’t much feel like lying over the phone. Not while I was in a heroic mood. Also I was a terrible liar.

It wasn’t the job.

“Yes, dear,” I answered.

“What happened to the dog?” Marcey asked.

I couldn’t tell Marcey what happened. I already felt like an idiot. Didn’t feel like being the butt of her and her coworkers jokes.

“Nothing,” I replied. “On my way to work.”

It was time I hung up my cape, I thought. Well past time I gave up being the hero. And considered villainy instead.

I clenched my fist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My lips are a distraction…

Oh the joys of living with a non artist, non-creative partner.

I’m trying to have a deep, productive conversation about branding and creating content in a way that will attract new readers, and my partner would rather talk about my dry lips.

“Your lips are dry,” She said.

“I’m focused on branding and creating. Not lips,” I reply, slightly irritated. “I don’t need distractions right now.”

“Your lips are a distraction,” She said before yucking like a hyena.

“I guess… yeah,” I dryly replied. “My lips are a distraction.”

She laughs harder.

I sigh.

I don’t find distractions of any kind amusing. Obviously she does.

I’ll make sure to distract her when she wants to have a discussion topics that are important to her. Like Cyber Security. Or BACON.