Saturday, June 14, 2008

See Spot Run


For more than four centuries, a massive storm called the Great Red Spot has raged on the planet Jupiter.

And I thought I was unstable.

I finally got my check from Jupiter this week—not the planet, of course, but a company by that name. I had interviewed with them back in March and had done a one-day tryout for them in hopes of getting a job.

Friends warned me not to do this,that these people were just using me. But I didn’t mind. I had done tryouts for other companies and it had always worked out fine.

You can show the editors what you can do and get a feel for the place and the kind of work you’ll be doing. And, if nothing else, you get some extra cash.

I had a good feeling about this company, I really did. The people seemed cool, the worked seemed manageable, and I even liked their location.

Well, I sure called that one wrong. As Fiorello Laguardia once said, “when I make a mistake, it’s a beaut.”

Let me go down the list: first the editor forgets I’m going in on the appointed day and asks me to come back the next day. Jackass back and forth from Brooklyn? Hey, no sweat; I was unemployed at the time. I had nothing else to do, right?

Then, after what I thought was a rather positive tryout and interview, they never told me that they hired someone else for the gig.

And finally, the never paid me the 300 bucks for the day I worked. I started making phone calls, and sending emails, asking about the money, which is something I really hate to do. I wasn't cut out to be a bill collector.

I was told they lost one of my income tax forms, so I completed another one and sent it in. And I heard nothing.

Weeks would go by and it would suddenly come to me—hey, those bastards never paid me. It was making me angrier and angrier—big surprise, right?—until I had my own Great Red Spot churning inside my head.

Those sons-of-a-bitches, I groused, they took advantage of me because I was out of work and they had no intention of paying me at all. They’re screwing me!

I really let this thing take over my life. I even thought about going to their office and demanding they give me my check on the spot, which is a good way to wind up in handcuffs.

When their accountant or bookkeeper or whatever the hell she is blew off my last email, I went nuts.

First I called the CEO in Darien, Conn., telling him how angry I was. Then I wrote a vicious email calling them unprofessional and saying their actions were loathsome (nice word, huh?).

"I can’t teach you integrity,” I wrote, “you either have it or you don’t.”

Yes, I actually wrote that. And then I threatened to haul them into small claims court if they didn’t pony up the dough by the end of the week.

I even went online to see about filing a suit over the Internet and I noted that small claims court convenes after 6:30 pm, which was good as it wouldn’t interfere with my job.

Have a Seat, Comrade


This is part of my trouble, this trapeze swing from one emotional extreme to the other. I'm either letting people walk all over me or biting their heads off if I even think they're looking at me strangely.

I go from Wally Cox to Kruschev banging his shoe at the UN.

I got a snippy response from the editor and then a receipt for a UPS shipment to my home. My check arrived two days later, meaning that they had no plans of paying me until I threatened them.

I thought I would feel vindicated or at least satisfied when I got paid, but I just felt lousy. I had gotten myself all aggravated for something that really wasn't that important.

I don’t like talking to people like that, and though I think they were unprofessional and rude, I didn’t help matters any by being rude in return or stomping around and furiously playing the victim.

They say you shouldn't burn your bridges, but in this case I nuked the bridge and took out most of the land on either side. In this day of rabid media consolidation, this act of anger could come back to haunt me.

I ran into a woman I used to date on the subway on Thursday. We chatted while the train crept and crawled downtown. We were told there was a stalled N train at 59th Street and a sick passenger on the D train at 36th Street.

These delays can make me very angry, but I happened to be standing next to a guy in a red shirt who cursed and fumed every time the train stopped in the tunnel.

“Fucking trains,” he muttered, “I hate these fucking trains.”

Somebody brushed against him at 59th Street and he mumbled “you do that again and I’ll break your fucking head!”

This guy was like my doppelganger. I was wondering if I could hire him to have a fit for me.

Instead of freaking out whenever any one of a million things pisses me off, I could just call this nutcase and he could blow a gasket in my name. It would do wonders for my blood pressure.

I hate to say this, but he sounded like me on one of my less than stellar days. I saw how awful it was to be around people like this, how toxic the atmosphere becomes when you’ve got someone determined to foul up the air.

I left my ex at 36th Street and started the struggle to get to work. No express trains were coming, so I got on the next local and went downtown.

A woman got on at Ninth Street holding a copy of The Power of Now, a self-help book I keep threatening to read. I wished I had it with me on the train because that's a large part of my problem. I carry a lot of anger from past around with me, like a camper lugging a backpack.

At Pacific Street I saw a well-dressed woman walking on the platform holding a hockey stick. Hmm, June, subway, lady with a hockey stick, yep, I’m in New York all right.
Maybe she used it to beat through the crowds. I was glad I wasn't carrying a hockey stick that morning.

I realized that when the ex and I broke up, she had told me that I was very impatient and I couldn’t argue.

As the commute became more and more difficult, I got angrier and angrier, and I started looking for my buddy in the red shirt, my own Great Red Spot, to start freaking out for me.

At DeKalb Avenue I saw a woman on the platform with a t-shirt reading “Bitchy is my middle name.” It was getting later and later and “Crabby” was becoming my middle name.

I finally got a B train and I was heading over the bridge. At one point I moved slightly and brushed against a woman reading a paperback.

She might have made a noise or said something, I’m not sure. All I know that by then my hostility level had gotten so high I was now my own doppelganger.

Screw you, lady, I mentally snarled as I leaned up against the door. You got a problem, you can kiss my--

Just then the train lurched and, since I had neglected to hold on to anything, I tumbled toward the paperback lady.

I shot my hand out at the last second, grabbed the overhead support and righted myself, wrenching my shoulder in the process. I felt like a first class idiot for being so far from the real world, away from the now.

See, I told myself, you were so busy getting pissed off you almost fell on your ass!

I got my money from Jupiter, but I haven’t escaped its gravitational pull or its turbulent atmosphere.

I just called my brother in California a little while ago and he reminded me that I still owed him $28.28 from our family vacation to Hawaii during Christmas week.

I am now writing out a check and addressing the envelope...

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