My new life

Again, apologies for the length of time between entries.

I am now employed again, after a year of sitting on my duff, unable to find suitable work in the music business post-Hootie. It's true, I have been playing with Luego, and Chris and I released that album. But as far as income, it hasn't been anything that the family can depend on.

So I now work at *a book store* at the airport.

Those of you who know me, know that I used to work at *another book store* in New Orleans, at one of the large stores. It was a wonderful experience, as jobs go: I met Smart Wife there, made a lot of friends, had two of the best bosses imaginable, got to sledgehammer fixtures to pieces, learned a lot about books, people, shopping habits and what a steady diet of Burger King can do to a person.

This new *book store* experience several years down the line is proving slightly different. It took me a few weeks to get my airport security clearance due to some dodgy paperwork issues from the New Orleans Traffic Court archives they got ahold of. A lawyer friend of a lawyer friend in NO helped sort that one out (thanks, Mark) and I'm now badged--the head of badging repeatedly told me that if I just changed my application to read 'guilty' of the charge in question, he'd have no problem issuing me a badge. I explained that I was not guilty, would not change my application and that we would have to wait for the paperwork. I did not wish to misrepresent the facts in the matter, regardless of whoever's convenience I was hampering (mostly my own), which is not too much to ask.

My hours are usually 7am to 3:30pm, which means I'm up around 5:15 showering and trying to eat breakfast quietly so as not to disturb the sleeping family too much.

I'm now entitled to park in the employee parking lot which is located about as far away from the terminals as possible. You pass a cemetery to get to it, and the bus trip from the lot to the job ads another fifteen to thirty minutes to the commute.

The badge also facilitates going through the TSA security checkpoint. As a badged employee, I slip to the front of the line, barging ahead of frantic travelers late for their flights. I don't have to remove my belt or shoes like anyone else would have to do. I send my lunchbox through the x-ray machine and meet it out the other side. (I sense that my yogurt cup would get taken away by the 'authorities' since it's more than three ounces, so I don't chance taking it through; I miss yogurt for lunch, but the captive audience situation that occurs when you're inside the terminal is just too expensive for my budget. So it's ham sammies and pretzel sticks from home every day.)

The stores are small, and they have hit-driven inventory. Today, for example, the Sarah Palin 'autobiography' goes on sale, and I'm sure we've had many many boxes of the book delivered. We will sell plenty of those to travelers, despite the book's hardcover format (fliers prefer paperbacks, obviously). We sell a lot of John Grisham, James Patterson, Oprah-approved titles, Harvard Business Review tomes, magazines and newspapers. We don't have a very deep selection nor far-ranging, but apparently that's not what The People want, according to the *book store's* braintrust in *another city*. The look-up system for what we have is slow and not very user-friendly compared to *the system* which we had at the New Orleans store.

Our registers are big stodgy dinosaurs with floppy disc drives. The functions they perform are are done in a sluggish, clanky manner, and everything has to be done in a very specific order. They mostly work fine, but sometimes keys get stuck so bad that you have to turn the things off and back on to get them to do their jobs.

The storeroom in Terminal 2 where I mostly work is claustrophobic. It's hard to get to the shelves where the stock is, and then it's hard to see the spine-out titles for all the books on the shelves in front of them. There's no desk for any of the General Manager's work. (Or for me to eat my lunch.) There's a tiny fridge there, but you usually can't get to it, since there are books in front of its door, waiting to be boxed up and returned.

There are two stores, one in each terminal. We get waves of customers, as you might imagine, and when a flight is delayed due to weather like we had last week, folks like to come in and kill time in the bookstore. In 2009, *the book store's* employees are expected to greet every customer and do a bunch of 'make' selling, specific items that the braintrust deems important. One that's been falling flat has been "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters" (or is it "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"?), a modern revision of the public domain Jane Austen classic that features additional dialogue and plot elements. It's really hard to sell that to people, and I can't imagine what the higher-ups at *the book store* were thinking.

The scuttlebutt is that the chain has only several months before it goes belly-up. It's not hard to see why people think that. Meanwhile, it's a job for me, temporary for the moment. Hopefully, in January, I can be made permanent so that I can get the benefits to kick in; even if *the book store* goes down in flames, Smart Wife is right when she says "it's easier to find a job when you HAVE a job." I am continuously scanning the craigslist ads and keeping my ear to the ground for anything that looks promising.

Think of me when you're rolling over in bed at 6am. I'm probably heading toward the park-and-ride as you shut your eyes and fall back to sleep.

*amended 1/10

Comments

R L Ross said…
Hi Peter,

Your story is so frighteningly familiar and yet really comforting. It mirrors my own experiences--playing in a band; actually working for record labels, etc. after graduating college and then the lack of work as labels went belly up...

The minutiae of a job is just that--minutiae. But at the end of the day, we're in a luckier bracket than many others. At the moment, we're working in a very unsettling period.

And for the record, I found my current job (1 year, 4 months) by actually putting a blind resume up on Craigslist!

I don't miss the spin cycle of record labels, that's for sure.

Best of all possible worlds,
Rob Ross
(gtr/vox - The Punch Line,
New York)

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