Chronicles of a day – April 4

7:37 a.m. Alarm sounds. The title of the alarm is “get shit done”. I hit snooze once. Up just before second run. Washroom, make coffee, brush teeth. I’m sitting before my computer by 8:03. Now what.

8:12 a.m. Coffee machine beeps : time for first coffee and cigarette. I brew 10 cups of coffee each day. My favourite is the PC gourmet coffee. For a canned, pre-grounded coffee, it’s not bad. I get the one with the gold label. Medium roast I think they call it.

Cigs are from Oka. They come in zip lock bags of 200 cigarettes and bear no label. They are identified by colour, white or brown. I’m white. I buy them from a shack that offers a special: buy 10 bags get 1 free. I always get 11 when I’m there.

8:22 a.m. I guess should say where I am. I’m down stairs sitting at the dinning room table. I’m in my underware. It’s right beside the fire, and warm. This space has become a second office for me. We hardly ever eat meals here, instead eating in front of the TV, so I’ve sort of recast the space as a shared workspace. Right now that mostly me and my laptop. There’s a few of my papers spread across the table. Resumes, samples of, notes on, and plans to distribute resumes. I’ve made this week the week of looking for jobs. Went to an employment services agency this week. I have a fancy portfolio from them on the table too. Lots and lots of prep needed to apply for a minimal job.

I’m at something of a disadvantage too. Or think that I am. I tend to be hard on myself, going to try and watch for that. But, I’m English with some French in a very French area on the border between Ontario and Quebec. Bilingualism is pretty much a prerequisite for any job. The low level jobs I might actually enjoy, like serving customers, are not available to me. While I do speak French, it’s not very strong; at least not to a high level conversational French. Here you could speak poor English and still work a service job, but good French is a must. Jobs I would like to try, but can’t: Car salesperson, administrative assistant (secretary), clerk, case worker, cashier. Basically any public facing job I’m excluded from. Hell, I’ve seen bilingualism be a requirement to be a janitor. To push a broom I need to be able to speak both official languages proficiently. It’s fun to be white, English and a minority in this area. The rest of Canada can barely form a phrase in French, but here, if you can’t converse confidently en français, you’re shit out of luck.

Thinking about applying outside this area. Funny enough, you only have to drive about an hour to be in a more staunchly English zone, much like the rest of Canada. I can go to Ottawa, Canada’s capital, about 1:30 mins away, and have better odds than Hawkesbury. Hell I could go to Montréal, in Québec, and have better odds finding a job as an English speaker than here. Hawkesbury is more French than Québec.

Thinking more upon this there are even little enclaves of English within this region. Vankleek Hill comes to mind. About 10 mins from Hawkesbury. It’s a very English zone. Sure, they have French, but it’s English first. Kind of a cute, artsy fartsy community. Small town. One traffic light. Built on a hill. They call themselves the gingerbread capital of Ontario, not for a propensity towards confectionary treats, but for the older homes with their ornate corners and edging around windows and porches they call gingerbread. Whatever, I’m mostly interested in the brewery they have there. Beau’s Beer. Think I might like to work there.

Beer. I’m very adept at drinking it. Perhaps I could make it too.

9:38. About to pour 3rd cup of coffee. Had a washroom break before. Still in undies, back by the fire. I know I should switch over and start looking for jobs, but I don’t want to yet. I smoke another cigarette instead.

9:53. Another cig is lit, I don’t remember smoking the last one. Coffee still 3/4 full. I should say I drink from a large cup. It’s tall and holds the equivalent of two regular sized cups. I tend to drink in large gulps, polishing off a 1/4 with each sip. Caffeine and nicotine makes a good mix.

9:57. Damn it’s almost 10 a.m. Thus far I’ve smoked cigs and drank a pot of coffee.

9:59. Near 10, the depression is setting in. Is this me getting shit done? Why do I name my alarms on iPhone? Seems I never live up to them.

10.: Fuck. I have to start working on finding a job.

10:02. I pour the last remnants of coffee in my cup and light another cig.

10:04. I got an email from my employment councillor. He sent me the links to a few jobs to check out. I’m looking at farm labour right now, but I’m beginning to have my doubts. Can a chain smoking 38 year old really handle physical labour? One of the posts actually describes routinely lifting 50 lbs through the day and being comfortable working in heat. Uggg, my back is already sore.

10:44. I’m going to apply for a grass cutting job. One of the jobs my employment councillor sent me. He forgot to include the apply link in his email so I asked him to send the info, but forgot to click send. I started digging around their website to try and find the listing. Never found it, but I did find one working for Tourisme Prescott-Russell. They are looking for a graphic designer. I did say I just wanted a simple job. But this one does look interesting. Something different from the newspapers I spent much of my career in. Salary is not bad either. Anyway, I returned to my email to ask for additional details, realized I forgot to click send on my previous email. So I have now emailed my councillor asking for details on a grass cutting job or the possibilities of a career. Guess you could say I’m a bit scrambled in my ambitions.

11:10. Remembering I struggle to describe my previous employ I begin to lose hope on career plans. My resume describes that attribute of my life very minimally. I would have to expand upon my time at EAP. Come up with the keywords of my time there. Things that sound good. Like management. Or ability to work under pressure. Well, sorta true, the pressure bit. Prolonged periods of stress get to me. Part of the reason I ran screaming from that place.

So what is true of my experiences? I worked at newspapers for 16 years. I made ads. Page layouts. Worked with a team of designers, and later led them. We worked with deadlines. Sometimes went beyond them, but we published each week. Multiple newspapers each week. I did that.

But to pull away the buzzwords. The things that derive a greater meaning from the experience. Some sort of good sounding phrase that makes me sound competent and professional. I find that so hard. What are my taglines, what sells me? Words of reason, celebrated accomplishments, what where they to me. I’ve got to find a way to think back and find my special moments.

OK, confirmed achievements, or things I did anyway:

Redesigned the overall look and feel of multiple publications, twice. We had a look that was shared by 5 papers and another that was shared by two. Basically it was based on the type of publication, one style for the more newspaper style, another for a more magazine style. It had to be a templates that were robust enough to be applied quickly and easy enough for journalists unaccustomed to design software to place their text. With multiple publications going to press each week, and a small graphic design department, journalists had to handle their own page layout. The templates we created were designed with them in mind while at the same time maintaining a visual consistency between pages. This we did, two times.

Managing a departement is one, I guess. Basically meant I made sure work was done. In practice, it meant keeping people enthused and tending to task. Motivating them to do their best with what’s given. At least establishing a minum standard of acceptable work. Often seeing them go well beyond it. Newspapers can be very much about speed and efficency, but it is also about being creative. I wanted to make sure designers were able to stay focused and derive some enjoyment from their work. I never wanted to see them just shitting out designs. Sometimes, it might happen. Not every client is ideal, or in every situation do you have all the needed materials, or is there time enough to get it properly sorted; but mostly I pushed for quality and for them to find pride in their work. At the end of the day, it was mostly about making ads. But I didn’t want them to lose sight of the client. How we needed to stay focused on what was best for them. If that meant spending an extra 5 minutes tracking down the right logo, or even longer just establishing a base look for the client, so be it. I wanted the client to be happy with the work, and to build a pool of resources for that client we could pull from continually from in the future. Being organized and prepared for additional work. If we went a little slower for the start, so be it. Long term it meant we went a lot faster because we knew what was an established look for the client, and where and how to find these resources. Our filing system included folders for commonly used files (e.g. logos, client photos, repeated imagery). Ads were organized by publication date and paper. We knew what was previously published and where; and could quickly build upon that.

Speed, speed, speed. Always the emphasis on production. But I would try to shield the designers from that. I tried to carve out spaces where they could focus on just being creative and not feel the constant pressure to get things done. It was there, but people work more efficiently if they aren’t being stressed. Focus was key for me. Focus on doing good work, the speed will come.

So I would take on some of the more rush jobs. I would handle that kind of stresses so they could stay focused on maintaining our weekly production in calm and relaxed environment. That was critical for me. I did not want yelling or bickering on the production side. If they had a problem they were to come see me, not take it out on those around them. If it involved a sales person, I would deal with that. Calmly and with respect. The design department was a no stress zone.

This was somewhat different before I took over. It used to be sales and designers were somewhat hostile to each other. Neither side saw value in the other. They were either stupid, or too slow, or an asshole, or a yelling match. It was a small scale war, with some ads resulting in all out battles of curse words, and raised voices, and pissed off departments and shitty work. This I ended. When I took over, I put myself between the two departments. I saw myself as an intermediator between the two sides. The work would come through me, where I could ask for additional details if needed, or help a salesperson understand what we needed in production. On the flip side I’d help a designer understand the pressure of sales, or how sometimes it really is the client who’s demanding these bizarre changes to their designs, or how sometimes, it doesn’t really matter, it’s just about doing what’s right for the customer. To remind the designers sometimes what they were really dealing with, this was money they were making for the company. Without saying it, the message to both sides was shut-up and play nicely. Were both working for the same business, and need each other to be successful.

Designers are weird. To be creative requires a bit of emotional investment. Sometimes you fall in love with a design you work. Think you have made the perfect visual only to have it be rejected by the client. This can be heartbreaking for the designer. As crazy as it sounds, ads become there artworks, and to have it rejected hurts. You are told after to start making drastic changes to your work. It can feel like defacing a work of art. I’ve learned how to handle rejection and not take it personally. But sometimes it’s harder for the designer in question. I’d help them to understand it isn’t personal. Encourage them to keep there original design as a copy (just incase) and then give them a gentle push to try again. Or, if I felt the designer was too upset and the work would be compromised, I would reassign it. Or maybe just have them hold off working on it. Do someother things first until they are ready to approach it fresh. It really depended on the situation and the skills of the designer in question. One thing I made clear was there was no shame in tapping out of a design. Sometimes you just don’t have the inspiration for something. That’s ok too. We could brainstorm together, or maybe another designer has a better direction. Doesn’t matter. What matters is the job is done to the best of our abilities, as a department. That’s what I really wanted. Teamwork. Between us and different departments. We saw the ads, page layouts, productions we made as a group effort, a task we approached as a team. We worked as part of collective, and, with other departments, contributed to the successful publication of newspapers. As I used to say, we all work for the same place. This isn’t separate nation states, it’s one company that we all contribute to, so respect one another and see the value in each other contributions.

12:19. Stopping for lunch. Déde should be home soon too. Will do a bit of tidying up. Oh, I managed to put some clothes on too. Did that around 11:40 as I was bashing away on the above passage. So yeah, no more undies, but still need to shower.

1:09. Lunch became a shower instead. The smell of yesterdays clothes being the imputous to bathing. I made a roast chicken yesterday, smell was in my shirt making me gag. After shower, Dédé was home. His boss is still asking about bringing me on. I’ve already deninded the job twice, but now he’s laying out the red carpet. Pick anytime and day I want. Work the schedule I want, just come in for some factory work. Guess third time is a charm. I agreed on a part time bases. Nights. I’m sure to be awake for that. At least it gives me time in the day to get other things done. Think I’ll work Monday to Wednesday….

Anyway, now I’m making pierogis for lunch. I do love a pierogi. My technique is to boil them in salted water first, then finish in a pan with melted butter and lightly sauté them. While the pierogis sauté, I poch a few eggs in the water. When the eggs are done, I transfer the pierogis to a plate then the eggs to the fry pan, just to get rid of some of the water from boiling. That too is then transferred to my plate. Scoop of sour cream on the side, then dive into the meal. Working on making that now.

I tend to do them different each time. One fav is to add some red chilli flakes to the pierogis while sautéing them. Sometimes I’ll add some flavours to the boiling water. Or sometimes chopped tomatoes to the sauté to create a sorta sauce for the pierogis. I just sort of play with it.

3:30. Ate. Watched a few episodes of South Park. Was kind of falling asleep on the couch. Decided to get up and take a walk. Going out now.

4:32. Back from walk. Going to tidy up the house a bit more.

5:08. Finished clean up for now. Ended up sweeping the floors and washing ashtrays too. Having a smoke now with a clean ashtray. Nice.

Dédé’s not home yet. Guess he’s working late. Or having a chit-chat. The man has a gift to gab.

I’m thinking about what to make for supper. Have leftover chicken from last nights roast. Actually saved the carcous too. Was thinking I’d make a stock. Repulsed by the idea now.

5:11. Just heard Dédé pull in.

9:57. Just finished filling in the forms for part-time labour at factory. That’s what Dédé came home with. They ask a lot of questions for a simple job. Had a section for employment history too. Fuck, can I ever stop making resumes… Turns out I didn’t need to fill it all in too. Just something they stick in a file. But it got me thinking. What the fuck am I doing. For a minimum wage, remedial job they ask me all this info. Yet leave tiny spaces to fill it in. They left space for maybe three words for reasons of leaving. I need a book to sort that one out.

Money, it’s what catching me out on this one. I need it. They have it. It’s a source of income, a means to keep the lights on, and little else. I likely won’t find another place willing to put up with my schedule.

At this time, next Monday to be exact, I will be packing boxes with bottles. Printed bottles. They fall off at the end of a conveyor belt after each colour is applied. My job is to gather the bottles at the end of the line, replace boxes with empties as they fill, resupply the printers with fresh bottles, then back to the end when the print result comes out. And repeat. And repeat. Repeat. Until midnight. 4 – 12 is my time.

10:14. Should say I didn’t just fill out forms. Dédé also was later coming back because he went shopping. I guess he wasn’t too thrilled with my choices when I went earlier in the week. We spent way too much on groceries in my budget conscious mind, but fine, whatever, he bought more. He wanted to get the points I imagine. Damn store reward points. It’s just a way to spend more, but fine, whatever. Freezer is overflowing, but fuck it, got to get more

Supper was French onion soup (had to make space in the freezer), and the leftover chicken I reworked into a light pasta. Soup was good, chicken so so. We ate, as ever, in front of the TV. Watching a new show (for us) called Billions. About the ultra rich, and the efforts of governments to keep their actions honest, and pursue those who break the rules. It’s fiction. Main characters are attorney general vs super rich, selfmade asshole hedge fund mega investor. We’re supposed to hate the rich guy while at the same time marvel at his ultra luxury life style. Of coarse it’s to the extreme. This is mega fuck-you kind of money.

Sucks to be poor.

Here’s some photos from my walk.

Spring! Almost time for biking. Sidewalks of Hawkesbury.
They liked it enough to fix it. Mid 2000s Buick.
Dump. Streets of Hawkesbury.
Melt damn you. Spring in Hawkesbury.

10:53. Going to watch some TV. Had a mini fight with my iPhone not syncing my photos. Only some were showing up on Mac. Apparently have to open the photos app on the Mac too for it to fully sync. What the fuck is iCloud anyway if it can’t do that in the background. I hate half baked designs, and Apple’s doing a lot of that lately.

11:02. Have yet to turn TV on. Smoking another cig and rereading a few passages. Resisting the urge to edit. I was thinking I’m being too hard on myself. So it’s a crummy job, and shit pay that I just accepted. So what. It’s something. It gets me going again, in that worker world. Fuck, I hate work. But so what, got to pay the bills.

I hate looking for jobs. Applying. Resumes. Selling yourself in carefully chosen phrases. Trying to be something to someone else. Whatever the fuck that means. I hate it so much, I’ve been careful to avoid it until this stage, really just this week, as money starts to get tight. It’s this week too that I applied for employment insurance. Something I maybe should have done in January, but ok doing it now. Thing is, they do have a deadline for applying and I’m well past it. But I’m the king of the late note, and they do have one there too for me to fill out. Being late in applying means it will probably take about a month before I know of a decision on if they will process my case. Probably longer if a payment comes in. In the interim I got a new Service Canada login where I get to show I’m looking for work. Need to demonstrate to them that I applied for jobs. Or it least looked. So I’m starting that too.

So far I’ve applied to one job. Not the grass cutting one I described earlier. I ran chicken on that when I began debating my resume. May still try again later. I applied to one yesterday though. Landscaping. Thing is I do want to be outside, but I’m worried grass cutting is going to run into weekends, and that is for camping. Of coarse, I could just say I’m unavailable on weekends. I could also just say I only want part-time work for now. But it’s easier to just do nothing and take the job at the factory.

Arggggggggg. This is going to suck. Going to keep looking. Start applying to other places. I have a feeling I will not enjoy packing boxes. This is going to haunt me if I don’t keep trying. This is not a long term plan. This just gets me by until I figure out what the fuck I’m doing. It’s just a job. I can quit if I really hate it. I’m not signing my life away on it. Just pack a few boxes for a few weeks until I get sorted.

But back to the central theme. I hate fucking applying to places. I hate resumes and cover letters. Just give me a job. Wish that was all I had to say.

My wish came true though. That’s all I ever said to Dédé, that I just needed a job. I didn’t think it would be at his factory, I wasn’t applying there, but nonetheless my wish to just get a job did happen. And I am thankful to him for making that happen. He did what he could to help me. And I didn’t make it easy on him either. Kind had to drag me kicking and screaming to a job. The only person I’m angry at is me. For not trying, just accepting.

Must stop this. Getting a little down on myself, again. Doing the best I can, in my way. It’s not easy for me, this day to day existence, but I’m going to make it. I am not giving up, I just need a breather. I’m going to fight.

11:38. It’s getting late. And I still have more cigarettes to smoke, and a TV to watch. Going to try that now.

11:41. Not sure I want to watch TV. Maybe just smoke.

11:42. Enough thinking for now. Fresh soda, TV it is.

11:59. I guess I forget to stop playing South Park before I went for my walk. It played through a few seasons. Have no idea where I was. I reached for my phone to post an update on that point. Found a bunch of other unpublished posts in my drafts. Read through a few of them. Thinking I need another section of my site. Maybe call it the unpublishable. Or simply Drafts. Something to indicate they are rough. Need edits. But fuck it, print sort of thing.

12:05. Fuck it. Watch some TV.

12:18. Forgot to put the clothes in the dryer. I did a load earlier this night. Starting dryer now meaning it’s going to be hard to hear the tv.

1:10. Dryer finally stopped. Just snacked on a little cheese and salami. Another smoke. Then bed. Or should. Maybe another show first.

6:03. Woke up at 5:20 with South Park playing in background. Once again lost my place in the show. Switched off tv tried to go back to sleep. Had to pee though. My dream was a bit disturbing too. Can’t remember the details but my hands were bleeding. A bad cut on a finger that kept reopening and bleeding. I think I was debating stitches when I woke up, or maybe that’s just something I’m thinking of now. Dreams are so weird.

I layed there tring to sleep. But the pee. And then I heard Dede get up around 5:30. Making coffee, shuffling about. And pee. I finally got up and did the same. But with that comes waking up. Maybe needing a cig. Tried to go back to sleep. But then, of coarse, thinking took hold too. Finally relented and smoked a cigarette.

6:15. I need more sleep though. I think I maybe got 4 hours so far. Already Adjusted alarm to a later time. Going to switch tv back on and fall asleep to another show. Star Trek probably.

6:18. Have to pee again. Suns up now too. Eeek the next day has started. Still trying to sort out the end to the last one.


2 thoughts on “Chronicles of a day – April 4

  1. Dear Thom:

    Well, I certain understand what you’re talking about. I hate the whole job seeking process, from the résumé drafting, to the daily scanning of the job listings, to the obsequious application blitzing, down to the interview with sycophantic HR type who actually knows less about the position than I do. When you reach my age you’ll discover that there’s an extra little hoop to leap. Essentially it boils-down to the fact that from the moment he/she looked at my date of birth, they already know they weren’t going to hire me – regardless of my qualifications. The job seeking jigs-&-reels aren’t the sort of a dance anyone does willingly, but purely out of grim necessity. In my entire life I think I’ve only known two people who actually liked the process, and both of them were professional salesmen, with a gift-of-the-gab that dripped from their lips like honey. They’d both been travelling-salesmen for everything from welding rods to wind-up toys, and thus changed employers so frequently that they’d developed a certain level of expertise.

    Still, bad and all as the job-hunting routine is, it doesn’t help if you over-think the whole thing. You may be keenly aware of your supposed short-falls, but remember you’re the only person in the whole world who knows them. We’re all far too critical of our own abilities and skills, and we’re also the first ones to relentlessly castigate ourselves for every little error in judgement that we’ve ever made. In truth, potential employers want to be impressed by you, for they’d like to end this tiresome hiring process as quickly as possible and get back to business as usual. Having sat on the other side of the employment table myself, I know that I rapidly got to the point where I wanted the very next candidate to be the one that impressed me. You’ve got some skills that aren’t easily obtained or mastered, and you also have management experience in the same line of endeavour. That combination isn’t a common or everyday set of circumstances, and you can definitely parlay that advantage into a winning situation.

    You’ve got a lot going for you Thom, so don’t loose heart. Dad

    1. Thanks. Somehow it’s a process for me where I have to first get past my self doubt and reluctance to trumpet my accomplishments. I’ll get there, but it’s a slow road.

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