I suddenly find myself after 17 months of indolence here at Desert View State Prison trying mostly futilely to occupy my days in an interesting and productive fashion, employed. I shall be molding young criminal minds preparatory to taking their high school equivalency tests, to the tune of eighteen — count 'em — that's 18 cents per hour. But before you plotz all over yourself in awe and envy, I remind you that the state plans to get back all the money I stole and the cost of trying me by deducting 55% of all monies received, leaving me with a serfly sum of 8.1 cents per hour. On the bright side, I have been spared paying federal income tax and FICA.
I did not seek out the position; as I understand it, there was a conversation in the education department that went something like this:
Teacher: My assistant is paroling -- does anyone know of a qualified person who'd be interested in the position?
Inmate: There's a guy in my dorm who's always correcting people.
Teacher: Fine, sign him up.
And there you have it. Thus conscripted, I once again join the ranks of the toilers, the plodders, the drudges. I am a vertebrae in the backbone of the economy. Perhaps that's a little grandiose -- maybe I'm closer to a cell in a vestigial organ of the economy. The appendix. I am a vital, thriving cell in the economical appendix, completely unnecessary to the system as a whole, but happily and productively performing my pointless duties. God bless America.
No one enjoys looking for a job because it is as odious a chore as there is. Oh, I suppose there are some, like the really, really, ridiculously good-looking ones oozing charm and sex appeal for whom job-seeking is simply a matter of choosing which lucky company gets the privilege of hiring them and basking in their awesomeness. But for most of us it's about as pleasant as maxillo-facial surgery, i.e., not at all.
I fall into the latter group, being something of an acquired taste. I do not always present so well at initial meetings, the very crux of the employment search experience, due to general free-floating anxiety and contempt for my inferiors (into which group my interviewers invariably fall). Therefore, I find it facilitates and lubricates the whole experience if I take some preparatory steps to ameliorate the above barriers to smooth interviews through the strategic implementation of certain chemicals and beverages. Just enough to put a bloom in the cheek and a gleam in the eye, to lower the gates of inhibition enough to allow the wit to flow freely and the smiles to appear genuine. It's a little art, a little science, and a lot of blind luck — there is sometimes a fine line between being witty and engaging, and raving incoherently.
It came to pass one day that I was feeling my oats a little and perusing the Fort Bragg Advocate-News, a serviceable piece of fish wrap if you take the geographical constraints and limitations of the local talent pool into consideration. I don't recall exactly what it was that set me off, but something got me ranting about affirmative action for the brain-damaged and urinating in to the very faces of the journalistic gods. When I completed my harangue, I pulled out my phone and composed an email to the editor outlining exactly what ailed his newspaper and invited him to fire any three of his employees and I would undertake their collective duties, do them twice as well, and charge him half their aggregate salary. It was a withering, incisive missive and I felt my usual sense of smug satisfaction at having righted another grievous wrong in the world.
Having done my small part in restoring the natural order of things, I resumed doing whatever vitally important thing I had scheduled that day, probably something along the general line of pointless, unproductive, tinkering, fixing things that were not broken, rearranging things that were just fine the way they were, and leaving every project unfinished in favor of a different more enticing project. The yoozh.
It wasn't long before I heard the sound of a brick coming through the window and tumbling on a hardwood floor, the tone I had chosen for my email notification. Damned if it wasn't the editor-in-chief responding to the email slugged "Advocate Nincompoopery." My eyes glittered and my fingers began to twitch in anticipation of the epic flame war I was about to demolish this yokel in. But when I opened the message I found not the resentful broadside I expected, but a calm and considered response to my accusations and calling of my bluff. "Come on in and have a chat," it read, "and bring some samples of your work."
It named a time the following day and asked me to respond if that was amenable to me. Good grief. What had I gotten myself into? I was just talking smack. I'm not prepared for this. I paced and fretted and considered the tried-and-true ostrich solution: this never happened.
But then a dangerous thought struck me. What would Hunter Thompson do? It's something I often ask at dilemmatic junctures and it always results in making the situation much, much worse, but that doesn't stop me asking it. I feel fairly confident in knowing what the good doctor might do in certain situations and how it might turn out for him, But the fundamental flaw in this line of thought is, of course, that I am not HST or even possessed of a moiety of his sangfroid, verve, audacity and flair. Ergo, I have no business indulging myself in gonzo specific solutions.
Nevertheless, I thought it, and my answer was that he'd first sling that gauntlet forcefully back whence it came and then march, fully chemically bolstered, into the newsroom when through bravado and bullying he'd emerge with a contract and an expense account. Again, not me. This has as much chance of working out as I had of leading that year's Rose Parade. But I still assented to the next day's meeting.
The following morning I scared up a button-down shirt and necktie and set about creating my melange du jour. I poured milk and ice cream into a blender, added about 6 ounces of Scotch, a third of a gram of crystal meth, and an unspecified amount of MDMA. I broke it down thusly: ethanol as a relaxant, meth to counter its depressive effects and render me chatty and witty, ecstasy to suppress my natural antisocial tendencies and engender the fellow-feeling I'd require to win this bloke over, and the dairy products for calcium and calories. It was delicious and I almost immediately felt ready for quite literally anything.
My first thought was that I'd significantly undershot in the way of goals. Getting a job at a Podunk weekly? Hell, I should be heading up NASA! I winked at myself in the mirror, shot my cuffs confidently and headed out the door.
I walked for 30 minutes or so before realizing that I had no idea where the Advocate's offices were. Once I got that sorted out and had a conversation with a couple of cats (OMG! you are so soft), I made my way over to Franklin and Pine. I stood outside the nondescript brick building that I'd always assumed was a chiropractor's office and took a deep, cleansing breath. Here we go, I thought.
I went inside and was told by a nice lady upfront that Mr. ____ was running late and I should wait in his office. I declined her offer of coffee and sat down to wait, trying desperately to sit calmly and still and not betray my condition. I believe I was doing well, but after about an hour I started to get a little fidgety and concerned. Where was this guy? Was this a setup? Maybe the paper was a front for some kind of terrorist operation and they thought I was getting too close. I looked at my phone. The "hour" was actually more like two minutes. I relaxed a little.
After a bit I realized I could not hear anything outside the door over an increasingly loud whooshing noise inside the office with me. It appreciated in volume and intensity until it sounded like the Russian River at full flood and I realized: It was my blood. Somehow its passage through my body had become amplified and I could hear every corpuscle coursing through my veins and arteries. My heart joined in, sounding like the Blue Man Group during a particularly spirited performance. I could hardly think over the din. Surely someone was going to burst in to find out why the job applicant was playing a recording of a drum solo at last year's Reggae on the River.
As if this weren't enough, I felt/heard a buzzing in my mouth. I opened wide and realized that my fillings were picking up and amplifying radio signals. Not just one radio station, either: Miranda Lambert, Jackson Browne, Rush Limbaugh and Scott Simon were all whooping it up in my mouth. I slammed it closed, but the cacophony spilled out of my nose. I pinched it shut but soon realized that not only could I not breathe, but the sound was now coming out of my ears. That's it, I thought. I got to go. I rushed out in a (perceived) crashing, banging clamor, muttering something about needing to catch the next ferry.
Once I got outside the clangor began to diminish considerably until it gradually ceased. "That was weird," I said out loud. I wondered what esoteric part of the electromagnetic spectrum the waves coursing through that office were derived from and what generated them. Jesus H. Chrysler, I thought. That editor must have a constitution of pure adamantium. I must have been out of my mind thinking I could contend with a figure of such puissance and fortitude. Probably a cyborg or alien which would also explain the Advocate's stilted prose. I counted myself lucky in having avoided a potentially lethal encounter and shagged ass back home where it was safe.
I sat down and loosened my tie, put my feet up and quaffed the dregs of my ultra-shake. "To the memory of Raoul Duke!" I said.