Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why I Am Unemployable, #1

This passage from my novel Bleeding Kansas explains one reason as eloquently as I’ll ever write it:

Walking out to my vehicle, I have to work the keychain remote several times just to be sure this magnificent black luxury SUV is really mine. The new car smell is intoxicating. Nothing is slammed; the rear hatch closes with the touch of a button. I walk around to climb into the cab. Can’t slam this door, either. It’s like burping a Tupperware lid.

I turn the key and the air conditioning blows on full. The radio plays symphonic music in full-immersive surround sound and none of this seems a strain on anything. I turn down the music and give myself a minute to familiarize myself with the GPS. Not that I need a whole minute. It works on voice command.

The traffic is light on the way into downtown, allowing me to work on my breathing and concentration. I screwed up in my first call to Giselle. The rental car clerk’s attitude towards me was also telling. Going all the way back to the cab driver, if he spoke with such annoying familiarity to me it’s because I didn’t give him the proper nonverbal cues telling him not to.

I can’t afford to be friendly. I can’t show surprise every time I come across some delightful, if appallingly expensive toy the Courtesan Class takes for granted like hot and cold running water. If it’s apparent to anyone at the company that I’m Not of Their Tribe—say, someone who’s been driving the same car for ten years, doesn’t own a smartphone, etc.—they’ll throw me right back into the stagnant, dying pond I come from. One does not get a seat at the Kool Kids table out of kindness, or even ability. It’s because you’re already a Kool Kid and that seat has belonged to you since before you were born.

With that in mind I step out of the elevator and stroll across the sumptuous lobby like I own it.

I can’t be cool like my novel’s hero and narrator, Derek Grace. The last time I was in a rental vehicle was in early 2008. This wasn’t even a “luxury tank” like the one Grace takes possession of in Chapter 1, but a mid-range model. Closing the door really was like burping a Tupperware lid. It had satellite radio, but no GPS. Still, in terms of comfort and amenities, it was far and above the 2004 Honda Odyssey at home. I can only imagine how I’d react if I were to slide into a late-model, fully-loaded Escalade. (The 2004 Honda is still the youngest vehicle we own.)

Whether I said “Whoa!” every two minutes or just looked around in bug-eyed wonder—I’m good for both—the point is I’d react, and all of a sudden I’m not getting the job because I’m not “a good fit.” 
So just keep on truckin’! Zombie truckin’ on down the line!

And let’s say I somehow learned to keep a poker face after half a century of wearing my feelings on my sleeve, the fact that I don’t have any kind of “smartphone” with a data plan enabling me to show off my Google-fu is just as damning.

Then there’s the matter of my over-familiarity with the help. And the fact that I cannot for the life of me think of people even conceptually as “the help.” This gets me both ways, as the so-called help doesn’t appreciate it either. Doesn’t matter that I’ve worked their jobs. But I should be somewhere else now, shouldn’t I?

Well, it ain’t happenin’. Too old and too set in my ways. 

Back to the zombie mines, then!

BLEEDING KANSAS Copyright © 2013, 2017 by Lawrence Roy Aiken