Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My (Three-month) Life in PR, Part 5: Happiness is going back to the job where the guys who hang out across the street have teardrop tattoos

There was some relief in letting Leslie know just how much I hated my job. It didn’t totally stop unidentified internal organs from turning hard as concrete, but it was a first step. All I needed now was a plan for a new job. I could do this. I am the king hell job of getting jobs. Once I get them, it can be a different story. And hell, I’d even had plenty of other crappy jobs before, I could do this. There was even a time in the not-so-distant past when I had a low-paying job and made a call to inquire about becoming a professional carpet installer, because, well I don’t remember all the details and becauses, but it wasn’t one of the high times in my life.

So it was time to buckle down and spend my lonely baloney (balonely?) sandwich lunch breaks scouring indeed.com for job listings. The major difference between this and past job searches was that I was ruling out any and all public relations jobs, at least for the immediate future. For nearly a quarter of a century, getting a job in PR had been the Holy Grail, the obvious next step for which my experience as a reporter had been a mere stepping stone. Then the grail was destroyed in less than a month by the perfect storm of serial dysfunction, boredom, and the inability to really, really, seriously sell the white-hot burning excitement of the supernova that is professionally installed window film.

With public relations off the table and having been jilted by the industrial rug installation complex lo those many miserable years ago, there was really only one option on the table that could fit my peculiarly narrow skill set.

I love you newspapers. I’m sorry I left you. Do you forgive me? Will you take me back?

But the secret, that I kept from my boss at least, was that I hadn’t left newspapers for all that long. When I called my old boss to complain about my new job, there wasn’t an opening to come back at the moment, but there was a chance to write a few freelance articles per week. I was staying in the game, and making extra money, to boot. The days at work when I had an assignment that night were just a little brighter. I was looking forward to sitting for hours at school board meetings and budget hearings. It’s a special kind of sickness.

Also, if people tell you you will never get what you want by being a miserable bastard, don’t believe them. I’d stop in the old paper office periodically to pick up my checks and say hi, and let everyone know just how fucking unhappy I was at my new job. One reporter would comment on how much weight I had lost. Because that’s what happens when I’m depressed. I have no appetite and food is only for those who deserve happiness, but hey, I fit into my old pants again, so it’s not all bad. The publisher told me I’d always have a place to come back to if I wanted, which I didn’t know exactly how serious he was as I measured up whether I’d be able to get my old desk back.

Meanwhile back at W____ C_____, I was upbraided because my pitch selling the many benefits of Big Data XML conversion was boring. Did I even know what Big Data XML conversion was all about? Would you ever bother replying to that pitch? No, no I wouldn’t, because I was pretty sure the one thing I did know about Big Data was that it bored the shit out of me, and I was someone who enjoyed lengthy school board discussions about whether to raise school lunch prices by a nickel or a dime.

Then one day I get a Facebook message from the CEO at the newspaper, asking just how serious I am about coming back home. I play it cool, yeah I’ll have to be paid this much. This much ends up being an offer that’s close enough to this much. I will be bringing my talents back to Munroe Street.

Now the PR handbook states that employees need to give three weeks notice because it is such a specialized position that they need time to find a replacement. However, I know, from the woman who works in the front office with me and is about the only voice of sanity in the place, that my three-month stint puts me at just about the company average for how long an employee stays. At least it’s good to know it’s not just me. I give my two/three/however many weeks notice. The owner tells me it’s fine if I wrap up and leave on Friday. I’m 93 percent relieved and seven percent “Were you getting ready to fire me anyways?”

Fast forward four months. I’ve worked a 12 hour day and it still went by twice as fast as an eight hour day where I would cover the clock so I wouldn’t constantly stare at it. True, the office is near the ocean, but there is a several block walk past prostitutes, junkies, and a gentleman or two with teardrop tattoos before you can catch sight of anything that is even slightly dappling. The major pastime in the office is bitching, sniping and giving good-natured shit to each other. Three weeks ago I told one of my favorite co-workers to shut the fuck up and I’m not sure if he’s talking to me yet. There’s the constant possibility that any morning, day, or night could be thrown into chaos by a shooting, stabbing, wreck or fire on my beat.

But I’m here, and I’m smiling, and this is what I do. A goddamn newspaperman until they shut down the last printing press.


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