One day in June of 2001, Dart called me up and asked how I felt about working downtown. It seemed there was a position as an underwriter at one of the mortgage companies down there and someone had called Dart about it. She told me it wasn’t enough money but did I want it? Sure. Why not? 30K a year is enough to cover my bills and still let me have a little fun. My unemployment insurance had run out in May and I wasn’t going to scoff at $15 an hour. It’s a job, right?

I sent my resume over to Dart and she forwarded it to the recruiter in question. The next day I had an interview and they seemed rather impressed. One thing the recruiter mentioned was that I might not get the position because I hadn’t had enough experience as a technical writer. That in mind, they went through the business of scheduling a second interview.

When I got home, there was a message waiting for me from Spherion. It seemed they had pulled my resume from Monster (It does work!) and wanted to know if I could come in for an interview that afternoon.

I called back and spoke with one of the most vague people I have ever interacted with. He didn’t know how to end the conversation—we were just pausing and repeating what we had said. I finally told him, "I’ll see you at 3, okay? Bye." And that was that.

In person, the poor guy was worse. As I explained to Über-Dave that evening, if I was a wolf, I would have eaten him. Dave corrected me and explained that if I were a wolf, I would have brought the guy home for the cubs to practice on.

Cub-fodder called back that evening and asked me if I could make an 8 AM meeting the next day. I said sure, why not, and made plans to stay up. There was no way I was going to be able to get up and get dressed and then fight rush-hour traffic from my end of town to the Spherion office off I-35. I also remember that Cub-Fodder had told me to not wear any perfume that morning because the person I would be speaking with was allergic.

And looking back on it, that was stupid.

I remember that morning because Edgar, mi gato nonsimpatico, had received a quest from his Dungeon Master to destroy the Ogre’s panty hose. I actually got to see the thought as it was beamed between his pointy little ears from the mother ship. He succeeded in that quest, but failed his "hide in the closet" roll and was swiftly punted down the stairs.

I fought the traffic and made it down in time—a little early actually. The office wasn’t open yet and I had 20 minutes to spare. I went downstairs to the cafeteria and read that week’s issue of the Dallas Observer. They were whining about raves in Dallas (or lack thereof) and the doughnut I ate while I was down there nearly put me into a sugar coma.

I was half-asleep during the interview with the regional director and that really wasn’t apparent to me until she asked me how I had found out about the opening.

"Oh, my buddy Dart told me about the position. She didn’t want it because it wasn’t enough money."

The director blinked a bit and said, "That’s odd…when I spoke to her she seemed pretty interested."

Oh man. Not only had I confused which interview I was at, but I had also screwed Dart’s chance of getting the position and…wait a minute…how does she know Dart?

"Oh… maybe I made a mistake," I back-peddled. "Maybe that was another position."

Dart was going for this job? I felt bad. But the regional director glossed over it and started dialing numbers into her phone. "Let me see if I can get Mike on the line. He’s the project manager for this client."

Mike came on and I talked to him for a bit. I was tired and cranky and I felt bad about the Dart thing.

And he loved me. And he said, "Be at the office tomorrow at 8 AM and we’ll go over to the job-site. I’ll be flying in tonight."

My god. I had the position.

I went home and told Phil about what had happened and let him know I was starting that Thursday. It was $18 an hour and the contract would last 6 weeks. The Mortgage Company called that afternoon to schedule the next interview, but I had to tell them I had just taken a contract. They wished me luck and that was that.

I went down to the Spherion office the next morning and got to meet Mike. We talked about what the client wanted and what format they wanted it in and Do You Even Know Where You’re Working? No, I didn’t know the name of the client. No one had even mentioned it.

It was the Dallas Morning News. Their internal help-desk had an efficiency study done earlier that year and one thing that came out of the study was the need for a manual. That’s where I came in. I was going to write the Help Desk Manual.

The job site itself was pretty uneventful. Even though they had a business casual dress code, I wasn’t allowed to wear pants because I was a "Spherion Representative". I had to dress for the company. That wasn’t too much of a problem. I got around the dry-cleaning thing by picking up some Dryel.

By the time I had finished the contract, we had a very nice training/resource manual as well as an on-line, HTML version with a JAVA navigational menu on the side. I found a program on the net that could produce the *.class files for me and did most of the indexing on the *.xml--I still had to go into the *.xml and re-code parts of it in WordPad to get the folders to nest correctly. Everyone was very impressed. I had finished the contract with a week to spare and had produced an additional document.

Truth of the matter is, I had finished the project two weeks in advance. I created the on-line version to stretch things out another week and fill out the fill 6-week period for completion.

And I still got the completion bonus.

So I was done with my contract for The Dallas Morning News. I took my last train-ride back up to my end of town. (I had been taking the train down to Union Station and then walking a block to the DMN site.) In an odd way, I was going to miss the train the most. It had allowed me to catch up on a lot of my reading and saved me the trouble of trying to find parking downtown. I already know that if I had to drive the wagon down into the core there would have been at least one incident a week. I only had two incidents of any note on the train during the entire project.

One involved the Mary Kay convention. A lot of the Mary Kay women were taking the train and halfway through the trip I realized they were talking about me.

"Are those cotton stockings?"

"Those aren’t even summer colors." (I was wearing black.)

"I think that shirt is a mid-nineties style."

"Those shoes are so last year."

Like I wasn’t even there. I couldn’t believe it. We got to my stop and I stood up and took a little bow. "Thank you so much, girls. I haven’t had that much fun since middle school."

And there was one guy on the train with all these women, wearing a Mary Kay convention badge. Title: "Spouse". Damn. Spouse. He just stood there, staring at his feet and not saying a thing. Jesus, what an empty existence.

The other incident was less amusing. I managed to get on the train the same time a mother and her two kids got on. The mother chatted on her cell-phone most of the ride. "I’m on the bus-train…" and the kids bounced up and down and sang, "We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo. How about you, you, you?"

And just when I thought I was going to turn around and throttle them, one of them made this sad, sick sound and my left shoulder was warm and wet.

And getting cooler and itchy.

The mother didn’t get off the damn phone. She tried to explain it away with, "She gets motion sickness."

I explained that she shouldn’t be fed and allowed into public.

At that point, Mommy tried to appease me with a $10. I explained that wasn’t going to cut it. There was a dry cleaning bill, gas money to get home, detailing the inside of the car after the drive, treating whatever rash I developed from the little Brundel-fly maggot, and any lost wages from the time I had to take to shower and change.

"So, you want $20?"

"I make almost $20 an hour. No, $20 isn’t going to cover it. I want to hit your kid a few times."

She bought me off with $50.

I guess I was lucky in that I had the car to make the drive home. You see, when I started the job, Phil was dropping me off at Park Station. By the time the Exorcist baby hit me with pea soup, I was driving to Mockingbird Station and parking the car there.

That’s because Phil left me halfway through the contract. The week the kid puked on me, Phil was staying with his folks up in Denison.

Now before any of my ex's starting laughing to themselves on this one, let me explain this was just another argument in a long string of arguments.

Unemployment is annoying to me and frustrating to see in others; more so in others who live with me. I don't like having to support someone with less than four legs. I was getting irritated that everything I was making was going to paying bills and not taking care of other things. I still had to borrow money from someone for a doctor's appointment and my car still didn't have A/C. I think Phil was looking for a job, but the fact that he wasn't finding one was pissing me off. Add to that, I was tired and hot and cranky when I got home, I didn't get to see my late-nite friends, and I wasn't in the mood for much of anything involving Phil. I was doing laundry and dishes and cleaning the apartment and taking care of bills and it was really starting to bother me.

It brings back bad memories of working in a bookstore and supporting an unemployed cartoonist. I promised myself I would never go back to that and it was looking to me like I was.

I started the argument by stating that I wasn't happy and he started shouting that he’d had enough. Phil started packing and I made a cup of coffee and finished up some of my reading. Über asked me what was going on.

"Phil’s leaving."

"And you’re letting him?"

"We need some time apart. Apparently, this is what he wants."

When you get used to living with someone, it’s a strange experience to not have them there. There’s less laundry, there’s less dishes, food seems to last longer. But the bed is cold and empty at night, and in a two-bedroom apartment it’s easy to think that they’re just on the other floor. I shouted up the stairs for him more than once. And people almost don’t recognize you when you’re by yourself. They’re so used to seeing that other person with you that you look out-of-place without them. Like a face without its glasses.

We didn’t even talk the first week he was there. I didn’t even tell people it had happened until that Wednesday. I didn’t tell anyone at work it had happened at all.

After a week, we started chatting online and I brought him back down for the weekend. He came back to stay the week after that and we moved his stuff back down three days later. He was only there a grand total of three weeks.

That’s about how long he was in the Marine Corps.

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