Miasma

May. 15th, 2014 10:39 pm
violetcheetah: (Default)
V. has been one of my co-workers since I started this shift in September. Not just someone I worked with, but part of a kind of group of four of us; we partnered with each other — though usually she partnered with Jonathan — sat together in the break room, teased and picked and made juvenile off-color comments. One slow day, we had a rubber-band war while we waited for mail to show up. One night when I couldn't mentally function, she sat on the floor with me, an arm around my shoulder, humming.

November and December were hard for all the PSEs, the contract-temp workers like us who aren't fully vested career people. We went from 40-hour weeks to 48, to sometimes having to stay late and ending up working over 50 hours. We were all pretty damn worn out. V. was maybe worn out more than the rest of us, because she has a family, obligations outside of work. Then things slowed down in January, and while I think all of us were still not as energetic as we'd been in the fall, V. still seemed more tired. Someone said something was going on with her father but I never knew what; she didn't say anything to me, and I don't tend to ask about things like that.

She's missed a lot of days at work this winter and spring. She's been worn out on the days she's been there. And more and more irritated, by smaller and smaller things. Nothing directed at me, but it's still hard to be around, partly because I don't deal well with discord or outright anger, but partly... I worry. She's unhappy, and it's hard to see her unhappy because she's a friend. Or I considered her a friend.

She's been wearing perfume, or something scented, for weeks, going into months. I'd never noticed it before, and at first I only noticed it once a week or so, and I didn't work at a machine with her often, so it didn't matter. But it slowly became an everyday thing, and on the days I worked near her, I was miserable: migraine, lightheaded; I think now that scents trigger the irregular heartbeat that's becoming more of an issue. Thinking about it now, I might have seemed irritated to her, at her, because I probably didn't speak much, didn't interact more than I had to, partly because it made my head hurt worse to be near her, partly because one of the effects of scents on me is that it feels like my brain slows down, it's hard to think, and all my concentration goes to the work I'm doing and it still feels like it's not enough, and I don't have energy left to have a conversation.

Then my regular partner switched shifts. So did V.'s usual partner. And the only person without a regular partner is V. I knew I had to talk to her, but I feel like I'm oversensitive, and I should just learn to deal, and it's not an easy conversation to have with anyone. And she's been so irritated, angry, tired. I was afraid it wouldn't go well.

But Friday, I nearly had to go home; it was bad enough my vision was tunneling in on a few occasions, bad enough I was sitting down during a lull, and the supervisor came and asked if I was all right, because, well, feeling like crap had been a regular occurrence for me for several months, including going home early, and taking an ambulance ride one night from work because I either passed out or was so close to it that I was unresponsive. And really, what I felt now was the beginning of that. Maybe it's just stress, psychological, and scents trigger stress which triggers the arrhythmia. Maybe it's more. Either way, I can't will myself to relax and not pass out, if that's all it is. I told the supervisor that the scent was the problem at the moment, and that I had to talk to V. about it. But for the time being, the supervisor moved us to different, separate machines.

Maybe V. was angry at how I'd been acting all day; if you didn't know I felt like crap, I probably seemed like a sullen child. Maybe she thought I'd told the supervisor something bad, and her being moved away was punishment. Or just was angry that she was being moved, which is annoying, and knew or suspected that this move was my fault. She'd already been fractious all shift; I didn't see her much for the next couple of hours, but she seemed more pissed than before. But I tend to feel like people are angry even when they aren't, worry that they are angry at me. And regardless, I had to talk to her.

So after the shift was over, in the break room, I went over to her table. She was on the phone, but she paused and asked what was up, or something like that. I said, "I can't work with anyone wearing scented products." She said, "That's okay, Bev, I don't plan on ever working with you again, anyway." The syrupy bitterness to it, the stereotypical passive-aggressive bitch-ness of it, was so over the top that I almost expected her to start laughing. It was exactly what would have happened in September or October. It's what the v. I knew then would have done. But there was no laugh, no smile. I walked away.

It was a bad night after that. I was in tears walking to the train, on the train, waiting to start sobbing until I was at my station, and then sobbing most of the next two hours. It was a typical response from me to rejection, especially to the girly/bitchy rejection that goes back to horrible interactions in middle school and high school, threats of violence, threats of sodomy with a broomstick. And back to interactions with my mother, subtle, indirect, dehumanizing, annihilating. I am nothing. I am not a person. I do not exist. By the next day, I was pretty much mutedly resigned, jaw not clenched but set; but she wasn't at work, so I had a day to let it fade, not to regrow skin but at least to let the nerve endings give up and stop screaming. Sunday, she seemed to studiously ignore me, except for the two minutes when the supervisor of the day asked, once there was mail to run, if we wanted to partner up and she very quickly said, "No," and she was sent off with some fill-in guy from the other end of the plant. Or maybe the ignoring wasn't deliberate on her part; maybe she just honestly didn't see me anymore. It was what I expected, and not pleasant, but it didn't destroy me like Friday night had.

I want to be mad. I am mad, but I want to just be mad, uncomplicatedly "fuck you, too" pissed off. But what I feel most... I don't know, it's not a feeling, not an emotion, I just, it hurts to think about her, to think about the her I knew for months, the her I liked, the her who was fairly happy, and, God, she's so fucking miserable, all the time at work, and I don't even know what life outside of work is like, and just, I just want to ask, "What happened? Can I do something? Can I do something to help bring back the V. from last fall?" And "Why the perfume?" She never wore it before, or not that strong. What changed, that she suddenly now needs that? Does she feel unclean, like she smells? Is her father ill, and she spends so much time at the hospital or caring for him at home, smelling disinfectant and medicine and illness, that she needs to surround herself with something that doesn't smell like that?

Part of what I feel — what I felt even before this last straw — is just, everyone likes to be around happy people, fun people, so it's entirely selfish that I want the old her back: it's less stress, I'm human, I like laughing with people.

But that's only partly it. Because: it's V. We were never exactly friends, but we were colleagues, and we made each other laugh, and she offered me comfort, and she didn't treat me like a freak, and I want to offer comfort back. But I can't, not through this wall of anger. Anything else I could deal with: sadness, depression, fear, anxiety, crying, screaming, curled into a ball, any of those I would at least try to reach through, try to punch through the wall. But anger — it's not brick or barbed wire or something I can withstand the pain of: it is fire, and I have no protection. I want to try. At least I think I want to. But I know, I just can not do this. It will destroy me, and I'll be no good to anyone, I'll just make it worse. So I sit helplessly, and I burn with a different fire, with shame and helplessness and smallness, my hands aching with the desire to do something, my throat aching with words I can't even think of, let alone say.



violetcheetah: (butler)
From writing workshop. The prompt was the sentence "You're not the boss of me."

Read more... )



violetcheetah: (Default)
Let me start by saying that I realize that having too much work is an awesome problem to have. I like money. I like that, depending on exactly how much dental work I need and how much of the expense will be paid by my insurance, I am likely to break even for the year, even after having spent the first half of the year working not-quite-full-time for 9 bucks an hour. Also, by and large, I like my job. I like the people I work with regularly, and I have a supervisor who doesn't treat us like either idiots or lazy jerks who will only work if she stands over our shoulders every five minutes; neither of those are true in all parts of the Boston mail processing plant, and I am lucky. However:

Sometime in October, us newbies — "Postal Support Employees," who are in a limbo between temp/contract workers and fully vested lifetime workers — went from a six-day week in which 4 days were 6 hours and thus we worked 40 hours, to six 8-hour days. It was supposed to be for two or three weeks as they tested a new mail-sort scheme or something. Sometime around the week before Thanksgiving, it became informally clear that this schedule would continue through the Christmas rush. I was "lucky" this week to have a dental appointment that I ended up just taking the day off for, so not only did I have two days off, but they were two days in a ROW! Tuesday and Wednesday.

Well, now the rush is even rushier. I've worked 10-hour days Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and will do the same today. Monday will be a 12-hour day. After that, except for Wednesday — my day off on which I have another dentist appointment — I don't know yet if the remaining days before Christmas will be 10 or 12 hours.

My cat, Butler, died Wednesday morning. I've had him for almost 13 years. I've been too busy to mourn. Until I'm too tired to keep moving, at which point exhaustion and grief create a perfect storm of stinging rawness, and I drown for a while.

Chess, who I've also had for 13 years, had a malignant spot removed from her chin a few weeks ago. She had another lump, but it was smooth at the time and also not in a place that the vet felt would heal easily, and the cancer had pretty much definitely spread, anyway, so chances were good that one of the other two little spots would turn problematic, anyway. That other lump is now indented in the middle, which was what the first lump did before it got raw and angry; this lump already feels a little raw, though it doesn't seem to bug her. So at some point soon, I need to take her into the vet, who will give her a steroid injection to keep the cancer at bay, for a while. I'd like to do it sooner rather than later. Wednesday is my one day off, and I have a dentist appointment. I may be asking my friend to swap telecommute days so she can drive me there on Wednesday morning. It's either that or wait at least another week.

Anyway, that's my holiday season.



violetcheetah: (OhJay)
I was laid off pretty much exactly one year ago. Fortunately, I'd been expecting the company to fold for probably 5 years, so it wasn't a surprise, and between planning for catastrophe and just being a cheapskate in general, unemployment has been enough I haven't had to tap savings yet. And hey, I've had more time to write! And to terraform my friend's yard this summer (and spring, and fall). And volunteer at the cat shelter. But unemployment benefits won't last forever, and at this point I don't even know how many weeks I have left, because I've gotten 3 different end dates from the department. And having nothing on my resume for a year is not gonna look good to prospective employers, and blah blah blah. Still, no one is calling me back even for administrative assistant positions.

So, I was looking for a pair of royal blue leggings recently. Couldn't find any. Tights, sure, but I wanted something thick enough to keep me warm under a skirt in winter, and while I could find black, white, and neutrals at the usual places, no weird colors. I asked a Facebook friend, and he suggested American Apparel. I happened to be in Harvard Square the next week, stopped in, found exactly what I was looking for, and they had a sign on the door that they were hiring. The lady said the best way to apply was online. I applied, not at that store, but for a stockroom job in Back Bay. No dealing with the public. They called. I went in for an interview, and essentially was hired on the spot, as soon as the corporate office approved me. Apparently there are jobs for which describing yourself as "anal-retentive" is a good thing.

I had my first day yesterday, and it was kinda exhausting, but pretty good. The people I worked with were low-key and just weird enough without trying to be deliberately cool-weird-hipster; the music playing in the stockroom was mostly unfamiliar but kinda cool, a lot of retro-new-wave stuff, two Magnetic Fields songs thrown in; I don't think I destroyed any garments; and I didn't burn myself with the steamer. Anyway, dunno how many hours I will have, since they are short on slots and I'm the newbie, but I'll take what they can give me.

So yay for being a good little cog in the capitalist wheel again.


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Violet Wilson

October 2016

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