Sunday, October 31, 2004

Blown Job: Chapter 1 excerpt

Nearly three years ago, I was fired from my job; a casualty of the post-9/11 economic downturn. After 18 months of looking for work without success, I sat down to write a book, entitled, "Blown Job: an unemployment odyssey." Here's an excerpt from Chapter One.

Chapter 1 - Are You Still Here?

You know those moments that you’ll never forget –your first kiss; the day your favorite celebrity died; the introduction of the blue M&M? You can remember exactly where you were that day; what you were doing; who you were with. Every detail is memory-fresh. All someone has to do is say a trigger word, and back you go in time.

Well, that’s not how I recall the day I got fired. The whole experience is a blur. I can remember that I felt like I was drowning – water rushing around my head; unable to breathe, knickers in a twist. That’s how I felt as the designated ax wielder mumbled into his beard about 9/11 and a weak economy and belt-tightening and union negotiations and severance and accrued vacation and a bunch of other stuff that I didn’t catch.

I do recall my immediate reaction as I came up for air: don’t blame this on 9/11, you dickhead. We’re 60 blocks uptown and this is four months later. Blaming my job cut on 9/11 was like saying there is no Santa Claus because my parents went to Barbados for Christmas and all I got was this lousy T-shirt. How far can the ripple effect of 9/11 be stretched in order to explain away ill-conceived business decisions?

Okay, I’m fired. But wait. Is this guy asking me to stay on? Damned right, he is. Stay a month, he says, possibly two. Right after he fires me, he asks me to stay on.

Me: So I’m fired, is that what you’re saying?
Him: (into beard) Uh-hmm.
Me: But you want me to stay?
Him: (into beard) Uh-hmm.
Me: So I’m not fired yet?
Him: (into beard) You’re fired, but not for two months.
Me: Kind of like a death sentence, isn’t it?
Him: (into beard) Uh-hmm.

Well, of course, at that moment I had to spit in his eye, pull his bushy beard, tell him to take shove the job so far up his ass that it won’t be out before Arbor Day, and storm out, leaving a trail of parfum by which to be remembered. Yeah, that’s what I should have done.

What I did do was stay the extra two months, enduring the awkward silences and furtive stares and tactless questions of those lucky enough to be spared the unkindest cut of all. Now who’s the dickhead?


After the initial shock wore off, my first order of business was to bring home all of the stuff I had accumulated in my office over the years. Gee, you wouldn’t think a little cubicle could hold so much. But damned if I didn’t have the motliest collection of umbrellas and books and shoes and CDs and tapes and magazines and pictures and tchotchkes. I kid you not: every day for the next two months I carried some of this crap home and it was only by sheer luck that I took it all by the last day. I felt like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, dispersing bits of dirt in the yard in order to excavate a tunnel.


Once I got my priorities straight, I was ready to do my assigned work until my departure date. Problem was, I didn’t anticipate the reactions I was receiving from my co-workers, who were now grouped into three categories: the honest ones, who came by to say that they were sorry about what happened and were sad to see me go; the cowards, who studied the cheap industrial carpeting whenever they passed me in the hall; and the self-absorbed, who addressed me as though nothing had changed. As one month bled into another, I noticed a look of incredulity in their eyes, which, late in the game, was articulated by one of my more tactful colleagues. “Are you still here?,” she said as she passed me on the stairs. Gosh, that made me feel good.

To a person, though, they shared one obvious sentiment: Thank God it wasn’t me. Management had cut a dozen people from the payroll. By the second month of my extended stay, I was the only one of the dozen still around. I think that my presence discomfited everyone. I was an unpleasant reminder of the purge that they had dodged, and certainly, the sooner my visage disappeared from their retinas, the better it would be for everyone.


My secretary, who also was canned and was asked to stay on a month, promptly stopped working five minutes after she was axed. Oh, she showed up every day, but she ignored every request that I made and let the incoming work pile up and talked on the phone to her family and friends from 9:05:03 AM to 4:59 PM. I tried to motivate her, but, frankly, my heart wasn’t in it.

Me: Have you run last night’s report?
Her: No.
Me: Will you please do it now?
Her: (nothing)
Me: Okay, then!

My supervisor, who had adopted a laissez faire policy regarding my department on the very day she inherited it, stopped speaking to me several days after my excision. I really should have known something was up weeks before, because I had been calling her almost daily to sit down and discuss my performance review.

Me: Can we sit down to discuss my review?
Her: I have too many meetings this week.
Me: Well, can we do it next week?
Her: (nothing)
Me: Okay, then!

In reality, she made every conceivable excuse for why she couldn’t sit down with me. I initially chalked it up to her indifference, but I put the pieces together once I had been canned. She actually told me that she had no idea that I was going to be fired, but I think you will agree with me when I say that she was incontrovertibly full of shit.


And so, the day finally came when I walked out of the double glass doors for the last time. No one came to say good-bye or to wish me luck. There were no balloons or cake or flowers or cards that said, “We’ll miss you THIS MUCH!” No one came to help me carry out the last of my junk. Nobody asked for my address so that we could keep in touch. The saddest thing of all was that the guy at the sandwich shop next door finally had learned to make my morning iced coffee just the way I liked it and for what? For what, I ask you.

I didn’t care about any of it. I was already thinking about the next phase of my brilliant career. Before I left, I made an appointment for the following week at a career counseling center that offered lots of free services to schmucks like me; hardworking, unlucky dopes who were now unemployed.

As I stepped onto the pavement, I was hit by a wave of feelings: freedom; a sense of possibility; a release of pressure; a sense of doom. I had no idea of the long, strange trip upon which I was about to embark. All I knew at that moment was that I never had to go back there again, and I was glad.

In retrospect, I only wish that I had stolen more office supplies.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Emerald Nuts

Scientists have found that stress makes you forget. That certainly explains a lot. Just today, I read that scientists have found that stress makes you forget. That certainly explains a lot.

Marketers are pitching deodorant to 10-year-old boys. Maybe it makes sense to mask the pungent whiff of playground, but I ask you, what will they be pitching next?: MacIntosh-B'Gosh? Viagraham crackers? Just for Men for Boys?

Have you heard of a new snack called "Emerald Nuts?" Their ads better be clever, or else people will think it's the new name for The Green Party.

Those of you who have been with me since Blog #1 know that I said I wouldn't do any political humor. But can you blame me? Emerald Nuts. I mean, come on. It's a name begging for a joke. Here's a meme: write your own!

Stay tuned this weekend for a Chapter One excerpt from my unread (but not unreadable) manuscript, "Blown Job: an unemployment odyssey." See the excerpt from the Introduction below.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Today's Monologue

A man tossed a live wire into his wife's bath just to "scare" her. That's nothing—for her birthday, he's planning a surprise trip to the Falluja Hilton.

God bless Californians. A guy in Sacramento is using vegetable oil to power his car. Wanna bet this is the start of a trend? By next year, we'll all be driving the new Mitsubishi Mazola.

A new book about the country of Bhutan weighs 133 pounds and contains enough paper to cover a football field. The funeral for the reviewer will take place on Thursday.

In Holland, coffee made from beans taken from cat droppings costs $25.00 an ounce. Watch for Starbucks to get in on the act. Look for their new offering, a " tall Tabby Frappucchino."

In London, an artist has constructed the world's tallest origami penis, almost 11 feet tall. That comes as something of a relief to David Beckham, who's no longer considered to be the biggest dick in England.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


I know I have too much time on my hands when I spend three hours just trying to get into my blog. Apparently, the folks at are having a bad day. I've been trying to build an audience and I just hope no one tried to visit while the website was down.

Here's a brief one-topic monologue:

Have you heard that McDonald's is now being served in hospital cafeterias? Some people think this is a mistake, but I say, if your arteries clog, what better place to be?

I suppose there's some kind of quid pro quo required in this merger, but I just think it's wrong to name Ronald McDonald as Chief of Pediatrics.

Speaking of quid pro quo, the new name for gastric bypass surgery will now be the "Macdectomy."

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

META Madness

I would have posted yesterday, but I spent 3 hours I'll never get back trying to format my blog. First, I mastered the intricacies of site meter data. Then, I tried, in vain, to align my links. Then, I read up on META tags for site engine optimization.

The Blogger Help file really explains META well for the uninitiated:

Blog Meta Data - inserts all blog metadata via one tag. here's sample output:


Well, that's what it looks like to me. (That's not what it really says. When I tried to copy the real code, the blog recognized it as HTML and gave me a hell of a time when I tried to publish. I just wasted another 45 minutes trying to get it right, and when I published it, my entire blog page became misaligned. So this gibberish will have to illustrate my frustration with HTML.)

If the META tag inserts all blog metadata, then where do I insert the META tags with unique information about my blog? I'm sure the other 3 million bloggers have figured this out, so once again, I'm the only one who isn't in on the joke.

Truly, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I knew a bit about HTML and a bit about META before I started this blog, but together, that isn't even worth two bits. I was thrilled with how easy Blogger makes it to create a page and post it, but I realize now that to make a blog look special, I have to go back to college and get an advanced degree in computer science.

And as for META, good luck to the search engines in finding me.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Book excerpt - Blown Job : Introduction

Two years and seven months ago, I was fired from my job; a casualty of the post-9/11 economic downturn. After 18 months of looking for work without success, I sat down to write a book, entitled, "Blown Job: an unemployment odyssey," my comic, sardonic take on a desperate situation. Turns out I had as much success tantalizing agents as I did Human Resources directors. Rather than consign it to obscurity, I've decided to share my book with you, dear reader, in a series of excerpts, the first of which you will find below.


On January 31, 2002, I was let go from a job I hated and probably would have died in, so I guess the bastards did me a favor. But it really doesn’t seem like that now, because I’ve been out of work for 18 months and my unemployment insurance is but a distant memory, and my savings have been vastly depleted and my COBRA health insurance is about to terminate and I haven’t had an interview in I can’t remember when and lately I’ve been thinking of doing myself in, though I need to do it cheaply because I’m on a budget.

But enough about me. I’ve written this book for you, one of the 9 million (and counting) unemployed Americans who share my pain. We’re a mighty big club without a clubhouse. We don’t have the clout of AARP, the aura of PETA, or the chutzpah of ACTUP. We’re men and women without a country, cast adrift in a world that used to make sense, with skills and experience that now lie dormant. We spend our days chasing a dream that used to be a right; the right to work in the land of opportunity. We’ve been forced to do things that humiliate us and set us back ten years in our careers and cause us to fight with our loved ones and embarrass our friends. We take what crumbs we can get and we feel grateful. Is this what we sat through Accounting 101 and read “What Color is Your Parachute” and watched “The Graduate” for? I don’t think so.

Are you as pissed off as I am about the way things have turned out? Of course you are. Well then, come with me, as I recount for you the odyssey of one unemployed woman in America in the 21st century. This story has all the elements of the Great American Novel – the flawed protagonist, the journey fraught with perils, the angst and pathos and bathos and quite a few other words that I don’t know the meaning of – without the happy ending. I invite you to laugh at the absurdity of my situation to ease the pain and bitterness and frustration of your own. And, if you’re reading this introduction, it means that I’m actually making some money now and all I have to worry about is that I can sell enough books to make back my fabulously generous advance. [ed. note: that's back when I thought this would be a trade paperback.] (Remember, though, as I’m writing these words, I’ve been unemployed for 18 months and my COBRA insurance is running out and my savings are vastly depleted, and you know the rest.)

Come along as I recount the embarrassment of working for two months at a job from which I’ve already been fired. Share with me the experience of going back into the classroom after decades away from attendance-taking and hand-raising. Chuckle at the humiliation of being interviewed by someone who wasn’t born until after “Rhoda” went off the air. Learn how looking for work can be your whole new career.

And – this is really important – at the end of the last chapter, if you find that you like this book, I want you to do something for me. Write one of your own. Everybody who is unemployed in America should write a book and everyone else who is unemployed should buy it and read it. Look, we nine million have to support each other; we who are the charter members of the newest mega-association in the country. Let’s get organized, people. I’ll start us out by giving our group a name: FEDUP, for Forced to Entertain DUmb Employment Possibilities. Okay, not so great, but we can work on it. Hey, it will give us something to do.

We’ll meet on Thursdays. You bring the Krispy Kremes.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

A Brief Monologue

A couple in California broke into a shoe store and had sex in the display window. When they were interrupted, they ran. Cops were told to be on the lookout for a man sporting a 10 EEE.

In Georgia, a woman returned from vacation to find that a stranger had moved into her home, ripped out the carpeting, and repainted. The moral?—in the words of the great Karl Malden, don't leave home.

A woman smuggled pot to her jailed husband inside a Bible. I believe it was the Rick James version.

Bullfighting is a sport in China now, but the bulls aren't killed – they're only taunted and pricked. Wrestling may come next, but the combatants are none too crazy about having to tickle their opponents into submission.

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Three-Brad Pile

The television station Bravo ran a contest last month in conjunction with an upcoming reality series entitled "Situation: Comedy." Contestants were invited to submit half-hour sitcom scripts. Fifty finalists will be winnowed down to two, whose scripts will be developed into fifteen-minute presentations to be broadcast and voted upon by viewers. The winner will receive $25,000 and a year's worth of agency representation and the process will be filmed by Bravo for a ten-episode series.

I bit. My script, entitled, "We Hate TeddyBot," is about a woman whose job it is to answer letters from children who are rabid fans of a popular half-Teddy, half robot toy. One day, the boss calls her up to his office to inform her she's fired. The episode takes her through the initial shock; the act of stealing as many office supplies as she can cram into her handbag; and the reactions of her weepy co-worker, her needy roommate, and her solicitous ex-husband. Along the way, she meets a boozy, chronically unemployed accountant, whose cynicism shakes her. At episode's end, she stiffens her resolve and prepares to face her future. Think "Mary Tyler Moore" meets "The Apprentice."

I procrastinated for five weeks before I sat down on the Monday before the Saturday deadline and wrote like a demon for five days. (Note to aspiring writers: bad idea.) I pulled the script together an hour before the Post Office closed on Saturday afternoon.

I felt a great sense of relief as I handed my package to the postal worker. Even if I wasn't chosen, I felt good about submitting a well-written script, on deadline. As I was leaving the P.O., I passed a woman who was stamping an envelope that bore the "Situation: Comedy" contest address. For a moment, I felt smugly superior because my entry was already mailed, albeit five minutes prior. Then, the absurdity hit me. What are the odds of two people mailing their entries at the same post office, 3,000 miles from the contest site, minutes before the deadline? What if the same scenario was being played out in every post office in every town across America? And what about all the entries that already had been mailed over the past six weeks? I felt nauseous at the thought of all the competition.

By the time I got home, I was over it. In the weeks to come, I checked my e-mail daily, awaiting the missive from Bravo that informed me of my finalist status. I also visited the Bravo website, hoping for a contest update. By the third week, I was antsy, so I Googled "Situation: Comedy" to see if I could find some like-minded individuals. Sure enough, someone had created a blog to ask if anyone had heard anything.

I actually could hear hearts breaking when I came to the post in which a writer said he had been contacted and had made it to Round 1. Those who hadn't heard from Bravo were instantly doubtful and they implied that the poster was lying. Then another poster advised that he, too, was a finalist, and a third pointed us to a website of a stand-up comic who also had been notified.

Some posters were happy for their fellow writers and wished them well. Others could not transcend denial and flamed the finalists. Others flamed the flamers. Most were simply pissed at Bravo for not informing contestants that selections had been made. I was simpatico with the last group.

A number of writers offered to share their product and I read some of the scripts. It appears the next big thing in sitcoms is aliens. Vomiting aliens. In bars, in apartments, in offices. Aliens. Vomiting. What was I thinking, writing about people? My bad.

Though I had studied scriptwriting and had written several spec scripts, I did some research to confirm that I had covered all of my bases. I was pleased to see that I had. I did learn something troubling, however. Apparently, it is the mark of the rank amateur to submit a script that is held together by three metal brad fasteners. The industry preference is for two brads. Two brads. My bad.

So now I know – my script wasn't rejected because it was not funny. It wasn't rejected because the network received 30,000+ entries that had to be read in two weeks. It wasn't rejected because they didn't have time to read all the scripts. "We Hate TeddyBot" was rejected because it was held together by three brads – and also because it was encased in an orange cover (Black is de rigueur.)

In the end, it turns out that I'm not a failure as a writer. I'm a failure as an office-supply buyer. Good to know.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Look, Ma, I'm Blogging!

Suppose you wrote a blog and nobody came? Is that every blogger's worst nightmare? What a shame it would be to pour your heart out if no one is looking. Must be how the guests on Montel feel.

I'm going to assume that one or two intrepid Googlers will find this, so, for your information, here's the deal. I'm a writer and I'm funny, but I've had a hell of a time convincing anyone of that. I've been suffering from a terminal bout of unemployment, and I am clearly at my lowest ebb, so I've decided to become the latest Internet whore and give it all away. My hope is to build an audience and get a job. If that doesn't work, this will be my swan song.

Now, here are the rules. I won't be telling you about the cute thing my cat did today, or ask for your advice about my relationship, or describe the disturbing abscess that's growing on my left buttock. There already are 2 million blogs like that, with another 300,000 consisting of nothing but links to them.

What I will do is share my material, which includes a book that I couldn't get published and a sitcom script that didn't place in a competition and lots of other stuff that only my best friend has read. My comedy bona fides include contributions to two comedy newsletters, quotes in Advertising Age and The New York Times, and a stint as humor columnist for Career Magazine; that last bit now buried deep within the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. I don't know how to create PDFs or FTP or upload, or any other of that crazy crap, so I haven't figured out how I'll be sharing just yet, but this is just blog 1, so bear with me.

Whenever I can, I'll include a monologue. Think Johnny at his peak; not Conan making ugly faces or Dave making ugly faces, or Jay... 'nuff said. It won't be political. No jabs that point up one candidate's lapsed judgment or the other's suitability as an Eggo® spokesman. Anyone can be a political pundit. To me, it's all so 2000.

If you like my stuff, please don't be shy. Let me know. I'd be grateful. But if you don't, please don't feel the need to flame under the guise of anonymity. I've already had more rejection than one person deserves.

Here's today's monologue:

Have you heard about "'toon porn?" It's cartoon characters having sex on the Internet. I like to think I'm pretty sophisticated, but I gotta draw the line at the Three Little Pigs doing the Power Puff Girls.

Guys (you know it's guys) are shelling out 40 bucks a month for this stuff. How do you explain that to the wife when the Visa bill comes? "$40 bucks for South Pork? Oh, yeah – I sent the boss some boudin for Christmas, honey."

A cartoon webmaster said that in hard-core anime, known as hentai, "the stereotypical hentai is a monster with a large amount of phallic tentacles harassing a Japanese schoolgirl." Well, now it's official – I am off octopus sushi.


A taxi driver in New York paid $360,000 for a medallion, which means he now owns his cab. He's just posted his new rate schedule. It'll be 20 grand for the first quarter-mile; plus 5 G's for the air freshener.


A smuggler swallowed $197,000 before flying home to Columbia. Can you believe what some people will do to avoid airline food?


I see that ABC is dropping the Miss America pageant. Could be the format's a little stale. If I were in charge, I'd repackage it as a reality show and call it Girls Gone Tame.

See ya tomorrow.