Posts Tagged ‘books

28
Sep
09

May I Call You Dan?: Letter to a Bestselling Author

More familiar readers know that a portion of my current professional life is consumed by Barnes & Noble, a company that, due to a recent downturn in sales, has become very excited about the release of über-popular author Dan Brown’s latest book, The Lost Symbol. About a week prior to the book’s release, a photocopy of the following letter appeared on the bulletin board in the break room of Barnes & Nobles nationwide:

*****

September 2009

Dear Barnes & Noble,

As I prepare for the September 15th release of my new novel, The Lost Symbol, I wanted to take a moment and thank you for the important work you do… for authors, for readers, and, above all, for books.

A few years back, with the release of a little book called The Da Vinci Code, Barnes & Noble led the way with unparalleled enthusiasm and support.  You made an enormous difference, and I will be forever grateful.  This fall, more than ever, let’s make it a season to remember.

With sincere thanks and best wishes,

Dan Brown

*****

The following is my reply to that letter:

Dear Dan,

May I call you Dan?  Pardon me if I’m being too glib, but I figured as long as we were communicating via these casual letters, we might as well skip all the “Mr. Brown” formalities and get right to the more penpallsy vernacular you established in your note.  And while we’re on the subject of that note, let me take the opportunity to now thank you.  As a part-time bookseller at one of the thirteen Barnes & Nobles in my immediate area, I can’t tell you how often I feel the work I do to help support authors, especially wildly successful ones like yourself, goes unnoticed, and to at long last have one of those authors return some thanks certainly validates me and the effort I put forth.  You (or your assistant, whoever jotted the note) are a gracious and wonderful man (Consider for a moment that J.K. Rowling [the heartless bitch] hasn’t even sent us the likes of a measly “thank you” drunkenly scrawled on a used cocktail napkin despite that it was we the booksellers who turned that stale cliché of an orphaned wizard into a cash-printing cultural phenom.  All that to say, it’s nice to be recognized.).

Now as to your most recent novel: I’m sure it’s been difficult to gauge what the word of mouth is from your gated beachside home in New Hampshire, but let me tell you, from where I’m standing, things are looking good for you, sir!  I haven’t yet had the chance to read it myself, but being surrounded by book lovers at work, I’ve been able to have my fair share of conversations with people who have, and let me tell you, I’ve heard some glowing reviews.

“Literary masterpiece” isn’t a phrase that’s tossed around very liberally, which probably explains why I haven’t heard it used to describe your book yet, but I have heard that it’s really passed the time on a number of trans-continental flights, or in the terminal in between trips to the bathroom and the Cinnabon kiosk (or should that be the other way around? *lol*), or on a week’s worth of bus rides to and from the office.  I’ve even talked to one man who’s already halfway through your book despite he’s only been reading it over a handful of visits to the bathroom, and he told me most of the time it’s been so thrilling that he doesn’t want those visits to end!  And if there’s one thing the eager bibliophiles of the world need more of, it’s literature that’s enjoyable from the bus to the bathroom, that passes time like a 528-page game of minesweeper, but with even more dramatic tension.

(“…enjoyable from the bus to the bathroom.” Hey, that’s kind of catchy… maybe you could use that on the book jacket for the next major reprint?  Fingers crossed for you that it’s before Christmas!)

Really, though, we the readers shouldn’t expect anything less from the author of (as you put it) “a little book called The Da Vinci Code.” Little, Dan?  Hardly!  If your intent was to amuse with a modest and self-effacing jab at your hugely successful novel-turned-multi-billion-dollar-Ron-Howard-movie-franchise, then consider me tickled pink.  Calling the world’s most purchased novel little? It’s biting wit like that that can only come from a paid professional writer, and here you are giving it away free to Barnes & Noble employees nationwide.  That’s why you get paid the big bucks, friend.  Consider all those royalty checks validated.

So again, Dan, many thanks for your gracious note, as brief as it may have been.  I know I appreciate your brevity in that, had it been any longer than four sentences, it likely would have been as gripping a page-turner as your newly-grown library of cryptic mystery novels, and everyone reading it could have taken a hefty withdrawal from the productivity bank here at our local B&N, and then who’d be available to sell your book?!

Do know that we’re doing all we can here to push your most recent of masterpieces on everyone who comes in the store.  We sold over 200 copies in the first week of release, so if we can’t break 1,000 before the holiday season, well then that’d be a Langdon-worthy mystery if ever I’ve heard one.  As an eager reader, I encourage you to keep writing, because I know I can’t wait to see which religion you (and then hopefully Tom Hanks, *ka-ching!!*) will debunk next with a flick of that mighty pen of yours!

Your Friend,

Andy

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28
Sep
08

The Classics

What’s the difference between Ringo Starr, Jabba the Hut, and Bart Simpson? (Hint: the answer is not ‘lipstick’.  That’s another joke entirely, and a poor one, at that.)  The truth is, depending on how you look at it, not much.  Let me explain:

Recently, as I was working in the music and DVD section of my local neighborhood mega-bookstore, a young gentleman came up to me and placed a copy of V For Vendetta on the counter.

“Wow, great choice,” I said.

“Yeah, it’s a classic,” he replied.

I finished ringing him up and sent him on his way only to later start to think about what it was that he said.  Once I did, I came to realize that he had just made a claim that was— in every possible way— dead wrong.  I know that it was, in all likelihood, simply a throwaway line, something to say to the guy at the checkout counter to be friendly, as opposed to staring at me blankly and ignoring me altogether.  But consider that statement:

“It’s a classic.”

First of all, V For Vendetta only came out in 2005.  That’s entirely too soon for something to be called classic.  But that wasn’t even the main problem I had with his statement.  The main problem was that V For Vendetta will never be a classic— ever.  I could be having the same insignificant conversation with him forty years from now, and people could still like V For Vendetta just as much as they do now, and he’d still be just as wrong as he was just a few days ago.

Don’t get me wrong.  V For Vendetta is a completely acceptable movie.  A good movie, in fact.  I’m not downplaying its quality, rather I’m defending the definition of the term ‘classic’.  If you ask me, as far as pop culture is concerned, nothing that we’ve seen since Star Wars can be considered classic, and not just because it isn’t old enough yet.  What I’m saying is that nothing that we’ve seen since Star Wars will ever be classic at all (although even Star Wars may not last if George Lucas can’t quit trying to mess it up with more prequels, cartoons and all that other ridiculous and tarnishing garbage).  This doesn’t mean Star Wars is the only classic cultural icon, it just means it’s the last one, for reasons I’ll soon get to.

Despite how definitive a statement I’m making, it’s important to know that I wholeheartedly accept that it may prove false.  It’s slightly possible that The Simpsons may one day be a classic.  American Idol may have a shot, too.  But we won’t know unless they are able to stand the test of time, and since they haven’t left the pop cultural landscape yet, there’s no way to tell if they will remain in the general public consciousness for the coming decades.  But aside from those two things, there’s nothing else we’re currently witnessing that I believe will last much longer than the time it takes to exit the pop cultural stage.  That means Britney Spears, Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings movies— none of these will ever become classic cultural icons.

The main reason this will prove true can be summed up in one word: choice.  As long as our culture continues to produce the same general thing over and over and over, there will never be anything that’s truly as universally accepted by all of society as iconic in the same way that something like Star Wars was.

Britney Spears?  “Yeah, well Christina Aguilera was more talented…” Harry Potter?  “You probably never read the Narnia books…”

These will be the conversations people will have twenty years from now.  But Star Wars?  It’s universally accepted as being without peer, and much of that had to do with it being the only one of its kind.  Even people who don’t like Star Wars will accept that the movies played an important role in our culture in the way no other film had ever done before.  So how does this all work?  How is it that Star Wars just might become the last true classic that American pop culture ever sees?  To understand that, you have to unpack the definition of what it really means to be a classic.

But before we get to that, a clarifying point.  Before you get yourself all in a huff and start whining about how your favorite movie or band or show should be considered a classic, consider this: in all likelihood, whatever it is you’re thinking of could very well be seen as classic within your particular circle.  By that I mean that certain things (Fight Club, Saved By The Bell, Nirvana, etc.) might very well be classic, but they will never be universally classic for the reasons I’m about to point out.  They will be classic to those people who experienced them firsthand, but to someone who knows nothing about it, they have no significance whatsoever.  That is not the case with Star Wars, Elvis, or Catcher in the Rye.  Your grandma likely doesn’t have a clue who Tyler Durden is, but she probably recognizes the name Luke Skywalker.

I touched on one of the features of a true classic earlier.  True classics stand the test of time.  But this isn’t an honest-to-goodness characteristic of a classic, rather, this is one of the things that happens to something once it already is a classic.  It is a result of being a classic, it doesn’t make a classic.  In the same vein, some may argue that having a large following of dedicated supporters (like Star Wars) may make something a classic.  Again, this is a result, not a cause.  Same thing goes for accessibility— something does not become classic simply because it is widespread.  If you have basic cable, chances are on one of your channels right now is a re-run of Friends.  This doesn’t mean that Friends is a classic, it just means it’s everywhere.

So what are the causes?  I’ve come up with four of them, and you must possess all four to truly become a classic.  First, for something to become a classic, it must have a certain level of universal relatability— that is, people need to be able to understand it on at least one level, preferably more than one.  There’s only a select few people who know what it’s like to fly through outer space, and there ain’t nobody who knows what it’s like to be friends with a wookie, but people can relate to a strained relationship with their father (Steven Spielberg knows this, and that’s why it’s a central plot point in 90% of his movies).  People also can relate to the struggle between making the right choice and falling into temptation, and even some people (creepy as they may be) know what it’s like to have a crush on your sister.

Secondly, there must be a level of depth or a history that goes along with something for it to be classic.  This is where people can get confused and say that classics must stand the test of time, but there’s a distinct difference between standing the test of time and having what it takes to deserve to stand the test of time.  Things like Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings books fulfill this requirement by being stories of tremendous depth— going so far as to invent layers upon layers of detail that aren’t at all necessary to appreciate the story, but add to its overall weight as a cultural event.  Elvis or the Beatles accomplished this by changing and transitioning into different characterizations of themselves over time, all the while still retaining the original quality that made them recognizable in the first place.  That is, we watched the concept of ‘The Beatles’ go through many different stages, (‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ vs. ‘Revolver’ vs. ‘The White Album’ vs. everything in between) and even though they showed many sides of themselves, the whole time they were essentially the same thing, that being the most important rock band ever.

Thirdly, and perhaps this is obvious, but there must be a level of creativity that goes into something before it can become a classic.  It must be the kind of idea or concept you couldn’t have thought up sitting on the floor of your basement, throwing back a couple beers with some friends.  Only that which is truly creative can fulfill our need for original stories as a culture and reach that same part of our brain that’s forever been triggered by fairy tales, ghost stories, or Mark Twain.  It is that inventiveness, or rather the basic creative idea behind a concept or person or story that has the ability to grab our attention and let us know that what we are witnessing is something truly special.

The last characteristic is where everything that comes after Star Wars falls out of the race.  A classic must be one of a kind— the only one of its kind.  Because of the current state of greed in our culture, nothing that’s successful will ever remain uncopied, and I would also argue that because of that greed no one who is capable of creating something truly original is willing to let it stand alone (see: The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride).  And even though those copies or sequels rarely match up to the original, they still take away from the original’s overall impact.  American Idol is a hit, so why not America’s Got Talent or Last Comic StandingThe Simpsons is successful, so bring on South Park and Family Guy (and The Simpsons Movie, to a lesser extent).  With so much capitalization on every single successful concept that comes along these days, it’s far too easy for that original idea to get bogged down and scarred by all the other things that try to fit in its same niche and steal its impact.

There is hope, however.  Occasionally being one of a kind can be supplanted by being the first of its kind, and that’s why there’s hope for The Simpsons or American IdolThe Simpsons isn’t the only adult-oriented animated sitcom about a dysfunctional family, but it was the first, and it certainly has lasted the longest, thanks to its quality.  American Idol isn’t the only show to pluck regular people out of obscurity and give them a forum to express their talents, but it certainly is the most successful (it wasn’t the first, however, which is why it has less of a chance than The Simpsons does.  And by the way, I’m certainly not saying Star Search is anywhere near becoming a classic).

So what does this all mean?  Nothing, really.  It’s simply another way in which our culture is broadening and our world is changing.  You would think with improved communication and the advances of the internet, more and more people would be able to connect themselves through common forms of entertainment, but I would submit it’s exactly the opposite.  The more effective ways we have to communicate, the more highways there are for numerous new forms of entertainment.  The world may be smaller, but the forum for entertainment won’t ever stop growing, and that means finding quality among all the muck becomes that much more difficult.

12
Jun
08

My New Life, Part I: Why My Hands Smell Like a Vanilla Frappuccino

As of recent, the tone and subject matter of my postings have been more cultural than personal. I started this blog talking a lot about my life out of college, my search for a job, and my experiences with the new job I found. That was the reason I called it “Life Out Of The Bubble.” Gradually, though, as I became more comfortable in my newfound surroundings, I began writing less about personal experiences, and more about thoughts I’d have about various topics outside of the details of my daily life. That changes with the next three posts. As many of you know, I recently packed up my life and moved to the Denver area to start a new chapter of my life. My plan is to take a stab at teaching, starting with substituting. Teaching, however, and especially substituting, is a bit slow in the summer, so I thought I’d take a surefire method of some steady income during the summer while I make connections with different districts and pave my way towards the next school year. And that’s how I ended up back at Barnes and Noble, where I worked during college.

It was a fairly big step, walking in that door and asking for an application. Sure, I had done it before, but then I did it while I was getting a degree, before I had a little certificate in my desk that said I had completed college. Sometimes, however, the need for steady income is greater than the need to maintain my pride, so there I was. Comforting, however, was the fact that I was so eagerly taken back. Not three hours after I dropped off the application and informed the manager that my stay would be temporary at best, I got a call and a first day of work scheduled. That was last week. As of today, I’ve been back at B&N for two eight hour shifts.

While it was a slight dip for my ego going back to a retail job, feeling as though I was walking into a situation I could already somewhat handle felt pretty good. About a half hour into my first day, that feeling would leave, quickly.

Considering I had been away from bookselling for a long while, I had to go through the short orientation that goes with being an employee again. Most of it was familiar, with a few minor differences thanks to my new geographical setting. Reading the “how to board up and close the store early in case of severe weather” handout was a bit shocking, but not as shocking as the enthusiastic “what products to push during a tornado warning” handout (Crossword Puzzles! Board Games! Booklights!).

After the short re-orientation, I was approached by Janine (FYI, all names in this and all other upcoming stories have been changed… just not that much) the store manager, and told what amounted, in my opinion, to a bombshell rivaling the intensity of, oh, say… Hiroshima.

“We’ve got you scheduled pretty much entirely in the café for the next three weeks, because that’s our biggest need position right now. I hope that’s not a problem for you.”

A number of things ran through my head as possible responses. Somewhere near the top of that list was: “are you completely whacked out of your pretty little booklovin’ head?!” though I managed to hold my tongue. I shall explain. The B&N I worked in before was a smaller store, not one of those mega-branches that includes a Starbuck’s, a music/DVD section, a complex network of moving sidewalks, and a hospital wing. My old store didn’t even have a café, so this would be a completely new field for me. Add to that the fact that I am most certainly not a “coffee guy,” and we’ve got ourselves a bit of a conundrum, explaining how I was beginning to think such terrible things about my manager so very early in our working relationship. I wanted to tell her that quite frankly, that is the most ridiculous, ludicrous, and idiotic idea since people decided to put sweaters on dogs, and that the very thought made me want to throw myself in front of a train.

“Great. I’m excited to learn,” was what I said.

Now, when I say that I’m not a “coffee guy,” that’s not saying that I’m just a lighter-volume coffee drinker than the average American, it means I simply don’t drink it. Me walking into a Starbucks is the equivalent of… well, me walking into a Star Trek convention. I’m unfamiliar. My hands clam up, I try not to make eye contact with anyone for fear of them discovering my inadequacies, and there are a lot of big words tossed around casually that I don’t even begin to understand. It’s not that I don’t like the coffee culture that has invaded this country, it’s just I’m not a part of it, and so I don’t know anything about it, and that frightens me, considering I had just discovered it will now be my job to produce the product that gives life to that very culture.

Working in retail, you slowly begin to perfect the art of the twenty-second conversation. The twenty-second conversation is key in customer service: you make the customer feel like you intensely care about them and their life by engaging them in some sort of topic that interests them and makes them feel unique. This is particularly easy in a bookstore, because whatever book it is that’s being bought is the natural conversation starter:

“I see you’re purchasing Digital Photography Guide for Beginners… Starting a new hobby, eh?”

“So you’re a big sudoku fan? You must have a very logical mind.”

Considering doing this in a coffee shop setting was daunting at the very least, considering my knowledge of the kind of drinks in a Starbucks-type store is similar to my knowledge of cars, or quantum mechanics, or 14th century French agrarian business. With some subjects, there’s just too many variations and too many details for me to keep up, which is why my twenty-second conversations were often limited to topics I felt like I could contribute something to. I knew this would have disastrous results in the café.

“A caramel macchiato for the gentleman… tell me sir, should I put any coffee in one of those?”

“Venti…? Okay, well… I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to point out which cup that is for me ma’am.”

These are not exaggerations. Until a few short days ago, I was under the impression that ‘tall’ was the biggest size you could get, and I still think I’m right. When short people tell me that I am tall, it is because I am a bigger person than they are, hence the largest cup should be called tall. Nobody’s ever told me I’m venti before, whatever the hell that means in English.

It seems Barnes & Noble has a knack for putting me in situations where I feel informationally inadequate. About a year ago, on the last night I worked in my old store, I was asked to check in and greet over 1,500 customers on the night the final Harry Potter book was released. I would be the first face those eager young wizards would see as they excitedly ran through the store doors, desperate to talk to someone in the store about what they thought would happen in the final book. I hadn’t read a word of any of them. Try making twenty-second conversations there.

But I had survived that, and even come out of it smiling, so I began to think I might be able to make it through working the café for a while. And as I walked towards the café, and through the waist-high swinging doors, I thought that yes, I would physically be able to survive this. So I put my apron on, buckled down, and took my first steps as a barista, which I’m pretty sure now is a word that means someone who makes coffee.

02
Dec
07

Things I Think

A disclaimer for this post: normally, when I write on here, it’s because I want to share something with the wonderful world-wide interweb, or there’s something I specifically think people should know about, or that they might find amusing.  That being said, this one’s just for me.

Here’s a few things I think:

1. You may or may not know that Sean Taylor, former NFL free safety for the Washington Redskins, was murdered last week in his home in Florida.  For someone like me, who checks ESPN.com and other various sports websites every day, this story is inescapable.  I’ve read a number of articles about the story and a few sports columnists’ opinions about the matter, and I have a bone to pick.

For the most part, the media has been doing an okay job of showing respect to the family and friends of Sean Taylor.  The day he died, every sports site had headlines of the tragic loss of a talented football player.  The problem was the story right underneath that one.  Almost every website also had a “how will this affect the Redskins’ playoff chances?” article.  Tasteless, if you ask me.  Taylor, despite his character issues, was someone’s son, and someone’s father, and now he can’t be that anymore.  That’s the tragedy, not the potential failure of the Washington Redskins, which essentially, is a business organization.  He was not just a piece of talent plugged into a football machine that now may produce fewer wins.  To tell you the truth, I’m more upset with the public than the media over this, because the writers wouldn’t write what the readers don’t want to read, and the fact that there’s people out there that would think about what effect this would have on the performance of something that now seems so trivial is the real shame.

2.  Friday, a man took two people hostage in a Hillary Clinton campaign headquarters building in New Hampshire.  I’m not claiming this is a conspiracy–that’s right (let me repeat that in caps for emphasis), I’M NOT CLAIMING THIS IS A CONSPIRACY.  I merely think it convenient, as I’m sure Hillary’s campaign people do, that this came at a time when she was losing some ground in the polls, and this gave her an opportunity to not only get some more attention from the media, but it also gave her a chance to make a super “I’m-in-charge-everything’s-okay-and-if-I-can-handle-this-I-sure-can-handle-being-your-President” speech.  Like I said, I’m not claiming this was intentional or planted, but I doubt that Hillary’s people are worried about what this will do to her ratings, which is one of those awful-but-true aspects about spin and politics.  For more on this topic, go rent “Wag The Dog,” which is number one on my list of “Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen But That Doesn’t Make Them Not Incredible” list.

3. Recently, our apartment got a letter from the Azusa Light and Water company that said that because of a drought, the city of Azusa was having some real water problems, and were thus making us decrease our water usage by 20%, or suffer some steep bill-related consequences.  I think this is great.  I’m no hippie, but I like the earth alright, and I think we should do what we can to maintain it.  I watched “An Inconvenient Truth,” and thought it was the most engaging powerpoint-presentation-turned-Oscar-winning-film I’ve ever seen.  If the statistics in that movie are right, we’re in a serious amount of trouble, so much so that only flushing after number two shouldn’t be that big of a deal.  My politically-inclined roommate tends to believe that if Al Gore said he was running for president any time before the first caucus, he’d be the next POTUS, and I tend to agree with him.  Right now, I think there’s two trains of thought in America: one that believes that we need to stop living so recklessly and stop draining our resources, and another that essentially says, “Heck, we’re Americans, we’re pretty badass, so nothing’s going to get in the way of us having a good time and doing whatever the hell we want, even if that means the next generation’s going to have a tougher go at it than we did.”  I think attitude #2 is a selfish one, and I think we’ve got to all move towards attitude #1 quickly, or else it’s going to be too late.

4. I think Christians need to stop whining about “The Golden Compass.”  In the same vein as Hillary possibly benefiting from the hostage situation, this movie, and the book it’s based on, is benefiting tremendously from a bunch of whiny Christians.  In this case, any exposure becomes good exposure, because it heightens the curiosity of the public and makes them watch it (or read it).  It doesn’t do wonderful things for the public’s view of Christianity either, because it’s yet another example of how, in the mind of a non-Christian, Christians are whiny, boring, no-fun downers that want to rain on everyone’s parade.

Here’s the situation, in case you’re unaware.  There’s a series of books by a guy named Philip Pullman who just so happens to be an atheist, and just so happens to really know how to effectively market his stuff (we’ll get to that later…).  Anyway, the books, and the movies inspired by them, draw a lot of similarities to the Narnia books, except Mr. Pullman uses his stories to denounce religion.  The preview to the movie makes it look like it’s going to be pretty big: it stars Nicole Kidman, James Bond, James Bond’s girlfriend, and a whole slew of other people, it’s got the standard cool special effects and talking animals, a budget of $205 million dollars, and it’s supposed to be the next “Lord Of The Rings.”  Upon hearing this, some members of the church decided to do what they always do when they’re presented with something that is different than what they believe: they immediately got defensive.

Now there’s chain emails, there’s facebook groups, there’s websites, all with the purpose of informing Christians that taking your child to see this movie equates to buying them a first class plane ticket to hell, and will become the number one reason that they later will get into drugs, alcohol, and loud music.  You know what I think about this?  I think somewhere, Philip Pullman and the executives at New Line Cinema are smiling.

There’s nothing like a bunch of whiny Christians to draw attention to a cultural phenomenon.  There’s a brand of Christian out there that thinks that this movie is somehow going to turn our children against us, and while they may not be the biggest group, they certainly seem to be the loudest.  And like I said, I think ol’ Phil is loving it.  There was a time when “The DaVinci Code” was the greatest threat to Christianity since a hoard of hungry Roman lions.  The church got all pissy about it, and somehow, the book still managed to stay at the top of the best seller list, and the movie still managed to be the most successful international blockbuster of the summer of 2006.  Raise your hand if you think the church actually helped it become so successful.

From what I’ve read, Philip Pullman is a guy who understands marketing.  He starts with a product that has some merit- a good story, maybe some decent writing- and then he exposes it to as many people as he can, with the help of some obnoxious religious nutcases.  Pullman has been quoted saying of his books, “My books are about killing God.”

Does he actually mean this?

Maybe.

Did he know that saying this would cause an uproar that would give his books more publicity than he could dream of?

Definitely.

It’s quite possible that Pullman is a true blue atheist who genuinely believes the things he says.  It’s more likely that he takes things he believes to the ultimate extreme just to get some attention.  Either way, should this affect whether or not you see the movie?  Maybe, maybe not.

I say, if you want to see the movie, go see it.  Don’t let some facebook group (or dare I say it, some guy behind a pulpit) stop you or limit your enjoyment.   If you decide you don’t want to take your kids to see it, or you don’t want to see it, that’s fine too.  But if you do make that decision, make it because you’re informed about it, and it’s truly what you think, not because your Aunt Betty forwarded you an email that says Nicole Kidman hates Jesus.

So that’s what I think.

03
Sep
07

Not Much, Just Chillin’

The title of this post refers to two things: first, it’s the book I’m currently reading, a required book for Youth Ministry majors at APU, two of which I lived with last year, and one of which loaned me the book. It’s about middle school culture, and much of what you read is really surprising– I’m only two thirds of the way through, and I already recommend it. Anyone who even slightly has the possibility of working with middle school kids– or heck, anyone who’s going to have a kid– should read this book, and understand middle schoolers– and even themselves– more. But I digress.

Not much, just chillin’. This is also the answer to a question I’ve been getting a lot lately. Namely, the question of “What are you doing now that school’s starting and you’re not going back?” And frankly, it’s only a half-true answer to the question. But it’s an easy answer, and it’s the fastest way to make the question go away. In all honesty, I’m doing a lot more than not much. Or at least it feels that way. I’m jobhunting. I never thought I’d feel this way, but more than anything, I want a full time job. But it’s a bit more specific than that. Because I could have one if I just wanted any full time job. I’ve posted my resume on Monster.com, and I already have had a few offers, and offers with decent pay, too.

The problem is that these offers are coming from companies and people that know the position I’m in. They know I’ve been out of college for a few months now, and I’ve still got a resume posted online, and they can sense that I’m getting desperate. And I’m not denying that I am getting desperate. Just not Enterprise Rent-A-Car desperate. But it’s still conflicting– do you take the guaranteed paycheck, the company that’s knocking on your door to have you work for them, no matter how pathetic they are, or do you wait it out, live without a real job for a few more months hoping that the job you’ve always wanted comes along and wants you just as much as you want it? This is a lot harder than deciding which Senior Sem to take.

There’s an anecdote in the book I’m reading (see: title of the post) that is supposed to illustrate the mindset of a typical seventh grader. The story goes that this girl goes to camp, and has a great time, despite the fact her best friend is in another cabin. She gets home, and her mom asks her, “How was camp?”

“Fine,” says the girl.

“How was your cabin?” asks mom.

“Fine,” she says again.

“How was Mia’s cabin?”

“Better.”

The point is that middle schoolers will always think they have it worse off than everyone else, and that they will always see their friends’ lives as better than their own. Honestly, if that’s the case, I feel like I’m in middle school again. At least my other friends who don’t have jobs are married, I think. At least they’ve got someone to go through it with.

“Hey Andy, how’s your life going?”

“Fine.”

“How’s _________’s life going?”

“Better.”

Po’ little ol’ me. Po’ little ol’ me and my three job offers that I don’t want, while the unemployment rate is 4.7%, and all those people would kill to work for Enterprise. I guess life’s not that bad.