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January 31, 2002 - Social Jerk

AIDS.  Teen pregnancy.  Poverty.  Learning disabilities.  Needle drugs.  Homelessness.  Crime.  Child abuse.

No, it's not a 20/20 Special Report, it's some of the terms used in a meeting I attended this morning!

My new temp job is with a community outreach center.  The community is Oakland.  And I'm not so much worried about reaching out to the community, as I'm worried about it reaching in.

I work the front desk, surprise-surprise, and basically interact with the 'clients' of this center, that is, individuals as young as twelve and as old as twenty-six, who have one or some of the problems listed in the first paragraph.

Interacting with people is hard enough for me.  Interacting with young people is even harder.  Interacting with young people who have these sorts of problems, well, let's just say I'm no social worker, unlike everyone else who works there.  I'm a tad under-equipped for something like this.

Also, I'm amazingly selfish.  If I'm going to spend time helping someone work through their problems, it should be me.  ME!  Still, the thought occurred to me this morning, "Okay, so I'm in this environment that I'm not used to dealing with, or even thinking about, working with kids I wouldn't normally have anything to do with... maybe this will be good for me!"

See?  Good for me.  ME.  SELFISH!

Actually, it was explained to me that the previous temp was a little too ambitious when it came to helping kids with their problems.  She apparently got too involved and tried to play social worker, and they released her.  Basically, I'm just supposed to be nice to the kids and do paperwork until they hire someone permanently, which I hope will be very, very soon.

I did have one unselfish thought today.  I thought about you, the reader.  I mean, what am I going to be able to write about this job?  How can I possibly mine this situation for humor?

"So, today, little Timmy, the 15 year-old HIV-positive homeless crack-addict comes rushing in, right, all upset because he knocked up his 14 year-old deaf dyslexic on-probation girlfriend, and then the cops come in because he robbed a liquor store, and after a shoot-out, they drag him off to jail!  And then I dropped the copier toner cartridge on my foot!  HAW HAW!"

I somehow don't think that's gonna get me a webby award.

On the other hand, my boss's name is Jesus.  Maybe I can work with that.


January 30, 2002 - Hung Up

So, the morning after I shave my head down to stubble, I get called to an assignment.  Great!  I'm not insecure about having my head viewed at all.  Thanks!

I'm told to dress extremely professionally for this reception position, so I put on my best black pants, my Kenneth Cole's, a nice charcoal shirt, a burgundy tie, and my black jacket, and head out the door.  Dressed in such a way, and with my blue-tinted shades and my black leather briefcase, and with my freshly-shaved head, I look like a European hitman.

Okay, I don't look like a European hitman, but I feel like I look like a European hitman.  My reflection, when spotted in car windows and storefronts, reminds me I really look like a tiny, timid tit in a tie.  Man does my head look especially dorky today.  But, I feel cool when not confronted with an image of myself, at least until I get on the bus.  Hitmen don't ride the bus.

People don't stare at me like I expect them to, probably because they've never seen me before and don't realize I used to not be TOTALLY BALD OH WHAT DID I DO and for a while, I forget that I have a big dumb bald head, except for the occasional revelation of OH CRAP I'M BALD HERE.

I get to the assignment, and the two women sitting at the front desk actually cheer when they see me.  They actually say "Oh, yaaay!  He's here!"  This makes me feel good, and takes my mind off OH HOLY CRAP NO HAIR.  NO HAIR ON MY HUGE HEAD.

It's always fun to see high-level personnel trying to operate a phone system.  I think instead of Administrative Assistant Appreciation Day, or whatever they call it, they should have Do Your Administrative Assistant's Job For A Day Day.  Man, that would be fun.  These two women are cheering because both of them combined cannot handle the switchboard, the switchboard that the guy who has never been here before (me) is now expected to handle by himself.  I swear, they don't pay me enough.

I'm told to get coffee before I get down to business.  There's a new-fangled coffee machine in the breakroom, which is kind of like one of those beverage servers they have at fast food places.  Stick the cup under it, and push the button for 'small', 'medium', or 'large'.  I grab a cup, stick it in, and push 'medium', to be safe, but it only fills the cup about 1/3 of the way.  So, I push 'medium' again, which somehow fills the cup to overflowing.

I walk back over to the desk, doing the concentrated walk of He Who Carries The Hot Overflowing Beverage, and the two women are still carrying on about how glad they are that I'm here.  They're so glad to see me and MY BALDNESS I'M A BIG BALDY HERE, that they proceed to stand there, blocking the desk, and tell me, over and over again, how glad they are, while I stand there, sloshing coffee onto my hand, my pants and my shoe, desperately trying get past them and put the damn mug down on the desk.

Anyhoo, they eventually sit me down, show me how the switchboard works, and give me a headset.  I have to use the headset, they say, because the receiver is broken.  Broken, which I take to mean "We don't know how to push the button that switches between headset and receiver."  Well, whatever.  I put the headset on my BIG NAKED BALD HEAD THAT LOOKS DUMB and I'M BALD and I start taking calls.

The switchboard gets a lot of 'ghost calls'.  Basically, this means that when a call goes through the system to someone's phone, and they don't pick up, and the call switches over to voice-mail, my phone beeps a few times.  This is extremely annoying, since every time it beeps, I am forced to look at the readout, in case it's a real call.  Added to this is the fact that when a ghost call beeps through, it activates my headset, which has an extremely sensitive microphone.  So, if I happen to be exhaling into the mic at the same time a ghost call comes through, I get my exhalation piped into my earpiece at full volume, which sounds like FOOOOOOOOSH, only louder and fooshier.

I have no idea if they people on the line hear me breathing before they get clicked over to voice-mail.  I hope not.

"Hi, this is Mike Winkle, I'm away from my desk.  Leave a message at the beep and I'll call you back."  "Click-FOOOOOSH-Beep."

Between having to glance up at the phone every few seconds and being startled by my own breathing and the fact that I'M BALD OH MAN I GOT A BALD HEAD it's just a big fun day.


January 29, 2002 - Follikill

The time?  Sunday night.

The place?  My bathroom.

The tools?  A beard-trimmer with two settings, a pair of scissors, two mirrors, and a couple belts of whiskey.

The plan?  To cut my own hair.

The plan?  Stupid.

The plan?  Boy, was that really stupid.

Anyway, I'd been thinking about it for a couple days.  How hard could it be?  If I totally screwed it up, at least I could just shave it all off, or maybe go down to the one of the thirty salons on my block and have them fix it.

It started out easily enough.  I put the 'really short' attachment on the trimmer, and went to work on the sides of my head.  It was fun, even!  And easy, since I could see the sides of my head in the mirror.

The back, well.  There I ran into problems.

With both mirrors set up, I could easily see the back of my head, but not, and this is the kicker, while I was trying to buzz it.  Either my arm was in the way, or my hand, or the clipper.  I'm twisting and bending and craning but I can't really see what I'm doing.  Clipping a portion of it took a good five minutes to set up, and produced about two cut hairs.  It's tough, it's taking forever, and I'm getting bored.  It's totally harshing my buzz!

I started to get a little more daring, or a little less caring, or whatever.  I started cutting more haphazardly, until WONK.  Oops.  I cut a big chunk out where a big chunk should not be out.

Well, maybe I should take a break from the clippers and try cutting a bit off the top.  With the scissors.

You know that thing the do at the barbers, where they kinda grab your hair between their fingers to sorta measure it, and then cut it?  That's really hard.  I have to say, the part where they teach you how to do that in beauty school must take months, if not years.

I try using the second setting of the clipper, which doesn't cut quite as short.  In fact, it doesn't cut at all, unless I physically jam the hair into the mechanism, which produces, well... not the most even sort of cut you could hope for.

So, I've fully botched the top.  It's sticking up in all kinds of tufts and looks ridiculous, so I slink back to using the clipper, but I can't fix the back, either, not without wonking out huge sections that shouldn't be wonked.

Boy, does this suck.

It's very late now, and I really want to go to sleep and have a fresh hack at it in the morning.  Of course, I know if I go to sleep without finishing, my agency will wake me up with a phone call first thing in the morning with an assignment that requires me to be there in a half-hour, and I'll have to finish on the fly, or I'll simply forget and dash out and be stuck at the job all day with a head that looks like well-trampled undergrowth.

It finally dawns on me that it's unsalvageable.  I cannot save this head.  No one can.  Radiation would have produced a more even haircut.  I wish now I had photo documented the whole thing, like a real webmaster would have done.  Next time, definitely!

I did, however, take a picture after I decided to give up, and shaved the whole thing down to, basically, stubble, which you can see here:

I suppose it doesn't look too terrible, really.  I mean, no real nasty surprises.  My head is pleasingly round and smooth, I must say, and I didn't find any surprising lumps or points or dents or lobotomy scars or horns or a 666 or anything.  Still, it's a bit of a shock to realize you're bald, and I do realize it, about once every ten minutes, in a burst of enlightenment that usually goes something like:  "HOLY CRAP I'M BALD!  NO HAIR!  NO HAIR ON THE HEAD!  WHAT DID I DO?"

My main problem is, since I actually am going bald, the hair on the top of my head is a lot thinner, so it's easier to see my pale blotchy scalp (something you can't fully enjoy in the picture, hence the black and white).

Naturally, my first assignment in over a month comes the very morning after I've stupidly shaved all my hair off, as I knew it would.  The universe works that way!  "Oh, Mr. Funnypants thinks he can shave his head and then hide for a week while it grows back?  HA HA HA!  I shall dose a receptionist in Oakland with the flu!"

Tomorrow:  The results of that position.

(For added fun, you can read this again while playing the 'what tense is he using now?' game.)


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