22. "Double Play"

"And using the ancient chaotic powers, Gay trickster 
queens of all descriptions keep the matrix of human 
thought in the disrupted, tumultuous state that 
prevents stagnation and keeps true creativity and 
flexibility possible."

- Judy Grahn, Another Mother 

* * *

by Lucas Edwards

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Episode Twenty-Two

* * *

Mehr kann' ich nicht sagen.

Es tut mir leid. Sie singen, mein Freunden, einer Leid. 

Ich shreibe nur nach Mitternacht.

Schlecht und schwer, immer so, der Wasser:

Georg Heym (1910):



Im Haar ein Nest von jungen Wasserratten,

Und die beringten Hände auf der Flut

Wie Flossen, also treibt sie durch den Schatten

Des großen Urwalds, der im Wasser ruht.


I'm unsure where that came from but I printed it out and asked someone who understands German what it is. It's the beginning of a translation of Rimbaud into German, which I don't speak.

That the translation is from 1910 impresses me. Its presence does not; someone else has hacked into these files!

As a final piece of editing, I removed the page of German, which I don't understand, and replaced it with the following Op Ed piece written by Greg Baysans:

"Standing in Line in Oregon"

or "What's Wrong With Unemployment"

An old saying goes, "Experience is the best teacher." I've experienced unemployment for over two years and would like to share what it has taught me here in Oregon which continues to have the nation's highest unemployment rate.

Eligible for food stamps for over two years, I've been able to avoid the unpleasant stigma which I learned as a child to attach to food stamps, applying for or using them. Tired of voluntary fasting, I bit my lip last week and entered the community services building to apply. The first thing I learned is there's a waiting list and an orientation process to go through. The woman behind the counter put my name over someone else's which had been covered with wite-out. 

Today I returned for that orientation.

A young woman in jeans spent fifteen minutes describing acronyms for programs and agencies. "They tried to simplify things by adding new ones," she said.

After that she took questions. One applicant asked why unemployment was so high in Oregon.

"Because there are so many of you out of work. That means there are less taxes being paid," she explained, wonderfully shifting the blame onto the victims. 

Asked why the application process included a waiting period between signing up and getting information, she explained that many employers statewide, including hers, were not replacing retired or departed employees. "Plus, there's always people out sick, like I was the entire week last week," she continued.

As a temp employee these past years, it's been long since I've gotten sick pay, so I asked if she had been paid; she had been -- all five days. Need I mention that temp agencies aren't likely to pay vacation pay or provide health benefits either?

The second step of the three-step process was to wait for a one-on-one interview with one of two employees sitting at adjoining desks and maintaining a merry banter with each other. It occupied as much of their time as their questions and light conversations with us applicants. 

Soon after I sat down, the other interviewer asked my interviewer for some wite-out to cover an error she'd just made.

"I can do that for you," the applicant being interviewed beside me chirped. "I've been out of work for three months. I need something to do!"

"You can volunteer," she was informed. "There's a list there. That's how I got my job here. I worked for six months without pay as a volunteer."

"So did I," my own interviewer remarked. "It's a great way to learn skills. I didn't have any before I came here." 

She then looked over my résumé. I looked over my shoulder at fellow applicants with professional office training. They were commenting on the lack of efficiency in the on-going proceedings.

"You could, um, add the word 'great' here," my interviewer suggested for my résumé after pondering it in silence a good minute or two, "in front of 'customer service skills.' That would, you know, tell an employer that you can handle difficult customers, you know. It's something employers especially, you know, look for." 

I believe too much in efficiency to tell her I've been preparing professional résumés for twenty years. Or that the résumé she's looking at was suggested and approved by the hiring specialist at BCTI.

BCTI is a Portland area technical institute I attended for seven months in 2001, hoping a $10,000 investment would show my seriousness about finding a job that acknowledged specific skills and experience. Imagine my surprise when the Dean of Instructors, Chris Butler, can't compose a business letter. It's a practice drilled daily into students from start to end of the curriculum. Upon graduation, BCTI's job placement assistance consists of suggesting the services of temp agencies.

"Make sure to register with a lot of temp agencies," I was being told as she handed me a small sheet of info to carry to the last station. "It's the only way anyone in the area is hiring."

I got in the last line; luckily there was only one person in front of me. As I waited the line behind me grew to four, then six, eight.

I had time to reflect on how I'd ended up in this line.

In 1993, I arrived in Oregon with over ten years experience as a typesetter and eight years experience as editor of a literary publication. 

In January of 2000, I was hired at the DJC (Daily Journal of Commerce), a local business/trade newspaper. The typesetting (production) supervisor, Ali Hassannia, despite thirty years "experience," was (and is, still employed there) English-illiterate. Industry practices that are standard elsewhere are unknown (and unwelcome, I quickly learned) there.

Multi-cultural exposure is something I value. In 1999 I worked at a small Beaverton printing company (owned by an Asian woman, not that it matters), where one of the only other white males was a Croat refugee. I was proud to say I worked at "the Beaverton branch of the U.N."

"Next?" I was called out of my memories. I stepped forward, handed her the info slip.

 "Is this information correct?"


She began to slowly copy it into a ledger in front of her. Done with the first ledger, she closed it, put it away, took out a second and repeated the exact copying into this next book.

Realizing it was the wrong one, she had to look around for her wite-out. It takes as long to cover something with wite-out as it does to make the errant entry.

While she painted, I wondered if I was feeling bitter because of personal reasons. Being in line and applying for food stamps is personal.

Am I unreasonable expecting an English-speaking newspaper to require language skills of staff with editorial control? Some tiny knowledge of typography? Shouldn't a Dean of Instructors (and the instructors themselves) at a school that finds people business jobs know how to write and punctuate a business letter? 

Why do these people have jobs and I'm getting food stamps? Was I lied to as a child when I was taught that learning leads to success? Who changed the rules and when?

It's not bitterness that makes me include names but the fact that these are all... facts, easily verified. I wouldn't point out a problem without offering a solution: can a competency test ever be a bad thing?

One of these days I will learn; I will realize I've been going about this the wrong way: In Oregon, with my experience as a typesetter and editor, I need to be looking for work as a nuclear physicist. 

And I should buy stock in wite-out.

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