“Wow jason it’s like you’re in film school again”
I guess one of the residual benefits of forfeiting your soul to something like Twitter is that you get to see pictures like that.
For those of you who don’t know, the person featured above is quite-possible better writer, Feitel-described “depressed asian” and current Austinian Jason Lee, prepping sound equipment and re-entering the production world that he forswore (or at least complained about) on his blog, in favor of writing short-short stories, complaining about his boss and reinterpreting the bible through intermittent poetry.
In fact, I’m just making a good-natured jab at ole’ Jason, since if you know the figure crouching in the corner to the lower right, you’d know it was Zach Weintraub of the 500 Days Of (Bummer) Summer, filming his new movie on the road with Rob Malone, “Fresh Starts For Stale People” which will (begin insider reference here) apparent be marketed as “the Couch Potatoes movie” (end insider reference, for more information see here).
Zach and Jason and Rob are old friends, all of whom get off on saying ridiculous things to me in deadpan and watching me try to squirm to figure out how serious they’re being which is always a little serious at least.
Which would mean it would be normal for Jason to help Zach and Rob.
But I guess the reason I thought of this is because Jason did something else I never thought he would do.
He resumed his massive “on-air” job search on his blog, which had amassed hundreds on listings from which he had been abused, humiliated or simply not called back.
I just got fired from a volunteer job.
Which I didn’t know could happen.
But here I am.
It was Wednesday.
I had a morning meeting with one of those “gatekeeper” people in the film industry, a friend of a friend, a person who makes her living finding financing for indie films, something I thought I’d only afford with my short in a festival and some good buzz.
But there I was with a DVD in my overstuffed jacket pocket, scrambling to find the email on my iPhone that had my script attached to forward her and trying to explain that the budget would be apparent “through the tone”.
All in all, it went well. I came back later to give her a copy of Frownland, which she hadn’t seen, and a tube of Chocolate-Covered Espresso Beans from Jacques Torres, which she promptly told me “of course” she’d given up for Lent.
Being a Jew, I am always unaware of Ash Wednesday.
I always assume that some people just have dirty foreheads.
It’s New York.
But I’d told my supervisor that I’d be in late for my volunteer job at the syringe exchange and that I’d try to come in quickly since the paid person was off today and I’d be the only one there.
I grabbed my “saddy meal” from Popeye’s, my usual depressing 4-dollar lunch, before heading over, my New Yorker in hand.
Someone else was on the computer in the exchange when I got there, so I stuffed my coat in a cabinet and went to talk to my supervisor more about movies and whether he still might be down for March.
I was beginning to feel at home, or at least a little comfortable in the exchange.
Like I had hoped, it was a place where I could get some reading or blogging done. Where I could meet some real people and provide a service. Where I could maybe be nice to people who might not get anyone else to be nice to them otherwise.
I also felt more at home when I learned about some of the mysteries I wondered about from Jamal, my Paki-bro co-worker, who had turned out to be friendlier every day.
It turned out that the people who hung around the drop-in center, not the exchange, were mostly not active heroin users.
“Why not?” I asked Jamal.
“Because the heroin sucks nowadays.” He said cheerily. “They cut it with so much shit that you get very little bang for your buck.”
“But these guys are definitely out of it.” I replied, gesturing back toward the drop-in center, its large metal door shut for a support group.
“Yeah. That’s true.” Jamal said. “See what they do, is there’s a methadone clinic around here, not too far. And methadone gives you a buzz, but it doesn’t get you good like heroin. So what they do is they get there metahdone, take some benzos like Xanax or Clonopin, prescription shit and then they’re good and out and have that heroin feeling and get to kick back.”
It made sense. The people did act real out of it, like the kids I’d known in school who’d used pills.
“Thing is, the methadone and the benzos use two different pathways. So it’s very easy to OD.” Jamal finished.
It was the most helpful thing anyone had really told me at the exchange the entire time I had been there. I had read the volunteer manual, but it was mostly about respect and what a needle looked like and not as much about the reality of the place.
I guess on Wednesday, a week after Jamal had told me that stuff, I finally felt like I knew what was going on.
And with no one else to man the exchange, I even felt important.
When my supervisor and his boss busted in to the exchange and started yelling.
“Whose water bottle is this?” James, the boss, asked.
I was taken aback. I had been told not to have water in the exchange but I had never seen the harm in it. I kept it in my drawer or in my jacket for most of the day but figured it was easier to drink it at my desk than risk leaving.
“Mine.” I fessed up.
“No water in here!” He yelled, turning to my supervisor. “What the hell, man, you’re this close!”
James kept on yelling at my boss about things I had done wrong, most of which I hadn’t even known about: my magazine, the NYTimes website I was on, my coat stuffed in a closet. He yelled like I wasn’t there.
“Hello, are you James, my name is Nicholas.” I tried to intercede at one point. But he just ignored me.
At some point, my supervisor just told me to go on break while James just kept on yelling.
As I left the exchange I was upset. I felt like I had been disrespected. I had just had everything that was wrong about me yelled at and used against someone I respected. I had been shamed. I felt like I was treated like I wasnt even there when I was giving my time to be there.
Yeah, and that’s right. I was a volunteer. They had to be nice to me! They couldn’t offend me like that! Ignore me! If they treated volunteers like that, no one would ever do it! And if no one volunteered then they couldn’t function!
I was indignant. I was offended. But most of all, I was pissed off.
So first I called my pops and asked him what to do, him being the resident expert on office politics. But when I talked to him, I remembered, remembered the stupid project I had been spending all my Saturdays on, the tape transfers I had been digitizing.
Digitizing for the executive director of the program!
I called her up and spoke to her and told her how upset I was, how this guy had yelled at me and ignored me and treated me like I was nothing. I told her I didn’t know what to do. She told me to come back after my break and talk to her and we would sort it out.
Checkmate, I thought. Done and done. This motherfucker would find himself flanked by me. He done fucked with the wrong volunteer.
I got a bowl of ice cream at the old-style luncheonette on Canal and returned head-high to my work.
“You feeling better?” My supervisor asked me.
“Hell yeah.” I told him. ” I talked to Raquel and told her how that guy treated me. She told me she would sort it out with me. I figure since I’m doing this video thing for her which is pretty irreplaceable, she’ll probably back me up.”
“No, she’ll back him up.” He said in a dull tone.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yeah, I’m sure.” He told me.
And sure enough, five minutes later, James walked into the exchange pointing his finger at me, “We need to talk”.
“Look, first off, I know who you are. You’re Nicholas. You’re that film guy.” He told me, closing the door to the intake room behind him.
“I’ve introduced myself to you before. I’m James. But for some reason you keep calling me Ajami. I don’t know why that is.” He paused for effect. “But you’ve done it like four times.”
I felt a pang in my chest. Ajami was another co-worker at the center. They were both black, with similar haircuts and glasses. Still, the intimation was clear.
“But let’s be clear, did I yell at you?” He asked.
“You yelled about me, in front of me.” I told him.
“But did I yell at you?” He asked again.
“No. You treated me like I wasn’t there.” I replied.
“You don’t work for me. You work for the gateway coordinator. It’s his responsibility to tell you these things. So I told him that. If our partners and funders see somethings wrong, they go to Raquel and Raquel goes to me. I go to him.”
“You continued yelling and talking about me, even after I left” I told him.
“Well I didn’t know you were there.” He said. Bullshit.
“So, I know who you are. You keep calling me Ajami. But I know who you are. And if you choose to stay here, I hope that all is clear.” He told me.
And offered his hand. I took it and averted my eyes.
“What are you going to do?” My boss asked me.
“I’m going to get my stuff.” I told him.
“Are you going to come back?”
“I don’t know. I just gotta go.”
I felt like shit.
I felt betrayed by Raquel since she had never talked to me and let James sic himself on me as soon as I got back.
I felt stupid for ever thinking she might value me more than one of her top lieutenants.
I felt angry that I had only been humiliated further.
And lastly, I hated myself for having a public fuck-up on this scale, since along with what had happened at my last job, it made me feel like a child, like I couldn’t handle it, like I couldn’t even hold down anything.
“I know a suicide prevention hotline you could volunteer at.” My boss suggested as I tried to ignore him, walking up the stairs to retreive my jacket.
“But,” he said as I opened the door. “It’s the same bullshit everywhere, the same people.”
I took my jacket and I left.
Later, I got a text message from my boss telling me that with what was going on with my sister I wasn’t “in a place emotionally where the job was right” for me, which was his way of telling me I was fired, except he called it “too hard”.
He took a while getting back to me and when he did, he sent me an email with the info for the Suicide Prevention Hotline and a line saying “shudder island was great”.
In other news, I saw Shutter Island this weekend.
I thought that it sucks my dick.
CUP & SAUCER LUNCHEONETTE
Scoop of Cookies+Cream ice cream in a small dish- $2.50 (plus whatever tip)
On the NW Corner of Canal and Eldridge Sts.
BD to Grand St.