Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Sword of Damocles...

(Another unpublished draft from March of 2008.  Interesting to look back at how much has changed.)

Well, it's been a long time coming.

If you're a regular reader or a friend I've had occasion to vent to regarding my employment situation, you've likely heard me speak of my boss - the ancient owner of the store I work at who remembers when dirt was the newest thing. Well, it seems he's in the last throws of a myriad of ailments and is not expected to last much longer. It has always been assumed that when he goes, so goes the business, and that's just what, it seems, is being set up.

Without going into details that I haven't been thoroughly briefed on and have only heard 3rd party, it looks like I will likely be out of a job within the next 2-3 months. I've never had problems finding *A* job, but now with a wife, kids, mortgage, bills, etc., it's not gonna be easy to find something that'll fill this gap - especially in these times.

The last time I was hunting for a job, it was the end of the technology boom. The economy was riding high, the war hadn't started, the housing market hadn't gone into freefall, and America was still respected (anyone remember that far back?). That was about 5 years ago. Back then, all I had to do was walk into a place, fill out a one-page application, and I would have a job after 1 interview. Granted, I wasn't looking for high-paying, career-level positions, but I was young, friendly, enthusiastic, articulate, and intelligent. It used to be that I would never go for more than 2 weeks without a job. I'd have a reasonable savings built up, enjoy a week off, hunt the next week, and have a job by the end of that week. I NEVER worried abut being unemployed.

Now...I'm scared shitless.

I'm 33, no degree, experienced primarily in low-paying retail and service jobs, have a family to support, and the economy - especially in Michigan - is shot to Hell. What the hell do I do now? I don't have the money to finish my degree, a pile of bills mirroring Mt. Everest, and no real prospects for anything NEARING what I make here.

I have bitched about this job for years. There are a lot of things about this place I won't miss, to be sure, however there were several important and undeniable advantages to this job: VERY close to home, good pay, LOTS of downtime (followed by periods of sheer chaos), flexible hours (at least regarding leaving for emergencies), free repairs for my own instruments, and I've learned a TON about instrument repair, which will come in handy as a band director. I will NOT miss the incompetent management, absent-minded owner (though this method of his exiting is a bit more extreme that I would have wished on him), and the occasional megalomaniacal professional musician customer.

Still, I had fallen into a groove. I had become (relatively) comfortable here. I knew my job(s) and did them well. What now?

I can't take a job at another, similar store (if there IS such a thing) for anywhere NEAR what I was getting here, mostly because I have several job titles here. I could probably get a job as a repair tech at 1/2 the pay, but here I was also the shipping manager, web developer, graphic & ad designer, janitor - basically anything the rest of the folks here are too lazy, busy, or incompetent to do (usually the aforementioned asshat salesman's tasks).

To top it off, I had recently negotiated to get 2 weeks paid vacation from the owner. This happened about a month ago. He had refused to sign the paper I had written up outlining the agreement (80 hrs/yr., not to result in overtime, etc.), saying "my word is good enough!". Now it appears that the manager is planning not to give it to me. More hassling of the ailing boss and manager is clearly needed here.

On the bright side, I just conversed with my friend and former lead of my quartet, Brad, who is currently singing with the quartet at Henry Ford Greenfield Village. It seems that auditions are coming up. The pay's about what I get here and would be INFINITELY more fun than packing and servicing tubas. After getting a bit of info from him, I now have an audition set up for next Tuesday.

I don't expect much to come of it, really. I've heard the quartet (in a few different combinations), and while they're quite good, they seem to focus more on a pure choral sound than a traditional "barbershop" sound, turning it more into male quartet that sings barbershop songs than a "barbershop quartet" in the style I'm used to. This means there will likely be a hundred or so college-age vocal majors from all over, with ears and voices much better than my own, vying for the same 4 spots. Not great odds. I do have a few things they might not, however. Apparently they're in need of someone who can play the ukulele for a few of their tunes. How many college kids do you know that can play ukulele?! Who'da thunk my ukulele could help me get a job as a paid barbershopper?!

I'm hoping that between a shining recommendation from a current member (Brad), my more permanent proximity to the venue, my vast music and barbershopping experience, and the fact that I play ukulele, I might stand a snowball's chance at the gig. The schedule will probably be weird, but not wholly impossible.

Of course, if I DO get the job, technically, this may preclude me from competing with my own quartet. More than half of my income will be coming from singing, thus qualifying me as "professional" and not "amateur", as the rules stipulate. May have to do some research there.

So, in a matter of hours I have gone from towing-the-line usual life, to mild panic, to anger and frustration, to potential professional glee. God, I hate emotional roller coasters. Guess we'll just see how it all pans out.

Thank God I still have a couple months to quell the looming shitstorm this may stir up in my life.

Okay, that's all the whining for now.
Coming up Next, Coda Honor LIVE! and a chance to help a great cause.

End transmission...

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