Old Day Jobs: Satellite of Solitude
Three months. That's how long I survived working the graveyard shift at the J.P. Morgan presentation center, down by Wall Street. 1am-9am, Saturday night through Wednesday night. I thought I could hack the hours because a car service would take me to work each night, from wherever I wanted to be; I assumed the 1am start time would allow me to maintain a social life.
In effect, it was like trying to hang out with people before breakfast.
The hours were ungodly. The financial district becomes a ghost town. The trains don't stop on weekends. It's like living in another world from everyone else. This eerie shadow world. I couldn't sleep during the day—not in that shitty Chinatown apartment I was living in. It was a desk job at a poorly-managed pres-center, and it was the most physically debilitating job I ever had.
TNG Temps had placed me there. "TNG" was Timothy N. Gilson. His office, at the time, was coincidentally at the same SoHo building where the P.R. firm was. I had found an advert for his agency at the back of The Voice, at a time when I was desperate to exit my second tour-of-duty at McGraw-Hill. Tim hosted a three-week night class teaching us how to use Word, Excel and PowerPoint in the context of a presentation center, and then he set out trying to place us at different investment banks.
I'd quit McGraw-Hill thinking that I had a job lined up. I'd specifically asked for a day shift. Tim tricked me into the graveyard shift slot. At the time, I needed the money and didn't have much of an alternative.
But I was getting physically ill working those hours. I gave Tim the what for. And finally, at the three-month mark, he told me that there was a day shift position opening up at Bear Stearns.
October 2000. That's when I started working at Bear.
They placed me in the "satellite office". At a building a few blocks away from the main building. The idea was, if the computer system went down at the main office, they could fax documents over to the satellite office where operators like me were standing by to complete the edits.
In reality, we got very little work at the satellite. And there was very little supervision. So for a time—for the year that it lasted—this was the absolute best job I ever could have hoped for!
At J.P. Morgan, stressed-out i-bankers would lean over your shoulder as you made their edits for you. At the Bear satellite office, I didn't have to deal directly with ANYBODY.
The hours were 8am-4pm, but we rarely got any work before 10am. I'd clock in at work, run back downstairs, grab breakfast and a newspaper. We didn't have internet access there, but I got pretty good at keeping up with current events by reading the paper every day. Sometimes I'd take a nap at my cubicle.
The best part was, it was a great writing environment because there were so few distractions. I got some good writing done at the satellite of solitude. It was the best "day job" experience I'd ever had. So, clearly, those days were numbered.
Lasted about a year before they just folded us satellite operators into the main center. September 11th taught us how to fear again, and they started some massive layoffs, which I somehow survived. Lessons learned at the satellite office were applied toward outsourcing work to India.
Six long years. That first year at the satellite, then five additional rollercoaster years. I went through some times where I hated working there.
But the strangest thing is, at the very end, when I gave my notice that I was leaving in September '06... I was in a great position there.
I actually didn't mind working there. I was working directly with i-bankers as a "pres-center liaison". In a decent group working with decent people. My hours were great, Monday through Thursday, 8am-6pm. (Three-day weekends!) I was permanent with full health benefits. I was well-liked, well-paid, especially considering I graduated from college with no marketable skills. Hell, I even won the "employee of the year" award that last year.
That was the most peculiar thing about leaving. It was my first experience leaving a job that I hadn't grown to despise.
I wasn't leaving because I just couldn't take it anymore. I was leaving because I felt it was time to leave. I was leaving to pursue the career I'd set out to pursue when I was a little snot-nosed kid. I had my doubts about the financial logistics of leaving when I did, but I'd played it safe with day-jobs for the better part of a decade and I knew it was time to take a big leap of faith.
I know that several of my old Bear coworkers lurk on this blog. I fucking see you motherfuckers! Well, it's been a good year and I haven't had to crawl back. These have been some longer-than-usual entries, but I wanted to remember what I've gone through to get to where I am today. I know I'm a fucking lucky duck. I don't take it for granted and I'm burning the candle at both ends to keep this ride going.
"Pat yourself on the back some more, why don't you?" heckled the Gay Horse.
Org-Chart Shuffled 5:
1. "Too Deep", Girl Talk
2. "Love in War", Outkast
3. "Starman", Seu Jorge
4. "Love is a Game", The Magic Numbers
5. "Twenty One", The Cranberries
"Love", John Lennon
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