FUNemployment: Gig 1 "Hang Two Flags"

 

On Wednesday, the 1st of March, 2017, I was gleefully fired from my job as a Personal Banker. It was a godsend, because I was this close to resigning the prior week. If it weren't for a walk and talk (with the GF) around a block, I would have quit. Which would have been a shame, because I would have missed out on all these lovely government unemployment checks. 


It took me nine tries to finally find a craigslist gig that replied back. During those nine failures I wondered what I was doing wrong. I probably got to the post too late and they had already found their man, but what if I wasn't persuasive enough in my writing and/or came off a loser. Or maybe I was too desperate.

In most of these tries, aka emails, I thought it was a good idea to include a picture of myself. I chose a "selfie" I took in the summer of 2016. It was from a voyage of self-discovery I took down Highway 101, traveling as far south as Florence, OR (I started from Seattle, WA going up and over the Olympic Peninsula. I slept in my Trailblazer and ate canned food. It was great time.) Normally I don't take selfies, but I felt particularly happy in the coastal sunshine, so I added it in my emails because I thought it would show my prospective gig-ployers that I was a normal and friendly dude. 

Thankfully, before I could become an even more anxious-andy about my failures as a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none pursuit, email number ten became a roaring success. I received a call back!  

As you can see, the email was grammatically correct in all shapes and forms. I'd like to think the gentleman called me due to my summer smile, light-hearted demeanor, and command of the english language.

I got the call at 1:00pm that day, which was thirty minutes before I needed to see a dentist about the removal of my lower wisdom teeth. The Gentleman needed things hung and inquired about what tools I owned and my experience with hanging objects. I wouldn't say I lied to him, but I feel fine writing here that I lied to him. I haven't hung anything more that a standard light-ish-weight picture. I had little experience with anchor screws. And honestly my GF's approval really was my best reference. Luckily, I was charismatic enough with my embellishing and he gave me the job: $20 to hang two picture frames. We agreed that I would call after my dentist appointment to get pertinent details, such as the address.

On my way to the dentist, I was started to think about what a mess I may had just gotten myself into. I still didn't know what the place would look like. At worst, I was worried it would be a dark home with little natural light. He'd be over my shoulder the entire time peering at my hanging processes--potentially breathing on me occasionally. At best, it was a glamorous suite with ample natural light, provided in part by two skylights. The problem with the best-case example is that it would just provide a bigger stage to fail on. Albeit a well-lit stage. Thankfully, the dentist's lecture on periodontal disease gave my mind a break. (Note: I'm getting both my lower wisdom teeth out.)

I gave him a call very nearly immediately leaving the dentist. When we first spoke, he told me he has hung these sort of frames before and it should only take me 30-45 minutes. So my thinking was this: get to his residence/office as soon as possible, collect the cash, and then take my dog First Tiger Winston to the beach.

He gave me an address that is located in the Maple Leaf neighborhood of Seattle, which settled many fears instantly because of the known fact that Maple Leaf is a quaint and lovely area. Within 10 minutes I arrived at the scene with my GF's toolbox, the power drill I got her for Christmas in 2013, and my determination to be awarded $20. 

It turned out to be an office. It was in a building that might have once been a cafe. From what I gathered from the Gentleman, they were having investors over and needed the two picture frames hung to bring the office up from bare-bones to purposely-despondent, thus winning the investment they assuredly sought.

The aforementioned Gentleman was a handsome Indian man, in good shape, aged 40-50. Excellent demeanor and a friendly face. He showed me the two frames. Excuse me, he showed me the two heavy frames. The two heavy frames were the American and Canadian flags. Each in their own box with protective glass to add to their magnificence. To hang these frames I needed to do the following: hang them in the middle of the wall next to the bathrooms, hang them one over the other with 5" of separation, hang them about 7" above the microwave, measure the brackets that would be affixed to the wall before the frames are affixed to said brackets, be accurate with all my measurements, use anchor screws properly, and finally, ensure they are level. I think that's everything. It was, and still is, a lot to take in.  

Like a grade-A idiot I got to work. I knew I needed my pencil and my tape measure. First, I measured the distance of the wall. Then I remembered he wanted the lower frame, the Canadian flag, to start around 7" above the microwave. So rolled the cart with the microwave away from the wall and made a mark where I figured 7" would be. I then figured I should probably measure how wide the frame is so I can then subtract that measurement from the total width of the wall, then divide by two, which would give me a sense (ideally exact sense) of how much space will be on either side of the frame. More marks in pencil were made on the wall followed by slight panic when I needed to erase marks because my pencil's eraser was almost gone.

It was then I started fretting about how level my marks were. How do I know that the 64 1/4" high mark on the left side was the same as the 64 1/4" high mark I made on the right side? Both marks were made by putting the tape measure to the ground, but what if the measure was bent slight and one 64 1/4" is off a 1/4" compared to the other?! I froze. I procrastinated in an effort to buy time. How would I solve this? The Indian man noticed. 

We conversed a bit about the process and he did a great job at hiding his growing reservations about my ability to perform the job. Really, he did. If I weren't great at picking up subtle nuances, I might have been ignorant of the cringe-worthy situation. After the discussion/lecture, we/he agreed/told me that anchor screws would be needed. He departed to the local hardware store around the corner and I went back to mindlessly measuring and marking strategic points with my pencil.

I felt like running away. And as always, my brain came up with the perfect solution. Such a perfect solution, in fact, that it not only allowed me to leave the vicinity immediately, but allowed me to return a hero.

I called over to the Indian man (the embarrassingly 7th or 8th time I had done such a thing in the 30 minutes I had been there) and let him know my father has a laser level, which is this really neat contraption that shoots a perfectly level laser onto the wall. It is mounted on a tripod and has both X and Y axis options. I confidently let him know, that with his permission, I would retrieve the tool and return the following morning to finish the job with the precision of a professional. After more than a few reassurances he agreed to postpone the project until the morning. 

I left the office and hopped in my car, relieved to be gone. There was only one problem with the plan I had told the Gentleman: I had no idea whether my dad would actually let me borrow the laser level or not. Practically speaking, I shouldn't have had anything to worry about. He's my dad, my bro, he's family. He'll help me out. Of course, the flip side is that it's a very expensive and awesome tool. I could see my dad either outright denying its use or putting restrictions in place that made its use unbearable. Helping this pessimistic vantage point was the fact that he knew I was just fired. How does he see my unemployment? Maybe he's in a punishing mood. Maybe he thinks letting me borrow the tool would be a handout and wouldn't help me learn some unemployment lesson about making it in this world on my own. So, full of doubt, I texted him with the question:

As you can see, all that paranoia and pessimism was unfounded. He was very supportive. I made sure to show up promptly at 6pm as instructed and tip-toed around my step-mom who doesn't know I'm unemployed. She wouldn't be very happy about that. In fact, she still doesn't know. I've tried to tell her, but it's a bit difficult. I'd need a team of lawyers preparing my defense for 6 months just to possibly, feasibly, have any hope of persuading her I'm not throwing my life away. As I've said, my dad knew I was unemployed and he's being incredibly nice and supportive about it. After he gave me a quick walk-through on how to use (and especially transport) the laser level, I compulsively spent 5-10 minutes in the garage explaining to him how everything in my life is going great. That I have a plan. Perhaps I even wanted him to be excited for me, but most of all I wanted him to be relieved. I can't say with much faith I accomplished either objective. He imparted some practical advice, smiled a lot, listened, and then told me had to get back into the house before he froze to death. I hate it when my situational awareness fails me. 

Not long after getting home, I saw that the Gentleman had texted me for one last reassurance. Not only did I reiterate my intention to complete the project, but I was able to once more display my english prowess:

All right, all right, enough with the screenshots already. I promise, no more. 

The next morning I showed up to the office prepared and confident, complete with a brand new eraser even. There was slight awkwardness when one of the computer programmer-types questioned my process by pointing out one of the tripod legs was on the carpet, making the laser uneven. I roundhouse-kicked his doubt to the face by calmly explaining that the level was in the "locked" position, I then coolly slid it to "unlock" and the laser leveled itself out. Huge victory. Fuck that guy. It's not like I was there once already and failed tragically or anything.

The majority of the two hours, yes--it still took two hours, was spent measuring the first frame, but once that was perfect, it was very easy to hang the second frame. The only thing that took time was having to move the laser to so many X and Y axis's. One the laser level was moved into position, it was very easy. Simple make a mark with my pencil then neurotically check all my measurements over again. Simple stuff.  

In the end I hung the pictures with such professionalism that the Gentleman ended up giving me $30 instead of the original agreed upon $20. A job well done. 

I joked with my girlfriend that I brought home the bacon and thankfully it gave her a good laugh. She is the one that actually is bringing home the bacon. I don't laugh when I think about that. 

Next Up: Gig 2 "Line Mule"