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  LIFE AS A LOSER #71: "BACK TO WORK."  
   
   
 

 The other day I realized, with a twinge of panic, that I had forgotten how to ride an elevator.

Over the last few months of pathetic scrambling-for-a-meal unemployment, I’d ridden in an elevator maybe three or four times. I’d been with friends, who had more experience in the practice, each time, and I was able to blend in. But I was among only strangers last Thursday.

There were three people in the elevator with me. One was an elderly woman, older than she wanted to be perceived, with eye shadow dripping off her eyelids and leggings so tight you could see the veins in her thigh. An African-American messenger was there too, clearly annoyed with this particular transaction; he had to go all the way to the top floor and tapped the pointless “door close” button incessantly. And, like all elevators in New York, there was a hot girl, distant and dispassionate, aware of every glance she received, returning none of them.

And then me. As I zipped up to the 16th floor, I found myself, at first, hopping. I was standing entirely in the wrong place: Right in the middle. Right in everyone’s way. Then I turned around and looked around aimlessly, catching the eye of the messenger, which, as most of us know, is the cardinal sin of elevators (this theorem also applies at men’s urinals). I then coughed and said something like, “Boy ... getting cold out there!” No one even blinked. You know how Beavis and Butt-Head used to look at each other blankly when they’d see a Winger video or something? That’s how they were looking at me. I clearly had no idea what I was doing.

You see ...

Ladies and gentlemen ... believe it or not ... hold onto your hats ... holy moly ... heavens to murgatroyd ... yes, it’s true ... it just can’t be ... I have a job.

I won’t get into the details of my particular job, since I just started. (I just hope that my new colleagues don't know that I take Dexatrim, obsess about my ex-girlfriends and admit to being attracted to Jewel.) What matters is that I’m working again, and kids, that’s enough.

It changes everything. Before, back when I was unemployed (so, so long ago), the days stretched out lazily, without any particular reason. You find yourself structuring your days in the most wretched ways: 9 a.m., SportsCenter, 10:00, The Daily Show, 10:30, Whose Line Is It Anyway? By 11, it’s time for the first cigarette of the day. Noon, check e-mail. No job leads. Shit.

Then comes a pivotal moment: masturbation or a nap? This decision affects everything that comes afterwards. For example, if you masturbate first, then the nap comes later. If you nap first, you masturbate after that. The whole framework of the afternoon is shaped by this value judgment, and believe you me, I’ve mucked up the procedure too many times to count.

But now, I have to be at work - at work! At work! Say it with me now ... WORK! - at 8 a.m. It gives you something to look forward to at night. It’s a reason for being. Tomorrow, you have to be somewhere. Someone will be upset if you don’t show. People are actually aware of your existence.

When you’ve worked all day, everything that comes afterwards improves. The beer tastes sharper, the music sounds better, the women look hotter, the guys look less intimidating, the whole evening just opens itself up to you, full of promise and vitality and hope and hope and hope. When you meet people at parties, you can say, “Hi, I’m Will, I work for XXXXX XXXXX.” As opposed to, say, “Hi, I’m Will, I’m a complete worthless human being without a single thing to possibly contribute to this conversation. In fact, I don’t even deserve to be in the same room with you, which is saying something, considering I’ve only known you for 30 seconds and I already don’t like you. If you could possibly shoot me in the face on your way out tonight, the gesture would be greatly appreciated.”

I’m not sure if I’ll ultimately like this job - it seems just fine so far - or if it’s beneficial for my career, or if it will win me the respect of my peers. At this point, I really don’t care. I’m just happy I’m out there, working again. Do you realize how many times my father has had to stumble when his buddies at the electric company ask how Will’s doing? There really isn’t a worse answer he could give than the one he’s forced to.

“In jail.”

“Gay.”

“Following the Chicago Cubs around.”

“Dead.”

Nope. “Unemployed, and supposedly looking for work.” Nothing more demoralizing, for me or my father. Now he doesn’t have to do that. He can say the name of a magazine he doesn’t know, that they don’t know, and then they can all nod and say, “We knew he’d amount to something.” Then they’ll go home and tell their 35-year-old son to get his feet off the couch.

So I’m back. Part of my job involves running a section of a magazine’s Web site. I’m the editor, actually. I think it’s a nice little site, but I’m planning on making it better. My name is listed on the site as “Editor.”

I had been there three days when I received the following e-mail:

Dear Not-So-Good Will Leitch:

I thought I noticed a sudden dip in quality of XXXXX XXXXX. Sure enough, you’re [cq] name has been added where XXXX XXXX’s was previously. Please resign now, and ask the estimable Mr. XXXX to resume his former duties.

To remind: resign now.

Waiting for XXXX,

XXXX XXXXX

And, ladies and gentleman ... we are OFF! It’s great to be back.

 

*BT*

Life as a Loser runs every week. Join the Life as a Loser discussion group at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/onecrappycolumnist.