Karoshi Book OneI’ve finally reached the point where I can say that I’ve been working for more than half my life. I certainly hope that when I am old and decrepit (assuming I’ll be so lucky) I will be able to honestly say that I played for more than half my life. Toward that end, I’ve nurtured my own fantasies of making it big through talent, perseverance and the sheer force of my massive will. I have not eliminated the idea of sucking up, paying my dues or even serving as an apprentice to a talent greater than my own. It’s just that no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I suck up, it always ends the same. “Sorry, Jøsh, but we no longer have any need for you. You’re free to go.” They sometimes feign sadness or worse, actually express pity, but the truth is, it would be much easier if I just rolled up to work one morning to find the whole place burned to the ground. At least then I could say, “That’s why I can’t work here anymore! There’s no here left!” That would make it a lot easier. More often than not, when I’m fired, I have little else to do besides console myself with the hope that the next idiot they hire to replace me will do the job even worse than I did. Like a pathetic, dumped loser pining away for his ex, I always hope the new dude banging my ex has a little dick that rarely works and she’ll miss me so much that by the time I get home from the dumping there will be ten messages from her, begging me to come back. With work, once I’m gone, I hope that all the systems that seemed to hinge on my excellent performance will begin to curdle in my absence and people will say, "Who is the asshole that got rid of Jøsh? I want that person fired, NOW! And get Jøsh back!”
Instead I find that the world goes on without me.No businesses have crumbled to the ground and no replacement has fucked things up so badly that my shortcomings now seem quaint by comparison. Once I’m gone, it all returns to normal, like it was before I got there. It’s just over, and like all failed relationships, once the dust settles, all that’s left is the hurt, the anguish, the lingering questions and of course, my seething, bottomless rage toward everyone and everything my ex-employer represents. I am not sure if it’s irony or merely a symptom of an even larger problem but I am writing this introduction at a job that I am sure that I won’t have in two weeks. This time it’s actually pretty
clear why I’m out the door. My time here started almost a year ago. I got a call from the San Francisco Bay Guardian because they received my resume for a position in their production department. The woman on the phone gave me the whole song and dance about how great the Guardian was and what they needed me to do. I instantly knew that I could handle it because I live and breathe Quark. After half an hour on the phone jumping through hoops and expressing an interest in things that bore me to tears, we got to the heart of the matter—money.
It had gone smoothly and because I was feeling so good about it, they offered me half what I was making at my last job—and the kicker was that it was a minimum of 45 hours a week. What I used to make in two and a half days I would have to earn by giving up freelancing, giving up working at my own computer and giving up all my freedom and flexibility. All for half what I used to make at my last job, DOING THE EXACT SAME WORK. Had I suddenly gone from the land of the rich to the Third World? No, of course not. I couldn’t do it. I could not accept the job. I actually laughed at the offer, thinking that maybe they thought I was just out of school. Then I thought, they’re not kidding. They really want me to take that much money to do that job for those hours. Do they think that I live with my parents or on a commune? Thanks, anyway, I said. If you ever pay anywhere in the neighborhood where I live, feel free to give me a call. Until then, take that job and shove it.
Despite the fact that I was slamming the door to that job permanently, I couldn’t help myself. It’s not even about dignity as it is about my being unwilling to compromise on the fundamentals. No one else will ever tell me what to do in this zine. No one in the world can tell me what to wear, how to do my hair or what to eat and, most importantly, no one can expect me to get up early and come to a job unless they are willing to pay my minimum. Instead of crossing that bridge when I came to it, I thought I was burning it, as I had so many times before. But for the first time in my life, playing hardball worked. Like everything else I’ve ever done, it wasn’t what you would call a smashing success, but it worked. And that’s enough for me, for now.
This story is a lot longer but it's only available in the print version of the zine. I know you want to read it, so just buy a copy, bro. You can't get everything for free.