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Friday, September 23, 2005

CLOWN, Chapter 2. Work.

Chapter 2. Work.

The building my law firm was located in took up the entire block between 2nd and 3rd Avenue in downtown Seattle. It was about ten blocks North of the baseball stadium and ten blocks south of Pike’s Place Market. I was a temp. When I first moved to Seattle I was going to make a living teaching poetry in seminars and stuff. After I woke up from that little pipe dream I got a job working as a temporary file clerk for law firms.
I’d worked at Schwenk, Caine, and Giam for almost a month straight. SCG was hurting. At their best they’d taken up all of the 34th and 35th floors, but, due to the tech-bubble-burst, they were giving up most of their space on 35. That meant they had to close out a lot of cases and move a lot of secretaries and lawyer’s offices. Rather than hire permanent file clerks and professional movers they sent a call out to the temp agencies for file clerks who wouldn’t mind helping move office furniture and stuff. So I closed out cases and moved furniture.
I liked working at SC&G as much as I could like working anywhere. They liked me because they could leave me alone to close and I liked them because they usually left me alone. Most law firms I temped at were set up the same way. You have the lawyers’ offices hugging the outer rim of the building. Lawyers always get the offices with windows. Then there are secretary pods facing each lawyer’s office, with a hall in between. Behind the secretaries are cabinets full of the files the lawyers didn’t use often enough to keep in their own offices. Then, in the middle of the building, snug up against the elevator shafts, are the file rooms where the secretaries send the files they don’t use often enough to keep in their own pods. I worked in the file room, closing.
Actually I worked in a converted closet in the file room. That was actually kind of nice because I got to be alone. By closing I mean I inventoried, boxed, and shipped offsite the files that weren’t used enough to keep in the law firm's file room. There are a lot of files in a law office, in case you haven’t noticed. From a file clerk’s perspective a law office is just a place where files are moved around and lost and retrieved and closed.
But Tuesday morning I didn’t have any files to close so I was helping to move files. What you do is you take the files from the old file cabinets behind the secretary and put them on this rolling, mobile file cabinet, and then you wheel the mobile cabinet down to the secretary’s new cubby, and then you take the files off the mobile file cabinet and put them into the file cabinet at the new cubby. People get paid 15 dollars an hour for this in Seattle. No joke.
But I wasn’t thinking about that. Here’s what I was thinking while I took the files from Sidney’s old file cabinet and put them into the mobile file cabinet:

“Hey Clown.”
“Hi Sidney. Good morning.”
“Why are you doing that? Did you get tired of closing Hereford?”
That’s what she would have to say. Nothing less. I can stand here and put files on a shelf and walk the mobile shelf over and stick the files in her cabinets all day, without ever saying a word to her. I’m happy just doing something for her. Playing at helping her, as if the dork (her regular, assigned file clerk) on break wouldn’t do it if I didn’t do it first. As if I can put files away better than he can. But when I’m doing it I somehow believe it, and so I’m happy.
But as for talking to her? Ha. Har de farging har har har. No way. If she was to ask why I was doing it, maybe I would say this:
“Why are you doing this? Tired of closing Hereford?”
“Your clerk went on a break. I thought it might be nice to do this because I kind of like you. I like doing something for you.”
I might actually say that, even though I know she would just think I’m a total freak and a loser and probably call her boss and then I’d, if I got lucky, get sent back into my little hobbit hole to close and close and close and forget myself and what an idiot I am until the end of the day.

That’s what I was thinking when I was taking her files out of her old cabinets and putting them on the mobile cabinet. I did that until it was full.
When I rolled the cabinet down the hall I was just thinking about not crashing it into any of the walls. That took some concentration so I didn’t think much while I was doing that.
When I got to her new cubby she was talking to somebody on the phone. I don’t know what about because I blacked it out or something. Actually, I think I don’t know who because I didn’t pay attention because she looked and sounded so bored that I figured it would be tiring if I overheard it. So I concentrated on filing instead. I just think that’s why I don’t remember what she was talking about. It just sounds like me.
I slowly put the files in her new cabinets. She didn’t notice it was me. I thought about acting like I didn’t know where a file went so I could ask her about it and try to start conversing. But it was so obvious where they all went that if I had asked I would have looked stupid. I figured it was better not to ask than to ask and look stupid.
I know a lot of guys who look stupid in front of women all the time but the women don’t care. I know the women aren’t stupid enough not to know what the men are doing. The men are so transparent I want to cry for them. But then the women go home with them.
A lot of women like it when men act stupid for them. Women. Usually the men who act stupid for them also act stupid in front of other men. They try to impress their buddies by telling stories:
“That bitch was a triple dipper. She would have been a five-orifice girl if my dick was thin enough to fit in her ear!”
Or some garbage like that.
Then you get to meet the girl and she’s all smiles. And the guy’s all smiles because he’s going to triple dip her again and this time he might try to finish on her eyes so he can brag about how he glued her eyelids shut. And I stand there, all smiles, because I feel sorry for her and don’t want her to know I think she’s an idiot.
I’m not worried about whether or not he knows I think he’s a jerk because I’ve told him I think so and he won’t believe me. That’s how these guys are. That’s why they hook up so often. Because they don’t believe they’re assholes and these stupid, weak women are overpowered by their personalities so that THEY don’t believe it either.
And if you can’t recognize that somebody like that is a villain and laugh at them and dismiss them then you can’t get mad when they do that on your eyelids. Why not? Because then you not only got that shot onto your eyelids, you’re not just unable to open your eyes because this semen is on them, you let an asshole do that to you. Now you’ve got to marry him or you’ll never forgive yourself for being dumb enough to let someone like that debase you. So then you have his kids and your kids turn out like their prick of a father. .
That’s how they breed. I’m convinced of it.
Actually I’m not. I can’t figure it out. The real reason I stand there and smile and act natural is because I can’t figure the woman or the man out, and I don’t want them to know I don’t know how the world works. I can’t believe women like to be treated that way, or are dumb enough to think these guys don’t brag about it, but what other explanation is there? So I just stand there and smile. “Uh-huh. Hey. Nice to meet ya’.”
And that’s just me: Impotence through over-thought. Wait. No, I’m romanticizing it. I guess I’m scared because I don’t know what’s going to happen. And until I DO know what’s going to happen I don’t want to look stupid so I don’t do anything.

That’s what I was thinking while I put her files in her new cabinets. I felt kind of good because I was doing something for her. She’s beautiful and she’s friendly. She’s also a little bit like me because she can’t always figure out why people are nice to her. Mostly people are nice to her because she has a pretty face and a good body. She’s too humble to know that. That’s another reason people like her. Of course she’s too humble to know that too.
If she wasn’t out of my league, I might try to become her lover. But even the fact that I think of it that way, ‘try to become her lover’ I mean, shows that any woman is out of my league. I’m such a ridiculous dork. My only solace is that people don’t know quite how much of a dork I really am.
When I was done putting her files in place, I slowly walked away. I looked back but she was still on the phone. She never saw me doing her filing. I bet she thought her file-clerk did it.
I got a little morose-attack when I got back to my rabbit den because I had missed an opportunity with Sidney. So I put my Pulp Fiction soundtrack on and put it on track 8. That’s the part where there’s some Quentin Tarantino Dialogue:
Pretty Hot French Chick: Whose motorcycle is this?
Bruce Willis: It’s a Chopper, baby.
PHFC: Who’s Chopper is this?
BW: Zed’s.
PHFC: Who’s Zed?
BW: Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.
Is that not perfect? I played that like ten times and felt pretty good again. Then I went back to filing. I filed until lunch. Actually I filed until about two o’clock before I realized I had missed lunch. I was happy, the way a lot of people are at work, that two extra hours had passed without me noticing. I think that is probably a sin.
You just lost two full hours of your life. You could have made love eight times. You could have read Hamlett. You could have bought a gun and learned how to shoot it. Instead you’re happy that your brain was numb so you didn’t notice two hours disappeared FOREVER.
Gotta be a sin.

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