4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to readers who enjoy the humdrum of the everyday
88 pages (eBook/PDF)
Publisher: Lazy Fascist Press
We've all been there, unless we were born with a silver spoon in our mouths. Whether it was your first job or an in-between pocket-filler as you attempted to sort your shitty life out... I'm talking about those grueling, humiliating, horrendously mind numbing minimum wage positions we suddenly found ourselves in.
Mine was a part time position in a Carvel ice cream shop while I was still in high school. It was shit pay, and I had a shitty ass boss who thought it would be funny to make me carry the freshly made ice cream cakes to the outdoor freezer in the pouring rain... cause, ya' know, it's wet out, and my feet might stick to the freezer floor. That, or he could get a laugh by shutting the door while I was in there and hold me hostage for awhile. He and the cake maker used to get their kicks by blowing up condoms like a balloon and bouncing them back and forth as they talked about sex behind my back while I was washing dishes. I lasted two days, and that took amazing effort, let me tell you!
Then, when I was in college, I needed a job that could flex to my crazy schedule, and thought I had found it at a local ski resort as a Time Share Telemarketer. Let's just forget the fact that I absolutely despise telemarketers for a second. Cause I was willing to wipe that clear from my mind for a little commission. But my first night there, the auto-dialer rang up three non-English speaking families in a row and to top it off, the office manager threw a birthday party for one of the supervisors... with a male STRIPPER! What the hell? Weren't there Sexual Harassment laws back in the 90's? I left that night, after finishing out my shift, and never went back.
So when I pick up a book that's primarily about a going-nowhere twenty-something year old dude who stocks shelves at a department store for a living, I knew we were going to become fast friends. Sam Pink, author of The No Hellos Diet, has been there, done that, and lived to tell a pretty fucking good tale about it!
I think Pink's got to have a bit of genius in him to take something as mind-numbing as a job stocking shelves and turn it into a side street billboard showcasing the internal struggle of the awkward and antisocial. Using the slightly uncomfortable second person perspective, "you" are sucked straight into the mind of, well, yourself. You work at an Ultra-High-Risk department store too close to Blood Alley for anyone's comfort. You're made to watch an orientation video of interviews of past employees who are missing body parts and have suffered brain damage due to workplace accidents. You chill with co-workers with names like Sour Cream and humor his fetishist questions. You get a quick thrill out of crushing boxes in the compactor. Your brain thinks up the weirdest shit while you're working. It just won't shut off. It never stops...
"You load broken-down boxes into a compactor then crush them by pressing a button. Crushing the boxes, you always say, “Die. Die. Die.” Sometimes audibly, sometimes not. It feels the same either way. The box compactor squeals, compacting. Die. Die. Die. “Die. Die. Die,” you say, and watch the crushing. Feels good to watch the boxes die. Die. Die. Die. Sometimes when the store closes you empty the box compactor and press the button when there’s nothing in it. And the crushing mechanism stops a little bit above the empty bottom then comes back up. Lately, it is enough to consider that maybe when the compactor crushes without anything there to crush, a new universe opens horizontally with the crushed air. And that maybe all the crushed atoms of air open horizontally into a new material plane of possibility. And that maybe you’ve been absorbed by one, the same look on your face as always. It is enough to consider that happening."
Sam sees beyond the surface of the typical every day things. He scratches through its skin, slipping an inquisitive finger around the muscles beneath, and tugs, gently, just to see what it does. His words, very much like those fingers, wrap around you as you read them, tugging at your brain, tickling around your ribs... testing out your softer spots. It's humorous and gross, it's honest and it's way out there, all at the same time. It's almost like it's so strange it could have actually happened. All of it. In a "dear diary, you're not going to fucking believe this" kind of way...
I bet there's more truth here than you first realize.