A few weeks before the Class of '02 left the oppressive land of Ithaca to find the future they were told was paved with opportunity and reward, The New York Times featured a dismal article about this year being one of the worst in almost 30 years for recent graduates to find employment. To quote that article completely inaccurately, it read, "These graduating seniors are in the middle of a big heap of steaming dung; it sucks to be them and it sucks hard."
Thankfully, I didn't land face first in the heap and was accepted into training program at MTV Networks. For me, being employed was reason enough to keep smiling all 64 minutes of my morning commute on the Long Island Railroad. Most commuters don't smile, however. In fact, most look as if they at some point willingly pulled their own plug and self-lobotomized.
On my first professional commute on the LIRR I had the pleasure of riding next to a man who I thought was dead. He didn't move, and I mean that sincerely. The man didn't breath, didn't wiggle a finger and didn't respond when I waved my hand in front of his face and stole his watch, wallet and cell phone. In truth, he may have actually died, which is why I pushed his eyelids closed as I left the train and started my first day.
My first day of work was actually my second day in the office.
The first 24 hours of a job involve filling out contact information and decoding a series of intricately written tax forms created by the illuminati to increase the financial power of a secret, elite ruling class. You also get to read entertaining and legally sound statements on sexual harassment, equal opportunity employment, and the do's and don't's of using your new I.D. card. After all the paper work is done and you've successfully signed away your soul and your first born, you take a swim test and are allowed to go home and prepare yourself for occupational life.
And so it begins.
In my training program I worked in the research department of The New TNN. Having never learned Nielsen rating analysis, I gleamed what I could from watching my manager and director who hazed me every morning by making me stand on my desk and sing the first verses of the Lion King song, "Circle of Life," to the promotions department.
The other part of the training program gave me and four other Summer Associates the chance to develop a new series for Nickelodeon.
We worked, and we worked hard. Unlike school where you get two months to complete a project that could have been done in four days, we were given exactly two months to complete a project that took exactly two months to complete. It involved creating a solid show premise, researching the target market, researching the show variety, analyzing the best potential programming block, brainstorming marketing and promotional efforts, ordering sushi on the company credit card, thinking of consumer product tie-ins, making a detailed and accurate programming budget and finally putting together a presentation which the president of Nickelodeon attended.
Our show idea, which I'd be happy to tell you about ... but won't, was so well received that we were encouraged to schedule meetings with the Senior Vice Presidents of Programming and Development.
Unfortunately, the only people in town have been the Executive Vice Presidents and Junior Vice Presidents, and they sent the regular vice presidents to inform me that I'm going to be in "job-limbo," aimlessly floating through the ether until the senior VPs return to discuss a future for the show.
Helplessly floating through ether is not as bad as it may seem. In fact, most of my friends are doing the same thing, but they call it unemployment.
Unemployment has given me the chance to do all the things I didn't think I would do again until I retired, or until I get divorced.
Recently I've been wearing nothing but a terry cloth robe and a pair of boxer-briefs with added support. I've been writing a definitive collection of suburban slave songs on a banjo I pieced together out of Joey Lawrence Fan Club Newsletters and margarine.
To keep myself productive I've come back to writing columns and begun a whole new career in writing conspiracy theories, which I read to an audience of six or seven blind hobos in a dark alley off of Bleecker Street. The conspiracy theories get more praise and response, probably because they involve unmasking the hidden intentions of the pudding industry as it tries to blind homeless people, who constitute my target audience. This is called "hitting the sweet spot."
Other activities that keep me busy are investing in mutual funds, purchasing $20 gift certificates to major retail outlets for myself and playing a game I call, "Why aren't there any goddamn M&T Banks within 40 minutes from my home?"
Game play involves calling up M&T's headquarters and asking them repeatedly if they'd like to play a game of Scrabble. The receptionist will say no, but if you keep asking, eventually they'll accept your offer. Once this happens, you yell into the phone, "Well, if you had a location anywhere near my house, I'd be happy to come over!" Then you hang up, pick a new board game, and call again, this time substituting the new game for Scrabble. There's no real method for keeping score, but the fun is immeasurable.
Life outside of college is not a walk on the quad. When you're relaxing it feels like you're being lazy, when you over-sleep it means you woke up at 8:00 a.m., and when you're late you're fired (or forced to sing Disney songs). From my brief time in the shallow end of the professional pool, I learned that business people take themselves and their work very seriously. This keeps them more focused on the tasks at hand and less apt to be thrown out on the street at the mercy of the pudding industry. Happy Fall '02!