For the start of 1999, I thought things were going ok. Sure, I wasn't a designer, but I was the boss of my own production department, I worked for a multinational advertising firm and even if I wasn't well paid, I was being paid more than I’d ever seen in my life. It looked like this whole life thing was coming together.
(4 Panel strip with no dialogue, just above commentary. Panels should be a montage of stuff from Citigate & SF life. )
(sitting in Yan's, eating lunch with Marcos-ref picture from APE, world politics forum lunch)
"You know, it's like they think I'm a trained chimp or something."
MV-"They don't think much of anyone on the production side. And it's funny, because without you, that department would fall apart. *pause* And they'd have nothing to sell."
(freeze frame) This in Marcos-best friend, lover, companion, partner-in-crime, Royal PITA Supreme, on again/off again ex. He’s very important, generally and to the story, since it's about us.
GM-"I-well, probably not, but it would be hard to do." (In case you didn't notice the first panels, this is me.)
MV-"If you weren't here, most of the other freelancers wouldn't be here. I know I wouldn't."
GM-"Oh, really? You get paid the most out of all of us, including me. Sure that isn't part of the equation?"
MV-"I can't deny that doesn't help. But I had to deal with those people directly, I'd find another contract."
Suffice to say that a tiny office that had more executives than people for said executives to…exec, was an ego rich environment. I felt my personal duty was to keep said art directors, account reps, etc from messing with my people doing the work. I & my boss, NaNa were a rolling blockade against the shit caroming downhill. I worked long hours, dealt with my job duties expanding exponentially, all because I loved it. You can love the strangest things.
Speaking of love, that too looked pretty good from a distance. After all, I had a great guy and he had a great girl. We enjoyed being with each other, had the best friend thing down pat. We even work together. Maybe we looked like the perfect couple, maybe, but things were real different at home. (Twin shots of both of us from varying sides of the bed, each pretending to be asleep, but awake in the dark with a wide space between us)
Things had settled into a routine (pics of us working with the team, sitting around the sushi boat on a fri and pedaling over to the market.) and I figured now was a great time to plan a future. There must be some god of irony in charge of fucking up future plans.
(MV & GM trudging back home, sitting silently on the O bus, eating with a dull, glazed expression at a table surrounded by take out chinese containers)
MV-I've decided something.
MV-I'm leaving Citigate.
GM-WHAT? Why? They pay you pretty well, more than me, in fact. Why-?
MV-Look, I see you everyday. I work with you, I sleep with you. I am–so sick of seeing you! All this togetherness just isn't good for the relationship. I think this will be good for us. I think…this will fix other problems.
GM-(Thought bubble over my head) What about money? Is this just about me? Working together is the one thing we do fight, how's ending that gonna fix anything?
MV-I really need to know you support my decision.
GM-Well, if that's what you want. (Thought bubble-"not like I had a choice")
(GM sitting down in front of a computer monitor, surrounded by job envelopes, a phone ringing off the hook and several people standing in line waiting to talk to her) The nice thing about work, its what a great distraction it is. (Account Exec stops besides MV's computer) Hey, Marc! I heard you'll be leaving us, is that right?
Marcos-Uh, yeah. You know, moving on. You know, it's been a year
AE-Chasing that contractor pay, hunh? Gotta admit, that's mighty tempting. (yells to GM working away at her deck) Looks like you'll have to stick to bossing him around only at home, hunh?
GM gives a wan smile and returns to work.
AE-OK, Marc, we're gonna have to do something to say goodbye. (he heads out of the department) Good Luck!
MV leans back and catches GM's eye, shrugging. Rolling her eyes, she turns back to her work.
GM is sitting next to a computer rack with servers and a desk with a laptop. Sitting right in front of the servers is Murph, the skinny techboy who's busy typing into his laptop.
Murph-OK, I'm gonna try this and you let me know if you get a ping-So, MV is really leaving?
GM-(checks the server screen) Nothing yet-yep.
Murph types a little more
Murph-Awwright, maybe this. You ok with that?
GM-uh. Yes-wait, no. *sigh* It's up to him what he does.
Murph-This has to be it. Your ex, that you live and work with, is ditching his job, and you're ok with it.
GM-Heh, no it's not. Pretty much and shut it, murph. I'm here with tech support fixing stupid IP problems and I have to go fix a big boss' laptop. I'm too tired to think about my over-complicated personal life. So, you get this server working on the network and I'll go repair this so we can both go home.
With a good natured mussing of Murph's shaggy haircut, GM grabs the laptop and leaves.
Sitting in a very comfortable chair in an office that screams "BOSS", GM is working on the laptop.
GM-Well, that checks out and all I need to do is trash this application-Ooo, what's this?
There, in the trash is a file marked, "yearly budgets".
GM-hmm. I think I'll remove it before I trash anything.
There's sometimes a devil on your shoulder, sitting there, urging you to satisfy the one proof that God is a jerky older brother-curiousity. Who doesn't want to know what someone else is being paid? Truth is, I just don't care that much about it, at least not enough to make an effort. But if this wasn't fruit falling off the tree into my mouth… Luckily, I have an angel on my shoulder too. Unfortunately, she has questions too. There was always something funny-seeming about my job.
[flashback 1, cloud panel box]
GM sitting in her boss' office opposite her boss, Naomi . Both are reviewing a long list of papers.
Naomi - Can we go over what this list is for again? You need what numbers for a serial?
GM- Naynay, I don't get it. Why can't I go to the LA office to do this equipment survey? It would be a lot easier for me, since I;m responsible for it anyway.
Naomi -*sigh* You're right. They just…don't want you…getting too big for your britches, I guess. I don't know.
GM-Oh, don't worry about it. We'll go over everything, you'll be fine.
[flashback 2, another cloud panel]
Naomi and Gwen stand together reviewing a handful of papers. GM walks towards them in the hallway.
Gwen-This guy seems to have a lot of experience, so I'd call him.
Naomi - Those other two, I'd pass on. Typos.
GM- Oh, are those the production artist candidates? Can I look through the resumes before the interviews?
Naomi and Gwen look at each other for a second.
Gwen-No, we'll be taking care of this.
Naomi - You have enough on your plate.
GM- (thinking) I can't see any of the candidates for the department I manage?
Back to GM with her mouse hovering over the file.
GM-You, G, you could always walk away right now. Suppose you don't like what you find out? Then again, do you really want to live in ignorance?
She double-clicks, launching a spreadsheet
(for this, I'm going to create a spreadsheet graphic, so I just need a sized panel)
There, very clearly stated, is her name and position-production artist.
She leans back into her chair, which shifts into the rickety office chair back in the server room.
Murph- You are just in time, because I have, one again, fixed this mail server.
GM- That's great. I don't think it's my problem anymore.
Murph- Don't give up on me yet, just check the main server window.
GM leans back, tilting the weak chair and putting her feet up on the table.
GM- I just found out that my real title is production artist. My business card is a lie.
Murph stops and looks up at GM
Murph- You kidding me. You're not kidding, are you?
GM- Somebody forgot to trash their budget. It's up on the laptop.
Murph- What are you gonna do?
GM- Yell, scream, cry? I think this job is over.
Murph- I'm sorry.
GM- So am I.
She gets up to leave.
Murph- What now?
GM- I'm gonna print the file, tidy up my tracks and go enjoy my saturday. So, hurry up.
With that, she exits the room.
A very dejected GM can be seen, huddled on the sofa in the living room. Butter is stretched half on her lap, purring contentedly as she pets him absentmindedly. In her lap are business cards with her name and title.
GM-(thinking) I could-no, should-leave right away. Just march right into that office and let them know what a bunch of sleazy, lying bastards they are. God, they must've found it hilarious. There I am running around, trying to be a good manager and all I am is the lowest person on the totem pole besides the receptionist. Fucking office joke. I can always quit, don't give them any reason…
She hold up a card and considers it carefully.
GM-Did they think because I'm black, this would be ok? Marcos is leaving soon, can I-can we-really afford me quitting?
sidebar:[Betrayal is an awful thing. Using people is an awful thing. To discover that you were hired in one capacity, but are really considered in another, can be a big shock. It's not the worst thing that's ever happened to me, but this is pretty darn close.
Was I incompetent? Why would you deceive a moron to keep them in a position they weren't suited to? Why would you promote them? I'm not much of liar for profit, so even a good little worker bee like me couldn't perform the self con job that going back to work that monday would require. One thing was for certain, no matter the cost, my life has just changed]
GM is in the office kitchen pouring out a cup of coffee. In walks, [Gwen]
Gwen-Oh, Georgia, I just heard-Are you really leaving us?
[Flashback-I'm wondering if a cloudy, dream outline would work for this]
GM & Naomi are seated in Naomi 's office.
GM-I can't really go into the whys, Naomi , it’s just time for me to move on.
Naomi - Really? It just seems-I mean, you just got promoted-is this about the fight they had over your title?
GM-No, after all, I won.
Naomi -I know the raise they offered was small for a Director-
GM-My pay is low for a Production Artist. No, it’s not about that. You know those classes I was taking at night for video and stuff? I think I'd like to do more of that and work more freelance.
Naomi -Leaving me with these idiots. Thanks. You sure this is why? I know things have been busy with the new department you set up and all, but maybe you should think about this.
GM-Yeah. I did think long and hard. I need the change.
Naomi -*sigh* OK, I'll let the VPs know.
GM gets up to leave, clutching a printed piece of paper in her hand. She turns to leave, thinks better of it and turns back to Naomi 's desk.
GM-Naomi, I'm not going to say how I found this, or what you should do with this, but I am going to pass this information to you. You know the new Production Manager they hired without interviewing anyone else? The one who left promptly to use up her vacation after getting hired? The one who quit after she got back for a month? You may want to check out her salary offer. And then you may want to renegotiate your pay since they have that much money to offer someone with less experience, less skills-less dedication.
With that, GM hands a bewildered Naomi the sheet of paper and exits rapidly.
Scanning the excel chart, Naomi 's expression changes quickly from confused to furious.
[back to now] GM calmly finishes crafting her drink. Just before she takes her first sip, she speaks.
GM-Yeah, it looks like I'm leaving. I just have few things to take care of.
[At home, later that day]
Marcos is sitting in bed reading, as Georgia brushes her hair, getting ready for bed.
GM-That book? Funny, how?
MV-(putting down the book) No, I mean, you're leaving the company just as I'm leaving the company.
GM puts down the brush and looks at him
GM-Would you-could you?- stay on after what they did to me?
MV-No. I can't understand why you aren't suing the bastards. I guess, I was just looking forward to some alone time. You know, I don't know what-it's nothing, forget I said anything.
Get It While It's Good
scene of me sitting on an exam table
[If you plan on leaving a job, before you announce it to anyone, even yourself, take full advantage of all it's perks. The whole point of working your fingers to the bone is the ability to not just have health insurance, but use it.]
The nurse is checking my blood pressure.
[This is like taking a long kiss goodbye to my bennies. I have great insurance. My company isn't american so things like vacation and healthcare aren't anathema.]
GM(to nurse)-I wanted to consult with the Dr, for a chronic problem?
GM waits some more on the exam table.
[I hate this whole process. Not this process…]
GM talking to the Doctor who's taking notes on her chart]
[This one. Here's where I explain the bane of my existence since I passed the hallowed halls of puberty. I have killer periods]
Panel of a close-up of GM's abdomen. Nestled inside is a sleeping dragon]
Imagine something is using a very fine knife to peel long, thin strips of your skin off. From the inside. Add to that the whole bleeding thing and you just have fun, fun, fun. It's been hard to get over the shame factor, after all it's genitals and body fluids, things we've all learned are disgusting for some reason. Harder still, is dealing with the white coat indifference.
[3 separate panels with stony-faced doctors]
1st doctor is kinda young and perplexed- You bleed real easy!
[thought bubble response]Uh, I'll come back when you ripen.
2nd doctor is old and grouchy looking-Eh, I felt around, I didn't feel anything.
[It's not your vagina, idiot.]
3rd doctor is a mature, angry looking black woman- It's supposed to hurt! All women have to deal with it! Quit whining!
[Wow. And how's your happy life?]
[This time is different, this time, I've done research, I've got real insurance. I can afford a solution.] GM sitting across from the doctor in the exam room.
GM-I want birth control pills.
GM is hugging a long line of people with a small stack of boxes nearby.
[3 weeks later. Maybe I left with more class than they deserved, but I did have a great department to work with. A bunch of schmucks in charge shouldn't be allowed to ruin everything.]
Murph-(whispered)Say the word, and their network goes down like Hindenberg. I'm talking virus' everywhere.
Charm-Bye, this is so sad! *sniff*
GM heads out the door with her box of stuff. Over her shoulder you can see the people left behind at the company, Naomi , Char, 3 other production artist (eric, nan & dennis) and few assorted suit types (Yvonne, Monica and the Johns).
[And that was that.]
At least, I wish it was. Leaving nice meant I had to come back to train my replacement. I came back to perform duties that she wouldn't do.
Chunky asian female manager dressed startlingly like me is sitting at what is oviously my old desk.
Sam-And so I told them, 'Heh, you need GM to do that, not me. I don't do that'. [Arrow ballon points to her:Earns $11k more than me, doing less.]
GM has a burning smoke icon over her head.
GM-Oh. How funny.
But soon, too soon, I never saw any of those people again. It was just me and my freelance agency.
GM is warm & cozy in her bed as an obnoxious phone ring disturbs her slumber.
Lisa-Hey, G! I got a production gig for today, it's out in Hayward and it pays $18 an hour. Interested?
This chipper nightmare is Lisa, my beloved agency contact. She keeps me working, I sing her praises. On top of everything, she's actually this nice and very good at doing her job.
GM-ok, let me get ready. Tell them I'll be in at 11 am.
Lisa- It goes on til friday and it might be all of next week. Great! I'll let 'em know.
GM gets up, leaving a still sleeping Marcos on the bed.
GM working at a computer in a different office.
[It's kinda nice. My old clients are happy I'm back, too. I miss having a place to put my coffee mug, but nobody lies to me directly, so it all balances out.]
GM and MV riding a bus-the old Alameda to Jack London Rte.
GM-Annd, we're off!
MV-To read magazines and not pay for them!
[There's also the supreme joy of playing hooky. It's our own fault-we really enjoy spending time with each other. We've got a lot of savings, our investments are doing ok, I still got insurance and I can swing staying healthy until I've been at the agency long enough for those bennies to kick in. Sometimes, life is pretty good. ]
Aft Gang Agley
GM is popping a pill from a round, space saucer shaped container. (See sample of this in the collection of medical shite in the art cabinet). MV comes around the corner from the bedroom, pulling on a sweater.
MV-Where are you going again?
GM swigs a glass of water before answering.
GM-Uh.....Mac World! Best convention ever. Sure you don't want to come? I'm gonna scout out new software and see if there's any new freelance agencies looking for contractors.
MV-Yeah… I'm gonna enjoy a little alone time.
GM, Mickey and 2 other 90's hipster design types wander the vastness of the SF Convention center. It's a small, depressed affair. The banners are blah, the people manning the booths look disinterested and dispirited. Malaise is in the air and it casts a pall over what's normally the ultimate Mac geek paradise.
Hipster1-Precisely. It's so…
GM-Tiny. A MacWorld that fits in one side of the convention center? What's up with that?
Hipster2-There is stuff on the other side.
GM-It's all tech stuff, pure print industry. Even then, it's not like it's full over there. It's not full over here, either.
You can see that most of the displays are crowded in the front half of the convention center and giant curtains cover the a dusty, box laden back.
Micky-what do you say-we all split up, scout the companies and meet up for lunch in about…2 hours?
Hipsters 1&2-Sounds good
A wide shot here of our intrepid gang wading through a massive sea of attendees.
This is a 4-panel shot of single booth residents for various companies
Attendee 4-We're actually here to drum up some business for ourself.
GM & Group should each be wearing a forced smile on their as they hand over a resume and a business card.
All-Ok, thanks for talking to me and if there are any openings, I'd love to hear from you.
GM shakes the hands of multiple people and heads off to wander around some more.
We find the entire group slumped around a table in the dining area, their dispirited body posture reflected by other tables of attendees. Nearby is a guy with the entire table all to himself, with carefully laid out piles of resumes, cover letters and business cards. He's pulling items from each pile and putting together resume packages.
GM-What's the difference between a hiring slump and a hiring freefall?
Hipster 1- Tell me about it. That was terrible.
Hipster 2-No new companies, and most of the old ones are hurting for clients too.
Micky-I'm glad I'm in tech. Apple wants me. I'm not sure about taking it.
Resume Package Guy-Oh, it's not good out there now. Not for any body in marketing or design. I've been looking for the past 3 months and there's been nothing. You see this, I decided I was gonna get a job no matter what it took. I did all the companies on the other side, and when I'm done here, I'll get all the companies on this side. Are you guys looking for permanent work too?
Hipster2-ditto, we're just scouting.
Micky-I'm in tech!
Dirty looks all around at Micky.
Resume Guy looks at them sagely for a moment and returns to his sorting.
Resume Guy-I suggest you start doing what I'm doing. Things are changing and I wouldn't want to be without a permanent job for whatever's coming.
The group sits around the table in an unhappy shocked silence for a while.s
GM hangs up her coat at the door to her apartment, her face thoughtful and worried. She slumps into the sofa and Butter promptly comes up and rubs his head on her knee.