Putting Joy on the Table

When James quit his dockmaster job, we both went through a spasm of applying for new work.  Without the decent pay he was getting, how would we make due?

I found a bunch of uninteresting but possible jobs in the City.  Being in NYC this winter would set me up to use the City’s resources for selling my book when it comes out.  Among all the jobs I applied for, one stood out as a pretty good fit.

Sabon sells soaps, so that’s a little different from the sex toy realm, but e-commerce is e-commerce, right?  Warehouse manager is warehouse manager, right?

Not quite.  Sabon’s fulfillment people have to repackage most of what they ship.  It all comes retail-ready and needs a lot of time invested before it can be sent.  Then there’s the fact that they both tissue and bubble wrap everything.  Sigh.  It makes for a pretty package and I bet it’s a fun experience, opening the box when UPS drops it off, but wow.  Hard to build a lot of efficiency into that.

And their accuracy depends completely on the workers getting everything right.  No technological double-checks.  No real physical double-checks, since the picking is done into little shopping baskets (!?!).  Where double picking (to cart, then to the table to pack it) gives you the opportunity to realize you have product left over or don’t have the right product, single basket picking would sooth a packer into believing that the right product was in the basket.  Especially a new person who trusted the experienced picker.  And so on.

Anyway, I was kind of excited to see all that.  I felt like I could make real strides, have a strong effect.

Then I interviewed.

Sigh.  I got a new shirt, went all the way to Jersey City (on a fortuitous day off from the Whaler), toured the warehouse, and hopped a train to the City.  The offices are in Soho, and I made it there on time (a minor miracle).

And then all the good feelings stopped.  They believed it wasn’t necessary to be efficient in the off season, so it was a short-term job.  Shows plenty of disrespect for the work I’d be doing, right there.  Many of my ideas were shrugged off as unworkable on a tech level or coldly received on a physical-plant level.  I couldn’t remember exactly what the order quantities had been like at Babeland, which made me feel less than precise on a numbers basis.  And over and over again, the HR person had to rephrase a question or answer by me or the CEO.

We didn’t communicate well.  I generally do a good job of adjusting my language for the listener, but I wasn’t making myself understood.  I also felt that I couldn’t be certain of understanding the CEO.  Very, very uncomfortable.

To make a long story short, I left nearly certain I would not get that job.  I would never hire anyone I couldn’t give direction to or take reports from.

Several days later, the HR person emailed, asking if she could contact my references.  I was surprised and not perfectly sure I was pleased.  But I said yes.  James had started on the Whaler and things were going well there.  We’d gotten some good tips and suddenly the money didn’t seem unworkable.

Did I want this job?

I love having lots of opportunities.  Choosing the best of good options is stimulating, exciting.  Was this a good option?

Over the next week, my choice became clearer and clearer.  Hard, physical labor with lots of customer contact and incredibly long days for low pay, with sailing, great people, and quite a lot of joy.  Or.  A warehouse job where I was set up to fail, given little power to make the changes I thought necessary, bound to be the scapegoat if the small changes I made weren’t sufficient, with long days, good pay, and a boss I couldn’t communicate with.

I decided that the Sabon job couldn’t put joy on the table, so they’d have to pony up with a lot more money to be attractive.

The negotiation was extended and, by the end, I felt glad that they didn’t quite make it up to my requested amount.  I realized that, even at a salary that would provide us with a good amount of money for the winter, they couldn’t offer what I wanted.

Working for $10 per hour, working for $15 per hour, working for $20 per hour, working for $65K per year – they’re not all that different, really.  I’ve made all of those figures.  None of those figures free me from putting in long hours away from James and off the boat.  None of them let me work on my boat all the time.  None of them make me rich, and the more I make, the more the employer wants.  Of course.  But not just more expertise.  More time, more dedication.  More absorption into the company culture, whatever that may be.

I’d rather make $15 than $10.  I’d rather make $20 than $15.  I can feel the difference between those figures – less stress over money, more ability to save, more boat projects done.  Once I get into the realm of salary, though, it takes a special company, a wonderful group of co-workers, and a strong determination in me to find joy.

So I’m back to looking for work.  I’m trying to keep joy on the negotiating table.

Wish me luck.

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One comment

  1. Deep respect. Ya know what? This is what you only live once really looks like. One of my favorite parts of reading these Captain’s Logs is walking through how you weigh priorities, whether it’s one hinge over the other or where you will live a month from now.
    It’s mostly not hinges, though. You constantly make decisions that have big stakes, which is what makes it exciting. You live in a cleverly engineered air bubble, you are people who are comfortable with risk. It’s not that you ignore the odds; it’s that you recode the relative values.
    Joy weighs more than security in your counting house. Which is only one reason why you would hate that job. You would remain convinced that efficiency weighs more than expediency, communication more than obedience, and your quality of life more than your paycheck.
    Moving on. HELL YEAH, good luck! Go eat New York!

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