The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

OF HAMSTERS AND VACATIONS, SORT OF: My apologies for the lengthy and totally unplanned absence, but when all’s said and done it’s hard for anyone to find a suitably energetic hamster anymore. Once upon a time, of course, hamsters took pride in being who and what they were, but nowadays more and more hamsters forego their traditional pursuits and going into less strenuous lines of work like advertising or selling life insurance. I bring this up now because for most of the past week the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for a pittance has been without electricity. I don’t know when the electricians will fix the problem, but they claim they will, and soon. If you are reading this, and I assume you are, it’s because I’ve gone to another library and am now using their computers to write this screed. It’s a very nice library, as libraries go, but I’ve seen on the official statistics that they claim to have as many books as we do and they may well be true, since the staff here has every available nook and cranny packed solid with books, videos, and other materials, and there is no room for the patrons to sit anywhere. It’s a nice place if you like standing all day.

The problem with our electricity is easy to describe: the dynamo stopped because the hamster died. Our hamster was a pugnacious little brute, as hamsters go, always willing to run that extra mile or twelve to keep the library’s generator going. He began life as a cost cutting measure; clearly having our own source of power would eliminate a costly item from the annual budget, and we could keep him going with sunflower seeds and water, which cost much less than oil and we could sell his emissions as fertilizer at the local Home Depot. From almost any way you choose to look at the matter, investing in the dynamo and a biological power source was probably the best move the mold pit ever made.

And now the hamster is dead, poor soul, and replacing him, assuming that the late hamster was, in fact, a him, and not a her or some other category exclusive to small rodents, will not be easy, not by a long shot. Part of the problem is that most of these jobs are no longer part time temporary work where the director could hire and fire as the budget dictated; these jobs are civil service positions these days, and at the lowest rung of the civil service at that, along with the guys who mow the lawn around City Hall and pick up cigarette butts in the parks. Jobs on the exercise wheel once had distinction; a hamster was proud to have such a steady and, for the time, well-paying job; those days, unfortunately, are gone for good. The qualifications remain pretty much the same as they always were: (1), be a hamster, and (2), be willing to run on the wheel from nine in the morning to eight at night without a break for peanuts and maybe some sunflower seeds, if your employer was feeling generous that week. This is obviously not enough to raise a family on these days, and frankly, the pension is not what it ought to be, considering the amount of work the hamsters have to do in order to get it, and the health and other benefits are not all that great, either. So it shouldn’t really come as a great surprise that no young hamster looks at a life spent in power generation these days as little more than a dead end job for losers.

We’ve begun interviewing for the position, but in the week or so since the ads appeared in the local papers the candidates we’ve seen so far have been somewhat less than promising, to put it mildly. One applicant wanted a lunch hour that actually lasted an hour, which is something I don’t get and I’ve been here for almost nineteen years now. Another was a Seventh Day Adventist and wouldn’t work on Saturday, which is one of our busiest days, and another was only interested in a part time position so they could have enough time to run for the City Council. We couldn’t use any of these applicants, except for the incipient politician, who was sufficiently odd enough to qualify as a cataloger and now he/she/it/whatever now has a job and a desk in my office, which I’ve already got to share with someone else. I’ve already made it clear to the powers that be around here, or rather, there, since this here is not the here where I usually do this sort of thing, this sort of thing being writing this sort of thing and not cleaning up after hamsters, which is absolutely not going to happen; my days on library poop patrol are over.

So we still have the problem with the electricity. We are seriously considering getting electricity from the local utility, a cheerful organization much given to public service when they are not cutting off electricity to poor people in the middle of winter for not paying their electric bills. We were sort of hoping that it wouldn’t come to that, but without a hamster on the wheel we may have to go that route. At one point the board of trustees thought of hiring gerbils instead of hamsters, but that came to nothing; apparently there is a civil rights issue involved here. I can’t think of what the issue might be, but someone at the county’s department of personnel is up to speed on the issue, because not long after we interviewed a couple of likely looking gerbils the director got an official letter from them telling us; not in so many words, of course—remember we’re talking about the civil service here, where no one uses one word when twenty will do just as well; that under no circumstances could we hire a gerbil to do a hamster’s work, no matter how good the gerbil’s qualifications might be. Frankly, I hope this whole thing resolves itself quickly; I don’t like unexpected vacations and I am not used to not working in the middle of the week. It’s making me antsy. Enjoy the rest of your week.


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