Work

Original Tales, Borrowed Worlds

A few things have made themselves clear these last couple of months. None more certain than the boat I’m on is taking in too much water. And while three of us are trying to toss the water out, two others are intent on bucketing more in. It’s hard not to feel stressed out about this. Honestly, this is the same song and dance we’ve been doing since I arrived several years ago. The only difference is my role in the whole mess of things. And while I’m rebellious by nature, when it comes to what pays the bill, I fall in line rather quickly. And I will protect myself from being axed by any means necessary. So when it came to my ideas of activities, I remained silent. None of that mattered to me at the time. It’s not that I don’t have ideas; it’s just at this moment, I’m not interested in seeing them coming to fruition. Mostly, because I don’t know where I stand in the current regime. And where I’ll be in a few months.

One thing I do want to bring into the department is tabletop role playing games. Duckie and I toyed with the idea in the past. Back when Crissy was still around, Duckie was still in the department, and I was on a path to possible supervisor position. Except, none of that happened. Crissy left. Duckie left. And my life took a turn. (Though, let’s be honest, had it not changed, they didn’t want me because I came with some risks.)

Since I’ve been binge watching Geek & Sundry’s We’re Alive: Frontier, the want to introduce the children into the world imagination driven gaming has increased. So much so, that I asked Shaun if he’d be interested in partaking in it. I received a shrug. I’ll try to convince the cousins to play too, but they’re children of short attention span and YouTube videos.

Dungeons and Dragons was my original intent. After reading articles how to make it kid friendly (focus more on the story, less on stats yada yada yada), I still didn’t know how to make it work for a library setting. (Actually, this is a lie because there are several ways for me to make it library friendly.) I looked into D&D-esque children’s RPG texts, but none of them hit the right feeling. The closest was Little Wizards, but I wasn’t feeling the whole kids-with-magic ordeal. (The last thing I need are kids fighting over who gets to be Harry Potter.)

And that’s why We’re Alive: Frontier breathed life back into the vision. The world takes place in the We’re Alive world (if you haven’t listened to the podcast, you’re missing out!) but the game play is based on Outbreak: Undead. I’ve never played this one before, nor have I read the guide book. But part of my resistance to wanting to introduce children to this game is the use of firearms and that most of the baddies will be humans. And that’s when Max Brallier’s post-apocalyptic series comes in.

I never read the series, but its potential of RPG storytelling isn’t lost on me. When the first novel came out, it was described as a cross between Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Walking Dead. How could I not be intrigued? The books are extremely popular at the library. So much so, that I purchased my own copy today because it was never on the shelf at work (we have four copies in circulation).

I’m assuming that Outbreak: Undead is limited in the monster category while D&D (and those like it) is too packed with magic. So I started looking into other games. The one that seems about right is Kids on Bikes. But I’m still looking for something that could work that isn’t too rule-bloated for a elementary aged kids. Once I find the perfect rule book, I can use the world that Brallier created for this series and create adventures within it. Hopefully that assists with our need for getting more butts in the seats while still promoting the joy of reading (read the book, get inspiration).

Let’s see how it works.

Work

Dear Diary,

Something happened. Something I swore wouldn’t ever happened. But it’s done. I’ve done it. It’s out there now and I can’t reel it back in. I created original characters and content for [redacted]. Which means, [redacted] now owns something I created. That’s how this works, right? You’re bamboozled into needing a job and the only people who want to hire you know you’re creative. And they spend years on you before they start asking for things here and there. It’s mostly PR related things, sure. But then the clincher happens and you’re asked to create something for them. Mostly because they’re afraid of copyright infringement. Which, they’re in the right to, because we’ve totally skirted the edge of that legality on more than one occasion.

While it’s been my intention from the get go to create new content, my goal was always to base it on characters my predecessor established. Just replace his writing flair with my own nuance.

But I adapted [redacted], a beautiful children’s book by [redacted]. And within my adaptation of the story, I added a new character that wasn’t featured in the original story? Why? Because I wanted to, that’s why. This character was voiced by V. And, sure, maybe I’m bias, but I loved her reading of the character. So when the director told me to stop using other people’s works for my puppet shows, I quickly thought, “Well, shit. I have a character already. Might as well use her.”

Thus R.F. was born. And today, I finished the first short story that I’ve written in ages. Mind you, this isn’t an original story. It’s based on Stone Soup, a folktale that’s been rewritten hundreds of times in different ways (most notably, by Marcia Brown).

If you don’t know the story of Stone Soup, let me give you the run down. So a new guy in town (usually three new guys in town) are hungry, but they can’t find anyone who is willing to just give them some food (shocker, I know!). So they settle down in the center of town and make a show of bringing out a big, old kettle. They fill it up with water and some stones, and light a fire underneath it. Of course, the townspeople are curious so they go an inspect what’s going on. No one’s ever heard of stone soup, of course, because it’s a flat-out lie. But the three guys sell it up. And people all want to try it. But there’s something missing. Potatoes. Someone volunteers that. Still, it’s missing something. And someone volunteers that. And the list continues until they made an authentic soup with the townspeople none the wiser.

But my story is met to set up a bigger tale with the characters created. While I won’t focus each new puppet show on the trio created for this rendition of Stone Soup, I do plan on using them a few times down the line. There are stories to be told and these just happen to be the voices that are speaking to me right now.

My only regret this work-for-hire business means I won’t be able to keep any of them should I leave [redacted]. We’ll see.

Work

“I Might Prefer Chaos to Even Flow”

Not a believer of luck, good or bad. Not the superstitious type. Sure, I might joke about the terrible things that happen on Friday the 13th, but I don’t actually think the date is the reason behind them. Bad things happen no matter the day. Apparently, we just focus on the bad things when the day is designated for them.

Friday morning, the first thought I had waking up was—”Why do we have to open the building open Saturday morning so maintenance can leave the moon jumps there when we can just move them ourselves?” When you’re this dedicated on pulling off a great event, I suppose you eat, sleep, and shit such things.

And when I arrived at work, my supervisor greeted me with a question, “Are you ready for today?”

“Heh, no. But that’s my secret,” I said, trying to pull off my best Bruce Banner impersonation. “I’m never ready.”

If I anticipate something too much, that anticipation becomes anxiety. And anxiety causes mistakes. So after I ate breakfast (egg, hash brown, and sausage tacos), I gathered my troops (minus one) and started the day. We filled two vans and the bed of a truck and headed off the arduous journey the faraway land of the activity center, just down the road from our humble workplace. As we were packing the last of our things, we noticed one member of our party missing. Because I walked to the activity center, I figured our paths would eventually cross. They didn’t.

“Where’s (let’s call him) Bartleby?”*

“I saw him coming this way,” one said. “He said he wasn’t feeling well this morning,” another remarked. “I don’t know,” the last said.

Because we were missing things, the four of them returned to work to gather the rest of the things and to find Bartleby. But, surprise surprise, Bartleby was nowhere to be found. They asked his department coworkers about his whereabouts and they thought he was with us. They searched the building and turned up nothing. When they returned to the activity center, they told me there was no sign of him. No one knew where he’d gone.

It didn’t surprise me that Bartleby weaseled out of work. He didn’t earn this moniker because he’s the model employee (though, I’m sure he’ll earn Employee of the Month before I do). Frustrated that he’ll somehow get me into trouble, I called my supervisor. “We lost Bartleby,” I said. “They asked the people and they couldn’t find him. He said he wasn’t feeling well this morning, and I’m a little worried that maybe he’s sick somewhere and no one knows.”

“I’ll call George,” he responded.**

We started without him. Though, when did arrive, his only offering of help was an onslaught of heavy sighs, complaints about not feeling well, and, of course, whining. We were better off without him.

Once more, we’re faced to go back to the office to pick up some more materials. Before we go back though, Bartleby spoke up, “Which one of you called work looking for me?”

“Me,” I said. “When you didn’t show up and no one could find you at work, I got worried. I heard you weren’t feeling well, so I called to see if you were ok.”

“Yeah, well now I have George running up my ass accusing me of wasting time.” Then switching to the most menacing tone I’ve ever experienced  in the work place, he added, “Next time you’re looking for me, come look for me. Don’t call my supervisor.”

This veiled threat from a subordinate might have fallen on deaf ears had Bartleby not been foolish enough to say this in front of witnesses. On the way back, I’m asked, “Was he threatening you?”

“That’s how I felt.”

Word must have gotten back about this gaffe. And because of his mess up, George was now up his and his coworker’s ass. This caused more stress on my understaffed department. My temper at work is calm and cool. You have to be when your work involves children. Number of times I’ve lost my cool with a patron? Once in seven years. And I was off that day.

I gave up on their help. Just go back to work. We’re done with you here. Of course, this didn’t make George any the happier because now he had two extra employees who shouldn’t have been scheduled that morning. Not my problem. Not anymore.

Chaos ensued back at the office. It was our graphic designer’s last day and I bombarded her with last-minute requests made by both George and my ultra anxious supervisor. Nothing good from anxiety, so I did my best to keep him calm.”We have it covered,” I said. “Do you need help?” he asked. “We have the morning covered. We might need more help come the afternoon when we decorate. Maybe some of the girls can come over?” Sexist, I know. But I’d rather have a couple of hardworking ladies than a man-child who’s had everything offered to him and takes no responsibility for his actions.

A few more things happened. George berating us for not having done simple tasks earlier but not actually offering any real help. My supervisor’s panic led to a last-minute shopping spree placed in the hands of someone else. We still managed to build an event that the kids loved and kept the parents happy. Some things fell through, but we survived.

At the end of the night, Bartleby tried to make nice again. I’m a forgiving person. Even people I don’t get along with I treat with the same respect of someone whom I call a friend. But Bartleby? After that threat? I’m done with Bartleby.

Afterwards, I hung out with the coworkers I couldn’t imagine losing but know that the inevitable is on the horizon. We enjoyed wings and laughs. And my thoughts slipped into dangerous territory.

As much as I say I don’t want to be in a relationship. As much as I tell myself that it’s not the right time, and that maybe I should wait it out until I’m at my most content. Even though I know that things might end up a disaster in the future. There’s this woman I like. And it scares me how much I like her. And I’m not sure if I mean the aforementioned things, or I’m just trying to convince myself those things are true. And I just might want to bring it up the conversation about my feelings again.

In the words of Hank Moody:

Fuck.

*I don’t understand why this never crossed my mind until now. I wrote a paper on Bartleby, the Scrivener in college because I was fascinated with the amount of laziness that character possessed.
**Yup, another literary reference, but I won’t mention to what book.
Doldrums · Work

The Armory for the Best Weapon in the World

Started the day listening to Tal Bachman’s “She’s So High.” No wait. Mark that. Let’s start with something cooler. Whatever happened to Tal Bachman, anyway?*

Started the day listening to “Time Bomb” by Rancid.** The ride to work seemed ominous. The day before the summer carnival type of ominous. It’s been some time since this sinking feeling of something gone wrong has set in my stomach. Never hyped to this level, of course. Things are different this time around, though. In the past, summer carnivals meant grunt work. This year, though… I’m in charge.

As interim supervisor, I have all the responsibilities but none of the actual power. This also means that if things go wrong, it’s on my head. Managed to eat breakfast before clocking in for the day. Made rounds around the department to make sure nothing got neglected the night before. Read a few digital pages of the book I’m reading (Amy Chozick’s Chasing Hillary). I plopped down on my seat and entered the password in my computer. Browsed my e-mail, noticing I still hadn’t received word about the August activities I planned.

Shrugging off the disappointment of it, I continued trying to figure out Friday’s carnival. A few phone calls later, I’m slumped in my chair. Apparently my idea for Game Day Friday (just the first three Fridays) fell through. A misunderstanding on (surprise, surprise) my end. Rather than in lieu of Story Time, they wanted it added to the Friday. No dice, I thought. It’s either Game Day or Story Time; there’s way we can do both activities back to back, and no sense of pushing it later in the day when the crowd thins out. Besides, the older kids don’t care about story time. I’m just reading to kids who are in the habit to speaking over me.

I submit my amended activities plan with the crafts we’ll be doing in August. An e-mail bounced back to me. While my activities are fun, she’s worried about my sensory play activity. Like a person who has no business doing what she’s doing, she’s more worried about numbers and actual quality. But quality is what I promised her a few months ago when they inquired about my interest in the supervisor position.

There was no clear difference between our Toddler Time (1.5 to 3 year olds) and our Story Time (3-5 year olds). I began working on revamping the former to stand out next to the latter. I took notes from the greats (read: Jbrary). I read blogs from other people in my position. I even listened to what the reactions I gathered from not the toddlers this summer, but their caretakers. (The toddlers might like me, but toddlers don’t drive themselves to the library.)

Changing Toddler Time isn’t a new concept. Two supervisors ago, it was something that was brought up. But the fear of progressive thinking quashed the idea. It was swept under the rug. The last supervisor brought it up, as well. It died at conception.

My idea, I kept secret. As much as that’s a dangerous play, I needed to rework this on my own terms—without their permission, and (more importantly) without their input. And to give the other staff plausible deniability, I kept them out of the loop. That is, until today.

Next Tuesday, my brainchild (with characters created by past coworkers) comes into fruition. And right now, I’m not sure what has me more anxious. Tomorrow’s carnival, or Tuesday’s sneak peek of what I have in store for the rest of the year.

*No joke. I still own his debut album. It sits on my shelf with the other obsolete media (CDs). I should note that I didn’t purchase this album. Not really, anyway. It was one of those BMG or Columbia House mail order steals. Don’t act all innocent. I’m sure you’re guilty of it too.
**A much better song in my personal opinion. Also, this was the song I was listening to this morning as oppose to Tal Bachman, which was playing when I started writing this post. Lame, I know.

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” —Maya Angelou

Work

Sound Boarding

Ever feel stuck? Like you’re filled with so much motivation to create something that your brain is bursting at the seems? That your physical body goes through the motions because your mind is sussing things out. Building worlds. Building ideas. Handcrafting lyrics and paragraphs like verses. Testing out waters with other friends to see what they think. Wondering if you have it in you to go through with a plan for a change. Feeling that if your promotion doesn’t go through, then maybe it’s time to build a side hustle that could, one day, be a full time job.

That’s where I am at the moment. I’m revisiting writing. I picked up Chuck Wendig’s Damn Fine Story yesterday at Barnes and Noble in hopes to get the old motor running again. I dedicated the year on reading poetry again (not exclusively, but I have been paying more attention to the genre); I finished Sabrina Benaim’s Depression & Other Magic Tricks today. The book’s an inspiration. (More on that later.)

Aside from writing, there’s, well, more writing. I’m working on an idea inspired by those Eat This, Not That book series. Except, rather saving you calories, I’m aiming something more popular culture. Unsure how that come to fruition right now, but I’m still mapping that out.  Then there’s the sudden urge to record my voice and blast that off into the world (no idea why I want that).

I don’t know. I just feel stuck. And it’s not a fun feeling.

Work

A Funny Thing Happened to Me at Work Today

The sense of under appreciation can cling to you like a gym rat’s stench after spending a humid day at the park deadlifting weights. It’s sense that can arise in any job, I’m sure. I know I’ve experienced it at the ballpark. And there isn’t a month at the library where it doesn’t sneak up on me like an ex-lover trying to make amends. And it’s easy to feel invisible when everyone gets the praise, overlooking that despite their planning, you helped in the execution. People would beeline around me to shake hands with the brains of the operation. Sure, we get the pats on the back. The nods of recognition from those you helped, but it the feeling still arises.

Sometimes, though, there comes your moment to shine and you’re left baffled at the thought that someone actually sees you, saw you all these times. They recognized that you’ve come a long way from you meager beginnings as a “doer” to the “creator.” I’ve had my moments post-children’s department, assisting in organizing the poetry readings to being in the pilot seat. And I think that’s why I loved being part of the poetry readings at the library. It gave me a sense of being appreciated, being noticed. And despite my aversion to get on stage and start the program (or having to find new poets, not getting responses, booking flakes, etc.), I looked forward to them. All good things, however, succumb to the inevitable.

When they told me January would be my final hurrah in the poetry scene at work, the sense of invisibility snuck up on me again. I didn’t begrudge the person they gave the responsibility to, though. I couldn’t have left the poetry scene or my friends in better hands. I coasted the weeks, knowing that the February poetry reading would only be weeks after my final one. There was no time to grieve. Planning for the International Book Discussion needed my attention. I ignored work by focusing my attention on work, if you can believe such nonsense. I designed a scavenger hunt and created puzzles for the children to decipher.

Thursday, it all came together. I watched the children dashed across the department, the excitement of figuring out the riddle, the hidden message word search, the rebus, and the zoomed in picture clues. As they worked on their craft, the school librarian approached me to “pick my brain.” She wanted to know how we went about selecting our books for our collection, seeking “insider secrets.” I explained that we purchased new books, recent award winners, popular series, and patron requests. I admitted that I do browse the children’s books at Barnes and Noble and take pictures of books that catch my attention. But as for any algorithm, there wasn’t much to it. Books are hit or miss with kids. Sometimes it takes a movie for a book to become popular or breathe new life in an old classic. (Note to self: purchase a few copies of A Wrinkle in Time for donation.)

She asked me if we all worked on the games together, and Ida responded that it was all me. This came as a surprise, it seemed. In the past, I’ve always been the seen and not heard library employee. And perhaps that was my fault for not showing initiative and maintaining my survival mouse stance. Being recognized as someone other than that, well, that’s a boost in my personal morale. Seeing that I am the harbinger of the children’s entertainment, that’s a boost in my morale. Seeing my game, albeit a Frankenstein creation from past games done in previous IBD events, entertaining, is a boost in my personal morale.

I may not be the most kid-friendly person in the world—sometimes, I downright feel like my department would be much more cleaner and in order without them—but I love my job for the most part. These kids are my kids, and I’d rather them be excited about the library than scowl at the thought.

I just wish they’d stop making me feel so damn old, though. But that’s a story for another day.