Thursday, December 3, 2015

Hope

Here is how this post is going to be.  I'm going to write about me for a little while, talking about my personal trials and tribulations of late, since breaking my finger.  Then I'm going to talk about recent killings in Oregon, Colorado and San Bernardino, yesterday.  Then I'm going to talk about the 2nd amendment and the Constitution of the United States.  Then I'm going to draw that conversation back to my tech tables and how that relates to D&D.  This all has one theme.  It is going to take awhile.  Some of you may want to skip ahead.

Of late, for lack of anything else, I've been working as a line cook to make money.  23 days ago, on the 6th of November, I broke my finger at work, while directly observed by both my kitchen manager and the front house manager.  I was walking through the kitchen, misjudged the slipperiness of the floor I was walking on and did a full dive, straight forward, as both feet went out from underneath me.  Automatically I drew up both hands to my chest and landed on the fatty parts of my forearms, protecting my face and jaw from making contact with the floor.  I managed to fall on a thin rubber mat - but unfortunately, the pinky finger on the left hand, the one closest to the floor when I hit, broke in the middle.

It began to swell.  While being questioned on how I was doing, I demonstrated that although the finger was hurt, it clearly wasn't broken as I was able flex it repeatedly without feeling any pain.  I must have flexed it thirty or forty times before the swelling in my finger, wrapped in an icebag, made that impractical.  I apologized to my bosses that I didn't feel up to working and was relieved so I could go home.

The next day, expecting to fill out a form for Worker's Compensation (I live in Alberta, Canada, something to keep in mind when we get to the American part of this post), since I injured myself at work and felt I might be out a day or two of wages otherwise, I took myself to the hospital.  No one was surprised more than me to discover that I had broken the finger.  I had to see the x-ray to truly believe it.  It was a complete break, but as the movement of the bone was about a fifth of a millimeter, the doctor had high expectations.  I was put in a cast and given an appointment a week later.

I went directly from the hospital to my workplace to give them the paperwork I'd just gotten.  The two are, coincidentally, five blocks apart.  I had a meeting with the owner, an extremely unpleasant, business-oriented woman who narrowed her eyes at me before looking at the doctor's evaluation.  She showed no empathy whatsoever and with the practiced eye of someone who has dealt with injured employees before, she went right to the part where the doctor expressed whether or not I would be able to do what's called 'modified duties.'  The box was checked yes - and she told me with all sincerity and the flat resonance of truth spoken by one who knows that this box being checked just so would mean that I could NOT receive worker's compensation.  She then took my paperwork and assured me that a report would be filled out by the restaurant.

Her statement about worker's comp was a fucking lie.  I didn't know it at the time and I was quite upset - I haven't collected any worker's comp since I was 19 and it was very different then.  However, I did my due diligence and called the Worker's Compensation Board (WCB) upon coming home.  Upon doing so, having filled the form out once for work, I decided to go online and fill the form out again, directly to the government, in case the restaurant failed to comply within the 72 hour window they're allowed.  Good thing, too - because the restaurant still hasn't sent in that paperwork.

WCB is quite unhappy about that.  Apparently, there's a $25,000 fine.  Meanwhile, I was approved for compensation almost immediately, because apparently the doctor's note demonstrated absolutely that I was completely deserving.  My opinion is that the restaurant tried to boondoggle me into not expecting them to live up to their obligations.  I can't possibly guess why.

I said in the post I wrote on the 7th that I had a week off from work.  That turned out to not be true.  WCB began harrassing my workplace to give me the modified duties the doctor's report called for and the restaurant had to agree.  No, I should amend that.  WCB couldn't raise the owners of the restaurant, they could only find my kitchen manager - and they cowed her into agreeing.

These duties proved to be somewhat problematic.  Basically, in a kitchen, I couldn't use my left hand, I couldn't work with food (because the cast could not be kept clean), and I couldn't lift anything above 22 lbs. with my good hand.  Any decent, self-respecting restaurant would have put me in a chair in the office and taught me to do orders.

Instead, I was put in a chair, in the kitchen, in front of the other cooks who were working, and told to relax while the kitchen manager assured the WCB that the restaurant was living up to its responsibility.

Obviously, this was the beginning of bad blood between the cooks and me . . . and an absent management that simply failed to understand how this could be a problem.  Cooks are not geniuses.  They are not forgiving, they are not empathic and they resent anyone sitting in a kitchen.

I complained to WCB.  WCB told the restaurant to give me real work.  The kitchen manager tried to do this and totally failed to come up with anything that would require four hours a day.  Result?  Now I was moving about the kitchen as slowly as possible in order to make the work 'last.'

On the 14th I had my doctor's appointment and was told the finger would have to remain in a brace for two more weeks (at least) and that the modified duties would have to continue.

More shifts and more resentment.  Followed by a management that began to bark at the cooks rather than solve the problem.  In the meantime, I'm bored, frustrated, ashamed for not working and generally dispirited from having to go into a job and do no meaningful work day after day.

Come yesterday, I had a doctor's appointment to confirm that the finger was healed.  The kitchen manager, who considers me one of the best cooks in the place (when I'm healthy) was overjoyed at the prospect of me being healthy and gave me as many hours this week as she could - full shifts, back to back, until close at 2 a.m.

Guess what?  Saw the doctor, who showed me that the break actually runs through the middle of the bone, lengthwise, not across the bone as I thought.  Diagnosis: two more weeks in the brace, removing it now and then to flex my now incredibly stiff finger.  Typing with it was okay, so long as I took breaks if I felt any pain.  And more modified duties at work.

I'd already had several arguments with the other cooks.  Last night, when I went in to give the bad news, there were no managers to tell.  Result - another long, drawn out series of reproaches from the other cooks, none of whom are my boss but all of whom now feel a sense of superiority and resentment.  Meanwhile, I feel a sense of fuck them, fuck the restaurant, fuck working, fuck this fucking job.

Tonight, I went into work.  I started about three hours ago.  I talked to WCB today about quitting, I talked to a lawyer about quitting, I covered all my bases and then I went in.  And after about an hour of grinding my teeth in a silent atmosphere of shame and intolerance, I was told this by one of my coworkers: "Well, if it were me, I wouldn't care what the doctor said. It wouldn't stop me from cooking."

I exploded for about four sentences, cleaned up my station and then quit.

And here I am, writing about it.

Why have I quit?  Because I have run out of hope.  I don't worry that I won't be able to do my job once my finger is healed.  Yet I don't feel any hope that I can respect the management again for having fucked this up so badly, making me feel dirty for being injured.  I don't feel any hope that I'll be respected if I injure myself again.  I don't feel there's any hope of rebuilding the bridges between me and my co-workers.  I don't want to heal and try again with this place and these people.  I want a clean slate.

Hope is everything.  Hope is what makes it possible for us to go work a hard job and feel good at the end of the day, expecting that what we've done will show merit and obtain respect.  Even in something repetitive and unchanging, we are still people and we hope that others will value us and be there for us in tough times.  If we're not getting that, then we're on the wrong road.  We're wasting our resources on the wrong places and the wrong people.  The only solution for that is to stop wasting and seek out the right road, the right places and the right people.

I've been fighting the inevitable these last weeks because I've been trying to convince myself that this was the wrong road.  That isn't easy.  Even when something hasn't lasted very long, we tend to cling to it in the same old way just because it IS the same old way . . . and we forget that we only got into in the first place because we needed money - or a better situation than the one we'd had.

We make mistakes.  We take the wrong road.  We dig in because we think it is a good idea and then the evidence piles up and we understand that no, no, this is actually a lot of shit.  We realize that we should have quit when they lied to us.  We realize we should have quit when they treated our situation like an inconvenience or a joke.  We realize we should have quit when the managers failed to do their jobs.

On October 1, a man at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg killed 8, wounding 7 to 9.  On November 27, a man walked into a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and killed 3, wounding 9.  Yesterday, a man and a woman entered a center for persons with developmental disabilities in San Bernardino and killed 14, wounding 17.  I heard about this last just minutes before going into work, where I was thinking about stupidity and waste and time put towards things that could not and would not bring me any hope.

Most would say that this shooting business would put their miserable broken finger into perspective and make them glad just to be alive or at least sorry for more than just themselves.  I don't question that the incident gives me perspective.  It's only that the perspective it brings it that, while alive, we should do what we can to make the world a better place, not a worse one.

No rational person has any hope left that these shootings will not continue.  By now we've surrendered any expectation that they're rare or that they're not the sign of a greater problem.  I find myself thinking about some fellow in the world who is having the sort of month (and year, I have to add, since I've been on the skids since being let go of my cushy $65K a year job back in January) that I'm having.  A fellow who is seeing this killing on TV and thinking, "Yeah.  Yeah you know, fuck it."  And then he sees another and another and he thinks, "Well, I've got the guns already."  And then the Colorado Springs shooting happens and he goes and puts the gun in the car.  "Not really going to do anything," he thinks.  "But . . . well, why not."

And then he starts thinking and planning, just keeping himself busy, just tired of the shit at work and the attitude of others and the whole rotten show - and San Bernardino happens and this guy drives out at night, in Tallahassee or Souix Falls or Yakima, scouting out places.  Getting a little more comfortable with the idea.  Just a little more comfortable.  Maybe if one more shooting happens, somewhere, it will be his turn.

Relax.  We're not talking about me.  There are tens of thousands, however, having a year just like my year.  Waiting for their turn.

There's no hope left that, left alone, every one of them will change their minds.  Some are going to go through with it.  We know that.

The fellows who came up with the Second Amendment of the Constitution had Hope.  They knew full well what they had done about a bad government in control of the United States and they felt justifiably good about the employment of weapons for the betterment of their homes and families.  They were humble, remarkable men, who did not believe themselves able to guarantee that a government based on the rules they had written couldn't become corrupt.  They had every expectation that corruption was inevitable - they were well read, they knew their philosophy and their history, they had been steeped in the principles of how governments through the ages ALL became corrupt.  They hoped to do something about it.  They put the 2nd amendment in place to say, "We had to do it; one day, others will have to do it again."  Then they shook hands and felt that they'd done a good job.

There were many things they hadn't foreseen.  They hadn't foreseen the proliferation of what they would think of vice or the technological changes that would wrought the country they knew into something unrecognizable.  They did not guess at guns that would belch out power and death in the hands of people who were not remarkable or humble like themselves - who would be so deranged that the idea of listening to a remarkable or humble voice of reason would be anathema.

But these men made plans to ensure that any part of their Constitution could be made to adapt.  If something had been forgotten, it could be added later.  If something proved a very bad idea, it could be removed.  Even in the face of the worst calamities, there would always be hope.

It was presumed that when Americans recognized that a situation was hopeless, they would change it.

The situation is hopeless.  Nevertheless, like the miasma of useless wasting of time surrounding the situation of my finger, the time between recognizing the situation's hopelessness and doing something about it will stretch out and out, until the only rational thing to do will seem presumptive and unwise.

Exhausted, brutalized, as the number of victims and near-victims who have personally experienced this nightmare rises above the number of people who think they know what's best, it will become evident that the solution is the elimination of the second amendment and the removal of all guns from the general public.  It won't matter if that's right or fair or appropriate; the only thing that will matter is the hysteria that will begin to claim, "If you have a gun, you're already guilty."

That tipping point will take some time.  Just now, the gathering victims left behind, scarred, surrounded by their families who shudder in horror from the deaths and the hospitalized are scattered throughout the country.  That will change.  These people will begin to gather and they will begin to be bold - and they will not be civil or reasonable in their expectations for what needs to be done.  They will speak from the heart and their hearts will say no more.  No more guns, no more games, no more hunting, no more posturing, no more depictions, no more movies, no more stores, no more associations, no more bribed politicians, no more, no more, no more.

They will not care whose rights they trample.  Because these people will have hope.  They will hope for a day when this will stop happening.  This hope will sustain them against everyone who tries to stand on their rights. . . . for the rights will be buried with the dead.

The hope that there could be a world that treated people decently, that could create a worker's compensation board for someone luckless enough to fall down at work accidentally, was created in spite of all the rights of people who felt they deserved not to have their paycheques or their profit-lines trimmed.  The hopes of millions make it possible to stamp out the 'rights' of the people who were more concerned with their privilege to be strong, selfish and dangerous.  As it happens, more people worry about falling down and being injured for life while working a dangerous job than all the business-owners who would prefer not to care.

It will surprise people - and cause many to scream vocally about the trampling of their rights - to learn that there are more people afraid of being shot than there are shooters and people anxious to sell guns to shooters.  But it will take time to get these people together.

We started getting people together somewhere in the 17th century, about the time my game world takes place.  Long before the American Constitution was written, many compacts and contracts between the government and the people were tried.  There was a growing sense that all the people who made things, spent money, attended events and safely went about their business every day without willfully fucking over others mattered.  And because they mattered, they felt that perhaps they should take steps to ensure that unpleasant folk were, shall we say, contained.

I see a small part of my adventure-rich world made up of people who have the capacity to be concerned with more than just their own people and more than just their own immediate gratification.  These people, I think, would be seeking to create islands of freedom, bliss, faith, charity and hope . . . but while I Corinthians argued that the greatest of these was charity, I disagree.  I don't believe there's any motivation to give charity - to change the hopes of others - until we feel hope in ourselves.

I don't believe that in finding myself without work that my situation is hopeless.  I'm still me - and when my finger fully heals, I'll find myself installed in another kitchen, where my skills will again be appreciated.

I don't believe that we should lose hope in the face of these mass killings.  We can see the solution - we just need time for enough people to believe in the solution to truly cut into the problem, even if that means going door to door for the guns, even if that means killing those who won't give them up.

I don't believe that every part of my world has to be a killing ground, just because the players have weapons.  I think the players, as well as anyone, can appreciate there being a few places in my world where misery, discontent, distrust and brutality have no sway.  In fact, I feel the players might think of retiring there.  They might be intelligent enough to retire there.

Me, I look forward to the day when I won't have to sell my time to people who will lie and mistreat me in order to earn my livelihood.



12 comments:

John Janzen said...

Alex, it sounds like you had some pretty rough weeks there at your (former) job. I appreciate your ability to communicate through these complex issues, real and imaginary. I think the US constitution was attempting to promote the rights of adults to be adults by giving them the right to vote, the right to free speech, and the right to own guns. Two of these are being seriously challenged right now: restricting encryption and restricting gum ownership (ok, for guns the appropriate adverb is probably slightly rather than seriously). I honestly dont have a strong opinion for or against either. I do resonant with the freedom of adults to be adults, but not without compassion (or charity if you prefer). Thanks for your blog, I enjoy reading it.

graham said...

I suspect that liberalism is going to be a new available technology in one of the next posts

JB said...

It's rough when you literally have insult added to injury. I hope that the coming days, weeks, etc. finds you healed, employed, and full of hope.

Oh...and not shot. That, too.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Safer in Canada. No 2nd Amendment.

Ray Doraisamy said...

I'm sure there's an answer hidden somewhere here (searching the blog did not reveal it - I assume I used the wrong keywords), but have you considered monetizing your world?

I understand that the cost might not be worth the potential profit, or that it may be a betrayal to your vision of the game.

Scott said...

On reading this post, my first thought, as an American, is that the important thing is that your trigger finger wasn't injured.

I KID. Kind of. A friend just remarked that if we keep putting flags at half mast, we should just switch to shorter poles. :(

On to the serious part. I'm an attorney, but I don't know anything at all about the Canadian system. In the US, plaintiffs' attorneys in civil suits generally work on a contingency basis, i.e., they charge you nothing up front but take a relatively high cut (~30%) of any recovery on your part. This obviously works to your favor, in terms of value, if you lose but to your detriment if you win.

Here in the US, your case against your employer would on its face be strong enough for a plaintiffs' attorney to take. Your employer's actions violate any sane tenet of employment law. I'm assuming, since you Canadians are socially progressive hippies, that you have equivalent or better protection for workers.

My point is that, if you were in the US, I would counsel you to IMMEDIATELY consult with an attorney specializing in, at the very least, plaintiffs' law and preferably employment law. If you're getting what seems like a stupid answer, consult with someone who seems like a less stupid attorney before deciding you don't have a case. Down here, penalties for bad actors allow for punitive damages, often automatic. (For example, in many jurisdictions, if your wages are improperly withheld, you're entitled to triple damages.)

Caveats, which I'm sure you know but I'm obligated to say pro forma anyway: This doesn't constitute legal advice or the formation of an attorney-client relationship, I don't know the first thing about Canadian law. My specialties are criminal and environmental law and I wouldn't feel qualified to give professional counsel on employment law down here.

(Also, this assumes that the facts are as you present them. I don't personally doubt your veracity but have found through painful experience that a client's account of the circumstances often only resembles the most believable account in the most attenuated sense.)

Gist: Go talk to a lawyer known to be good at this sort of thing. You may get a good chunk of change. You are a smart man, do not allow yourself to be buffaloed.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Yes, this is Canada. And because it is, and I injured myself at work, I get paid by the government whether I work or not. The government puts on the condition that I must work if I'm able, but if I choose to quit, the government continues to consider me disabled so long as the doctor says so.

As such, I am losing no money - because if the company withholds wages, the government will cover it.

Scott Driver said...

If that's the way it is, that's the way it is. As an (US) attorney, it seems like "breaking even as the best case scenario" after having been treated like that is less than equitable. And by equity, I mean the protection of your rights. I'm sure I'm biased to aggression by my profession and the environment in which I work, but keep in mind that those principles very often inures to the favor of workers in practice. If you're confident with the counsel you've received, I just wish you the best and hope it works out.

(And on a personal level, I wouldn't sue either, but I'm not the suing kind because of my dumb-ass redneck omerta background. Do as I say etc.)

Saladman said...

We can see the solution - we just need time for enough people to believe in the solution to truly cut into the problem, even if that means going door to door for the guns, even if that means killing those who won't give them up.

Well, as a long time blog reader and book customer, I'm out. Up to this point I haven't minded getting a valuable perspective on games from someone I happen to disagree with on some real world issues. But "I am willing in principle to start a war and do premeditated murder on you and your family to bring about my flavor of utopia" is into territory that I would have to gloss over in my mind to keep reading. And I don't care to extend even the tiniest quantum of tacit approval that my infinitesimal fraction of your readership would convey.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Ha.

Well, I did not present that solution as something that I am personally calling for, but rather as the probable solution that will come about because no other practical solution is being attempted.

I also wrote, quite clearly, that many people wouldn't like it.

Something about history and its events that many fail to grasp is that the results of stress are inevitable. Not actually known; we can't predict the future. But INEVITABLE.

The present situation, however some might argue for its necessity, is simply untenable. And the less that is done to relieve the stress, the more violent and brutal will be the inevitable trampling of rights we can expect.

Two options exist. Do something unpleasant or do nothing and have a far greater unpleasantness FIND ITS OWN WAY.

Keith S said...

Alexis,
As a fellow human who has had a similarly shitty 2015, I sympathize, and wish you good luck in your recovery and job hunt.

On the gun thing, I hope you are right. We have been terrorized for too long by the gunholes. It's time to make the US a safer place to live by restricting guns and much more heavily regulating them.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Keith, I hope that you, too, find the means to preserve yourself from your own trials. Thank you.