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Bradel's Second Annual Summer from Hell · 2:07am Aug 5th, 2017

So PresentPerfect is doing this "Tell Me About Your Job" thing, and it's gotten a lot of responses from people and is just generally interesting. I filled it out earlier today, but I completely missed the opportunity to discuss my worst-ever job experience. And when I finally realized that this thing counted as a job experience, I also realized that it deserved its own blog post, because fucking hell this was awful.

But it requires a lot of set-up.

Okay, so, life-stuff setup. I got offered a new job starting 1 January 2018 (I've already mentioned this before), but it's conditional on me having a PhD in hand by that date. This job offer put a lot of things in motion in my life. The most important among them, for this story, are that (1) I'm not going back to UC Irvine in the fall; (2) so I won't be employed by UCI, and won't have much money; and (3) this means I needed to move out of my apartment this summer and head back home to live with my parents for the interim period.

[WARNING: Present Tense Narrative incoming, even though this is all in the past now. Yay immediacy.]

I move out of my apartment on 1 June this year, with some help from one of my friends. My lease runs until 30 June, however. This will cause a surprising amount of trouble as our story progresses.

Around 14 June, the academic quarter ends. Around 16 June, I'm supposed to fly up to central California to dog-sit for my advisor. Dog-sitting is how I'm going to earn money this summer. Around 22 June, I'm scheduled to fly back to Irvine, and on 24 June I'm scheduled to start dog-sitting for another couple (we'll call them Lenny and Jenny). But there are some more necessary details I need to give you for this story.

Jeez, this is going to be long... Sorry, guys. Fortunately, I expect it'll also be entertaining.

Important Detail 1 – I live with a roommate. Let's call him Barry Manilow, so he can preserve some anonymity. Barry is a 47-year-old Persian man, a PhD student in a humanities field that's not known for its good job prospects. Barry is a very nice guy, but he's also kind of incompetent. No, strike that. He's wildly incompetent. He once bought a TV, set it up, and then asked me to troubleshoot it when it didn't work. He'd attached the TV stand wrong, hadn't screwed it in, put the batteries in the remote control incorrectly(!), and plugged the coaxial cable for our TV service into the white audio port. He once locked himself out of his bedroom—which resulted in me finding out that I actually know how to pick a keyed lock with a paperclip, so that was kind of cool actually. He invited me out to dinner once, after one of the many times I helped him solve technical issues, and he managed to spill something like five dishes on himself and the table. Somehow, despite all this, he is also something of a ladies' man.

Important Detail 2 – So this dog-sitting gig for Lenny and Jenny actually starts on 14 June, but the couple I'll be dog-sitting for have a niece whose family is visiting for ten days and staying at their house. They're picking up the front end of that dog-sitting job, and then I'm doing the back end from 24 June to 7 July. (At which point I will immediately fly back to central California to resume dog-sitting for my advisor.) The dog is an Irish setter who, again to protect the innocent, we'll call Zoya. Zoya has what I'd call a mild case of Dog Autism.

Okay, so, 16 June rolls around and it's time for me to begin my summer dog-sitting Job. I've been fortunate enough to live somewhere not-my-apartment for a month or so, but I go to check in with my roommate Barry right before I head north. He's been wanting my help to blow up an air mattress, which he doesn't know how to do because it doesn't have a built-in pump. I've been busy and haven't had time. When I stop by, he explains the situation to me.

He needs the air mattress, he says, because he's got a guest coming to stay with him and she needs a place to sleep. Can she use my room?

Uncomfortably, I tell him yes. I was still planning to use this room for a couple nights, 22 June and 23 June, before I took up the second dog-sitting gig. I've never heard about this guest situation and I'm not big on giving unknown people my room, but he needs some help and I figure I can do him a solid.

Then he thanks me and explains how his guest might be staying for a couple days, or she might be staying longer—and if she's staying longer, he'll try to go sign the domestic partnership paperwork with her so they can arrange for me to stay in temp housing while I'm back. Basically, he's thinking about marrying this person, a couple days after she comes to stay with him.

This is, of course, the first time I've heard about any of this. But I'm already moved out, with just a couple tiny things left in the apartment, so I guess this isn't really my problem. Whatever.

I fly up to central California.

I've been there, like, one day—and then on Saturday morning, I receive two phonecalls.

Phonecall 1 – Hi Bradel, this is Annie (niece of Lenny). Zoya bit my three-year-old daughter on the face. Is there any chance you can come back sooner?

Phonecall 2 – Hi Bradel, this is Barry. My guest locked herself out of your room, and she has a job interview. Do you have any idea how to fix this problem from 400 miles away?

My advisor's house in central California is in the middle of the wilderness, and has a wonderful view. I go out to the living room, sit on the couch, and spend a good half an hour basking in the scenic grandeur through their towering windows. I think to myself, "None of this is my problem. I'm hundreds of miles away, and it's not my fault these people can't keep their shit together. I don't have to do anything about this."

It is important that I express to you that this is a profoundly wonderful feeling.

Of course, then, I spend the next three hours fixing Barry's problem for him. (Annie, thank God, is a functioning adult; all I needed to do there was agree to start dog-sitting on the 23rd instead of the 24th.)

The next week passes largely uneventfully. No, we're not at "worst job experience" yet—that's still coming. And on 22 June, I return to Irvine.

While I'm in the taxi, heading back to my apartment, I get a call from my roommate Barry. "I haven't seen or heard from my guest all day. She's not answering her phone or her texts. I don't know where she is."

I do not respond in the way I would like: "Fuck you, Barry. I just got home and I need to go get dinner. Fix your own damn problems." Instead I suggest that if he's really worried, perhaps he should call the police and file a missing persons report. Because seriously, how the fuck am I supposed to solve the Case of the Disappearing Girlfriend? Barry doesn't like this option because he's constantly afraid that his deportation is an integral part of Making America Great Again. So I tell him we can talk about it more after I've gotten my fucking dinner.

When I return to the apartment, dinner in hand, I find out that The Guest (neither he, nor she, ever told me her name, so she shall forever be known as The Guest) was just at work, because she got the job she interviewed for, and now she's working retail at a mall. I go eat my food.

At midnight, Barry knocks on my bedroom door in a panic, because The Guest has just gotten off work and doesn't know how to get home (to, y'know, my apartment—where I guess she lives now). So Barry has called an Uber to take him there and pick her up and bring them back, because of course he has. He's telling me this just so I know that if something goes horribly wrong and they have an Adventure in Babysitting, I'll know that the panicked calls about gang warfare or Marvel superheroes is coming from them and that they need my help.

No call comes, because I don't live in an Elisabeth Shue movie. Worse luck.

I wake in the morning and very gladly head to my new dog-sitting assignment. I meet up with Annie and her family. Zoya is not there, because she's been watched by a friend of Lenny and Jenny for the last week, to discourage her from any more toddler-face-biting. Unimportant Friend brings Zoya over about an hour after they leave, and Zoya and I party for a while.

Then I go back to the apartment, because I want to be done with this thing. I head to the management office and tell them I wish to vacate immediately, so can they do my final apartment check and assess whether I'm going to need to give up any part of my security deposit. We schedule a time, and I go back to the apartment to let Barry and The Guest know what's happening.

I go up to my bedroom to grab a last couple things, and have my one and only run-in with The Guest. I knock on the closed bedroom door to make sure she's not in there. I wait a few seconds for a response, then go in. Turns out she is in there. She stares at me like a deer in the headlights. I say hello and tell her about the apartment inspection.

She continues to stare at me like a deer in the headlights.

I tell her I'm just going to grab a last couple things and be on my way out.

She bounds away like a deer that has suddenly recovered from the headlights. She retreats to my bathroom, never having said a word. Okay, whatever.

I go downstairs to leave—but before I do, my roommate comes out of his room. Barry and I talk a bit and I let him know what's going on. At the end of our conversation, while I'm standing in the doorway, he tells me he doesn't like The Guest much and he's thinking of breaking it off with her.

I say nothing—because, seriously, whatever.

Through the rest of the day, I arrange stuff with the apartment managers and also arrange to sell a couple items to Barry that I don't really need, and don't want to cart home in the limited space I've got with my car. Barry and I arrange to meet up so he can pay me. When we do, he relays the information that The Guest heard him saying he didn't like her much. Y'see, he didn't know she was still in the apartment when he said that. After all, she's quiet as a mouse spooked deer, and Barry hasn't exactly shown the best ability to keep track of this woman unless she's literally right in front of him. Anyway, The Guest is now furious with Barry. I understand this. After all, she seems to be living in the apartment now, and she has a new job here, and he's apparently just decided he doesn't like her. What the fuck is going on with these people?

The next couple days aren't too bad. I get out of my apartment safely. There's ongoing drama chez-formerly-moi, but So Much Not My Problem™. Barry wants The Guest to leave. Barry's incoming new roommate wants The Guest to leave. I eventually point out to Barry that, per the lease he signed, he's subject to immediate eviction if she's living there and it hasn't been cleared with the management. Which means he really needs to get this sorted out before the new roommate moves in, or said new roommate has full rights to kick Barry to the curb. Eventually, once the management get involved and threaten to further involve the police, The Guest leaves. I have no idea what happens to her, or her job, or her mother who was so tragically shot by a hunter.

Oh, did you think that was the bad job experience? No, of course not. That's not even job-related. It's just extra color for what's coming in a couple days time.

So I've gotten no work done on my dissertation, because I've been settling into this new dog-sitting assignment and dealing with other people's life drama. I'd really like to be working on my dissertation. Also, this dog-sitting job with Zoya is turning out to be a bit of a pain—perhaps to be expected given that I had an hour-long meeting about Important Details with Lenny and Jenny before they left.

A couple days after the roommate drama resolves, I'm walking Zoya and I notice she's favoring her back leg. It's got a bit of a wet spot on it, like a wound that hasn't scabbed well. When I get back from the walk, I text Lenny to let her know about the issue. Lenny's in Italy, by the way; Jenny too.

Lenny is worried, because that's not supposed to happen. Jenny, too. Jenny thinks it might be something called a "hot spot", a type of infection dogs can get. They want me to keep her from licking it, and take her to the vet. Okay, not what I signed on for, but whatever. I thought this was going to be feeding, walking, and light petting. But if Zoya needs to go to the vet to make L&J happy, so be it.

I also make a midnight trip to CVS pharmacy to pick up a bunch of wound management items, because L&J are kind of panicky.

Next morning, we go to the vet. The nurse weighs Zoya, and she's lost a pound since she was last in. Apparently she didn't eat well when she was with Unimportant Friend. They look at her for a while, don't like the look of the spot, and prescribe her a topical spray and a Cone of Shame to stop her from licking at it. She doesn't like the topical spray, I assume because it stings when it hits the open wound. She doesn't like the Cone of Shame because she's a dog and it's a Cone of Shame. Seriously people, I don't need to explain that one.

The next day goes... okay. Zoya acts a little extra autistic. She doesn't meet my eyes, she engages in more of her idiosyncratic behaviors. She doesn't want to eat. I notice in the evening that the cone's not actually large enough. She can lick the wound even wearing the cone. She's not really trying, but she can. So I go back to the vet the next day (without her) and pick up a new, bigger cone.

She hates the cone, so I do my best to supervise her and leave it off. Anyway, she can neither eat nor drink with the cone on—it's too large now. Also, she tends to run into walls when she has the cone on; and then she gets stuck. She hits a wall, and then stands there for about two minutes like a badly programmed AI with poor edge detection.

Anyway, cone off as much as possible. My entire day is spent watching her, hoping she'll eat, making sure she doesn't lick the wound, and occasionally spraying her with the wound treatment. She starts getting extremely panicky when she sees the spray bottle, and runs to the other end of the house to avoid being sprayed. On the off chance I catch her looking at me, she looks at me like I'm some sort of serial abuser. That night, I put the cone on her and go to sleep.

Friday morning. I wake up to two red-flecked yellow puddles on the hardwood floor. Also, Zoya is having a very hard time standing on her own, and she's taken a pretty violent spill attempting to do so. She already had a check-in appointment with the vet, so I don't need to schedule an emergency one. I try to feed her breakfast. She doesn't eat. I take her to the car, and we go to the vet. She does not want to go to the vet.

At the vet, she's lost another two pounds in the last two days. This for a dog that normally weighs 64lbs—so she's lost 5% of her bodyweight, and was already pretty skinny. I relate what's been happening, and they're pretty upset by all this. They keep her for 2-3 hours to run tests, call Lenny in Italy, etc. I call my parents and tell them that I am literally living in a nightmare. I've just met this dog, and within a week of me taking charge of her she's having catastrophic, cascading health failures—the kind for which some people will just put their dog down. The 2-3 hours Zoya is at the vet are the most pleasant 2-3 hours I've spent in as long as I can remember at this point, because she's not my problem.

God, it feels good when something isn't your problem.

And.... scene.

Because seriously, that was a nightmare. Two of the worst days of my life there, between vet visits. I already didn't really want to take this job, and it was coming in the middle of a very high-stress period: dissertation, moving out of my apartment, being semi-homeless, unemployed, ex-roommate drama, and then catastrophic health failure of a dog I'm supposed to be taking care of. Someone else's dog, that I hardly know.

But the vet put together a good action plan; and my mother (who was a literal saint here) flew out to Irvine on two-days notice to help me out, all her own idea; and I figured out a trick for getting Zoya to eat again and get her strength back up; and the whole thing ended well, with her acting positively happy and normal by the time her owners came back.

In my RCL interview (which came out about a month before this all went down) I said:

I am also, as far as I’m aware, the luckiest person in the world. As far as my perceptions go, events in my life resolve the way I want them to with a stunning degree of regularity.

Seriously, I meant that. Things work out for me. Zoya was fine. Her owners were ecstatic that she'd gotten such good care, and paid me a bonus. And I got to spend half a week with my mother, having a lot of fun in SoCal. We went and saw "Wonder Woman" and visited the mission at San Juan Capistrano, once Zoya had stabilized enough that we could afford to leave her for a few hours. We also took the cone off her well before the vet said to—because she seemed like she was doing fine, the leg was healing well, and I hate poor edge detection.

So everything was good in the end, but those two days are the most hellish job experience I've ever had. Probably much less bad than what a lot of people have had, though, I'd guess. Again, like I said, stupidly lucky.

Hope y'all are having fun, be ye at BronyCon right now or not! Have a drink for me this weekend, whever you are, if you are so inclined. And now, I'm back to the dissertation mines.

Report Bradel · 1,311 views · #dogs #roommates #drama #summer fun
Comments ( 15 )

I am far too amused I think, even though I'm rehearing about a lot of this. Either way, glad Zoya was fine, what food trick did you use to get her to eat?

Well, she needed to take pills even before all of this started, so Lenny had started a system of putting them in hand-formed "meatballs" of wet food. She would always eat those for me, even when she wasn't eating anything else. Sometimes it'd take a couple minutes of sitting with her before she'd do it, but she'd always eventually eat.

After the Friday vet visit, she was taking about... five pills per meal? So I already needed to make a couple different meatballs for her, in order to get all those pills. I just wound up hand-feeding her for about five days, and then gradually weaning her off: half by hand, half in the bowl, and then eventually just her pill meatballs and her standard diet she was supposed to be eating before everything went wrong.

Incidentally, this is "Zoya" for all y'all. (I'm pretty sure I've already shown her to Ferret.)

You aren't lucky, you just deal with stuff proactively like a responsible human being. 99% of really bad situations are a result of people not doing so.

EDIT: Incidentally:

She hates the cone, so I do my best to supervise her and leave it off. Anyway, she can neither eat nor drink with the cone on—it's too large now. Also, she tends to run into walls when she has the cone on; and then she gets stuck. She hits a wall, and then stands there for about two minutes like a badly programmed AI with poor edge detection.

Domesticated animals in general are ultimately just badly programmed AI with poor edge detection, we just don't notice most of the time because we're like "Lol, that silly animal."

I'm pretty sure judging from cat videos on the internet, many cats have poorly programmed edge detection as well.

Poor poor Unimportant Friend, not even worthy of a fake name…
Does that field of luck extend to those closest to you, or is it just the opposite? Things weren't looking up for Barry and The Guest, from the looks of it…

Author Interviewer

Well, that was worth posting. :D

That's... a good question, and I don't really know the answer. I mean, like 4624376 said, I'm aware that it's not really luck most of the time—and arguably people like Barry may be hurt by knowing me inasmuch as I give them a crutch to lean on instead of forcing them to learn to solve their own problems. On the other hand, if I hadn't chosen to get involved, Barry and The Guest would have stayed locked out of my room until I got back from central California.

"Give a man a fish... Teach a man to fish..." and all that—but what if a man isn't really capable of fishing well enough to feed himself?

I think, like I've said before, a lot of it has to do with the stories you tell yourself about your own life and how that affects your decisions. Obviously I could look back on all this and dwell on the two-day nightmare, thinking how awful the whole experience was. But instead I think of the two-day nightmare as an entertaining (if potentially horrifying) story, and tend to view the whole situation as having resolved well for everyone involved. I think, along with TD's point, that's a big part of me being "lucky". Things work out in the end, often because I do what it takes to make them work out; and then I recall them in a positive light because they worked out, instead of dwelling on the negative.

I think how my "luck" impacts other people, then, often depends on how they react to what I'm doing in crafting a self-narrative. If they react negatively to that self-narrative and think about how things are worse for them, then my "luck" leads to other people's "misfortune". If they react positively and recognize how that matches elements of their own life, my "luck" rubs off. At least that tends to be how I view the situation.

For Barry's part, I think he's really happy to have had me for a roommate, and he came away from it positively. There were some pretty negative experiences from my point of view, but at the same time I got a whole stack of good stories out of it all. And his life went smoother while I was in it; and he was able to come to me for advice about things, and I did my best to help (even when I was feeling annoyed with him). I think he appreciated that, and I definitely think having someone to talk to about some of the tougher stuff he's been dealing with helped for him. Being Persian in the US is not a lot of fun right now, especially if you don't have a green card or citizenship. Barry's situation was... complicated enough that I'm not going to try too hard to explain it, except to say that I'm pretty sure he's in the US legally, but I don't know if he understands the immigration system well enough to navigate all the relevant dangers.

The Guest came out of the whole thing pretty badly, I'm pretty sure. But I think she might have come in pretty badly, too. I tried to avoid getting too much information, because I didn't want to get dragged in too deep, but I think Barry may have been trying to do her a favor after she lost a job or an apartment or something. It seems like she started with a messy situation, and ended about where she began (but with some additional emotional damage, I suspect). I know the apartment management offered to help her get set up with social services, but I don't think she took them up on that.

I hope she's okay, but I don't think either her or Barry thought very hard about how this was going to work—they just assumed it would. And, again like TD was saying, a lot of human misery can be traced to people not really thinking through the consequences of their decisions or trying to resolve the negative ones proactively before they get out of hand.

4624370 See, that's what happens when you get involved with a blonde....

(Even though she has pretty eyes.)

I'm not quite clear on what happens when you get involved with a blonde.

You wind up with them eating out of the palm of your hand?


Site Blogger

What the fuck, Barry.

I just... what the fuck.


I am glad that Zoya took such a turn for the better, I was not enjoying her character arc.

be ye at BronyCon right now or not!

Things like this keep making me think I somehow accidentally messed up the date for Brony con by a week. Fortunately I just checked yet again and it's next weekend.

Oh. Uh. Hrm.

I've seen so many mid-week "I'm going to be at BronyCon!" blogs flying around that I just (naturally, I think) assumed that it was this weekend, not next. Ah well. As they say in Prance, "C'est la vie."

I don't know if Applejack is really the type to eat out of anyone's hand. :applejackunsure:


"Give a man a fish... Teach a man to fish..." and all that—but what if a man isn't really capable of fishing well enough to feed himself?

You end up eating Ethiopian food.

Holy hell. That's something alright!

~Skeeter The Lurker

Enormously entertaining! And a good thing that Zoya ended up feeling better. That's a pretty dog right there. :yay:

I’d lean towards that being a generally positive affect on those around you: you’re positive and help out those in need. :heart:

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