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Category Archives: Fugue State

Fugue State: Double Food Stamp Day

Normally, my day would start at eight in the morning. I would often arrive early just so I could get some filing done, have some time to play on the computer, take a short walk and, for the most part, get nearly all of my work for the day done well prior to the first client showing up for their eight o’clock appointment. In this way my days were relatively easy and taken up with writing, listening to books on tape and bouncing a solid rubber ball incessantly against the wall. The only difficult part was actually seeing the clients (some of them were joys, really but, some were anything but) and dealing with the other workers and administration (never, ever a joy).

Today, however, I wanted to get there extra early. I started my day at home, in my small closet-office, sitting in front of my hobbled and cobbled computer with Publisher opened. Once I had finished my work with Publisher I got out my Exacto knife, cutting mat, straight edge and whiteout and went to work to further doctor the reason I was so much looking forward to getting to the office early on this one particular day. Today was going to be double foodstamp day.

My backpack on me, me on my black 86′ Honda Elite 250 and all of us on the road for the 5 miles to the office. The sun was not up, but the mist was, rising to obscure the road and cover my visor as I rode through the early October predawn.

Parking my bike in front of building D, I entered. Seldom was the building so silent. Wending down the hallway to my own personal 3×5, I dropped my backpack on the desk, unzipped it and pulled out a manila file folder and headed to the copy machine. Placing my creation on the glass, I made one copy. One copy only. If I did this right, one copy would be enough.

I placed the original Publisher/cut and paste model back in the folder, returned the folder to my backpack, took a thumbtack from my desk and headed back outside. Out of the front door, to the left, around the side of the building to where, in the next twenty minutes, lines would start to form. It was Tuesday and this was the first foodstamp pickup day of the month. I fully expected this day would not go as smoothly as they anticipated.

The door was locked and, while, when I arrived, my bike was the only vehicle in the lot, there were now more than a few cars, and all there was for me to do was to act as naturally and obviously as possible as I went to a locked door in an area I never visit earlier than I normally arrive while holding a sheet of paper and a tack.

Asimov, in the first Foundation book, in the character of Salvor Hardin, stated “obviousness is the best mode of concealment.” I took my thumbtack and did my best approximation of Martin Luther. With sweeping, quick and sure movements, I tacked at eye-level a sign stating today was double foodstamp day. All you have to do, the sign instructed, was to look at your cashier and say, “double double my food stamps please.”

The folks inside the foodstamp office would never know it was there. The door was always unlocked from the inside after the books of stamps were counted. In fifteen minutes clients would start to arrive for pickup and ask for double food stamps. It was 7:15. Time to head inside, roll up my sleeves and look busy.

Back in my office I checked the day’s appointments, printed out the schedule, threw away the memos I had grabbed as I passed my mailbox, put the few files together which I had not yet properly compiled, turned on my radio and put my feet up on the desk. My first appointment had not yet arrived and I had nothing to do.

7:32 came and I received a call that my eight o’clock was early. Excellent. I gathered the few papers I would need, placed them in order on my desk, and went out to get her. While in the lobby I saw there was a bit of a commotion. BeeBee, the building supervisor, the head of the Foodstamp, AFDC and Medicaid program for our area, was talking to a few clients. I called my client and headed back to my office to start the interview.

Under the sign above my door quoting John Ciardi from his poem, “In Place of a Curse” we passed. “Beware the calculations of the meek, who gambled nothing,/gave nothing, and could never receive enough.” I sat in my desk and placed her beside me. All the other workers sat their clients across from them separated by their desk. I took the more egalitarian position which allowed them to see the computer as we input their data and also allowed them to see the sign above it, a quote from Baruch De Spinoza. “In the receipt of benefits and in returning thanks, care altogether must be taken.” Above that a sign stating “Bad planning on your part does not necessarily constitute an automatic emergency on my part.” Lamont Cranston, The Shadow, stood on my computer. When I knew a client was lying, perhaps about a father supposedly not in the house or about a job supposedly not had, I would squeeze a bulb under my desk and The Shadow would raise his cape over his eyes. “Lamont says you are lying. Would you care to rethink what you just said?” Behind them a framed portrait of Daffy Duck, God of Frustration. From the ceiling hung a large rubber chicken.

A few minutes into the interview I heard sirens. I wouldn’t normally get up to see what the sirens were about and I did not get up then, just continued the interview. A few minutes later a worker came into my office to tell me there was apparently a riot at the pickup door and clients jamming the waiting room insisting they speak with supervisors. The police were there and handing out food stamps had been suspended. They were not sure what the problem was, but people seemed to be demanding double their food stamps and no one could quite figure out why.

It was barely 8 o’clock. Sometimes it’s just worth it to come into work a little early to get something done.

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Posted by on March 8, 2009 in Culture, Fugue State, Gainesville, Social

 

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Fugue State: Fugue on a State Memo for Four Voices and Dog Barks


Long ago, in another lifetime, in a land called Gainesville, Florida, in a time called the mid to late nineties, I worked for HRS (Health and Rehabilitative Services, not the House Rabbit Society). During my tenure as a social worker (food stamps, AFDC, Medicaid), it became DCF (Department of Children and Families, which we called Decaf, same lousy service but half the caffeine), bosses came and bosses went. My caseload grew, diminished, morphed into other caseloads, but no matter what changes, the job remained the same. I swear, one of these days, I will write about it. Maybe a book. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll stop paying your taxes.

Once, my supervision (I was a Public Assistance Service Specialist, or PASS, and my supervisor was a Public Assistance Service Specialist Supervisor or PASS II) went from Susan Einman, a woman any of us in her “unit” would have killed for, to a fellow whose name I cannot remember and any of us would have killed. My boss went from a literate polyglot who manifested the very essence of understanding and compassion to an obsequious, smarmy, condescending chimpesque proto-human pencil pusher. There was little to do but retaliate. For the next five years that is exactly what we did, myself, W.D. and A.C., (no, you can’t know their names yet) in prank after prank of falsity, forgery and fun.

Some day, I swear, I’ll write about it. Maybe a book. You’ll cry. You’ll laugh. You’ll be glad you paid my salary.

One day, a memo, one I did not forge (I really should check the statute of limitations on the falsifying of federal documents before I publish this) came across my desk. It was from my new boss, the obsequious, smarmy, condescending little proto-human pencil pusher we called Monkey Boy for his habit of hanging bright red Eisenhower jackets on his bony bod—a vestment that would have been more at home on an eighties dance floor under a flashing disco ball but still a bit over the edge even for Disco Duck. He looked like an organ grinder’s monkey. Monkey Boy.

Susan was always afraid I would call him that to his face. I think she almost did once. I hope so.

The memo was horrible in all the ways writing can be: awful, terrible, atrocious, worse. It was badly worded and those same badly worded bits were repeated again and again and again. It pressed a point Monkey Boy didn’t need to make to already disempowered, demoralized “workers” (that was what we were called) who didn’t need the point pressed.

I was, at the time, studying fugues. The musical kind. Not the kind where one realizes, after twenty years in St. Louis, raising a family and having a meaningful life, that one is really from Des Moines and has (or, to be fair, had) an entire other family, life, job and name. Not that kind. But, for longer fugues, one can see the relation.

The memo passed my desk. The pattern of repetition looked like a fugue to me. I was caught up with my work, as usual, and had nothing better to do. Even if I had, art called and it was time to write. The memo was deconstructed and reconstructed. Barely re-written.

A fugue is meant to be performed and this was no different. After a few readings, it was set. It was scheduled for the Gainesville Spring Arts Festival. Time to get cracking. We had a fugue to perform. But we was still me. I needed people. Four of them. I needed a clock. One of them. I needed a dog.

I had none of these things but I did have Moon Goddess Books, my own store. A book store with lots of unconventional arty types. A Pagan store with folks who would be delighted to do something to slam The Man. A café where people got buzzed on caffeine and, in their mania, could be convinced to take on nearly any manner of whacked-out project. A fugue of a government memo. A fugue of clocks and dogs. Yes, this fit.

We found our folk and set about arranging the vocals. We had a month to prepare and rehearsed as often as bi-weekly. Grueling.

Four voices. Some parts were done together and some parts separately. Some by two and some by four. How did we choose? The performers did so by how it felt. One German Shepherd, whose bark was downloaded from a sound effects recording, barking randomly, or so it seemed. I wanted the barks to stand out as jagged jolting. A recorded clock getting louder and louder as the fugue progressed, the voices getting softer as the fugue came to an end, the barks harder to hear through.

The performance time came and I am gratified, still, that it went without a hitch—or at least none that anyone but myself and our four performers, two guys and two gals, would have noticed. At the end the applause hesitated. Perhaps because the audience was stunned silent or perhaps they were confused. I was happy, and still am—either or both being a desired result of the piece.

Strangely, wonderfully, the person who wrote the memo, Monkey Boy himself, was there, and did not talk to me for quite a while. Those were a great few weeks. Eventually he had to speak to me though. But never was the fugue mentioned.

No recording exists. Not yet.

________________________________________________

Fugue on a State Memo for Four Voices and Dog Barks

Most of you already do this, and I thank you. Customer service is the key and one of our values is PEOPLE. Thank you for your assistance in this matter and see me if you have any questions.

Most of you do this. Customer service is the key. One of our values is PEOPLE. Thank you for your assistance in this question.

Most of you do customer service. One of our key values is PEOPLE. Thank you for this question.

Most of you do this key value. PEOPLE thank you for this.

Most of you do this.
Most of you do this.
Most of you do this customer service.
Customer service.
Customer service.
Most of you do this customer service.
Customer service
Customer service.
Customer service is the key.
Most of you do this.
Most of you do this.
Most of you do this.
Most of you matter.
Most of you matter.
Most of you matter.
Most of you question.
Most of you question customer service.
Customer service is the key.
Customer service is the key.
Customer service is the key.
This matters.
This matters.
Customer service is they key.
The value is the key.
They key matters.
PEOPLE matter.
PEOPLE matter.
PEOPLE are one of our values.
PEOPLE are one of our values.
The key is the value.
We value the question.
Value the question.
Value the question.
We value the key.
Value the key.
Value the key.
Value the key.
Value the key.
Question the key.
Question the key.
Question the key.
Question the key.
We value the question.
Value the question.
Value the question
Value the question.
Key question.
Key question.
Key question.
We question the value.
We question the value.
We question the value.
Question the value.
Question the value.
Question the value.
Question the PEOPLE.
Question the PEOPLE.
Question the PEOPLE.
Question PEOPLE.
Question PEOPLE.
Question PEOPLE.
Key PEOPLE.
Key PEOPLE.
Key PEOPLE.
Key.
Key.
Key.
Key.
Key.
Key.
Key.
Key.
Key.
Key.

Values

PEOPLE


 
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Posted by on September 23, 2008 in Culture, Fugue State, Gainesville, Poetry, Social, Writing

 

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