Laboratory Music

In 2012, I would often work at my mother’s house in the late evenings until early morning, trying to finish the first of what are now four bookshelves. There is and was simply not enough space at our rented house to work on it, but I could then occupy both a barn and a workshop at my mother’s.

There is an old radio in that workshop which turns on whenever the lights do. It is in an inconvenient location, and the antenna is super-finicky, so I simply end up listening to whatever station it’s tuned to when I’m not in the barn. Back then it was Pop music. My musical diet is fairly strict: I make it a point of largely only listening to Classical, Folk, and some British/Irish stuff (Radiohead, etc.). I’d forgotten what Pop was like. So I thought: this was another chance to examine it anew.

Of the many things I’d wished to write about after the dozens of hours listening to Pop radio in those months, after looking at my notes, three main points emerged. Continue reading

Machines for Eating and Humans for Feeding

Or: What I Learned from Working at Dunkin’ Donuts.

The view from the bottom is really quite spectacular, but those who have always lived there rarely see clearly. They’re not stupid –they know roughly where they are– but they’re  trapped by so many tethers they find elusive, and they have no map for how to get out. The rest of us cannot see the truth about ourselves until we have dealt with the truth about them. I worked with them for two months. In immediate hindsight, here are six observations:

1: “Minimum Wage” really means that your employers would likely pay you less, but that they can’t legally get away with it.

This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “human resources.” Resources: like oil or coal. When people are paid only enough money to fund some small entertainments, or to pay their cell phone bill, then what does that say about the way that their employer values them? –as better coal, or as worse coal, but always as coal. This demotivates. One is sensitive to this, even if one is not aware of it.

It’s true that good help is hard to find; it’s also true that good help is impossible to retain or appropriately incentivize on what is approximately an $8.50/hr. minimum wage: employees become as disposable as the coffee filters, and care about their job as much.

Of course, these jobs are not designed as career jobs, and high turnover is expected, so a critical reader may waive this all away as so much whiny cavaliering. Employees are seen as deluded for trying to turn a temp gig into a permanent one.

Continue reading