Friday, September 25, 2009

Bad Economy? The 'Problem' of Immigration?

The three or four people who read this regularly will recall, fondly (I hope), the little blurb I recently posted about my new job: selling energy door-to-door.

Today, as I was making my appointed rounds, I found myself becoming slowly aware of two truly stunning concepts.

The first is that despite what some people say, the economy is actually chugging along quite nicely, thank you. How do I know? When people can sell electricity door-to-door -- and there's a market for it -- and customers love it (and they're buying it by the megawatt, incidentally), something good economically must be happening. Someone must be using all of this electricity for more than just running a laptop or recharging a cellphone, after all. And since I speak almost exclusively to small business owners, one might assume that small business is indeed thriving. It may not be roaring along at the level it was, say, five years ago, but it's surviving this economic downturn rather well. The 'For Lease' signs notwithstanding, the strong are, indeed, surviving and growing.

Not only that, but it's not unusual for me to find similar businesses located within short walking distance to one another engaged in friendly competition, both buying new energy plans and newly-generated, green energy (which is a bit more expensive). Both businessmen may be locked in the death struggle that is capitalism in tooth and claw, but both would seem to be doing rather well. I've seen it every day this week; on the same thoroughfare, it's not unusual to see five laundromats, four nail salons, three liquor stores, and a variety of other outlets selling everything from knit goods to produce all within a few blocks of one another.

I should think the 'bad economy' is a misnomer. Business, apparently is humming along...for everyone but Wall Street, of course. This economic 'crisis' is not one of actual commerce, to judge from the activity I've seen, but rather because some fool with a Harvard MBA can't balance his checkbook without a massive dose of low-interest credit. The Hungarian ex-pat with a small bar-and-grill is happy as a clam. Small business is alive and well, at least in the areas of Staten Island and Brooklyn I've been in recently.

The second thing I've noticed is the business owners, themselves. Every day I speak to Russians, Arabs, Indians, Chinese, Koreans, Mexicans, Czechs, Poles, Nigerians and Salvadorans. And where am I speaking to them? In their offices. The ones tucked into little corners in the back of the bodega, small restaurant or coffee house. They own the businesses I'm supplying.

The Little Guy is suffering? Tell these people. They're working. Well. They may not be Donald Trump-wealthy, but they ain't collecting welfare, either.

The American Dream is lost? Let me introduce you to the man who told me how he worked as a non-union carpenter and janitor for 12 years, and saved his pennies, so that he could open his own cleaning company...with 24 employees. How about I introduce you to the Korean woman, missing a finger on one hand, who somehow managed to parlay the veritable fortune she must have made cutting hair into her own beauty salon. You'd be shocked to learn that not only do many of these people own one going enterprise, but they often own multiple concerns. I spoke to a Polish man just yesterday who owns...wait for it...five tanning salons. And he started out by driving a cab and knowing very little English.

You'd be flabbergasted to learn that these people not only (usually) own their businesses free and clear --most don't believe in 'credit' -- but that they very often employ 10 or more people, and they spend an average of $60,000 year on energy bills. Let me repeat that: $60,000 a year on energy (electricity and natural gas) alone. That's before you factor in that they're renting in New York City -- one of the most expensive commercial real estate markets in the solar system, and paying the New York State minimum wage of $7.75 -- which is higher than the federal rate.

How did this happen? I thought all these immigrants were downtrodden victims of destructive capitalism, American racism, and a society that abuses them and takes advantage of them. Apparently no one told them. If someone did tell them, they didn't listen. They have grabbed capitalism by the horns. They seem to have emerged none the worse for wear for having been chambermaids, busboys, landscapers, pizza makers and street vendors.

I have a new-found respect for these people. They certainly have shamed me. I had thought I was industrious. They leave me in the dust.

I used to think that because I wore a tie to work and rubbed elbows with a higher-class (supposedly) of individual, that I was somehow better than these people. Not in the sense that I'm a superior human being, but that I was of a higher social class, and was destined to be much wealthier than they could imagine. My eyes have been opened; these people are better human beings than I am. I have never considered myself lazy, but these folks would work circles around me. They can think circles around me; one gentlemen divided 19,268 kilowatt hours (the amount of juice he used) by the total price he paid for it ($768.00), to four decimal points, in his head to arrive at the average cost of a kilowatt hour before I had finished tapping the numbers into my calculator.

These people are sharp. Very sharp. And for the record, no --- he was not Asian.

Anyone who says that immigration (we're talking legal, not illegal, immigration) is bad had better come meet some of these folks. Anyone who says the great box stores are pushing the 'Mom and Pop' out of business ought to see how these people operate.

They'd perhaps shut their pieholes about 'American' this-that-and-the-other, if they did. I know I will. I've just realized that in many ways, these immigrants are more quintessentially American than I am, the native son.

It's an experience I have enjoyed, and have learned from. I suggest that everyone take the opportunity, whenever they can, to avail themselves of the experience. It's both fascinating and humbling.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Youth is Wasted on the Stupid...

Re: The G20 riots in Pittsburgh. Here's a report from the Associated Press.

Look, we all know that people have the right to assemble and protest, and as long as no laws are broken, all the better. I don't have an issue with college idiots gathering to protest capitalism (it's their prerogative, even if they're seriously misguided) as much as I wonder about just what the hell these people are thinking. I mean, don't they teach them anything about irony in college?

Here you have a mass of people who are protesting the very system that allows them to protest. What's more, I wonder how many of them notice how stupid it is to protest the capitalist system while most, if not all of them, are carrying cell phones, taking photographs of each other, videotaping the event, texting their friends during the marches, Twittering, wearing Urban Guerrilla chic (the de rigeur black clothing, Che Guevara tees and balaclavas, produced in China by people making 4 cents an hour), attending a protest that was most certainly organized using the printing press, the Internet, cell phones, Blackberries, and i-phones. Oh, and the first establishment to have it's windows broken is the Starbucks or McDonald's where a great many of the protesters probably had their double-caramel mocchiata, or Egg McMuffin a few hours before they decided the store was an evil threat to World Peace.

These kids mostly go to these things to play at revolutionary. They are (mistakenly) attracted by the supposed romance of the disaffected, but deeply concerned figure, striking a blow for equality, fairness and The Masses. You just know the great majority of these idiots come from solidly middle-class families (Marx's bourgeoisie), many of whom pay exorbitant amounts of cash to send them to a so-called 'institution of higher learning'. There, they are constantly bombarded with nonsense disguised as scholarship and indoctrinated by aging hippies. Breaking a store window or chucking rocks at police cars is not legitimate protest; it's destruction of property and assault with a deadly weapon. But no worries; they're insured, right? Oh wait! Insurance is another product of wicked, insensitive, eco-deadly capitalism, isn't it?

Those aging hippies, incidentally, are the ones who once believed they could stop a war and bring social justice by dropping acid, blowing up government buildings, and adopting a hedonistic lifestyle. How well did that work out for them?

It seems to me that if you wish to 'change the world' you could find better role models than Professor Smith, who's only claim to fame was that he managed to become stoned enough to get lost on the way to Woodstock...somewhere in Iowa, But he'll still tell you that he sat front row-center for the event, anyway. Baby Boomer's can't help themselves; they all claim to have been there, and they feel as if they're some kind of outcast amongst their peers if they can't claim to have actually attended. It's one of the reasons I'd be happy to vote for any Health care plan that promises to euthanize anyone born between 1946 and 1960 -- and then harvest their organs.

Anyway, back to these kids...

If one of my retarded offspring showed up at one of these events, I would break a Starbuck's window myself -- by tossing him right through it. Then I'd disown the little bastard and tell him to make his own way in the world. Since he's so much smarter and caring than the rest of us, this should be no problem whatsoever. Let's see how big an issue he has with capitalism when he has to feed himself with his own resources. That revolutionary bullshit would fly right out of his head.

Civilized people don't behave this way (note: The Tea Party protesters don't entice the police with riot gear to fire tear gas at them, nor do they organize marches without getting the legal permission and permits to do so), and they also don't miss the blaring stupidity inherent in a 'movement' which couldn't possibly exist without the underpinnings and products of both capitalism and democracy -- the very things these drooling nose pickers are protesting.

It's hard to take you seriously, Children, when I'm laughing at you. Grow up.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Oh Yeah, That New Job Thingy...

Okay, I've told you I would tell you all about my new job. You're going to be a) surprised that people actually do this for a living, and b) laughing your ass off...until I tell you just how much money can be made on it (well, I won't exactly tell you, I'll just say this; a fucking shitload of money can be made doing this!)

I sell energy.


(Pause for laughter)

Laugh if you will, ye of little imagination and less ambition! You'd be positively shocked if you saw just exactly how this is done, and how relatively easy it is to do, and even more, how excited your potential customers are by the prospect.

It basically works like this:

The New York State legislature fucked up (that is, they actually did something right) a while back and did something useful; it de-regulated the energy market in the State. No more one-energy-company-towns. No more monopolies on energy production and vending. The public now has a choice between competing producers (alas, there are no competing distributors, but that is a different story).

I work for an energy company. This energy company produces energy, both electricity and natural gas. It produces these commodities in the traditional ways, and it also produces it in more environmentally-friendly ways. I, and people like me, are given instructions on how we generate energy, how it gets sold and distributed, and then we're taught how to make sales.

Now, I've never sold anything in my life. Imagine my surprise when I was informed that all the other people in the classroom with me had never sold anything either. Not a single professional salesperson in the room. This may sound ludicrous, but there is a keen and cunning logic behind it.

Salespeople, even the really good ones, pick up very bad habits in the course of their careers. These involve cutting corners, sometimes ethical lapses, and various attempts to 'game the system' for personal gain. The idea behind hiring people with absolutely no sales background whatsoever, is so that when you teach them how to present your product to the public, they have no preconceived notions and no bad habits. They can be taught the proper ethical regime pertaining to sales.

Then you send them out to pound the pavement. Hit every business in your local area. Canvass the residential neighborhoods. Learn to network, how to develop leads, and how to make a professional presentation without having to resort to Powerpoint and 16-color pie charts.

And it works. Well. I've already met several people who have less than six months to a year on the job and have already roped in contracts that have brought them very hefty paychecks.

It's difficult work; you're on your feet all day, every day. If you're not willing to hustle (as in get up early, be diligent and work hard) you're not going to be very successful. Some days are very good (you get the contracts, you develop a lead, or better yet, you've learned something new), and some days are pretty bad (all have happened to me, thus far: you didn't drum up any business, you've been harangued by a Vietnamese man wielding a meat clever because the last energy company who came through screwed him over, you walk into a local restaurant and begin your sales routine while half a dozen guys from the old-monopoly energy company are standing in line behind you...waiting to order their lunch...and you just know they want to kick your ass).

I'm just getting started, and so I know I will have to walk before I run. But I can already say this about it: it has sitting behind a desk, collecting cubicle-slave's wages beat by a far god damned sight.

I Wanted to Puke...

Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I have been exposed to what President Numbnuts had to say t the Useless Nations....err...United Nations today.

I have never been sicker in my life.

I was only half-listening, admittedly, because the image of the abused wife crept into my head and would not go away.

There She is, with blackened eyes and broken teeth, a flattened nose and pouchy cheeks, still asking, nay begging Him to take her back. Protesting her love and devotion despite a bloody nose, apologizing for everything from having burnt the Rice-A-Roni to the sky being a certain shade of blue. If only she could truly make Him see how much She loves Him, She thinks, He will.

President Odickhead was just that pathetic today. I'm surprised that he didn't accept responsibility for American complicity in the existence of Typhoid, Bubonic plague, and Pop Tarts.

And even though Pop Tarts are pretty good, he'd still find a reason to apologize for them being full of icky sugar, mass-produced in smoke-belching factories staffed by little pink elves earning slave's wages.

That's when it wasn't all about Him, of course.

Yeah, he's closed Gitmo. He's ending the War in Iraq. He's fighting the 'good' fight on global warming. Only a matter of time before he claims credit for the Internet, too, just like another self-possessed moron we're all familiar with.

But at least Khaddafi showed up and provided some comic relief.