Mind Tripper


If hearing Brett Scallions of Fuel singing Bad Day on the radio while driving along the freeway on a Sunday was a portent of things to come this week, I wouldn’t have cranked up the volume to sing my lungs out and instead would’ve just pulled over the shoulder and prayed for a reversal of karma.

No, I didn’t have a bad day. I had a bad week.

Monday, I got a $35 parking violation ticket.

Tuesday, I checked in late (bundy clock read: 8.26AM) for work because I searched hard for a good parking spot because I did not wish to get another ticket.

Wednesday, I ran out of peanut butter which meant no smoothie for breakfast, which meant a pit stop at the corner deli, which meant smaller chances of finding a parking spot, and which meant checking in late (again) for work.

Thursday, the alarm didn’t go off, there was no peanut butter still, and the parking spot I found was two blocks away from the office. And yes, I checked in late.

Friday, I got up from the alarm, opened a fresh bottle of peanut butter, and got to leave early. Surprisingly, the entire office block was wide open for parking. On a high, I parked and checked in early for work; bundy read 7.54AM.

At 8.20, an officemate checked in. He had a hard time finding a spot, I surely told myself. Then he spoke in sheer amusement:

Some jerk parked his car in front. Must be blind not to see the Street Sweepers’ Day sign. Car’s gonna be towed, for sure!”

I made a lousy excuse to go to the john then hurriedly went to my car. It was still there and seeing it from afar still intact and untowed let my anxious self slip a heavy sigh of relief.

But then again, there it was: the dreaded green envelope clipped under the wiper. Another $35 ticket!

As I moved my car to park elsewhere (blocks and blocks away), I held the envelope in contempt while maneuvering the steering wheel thinking I had a really bad, bad, bad week…

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One would think working for two years in a profession where lying is a licensed work ethic is enough to feel disgusted and disillusioned and to finally quit and move on to a better job. Well, I didn’t.

I enslaved myself in Public Relations for two years in Manila before I took a loooong sabbatical break in Japan for three years in the hope of scrubbing off the guilt of lying and lying some more for crooked politicians and high-end consumer-oriented companies that peddled commercialism and sucked the middle class into a spending pit for profits. Save for a few clients that turned out to be great friends, I swore to chuck my PR experience and move on to a better, nobler type of job: perhaps, a diplomat (I wish!) , a university lecturer, a writer, heck! even a postal worker… anything but PR.

I swore too soon.

I got a lucrative job offer as an AE in a PR firm a month ago and I took it without any hesitation or without giving myself a moment to search the morals in me for caution. I just took it. Perhaps out of no better offer or out of boredom from living a months-long nomadic and shiftless life around America, I just took it. And as spur as the decision was, I have resurrected my three-year dormant PR career and now work as a spin doctor… yet again.

But, after a month of working and re-learning the ropes of PR, I feel the decision I made was a good one. Not because of the job, per se (the PR industry is still brimming with twisted truths and licensed lies) or the perks that go with it; I made a good decision because, this time, I believe in the products I spin. In fact, there is no spinning involved anymore. I just magnify simple truths and magnify, too, the lies that are peddled by the competition. How is this? Well, the clients I represent (as well as the PR firm I work in) are ethical ones – companies that innovate, design, manufacture, and distribute products with a great deal of sensitivity for consumers and the environment; companies that inject terminologies such as hybrid, sustainability, green building, cause-marketing, social capital into products and into public consciousness; companies that serve as a social catalyst for positive change.

Too good to be true in corporate America? I find everything hard to believe myself. But at this point, having said a mouthful already, it’s either I’m in the best job ever or I’m too convincing a spin doctor to have actually convinced even myself that I’m indeed working in the best job ever…

As a kid, I used to read a collection of books about Aesop's Fables where, at the end of each story, a lesson is imparted. Perhaps because of that, I tend to assess a week's progress through lessons learned.

So what lesson did I learn the past week? Well, I didn't exactly learn but I did realize that communicating is easy to learn in books but tough to practice in realtime. Sure, theorists Shannon and Weaver deduced the communication process with the all-too-simple sender-message-receiver structure but in reality, it is far too complicated than that.

Take for instance a job interview. As the sender, I put across the message of 'I am qualified for the position, hire me!' The message is pretty simple and even straightforward to a fault. As the receiver, the employer — usually represented by a stuck-up, Psychology degree-holder, Human Resource personnel — would take the message and, ideally, respond favorably.

But unless I'm the son of the company's CEO, that isn't how communication works.

In reality, an interplay of charm, wit, confidence, and (to a restrained degree) agressiveness operates in the communication process during a job interview. By interplay, I mean they complement each other. One can't stand alone and let you breeze through the interview with flying colors. Take it from the quote below from someone once famous:

You can get by on charm for about 15 minutes. After that, you'd better know something."

Oh, and patience, too. However obnoxious the interviewer is with his me-myself-and-I stories, affiliations and past achievements, patience coupled with an arduous smile and fixed eye contact (never roll your eyes) are one's best approach to consistently show interest.

And preparation. You might think your ability to carry a conversation with your buddies could easily let you find the right words to construct the right answer to any question. Wrong! Prepare a list of best answers to possible questions and practice aloud in front of a mirror the night before the interview.

Jesus! I sound like a career advisor.

Well, if don't get to nail that job I sat an interview through, I'd perhaps consider a lateral career shift, then.

Clogged and oily.

No, I’m not talking about car troubles. I’m talking about zits on my face. Not the big and sore kind where pus oozes out when you try in sheer desperation to eliminate any unsightful trace before a big weekend date; just small dots that resemble a constellation from afar.

What can I say? My adolescent years are catching up with my twenty-something life.

While either in front of the bathroom mirror or in bed in a pensive (worrying) state, I have tried to pinpoint the precise reason for this untimely skin outbreak: Stress, perhaps? Toxin build up? Weather change (summer isn’t exactly my favorite season, you know)? Probably.

Hmmmm, how about my frequent work outs in the gym of late? Maybe. You see, zits are considered as an abnormal response to men’s normal testosterone levels. So if I lift more weights and develop more muscles, does it follow I’d get more zits?

Ah, I give up. I need not fuss over zits as Freud did on narcissism.

Truth is, if it weren’t for the job interviews ahead, I would care less. As one career-related cliche goes, first impression lasts. And having zits doesn’t exactly bring about confidence to leave a more mature, less juvenile demeanor, does it? Think about it: If zits are related to acne, and acne is known in scientific jargons as acne vulgaris, then I’d be sitting opposite a company’s HR personel with a face that screams in vulgar proportions: Don’t Hire Me, I’m A Piece Of Zit!

Darn.

Well, I’m hoping this is just a phase. Something I’d forget about when my skin clears up.

Hopefully real soon, though.

I was an hour early.

The sun was out and I felt it was okay to wait. But I had to sit. My toes were sore in my new leathers. My armpits were working up a sweat under a starched long-sleeved polo shirt. My right arm was spastic from the tug between gravity and my Dell briefcase. I needed to sit.

The endless chatter from behind made me turn. Hmmm, American bourgeoisie having late morning coffee at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

I found two unoccupied alfresco seats around a table canopied by a large green awning. I took a seat, placed the briefcase on another, and relaxed my wearied legs. And as nature let a cool breeze slip like a manna of sorts for the tired soul, I thought I heard Bono singing 'Beautiful Day'.

And then there was the sign.

This table is reserved for Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf customers only. No loitering!

The exclamation point threatened my peace.

I checked my watch. Gee, I still had 50 minutes to kill. I needed to sit some more — a lot more. And I was at peace with my seat, my canopy, and my breeze.

I'd hate to spend for anything. I had a hearty breakfast a good two hours ago. Besides, if I wanted a caffeinated beverage, I'd have diet Pepsi instead, thank you.

Darn, need I find another spot without a stupid sign, I pondered.

Bah! Who cared? Everyone minded their own business: a housewife sipping a decaf while browsing her bills for a long errand later; a columnist typing his thoughts on his MacBook with a double latte on the side; a teenager drowning her misery (from a breakup, perhaps?) with a Vanilla Chai Tea blend on one hand and a mobile phone on the other. Who would have suspected I was loitering around the premises? Who would have suspected I wasn't patronizing a coffee product? Not even this middle-aged guy, who stood nearby and looked around like one of those usual Hollywood stalkers, would have had the slightest clue whatsoever. Or so I thought.

His mobile rang. He flipped it open and spoke.

Hello, this is David, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Coastal Village Manager speaking, how may I help you?…"

What the f*@#!?! Was he on the lookout for loiters? Was he looking at me with a suspicious mind?

And so, begrudgingly, I reached out my wallet, headed towards the counter, paid six bucks for a tall mocha ice blend and sulked and sipped the next 40 minutes away. On my way out, David, the manager, retreated inside the shop and let out a faux cough that sounded like 'Cheapskate!'

Browsing through The Independent today, I came across Rob Brezesny's Free Will Astrology. Actually, it was G who, after giving up on the paper's tough crossword, took notice of the horoscope and pointed out this week's forecast according to the stars. Under the sign Libra, which I belong to, reads:

Espertantina, a town in Brazil, celebrates May 9 as Orgasm Day. As much as I'd love to import this enlightened holiday to my home country of America, it might be difficult in the foreseeable future. Why? Because religious fundamentalists have been spreading their infectious mental disease, seducing people into mistrusting their bodies' natural urges. Meanwhile, the advertising and entertainment industries try to sell us the glamour of being in a chronic state of titillation without satisfaction. I'm calling on you Libras to do what you can to resist these cultural trends. The astrological omens say this is an auspicious time for you to seek out, cultivate, and honor your own orgasms."


In short, I'm supposed to mark May 9 as a dreadful day when I won't be getting any; I won't get laid; No carnal pursuits, or else!

Hmmm, that 'else' must be something damning for all those born between 23 September and 22 October to abstain from sex. What to make of this? I dunno. What I'm sure of is I'm not marking my calendar just yet..

Isn't it exciting to be a Catholic this Easter? Nope, I didn't put that lead just to arrest attention; it just is. The meat of this excitement comes from the seemingly progressive attempts to shake the foundations of the Catholic Church down to its very conservative core by controversies from recent discoveries, developments, and debates.

Of course, the Church has been plagued with controversies for centuries but of late, it has been in a defensive mode like a fifth grade bully being ganged up by a mob of hostile and fed-up first grade nerds.

The recent fissure started with the death of the much-loved John Paul II whose papacy was taken over by the ultra-conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2005. By the great seer Nostradamus' prophecy, the new pope will be assassinated that will signal the end of the Catholic Church ("Then comes pope number 112, who will flee Rome because of an attack by Muslims"). For many, the prophecy strikes a sensitive chord with the current hostility among Islam fundamentalists against the capitalist (and with Dubya's leadership, imperialist) West. His monicker as God's Rotweiller doesn't calm nerves either.

Then there's Dan Brown. His popular novel, The Da Vinci Code, propounds a gripping conspiracy theory detailing a grand cover-up of a fictional descendant of Jesus Christ living among us today. This theory is causing ruckus because physical and visual proofs, as well as scholarly truths, are mentioned and presented in the book; supposed proofs and truths that were inconspicuously concealed by the Church.

And just a couple of weeks ago, the National Geographic Society has trumpeted the reconstruction and translation of the 2000 year-old Gospel of Judas. Unearthed in Egypt, the document contradicts the centuries-old portrayal of Judas Iscariot as the disciple who betrayed and sold Jesus to the Romans. On the contrary, at least according to the document, Judas was the most-favored disciple whose actions were at Jesus' bidding.

The Church, of course, has made its arguments known on these controversies dispelling rumors of an unstable leadership; demarcating centuries-old truths from modern-day fiction, and; dismissing results of discoveries as by-products of the eccentric nature of men less divine.

Over the course of Holy Week, I was engrossed with these controversies, watching specials on TV, reading debates and developments on print and over the internet, and reflecting in general on how these affect my somewhat lethargic faith of late. It sounds a bit shallow and cosmetic to take a sudden interest in religion because of popular, media-oriented issues, but yeah, I do feel like crap. I take pride in my relationship with God: casual and personal — beyond the trappings of grand ceremonies and traditional pageantry associated with an uptight and exacting Church.

Having said that, it also becomes an easy excuse to distance myself from God and faith, per se because, as pervasive as the voice in the reality TV show Big Brother, I feel God is always there anyway, as is faith. A housemate doesn't spend long hours inside the confession booth and open up in confidence to Big Brother; rather, a housemate go about his or her chores and whatever task is at hand to outsmart the others and win. Now I know the analogy doesn't seem solid. But what I want to say, today being Easter, is that inasmuch as I want to win in life, I'd like to spend some regular time inside the booth for a change. I'd like to be casual and personal but deep and involved. And this time, I'd like to experience faith beyond controversies and the excitement they generate.

See previous blog entry Easter Reflections (Posted 27 March 2005)

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