The surprisingly delightful musings of a humble Virginian whose satiric paeons to a plausible utopia implicitly shame the cynical zeitgeist of our times, causing it to cry, as 'twere, 'Damn, what was I thinking?' or words to that effect.

August 2018

Stink Eye for the Freelancer

Any freelancers out there? Let me see a show of hands.

[cheers, applause]

Is it just me, or are people biased against us freelancers?

[scattered titters]

Am I right? People actually hate us for trying to make money, never mind the fact that these haters already are earning their own share of the filthy green themselves, smug in their own positions, as if they had never had to humbly make their case to a potential employer regarding the probable utility of their proffered services but had rather been born fully fledged into the world as a money-making employee from birth.

Case in point:

I recently sent an e-mail query to a distinguished medical research facility, informing them of the availability of my humble services. (I will mercifully refrain from identifying the facility by name, so rest assured that I am not necessarily talking about Johns Hopkins University here, for instance. Fair enough?)

So I filled out a form to send my info to a so-called help desk at the facility in question (whether it be Johns Hopkins University or anywhere else).

Well, less than five minutes later, I received two e-mails:

The first said: Ticket Received.

So far, so good. But the second read:

Ticket Closed.

Talk about good news and bad news: The first response assured me that my message had been received, assigned an actual number (INC-611, I believe it was), and would be responded to by a real caring human being in less than 24 hours.

The second simply told me that my ticket had been unilaterally closed -- end of story -- with no explanation whatsoever.

[crowd booing]

I know, right? (I always wanted to say that!)

Being understandably puzzled by this schizophrenic reply, I communicated my concerns to the University (or whatever it was) via a useful-looking e-mail address that I found at the bottom of this so-called help desk form.

I politely pointed out the glaring inconsistency between these two messages, the fact that I had been warmly welcomed by the first only to be summarily dismissed by the second. I needed to know, what gives? Or rather what gave? Why, after such a promising beginning, was my ticket simply closed, with no explanation whatsoever?

Listen closely, folks. The HR people at this facility (be it Johns Hopkins or wherever) are about to evince their utter disdain for the common working man!

Suddenly, two new messages appeared in my in-box, apparently in response to my above-mentioned misgivings. Once again, the first message's subject line read "Ticket Received," while the second read "Ticket Closed."

I'm sorry I can't directly quote the body text from the first of these two messages, since I deleted both in anger after reading its two terse sentences. But the HR maven gave me to understand that I had chosen the wrong venue to make my pitch, thank me very much, and that, in any case, the university (or whatever it was) had their own highly satisfactory staffers that do precisely the sort of work that I have offered to perform. So there! True, the text didn't actually include the words "so there," but the schoolyard taunt would not have been inconsistent with the curt tenor of this response (or rather rebuttal) to my original query. Nor could I easily respond to this complacent retort, since the writer's immediate closing of the ticket eliminated the normal response options available to me via the help-desk platform.

I got my own back, however, because I not only deleted the laconic rejoinder from my in-box but I flagged it as "spam" in my G-mail program -- an action that I'm not proud of in retrospect, but in the absence of a nearby punching bag, I had to do something. The only other option that came to mind was to compose a vitriolic broadside by way of response, and even in my aggravated state, I understood that this would have been overkill and could have even potentially given me a bad name in the freelance world as a whole. Besides, as my friends will tell you, bless them, I'm a stoic of the old school, so I knew, metaphysically speaking, that it was my business to amend my opinions of this affair rather than to lash out at any supposed external bad guys in the play. (Marcus Aurelius rules, baby: everything is opinion! You better ask somebody!)

Mind you, the factual part of the facility's response was not particularly disconcerting to me, as any veteran freelancer comes to expect that at least 9/10ths of such queries will fail (if not 99/100ths of them!) But I was somewhat taken aback by the heartlessly factual tone that my glib correspondent had adopted in quashing my hopes -- particularly the fact that he appeared to take umbrage (it sounded like a "he" to me) at the fact that I had communicated my offer via the wrong form. This was a little rich considering the fact the facility's confusing website offered no obvious alternative to the form in question. Besides, since the upshot of his message was that my services were not going to be needed in any case, he might have spared me the schoolmarm lecture about using the wrong consarned form.

Of course, I've moved on now and am no longer nettled (as the channel swimmer said after escaping the Portuguese man-of-war). But I felt obliged to share this incident with the public to demonstrate the indignities to which freelancers like myself are subjected, merely because we're trying to make money -- as if no one in the world but freelancers ever had such an end in view!

Humph! Can I get a humph, friends?

[crowd 'humphs']

Sorry, but I'm not going to reveal the name of the potential employer described in the above example. They could be located anywhere, from Baltimore, Maryland, to... to anywhere else. And the name of the institution could be anything, from Johns Hopkins University, to... to anything else.

I'm not going to play the blame game. I'm just talking to the man in the mirror -- or at least that subset of 'men in the mirror' who consider freelancers to be second-rate citizens. Humph.

Am I right, or am I right?

[loud, nay unbridled cheering]

Whoo! Gotta love that unbridled cheering, folks!

Freelancers of the world unite: you have nothing to lose but your second-class reputation!

Copyright 2017, Brian Quass (follow on Twitter)