Friday, January 22, 2010

Plumbings and goings

The plumbing in the kitchen has been playing up for some time. I did tell my landlords but they never did anything, so I've just muddled along. Until this morning that is, when all hell broke loose. I couldn't turn the tap off (neither could I really turn the water main off with three other flats being affected) and water gushed out, accompanied by a deafening high-pitched screech. I had no luck with any of the plumbers in the Yellow Pages so in desperation I rang 0800 PLUMBER and that did the trick. He replaced the tap and some of the dodgy piping under the sink, and handed me a $330 bill which I'll pass on to my landlords.

It's now been a month since I left work. I don't miss it. I did my best to fit in there, but even though I started out in the actuarial department where I at least had something in common with my colleagues, it would always be a struggle for me. I realised this three weeks into my job, when I happened to have a birthday. Apparently it was tradition to bring in a cake on your birthday, but as nobody in the team had had a birthday in the short time I'd been there, I was unaware of official cake protocol. Anyway, I dashed down to Foodtown and bought a cake for something like $3.85, to be shared among the ten of us. I was told I needed to send an email, which I did, but things started getting serious when I was informed I'd sent the wrong kind of email. "You need to send a meeting request." "A what?" "A meeting request in Outlook, so that everyone knows what time cake is, then they can accept or decline the meeting or say they're not sure." "But I don't really mind what time. People can help themselves if they want." "I'm sorry, you'll have to pick a time." By that stage I'd had enough. "Man, are you serious? There are only ten of us here. I could just shout 'cake' and it would be a hell of a lot easier. Look everybody, cake! CAKE!" In the end I did send a meeting request, when someone had shown me how, as did all my colleagues, unquestioningly, when their birthdays came around.

My actual work was tedious and as far as I could see, meaningless. I'd been very determined to get that job, and the two-week wait to find out whether I'd got it was agonising. Now I wondered why I'd bothered. I quickly became depressed and went back on the citalopram I'd only just come off. I'd shifted my life from East Anglia to South Canterbury four months earlier and I'd just moved again to Auckland where I knew nobody. My living arrangements were far from ideal; I was boarding in Bayswater with a couple in their thirties and forties. I found the bloke - all eighteen stone of him - easy to get on with but I could never relax around his wife. At night they would argue; I could hear everything through the paper-thin wall between my room and theirs. They did however have Sky; I'd become a virtual insomniac so I used to stay up and watch Roland-Garros or Euro 2004, or sometimes Super 12 rugby even though I couldn't have given a rat's razoo about the score between the Stormers and the Waratahs. It was hardly surprising I was depressed given that I was in a soul-destroying job in what seemed virtually a foreign country.

Eventually I figured out how to complete my various tasks at work, but I never figured out why I was doing them. Unfortunately my superiors in my team were beyond why, and I soon gave up asking the question. I learnt little about how the business operated; my job was simply to follow the process, to press the right buttons in vaguely the right order. I felt a real loss of identity. When I'd finished checking our 400-odd-page report, I would file it away and consciously label the file in my handwriting instead of in block capitals, as a way of getting a shred of that identity back.

Most of the time I didn't have enough work. But my first pair of actuarial exams were looming, so my strategy was to concentrate on those, even though my depression made concentration of any sort difficult. Still, it had been two years since I finished university and I quite enjoyed the study. As the exams got closer I was allowed one day a week to study at home. Some people use their study days to lie in, or play golf, but I got considerably more work done on that day that on any other day of the week. To my surprise I passed both my exams and received a welcome boost to my pay.

In August 2004 I joined the tennis club at Belmont; this was hugely beneficial for me - I got to meet new people playing the game I loved. In November I moved from my Bayswater flat to one in Milford, this time sharing with people my own age. Again this was a good move for me. I was no longer depressed, and in 2005 I passed another three exams. Work still hadn't improved but I was past caring; I left the office on the dot of five and by 5:05 I'd completely switched off. It was perhaps fortunate that the chap I sat next to at work was even less engaged than me. At least I showed up on time. He would roll in hours late and fall asleep at his desk; sometimes he didn't even wake up when his phone rang. His record in the exams was shocking and he left halfway through 2005.

In mid-2006 I took on a new role in the marketing department, which was a great improvement. However in August I suffered another bout of depression which forced me to pull out of an exam. The following month I made a trip to the UK, which perked me up a bit. I'd hoped to catch up with my brother but he was sent to Afghanistan two days after I arrived (he's a Commando in the British Army). In early 2007 I fell out with my Japanese flatmate - I wasn't tidy enough for her - and in May I moved from Milford to my own flat in the delightfully named Pluto Place in Birkdale. The flat itself was far from delightful: it was in the bush, in a cold, damp, dark hole. Despite my best efforts with an eight-litre dehumidifier, everything got mouldy. In spite of the conditions I wasn't depressed - well not until March 2008, just before I moved out. I passed some more exams and managed to set up my own website. In May 2008, before winter set in again, I shifted to my current flat in Devonport, thinking for some bizarre reason that the great location might set me free from depression for ever. Hmmm. Shortly after, my role at work changed once more, and suddenly I had no idea what I was doing again.

Last week I bought some font creation software for US$79, and I've spent some time designing some letterforms. To my surprise I've found myself using sin, cos and tan, beasts I haven't encountered for a decade.

Realising I have no real edge in hold 'em, not above the lowest couple of levels at any rate, I've switched my attention to badugi. I haven't got the bankroll to play cash badugi so I've had a go at the $2.20 tournaments. In my three attempts at the limit version I've finished 33rd twice and a card-dead 22nd, all from eighty entrants. The structure of the limit tournaments is poor; brick out on your three-card 32A and have your pat nine cracked by someone drawing two all the way and you're pretty much toast. The pot-limit structure is much better; it can be because people eliminate themselves by playing all-in kamikaze badugi or just by getting unlucky when they hit a monster and run into a slightly bigger monster. Early in my first crack at the pot-limit version this morning I was lucky enough to be on the right side of that equation with a 6432 against a 6543. A few hands later I made the stone-cold nuts and I led the tournament. It was a disappointment, therefore, when my pat 10-4 ran into a pat 9-8 and I finished 11th out of 66, only just inside the money.

This evening I'll be having dinner with a woman I met at last Saturday's autism group, and presumably her family. It should be good.

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