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Comics Review: Hello, Do YOU Work Here?
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Alterna Comics: Hello, Do YOU Work Here?Hello, Do YOU Work Here?
Compiled/Designed by Peter Simeti
Story by Various Submissions
Illustrations by Michael Oppenheimer, Kelly Williams, Michael nelson, John Shaver, John Bulmer, Tom Kelly, J. Rozen, Daniel Thollin, Brian Beardsley, John Bulmer, Jeff McComsey, Kelly Williams, Dave Arhar, Kevin Christensen, Bret M. Herholz, Chad Storhl, Steve Black, Michael S. Bracco, Oliver Kirby, Michael Czerniawski, Gary Goodrich, Dave Arhah, Jeremy Massie, Andi Papelitzky, Douglas Draper Jr.
Introduction by Alex Robinson
Alterna Comics
Cover Price: $7.99

I spent the summer of 2002 working alone at a local 24-hour convenient store doing the 4pm to midnight shift. On one particularly brutal night my manager got in to relieve me about 10 minutes early.

“Just give me a minute,” she informed me, as she took out her cellphone, “I’m going to check in on my daughter.”

Maggie, my manager’s daughter, was maybe 16, 17 years old and went by the name, I’m not kidding: Magical. This is the side of the conversation that I heard:

“Hello, Magical? Where are you, can you turn that music down? No, I can’t call later, I’m about to start my shift. Are – are you at a party?” Long pause. “Magical? Magical, listen to me! You’re to go home this instant!” Her voice was starting to rise. “Magical, I know where you are, I know that boy is there, too! Now you march your butt straight home, now! No, don’t you dare hand me off to your friend!” Now my manager’s voice was getting hysterical. “Susan, you tell Magical to come home or so help me – Don’t you lie to me! I know what she’s doing! I know she’s somewhere spreading her legs for some [expletive] boy!”

My manager then slammed her cell phone shut, stormed out, and drove off, leaving me blushing and apologizing to a stunned line of customers. I was at work until 4am before someone came to relieve me.

***

Anyone and everyone who’s worked a job knows that they’re often filled with humiliating situations, both large and small. I found myself going back to that incident while reading Hello, Do YOU Work Here?, a collection of 100 percent true work-related stories, collected and edited by Peter Simeti. The book moves at a lightning-fast pace, the way it does at a party or a bar when you find yourself swapping demeaning work-related war stories. Some stories are long. Some are very brief. Some are about a psychotic customer or a demoralizing boss. Many are about jobs in the service industry, but not all. Some go somewhere and some are simply about the briefest exchange or tiniest gesture. And, as with any anthology, some pieces are stronger then others, but even the least appealing story hits that yet vaguely familiar note that comes with any job that drives you a little nuts.

There’s a fun zine-esque immediacy to the stories and pictures. Jumping into the book interstitially, the artwork is from over 20 illustrators, none of whom I’ve heard of before and many of whom I’d like to see again. The art is always funny, which is much needed in a piece like this, otherwise things could start feeling maudlin very fast. Now, before you comic book purists start screaming ‘sequential art,’ I’ll be the first to admit that, no, this is not technically a comic book. But it works, so whatever.

In an interesting way the book feels like it’s a remnant of the 1990s. When I was growing up I could find oral histories of people’s work lives in bookstores by guys like Studs Terkel and in comic books like Harvey Pekar’s seminal American Splendor or the (semi-fictionalized) Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson, who, by the way, writes a great introduction to this piece. Yet, it feels like it’s gone out of style to rant about a crummy work environment over the last few years, (Kevin Smith’s Clerks was made [*gulp*] 18 years ago). Why? I don’t know, maybe folks feel as though they should be grateful for whatever work they can get these days, but that doesn’t make the little indignities we all have to endure any easier. If you’ve had to endure a long stretch of time where you couldn’t find a job, you know that the grass is always greener on the other side feeling, but sometimes just sharing these war stories is such a relief.

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