Saturday, February 18, 2006

CEDA Redux?

I just finished my first week with J.P. Morgan Chase, and color me unimpressed. Actually, calling it CEDA Part Deux is a little harsh, because I can't say for sure whether Chase's lack of organization is because there's so much to do that little things fall through the cracks or because they don't give a shit, like at CEDA. But make no mistake, at least in the lockbox department, there are some administrative problems that make me wonder if I really want to be employed at this place.

First, the paycheck's bad enough that in order to sign up for Direct Deposit with the bank that I work for and have had an account with for eleven years, I couldn't turn in the paperwork at work; instead I had to go to a branch somewhere and sign up through them, which doesn't make sense to me. Actually, most things are done online with Chase. When I become eligible for benefits in about 14 years, I have to go online to choose those options also. (Because I'm only a part-time hire at 35 hours per week, I'm not eligible for benefits until 90 days after my hire date.) But then the actual paychecks came, and we were not a happy group of new hires. We were told that because we all started on the same day, February 13, and checks were going to be issued on the 15th and last day of every month, we would all have checks on February 15th, and that they would represent two days of work according to our schedules, not representing the actual hours that we were there Monday and Tuesday. Those hours, if there were any discrepancies, would be worked out on our next check. So how come some people got paid for eight hours, some for 14 hours, some for 6 hours, etc? For instance, I got seven hours, even though not only was I there on the 13th and 14th for about 13 hours collectively, but I was scheduled to be there for 14 hours, which they told us was the criteria to determine how many hours our first checks would pay. So either 13 or 14 hours on my check would have been understandable, but seven?? Where did they pull that number from? At least it was correctly direct deposited, as I did go to a branch on the 14th after work and get that taken care of. But already, my colleagues and I have to closely monitor payroll and make sure that they credit us for the time that we are there. Not a good start.

On the first day, Monday, we had to go to a different building than where we will be working in order to take a one-day orientation session with a woman who was nice enough, but had an accent and didn't seem to have mastered English quite yet. Naturally, she was the person to go to throughout the week. When we did start working at our actual workplace, since we can't take book bags on the transaction floor because there are live checks everywhere and they don't want one to "accidentally" fall into someone's belongings, the woman was the person with a key to a walk-in closet where we eight or nine (because one showed up for the first time on Wednesday) trainees had to hang our coats and put any bags that we brought with us. So when I wanted to get something from my bag, it was her that had to open the closet for me, and it seemed that a sentence as simple as "Can you open the closet for me?" at times was too much grammar for her to handle. She also handled our administrative questions, meaning that we are still unclear as to when and where we get the two ID cards that we have to have on us at all times. Many questions were answered by her with a look skyward and a blank stare, followed by something like "I don't know, go ask your supervisor," which sucked for me because my supervisor was off Tuesday and yesterday, and I really did want to ask her several things. But the topper was when we trainees flipped through the 39-question skills assessment test that we had to take at the end of the week and noticed grammar problems in the test such as, "List in order of priority how the four (5) header cards should be used." Confused? There were seven header cards to choose from. Even more confused? Me too. Guess who wrote the test? Yep, the lady who doesn't know English very well. How do I know? Because when I showed her the question and asked her what exactly does the question want me to do, she responded, "Oh, I should rewrite question, I not write it very clear." Sigh.

The second person we worked with all week was a big black guy who really did look like Ruben Studdard. I mean, "Karen" and others used to call me Ruben when he first became famous, but I really don't look like him, I'm just a fat nigga, so they thought it cute to call me Ruben. But this guy really does look like him. There were four, then five people (one of them started Wednesday instead of Monday) who were hired as keyers because they did better on their numeric typing test than I did apparently, and every morning those people would go train with the woman who didn't know English, and the four of us left would go to train with Ruben because he was the coach for what is called workup, or the process of taking the sorted mail and opening the envelope and "working up" the contents into piles of checks, material, and empty envelopes, and binding them together with rubber bands or paper clips. That's what we leftovers were assigned to do, workup. We all interviewed for keying, but we didn't test well enough I guess, so we were thrown into workup with the other rejects. I suppose I should go take the keying test again, since keyers are paid more and since, well, that's what I interviewed for. Anyway, Ruben was nice himself, kinda quiet like me, a couple of years younger than me, always cracking jokes in between long yawns and stretches because he works an evening job after he leaves Chase. But some of the discrepancies between what our training manuals and folders told us to do and what he was telling us to do were a little disconcerting to me. For instance, he constantly told us to bind the header cards behind the checks even though all of our books were telling us that the cards should be binded in front of the checks. In general, he didn't seem to take it as a big deal that he was teaching us things that may be done in a different manner once we get on the floor. But on the other hand, he has worked on the floor for six years, so if anyone knows how it's done on the floor, it would be him. I just felt that the training manuals should match the advice given by the coach. Call me crazy. Yesterday was the last day of our training week, so Ruben gave each of us four workup trainees one-on-one personal evaluations at the end of the day. He could recommend us, or recommend us with reservations, or not recommend us. He recommended me with reservations. Was he concerned about my work speed or quality? Nope, he didn't like my attitude because I made it clear that I wasn't thrilled with how Chase did things, or as I bluntly put it, "This place sucks." He told me that he didn't know how I could possibly achieve anything at Chase if I already don't like it there. He said that it gets worse once you get on the floor, because it's so busy that you can go an awful long time before you find someone to clear up any questions you may have. And I always have a lot of questions because I want to make sure I'm doing something right before I do it. He said that if I don't like it now, imagine getting on the floor and being suspended because you were suspected of stealing checks even though you didn't do it. He didn't say if that had happened to him, but after I left, I thought about it and I realized that he contradicted himself. He had basically suggested that I should look for somewhere else to work if I disliked Chase so much, but if he really did know someone who was falsely accused of stealing or, worse, if he was falsely accused of stealing, then how could he possibly continue to work for them? He does it for the same reason that I will stay there--because it's a motherfucking job and it ain't easy to get one out here. I understood what he was trying to tell me, but I have ten years of experience at CBOE tiptoeing around idiots who don't care what's going on and staying above the fray. I can hold my own. And I will rip shit up once I get on the floor. My simmering hatred for Chase will not stop me from exceeding expectations at my job. And you can take that to the bank. (Just not Chase Bank, they might mishandle your money.)

Another problem I have is the quality of people that I'm going to work with. This is what the floor looked like the couple of times we walked through: Lots of black women with headphones on (you are allowed to listen to a headset while you work) doing what's assigned to them and not interacting very much. And who out of this group am I supposed to go to when I come across a problem? Ruben warned me to watch out because they simply don't hire many guys to do this job. And sure enough, most of the men that I saw on the floor were in the mailroom. And don't get me started on the women that I was hired with. There were three black women along with me training to do workup this week. One was nice enough, actually a former management type getting back into the workforce so she was trying to coach me not to be so abrasive and act more professional if I wanted to move up in the company past workup. And the other two were stereotypical finger-snapping, gum-chewing sistas, but at least one seemed to want to learn the position. The other one--wow. She admitted that she was hired because a friend at Chase hooked her up. She complained about feeling sick nonstop every day, but didn't hesitate to crack a joke and act silly when we weren't working. She even told us that this was her second attempt at training, since she dropped out when she was hired at the end of January because she was "feeling sick" then too. Our training consisted of working up actual material that wasn't due to be processed until the next day, so I would never jump on her for doing things too slowly, but it's fucking up and doing it wrong that makes me mad because it then falls on the rest of us to do her job right since it's obvious that she could care less about doing it right. Every check has to have material with it, even if it's just the envelope that it came in. We don't get checks with no envelope. So why did she finish working up a batch and have five checks sitting in front of her with no material? This was at the end of the day Wednesday, so she would have to stay after our departure time of 3:30P and remedy her error, and she was extremely pissed about that because I guess she felt that she should be free to leave and let someone else figure out how she fucked up. How is someone else going to figure out your fuck-up? You worked the batch, you figure out where you went wrong. And it's not like you can leave the work sitting in your fictional in-box for an unlimited amount of time. All this work has deadline times when the client wants his shit done, even if it's the next day. The former management woman actually stayed late and helped her figure out her error, and to that I say, God bless her for being a big person and going beyond the call of duty, but I can't imagine having to get my shit straight and then go fix someone else's fuck-ups. I actually wondered if Ruben was going to hold it against me and the other woman who left at 3:30 that we didn't hang around and help the chick who didn't care about her work. He never mentioned it, but I'm sure it didn't look good. But that's something that pissed me off at CBOE--people with the same position as me, sometimes getting paid more than me, and doing a worse job. A white girl named Jessica (it's not a black woman problem, it's an I-don't-give-a-fuck-about-my-work-quality attitude problem) at CBOE was hired as a quote reporter in the same class as me, getting the same starting pay as me, but she wasn't nearly as good as me, so she was assigned to a very easy crowd while I was sent to a busier crowd and struggled a bit at the beginning. So six months later, guess who got a bigger raise because her review was more positive since she didn't have as many errors because she was in a dead crowd?? And was she trying to improve and prepare to be moved to a busier crowd? Why should she? And why do I have a sinking feeling that I'm about to see that happen all over again? Fucking bullshit politics.

Those salty profanities that I toss around like nothing at least made me memorable among my fellow trainees. "I ain't ever gonna forget you Dre," one of them told me yesterday as we prepared to go home for the day. It was a wild week. It seemed like I was determined to not be an anonymous guy playing the background like I was at CBOE. It was a new beginning and I guess I wanted to make an impact. It's not like I set out to be the guy pointing out discrepancies and calling out mistakes and seeming like I think I know it all. It just happened. I asked the three women what they thought my age was, and they all thought that I was late 30s-early 40s because I carried myself as someone who's been there, done that. (I'm trying to take it as a compliment...I sure the fuck don't think I look that old.) Ruben told me to cool it with the potty mouth when I get on the floor, but I'm not retarded. I know better than to use curse words around actual personnel. I was waiting to have a day where I can't keep my eyes open and start falling asleep during training, because I had to go to school Tuesday night, Wednesday night, and Thursday night, meaning I was getting home between 9:30 and 10:00 on those nights, going to bed after midnight, and waking up around 5:15A the next day in order to get downtown at 7A. (And yes, I was late most of the days, a half-hour late on Wednesday because I turned off my alarm three minutes before it was going to go off and then nodded off for an hour. It should be better next week because I don't have to start until 8A.) But I stayed alert and smart-alecky every day. I slept for almost ten hours last night, but I expected to do that since I didn't have to go anywhere this morning. But it was very interesting, I think that I felt anonymous at CBOE even though I was there for ten years, and subconsciously, I think that I set out to be a unique, confident, self-assured person from day one at Chase, not afraid to ask questions, not afraid to speak my mind, or "keep it real," as the trainee with all the fuck-ups said about me. I surprised myself with some of the things that I said. When I got on the floor to plug our electric staplers into the power strip, I said to the very proper and professional former management woman, "I'm going down under the table near you now, and I don't want any sexual harassment accusations. Heh heh." She looked horrified at the thought. I regretted saying that as soon as I said it, but hell, I didn't mean anything by it. But when I left CBOE, I felt like no one remembered me or cared that I was gone. I suppose that I want the people at Chase to remember me, positively or otherwise. I even spoke up more during my classes this week, and I hardly ever speak during my classes. Maybe I really am breaking out of my shell.

And finally, you may remember how I openly flaunted CEDA's no-jeans rule by wearing a different color pair of jeans every single day, waiting for someone to call me on it, but on one ever did because, duh, whether someone is wearing jeans, khakis, or a camisole is not an important concern for any normal human being. Well, it's right there in our Chase manuals--no jeans OF ANY COLOR except on weekends. My response? There was no school Monday because of President's Day, so I went to Casual Male and bought three pair of classy-looking polyester/rayon blends. The difference? CEDA treated all of us like we were disposable, useless sheep, existing only to do this assignment quickly so that we can be shown the door. I reacted accordingly. Chase may have some administrative issues, but they have treated us well thus far, making us feel important, like we are wanted. So many complete strangers came up to us and welcomed us to the "Chase family" this week. My supervisor was extremely nice to me, acknowledging me by name when we met by chance in the lunchroom even though I had never met her or introduced myself before that moment. The guy who gave me my second interview saw me and called me by my name and said hi when I walked the floor for the first time Wednesday. Chase treated all of us new hires to a free box lunch yesterday. I am being treated like a valued member of the staff, and I am dressing and trying to act accordingly. So to CEDA I would say: I'm not always an immature asshole...only when I feel that it's deserved.


Anonymous said...

Be glad that you are Black. Any white person who told a manager this place sucks would be fired on the spot. You know you can cry descrimination. White people don't have that luxury. My buddy is a manager and has to deal with guys like you all the time who wont work overtime who are late and dont' call in at all when they are not coming in. Blacks get away with it; whites are fired.

Dre said...

Actually, since whites run everything, they can get fired all they want and still find a good job regardless of whether they are qualified, just because the head cracker in charge would rather take 50 questionable white people over one black. That's why any white people I know who are looking for work and feeling down on their luck, I tell them, "Relax, you're white in America, eventually everything will work out perfectly fine for you."