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Biter: Ad Lib

By Jon A. Carroll

I pick up a poetry magazine, flip the pages, count the stars, moons and frustrations, yawn, piss out my beer and pick up the want-ads.

--Charles Bukowski

THE DECLINE of help-wanted ads has left the road and plunged into a ravine. According to the Conference Board, an economic think tank, the volume of help-wanted ads has sunk to a 40-year low. The Conference Board, which surveys and indexes ads from 50-odd major newspapers, identifies help-wanted ads as a key indicator of economic health. Across the country, the board's help-wanted index is 46, down from 67 a year ago. And lucky us, the Bay Area index now stands at 37, down from 86 in 2001.

Help-wanted ads were once a full $10 billion market, and one of the more profitable sections of a newspaper. The plunge in help-wanted ads has added to a massive decline in overall media revenues, forcing many major media executives to rob liquor stores and take weekend jobs just to make ends meet.

Whether newspaper or website, help-wanted ads consist of an odd, coded language. These ads are filled with demands, restrictions, instructions, Mother Goose sales hype and enough misleading adjectives to fill a coffee shop menu. Here are a few help-wanted terms, translated from the Corpspeak:

Ability to prioritize = This used to be three peoples' jobs.

Busy desk = This used to be four peoples' jobs.

Competitive pay = Give up eating and living indoors.

Detail-oriented = Work backed up on first day

Energetic = Grunt

Energetic go-getter = Happy grunt

Fast-paced = Welcome to hell

Great benefits = Minimum required by state law

Motivated = Crushing workload

Multiple openings = Staff ran off screaming.

Multitasking = Smiles while cringing

Outgoing = Personable, sobs quietly

Retirement benefits = You should live so long.

Sense of humor = Know any salt mines accepting applications?

To 65K = 23K for you, pal

Self-starter = Hope-free

The truth is, we should not bemoan the loss of help-wanted ads. They are easily the most depressing section of the newspaper, far more grim than the horrors on the front page. Thousands scan these ads, their palms sweaty, desperate for any possible position. Filling their minds are disturbing visions of Top Ramen dinners, emergency rooms, $400 cars and the heart-rending sounds of hearing a grown creditor cry.

As always, nature provides crucial insights into the human situation. There are some shark species that practice something called intrauterine cannibalism. Multiple young are born within the mother, but only one emerges. Current competition for jobs is the rough equivalent of the mom shark saying, Be quiet and finish your brother.

Based on an informal survey of local help-wanted advertising, available jobs fall into two main categories:

1.) Positions requiring a Ph.D. in biostatistical analysis with professional experience in genomics, proteomics and microarray data; and

2.) Flipping burgers with SpongeBob at the Krusty Krab.

You are free to choose, as Milton Friedman would say.

Further Translations From HR-Speak:

Brilliant = Generic, neutral synonym for "boss"

Casual atmosphere = At these wages, who can afford a suit?

Global leader = Grand-jury experience preferred

Great boss = Quarter-wit tyrant

High-powered = Cheap, yet psychotic

No "I" in "team" = Notice the "I" in "profit."

Professional = No meaning at all, whatsoever

Yoda-Dick Cheney

As World Goes to Hell, Movie Attendance Increases

HOLLYWOOD--Last weekend, Hollywood grossed more in ticket sales than during any previous Memorial Day weekend. Final revenue tallies were expected to top $200 million.

Asked for possible reasons behind the incredible ticket boom, Hollywood insiders put forth tentative theories.

"Well, it could be that since there are so many bad things happening in the world, people would just rather go see Spider-Man than, like, watch the news or something," ventured entertainment specialist Susan Kulkarni.

Brian Printz, with the ticket-sales tracking company EZtix, hesitantly agreed. "I suppose," he said. "You certainly can't account for it based on the quality of the movies--ha, ha."

Dick Quaferman, columnist for Movie Reporter, bickered slightly with this interpretation. "This sounds to me like one of those boring sociological studies that links moviegoing with loss of real-world interaction or something," he said. "The truth is, Star Wars fans aren't any more out of touch than anyone else. So what if they get Yoda and Dick Cheney confused?"

Dick Cheney could not be reached for comment.

Canine Makeover

Puppy Love

Now that San Francisco's dog mauling trial is but a queasy memory, perhaps the canine annus horribilis is over. Let's hope so, anyway, because in dog-time, poor poochdom has aged several decades this past year with all the bad publicity. It's time for dogs everywhere to rear up and demand better lifestyles. Makeover is here to help. Sic 'em!

Robot dog

Tech Rex

We've all seen the bumper sticker that declares "Dog is my co-pilot." Why not up the ante and proclaim "Dog is my PalmPilot?" In the near future, dogs will serve as GPS systems, information fetchers and perhaps even roving ISPs, if leash laws don't interfere. The meaning of "laptop" will never be the same.

Designer dog

Model Doggy

Pity the supermodel--she's kept on a dietary leash, she has to be taught how to walk down a runway and her bathroom habits are closely monitored. Wait a minute--doesn't that sound arf-fully similar to some of our furrier friends? Could the two be interchangeable?

Growling dog

Where Do You Think You're Going?

Certain teeth aren't called "canines" for nothin'. For centuries, dog have been on the front lines of security, and while their ferocity has been maligned lately, it is sometimes appropriate. Let's station attack dogs in the cockpits of commercial airplanes, next to high school lockers and at Russell Crowe appearances everywhere.

I Saw You: Bad Driver

Illustration by Jumma Jahdid
Illustration by Jumma Jahdid

Whenever I see your Chevy Silverado in my rear-view mirror, I feel two things: surprise and relief. Surprised that your truck isn't smashed up yet. Relief that, since you're still driving it, you haven't killed anyone yet. The way you come barreling up on traffic--even when it's moving at 55 or 60 mph past Calero Reservoir--shows your inconsideration toward the safety of others. I have to hold my breath whenever I see you because I know it means you are going to pass (usually two or three cars at a time) on a blind curve. Someday, you won't be so lucky. And the worst part is, when you do crash, you will ruin innocent lives. Wise up, asshole, while you still can!

SEND us your anonymous rants, love notes, or diatribes about your co-workers, bosses, enemies, secret crushes, or any badly behaving citizen who gets your dander up. Send to: I SAW YOU, Metro, 550 South First, San Jose, 95113, or .

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From the May 30-June 5, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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