Archives for category: Corporate Matters

Taking My Turn At Collecting Unemployment Or How To Drive Bureaucrats Batty

Haresh Shah

 

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I am sitting in the front of the IDES (Illinois Department of Employment Security) officer Mr. David M. at their downtown Evanston branch. I have him  absolutely and positively flustered. He is almost on the verge of pulling his hair off his head – that is what is left of it. The few locks of  curls hanging around his neck from his otherwise bald as a water melon crown. He is a gaunt looking skinny man in his middle age. His eyes squinting behind his dense Coke bottle glasses. The shriveled frown on his face fits perfectly that of an accountant – overworked, underpaid and underappreciated, all of which he probably is. The more I answer his questions to clarify, the more confused and frustrated he looks. At some point he just smacks my paperwork down on his desk, kicks his chair back, jumps up like a Jack in the Box from a suddenly unlatched top and begins to walk to the back.

‘You’re driving me crazy!’

Nothing is amiss with my application. My paperwork is well organized and is in order. I am entitled to receive the unemployment benefits that I am applying for. Though I read a question mark on his face as to why it took me more than a whole year to get around to it. But that doesn’t disqualify me. No particular reason. I guess I wasn’t exactly hurting for the money and also because I had landed a week a month assignment in Florida. Procrastination? A bit of a discomfort and the false pride? I don’t think so. This after all is my second bout at collecting unemployment. But finally  my girlfriend Susan (Serpe) nudges me into it. You have paid into the system all your life. You’re entitled to it. Would you not claim what’s due you from an insurance company? Right! So a couple of days later I pick up the application forms, gather all the back-up paperwork and present myself in front of David M.

He looks at my application and studies it meticulously and checks off an item after another. Gives closer look to my work and the salary history. I can see him raising his eyebrows as he checks off my six figure salary, and lets out an exclamatory soft grunt followed by an intermittent comment.

‘Whenever possible, we try to help people find jobs in addition to what we post on the bulletin board. But in your case, I’m afraid, you’re on your own.’

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Haresh Shah

How Does One Get A Job At Playboy?

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The question I’ve been asked time and again is: How does one get a job at Playboy?  Or more precisely: How did you get to work for them?

My answer always is: Like any other job. You apply for it. You have an interview and then you get hired. If that sounds too simplistic, how about this? You happen to be at the right place at the right time with right set of skills and qualifications. And the pure dumb luck doesn’t hurt either!

Not good enough still? Okay. Here’s how it happened. But me telling this story requires me to take you back in time. Back to the London College of Printing. Shashi (Patravali), my roommate and also the fellow alumni of LCP, are sitting in the college canteen. We’re at the end of our two year long diploma curriculum and would soon have to face the reality called life. Shashi is clear about his future. Soon as we’re done, he wants to spend a couple of months traveling the European Continent. Return back to India and manage a printing plant somewhere in the South.

‘How about you?’ He asks.

‘I want to go to America. Spend a year getting practical training at the GATF (Graphic Arts Technical Foundation) in Pittsburgh. And then work for Time & Life and for Playboy.

Shashi doesn’t say anything to that, but in his characteristic manner smirks at me, probably  thinking, “yeah right!”

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Haresh Shah

A Touch Of Communism In The Capitalist Culture

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In the fall of 1989 over the weekend of October, 6/8, Carolyn and I went to the Duneland Beach Inn in Michigan City, Indiana and returned with an agreement that the best course of action for us as individuals – to use the corporate cliché, going forward, was for us to go our own way. Not even a tiny blip on the world stage. That very weekend on October 7, Hungary becomes independent and on October 23rd, the acting President, Mátyás Szűrös declares the country a Republic in the public ceremony held in the same Kossuth Square where the first mass rally of the 1956 revolution was held.  The historic moment for which I happened to be in Budapest and along with the Hungarian  editors, would go to the square to hear the declaration proclaimed. We come back to the office and begin to put together the first issue of Playboy to come out a month later – the first of the three I would launch behind the iron curtain. On November 4, I turn 50 with a big fanfare and the nine liter Salamanzar  bottle of Lanson champagne, compliment of my boss and the friend Bill (Stokkan). The Berlin Wall falls on November 9th, the Velvet Revolution unfolds on Národní třída in Prague on November 17th, and in-between on the weekend of October 14/15, Playboy headquarters in Chicago move some three plus blocks south east  to 680 N. Lake Shore Drive from it’s imposing skyline presence at 919 N. Michigan Avenue. The Bunny Beacon that illuminated the Chicago skies for 23 years, is no longer and neither are the floor high letters PLAYBOY, lit bright.

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Haresh Shah

The Fine Art Of Getting Away With Murder

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By the time I heard this story of excess and padding of expense account by one of Life magazine’s star photographers, it had already acquired legendary proportions. There is nothing Life wouldn’t do to cover the world events and be the first and the fastest to bring it back to their nine million readers in words and living colors. Spreads and spreads of images – known among us at Time as fast edits. We were practically an assembly line of  experts from the reporters to the photographers to the writers to the editors and the art directors and at the tail end – us the production people. We would stand by days and nights, weekdays or weekends – and jump in so the magazine would be on its way to its loyal readers on time, week after week.

So it was no wonder that people at the front end of the making of Life were the most pampered, nurtured and spoiled rotten. The darlings among them were the photographers. The story I am told of is that of one of Life’s photographers most notorious for padding his expenses and constantly getting away with it to everyone else’s envy and chagrin. Padding itself was not too difficult, considering that we were not required to submit any receipts for the expenses under $25.00. If you happen to be on the road for several days, how much you can get away with writing off depended entirely on your own creative audacity.  No one ever questioned things you put down on your expense sheet – if for nothing else, not to sound cheap or earning a reputation of being a grouch.

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