Friday, 20 October 2006

Fifteen-minute lunch

Jenny invited me to lunch with her friend from high school in Connecticut.

I rushed rushed rushed to finish my 1200 package, jumped into a taxi and flew over to Hwa Young at Taipei 101, where they were already happily eating away.

Jenny was sitting facing outside, with Douglas next to her, the nanny across from Douglas and then her friend whom I've never met, next to the nanny. The first thing I noticed was how small her friend made the chair look. From the back, I saw brown/blond hair and he was wearing a T-shirt. American, I thought. No, a really big Taiwanese.

After one siumai 燒賣 and one hagao 蝦餃, my phone rings. It was Yaoqian. He asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was downstairs buying lunch. I didn't know if lying was worse or telling him I was having lunch at 101 was worse.

He said to hurry up and come back because he was canceling the time I booked to edit the food feature video that we shot yesterday, and sending me on two product placement stories instead. Next time, I'm not lying. Maybe he'll fire me instead then. What a choice.

We were short-staffed today. We're short-staffed everyday. I remember when the VP asked the deputy head of cameramen, "do we have enough manpower?" To which he replied after a long break, "yes, but what we're having to do is asking people to do overtime." I almost fell out of my chair.

At most stations here, overtime means staying late and/or coming in early, but mostly it means coming in more days. We don't get paid for putting in longer hours, but we can accumulate the days that we don't take off.

For example, if there are nine days of weekends this month, our shift schedules will say "9 days allotted, 8 days allowed, 1 day accumulated." This means there are 9 off days, but we can only take 8 and we have to accumulate 1. They usually make us accumulate a day a month, and the cameramen 2 days a month. If we're lucky and there isn't anyone in the group taking any vacation days, then maybe a couple of in the group can get all the allotted days off. If we're really really lucky and some people choose to work more and take less days, then some of us can take additional days off, but that rarely ever happens. In any case, when we're forced to accumulate off days to begin with, it's quite difficult to use them.

Management says the total number of alloted days off in the year at Formosa TV is the same as government workers. The difference is how they distribute those days. However, when we're getting noticeably fewer days than our friends in other industries, plus all the overtime, people start feeling bitter. Some like to complain, but I think bragging is more fun.

In October, there are nine days of weekends, a day each for Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day, so normal people are getting 11 days. Our reporters are getting 9-1=8. And because I was suddenly asked to sub for English news those two weeks and now get to do China Airlines Monday nights, I'm getting 6. Hahaha! Whatever that doesn't kill me will make me stronger...or insane.

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