Alias.

For those of you who know who I really am, I ask–no, I IMPLORE–that you please do not leak my identity in any way, not on Twitter, not in comments, please, no mention of my name or previous handle anywhere–please. This is not a joke or a game and I am still under serious threat to lose my job. I am supporting my family and I have nothing to fall back on if I lose the job. They are watching me and scrutinizing anything new under name and former handle using Google, among other tools, to ensure I am no longer writing. There’s a lot at stake here, so let’s keep our lips sealed!

I never set out to write under an alias. What’s the point? I mean, unless you plan on creating a whole persona and sticking to it like glue, the whole thing is really quite a transparent sham and it just causes confusion so why bother. I also thought that writing under a pen name was a little, well, smug, but I won’t harp on smug since there’s a history there. The closest thing I ever had to an alias was the name I used to fight for USA Boxing for the Golden Gloves, and I’m not sure why I even did that–maybe an homage to my grandfather and great-uncle who fought in the Golden Gloves.

So here I am now, day two into writing under an alias, and I wish there was a more juicy story to tell, but really, it’s a 21st century tale of social media paranoia. I get a new job because I got sick of my other one. It’s a pretty long interview and vetting process. This goes on at least six weeks from the first contact to the offer letter. The topic of my writing and the book I published didn’t come up because it is just not related to the qualifications I needed to demonstrate to get the job. I’d been on other interviews when I brought the book up and some people seem interested in it. (Sidenote: I didn’t get those jobs. Perhaps there is a lesson there.) For those of you who know who I really am and the book I wrote, the title scares the shit out of HR people, apparently. Thankfully I don’t think like them and didn’t have that foresight (or paranoia). But unfortunately, because I didn’t think I had anything to fear, I did nothing to hide my identity or my work. Any half-wit could track all my potty-mouthed posts, comments, tweets, flash fiction, blog commentary, and book chapters with a two-second web search. So either they thought I was a complete idiot for putting stuff out there and assuming they wouldn’t find it, or they thought I was a brazen, irreverent liability.

Let me back up. I’m at the job four days when this comes up. Yes–the offer letter, the negotiations, the headhunter going back and forth–that all happened already. I gave my notice, I dealt with the counteroffers, I left my last joint with all my shoes in a box. I had my week off in between. I started, went through orientation, tediously long and redundant computer training on their systems, and thrust into the melee of the job. Then Thursday afternoon comes and I get the call. My boss leaves me a voicemail about some cryptic message from HR about the fact that I have a twitter account. I emailed back and said, yes, I do have a twitter account. I’m not posting about the company, it’s personal, I yammer on with friends and others about the publishing industry, bugs, snot, comic books, and the weather. Boss says fine.

Monday comes along and there’s a frantic voicemail about a problem we have to address. “We.” I call boss back who is claiming all kinds of rotten stuff that HR has dug up on me–I frankly don’t even recall half the shit they mention and am not sure where they got their data from, but I don’t ask. I thought about asking for the company social media policy, or some guidelines and documentation on what can and can’t be used in social media. But I know better and I don’t bother to ask. Boss says that if I wasn’t off to such a good start work-wise, I would have been out on my ass; but I have some ’splaining to do and must make some fixes asap. First, take down the book from the website or edit the offensive chapters out. Second, stop tweeting. Third, stop writing offensive stuff. They object to my language. So I backpedal like the pathetic, desperate mommy that I am and vow to end it all, now.

And so I did.

Ok, not really. That same night I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself. Watching the 10 o’clock channel 5 news there was a robbery on Lennox Avenue uptown, and they interviewed some witness or something whose name was Robert Parker, or John Park, something like that. And there’s the alias. I set up my new blog, http://EatMyBook.wordpress.com and decided I need to change the working title of my novel I’m about to release so this is all a blessing in disguise. I started my new twitter account, @LenoxParker, and will retrofit as best I can to track down the people who I so intensely worked to earn trust. It’ll take time.

I will always be looking over my shoulder online, though. And thinking about it going forward, I really can’t do webcasts, or readings that will be covered by the press in any high-profile joint. I can’t do interviews with a photo of myself. And this is what I mean by the limitations and confusion of an alias. Complications like that will continue to arise; and I can’t make enemies or else someone will try to leak my identity–which in my case, would be near lethal. Seriously. So if you can avoid it, do so. If you can’t, be careful. Really, really careful.

Can they do that, you ask–haven’t they heard of the First Amendment? They can do whatever the hell they want. Employers write the rules, that’s their job as the employer. And if they detect a potential liability, they need to crush it like an ant. I am an ant. It is 1984.

Good luck.

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16 Comments

Filed under commentary, Uncategorized

16 responses to “Alias.

  1. Ken

    Think I will follow this story

    • Eh, nothing to follow, really. If there are developments, then I’m in big trouble.

      Bottom line is that I never meant for any harm to come to the company. Frankly, none of my writing or commentary was ever intended to have any implications for anyone or anything. It’s just that when someone is seeking bad intentions, they will find them. And that’s what happened. The circumstantial evidence they thought they had collected on me was just that: circumstantial. I don’t care enough to talk shit about the company. What they didn’t take into consideration is that I have other things in my life I comment on–writing projects, editorial projects, kids, weather, everything. But they intended on finding a nefarious intention and wrongly concluded I was a threat.

      It’s their loss, now, because when you do this to someone who you hired to do a job will not ever have the loyalty you would want from an employee. That, to me, is a dumb move.

      thanks for reading,
      len

  2. This isn’t right. I know they can do whatever they want, but this tip-toes on the line of infringing upon your personal rights. Not cool.

    • At this point I’m not concerned any longer with if it’s right or not, fair, legal, whatever. Right now I have to concern myself with two things: keeping my job without keeping my mouth shut.

      I will continue to write sometimes inflammatory stuff. I just have to be careful they don’t make the connection.

      And I wonder why I’ve been throwing up blood all week…

      Thanks for your support. I really mean it.

      len

  3. Friend

    Wait, they asked you to take your own book down from your own website?

    I’m not sure what you do on your spare time matters in your job, unless you are hurting someone.

    • When HR is looking to be offended, they will be offended. They were offended. The complaint was so granular — they objected to my language (well that’s a no brainer), they said something about my writing stuff about fat people, which, frankly, I don’t recall ever writing so I’m not sure they even cared about being truthful to me.

      I think they intended on reading negative implications into everything I wrote. EVERYTHING. What they had against me was circumstantial. There was nothing to prove I was talking shit about the company, because I wasn’t.

      But what’s done is done. You can’t fight with HR.

  4. In the old days people used to have something called a ‘reputation’ and what a person did in their private life counted towards their work life and vice versa.

    Which is why there have always been people who have had the need to use pseudonyms.

    I think it is still the same and I think it is reasonable to expect an employee not to have an easily found persona that could impact badly on a business. But I don’t think it is reasonable to order you to stop.

    Just to make sure that your activities can’t be associated with the business. So using a pseudonym and doing what you are doing should be in my opinion enough. You shouldn’t have to stop.

    But what should be and what is – are two different things. Life isn’t fair. I hope you can manage to keep your two spheres of activity separate and it all works out for you.

    If it is any comfort to you- I have no idea who you ‘were’ – so let’s hope your camouflage works just as well for everyone else.

    Take care,

    banana/michele

    • Well, of course personal and professional life are two different things. But I think that social media and the lack of transparency that keeps our hobbies, writing, friendships public and accessible also create an opportunity–or invitation–for our employers to assert control.

      I liken it to a conversation at the water cooler (in the old days, if we’re using that analogy!) with your colleague about how much you hate your job. If your boss walks by as you say that, you’re up the creek, right? Boss takes you into the office and says, pack your shit up and don’t let the door hit you in the ass, since you hate it so much here. Social media is the same thing, it’s the public convo at the water cooler.

      Why that constitutes a reason for dismissal doesn’t really figure with me. But I’m not in control here, clearly.

      The reason for HR is to protect the *company* not the employees. I posed a perceived threat.

      Let’s be honest — they were pissed because they were not in control of me or what I wrote. So they did the only thing they could to control it and that was to threaten me with job loss if I didn’t stop.

      Thanks for the reassuring words!

      len

  5. This is a huge pile of bs. As long as you keep the two separate, what you do outside of work is your own business.

    My philosophy has always been “I was looking for a job when I came here.” I know that attitude becomes nearly impossible when there is a family to consider, but that never stopped me.

    I haven’t had a real job in over two years. We scrape by. Granted, my teeth are a mess, my shoulder is in almost constant pain, and I need health care desperately. But then the college I last worked at didn’t have benefits anyway.

    I’m not trying to fault you for hanging on to your job. I fault the system for being so screwed up.

    Anyway, here’s to the day when you can come out of the closet again.

    • Once upon a time I would have–in no time flat–told them to fuck off. But I made a choice, I made a deliberate trade off: I left that kind of personal freedom behind so that my kids could get a decent education in an independent school, and not have to eat ramen noodles to do so.

      The question now is, how long can I keep up the charade? It’s kind of unsustainable, as was underscored by recent events.

      There has got to be a balance, and it’s just that I haven’t found it yet. I’m nearly 40 and I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. What can I do and still earn a living well enough to support my kids? I was so poor for so long I’ll never shake it. I still wash out ziploc bags for re-use.

      At this rate, though, I’m driving 70 mph in 2nd gear.

      What I would have liked to use to counter this “persecution” was an example of a member of the company belonging to a country club that doesn’t allow Jews or black people. That’s pretty public information which reflects a pretty disgusting reality. But the company doesn’t crack down on that kind of behavior.

      Blech.

      Thanks for your support. Keep on keepin on.

      len

  6. mikecane

    >>>First, take down the book from the website or edit the offensive chapters out.

    See, I like a simple life. One that is uncomplicated and where I don’t have to recall a list of personal policies for different sets of people.

    So that is an ultimatum. And I have just one response to those: Go Fuck Yourself.

    • Yeah, once upon a time Go Fuck Yourself would have been my default response. And I agree, it’s what I feel now. I can’t afford to level that response now, though.

      Uch, it makes me sick to even think about this anymore.

  7. And this, too, shall pass.

  8. Pingback: I Killed My Book | Eat My Book by lenox parker

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