Category Archives: Work

Sighs of Regret

It’s a good thing that I’ve pretty much given up on trying to meet my goal of 365,000 words this year, or I’d be feeling fairly down on myself for having fallen so far behind. And it’s a good thing that I haven’t been spending a lot of time pondering my decision to leave a job which (though I was being underpaid) covered my expenses so that I could get myself into debt and wind up working a $9/hr job with less than 30 hours a week, because I might start to get really worried about how I was going to make it this time around. But the fact is that I needed the break which I allowed myself to take, and it was nice to get back to doing something that I actually wanted to do, for a change. I knew that it would be nearly impossible to try to write while working a full-time gig, but it turns out that even trying to steal away a few moments throughout the week is proving hard enough. I’d been thinking that at least I’ll have a little more time to be by myself when David goes back to school, but by then, I’ll either have a different job (one which will most likely not afford me the opportunity to work in the wee hours), or have been promoted (which means a switch to full-time in addition to a raise in my hourly wage), which means that the time I have right now, when David would otherwise have been at school, will still be unavailable to me.

As for my source of employment, there’s not a whole lot to report upon right now. I am still being groomed for that promotion, which basically involves throwing more work and responsibility at me without any change in my rate of pay or the number of hours for which I am scheduled on a weekly basis. I’m convinced that the guy in charge is completely useless, and that it probably wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world for me to try to find something else sooner rather than later. My department is slowly flying apart, as more and more people are growing increasingly frustrated with the current state of management, which includes an increased workload as more and more people leave, and the general manager refuses to get hands-on as would normally be recommended. I’ve even had some of my coworkers ask me to remember them if I manage to land a restaurant management gig somewhere nearby. Even if it weren’t turning into a complete shit show, the very fact that everyone is nurturing escape plans makes me unwilling to face the possibility of having to do the work of at least twelve people (of which we currently have seven) all by my very lonesome. I’ve even started romanticizing the last place where I worked, but luckily, my son-in-law still works there, and it is through his stories that I am able to remind myself of all the reasons why I left.

On the Minkey Front, it turns out that, in addition to his nose, he has also inherited his mother’s eyes, both in form and function. I mean, I’m not saying that my eyesight is perfect, but it turns out that my son is, for all intents and purposes, blind as a bat. I think Flor said that his glasses should be ready in a couple of weeks, at which point it is my sincere hope that he actually will begin to want to read. Well, that and that he might not need to drape himself over my desk so that he can watch his cartoons. It is also my hope that clarity of vision will lead to better penmanship. At least if he can see, his vacation will not have been for nothing. I know that he is bored out of his mind this summer, but I wish he knew (in a way that wouldn’t scar him for life) just how trying his constant presence is for the rest of us. It’s not that we don’t love him, it’s just that he’s a very… intense person, and should only be taken in small doses. In that regard, as well as normally wearing his heart upon his sleeve, he is very much my son. I know it’s wrong to say, but I feel rather  like Ford Prefect in the company of Arthur Dent when spending time with David. And you better believe that I know where my towel is!

As for the writing, well, I’m trying to figure out how to budget some time for myself more that once a week so that I can, at the very least, keep up with the blog. It’s hard because my normal solution would be to go to bed an hour earlier, and make with the clickety-clackety before I go to work. But it’s hard enough to get a proper amount of sleep anyway, and if I tried to put David to bed that early, I’m pretty sure that I’d be facing a full revolt before the end of summer. But the real news is that I’ve been running bits and pieces of {Book #4} around in my head while trying to figure it out (Books #1 and #2 are “Parade”, which I know I have to start before I have forgotten everything, but whose events are so traumatic as to make me nervous about reliving them again, no matter how “noble” the cause may be; Book #3 is The Wild West Fantasy, which I’ve been playing with for a while, but haven’t really decided what I want to do with it). But I think that I finally figured out {Book 4}. It was going to be a fictional account (based on true stories) and told from a female point of view, but I then decided that I could structure it more like a series of interviews. Now, of course, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll probably just write out each interview, and then integrate those all together into an overarching narrative. Or not. It’s still early.

And it’s not like I’m suffering from an overwhelming sense of regret.

A Big Goodbye From Lots Of Us

There comes a time in every man’s life when he must choose the more difficult path of change for the sake of his own well-being. I made this choice last November, and though there have been consequences, I am satisfied that I made the right decision. There are times when the work is no longer as appealing as it once may have been, or perhaps the people at the top have changed (or haven’t, depending on how well one is able to tolerate one’s superiors). Whatever the reason, there comes a day when enough is finally enough, and, for the sake of health or sanity (or both), one must walk away from place of employment to seek out his fortune somewhere else. And for those people who are left behind, it is rarely easy to say goodbye. It seems that the people who would gladly be missed by their coworkers and subordinates never seem to leave, and the friends and inspirational managers we work for are always on the move, half burned out, and looking for vistas which won’t scar and maim them anymore. I’m not going to pretend that I am truly missed at my last job: The stress was eating me alive, and though I did my best to keep the best of my employees happy, I learned long ago that most of them were only nice to me as a form of self-defense. And so it goes…

Before I go any further, let me just say that I have not quit my latest job (though I have begun the search for something else). Despite its drawbacks (excruciating physicality on my artist’s form, pittance of compensation combined with less than full-time hours, and a sense of malaise which has recently fallen upon the merry lot of us), it is a paying gig, and right now, that’s more important than ethics. God, my younger self will never let me live this down. I know, I know, times like these are precisely when one needs to abide by his ethics, but then, is it ethical to make my son discover the joys of outside living and dumpster diving. No child of mine will become Freegan! But the fact is that if I am to leave this place, I have to have something else lined up to fall immediately into. I’ve played with the notion of putting out feelers toward the end of returning to the last place I worked (but with some firm conditions), though that may have more to do with it being the devil I know. For right now, I will just say that I’m staying put, though I’m now looking forward to it far less than I was when I was getting ready for my first day at four a.m.

You see, the entire point of this was to say goodbye to a manager of mine. You may remember him from previous entries where I was describing the battles for the fundamental paradigm of how the store was to be run. Yesterday was his last day with us. As I looked into the warehouse today, and counted the days down until the next truck would be arriving, I realized just how integral to that place he truly had been. He’d been stuck running with less than half of the staff he needed, based upon volume, and it was finally catching up. He told me that he still liked the job, but it came down to not being able to work for the Man Who Would Not Leave. In that way, it reminded me of when I left McDonald’s for the last time: They were just about to roll out the new drinks (which meant expensive new equipment that would lock in the owner for more years than he was willing), and so the owner decided to retire and sell his stores. The new owner we wound up working for was a real piece of work, valuing lapdog loyalty and a ruthless lack of humanity. I could have survived that, I think, were it not for the fact that, despite assurances from both the former and current owners that my compensation would not change, it did. I lost my health insurance and my scheduled overtime. One or the other would have been manageable, but together, they were the straws which broke Tex Batmart’s back.

It seems that I have drifted off-topic once again.

I only knew Joe (not his real name, obviously) for about a month, and though I though highly of him, I don’t know that I knew him well enough to call him my friend. Given time (and a possible promotion on my part, so that he wouldn’t have had to deal with the awkward nature of befriending a lowly part-timer), I think that I would have liked to have known him as one. Like all good managers, he led by example, setting the tone for his entire crew. He understood the necessity of levity to break up what would otherwise have been mind-numbing and back-breaking labor. He never asked us to do something that he himself was incapable of doing, and was always willing to spend a little extra time to make sure that we understood what he was asking of us. He had standards, and wasn’t afraid to cut someone loose who wasn’t willing to work, but he also believed in building people up, and giving them the chances and the tools they needed to succeed. You see, it wasn’t just a job to him. He actually drank the Kool-Aid (and I mean that in the nicest possible way). He understood the job, the store,  and the industry on a fundamental level. Watching him work, even short-handed and harried upon all sides, it was like watching master at his craft (like that time I got to see Robby Krieger play at the Ballard Firehouse), a blur of intentional motion, fluid and with purpose, almost hypnotic in its grace. It was both inspiring and a source of shame, in that one could only hope to achieve that competence someday, and no matter how good we were, we still didn’t measure up to him.

So now the store feels empty (though the warehouse is quite full). The mutters of discontent among the workers are growing, much like a restaurant transitioning from early afternoon to dinnertime. I don’t know what will become of us, here at this place we work, but I do know that it will not be the same. So it is with a heavy heart, filled almost entirely with trepidation toward my future, that I say goodbye. Thank you for spending the time with me to help me understand it. Thank you for the connection. Thank you for making what would otherwise have been unbearable, something approaching tolerable. I will miss our talks during breaks, and those conversations we had about everything and nothing, and the subtle art of management. I wish you nothing but the best (well, maybe a minor inconvenience for leaving us- leaving me- in the lurch), and just want you to know that you will be missed, and that, to at least some of us, you mattered here.

And remember: “You know that’s bad for you, right?”

Work: Lots of Politics, Big Drama

Despite trying to remain as low on the food chain as financially possible, I seem to have been drawn smack into the center of a roiling drama between two of the managers at work. The GM, who it turns out isn’t leaving after all, is quite put out with the manager of my department. My manager, on the other hand, is at the end of his fuse with the GM, who seems, according to my manager, incapable of understanding the need to make the store attractive, and of hiring enough people so that the rest of us can actually accomplish what is expected of us. One of them runs by the numbers, and seems the type to view a drop in sales not as the fact that the store is all higgledy-piggledy, but as a simple trend in sales, and therefore cuts down on staffing accordingly. That, and the fact that corporate seems to know better than those of us doing the actual work just how long everything should take. Never mind that our lovely customer base rips through the store like a natural disaster, and the employees who are supposed to pick up after them know even less where things should go than our customers.

My manager seems caught between shifting targets. First, he got tagged because he was following the directives of the GM, and suddenly we saw a shift in how we were doing things. Corporate wanted things to look nicer, and my boss seemed almost happy to oblige them. But, because we are facing a dearth of employees, this means that the warehouse is generally packed, especially if we have to spend the man hours to rearrange the store (as we had to yesterday), which apparently is also unacceptable. The fact is that we need more people, but it’s really hard to find anyone halfway decent who is willing to bust their ass in high gear for a part-time gig, making minimum wage. Of course, my opinions tend towards those of my direct boss, as he actually seems to give a damn about his work, whereas, though I may, in fact, be incorrect, the GM seems jarringly removed from the day-to-day operations of the business, more content to monitor everything from safe within the office, pouring over the labor and sales reports while glancing at the security camera monitors to make sure that everyone is, at least, appearing to be busy. Not that I’ve slacked off, but the key to surviving this, should someone not actually want to work, yet unwilling to inadvertently summon him, is to merely look busy. Walk with purpose. Carry boxes. That sort of thing. Ah, the lessons learned while ditching class in junior high!

I mention all of this because today the whole damn thing came (mostly) to a head. The Back-of-House manager called in sick (for Truck Day), and we got the GM instead. Personally, I believe that this may have been some passive aggression on the part of the BoH boss, as he’s also been getting frustrated by the lack of space remaining in the warehouse, yet also increasingly irritated by the “Do this! No, wait! Do the opposite! Sorry, do the first thing! Why are you doing it like that?! Do it the way I told you!” style of leadership that he has been forced to endure. Were I to speculate, I would suggest that he actually wanted the GM to see how unrealistic his goals were with the number of people we have. Of course, this sailed right over the GM’s head, and instead he voiced his frustrations that the store wasn’t as he wanted it. Wisely, I kept my mouth shut, as I well and truly to not want to get involved in this power struggle. I suppose that I could have thrown my boss under the bus, seeing as how it would have curried favor with the man with whom I worked today, but I just have too much respect for my boss. And I completely agree with him.

In addition, this was also a minor stumbling block on my way to livable wages. I know for a fact that I can do the job as my boss explained it to me. And I know that I could most likely do the job as described to me today by the General Manager. But honestly, while both jobs are similar in many regards, the fact is that, at their core, they are fundamentally opposed. I don’t know that I really want to do the work that the GM is envisioning. Too much cracking the whip, with little to no regard for the needs of the lowest-paid employees. Of course, it’s not like I have a lot of options at this point. I mean, as bad as I would feel about abandoning my boss, if a decent restaurant called me up and offered me Manager Money, I would probably drop everything and jump ship, especially if the commute was reasonable. As it stands right now, I have no idea what’s going through the GM’s head in regard to my promotion. He was full of piss and vinegar while we were unloading the truck, and for about an hour afterward. To his credit, he stopped short of blowing his top at the lot of us for all of the things he felt we were doing to sabotage ourselves. And he even (at least in front of everyone, as opposed to just myself) refrained from laying the blame directly at my boss’ feet. Well, kind of. I’ve been in management too long to fail to understand what “Ultimately it’s my fault for not communicating better” means. In manager-speak, he straight-up called my boss out and ripped him a new one, in absentia.

The rest of the week will be dedicated to clearing out the warehouse, and I’m grateful that my two long days for the week are done and gone. I imagine that there will be a confrontation when my two bosses meet again (think Cox and Kelso in that episode of Scrubs (actually, that metaphor works frighteningly well)). Somewhere in the balance lays my future.

My fingers are crossed.

Stolen Moments

I really need to get better about finding the time to write. On my days off, I seem to find the moments necessary to pump out at least a few thousand words, but any day that I’ve been working, I just cannot seem to make it happen. It could be that I haven’t been sleeping all that well (which has to do, of course, with the fact that it’s been warm lately, and I’ve been laying down to bed while it’s still light out), or that by the time that I get home, the Minkey has already risen, and seeks to either monopolize the desk’s occupants, or run around the bedroom, shrieking. By the time that I finally have some peace and quiet, it’s usually just about my bedtime (or a little after), and the choice between trying to get some writing done or trying to get myself to sleep isn’t really a choice at all. Eventually, my son will be going back to school, which should free up some hours between when I get home from work, and when I have to go to pick him up from school. But until then, I guess I will just have to figure something else out. I’ve even considered trying to get to sleep an hour earlier, so that I can have an extra hour to my morning in which I can sit down to write before I go to work. Of course, this would mean that I would have to go to bed around five o’clock in the afternoon, and considering how hard it is to fall asleep by six, I’m not going to hold my breath.

Speaking of my job, it seems that I am beginning to work my way up the corporate ladder. When I initially interviewed with the Store Manager (who I discovered was leaving shortly after I had started working there), he informed me that there were two types of positions open: a regular cashier gig, and supervisor position in the Back of House. If he was going to consider me for the latter, he informed me, he would have his Assistant Manager conduct another interview, and, based upon his recommendation, I would either get the better job, or not. As it turns out, I wound up with neither. I did my training (as I’ve discussed in this blog before), thinking that I would wind up as a cashier, but in my first week out of training, I was scheduled to be working with the jobber crew. Since then, I’ve managed to earn the respect of my manager and my coworkers, and convinced said manager to adjust my schedule to get me to as close to thirty hours as he can (his superiors are breathing down his neck because I am, apparently, only classified as a part-time employee, because almost nobody, it turns out, is actually scheduled for full-time. But there is a small silver lining: for the past week, we have been discussing, this manager and I, the prospect of my promotion to the job to which I thought that I would probably have preferred.

It speaks volumes about my work ethic, that within a couple of weeks at a job, I’ve already impressed someone enough to make them want to promote me. Well, that, and the fact that since the position has yet to be filled, this manager (who it turns out is the Assistant Manager with whom I would have had my second interview, according to the Store Manager) has been having to fulfill the duties of the supervisor and his responsibilities as an Assistant Manager. He’s eager to pass the torch to someone so that he can actually manage to give himself some breathing room, and plan things out a bit in advance, as opposed to flying by the seat of his pants, which is what he has been forced to do since the post was last vacated. At some point this week, he’s going to give me the second application (I guess that I have to do another one, for some reason), and set up my interview with the Store Manager (whether it be the one who hired me, or his replacement). He’s trying to tamp down my expectations about the pay increase (which I’m not too worried about, as I have picked up the job-specific stuff very quickly, and the management requirements have been far exceeded), but as I told him, even at the minimum end of the pay scale for this position (which entails a $2 raise), I will be making double what I’m making now, as the position is full-time. And that is the sad reality of the working poor in this country.

Most larger places have responded to the employer requirements of the ACA by ensuring that the majority of their employees are classified as part-time, so as to avoid the obligation to even offer them the chance to purchase health insurance. This has had the consequence, at least in my place of employment, of making it so that we never have enough people to stock the store consistently, which, in turn, means that we have less product on the floor, which in turn means that sales drop because customers cannot find the things they came to purchase, which results in labor shrinking, which means that there are even less people to do the work which already required more people in the first place. I can already feel the stress of management creeping into me once more, and I haven’t even been officially promoted yet. Flor just wanted me to find a job which I could work, wherein I wouldn’t be required to give a shit, and, to be honest, it kind of appealed to me. But the extended stretch of joblessness which I experienced meant that I can’t just coast along on a small amount of hours just for some dicking around cash. As soon as something happens, I’ll make sure to let you guys know. Until then, just cross your fingers and wish me luck.

UPDATE: The Broken Bat(mart)

As I described in The Broken Bat(mart) a couple of days ago, not to mention at least half of my posts here on the website, I am suffering from a fair amount of pain, to the point of feeling physically and mentally battered and very close to almost broken. I’d thought that it was pretty bad when I was working in restaurants, but after a six month sabbatical, and subsequent employment at a far more physically demanding job, it turns out that it has gotten much, much worse. Like I mentioned last week, in Agony- 13.5 Years, I was very near the point of quitting before I’d truly managed to get started. Honestly, I believe that it was only the shame of having to give up so quickly which managed to bolster my tenacity and allow me to stick it out and try to find my footing. Pride, however, doesn’t do a lot in terms of pain relief, and even though it hasn’t been as bad as that first day unloading the truck, I could feel the cumulative effects of so much physicality, and knew that I would have to finally do something. Normally, I would have been tempted to utilize “back channels” to locate what I needed (after having had such a miserable experience with my last physician), but because of my employer’s policies, that could have wound up costing me my job. So I waited until payday, and got myself to the local Urgent Care offices.

I didn’t hold much hope, mind you, that anything would happen, considering the hoops I had to jump through (not to mention the hundreds of dollars in co-pays for doctor appointments and medication which didn’t work) just so that nothing would, even in the slightest bit, change, aside from the size of my bank account. And, considering how much time I had to wait before finally being admitted, I’m amazed that anyone actually saw me at all. At least when I go again, I’ll be in the system, and won’t have to sign so much infernal paperwork. I was sitting in the waiting room for nearly an hour, being kicked (I hope by accident) by a parade of toddlers running past me on their way to and from their mommies and the toys back in the corner. I did my best not to scowl at them, as I generally do like children, but considering that I was in there because of extreme (Extreme!) leg pain, every little kick against my foot shot spears of agony up through my legs, resonating loudly just behind my knees as they ascended. Needless to say, by the time that I was finally called back, I was nearly in tears.

Things I learned from this visit:

1) I have gained nearly fifteen pounds since quitting my last job.

2) Apparently my blood pressure is bad enough that both the nurse and the doctor could barely conceal both their surprise and concern about seeing the numbers.

3) The beds they have to sit on in the exam rooms are precisely the wrong shape and height if you are suffering from leg pain.

I’d thought that it was a long and mind-numbing wait to get into the exam room, but it was so much worse once I was in there, despite the fact that toddlers were no longer smacking up against me. If it weren’t for the constant painful throbbing in my legs, I might have actually passed out from boredom. When the doctor finally entered, I had lost the boiling pit of vitriol which I had been nurturing since that morning, and was only able to describe my pain with a sigh of resignation. Considering how everything wound up playing out, that may have been for the best. I told her how this wasn’t something new, and the nonsense that I endured at the hands of my last physician. I told her how my current job was the only one to call me, and though it’s physically destroying me and refusing to provide me with enough hours to live on (especially considering that they’re only paying me minimum wage), it was all I had, and that I needed to find a way to keep going back. I told her that I knew that my expanding girth was contributing to my pain, and that half a year of relative inactivity, while a welcome respite from the pain I’d felt those last few years that I’d been working, had only made it that much harder when I wound up going back to work.

And then the most amazing thing happened: I told her what the physical therapist had told me (which my doctor had ignored) which was that I should be on muscle relaxants, and instead of arguing with me, she just nodded, and motioned for me to continue. For the first time in well over a decade, a doctor actually listened to me. Maybe it’s because most drug addicts aren’t hitting up their doctors for muscle relaxants when they could be there for more powerful narcotics, or maybe it was that she heard the truth of my pain hidden somewhere in my voice. Whatever it was, she told me that she’d be prescribing a muscle relaxant for me, and something for my pain. She then left me waiting for another half an hour, so as to make sure that I remembered that I was still dealing with the health care system in America. The nurse came in again, with the two prescriptions, and wished me well, apologizing for the delay, and reassuring me (though a bit belatedly) that I hadn’t been forgotten. I thanked her, and gimped out past a newly refilled waiting room and off toward a pharmacy.

I normally go Walgreen’s when I fill prescriptions, but my legs were hurting (as I may have mentioned once or twice), and so it was that I finally paid a visit to the little pharmacy less than a block away. I think what really sold me was that they advertised “15 Minute Prescriptions”, and the soonest I could hope to get them from the nearest Walgreen’s was at least an hour, and then, only if there wasn’t anyone in line ahead of me, which, considering that it was almost five o’clock on a Friday afternoon, didn’t seem too likely. I don’t know how much my meds would have cost me, but that day, at least, I was more concerned about sooner than cheaper. Within eight minutes, measured from when I first walked in the door, I had my bottles of Tramadol and Baclofen. They’d cost me $47.00 (and the Urgent Care visit had run me $45- which meant that I had spent almost half my check on medical care for the next week), but for the first time in what could have easily passed for forever, I felt almost human again. The walk back to my apartment didn’t hurt, and I was able to greet my waiting son with loving attention instead of pained tolerance and distance.

Obviously, I cannot continue to spend half of every paycheck on medicine so that I can keep working at that job, but for now, at least, I feel the future is at least slightly brighter than it was before. My fingers are crossed, and my knees are no longer killing me. Here’s to the future!

The Broken Bat(mart)

I am broken into a million pieces, each smaller than the last, and throbbing in an electric pulse of agony which threatens not only my physical well-being, but also that of my mental state. Tomorrow, or the day after, I will have to pay a visit to the Urgent Care Center and find a way to convince them that I’m going to need something stronger than prescription-strength Aleve. I mean, were I not employed by a ridiculously cartoonish corporation who feels threatened enough by the successes of labor unions back when they were relevant in America to paint them in an obviously nefarious light (I mean come on: That video was essentially Reefer Madness 2!), I would take advantage of my wife’s reluctant acceptance of at least the concept of medical marijuana and be done with it. But because my employer insists on random drug tests (to which I have not yet had to submit myself), and the fact that marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I narcotic (meaning it has no medicinal value whatsoever and a high potential for abuse), even if I were to possess a valid prescription for the THC which would be floating around inside of me for the foreseeable future, I would lose my job for having used an illegal substance. What that means is that, instead of the possibility of taking one thing to combat the pain, muscle tension, loss of appetite and anxiety, there exists the real possibility that I will either have to take something with a higher risk for dependence (or multiple things), or simply receive no help at all.

That was what happened back when I had a regular doctor and health insurance. He refused to actually listen to me, and insisted on writing ineffective prescriptions, which I had to dutifully fill (still costing me money, despite the discount from the insurance), and give a chance while the side effects wound up being worse than my original problem. You see, I made the mistake of letting him know that I have Bi-Polar Type II, hoping that he could just write me a prescription for lithium and order regular blood draws. So when we were trying to address the constant pain from which I was suffering, he decided that it would be better to try to kill two birds with one stone. Obviously that didn’t work. Anti-depressants have never worked for me, as they don’t actually address the mania (lithium, for those of you who aren’t aware, is an anti-manic. It works by limit the scope of the mania, which, in turn, means that it can mitigate the depression.), and indeed, have a tendency to make my psyche go a little… off. By the time he finally got around to referring me to a pain specialist, I was out of time and money (each of his useless visits also coming out of my pocket, $20 at a time). Why is it so hard to get proper medical help in this bloody country?

I realize that there are a lot of people who just want opiates to get high. I can respect that, as life is kind of a bummer, and opiates make all of that just sort of go away. I had a prescription for a little while for Vicodin, and I could understand the appeal. But, having had my fun during my late teens and early twenties, I’m really not that much of a risk for abuse. You see, as much as I would love to fall into the bottom of a bottle of whichever poison lays before me, I’ve got things to do. I have a son to worry about, a job to keep, and bills to pay. There’s a reason that I gave up drinking (aside from just a handful of times per year), and it wasn’t because I couldn’t afford it (though my love affair with high-end Scotch could have presented just the slightest bit of a problem were it not for hard-earned wisdom). I don’t want to get high, at least, not like that. I’m sure there will come a day when I just can’t take it any longer, and I invite the world to come crashing down upon me, but today is not that day. For whatever reason, it seems that I have to stay alive for at least a little while longer, and I promised myself that the next time that get back into harmful things, I’m doing it for keeps. I just want the pain to go away.

I have tried naproxen, aspirin, caffeine, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, epsom salt baths, massage, those handheld electrocution massagers, stretching, and everything else which I can purchase without medical assistance. I’ve also had to deal with a disturbingly high number of anti-depressants used off-label (to deleterious effect) upon the directions of my physician. The only times I’ve ever been pain-free were when I was given the opportunity to take something actually designed to combat chronic pain. And it’s a vicious cycle: as the pain increases (or at least, refuses to abate), I am able to engage in significantly less physical activity, and unable to stomach even the idea of eating more than once or maybe twice a day. So my weight increases, which puts more of a strain upon me, increasing the standard of pain. What I have gotten used to, insomuch as someone can get used to this agony, I would refer to as about a “7” on the pain scale, but that means (to me, at least) only that I have found a way to push temporarily through it, while awaiting the spikes of “9” or “10”. If you were to give that pain to myself from even six years ago, he would describe it with a much higher number. If you were to inflict it upon the me from the mid-nineties, he would probably go catatonic. I just want to be pain-free.

And this job I have isn’t helping. It’s a physically demanding job, and it’s beating the holy hell out of me. If I were my own doctor, my advice to me would be to find anything else. But here’s the thing: I’ve looked. After months of trying to find something I might have a chance of not despising, my current employer was the only place to call me back. I know it’s a shitty job, and I know it’s a shitty amount of money, and I know what it is doing to me, but I need it all the same. When you’re making minimum wage, you have to take whatever hours they will give you, and you can’t do that if you cannot get out of bed. That day hasn’t come yet, but I know it will. I can’t get to sleep until the sun goes down (near enough to 8:30 in the evening, and that means that it doesn’t even start to get properly dark until somewhere closer to 9), and I have to be awake again by 3 a.m. at the very latest, so that I can get out the door by 3:20 to make the walk to work. Do the math. And then, when I get home, David is awake, and the chances for me to sleep are nonexistent (this, by the way, has been one of the reasons why I haven’t been able to write these past few days). Add that in with the worsening pain, and tacked-on responsibilities at work due to consistent demonstrations of competency, and it’s a wonder that I’ve made it as long as I have.

So yeah, I’m feeling a little broken right now, both physically and monetarily. I know that at some point, things will get better, but I can’t honestly believe right now.

Agony- 13.5 Years

I have quit jobs because of moral reasons. I have quit for ethical reasons. I have quit because I was unpaid and undervalued. I have quit because I had to move and couldn’t afford the commute. Hell, I’ve even quit a job because my paycheck earned me everything I’d wanted when I picked up a bag of pot, a pudding cake, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. But I have only once quit a job because I could no longer physically do it. At least, until now. To be clear, I haven’t quit my job yet, but even Flor has suggested that it might not be the worst thing which could happen. The fact is that the only reason I haven’t given notice is that I’m too damn proud to admit to myself that I might not have what it takes to do a minimum wage job. I went from being very good at what I do for a living, knowing what I had to do and when I had to do it on an instinctual level, to being someone who doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do, and unable to do what he’s been assigned with any level of competency. I am aware that it will take some time to bring myself up to speed, that the jump from food service to retail is involves a fairly decent learning curve. I know that I will get faster with every shift I work, that it’s only a matter of tenacity.

And so it would be, if it weren’t for the nearly maddening level of agony from which I have been suffering since halfway through my shift yesterday. I mentioned before that I had quit a job because of my physical limitations. It was the winter of 2001, and I had just moved to Lake City (a drive through suburb north of Seattle) with some friends who’d decided that I probably shouldn’t be stuck living in a thicket behind the Safeway of our hometown while working at McDonald’s. I’d been contributing from savings while looking for a job, but nothing was coming through. Big surprise. One of these days I’m going to have a laugh at the predictability of my life, although back in December of 2001, it was the first time that I had ever had to leave a job and immediately look for something else. The only thing that I could find was Labor Ready, which allowed me to wait outside the office in the freeing cold so that I could fight for shitty manual labor gigs with all the other people there without any other skills. After about a week or so of digging ditches in the frozen earth, I discovered that I wasn’t built for labor of a physically demanding nature. There came a day when I could not get out of bed, when my muscles were so tense and stiff that even though I knew that I would lose the job, and have a hard time getting anything else through that agency, I just couldn’t move my body.

I got back into another McDonald’s, after pestering them with applications (which they were kind enough to reference when they called the apartment to let me know that I’d scored myself an interview- my roommates hadn’t truly been convinced that I’d been looking, you see, much like the Flor these past few months), and decided that restaurants were definitely a step above killing myself for a living. But even restaurants, fast-food though they might have been, can take their toll. With every move, with every resignation, I told myself that the next time around, I would find myself something that didn’t have anything to do with food, and every time I wound up back in the embrace of food service. I got good it at. I started getting promotions, and then worked my way up into senior management. I developed a skill set. Hell, I even started remembering the Spanish that I’d taken in high school, and within a few years, managed to make myself conversationally fluent. Aside from the normal wear and tear of multiple hours on my feet, the worst that I really had to deal with was the constant stress and pressure of running a business and giving a damn about my employees. The stress did a number on musculature, but I managed it as best I could. I’d spent so long being at the top of my game, that when I left this last time, I felt that I could do anything. Hell, I even thought that I could write.

My first non-training day was yesterday, and it almost broke me. I have never, never, unloaded that volume of product off of a truck before. It was a constant flow of cases ranging from nearly weightless to considerable heft. The boxes were all shapes and sizes, and it was our job to sort them into their departments’ pallets, stacking them as best we could, and keeping up with the neverending flow of more and more cardboard containers. By the time we’d finished, I thought that I might have caused permanent damage to myself. Honestly, if we hadn’t finished when we did, I might have had to notify the manager that I couldn’t continue. I realize that I’m entitled to see a physician if I am hurt while I’m at work, especially if I did everything correctly, but I didn’t want to be the white dude who just couldn’t cut it doing basic grunt work. It’s been a sobering experience, I have to say, proving to myself that I could not, in fact, do anything I set my mind to.

But there is the slightest of silver linings: I got a call yesterday that a fairly well-known Chinese fast-food place would be interested in talking to me about a management gig. It’s been over a month since I applied, but at least they’re getting back to me. If it turns out that I can score this job, it means significantly more money, steadier employment, and something that I can do with almost killing myself. I’m crossing my fingers that this works out, because now that Flor’s on board with me walking away from where I’m at, it’s hard to keep going back.

Lots of Big Fun

Yet another day of frivolity and fun done and gone, and it is only now that I have a better idea of what lies in store for me. I’d forgotten just how much of a pain it was to work oneself up from the bottom. If I thought that I could live off of part-time and minimum wage, I would have done so long ago. I’m hoping that by the time next week comes to an end, the Store Manager will have a better idea of what I can do, and adjust my schedule accordingly. I’m trying not to freak out about it: I frequently was only able to schedule new hires for minimal shifts until I got a better idea of what they could do, and I’m hoping that this is just the same. Because honestly, I don’t think that I can live off of just a hundred dollars a week or so. But enough about my worries concerning finances and hours available. You guys didn’t come here to read my whinging about the minor problems which affect me. If anything, you were probably expecting something either much more catastrophic or unimaginably wonderful. Well, I can’t offer either of those, but I can tell you about my day today. That almost works, right?

Sadly, it was more computer training today, and by the time that five o’clock had come around, I was eager to get out of there. I just wish that instead of being forced to sit through narration which takes up far longer than I believe necessary, I could read the information at my own pace, and then answer the quizzes following each section. I still have a few more sections left to get through, but I don’t know that I will get back to the training programs. Starting on Monday, I’ll be working the super early shift, and that usually indicates that a delivery will be coming. I mean, other than not being interrupted by customers who seem to think that I know where things are located, there isn’t any reason for me to come in at four o’clock in the morning. Actually, all snark aside, I’m really excited about this development, as it means that I won’t have to deal with any customers. And maybe it will lead to the position which the Store Manager informed me was available, some kind of delivery manager. That would be an immense relief, as it would mean more money, full-time, and the chance to start earning benefits.

At least it hasn’t been as terrifying as I made it out to be in my head before my first shift. It turns out that retail and restaurants have a lot in common, and I’m really still only learning store-specific things. And I noticed that I’ve been in management too long, when I got up several times to try to help the random customers who thought that I could help them (to be fair, I only directed them to someone more knowledgeable), and wound up helping my fellow trainee get through some of her technical issues in the training program. Actually, it was kind of nice to feel moderately useful once again. And it helped to get up out of my chair and stretch my legs a bit. Hell, I even used my mad Spanish skills to help out someone who didn’t really speak much English. All in all, it wasn’t too bad, I suppose. I guess that I will just have to reserve judgement until I can see how this is all going to pan out.

As for writing, I need to really get back to it. I wasn’t going to write anything tonight, but then I remembered that I basically took two weeks off when I had no internet and was feeling sorry for myself, and I have a long way to go if I am going to still make it to my goal of 365,000 words by December 31st. I had been hoping to take some time off in December to do something that didn’t necessarily involve the written word, but I’m down by eleven days, and I have to get back into my rhythm again. I guess what that means is that I’m not likely to get any more days of from the blog until I’ve made up several thousand words. And I’m not going to be getting there if I keep on like I have been. What I need is something to fire up the blood, spark the passion, get me riled up and ready to share my opinions with the world, preferably at the top of my lungs. I’m in search of a good rant, I think. If anyone has any suggestions for me, please feel free to contact me.

In the meantime, I suppose that I will just have to carry on as best I can in hopes that something will irritate me. Don’t worry too much: I’m bound to find something soon. I mean, it’s not like I’m the calmest individual in the world. Perhaps it would be easier if I didn’t have Doctor Who playing on the television next to me. I don’t care that I’ve watched this episode dozens of times before, it’s still Doctor Who, and it’s a David Tennant episode, so there’s even less of a reason for me to shut it off. I don’t even particularly like this episode. Werewolves in Victorian Scotland? Yeah, not so great. But, like I said, it’s still decent installment, and it’s better than most everything else that’s on right now. It does make it harder to focus on the task at hand. I kind of wish that there weren’t so many blogs dedicated to the subject. If no one else was writing about it, I could feel better about going on about a show I love. As it stands, however, there are better musings on the subject, and the most that I could hope to contribute would be sharing with everyone that I really like the show, which I have already done.

Oh, hey! I totally forgot to tell you all how Flor’s second job is going! Well, I guess I’ve got something to write about tomorrow. Have a great night, everyone!


What a week it’s been: Got an interview a week ago, sweated over the weekend, had my phone die (which meant that I had to talk my wife into buying me a replacement), got a call back, and went in for my first day of training today. I still have another training day tomorrow, at which point I think that I’ll be on the schedule for the next week (hopefully somewhere nearing full-time). So far, so good, although I did laugh through the anti-union propaganda video I had to watch, where it portrayed unions in their worst possible light, while minimizing benefits which unions have brought to the entire workforce. I especially enjoyed how the video framed its message as “maintaining your right to bargain with your employer.” Because we all know that large corporations will seriously consider the needs of its common employees out of a sense of decency. Whatever. I’m not that worried about it, to be honest. I’ve spent so much of the past twelve years in management that it really hasn’t been an issue for me. Now if I can just get through the mind-numbing computer training tomorrow, I’ll be home-free.

Today was pretty simple. I went in, filled out the necessary paperwork (in short order, with no mistakes- the benefit of having to supervise paperwork from the other side of the table), watched some (unintentionally) hilarious videos about how amazing my new employer is, and then went down to finish the day on the computer training. The first part was familiarizing myself with their POS, which I suppose was made easier by the fact that I have used three different systems over the past decade, and have the general idea pretty well sussed out. For the “Mastery” section, where I had to demonstrate that I could follow the steps laid out for me on the left-hand side of the screen, I snagged a perfect 100. I spoke briefly to the Assistant Manager about it, and had a nice conversation about how training programs are all well and good, but you don’t really start to understand a system until you’ve actually been using it. And you don’t understand everything wrong with it until there is a line out the door, and the manager has just stepped out for his break. But I’m not worried about it. Like I said, I’ve used a handful of systems over my career, and I already know the basics.

And then we got to do the “Harassment” section of the training, which almost killed me. As a manager in the “Great” State of California, I had been required to take a Manager Harassment Course every two years. The last time I took it was last summer (it might have been autumn). And, of course, it must last at least two hours, which means that instead of being able to read through at my own pace and refresh my knowledge of when it’s not appropriate to grab someone’s ass and say, “That’s a handful of sexy right there. What are you doing in the break room in ten minutes?”, I had to keep myself from falling asleep as I waited for the glacial pace of the narration to catch up with me at the bottom of the page. I’m not saying that this training isn’t necessary, just that there has to be a better way to do it which doesn’t involve some type of psychic euthanasia. By the time my shift ended for the day (all four and a half hours of it), I had only managed to finish seventy-five percent of the course, leaving me frontal lobe analgesia for tomorrow. I hate dealing with people, but it is at least slightly more tolerable than being read to as if English wasn’t my native language.

Also, they sort of lost me when the narrator said, “expecially.”

I’m trying to view this change in careers as a positive thing, as opposed to a desperate move to put some money in my pocket and pay off my bills. It’s not entirely untruthful that I am looking forward to learning something new (outside of restaurants), as this will only serve to educate me in an area in which I had previously never had the opportunity to experience. I did try to get into retail six years ago, when I wound up taking the job at Blondie’s (I dropped my resume off at the pizzeria as an afterthought, unaware that the owner there was the same as the record store down the street where I was actually interested in working. I’m trying to keep an open mind about this, and hoping that both full-time and a promotion are just around the corner, which isn’t an unreasonable expectation. My first job down in California, I made management within my first six months. My next job provided a promotion after just a couple of months (to a training position), management in less than six, and senior management in nine. I started at Blondie’s as a “Manager In Training”, and wound up as Assistant within several months, getting shuffled around to put out company fires, and then finally given my own store as GM.

Like I told the Store Manager when he interviewed me, I have no problem starting at the bottom and working my way up, although, after all these years in positions of responsibility, I would much rather begin a few rungs up. I believe that it’s important for a manager to know how everything works, and to have at least one station which he or she can rock way harder than his or her employee, while being at least competent on the others. No one expects the manager to be a specialist. He is there to make sure that everything runs smoothly, and to deal with things should they go wrong, not run a register all day. And at least at this job, there is very little chance that I will have to work with dough, which had been a point of frustration for me at both Fuddrucker’s and Blondie’s. Kneading dough just makes my arthritic fingers ache. And shut up. I know that I am a little young to have arthritic fingers.

So that’s been my week. Now that the internet is back, and I have something to write about besides my general anxiety, I’ll be getting back into a more regular schedule of posting. I don’t know if they will be done by noon everyday, like I’d been doing, but I’m definitely back for good. Tomorrow, when I get back from another fun-filled day at work, I’ll put up something new for all of you to read. Thanks for bearing with me through these trying times.


And, if you haven’t picked up my books yet (or left a review), please do so!

From The Vaults of Uncle Walt, Volume One

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I’m trying to check out what’s going on with the links for the U.K., but I can’t seem to get anything for them. If I haven’t listed your country, and you are interested in picking up one (or both!) of my e-books, please go to your country’s, and search for “Tex Batmart”.

See you all tomorrow!