This Must Be Foodie Hell

What you see above is all that’s left of Portland’s biggest – and my personal favorite – food cart pod.

It’s fate has been known for the last year or so, since the owner of the lot it sat upon announced future development plans. What remained unknown was the timing as the local business press kept the curious up to speed on the plans for the site.

What came to pass was design approval for Portland’s fifth tallest building and first five-star hotel.

So, on this past May 31st the business owners at the 10th & Washington food cart pod were notified that their last day of occupancy would be June 30th.

30 friggin’ days!

What a crushing bit of news for the thousands of folk that made a meal at this pod a part of their routine.

Bad news for the businesses, too, one would imagine.

That said, there were a couple of really big unknowns accompanying the announcement.

A) who exactly this five-star tenant would be. It’s not that it wasn’t announced, it’s that no five-star hotel has expressed interest in or accepted the opportunity to partner in the finances involved in a project of this scope.

Yup, the owners of the land evicted the tenants without financing for the project. Which brings me to the larger issue here,

2) where are the displaced food carts to go?

Thirty days isn’t much time to secure a place in any of the other pods – even though Portland is crawling with pods. The thing that made this pod so successful, aside from location, was the following its carts engendered. I can’t tell you the number of times I took friends to my personal fave, Bing Mi, or recommended it to visitors from out of town.

As a matter of fact, that was how I heard of the cart in the first place!

Anyway, a few carts had used the vaguely looming deadline as a chance to find a new place and move on their own terms. The former square of outward facing food windows had started to show a few gaps, but it was far from looking like a hillbilly smile.

The end result was the same, though – come July 1st…no more pod.

During our last coffee klatch or two of June, the Silver Fox and I had discussed the rumored future for the displaced carts. It was exciting to consider since it would directly benefit us, even though the chance of happening without disruption to business as usual was exactly zero percent.

The rumor was that the city had proposed moving the pod into the Couch and Davis side streets of the North Park Blocks. Remember, the northwest quadrant of the city that I live in is called the Alphabet District because the street names are in alphabetical order. For context, The Fox and I live on opposite sides of the Park Blocks between Everett and Flanders.

Yup, the proposal from the city would land the pod one to two blocks from our homes.

The shit thing for the businesses affected is that with more harmonious planning, the city could have laid out the minimal infrastructure changes – power and traffic flow – needed beforehand while the carts were simultaneously able to notify their loyal customers of their new location.

Actually, I misspoke earlier – the city was proposing lining the actual park blocks with the carts by placing them in the parking spaces on the park side of the street facing the park itself.

The plus side here was that it would drive foot traffic into the urban park blocks, which the city considers to be underutilized. I swear, that’s bureaucratic-speak for “an increase in regular citizen traffic would probably create a decrease in urban campers”…aka: Portland’s much maligned homeless.

The side street idea was mine. It came from a couple of issues, of both my own making as well as reporting on the potential project.

The city spends a lot of money each year on planting and replanting grass in the park blocks. No sooner does the initial reseeding effort bear grass than the summer parade/festival season begin, starting with Pride and the International Beer Festival in June and ending with Art In The Park in late August. Lining the blocks with park-facing carts is just going to cause more damage to the parks.

For its part, the city seemed concerned about a loss of parking meter revenue – and parking ticket revenue, I’m sure!

For my part, I don’t care about parking revenue. I do care about where I can get my Bing Mi!

Gimme regular, uninterrupted access to a Bing Mi and nobody gets hurt.

My plan of using side streets for the carts might do nothing to reduce any parking revenue impact this proposition creates, but it has another positive impact. Namely, eliminating traffic trauma for drivers unfamiliar with Portland downtown traffic.

You see, the North Park Blocks are bordered by 8th – a one way street that runs southward – and Park – another one way street that runs northward. Most of the side streets are two way. For whatever reason, this confuses drivers and The Fox and I spend a lot of time watching drivers go the wrong way down one way streets.

It’s really quite surprising, the frequency. More so, the number of times someone realizes their mistake and corrects it by turning the wrong way onto another one way street in order to make things right.

People.

Anyway, both Couch and Davis are two way streets. Lining those blocks with carts and making them one way would allow the city to make the approach blocks one way in a manner that allowed only right hand turns onto or off of the park blocks, eliminating confusion. Looking at you, Vantucky Drivers.

Where’s my damn Nobel Prize?

But this is all in the planning stage still. A phase I’m sure will outlast the displaced carts’ ability to remain out of business. Oh, and it’s worth repeating that these carts were displaced by construction and that half of the block between Burnside and Couch is due for demolition (an old Bridgestone service center) for construction of a new apartment building in the next year-ish.

So, where are the carts in the interim?

I don’t know, exactly, however I did discover this little hiding place the other day one a walk.

We’ll get to the markup in that photo in a second. First, this…

That mural says Market of the Future. It’s decorating the street side of the parking lot those food carts are parked on.

The lot itself is the backlot of the downtown US Post Office’s sorting facility. For context you’ll need soon enough, the Post Office complex runs three blocks wide from Hoyt Street to Lovejoy Street, enveloping Irving, Johnson and Kearney Streets.

The back story there is that the city decided not to renew the government’s lease on the nine square blocks between Hoyt/Lovejoy and Broadway/9th in favor of development for housing and retail space.

Oh, and an extension of the North Park Blocks!

The US government – as a result of this eviction – proactively moved its sort facility to a new industrial development out by the airport. Now the former urban sort facility sits empty except for the walk up customer service counter and PO Boxes which basically occupies the storefront space on Hoyt between Broadway and 8th Street.

This has been the only functional part of the business for quite some time.

Long enough, actually, that one day while accompanying me on a trip to my PO Box, The Fox decided to go up to the counter and demand of the poor associate an explanation for the delay in development.

He returned with an actual explanation, stopping my smug chuckling at the futility of his mission.

It turns out, the crafty US government had written into its contract a provision which I’m sure was meant to discourage eviction by the city. Namely, if the city sought to terminate its lease, they needed to find a similar sized customer service store front with 25 parking spaces within ten blocks of the current site.

Well played, US government…well played.

Maybe 20 years ago the city could have pulled this off, including on my very block. Unfortunately, now the three abandoned warehouses on my block have been replaced with a Hampton hotel.

Most other blocks within that pre-ordained 10 block radius have already been developed. Indeed, the nine square block parcel the Post Office complex is on is the largest and nearly only undeveloped parcel within the Pearl District.

But now that the sort facility has moved, most of that parcel is derelict. There’s signs of the city trying to repurpose the space in the interim, but keep in mind that about six of the nine blocks are occupied by empty structures. The remaining three are abandoned employee and truck parking.

Cleverly, to that end:

But that is only one of the three blocks of parking. The food carts are on one of the other blocks at the far end of the parcel. From the looks of that mural, one (me) could reasonably assume that perhaps the city is planning some sort of urban market that would incorporate food carts into it.

The wrinkle here?

The mural says, “Coming summer 2019” and its approaching mid-July.

Also, Portland’s Saturday Market is practically blocks away on the waterfront. Sure, maybe this Market if the Future would be open every day…still.

Never fear, Galby is here to save the day by solving everyone’s problems.

So, back to the markup…

That “separate back building” is on the back third of the nine block parcel between Kearney and Lovejoy streets.

There’s only the teensiest little overlap of the main building with this back third of the parcel. Methinks that could be demolished and closed off with minimal impact to the remaining customer service windows located on the first third.

The paid parking in the middle block could remain operational and likely have plenty of customers on the construction crew.

Developing that back third would allow for planning a building with a ground floor retail footprint that included with it the required parking spaces so the Post Office could move, allowing development of the remaining two thirds of the parcel.

The thing is that the city didn’t know know what it wanted to do with the area. Sure, they know they needed housing solutions within the downtown core. Then the whole Amazon HQ2 thing came along.

To its credit, the city seemed to know it didn’t want that…yet knew it was expected to throw a proposal in the ring. So they did, but with tax breaks so bad they were like garlic to the tax-dodging vampire that is Amazon, ensuring we were never a serious contender.

Since then, the city has begun posting plans around the parcel – sorry for the tightness of this shot, but it’s a picture of a nine block development plan on a piece of 8×11 copy paper…

For placement context, that dark black structure is the Broadway Bridge and it’s at the northeast corner of the parcel. Broadway itself runs on the east side of the Post Office, but the bridge actually ends with Broadway forking off onto Lovejoy Street as well, which borders the north side of the parcel, or the back third that I was talking about developing first to move the whole project forward.

From the perspective of a person with virtually zero knowledge of either urban planning or construction – ignorance is so liberating! – it seems doable. Further to the upside, that back third is the only part of the project that has buildings on all three blocks. The remaining two thirds will have buildings on their outer blocks, but the center blocks will be the extension of the North Park Blocks I mentioned earlier.

The potential benefit there is that starting with the back third would mean that three of the seven blocks with buildings planned on them would be done first. That’s 43% of the construction, meaning that work would progress away from the most labor intense phase. Somehow in my mind this means less whining about construction noise from the new buildings’ residents but I’m having trouble quantifying my argument.

Something about the remaining 57% of the project being divided into fourths for the impact of the two blocks adjacent to the Lovejoy blocks and then in half again for the development of the Irving blocks in the final third phase…but I’m so distracted by my craving for a Bing Mi right now that I can’t get there.

Meanwhile, in the interim I’ve got no Bing, thousands of others are missing out on their favorite carts from the 10th & Wa pod and were in a holding pattern on both the development of the Post Office blocks and the new five star hotel.

Lose, lose, lose…how is it that when we lose things – like my favorite food cart pod – it happens quickly yet when we gain things, it comes so slowly? Rhetorical questions aside, though, with so little happening so slowly, the positives that we gain will likely feel like winning the lottery when they do finally happen.

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This Must Be Foodie Hell

I Tried Something New

I know.

Me.

And I’m writing about it to take my mind off of murdering my cat for her ongoing psychotic behavior. Hopefully this distraction works out for her…

Anyway, it was this toothpaste:

I had heard of it, but never tried it because “everyone” on social media had been raving about it. Naturally, if a self-appointed influencer recommends it, I’m out.

That sounds like me.

But there I was, out of toothpaste. Like, way out. That last day was touch and go. Worry not, it worked out but I still immediately ran to the RiteAid for a new tube. I was standing there in the toothpaste aisle, silently grumbling about how expensive toothpaste is – which also sounds a lot like me.

Then, there it was.

Y’know what? I needed a little pick me up, so I splurged on a $6.50 tube of toothpaste.

Plus, when you spit and rinse, you’ll get a lil shock because: black toothpaste!

Overall! I gotta tell you, go buy this toothpaste! I’m not trying to be an influencer. I’m telling you to do it, not suggesting.

Since the first time I used it, my teeth have looked whiter. Three times in three weeks people asked me some version of if I’d gotten laid because I looked different.

I hadn’t.

And believe it or not, I just felt better!

Ever since the second time the murderous Myrtle tripped me, sending me to the emergency dentist to repair my broken off front tooth, I’ve been increasingly self-conscious about my smile. I’ll take a minty little pick me up to undo some of the damage that cat has done to me.

At $6.50, that’s a very reasonably priced nice side effect. Not as nice as if I was getting laid once a week like a few of my friends insanely think I could. But I’ll take it.

The hyperlink above is for two tubes and a free toothbrush for like $13, plus free shipping for Prime members. I think that’ll be my option next time I need toothpaste.

I also like getting packages, so why not just treat myself to getting one for no reason other than not going to the pharmacy? It’s way better than ordering a case of these ridiculously tasty treats. Although, seeing them in a 4.5 ounce package is nice. I’ve bought the 7 and 11 ounce packages and they both ended up being single servings. Less might be more, in this case! Plus, the last thing I ordered off Amazon was Myrtle’s favorite treats…look where that’s gotten me. Time to do something for myself!

I really should try to figure out how the Amazon Affiliate program works. This would have been two good ads to use! Hehe. But, no…I had to “test the waters” with clickbait!

I Tried Something New

A Week For The Books…

Literally, now that I’ve typed out that title.

But the meaning behind it is simple: I had an opportunity this week to sign the first autographs on both of my books.

Quite spontaneously, I assure you. The first was my school friend, MMK. She sent me a text early in the week after reading last weekend’s blog entries. She was suggesting that it had been entirely too long since we last had a coffee date.

It really had!

I think our last coffee date had been at Sister’s Coffee House, which in the interim has essentially burned down and been rebuilt.

Essentially.

So, yeah…it had been too long.

She told me that I could sign her book. I thought she was kidding and just went along with it.

Imagine my surprise when she whipped out her copy of Dating Into Oblivion! We just happened to be meeting on the one month anniversary of DIO going live on Amazon, so it was rather amazing timing, this impromptu signing.

Fortunately, I’d been thinking of what I’d possibly write on an inscription for her.

I came up with nothing.

But as we sat there and chatted, it dawned on me how special this friendship is. I’ve been fortunate to maintain connections with school chums, thanks to social media. But I’ve known MMK since the second grade.

And we still see each other!

It really reinforced how unique that friendship really is.

We’re coming up on three years since my high school class had their 30 year booze cruise here in Portland. I was an honorary invite since I ended up going to high school in Kansas. That environment lent itself to easy chatting, alcohol seemingly having a strangely relaxing effect on social inhibitions.

I’m not sure if you ever noticed that…

But that event was really a little bit of catch up and a lot of glory days. With MMK, it’s usually the opposite – although, I must also admit that she’s a very generous conversationalist. She asks a lot of questions that allow me to talk about my favorite topic.

So I’m kind of double lucky.

It was what I suspected would be my only highlight in a fairly sad week. I’ll probably write about that tomorrow. The Silver Fox was out of town, so you can’t imagine how restorative my time together with MMK was.

But I ended up being wrong. That’s a strange sensation, let me tell you.

The Silver Fox came back to town late yesterday and we got to meet for coffee this morning. I had told him I planned our usual coffee activity of writing, but then showed up without my computer because I chose to update my laptop when I got in the shower.

When I was ready to go, the damn thing still had 43 minutes remaining.

Oh, well…I think The Fox and I have only gone longer than five days without a hangout three times in the last five years, this being the fourth. Not having my laptop with me allowed for more actual conversation.

When I show up, he asks about my laptop and I tell him.

Oh, well did you bring a pen?

And he starts digging around in his bag. I’m thinking it’s for a pad of paper and I think, “Aw. How sweet! He’s gone help me keep writing!”

I was half right.

He pulls out the copy of No One Of Consequence pictured above and plops it down in front of me.

Boy, I really don’t think I see him happier or prouder than when he pulls one over on me! Counting my surprise birthday party, this is twice this year and it’s still only April, so it’s quite a roll he’s on!

People who know my friendship with The Fox will know he’s more likely than not to need to run to the store for bananas on any given errand day. I swear, sometimes he goes twice a week.

For bananas.

You know what that is?

Yup…bananas.

So for his inscription, I referenced the cover of the book and said now he’d always have at least one banana.

And, no…that’s not why the banana is on the cover! Although I suppose there’s nothing really wrong with letting him think that.

So, my week ended up having two delightful highlights.

Imagine my surprise as I’m writing this to – shocker, procrastinate about completing the damn thing by opening the Twitter. In looking at my profile page, I realized that in the last week I’ve tripled my followers. That’s a big deal, to me, anyway. I’m not saying I now have Kardashian or influencer-level followers, but the followers themselves are significant.

They are other independent writers, editors and bloggers. That’s a network I’d like to be social in, so I’m a week on unexpected surprises…that little occurrence ices my cake. I should go hang out with them a bit now.

PS: I’m filing this under “work”, that’s me manifesting a solid side gig as an author. So, there.

A Week For The Books…

Always Begin With The End

It’s official!

As can sometimes be the case, I finished early.

Let’s call it “ahead of schedule”.

My goal was to have this available on 4/1. To that end, I released my Dating Into Oblivion compilation in the second week of March to get a feel for what to expect of Amazon’s publishing routine. Better to know what to expect ahead of time versus missing a deadline, right?

Can you believe I can’t get a regular job with that attitude? Truth.

Here’s what I learned from my first crack:

– Cover design is pretty easy in Amazon, no need to pay for any software to create one. Ask me how I know

– Except, the back cover. That’s another story. But I figured it out after the first dozen or so copies were ordered, so there’s some collectors edition Dating Into Oblivion hard copies out there with nothing on the back cover but my face. Getting that kink out basically came down to making the assumption that you should paste or enter content into the space where the dialogue box was. Somehow it just works out.

– PDFs are formatted as 9×11 documents. Have you ever seen a book that size? Too big for a paperback, too small for a coffee table book. The cool size paperbacks are 6×9, so I had to overcome a “I can’t fucking do this on my own” moment when I previewed that.

Therapeutically yelling

I need a 20-something!

was helpful in reducing stress. Alexa, on the other hand…

Calling Felipe

Not as helpful.

– It’s better to start the publishing process with your hard copy and then go to your e-book afterward. I don’t know why…it just is.

– There seems to only be spellcheck in the paperback process, too. So…yeah.

My impatience taught me another lesson:

My first stab at publishing warned me that it could take up to 72 hours for formatting to be approved and the book to go live. It took 4. For this second effort, it took 34.

That could have been a real problem had I found myself in possession of a normal timeline versus arbitrarily picking April Fool’s Day as my live date. Because that just wasn’t going to happen.

But, what are ya gonna do?

As it was, my novel went live on 3/25 and I’m just going to be content with that reality.

Now, since I’ve had this blog for four years, officially and never bothered to monetize it, I’m gonna drop a link for y’all.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/f.html?C=Z9SQXHR9LXA4&M=urn:rtn:msg:201903130222099bb62a7a858d4eb8b682ee7bd520p0na&R=V158RSV9LR9Z&T=C&U=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Fauthor%2Fchristophergalbreath%3Fref_%3Dpe_1724030_132998060&H=DHROTLNEXOMIGVARF6X15DAUPM0A&ref_=pe_1724030_132998060

Wow. That’s a terrible link.

https://www.amazon.com/Christopher-Galbreath/e/B07PLNKTHB?ref_=pe_1724030_132998060

That’s better.

That’s my author page on the Amazon. It has kindle and hard copy versions of both of my books.

If you’re a longtime reader, just enjoy knowing Dating Into Oblivion is out there, you’ve read about 80% of it here for free. However, No One Of Consequence is a largely fictional work that I hope you will enjoy in either format.

And, please, if it’s not too much to ask…share this post if you think you have folks in your readership I’d appreciate you reposting or sharing this to get it in front of them.

Thanks in advance!

And in the meantime, enjoy this picture of what I encountered when searching for myself of the Amazon.

Yeah. Sometimes you straight folk don’t make such clever kids. We’ll talk about that later. For right now, just know that this was the progression of my childhood nicknames:

Grade School – Gallbladderbreath

Middle School –

Girlbreath

High School –

Ballbreath

Now, even though I knew they were onto something with that last one, when my brother coined the nickname Galby, I was on it.

But I’m glad the Amazon is there to help pick at that emotional scar.

Always Begin With The End

Feed Yourself

That’s a quote from the Silver Fox on our way back from coffee this morning.

I was serving him some OCD verbal vomit about my life, work, writing. He’d accidentally triggered me about 20 minutes earlier when we were grocery shopping. I had read a recipe for ribolitta while waking up this morning and when given the options, he’d decided what I should do.

I really want to try this recipe…but maybe I should make the Black Bean Goodness that I didn’t make last night.”

He decided on the ribolitta so after coffee, we went across Lovejoy to the Safeway for the incredibly simple ingredients. We both realized quickly that he would not benefit from his decision since the recipe has kale and he doesn’t.

Still, he stuck with me.

He stopped a few times at counters that interested him along the way. I left him behind because that’s what happens to me when he takes me to the Costco. It’s a lot easier to catch up-slash-find someone in a Safeway.

Just.

Saying.

Anyway, while I’m checking out, giving Sacha some gas points – if he’s still using the same rewards account we used when we were together – The Fox asked if we need lottery tickets.

I picked some up yesterday, so we’re fine.

Actually, we’d gone to buy them together and he bought them. But the point was, we had ’em.

“You know some trucker in New Jersey won Powerball?”

That was a ticket from a few weeks back. Or months? So we’re ok.

The Fox doesn’t like to play Powerball for less than $100 million. Any less than that and it’s just throwing money away, I suppose. Hehe.

I’d read the story of the trucker. Thinking of it now got me simmering. Halfway home, out it came. All over the Silver Fox.

The same thing had happened last Thursday night. But I just let it simmer in my head until Friday. That afternoon, I realized I was feeling completely weighed down by the pressure.

Thursday, I had wanted to go to the gym. Didn’t.

I was feeling like writing was a slog.

Two more days…then your January challenge ends.

Friday, I woke up with the same…congestion. Mental funkiness. Then I checked email.

I got a “Thanks, but…” from a position I was kind of excited about with Le Creuset. I’d had three interviews. It was a strange process. They seemed to go top backward instead of bottom up, like normal. Usually, for a Store Manager job, I’d expect to interview with the District Manager I’d report to, then if I was a go forward candidate I’d be passed up the chain for a corporate round robin interview.

With LC, I started with a director level, then a regional, then the DM and got spun out of the process there before the final round.

Well, that was a lot of effort for nothing…

I debated responding, but worried I’d come off as petty. That idea got tabled, and that decision became part of the mental funk.

By mid-afternoon, I didn’t think I could rally. Texts from The Fox about a party that was still FIVE HOURS away had me shrinking into the couch, further and further, until I just told him I didn’t think I could do it.

How am I becoming an introvert at this point in my life?!?

Yesterday morning, though, I’d woken up feeling good! It excited me. I didn’t feel great, but I didn’t feel neutral, either. Or even worse. I suggested to The Fox that we venture out for a Bing Mi before dropping in to the Big Legrowlski to say goodbye to one of the bartenders.

He’s going to teach English in South Korea.

The Fox was hip to the suggestion. Who wouldn’t be?

Mmm. So much, fuck yeah in these crepe sandwiches! We took our food from the food carts to the BL and had a beer – ok, I had two, Mr Reasonable had one – and ate while we chatted Joey up.

We were the only two customers in the joint. On my second beer (an 11.2% ABV called Notorious) I wondered aloud what was wrong with people.

It’s 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon. Why aren’t people out having beer?!?

Anyway, had they been, I’m sure I would have complained about that, too. By the time we left at 2:00, I was recharged. I went home and tapped out my final January Challenge blog and felt accomplished afterward.

I was jazzed.

It’s a wonder what harmlessly flirting with a straight bartender can do for the spirits.

We had gone from Big Legrowlski to Penzey’s Spices on the way home. It’s a whole two blocks out of our way, but they had a gift with purchase coupon for a chili spice I wanted.

In my post-writing high, I was contemplating making some Black Bean Goodness and adding in some of my new chili seasoning.

Filipina Fox to the rescue! She was at BL having a beer and wanted a sounding board to download the work she was doing for her start up fitness business.

I actually whined a little. Believe it or not, I didn’t want another beer. I was reluctant to drink any more and then do any knife work in the kitchen.

But I went and talked anyway. I’m pretty sure that everyone was low key surprised that I walked in and then out 30 minutes later without consuming anything…

Here’s the real surprise, after all that restraint, I still didn’t cook last night. I felt full.

Satisfied.

Fully satisfied.

I watched a movie and smoked half a joint that I’d been gifted a while back. When I pinched it out, I amused the absolute hell out of myself wondering if I should just pinch it out or also blow though it like I learned to do with cigars.

Joint…

Cigar…

Cigars seemed pretty durable comparatively. I decided not to risk it.

I’d hate to end up with a prolapsed joint.

Imagining that or a shower of ground weed flitting through my kitchen is what absolutely gave me the giggles. I put the joint away.

Probably just in time.

Now I’m a little peckish…

I’d been watching Veep on Amazon. I knew I shouldn’t be cooking, though. And that I didn’t have any snacky food. Looking at the clock I saw it was 9:45. Everything was closed.

Nice going, Hunter S. Thompson…

GoPuff to the rescue!

Twenty minutes later…

I realized I’m no good at ordering frozen pizza online. I thought I’d chosen a full sized za, but got a snack size. Not to worry, they threw in a lunch-sized bag of Fritos.

I can make this work…

I slept like a damn champ last night! Flash forward a couple hours and four espresso shots later and this well rested and over-caffeinated grumpopotamus was peppering The Fox with indecisiveness. He’d already enabled ribolitta even though I’d not made my Black Bean Goodness – can we agree that I’m short handing that as BBG going forward? – and now I was just dumping on him.

I need to find a friggin’ job!

Is it weird that I wanna write today?!?

The thing is, I’m choosing companies I want to work for, but by the time they tell me that they chose someone else, I don’t wanna work for them anymore.

Should I write? I need to finish my novel and just find a publisher. It would be best if someone would option my book. Takes care of the job thing, that does.

The Fox, walking next to me with the patience of Job, is just letting me wear myself out.

But I just want to write another novel now. I don’t want to edit, I don’t care if I get published…I just wanna keep writing!

“You need to feed yourself”, he chimes in when I finally take a breath. I hold up the bag of groceries I’m carrying suggestively.

“Your spirit”, he clarifies. I point him toward the post office so I can check my box.

We part, with me insisting he check out a three year old SNL clip that I found last night. Then I come home, unload my groceries and debate whether to just begin cooking immediately.

All because that trucker won our money!

Maybe I’ll start my taxes…

Feed Yourself

The Stoner Cafe

Longtime readers will recognize the name of this entry as what I named the vending machines in the basement of what my friend D-Slice called The Adult Dorm. We were neighbors there when I lived in Seattle.

The vending machines were on the basement level for five or so years after the building went condo. Maybe this was a construction leftover. However, since this was also the laundry level from when the building was apartments, something tells me they had been there quite some time before the construction guys arrived to rehab the building.

Also, there were Zagnuts in it.

Eventually, the machines were removed. This was actually a fairly sad realization for many residents, I learned. I had thought I was the only loser that frequented them, reinventing the walk of shame as I took my 14 floor elevator ride with a handful of change.

At least it was usually well after most of the residents’ bedtime, so I was usually able to do so undetected.

This nostalgia is top of mind again for me recently. Not because I sit around thinking about my glory days, no. Rather, because I have seemingly found a way to reinvent this phenomenon…if a vending machine can be considered a phenomenon.

Call it The Stoner Cafe 2.0.

Check that homepage out!

An aptly named app for my nostalgia, to be sure. The Stoner Cafe and this GoPuff app both wink at the reputation marijuana has for inciting the munchies.

Now, I’m not a big user when it comes to pot. Tried it in college, didn’t see the point. Tried it again when I moved from Seattle back to Portland, frankly, I’ve found that I can take it or leave it.

As I continue to struggle with an IPA induced increasing waistline, I wish I could actually “take it” – shut up, Diezel – in order to replace my beer penchant with zero calorie pot in order to unwind.

Alas…

The last time I used any marijuana product was 2016, and that was CBD derivative edibles rather than the THC counterparts. The THC being the intoxicating component of weed.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t get my own form of the munchies. Usually, this is my brain struggling to stave off boredom, versus any legitimate hunger. My mom pointed out this habit of mine to eat when I’m bored back before I even hit a double digit age. So it’s been around a while.

Knowing that about myself, I usually try to apply some discipline – believe it, or more likely, not – when purchasing junk food. I might pick up corn chips if I can fool myself into thinking I’ll make a nacho. If I go to the Costco, I’ll buy a big bag of snackage…because who can resist a good deal?!? Otherwise, I try to make my junk food consumption inconvenient so that I have to really want it.

Ergo, I’ll make myself get up and go to the store.

But a few months ago – maybe around Halloween – I discovered GoPuff. Seriously, did you see that pic of the homepage of the app? It’s like a convenience store on my phone.

I’d seen ads for this app while playing Words With Friends. I didn’t think too much of it at first, just a nuisance to be endured like all the other ads we put up with in our online lives.

Then one night, I was up…couldn’t sleep. There was no food in the house. Not even cheese, which usually goes a long way with me as a snack.

Or a meal.

I was trying to be good and hadn’t ordered a pizza or used Postmates to get some Thai delivered. I thought that if I could just make it past the restaurant’s closing time, I’d be out of danger.

My brain had other OCD thoughts in mind though. Once 11 PM hit, my cravings ramped up. Significantly.

Fine.

Amazon Prime to the rescue.

Nope. My earliest delivery option was the next morning.

Then I remembered…GoPuff.

Problem solved!

Salt & Vinegar chips. Check.

Pringles. Check.

Ice Cream. Check!

Monster for the morning? Check. Times two.

Frozen Pizza. Why not?

Oh, I can order beer and wine on this app, too? Don’t mind if I do!

Unlike Amazon Prime, there’s no extra charge for ASAP delivery. Again, consider the target audience. That means that I didn’t have to wait two hours for delivery.

On top of that, the prices are pretty solid. Somewhere between grocery store and convenience store. I didn’t have to feel guilty over anything but what was in my cart because I wasn’t overpaying.

This is on my mind today, of course, since I’ve been procrastinating a post-holiday diet. My white elephant gift was labeled

To: Fatty

From: Santa Claus

So, yeah…that’s great. It was also a Nutri Bullet blender and my sister helpfully pointed out that they juice great. What is that, a hint? Luckily, I’m meaner to myself than any helpful life tip could ever be.

I just needed to get to a point where I could do some self-care without any temptations. Er, distractions. I thought that would be last week, but then the Silver Fox suggested a Golden Globe viewing party and offered up three bottles of wine.

“It’s a long show!” he offered when I countered with two bottles. Fair point.

So, Monday, then!

Then I get a text from my ex, Rib. He’s got a 30 hour layover on Tuesday and we should hang out.

Yes. We definitely should hang out!

So…Wednesday?

Well, if I’m gonna shut The Fox’s drinking buddy down for the better part of a week…we should have a last hurrah day.

Thursday, it is!

I’m sitting here, writing this and eating the leftovers of my Pringles as a text lands from The Fox

BL at 3:30?

BL being Big Legrowlski…where our favorite beer, Pallet Jack from Barley Brown’s, is back on tap.

Junk food successfully consumed, a Pallet Jack send off, now I’m ready.

The Stoner Cafe

Dear Mellie…

When I started my temp gig at Le Amazon, I was wary of the overnight shift. I’d done it in college – y’know…while I was working 50 hours a week and taking 18-21 class hours a week.

I used to have a lot of initiative and energy. Now, I’m tired af, as the kids say.

Anyway, it turned out that I had nothing to worry about, my natural night owl tendencies were easy to uncover and dust off. I’d get home around 5 AM, take a shower, pop a Melatonin and watch a show while my hair dried.

Then I’d sleep for 6 hours.

That eventually grew to a full 8 hours, but after about a month I found that I needed two Mellies for the same caliber of sleep. And now…here I am, not committed to four overnight shifts per week, but merely one per month, at a minimum and able to pick up as many as I want, provided they are available.

Well, I want to work one or two per week, but took last week off to help my body recover a bit from the excess abuse I’ve put on this old bag of bones in the last two months. The enduring pain was in my fingers, believe it or not. My old shoulder injury was whining a bit, too, though. I definitely didn’t want to retrigger that…which is one of the reasons less was more for me with my schedule here.

You’d think that my sleep schedule returning to human normal last week would be a good thing. A relatively easy transition, right?

Nah.

This is me we’re talking about…the “what could possibly go wrong” guy.

I don’t think I slept more than two hours before midnight last week – Wait! Three, I just remembered an involuntary nap – and probably only five hours before 3 AM. To offset that, I started mixing a Mellie into the mix later in the week.

It was a spectacular failure.

I’d take a Mellie before bedtime, sleep for 90 minutes or even up to three whole hours and then be wide awake the rest of the night. Finally, I’d doze fitfully around 4 AM, feeling quasi ready for the day somewhere around ten.

So last night, I decided to shoot the moon. I pulled out all the stops with my sleeping routine-slash-best practices.

No alcohol + two Mellies + warm shower = zip.

I showered and then popped my Mellies and read while waiting for my hair to dry. I turned in around midnight with my alarm set for 8 so I could finally catch up on coffee with the Silver Fox.

Nothing.

Around two, I tried a prostate cancer prevention exercise that has the added benefit of being quite relaxing.

Still nada.

At about 3:30 in the glorious AM, I admitted defeat and got out of bed. I had to concede that the only remaining lever I had to pull was one that I’d never really struggled with before: bed is for sleeping. I’ve gotten in the habit of reading in bed when I struggled to sleep. It’s a terrible habit. People that read in bed like me or watch TV or whatever, train their bodies away from sleeping when their head hits the pillow.

I’ve got to commit to retraining my body into that habit now. So, no more iPad, no more (eek!) phone, no reading, no cocooning…bed is for sleeping. When I wake up, I gotta get in the habit of getting up, even if it’s just to move to the couch. Most of all, if I can’t drift off right away, I have to get out of bed!

Reset.

Take a Mellie.

Try again, later.

But in the interim, I imagine I’ll be keeping Netflix pretty busy.

Dear Mellie…

BikeTown Chronicles #4

I returned to spin class today.

I’ll wait for the applause and trumpet fanfare to die down.

This isn’t the typical type of cycling that I’d include in a BikeTown post. The reason this is a milestone of note is more the reason for my absence from spin versus the return itself.

Back in late July – maybe early August? – I’d finally pulled the trigger on returning to spin. My original BikeTown efforts had been derailed by the temporary closure of the Springwater Trail, my normal cycling route. The city was upgrading a culvert from the Willamette River to a nearby marsh – which ran under the Springwater – in an effort to provide salmon a more attractive conduit to a spawning area.

Y’know, your basic salmon bom-chika-bom-bom moment brought to you by America’s kinkiest city…everyone is getting their freak on here!

The trail closed in early July, which significantly expedited my not-working-weight-gain. In the three months prior to July, I had put on 20 lbs. Between July 1 and 31, I welcomed another ten pounds into the – ahem – folds.

However, by mid-August, while I was easing back into spin, my diet and weight and overall feeling of well-being had pretty much stagnated.

So…I took a temp job. I know this is redundant information to regular readers, but the important aspect of this job is the to and from and not the job itself.

I rode.

It was just a 3.5-3.7 mile ride each way, but four days a week I was working in the equivalent of a spin class during my “work” commute. That was doubling my spin workouts.

I’m not sure why my ride home was two-tenths of a mile longer than my ride into work…but it’s not like I’m trying to tell you it was uphill both ways. I think that gives me a little latitude on the accuracy of my GPS tracking.

The effort was more significant than spin class, too. I found a range of gears that afforded me a good challenge throughout my ride. This was easier than figuring out my easy-challenging resistance settings on the spin bikes.

And, while not both ways, there was a hill on my commute. During spin classes, I hadn’t found a comfort level rising up out of the seat to simulate a hill climb. My knee was just not having it.

However, my daily ride took me past Montgomery Park

which was the old Montgomery Ward building back in the day.

<pours one out for Montgomery Ward>

There’s an S-shaped hill behind the building that transitions down from Thurman Street and effectively out of the Alphabet District and onto St Helens road, which took me into the industrial part of town. That hill was fine and dandy on the way to work, but ~8 hours later, the uphill was…likely to be a walk.

Except.

I learned there were only a handful of bike commuters working at my Amazon location. A max of six during my temporary assignment’s duration and on a couple of nights, just me.

And then there was Minh…

Me being dirty old me, I immediately registered the fact that two of the regular four riders during my work week were attractive young guys. The other regular rider was an Oldie Hawn, like me.

Ben, one of the two young uns, usually arrived early and left late. He was all about those hours.

Minh was not. He usually beat me out of there at the end of the shift.

I realized this first on my second night of work. Night one, I’d ridden the bus because I was unsure of the bike parking sitch.

I’d ran/walked home the next morning because the shifts end at 430 and the bus came around 5. Who needs to wait around in the dark for a half hour?!?

Well, just for a bus, at any rate.

That second morning, I set off on my bike for home. I pedal at a pretty good clip because I want the workout. However, after having my ass handed to my by about about 1500 boxes during my shift had me wondering if there was a way around that Montgomery Park hill. Mentally, I was assuring myself that when the road forked to go uphill, that other fork surely came out on the other side of the complex.

But why risk getting lost? I’ll just ride up as far as I can and then walk the rest of the way in the protective anonymity of darkness.

Unfortunately for my elderly ego, just ahead of me was Minh. I somehow seemed to be gaining on him…like there was a tractor beam in his butt.

This sent me into a frenzy.

The gaining on him, not the butt. Although…woof.

If I caught up to him and then died on the hill, that would be tragic. Moreso than simply being “that old guy that stares”. Still uncertain of the alternate routes, I dialed back my pace and hoped for the light to change and stop me.

This is me we’re talking about, though, so naturally that didn’t happen.

I cruised up on to the hill as Minh disappeared around the first curve. I rode as far up as I could – about a quarter of the way – before giving up. To my surprise, while I thought I was quitting, my ego was telling my body to rise up off the saddle and keep going.

Ok

It wasn’t pretty, but I actually ended up making it to the top without stopping…and I gained ground on Minh, who had not even stood up while ascending the hill.

Obnoxious punk.

I think what really got me to the top was not the fact that I was gaining on the kid. Rather, I was pretty sure he could hear my labored wheezing behind him and if that stopped he’d either know I’d quit or think I’d died. I couldn’t bear either fate.

So, pedal, did I.

Cycle Yoda-speak!

The next day, I made sure to call out Minh for taking the hill without standing up. He made it sound like no biggie, so I decided that I’d keep riding up the hill versus finding out where that other road led.

I started counting off my pedal strokes. At first it was to drive my pace, to avoid losing momentum up the hill.

One-two, one-two, one-two

There were 50 one-twos going up.

The next week, I just counted pedal strokes. Sure enough, there were 100. At least I was being consistent.

The third week, the other Oldie Hawn told me about the other fork in the road. “Much easier”, he told me.

I think I’m going to take the hill for the whole month, then I’ll think about changing

I thought those were crazy words, certainly not words I would have imagined speaking on Day One.

Do exactly so, I certainly did!

But you better believe that on commute 19, I absolutely sailed right through the light at the bottom of the hill, veering left toward parts unknown instead of right to the hill that I now called my bitch.

I’m proud of my cycling accomplishment during my regular two months of work at Amazon. However, I am also aware of several opportunities during that time where my BikeTown blog crossed over into Red Shirt Diary territory.

First off, (mom, stop reading) since it was only three and a half miles each way, I didn’t wear my helmet. Bad, old Xtopher, I know! However, only one of the regular four actually did…so, somehow that makes it better, right?

Then there was the whole, riding at night without a head or tail light. Yeah, pretty suicidal. But, I did follow fairly well lit roads. There were a few dark areas where I could safely assume homeless people had taken out the street lights in order to give them better darkness for sleeping. Or whatever they were doing under that cardboard. Fortunately, there were only a couple of near miss swerves to avoid large sticks or…shoes. Why are there so many discarded shoes on Portland streets?!? Oddly, the only direct impacts I suffered sounded like license plate frames.

But I never fell. Hooray for my short clad legs and helmet-less brain bucket.

My practice had been wearing my reflective safety vest during my ride. However, in the middle of my assignment, my family took off for the Oregon high desert. When I dropped my bag in my room, I discovered an optic orange Nike vest that my sister had brought along for me.

Yay, substitute mom!

The trip coincided with my nephew checking into college in Bend. I’d already been watching as my sister inched closer toward an empty nest. By watching, I mean receiving random care packages over the course of the summer countdown to college.

A Captain America tee shirt she picked up for me at the Costco.

Some cookies.

Shorts and another couple of shirts. I suspect these were a result not only of her frustrated mom gene, but also self defense for her eyes since they were having to watch me trundle around in clothes that hadn’t fit in a good 15 pounds.

So the vest was not a huge surprise, but that it was also my favorite color was all the more “aw” for me. Of course, I laughed pretty hard at myself when I learned the vest was originally for my brother in law, but hadn’t fit his meatier, mor muscular frame.

Then I thought, “How dare she buy him a vest in my favorite color!”, like I somehow had reserved rights to all things orange.

Don’t I, though?

Nevertheless, the episode afforded me a more fashionable alternative to night time visibility than my tattered old safety vest.

The most strange of my Darwin-esque Red Shirt moments involved those damned e-scooters. Yeah, there was more than one.

The first was simply me mistaking an oncoming headlight for another cyclist. I was fairly nonplussed at the fact that the oncoming light was on my side of the road. Ascribing the poor behavior to the overt asshole-ness of Portland cyclists, I moved to give the bastard a wide berth. Psychotically, the headlight started weaving. As it whizzed by me at about 15 mph, I realized it was a scooter and not a bike. This was as I was also making a last desperate swerve to avoid a collision with the oncoming erratic swerving maniac.

The second instance was also a case of vehicular mistaken identity. There were two scooters traveling side by side, I mistook them for a car. I was pretty surprised when the driver’s side of the car split off from the rest to swerve into my lane. Realizing my mistake, I hugged the parked cars as tightly as I could to remain out of the way of the scooter, which was now traveling toward me in my lane.

Asshole

was the most affable salutation I could muster for this jag as he passed within inches of my handle bars.

Helmets, scooters, hills and poor visibility aside, I survived my two months of bike commuting four times a week to work and back! It was a great way to get amped up for a night of work, but also a surprisingly welcome cool down on the way home. I’d been anticipating hating the ride home after work and expected myself to take it easy along the way.

I didn’t.

I’d arrive home each morning; panting and sweating, leg muscles twitching. Also surprising was logging some of my best commute times on the longer ride home. Those are results I can take!

The end result was returning to my spin class today, 20 pounds lighter than I’d been on the last class I’d attended. I’ll take it!

But what I appreciated most about those morning rides wasn’t chasing Minh most of the way. No, it was leaving work with a stiff back and sore shoulders and arriving home feeling like I’d worked those kinks out.

Not a bad way to end a couple of months of long day’s nights! Of course, neither was chasing Minh…story of my life, right there. <shrugs>

BikeTown Chronicles #4

Dating Into Oblivion ep7

Bachelor #11: The Transplant.

I know! I’m so behind. Episode 5 & 6 are stuck in draft limbo, but whuddyagunnado?

You could call this one the “Fresh Off the Boat” episode or even the “When It Rains” edition given recent events. Honestly, I think either way you argue it, it comes down to me: I just feel better, and I think the universe is picking up on that and…showering me with rewards.

Or – and this seems likely – I’m still stuck in the dating desert that is Portland and this is all a mirage.

“But, just what is it?”, you ask.

Well, Bachelor #4 from way back in January is back on the radar. He’s the “when it rains” part of this story. Over the year, as we are still connected on actual social versus asocial media, he’ll ping my radar. This has led to occasional text-a-paloozas over the last 9 months or so.

Right meow, it looks like this last ping has some staying power for my radar. And after last night, I’d really like to ping him.

😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈

But, that remains to be seen. He’s still in Vantucky and based on some recent events, logistically unavailable.

That’s different than geographically unavailable, which is one of the factors working against us back in January. He lives in Vantucky, I’m in Portland and don’t drive.

Another thing working against us?

My neurotic self.

I feel like entering into a situation where the expectation is that he haul ass to Portland every time we want to hang out is inequitable. For me, that was a poor start to a dating relationship.

For those and a few other flags – er…reasons – I let it fizzle.

But the sexy lil bastard just. keeps. pinging.

So…stand by. We’ll see what happens.

But, back to The Transplant.

While my old friend, DP, is fond of embracing the relationship philosophy of “Either you go on a date and never see each other again or you go on a date and he never leaves”, I have another notion. It’s not a criteria, which is a designation worth making, so much as maybe that’s just a potentially positive attribute of his.

Rib was a FOB. He’d been in Shittatle for a couple months from LA when we met. I think my ROI on the four years we spent together is pretty solid: I see he and I being friends for the rest of my life.

Maybe catching them fresh off the boat before they get caught up in the tidal wave of lost boys is a strategy with some legs?

The Transplant has been here in PDX for a couple months, having relocated from Chicago.

He hit me up on OKStupid a couple weeks ago.

We’re a ninety-friggin-six percent match.

That 4% intrigues me. He’s a vegetarian, which I want to say is the entire 4%.

Alas.

He’s also as much as stated that his personal style is distinctly designed without and fucks given to making other people comfortable.

Admittedly, my style is kind of the same. However, my Zero Fucks Given fashion manifests itself in me wearing tee shirts that have been in the dryer for three days and wearing clothes that “used to fit” but I don’t have to look at it, so screw it.

His Zero Fucks Given style is less apathy and more expression. He’s prone to inconsistent color in his hair and aggressively ripped clothing versus pathetically burst clothing.

Who knows, though?

If that’s the sum total of of our 4%, I’d say Vegetarian = 3.5 and Very Alt Style = .5 of those percentage points.

Interestingly, that he also ends up working for…Amazon is a complete fit of What Could Possibly Go Wrongness. Fortunately, he’s a third party employee – which is the group of “Amazon” employees that really gets the severest of Rogerings since Jeff – we are not on a first name basis – has very little control over their fate aside from renewing their employer’s contract.

Or, not.

Those third party employees largely tend to be delivery drivers and this is the…third? Yeah, let’s say third such employee I have known personally.

So, there he is texting – because our last message on OKStupid was, “Here’s my number, shoot me a text” – me how much he hates his Amazon job. I try congratulating him on his recent raise to $15/hr. He counters with the fact that that did not trickle down to the most Rogered of “Amazon” employees and six hours later, he texts me that he got a new job.

In a vegan restaurant.

So, I’m guessing this 4% isn’t a passing phase.

Sad face.

But, still…for all the guys I’ve known without jobs or prospects, this guy moves to town, takes any job he can get a paycheck from and then finds another job when it turns out to be 12 hours of this

I’m totally taking credit for being the impetus for him finding vocational satisfaction, because I can.

Neverthemess, we’ll see what happens when we meet face to face. He seems like a responsible and nice young dude, a 96% match and just…pleasant.

How fucked up is it that pleasant is not a given in this dating world?

Wait.

Never mind.

I just remembered who I am.

We’re meeting up Sunday afternoon, so we’ll see.

And I’ll likely report back.

For now, just talking to a guy who is living his life with intention and drive is…nice.n

Dating Into Oblivion ep7

*Not* Sleeping With The Enemy

Well, I’ve been sitting on this for a couple of months now.

Not that I’m pals with Julia Roberts, that would not be news I kept to myself. I’m totally that guy who would have a celebrity friend and always refer to them by their full name just to make sure no one forgot.

But let’s take a moment to acknowledge that this movie grossed $175 million back in 1991…on a film about escaping domestic abuse! That’s not Gone Girl money, but it’s about half of Gone Girl’s box office and I’m really not sure how you adjust that for inflation over almost a quarter century.

Anyhoo…that was quite a sidebar.

So, in August, I took a part time/seasonal job to get my ass off the couch. This was after watching all of the Marvel movies – except the Captain America movies – that I could get my hands on on Amazon over the course of two days.

This was after packing on 20 lbs in three months.

This was after my crisis of confidence that I’d ever be comfortable or capable of returning to work in retail management after trying – and largely failing – to cope with the feeling of betrayal my last job left me with for four months. I really think that this disease I carried with me when discussing my last job was a bigger part of why I kept finishing second in interviews than I’d been admitting to myself.

Maybe I was imagining that.

Maybe it was actually happening.

Who knows?

But what I did know was that something had to change. Doubting I would succeed in finding a company I trusted enough to risk going to work again, I opened up craigslist and just started scrolling through the jobs page.

No filters.

Everything.

Hell, anything.

I needed to change things up. Occupy my time. Jump start my confidence in myself and a future employer so I could let go of these feelings of distrust and worthlessness.

That’s the first connection that this experience had to Sleeping With The Enemy. I felt abused and devalued by my last job. Like Julia, I was going to have to overcome my fear in order to succeed – unlike her, I’d already escaped, but couldn’t let go of the trauma. She only had to learn how to swim – well, and then hide forever – I wasn’t entirely sure that I knew or could articulate exactly what I needed to overcome.

The second…correlation? Sure, let’s go with that – that this entry has to Sleeping With The Enemy is that I went to work for Amazon.

Escandoloso!

Literally, the company that has been the feared enemy of my brick and mortar retail career.

But, in reading the craigslist post, this was a seemingly win/win situation for old Xtopher:

There was no interview at all. Take a few aptitude tests on line, pick a schedule, go to work.

In.

Sane.

The job was at night. I took the 9-430 shift Friday night through Monday night. Why is this a win? Because it took me out of commission for the prime drinking days…something I needed to get away from.

Lastly, the job is crazy physical. It’s fast paced, too. Well, it’s set your own damn pace because there’s very little oversight…I choose fast because I expect myself to exceed expectations, so Bob’s your uncle.

Oh, here…

Anyway, I anticipated riding my bike to work since the busses don’t run until 5-ish in the morning and waiting a half hour when I could be home and in the shower in 15 minutes seemed stupid. So there’s basically four lunchtime spin classes a week just in the commute, which was a good start. But this job just kicks my ass on the daily whether I ride the bike or the bus.

And I’ve dropped at least 20 pounds since I started work there.

Technically, I guess this is a win/win/win…and I’ll take it!

Ok, so how does this job kick my ass?

I’m glad you aksed.

(Is it racist if I type in Ebonics? I’m going with “nope” because I friggin’ love that word.)

Its a warehouse job. This particular warehouse is a Sort Center, which is where the Fulfillment Centers route locally bound packages to be sorted for delivery. There’s three basic functions my role can be assigned to:

Unload: semis come into this Sort Center from Fulfillment Centers throughout the PNW and California. Hell, maybe even from other regions, too. No one tells me anything until 3 seconds after I need to know it. Trucks either need to be manually unloaded onto a belt or come palletized, then my job is to move the boxes from the pallets to the belt.

Puller: boxes travel down the belt, past 68 aisles on either side. Pullers look at each label as it goes by and pull packages for their assigned aisles – usually a group of 3, if we’re staffed up and we usually aren’t – and put it on a shelf.

Sorter: each Sorter is assigned two aisles – same caveat as above – that are about 21 feet long and are separated into six sections on each side, each section has three shelves. Four of these sections are divided into six totes representing different delivery areas, the other two are just shelves for oversized packages. The Sorter looks at each package and then scans it to log it into the correct delivery bin.

It sounds pretty easy until you think about how many semis it takes to deliver the 40-50k packages to our Sort Center each night.

There’s generally 8-10 people on Unload, so figure each of them will touch 5000 packages per night, that’s a lot of bending, twisting and lifting.

Pullers are the area that seems to get the least amount of compromising, it is a job that runs short as a last resort, so figure there’s about 45 people doing this job during a shift.

Then there’s the Sorters. Ideally, there are 34 in order to keep it manageable.

What usually happens is not that. If there aren’t enough Sorters, a set of aisles will be allowed to build up until its shelves reach critical mass. At that point someone will be pulled from their aisles and conscripted to put out the fire.

You can probably see where the disadvantage of having too little supervision and allowing people to set their own pace. Likewise, the extreme disadvantage of being a fast worker. Frequently, I’ll be asked to go take care of one of these orphan aisles, only to return to my own to find them in chaos.

Sorting is what I do most nights, and it’s a lot of fast paced walking, lifting, carrying, squatting and then more of all that. The aisles are about 20 feet long and I usually walk between 8-10 miles per shift, wearing a rut in the concrete floor.

Carrying stuff.

The pace goal for Sorters is to scan ~170 packages per hour into their respective delivery totes. That’s three packages a minute, which sounds easy enough.

Then you have to factor in things like scanner issues – believe me, holding the scan button tighter does not make it more likely to read a barcode – and replacing full totes with empty ones throughout the night.

I’m usually in the mid to high 200/hr range. That number will go up dramatically on nights where I hear things like, “We only have 5 Sorters on this side of the belt!”

FML.

There should be 16.

But somehow, at 430 in the morning, things still seem to have gotten done. Whether that’s because we managed to actually finish everything because we were staffed up or because the managers decided to pause the Unload team and push packages to the following day – which is never a good option – is not always clear to me. But at some point in the night – for whatever reason – the Unloaders will become Sorters, which always helps us get to the finish line.

Or close.

The culture of minimal supervision means that at 430, people walk away from their assigned areas and just leave.

I’ll cross the finish line in my aisles – clothes completely soaked through with sweat – and head toward the front to turn in my scanning equipment only to realize the silence coming from the aisles around me didn’t mean the aisles were done, just that the Sorters were gone.

Nice teamwork, right?

The latest I’ve ever had to stay is about 515, and that’s only been a few times. Generally, I’m on the road by 445, pedaling toward home.

But, what’s with all this minimal supervision, you ask?

Well…to run a shift, we need about 85 people, right? Call it 10 Unloaders, 45 Pullers and 34 Sorters.

We feel lucky if 75 people show up.

There’s days when you look around at the start of shift meeting – called a Stand Up – and it doesn’t look like there’s even 50 people there.

So, Amazon basically falls into the same staffing terror trap that my airport employer experienced. And they kind of deal with it the same way: unenforced expectations.

The only real hardline I hear people talk about is attendance, which at least puts them a step ahead of the airport. That’s pretty much out of their control, since points automatically accrue with missed shifts and tardiness. You hit the point threshold and you’re out. Beyond anyone’s control beside the individual.

I love systems like that.

But for the rest of the rules, enforcement is phoned in.

I hate systems like that.

There’s usually two shift managers who have maybe a dozen junior managers – called Ambassadors – to help keep things running in the different zones of the warehouse. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of expectations on the Ambassadors other than get the packages ready to deliver. Nor is there much development that I can see. I rarely see the shift managers away from their station at the front desk. Occasionally, I’ll see them with the Unload team or at the front of the belt, helping. Anything beyond that is pretty much run by Ambassadors.

The sad thing is that with the Ambassadors usually being self-directed, if someone doesn’t pull their weight, everyone else just has to work harder. Most of the time, I see Ambassadors strolling around in pairs, talking. Since most Ambassadors started as Sorters, they will occasionally hang out with their Sorting buddies from before they were promoted and talk.

I think the main criteria for being an Ambassador is “just be there longest” when an opening comes up. Fine, if that’s how you wanna do it, but it would be a lot better if there was a formal or better yet, executed training program for these junior managers.

But, remember what I said about my own development…it’s usually three seconds too late. My first night on the job was spent being shown safe working habits and how to Sort. Every role I’ve learned since then has been learned in the moment. Not optimal, but I can roll with it, I’ll care enough to figure it out. It’s just difficult to do what’s encouraged if I have a question – “ask an Ambassador” – since the vast majority of them rarely make eye contact and usually offer barely a grunt in response if you greet them.

Despite those obstacles and bad people habits, there’s still about a half dozen Ambassadors that I would call good. They got good because of their own drive and luck I’d guess.

Luck is never a good quality in a workplace…it always runs out.

If there was more of a drive to manage performance versus simply achieve results, night’s where we have fewer than 75 associates would be nights where we had everything we need rather than a crisis.

However, with the balance of the Ambassadors demonstrating bad habits to the associates, it’s no wonder we have the results we do. I’ve seen people just walk away from their aisles and be gone for 20-30 minutes. I’ve seen Pullers have an Ambassador cover their zone so they can go to the bathroom five minutes after returning from break. There is more than one associate who moves at a pace that suggests they are terrified their shoes will burst into flames if they walk too fast.

I’ve witnessed conversations that are completely not appropriate for work taking place. I thought long and hard about saying something about them – the favorite topic is speculating whether a small, heavy box has a dildo or other sex toy in it. Ultimately, I decided to just keep my head down and my focus on my work…this is a good strategy, since people’s hands move rather slowly while their jaws are flapping.

Anyway, it’s unfortunate that these issues are not addressed simply because people might quit. The adverse effect here is that the bad behaviors travel up the chain of command like a contagion, just lowering the performance bar. I even overheard one of our Shift Managers engaging in a dildo conversation with four other people. I was working across the belt from the other Shift Manager, a woman, and I looked up at her and her face registered absolutely no offense.

This bothered me…

The hell with that.

I sold myself on taking a job – any job – just to get off my couch. The emotional/mental benefits I mentioned above. The physical aspect of the job that I simply love…even though I feel broken for days after my four day work week ends.

The fact that it was a job at Amazon was an added benefit, maybe the exposure would allow me to stand out and be promoted or help out if another job I was qualified opened up. I think I’m at that level, now. I hear my name come up in positive sidebars. However, I don’t want to be an Ambassador if it means most of my peers suck at their job. I’ve been there and done that. Ain’t for me.

But the last benefit is likely going to be the most useful for me. When I left my last job, it was with what I considered good reason. The State of Oregon disagreed, so I’ve been denied unemployment benefits, which were part of my financial planning for my time off and job search. That disqualification is lifted once I’ve earned 4x my weekly unemployment benefit and then I can begin drawing unemployment bennies.

Well, when I took this temporary seasonal job, I didn’t know how long my assignment would last, because: no interview. What I found out is that I could be a seasonal employee for up to 11 months.

That’s a lot of seasons.

But if I quit once I reach my disqualification threshold, I’d be right back at square one with the great state again ruling that I quit for no good reason.

Oooh, conundrum.

I knew after a month that this job, four nights a week was too physically demanding for me to do long term. I wasn’t as sore as I’d been my first week, but my soreness was in my joints – from my fingers to my knees – and not in my muscles.

That’s no bueno.

Fortune smiled upon me when corporate decided to standardize work shifts. Instead of our station’s four day/9-430 shift, we were being moved to a three day/815-515 shift.

Three days…I could do three days.

Or…

We would be moved into a four hour shift, five days a week. There was going to be an 815-1215 shift and a 115-515 shift.

Out of those three possibilities, I got the absolute worst possible shift for me: 815-1215.

This was bad for me because, why?

Because we are always short staffed. I could easily see the, “Hey, can you extend to a full shift today?” conversation happening every. damn. shift.

This shift was also bad for mine, truly because I didn’t see getting home at 1230 as a benefit. A) I’d probably stop and close a dive bar at least once a week, which is counterproductive to my fitness goals; but, B) I also knew that I’d still need a shower before going to bed and that’s gonna put my bedtime closer to 2 in the morning after letting my hair dry. Two hours of prep time – between my 40 minute round trip bike commute and pre-bedtime shower – was half of the time I’d actually be getting paid to work.

Bad ROI.

Icing this scheduling cake was that it wasn’t sustainable when I return to work, which – despite my plotting against the fine folks at the unemployment office – I was/am hoping to do sooner, rather than later.

So, I told my dildo-talking boss that I couldn’t do the new schedule, even though I was taking the choice of shift assignment as a compliment.

He asked if I could do the three day rotation.

No.

How about on-call?

Hmmm…maybe!

I liked that idea. As summer weather gave way to less bike commuter friendly fall and winter weather, I could pick up as few as one shift a month and still remain on-call. That could work.

Added bonus, I can re-open my unemployment claim from the world of the underemployed versus unemployed. Also a good thing.

So, I decided to do that. My goal was to try and pick up three shifts a week until I go back to working full time and then at least two shifts per month after that.

We’ll see how it goes. And quickly, too…my last two days as a seasonal associate are this Friday and Saturday, then I switch to on-call.

If anyone wants to go play Sunday, let me know…I’ll have a weekend day off again!

And maybe – just maybe – I’ll be in the mood to celebrate a new job. I was one of only three people interviewed last weekend for a job with Columbia Sportswear. Here’s hoping that I finally break my Second Place streak.

I’ll know before Friday. Fingers crossed that I can celebrate a new job, successful transition to on-call at Amazon and not even needing my Machiavelli-esque earned unemployment.

Another win/win/win!

*Not* Sleeping With The Enemy