Take Four

Well, here we are…another day, another loaner.

Let’s see…where did I leave off last on my misadventures in being a lemon rancher?

I think my last post was when Pat was in the shop awaiting the arrival of a replacement door seal that had been mis-shipped ground versus 2-day air. That ended up taking 11 days instead of the expected two.

The important thing is that I got Pat back, right? After both passenger side door seals had been replaced, surely that would be that.

Surely?

Shirley?

Oh, what a fool I must be to believe that.

It was raining as I was leaving the dealer with my second new door seal in place, I reached back just to feel the satisfaction of a dry carpet in inclement weather.

Naturally, it was soaking wet.

What a craptastic situation.

I mean, if the carpet is wet, it either means they are so incompetent that the seal they replaced was done incorrectly and was immediately leaking or they had never dried out the water damage when they did the repair. That’s the two options I can come up with, and I’m not one to just assume people are incompetent – despite best evidence to the contrary.

In this case, I believed I had two brand new and properly installed door seals. But I was beginning to really have trouble deciding which was worse: if someone simply forgot to dry out the carpet or if the leak was simply just mis-identified and was yet to be discovered and repaired.

One scenario was definitely more problematic than the other. If someone had deliberately returned my car to me without repairing the actual water damage…how friggin’ petty, right? I mean, assuming the seals were both installed correctly, it was either intentionally petty or half-assed work – after all, how can you know the leak is repaired if you can’t see whether or not new damage is occurring?

The next day at work, I made use of my breaks and downtime by doing a little research into next steps. It was looking like suing the dealer was going to be my last recourse.

I had to think about what I wanted. At this point, a functional vehicle was looking like too big an ask. So if I couldn’t have that, what would make me “whole” in this transaction?

I knew I wanted my $200 that I paid for the first door seal returned.

After losing out on two weeks of driving income – you can’t drive for Lyft without vehicle insurance in your name, and you can’t cover a vehicle you don’t have a registration for – and in that two week timeframe I was down about 1/4 of my monthly budget. That made February tough, and March wasn’t looking to start off any better.

But what I really want is out of this car. It gives me dread to just consider dealing with a lemon for the foreseeable future. I was glad I had bought the extended warranty, but with only about 40% of the first three repairs falling under its protection, I was worried about the reality of owning Pat on day 366.

That made me wonder. Could I trade this off? Not just financially, either…ethically, could I dump Pat the Problem on someone else?

Hell, for that matter, could I even break even on a trade-in transaction? That took me to Kelley Blue Book to see. The value seemed to have held up over six months a lot better than Pat was. Which made me consider my purchase price. All things being equal, I knew from pre-purchase research that I had paid a fair price, but after the history of owning Pat, I was thinking that all things weren’t actually equal.

The price I had paid was middle of the road for a car in good to excellent condition.

That did not describe Pat.

So I looked at the price for a car in fair condition – the lowest quotable condition on KBB. My purchase price was at the top of the scale.

I’m thinking that maybe I should have paid more toward the lower end of that price range…which is where I felt I had a legitimate claim.

But still a claim that fell below the threshold for suing in court, which is over $10,000, essentially funneling me back toward Small Claims.

What I learned in looking into Small Claims was that before the court would consider an action valid, I had to notify the other party of my intent and let them have an opportunity to make good.

Which I respected – even though one more chance makes the other three opportunities the dealer had to “make good” look like making good was maybe optional.

At least until you email the GM and include the word lawsuit in your message.

And that’s how I ended up sitting with the GM and Service Manager for an hour and a half today.

Mind you, most of that was spent with me listening to him talk about his 25 years in the business and the math of selling cars. Occasionally, the Service Manager would interrupt with something equally unimportant to me – like the tight control on replacement parts. It seems if you order a duplicate part, you have to attach it to a vehicle. That was by way of explaining why they couldn’t simply order a duplicate seal once they learned the original seal had been mis-shipped the last time around.

Smooth, right?

But I still didn’t care – but only because the car hadn’t been returned to me completely repaired. Had that happened, all would be just fine and dandy.

Yet, here these two were, sitting across the table from me trying to convince me that they didn’t mean to screw me in this deal.

Lawsuit…powerful word. Motivating, in fact.

And after talking to them, I don’t believe they tried to screw me. I never did. But if the reality is that I feel screwed after my car being in the shop three times in six months – literally sitting in their shop/yard for a full month – that the car I own is not the car they thought they were selling.

So, there I am – feeling inadvertently screwed.

It feels strangely similar to being intentionally screwed.

In the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s #MeToo convictions, this was an ok reminder. With harassment – yes, rape is different than harassment, but both fell under the #MeToo umbrella – we are coached that intent isn’t the issue. Someone can harass you without actually intending their actions to be harassing.

Y’know, like sometimes people are just genuinely dicks and until someone says, “That’s harassment”, the results of their actions are never their concern. That’s so America, too. I’ve been told over the course of my life to get along with bullies – both personally and professionally – because it’s easier to tell someone to buck up than to effectively change or stop someone else’s behavior.

There I am, feeling torn about whether these guys need another chance or if I should reasonably feel like the only thing that is reasonable is a value correction on my purchase + lost driving income + refunds on my repair and extended warranty purchases.

And if I throw a fit and demand that my way is the only way, then I’m the bully, right?

Which is how I ended up in Renee the Renegade. I’m actually trying to remember in v1 of my loaner Renegades was silver or white. I remember white, but can’t be sure…but what a trip if I ended up in the same loaner twice in about 3 months.

Of course, the price for me being reasonable and giving them a fourth chance was to subject them to a little Xtopher Life and Management Lesson.

Namely, the GM’s big argument in support of the vehicle’s quality when he sold it was to wave a stack of papers at the DoJ complaint I filed.

I told him that checklists are great…as long as someone is inspecting the checklist checkers. At the very least, that was obviously not happening here. If it was, then my car being returned after its third visit to the shop with soaking wet carpets was more of a conspiracy than it was incompetence.

There’s a thought that’ll bounce around my head for a few forevers.

But he acknowledged that it was true, and that he couldn’t explain how that would have happened – only that it shouldn’t have. A statement that’s smack dab in the middle of denial and accountability.

In the meantime, I’m not sure what will happen with Pat. The GM offered to shop another deal around for me – and I don’t know if doing so wouldn’t have been the smarter move. I don’t feel ready to make a trade yet. I think I’ve talked before about how if I’d known I was going to love driving with Lyft so much, I’d have gotten a more bells-y and whistle-y vehicle. From that standpoint, getting something with leather seats and a heated steering wheel seems like an obvious yes. But the end result of this nightmare being these guys selling another car…that doesn’t seem exactly right to me.

So, I’m in a holding pattern for a couple of days. But they promised me I’d be back in the drivers seat by Friday so I can hopefully get March started off not too far behind the 8-ball…we’ll see.

Take Four

Lemme Fix This For You…

Here’s a shituation – and you can feel free to call this “being judge-y”. I don’t care, I’m making a point. Personally, I prefer to call this an observation. Since it’s also an accurate observation, people will see it for the indictment that it is.

Hopefully.

I was scrolling through the notties on the asocial media this morning whilst being lazy in bed and came across this gem. A real stand out in a bumper crop of guys exemplifying how gays have gone from fabulous to frivolous in just a couple of generations.

But on Grindr, all you really need to have in order to set yourself apart from that group is a face pic.

Or a shirt.

Either way – pretty low bar.

Here’s the profile:

This guy needed to be slapped or shaken as a child. Maybe if he’d had a mildly traumatizing childhood, he wouldn’t have grown up to fetishize those things – assuming that when he says “wild” in his profile, he’s talking about kink. And his Instagram confirms he lives in Portland, so I’m assuming kink is a given.

Actually, there’s just a lot of people here who came to Portland, didn’t get it, can’t afford to leave on a PT barista income and are using kink to just feel something besides their oppressive existential gloom.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Don’t worry, I’m not going all the way back to the beginning beginning – reading regulars will already know my take on open marriages.

Synopsis: you’re with the wrong person.

Everthemess, here’s this guy imploring potential suitors – if you can call them that, since the best case with this guy is missing out completely an orgasm – that they be exciting.

I’m unreasonably excited that he at least said “please”. Albeit in a totally lazy manner. Thankfully, he didn’t bore me with a pithy “Plz”…there is a difference.

No, the beginning I’m going back to is actually only as far away as that headline.

More specifically, the follow up.

Pls be exciting

If you follow that up with “Happily married”, I’m left with little choice but to call BS.

Here…

Crappily married

I fixed it.

Pls be exciting + happily married = you don’t understand the core concept.

I’m not even going to parse out how the words “fit” and “tummies” don’t actually belong in the same sentence. Well, ok…but I’m only sparing him one thought there:

This guy put the “moron” in oxymoron.

I’ve stopped trying to understand the avalanche of people in open relationships. It’s beyond my capabilities to help.

However, what I’m left with is the shock and amusement that these people think they can do better. I mean, seriously…you trapped tricked one person into a relationship, that already seems like a lot for you. Now you think you deserve random hookups, too?

I’m just gonna say it, those random hookup? Well, that’s the best you deserved. But this is America, by all means expect more, you Montessori level Stupid American.

There’s an old saying, “Boring people get bored”. Sweetie, if you need exciting people around to be excited, well…

At the same time, since I’ve visited the Instagram you linked in your profile, let’s talk about that. You took a trip to Thailand in December with your husband. That certainly seems like what some people would consider a “trip of a lifetime” – not to mention exciting.

Yet, here you are, hand out for more.

I hope you don’t mind my saying you are a bit more physically attractive than your spouse.

Couple years younger, too?

I’ll go out on a limb and assume he paid for the trip.

As well as your gym membership to some douche-level gym. You’re not coming across as someone who’d be satisfied with a pedestrian level gym like 24 Hour or LA Fitness.

So boring, those gyms.

As I’m assuming your spouse must be. If you’re looking for exciting – I’m assuming it’s not as an escape to all the excitement of your home life.

But, well…I guess my earlier synopsis covered that. Leaving us to riddle out how you failed to grasp the core concept behind the phrase “happily married”.

Unless

Are you defining happiness as having some rube provide you with the foundational levels of Maslow’s pyramid?

My guess is that’s the elephant in the bedroom. That awkward time of the week (for his sake, I hope getting a little unenthusiastic weekly sex from his future ex is the return on his investment in you) where you’ve gotta “pay rent” to the guy who probably does love you and demonstrates it by making sure your physiological and safety layers are solid.

Leaving you to shuffle uncomfortably from one foot to the other when confronted with level three. Hoping your asocial media trolling drops someone hot enough exciting in your lap.

If it happens, I’m sure the three of you (you, your exciting person and your community property divorce settlement) will all be very happy together…until you realize that your top tiers of esteem and self-actualization were just bastardizations of pride and unnecessary levels of physical fitness built of someone else’s projection of love and belonging on to you.

Then you’ve got to hope your landing from the fall from that top tier isn’t too devastating for you to start over at the third level again.

Hopefully, that’s an exciting challenge for you, Sugar.

It’s certainly not exciting at all to observe. It’s depressing as all get out, to be completely honest.

I’ve lived both sides of the scenario this guy is embracing – well, not the delusional crappily married part, so I guess I started out a little better prepared than him – and you know what? I’ll take my occasional ennui over his absent excitement any day.

Either you know why, or you don’t. There’s really no explaining it to people who don’t get it – kind of like trying to reason with Trump supporters at this point. If they still support him, it’s absent of reason.

But I still get out of bed each day hoping there are enough people who understand that not getting it isn’t the first step in the journey; knowing that you probably don’t even know you aren’t getting it is step one.

Those people are exciting!

Lemme Fix This For You…

Ongoing Pat-scapades

Well, the part my dealership ordered for Door Seal Repair: Part Duex should have arrived either Friday or Saturday – depending on when the clock starts on “two days to arrive”. I thought it wise to just check in on Saturday and get an update.

Mind you, this communication is all done through a text messaging system, so it’s not like I’m making them drop what they’re doing to answer my inquiry. Rest assured, this text message system has not impaired my ability to scream bloody murder at them for their continued successes in fucking up an attempts to fuck me over.

Nothing.

Sure, maybe my service tech is off on Saturdays, but you’d think someone would check messages…

Well, I would think that. Me and my uncommon knowledge.

Then on Sunday, I get a text reminding me of my drop off the following morning.

I mean, A) no one told poor Allie that my car was already onsite, but what’s good communication gonna do for an outfit, anyway? And, B) my appointment was for 7:00, which I thought was when they arrived/opened. Given my myriad experience with these folks, I also know that these appointment slots are rather informal. Last time I dropped my car off – maybe…three weeks ago, now? – my service tech was surprised to see me and when I mentioned that I thought there would be a bigger crowd, he kind of poo-poo-ed the overall effectiveness of the whole appointment notion.

But, since I did have questions…

My car is already there, since it was not usable for work, a dropped it off early. A part was ordered, with a two day delivery, and should be there by now.

Can you confirm it is? If so, I should be picking it up tomorrow. If not, I’ll still need a loaner until it’s done. But I’d rather not get up at 6 to get it. Could it be held until later in the day?

I know, I know…I didn’t proofread my text. But, it turns out that my typos will only be seen by you since the only follow up I’ve gotten to those questions was this:

Poor Allie isn’t even real! Still, she’s probably their best employee.

Anyway, my tech – Joseph – texts me back this morning in response to my Saturday message with this BS…

So I tell him that I’ll be in around lunchtime to pick up my loaner. At about 12:30, I set out on foot to the dealership which is only about a mile and a half away.

At least it’s a beautiful day!

I get there…any guesses?

No loaner.

To quote the prophet Kathy Griffin

Oh, for fuck sake!

They decided to comp me a rental from Enterprise, telling me that they would pick me up in 5 minutes.

Well, the wait was longer than my walk to the dealership took, so either I walk really fast or these guys are less tight with honesty than the GOP.

Back to that whole “good communication” thing, when I finally got to the Enterprise place, I got charged a “Totally refundable $50 deposit” to which I replied,

Well, if it’s as totally refundable as my comped rental from the dealership, I see a good deal of hassle in my future.

Nonetheless, here’s the new ride at least through next Monday.

There was a BMW and Porsche SUV on the lot and I – totally jokingly – asked if I couldn’t have one of those. The rental guy replied, totally serious, “Sure, although that would probably run you a little out of pocket!”

Nice try.

My annoyance – I’m oddly kind of over the ~$900 bucks I could have made driving during Pat’s most recent spa visit – is that somehow the logic of spending $385 to rent me a car for seven days is superior to just getting another damn door seal on a plane that would get here in two days.

I’m not surprised these jokers didn’t think of that – I’m surprised they are both employed and still in business.

Idiots.

Ongoing Pat-scapades

I Get The January Thing, Now

First, I feel like I should remind you about that time I was immortalized in a meme…

“They” even made t-shirts!

Now, while the people who know me consider how likely this actually is to be true, I can explain the January thing to the rest of you. Then we can all regroup and move on to the meat of this post together.

Seriously, social media is on fire – once again – with memes like this.

Apparently, January seems like a long month…

Maybe it’s all the exercise?

Perhaps the no drinking resolutions?

Regardless, I’m witnessing a lot of this type of behavior

For me, January is my birthday month, so I’ve always kind of looked forward to it. On top of that, the last two years, I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo in November, taking December as a “down month” to distance myself from my project before getting into writing and editing mode again in January.

What I’m saying is that it’s a month I look forward to.

But not this year.

Well, ok, I did look forward to it, but it burned off. The month proceeded apace for the first few weeks, and then the last 9 days have been like boogie boarding in the La Brea Tar Pits.

On top of that, the effect seems to be amplifying on some whack-a-doodle three day cycle.

That realization hit me this morning, on the last day of this fucking year month.

I was driving home from a UA for a new job I start on Tuesday when I noticed someone had won the $350 million Powerball. Now, I’d checked the tickets the Silver Fox had picked up earlier in the week and knew we hadn’t won. Still, there was a shadow of hope that that had been the rule. This provided confirmation that there had, sadly for most, been an exception.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still buy a ticket for $40 mil, but the SF doesn’t like to invest for less than a $100 million potential return.

Anyway, there I was, driving home all mopey in The Fox’s car – what’s that? Why is Pat still at the spa?

Well, they aren’t. Well, weren’t. After a week in the shop and $200 out of pocket, I picked Pat up last Friday to reports of a successful door gasket replacement followed by a dry – my tech stressed it was bone dry – five hour shower test.

I took off from the dealer and went to work my part-time HR gig, excited to do some driving after work that evening.

In true Xtopher fashion, the first person I picked up following work that day was living in an eerily adjacent orbit to mine.

I picked her up about six blocks from work, at a satellite City of Portland building. My part-time gig – as you probably won’t recall – is providing contract staff to…the City of Portland. This has happened on several occasions, so I wasn’t anything other than mildly amused by this occurrence.

I checked her drop off destination: Landmark Ford. Once she confirmed it, I mentioned picking up my car that morning after getting the door seal replaced.

That’s what I’m having done! Although, I hope mine is more successful than yours…

Then I hear squishing and splashing and turn my head enough to see her moving her feet up and down in a pool of water.

To my credit, I didn’t slam on the brakes or vocalize the expletive I was thinking. That would have been something like this…

I called the shop the next day and was told they could get me in on February 3rd…over a week away. I spent the rest of the weekend driving food around instead of people for Postmates, but it just wasn’t the same.

Turns out, I’m that chatty old lady you sit next to on every flight you take. I love talking to people and Lyft gives me that every day social paycheck. The Lyft community is filled with awesome people with fun stories to share…and I miss them. Especially when I’m bored at home.

And they seem to tolerate me pretty well, too. So I’m not just victimizing my Patsengers like that chatty old airplane broad.

How do I know?

I average 25% in tips each week.

Also,

Yeah, I’m gonna be humbly smug for a while after that. As a matter of fact, given the timing, I’m choosing to believe that this was left by Rashida Tlaib, who I got the privilege of driving around earlier that week in my loaner.

Yup. I had 1/435th of the US House of Representatives in my car last week!

She’d been in town for a Coalition of American-Islamic Relations event where she was the keynote speaker. She was a delight and I wished my ride with her had been longer.

Anyway, after a frustrating weekend, I decided to drop my car off at the dealer on Tuesday. I worked my HR gig on Monday and was heading home after a meeting Tuesday morning, thinking about how quickly my financial bridge for February had collapsed and dreading paying to park my car on the street all day – and for most of the rest of the week.

I pulled over and did some stress breathing and text therapy with The Fox. He told me what I wanted to do – which is the validation I wanted that what I was going to do was rational.

I dropped my car off at the dealer and told them they could store it until the appointment on the 3rd.

The Fox picked me up and promised I could borrow his car for work on Wednesday and a Thursday.

Now, for those of you still back on my urinalysis appointment this morning…yeah, I’d gotten a new job. That was the meeting I was at on Tuesday prior to my meltdown that led to me tossing my problems keys at the Jeep tech and abandoning Pat.

I’d been having weird discomfort at my HR gig the last few weeks. I was feeling ineffective. Not because I was being told I was doing things wrong or because the feedback I was getting was lackluster.

It was quite the opposite, actually, but the owner of the company was growing more and more stressed at work and coming in later and later or even less and less.

At the beginning of December, she’d asked me to prepare an end of year memo for the contract staff. Just reminders like updating addresses for tax time, recognized holidays, what to do in the event of inclement weather…pretty basic stuff. I cracked out a first draft and sent it to her. She likes to edit. Either my content or just to put my words into her voice.

She never sent it out.

This isn’t uncommon – I had been told in my first week that she wanted me to edit some policies and add updated information for the Employee Handbook. At first, she wanted to work with me on it. Then she started asking for what I had and I figured out that I should just do it. I submitted my suggestions to her for editing and the employment attorney’s sign off in early November.

Nothing.

What’s annoying about this is that one policy in particular needed some clarity. It’s the Alternative Transportation Benefit.

Basically, anyone who gets to work without using a personal vehicle gets a monthly $30 offset from the company.

The only thing was that there was no process. Every pay period – and I’m barely exaggerating, I think 9/12 of the payrolls I had done included an ATB for one or more employees…and the only tracking was memory.

I’d even included the new process in the year end email she’d asked me to draft so that we could start the new year clean.

But she didn’t send it.

So, I sent my own version out just before Christmas with just the ATB and address update request. I’m pretty sure that was the second point.

People – some, not all, of course – still submitted their ATB for the final payroll run of last year.

Idiots.

Then, on the first run of 2020, the owner decided we should just pay everyone who usually submits for January.

So I did.

Even knowing this would be a double payment for some. At least she was tacitly acknowledged that she knew what I had tried to do, even though only 20% of the usual ATB users complied with the new directive.

Not my circus, not my circus, not my circus…

I even got an “I forgot” email from one of our biggest Problem Child employees this week. I knew we would pay her – even though she wasn’t one of the employees that usually claimed the benefit. At least she’d read my email. When I told the owner about it, she behaved like our Problem Child always used the ATB.

Of course, I checked the payroll database…

Once.

She’d claimed the ATB once in her tenure – which began shortly before my own. And I remember when that was, since it was the first payroll I processed. She was technically not eligible since the policy is one of those “after 30 days of employment” policies.

Of course, we paid her anyway. The owner is just pro-employee like that.

Then the Problem Child claimed the benefit again two weeks later on the next payroll.

Bless her pointy little head.

Sure, in true to her fashion, she’d fucked up the execution, but a writer likes to know he’s read, ok?

Anyway, two Fridays back, I’d asked my handler to look for other positions for me. I like the owner and the recruiter.

And I love the Chief Feline Officer.

But I knew that the owner wasn’t going to change her behaviors that triggered me, nor did I have a reasonable expectation that she should. Well, except that she asked my advice on things and my take there is that peoples behaviors should actually reflect an effort to change if you bug me looking for feedback.

Sidebar: this just came on in my place.

🎼🎼I think a change, a change will do you good🎼🎼

But that’s just my $.02…and if I take the random music happening while I write as indication that the universe agrees with me? So what!

Back to my veiled beyond recognition point…Tuesday afternoon I get the call that the new client wants me.

That felt good, and honestly, I think there’s room to grow not only into a permanent role, but also from simply a payroll position into the open HR position they mentioned during my interview. I wouldn’t complain!

Really, I wouldn’t!

Even though the trade off here is that I have to go back to a five day job.

I went into work the next day with a plan to tell the owner the news. Partly expecting her to revisit taking me from temporary to 1099 employee, which was something we’d discussed in late October. I walked away when she offered me what she had paid my predecessor.

As a company employee.

I was born at night, but it wasn’t the night before that conversation.

Just kidding, I was born during the day.

But still, if I’m taking on the financial burden of city, county, state and federal self-employment taxes…well, it isn’t going to be for less than nothing.

Seriously, it would be a financial step backward.

Meanwhile, she’d be saving about 45% of what she’d been paying my temp agency. I’d gone into the conversation thinking we could agree on a rate that would cover my 27% (minimum) tax liability and still save her 25%.

But I thought versus losing me, she might go back to that table.

Little did I know, my handler had told her about my new gig Wednesday morning before the owner came to the office. I know this because I received an email from the owner at about 10:00 congratulating me and telling me that it was my last day.

Mentally, I pictured a couple more chunks of concrete falling off of my financial bridge for February.

And that’s where my unending and snowballing January ends: with five days off between gigs with zero opportunities to earn money driving between the two jobs.

And it was seeing that someone else had won the Powerball on Wednesday night that finally triggered me.

But as long as the hit I took off my vape last August doesn’t blow my UA out of the water, February will be a better month.

January 2020…you were one hell of a year. Bite me.

I Get The January Thing, Now

Well, That Was A Surprise

You know, when I tapped out my quick observational post yesterday about misspellings and malapropisms, I really didn’t expect much to come of it.

~150 words

~400 followers

It just didn’t seem like anything more than therapeutic whining into the web on my part. And it’s not like I’ve ever expected AtLeastIHaveAFrigginGlass to have a viral moment. My readers read me for what I assume is either entertainment or cautionary tale on their part.

Plus, I’m not a millennial. In my day, having a viral moment could have killed me. Still might, thanks to anti-vaxxers.

True to the norm of my form, I got a few likes, some comments here on WordPress and a few of the same over on my blog’s lil Facebook page. I guess it was the range of the comments that struck me; topical and emotional range.

Frustration.

Location.

I mean, this was just a couple careless and unguarded moments of intelligence fail.

But then I also got texts.

Friends telling me they know they need to proof their texts now before sending them – one called out specifically before sending them to me – or reminding me that I know that they know that they don’t proofread their texts. Hell, my best friend and I have that conversation in some way, shape or form weekly – it’s not like it’s a deal breaker for our friendship, it’s more a source of amusement.

FYI, for his part, the Silver Fox tried to guess who the “ethnically” challenged person was.

But I felt like some comments were a reminder of where I was way back when my friends first started calling me out for my grumpiness. I hashtagged my post with #StupidAmericans because that’s the theme it fit. I remember how…angry I used to get about the embarrassingly stupid things I would observe people doing in their daily lives. Maybe not so much angry as just so surprised that I had a physical as well as emotional reaction to the situation.

It would almost always fade to a sad, shocked amusement at the state of intellect in America. Now I think my observational reaction is more resigned.

Yup. Still dumb.

Without investing too much effort into quantifying whether our trajectory is toward more or less dumb or maybe even holding a steady level of stupid.

C’mon, though…more stupid is clearly the correct assumption here.

Take it from Antoine.

I think – other than defensiveness, and you know who you are! – that the responses that were loudest involved overcompensated people in the workplace. Hell, there was enough material about workplace nincompoops to take the qualifier out of that and just call them People Who Are Shockingly Holding Down A Job.

What do we expect, though?

I saw a text this morning that was something to the effect of:

People today will never know the terror of printing out directions from MapQuest and then making a wrong turn, “Too bad, now you’re lost forever!”

It’s true, too. When we miss a turn in our Nav apps, it reroutes us without even telling us we missed it.

I joke with The Fox often that I don’t need a brain, I have a phone.

Occasionally, I’m surprised to find myself in a situation where I’m discussing something with a group of friends and realize that we are collectively trying to reason something out or recall a fact. More surprising than collaborating on the answer is that none of us reaches for our phones to get the answer.

I actually enjoy those moments. There aren’t enough of them – they also give me hope.

Aside from technology dumbing us down, there’s the foundational effect of our country’s family erosion.

Kids aren’t raised by a parent anymore, well…not actively raised. Let alone raised by a co-habitating (I know, not a word!) set of parents. I think most parents get through the day with a silent prayer that their kid remained self-guided for the duration of their workday. When they interact, it’s more as friends or equals – a parenting flaw of convenience for the parent.

I mention that because I used to watch my sister and brother-in-law parent their son and talk to him like an adult to elevate his thought process and social skills. Now, I think parents talk to their kids like friends or peers in order to be the cool mom or reach backward for relevance so their kids can help keep them remain cool.

I remember seeing an Albert Finney movie once, just a story about growing up. One of his daughters is talking to him about their relationship and he says something like, “I never really thought of you kids as children”.

She asks what he considered them and he replied matter of factly, “Pets”.

I was amused by that situation, but never thought of a future where that would be the high water mark for quality parenting.

At least the master/pet relationship has a hierarchy. Sure, in my own, Myrtle is the Alpha…but there’s still rules and consequences. And when she does something wrong, she knows it was wrong. It’s written all over her smug little cat mug.

School is government funded daycare.

Teachers don’t teach anymore. They are still way under compensated for what they endure, managing to somehow come out of the worst professional situations still sane after playing relationship counselor between parents and kids at best and defense against a united parent/child front at worst.

United in denial, by the way.

Because more often than not in school, we aren’t learning English and grammar or math and science…and most certainly not cursive.

We’re learning how to get away with things and what to do when we fail to get away with something.

That what to do part? Form an alliance with our parent – by manipulating them – against the teacher. Getting busted is as much an indictment of ones parent as it is an inconvenience to the student. It seems parents respond emotionally to that inconvenience with anger toward the teacher for interrupting their day versus disappointment in their offspring.

How can that system manufacture humans who are prepared to face the world armed with a baseline knowledge of the proper use of there/their/they’re let alone be productive members of a world culture.

Have you ever asked yourself whether the apps we use make life better or easier?

I think there is an absolute difference.

Take mating apps disguised as dating apps – because they are such an easy target, sure – as a perfect example. Getting sex has become easier, because it’s now a la carte.

Some people go into the app looking for sex exclusively.

Shooting fish in the proverbial barrel.

Others go into the app with hope and then abandon hope and take sex as their consolation prize when dates don’t materialize. Let’s not kid ourselves, though…they don’t abandon hope so much as they do their values. Every time they give it up for a stranger, you know in the back of their heart is a timid voice singing Maybe This Time.

Newsflash: Probably not. Maybe next time, though…

Sometimes I have to remind myself what my goal was when I wrote my first book – No One Of Consequence.

Money.

I mean…empowering a reader. It was important to me for a couple of reasons.

First: Gays used to be fabulous. Now, we’re frivolous. A friend posted this on my Facebook timeline this morning.

I love this friend. She’s funny and bold and generous and caring and she’s a survivor.

In this case, she was also wrong. But thirty or even twenty years ago, she would have been right.

But then AIDS decimated gay culture. What we managed to cobble together to replace it wasn’t better, it just wasn’t nothing. Speaking of trajectories…it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it still wasn’t actually good.

So, yeah, my book took on the challenge of showing gays reaching back to elevate newer generations of gay men and help make them into citizens we can be proud of. It’s an example of what we should do for one another as people – not just as a gay subculture.

Second, I spent a lot of time being angry about Stupid Americans. We became so insular. Not just as a country, but as individuals.

Our protective bubbles became insecurity condoms: skin tight and hopefully impervious to anything that might harm us – but hopefully still allowing us to feel good in the <ahem> end.

When I gave up – as I was just on the verge of accepting my relegation to a post relevance existence – something actually happened. This story became a higher purpose in and of itself. I could use this story as a platform to show examples of how to be an individual without that individuality coming at a cost to another or to society as a whole.

After yesterday, realizing the true arc of my grumpiness, from frustrated, powerless observer to an observer who funneled that negative emotion into something…I’m left feeling grateful.

That I could contribute something to this and future generations and loosely call it art.

That a few people actually read what I have created.

Shameless plug: I’m still accepting new readers, generous reviews and shares across social media to expand upon that reach!

And that I may have channeled my frustration into what I hope is also a change in my own behaviors so that I can be a better passive example to others.

Maybe someday we’ll be at a level where I could respond to my text message from yesterday with a message like

I think the words you were looking for were “there’s” and “ethically”.

…without ending up blocked or the recipient’s default being to take that statement as offensive.

As I learned yesterday, though, those friggin’ emotional condoms that we never seem to take off work. When I left the guy yesterday, I got the distinct impression I’d never see him again. So now I’ve got to figure out whether the Universe has simply given me what I wanted all along – to not be dating a 20-year old – or if I’m supposed to continue to gently urge the guy toward an emotionally bareback* existence that he understands is safe and nurturing and not hostile.

*Just in case it needed clarification, “bareback” is a slang term for sex without a condom.

Well, That Was A Surprise

I’m In Literacy Hell

I’m aware on a daily basis that education has taken a nosedive in America.

And not “education” strictly in the school system manner. I know there are issues there, certainly. What I’m referring to is the responsibility of the individual to refresh their knowledge to ensure their intelligence continues to grow as they make their way in the world, lest we end up becoming Stupider Americans…

My daily reminders are things like the there/their/they’re and your/you’re headaches.

But today…today has been extra.

It started with a friend’s Facebook status:

I don’t run away when theirs a challenge.

Fine.

Pretty run of the mill.

Well, I mean, it’s kind of a double-whammy. He missed the contraction in his misuse of there’s.

But then this guy I’ve been chatting with sends me a text about a conflict he’s having with his boss:

I don’t think there’s a way I could ethnically do that.

Jesus fucking Christ.

Obviously, I can’t see him any longer…

I’m In Literacy Hell

Going Out Of Business!

Portland Edition.

I went out on a lil urban hike yesterday morning and was confronted by the reality of a frequently occurring conversational topic of late: commercial real estate in Portland.

The rug shop on the corner across from my place is closing. Well, is closed.

Just as a reminder, I live in a neighborhood called The Pearl which is nestled in the Alphabet District of Portland’s Northwest neighborhood. Essentially, this neighborhood runs from Burnside to Lovejoy streets from North to South and from Broadway to 8th to Park and then 9th-13th on the East to West streets.

It’s an 8×11 street grid.

There is/was three rug shops within that grid, so “How many rug shops do you need in that small area?” is a valid question.

Here’s one of the survivors, which was forced to move from its original location a few years ago to make way for a 14 story, half a city block apartment building that is finally nearing completion.

I’m not complaining. Once this is done early next year, my immediate area will wrap up its fourth major building project over the last four years. That’s two new hotels and two new apartment buildings that added about 500-700 new neighbors and countless tourists to my corner of the world.

Until the Post Office project begins in god knows when, I’m in the clear, construction-wise.

Interestingly, the opposite corner of my block (shown above) rented nearly a year ago and just recently opened. It’s a rowing studio, which upset the Filipina Fox greatly, since she and her husband were planning – still are – to open a row studio. But if you got clients that are too lazy to walk into class, you’re probably better off not even bothering to open.

At least they are friendly. Homegirl gave me a nice friendly smile and wave.Still, it goes back to my earlier question, how many <insert business here> does one small part of town need?

When it comes to gyms, I can think of too many:

The grand daddy of the OGs, 24 Hour. It’s been here since well before the turn of the century. Another OG – LA Fitness – came in a decade and a couple blocks later.

There’s now City Row, Yo Yo Yogi, Pearl Yoga, Firebrand, Barre 3, Bar Method, RevoCycle, BurnCycle and countless CrossFit studios within my tiny grid. Including one that moved into this site for about an hour.

But fitness and rugs aside, this whole conversation started with a few notable business closures.

Namely, Pearl Bakery and Henry’s Tavern with an honorable mention to Byways Cafe.

Pearl Bakery had been in its current location for 23 years, serving up fresh baked breads and pastries as well as top notch coffee the entire time. It was a Pearl landmark.

Henry’s, on the other hand, could arguably be said to have been here in the Pearl since before there was a Pearl to be in.

Henry Weinhard’s started brewing beer here in 1906 and I know people just a few years younger than me whose parents worked there. It was bought by AB a few decades ago and brewing operations were consolidated elsewhere sometime after that. In the 90s, the brewery was redeveloped into a founding corner of the a Pearl called the Brewery Blocks, which enveloped the block that Powell’s sits on and also included a couple of condo and apartment buildings The Henry and The Louisa, named for Weinhard and his wife. One of the old brick buildings was remodeled and became home to Henry’s Tavern, run by the recently relegated to the annals of bad business Restaurants Unlimited. Still, RI was snatched up by Landry’s and there was hope that the namesake restaurant in the Pearl’s Brewery Blocks would be spared the axe.

Alas.

Still, you gotta wonder, if coffee and beer can’t make a go of it in one of Portland’s affluent destination living and shopping districts…hadn’t there got to be a bigger problem?

Henry’s is hardly the only brewery or taproom to face this fate.

Last year, Bridgeport shut down brewing operations in the Pearl and later closed its onsite restaurant.

Avid started its life as Atlas before being sued over copyright infringement and forced to rebrand. It opened last year in one of the two nearby apartment building projects i mentioned.

On Deck will close permanently at the end of the year, putting the Pearl down a sports bar.

It was quite the summertime destination – for some, not me) with a rooftop that probably doubled its square footage. I think this business in particular struggled with a too common threat in the neighborhood these days:

Redevelopment

Rumors circulated for the better part of a year that this block was due to go under the wrecking ball to create a new mid-rise building. Office Depot occupied the other corner of the block and pulled out last year.

And while I am a supporter of housing density, the panic future development rumors create is detrimental to our present.

Indeed, my backup – and preferred – coffee house is on that block, you can just make out the red reflection of its “Open” sign in the picture above. As a matter of fact, Nossa is new to this block within the last couple of years, having moved from literally two blocks down when its former location came under the same redevelopment axe.

Yet, here its former location is. Empty as the rumors that helped facilitate its relocation. Also, some randomly occurring Jingle Bell runners.

But as in favor as I am of redevelopment, I think the overall benefit is mitigated by the negative impact of commercial real estate’s larger problem: greed.

Real estate – both commercial and residential is at a premium in Portland overall and more so in the Pearl specifically since it’s such a hub. So, for every new building that goes up, there’s at least one – if not two – large restaurant or retail spaces included in the new building as anchor spaces.

Case in point, The Rodney.

This apartment building was finished early this year and included a large restaurant space on the ground level. This corner is on Glisan, one of the two busiest one-way through-fares in the neighborhood. Including construction, there’s been over two years to lure a business into this spot. It’s next door to 10 Barrel Brewing and Rogue Brewing’s taproom restaurants and a block from Andina, another Pearl District restaurant mainstay.

That they can’t rent this space out is problematic. Then again, it took two years post-construction for City Row to open in the large space next to my building, so…

A bigger problem?

The building right across Glisan that should be complete and open early next year. Including what I assume will be at least one large restaurant space in its three corner spaces – it’s a big building.

Between these two buildings, we’re adding around another 750+ residents to the neighborhood…it shouldn’t be that hard to draw a business that can make a go of it here. As long as it’s not named something complementary-awkward to its neighbor. All we need is an apartment building named The Slice sitting across the street from The Rodney.

But large restaurant space is tricky. Even chain based restaurants can’t make a go of it. Back before RI went out, they snatched up Pacific Restaurants. This was back in 2007 and I believe – forgive me if I’m wrong – PR was an affiliated evolution of Farrel’s Ice Cream Parlors.

Between the two, they put successive restaurants into this Glisan corner space for decades.

It was home to Palomino and Trader Vic’s with at least one other incarnation from the brand’s portfolio in the mix. Then it sat empty for a couple of years before signage for a Pink Taco went up in the windows screaming about a new future.

Then silently came down.

More recently, the space has quietly announced a new tenant.

And apparently the low key nature of its announcement saved enough money for remodeling to actually begin this time around.

Meanwhile, on the opposite corner of that block, facing Hoyt, another of the Pearl’s pioneer eateries sits vacant after closing in the middle of the night a few years back. Oba! was an exciting happy hour destination and a swanky date night or celebration restaurant destination.

Then, poof!

Gone.

Ironically, another Pearl nightlife mainstay is rumored to have leased the space, but those rumors are growing stale after almost 18 months.

Jimmy Mak’s was a jazz venue in the Pearl since the days where there was only one or two industrial co-ops and maybe one condo building in the hood. Then they moved catty corner to a new location next to one of our three neighborhood rug shops.

Then, the rumors came.

Kush decided to move ahead of the demolition of its half-block. Jimmy Mak’s decided to close down once its owner’s cancer resurfaced. The farewell party was planned – a New Years Eve to Mark the end of the Jimmy Mak’s era.

On New Years Day Jimmy died. It was tragically sad and a simultaneously beautiful ending to the story.

Until…a couple of former employees decided to reopen Jimmy Mak’s in the Oba! space six months later. Another beautiful tribute to a legendary entertainment venue.

The “Leased” sign is up…but 18 months in, we’re still waiting.

Celebrity chef based restaurants aren’t faring any better than chain-backed ventures.

Isabel Pearl was a restaurant opened by cookbook author Isabel Cruz back in 2008. After a decade, plans for the San Diego based cookbook author cum restauranteur to expand into the old Gilt space a few blocks away on Broadway were announced.

Gilt was the space’s former tenant and is the restaurant made famous by the Colin the Chicken episode of Portlandia…

If you can’t stay in business with that pedigree…alas, instead of expanding to a second location, Isabel decided to “reimagine” their original Portland location.

A hand-drawn magic marker sign. I can see that no expense was incurred – at least they learned something from Pink Taco.

Speaking of which, maybe that’s the restaurant that should anchor the building across from The Rodney!

Here’s a few more spaces that recently transitioned:

The Star brings deep dish pizza to the space formerly home for tow decades to The Paragon. Hopefully, they enjoy a similar tenure.

Two Wrongs is a collaboration between a Portland bar/restauranteur and the marketing/brand master behind Portland Gear. They took over a former Black Rock coffee house to open a bar.

Here’s Byways, which I mentioned earlier. Fifteen years ago, this was Shakers Cafe. Both incarnations were kitsch themed diners and have occupied this space for…gosh, 25 years collectively? They announced their closure after failing to negotiate new lease terms with the building’s owner.

There’s that greed again.

That the Sheepskin shop that shares the building with Byways has outlasted them is truly mind boggling. And it’s not like the building is going anywhere. There’s a co-op on one side and a similar small building housing a taco joint and a kitsch decor store called Cult on the corner.

Taprooms aren’t the only alcohol based destinations to struggle. This space is in the building that the Silver Fox lives in. It sits on Everett – the other main through-fare in the Pearl used to House a wine bar called Remedy. They limped along for a couple of years before closing and one of the owners – who owned the commercial space – had it rezoned and remodeled into his private residence.

An old school shared office building (pictured top) closed up last year. It had been here forever. It featured a now whitewashed wall that formerly depicted a mural of home state hero Steve Prefontaine and a fun neon sign helpfully suggesting the proper use of ones time.

I’d like this mural restored, if they’re just gonna cover it over and then leave.

Come to think of it, I want the neon back, too! Maybe keeping the “Working” side lit would keep homeless people from camping in the doorway.

Given its billion dollar a year losing competitor across the park, I can see where it would be hard to compete successfully. But this is Portland. We’re supposedly hard wired to support the underdog. WeWork should not have won in this scenario.

Affluence doesn’t always guarantee success over commercial real estate greed, either. Opposite the corner housing Pearl Bakery – which started this whole ball rolling – was a Charter School. It had been there for quite some time, bringing kids into the Pearl’s North Park Block neighborhood. That was an add that even this grumpy old man appreciated.

The City even collaborated to renovate the old Park Block playground into this

Bit then the school decided to move – for whatever reason. Hmm…what could it be?!?

Greed?!?

Perhaps.

Maybe they just outgrew the building.Ok, ok…I know this is running long. I think I’m wrapping up. I mean wearing myself out.

Let’s compromise and call it both.

The corner pictured above used to be a favorite pre-turn of the century coffee haunt of mine called Torrefazione. I actually made it a hangout for my main character in No One Of Consequence.

Anyway, Starbucks bought the small chain out and then closed them all up! Talk about cutthroat.

The Torrefazione family responded by leasing the restaurant space in the new high rise condo that was built on the opposite corner and opened Caffe Umbria.

Take that Charbucks. The family’s roastery May be Seattle based, but at least one of the family members lives locally and drops in to watch soccer with his toddlers on the weekends.

It was a very Portland thing to do, protest opening a business like that…even if selling out wasn’t so Portland.

The three pics below all represent businesses being priced out or rumored out of their homes. The Beneficial Bank looks nice, right?

It should.

After being forced out of its home for a couple of years once it’s space was slated for a high rise residential project, it was welcomed back with a paint job. Seems funding may have hit a snag. Who knows? Anyway, score one for the little guys.

Snow Peak, on the other hand, is just beginning it’s rumor based adventure. There’s a new “Coming Soon” window sign up a few blocks away. It coordinates well with the rumor of a new mid rise building in its current spot.

What I can’t figure out, though, is the how of that mid rise rumor. The Snow Peak space sits between the aforementioned and newly remodeled Rogue Brewery space on one side and an architecture firm on the other side.

I’m kind of worried that the architect space will come down to make way – along with Snow Peak – for another high rise apartment building.

The rub?

It’s right across from The Rodney – so maybe that intersection isn’t out of the redevelopment woods just yet.

Even more surprising is the answer Snow Peak represents to my “How many” question from earlier.

Snow Peak is in the Pearl’s crowd of outdoor and cold weather clothiers.

REI, Nau, Fjallraven (with TWO locations in the Pearl!), North Face, Patagonia and Icebreaker…and I know that I missed some!

Ironically, for as persistent as outdoor clothing stores are in the Pearl, home stores don’t fare so well. The Tactics skateboard shop above is a new notion for a space that was a gallery and then a home store and then a home store and then nothing. Likewise, the brick warehouse across the street was a furniture store and the space across the alley was also a home store that became a CrossFit gym for an hour or so before settling into its current sweatpants and ponytail version of an empty space.

In a further fit of irony, the CrossFit space was subdivided when it was a home store to reduce the size of the shop and thereby the overhead. It was slated to become Jimmy Mak’s new home before the cancer resurfaced. Then it became an “event space”.

Let’s hope the Oba! space fares better. Eventually.

Design Within Reach expanded last year to the above space, leaving its old two-story space vacant.

It looks way more inviting now, so I’m glad. But it got me wondering.

Maybe the evolution/solution to our commercial real estate vacancies is going to be something that Design Within Reach, Snow Peak and Nossa Familia have all already learned – along with countless college students.

The way to control real estate expense is to move.

It may cost more in the short term, but overall you leverage the expense downward.

For everyone.

It forces the market price correction that is necessary to offset the empty space and make those spaces affordable. I mean, commercial real estate brokers could just do the right thing and re-write current leases.

But how likely is that?

The banks didn’t do it with mortgages during the real estate crisis until Obama forced them to. Somehow, I don’t see the commercial real estate industry doing the right thing here.

Then again, investment brokers are doing something similar right now, by cutting transaction fees all the way to $0. I’m prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

Until then?

I wouldn’t mind seeing out city planners get a little more involved in approving all of this ground floor commercial space.

Or not approving it.

I think there’s a case to be made for more ground floor live/work space.

With the Pearl spanning 11 blocks on the North to South expanse, surely we could limit the commercial space on the ground floors to maybe 4-6 of those blocks? I mean, residence density is our goal here, not excess vacant commercial space.

We don’t need a brewery, yoga studio, flower shop or restaurant on every block.

I think the current situation has proven that.

Going Out Of Business!

Your Mental Health Posts…

To quote the prophet, Shania Twain?

Don’t impress me much.

And that’s coming from a recreational hypochondriac. Any given day of the week, I can probably self-(mis)diagnose the minorest of maladies.

But I do it on a lark and for my own entertainment…not sympathy.

Last Sunday, the Silver Fox and I went exploring up in Forest Park, Portland’s lush and gorgeous urban forest in the West Hills. There’s something like 40 miles of hiking trails there that will make you forget you’re in a city. We had wanted to see a new pedestrian bridge the city installed to keep Stupid Americans from running across one of Portland’s busiest streets – that is nothing but cars careening around blind curves at that point – to get from the Forest Park trails to the Washington Park trails.

Oh, we’ve got trails here, I tell ya.

Well, short story long, I twisted my knee. I self-diagnosed with a sprain. The next day, as I hobbled up the stairs into work, my colleague pointed out that I may have torn my ACL and then goes into my bleak prospects for a normal life.

Damn it! He’s probably right…

So I prepared myself for the inevitable amputation.

I’m walking fine, now…for the record. But don’t let that stop you from sending get well cash – er…cards.

Like I said, though, my self-diagnosing is purely recreational.

Turning to social media, though?

There’s dipshits that should be running an asylum running amok in social media instead, self-diagnosing with anxiety and depression.

This pisses me off.

First, there are people really suffering from these mental health issues.

Second, being too lazy or hungover to get ready to go somewhere and meet friends or go to work isn’t anxiety, it’s…well…laziness.

Not that some of these people may not have a legitimate claim – regardless of who diagnosed it. But what are they doing about it?

Seeking treatment? 👍🏽

Seeking sympathy on Facebook? 👎🏽

Show.

Me.

The.

Rx.

Seriously, if you need help…get it. I’m all for it! I’ve been to therapy many times in my life and it’s extremely beneficial. I also know that because of the stigma of weakness around mental health, the people who get help are the bravest of folk.

We need to talk about mental health to remove that stigma from getting mental help so that it becomes a healthy norm…like going to the gym. Now that I mention it, if the people incessantly going to the gym got treated for their narcissism and body issues (I can “self”-diagnose others, too), the world would probably be a much better place because people around them wouldn’t be so anxious or depressed.

Hmmm.

But I digress, it’s one thing to be anxious. That does not mean you have anxiety.

Just like if I go to the gym once, I don’t have abs.

Likewise, just because you find yourself depressed does not equate to having depression.

Kind of how when someone takes a good selfie and posts it to Instagram, they aren’t a model.

Anyone need a moment after that gut punch?

Good.

When you cavalierly mis-use those terms, you do a disservice to those legitimately suffering their way to mental health. You’re not raising awareness, you’re trivializing someone else’s pain.

Knock it off.

Your Mental Health Posts…

The Hustle

I’d kind of taken to thinking of my job search as an exercise in futility. Sure, the only exercise I was getting, but it wasn’t really contributing to an elevated state of health – physical or mental.

In searching for appropriate career level positions, I hit wall after apathetic wall.

The struggle is surreal.

I found myself rethinking the jobs I was applying for with companies I told myself I wanted to work for. My thoughts turned toward,

Do I really want to work for these companies?

Learning from my interviewing experiences with them, I realized answer was coming back “No” more and more frequently. Hell, more often than not, I was realizing I no longer wanted to be their customer.

At the same time, I was really digging my lil writerly routine.

Come to – er…wake up.

Clean up.

Head to the Arthouse and write for a few hours.

I found that the morning was when I was really able to create. I worried that work would ruin that flow.

Realistically, though, I needed to work. Not just for the financial aspect – although, obviously – but also for the ancillary payback.

Allowing me to feel that I’ve not just accomplished something, which I achieve with writing, but to feel that I’ve contributed to something.

Then there’s the social interaction void after leaving retail. I’m used to dozens if not hundreds of quick interactions with people that challenge me and keep me socially engaged.

A.

Day.

That’s tough to replace.

I wasn’t getting that on my couch – and I tried both ends!

Out of literal desperation, I applied for a part time job as a clerk in a convenience store. For what the owner called “Good money for a job like this” during my interview.

It was $12/hour.

The owner calls that good money, Oregon called that Minimum Wage. I should note that this was at the time, Oregon’s Min Wage is now $12.50, so I think I now qualify for membership at Mar-a-Lago or something, right?

I quickly learned the reason that the owner considered Minimum Wage good money for this job: his employees didn’t do much during their shifts. The majority of them played on their phones or read books waiting for customers. They didn’t even say “hi” to them when they entered the store. Some had friends stop by. Still others had hangouts with off duty employees.

The owner wasn’t getting a good return on his payroll investment, for sure.

But I just had a few lunch/dinner shifts a week, like 16-24 hours. Covering a store for an hour while the associate took their meal break, then moving to the next for an hour and then the last store to finish my four hour shift.

I got to talk to people and I got to do things…even if it was just putting beer and water into coolers. It’s weird, it was what I did at the airport to help out my associates. To make them feel supported. Now it was my job.

The other employees objected to that aggressively productive behavior of mine with an array of flimsy reasons. My response?

I came to work!

I didn’t care if they loved or hated me. I was getting paid with that sense of contributing with every task I completed and customer I met.

You’re so much nicer than the other employees!

I heard that a lot. In all three of the stores. Just about six months in now, I still hear it once or twice a week.

You know what? That’s nice to hear, but it also makes me feel bad. Most of my co-workers are nice enough to me – despite my reluctance to work down to their standard. What if the job just beat them down into spiritual submission?

Was it only a matter of time for me, too?

Doubts like that aside, I was finding myself entertaining the notion of finding job and financial satisfaction in more of a piecemeal manner. I’d been witnessing younger workers doing it for the last decade. Running from part-time job to part-time job to cover their expenses. Maybe I could turn away from the full-time mentality and “retire” to a gig mentality.

I began exploring app-based work like Uber or Postmates. The obvious problem there for me was: no car. Still, with Postmates I could use my bike. The problem there? My lazy ass. Since the FWV (friends with vehicles, duh!) I dropped hints to about this notion let those hints drop unacknowledged, I tabled the idea.

Somehow, in this same timeframe, I became the boss’ shining star employee and go-to. She asked me to cover her role during her month-long vacation. At full-time.

Fine, as long as it’s just for four weeks…I can do it.

Three weeks before she left, all hell broke loose. Two people got fired and another quit in the course of maybe five days. By the time my boss left for vacation, I was ready to go back to my sweet lil four hour shifts.

Flash forward two months and I was still averaging about 35 hours a week. Feeling broken, I at least had my family’s annual vacation get together to look forward to in a month.

Still, I told my boss to schedule me less so I could get my writing back on track. I was an entire project behind schedule.

No change. Unless being scheduled for only 32 hours counts.

Then I got a call I wasn’t expecting.

A temp agency specializing in HR had reached out to me a few weeks earlier about a position they thought I’d be perfect for.

Oh, and the position you originally applied for was filled, unfortunately.

No shit? That was months ago!

Anyway, the position was designed to offload the HR responsibilities of a dual role HR/Ops manager that wanted to focus on her Ops responsibilities.

I agreed, I would be perfect for the role. I interviewed and still thought it would be a great fit. The money was certainly better than the convenience store, but it was only two-thirds of what I should be earning. At part-time the money would barely cover my monthly expenses. Looked like I wouldn’t be ditching the convenience store job anytime soon.

I realized that idea didn’t bother me. I romanticized a perfect schedule where I worked my gig HR three days a week from 8-5 and did dinner breaks from 6-10, earning enough to feel financially able while having four days off a week.

But this is my life, right? That Cinderella story didn’t happen.

Surprisingly, the person creating this job thought you were too into people. She’s going with another candidate.

Oh, for fuck sake.

The person who was more into the Ops side of her job and didn’t want to be bothered with the Human Resources side of her role…didn’t want somebody who was into humans to take that off her plate.

Seriously.

Surrealiously.

This journey is basically the meat of my next non-fiction book. I’m leaning toward calling it 50-gig – get it? I’m ~50 and competing for gig work with them there millennials? – however, on days like that one…it’s hard not to call it These Damn Idiots I Meet.

I mean, really, dating. Job hunting. It could be the group name for my non-fic work. 50-gig and Dating Into Oblivion could both easily fall under that heading. I wonder if there’s a third piece to round out a trilogy.

Obviously, The Gym.

But, I’ve digressed.

Romantic notion of working three days a week: le poof.

Anyway, I go back to my partly full-time job at the convenience store, grateful to still have a purpose but missing out on writing. At night, I drink wine on my lonely couch while binge watching Star Trek TV shows in their chronological order versus release dates while mentally cutting myself to take away the pain of my obsolescence.

Then the HR temps call back a few weeks later.

Maybe a month.

Let’s say a few weeks ago.

I doubt you’d be interested, you might consider it too boring.

I took this with the grain of salt required to swallow my belief that nobody wanted me, anyway. Basically, my position was, “I dare them to fucking hire me!”

Still, the “three or four days a week” aspect really appealed to me.

They’d really like someone to start next Monday, if it’s a good fit.

I just laughed at that, still waiting for Old Mother Hubbard’s second home to land on me like a was The Wicked Job Hunter of the West.

Oh, boo. What was that collision of metaphor?!? Mixing nursery rhymes and Young Adult novels from barely the last century.

Hey, don’t even worry about it. It’s Wednesday…if they let me know by tomorrow morning, I can have my boss at the convenience store work me around it.

Apparently, my “I fucking dare you to hire me” attitude was too much to resist. Thirty minutes later, they called back and told me to get in there Monday morning.

Having resigned myself to never getting another professional job again, I’d gone back to thinking about app based gig-work. I’d looked into car-sharing options for driving with Uber or Lyft using someone else’s car through an app called GetAround. It would probably end up costing about a third of what I’d make driving, but it would pull me out of being able to say “yes” every time my boss at the store had a need.

Actually, every time isn’t fair. I knew she tried to not abuse my availability. I appreciated it. But still, of the instances I knew of where she didn’t call on me, I knew she was just sucking it up about half the time.

I felt bad about that.

Anyway, somewhere in there – and consistent readers already know this – I said “Fuck it”, and bought a car. They’ve subsequently been dubbed Pat the Patriot in a perfect fit of Portland political correctness.

I figured maybe I could still do some gig driving, if only for the experience of writing about it in either my blog or even that notion of a book. I’d actually priced it all out and come to the benchmark of driving only six hours a week covering my car costs.

I could live with that.

I could also live with my complete lack of surprise at my experience trying to sign up to drive with Uber.

I’d given up using Lyft in conjunction with Uber a decade-ish ago when a woman in a homemade floral print dress and Jesus bobble head on her dash tried to fist bump me. If I was gonna drive, my first choice was going to be with the brand I’d been using as a consumer.

After a month of effort, let’s just say that I’m driving with The Verb and not The (unearned) Adjective.

And it’s addictive.

Not just the people engagement reward, but actually, the immediacy reward, too. I’ve only driven three times, but it’s been very satisfying…like 90% fun and 10% “Meh, that was still better than a day working for my last professional job”.

Plus, I get a cell phone bill and think, “Welp, let’s cash in on the app” and my pay is instantly in my checking account. The next morning I wake up to a utility bill and think, “Well, I’ll go have coffee with The Fox and then drive for a couple hours to get this paid…beats paying for two more hours of parking”.

And, yes – I am looking for a monthly space to rent! Especially if I want to leverage that whole three days of work/four days off thing.

Until then, a couple hours to pay my $30 gas bill versus spend $4 on parking turned into driving for five hours and saving $10 on parking and limping out of my driver’s seat with $100.

See? Addictive.

Now, before it starts raining Other Shoes, here’s what’s on the horizon:

– Before I committed to Lyft, I applied to drive delivery for GoPuff and Postmates. I’ll probably fold at least one of those in, if only for the potential writing material for 50-gig. But also: tips! I’ve actually never had a tip job before, so I’d be interested in how that adds up.

Plus, as a car share rider from the early days, I never tip. It was part of the deal. Then the deal changed, but guess who didn’t? Yes, me. But also: practically everyone else. Out of – I think I’m at…18 rides over three outings I’ve been tipped by two riders. I don’t expect it, but feel I’ve really earned the gratuity when they land. It’s not that I got a tip for reflex of it all, I did something that stood out compared to other rides these Tipsters have taken.

That’s what I’m telling myself.

What else?

– Oh, yeah…the convenience store. There’s a shoe. If you know me, you know I won’t repay hiring me when no one else would – yes, for a job I should have a lobotomy to be qualified for – by walking away, middle fingers flying just because I got a better opportunity. So, if this HR gig pans out, I see a serious scheduling conversation happening there.

– The HR gig. When someone – an employer – says “three or four days a week”, who knows what they mean? It could be three days, with the hope that the dangling fourth will provide added bait. It could mean four, for so many reasons.

In this case, I heard “three”, because that’s what I wanted to hear. Then I talked to the owner and heard the job scope and said, “Yeah, I can do that in three”.

Sadly, I think they really want someone for four, but tough nuts.

Or not so tough. If I end up working four days a week, it’s not the end of the world. Plus, since I’m HR, I have access. That access shows me – innocently, I assure you – that my non-temp predecessor was making $6/hr more than I am. But I get the temp costs offset. If they hire me off my contract, I’m getting that money. Knowing what I do of the owner, I won’t have to ask…she’ll offer. How awesome is it to have a boss you think of in those terms?

It’s fucking awesome.

Also: there’s an office cat. He’s nicer than Myrtle, too, which makes that fourth day a real draw. Poor Myrt. She’s not not nice. She’s just psychotic and can’t help herself.

Or I have Stockholm Syndrome.

Now, let’s see…other shoes. Other Shoes. Any others, hoes?

Ah, yes!

– Writing! Doy. The second book in the No One Of Consequence story is nearing completion. Yes, Phil…I’m editing! Hehe. After some good feedback, I also intent to brush off Book One and give it an extra lil polish before launching Book Two. Now I should have the ability to advertise, too.

I wanna run an ad campaign this month, I think I’ll go drive for a few hours.

I like the sound of that.

Then, come November I can put balancing work, work, work and possibly work schedules with writing, I’ll try and get most of 50-gig drafted during NaNoWriMo. That’ll be an adventure.

Almost as big an adventure as doing my 2019 taxes will be with two W2s, possibly four 1099s and at least a little bit of royalties income to factor in. I better start limbering up my procrastination muscles now!

Yes, it’s 5:30 in the morning on my day off…why do you ask? Truth be told, how this three job thing is working out so far has created a three weeks straight without a day off, so my old ass is tired! But I slept well on both Friday and Saturday night.

Of course, that was after saying

I’m burning the candle at both ends…with fucking blow torches!

So I was ready for early nights and good sleep. Maybe I’ll try a nap later.

Nah…I’ll go drive! Haha.

The Hustle

The Seaward

My new neighbor moved out of my old unit.

This is the guy who took a month to move in to my old unit at the beginning of the year. I saw him twice and we spoke once.

Yes, he offended me.

Ergo, I nicknamed him The Seaward.

Not because he was always heading for the beach, not that I’d know. It’s a play on words.

Well, a specific word.

The C-Word – in case you needed that spelled out.

And, no. I did not mean it in the cool English slang way.

Anyway, his move out has been as subtle as his move-in. Over the last several months I’ve begun realizing that he just spends very little time at home. My presumption was that he was at his boyfriend’s. But in the past weeks, his patio has been looking less and less like a set from Sanford and Son.

The middle of last week, I noticed some tree debris in the hallway and later noticed that even the planter with his lil shrub in it was gone. Now it’s just the prohibited-but-don’t-let-that-stop-you BBQ and The Seaward’s beach chair left.

In an unguarded moment last weekend, I saw a moving truck outside my building and thought, “Oh boy, new neighbors!” My first thought was that one of the four – of eighteen – units for sale had sold.

Then I caught myself.

The Seaward.

Took a month to move in.

Lasted eight.

The Seaward