What’s the 911?

Can you believe it just took me three tries to call 911?

It’s not that I’m that low functioning.  Although, it is 5:30 in the morning.  And I did take a sleeping pill last night.  Probably mostly that I’m a teensy bit neurotic.

But THREE attempts.

I smelled smoke when I walked through the lobby of my building this morning, vaguely registering the thought, “Good luck, Myrtle!”

Although, she’s been super sweet, cuddly and barely lethal lately.

I had already put the alarming scent away and was jaywalking diagonally across the street in my little Alphabet District neighborhood when I saw the smoke in the park.  Oddly enough, now I couldn’t smell the smoke.

I debated the need for fire department assistance, since I realized it was a heavily smoking trash can.

Thanks, homeless people…let’s face it, 5:30 in the morning on Wednesday is too late on Tuesday night for even the heartiest partiers to reasonably be the culprit.

I called 911, kinda thinking that there’s a non-emergency number I should call for smoke versus reporting said smoke to the emergency responders.  I’m thinking all this as I hear, “If this is an emergency, say ‘911’ after the tone or press any key on your phone at any time”.

Well, thank goodness it’s not an emergency. Listening to that probably wouldn’t soothe my nerves in an actual crisis.

“911”, I say.  Feeling guilty, of course.

Click.

I’m crossing Broadway now, wondering if I’m required to stay on scene.

I’m a minute late in my departure for work, you see.

Dial tone.

What the…?  Ok, this is a sign.  I search my contacts for the non-emergency number that I’m sure is in my contacts.  I am a grumpy old man, after all.  Gotta be prepared to call the authorities to report young people having too much fun.

Nothing.

Obviously, I’ve deleted the number in an attempt to disarm my inner self-righteous bastard self.

I google Portland Fire and Rescue and call the closest firehouse to me.  I’m musing that the one in SW is actually closer to me than the one in my own NW neighborhood as the phone rings and I walk down Everett toward 6th Street now.

I get a recorded message from the administrative offices telling me office hours and urging me to call 911 in an emergency.

I hang up.

I reluctantly call 911 again, this time pressing any key after the recorded message.  This is obviously some sort of Obama Death Panel nonsense.

When the operator answers, she asks, “Police, Fire or Medical?” and I reply, “Smoke?”

She asks the location and I tell her it’s in the North Park Blocks at Everett between 8th and Park.

I’m approaching 3rd now and she tells me that she has a report of fire in the park at Flanders.

I look at my phone, unsure of how someone can not know how the Alphabet District works.

Burnside.

Couch.  Don’t you dare mispronounce that.

Davis.

Everett.

Flanders…and…so…on, all the way through Vaughn.  Yeon just doesn’t count.

I calmly respond that, “That must be the same one”.

“Do you see them onsite?”

“No, but I was late for my train, you see…”

Click.

Well, I did at least try.

What’s the 911?

The Red Shirt Diaries #16

What?!?

Back to back posts on the same day?

Within the same theme?!?

What next?  Liberals and Conservatives coexisting?

Next stop: anarchy.

The fact of the matter is that I just finished a 12 hour day and need something to focus on for my MAX ride home from the airport so that I don’t fall asleep and end up in Hillsboro.

Again.

Ergo, the MAX Blog Challenge hashtag.

But also, after my 5 am to 5 pm shift today, I’m feeling pretty jazzed because I got a shit ton of stuff accomplished today.

Not everything, by any means.

But, a shit ton.

Not bad for my work week’s Wednesday, eh?

Well, I should say, the first Wednesday of this particular work week since I’m in a friggin’ six day stretch.

If I survive tomorrow, aka: Second Wednesday.

You see, my boss has been on vacation the last ten or so days.  I took the initiative – in my spare time, trust me – to do some Spring cleaning.  I’d say it’s 70/30 whether he kills me or praises my initiative when he returns tomorrow.

He’s not the quickest to embrace change, you see.

Also, he’s a pack rat.

I’m not the apex of organization.  The Filipina Fox…she’s the poster child for organization.  If she walked into our shared office…yeah, she’d rather fly full speed into a black hole than spend a full minute in our office.

I’m coming up on a year of working in this environment that is equal parts chaos and clutter.

So, it’s time.

And it’s not that The Boss is on vacation, it’s that – really – I am productivity-wise on fire this week.  Might as well strike while the iron is hot, eh?

I’m averaging personally processing three garment racks worth of apparel each day.  I average a garment rack’s sales value to be around $2500, so that’s something.  Plus, in addition to eliminating some backlog in our apparel processing, we have inventory in a few weeks…getting this stuff hung will be way easier than trying to inventory it in boxes and on pallets.

Speaking of pallets, I broke down four pallets today, too.  Three personally, one I had an alley-oop on, as someone else off loaded the pallet and I put it away.

Those accomplishments alone would make me feel like I earned my sore back – er – paycheck this week.  However, in addition to my normal daily store support and HR duties and those two achievements I’ve also been onboarding a new junior manager.  He’s doing great so far and his attitude is just the can-do shot in the arm our environment needs!

This week – his second – didn’t require as much 1-on-1 time (shut up, Diezel) as his first week, but we probably spent a good six hours together.  That’s 15% of a 40 hour work week.

So, for whatever reason, on top of all that great stuff, I decide to clean my rat’s nest of an office.

I felt like both sides of Indiana Jones’ persona:

Carefully excavating the top layers in my archaeological dig to preserve anything of value below,

and;

Heroically overcoming seemingly overwhelming odds to complete my mission.

Aside from the uncertainty of The Boss’ reaction, I’ve also had to face the present danger of navigating the motivation behind the praise of Capt Can’t.

He seems to have enjoyed encouraging my efforts and reassuring me that they’ve tried to organize around The Boss before, but then telling me it always ends up the same.

Hearing that, my gut says this

But my innate optimism and grumpy old man-ness says this

And if The Boss hates it and goes postal…at least I didn’t die on a pile of retail debris.

But in addition to my 70/30 chances he’ll either hate or love it, I’d say that if he hates it that there’s a 50/50 chance he has a stroke from the shock.

So, tomorrow oughta be pretty exciting!

If we both survive and he does hate it – if I did fall into a trap laid by Capt Can’t – there’s only three more work days until my vacation.

Or my last day…wudyagunnado?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s my hump day.  And you can believe that tomorrow – on Second Wednesday – I’m gonna double my pleasure!

Yeah, right.  I’m gonna go make dinner and then fall asleep on the couch.

The Red Shirt Diaries #16

The Red Shirt Diaries #15

Dressed to Kill Edition

Maybe it’s just walking through Old Town too early, too many times…recently on my way to work instead of on my way home.

Maybe it’s that sometime late Friday or early Saturday, there was another stabbing in Old Town.  Same building, one block off my route.

Maybe it’s that Old Town pretty much seems to be a quarter owned by Central City Concern.  Don’t get me wrong, it has done great things with the cheap properties it bought back before the turn of the century.  Before the Pearl really took off.  Now they are sitting on a fortune in real estate.  They provide housing for low income people.  They provide a place for people to bounce after drug or alcohol counseling.  

They do a lot more than that, too.  Trust me.

Unfortunately, they draw the crazies into Old Town and the Pearl, too.

Equally unfortunate is that for all the housing they have, they are usually at overflow status.

So…there’s a good population of Urban Campers in my neck of the woods.

I’m ok with the folks who are sleeping one off in the park blocks.  I’m ok with the pan handlers.  

I’m really ok with the colorful folks – like the one I nicknamed the Mayor of Old Town.  He really deserves his own blog post.  I like my work days that begin at 6 am, I usually see him heading to the not-yet-open John’s Diner.  Cafe?  I dunno.  It’s one or the other.  He chills on the stoop until they open for the day and then goes in for breakfast.

I’ll work on that.  For now…back to my point.

Maybe it’s just that I watched too many scary movies when I was a kid.  

That’s where I encountered Dressed to Kill.

This – along with the movie(s) Psycho – were enough to give me a lifelong noise sensitivity during shower time.  Much to my parents’ unknown delight, this was the cause of my 20 minute showers becoming significantly quicker…more of a down to the basics endeavor.

Conversely, this movie had an unknown – or at least unregistered, I knew on some level – effect on me.

Fear of elevators.

I don’t know why…

Oddly, I’ve got it turned around in my mind.  I expect to walk into en elevator and see a slasher in waiting, versus being on an elevator and having one board on a different floor.

Regardless, neither option is optimal for my ongoing survival.

So, yeah…that little combination does a good number on my sense of well being when I’m walking through Old Town on the way to MAX at 3:45 or 4:45 am.

I blame cable.

I’m just grateful this movie didn’t give me any significant fear of men in drag, because then living on the edge of Old Town would be impossible!

Spoiler: the killer is Michael Fucking Caine dressed as a woman.  Pretty good cover, eh?

The Red Shirt Diaries #15

JLD Has Breast Cancer 

It’s one of those moments where you’re so stunned by bad news that you momentarily forget that this isn’t someone you actually know.

In yet another week of our ongoing mind boggling existence in America under the 45 regime, I find myself observing people around me registering even more shock at celebrity tragedy.

The Hef dies at 91.

The Pratt/Faris divorce devolves.  (Maybe)

Julia Louis Dreyfus has breast cancer.In a simple, yet poignant note on the Instagram, she both announces her diagnosis, expresses gratitude and issues a call to arms on healthcare.

Pretty heroic.

Of course, the nation reacts with stunned awe, commence pre-grieving mode.  That said, I’m usually conflicted at the amount of emotional devastation people can summon for celebrities they’ve never met.  On the one hand, I’m happy to see that we haven’t lost our sense of empathy.  However, I’m also curious about where that empathy is when something bad happens closer to home with them.

Rarely do I see someone so utterly destroyed at the loss of a parent, as was the case with Hef recently and Debbie Reynolds late last year.  Empirically, I know that the shock at the loss of a parent is different, since children are usually present for their decline.  Things aren’t left unsaid, hopefully.

Not so with a celebrity death.  It’s pretty much all shock, all of the time since we are exactly not in their everyday lives.  I expect that’s where a lot of the (over)reaction comes from.

Still, I can’t help but wonder whether we wouldn’t be better off as a people if we couldn’t find a medium to our empathy.

Perhaps our parents would be better cherished at the end of their lives instead of brought out, dusted off and propped at the head of a table for holidays and birthdays.

Or maybe we’d just have much fatter homeless people.

Hard to say.

And let’s not even talk about the death of a pet.

Yup, celebrity and pet deaths…that’s pretty much the apex of our emotions inAmerica these days.  

I’m gonna find a challenge for myself to be better about that…stay tuned.

JLD Has Breast Cancer 

The Red Shirt Diaries #12

This will be the twelfth entry of TRSD.

The first that’s actually non-fiction.

Potentially non-fiction, at any rate.

Mostly non-fiction.

And it’s not a funny-way-that-I-meet-my-demise entry like the other TRSD, which are really just the nonsense synaptic equivalent of watching someone fall down while ice skating .

I’ve been watching the last part of the second season of The West Wing today.  I’m sure the statute of limitations on spoilers is up, so I can say without fear of retribution that Mrs. Landingham dying, watching President Bartlet deal with coming out about his MS and then the cliffhanger question of “Will you be seeking a second term?” ending of this season wrecks me every damned time I watch it.  As a matter of fact, knowing what’s going to happen makes it emotionally more devastating to me because you start watching the things that go on beforehand and they just make it more intense.

So, I’ve been ugly crying on my couch a lot today.

At a TV program.

Like some dumb jerk with misplaced emotional attachments.

And then I read on the Facebook an update from a casual friend of mine that he was shaving off his Pride-inspired rainbow flag hairdo to commemorate the end of Pride month.  His update was beautiful.  It inspired me.  It was thought provoking.

He talked about how cognizant he had been of his own trepidations in becoming a visibly representative member of the LGBTQ community.  How it impacted his behaviors while he wore his rainbow ‘do.

I skipped this Pride.

I skip a lot of them, actually.  It’s just not my scene.  Not because it’s too anything specific.  I don’t go to the Rose Festival Parade, either.  I guess I don’t like large crowds is the best way to describe it.

But beneath that, well…is what I think is a Red Shirt worthy fear.

I went to last year’s Pride because I felt like I owed it to my community to be a part of the strength of our numbers in the long shadow cast over 2016’s Pride month by the Pulse Nightclub shooting last year.

This year, I returned to my curmudgeonly avoidance.  Once a decade is enough for me.  Not only because of my normal preference to avoid big crowds.  Also in part because of that Red Shirt worthy fear I mentioned earlier.  For the last six weeks or so, I’ve been on a sharper than normal edge.  I feared – realistically feared – that Pride was under a more than usual target.  It wasn’t something I felt compelled to be involved with.  I worried as I worked the day away that checking my phone was going to present me with unwanted terrible news.  Actually, I had been feeling that simmering trepidation for each of the weekends preceding PDX Pride on the 18th while Pride was celebrated in cities around the country and around the world and once again on the following Sunday for my friends and chosen family celebrating in Seattle.

The text I got from my sister asking me if I was home that Sunday left me with a vague fear…worried that she was worried that I had been somewhere something bad had happened.  Turns out, she and her family were in front of my house, assembling to march with the Portland Police Bureau in the parade.

That’s a whole different kind of fear, right there.  One I thought maybe I dodged, not becoming a parent:  fear of powerlessness for your loved ones’ safety.  But, my brother in law has a leadership role with the police force, so march, they did.

And as Pride month comes to a close <knocks wood> I find myself relieved that we made it through the month without any major bullshit hate crimes or massacres against the LGBTQ community.

Relieved and surprised, truth be told.

I’ve kind of lost my faith that Americans can comport themselves in a manner that still respects people’s differences.  It’s way heightened since November of last year, that’s for sure.  That stupid, hate mongering cheeto has enabled a lot of small minded people through both his direct words and actions as well as by his visible inactions and silence…he didn’t even make an official Pride proclamation.

But today’s cathartic binge-watching has kind of helped me out of another funk I have been experiencing lately, too.

It seems I’ve been fighting this battle of dis-ease on multiple fronts this month.

First, a vague, random danger like with the MAX stabbings.

Then, the more general fear or danger of participating in a potentially targeted event like Pride or an Ariana Grande concert.

But lastly, a quite specific fear for my personal well-being after a surprise random verbal attack on my on my person at work.

It’s like a trifecta of potentially PTSD inducing bullshit.

Nearly four weeks ago, a fairly generic conversation about whether it was unrealistic of me to expect employees to check their work schedules weekly – it’s my responsibility to create the weekly schedule – ended abruptly and unbelievably when my peer at work got up, yelled, “Just do your fucking job!” at me and essentially stormed out of the office.

I can’t believe how close to home random violence and hatred hits sometimes.

I was flat out godsmacked (not in the heroin overdose-y way) at such a surprisingly violent and random outburst at work.

And my dis-ease at this final scenario has simmered and percolated over the course of the month simply because…nothing happened afterward.

No apology.

No admission of wrongdoing.

No perfectly within reason – in my opinion – termination of my peer.

Nothing.

In the worst possible ending, he’s begun to just behave as if nothing happened.

Raise your hand if you know me.

<surveys crowd of raised hands>

“OK…you!”

“Um, I would guess that you, Homey, are not playing that?”

Yeah.

Homey ain’t playing.

Man, there’s some stuff from my upbringing.  I was raised with morals.  Standards of acceptable behavior.  There were fucking nuns, ok?  I learned some shit.

And, boy…did it stick with me.

Over the course of the two days that followed the…oh, let’s call it The Incident, shall we?  Yeah, over the course of the next 48 hours, I tried to make it semi-safe, between silently seething on the inside, for my apparently festering wang of a co-worker to apologize or admit his error so that we could begin to get past it.

I tried a little levity and was rewarded with an eye roll.

I tried resetting my own attitude to neutral by walking in on day two with a chipper, “Good morning!  How is everyone?” and was ignored.

Well, buddy, if you got a problem you need to make amends for…I’m not gonna work harder to resolve it than you are.  Stick your hand in your pants.  Anything?  No?  Maybe that’s the problem…he doesn’t have the balls to admit his wrong-doing.

But, that’s not my problem.

But maybe that’s not the actual problem.  Maybe he’s convinced he hasn’t done anything wrong.  And that obliviousness is a big red flag to me.  On that flag is printed something like “Beware!” molly you in danger girl

If someone in my personal life fucks up that badly and compounds it with being too ignorant or self-entitled or childish to apologize to me then I’m gonna get out my social scissors and cut a bitch out of my life.  End of story.

Not so at work.  I gotta work with this jag, so I put on my big boy pants and go to work, tolerating his existence.  It’s the best I can do.  The best he could have done – apologize – is now off the table because, in my book…when you mess up, you gotta own it…quick.  Ironically, I feel the same about counseling someone for poor performance at work, it needs to be immediate.  Well, once we crossed over that 48 hour window, I couldn’t accept an apology as sincere.  Actions speak louder than words, right?  His actions weren’t anywhere near saying that he was sorry for his behavior.

But, wait!  I’m not completely unreasonable.

Sure, you can’t sell me an apology, but you can at least acknowledge fault with me and I can muster up some forgiveness.  Hell, in a professional environment, I may even let someone off the hook without subjecting them to a lecture on how they failed to meet my expectations or grilling them on how they are going to re-earn my trust so that I can feel secure in their assurance that it will not happen again.

I can be graceful.

Ish.

I might trot out a “Well, that’s certainly not my fucking job” in the future to provide him with a good-natured poke, if our relationship happened to heal to that degree.

But in the ensuing near-month that has passed since The Incident all I’ve gotten was a couple weeks of silence and then some half assed attempts at getting me to tacitly agree with his apparent plan of pretending nothing happened.

Let’s just say that our office at Portland International Airport has been pretty well chilled during Portland’s recent minor heatwave.

Except – and this is what really reinforces that this whole thing is an epic shituation – for the dreams that have come in the wake of The Incident.

I was awakened when my dream turned into a scenario where my counterpart was storming toward me, yelling at me about an unresolved loose end that was his own responsibility.  It was a crappy way to wake up. But it was also pretty demonstrative of the environment that I walked into with this job.  There’s not a lot of accountability – internal or externally generated – with this fella.  My boss’s early words to me were “He doesn’t work a lot of hours, but he always gets his work done”.  Well, no…he doesn’t, he just gets away with not getting it done.  The scenario in the dream he was yelling at me for is an actual situation that exists at work, and has for a few months.  I went to work that day with a feeling of dread hanging over me because I had basically woken up with the certainty that this particular tiger wasn’t going to be changing his stripes.

That’s left my previous chill factor around the shituation behind and what I have now is an active feeling of dread…like I’m just waiting for the next unforeseeable occurrence.  Unless something happens to guarantee there is a reason to not expect another incident, I think it’s not an entirely unreasonable fear.

At this point, though…his absence is the only thing that would provide that assurance for me.

With that notion kicking around my subconscious self, my next work dream was even worse.

The shituation had been resolved.  My counterpart removed from the equation.

Fired.

Duly.

Did I mention he’s a hunter?  No?  Then I probably should.  He just returned from a hunting trip to Africa where he went trophy hunting.  Yeah, he’s one of those types.  I guess I could have told him he needn’t apply extra effort into losing my respect for him outside of simply pursuing his “hobbies”.

So, my more recent work dream ends with me standing on the MAX platform at PDX feeling relief in the knowledge that my sense of personal security at work would once again be made whole.

Yeah, he shot me in the chest from the parking structure.

Y’know, all things being equal, I have to say given the scenarios that have made me feel so uncertain of my safety this past six weeks or so…I think I’d prefer to go out heroically, like the men who demonstrated what Portlanders are truly like.  Sacrificing myself for the greater good, defending the defenseless.

Being blown up in a bar or sniped at a Pride Parade wouldn’t be that terrible…considering the legitimately decent buzz I would probably have I would presume I would be semi-oblivious to my being blown to oblivion.

But being taken out by a co-worker with an axe to grind?  Man, do I need a job like that in my life?  I acknowledged earlier that I know exactly what to do in my personal life with people like that…the money ain’t near good enough to make me compromise those values in my professional life.  If I wanted that type of work environment, I could get a job as a prison guard in Les Nessman’s jail.les nessman office

But, I have to say, between West Wing and a great Facebook status update…this afternoon has been pretty cathartic.  I’m inspired to be better.  A better example of a life well lived.  Instead of hiding on my couch with my values, I will challenge myself to participate in an actual life and let the trepidation I feel about my countrymen be a mental exercise versus a physical manifestation of the fear and discomfort our American culture engenders in me.  If I do nothing, well…I’ve heard that is all a good man has to do to assure evil a triumph over good.

So, I gotta be present.

But I’m still starting season three of The West Wing tonight.

The Red Shirt Diaries #12

MAX Blog Challenge

Allow me to explanationize myself.

I spend a lot of time during my commute with no responsibilities concerning paying attention to anything.  Unlike you driving-type people.  I ride the MAX, which is the light rail train here in Portland, OR, for those of you from not around here.  In case it ever comes up in a pub trivia, it stands for Metropolitan Area Express.

See how clever us Oregonians are?

Ever moreso than our big sister city counterparts up north, not only because our light rail name is way cooler than their Link Light Rail.

<yawn>

But also because we had the good sense as a city back in the late 70s-early 80s to say “Yes, please” to the federal money offered to us for light rail.

Seattle – apparently – said, “Nah.  We cool.  Look at this major freeway running through downtown and our floating bridges!  Trains are old school.  Did we mention our freeway has a park over it?!?”

Alas.

Anyway, our MAX gets me to and from work on the daily and that leaves me with some downtime where I don’t have to worry about silly things like steering and not hitting other vehicles.

So, what do I do?

I watch a lot of cat videos.

And the Facebook.

And the Words With Friends.

And the Instagram.

Until my brain is pretty much dripping out both ears.

Ergo, the purpose of this little MAX Blog Challenge is to use my 35-ish minutes to toss off a few brief blog entries.  Such as this or this.  Just something to keep the old bean nimble.

It’s especially helpful when waking up my little gray matter for my early work mornings, I can tap out a quickie on the way to work and be quasi-alert upon my arrival.  Plus, my post numbers are way up.  Win!

On the Sunday morning that I started thinking about this self imposed challenge, I was flashing back to the leisurely Saturday morning the previous day.  I’d hit my favorite local coffee roastery for my weekly treat and instead of my usual Iced Hazelnut Latte, I was feeling like an Iced Mocha.

I was tres conflicted.

One of the coolest baristas in Portland noticed my uncertainty when I was asked if I wanted my usual and asked what was wrong.

Or if I wanted-slash-needed a quad shot.

I told her about the source of my conflict and she immediately offered to do a mocha with hazelnut syrup for sweetener instead of the normal vanilla.

“A Nutella Latte?” I ejaculated.

Sure, she responded, chuckling uncertainly.

How could I not?

I mean, really.

So there I am, 16 ounces of iced latte magic in hand, walking down NW 13th, happy as a pig in chocolate and hazelnut syrup.  I have a literal pep in my step.

Oh, yeah…I went with the quad shot, too.

Then it happened.  The Latte Song just happened.  Popped right into my head, it did.  The music it was set to was Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movie.

And, it’s official.  I’m the biggest dork on the planet.

But, a well-caffeinated dork.

That was the story that I wanted to write for my first official MAX Blog Challenge.

But I couldn’t.

As soon as I started, my phone vibrated to let me know I had an incoming text.

T-Mobile.

I’d used all my high speed data for my billing cycle.  No biggie.  I usually have a couple of gigs in my data stash.  Then I saw it – the dreaded LTE in the upper left hand corner of my phone screen.

And it wasn’t going away.

Another text from T-Mobile, which usually follows telling me that I was going to switch to my stash.

I’m awash in relief.

“You have used all of the 3GB high speed data in your T-Mobile monthly data plan.  You will continue to experience slower speeds up to 128 kpbs until 05/05/2017…”

khan

kpbs…what type of actual BS tech is that anymore, anyway?  Could I also get a couple of tin cans and a string, please?

Being fairly easy going – shut up, everyone I know – I decided to just roll with it and keep typing along.  Then my mind started churning on the low speed data thing.  When I went to save or post this blog entry, it was gonna take a year and a half to update and complete.

Hard pass.

I could tough this out.

It was only…seventeen days.

Seven-fucking-teen days?!?!

Harder pass.

How was I going to make it?  I needed to get me to a T-Mobile to add a free range gig of data to get me through.

But how did this happen?  I never burn through both my 3 GB of high speed data and my stash.  Never.  It’s how I end up having a stash of data in the first place.

Rib.

He and his boyfriend had popped into town two weeks prior for a real fun weekend and had been talking – over our three bottles of wine before The Silver Fox and I split for an evening of Lauren Weedman fantasticness.  Well, it was supposed to be fantasticness, but not every slugger hits a home run every time at bat, right?

Whoa.  Sorry about that last paragraph.  It was very Weedman of me!

Nevertheless, during our full evening of fun packed into a 90 minute pre-funk conversation, they were mentioning the podcast they had listened to on their drive down from Seattle.

S-Town.

s-townIt sounded good.  Entertaining and thought provoking at the same time.  They had mentioned their podcast listening on previous trips down, so on the Sunday after their visit, I opened up my podcast app and started the seven episode series.

And finished it in four days.

Which apparently takes a lot of data.

Who friggin’ knew?

Who.

Friggin’.

Knew?

Ok, it was totally worth it.  But that’s a different blog.  Maybe.  If I remember.

Today I finally get to walk into a T-Mobile for that free range gig of data.

Which they no longer offer, because this is my life.  Gone are the days of a $9.99 gig fix for the data poor.

Great.  Now what?

As it happened, I needed to get me to a T-Mobile today for other reasons.  Namely, my phone contract is on a Jump! plan and on that plan, my traditional 24 month payment plan became an 18 month lease, where I could Jump! to a new phone pretty much whenever.

But I never did jump.

Oh, and did I mention that the 18 month lease ended with a balloon payment for the remaining balance of the phone cost?

Oh, yeah.

Who friggin’ knew?

So, I had also in this data crisis gotten a text saying that I needed to either get to T-Mobile to Jump! to a new phone or I was going to have a $164 balloon payment on my 4/28 bill, in addition to my normal $60-ish phone bill.

Balloon payment.

Does anything strike greater panic into the heart of a senior citizen?

I didn’t know what I was afraid of, it’s just some uncontrollable, throwback panic.

Quite beyond my control.

But, I like my phone fine.  One of the reasons I never Jump!ed in the first place.  Why not just ride it out?

Except.

My phone started giving me that “Storage Almost Full” crap and the “Cannot Take Photo” gas in the interim.

Well, I could use a little larger capacity on my phone…let’s see what the options are.

I head on down to my local T-Mobile.  Leaving myself not enough time to pull the trigger on anything before my 11:00 lunch date with the parental units.

Did I mention that I waited until the day the payment was due to hit my checking account?  No?  Because, I did.  I’m there learning that my free range gig was no longer available, but that there is a comparable unlimited plan available with unlimited data for $70, all taxes included.  Which would make my phone bill about $4 more per month compared to my current unlimited data plan where taxes are extra.

“Unlimited data”, <wink, wink> I say to the sale person, Kristina.  No…unlimited high speed data.  For real, she assures me.

It’s an attractive plan.

But, help me with my storage problem, I beg.  She shows me some external drives that…I stopped listening.  Another device, I don’t need.  I already have a brick of battery life that I think I’ve charged once since I bought it.

Lesson learned:  I don’t use the external tech add ons.

Basically, my options became to buy Cloud storage or buy a new phone.

This, of course, prompted a Grumpy Old Man rant about how I don’t even know what’s currently in my fucking cloud, nor do I know how to remove anything from said cloud.  I’m the victim here!  It’s all a big con.  Now I can’t take pictures.  I hope “they” are happy!

Grumble, grumble, grumble.

I back burner that decision while giving Kristina some whiplash and tell her that I’ve decided to go with the new data plan.  She parries with the information that she can’t set it up until I decide on paying off my old phone or getting a new one.

A few awkward seconds follow where we stare each other down.

The store’s phone rings.

And rings.

And rings some more.

I cock an eyebrow at her and she excuses herself.

like this woman.

My dad texts that they are leaving a bit late and will see me in an hour.  Great.  What Impulsive Xtopher didn’t need was enough time to complete a phone purchase.

When she gets off the phone, I tell her that I’ve decided to get the new phone, but to use the traditional 24 month payment plan versus the Jump! plan, since I didn’t.

Jump!

“The base 32 GB will be fine for you.  I mean, every time your phone updates, it will eat a little bit more of the storage because”…I’ve stopped listening.

“I’ll take the 128 GB”, I say, “Let’s see Apple update me out of that much storage!”

She tells me that I have to pay the $100 price difference up front, and I’m fine with that.  What I’m not fine with happens a few moments later when she realizes that she can’t stop the draft for this month’s payment.  What that boils down to isn’t a big deal, the $160 for the old phone will just appear as a bill credit next month.

It’s important to note that I’ve been short-handing the amount of the balloon payment on my old phone.  The actual amount of the buy off is $163.99.  It’s a shorthand that I now find myself regretting.

Because

She says, “Or, you could just wait and trade this phone in after the bill clears your account tonight” going on to elaborate – after my encouragement – that my trade in value would be <keyboard tapping> $160.

<Grumpy Old Xtopher to the stage, please>

“So, I lose $4 on the deal?” I manage to grumble and laugh at the same time.

Kristina the Sassy gives me a look that suggests that I’ve had a couple of weeks to complete this transaction that would have pre-empted the draft we are now discussing.

“Or you could just sell it yourself”, she tosses out.

Yeah, right.  My inner voice says.  I’m pretty sure I know what my face is saying to broadcast that thought.

Then my mouth says, “Yeah, I think I’ll do that.”

And I bought a phone.

I know that I don’t have enough time for her to set my new phone up for me, and this should bother me, since I’ve never set up a phone in my lift.

There’s people for that.

Smart people.

Smarter people than I, anyway.

But, here I am.  Backing up my old phone and restoring that data to my new phone while I type out a blog about how this insane adventure all began in the first place.

I can at least take solace in the fact that it only cost me $100.  Well, $100 plus the $4 my phone bill went up when I switched data plans from limited unlimited data to unlimited unlimited data…

On the upshot, I can reset my old phone to factory settings, get it unlocked and then sell it – with the Mophie battery pack that doesn’t fit my new phone – for an easy $250…so, really, I make out ok.

Because I’m a grumpy middle aged white guy and that’s how my shit rolls.

MAX Blog Challenge

Portland’s Siberian Winter

img_1712Trump is POTUS, we shouldn’t be surprised that winter this year is reminiscent of Russia.

It’s been a very cold and severe – for Portland – winter in the Pacific Northwest.  Normally, we pride ourselves on the secret that the weather here is not what the rest of the country mentally conjures up when they think of my hometown.

It’s really, generally quite mild.

I think that – let’s just give a final nod to politics here before I get into what the last few weeks have been like for me surviving the Snowpocalypse of the ’16-17 winter – this is the worst PNW winter since 2008, a fact the Silver Fox reminded me of a few weeks back as we sat and chatted during our regular Friday morning coffee after Christmas.

“This is the worst it’s been since 2008!” he literally exclaimed.

I replied, “I think we’ll be saying that a lot over the next 4 years.”

img_1657It started off idyllically enough with a nice dusting of snow that began one night as I quietly sipped a nightcap alone at CC Slaughters in Old Town.

I came out to a peaceful and beautiful snowfall that is typical of snow in Portland, namely:  a fine dusting.  Less than an inch of accumulation that is generally gone within 24-36 hours.

Unless

We get freezing rain.

And wouldn’t you just know that in the days preceding Christmas, that’s exactly what happened?  Luckily, my Big Box and Department Store retail days are behind me.  Retail at PDX is different.  People are gonna fly, regardless.  Particularly during the holidays.  So, it was really just a matter of time and cobbling together staffing for my five stores out at the airport during this first hit of what was to be a long and repetitive winter.img_1665

Eventually, this lovely and temporary dusting of snow gave way to an evening of freezing rain and we started seeing icicles and hearing the crust of ice give way as we explored our frosty city.

But still, even the freezing rain was fairly mild.

For freezing rain standards in Portland.  I remember as a kid when we would get inches of freezing rain at a time.  Where we had to chip around our car doors before we could pry them open.

img_1633Not that we should have been driving anywhere!  There was the dreaded black ice to consider.  That shit didn’t fool around.  Coming across black ice while driving pretty much equalled disaster.

But what we got were these basic, tiny lil icicles.  Anyone in Portland, Maine would probably pat our heads and tell us how dear we are if we bothered to complain about it.

Instead, the city just quietly gave up and rode it out.

There was some commuter drama where people couldn’t safely get out of their neighborhoods, given Portland’s policy against salting the roadways.  Not much a snow plow could do against freezing rain, either – and I think Portland owns three snow plows, so anything we tried with a snow plow would be lacking.  Some bus lines were disrupted, at least until they got chains on the buses and then it was really just delays since the buses can’t drive over 55 MPH with chains.  I ride the Max redline out to the airport and didn’t have any problems getting to and from work.

img_1727Myrtle certainly was intrigued by the drifting snow.  But, in true cat fashion, after being let out to explore, was content to investigate from the relatively dry patio area just inside the snow line.

I think what’s pictured at the left is the second round of snow we got about ten days after the first.  Trust me, her curiosity didn’t change, nor did her willingness to trust this curious white stuff covering her summertime snack foliage.

I don’t think curiosity is gonna claim any of this cautious kitty’s lives anytime soon.

So, I guess that puts us into the second wave of snow and freezing rain for the season.  It was much more an exercise in the latter, unfortunately, which does make getting around harder and the city did pretty much come to a halt once again.

Y’know, I have to hand it to the local – and even the national – news services.  Hyperbole has nothing on these guys.  As a fairly unconcerned viewer – since I don’t have to drive in the inclement weather – my biggest concern is whether or not I can walk ten blocks to the Max without falling and potentially breaking myself.  Let’s face it:  I’m at that age where I’m looking at hip damage if I fall just right.  My secondary concern is how difficult it will be for my staff to get into the airport from their geographically scattered homes.  I am forced to face, each year, the reality of the actual weather versus the impact of news shows desperately trying to validate their advertising costs by exploiting each potential weather crisis.  Sadly, I think that most of the failures to get to work result in people hearing the dire forecasts and deciding to fail before they even consider trying to try.

Not that I want my team to risk life or limb.

My boss, after the challenges that the first round of inclement weather created at work, despite the hotel rooms that he arranged for the team, faced the staffing challenges of this second wave of freezing rain a bit more aggressively.  He offered to pick up one of our stranded associates, PLoop, on his way into work.  Being the gentleman that he is, instead of just pulling up and honking to alert PLoop to his arrival, he parks and goes to the door to get her.  He escorts her out to the passenger side of his truck, gets her settled in, closes the door and promptly disappears from sight…ending up under the truck after slipping as he turned to go to the driver’s side door.

Here’s a few cracked ribs for your chivalry, kind sir.

Way to be a dick, Mother Nature.

But does he miss a day of work?  Yeah, but it wasn’t that day.  He toughed it out, made sure business was on track and then left it in our hands to rest up for a couple of days.

But as we come out of snow and ice version two, that’s the worst to report.  We had a couple of cars stuck in their moment, later retrieved.  There was one team member that ended up in a ditch versus rear-ending someone that stopped short.  But all-in-all, we are surviving this as the natural inconvenience that it was.

And I’m not going to lie, around work, my attitude about the seven day forecasts was pretty jaded.  Outside of work, I really didn’t care a whit about the forecast since I can survive pretty well in my little neighborhood regardless of what the weathermen forecast.

So, I have to take credit for what happened next.img_1720

Those crazy weathermen alerted us to 1″-4″ inches of snowfall.

I scoffed.

After a couple of weeks of looming snow with no follow through, I was inured to their cries of any great white snowy wolf.

Rooms at a local airport hotel were, once again, made available by my boss.  I came home, Myrtle needed tending to, after all.

Oh, the hubris.

My carefree appreciation of the snow that finally started falling, hours late, on my way home was a delightful exercise in lonely romance as I walked from the Max stop in Old Town to my home in the North Park Blocks just ten blocks away.

Really, it was gorgeous.

A few hours later, Facebook is losing it’s collective shit as people post pictures about their local snowscapes.

I go to bed.

I wake up to the scene above.  I think I snapped that pic on the way into work the next morning as I headed back to my Old Town Max stop at 3:45 in the morning to catch the 4:04 redline into the airport.

It never came.

Nor did the 4:39.

I decide – along with a few other intrepid commuters – to head over to the Moda Center across the Steel Bridge after the 5:09 fails to show.  I haven’t seen a bus or a train pass by in the hour-plus that I’ve been standing in the snow.  The walk was like hiking the undiscovered country, wherever that might be…regardless, I know know that there is also 9″ of virgin snow there.

Yeah, the weather folk fucked it up again.  Twice the estimated worst case scenario is what I woke up to.  Do you think that this city that doesn’t salt it’s roads was prepared for that?

They weren’t.

So, there I am, hiking epically across Tom McCall Waterfront Park and the lower deck of the Steel Bridge, over to the stairs on the far side of the Willamette River’s Eastside Esplanade.  It’s about a half mile, maybe a little more.  We arrive – and thank god, I’m not carrying a suitcase along like one of our group was, who had travelled up the prior evening on a BoltBus from Eugene, Oregon – at the Moda Center Transit Center to…I dunno…chaos seems too generous a descriptor.  Chaos looks intentional compared to what Tri-Met was giving us this particular morning.

The good news?  There was a train there when we arrived.

The bad news?  It was heading west and I needed to go east to get to work, but…off it goes.

About ten minutes later, a second train pulls up from the same direction.  I look east and can see Max trains lined up at each stop backed up for god knows how far.  What I know about Max service is that there is a depot out in east county that the trains take off from each morning, heading west in a wagon train to begin their eastbound service at around 3:45 each morning.  These were those trains.  This was as much progress as they had made in the first two hours of their commuter service.

The next train pulls up and it’s 5:30-ish at this point.  I consider jumping on and heading west, jumping off at whichever stop in Old Town ends up being closest to my place – the red and blue lines run along First Street in Old Town and the yellow and green lined run along Fifth and Sixth, depending upon which direction they are traveling.  These trains are all blue or yellow.

I decide to wait and if any of the trains that have passed thus far haven’t returned heading east by the time the next train west comes by, I’ll text my boss and give him my apologies.  Two hours in the elements seems like a fair attempt, less than two seemed like I was giving up too easily.  Nonetheless, that next west bound train arrives and still nothing headed toward work.

I stomp across the tracks and sit down, happy to be back in something approaching warmth but a little sad that I’m going to let my team down for this day.

Imagine my conflicted feelings when the overhead speakers announce that this train will be reversing course and heading east toward Gateway Transit Center as a blue line, where anyone (me) wanting to go to the airport can get off and catch a redline to connect to PDX.

But, at least this was progress.

I get to Gateway and de-train.  I’m waiting for the redline to come by…but nothing is happening.  Across the tracks on the opposite platform, I see Tri-Met employees directing people to the blue and green line trains or the buses set up to get them where they want to go.  Nothing on the red line until finally, one pulls up and we all eagerly board after everyone on the train gets off.  For our courtesy – waiting for people to get off before getting on ourselves – we are rewarded with the driver leaving his compartment and getting off the train, stopping at the door before his final step and yelling over his shoulder that the redline was shut down due to weather.

Great.

Off we all get.

Angry.

Stomp across the tracks to the opposite platform, we all do.

We are told that there will be a bus to shuttle us to the airport shortly.  When?  No one knows, so shortly might be a bit of an over promise…

Meanwhile, blue line and green line trains continue to come and go for the next half hour.  A red line shuttle bus pulls up, kicks everyone off and shuts down.  Obviously, none of the Tri-Met employees know what that means.  They just keep telling us to stand in one of two bus shelters and they will let us know when a red line shuttle arrives.

That seems hard to manage.

Almost as hard as 75 people trying to cram into two bus shelters that are made to hold about a half dozen people each.  Maybe 14 people each if we pretend they are phone booths and that we are in college.

Let’s pretend it’s summer at the same time.

Finally, a bus pulls up and the driver yells out the door that she’s going to the airport and that she can take a couple of people.

A couple?!?

As I was not blessed with fitting into one of the shelters, I was first on the bus.  Well, as it turns out, first at this stop.  The bus is packed.  I realize once I board that my inability to see into the bus wasn’t that the cabin was dark, it’s that the windows are near maximum condensation from the dozens of people packed into the bus.  There was, literally, room for four people.

A half hour later, I was at work.  Two hours and forty five minutes after leaving my home.

Jinkies.

I work the day and monitor my commuting options as well as closely as the cancelled flights as the day wears on.  PDX has turned into a hotel.  People dropping their bags wherever and just collapsing in a hopeless heap on our world-famous carpet as their travel plans crumble before their eyes.

img_1724Ten hours later, I decide to give it a go and head home once I hear that Max is up and running again, albeit in a limited capacity.  I’m going to have to take a redline to Gateway TC and then transfer to either a blue or green line to get downtown.  Regardless, Tri-Met gets me to Old Town between the red and green lines in about 35 minutes.  Not much more than my normal commute.

I’ll take it.

Plus, the walk home is pretty easy since this is only snow, but definitely “the worst it’s been since 2008”.

If only everything so “bad” was as beautiful as Old Town was that evening.

img_1725

Things weren’t all unicorns and rainbows, though.  Or should I say reindeer and icicles, given the situation?

The North Park Block trees sustained a good deal of damage from the weight of the snow.  This damage may have been more of a cumulative effect, since a few days after the record breaking snow fall, we got…you guessed it:  more freezing rain.

A Max train derails, further complicating commutes.  Fortunately, Max derailments are a rather non-event, usually manifesting as the first set of wheels leaving the tracks and then stopping the train without fully derailing and toppling the other cars.  The overall impact is that it takes about six hours to jack the train up and guide it back onto the tracks.

This happens a couple more times over the next few days.

I hear reports that four homeless people have frozen to death.

Goddamnit.

It’s like we can’t catch a break, regardless of our socio-economic status, Nature is proving what a leveling device she can be.

Or, equally as likely, hell has frozen over and Trump’s America is hell in this scenario.

The two days after my successful Max ride back into the NPB were my days off.  I was happy to be home and just settle in for a couple days of rest.  I’m not too proud to admit that my aging feet and legs aren’t standing up to either the rigors of my job nor the added pressure of the extreme weather very well, so sitting on my couch and watching Netflix for a couple of days while the world around me thaws is a rather appealing notion.

I get back to work on Sunday and it’s two days of relatively normal business, I think I have one more whacky commute in there where it takes me two and an half hours to get into work, but I’m mobile and things are resuming a quasi-normal routine.  My Regional Director is due in that Tuesday, which is fine, while not “normal routine” it’s not a traumatic event, plus he’s a pretty good guy, so seeing him is actually a nice change of pace!

Except

Yeah, those good old weather people start telling us to brace for the worst yet.  A freezing rain storm coming west from the Columbia River Gorge that will likely bring an inch of ice with it.

Seriously?

Whyyyyyyy?!?!

We wait.  We brace.  We suspect that our RD will cancel.

He doesn’t.

Nothing really happens, anyway.  The temperature has been vacillating wildly all day.  One moment the forecasts are showing freezing rain for a few hours with temps well above freezing, even into the low 40s.  The next, it’s rain for the rest of the day.  Then it’s freezing temps with freezing rain.  While nothing is really happening, we still don’t know what to expect.

Then our RD lands and we decide to go to lunch at one of the airport restaurants with a view of the runways.  As we’re eating, it hits.

Luckily, he was planning to spend the night.

Also lucky, it looks like I’m still able to get home, since I’m monitoring Max traffic into and out of the airport pretty closely.  A couple more hours pass and we all decide to wrap it up and head home.  The weird thing is that in the two hours since lunch, it’s continued to drizzle while alternating between freezing rain and actual rain.

The roadways are clear.

Flights are flying, in and out.

I get on the train only to find out that the last train out has encountered iced over lines a couple stops away.  Until it clears, my train can’t leave.  I wait it out for a few minutes and then decide to grab an Uber.

Surge Pricing.  Naturally.  Sheesh.  Is it worth spending $48 to get home?

I decide to wait a little longer, just to see what happens.

Ten minutes later, I’m tired of listening to the train driver entertain us.  Or attempt to…he’s going on about how we should have built the Max to avoid this type of failure.

I get off the train and heel-toe it over toward the Arrivals island that Uber and hotel shuttles use, checking the app as I go.

Bonus!

The surge pricing is still in effect, but I can get an XL Uber – which is an SUV – for less than an UberX, so I snatch it.

Twenty minutes later, I’m home.

It begins raining later that evening and rains for 24 hours straight.  When I wake up the next morning at 3:00, expecting the worst and preparing to head in and help man the stores, I find perfectly clear streets in my neighborhood.  The warming temperatures and the rain doing their job to expedite the melt.

Praise Cheeses.

I walk to the Max in the drizzle and worry that my transit app is telling me to expect continued delays as there was an equipment failure on the Steel Bridge.  As the train’s 4:04 arrival time comes and goes, I decide to walk it.  This time, instead of going through the Waterfront Park, I just walk up the traffic ramp to the upper deck of the bridge.  I’m passing about 15 City of Portland trucks on my way up and thinking that this must be a fairly large repair.  A suspicion that is confirmed when I get to the lift section of the bridge and am turned around and told that there is no car, train or pedestrian traffic allowed until the repair is complete.

Ok, I know I’ve put on a little weight, but I don’t think it’s fair to lump me into the same weight class as a car or train.

I turn around and stomp down the bridge, thinking I’ll just head into the park and take the lower deck.

Closed.

Balls!

It’s getting onto 4:30 now and I’m frustrated that I won’t be at the airport before our 5:00 latest possible opening time, just in case anyone in the far reaches of the metro area didn’t luck out with the rainfall like I did.  I check Uber and am told that the closest car is 15 minutes away.  Plus, you guessed it…Surge Pricing.

I walk back to the Old Town TC and consider other bridges I can walk across to get to the Moda Center TC and catch a train from there.  The Broadway and Burnside Bridges are my most likely candidates, but they both would take in excess of 30 minutes to get to, traverse and then get back to the Moda Center.  I check Uber again…a car pops up 6 minutes from me.

Mine!

Surge Pricing puts the estimated fare at $46, but it’s totally worth it to ensure the stores all open without incident.

I get to the airport at 5:10, my Uber driver is awesome.  We chat all the way in and I’m sad to get out of her car, but duty calls.  My reward for the expense of a $46 ride into work is a good three hours of productivity before my RD rolls in from his hotel, he treats us to Blue Star Donuts for breakfast and I think everyone on the early team made it into work.

The best part?

It looks like it’s over…at least for now!

Portland’s Siberian Winter