Stupid Americans

Re-read the title of this post in a French accent.  That’s how I typed it.

Pretty much any European accent will work.

It’s a phrase that randomly trots through my head when confronted with how non-global our educational focus is as a country.

After all, how many languages do you speak?

I was confronted by this twice yesterday.  

Once, innocently on the Facebook when a friend shared a kindness of strangers travel story.  The first comment was “Threat all people with respect”.  

Obviously, meaning “treat”, right?

I got a good chuckle out of the concept of threatening someone with respect.  It was like that old dry rejoinder, “Don’t threaten me with a good time!”

Well, my comment was something about an awkward H.

The OP cautioned me that the comment was made by a French friend of hers.  That was perfect, really, since the first time I heard “Stupid Americans” go through my head was about an hour after getting off a plane in Paris.  Sacha had insisted I learn a few <ahem> key phrases on the plane. 

Whatever, it’ll help kill 10 hours…but you couldn’t insist on this before we got in the plane?  It’s not like I was gonna master French somewhere over the Atlantic.

“Puis-je avoir ma cle, sil vous plait?”, I vomited at the hotel’s front desk, attempting to ask for my – wait for it – key.

Get it?  Key phrases.

Ok.  Sorry.

“Speak English”, was the response that came with the key.

A derisively toned “Stupid Americans” is what I heard in my head.

So, now I’m trying to helpfully point out a typo to someone on Facebook that is communicating – in writing – in what is likely one of three of four languages she knows.

She gets points!

And here I am, still just a Stupid American.

Case in – ugh – point, while my original imagined occurrence of hearing “Stupid Americans” was while traveling in France, now I work in travel retail.

While giving a break at work yesterday, a young Spanish man (fans self…woo) approached me to ask how much a set of headphones cost.  He struggled.  I was just finishing up with a customer and another Manager was nearby talking to the Sales Associate returning from her break – who emigrated from Russia and frequently apologizes for her accent/English – so I asked them to help.

“I’m not sure what he wants…”

Based on his gestures and non-verbals, her confusion was understandable.

Get ready for some misplaced maternal pride, Mom.

“Cuanto questo?” I said, gesturing to the headphones.  And, no, I’m not sure at all that I spelled that correctly.  Every finger on my body reached for the Q key while typing “cuanto”.

“Si!  Si, si, si.” he replied with relief.

“Son – uh – trente dolares”, I told him while trying to remember if I could pull the old “Trente faltan uno centavo” our of my hat to communicate $29.99 instead of just telling him $30 like you can say “Seis faltan cuarto minutos” to indicate it’s a quarter to six.

Or something like that.

I couldn’t remember for the life of me, so I just ended up handing a penny back to this confused, hot Spaniard.

I walked out of the store with the other Manager and she was praising me for doing a good job with that customer.

All I heard was, “Stupid American”.  

I also shared the thought running through my head about what that scene would have been like if our broken English Russian associate had been helping the pigeon English Spaniard.

It’s pretty funny in my head, but pretty sad in reality, since one of the people is living in a country that requires her to speak a foreign language every day in order to feed herself and I could barely translate $30 from English to Spanish after taking five years of the language in High School and College.

The other guy was basically me 20 years ago, bless his little corazon.

Fine.

30 years ago.

Or, as they say in Spanish…trente.

Stupid Americans

Dry Week: Update

I talk a lot about being a procrastinator. 

“I put the ‘pro’ in procrastinate”, I say.

The flip side of that personality is spontaneity.  As in, “Hey, me…let’s do a Dry Week!” without considering the implications.

Like, I decided this on a Saturday night.  Without considering that while Saturday is my Monday, that would mean I have an entire work week ahead of me versus beginning my Dry Week on my Friday or Saturday and ending on my weekend so I can celebrate my success.  Now I’ve got five days in and a work week behind me…and I want to detox with a drink.

Alas.

Who knows?  Maybe it’ll be a Moist Week.

Another unseen ramification of a spontaneous Dry Week is pain.  One never really considers the slight medicinal effect of alcohol.  After a rough day of schlepping around Portland International, I can relax sore muscles with a beer or two or a glass of wine.

Additionally, I’ve had a visit from this recurring mouth pain.  I consider it an indicator of a cold or allergy episode.  Or my one wonky wisdom tooth coming out of dormancy.  So, maybe I’m getting sick and my sinuses are putting pressure on my upper jaw; maybe my teeth are doing the Macarena; or maybe I just don’t have my usual painkiller on board.

Makes a decent argument for situational medicinal marijuana, though.  I know I’ve got a honey stick around here somewhere.

The final side effect of not having a sufficiently elevated B.A.C I’ve encountered this week has been the niggling – and surprisingly spontaneous- urge to join up for NaNoWriMo.

National.

Novel.

Writing.

Month.

It’s every November, the challenge is to write a minimum 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

Ok, first, when I write, I describe my process as Hemingway-ing.  Having this thought in a Dry week ought to be enough of a disqualifier for the idea.

Second, I’ve got my company’s annual seminar this month, so that’s five days of work functions from dawn to drunk, effectively making my ~1675 daily word average a straight up 2000 words in order to meet the challenge.

Sure, I can bust out a 3500 word blog entry or two per month, but my other entries tend to be in the 1200-1500 word range.

And I don’t write every damn day!

This past month, I think I wrote 14/31 days for 16 or 17 posts.  It was my biggest volume month ever.

What the hell is sober Xtopher thinking?!?

Someone wrestle me to the ground and make me shotgun a keg.

Dry Week: Update

Dry Week!

I’ve been working on this little project at home for the last couple of days.

Finishing all my beer.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds, there was only eight to begin with.

I was inspired by a couple of factors:

– Recently, on my weekend, I read a blog entry of this blog buddy of mine about his month of dialed-back-drinking.  

It was the second friend-quaintance to tell me about their Octsober.  If they can do a month, I can do seven-ish days.

Probably five…

– I’ve got my company’s annual leadership seminar coming up in two weeks.  Wouldn’t hurt to shed a little bloat beforehand.

– This weekend starts the Gay Christmas celebrations and I – once again – have no plans or intent to celebrate the gay high holiday.  But I do enjoy my casual glimpses of the festivities.

– There’s this drunk kid on my MAX into work that is pretty lit – his word – who is escorting his two female friends to the airport.

When I first boarded, I thought it was The Wallpaper, actually.  Mexican, mad-dimples and I’d seen on The Facebook that he’d also been out celebrating last night with several female friends, so I was kinda attenuated.

Oh, plus we totally screwed when I got on.  He locked eyes with me and while I mentally processed that it wasn’t The Wallpaper, I could tell exactly what was going through his overly-relaxed mind.

It’s not as daunting a task as I made my Dry Week prep sound.  I had three beers last night, the final one with my melatonin so I could sleep through the Halloween party in the first floor courtyard of my building.  

Then I got a solid six hours of sleep.  

Two hours of sleep per beer.  That ain’t bad.

Saturday, though…phew.  That was a crazy night.

Five.

Whole.

Beers.

My big nights recently have been four beer maximums.  So, that fifth beer was a total party at Chez Galby.  But it was a late night, too.  I got home from an impromptu bike ride at 7:30, cracked a beer and stretched.

Healthy, no?

Then I showered, made dinner and over the next several hours I watched two movies, drank four more beers and went to bed at 1:00.

Wild times for Myrtle and me.

Then I was awakened at 6:00 by a work phone call, making my sleep:beer ratio one.  

Boo.

BTW, The Wallpaper’s doppelgänger is 20.

Jesus.  Inappropriate sexual frustration.  What a way to start a Dry Week.

Oh, he’s a college sophomore…that sounds less letchy.

Dry Week!

Cuba

So…here I am, abandoned by the Silver Fox.

Again.  

This time on a month-long adventure to Spain with Sallory.

Me, with no one to drink wine with but Mistress Myrtle the Mean.  All that’s left for me in life is sharing my gift of Oregon-bred passive-aggressiveness.

Er…I mean, write.  Nothing to do but write.

I figure there’s no better time to flesh out this placeholder draft that is earmarked as a guest post for him to share their Cuba adventure from last January.  Yeah, the one he went on instead of sitting around with me, doing nothing on my birthday.

Who’d want to miss that opportunity?

Anyway, as it turns out, not only is Cuba a cool place to visit, but in the near-year that The Fox has been procrastinating (just kidding, he’s not doing it…I just never deleted the post) this, our be-loathed President has undone the work Obama did to open Cuba up to American tourism after a half century of it being a big no-fly zone for vacationing Americans.  So once again, only Americans traveling under certain strict guidelines – like as part of a cultural tour – can travel to this lost in time country.

It’s amazing what changes a year can bring.

Anyway, I can tell you, from the stories I heard, this little island nation could turn American sensibilities – ie: capitalism – on its ear.

Sure, the beaches are amazing in a non-resort-y type way.

Yeah, the cultural arts are untapped treasures.

The architecture is beautiful, albeit in an increasingly decrepit way.

And the people!

The Fox couldn’t talk enough about them.  

There’s the hybrid of tourists from every other nation in the world – well, Canada and Europe, anyway – since we are the only holdout with a travel embargo.  

Again

All the way to the juxtaposed relative poverty of doctors and lawyers by comparison to the prestige and wealth those vocations have in our culture.  Many of the cab and bus drivers they he and Sallory encountered were actually moonlighting doctors, which came in particularly handy in the case of the tour bus driver/doctor who was able to render some first aid on a tour he was driving for…wait, now I’m confused about whether that happened on their tour or one of my other friends’ trips.

Nobody ever takes me anywhere nice.  Hehe.

I am sure, though, that it was The Fox that told me about the lawyer moonlighting as an ambulance driver.  

Lawyers…in Cuba, they drive ambulances; in America, they chase them.  

Hashtag: irony.

Then there’s the residents.  In every story I heard, I was impressed with how unaffected they were by the tourist trade aspect of their economy.  Well, mostly unaffected.  I heard countless stories of restaurants where travelers were treated like family, with an unfakeably sincere hospitality.  Or how knowledgeable the tour guides were on history and how easily they shared the culture of the people.  You can’t put a price on that passion.

But for each of those stories, there was a less subtle eschewing of the tourist trade.  Like the men who “entertained” – without judgment – travelers for cash.  Again, though, being a genuine population, they were known to share their life stories with their guests…telling their male and female clients equally about their families – including their children.  Can you imagine the sensibility and life circumstance that affords you the opportunity to turn tricks to provide for your kids and family without simultaneously being anything other than genuinely grateful for the financial resource?

I don’t even know how I feel about that, and I’m from liberal Oregon!

A little less conflicting is the story of the 90 year old woman, sitting in her doorway and smoking a Cuban cigar like she had no fucks to give…and charging tourists for the privilege of a photo op with her.

That’s a slightly less dire example of how this somewhat upside down culture was embracing capitalism.

And then there’s the cars.

We all know the island is basically a classic car museum…but why not take it one step further and let Disney turn it into an amusement park?

I mean, seriously, by all accounts, the infrastructure there is severely lacking.  From buildings on the verge of collapse to an airport that can barely handle three planes at a time.

Think about it.

Flotilla rides.

A Haunted Soviet Mansion tour.

The Bay Of Pigs Mystery Dinner Theater.

Tobacco Picking and Craft Cigar Workshop.

The people are definitely accustomed to the hospitality trade, all we gotta do is teach them to run rides and we’re set.

I’m sure we could ruin that island in no time…maybe our Bigot-in-Chief did them an inadvertent favor by shutting the island off to us again.

Oh well, I can always use a good excuse for a quick trip to Vancouver, BC…gotta get done of them Cuban cigars!

Cuba

My Dysfunctional Relationship

Yesterday was my one year anniversary.

With.

My.

Job.

Honestly, if you would have asked me a year ago whether I was more likely to date a guy for a year or remain employed for a year…I’m not sure I could have guessed which would come to pass.

I really think I would have bet on the guy.

Nah.  

That’s not right.  For two reasons:

First, I’ve gotten really good at cutting off losers and abusers in my personal life.  Not legit abusers, I learned that lesson early on.  I mean abusers as in the folks that emotionally bankrupt me and just DGAF about their responsibility to the person they date.  They’re harder to spot, these covert narcissists.  

Probably, I even overcorrect.

Definitely.

Plus, last year at this time I wasn’t even giving dating a second thought.

Second, I was starting a job working for someone in my prior professional network…so, it should’ve been a slam dunk.

Little did I know what I’d signed on for.

But, I made it.

I’m not entirely sure what positives I’ve gotten out of this relationship, it’s definitely not my best professional situation.  

Well, reconnecting with a few past co-workers and making some new, valued profession connections that will outlast my tenure in my current role…obviously.

Outside of that, I know that regardless of what personal gains I can or can’t catalogue, I can say that I contributed.  At least walk in on Year 2, Day 2 knowing that for however one-sided this relationshit seems to have been when/if (when) I leave it, I will be leaving it better than I found it.

Just like the guys I’ve dated.

Even if the job can’t recognize the positive impacts I’ve made there, either.

Just like the guys I’ve dated.

Wow…when your job is your life partner, who needs a boyfriend?

The biggest head scratcher for me at the end of year one is – because I think of my job as a relationship – why do we look at dating someone new and starting a new job so differently?

For instance, if I’m meeting someone new and we get past the first few weeks, I settle into getting to know him.  Between month one and three, I’m looking at how we relate and how our individual selves fold together.  By month six, I’m looking at longer term, will I want to live with this guy?  And by one year, I know the answer to that question and either move forward and in together or move on.  

Sure, those timelines can move around for better or worse – says the single guy weeks away from closing out his fifth decade of life…alone.  But I’ve got landmarks built in along the way about every three months to check in with myself and evaluate.

Conversely, with a job…a year is pretty much the professional qualifier to be considered a stable candidate by prospective employers.  Less than a year, you’re expected to explain yourself…and the onus is on the employee.  Employers are presumed…innocent, shall we say?

How is that fair.  

I know the answer.

But, perhaps interviews should be more like singles bars and dating.  There should definitely be a two drink minimum and interviewers should be the guy who’s looking for love and is eager to prove he’s better than your last boyfriend.  Or, at least be the person that’s there to tell you that you’re alright and too good for that last job.  

Maybe it’s just me.  Anyone else look at it that way?  Different thoughts?  Lemme know.

My Dysfunctional Relationship

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