TransDating: Part I

Sooooo…The Facebook, right?

Coming through for me the other (early) morning when I couldn’t sleep. I was scrolling through my newsfeed, I had probably cruised through the previous 36 hours worth of newsfeed-algorithm-worthy posts when I happened upon the “People You Might Know” feature.

Probably, this is where the ZuckerDrones are looking out for me, “thinking” this is what usually makes him throw his phone down in disgust so I could get back to sleep. Little do they (or DO they?!?) know that I usually at least look at the top recommendations before throwing my phone down in the aforementioned disgust.

Today, though, today…I’ve clearly got time. It’s 5-ish am, I’ve been scrolling for 45 minutes, “Why not see who the Facebook thinks I should know?” I think, before doing a deep dive.

I was a good 10 minutes into the PYMK section when I saw it.

Ok, given the name of this post, that was a poorly chosen pronoun due to the ease of exploitation that “it” allows. Well, exploit it for humor, we got no problems…we’re obviously chums for a reason. Exploit it for its vaguely gender-vague crime-worthiness and, well, you can fuck right off and then keep on humping.

Because, what I saw was a “who” that I crushed all the way out on while I was working at the airport.

One of the Fabulous Baker Girls has probably already used her super sleuthy skills to figure out who I’m talking about, she’s that good.

For the rest of you…this is a person I used to see a couple times a week because he managed a store out at PDX while I worked there. Still does, if the Facebook is to be believed.

And, believable or not, the Facebook was giving me the profile of a super sexy fella to scroll through as I debated “friending” him.

If he’d remember me or accept said friend request…TBD.

As I scrolled, I was rewarded with those validating pics young folks post…showcasing their natural gifts and/or the fruits of their gym labors.

Oh, right. I forgot there was also significant tattoo-age. They were all spelled correctly, so the attraction was preserved.

What it took me a few extra minutes of scrolling to realize was that the muscle definition and tattoos both served to draw the eye away from some very artfully concealed scars…of the double mastectomy variety.

Well, shit-fuck-damn.

I’ve always held young people unreasonably accountable to having a better physique than I, however…where gender reassignment is involved, I give a hall pass.

Does that seem fair?

Well, I don’t care. Ask your mother if life is supposed to be fair.

Back to me.

Trans-folk get a hall pass on body stuff because they are fighting an uphill battle. Whereas young cis men have hormones helping their physical accomplishments, trans-folk have what are likely the wrong hormones working against whatever correct hormones they may be pumping into their bodies. It results in a battle of science vs nature toward physically expressing their true selves.

I’m not judging that.

No way, no how.

Plus, in the case of this fine fella, and I’m sure many trans-men…should they put their minds to it, they could kick my ass twice before I knew the first ass whooping was happening. I’m smart enough to not make enemies, let alone enemies that could actually harm my favorite person.

But my trans hall pass has always expired where the appreciation of their physical accomplishments meets the reality of my Kinsey 6 sexuality. Top surgery and potentially hormone assisted physical accomplishments aside, at the end of the day I can’t get my old school homosexuality around the “beaver in my bed” scenario. I’m an ass man, through and through…but frontside foreplay is still a part of the routine, because…well, because it is.

Enter Anachronistic Xtopher.

It’s been a decade long entrance, in case you thought this was a fresh struggle.

You see, when I moved to Seattle back in ’06, I spent more than my fair share of time getting to know my new bevy of gay bars slash neighborhood watering holes. I really loved all of them. Little did I know that a lot of this euphoric experience was relative to me being fresh meat (at goddamned 40 years of age) in a relatively small dating pool’s bar scene.

Still, by ’08, I was well past that…the blush was off the proverbial lily.

It was then that I’d found myself out for a weeknight wee bit.

<Interior: The Cuff, upper bar…because they don’t bother opening the lower dance and patio bars on a goddamned Tuesday>

I’m swilling quietly, minding my own obliviousness at the end of the bar, when a brick shithouse of a dude in all his construction worker drag walks in, sits down by me and orders a beer.

Now, we all know where this is heading, because: title spoilers, but suspend your disbelief.

Jesus. Rough crowd.

I’m sitting there thinking, “Sure, on a four-sided bar, this is the only place to sit where you won’t have an unwelcome crowd form around you”.

It’s also a Tuesday, so crowds would be a no.

It’s also the side of the bar furthest the door.

Ergo: it’s also the only side of the bar that you have to pass all three of the other (service) sides of the bar to get to.

All of this conspires to convince me that this placement is intentional…for whatever reason.

Nevertheless, there was a beer or two of conversational foreplay before I trot out this gem, “How does it feel to be the best looking guy in this dump?”

“Well, it is a Tuesday…but still pretty damned ok”, he says, laughing.

“I was gonna offer to get your next beer, but as the second best looking guy in the bar, I realize that puts you in a tough place.”

“Drink up. I got this one, since you look smart enough to not waste your aspirations for bar dominations on a Tuesday night. But you’re definitely on the hook for the next one!”

“Thank god this isn’t a Wednesday”, I reply, thinking that this guy’s humor is right in line with mine. I’d love to have an equal in sass…not as easy as one might think since you have to factor overall disposition into the equation. I don’t mind an overly queeny sense of sass near as much as I’d run away from or flat out fail to appreciate a guy with hard up bro-sass.

That struggle? REAL.

Anyway, we chatted a bit about what afforded us the luxury of drinking on a Tuesday night in a bar people only cared about on the weekends. Some other stuff. He was a lot of fun to talk with, truth be told.

Comfortable.

Easy.

However, on beer four – my fifth, just to be completely honest – he disclosed that he was FTM (female to male, for the uninitiated). Now, sexually, my heretofore growing chub lost volume…for previously mentioned Kinsey 6 reasons.

Still

I was really enjoying this guy’s company. Obviously, having lived in Shittatle for two years and still finding myself drinking alone on a Tuesday night, I was in need of friends. If our schedules aligned to allow a regular social coalescence…that’s a good ROI on my Tuesday night of drinking.

Right?

Well, I never heard from him again, so fuck me. What are ya gonna do though? This person was – after two years in Seattle – literally within the first six people I’d given my number to.

He didn’t use it.

It’s been 10 years since that eye-opener of a night. But in a decade, I have realized that easily navigated complexities sometimes only end up being precursors to significantly more complex situations. Situations whose ramifications extend way further than the least crowded side of a four sided bar on the least crowded night of the week.

Well, when I put it that way, my ’08 encounter seems…easy. But, trust me…it wasn’t.

Not in the moment.

Reductively, it’s choosing between clams and sausage on the sexual menu. But in reality, clams vs sausage is an argument that a very, legitimately very small percentage of our population known as bisexual ever actually engages in. For the rest of us, that sexual argument is rarely ever brought front and center on a casual night of drinking. For me, dropping my pole in a decidedly gay watering hole for a drink generally results in “I got a drink” at best and “top or bottom?” in an unexpected better than best at the worst.

Having to navigate original plumbing in this fishing hole scenario made me think cats were my future.

Don’t worry, Myrtle has made me realize there’s no love to be found in a truly hopeless place.

Which is pretty much where I was earlier this year when I ended up chatting with Liz at my local caffeination station about proper gender pronoun usage. It was one of those conversations where I not only felt relief that I wasn’t the only person confused by what pronouns were socially acceptable for everyday polite usage, but also a conversation that left me thinking, “Nah, you should stay at home forever” once I realized that if a multi-unit coffee shop manager easily ten years my junior in goddamned Portland, Oregon can’t figure it out then I had – really – no hope.

Like, literally zero chance.

She was referencing customers – well, a specific customer – and in talking about them, acknowledged her confusion about correct pronoun usage.

Why?

Because she was using them – a pronoun heretofore used in a plural sense – to reference an individual. It made things…complex. And not just conversationally.

We each acknowledged the pronoun struggle by way of clarifying the actual object of her statements.

Why is this a big deal?

Well, let’s jump back to my awkward night at The Cuff. What if I happened to take my spontaneous drinking buddy’s bathroom break as a moment to confide in the bartender?

“Close me out, I think I’m gonna take him back to my place.”

Yeah, that’s how early 21st century conversation looked.

Ah, the simplicity of the aughts. We’re in the teens now, though.

Fuck simplicity.

Nowadays, I’d have to say, “Close me out, I’m taking them back to my place for a night cap.” Of course, I’m referencing an individual while using a plural pronoun…this is confusing!

Not to mention, unsafe.

Sure, we’re a decade back for this example. Nonetheless, what if this happened while I was talking to someone that the bartender knew to have a chain smoking boyfriend that never made it into the bar? I suddenly end up looking way cooler than I ever was in my original 40s. But I also end up probably equal parts likely to have an unplanned three way as I end up being rolled by an unexpected third or beaten up by a jealous, unknown boyfriend.

There’s a lot of downside to these vague, politically correct repurposing of existing pronouns.

But, by all means…let’s put personal safety aside for recreational contrariness of a sexual minority. Whatever happened to the pre-turn-of-the-century s/him for men veiled in feminine dress?

Was that so offensive, somehow?

My money is on the difficulty in creating the gender appropriate version of a pronoun for a woman out and about with her masculine flag flying. I’ve been semi-thinking about this for over a decade. What would that new pronoun be?

I think that – in a very weird turn of events in gay-phobic America in the second decade of a new millennia – that an inverse Crying Game scenario based on gender appropriate pronoun confusion would create a larger kerfluffle than Jaye Davidson could ever imagine.

That said

Of course I get a text from Diezel a few weeks ago asking if I’d ever date a FTM guy.

<eyeroll> “Why is life so hard?!?” – Me

Still, since I adore Diezel and also kinda try – as long as it doesn’t put me out too terribly much – to be a good friend, we chatted a bit about it. I knew this wasn’t one of those random questions, rather one borne of a specific circumstance – this wasn’t a random Monday Night Supper Club conversational topic like Intersectionality was – after all.

But our little chat took us through this whole decade-long arc of mine.

In mere moments…

The crux being, “What’s the point of plumbing, anyway?”

Honestly, for me, in about ten minutes…nothing. I think we get to a point where the sex is secondary to the connection.

Sexondary – Chrisism!

But as humans, as sexual beings…that secondary connection doesn’t happen until the sexual connection is either satisfied or mitigated. There’s a simple statement. Mitigating that sexual connection is simple…give it a few decades, then who cares?

BOTH OF YOU! That’s who. Since you’ve now both lived through a relationship where neither of you got your rocks off. Obviously, that scenario doesn’t necessarily or easily work. However, it might work if you’re in a post-sexual time of life.

Mind you, I’m <cough> in my sixth decade and my best friend is in his seventh…not sure when sexual compatibility moves to the back burner. But, goddamnit…I hope that this is a thing. Maybe these much maligned – at least in this blog – millennials will figure it out, this sexual conundrum.

<belly laugh interlude>

Better? Maybe you need another minute…

How’s it going? Oh, still wheezing?

Walk it off.

Focus on taking deep breaths through your nose, out through the mouth.

Sometimes Millennials figure things out!

Oh, gawd. It’s gotten worse!

I really feel like I should apologize. I’ll try and warn you before I say something like that next time.

Ultimately, I decided the friend request that motivated this whole blog-thought-exercise was a bad idea, since my desire to know him was initially sexually motivated. That seemed like a recipe for butt-hurted-ness…somehow.

So, for now? I’m leaving it with “I don’t know”. But I’m still thinking about it and trying to work my way through it correctly…

Stand by.

Lordy, I feel like this is gonna need a Part II…

TransDating: Part I

Gay Rights…

or rather rites…of passage, that is.

I was doing laundry last night and wondering how to kill time while simultaneously reflecting back on my evening out with Little Buddy.

She had taken me out to a show for some quality us time, which was awesome fun – as usual – but also something I enjoyed being able to enjoy with her.  Planning a party is always kinda stressful, so I know I wouldn’t have been able to really enjoy myself in her shoes at the surprise party she threw me.

I know, I’m projecting!

Anyway, this was just time for us to witness and enjoy!  

Witness…Tony Starlight!

Enjoy…his tribute show honoring Sir Elton John.

It was amazing…just the right type of retro-drag-schmaltz.  I’m sure I will get to more depth than that at some point, but something else caught my attention while I lay on the couch, listening to the washer spin.

He took a break during his show to acknowledge special events people were out celebrating.  Naturally, Little Buddy was ready.  I thought about sinking under the table, but knowing my gut reaction to spotlights and microphones, LB had provided a picture to make me easier to track down.

It was fine.  He took it easy on me.  Plus, Little Buddy had thoughtfully avoided any pictures with the diabolical “50” in them.

I’m kinda still busy selling myself on those digits.

However – and this is what I was thinking about last night – he did bust the chops of a couple of younger folk.

There was another guy celebrating his birthday, he was marking his 28th.  Tony suggested he could maybe help him out by being a Big Brother for his drummer.  His drummer, of course having caught my eye several times over the course of the night.

It’s not that I minded this drummer boy, if you will, staring at me.  Darkened dinner theater corner is some of my best lighting.  Plus, one has to admire the craft of an overt flirt like this.  He was using his de facto bandleader as an excuse to gawk openly at me, since I was right over his shoulder.  Whenever he would look at his band mate for cues, there it was.  I could feel him staring at me from behind his sunglasses.

Yeah…you keep telling yourself that, Xtopher.

Anyway, he was looking pretty cool in a patterned shirt under a white fur vest paired with white polka dot pants.  It was a fun outfit.

I appreciated it even more when Tony gave him a little hell when introducing the band.  I swear he said his drummer’s name was “Michael Homo”, but who knows for sure?  Anyway, there he was being outed as a 25 year old college student while Tony quipped he got college credit for playing music for old people.  I think that was supposed to be a cheeky bit of self deprication because this is also Tony’s 25th anniversary year, but I think most of the room felt that burn.

I just sat there and laughed.

But I was realizing how desperately young gays, like this Mike Homo fella, need a good intro into camp during their formative years.  This drummer boy has the schmaltz with a gay tilt that is Tony Starlight.  Lucky for him.  And, further, it needs to be personal and intimate, this camp schooling.  The modern crop of gays seem to get their camp exposure from RuPaul’s Drag Race.  Fine, I guess if you enjoy that kind of thing.  But all it seems to be creating is a bunch of gay parrots that speak in bitchy one-liners and memes.

I’d like a side of personality with mein camp, please.

I’m not saying that a sense of camp humor is the first thing a gay needs to learn, but it should be a part of the whole.  I think it’s a part of being fully sub-culturally aware, regardless of whether it’s an active part of your personality.

It’s part of our collective history, and I think young gays today don’t understand that history.  I love pride month as much as the next gay – total lie, I eschew pride most of the time, but at least I know what it’s about.

Hint: the party is not what it’s all about.

What frustrates me about pride month isn’t so much that I seem to have permanently misplaced my pride body, but rather that our month has been reduced to as many weekends of parades, costumes, excessive drinking and indiscriminate sex as one can cram into a month.  

Today is February 3rd and in the first 72 hours of Black History Month, I have yet to see a randomly occurring parade, party or orgy.  I think the gays are missing an opportunity.  Sadly, I think this thing that should bring us together and strengthen us as a community is on a trajectory to become a divisive agent within our ranks.

I wonder if middle aged blacks are worried that black youth don’t know what this bridge represents

or could even name it in the same manner that I worry that young gays can’t identify this building

or this man

and engage in a conversation about the cultural relevance of either.

Whoa.  How did I end up here?

Suffice it to say, I had a point…originally.

Maybe I can salvage my train of thought.  It was a rough day at work…

Gays today are being cultured by their own generation.  I’ve had conversations with younger men that left me not only certain that they had very little – if any – idea of the struggle to earn the freedoms they enjoy.  

That’s kind of on us as a culture.  

Sure, it wouldn’t hurt to teach some gay history in schools…but how likely is that to happen?

And the hard part here is that a good chunk of a couple of generations was wiped out by AIDS, so there’s not a lot of us old geezers around to do the good work.  Not to mention the priority we put on sexualizing our youth obsessed subculture versus taking the time to raise them before we rear them.

But on the other hand, that phenomenon goes both ways.  There’s a fair number of Daddy Hunters out there sexualizing their elders.  If that’s not a misconstrued cry for help…

Anyway, back to the gay rites of passage.

If I was allowed just one, it wouldn’t be coming out to oneself, or ones family.  Nor would it be the first time in a gay bar or pride parade or sexual encounter.

No.

I think my prescribed rite of passage would be to read Tales of the City.  At least the first six books.

Actually, I think that would be a good thing for any person wanting a glimpse into the breadth of our culture and how our struggle impacted individuals.  Sure, there’s a couple odd story lines in there.  Otherwise, it has a lot of important exposure for people: gays, lesbians, trans, young, old…not to mention rich, poor, middle class, happy and not so happy childhoods and how they prepare individuals to become a part of the culture they identify with or the adult chosen families that they find themselves a part of.

What say you, mein reader…what would you prescribe as a rite of passage into this gay culture we are inhabiting?

Gay Rights…

Dating Into Oblivion, ep1

Well, this little endeavor is off to a great start.  I hope you all enjoy this as much as I am so far.

To recap: my goal is to throw $20 at a date once a month and see what happens.

What could possibly go wrong?

It’s like I threw a party and no one came.

Don’t read too much into that last word.

And here’s the deal, I could see throwing a party and maybe no one shows up.

Once.

But today was the 4th time it’s happened.  Technically, the 3rd and 4th time.  That’s how quickly my faith collapsed inward, I scheduled two dates in one afternoon.

But it wasn’t always so grim.

It started off much worse.

My first attempt crept on me.  I went into a bar after seeing a movie one afternoon early this month.  

The bartender hit on me.

Flattering.  It wasn’t the first time, either, and it was appreciated.  But I didn’t dwell on the prior instance and just enjoyed the moment.  He went to the bother of finding me on the Facebook Messenger later that night…we aren’t friends on the Facebook, so I decided to be impressed by the minimal effort that required.

I really do have the bar set low.  Like, ground level.  It’s left me quite dumbstruck how hard guys make clearing a low bar look.

So, me and the bartender are talking about meeting up and I mention how interested I’d been in dating him since the first time I met him.

He goes silent-er.  Instead of multiple daily messages, it’s a response every other day and he’s steered clear of actually committing to a date/time.  Reading between the lines, I dial it back and say that if he’s looking for casual, it’s not really my thing but I’d give it a second thought with him.

Then it hits me.

“Oh my GOD.  You’re still MARRIED, aren’t you?!?”

The first time I met him, I’d been sitting at the bar at Hobo’s talking to Everybody’s Uncle Dave.  His group walks in and he tracks me as he walks by and bee lines it for the bathroom.  As is my usual lot in life, his friends pick the barstools immediately next to mine on this 40 foot long bar.

When he comes out of the can, instead of sitting on the other side of his friends, he hops into my lap.

He’s significantly attractive, so I cannot care.  He gives me his number quick and says we should get together.  

As I’m listening, it becomes obvious that this is his Stag Party and he’s getting friggin’ married.

Picture me standing up, him sliding onto his adorable butt on the ground and me leaving, because I think that’s what actually happened.

So, the second time around was about as elegant…he never replied.

Shake it off, Galby.

The second attempt moved from real life to something less analog, but still kinda quaint in the age of apps.  I’ve kept one asocial media website profile active for the last forever.

I was on said site and sent off a few smiles.  I keep it light, usually.  Im an older guy hitting on younger guys, if they don’t want to engage, I take the hint.

A nice looking guy bothered to strike up a conversation.  His profile had several private pics, which he kept locked.  I appreciated this, since if it’s meant to be something I see, it’ll be in person.  So many of these gay-tards (Chrisism) think they have no value past their sexual use that I usually know what someone’s junk looks like before I know their name…if I ever even get to know their name.

We talked for about ten days, discussing getting together and setting a date to meet.

This being my life, he cancelled because he got a job interview.  Priorities.  I get it.

Suddenly, his pics are unlocked.

I explain that I don’t want nor do I expect to see them and why.  Then he says he feels bad…but doesn’t lock them.

Several days go by.

I don’t visit the site often, but get an email every day that I have mail waiting.

Finally, I log in to make sure I didn’t miss something.

No mail.

And his pics are still open.  Since it looks like he’s never going to talk to me again – so dramatic – I take a look to see if his 28 year old physique matches his cute mug.

MY EYES!

It’s like the very reason I don’t have boudoir pics.  On a guy that has about 40% less reason to excuse said reason.

Why?!?  No, not “why?”  I think I’m actually jealous that this guy is so comfortable in his skin to have these pics.

My mind is fairly boggled.

But, I do never hear from him again.

Attempts three and four happened concurrently.  It wasn’t anything impressive or typically Portland, like a couple trying to date me.  These two opportunities simply presented about the same time.

Me, being old and prone to confusion, asked them both out on the same day, today…which happens to be my Saturday.

Attempt three is someone who responded to a personal ad I placed.  Talk about old school.  He replied, included a face pic and a couple unsolicited and unexpected but not unwelcome – see above – body pics.  It’s ok, technically, since his name was in his email address.

He seemed nice and charming and genuine.  We set up a date to meet – today – which happens to be both our day off.  His only day off since he works full time and is a student.

Shut up, he’s 38.

My red flags are two:

He works nights, I work days.  We might only have one day per week to get to know each other.  

My second hesitation was that he’s from Mexico.

Hey, it can be a turn on and red flag at the same time!

My concern is that with English being his second language and so much of my persona being…snarkiness, a lot can get lost in translation,

I was impressed that he followed up to confirm this morning at 8:30.  I had an acupuncture appointment at 8:15, but replied at 9:30 when I got out.  

“Just give me a when and a where and I’m there”, I say.

At one o’clock, I’m still waiting.

I go scrolling through the Craigslist, killing time.  Also, maybe I need to be looking for February’s no-show.

I mean, date.

I click on an af that sounds up my alley.

There’s a few pics I recognize.

“Looking for today”…posted seven hours ago.

I’m having trouble getting my mind around someone who places this ad, emails me to confirm our date an hour later and then goes silent on me.

Obviously, he’s getting laid.

Only possible conclusion, right?  Setting aside my conviction that if he’s got…well, nevermind.  The point is, I call him on it.

He responds within minutes.

Full stop.  I’ve waited about four hours for you to give me a when and a where and when I tell you, “I get it, it’s your only day off for the week.  Take care of business” you suddenly have all the time in the world to respond?

Unfortunately, he chose to respond with, “You know how flakey gay guys are.  But I really want to see you!”

Yes, I do know how flakey gay guys are.  And I am not able to reconcile how four hours goes by without you picking a fucking time and coffee house while seven minutes elapsed between my j’accuse moment to his sudden reply.

Which brings us to my 4th attempt. 

This is a cute kid that I didn’t meet a couple of years ago when I moved back to town. 

I don’t drive + he lives in Vantucky = we never met.

But, we were already connected on the Facebook and when I joined the instagram last year, he was a suggested follow.  So, now there’s that.

Which is where I got into trouble.

But before that, last year, he got into a wreck that left him laid up for quite a while.  Long enough that he lost his entry level job at a quick serve restaurant and I’d been following his job search via status updates for a while.

I’m always – literally, if you know someone looking in Portland, OR let me know – hiring, so since we didn’t date I felt absolutely no awkwardness about extending an opportunity his way.

He

Never

Availed

Himself

Oh, well.

I thought about following up, but do I really want an employee I had to chase down to apply working for me?

No.

No, I don’t.

Some of the ones that voluntarily applied are enough of a probl…challenge.

So, I let it lie.

Then last week, we got into a DM on the Instagram that ended in him giving me his number.

We move to text and go at it like teenagers for a few days.  I can tell he’s no conversationalist, but get the vibe that he wants me to ask him out.

I do.

Thursday evening, about 6 or 7?

Sure.

I check in last night with a text, a 24 hour confirmation and hear nothing.

That was 22 hours ago and I don’t know if my thoughts are along the “Fucking millennials” or “Fucking fags” line.

Still…fucking something.

I do know that after a couple of years of not knowing him in real life, I feel as if I know what he wants or needs better than hizownself does.

He’s a Lost Boy.  That doesn’t make him a bad person, just lost.  Nothing more, nothing less.  But with potential in both directions, depending on whether he pulls his head out of his ass sooner, later or never.

I can say that my prior inclination to “raise” – for lack of a better word – a younger gay into a man is…not gone, but certainly sublimated.  I think it’s the job of a partner to help their SO become a better and better version of themselves.  I’m just aware that not every cute guy I come across with his act lying in shambles around his ankles isn’t automatically a perfect fit for me.

That’s a good realization.

There you have it. Episode 1 of Dating Into Oblivion.  Meanwhile, I’ve saved $80.  I’ve also enjoyed two and a half beers at Big Legrowlski while tapping this out.

And flirted with a probably straight guy over sci-if books.  So there’s that.

In theory, I’m quite an attractive option.

In reality…50 (minus 80-ish hours) and single, people.

Dating Into Oblivion, ep1

I Need A Haircut

I have briefly considered wearing my hair in a longer style recently.  I think this is just a further manifestation of my desire to avoid being perceived as sporting anything that could be lumped into the notion of “the gay haircut”.  To be sure, this has everything to do with my time in Seattle where every homo on The Hill seemed to have the same haircut…most, courtesy of Rudy’s Barbershop.

Don’t think there’s such a thing as a gay haircut?

Remember this bullshit from a few posts back?

Ugh.  The Hard Part.

A good name for my autobiography in progress, shit name for a hairstyle.

Totally gay.  Plus, it makes me respect gay guys a little less – yes, that is possible.  I imagine someone walking in and saying, “This is the style I want” and whipping out this guy’s pic.  Because, we should all take our style cues from the guy with facial tattoos…

I still won’t go to the Rudy’s in Portland, a) because Bishops is several bucks cheaper, but also b) because I usually get a more diverse choice of stylists there, making for a better experience for me.

Usually.

Foreshadowing!

Oh, and c) Bishops offers a beer while you wait, last I checked, Rudy’s didn’t.  Sure, it’s bullshit hipster beer like PBR or Montucky – same beer, by the way, just different marketing.  I kid you not.

I’ve gotten pretty good at timing my arrival at my local Bishop’s so that I’m the first one there.  In and out in record time.  The stylists are usually happy to see me, especially if it’s a slow starting day and there’s no line waiting to get in.

What can I say?  I tip like my father.

However, on my last trip…well, it was a trip.

First in the door, and no line had formed behind me.  I’m getting really good at not noticing that lines no longer form around me.  In this case, I easily convinced myself it wasn’t because I’m too old to be waiting for anything cool enough to queue up for.

It was Thursday morning at 10:50.

Normies were working.

I love my atypical weekend.

Anyhoo…

One of the two worker-people unlocks the door – she’s kinda non-descript and I decide I instantly want her cutting my boring hair instead of the girl with fluorescent pink braids.

Of course, this being my life, I got Pinky.

No big deal.  I can rally.  It’s only 25 minutes of my life, which is cumulatively the same amount of time I’ll probably spend having sex with other people between now and the end of my life.

Oh!  The end of my life in two or three decades!  Sorry to alarm you, mom!

I actually found myself checking myself on my earlier choice of stylists.  It doesn’t matter, really…I just think my dull head will bore someone as outwardly extravagant as Pinky.  Simultaneously, I’m mentally scrolling through the covert reasons for her  choices in self-expression.  I am decidedly a tee shirt and jeans guy, but still, I appreciate the effort people put into their appearance.

Even if I question the underlying motivations.

Total sidebar, as I’m writing about Pinky, I’m debating whether one of my DBE partners thought – or reflexively assumes – my comments about his garb this morning were slightly racist.

And whether maybe they were.  Or, at best were ignorant or insensitive.

I assure you that they were well intentioned, if not poorly informed.

But you gotta understand that my DBE is Snoop Dogg’s uncle as well as the father of a Women of WWE woman…when he dresses he makes this guylook like a tee shirt and jeans guy.

His outfit for today’s meeting was an exercise in monochromatic brocade paired with pointy toed patent leather shoes with hobnails (for lack of the appropriate cobbler jargon) around the sole at the front and topped off with a metal point with a skull shaped into it.

Those were some fucking shoes.

As a white guy, I don’t think I stood any better chance of commenting on them and not sounding ignorant or racist than Harvey Weinstein does of complimenting an actress’ gown and not sounding predatory.  So, fuck me.

So, Pinky starts in on the cut with some small talk about where I live and what I do.

Everything was fine until the second question, which was also about the same time I realized Pinky was trans…providing a shorthand answer to a few of  my initial questions on why someone would have that hair color.

And dye their eyebrows to match, by the way.

Regardless, it really popped against an alabaster skin tone that would make Casper look tanned.

It wasn’t that I do HR for a group of news & gift shops at PDX that caused the conversation to slide sideways.  It was the, “That sounds interesting” comment, rejoined with my, “Mostly, I just chase staffing issues all week” that committed our conversation to a slide that I didn’t even try to steer out of.

I have this longstanding rule about not pissing certain people off:

Your barista.  

Any waiter.

No need to risk a “sneezer”, right?

Barbers and stylists certainly qualify for this group of people not to piss off.

At this point, I start to realize I’m in a conversation that I’ll be lucky to escape from with just a pair of scissors stuck in my skull.  At worst, I’ll also be buried with a bad haircut.

You see, when she asked why staffing was such a problem, I didn’t leave it at a simple, “Hiring at the airport is just challenging”.  

No.

I had to go on and talk about how it’s tough to have a group of long-term associates – read: older – in today’s hiring environment because many of my new hires are college students…or at least college aged.

See how that last part comes across as judgy?

Me, too.

Now.

But the reality is that the two demographics just. don’t. get. along.

So our conversation is now in a full-on slide and Pinky contributes that maybe it’s not that millennials – her word – weren’t so much flaky or lazy – also her words – as they were tired of being pawns in the big capitalism game that is America.

I totally allowed that point, agreeing with the current backlash of the younger generations toward the Boomer-favoring economy.

Maybe millennials are just tired of working to pad someone else’s balance sheet.

Once again…not taking advantage of a strategic opportunity to not re-engage, I posit that no one is required to actually participate in capitalism.  She questions my sincerity by demanding an answer to how one will survive in today’s America without working for The Man.

You know, I say, I don’t know.  Yours is about the fourth generation to struggle with that question and I really don’t know the answer.  You’re in Oregon, where craft beer and weed are the past and current alt-industries.  Look at all the craft brewers selling out to big beer in “distribution deals” and ask yourself if weed will follow a different path.

Doubtful.

So, these alt-industries that basically have working class hero stamped in their DNA sell out.  Here’s what we think is the answer to capitalism run amok, selling out and caving to said capitalism.  The generations between you and I didn’t figure it out.

It’s up to your generation to do us one better.

– And this is fully where I should have muzzled my inner Julia Sugarbaker –

But until you do, you might try not biting the capitalist hand that’s feeding you, because that’s a little hypocritical, no?

Her mouth made the same perfect circle that both my eyes were making as she realized whatever she realized and I realized that I’d just broken one of my cardinal service people rules.

God help me.

Regardless of gender identification and politics, I’ve decided that I’ll probably go back to wearing my hair styled short again.  I think it was my writing about Egypt and seeing pictures of younger me, but whatever the impetus, I recently found myself entertaining the thought, “Maybe I could be one of those old guys with the IDGAF long hair…”

As grumpy as I am, I suspect that scenario plays out with me taking clippers to my head in frustration one evening.  Which, having likely worn out my welcome at Pinky’s Pelo Palace – er…Bishop’s – might be my follicular reality soon enough…

I Need A Haircut

My Huge Confliction

Who knew the Chrisism confliction would have legs as a blog theme?

We’ll see…

I realized this morning at 4:30 that I was the Old Mother Hubbard…I’d failed to remember to pick up dry cat food last night and my kitty cupboard was bare.

Normally, Mistress Myrtle’s feeding routine is:

Dried Salmon snacks when we wake up,

I leave kibble for her to nibble throughout the day,

When I get home, she gets a few more Dried Salmon cubes to tide her over to her 6:00 wet dinner.

Wet dinner is at 6:00.  Do not make the mistake of missing dinner time.

Running out of kibble is not a situation I want to find myself in when the only thing keeping me alive is that I provide the food that The World’s Most Dangerous Feline loves to hate.  Fortunately, I was able to double down on the wet food…”Look, Myrtle, it’s dinner for breakfast!”

She was not as excited about this as I’d hoped.

So, this evening; after changing, playing a bit and giving The Mistress her salmon snacks, I beat feet to the RiteAid for dried food.  I also figured I’d pick up some beer and chips to inspire my dinner making creativity.  I’d pulled some beef out of the freezer this morning and put it into a water bath in the fridge to thaw.  When I got home, the whole damn thing was frozen.

There’s something seriously messed up with my fridge.

All this is pointing toward me having chips and beer for dinner.

Since this is my life, the RiteAid was out of dried cat food.

Looks like my last meal would be Nacho Cheese Doritos and some Hop Valley Alphadelic IPA.

At least the beer was on sale.  A 12-pack for $13.99 ain’t all that bad.

None of this in any way has to do with my confliction.

I get to the checkout, wait for Shaky James to complete his transaction and then step up.  The very disaffected young lady – aka: millennial – ringing me up scans the beer and says, “ID for the beer”, which I guess passes for a complete sentence in her universe.  I pass her my ID, she types something into her register, pulls her phone out of her hoodie pocket, answers a text, scans my Doritos, mumbles something about what I owe her and stops.

Then she answers another text as I ask her if I can put in my Plenty number.

She puts her phone down on the counter and makes a minimal fuss about forgetting about the store’s loyalty program, replying, “Sure…if you want”.

I want.

Then she tells me my total.  This time I can hear her clearly.

$3.43

I start to question the total as she answers another text, so I shut up and give her a $10.

Am I a bad person or just a grumpy old man?  Surely being a grumpy old man is a condition that’s exacerbated by bad service, right?

The funny thing is, is that lately I’m scoring on buying beer.  Over the weekend, I picked up a 6-pack at the Brodega.  It was on sale, too…$8.49 from the $10.99 regular price.  It rang up at $12.49.  When I questioned that, the cashier asked if I was sure…so I went and checked.

Seriously.  

By all means, don’t take my first word for it, let me verify that for you.

Me:  Yup.  $8.49

Hipster Cashier:  Let me fix that for ya.

Me:  The funny thing is that this is ringing up for $1.50 more than the non-sale price.

HC:  <distractedly> Oh.

Not a question or surprise.

HC:  OK, your total is $8.49 then.

Me:  <thinking> Because you don’t want to charge me the $.10/can tax on this…right.

So, it’s been a pretty good week for this old beer hound.

But now my confliction is, do I just complain about this cashier’s over-the-top poor performance?

Or

Do I also complete the survey for a chance to win $1000?  I can’t tell which way the karmic winds are a-blowing here…

My Huge Confliction

Here’s Why I’m Not A Judge

Besides the absence of a law degree and any legal experience whatsoever…

It wasn’t cloudy, it was ash.

As I’m sure everyone has heard, over the Labor Day weekend, some jag of a 15 y/o firebug was out lighting firecrackers in the Columbia Gorge and started a forest fire, turning this

into this

Oregonians are tearing up when they talk about it.  It’s palpably changed our collective mood.

Too many of us are carrying inhalers as our normally mist-filled September horizons are now hazy with smoke.  Instead of anticipatory pumpkin spiced latte talk and a slightly dreary post summer drizzle marking the onset of the fall season, we’ve got ash raining from the sky and conversation that is reminiscent of the last time it rained ash in Portland in the days following May 18, 1980.

At least Mount St Helen was a natural disaster.

This kid, though.  I’d bet he’s more of a nurtural disaster.

When you hear Oregonians discuss him, there’s not a note of empathy to be found in their conversation, its tone nor even inadvertently in their body language.

It’s an open and shut case.  

You did this.

You were proud enough – the rest of us gratefully call it stupid enough – to have a friend film it.  

Seemingly, just to impress girls?

What none of them realized – surely because of their lack of life experience as much as underutilized intellect – is how cherished our nature is in the PNW.  Not to get into trouble with the Indigenous People of America, but more than anywhere else I have lived, the people of the Pacific Northwest have a connection to this land they inhabit.

I remember Sarah Jessica Parker – I know!  Where the fuck can this be heading? – saying in an interview once that NYC was the fifth star of Sex and the City.  Well, in the PNW, we are all the co-stars to the nature that surrounds us.

So, before he’s even charged, he’s been convicted in the hearts of Oregonians, if I could presume to speak for my people.

I guess I’m on to the sentencing phase in my mind…and I want the punishment to fit the crime.

If you were really doing this just to impress girls, my knee-jerk reaction is chemical castration.  It takes care of the punishment and is also prophylactically prudent – safeguarding future forests against any future humans he might be responsible for raising and releasing into the population.

Or, just to be tricky and humane…life in prison.

I imagine the reflexive objection of his parents as I – as judge in his trial – lay out his sentencing options.  

I offer them a sort of Sophie’s Choice, would you take his place to spare him?

Should this ever come to pass – and fully admitting that outside of any knowledge of these parents, I’m using my post-Trump-election disdain for generic Americans as my guide – I expect nervous and uncertain glances to be shared between the parents.

Nervous, uncertain and hopeful glances: dubiously hopeful that the other steps up.

With a side of the expectant stare of their son as he waits to see which of his parents sacrifices their freedom for his…because he surely has an entirely undeserved sense of entitlement.

I hammer down my gavel as they shamefully and selfishly shake their heads, choosing their own freedom over that of their parental failure, and send the whole family off to prison.  

A sentence of time with each other…I would expect their cell could be in the center of the conflagration of their procreation’s creation and still feel as icy as if it were a Siberian gulag.

Ah, the state of family in our country…so lacking in accountability.

We aren’t that far removed from a time when parents bore the shame of their children’s transgressions as their own.

Decades, maybe?

Or when a family member would sacrifice themselves to save the rest.

A generation or two back, tops?  

Where are those pioneers and parental pillars now?  Too rare, to be sure.

In reality, what will happen to this kid?

He’s 15, only 80% to the threshold for being tried as an adult.

How will he be held accountable for the land he has destroyed?  

The habitats and species he has threatened?

The livelihoods he has doomed?

The tens of millions of dollars his havoc has wreaked in emergency services expenses?

Will his parents be held complicit?

I certainly think they should.  It’s a values issue for me.  Certainly why I – as a judge – would offer them that Sophie’s Choice, in the first place.  A test of whether the value lessons parents are expected to teach failed to take root or if those values were simply never a part of his upbringing in the first place.

A nurtural disaster.

Sadly, my faith in our cultural humanity does not afford me the generosity of the assumption that this kid comes from competent parents.  Too often these days, I see people who are the product of hands-off parenting, abandoned to be raised by the public school system…a system that can barely teach algebra effectively, let alone morality.

Nor should it be expected to, yet here we are.

I’m loathe to agree with conservative GOP rubric on any level, but I’m fairly certain that if we’d managed to create a system of family values in our country – one that doesn’t involve the teachings of one very learned burning bush – that we could have probably avoided the current burning bush shituation in the gorge.

But, no…we didnt get there with family values.  Rather than remain true to our own country’s founding tenants, we were distracted by shoe horning selfish religious interests into law and instead of developing actual collective values as a country, the wedge was driven.  

Commandments or nothing for us!

And here we are.  The fiery result of that political and cultural spiral.

How do we fix that?

In my mind, the politicizing of values came before the actual erosion of our family unit, but I could be wrong.  Either way, we’ve got a country whose population can’t relate to its own extremes with a dwindling middle ground and families whose only bond any more seems to be shared DNA.

Luckily, regardless of which came first, the present day culmination of this failure is 45.

I’d hazard a guess that our ashy PNW sky is a nice glimpse of the impending nuclear winter skyline courtesy of the two pettiest world leaders with maybe 6″ between them. 

Here, I certainly hope to be wrong, but struggle to find evidence to support any faith I could muster in a different view of the future.

Because as complicit as our jag of a firebug’s parents are in their offspring’s fiery magnum opus, we as American’s are equally responsible for the ass sitting behind the Resolute Desk.

And he will not be outdone by some punk 15 year old.

Geez.  Now I’m depressed…

Here’s Why I’m Not A Judge

Well, Here I Am…Again!

The man with many hats.

“Today has been one helluva week” – Me

I think I’ve said that four out of the last five days.  That, or, “This is my xth Monday this week”, which is another Xtopher staple. 

I like to mix my charming sarcasm up a bit. Now that I type that out, I feel it should have its own Chrisism since its so often the case:  charcasm.  

Does that work?  I know it’s no shituation, but…wudyagundo?  Who knows?  Maybe it’s too easily confused in conversation with the gap between a cookout and grilling.  One would need to rely pretty heavily on contextual clues to discern the potential presence of a silent h.  So, back to the matter at hand.

My hats this week:

My normal HR and merchandising awesomeness chapeau.

A handsome bowler for the opening duties I’m picking up for one of our two morning Zone Managers, who’s out on Leave.  Ish.

Oh, and a practical and summery straw hat for the responsibilities I’m picking up each morning for our other morning ZM, who had a planned vacation land during the aforementioned and unplanned Leave.

Again, wudyagundo?

And how about one of those tall, furry marching band hats for our bookkeeper?  He had a planned vacation that was slated to be covered by an associate who was cross-trained in bookkeeping.  Alas, a family emergency put her out of the picture a few weeks back so we needed a back up plan.

“How about that ZM with the straw hat?”  The Boss.  

Me: “Vacation.”

The Boss:  “OK, how about training a new associate, there’s just about enough time.”

After putting our heads together, we come up with a back-up for our back-up.  I check in to gauge her interest level:  super excited.

“As long as it doesn’t mess up my vacation!”

I swear, I can’t make this shit up.

“Well, I guess it’s us”, The Boss says, speaking of himself and his Ops and HR managers.  

The Ops manager in question is someone I cheekily refer to as Capt Can’t.  Not because he’s like a basic white girl who literally can’t even.  No, it just popped into my head one day after I suggested a different way of doing something for yet another acknowledged broken process that was hindering success and making everyone equal parts nuts and frustrated – I’m all about process improvement, which makes one of us.

Here’s how those too frequent conversations kinda went:

Me:  “We should try X”, not the drug, Diezel.  In this case “X” equals any old problem and I’m solving for a solution to X.

“We can’t!”, Capt Can’t.

“OK.  Why not?”, Me, seeking to understand the obstacles.

“It won’t work.”

“Why?”, Me…again.

“Because it won’t!”

Seriously, there’s a solid and well-thought argument, right there, people.

All.

The.

Time.

The Boss and I come up with the simplest of plans, each of the three of us will have one training day a week for two weeks.

Easy-peasy.

I go first.

Now, our bookkeeper…nice guy, bless his heart.  But he spends the better part of 40 hours a week in a 5×8 room with no windows and usually with the door closed due to Loss Prevention protocols.  When he’s not trapped in that eggshell hole, he’ll talk your ear off.

Can’t really blame him.  Plus, he’s usually good for some real dad jokes and groaners.

I go in for my training at 6 am on a Tuesday.

Search and Rescue pulls me out five hours later.

Just kidding.  I tunneled out through the drywall.

The Boss looks up at me over his glasses, “That took a while!”

“Five hours”, I say, carving drywall dust out from under my nails with a letter opener.

“How long should it take?”, he pointedly asks.

Like I’d know.  I’m almost at my one year mark here, he and Capt Can’t have 20 between them, so I give him one of these

…and guess, “Three and a half, maybe four hours?”

He’s moving on, “Can I do it?”

“No.”  

Probably, I shouldn’t just barf out answers like that.  I’m aware of the difference between giving an honest answer and giving the wrong answer, at least.  

However, in this instance, my bald response earns me another over the glasses glance.  This one rather amused looking.

“Oh?”

“Seriously.  It’s unnecessarily complex.  Two different programs, two data entry webpages and a spreadsheet.  I’m probably missing something, too…cuz it’s my first day!  Your head will explode.”

“Can he handle it?”, chuckling and gesturing with his head to Capt Can’t’s desk.

“Probably.  Sure.  His head won’t explode, but he might kill our bookkeeper after 90 minutes of being trapped in there with dad jokes”, I’m not kidding…this is the guy I’ve referred to in other posts as a festering wang of a human because of his bullying and brutish outbursts aimed at my favorite person.

New plan:  me and Capt Can’t will take the training and pick up shifts during the week of the bookkeepers vacation.

Of course, I keep to myself the realization – and subsequent alternative new plan – that I let Capt Can’t do the training but figure out a way to not have to share bookkeeping responsibilities in order to maintain bookkeeping continuity.  It’s a good plan, the second part.  

The first part is me just thinking that I’m helping him be as awesome as he’ll tell you he is by facilitating his learning something someone so awesome at their job would already know how to do after 11 years in his role.

I’m a giver like that.

Still shutting up, Diezel.

I happen to be off Wednesday and Thursday of that week instead of my normal Thursday/Friday – someone needed Friday off, so I switched up my days because I’m also a giver like that…it doesn’t have to be all snarky, all the time with me.  So, I come be-bopping in on Friday morning and during my chat with The Boss ask how Capt Can’t’s training went.

“Oh, it didn’t happen.”

Not for the first time in a decade, I think.

“Yeah, with our warehouse ZM being out, he said he just didn’t have time.”  Which should be partially true, sadly, the irony of the shituation is that he put so little effort into developing the manager he is now – allegedly or conveniently, I can only guess – crippled without.  Had he put in the same time to develop his direct report before losing him to a LOA, he would have had a higher functioning team to support him – all of us, realistically – while the warehouse is down its manager.

But, y’know…can’t.

…And that’s how I got to be the back up bookkeeper.

“But it’s not awful”, says Xtopher as he heads home on his Friday after about a 55 hour work week starting daily at the luxurious time of 5 AM.  

Don’t be jealous.

Seriously, though, besides the start time – MAX gets me there at 4:39, but a couple of days I took the second train and got in at 5:14…don’t tell! – I made a nice routine of it:   

– Check prior day’s time cards and track infractions and missed punches – something I’d usually do;

– Put sales from previous day up on the whiteboard – which is something I sometimes do;

– Run change to each of the five stores and check in with everyone – not my normal routine, but I usually cover for ZM absences or vacations;

– Process the deposit and cook up them books – definitely not something I’d normally do!

After that, I’d have a few hours to return to my normal work flow, writing a schedule or processing and placing souvenir apparel in our shops.  I’m on vacation myself starting this Sunday, so I had my normal schedule to write for the coming week + the schedule for the week I’ll miss + the schedule for three weeks out, just so my re-entry from vacation doesn’t have a looming task…because you all know what it’s like coming back from vacation.  

I’m being proactive!

This usually ended up being about 1 1/2-2 hours of “me” time before I did the second change run of the day between 11 and 12.  After the first couple of days, I learned this is a good time to cram something into my lunch hole since I’d been there at least 6 hours at this point.

After that second change run, I was really pretty much done with any duties I needed to perform to cover our missing compatriots.  Somehow, most days – except Acupuncture Monday – I managed to keep myself busy until 3:00 or later.  Saturday and Sunday because the closing manager didn’t arrive until 3:30 and there’s usually a good 30 minute download as we hand over the reigns for the day.  Those were easy 12+ hours days…although Sunday I was begging to be out by 4:00!

It’s an impressive display of…a complete lack of dignity?

I think what made this week most challenging and rewarding was that first change run of the day.  Normally, I’ll run around the stores and check in as I make a game plan for what merchandising needs are priorities.  Only, then I have the luxury of hitting all or only some stores.  When you got a bag of change strapped to ya, you ain’t got no choice but to hit every stop on the tour.  There I am, literally hitting the ground running each day, and about day three it hits me:  these fine folks that get to work at 4-damn-o’clock every day aren’t looking at the hats!

I can’t say that I blame them.  As managers, the senior team isn’t the most visible to the associates throughout the day or week.  Heck, the day side associates are lucky, most of the night side team hasn’t seen the other two seniors in just about ever!  One night side associate who quit a few months back told me during our casual exit interview that she liked seeing me, because she never gets to see any managers during her shift, “I haven’t seen Gary in a year!” she says, referring to The Boss.

His name’s not Gary!

Anyway, since that talk, I’ve really made a point of being accessible for all shifts – even swapping out two of my shifts to start at 10 AM instead of 6, so that I’m there until at least 6 PM.  On those days, I usually plan on being there until 8, but it depends on how the week has gone…if I’m over 50 hours, I generally GTFO a little closer to 6!

So, being Mr. Accessible, I don’t point out the hat-of-the-moment and just try to do it all.  Usually, this means I’m getting a pocket full of scraps of paper with scribbled things to do between finishing the deposit and that second change run…sorry, souvenir shirts!

Sheesh, people are so needy!

But I do try to do my best to be in service to my team, I expect a lot from them so it seems fair that I meet their expectations, too.

Hat be damned.

<author’s note> I walked away from this post six days ago…I was torn about whether I was telling a story or bitching pointlessly about work.

The point that I originally wanted to make was about how I found myself amused to realize something on that Wednesday morning.

Nothing, too deep – definitely derp – this is me, after all.

I realized that during my normal morning circuit there are a few associates I tend to expose myself to in doses, our Russians.

How timely is that, with Russian election collusion on the minds of most Americans these past months.

Seriously, we have several team members who emigrated from Russia or former USSR countries.  They are intense.  And kinda hard to understand, having not left their accents behind as readily as their former homelands.  I appreciate them all, performance opportunities and accents included, their success in their roles is important to the success of our five store business as a whole.

Still…they are intense.

When they have something to say, it will always be about what they need to execute their job responsibilities to their standards. It might just not be something that there isn’t a process in place to provide already.  A lot of times, I’ll pop into a store shortly after 6 when I arrive.  The common litany is something along the lines of, “I need this or that”.  Stated with an eastern bloc urgency that used to send me running for the warehouse in compliance to the need.

What I’ve learned is to suss out the actual urgency.

These ladies have had two hours to settle into their shift and usually have nailed everything that they deem important to a well run store.  I make that point because one of these associates refuses to comply with the expectation that associates wear a name tag.  

My belief is that she thinks it’s fun to throw down the silent challenge that someone correct this minor infraction of hers.

You know me, I’m rules-y, so we would butt heads on this.

But then I realized that I could leverage her demands with her lack of compliance.

Does that sound like good management? I ask seriously, since the conversation that occurred usually did not sound remotely adult.

“I need paper towels.”

“I need you to put on your name tag.”

Or, even less mature, “I’m sorry…do you work here?  It’s so hard to tell since you aren’t wearing any company ID.”  But I do so enjoy taunting people and she enjoys my verbal parry to her thrusts.

However, that’s not the usual response I expect to my greeting upon entering the shop.

“Good morning!”

“I need paper towels.”

So I’ve also trained her to indulge in a little small talk before throwing out her list of needs.

Plus, that small talk kills time between my arrival in the store and the start time for our warehouse associates, who start at either 6 or 7 each day.  Since “paper towels” usually end up falling into their responsibility buckets, I can put off her request to the rightful owners of the process at issue.

Indeed, I’ve even learned over my near-year on the job that when she wants “paper towels” it’s usually just the tip of the iceberg.

Here’s my observation and rationale.

This person was born into a Socialist culture of bread lines.  Many have observed that her primary store is usually overstocked with stuff squirreled away everywhere.  

This initially prompted me to change my response to her morning demands from “run to the warehouse” to “verify actual need”, which is another dance we do after the Name Tag Dance.

“Good morning!”

<small talk>

“I need paper towels.”

<walks to supply closet>

“You have five rolls.”

“Yes, but sometimes people spill things or the warehouse runs out and then it’s good to have extra”, she counters.

<blink, blink>

“Also, you know I like to keep my store clean.  These other people, they don’t clean enough.  Every day, I come in and it takes 30 minutes just to clean up the mess.  There’s coffee drips and sugar and food all over the tables and coffee bar, you know?  Why don’t they clean?  It’s so dirty.  I’d get bored if I didn’t do anything during my shift.”

And there it is.

Initially I didn’t realize it.  It took me a few months, so I’d respond, “Well, you can probably get by with ‘five rolls’ of ‘paper towels’ until 7, so put it on your list for the warehouse.”

She’d laugh at that last move in our morning verbal sparring, acknowledging my so-called victory.

Until.

One morning she came back with this rejoinder, “I put it on my list, they don’t bring for me.  They don’t do anything.  It must be boring to come to work and not do anything all day.”

And that’s when it clicked with me.  She may only wear one hat at work, but she wears it pretty damned well.

I often say that employees watch their managers.  They take their cues not just from how we manage them, but how we manage ourselves.  Of course, I should have realized this whole time that they’ve been watching their co-workers, too.  Store associate and warehouse associates.

When she says “It must be boring to come to work and not do anything all day”, what she’s really saying is that her co-workers aren’t meeting her expectations.  Up until this point, I’d just leveraged her passive-aggressive complaint against her Russian-bred work ethic and acknowledged to myself that most Americans working lower wage jobs will not provide performance that meets their job description in exchange for that wage. 

We’re lucky.  The Boss and I will routinely discuss our hero associates that have been there consistently over time delivering on their job expectations and then move on to our lament about the millennial work force, which so frequently takes us to our warehouse associates, who are largely millennials.

Who also work under Capt Can’t.

And look to him for their performance management and example.

And they see can’t.

Knowing that, having observed this over time, could I really expect things to change in this he said/she said relationship the store associates appear to have with the warehouse associates?

Well, yes.  But only because I’ve been lucky to find a few non-millennial applicants for recent warehouse openings that also seem to hold themselves to a higher performance than their millennial peers or leader.  

But that’s just luck.

So, on this Wednesday morning, I took off my HR, bookkeeper and morning ZM hats, put on my warehouse guy cap and went and got her some “paper towels”.

If for no other reason than to take a moment and reward both her work ethic and her patience at putting up with an American work ethic – that may never actually meet muster for her, regardless – with some goddamned paper towels.

We both won that verbal dance off, and went off about our respective days smiling.

Well, Here I Am…Again!