Going Out Of Business!

Portland Edition.

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

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

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

It’s an 8×11 street grid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Redevelopment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case in point, The Rodney.

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

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

A bigger problem?

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

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

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

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

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

Then silently came down.

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

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

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

Then, poof!

Gone.

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

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

Then, the rumors came.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a few more spaces that recently transitioned:

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

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

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

There’s that greed again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greed?!?

Perhaps.

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

Let’s compromise and call it both.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It should.

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

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

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

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

The rub?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The way to control real estate expense is to move.

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

For everyone.

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

But how likely is that?

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

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

Until then?

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

Or not approving it.

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

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

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

I think the current situation has proven that.

Going Out Of Business!

The Hustle

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

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

The struggle is surreal.

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

Do I really want to work for these companies?

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

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

Come to – er…wake up.

Clean up.

Head to the Arthouse and write for a few hours.

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

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

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

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

A.

Day.

That’s tough to replace.

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

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

It was $12/hour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I came to work!

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

You’re so much nicer than the other employees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I got a call I wasn’t expecting.

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

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

No shit? That was months ago!

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, for fuck sake.

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

Seriously.

Surrealiously.

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

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

Obviously, The Gym.

But, I’ve digressed.

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

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

Then the HR temps call back a few weeks later.

Maybe a month.

Let’s say a few weeks ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I felt bad about that.

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

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

I could live with that.

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

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

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

And it’s addictive.

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

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

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

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

See? Addictive.

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

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

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

That’s what I’m telling myself.

What else?

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

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

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

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

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

It’s fucking awesome.

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

Or I have Stockholm Syndrome.

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

Ah, yes!

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

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

I like the sound of that.

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

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

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

Of course, that was after saying

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

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

Nah…I’ll go drive! Haha.

The Hustle

TIL #10: Bufferin

They should just market this as a people repellant.

Because, people – me, at any rate – need a buffer.

Yeah, don’t kid yourself, Today I (didn’t) Learned…why they call this Bufferin. Although, the bros that just walked into the Arthouse Cafe – f&b was renamed and rebranded to compliment the neighborhood a bit better.

Complete with street art!

Anyway, these bros order food and then execute my trending pet peeve:

Taking the seat closest to me in an empty space!

It’s truly annoying. You’d think my favorite part of this shituation would be that they both started playing videos on their phones.

I mean, why even go out to eat together?!?

But, I noticed they were sports videos, even those these two were obviously gay for each other. Maybe the videos provided distraction enough to keep them from soberly blurting out

I love you, man!

Whatever. I don’t care.

No, the most annoying part of this wordless bromantic breakfast was the gift of allowing me to watch them tossing food into their never-closing mouths and then grind it up before sending it on its way to the poop chute.

So gross.

Therefore, since I’m not being given my people buffer and there sadly is no pill to rectify that, I’m going to distract you with a story. This happened a few weeks ago while I was working, and since my lil PT gig provides me with an opportunity to interact with people and is decidedly unchallenging, I exploit the opportunity to my maximum amusement.

In this case, it involves taking another pet peeve and making up a fact around it.

Of course, the story starts with a cute guy.

Goes without saying for this ho without a laying? Right?

He was tragically buying smokes and looked under 30, so I carded him. He whips out an out of state ID and I ask if he’s visiting.

No, I’m practically a native, I’ve lived here so long!

Me:

What? Oh, wait…are you a native? How long do I have to live here before I can call myself a native?

Me:

Stop saying “native”.

Indigenous?

Ok, that made me chuckle.

I went on to tell him that natives don’t call themselves native, they call themselves SNOBs – Society of Native Oregon Born.

It’s a thing, but I was vamping, we call ourselves natives all of the time. But he was enjoying my schtick, so I kept playing.

So, how long until I can be a SNOB?

Me:

Never.

That’s what I was afraid of.

Me:

Wah-wah. Look, here’s the deal, being an Oregonian isn’t about time served.

It isn’t?

Such wonder and naïveté.

Uh-dorable.

Me:

No, it’s fucking Oregon, not a prison sentence.

More laughing, which I take as him begging me to slide deeper into – er…keep going.

Me:

Being an Oregonian is about how one drives.

Trick question! You cycle, right?

Me:

Yes, but no.

Kinda dying over here…

Me:

Alright, alright. Simmer down. It’s how you drive. Specifically, relative to pedestrians.

Oh, really? Wait, wait…the whole “No, you go” thing, right?!?

Me:

Partial Credit. That’s the filtering device.

So, transplants see someone at a crosswalk – maybe they see them, pedestrians might not even register to out of towners – and just whiz on by. “Watch out, poor people, I have an automobile!”

But SNOBs stop!

Me:

Of course, but more importantly, we stop correctly.

Because there’s a right way.

Me:

Yes! This is the difference between a self-proclaimed Native and a SNOB.

Natives fall all over themselves making a show of stopping. Standing on the brake and laying down 10 feet of rubber at the last minute, if need be.

SNOBs understand that crosswalks always exist, even if you can’t see a person nearby, and are ready to stop.

Seems like an arbitrary differentiator…

Me:

Does it? Ask the car waiting to cross traffic from the side street while the native driver idles in the intersection in a dissipating cloud of stinky blue tire smoke.

Damnit! I see that all the time!

Me:

There ya go.

Ok, the gay bros left.

Thank you for allowing me to distract myself!

TIL #10: Bufferin

Oh, You…Universe, You!

It’s a wily cosmos out there, that’s for sure. The last couple of weeks have proved that to me in spades.

Whether you believe it’s the Universe, the Lord, Karma or some other idiomatic dark horse…behold my recent story. I’ll try and make it as follow-able as possible.

So, y’all know that I self- published my first two books – one nonfiction and fiction work each – in March. I consciously chose self-publishing since my research showed that writers lucky enough to get a publishing contract got dropped as soon as the contract ended if they didn’t turn out to be the next James Patterson.

The differences here – aside from the looming publisher break up – were that self publishing pays royalties monthly versus twice annually but there’s no up front money. So I might get a monthly payout, but it was gonna be ~$500 on average versus an advance of anywhere from $5-25k that you may never make back, hence the writers I talked to getting dumped.

I opted for the slow burn even though so far my earned royalties aren’t even what I made in a day when I worked at Macy’s.

God, I miss Macy’s money.

Anyway, I just pushed publish and silently hoped that some industrious producer discovered me.

So, while all that’s going on, I’m wandering around the Pearl and see this sign in the window of a store that I managed for three months four years ago.

Now, I could have called that outcome when I left there. I’m actually surprised that they lasted this long. I came on right after the founder retired and promoted the Vice President/Buyer to run things. He was grooming the District Manager to take over his role and I was brought on as a DM in training to run the store in the Pearl District until that change occurred.

It quickly became apparent to me that the dipshits in charge couldn’t manage their way out of a wet paper bag…so, like I said – I’m surprised they made it this long.

Still, I feel bad for the employees. Sorta.

Anyway.

Things are getting pretty tight at Casa de Xtopher. In February, my unemployment was suspended because they think I’ve been working and not reporting my income. This stems from a quarterly report from my temp job at Amazon – irony alert: that’s who I self-published with – that indicates a status change in my employment with them.

I wasn’t surprised at this, the timing the unemployment office described to me put this blip as a termination for not meeting my one shift a month commitment as a temporary employee.

Of course, the brainiacs at the unemployment office completely melt down and don’t know what to do, so they pause my benefit without telling me.

Seriously, how these people have jobs and I don’t…?

My question to them was

“So y’all require employers to report quarterly employment changes but you can’t differentiate between a new hire and a termination on those reports?”

Idiots.

We straighten that out and then – before a single benefit week is paid, some troll in their office comes up with, “Yeah, but his waiting week in October was paid. He has to pay that back.” To which I replied,

“I worked with your own clowns to figure out the correct timing and claimed earnings as I should have. Go pull the tapes.”

Sure enough. That was right, but by that time, the state had already withheld the week and a half of benefits from me for the payback.

Whatever.

I figure that will just extend my claim by a week and since I’m already over the hump of not having that week of benefits, I let it lie. So naturally, the next week I claim, I get an error message that my claim has run out or expired.

What fresh hell is this?

“Oh, yeah. You contested the original ineligibility decision back in April of last year.”

“And?!?”

“Oh, and that means your benefit may be reduced by eight weeks. We sent you a letter. Lemme find it…ah, here we are!”

And this very nice, surprisingly competent sounding woman reads the letter they sent me verbatim. “Blah, blah, blah may cause a benefit reduction of eight weeks blah, blah…”

“Right. ‘May cause’ not ‘will cause’, please allow me to explain the English language to you…”

“Oh, well we don’t right the letters ourselves…”

Because, of course not. If I had patience with incompetence and a lack of accountability, I’d just be leaving my job at Storables. That means that I’d never have gone to work at the airport, but if I had…I would have loved it there since competence and accountability are their scariest boogey men.

I count back eight weeks from my original claim on April 6th of last year to my last benefit payment…yup. They nailed it.

At least I come out of that experience knowing that the unemployment office is as good at stopping benefits as I am at not working for poorly run companies. What I did learn from this last contact, though, was that my claim can be renewed on April 7th, but at just over half of the original amount.

Not that I’ll believe that until I see a check.

Naturally, I’m panicking. I think my rent is paid through May, but my other meager bills will be dicey.

By The Way

Too subtle?

But, then…

I see on the Facebook – of all friggin’ places – that The Container Store is hiring for an Ops Manager. Of course, I apply!The Container Store and I have a long peripheral history. Way back in the 90s, the store I worked at – for a decade, lest you think I just can’t hold a job – carried a modular storage brand called Elfa. The Container Store eventually bought Elfa.

I was their customer after buying my condo in Seattle in the aughts. I outfitted my closet with their Elfa system. When I was looking for work up there, I got to the final round of interviews with them, but ended up missing out on the offer.

Then I went to work for Storables – which I nicknamed Regrettables – and learn that the owner had been aligned with the owners at TCS but the partnership disintegrated and he struck out on his own.

So, here I am. Still applying for jobs, wherever I can and at any level from janitor to manager.

Nothing.

I get a call. Turns out it’s from the owner of a chain of convenience stores here in Portland with a terrible reputation. I once saw a six pack of craft beer that’s $12 at the she-she brodega across the street from me for sale there for $19!

He pretty much offers me a cashier job on the spot for $12/hr, which according to him, “Is pretty good pay.”

It’s literally minimum wage in Portland.

Nevertheless, I’m freaking out about how to buy cat food for the meanest cat in history. I also think,

“Well, between this, the book royalties and maybe my unemployment – if someone there finally manages to get an answer right on the first try – I can pay my June rent. That’s something.

I’m really good at covering up my urges to leap from tall structures these days.

Incidentally…

Naturally, since my belly is now full of swallowed pride (shut up, Diezel) on the last day in the year since my last day at my nightmare airport job, I score an interview with the Area Manager for TCS. It goes great. I’m not just optimistic for the opportunity, I’m motivated by the conversation. She says she’s passing me down the chain of command to her local manager for a face to face.

Then, nothing happens.

No call yesterday.

Except today on the anniversary of my first day off work after quitting my job at the airport, I get a call from the local guy at TCS!

He wants to talk Monday, before he leaves for a week, but he wants “to get this rolling”.

That’s a good sign, right?!?

Naturally – since this is my life, here – Monday is my first day of work at the crappy, humbling convenience store job. So here’s what Monday looks like:

5:30 – wake up!

6:30 – start work at the convenience store.

2:30 – get off work at the convenience store (I hope!)

4:00 – interview with The Container Store.

Basically, I have 90 minutes to hoof it home to change, steal the Silver Fox’s car and drive 12 miles in Monday rush hour traffic.

The most heartbreaking thing is that I will have to walk right by my favorite dive bar – Kelly’s – on my way home from the convenience store.

But you best believe I’m fucking doing it. All of it.

And I’m getting that job!

Oh, but still…

Oh, You…Universe, You!

Kids These Days

…Got nothing on The Gays These Days.

In the defense of kids, at least they’re kids. I really have no defense for some of the ridiculous shit The Gays do.

Case.

In.

Point.

A byproduct of the reality TV celebrity culture lives here in Portland. One of the Fabulous Baker Girls suggested she arrange an introduction back when the sand was still falling through this guy’s Quarter Hourglass.

My gut reaction was to reject the proposition outright. I mean, A) I’m too old; but, B) I also just tend to steer way clear of that reality nonsense. But, to be fair, I still gave him a once over.

No…

Not for me. Far too dear.

But, we interact on the Instagram occasionally and I enjoy most of his escapades. Random fitness center selfies (told ya, too dear for me!) from his apartment building, dog walks – which is totally my “aw” spot – carpool karaoke solos and whatnot. Whether or not he should go blond again.

He shouldn’t.

Yes, I told him. He asked!

Of course, right now I’m watching his work trip (Nike, so I have to hate him now) to Japan and kind of dying of jealousy. I feel better if I tell myself that he’s the admin for the group.

A bit.

Right now, he’s low grade obsessing over being “in shape” for Coachella. To which I say: boo!

I mean…first of all, he’s in shape enough. But mostly, how is politically right supporting Coachella still a thing?!?

And that’s kind of got to be a deal breaker for at least the LGBTQ community, artists and their allies and supporter.

Doesn’t it?

Anyway, I’m sure that at least partially to that end, a couple of weeks ago I watched one of his stories where he was getting Botox and lip filler.

That gave me a little pause.

Naturally, I had to ask…

And then I never heard back from him. We’ll chat again, we always do…if I initiate it. The same “got better stuff to do” phenomenon occurred a few weeks ago when he was fake-bitching about having eaten a full dozen donuts.

Come to think of it, that might have been him bragging.

I certainly would.

But back to the whole Botox thing…just, c’mon. If he’d been older than I imagined – ok, he is, but if he’d been way older than I’d imagined – that would be one thing.

32 though…that just ain’t right.

And I come by this opinion pretty honestly. When I was living in Seattle, I had Botox. A few times.

I was nearing 40.

It was amazing how big a difference it made on my forehead after a lifetime of witnessing the stupid shit people do in public during my retail career. “Relaxing” those muscles that were in a near constant state of use from raising my eyebrows in surprise several times an hour at my co-workers’ and customers’ shenanigans really made a dramatic change to my forehead.

No more lines!

As a pleasant side effect, this also allowed me to remain an enigma to my friends and employees, so when I let my frustration show, it was a choice.

And a surprise!

But I only did it a few times. The last benefit I received from my use of Botox was surprising my doctor when she told me that her prices were going up from $10/unit to $15 and I replied,

I’m never coming back here again!

Poor dear…never saw that coming.

Anyway.

With that context for at least one of the injectables he was using, I felt I had a foundation for my comment. But this might surprise you: his use wasn’t what irritated me most about this Instagram excursion.

It was that his doctor let him video the whole thing!

I’m watching and then realize, (s)he’s working around his arm that is attached to the phone he’s using to video this whole thing. Shame on that friggin’ practitioner!

It makes me mad, but I guess it’s up to the two individuals involved…I guess. Once again, though – what we tolerate, we condone.

Maybe “kids” these days need adults (like me, or doctors) to tell them when something is not an appropriate behavior or just wrong for them.

But now I wonder if he’d still have that crooked smile if he let his doctor work in an obstacle free environment…

Kids These Days

So, It’s Gonna Be Like That…

Eh, Universe?

Just before New Years, I got an email from my property management company. They were letting me know they’d be raising my rent…effective March 31.

Nice to get plenty of notice.

I signed a 15 month lease last year – well, 2017 – in mid-December. This was after my landlord in the unit right next door refused to negotiate my rent after this unit sat on the market for $200 less than mine…for six months!

When she finally agreed to talk pricing, my current unit had dropped another $100. When she came to me with a $50 reduction, I wished her well and opted to save $300/month on my largest expense. I iced my decision-making cake by telling myself that having a property management company versus a weird mix of hippy and dilettante for a landlord would be better, anyway.

When a property management company can’t figure out how to change the batteries in a smoke detector, run! That was indicative of each of the issues I’ve had since I moved in.

Garbage Disposal: 2 weeks to get a repairman here, 10 minutes to fix.

Balcony Doors Warping: 2 weeks to schedule a handyman, they show up to assess and three weeks later, still not fixed.

But it’s ok…it’s just winter and cold air is just pouring in around the edges of the door.

By all means, though…send me that rent increase email while you’re proving you’re not worth it. That 7% increase is pretty high, given that rents overall in Portland decreased 3% year-over-year from ’17-’18.

But at the same time, I knew I was getting a fairly good value. If they hadn’t been such foot draggers about repairs, I wouldn’t think twice about the $100.

However, since my old land lady had yet to rent my old unit, I thought about reaching out to her. I was curious about her plans for the unit. I thought maybe losing $20,400 over the year versus dropping my rent $200/month might have put her in a mood to negotiate.

Plus, the board president had let slip that her HOAs were in arrears. Oops.

I figured, get past the New Year holiday and see how she felt about a March move-in.

Then a BBQ showed up on my old balcony.

Eight months after I moved out, she put my old unit on the market for $50 more than what I last paid.

Remember how rents went down 3%?

Yeah, she didn’t get the memo.

Two months later, she drops the rent to what I wanted to pay before I moved out. It still took a month to rent and the new tenant moved in this month.

The BBQ was disappointing enough to see show up – our building doesn’t allow them. But now I’m wishing it was just a BBQ.

He’s gonna be one of those neighbors.

So, here I am, thinking of moving out of a building and area that I really love living in. I don’t have much else to do besides think – ok, obsess – go to the gym and write. This was a good lil back burner thought exercise.

Then, out of the blue, I get an email from MudBay about a job. It is a position I applied for in mid-November at the urging of an old colleague of mine. She works for them in Seattle and thinks of me every time there’s an open position.

I applied a couple of years ago, but nothing happened.

This time around, she not only insisted I apply, she arranged a drop-in with a former manager of hers who had moved down here to Portland to open a store for them.

Alright, alright…I’ll go!

The District Manager just happens to be there the day of the drop-in and we all talk for 45 minutes in what felt less like a drop-in conversation and more like a full-on interview. It also felt like they were trying to talk me out of the position. They both kept reiterating how hard it was for people to come from outside retailers because their culture is so different.

Well, at the end of that conversation, I offered to send the DM my resume and asked for her card or contact info.

Oh, that’s ok. If you applied, I’ll find your resume.

“But you said that hundreds of people applied…”, I say, not adding that the job has been posted for five months.

Oh, I’ll be able to find you.

“But you don’t know my last name…” Yeah, this is sounding like the end of a bad date.

But you were referred, so that’ll narrow it down!

She sounds so peppy and sure of herself. Still, I’m thinking for a company that’s so different from other retailers, this feels the same as a lot of other “don’t call us, we’ll call you” interviews I’ve had.

Ah, the joys of the great job hunt.

Whatever, happy-fucking-holidays.

To say I was surprised to get an email requesting a phone interview…well, that would be an understatement. Nowhere in my mind was the thought that she had actually liked me as a candidate. Or even a person.

That she forgot who I was, well…that was firmly planted at the front of my mind.

I debated reminding her, but then as the conversation began

Before we start, you read the job description – and that’s just the framework of the responsibilities of the role – but do you have any questions about it before we start?

…it really became obvious that she didn’t remember me. At the second question, I was really feeling like we were covering redundant territory.

So, I stopped her and asked, “Just out of curiosity, you aren’t the same person I spoke with in November at the store on Hawthorne, are you?”

I don’t think so…no.

– she says, sounding rather uncertain.

There are two District Managers for Portland.

I was thinking she was worried about stepping on someone else’s toes. But the way she said it made me reconsider.

She doesn’t like her counterpart. I was pretty damn sure I was right, but resisted sharing my experience to suss out my suspicion. Frankly, I found that to be a plus for me.

Sure enough, we went on to have a fantastic hour-long conversation. I think my only obstacle as a candidate for her is my salary; my floor is $2k over their max.

That could be a sticking point.

However, the landlord story above? Yeah…I live in one of the most expensive parts of town. If I get further into the interview process and she/they begin to understand where their openings will be…I could move closer to my assigned store and save a couple hundred bucks a month. That puts me back in the salary/expense ballpark I want to be in.

The Silver Fox would hate that plan – not that I’d be wild about losing the spontaneous nature of our neighborly friendship. But for a job with a company I want to work for? Maybe it would be the right thing to do.

To that, I say

C’mon, 2019!

So, It’s Gonna Be Like That…

Bad Influences

Have you been bombarded by so-called Influencers lately? Speaking from personal experience; I have and it’s been tedious.

When I was a kid…no, that’s not right. Earlier this century, back in the aughts, being an influencer was kind of a rare thing. Usually, it was someone from the media or a local personality. I encountered a lot of them when I was opening the “don’t call it a flagship” Sur la Table in Bellevue, Washington in ’09.

Thank gawd it was a rare thing back then.

They.

Were.

Precious.

Most of them were women, maybe a step or two above a debutante or socialite. Mostly by a decade or more in age and a tenuous claim to a job. Most of those jobs amounted to being a blogger, back before everyone had one.

But there were a couple of published lifestyle authors and an occasional morning show host that came with some gravitas. They were important to be able to connect with and talk to because they had an audience and they knew that connecting with me was about promoting the brand I represented versus a vested interest in their own self-promotion.

Unlike the other dilettantes and poseurs.

But today, it seems like dilettantes and poseurs are all that’s left of the once almost illustrious title of influencer.

What’s more, just like one doesn’t call it a comeback or refer to oneself as hot or cool…maybe true influencers don’t call themselves influencers.

I started thinking about this just before Christmas while visiting with the ‘phew. He’s in the middle of his freshman year of college and we were just catching up on his quick trip to SoCal to attend a music festival called Rolling Loud. He’d gone with some of his high school classmates. When we came around to next year and whether upgrading to the VIP experience would be worth the extra $100/ticket – he thinks it will be, so why not? – money in general came up.

Tickets: $250-350

Airfare: $250? I’m guessing, but it’s in between the Thanksgiving and Christmas peak travel season, so I bet they aren’t giving away plane seats.

Hotel: $150/night for three nights, and this is for a hotel room near USC so it could be more!

Plus Ubers everywhere and food.

So, yeah. Money came up.

That segued into a classmate of his who he said was an influencer for he didn’t know what, but she got around $3k a couple times a month for whatever she did.

For the first time this holiday season, I was able to maintain a neutral expression while inside I was doing my best Gilbert Gottfried and disbelief was spewing out of my figurative mouth while I mentally debunked everything.

My immediate thoughts, when I began turning this over in my head later that night, was all of the self-proclaimed influencers in my Instagram feed. Don’t be surprised, but I follow a lot of random gay guys.

Ok, fine…take a moment to regroup.

Better?

Off we go, then.

There’s a guy I follow named Ben Something. By all initial accounts, he was just this cute lil college kid in NYC that liked showing off his dimples and nice butt on his Instagram feed.

Then it turns out that he’s dating a fairly well known gay porn performer. Ok, I know the porn star is a bottom, and the Ben kid sure pinged as a bottom, so I wasn’t surprised to see them both post “single again” Insta-stories within a couple hours of one another.

Kids. So cute.

I wasn’t even surprised when Ben was dating someone else less than a week later.

Lost Boys. But this is part of finding oneself, right? And he’s an appropriate age for it.

<Looking at you, PNW guys in your 30s…>

Then I started seeing him post “paid partnership” pics on behalf of Pure for Men, which is a supplement for men who engage in receptive anal sex. I’ve never looked into it, but I’m assuming it’s basically a $20 solution for a $5 problem.

I actually dug around the Amazon for a bit and proved my own theory without disproving my own hyperbole: psyllium supplement is $.17/dose and Pure for Men is $.85/dose.

Then I got to watch a trip to Paris, that turned out to be a meet up with his ex…and several other actors for CockyBoys. I’m sure you can figure out what the trip was actually for. Seriously, though…who flies porn “stars” into Paris to make a movie?

What a time to be alive.

I mean, getting by on your looks.

To recap: Pure for Men mouthpiece, CockyBoys actor…and all this time I thought he was a ballet student. Yeah. Regardless, there’s a life plan full of intent.

Then there’s the 19 y/o Aussie bodybuilder…I started following him after seeing a before/after pic of his struggle with acne.

Frankly, the before pic was the stuff of teenage nightmares. I felt awful for him. But his story was impressive. He’d managed his acne with a combination of medicine and diet.

It was very Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, so I was drawn to it. Plus, the FS&ND guy was also an Aussie, which I found to be an interesting coincidence.

Turned out, the Aussie kid was only 18. He’d not only managed to overcome his acne through his dive into nutrition. Following diet up with exercise, he’d transformed himself from a 98 lb weakling – sorry, I’m not converting that empirical expression into metric – into a buff bodybuilder.

He competes now.

Frankly, he’s rather overworked, in my opinion. Then again, that’s kind of the end goal for a bodybuilder: keep building body, right?

But his journey was inspirational. Until I tried listening to him talk. It was painful. Then again, teenagers are usually still learning their own voices, so I just hit mute and watched his sometimes fun beach antics with his friends and his impressive gym videos.

What I did learn from him, though, was he wanted to create a fitness culture on YouTube to help others find what he found through fitness and nutrition.

Not a bad goal.

Somewhere in there, he also created a clothing line of fitness apparel. Mostly sleeveless tops, but I assume he was going for a specific audience.

This past week, I saw a story of his that was captioned “last day at one of my three jobs”. That made me pay a little more attention to what had been going on with him. Working three jobs and about 50 hours a week is a lot with his fitness regimen-slash-gym time. Factor in commute time between jobs and it’s not just a 50 hour commitment, either.

Until

Later that day – the same damn day – he posted on his story that we should all follow his “private account” because he was starting an Only Fans page.

Where to start?

Ok. Only Fans is a feature that you can enable on Instagram that allows you to charge a monthly subscription for selfie porn.

Seriously.

I’ve seen many of these random gays I casually follow start Only Fans and then embarrassingly promote themselves to gain subscribers. They seem to charge $2.99-9.99 a month for the privilege of seeing their exclusive content.

I’ve actually found this internet secret that allows me to get free porn, so I’ve never once been tempted by this Only Fans nonsense. However, I remembered my nephew’s classmate and her alleged twice monthly $3000 payday.

That’s only 600 subscribers at $9.99/month. Plus, straight guys are way dumber about porn than gay guys. Maybe a hot co-ed can get more than another gay gym bunny.

Speaking of straight guys being idiots about porn? This Aussie kid is straight. Too narcissistic to stay that way in my opinion/experience, but he’s 19. He’ll probably figure it out. For now, he’s starting his Only Fans for $19.99/month!

Marketing to a gay audience at twice the market rate is a pretty bold marketing decision. We’ll see how that works out for him.

For now, I see him starting to pop up in the stories of guys around the world, whose sole purpose on Instagram is to help one another build their follower-ship into the tens of thousands.

Fine. I get that. We’re in the Me Generation on Crack. It’s all about the likes and follows.

For my part, these random people Instagram thinks I should follow? I do. Sometimes…if they don’t engage with me, then I unfollow them.

I’m sticking to social media being a social experiment versus playing into the likes and follows culture. If I wanted empty socialization, I’d hang out on hookup apps, aka: asocial media.

I figure if some guy in Brazil can post in Portuguese and engage with me in English, Australians, Brits and even Americans can be bothered to interact occasionally with their followers in their native language. It’s how I virtually separate good folks from pretty trash on line.

I know, I set a high bar for people. <eyeroll>

Anyway…this Aussie kid. Flash forward a few more days and he’s slashed his Only Fans to $9.99/month. Looks like he’s learning something. Nothing important, in my opinion…

But then he posts a pic of one of his bros and says they are going to be creating some “hot content” together for his Only Fans subscribers…maybe he’s learning something about himself that is important.

Or, not

Back in my day, cute young guys knew how to behave. Straight guys slept with as many people as possible, like it was their right. Gay guys acted like they were too good to deign settling for a lesser human as a sex partner, 10s Only was the attitude.

Now it’s Fans Only.

Noted.

Regardless, the meme makers have these guys covered.

See ya around, Influencers. When I see shit like this clogging up my corner of the internet

…I swipe and unfollow. I don’t know either of those guys. I guess I’m – surprisingly – not under the influence.

Bad Influences

Tse Tse & Me

Isn’t that lil bugger adorable? Not sure what’s going on with the tail end condensation there…maybe he got ahold of some olean products.

Cute, anal leaking or not, this guy has been in my mind the last couple of days as I’ve found myself succumbing to spontaneous involuntary bouts of unconsciousness. I’d guess that I’ve slept 34 out of the last 48 hours.

Realistically, since I am sleeping at night, turning in around my normal midnight bedtime and easily sleeping through until ten AM, when Myrtle’s hungry, bitching meows finally succeed in waking me, I know it’s not Sleeping Sickness. The Tse Tse Fly bite generally causes nighttime wakefulness, prompting daytime slumber.

I’m only suffering from that last part.

On Sunday, I woke at 6 AM after heading to bed at 10 the night before. I was unusually relaxed after three beers at Tanner Creek Tavern next door to my house. A couple of months ago, they stopped ordering Breakside IPA, a favorite of The Fox and me as well as a top draw for us to belly up. The staff is fantastic and pretty easy on the eyes, but y’know…what I can drink up with my eyes is a minor part of my bar allegiance decision making process. Discovering that Tanner Creek had brought in a Barley Brown IPA to placate our Breakside Boycott – an act of resistance that included the Silver Fox and I walking into the bar with 22 ounce bottles of Breakside that we purchased from the Brodega across the street – lured us back.

That the new addition was also an 8.5% ABV promoted a nice, early bedtime after three doses.

I didn’t think much of my early rise, since it was a legitimate eight hours of sleep. Still, I managed to procrastinate my way through the morning until I had to get ready for a noon:30 meet up with Jortis and Little Buddy for our semi-regular theater going at Portland Center Stage.

The show was at 2:00, but we were meeting for…brunch, yeah…brunch at 12:30. I sat down on the couch to kill time while my hair dried and woke up at 1:30. I’d fallen asleep in a seated position.

Ridiculous.

I rarely nap. I want to say “never”, but when I’m sick, it happens. Or when I’m getting sick. Confused from my unconsciousness, I texted my apologies to Jortis who had sent me a text when I was 10 minutes late, which is kind of unlike me. Not that I’m not usually the last one there, since I live closest and usually head out on the four block walk at our designating meeting time…

A couple hours later I awoke to a response text reminding me that the show started at 2:00 and at the time it landed there was still 30 minutes before showtime.

It was 3:30.

Having failed at making my only plans for the day, I put on a movie and promptly fell asleep again on the couch.

When my excessive sleep followed me into a second day, I began to shift my neurotic hypochondria to more realistic sources – having not been to the Congo recently.

I spent some of my few waking hours wondering if the teenage dream disease-slash-excuse for doing nothing for an entire school year had actually caught up with me.

Out of all of the symptoms listed, I was only experiencing malaise and fatigue. I for sure wasn’t experiencing any loss of appetite, having made a pound of pasta and 18 meatballs on Sunday night, finishing it for breakfast on Monday morning.

The Fox posited that my symptoms might have been a result of my return to exercise greatness last week. I was experiencing some good delayed onset muscle soreness, but was reluctant to chalk my excessive sleep up to exercise. Knowing me and my tendency to procrastinate at the drop of a hat, it was a problematic diagnosis.

Having successfully not only remained awake for a solid three hours straight but also cleaned myself up and dragged myself out of the house, I’m beginning to accept the notion that what had me down the last two days was something much simpler.

Last week was the end of Portland’s first real week of Fall weather. Lots of rainy afternoons. That, plus 4 PM nightfall could easily trigger a little SAD in the most diehard PNW natives.

And I’m not much of a diehard…I even use an umbrella! But only when it really rains.

Pair that basic root cause with what is likely to be my last attempt at dating for the year – if not ever – and I can see where my defenses against a torpor spiral could have failed me. Especially when I think of how my persistent seeming unhireability contributed to weakening those defenses.

Ugh, and then there’s the holiday.

Maybe Portland’s first Fall Storm was just the icing on the perfect emotional storm cake that’s been baking in my psyche these past few months. But at least my response was to simply ride it out with a nap, I’m pretty sure that could have been worse.

Like I said earlier, I’m out and about today, which is a good change of pace. I’m looking at other changes in behavior that I can stop/start/continue to maintain an upward emotional trajectory.

I think dating can easily fall into the stop bucket.

Enough of that emotional mayhem.

I know, emotionally exhausting as it is, that I must continue my job search. I need the sense of purpose work provides. However, I’m kind of battling the whole mentality of the pursuit. I want a job that aligns with my interests and values. Jobs like those pay me every day versus every two weeks. But my phone – and the job search alerts it sends me – seems to be pointing me in a different direction.

Really, LinkedIn? Three decades of retail management work experience and you’ve managed to scrounge up an open position at 7-Eleven? They also like to throw a management job at a local gas station/convenience store chainlet at me once or twice a week. That job has been open for six months!

Talk about a red flag.

The struggle for me now in my job search is not applying for jobs like that out of a desperate mindset. While they pay 1/3 of what I’m realistically worth, and half of what I accepted when I embarked on my last professional misadventure, the last thing I need is to be rejected for a position for which I’m grossly overqualified.

So, unfortunately, job search falls into the continue bucket. I just need to silence the voice in my head that is chanting the definition of insanity.

Maybe the start I need in my career search is developing new skills. I’ve been low-key exploring getting a professional certification in Human Resources after my last job. Generally, I hold an organization’s HR department in fairly low esteem, having experienced the execution of their dual responsibilities – the best interests of the employees and protecting the organization they serve – manifest as pencil whipping their job description. I’m not eager to sign up for professional impotence. If I want a poor return on my efforts, I could keep dating.

Then again, it pays well…even if the pay off isn’t professional satisfaction.

Alright. So I’ve got some vague marching orders. The local cafe has chosen to not play music today and the corner I’ve tucked into to enjoy my coffee while I write my way out of my torpor has now been surrounded by cubicle dwellers escaping for lunch.

All of those misophonia triggers have positioned themselves close enough to me for me to smack them, as their poor table manners require…so I should GTFO of here before I end up accidentally assaulting someone with my empty mug.

Off to the gym!

Plus, I just farted.

Tse Tse & Me

No Regrets

Writing about my good old times at The Old and The New Old Lompocs yesterday reminded me of this little nugget of a story languishing in draft-land from waaaaay back.

I’d like to say it was from a few months back, when I was working at the airport – PDX…maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s the best airport in the universe, at least according to travelers in the United States.

Six years running…no big deal.

They’ve got, like, carpet…and a clock.

Anyway, today – because this is my life and this is the way it always “just so happens” in my life – just so happens to be my 7 month anniversary of telling the company I worked for at PDX that it wasn’t me, it was them. So, this story probably starts a full year back.

Well, the draft starts a year back. The story itself? Yup, a century ago.

You see, when I wasn’t hanging out, wiling away my free time lusting over Richard, I was usually hanging out with my buddy No Regrets. Even then, I was a social prowler versus staying home. I didn’t even have a health hazard of a cat to keep me away from home. It’s kind of just how I’m built.

No Regrets was the manager of the store next to mine, so we became acquainted fairly easily. Eventually, we bonded over shared stories of I-5 shoplifting rings and after that, became friends.

Well, last year, I was in the B concourse store doing something – something that was likely Captain Can’t’s responsibility…but he, y’know…couldn’t – and who should happen by but my old pal!

Why do I call him No Regrets? Well, it’s a riff on his last name, mainly. But also, this guy was idling through or just out of so many programs when we met. These programs have a great benefit for participants – many, obviously – but for No Regrets, the main takeaway seemed to be overcoming the shame and stigma around his various struggles and being able to normalize the impulses he experienced in recovery.

Y’know, he had no regrets. Without the problems he’d overcome, he wouldn’t have become the fuller functioning person I met.

I know. Anyone in recovery hates how I just short handed that, but…here we are.

The result for me was bearing witness to private thoughts – or what many people would keep private – and stories of how he got to where he got before entering recovery. Oddly, they were rather entertaining, in a cautionary tale type of way. No Regrets’ story telling style was just rather engaging, too. He had a story teller’s voice.

Anyway, we chatted at the airport for a few, just caught up ever so briefly before he had to catch his plane. But that brief download was still so chockablock full of nostalgia for our time together a couple decades ago.

Because when I wasn’t at The Old Lompoc swilling beer, I was probably with No Regrets a few blocks away for some totally unneeded late night caffeine. Let’s see, if Lompoc was at 23rd and Savior, our hangout – CoffeeTime – was at…21st and Irving?

Yeah. 21st and Irving. I just remembered that my crashpad after moving back to PDX was right around the corner at 19th and Irving…that was a nice, warm welcome home! So when I say these hangouts were a few blocks away, 8 over, 2 up…yeah, not too far at all. Gotta love how small town-y Portland can feel!

One of his many Anons being the big A, we met at his favorite nighttime hangout. It was new to me and reminded me of the subterranean Catskeller below the student union in college, so many little twisty corners that created books for a small study table or old sofa for reading and chatting in semi-soon-to-be-necking privacy.

I loved it immediately.

Plus, there were a lot of cute, young, student body types. Guy Candy, if you will. Of course, one of No Regrets’ other Anons was S – Sex, if you didn’t get that one – he openly commented on the guy candy we were immersed in.

Look at that guy. You know he’s not wearing any underwear under his sweats, when he gets up again you can totally see his big dick flipping around.

Or,

Check out the size of those Chucks. You know that scrawny guy is packing a big, floppy dick.

A lot of his therapeutic appreciations involved genitals of the big, floppy type.

Like I complained. He amused me.

Anyway, it was here, at this time in my life – these late night chats with No Regrets – that I really learned to be self reflective. It was pre-Sacha – because he shut friendship with other gay guys down right quick – and I was new to town, not dating.

The way he talked about his struggles led me to ask questions like, “How does Sex Addiction work with dating?”

Poorly, mostly.

Was his humorous response to let me know I didn’t have to be scared to ask personal questions.

No, but seriously…not that well. But once you get into the program, they don’t want you dating anyone for at least the first year. No distractions. After the first steps are accomplished, the guideline is “If you can keep a plant alive for a year, you can date”.

“Oooh…I’m not sure I get the plant thing, but you’re…”

On my second plant.

He was only kidding, but this self-effacing wit definitely resonated with me. It was similar to my own style.

So one night, I whacked him over the head with the big, floppy part of a passerby and buried him in Forest Park.

I just love that place.

I joke.

If I recall the details of the program correctly, keeping a plant alive for a year served the dual purpose of putting someone else’s needs above your own and not letting your personal issues derail a relationship and actually being able to provide the essential support they need to thrive.

Dead plant = fail, right?

But it made sense. It got that it was a big leap from watering and fertilizing a plant to having a relationship, but the whole focus on knowing yourself before you get to know someone else and become a part of their well being was quite a takeaway from these talks.

Again, making enemies of any reader that is in any recovery program.

But thinking on these inadvertent nuggets of wisdom he brought to CoffeeTime helped me to formulate my own code when it came to dating. Namely: taking time between relationships.

I’d moved to Portland with only two relationships of any length under my belt – at 28…how pathetic, right? Let’s ignore the fact that I’ve only doubled that result in the next half-ish of my life, shall we? But I had a natural reluctance to just swing from one relationship to the next, as a monkey does with tree branches.

This helped me to define that habit or ritual of mine.

For the record, not all of his stories were about shoplifters or his life in Whatever Anonymous. Sometimes he’d tell stories about his completely strange family and growing up surrounded by mentally unwell or abusive people.

His brother was textbook crazy…I want to say schizophrenia+. But the poor kid was terrified from the inside everyday. It had to be hell being him and it didn’t sound like being around him was any picnic, either.

But, lemonade, right?

No Regrets told me about this conversation he’d had with his brother one day. He’d asked him how his day was. Surprisingly, the day had been relatively uneventful, which was a rare occasion for his brother.

Until I was walking home from the bus and the man across the street started shooting his Sex Rays at me.

…and then he just calmly continued on with telling the events of his day.

No Regrets sees my eyebrows shoot up and my mouth form a tight little circle. In response, he pulls his head down and to the left as he raises that shoulder to meet it in his version of a shrug, mimics my eyebrow rockets and half lets out a guffaw as if to say, “That’s bound to happen if you walk around long enough”.

Sex Rays?!?”, I demand.

Yup. I mean, what are ya gonna do? And it didn’t even register as more than a nuisance!

“Like a footnote in his day?”

Basically. I mean, this kid loses it over toilet paper being hung the wrong way,

“Shut up.”

but Sex Rays don’t bother him at all.

We chuckled at that for quite a while that night while I grilled him on details, knowing that he’d want to make sure his bro was truly ok. I wish I could remember the conversation better, suffice it to say, there was some frustration on his bother’s part, I just can’t remember it.

But we did get some miles out of that turned phrase. Instead of worrying about what was big and/or floppy, we’d say something like,

I’d like to shoot my Sex Rays at that!

Y’know, lighthearted nonsense.

Anyway, flash forward a year or two, Sacha is in the picture, No Regrets is out. We’d still managed occasional coffees while we worked next door to each other, but eventually, I got transferred across town and then he moved to NorCal and we completely lost touch in the pre-LinkedIn world we were trapped in.

Flash forward another few years and Sacha took off on me. I fell apart and then I fell back on the introspection I had learned from No Regrets and settled in to figuring out who I was as a single person again so that I didn’t subject a potential new mate to the damage of Sacha.

I’m sorry, not damage. Trauma? Scars? It’s just not quite right…ideally, anything that makes him sound the least bit responsible for his actions in a relationship makes him want to burn the world down, so let’s give his “At Least I Have A Friggin Glass” Google alert a treat and call it the Wrath of Sacha.

Anyway, I didn’t want to subject a new boyfriend to that particular STD, so I was single for a long damn time.

So long that I was living in Seattle the next time I found myself dating. Either work transferred me or I was single so long, the subduction zone I live in has crushed the distance between Portland and Seattle.

Who’s to really say for sure?

But a funny thing happened in between relationships.

My one job moved me to Seattle and then ended altogether a year-ish later. I’d gone to work in a crashpad of a job at Bed, Bath and Beyond. About 18 months later, I was recruited away by a customer who worked for Sur la Table.

When I was talking to some of my team about where I was going to, one of my associates – who never said anything – chimes in with,

Oh, yeah…my uncle is a District Manager for them in California.

Foreshadowing

“Well, there’s a big manager’s meeting here in Seattle (the company’s corporate HQ) so maybe I’ll meet him!”

Yup.

His uncle was No friggin Regrets.

I’m on the left, obviously.

It had been ten years since we’d first met. But we fell into an amazing and immediately comfortable rapport.

Turns out that was a good thing, since a couple years later, he got promoted and became my boss’ boss. I liked him, her…I was gonna enjoy watching this. In his many Anon learning experiences, he’d become a fan of being his genuine self. My boss…a jackhammer couldn’t reach an authentic level in her.

She was so bad that when I was with her and she’d introduce me to someone, she’d always work in an, “Oh, I love your scarf!” type compliment. I’d just stand behind her and make these little gestures

So, that was therapeutic to watch, but eventually I got recruited away and at some point – after our company sold itself into a Venture Capital form of sex slavery – he got sacrificed and we lost touch again.

Let’s see…this started in ’96. We met up again in ’06 and this last airport meeting was either in late ’16 or ’17…I really think it was ’17, but now that I type that out, I really hope this draft was older than I think.

I think it was actually. It was waaaaay down there.

But it’s funny, regardless. People come into your life for a reason. You may never know what that reason is, or that reason might simply be some low grade companionship.

But every now and then – especially if you’re an introspective S.O.B. like me that can go down for days on the couch – you realize that people you met 20 years ago and lost touch with long ago are still informing your decisions today with the fingerprint they left on you.

OK, see? I tried to just organically wrap this up with something uplifting and I typed that “.” and my inner lech whispered, “Yeah, you tell us about the fingerprint that Sex Addict left on you…”

I swear, Hannibal Lecter must have been my nanny.

Now that I realize my mistake, I know I should have tried to throw my introspection about No Regrets back to my Highlander reference earlier…because

Nonetheless, fingerprint analogy notwithstanding, you just never know who you’re going to meet that going to give you strength or joy later in life. When they show up – mentally or physically – it’s a fantastic leveling device against the daily onslaught of crushing minutia. You gotta take a second to enjoy that and toss out a thank you to the mysterious universe that keeps these people drifting through your consciousness.

Actually, now that I think about it, maybe I should reach out and see where he landed after Sur la Table. Maybe this time I could intentionally hitch my work wagon to him.

Hmmm…standby.

No Regrets

*Not* Sleeping With The Enemy

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

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

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

Anyhoo…that was quite a sidebar.

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

This was after packing on 20 lbs in three months.

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

Maybe I was imagining that.

Maybe it was actually happening.

Who knows?

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

No filters.

Everything.

Hell, anything.

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

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

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

Escandoloso!

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

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

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

In.

Sane.

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

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

Oh, here…

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

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

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

Ok, so how does this job kick my ass?

I’m glad you aksed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carrying stuff.

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

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

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

FML.

There should be 16.

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

Or close.

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

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

Nice teamwork, right?

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

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

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

We feel lucky if 75 people show up.

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

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

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

I love systems like that.

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

I hate systems like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This bothered me…

The hell with that.

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

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

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

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

That’s a lot of seasons.

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

Oooh, conundrum.

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

That’s no bueno.

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

Three days…I could do three days.

Or…

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

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

This was bad for me because, why?

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

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

Bad ROI.

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

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

He asked if I could do the three day rotation.

No.

How about on-call?

Hmmm…maybe!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another win/win/win!

*Not* Sleeping With The Enemy