Victory Is Mine!

I spent a lot of time last week trying to decide if the burden of being right was truly the pain in the ass that it was seeming or just the cost of living in this self-service gaslighting state of affairs that is America today.

That did provide me some solace in the form of nostalgic thoughts I had from back when being right was fun and exciting. Knowledge was a pursuit, a validation…an overall positive attribute.

<sigh> The good, old days.

The issue?

My final pay from the temp agency I’ve worked with for off and on the past four years fucked up my final paycheck. Having nicknamed them based on the quality of my engagements with them –

– I can’t say that I was surprised. But I should admit that I was also impressed by the commitment they showed to delivering poor quality work with this particular fuck up.

I mean, honestly, it had to have simply been an epic string of comfortably employed idiots crossing my path because no truly stupid American could coordinate such fuck-uppery. Still, mad props to the recruiting team that assembled this melange of morons.

Quick (that’s a lie) backstory:

There was an app update about two months ago now. It was kind of a big deal, since for temps, all work is remote from your “employer”, regardless of whether you’re in an office setting or working from home. All of my timekeeping was done in the app.

The big change in this update was the prompt to indicate whether you worked onsite for their client or from your home. But it was easy, just record your time each day, then when you review at the end of each week, you’re given a slider for each day to toggle to remote or on-site.

Now, when I was offered this role, it was with the understanding that it would be about a 40/60 split. I was prepared to work Tuesdays and Wednesdays on-site and the rest of the days from home. However, COVID had other ideas and since Washington state – where the offices were located – was under an indoor N95 mask mandate, so the company was letting anyone who could work remotely do so.

When that mandate was lifted, my division’s (Finance) leadership decided to try a one day on-site return to office. As the COVID exposure communications became more than weekly, we were told to only come in if necessary. For me, that’s nearly never, so I’ve been working from downtown Portland, Oregon for most of my history on this assignment…I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to the office in six months now.

And that’s exactly what I told the industrious stranger from Robert Half-Ass that emailed out of the blue about six weeks ago asking about my remote indicators from my recent timesheets. Well, not the six month part, it was just four-plus back then. This person I’d never heard of before said she appreciated my response and it was just some internal stuff for reporting and such.

Anyway, smash-cut to the not too distant past when the conversation about converting me to a Core employee was happening with the company I was assigned to. The timing was setting up to occur the same week I’d planned to be working from the high desert during the week of my family’s annual trip. I’d committed to the arrangement thinking I’d burn some of my Sick Pay that I’d accrued with Robert Half-Ass by taking a few days off before I transitioned to Core status with the old/new company.

Except

When I submitted my timesheet for what was my final week of work with Robert Half-Ass, I received an error message from the app that I didn’t have enough Sick Pay to cover the two days I had requested.

<checks app>

I mean, I’m no MIT grad, but I still knew that 8+8 equaled 16 – and that 16 was less than 18, so I was confused. Mind you, I never understood Common Core and wrote it off as nonsense, but was open to the idea that it was valid and the people who tried explaining it to me were all idiot, no savant.

But I digress.

My timesheet was telling me I only had 6 hours of Sick Pay available despite what the app that timesheet lived in was telling me. I checked my last paystub and it said I only had 6 hours, so there was a disconnect somewhere. Then I noticed it said “OR Sick Pay”. That prompted me to say “Fucking Robert Half-Ass!” to my empty home, since I immediately knew that the question I had helpfully answered a few weeks prior had fucked me over. More to the point, the Robert Half-Ass go-getter had done so after making whatever internal updates that she thought necessary. Clearly, I was going to need some help resolving that on Monday, which is a bummer since when I submit my timesheet on Friday, I usually get paid on Tuesday. Wednesday at the latest.

But Monday had other plans for me and my job ate my life that day. Tuesday morning, I got an email from yet another Robert Half-Ass employee I’d never heard of sending me an Urgent Reminder to submit my timesheet. I reply back with the backstory and she tells me she’ll look into it. She gets back to me a little later telling me to call the I9 team so they can figure out if I should be accruing Sick Time based on Oregon or Washington law.

I mean…A) you do it. And, B) as I understand it, I9s are the forms used to record proof of employment eligibility in the United States, not any particular state and therefore shouldn’t have anything to do with what state I work in or whose employment laws I should be following.

But, ok. I call and they say it’ll take 24 hours to get a response. Oh, and also that Sick Pay isn’t portable, so when I move, I lose it. They’ve never heard of merging accrued time from different policies. They remain unimpressed and utterly unconcerned when I stress that I didn’t move, one of their cohorts toggled a switch and changed my work location.

Again, my assignment was to a WA-based company and it was known that the majority of work would be from my home in Oregon when the assignment started. If something needed to be changed, it was because someone set me up wrong from the get-go. All I did was accept an assignment and show up every day.

Definitely, fuck me for that.

Wednesday I get a “Second Urgent Reminder” from the same nitwit, despite my telling her it would be 24 hours before I got an answer from the people she directed me to. When I remind her of this – after the 24 hour window has closed with no follow up – she suggests I delete the Sick Time from my timesheet and she’ll submit a manual timesheet for my Sick Time. She also asks if I’ve called customer service, which provides me with a good stretch for my eyes as they simultaneously bulge out of and roll back in their sockets as I read this.

I tell her I’m not editing my timesheet, because then I have no record of my original document. Plus, I’d be submitting an inaccurate document and attesting that it was accurate by doing so. I tell her that my trust in her outfit is nowhere near strong enough for that level of faith. I can literally see them using my timesheet against me as justification to drop the whole matter.

The customer service people get back to me and are empathetic to my situation and promise to get me some help…as they tell me “No”.

The next day, I’m told again to submit a false document. “Hell, no” is still my answer, but they force my worked hours through the system without client approval so I can get those hours paid before the weekend. Over the next couple of days, I get three more responses from the same customer service mailbox, all from different people. The first is a solid, although phoned in affirmation of the “No” I’d received earlier and the other two are “Super-duper sorry for the delayed response, but it looks like someone else helped you!”

Did they? I seem to have missed the part where someone did something helpful.

I tell the original Urgent Reminder lady that if my Sick Pay isn’t paid or set to be paid on Monday, which would be two weeks late, I’m filing a Wage Claim with the Bureau of Labor and Industry.

Of course, it isn’t resolved and of course Monday also has different plans for me, again. But on Tuesday I am still on radio silence, so I fill out a Wage Claim on the BOLI website and submit screen shots of the different Sick Pay balances and the email thread asking about my work location.

I also forward the BOLI claim confirmation email to the Urgent Reminder lady, the Industrious Half-Asser that changed my work location without telling me and the customer service mailbox.

Feeling petty, I start off with “As promised” and then take the opportunity to remind them of the germane factors in their fuck up. Then I close with something like…well, I’ll throw in a screen shot because I won’t do it justice from memory. Hold please.

I particularly enjoyed the “maybe this will help you find your wallet” part. Like I’m a cartoon mafioso holding someone up by their ankles and shaking change out of their pockets.

Three days pass, nothing. I briefly debated following up with a message pointing out that not even apologizing for the position their internal dumb-fuckery put me in and continuing to carefully avoid admitting any wrong doing whatsoever demonstrates what low-caliber individuals these people are. Successfully, I resist. I know I’d also end up putting something in there about how misguided it is to choose loyalty to an organization that openly demonstrates how little loyalty it had to the mules whose efforts fill its corporate coffers.

Idiots. Remember, American culture is self-service gaslighting…the hell with right or wrong, what can one get away with?

Friday is the day I get a call featured in the picture above. She’s using her “Look how friendly and helpful I’m being!” voice, which I repeatedly remind her I’m not buying.

She promises me that she can get me paid.

…if I will only go in and edit my Sick Pay out of my timesheet.

I flat out ask her why everyone has such a hard-on about my timesheet. Her response is a series of unimpressive sputters and assurances I cannot take to the bank. But if I’ll just do it, she can get a deposit for my Sick Pay set up by the end of the day. She even promises to put it in an email for my records.

I acquiesce, telling her I’ll take her email but I’m also taking screenshots of the before and after on each of the days on my timesheet I’m being made to edit before they will pay me. That oughta partner up nicely with my and her phone logs to give me the comfort to edit the timesheet I’m not ever submitting. The worked hours have already been paid without me submitting the damn thing, but Robert Half-Ass simply cannot pay the Sick Pay unless it’s not recorded on my timesheet.

Fine. Gotta love that logic.

It’s done and our call ends after I implore her to dig deeper into who else this has happened to, because there’s no way I’m the only temp assigned across state lines in a border city like Portland. If it hasn’t happened to someone else yet, it’s just that…it hasn’t happened yet. By the time it comes up, perhaps the employee will have accrued enough time in their new policy to cover a sick day – I’d nearly gotten there, only two weeks away since in either state we accrue 1 hour of Sick Pay for every 30 hours worked.

She told me that was above her pay grade but she’d send it up the ladder. Oh, that inspired confidence. So I reminded her that they weren’t paying me my earned time off without BOLI holding a figurative gun to their head, so I had zero doubts she’d pass anything on to anyone without a figurative gun to her head nor would they do anything about it unless they were forced to.

Sure enough, a few hours later, she sent me that email. You know what she started it with?

“As promised”. The very words I started my email to them with when I confirmed my Wage Claim submission with them. Isn’t that pettiness cute? She quoted me back to me.

In a show of appreciation of that shitty attitude, I’m leaving my Wage Claim open and pursuing penalty pay – which is capped at a cool 100% of the unpaid wages. It won’t hurt them, but it’s the principle.

Someone really should have showed a little professional mortification over this whole shitshow.

Victory Is Mine!

The “Literal” Treatment

BMW has entered the chat.

A chat I don’t want to be involved in, anyway.

Certainly a chat I don’t want brands I value to seek to be involved in, either.

But this is America. We ruin everything.

And as hard as we fight to not be inclusive, except when it comes to money, there are exceptions. Companies in America gotta get everyone’s money – so they’re gonna at least act inclusive.

One of my favorite examples of this is corporate rainbow-washing every June for Pride month. And then the month ends…

It amuses me – this observation, but it doesn’t bother me. Not because I think The Gays, collectively, have become unworthy of anyone’s support or pride (which is true) but because it’s also such an stupid American cultural reality. It’s the End of Christmas Morning Phenomenon: “Is this all I got?”

So, yeah. Complain, please…that you got a spotlight for a full month, you ninnies.

Anyway, then there’s BMW entering into a courtship with what is arguably America’s largest and most diverse subculture. Actually, it might be the unacknowledged dominant culture.

Idiots.

The “sub”culture, not BMW. They might be geniuses.

What are they doing?

Pandering to the group of Americans who ignore the squiggly red line under words they type…because spell-check is wrong, not them.

Those idiots.

How? Just how does a multinational – global, even – manufacturing company target an audience like this?

Believe it or not, it likely didn’t involve anything as spectacular as running head-first at full speed into a wall or ripping whip-its before sitting down to develop content. Very likely, I’d imagine it was rather organic.

Picture it. The setting: HR. Aaand…scene!

That’s it. Can you picture HR without the mental image of the employee it conjures being a ubiquitous Karen?

That’s all it takes. Someone who embraced the rampant misuse of the word “literally” so long that a dictionary gave the fuck up and rewrote its definition to align with the misuse.

You think they’re gonna hire people who would demand a high level of detail from themselves in their work? I’m talking in any department, too, not just in advertising.

I just don’t want you walking away from this post laughing at stupid creatives in stupid corporate America. I want you horrified, chagrined and slightly frightened of how pervasive the problem is.

Oh, you want to actually know what got me going on this? Not that the pic at the top of the post didn’t bury the lede, but…check it:

The caption says “Your BMW Has Our Undivided Attention” – italics are my addition, for emphasis…in case you’re one of them and don’t know it.

Call me crazy, but to me, undivided implies focus. Presumably, that guy is wrist deep in my BMW.

His hands are inside my car.

Where are his eyes?

Where?!? What are his eyes focused on?!?

Not watching what the fuck his hands are doing, that’s where.

So the collateral that BMW sends me to earn my business by demonstrating their attention to the service they provide is a picture of them not providing a commensurate level of attention to the service they provide.

Got it. Yeah.

Don’t mind me. I’m just over here observing shit.

What really bugs me is that I got this in the mail on a Saturday. My day off. Well, the one that overlaps with USPS service.

My day off from running payroll for a laser manufacturing outfit.

That’s five days of me seeing people that manufacture lasers but can’t manage to remember to punch back in from lunch. So I spend a good deal of time each week being surprised lasers work as intended, given the poor performance our employees have at such an entry level job expectation: making sure they get paid accurately for their time by punching a damn time card.

But, hey…if our lasers work on potentially nothing more than dumb luck, maybe that BMW tech will manage to not fuck up my car while giving it what passes for undivided attention while working on it?

Or I’ll pop the hood on Angela one day and find a windshield wiper where there should be a dipstick. Which scenario seems more likely?

Figuratively more likely, by the way. I know a windshield wiper would never literally fit where a dipstick belongs.

The “Literal” Treatment

Portland Tones It Down

I’m one of Portland’s biggest <ahem> fans. Whether it’s straight up civic pride or city v city smack talk, I got Portland’s back.

Because despite its lumps, and the wrong Vancouver adjacency, I think it’s still the best big town you can live in.

Unless you’re a bigot or member of a certain book club where no one’s managed to either read the book or grasp its core concept…you’re probably gonna love Portland.

And I’ve lived in a lot of cities in a lot of different states in my life. Just to establish credibility. It’s not like I’m one of those people that have never left the country that insist America is the best country in the world.

My big town is a city that is ever-evolving – and usually in positive ways. That’s not to say we don’t struggle. Every 15 years or so, we need a correction period to kind of reflect on what we’ve gained versus what we’ve lost and what needs to move forward or be resurrected. Find what works and polish it and identify what doesn’t and tone it down or get rid of it altogether.

Sadly, that’s kind of where we are now, what with those lumps I mentioned earlier and all getting a lot too real and too much national attention and…too little effective local attention.

In situations like that, I find it advantageous to find small things to be proud of or grateful for.

For which to be grateful? Yeah, that would’ve been better English. But gimme a break, English is my first language and I’m just an American…

Anyway, one of those little things for which I am grateful – nailed it! – is our weather.

Always. Rain or shine. June-uary be damned. Having all four seasons in one day keeps me on my toes!

But todays weather?

It’s our first heatwave of 2022, this weekend. This week we had our first 80-degree plus days of the year. See above: June-uary.

But where we can be counted on for our covert beautiful summers most years, last year’s summer kind of ran amok. You might remember us having the hottest temperatures on the planet last June?

119 degrees?

Anyone?

Well, it’s true if you knew it or not – and no Portlander was happy about it for any one of a very narrow set of options.

That was a year ago this very weekend, so having a high of 99 degrees over the course of the heatwave is toning things in the right direction. We should still be able to count the days we reach 90 in a year on one hand – and those should be a stretch to 90, not meteorologists apologizing that we might break 100 degrees.

Twenty degrees cooler year-over-year? Heatwave-over-heatwave? Yes, please.

And to have a city that learns from its past mistakes – not always, but always eventually – and changes things that don’t work so life is a little better the next time?

Grateful, I am.

In spite of last year’s cooling shelters, we learned from 59 fatalities during the heat dome last year – where only two of the deaths were unhoused people – that we need to not assume that someone inside is safe inside.

To that end, this year I was surprised to get a text during the heat wave warning me about the dangers and directing me to resources.

I was pretty ok with this, particularly with the effectiveness we seem to have gotten Obama Phones into the hands of our unhoused populace so that they have access to information. Imagine my surprise to get a follow-up voicemail less than ten minutes after.

We may not do everything right, but we aren’t likely to default to a “But that’s the way we’ve always done it” type of acceptance of things that break or just don’t work anymore. Nor are we likely to tolerate leaders who disappoint us. We vote. We will vote you out of office. Don’t forget, since we’re passive-aggressive, that’s really gonna sting…we will likely accidentally on purpose vote in someone who’s embarrassingly less qualified than the incumbent they replace and then let them do an awesome job.

Hey, I never promised that we tone everything down!

Portland Tones It Down

Management Tools

Sometimes I have to distract myself from the anger and frustration of things I cannot by focusing on something else. Looking at you, SCOTUS.

That’s not fair, this week’s decisions prove that it’s a disservice to the words “supreme” and “justice” to consider those recently appointed to the high court as anything other than Extreme Court Injustices.

I should distract myself from their work by focusing on the irony that two-thirds of the court now represent the views and interests of one-third of the country.

But instead, I distract myself with lesser frustrations and injustices. Yeah, I focus on things that make me angry and frustrated that I can at least do something about when the things I cannot do all that much about get me down.

For instance…have you ever heard of Hint water?

It’s like La Croix, if you opened it and left it out overnight. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy both. It’s just Hint has – in my opinion – jumped the ethical shark.

If you look closely at the pic, you can see it’s an Amazon ad for a 12-pack for $20.99 – for water.

That’s $1.75 a bottle. You can still pretty much buy a 12-pack of La Croix for the price of two bottles of Hint.

I was first introduced to Hint when I was working at the airport. PDX is an amazing airport, for sure. One of the amazing things they do is make their businesses within stick to street pricing – so unlike LAX, you won’t find a $16 bottle of kombucha at PDX. They further require their business partners to be minority owned/operated or have a minority business partner. But that’s not the point. The point is that they make their business partners provide annual pricing audits to prove they are within 20% of street pricing.

The business I was with used the infamous Peterson’s convenience stores as one of their comparable stores.

So, yeah…my employer at the airport used a business that is notoriously 30-40% overpriced to prove they were “within” 20% of street pricing. If you’re on the wrong side of the street, though, that math won’t hold up.

But this is where I first tried Hint, which I think we sold for around $2-3/bottle.

Mind you, we bought it for a buck a bottle from our wholesaler. None of this bothered me since my rent at the airport was a percent of sales. Gross sales. And rent was 18% of sales, which was also…gross.

Sidebar: if you’re ever curious about how PDX can afford to consistently be the best airport in America or spend a cool billion on a remodel, now you know. They get 18 cents on every dollar spent there. Port of Portland ain’t messing around.

Anyway, well after I left there, I saw an ad on social media for Hint water. Three cases for a buck a bottle. They promoted it as 30% off, which I thought was a weird spin for a manufacturer.

But they’d jumped on the direct to consumer (DTC) bandwagon and this was their hook.

I bought some. But when I went to reorder, the best deal I could get was 20% off for a certain number of cases. Less than that, if only save 15%. So I stopped buying it.

And they’re still promoting it the same way, basically. Here’s a recent email promotion from them:

Get this, now three cases are $55.99! On sale! So only $1.55/bottle instead of $1.83/bottle.

But here’s why all this bothers me – I used to buy it from my purveyor for about a buck a bottle. That means they already had their markup on that price after buying direct from Hint. I’m guessing Hint sold to wholesalers for around $.75-.80/bottle, but that’s just a guess.

I don’t need this information. It’s just evidence of the stern fucking you get on a daily basis for the privilege of waking up in America.

Spitballing for inflation, a 400% markup to sell direct to consumers seems high. Especially when you think that the 30% off promo I took advantage of at a buck a bottle meant they normally charged $1.30/bottle at that time. Now their regular price is $1.83/bottle. Assuming for the sake of making a generous argument that all expenses raised by that same margin, they’re still making $.50/bottle more selling to consumers directly than they made selling to wholesalers.

Why is that fair?!?

Shouldn’t the reward of running a manufacturing venture and selling to the public as well be…more customers?!? Why do they need to be able to have street pricing be their guide in that arrangement. Seems like the only people that benefits is them. Their wholesalers lose potential business because of it, so they’re losing out. Customers pay the same price either way, so it’s a net zero situation at best for them.

But there’s Hint, pockets so full, they can’t sit down. That makes me mad. Pick a business model and run it.

But unlike the SCOTUS rulings, where all I can do is vote every chance I get which is every other year at best, I can do something about this. I can vote against their business practices with my dollars every day.

That’s a win for this grumpy old man. And for La Croix, apparently.

Management Tools

Crappy Pride, Y’all!

I could probably just end this post at the title without leaving any mystery as to how I feel about how little my subculture deserves a fucking parade. Far be it from me to be succinct, though. But I also don’t want to bore you with my feelings about standing outside at a parade some stupid American would happily make a massacre of with a bunch of people who pretend both that I’m visible and that they’re decent people for one day a year.

Also, far be it from me to show restraint, so let the fact that I’ve been kicking this post idea around for about a month be known. Give that a damn parade. Rest assured, that’s not proChristination, either. I have literally been trying to decide whether posting a Pride month entry needed to happen. It didn’t last year, thank you for noticing.

Plus, being the volunteer voice of treason for my subculture has gotten me nothing but disavowed by said subculture. Not that I was expecting anything other than a culture I could feel pride in from those jokers. Me and my unreasonable expectations.

But that’s all I have to say about that. I’m Gay Kulture’s voice of treason, not their Don damn Quixote.

So I’ll just leave you with a little story. The Silver Fox has already kind of heard this – and I hate to bore my number one reader – although he may have unremembered it, as he likes to say.

Someone recently asked me if I had big plans for Pride month. Not sure how deep they imagined my pockets or clear my calendar might be when they asked, but it sounded like in their imagination, I’d be off traipsing around the globe, careening from circuit party to circuit party in some sort of cum-drunk stupor all month.

Ok, that grossed me out. Me.

Happy to burst their bubble – but with the style and panache a straight ally expects of their GBF – I set her, um…straight.

Here’s what I said, basically. She was rightfully near death when I finished.

“I dunno. I’ve been thinking about getting a haircut.”

I could see her translating my sentence from straight to gay and imagining me with rainbow colors died into my ‘do.

She needs a lot of setting straight. Straight setting? I don’t know what the proper Queen’s English would deem proper English syntax there…

“But then, I dunno. I’m kind of invested in the length at this point.”

“It’s never been this long before, has it?”

“Nah. Could’ve never pulled it off when I was working professionally. But that’s not the point.”

I see her confusion and debate dragging her along a little longer or moving in for the big finish. Knowing how tragically short American attention spans are these days – especially when the topic is not themselves – I decide not to risk losing my momentum to the “Squirrel! Phenomenon”.

“Yeah, at this point the rejection I get from trying to date The Gays just isn’t as fulfilling as it used to be.”

She’s starting to slow down during our walk, like a 70s-era robot being defeated by an illogic loop.

“So I’m thinking maybe – I dunno – maybe I’ll just grow it out to Locks of Love length and then try to donate it, because I’m sure they’d look at it and tell me in no uncertain terms that cancer patients would rather be bald than sport this stringy nest I call a mane. That seems like a man imminently satisfying level of rejection.”

Dead. She died right there on the sidewalk, dutifully swearing to me that my admittedly neglected hair was gorgeous. These are the types of transparent lies people who love me trot out…and that’s why I love them. That and their last gasp is apparently supposed to be an ego-boost to their favorite (only) homo.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go check the weather app to make sure it’s still gonna pour rain on Sunday’s parade. I will culturally fucking appropriate a dance if I have to…

Crappy Pride, Y’all!

Well, Now I Feel…

Something.

Bad?

Nostalgic?

Accomplished?

Formerly accomplished?

Probably that last one. So…thanks, Facebook Memories.

Three years?!? How has it been that friggin’ long already…since I’ve had a date?

Kidding. Trying/not trying.

But I guess it’s just one more reminder that it’s been a long pandemic. If we factor those two years out, then it’s only been one year!

Don’t get me wrong, I tried to make hay out of the forced free time we all gained with the 2020 lockdowns. In April, I started NaNoWriMo – despite having two WIPs from prior NaNos still waiting for completion, then didn’t finish. Again.

I think I got derailed after a Twitter battle with a local stripper, who I’m sure knew nothing of my existence until I dared to correct him on his feed. Then I was all he could focus on, earning me featured status in his social media stories where he called me old and ugly. Not to mention a failed writer.

The young people are so woke – which seems to manifest with being disagreeable and combative. That’s regardless of the validity of their initial point. What moxy.

Sure, I’d only finished three books at that point, clearly, that’s failure in the eyes of a stripper who leaves the stage in a thong.

I actually finished all tasks associated with my job title, son. I have to imagine that a stripper’s job isn’t complete until they are clothes free. But what do I know? When I was a young man, tracing on one’s flesh was viewed differently than it is today – and I appreciate the evolution of sex work from villainized and humiliating to artistic expression and empowering.

This kid was – pardon the entendres – a dick.

Ultimately, that all stopped when he blocked me – the penultimate admission that he was wrong. The ultimate expression being actually saying it. But this is hardly the United States of Accountability, let alone Admittingyouwerewrong.

Anyway, as this was going on, I flirted with the idea of going to one of his shows and tipping him one of my books – yeah, I’ve got a few copies laying around. My overt grumpapotamus self imagined reading wasn’t high on his hobby list, see also: how he got to his current level of misery in his life.

Judgy.

The women strippers I meet driving with Lyft are all – every damned last one of them – such interesting people. Very engaging. Great stories. The male strippers I meet are all cunts. And not in that cool English slang type of way. At best, they look at me, and treat me like, I’m an ATM. Not that I go to strip clubs often…none of them have palatable beers.

I also considered going and tipping him $.02, since me giving him my figurative two cents was what set him off in the first place. Ultimately, I decided my absence was the best action for me.

Still determined to make some productive hay out of the lockdown, I pivoted to another project I’d been kicking around. When I finished my third book, it came in at a whopping 530-ish pages. I hardly consider myself a gay George R. R. Martin, so I sought out opinions from a few beta readers. They all told me it was fine.

But that length made printing costs pretty high and I think the lowest price I could charge was $19…and that was with me making less than a buck a copy. I knew there was a logical plot break that I could use as a kind of cliffhanger if I chose to split this into two books, I just hadn’t.

But with one half finished draft from April’s NaNo making me feel guilty, I decided this was the perfect time to tackle that split.

Obviously.

And I did it!

Well, “did it” so long as completing the split and edit of the first half. I knew I needed to flesh out the second half to beef it up a bit. It had originally suffered under the pressure of me knowing the page count was running high for one book. This was my chance to flesh it out.

But my first goal was to get the newly shortened second installation in my No One Of Consequence series back up online. Then I hit a formatting snag. Just a teensy one, but it proved to be overwhelming to my lockdown self and I never went back to finish it. I couldn’t imagine jumping to the third installment to get that story wrapped up, it just seemed wrong.

Four frustrating months go by. I spent a lot of that time considering the optics of dying during a pandemic with unfinished works. I thought it looked pretty good. Other artists somehow pull it off.

Margaret Mitchell.

Elvis.

No, wait…Hemingway! That’s a better comparison. I’m a drinker, not a druggie. And we’ve established the fact that 500+ page books are not my style, so…yeah. Hemingway.

That was probably my biggest self-soothe of the pandemic.

It carried me through the next three months. Right up to the next NaNoWriMo event, the big one in November. Now I can finish!

Or…start another work.

The following April?

Ok, this was pure motivation. And adrenalin.

I had just gotten my Peloton and was jazzed to pick up the autobiographical trilogy I’d fancied when I wrote Dating Into Oblivion. When I wrote that, I was nearing the end of a year long blogging theme that had resulted from a friendly intervention at my 50th birthday party.

Rude.

As a result of the collective will of my well-intentioned friends, I leaned into a blog theme I had just finished that I hashtagged fitfy. It was a play on fifty, an age I had been determined to reach with some progress toward accepting my aging self with a healthier attitude toward diet and exercise.

I’d been having trouble forgiving myself for not being able to eat and exercise like an idiot twenty-something. Naturally, my 51st birthday had involved me tapping a keg of my favorite beer at my then-favorite bar.

Anyway, knowing I had that “fitness in my fifties” notion in the back of my head, I decided to tackle dating in my fifties. It gave me something to do, at any rate. I figured the trilogy could round out with working in my fifties. It was a notion I rather fancied.

The problem was, there wasn’t much I could actually do since I’d just gotten my bike. I considered harvesting stories from my year of fitfy blog posts, as I had when I put together Dating Into Oblivion. But I considered that would have been only a portion of the project. I needed new content to complete the story.

Another partial credit NaNo for old Xtopher. PaCreNaNo? Kind of sounds like a pancreatic medical crisis.

Maybe that stripper was right.

Shudder.

Possibly, but improbable. Maybe what I needed was the motivation of writing something people might be attracted to en masse. My current accomplishments and WIP library all featured what I call gay shit – and I hate to break it to you, but The Gays aren’t known collectively as big readers.

It’s the pandemic – everybody else was pivoting, why not me? That sounds like a riff of a Cranberries album.

I picked a theme close to every Portland NIMBY’s heart: the homeless. Came up with a mystery plot. I even created a nom de plume based off of my parents middle initials and old world naming paradigms – JT Robertson.

Finally…in November of 2021, I completed a NaNoWriMo! Have I published? No. I’m mentally kicking it around, polishing it up. Completely retooling the voice. Flipping the plot 180 degrees.

Y’know…the basic writer’s nightmare.

April’s NaNo is weeks away.

Weeks.

I’m determined to finish something from my WIP list before adding anything else to it. I figure at this point, if my goal is to have a WIP library consisting of a prime number of works – it isn’t but I need to set boundaries of some kind – then I either need to finish one or add four!

I think seven is enough of a library. Let’s see if this Facebook Memories shaming is enough of a motivator to get NOOC2 published and back online. Lord knows that providing airplane reading material for a friend’s trip to Africa last month wasn’t it, so fingers crossed.

Sure enough, I woke up this morning, uncovered my laptop…and started organizing my tax receipts. Then I got this text

RUDE!!

So I wrote this, instead. I refuse to be so known by my best friend.

To answer my original question: seen. I feel seen.

Well, Now I Feel…

Near Misses

One of my favorite George Carlin bits, that there’s no such thing as a near miss. You either miss something or you don’t. I believe his position was that a near miss was technically still a hit.

Makes sense to me. Literally.

Ever more precious to me is that his audience was made up of the same group he was lambasting with the observation: Americans.

Stupid, stupid Americans.

And we loved it. Iself, included.

Well, one of my weekly tasks at the new gig is covering the payroll portion of the company’s weekly onboarding. Guess who follows me and sometimes comes in early? Safety. So each week I’m reminded of how many times near misses came up throughout the day when I went through the onboarding process – which was an odd experience, since I was contracted through my temp agency.

My inner dialogue was working overtime that day correcting them every time one of the presenters reminded the participants to report unsafe conditions, even near misses.

I mean, at least say it ironically.

I watched the other captives participants for any recognition of the devil may care attitude that was being programmed into them – “My safety doesn’t matter, I only have to report injuries”. But there was none.

I guess when paired with the word “American”, stupid takes on some of the same qualities as “fuck”…it can mean a variety of different things, contextually.

I’m one of the self-aware stupid Americans. It’s misery. I envy the Americans who are too stupid to understand how stupid they are.

For what it’s worth, my favorite mental near miss scenario of the day was the bride whose groom was late, but eventually made it to the church. Better luck next time, near miss sis.

Near Misses

4

There’s a first time for everything, they say.

Sidebar: there will be no sidebar tangent on the whole “they” phenomenon of deferring judgment of our own to that faceless, possibly all-knowing cabal known only as they. But you just know I’m dubious of their wisdom. Especially if they simply turn out to be nothing more than garbage-variety stupid Americans. <gasp>

There does, though, seem to be a first time for everything.

Just about two weeks ago now, I got my first non-5-star ride rating from a passenger.

4.

I was amazed at how much this affected me. I mean…

Out of about 7300 rides at that time, one measly 4-star rating. I couldn’t tell if it was the loss of my 5-star streak after almost two and a half years (August 2019-December 2021) or the overwhelming randomness of its presence against over 7000 other ratings.

I mean, I know not everyone bothers to rate me after a ride. In those instances, my rating defaults to a 5-star automatically.

Maybe it was that she chose to click a box to support her rating.

Unsafe Driving.

Yeah….that was probably it.

I’m not meant to know who these ratings or comments come from. But this was a particularly gnarly week. It was the holiday week. And it snowed.

Of course, that created some shitty driving conditions. Particularly since the snow followed a day of rain where about 2” fell before sundown and carried on into the night. Snow was really only falling in the higher elevations…y’know, like 500 feet.

That’s high elevation for Portland!

But on Highway 26, coming into town, that created a real shit show driving situation.

That highway is a steep grade down hill into town – heck, out of town for that matter…I’d hydroplaned going uphill on this freeway on my way to the pickup. That takes some doing.

I digress. Water was running across the lanes and down hill, then running even deeper with traffic where tires had grooved each lane. It was like a liquid tic-tac-toe board.

Since we were still at about 400 ft above sea level and a good 150 ft above the valley floor, there was snow coming down with the rain. But not just any snow. It was big, wet flakes. Like Mother Nature’s minions had confused Portland’s weather with their children’s home room winter decor.

Seriously, these snowflakes looked like they were cut out of construction paper by second graders, they were so huge. When they hit the windshield, they made an audible thwack.

It was no Snow Falling On Cedar moment,

Highway 26 is also windy – in both senses of the word, but in this case you just need to know it was twisty and turny. Did I mention we were heading downhill?

Even going only 40 mph, I hydroplaned. Twice.

And this is the weather this suburbanite chose to go into town in.

Lucky me, I got to drive her.

And then she said my driving was unsafe.

Girl, your judgment is unsafe!

Best part? She tipped me!

That’s what really made her stand out. I knew it was a white knuckle ride. Mainly because I’m referring to my own knuckles! But I remembered seeing the tip and thinking that was really generous of her, given the hairy road and weather conditions.

Then she fucked me in the comments.

It wasn’t that big a tip.

Anyway, the app itself does a fairly good job of building in an occasional rogering for us drivers, too. In this case, it’s that we don’t see individual ride ratings, we get a weekly recap about nine days later. That means that I’ve given between 50-100 rides between the time someone rates their ride and I see the recap.

But! There’s an appeal process.

All I have to do is scroll through my history to the ride in question, mind you, this is all we see in our ride history

No addresses, rider names, rating…just the date, time and earnings. So, sure…let me scroll back through the rides for that day – I give 20-40 on Fridays and Saturdays – and take my best guess and then tap “I Was Rated Unfairly”. I can narrow it down by filtering out the riders that didn’t tip, but I’m usually getting tips from 40-60% of my riders, so of the 15 rides I gave that night during that nightlife ride window, I’m still gonna have to take my best guess out of about nine possible rides.

Nine days later.

On the plus side, the app does default to a 5-star rating if the passenger does nothing. And it’s not like I’m really suffering…

I mean, roughly 20-25% of my passengers enjoy the ride with me enough to bother to tap a button telling Lyft I’m friendly or go above and beyond during their ride. Hell, 1445 riders tapped a button saying I’m a good driver.

So, why let one rider out of 7300+ get under my skin?

I dunno. Maybe they are right. Maybe with me, it’s always gotta be something.

But, honestly? I think it’s C-PTSD. My therapist talked a little about this with me during my too-brief mental health tune up this past summer when Black Sheep Bro came prodigally back.

I can’t let go of something that’s wrong. Not easily, anyhow. It’s why I left my last professional job, and why I left my part time gig with Amazon. Not to mention one of my temp jobs – credit to me, though, I finished the assignment but passed on the request to extend when the owner asked for me to stay longer.

All of those situations had me in places where I was witnessing bad behaviors from leadership. I had to go. That’s my trigger, bad behaviors. Specifically, people getting away with them. Especially if that creates a double-standard.

This? This was just one passenger prioritizing Saturday night fun (or whatever night it was) over personal safety and then making it my problem/fault she felt unsafe. And tipping me to cushion the blow.

Or at least that’s how my mind spins the blanks that it fills in. Blanks that are created by the absence of immediate feedback.

Whaddyagunnado, though, right?!?

Normal People: Fuggeddabowdit!

Me: …

I tried to shake it off. Carry on like normal. Move on.

How that manifested in the doldrums between Christmas and New Years, though – when ride demand is down because people are holed up with family, not to mention the exacerbation Omicron added to the mix – was me trying to soldier on but failing to be busy enough to distract myself from the trigger.

I went out Monday to do some afternoon/rush hour rides. Because New Years weekend was so slow – seriously, NYE was a Friday and it’s typically my biggest night of the year…I did half the business I do on a regular Friday night! – so I quit “early”. After the ball drop, before last call. So, I had three make up rides to pick up in order to true up my Lifetime Rides number.

What? I like it to end in a 5 or 0. That’s not weird. It’s tidy. I’m fastidious!

Sheesh.

I was in my third make-up-rides ride, trying to decide how awful long another five rides would take – those three put me at the two hour mark, usually I do 3-4 rides in one hour – when one of my drinking buddies texted me. I saw the preview drop down from the top of my phone, “Tanner Creek at 530?”

Fuck, yeah! That was a much more therapeutic better use of my time!

The next day, I got my 4-star ride. I didn’t drive again until Friday. Outside of my vacation in October, I hadn’t taken three days off in a row since…I don’t even know when! In non-challenge weeks (where I drive about 25-30 hours), I’ll take three days off, sometimes even four. Just not together.

I didn’t get out of bed until after noon each day, including Friday. That was the week of bad Bruce Willis flicks where I stayed up until daybreak at least twice. I over ate, over drank, smoked too much weed and didn’t exercise at all.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give that week a…4.

But I came out the other side of it, so there’s that. Note to self: I gotta stop letting things get corkscrewed up into my psyche.

4

Must Distract TV?

I freely admit that my TV watchlist is certainly no “Must See” NBC Thursday Night Lineup, but a good many of the programs that streamers have put in front of me lately are barely presenting as fodder to keep me…let’s call it sedated.

While, not great shows for a variety of reasons, they are at least doing a fair job of keeping me disengaged from the surreality of the world around me. I can’t say that’s their explicit intent, but that assumption just seems slightly more generous than declaring them simply bad shows.

A sampling:

Leverage: Redemption

Maybe my memory of the original run of this show being “good” is clouded by the reality that it was shot in Portland. Maybe I’m just old and forgot that I didn’t like it originally, but tolerated it – see also: my first point.

Woo-boy, though. Lemme tell ya, the reboot sucks. Hard. Unless the point of the reboot is to showcase these actors’ skill in reading a line, then this is just painful to watch. And back to that whole “bad memory” possibility? I seem to remember thinking Noah Wylie could act at one point.

Just goes to show that acting is not like riding a bicycle…

Elite

Soapy and schmaltzy, this show is pure, dubbed brain candy. With a healthy side of nudity – which if I didn’t know these actors playing high school students were in their mid/late 20s, would make me feel weird. And since – as I pointed out to the Silver Fox – the nudity has a hearty, if not almost exclusive boy-butt-focus, that weirdness could be assuaged by handing me a priest’s collar, I’m willing to absolve myself.

And, boy…there sure are a lot of murders at this high school.

Grace & Frankie

I know…calling a show with such overt gay themes makes me a traitor to my own community. Again.

Me, the Voice of Treason.

But, again…it’s older actors demonstrating they can read a line off a cue card. Some of the writing is funny. Some of the scenarios are kooky fun. But it’s a little late in the game to reinvent the whole Lucy/Ethel trope which this show leans so heavily upon.

At this point, I just think it’s just Netflix pandering to older audiences to keep them engaged with Netflix as a viewing platform. If that’s the case, at least they are doing so with story lines designed-ish to appeal to younger, woke audiences: like the late in life gay story arc. In that regard, if they succeed with drawing Boomer and Greatest gen viewers, they are also engaging them with potentially mind expanding content.

There is a certain value to that.

The Snarky Car Insurance Commercial:

This was a surprise to me. But it’s a tip of the hat to the ridiculous horror movie writing paradigm.

Two couples run out of a corn field. One guy suggests they hide in the cellar, his girlfriend counters with the attic. A crying girl suggests they just hop in the already-running car, while her boyfriend popularly points out they could just hide out behind the wall of also-running chainsaws.

A masked man with dubious intent slowly shakes his head.

The voiceover states “When you’re in a horror movie, you make questionable decisions…”.

And when Americans are in lockdown, apparently, we do as well…medicating with stupid soapy TV (and plenty of booze, I’m sure) to make our way through.

As far as this commercial goes, though…can we just disable celebrating stupid? It’s like we learned nothing from 20+ seasons of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Stupid people are not entertainment. If we can’t use the word retarded to describe stupid people, let’s stop airing what equates to mutually-exploitative content featuring people with intelligence that…has not progressed in pace with the majority of people of similar age. TV like this, celebrating vacuous nitwits has just seemed to drag its audience of already stupid Americans down to their level.

It’s weird, I started this post as a draft in October! Then, in typical creative old Xtopher fashion, abandoned it. But this week I realized that my TV viewing hasn’t necessarily improved over the past quarter.

Sure, there were some standout binges with – and thanks to for making the content decisions – the Silver Fox on several of his trips up from his self-imposed exile in the hinterlands of Oregon. Shows that were new seasons of proven winners like Hanna and Lost In Space. Or the coming tomorrow new season of Euphoria.

Then again, I only got sucked into Elite as a result of his content suggestions, so…<shrug emoji>

On the other hand, though, lay my own questionable decisions. Decisions that are either better or worse since they are movies versus entire seasons of TV shows, so at best I’ve only lost a couple hours.

Right?

Nah.

Because it started with an innocent viewing of Divergent after a late dinner earlier this week. But then I proceeded to immediately watch the next two movies in the trilogy, resulting in a 6 AM bedtime. That’s right, I pulled an all-nighter for a Young Adult movie series.

Blame it on the imminently watchable but better on low volume Theo James.

The worst part? I couldn’t immediately fall asleep because I couldn’t figure out if I disliked Shailene Woodley more than Jennifer Lawrence from the Hunger Games movies. I fell asleep at least knowing that I like Hunger Games more than these movies…

As a palate cleanser, I decided to watch 12 Monkeys after reading an article about Bruce Willis’ “19 Best Movies”. Plus, I missed my annual Christmastime viewing of Die Hard (#2 on the list, BTW). I remember thinking, “Well, he’s made way more than 19…” and then got distracted by not being able to find 12 Monkeys for free on any of my streaming apps. Having just spent ~$15 getting burned by renting the Divergent movies, I decided it was best to try to scratch my Bruce Willis itch with a free movie. On the plus side, it was less than 90 minutes long, so I’d be on with my day in no time!

Nothing. No satisfaction whatsoever. A Bruce Willis Itch FAIL. And, that was 90 minutes of my time I wasn’t getting back. Lesson learned: when Willis isn’t the top billed actor in an action movie, that’s a red flag. So the next day, on to another.

I began to wonder if this guy ever actually made good movies. When you read in the trivia section of IMDb that Willis shot all of his scenes in one day…maybe don’t let your curiosity get the better of you.

It’s like I didn’t believe myself when I said “If Willis isn’t the top billed actor in an action movie, that’s a red flag”. Maybe this just proves that old actors reading lines isn’t limited to just TV series.

Or maybe it proves that I didn’t want to watch 12 Monkeys so much as I wanted a shot at seeing Brad Pitt drop trou. Hard to say. I did finally manage to scratch my Bruce Willis cinematic itch by watching Looper. Now, that was a hidden gem. Or one everyone else knew about, but I missed. And with Joseph Gordon Levitt as a co-star, I got a collateral Hollywood Heartthrob fix to satisfy the Brad Pitt’s naked butt quotient.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read a book.

Must Distract TV?

I Think Seal Was Wrong

You know I love a good song tie-in, even if it’s just a mis-heard lyric. But in the case of this post’s title, I’m riffing on Seal’s biggest hit: Crazy.

In it, he suggests that we’re never gonna survive unless we get a little bit crazy.

Smash cut to my morning – yes, I was up before noon – of news and email reading.

I came across this ad in one of my business newsletters. Now, not to suggest that anxiety is crazy, per se, just don’t get me started on the casual armchair self-diagnostics that I am often confronted by.

Yes, I ask. Also, I know that last paragraph ended with poor grammar. Anyway, I’m kinda over people minimizing legitimate affliction just to overdramatize their own petty struggles. So I demand – figuratively – a doctor’s note.

I don’t know why I don’t have more friends…

Anyway, what’s really crazy here is that this ad suggested that there are 284 million Americans suffering from an actual anxiety disorder. OUT OF 335 MILLION TOTAL AMERICANS!!!

Can we agree to ballpark that stat at an 80%? My blog, my rules, so I say we agree…plus, it’s not like I’m blithely self-diagnosing with a potentially serious mental health condition. I’m just doing some liberal rounding.

So what this ad is suggesting is that 4 out of 5 Americans is suffering from anxiety.

<looks around at America>

Yeah, sorry Seal…I don’t think getting a little bit crazy is helping us even thrive, let alone increasing our rate of actual survival. If anything, the type of crazy running around our country is decreasing our survival rate.

For instance, our COVID death toll as a nation stands somewhere between the populations of North and South Dakota. Think on that for a second, we’ve lost an entire state’s population to COVID in just under two years.

On the plus side – for Seal, at least – it’s not like our least populous states have any huge concert venues…

I Think Seal Was Wrong