This Ain’t No Strawberry Hill!

More like Strawberry Juliet Balcony.

Yeah, I doubt that anyone will be writing a song about my balcony berry growing prowess…at least based on the yield thus far.

Are those tiny babies not the most ridiculously cute things you’ve seen all evening?!?

Those aren’t the only four, but they are basically the only ripe berries that are bigger than a pencil eraser! I don’t know why, but my mom surprised me with a planter planted with four of her extra strawberry plants. She said there were different types of plant but I wasn’t fully listening…I was musing about how one ends up with extras. I mean, what actually constitutes an extra strawberry plant, anyway?

Methinks she wanted to do something nice and mom-ish for me, so I was busy being all

and didn’t hear for sure what she said. I remember “four”, but I only know of the Hood and Totem varietals – cultivars? who cares? – off the top of my head.

Yeah, look at me…I can google memes and clip art for my blog all day long, but when I need actual information it’s suddenly “Fuck That:30” at Chez Galby.

Because while harvesting my lil crop of “what the hell am I gonna do with four berries?!?” I was reminded of a little story.

When I was a wee little man, not even 12 yet if I recall correctly, I had a summer job picking strawberries. Actually, raspberries, too.

All the cool kids were doing it.

I want to say that I learned a lot during my pre-teen summer job, but I didn’t even learn about the damn berries, so that claim is a bit of a stretch.

The most important takeaway? My reinforced disgust for mayo. Seriously, it’s gross stuff. Food lube.

My argument for licensing people to breed is the same as the validation of my mayo hatred: kids’ parents packed their lunches and put mayo on the sandwiches. Then they put their kids on an un-air conditioned bus and sent them to work in a field all day, where their sack lunches sat in a bus, parked in the blazing summer sun until lunch time.

Yeah, we had some sick kids.

With dumb parents.

PB&J all the way from my mom!

So, other than no real useful knowledge, I did at least get a few good stories. I mean, like you can top spoiled mayo.

I swear to god that my sister and I spent a couple summers getting up at 5 am to pick berries. What normal kid wants to do that?!? I don’t know what my sister’s motivation was, but since she was doing it, I wanted to do it, too.

Plus, I was quite the avaricious kid.

But there we were, waiting at the bus stop every morning to get out into the fields and work in the sun all day. Mr Tinker would pick us kids up and drive us out to whichever Sester field we were picking at that day. I think parents entrusted him with their kids because he was a pastor – but seriously, the alternative was having your kids around all day. This was a way better solution. They’re out of the house all day and tired as hell when they get home.

All the parenting wins.

Pastor or no, if our parents knew that we nicknamed the farm’s owner Sester the Molester, they might have thought twice. There was absolutely no evidence to support the nickname, we were just little shits masquerading as human children.

Case in point:

Tinker was the owner of a slightly overwhelming speech impediment. “Strawberry bushes” came out “stwahbewy booshes” and we were merciless about it.

Maybe we were just grumpy from lack of sleep. Hey…maybe that’s why I’m such a crank nowadays?

Suuuure

Anyway, Tinker never let on that he knew or cared that we made fun of his speech impediment. Or his clothes. He just drove us out and back, making sure we worked in between and ignoring our criticisms about his dwiving.

Still, it was our summer vacation, so we had to have some fun. There were pranks. Throwing berries was too obvious. And kinda frowned upon. Unless they were rotten…I’m pretty sure everyone wore a rotten berry in some fashion or another at least once.

Probably smashed on top of their head.

Throwing dirt clods at the portapotty when someone was inside was another pastime in the fields. It was pretty easy to get away with, too. Just look over your shoulder to make sure Tinker was distracted by whatever and then wing a big old chunk of dried earth.

Well, not me. I was a weenie arm. Ask anyone, they’ll tell ya. Plus, I couldn’t hit the broadside of a proverbial barn, let alone a three foot wide johnny on the spot.

But both of these things were pretty harmless, usually good natured. Although, more than one kid experienced a near miss with a dirt clod after a poorly timed exit from the honey bucket. Either way – hit or miss – you’re awake for the afternoon.

The truly heinous fuckery was reserved for the girls that the cool boys liked. They’d go into the crap shack to pee or barf out their tuna salad from lunch or just get a breath of disgusting air while getting out of the sun – ok, that’s a lie, those things were hot and rank. Remember, this was the olden days, too, these weren’t hauled back to a warehouse, emptied and sanitized. These babies were out there all summer long, perched over a hole in the ground.

Ugh, I just made myself a little nauseous with that sense memory.

Anyway, school is out, so no dipping the ponytail of your sweetheart into an inkwell. No, these poor girls got to experience the joys of having their princes tilt their shit castle violently from side to side while they were trapped inside.

Ah, young love!

It’s kind of horrifying to think that’s how we treated our friends and crushes as kids. The behavior is barely discernible from how kids treat people they didn’t like. There was one unfortunately heavy girl that picked with us for a while. Her stop was after ours, so we always saw her board the bus. When the cool kids were feeling particularly cruel, they’d wait for her to sit. Then, as soon as her butt touched the seat, they’d jump up out of their seats and come crashing back down dramatically yelling at her to take it easy.

This earned them a stern look from Tinker in the rear view mirror over his head. Otherwise, that poor girl was at the mercy of the so-called cool kids’ whim and anyone else – myself included – that cared to participate. I feel bad about it now, obviously, but at the time I was just glad they weren’t picking on me.

Well, this has all been a fun little stroll down memory lane to a time when I was actually employed, but I can’t sit around here writing all day…I gotta go make the world’s smallest strawberry shortcake!

Ok, not to be a totally lazy writer, I went to the Oracle to get more info on strawberries.

Turns out, there are three cultivars:

June Bearing, Ever Bearing and Day Neutral.

Past that, there were different varieties in each. Neither Hood nor Totem were listed amongst the 13 examples named, but at least Tillamook was in there to represent the old PNW!

You know, nowadays, people send their kids to day camps in the summer and spend big bucks doing it. Screw that, if you’re gonna have kids, monetize the little monsters.

This Ain’t No Strawberry Hill!

The Great Job Hunt 3.1

PaMiDa Edition

I spend a lot of time reflecting on my past. Because: neurotic. But I also spend a lot of time recently wondering if this is what it’s like from here on out.

Reliving the glory days.

Although, humorous as my stories can be, surely one life shouldn’t provide so much schadenfreude. That being the case, perhaps gory days is a better way to describe my life of one bumbling mishap after another.

It really has been fun being me, so I hope there are new misadventures in store for me yet!

Maybe I’m just noticing my tendency to reflect more with my extra free time since quitting my job. When I go back to work, things might change.

Until then, maybe it’s an escape? Don’t bother asking what. Before I get into the fun stories from this PaMiDa outfit, I’ll tell ya what from what I require escape:

1) Honestly, I think I give a job search in retail management the attention it deserves. There aren’t a lot of appropriate jobs out there. As a matter of fact, many of the positions I’m interested in end up frustrating me. Sometimes the posts are for companies I’d like to work for that don’t actually have the opening for which they are advertising. Whether this is the unlikely scenario of looking to fill a job before “at willing” the person currently in the job or just a – more likely – way to pad their EEOC coffers, just in case. Since I have never gotten a call from someone that wanted to talk to me about a job I applied for six months earlier, I’m thinking that whole “keep your Application on file for future openings” schtick is a bunch of BS and don’t see the value of this practice…other than to tick me off.

Another frustrating thing about my current search is employers demonstrating their incompetence up front. That’s really kind of them, but frustrating since I see a position I’m qualified for with a company I’d like to work for and then I see something like this when I click on the link to apply

or, better yet, a link to a job in another city instead of a post for the specific city where this job search is occurring. I know it’s hard to believe, but I live in Portland, Oregon and would rather not move to Auburn-friggin’-Washington to work. Little known fact, the landfill in Auburn gives the place an aroma that makes me wish I was at a dinner party with rotting corpses, versus anywhere near that dump of a city.

One of the most aggravating things about being unemployed – even by choice – is seeing incompetent people with jobs that they do poorly.

2) Thinking about funny good times from “the old days” is an effective offset from the uglier parts of your past.

Case in pointing saw this as I was heading to bed the other night.

Sacha has never liked the idea that he gets mentioned in my blog occasionally.

At first, I was surprised he read the damn thing since we aren’t in contact these days. He insists that our mutual friends inform him about his occasional mentions. This kinda tracks, since he takes exception to entries he appears in in what I would consider a positive manner.

Because it’s not like our relationship was six years of bad times, I challenged his assertion to react based on what our mutual friends were allegedly telling him about his starring role in the blog with the idea that if they were feeding him negative information, maybe they weren’t as good a friend as he was thinking…cuz like I said, I don’t set out to write negatively about him. Today aside, virtually all of his mentions are from over a decade ago and from my perspective not terrible.

And he still cares…or our mutual friends do, as he’d have me believe.

But, I could see him having a reasonable objection to his original blog name since it was quasi unflattering…unless you actually read the blog post, then it’s just awkwardly cheeky. Still, to spare his ego – er, feelings – I shortened his blog name to Sacha as a sort of acronym for his original moniker.

Plus, Sacha is a lot easier on my fingertips.

He tried commenting early on in my blog some petulant BS, but he wasn’t a wordpresser, so publishing his comment would have ruined his anonymity by broadcasting his email – and, ergo his name – to any reader who cared to check my comment threads. I explained this to him in a text after he accused me of being “too scared” to post his comment but just got more bluster for my attempt to shield his identity from his own spin control.

His comment the other day was breathtaking. It takes a special kind of bastard to kick a guy when he’s down – he was commenting on my entry about basically being punished at my last job for being a whistleblower – but add to that the extra layer of bother he went to by creating a wordpress profile just to be able to make a petty, vitriolic comment “anonymously”.

And that’s all I’m saying about that, because I try to keep my stories about him and our relationship about that time in my life. I know nothing about his present day life, aside from these occasional and unwelcomed glimpses of his present day efforts at charm.

I dunno…maybe if I’d changed his blog name to Huge Dick, he’d have been happier. He was generally pretty proud of being a show-er. Maybe that hint at flattery would have blinded him to the double entendres. Or maybe apologizing for his original moniker – Sucks At Cheating Ex – since he seemingly didn’t get the cheeky entendres behind that name.

<ahem>

Let me try that now…Sacha, you don’t suck at cheating.

What kind of sociopath is proud of that skill? If any of us are going to cheat, I would hope we suck at it just to speed shit along.

I guess I did have a little more to say about that…

However, onto the fun stuff!

I was originally wanting to share some memories of one of my first jobs.

That was the point of this entry, although a little context had seemed appropriate to demonstrate the allure of my visit to Memory Ln.

I had had jobs before, picking berries in the summer, delivering papers, shagging balls – shut up, Diezel – at a driving range – still shut up, Diezel – but my first real job was at a place called PaMiDa.

I started working here shortly after my family moved to Atchison, Kansas. PaMiDa is/was a big box discount retailer, much like Target or Walmart and it was close enough to home at the time to walk to, a perfect commute for me in my sophomore – no, wait…junior? – year of high school, since I didn’t always have wheels at my disposal.

Legend had it that the owner had named the outfit after his three kids, Pat, Mike and Dan…Dave? It’s been 35 years, I forget.

My department manager there was a nice enough curmudgeonly greaseball of a guy named Doug.

(Hidden irony)

Hygiene was not high on his daily to do list. I could usually depend on seeing him in the same short sleeve button down shirt with pit stains and ring around the collar, black clip on tie and his red PaMiDa vest lurking around the department. I say lurking, but he was usually making the rounds, creating a to do list for us as he monitored the goings on with his trademark heavy lidded, shifty gaze. For his caricature-making hygiene and habits, he was a pretty fair and respectful supervisor. I have learned through many years of trials and tribulations that there are worse bosses.

Atchison wasn’t the least diverse of towns, but it certainly wasn’t in any danger of being called a melting pot. I had one black co-worker, Sheila, who lived on the other side of Division St, if you get my drift.

I loved her!

She had one of these full body laughs that no one could not enjoy. She was the jocular offset personality to Doug’s outward schlub. I was glad she was in my department but simultaneously sad, since it meant we usually worked opposite shifts and I didn’t get to see her much.

Which is why she was probably caught off guard when I walked around the corner of the aisle she was working in to find her muttering to herself. I’d heard Doug’s voice and needed him for some reason or another.

Sheila, for her part, did not. At least that’s how it seemed since she was muttering something about how he should get his “day old sex smelling ass” out of her face as he left from the other end of the aisle.

That’s certainly a graphic statement.

She turned to me as I asked her what she’d said, thinking she was talking to me. I was a teenager, I assumed everything was about me.

(And still may…)

When she realized she was caught, she laughed one of her longer full body laughs. It was so loud that I think it may still be echoing though the building. She nearly fell off the ladder she was working on as she tried to dismount it, still laughing. She supported herself on my shoulder, holding herself up as she doubled over…still laughing.

As she began to regain control, she wiped away tears, apologized for speaking her thoughts aloud and said, “I’m so embarrassed. If I was white, I’d be red right now!” in a demonstration of self-effacing reverse racist humor that made me laugh nervously at the time.

Now? I think it’s hilarious. I wish I’d understood the humor as well at the time so I could have enjoyed the moment less awkwardly with her, but two people laughing uncontrollably at our department manager’s expense would have just drawn unnecessary attention.

Oh, Shiela…

While I am pretty sure that the store manager interviewed and hired me, Doug introduced me to him during my store tour on the first day of work. It was something along the mumbled lines of, “This is Mr Stickler, the store manager…” as we were speeding by on our little tour.

Stickler.

I was young enough – and naive enough – to accept what my ears told my brain at face value. Therefore, despite what my eyes screamed at me on the daily, I spent the next three months greeting and responding to him with a “Good morning” or “Hi!” or a simple, “Yes, sir”, Mr Stickler.

Much to the terror or utter amusement of my co-workers and head scratching chagrin of my store manager, Mr Strickler.

Missed it by one very important letter.

Nonetheless, fate placed him right in front of me to enjoy the look on my embarrassed teenage face when that omitted “r” finally clicked into place for me.

I was white, so I was red!

Fate being a bitch, this had to occur right after my closest encounter with a tornado. Of course, that obviously turned out ok for me, but had the tornado happened after my embarrassing realization, I might have hoped for a more shituationally merciful outcome.

Of course, I’m happy with the way things turned out…near miss with a funnel cloud. At the time, i has seen several tornadoes. However, I’d never really seen a funnel cloud or understood its connection to a tornado, so this was quite the educational moment for me…

I was covering a break at the front registers and was staring hypnotically at the parking lot out of the 60-feet of plate glass windows when the associate returned. Following my gaze skyward to the gray and black clouds coalescing into a shallow swirl over our store parking lot, she advised that probably we should move away from the window. This happened just about the time the city’s tornado warning sirens went off and other associates ran to the front from their respective departments.

We mostly ended up watching the slow moving swirl pass over our parking lot like a bunch of Darwin Award honorable mentions. We were ready to duck behind the cash wraps, should the funnel look like it was going to touch down. For all the good that would do.

At some point in my senior year, Mr Strickler quit. He had apparently bought the…I wanna say, Taco Time franchise across the street from us and was working there as an owner/operator. I didn’t understand going from working in a store like PaMiDa to fast food, even if you were the owner.

At the time, PaMiDa was the best job in the world! Definitely gets a good bit of credit for me starting down my retail career path. Of course, at the time I was gonna go to college and then law school, so the wrap lawyers had in the 80s for being basic shit-heel people didn’t hurt the eventual lure of retail’s sense of immediate career gratification…

The Great Job Hunt 3.1

The Great Job Hunt 3.0

Maybe I should just give in and write that book people keep swearing is in me.

I actually put some notes together recently…y’know, after I quit my job. Then, in a karmic sign of – I dunno…something, my computer up ‘n died.

Well, the universe sure knows me! There’s blogging on my phone and then there’s writing on my phone. I can tap out 2,000 words on the old iPhone and WordPress app but 50-75k or more words is a bit more than I can really get my mind around, even using my now defunct laptop.

So, for now?

It’s looking like I better find a happy median between blogging and finding myself a new job. FYI, applying for jobs on my phone sucks. However, unlike whether or not I attempt a novel on my phone, finding a job is not optional, so the phone has to do.

Crapped out laptop aside, how did I end up here, you might be wondering.

Well, settle in and let me tell you a story.

I know that I’ve written somewhere in these past 300-ish entries about the lil kerfluffle I had with my now former peer at work, Capt Can’t. Short recap: he ended up standing over me yelling his suggestion that I should “do my fucking job”. The Boss walked in, Capt Can’t screamed a little more about me at him and stormed out.

The Boss, poor confused guy…couldn’t tell who was to blame.

Right before he started screaming expletives at me, Capt Can’t told me that he’d been spoken to about his work schedule and was being pushed to work more than his normal 8-4, Monday through Friday. I knew that conversation was a direct result of the staffing conversation I’d had with The Boss a couple of days prior, when I’d flat out told him that Capt Can’t wasn’t putting in the hours he needed to and certainly wasn’t working a schedule that supported the needs of our 4 am to midnight retail business.

I wasn’t at all surprised to find myself being the object of Capt Can’t’s ire. I was a little surprised The Boss was confused about who was at fault here, though.

I’d absolutely like to call this situation retaliatory.

Since The Boss couldn’t find his way to successfully enforcing either the minimum expectations of a salaried schedule or the company’s anti-harassment and zero tolerance policies, I went over his head.

Interestingly, his boss agreed with me after stating that The Boss had told him that I push him to enforce company policies with our staff and that he also told him my perspective was usually right. So, there’s that. Of course, then he did nothing about it.

It took me a while to get my mind around my new work environment. It wasn’t until two months later – so, August of last year – that I pulled my focus off of my peer’s ongoing hostility toward me and reminded myself that I was only responsible for my own performance, not his. His performance was The Boss’…problem. One his actions indicated he was either unwilling or unable to manage.

I committed to myself that I was just going to keep my head down and not make matters any worse.

Fake it until I make it, was my new work motto.

And it worked. I stopped caring – outwardly – that Capt Can’t barely put in a 40 hour week…and only then if you counted his lunches as worked time. Oh, and if you ignored the fact that he picked on people who didn’t “fit in” with the gang of bros that worked under Capt Can’t in the warehouse or meet their job expectations. Heaven forbid that someone who has been in the same job for ten years should learn how to performance manage his staff.

I mean, look at the example his own boss was setting for him! Avoiding conflict and accepting whatever performance his staff is willing to deliver.

So, I should say that it worked situationally. I did try and guide my peer in getting the desired results from his team. I had to tread lightly, though, and sometimes do a little back channel management for him.

Of course.

And that’s how it went until Capt Can’t went rogue in February and decided to have a coaching conversation with one of his direct reports that wasn’t living up to his performance expectations. Interestingly enough, one of those expectations seemed to be, bitch louder about your co-workers than they do about you, otherwise you’re obviously to blame.

I knew where he’d learned that lil pearl of performance management wisdom.

So how do you suppose publicly coaching an employee while physically blocking them into a corner and aggressively waving his arms around went?

It went great, obviously. Just ask Capt Can’t. Anyone who says otherwise is just wrong and should mind their own business…like the gang of bros did while this was going on.

Sadly, this employee’s girlfriend didn’t get that memo. She worked for us, too, in a lateral position, reporting to me. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there when this was happening, so she went to The Boss to report what she’d witnessed.

“This isn’t management, it’s harassment“, was her quote, according to The Boss. Unfortunately, instead of soothing the situation until he could investigate, he tried to shut it down by telling her that it was none of her business.

That didn’t sit well with her, as you might imagine. From where she was sitting, something that was none of her business probably shouldn’t take place in public or basically right in her work area.

From where I was sitting – I was actually standing in my shower, getting ready for work – at the time…she had a pretty good point.

From where The Boss was sitting, her raising the harassment flag translated into her calling him a shitty manager. Y’know…gotta say, he may be a bad people manager – but The Boss can paraphrase like a fricking champ! Sadly, not taking her seriously when she stayed she had witnessed harassment was a big mistake on his part.

Which is why I had two missed phone calls and a very emotional voicemail waiting for me when I got out of the shower.

This all culminated in me getting statements from the two employees and attempting to get one from The Boss – who said he’d already written his notes out – and Capt Can’t and forwarding them on to The Boss’ boss as well as the HR manager for the western half of the US. For context, I also sent her the email thread between me and The Boss’ boss from last June, since the physical intimidation described was eerily similar to what I had experienced. This also included the still unresolved time theft by Capt Can’t, so she was getting a difficult to prove harassment complaint with a side order of easy to prove time theft.

Seriously, someone just pull his parking pass activity. Boom. Case closed.

Y’know, I keep forgetting…no one above my pay grade wants to close this case.

At the end of the day, the HR Manager and The Boss’ boss come to town…a week later and spend a day interviewing witnesses and co-workers.

The gang of bros has collective amnesia about that day and sure can’t recall Capt Can’t ever bullying anyone, which is surprising not one bit since if Capt Can’t gets in trouble for it they’ll probably have to stop picking on people they don’t like, too. Seriously, the way these bros talk about each other behind their backs…it’s like a bunch of miserable old biddies bitching about whoever isn’t there to defend themselves just for sport. I’m not going to say that they never bitched about a valid point or frustration…they did, just not as often as they seemed to bitch just for the sake of bitching.

Interestingly enough, on occasion I would ask them if they’d brought their complaint to their co-worker’s attention…just to see. The reply? Some variant of “That’s not my job, man!” I managed to disagree with them in the hopes of fostering a work place where co-workers hold each other accountable without pointing out that bitching to their co-workers wasn’t their job either…

Usually, I was the member of the senior team that would say something constructive to correct the behavior. Any of those conversations usually came with limited and short lived success. Regardless, outside of this one member of the team, performance shortcomings were always overlooked as long as you turned the attention to sports. Sadly, this one employee with the harassment complaint just didn’t follow sports.

Oh, bros…you so basic.

I didn’t give up on performance managing the issues on Capt Can’t’s warehouse team. However, while my performance management may have had limited success, I had an ace to play: the time and attendance policy.

Of the warehouse guys with performance issues, I was not surprised to observe that many of them – seriously, many meaning all but two in my 18 months on the job – had actionable black and White time and attendance issues, too. I made a lot of changes with that policy in my back pocket. Actually, every one of the perceived poor performers, save two, fell to the time and attendance policy. Directly via termination or indirectly by quitting prior to being terminated.

In that same timeframe, I ended up terminating three associates for violating our zero tolerance policy for – wait for it – bullying and/or cursing at co-workers.

Can you imagine how not fun my job was on days where I had to have termination conversations with The Boss while Capt Can’t was in the room because of time and attendance or zero tolerance violations?

Fun!

Not.

Even when Capt Can’t wasn’t around, it was still unpleasant because we’re having this conversation while both ignoring the fact that my complaint about my co-worker on these same issues had gone absolutely under-addressed and unsurprisingly unresolved.

So, after a hard day of interviewing, what do you suppose the HR Manager and The Boss’ boss came up with?

Well, aside from letting me know that they dropped everything else they needed to be doing in order to address this urgent complaint – a week later – they determined that none of this would have been an issue if we three seniors had been a more cohesive team.

Surrealiously?!?

Ok, so everything will stay the same always. Got it. Glad you both dropped what you were doing to come out here and make a show of taking this so damn seriously.

The two complainants gave a soft two week notice and left at the end of May after finding new jobs. Well, one did, the other has since cinched his new job.

Interestingly enough, about three weeks after nothing happened, The Boss asked to see me outside the office. I figured it was to administer my review.

I.

Was.

Wrong.

It was to administer a counseling document.

Me: You got the wrong guy, pal.

The Boss: We all got one.

Me: That doesn’t make me feel any better since you two earned yours. I just passed along witness statements and pertinent information.

The gist of it was that whole thing about not being a cohesive team. Three of the company’s core values were quoted: integrity, respect and trust.

Me: This feels retaliatory.

The Boss: We all need to learn to get along.

No. It wasn’t.

So, for the last nine months, my peer has basically stolen $5000 in shaved hours and now gotten away with bullying behaviors at least twice and I’m somehow at fault because I don’t respect or trust him?

Got it.

The next week I “got” my review, only to find out my rating had been knocked down from a Highly Effective to an Effective. I learned this because raises went into effect before my effective boss had administered the review document.

Me: My raise was 2.5%?

The Boss: Yeah. That’s what we all got.

Me: You gotta learn to stop saying things like that. This feels like further retaliation. 2.5% isn’t enough to keep me here, you’re basically telling me that I’m barely an Effective performer with that rate.

The Boss: Well, why do you say that? It’s what we all got! It’s the most I’ve ever gotten.

Me: The merit increase guideline for an Effective rating is 2.5-3.5%, giving me a 2.5% increase makes it pretty obvious. I’ll have my two week notice to you before the end of the day.

The next week, after I sent The Boss the promised resignation email and copied his boss on it, his boss shows up in town. Ostensibly to catch up on the stuff he didn’t get done when he had to come to town to investigate the harassment complaint. He offers to buy me a donut, promising he’s not trying to talk me out of my resignation.

Him: So, you’re quitting because you weren’t happy with your raise?

Me: No. As I said in my letter, I feel like my review and the counseling I received were retaliatory.

Him: I see. Well, let me give you a little history on merit increases, so you understand. And – I’m probably telling you more than I should, but my merit increase was only 2%.

Then he goes on this 20 minute meandering whatever about how for several years starting five years ago no one got raises, a few years before that people were having their pay cut by ten percent and yada-yada-yada.

Y’know, completely ignoring the word retaliatory. When he finished, I said, “Look, I’d give you back my 2.5% increase and gladly take whatever your 2% increase amounts to. Heck, you can keep my raise and I’ll take the $6-7k Capt Can’t has stolen by working less than the expected minimum 45 hours a week over the last year. That’s not the issue.”

The issue is that nothing changed. Even though Capt Can’t, The Boss and I all sat in a room with our senior field managers at the end of their investigation and heard that 45 hours a week was the minimum for salaried managers each week, nothing changed. When I asked what the measurement was for success moving forward, I was given no specifics.

Knowing that, after that meeting I went back to work, did my job and just tried to not notice my peer’s arrival and departure times. I succeeded at that. One certainly couldn’t say that I wasn’t getting along…until my corrective action.

In the two weeks between that conversation and the donut conversation, yeah…I’d noticed that 40 was still an aspirational work week for my counterpart. The Boss’ boss didn’t bat an eye when I told him that.

So I followed it up with the advice that he just pull the parking record for Capt Can’t.

“If you’re at all curious. Because I guarantee you that I’m not special, so I’m definitely not the only one who knows this. People who start work at 2:00 pm – heck, even as early as 12:30 in the afternoon! – don’t even know what he looks like. That’s a problem.”

He wasn’t curious.

At all.

Interestingly enough, I expected that my former employer fighting my unemployment claim was a toss up. I know that the environment that I was working in was incredibly unfair to the individual, actually, I’ll offer that it was fair exclusively to an individual. I think my immediate supervisors knew that, too. I really didn’t expect them to put up more than a perfunctory fight against my unemployment benefit, if any.

What surprised me was the state outright denying my claim.

Then again, it’s a complex situation. The guy I spoke with didn’t understand how administering a counseling document and downgrading a review for a whistleblower was retaliatory behavior. The reason listed under Reason for Resignation was simply listed as “No Good Cause”, so now I have a hearing before I can get unemployment pay.

Tomorrow.

I submitted several supporting documents to prove I had raised the policy violations and to support my belief that I was – at best, carelessly – retaliated against.

Whether it was careless or intentional, it wasn’t an environment that I cared to remain in once I realized that either I had to accept my peer violating company policy without recourse or I was the one who was at fault.

It made no sense to me, so I hope the documentation I’ve provided demonstrates that to the judge.

Let’s just hope the judge is better than that lemon of a state employee from the Unemployment Office that interviewed me, because based on what I’ve experienced thus far in my first six weeks of job hunting…the current job market is no place for (situationally) grumpy old men. I’m gonna need that unemployment to supplement the cash I’d saved up over the last year in order to avoid complete financial disaster.

Who wants to save for a down payment on a condo anyway?

Wish me luck!

The Great Job Hunt 3.0

I’ve Taken Cap’t Can’t’s Advice

“You know what? Take a hike, don’t ever talk to me again.”

This was the reaction from Captain Can’t when I’d apologized for unintentionally offending him about eight months before I left my last job.

Very mature, right?

Well, The Boss had cleverly manipulated me into being the adult, setting a good example and taking the high road with my jag of a peer. While it worked poorly for me in this particular shituation and The Boss never re-addressed it with Cap’t Can’t, I am happy to report that upon quitting that exercise in daily frustration of a job, I have embraced Cap’t Can’t’s unintentional wisdom.

Frequently.

And will later today, I’m sure. I’m actually writing this as a motivator after failing to get outside yesterday…it was a “too cold”, overcast 65 degree day here in P-Town West.

Today, I need to find my motivation and a trail.

It’ll just be a city trail in Forest Park, but I’ll manage to make it new by inadvertently getting lost on my 10 mile urban sojourn. Unlike last week’s Hood River adventure with Little Buddy.

LB and 2.0 are in the process of buying a house across the Columbia from Hood River and we swung by their title company for a quick errand on the way to our trail. There we were…conveniently adjacent to Aniche Vineyards, where BreitBarb had a case of wine in need of transport back to town.

So, when in Rome…

Not a bad way to loosen up before a hike!

We crossed back over the Columbia and dog legged over to a speck on the map called Mosier to hike a short trail there…

It’s a 3.5 mile switchback path that screams “Live in Mosier!” on behalf of what I’m sure is a nonexistent Mosier Chamber of Commerce. We’ll get to the views, but the houses you can see across the ravine the trail skirts as you climb the backside of a hill are incredible. As much as I appreciated the real estate views during our climb, I was also well aware of the fact that if I lived there, I’d appreciate a much better view facing out past the Mosier Plateau trail and over to the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge.

So, speaking of ravines, Little Buddy and I learned something about each other that day.

She learned that I didn’t like heights and I learned that she didn’t know that about me. There was occasionally a few feet between the path and that cliff. It wasn’t bad, mostly it felt vaguely reminiscent of the hillside Buttercup throws the Dread Pirate Roberts down in The Princess Bride. And there were plenty of wildflowers growing alongside the trail.

But as you can see in the swimming hole pic above, the situation wasn’t all fun and games.

That newfound fear amused us on the way up. I think LB was a little relieved to find that I had a more normal fear than the previously shared fear of sharks…in any body of water. She had brought her new family pooch, Barley, as well. At just under 4 months, this was his first hike and he was a well behaved champ of a hiker, so that was a fun distraction on the way up, too.

He was much better behaved than the two dogs we encountered on the hilltop after we did the turnaround loop. I was leading, so I saw the first of these off leash pooches playing amongst the wildflowers and knee high wild grasses before LB or Barley and excitedly exclaimed “Goat!”.

LB told me to get a pic because our friend BreitBarb hasn’t met a negative emotion goats can’t banish. Now I’ll always be the boy who cried goat.

These dog’s owner had very little control of his animals. I learned both of their names, but can only remember Peter, the first one we met, now. Of course, I remember it because the owner yelled it a lot during the back half of our hike in lieu of actually leashing his exuberant pup. He also yelled the name with some fey accent, so it didn’t come out “Peter” as much as it did a plaintive and eventually annoying “Poitier“.

Still, the view from the top of the trail was simply awe inspiring.

And windy!

I really should have taken a selfie of wind blown old Xtopher, but while I really wanted to see what the never ending, cooling mountaintop gorge winds did to this shaggy mess of hair, I still don’t selfie as often as I could as an American citizen in good standing should.

I’d be a lousy Kardashian.

The top of the trail wasn’t even the top of the mountain, either.

I couldn’t imagine the view being any better from the top, but I was still a little curious about the eastward view from the top since we could only see westward and across the river into Washington state from our trail.

I had all the friends I wanted on the trail with me. Little Buddy and I chattered easily away during our hike, occasionally breaking to get Barley’s take on a topic. Still, this didn’t prevent a few children of the wilderness from trying to introduce themselves to me on the way back.

Lizards…do. not. want.

They kept getting bigger and bigger as the trail descended, too. Weird. Shortly after we passed back by the swimming hole, they stopped appearing, which was good because if they had gotten any bigger I’m afraid I would have been sharing the path with a Gila Monster.

The return trip also afforded us a longer stop at the little pioneer cemetery that we’d passed on the way up.

That second pic is of an 8 year old’s grave. She and I share the same birthday so it was an exciting and eerie discovery.

There weren’t a lot of grave stones in this tiny memorial. There were a lot of depressions in the ground around the trail that made me suspect there were some unmarked graves with wood caskets that had caved in on the trail side. Many of the visible graves were young people, 20 and under…so heartbreaking to imagine the pioneer experience of losing any family on their trek west, let alone losing a child and having to leave them behind.

I was pulled out of this morose imagining on the way up by the appearance of hikers trailing behind us. They stopped in the little cemetery, too, and we moved out. It felt too crowded with our party of three and their party of five. Three moms and two infants.

The Mom Squad.

In addition to feeling crowded, I also didn’t want to be around moms and their babies should the realization that these were largely kids’ graves dawn on them.

Why did I feel guilty about this company?

Anyway, the path being largely switchbacks, we got not far from the Mom Squad. Their chatter was…incessant. I’m sure our own was equally distracting to them, maybe. For me, the semi-valley-girl-esque tone of their talk distracted from the rest of the amazing environs.

Still

I was appreciative of their active lifestyle and unwillingness to be limited by their children.

However

I also judged the safety of strapping your infant onto a front-facing backpack and toddling off on mountainside paths that made me uneasy. I was fearful that mother and Child were only a loose stone away from going over the side.

It made me a little uneasy. I was glad when our little party returned to the viewpoint from the turn around loop and discovered that they had left for the trailhead without doing the loop.

Still, kudos to getting the kids out in nature early. I believe it will create a solid connection to the beautiful PNW wilderness for these newly minted S.N.O.B.s (Society of Native Oregonian Born) and that’s the type of person that keeps the PNW spirit alive!

Little Buddy and I had originally planned to grab lunch after our hike, but we were running late and she needed to get home to get dinner going for her boy and also allow Barley to relieve himself. He’s one of those pups that will only pee off leash…

So, no lunch.

Still, there was time for a teensy wine tasting at Marchesi Vineyards on the way home. LB is a member, so the tasting is gratis. And they had my favorite wine back in stock, so I could pick up a couple bottles of the good stuff to hold me over.

Not driving or having a car makes it hard for me to get out of town, so I love having friends that will take me along every now and again and try to make the most of every chance I do get.

This is my type of high road.

I’ve Taken Cap’t Can’t’s Advice

Too Soon?

Is it too early for me to be experiencing the Dog Days of Summer?

Regardless, it’s been a lazy day here at Chez Galby. So far, I’ve accomplished two things today:

First) Fed and watered the plants, which are angry about the recent Portland sun…curling leaves and droopy blossoms. Quite a protest happening on my balcony.

My plants are so passive-aggressively Portland.

Second) I made my way to Powell’s. I’d been intending to go tomorrow after the weekend crowds died off, but I read about The Samurai’s Garden on a blog I follow and was motivated to go sooner. Even though their inventory thought they had three in stock, none were locatable.

I rewarded myself with the original reason for my trip, so the swarms of people were semi-worth it.

Oh, and the menses (Chrisism) that were there.

Woof, I say.

Isn’t that picture just an OCD nightmare?

Somewhere in there, I managed to feed myself.

Chipotle.

I think I’m done eating for the remainder of my life.

I went into the weekend pretty excited and motivated. I’d been alternating walks/hikes and rides all week and was looking forward to maintaining that through the weekend. Friday was a 10 mile hike and Saturday I completed a 20 mile ride before having drinks in the afternoon with a new friend.

I went to bed excited about seeing Major Barbara tonight with a group of friends. While I was out and about today, we were able to finalize our pre-show meet up.

Show-nanigans, if you will.

Still, a fairly low key day so far when compared to what my intent was for the day. My original list included:

– Completing a mini-workout at home this morning.

– Afternoon hike.

– Dishes.

– Filing my unemployment claim.

– Perusing open jobs.

– Writing.

I got word from the Oregon Unemployment Division last week that my claim was rejected, which I expected from my employer. I wasn’t expecting it from the state itself, though, but am not surprised based on the lemon of a state employee I got to explain my situation to a couple weeks back. Nonetheless, I’ve put in my appeal and am backpedaling on some future financial plans I had been making…it’s just put me in an ambivalent funk about the whole work thing. It bothers me when inept people have jobs and I don’t.

Sadly, the lottery was no help last night.

There’s a pre-draft-notion I’m mentally kicking around about my departure from my last job. I think I’m not quite ready emotionally yet, so if you’re curious about that…just wait longer.

My laptop has also chosen this moment in time to go tits up, making the job search more challenging since I’m doing it from my phone. Writing is fine on my phone – blogging, I should clarify. I’d just started a new folder on my laptop fleshing out a book idea. I don’t think I could successfully scribble out a novel on my phone, so that’s on hold, dropping $800-1300 on a new laptop definitely is not in my immediate financial future.

I feel like I owe myself more of a blog post for the day than this in order to really consider that last point checked off my To Do for the day. I’ve been kinda burned out on writing lately, I’m up to 20 drafts again and that always erodes my motivation. But then I got some really encouraging praise in a comment on my BikeTown post and my motivation began to stir.

Maybe after this lil missive, I’ll listen to some music to recharge my mojo, knock off the few dishes, do my unemployment claim and take a peek at open jobs while my phone charges and then head out on an extended walk around the Esplanade before meeting up with Little Buddy and the gang.

Wish me luck!

Oh, gawd…the Chipotle is starting to kick.

Better really wish me luck now!

Too Soon?

TIL #7:  Danny Glover Was Right

A few months ago, I ran into a former employee of mine from the airport.

At.

The.

Airport.

What was initially awkward about it was that she had quit me with no notice because her doctor told her her legs couldn’t handle it.  She told me she’d really only worked sit down style jobs before.

“You were a bartender!”, I had corrected her at the time, incredulously.  

“Yeah, but that was only part time.  And at The Elks”, she had replied, like The Elks was a stand-alone explanation.

I’d written it off as relative at the time.  I really liked Kim, she reminded me simultaneously not to judge a book by its cover and that stereotypes exist for a reason.  That was Kim.

Mrs. Magoo glasses.

Bowl style haircut.

She was a middle aged transplant to Portland from Spokane.

SpoVegas.

SpoCompton.

Spokanistan.

Take your pick.

She moved away from Spokane for her internet fiancé.  Fuck my life…should this boost my romantic optimism?

Anyway, I run into her in the roadway under the airport at about 5 am.  She was just getting off work, I was just starting.

Innocently, I ask how she’s doing and express my surprise at seeing her.  Instead of the conversational default response one expects to off the cuff, reflexive social niceties, Kim gives me a longform response.

I guess that I – particularly – had that coming.

She was back to work, ground crew for one of the airlines.  Nights, it was hard, but it worked with her and her fiancés parenting schedule.

“Wait, your doctor wouldn’t let you work in a newsstand but now you’re working ground crew?”

I had both knees replaced!

“Wait, wait, wait.  Parenting?!?  Knees replaced?!?  It’s only been 6 months!”

She and her also middle aged fiancé had adopted or were in the process of adopting a 6 year old relative of his.  They had also moved out of his parents house.  I mean, mid-50s is probably the right time to venture out of the nest, if ever there was one.

She was going on about how she was looking forward to getting onto the day shift, but not until school started and she was going to have either her hips or ankles done.

I get distracted by imagining her as Jaime Sommers.

…and tune back in as she says, “but now my doctor wants me to wait to do that until after they take out the brain tumor” like it’s y’know, somehow an elective surgery.

I had to get away from this surreal conversation.

I walked away thinking, “How does she not put a gun in her mouth?!?”  It was really inspiring to think on.  Kim took over as my workday inspiration.

Shitty joints.

Late in life love and parenting.

Entry-entry level physical grunt work.

Oh, and a brain tumor.

If she can do it, I can do it!

Bad news for my former inspiration/mantra:

For the moment, “If Britney can make it through 2007, I can make it through today” took a backseat to my new battlecry of “Tim Kimke!” which was a mash up of her actual name.

It was really kind of the motivational push that I needed.  Britney’s breakdown was only getting me so far.  I was also reaching back to when I worked with a peer that was a real B-word in my mid 20s-30s.  

I was stubborn.

That stubbornness was manifesting itself in longevity in a job that didn’t deserve my efforts.  But I was learning a lot, while simultaneously refusing to walk away from a bad company where I had a boss I liked.

But he was weak and didn’t reign in my counterpart.

Ooh, foreshadowing.

Nonetheless, I stayed, refusing to leave before she did because to me it sent the message that she won.  

It was kinda fucked up.

My payback was that I was learning how to really manage.  Succeeding through my people, versus calling what I could accomplish with my own two hands success.  That kept me motivated whenever I crossed paths with my backstabbing peer.

But, I was recruited away by a former peer and I took a leap.  It’s actually where I met my current boss, even though we only worked together tangentially at the time.

Flash forward 15 or so years.

I’m doing good work, feeling like I make an impact everyday…of course, there’s a but coming.  

My boss is weak, but I like him.  But that’s not enough.  He’s afraid of being the bad guy.

Since last summer, I’ve been stringing up carrots to get me through the bullshit that weakness has manifested:

Make it to your year anniversary.

Make it to bonus payout.

Make it to review time.

Well, the other day, I found myself thinking, “Only 11 more months til bonus payout” and that was a wake up call.

 I’d doubled my tenure since work got shitty, I’d spent as much time dreading my job as I’d spent loving it.  The writing was on the wall, too.  Things weren’t going to change…just like my boss’ poor people management skills created the dysfunctional environment I was spending my time in, his boss was further enabling it by refusing to take action when measureable company policies were broken or violated.

You just need to learn to get along…maybe I heard that one too many times.

Looking back, once turned out to be too many.  The writing was on the wall, but I had to hear that damn phrase a few more times before I saw it.

Then I turned in my notice and basically fired my employer.

Time to reset.

Me time.

Heal wounds.

Because I stuck with it as long as I did, I’ve got the foreseeable future covered in cash:

Forgoing vacations allowed me to bank some PTO to ice the bonus cake I’d waited out.  Believe me, I’m gonna make every penny scream.  If you wanna enjoy my therapeutic free time with me, of course, you can treat!

I’m gonna write again.  No more of these weeks without content or publishing.  That bullshit ends.

Starting here.

And tomorrow, I’m going to brunch and then a hike like a normal Portlander does on a weekend.

TIL #7:  Danny Glover Was Right

My Huge Confliction

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

We’ll see…

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

Normally, Mistress Myrtle’s feeding routine is:

Dried Salmon snacks when we wake up,

I leave kibble for her to nibble throughout the day,

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

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

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

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

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

There’s something seriously messed up with my fridge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want.

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

$3.43

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

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

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

Seriously.  

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

Me:  Yup.  $8.49

Hipster Cashier:  Let me fix that for ya.

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

HC:  <distractedly> Oh.

Not a question or surprise.

HC:  OK, your total is $8.49 then.

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

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

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

Or

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

My Huge Confliction