Bad Math

It’s been following me around this week.

I swear, I’m not even trying to entice this shit. It has been a particularly frustrating week for my inner Rain Man, though.

It started when I picked my parents up from the airport after their trip to see Black Sheep Bro. Actually, it was likely well underway at that time, but I hadn’t become attuned to it yet. They wanted to fill up my tank at the Fred Meyer near their house. At $4.95/gallon at the place by my house, I wasn’t saying no!

We roll into the station and the guy puts in mom’s phone number and asks if she wants to use her $1 off. She says yes, and I look at the sign and think the resulting $3.97/gallon makes the price damn near reasonable. We get the receipt and mom declares the $3.93/gal price to be downright worth the stop. I’m staring at the sign and mentally subtracting a dollar from the price posted in it and not coming up with $3.93 – but at least it was an error in our favor.

Then I woke up to this on the Twitter this morning:

Seriously. The state of Florida thinking their involvement in the schools improves the quality of the humans they turn out is grossly overestimating their contribution.

Like, not even in a bizarro universe is that a truth.

Here’s a math problem for ya: True or False – a racist minority + racist laws = less racists?

Pretty sure that is false and only increases the number of racist in that state because there’s no critical thinking – race theory or otherwise – being taught in those classrooms to offset the racist behaviors these kids learn at home from their racist parents.

My response on the Twitter post was something to do with math books being inherently unrelated to Critical Race Theory since…it’s fucking math! Maybe they were worried about the whole three-fifth a man thing coming up in the fractions chapter.

Hard to apply logic to a mind filled with the screwball thinking that goes on in Florida, though.

But here’s where I realized that this whole bad math thing had been simmering for a while. My now-truly-a-gig gig, driving for DoorDash.

My mind likes to recreationally search out patterns, and the way this app operates kind of lends itself to that on every job. When you accept a delivery, there’s a tiny .5 font telling you the estimated miles involved. I started noticing it so I’d stop accepting orders to the suburbs 10-15 miles away for $9 and no tip. Then it went from nothing over 10 to nothing over 7. Now, I’m loathe to accept something over 5 miles away unless it pays around $15.

But that’s not the algebra I’m getting at. My mind just likes to see that a job has X miles in it and then see how close that math shakes out. This is all really just something to pass the time, anyway. Might as well keep an eye out for things that make it worth the while…otherwise, I’ll focus on how boring it is and how much I really don’t like it.

But this is where it gets interesting. To me, anyway.

In the same Rain Man vein, I try to keep my lifetime deliveries at a number that ends in a 5 or 0. I did the same thing with my Lyft rides.

What makes it hard is mentally keeping track of where I’m at. Since it’s boring and I hate it, I consider 5 deliveries a full shift. I can usually mentally count to 5. But there are jobs that I cancel for one reason or another: the restaurant is closed or surprisingly open given the dysfunction I experience once I arrive. There’s been a couple instances where I show up and they are having a random and insurmountable issue and tell me they have to cancel. I’ve had a couple of “shopping trips” where they were literally out of every damn thing the customer wanted.

So, that makes it kind of tricky on the old memory.

But after a few instance of checking my number and seeing odd things, I start paying attention – determined to true up my number and make my wreck-reational OCD happy.

I’d hit the road thinking, ok…I gotta do 7 jobs tonight to get back on track. I hit my seventh job and call it, and see this:

117?!? Well, that ain’t right. I try and figure out how things got that fucked up and just can’t make it make sense. More determined than ever, I hit the road the next time, determined to balance my scales with 8 deliveries.

It was a tough night and I failed, hanging it up out of frustration after my normal 5. Then I see this…

Ok, do the math with me here. 123 minus 117 does not equal 5!!!

Fine. The next time I hit the road, I’m committed to 7 deliveries.

Looks familiar, right? Just where I’d left off last time. This time, no grumpy old Xtopher moments to derail my productivity and I hang it up a few hours later, feeling like I’ve righted my universe.

Oh, short-lived peace of mind…

That’s right, people. 123 plus 7 is now 128!

You ever seen the movie Highlander? “There can be only one” ring a bell? I mention it because my reaction to that math might have resulted in me Highlander-ing Gilbert Gottfried this past week.

Just picture it…

But more important to me as a business person is how am I supposed to have confidence in an organization that can’t count? Especially since they farmed it out to a computer who was clearly programmed by graduates of the Florida Public Schools. Even more so, as an “employee” of this outfit, how do I muster faith in their accounting that I’m being paid correctly?

Not to worry, since this is me, I’m more concerned with unfucking up my stats. I’m back to needing 7 jobs to get there.

And in a victory for mathletes the world over…

Victory is mine! I can figuratively sleep once again. I’m back into a comfortable rhythm of blocks of 5 deliveries and calling it a day. My aggressive and goal oriented brain starts rocking the boat by turning numbers over in itself figuring out how many jobs a week I need to do to pay my rent. I try to settle that bastard down because it comes up with 35…which is only 7/night five nights a week – or three nights if I do a double one weekend day!

Me: Shut. Up.

I try willing my inner Rain Man to just settle down. It’s a struggle, because after 30+ years in retail, making goals is an intoxicating reward.

Still, I go out to put my 5 in tonight before dinner with a friend. I feel like I’m squeezing too much into my day, but am driven by the exercise, earn, write paradigm of success I’ve set for myself – a whole other goal. So I do it. I think that with my average being 2 deliveries/hour, I can make my 6 o’clock dinner with a little cushion if I am on the road by 330.

Fate favors all sorts. Sometimes even me…as I had my 5 jobs in by 5 and was pulling in to the garage by 515! Then I checked my lifetime number…

For the love of…just, goddamnit!

Bad Math

I Can’t Have It All?

Part 2: What the hell was I thinking?

Damn universe, always teaching me lessons…like crippling humility.

So, there I was…having most of it. Gently nudged into balance by the Silver Fox. I’d gotten Angela all spruced up for her annual check-in with Lyft, but was focused more on those other pillars that make me feel like a normal person productive: writing and exercising.

No big news on the writing front.

Yet….

Couple blog posts. I re-read my prime WIP, by way of seeing where I need to tweak formatting before I hit publish. That’ll happen this month.

For sure.

So that’s something. Hoorah for lightly edited stories.

Also something?

I exercised twice as many days in March as I had in February. That ain’t nothing. April’s looking good, too, there’s a Class Every Day challenge and I’m on track. But balanced old Xtopher is keeping in mind that some days will be ride days, others will be strength…but mixed in will be days that are just a longer than my usual 5 minute post-ride stretch classes or even yoga classes.

Balance.

Also helpful? And this is where all that foreshadowing nonsense comes in: I got de-platformed by Lyft.

You read that right. Boy, they rogered me but good. Real good.

But that’s another blog.

I chose to look at it optimistically. The removal of a barrier to a balanced day.

The thing is, though, my temp gig doesn’t pay that well. I mean, I can’t complain, it’s not minimum wage – which I’ve certainly done as I explore non-career level employment. And it pays the bills. And-and, in a real Pinocchio twist, they started making sounds about converting me from a temp role to a real boy job.

The pay talk…we’ll see. I’m looking at it as a positive – even though the talk happened on April 1st. That’s just how my life goes. It was a good talk.

Except, the universe being the lesson teacher that it is, I was de-platformed by Lyft after dumping about $3k into little repairs for Angela that I’d been putting off. That was the month after the surprise $2500 I’d put into her in January, no less.

And after all that I had boldly (ie: no drink in hand) faced my taxes.

The day after I’d done my first draft of the taxes was the day I got the dry fuck from Lyft.

I’ll tell ya…I don’t believe in god, but I fully embrace the notion behind the phrase “If you wanna make god laugh, make a plan”.

And that’s what I had done. Made a financial plan that included making quarterly payments to the Feds for my $11k tax bill.

Thank god it was only a first draft. The second draft is a much less traumatic $8k, but it’ll still require an episiotomy after my main revenue stream gave me the same treatment it gave the driver that raped a passenger here in Oregon.

That seems fair. My punishment is the same as a rapist. My crime? I got two speeding tickets in a 12 month period. Yeah, well stick with “sounds fair”.

More on that later, I’m sure. You know how loquacious I can be when I get going on something.

Now, look…I may be seriously fucked right now, but I’m all Mr Bright Side, damnit! Even if that just means I jump off the bridge with the best view in town – that’s a tough one here in Portland – and don’t take anyone else out with me.

So that naive dumbass Mr Bright Side fella is looking at this as a way to achieve balance. Less opportunities for proChristination. Fewer distractions.

Bright side. Mr. Me.

But since my temp job doesn’t keep me in the happy hour budget I like, tax debt or no, nor does it afford the luxurious $30 treats Mistress Myrtle prefers…I need a second income stream.

Reluctantly, I signed up to be a delivery old man boy with DoorDash.

I hate it. It’s boring. It does give me that “in service to others” paycheck I found I missed after leaving retail. So, that’s a plus. And it pays around $7-10 more and hour than the temp job, so there’s that, too.

But it’s sooooo fucking boring.

Bright side? I can really only tolerate doing 5 deliveries in a shift. More than that is excruciating. Ok, that last part wasn’t very bright side, I admit. But, dashing out to do 5 deliveries after work a few nights a week and then a double or triple on a – singular – weekend day leaves me plenty of time for happy hour hangouts during the week – and it gives my budget the wiggle room to offset said indulgence. It leaves me the time for writing and exercising.

All. That.

There’s plenty to be grateful for. And since I hate it, the ~20 hours I give it each week balances my books. Well, excluding the G-men obligation. I might have to see if there’s a niche market for barely out of shape old men on OnlyFans to solve that problem. God only knows what weird shit passing as erotic that The Gays are lapping up these days.

Fucking morons.

But I think I’ve got a third draft of my taxes in me. I just need to make a phone call first. I think we all know how long I could drag that task out. So I’ll also file an extension…sometime between April 14th and 17th.

It’s good to have a plan.

And goals. Since my goals are work, exercise, write and not “pay less in taxes than Trump” I think I’m in a good place.

Fuck, being optimistic is a weird feeling. I should’ve stretched more before this post. Anyone else miss grumpy old Xtopher?

Don’t worry, he’ll be around. Until then, cheers to the bright side and cheers to you for reading. Thanks!

Look how my thigh is about the same size as my thumb in that pic. You go, Chicken Legs McGee!

I Can’t Have It All?

I Can Have It All!

Part 1: Everything’s fine!

I creep into every week with a simple goal – to have a day or several where I succeed in all three pillars of what I consider a “good day”. I want to make some money, exercise and write.

That’s it. Nothing earth shattering. No outrageous goals like cure cancer before lunch.

You may wonder how I struggle to accomplish this. Like, why is my weekly goal “a day or several” and not something more aggressive reasonable like “at least three days a week”?

The answer is simple: go fuck yourself.

Wait. That came out wrong.

I used to run, run, run and go, go, go. All day. I did that for 30+ years, starting in high school, no less!

Now I’m tired. Actually, I’m not just tired…I’m fucking tired.

And after leaving my retail management career behind after 30+ years, I was ready to rest. I liked my little income setup: Lyft 25-ish hours a week and keeping an iron in the temp job fire to keep things fresh. My average for temp placements was 2/year, which I was fine with.

I was a little less fine when I got my W2 for last year’s temp assignments and saw that I’d earned around $1700 in 2021. And that mindset is never the right time to pick up the phone when your temp wrangler calls.

But I did, didn’t I?

Because I’m a dumbass.

Which is how I ended up on assignment in early February. It’s full-time, which I hate because I frankly make more driving. Plus a 40 hour/week commitment seems so vulgar now. But I’m getting used to it.

Stubbornly.

Case in point, I was still committed to getting my minimum $500 in ride earnings in each week after this temp job came through. That goal actually wasn’t much of a problem, most weeks I was clearing four digits. I swear, with Lyft, if you download the app they practically automatically send you $500/week. I think if you go longer than one week without managing to earn over $500, they send someone to check in on you.

What I’m saying is that it’s pretty much a sure thing. People gotta go places, you’re going to make money. I’m ok with that.

Until…the Silver Fox ruined everything. Root of all evil, that guy.

I met him at our local after work one day when he’d come back up to town. Him being all pro-me, he was apologetic or overly grateful or something…stressing that he didn’t want to keep me from making money.

Ooh, foreshadowing!

But I assured him everything was fine. I’d overachieved prior to his visit, so it turned out that Bob’s now my uncle. In assuring him I was ready for a rest – there’s that foreshadowing again – I spilled my prior week’s Lyft earnings to him.

Amazed, he asked how long that took me.

Me: I dunno…like 30 hours? Nah. Less! I dunno…I was getting up at 430 if I couldn’t sleep and going out for the early bonus hours before plugging in to work at 8. Then doing a little driving after work on some days, too. Oh, and then Friday and Saturday!

SF: And you worked 40 hours on top of that doing the payroll thing?

Me: <raises glass to self> Yupperz.

SF: Geez! You worked 70 hours last week!

Me: <blinks cluelessly>. That can’t be right.

SF: That’s amazing.

Me: It never occurred to me that I’d worked that much. Driving doesn’t feel like working. Not at all.

See? He’s obviously the devil.

Anyway, that also drove home the point that my stubbornness had over-corrected and was keeping me from succeeding at accomplishing my other metrics: writing and exercising.

Shift my focus, did I.

Plus, Angela needed some spa days. I’d been putting off my oil change and replacing a fog light some malcontent had popped out of my bumper last summer during our…protests.

Who objects to a fog light being in a bumper where it belongs?!? That’s what I want to know. Stupid protester.

Anyway, I book a few days in the shop for the car and dial back the driving.

Ratchet up my workouts – which had gotten ridiculously infrequent. Like less than two/week.

I still struggled to write. I posted a couple of blogs and opened my laptop to check on a draft…the shock of which nearly fried my laptop.

What? It was a long pandemic.

But I still have WIPs to get out on “in progress” status. The Gays aren’t big readers, so it’s really only for my own sense of accomplishment. It still bothers me that they are languishing there in WIP status. That’s on me. No one reads them? That’s on someone else.

Shockingly, that stubborn streak of mine asserted itself in a strangely non-self-sabotaging manner. I started choosing to exercise or write versus choosing to drive, aka: proChristinate.

It was oddly liberating.

And motivating.

Maybe I could manage to have it all several days a week after all?!?

Tune in soon. See if that next shoe that drops is a platform heel with a goldfish living in it or a cross-trainer that washed up on the shores of the Puget Sound with an amputated foot still in it.

Yeah, I think we all know which way this is going for foolishly optimistic old Xtopher….

I Can Have It 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

John Lennon Was Right

Instant karma got me.

Or, car-ma…as the case t’were. I’m accepting that it was my fault for kvetching about one measly 4-star rating out of two and a half years of 5-star rides.

Hence the karma pun.

Anywho…Angela crapped out by the side of the road tonight. Actually, it was in a drive lane, but it was the curb side of the road – if you’ll allow me to split that hair.

I had called my friend, Diezel, before she died. He sometimes works on things like brake pads for me – hey, he works for burgers! His take on it was that it was an alternator and/or battery issue.

Angela had given me a “charging malfunction” error before I had called Diezel. When she had died the first time, giving me a last minute “drivetrain malfunction” message as she locked herself down in a parking lot.

The middle of a parking lot.

At sundown.

In The Numbers. Let’s just say that’s nowhere for an old white man to be broken down. Particularly after dark,

I Google “drivetrain malfunction” + “BMW X3” and learn that I can probably restart it after five minutes. I find a tree, take a whiz and go back.

<Le poof>

She starts up.

Knowing what to expect performance-wise, thanks to the prophet Google, I set out for home. I’m crawling, since Angela isn’t feeling like giving me more than 20-ish MPH.

Sticking to arterial surface streets, I had called Diezel as I limped westward. He tells me to look for a side street to park on and he’ll come get me and take me home, I can have her towed tomorrow.

I know he’s right – he’s an engineer and a rational thinker. I am an emotional thinker.

Emotionally, I want to get home. Knowing Diezel is right, my fallback is to get out of The Numbers.

Shit goes down there. BiPOC folx who live on the west side are reluctant to head to that part of the eastside when it’s dark. Last year was Portland’s deadliest in decades: gun violence, fire deaths, homicides, traffic deaths. You name it, if it was violent or deadly, we either broke a record last year or came damn close.

The Numbers – a nickname based on the blocks between ~122nd and 180th on the eastside of town – had more than the lion’s share of traffic and gun violence deaths last year. Don’t even get me started on the record number of stolen cars last year – October and November had around 13k stolen cars for the two month period.

Two months.

I didn’t want to leave Angela there.

We made it into the double-digit block numbers. I’d just crossed 102nd and was promising Diezel I’d pull off as I hit the 205 overpass at about 93rd.

She died. On the uphill approach to the overpass. I briefly considered jumping, but only therapeutically. Well, mostly.

I told Diezel what happened and he told me to drop him a pin for my location, he was leaving that moment.

Friends like him…they make me feel like I don’t deserve them as friends.

I throw a little pity party while I wait.

I’d just squared up my Multnomah County business taxes from 2019 and 2020, because TurboTax small business doesn’t do them – nor does it tell you that ain’t happening.

The county, though. They tell you. Two years later.

Well, that’s when they told me I owed $1400 in tax for 2019…the year I started driving for Lyft. In August. I decided to get ahead of 2020 – when I’d driven the whole year and made 4x what I made in ‘19 – and dig it out before the county hit me with penalties like the 2019 miss had created.

So much for buying a new place this year.

It wasn’t looking good, anyway, based on financial timing and the likely prime rate boosts coming down the pike this year. At best, I’d be looking at two hikes before I had mutual acceptance.

I’d accepted this. It was nice to at least have a goal to work toward, however briefly.

But here I was again, in crisis mode.

I was startled out of my pity party by a pair of headlights in my windshield.

Diezel!

But…not Diezel.

A Good Samaritan!

Yes! This was the Portland I knew and loved.

It was a woman who had passed by and pulled a u-turn in front of me to pull up to my hood grill – let’s not call it a hood whilst stalled in The Numbers. She walked up to my passenger window and asked if I needed a jump. I told her, “heck, yeah!” and she was off to her cargo area for her cables.

BMWs are weird. The battery in my X3 is in the back, but you jump it from the front. Actually, there is a positive post, that’s it. I’d been watching videos on this, so I kind of knew this – but she wanted to check in with her significant other, so we FaceTimed him. He agreed with my guess that we just needed to attach the negative to a hunk of metal and we were good to go.

She started her car and I got in mine to give Angela a wake up call.

She started right up. I revved her a few times. I was ready to let her sit and charge for a few minutes, but my Good Samaritan was antsy to go. I couldn’t fault her, but knowing about jumping cars from watching my parents do it while growing up in the 80s, that was my best guess for next steps.

Sadly, she was already talking about how to disconnect the cables with her Boo when I came around. He agreed I was good to go, so I yielded to their current information.

As soon as she turned and left, I put Angela in gear…and she re-died.

Diezel immediately pulled up behind me.

My first and third savior of the night.

“Galbs”, he said to me, “you need to call a tow truck to take this to a garage.”

I knew from his tone that this was his way of telling me this repair was beyond his capabilities. At least as far as roadside repairs were concerned.

He gave me a towing company name and number. Three hours.

He pulled another from his list and dictated the number to me. One hour!

Between calls and hold times, Diezel had been amusing himself by blowing his air horn at passing cars that had cut their lane change around us too closely. One of those blasts had clearly scared the towing company dispatcher shitless.

Fifteen minutes later, Diezel decided to get out and strobe his flashlight at the Stupid Americans who were too distracted to see his emergency flashers and proactively – not to mention safely – merge into the other lane.

He was worried about someone rear ending him. Looking at Angela’s dark brake lights and dead emergency lights, I couldn’t blame him. I was grateful to him for being there to save a near-certain collision.

There was a car backing down the overpass in front of Angela. He stopped and popped his rear hatch.

“Why don’t you go meet him?”

I acquiesced, and the man met me by my car with three flares. Another Good Samaritan.

For such a crappy night, the universe was putting a lot of amazing people in my path.

By the time the tow truck was a half hour late, the flares had burned through. Diezel was strobing approaching cars again. We could not believe how people fucked up such a simple thing as not hitting a stalled vehicle.

I couldn’t decide if it was distracted driving, stereotypically too polite Portland-slash-Portlandia-type drivers, or a combination of the two. Cars in our lane would slow to zipper in behind the car with the right of way, and that car would in turn yield its right of way by slowing to let it in front of them.

Both lanes of traffic came to a stop or near-stop several times. I retreated to the cab of Diesel‘s truck for an update on the tow truck.

Fifteen minutes.

Ten minutes later, the driver called. He was ten minutes out. He told me the tow would be just under $200. I asked if he could invoice me because I didn’t have it immediately – see also: why I was out driving on a Tuesday.

No.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuckity-fuck-fuck.

I’d payed two year’s worth of County back taxes and my January bills in the last ten days. Followed by also taking several days off to process my 4-star rating.

The savings I can usually access within 48 hours was nearly tapped. I was anticipating needing to tap into my other savings for the repair – that savings has a five day turnaround, so no driving for the better part of a week on top of opening the drain on my savings again. Not to mention any significant penalties for early withdrawal – or its modern day equivalent.

I was feeling hosed.

I looked a little more longingly at that guardrail. Sensing my distress, Diezel handed me his credit card and told me gently not to worry, pay him back whenever, but get the repair taken care of first.

I offered to at least get him a beer, but he demurred. It was after 9:30, after all…this one hour wait had turned into two and a half hours, not to mention the 30 minute transit and depositing Angela at the garage. He usually turns in closer to 8. Proposing a counteroffer of a hug, since we hadn’t seen each other in real life for over a year, he took off for home.

Realizing Myrtle’s dinner was over four hours late – a millennia in cat-time – I rushed upstairs to feed the mistress.

Then I prescribed myself a therapeutic Emotional Support Pizza that I keep in the freezer in case of emergency.

Don’t judge my Hawaiian pizza tastes!

You cannot understand the number of weekend nights I’ve come in from driving to bare cupboards. This was one of several I picked up after deciding I simply couldn’t face another 3 AM pizza from 7-Eleven. Plus, you can dress up a frozen pizza with red pepper flakes and – especially – an herb mix from Penzey’s Spices.

You’d eat this. <chef’s kiss> Admit it.

Plus, I broke open a bottle of the Columbia Gorge’s finest – from Marchese Cellars – to polish up the therapy session.

It’s a $30 bottle of amazing red. Not a bad companion to a $7 pizza…so if those herbs and red pepper flakes don’t make that pizza palatable…this will! Then this happened

Come the fuck on!

Undeterred, I got that cork out on the second try. Hopefully, that’s a harbinger of the ease of repair for Angela.

Now, I think I have some In Case Of Emergency Ben & Jerry’s around here somewhere…

John Lennon Was Right

I Can’t Believe I Got Up Early For This

Since I left professional/career level work, I’ve been low-key looking/not looking for an opportunity to get back in. For the most part, Lyft and the occasional Payroll/HR temp position keeps me engaged and feeds my need to feel productive.

Then I had to go and start thinking about buying a new place.

I had a plan: take the earnings off my savings in the 1st quarter of next year – which would equate to about 10% of the price I’m shopping in – and then save another 10% by adding 5-10 hours to my weekly drive schedule.

Then I talked to a mortgage guy who told me a self-employed worker really should put down 30% to get the best terms. I briefly considered lowering my target price, but really didn’t want to walk away from the properties I was seeing and trade down on amenities – which was a big factor in my moving considerations after a year and a half of being more of a homebody than I like.

I prodded myself to just keep to my plan and if I didn’t buy, I just ended up with that much more savings. Who knows, maybe I’d start a business with it.

Then October hit. And it didn’t pull its punches. I know part of this was the cumulative effect of spending ~$500 a month on therapy. While I felt it was helping me know myself and manage my triggers better, it was an extra hurdle each month.

Anywho, I took money out of savings to pay my monthly bills before vacation. Overused my credit card and generally felt the time I put in behind the wheel mid-month didn’t give much of an ROI.

I was a little underwhelmed.

Knowing that month end was coming up and assessing the demand for rides resulted in bleakness, I sold some more stock and prepared to cut into my savings a little deeper to prep for November. I also didn’t renew my therapy program for the month. If you’ve read my last couple posts, you know that the month went out like a lion and November started like it’s been the rest of the pride.

So I’m feeling a little optimistic, like I could feel whole and back-ish on track by month end. Hurrah.

Then I get a call about a job I applied for at the CVS around the corner from my place. In applying, I’d been my usual princess self: I wanted to walk to work and I wanted to be paid. I honestly figured there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d hear from them.

Oh, and they use assessments as part of their screening/hiring process. I loathe them and generally don’t do well on them because they ask the same questions over again later in the assessment to check for consistency. As a perceiver personality, that’s hard for me. I’ll read something and think , “Yeah, that’s what I’d do” and mark it down as an “Always”, but when it comes up again, slightly reworded, I start to find the gray area and lean into an “Almost Always” response.

Variables, amirite.

I’m not making any pendulum swings in my response, but there’s definitely room to give context for my thought process but nowhere to do so. Hence, I don’t like them.

But I got the interview!

The manager said she had time the following afternoon if I was free. I told her I was and she suggests 11 AM.

“Well, that’s morning, but I can make it.” Like I said, princess. She laughed and it was a date.

I walk into the store and she’s the only person on the sales floor. She cruises by me with a hobo whose bottle returns she’d just counted, tosses a “This’ll be a floor interview” over her shoulder as she passes and gives the bum his cash.

Then she leaves the register with a customer standing at it, comes over to introduce herself and declines a handshake or elbow bump. She literally said, “We don’t need to do that”!

I ask if she needs to help the customer and tell her I can wait. She says it’s fine, he can use the self-checkout.

The store is a shit hole. An absolute shit hole. Four foot high fixtures at the front of the store were empty, save abandoned purchases that customers just dumped and walked.

She’s wearing a beaded mask. I can see her teeth and know that it’s a mask in name only, versus anything offering protection.

“You don’t have any retail experience, what made you apply for this role?” She started out guns blazing.

Which is the only way to do it when you’re also starting out wrong.

“This is my third corporate retail job, and let me tell you, this place will chew you up and spit you out. So I’m curious what made you apply.”

Babe, if that’s the way you feel, why am I here? You clearly don’t have time to waste. “Well, I wouldn’t call 30 years of retail management nothing.”

She tells me I should have put that on my resume and I resist the impulse to counter that she should have read it. See? My therapy is working!

This is how the interview goes, her preening about this being her third corporate retail position, how she’s fought to get security and the store’s operating hours reduced. But not really talking much about me.

I offer a few times to let her tend to her customers and she accepts once and waves the offer off the rest of the time. We are within earshot of the customers she’s blowing off. That’s got to make them feel appreciated.

I wave to the empty shelves and ask about staffing: specifically what her plan was.

She poo-poos that by saying this store is just like this. Then follows it up with some crap about how if you can get promoted out of this store, everything else is a cakewalk. Basically, it sounds like she’s putting her time in until they get desperate enough to pull her out.

I’m thinking anyone that doesn’t fire her should also be fired.

Then I tell her that I worked in this very building for the former tenant…and it wasn’t like this. I go into my HR experience and how I could help with hiring, training and retention. She tells me she prefers to do the hiring personally.

“Well, I have a track record of retention, and have never had a store as critically poorly staffed as this, so if I’m her candidate she should rethink that. I offer the opportunity to meet applicants I like for her gut check approval and she offers a maybe. Sister, your interviewing skills are less than special, and your staffing crisis proves it.

The thing is, she only hires by gut. She didn’t ask any follow up questions or probe for details on my answers. I could have replied “Because” to a question and I don’t think she would have followed up. She was just thinking of her next question while I answered her.

No wonder her store was in crisis. If this was a first date, there wouldn’t be a second.

She asked what my salary expectations are and I tell her that I’d like to be on the low end of the range I indicated on the online application.

Nothing.

She regroups and asks what I’m looking for as an hourly rate. I tell her that a minimum of $30 would be the low end I mentioned. This is me converting the annual salary option I was given online to an hourly rate in me head. She tells me this role has a cap of $21/hr, so she’d have to get approval.

“You’re not going to get that. Paying me 30% more than others in this role would get you into trouble with Lilly Ledbetter. As a matter of fact, to avoid the appearance of unfair wage practices, many corporations – and remember, this is her third – have stopped asking what an applicant’s salary expectations are and switched to telling them what the job pays.

Not this mess of a manager.

I kind of left the interview angry. This is exactly the culture of incompetence that I’d left behind at my last professional – in name only – job. If The Peter Principle wasn’t slightly sexist, I’d tell you that it’s still thriving in retail.

But, Bob’s your uncle I can tell you that incompetency is still rewarded in retail. In case you were worried…the people serving us in stores are apparently hired on their ability to fog up a mirror. This woman could do it without taking off her mask, too, so she probably got extra credit on that test.

I came home determined that I didn’t want the job and wondering why I didn’t tell her so at the end of the interview. I’m still torn on whether it was uncertainty in my ability to do so without going full Julia Sugarbaker on her or if was the potential for better mortgage rates.

Nonetheless, when I got home, I decided to withdraw my application. I went to their hiring site and was surprised to find this.

There is no option to withdraw your application from consideration.

Ain’t that America?

You can’t reject us. We can put you through the ringer applying and put our worst foot forward during the interview process, but our ego will not allow for the possibility that you wouldn’t be lucky to be offered a job with us.

Stupid Americans.

GlassDoor, here I come!

I Can’t Believe I Got Up Early For This

Rebranded

Nope. Not about the new name for Facebook that we’re all anxiously anticipating from the investor meeting tomorrow.

No, this is related to a conversation I had with a local hospital worker the other day. He’d graduated college last year and began working in his field of study at a hospital. He mentioned it by way of expressing his relief at being out of retail, which was how he put food on the table during his school years.

I told him that was kind of the reverse of my career trajectory – which had me doing some hospital work in college and then landing in a luxurious retail career. Don’t be jealous, it makes you look bloated. Then I asked him when he was going to take his clothes off what department he was working in and he replied “Environmental Services”.

“Oh, I think that would be the department my job fell under, but I don’t think my job title exists anymore.”

He asked what my job was and I told him – again, don’t get jealous – “I was an Orderly”.

Laughing, he asked what I did, and when I ran down my job description he told me that job would be either an Environmental Technician or Patient Transport. Setting aside the reality that he’d never heard the word Orderly before, my college job was now two jobs?!?

Ok, sure. Why not? Hospitals are nothing if not job creators. Given the exploding size of our elderly population as the Silent Generation handed off the title of elderly to the Boomers, I can imagine the workload involved in getting patients to and from place to place within hospitals has grown significantly, so I’m game.

Maybe that was the reason behind the name change, too, but I doubt it. I mean, “Janitor” had already begun to morph into other job titles with some iteration of the word “facilities” or “maintenance” involved in the mix. Why couldn’t Orderlies remain Orderlies while the Environmental Technicians addressed the newly created role?

Now, picking up that whole thing we set aside earlier, this guy not being familiar with the term “Orderly”. C’mon, man…get out into the hospital! It’s an environment filled with “people of a certain age” who are loathe to let go of their ways and adopt new terminology. In that setting, he’s bound to hear patients loudly addressing someone as “Orderly”, talking about how Nurses aren’t supposed to be male, and mispronuncifying the word “Italian”.

He’s just not paying attention. That’s hardly the point, though. Go ahead, fly your desk.

It got me thinking about other jobs that have experienced a similar rebranding over the years. I easily came up with one from my retail career. When I worked in stores during High School, I was a “Clerk” or a “Stock Boy”. That last one didn’t survive long enough to transition to a gender neutral title – like Mailman did when it became Mail Carrier. No, my High School job became known as “Sales Associate”.

Whatever. It beats, “Hey, dumbass” as a means of getting someone’s attention.

What were Package Handlers called before they were rebranded? I think it was Delivery Boy/Person, but might be wrong…

The job title “Milkman” died before it had to address its gender bias. Now, though – at least in kooky Portland – it’s seeing a resurgence as people shift back toward locally produced dairy products. What are we going to call these folk? Artisanal Dairy Procurement Agents? Sounds bulky, and doesn’t really lend itself to an acronym…ADPA?

Another example popped up during a ride I gave yesterday. This young kid hopped in my backseat and almost immediately declared he recognized me from somewhere. Choosing to own my diminished desirability, I didn’t even entertain the option that we’d had a date of any sort. Not that he wasn’t delightfully right up my alley, aesthetically – although, I like to think I have a good enough memory to not forget that’s how I know someone. Instead, I assumed I’d simply given him a ride before.

Ok, I see now how that phrase works for both scenarios…still, I usually remember duplicate passengers of either stripe.

He said maybe it was because he’d seen me at one of his past jobs, back when he was working in restaurants before the pandemic.

“Did you ever go to Ringside?”

I laughed and told him I had not.

“No! I remember…it was Tanner Creek Tavern!”

Oof. Now, that’s a good memory. I told him that was indeed my usual hangout and asked him what he did there.

“I was an SA.”

“I don’t know what that is.”

“You know…a Server’s Assistant!”

I managed not to belch out, “Oooh, a Busser!” See how I got the gender neutral job title correct? I’m not a Boomer, after all.

“Hmm. Sounds more like a cart or a tray…”

Just because I’m not a Boomer doesn’t mean I can’t be mad that something with a perfectly fine job title has been rebranded to provide an ego boost to the worker. You want to boost their ego? How about giving them something to back up the level of esteem you purportedly hold them in and just pay them a decent wage? That’ll boost their ego, being paid like a human being. The median income for a Busser Server’s Assistant is less than $20,000.

No? Sticking with the rebranded job title? That’s what I thought. Skinflint.

Look, I can’t say the title “Orderly” really described the job those people perform. But “Busser” kind of did nail the job duties expected of those individuals in that job. The believed origin of the original job title of Busboy is a shortened version of “Omnibus Boy”, meaning they were basically a Jack of All Trades for a restaurant.

Also, the most common tool of said trade is called a bus tub, so renaming their role from Busser or even Bus Boy/Girl calls into question all of the other job titles that use the main tool or function of the job itself in the job title. What shall we call Bus Drivers, Cooks or Electricians going forward?

Just kidding, those last two are easy: Cookie and Sparky.

How about Physicians and Doctors? If Masseurs became Massage Therapists, maybe Doctors should enjoy a similar rebranding to…Health Advisor? Although if you asked a Nurse, they’d probably opt more for something along the lines of “Overcompensated Do Nothinger”.

What rebranded jobs did I miss? Tell me what you’ve encountered out there in the working world – or what job titles should change!

Rebranded

So Hungry!

I don’t know what it is, metabolism or simply a mental fixation, but when I eat before bed I usually wake up famished!

For instance…right now!

I’ve been up since 630, too. Sidebar: That’s another fun little game my body enjoys. “Oh, you’re going to bed at 230? Let’s just set that internal alarm for about four hours, then…”

Anyway, I started out thinking I’d just read a bit and then get up to workout. One of those things happened before I ran up against a time wall – I have the building’s annual fire system testing beginning at 930 that I needed to be ready for. I’m waiting for that right now. It starts in ten minutes, so I’m sure they’ll be here right around my 1100 phone interview.

Meanwhile, I’ll just quietly starve to death.

I could message my HOA Board President and tell him I’m leaving my unit unlocked to “run an errand”. That would be fine with him. But I’m still a little traumatized by the $30 sandwich I had for lunch yesterday.

No, it wasn’t a food delivery surcharge surprise. It was just me being so classically…me.

And it all started so innocently. I’d been chuckling during my last visit about my neighborhood sandwich shop’s tendency to run out of bread, resulting in them posting a “Sold Out” sign while also remaining open. Turns out the reason for that is online orders. The associate making my sammie recommended I try it. She told me that that was why they stayed open, people picking up orders they scheduled for later pick up times.

So I tried it.

I walked in at 115 and there it was, sitting there ready to jump in my belly. Of course, since this is me, I had special instructions for my picky ass eater self…

I find “special instructions” to be a great place to showcase my sense of humor. Also, I’m a native Portlander, meaning that I hate to be a bother…so making it funny makes it seem less like I’m ordering these folks around with my demands.

Other faves for my mustard tastes include “Make it like a you’re Jackson Pollack” and “Give me Rorschach level mustard, please”. It’s a far better abuse of the open fields in their ordering platform than my other thus-far-resisted temptation: the name field. Even though I’ve resisted the impulse, I still have the thought every time I use the in-store ordering kiosk, “What name shall I have them call out when my sando is ready?” Mostly I consider “Baby” or “Daddy”, but this is generally only when the cute guy is working the counter. No doubt my life would be much enhanced by the presence of an attractive man saying, “Baby, your sandwich is ready”. Alas.

The sandwich turned out pretty well. The crusty bread was a little soggier than usual, suggesting it had sat a little while. The risks one runs when demanding copious condiment application.

Don’t you worry…that mustard found its way onto my bread.

But how does using the shop’s online ordering system and picking my $12 order up equate to a $30 sandwich?

Hyperbole, obviously.

You see, I usually pick up a drink while I’m there and then eat at the picnic tables located on the next block of park. It started out as a kombucha, but evolved to a maté from the same company that is rather tasty. It’s also usually accompanied by a warning about the intensity of the drink from the staff. I guess it packs the same wallop as about three to four cups of coffee.

I highly recommend it…assuming you can find it outside of Oregon.

Anyway, they were sold out of it yesterday when I ordered. Thanks to a past unpleasant experience at the Brodega across the side street from me – I’d walked in to get a bubble water after an earlier venture and the cashier tried to charge me for the maté since they sell it, thank gawd I had my receipt! – I knew that they carried it. In an unusual twist, the Brodega sells it for the same price. Usually, their prices are far more dear.

So, yeah…I pop in on the way to the sando shop for my $3.50 maté. Then I remember they sell these chips that I’ve absolutely loved since I had a functioning metabolism was in my early 20s. They are actually quite hard to find, so I treat myself every now and again.

So tasty. And this lil Brodega is smart! They put the queue for the registers in the aisle that has chips and chocolate in it. Knowing that, I’d accepted my fate and embraced that $2.50 temptation.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the little end cap of local cookies I stood next to as I waited for the next open register.

It wasn’t until I was on my way home – this much food for lunch mandates shame eating at home versus enjoying a temperate afternoon in the park – that I wondered why my grocery store total had been $16. I’ve bought the chips and drink often enough to know that they came to about $6 together. That means that my bag of five cookies was $10!

Fhat the wuck?!?

I’m sure you’ve corrected my use of the word Brodega for the corner grocery to the correct bodega, but I prefer my portmanteau of “Bro” and “bodega” to reflect the overpriced nature of this little neighborhood market. Still, though…$10 for five cookies?!? C’mon.

That’s what I get for being weak, I guess.

Yet here I sit, absolutely famished – and now with bonus klaxons blaring – because after my big lunch, I had a late night snack of cheese & crackers – and wine, natch – and finished off my cookies at the same time. I went to bed full, woke up absolutely starving.

Now that the alarm test has finished on my floor, I can decide if I want to go get something for breakfast before my interview or wait until after. Seems like risking low blood sugar and a hangry old Xtopher might not be the optimal way to show up to an interview, so I’ll likely eat. But I’m still wearing shorts to it!

So Hungry!

Uplift

One of the running themes I try to include in my novels is helping others out. Whether it’s direct or emotional assistance, I think that’s important in a society.

Its absence from Gay Kulture is one of my biggest pet peeves about my community. I shorthand that by saying that “there’s no unity in the gay community”.

But that’s another blog.

Last night, I got to see a version of this in play in real life and it made me so happy. And I didn’t even have to leave my block!

I had wandered into the restaurant next door for dinner. I was celebrating completing back-to-back challenge weeks – which equated to two weeks of 135 rides in about 50 hours. For context, a more normal week for me is 40-50 rides in about 20 hours.

Ow, my ass.

I knew from the owner that one of original kitchen staff was returning as of last Friday. I didn’t know that one of the servers was going to be taking over Sunday and Monday bartending duties from the owner starting last night, though.

That was a nice surprise. Apparently, he’d expressed an interest in bartending during his interview and business and timing worked out.

But on top of that, when my friend made it out of the kitchen to say hi, I learned that she’d been hired as a chef and not just as part of the line like she’d been before. She was glowing with pride at that accomplishment.

I left the restaurant with a belly full of good food and drink and a heart full for the professional development this restauranteur has been able to create for two nice humans. So, tonight – to keep up my end of the whole “living in a society” deal – I had to take a moment to pull the owner aside and tell him how satisfying it is to see someone providing true opportunities for people. I think part of my ability to see that comes from the reality that during my retail career, leadership tended to punish people for being effective by not promoting them. Much easier to hire and train one person from the outside versus having two people new to their roles at the same time, right? So selfish.

Funny how I couldn’t sit in my driver’s seat any longer yesterday, but my ass handled a barstool just fine…

Uplift