All The Small Things

No, this is not a humble brag about Unhung Pride. I mean, that’s totally something I would do…I’m just not presently setting out to.

Ok, now I have. Oops.

I don’t know how to segue back to my original thought, so I’ll just say…tell your friends?

Ok, no. The small things I was referring to was really more a matter of things we lose track of during the normal efforts to distract ourselves from the futility hustle and bustle of our daily lives. I’m trying to do one new, small self-care thing each week.

In August, I set aside time each week to go on a 30-45 minute trundle jog.

Last month, I bought a couple new candles. Because Myrtle takes some really heinous dumps and can’t cover her “tracks”, if you get my drift.

There was my weed syrup splurge, which has afforded me several nights of better sleep than I deserve each week. Special side effect: I’ve been drinking less. Woo!

I buy the occasional home improvement plant.

Next week I might crawl into my closet in search of Christmas lights for my balcony railing. Something virtually only I would enjoy. Well, me, the seven balconies attached to occupied courtyard facing units in my building and possibly any hotel guests on the backside of my neighboring hotel.

One week I went through my photos on my phone and deleted a bunch, moving others into long overdue albums to help me find them easier. That hasn’t paid me back yet, alas.

Then a couple weeks ago, I went down a true rabbit hole. Albeit, one that could potentially pay me back for my efforts. And like anything binge-adjacent (drinking, watching entire series, what-have-you) as soon as I finished exploring said rabbit hole, I forgot all about it.

Today, I was reminded of that particular exercise in self-care when I went to my mailbox. Speaking of things I don’t do often enough. Anyway, I digress. Me! Can you believe that?

Boom. Random money in my mailbox. And there’s more coming!

How?

Unclaimed Property.

No anonymous rich uncles here, unfortunately. But I did have a one-off paycheck here in Portland and an un-refunded deposit to a utility company in Seattle.

Apparently, each state has a repository for these types of remittance, lest you simply think that companies pocket these things. I’m sure each state set their system up differently, and there have always been outfits that exploit the system by setting up sites to help you search for and claim unknown “property”. But those always cost something. Either a membership or processing fee of some kind. Maybe a percentage of the windfall. I’ve low key “known” about my utility deposit for over five years, but was t willing to pay to get it.

Recently, I found a link to unclaimed property while perusing the Credit Karma website – which I like because it’s a) free and b) a source of depressing news that I can exert at least minimal influence over, unlike newspapers or broadcast news, which I’m pretty powerless against.

Suddenly, I was searching databases for all of the states I’ve ever lived in to see if I’d left a trail of oopsies across this fine country of ours. Mind you, some of these states I lived in in the last century, so I wasn’t expecting that there would be a result, but as long as I was there…plus, I moved out of Washington in 2015! I surely wouldn’t have expected to have them hold on to a utility deposit for five years after I left the state. Moreover, this was a deposit, so it likely was paid closer to 15 years ago when I first moved to what I like to call the third best state on the West Coast.

I think the utility deposit was for cable service, which I signed up for in ’07 and terminated the following year. After returning the box, I would have been due a credit for the equipment. That should have been easy enough, since I still had internet service through the same company – just credit my damn bill, right?

Wrong.

Shows what I know.

I’ll be on the lookout for that $100 check coming soon. Unless I forget again.

The check I got today was from an extra job I did for Grimm a few years ago. We’re talking back in ’16. I went out and sat in a holding tent for a few hours on a drizzly night in a nice old Portland neighborhood…then I guess I never picked up the check. Seemed fitting, since I think the job this check was for was actually for an extra gig that I never got out of the holding tent on.

Too bad there’s no interest on it after four years. Actually, probably the opposite. Since learning my net was an entire $55 plus change, I’ve been trying to remember what the day rate was for extra work back then. I seem to recall $120, but netting down to less than half seems…unduly taxing. Maybe it was only $100? Still, a 45% tax rate? Save it for the friggin’ billionaires!

But it’s fifty-five bones that I didn’t have this morning, so I’ll take it. Maybe I’ll buy a few more candles. Or a pot for Figly the Free Fig. Seems weird to pay for a planter for a free plant, so purchasing one with found money is appropriate!

Meanwhile, for those of you keeping track, I saw another vehicle going the wrong way on a one-way street again today.

On.

A.

Bridge.

This is why I do nice things for myself. I could figuratively die any second.

All The Small Things

Break Time!

This might be more of a Hail Mary post than an actual blog entry. So expect to be appropriately underwhelmed.

That said, this email from yesterday caught me off guard, enter the Hail Mary portion of this entry.

About a month ago, I skeptically clicked on a link on the Facebook that I fully expected to create a full blown spam implosion of my account. It was from NORC, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. As best I can tell, they are a legit entity, even though they are new on my personal radar.

They were offering a paid opportunity to participate in their election survey, specifically the influence social media has on people during an election cycle. The whole 6 week enchilada pays about a tenth of my monthly nut, so it’s not significant, but it’s also not nothing.

But it is a 6 week break from the BS that is Facebook, so I happily signed up – after doing my due due diligence.

Haha. Doodoo.

I was just surprised to get the email yesterday that said “Boom, bitch, it’s now!”

Well, maybe I’m paraphrasing.

The long and short of this Hail Mary is, basically, maybe they signed me out of the Facebook, but maybe that act does not keep any of my tethered accounts – such as WordPress – from syncing up. If that’s the case, my ALIHAFG followers there will see this entry and understand my silence. I mean, I only had about a month to get ahead of this thing and failed

So either this works, or people come to the understandable leap of logic that I’ve obviously died. More on my personal experiences with that later.

Maybe.

In the meantime, I’ve apparently got to go be asocial. Also in the meantime, I’m using my one-less-distraction existence to get shit done. I’m halfway through editing – and I humbly discovered a few obvious typos in doing so – my revised book two of No One Of Consequence, splitting book two into books two and three to keep my price point palatable and my earning equally low, I’m sure.

Hehe.

Gulp.

<starves to death>

Kidding, I’m very lucky to have parents – in my damn fifties that would never let that happen! In the interim, I look at this social media break between now and November 3 as freeing up my time to complete this book two rewrite and wrap up a tangental project called Longtime Survivor – which will probably result in a Cease and Desist order coming my way – ahead of November’s NaNoWriMo event…in which my plan – such as it is – is to get a first draft of what I’m calling Fifty Gig – my second non-fiction entry in the Oldie Hawn trilogy. The first of which was dating. Fifty Gig is work and the third entry will be (I think) fitness, now that COVID has iced my physical shitness cupcake.

We’ll see how that optimistic planning plays out.

Break Time!

And Then There’s Actual Karma

Not that I particularly enjoy a karmic smack down.

Schadenfreude…sure, that I’ll cop to.

But honestly, the only times when I find myself truly enjoying karma are the times I see someone who has something good coming their way get their due.

Y’know, like in the pre-lockdown days when someone would sit down near me at a video poker machine. They’d put a urine soaked dollar bill – because it’s Portland, so they are houseless, obviously – into the machine, smack toothless gums while deciding what game to play and then bet min – which is probably sixty cents of that pee dollar (aka: street value of the USD) – only to hit a bonus and win a whopping $10.

That is an example of karma that makes me happy.

That is not the type of karma I woke up to this morning. Let me explain…

Or the Kenton neighborhood of NoPo, 2017…

I was the GM for Green Zebra Grocery, a store that’s called itself the 7-Eleven of healthy grocers. A Whole Foods in a convenience store footprint.

Great concept. One that suits my “fishbowl existence” preference – neighborhoods with everything residents need, home, entertainment, restaurants, gyms, and, yes…even grocery stores. Green Zebra – The Zeeb, as the staff nicknamed it – fit right into my worldview.

Then I worked there.

Then, I didn’t.

It couldn’t have ended in a shittier or shadier manner. The founder herself fired me.

For cause.

Or what passed for cause in her confrontation averse universe.

Basically, I was a scapegoat. Or whatever livestock one slaughters to appease the Harassment Gods or fake idols employees pray to in order to dodge personal accountability.

A grocery clerk left work grateful I’d canceled his shift for the day. He’d shown up visibly impaired, barfed in the sanitizer bucket behind the meat counter, declared “Dude, I did this to myself” when I asked after him…and then claimed harassment after my response to him admitting that he was drunk and stoned at work was “That’s not ok”.

He was relieved to go home that day.

When he came back to work and had to face the follow up counseling, he was butt hurt.

And suddenly, I was the problem.

He went right to the founder with his complaint.

He had to change his story a couple of times. First it was “inappropriate comments”, which was vague and scuttled by my counter defense of, “That’s pretty much the culture here – and I’m trying to fix it”.

Seriously, my defense was a sticker on a manager’s work issued laptop – well, among other examples. And I offered to be the champion of continued change.

Seriously, that was the sticker staring at me during weekly meetings during my tenure at The Zeeb. When I pointed out that I’d walked into an inappropriate environment and relaxed my own standards to “blend”, the Number Two in the company said, “It’s true” under her breath in a fit of neo-corporate inconvenience. So, basically, the founder decided to fire me after her own Number Two indicted her position.

Of course, there was the whole, “That actually never happened” defense, which should stand on its own merits anyway.

After his second story iteration, I pointed out that another complaint made by the same employee had ended in the termination of a meat clerk…that was also on a Worker’s Comp LOA. Apparently, he’d made an unwitnessed comment about the length of the homophobic employee’s hair relative to his gender.

Now, to me, that’s a definite no-fly zone. But in proving it…when it can’t be proven…well, that scenario ended with erring on the side of caution and terminating the legitimately injured employee.

However, after sending the founder into another retreat to regroup by asking how many witches she was willing to drown to protect this young man’s fragile sexual identity, she came back – after story revision number three – and fired my sacrificial lamb ass.

Just remember, after coming to work drunk, stoned and puking in a sanitizing bucket within three feet of raw meat – not that kind, Diezel! – I told the kid he was responsible for managing his crossfade so that it didn’t negatively impact the business or the team.

Yeah, fire me for that.

My last words to Lisa – the founder – were, “Surround yourself with good people and then get out of their way”. She’d created a parental environment where if one of “the kids” didn’t like what (in this case) dad said, they went running to mom.

Short story long – gotta love context – this morning I woke up to someone from my old store’s team posting Instagram story videos announcing the store team striking.

I recognized the view from the employee side of the cash registers-slash-espresso bar.

I recognized the founder losing her shit at the situation.

Unsurprisingly, on camera.

For several minutes.

Ranting almost incoherently. The liberal dramatic throwing up of exasperated arms. The dramatic and long suffering demand that her employees abandon their posts so she can ring up customer purchases her-put-upon-self. Customers abandoning their purchases and leaving before Lisa retreated toward the offices yelling that employees win and all employees were getting paid for the day.

The interesting thing wasn’t the karmic drama. It was in the seeking to understand – one of Lisa’s corporate values. In looking into why the employees decided to strike, I learned it was mainly over hazard pay. During the pandemic, many companies with essential workers – like grocery stores – all employers in that field seemed to offer a bump in the neighborhood of $2/hr for their employees or bonuses of hundreds of dollars multiple times. I’m sure it wasn’t universal, but I didn’t see other grocer’s employees striking so dramatically.

It’s worth noting that Whole Foods employees situationally went out on strike despite their $2/hr Hero Pay bump that lasted a couple months. Notably, the store in my neighborhood went on strike over a lack of safe working conditions following the death of at least one of their team from COVID-19.

Lisa apparently offered a one-time $120 bonus for employees. I’m not sure whether that was prorated for full and part time positions. Regardless, $120 for working in an at-risk environment for 12+ weeks – well…that’s $10/week at best for any employee, regardless of the number of hours worked.

Regardless of the prior conversations, the situation I observed tells me Lisa still either can’t hire the people with the competencies she needs to support her success or she can’t get out of the way of her own team’s success. My experience is that when hiring, you get more wins than losses. There are more people who want to do good work than not. But they need good leadership to do so.

The situation I personally experienced versus what I witnessed this morning via video shows me that Lisa not only hasn’t learned to get out of the way of good people, she’s literally actively getting in the way to try and single-handedly keep her store open in spite of their grievances.

Karmicly, I was gratified to see that her customers weren’t any more sympathetic to it than her employees were.

Where it goes from here is dependent upon whether old dogs can learn new tricks. From what I’m seeing in our country in general and my city in particular…it ain’t coming easy. If it happens.

And Then There’s Actual Karma

Car-ma

Yeah, so you may recall me saying that things that happen in Angela – my car – are cyclical.

Sometimes That’s Fun

The other night I went out for my usual 10 rides. It was like the universe was telling me to go home and get baked.

My second ride called me to the Broadway Cannabis Collective, which is actually just a couple streets over from my house. I picked up a guy who’d been shopping there after hitting the gym in the Pearl because it was his favorite gym in town. Normally his husband comes with him and drives, but not today – which allowed me to meet him. He was a really nice guy, I mention this because he’s an older gay guy – maybe mid to late 30s – and nice, and accomplished…so I’m supposed to not like him, right? Well, I did. So there.

I dropped him off at his home on – and I swear I’m not making this up – Gay Street.

I go about my driverly endeavors, minding my own business and just really feeling good for having met that guy, even if only briefly.

The night was kind of slow – the first where I didn’t really have a ride waiting when I dropped off my current passenger – and I thought about hanging it up after ride five. It was really nice out and I thought maybe I’d take a walk around the waterfront.

“Just one more loop around the riverfront corridor”, I told myself. That’s MLK and Broadway flanked by the Burnside and Broadway Bridges. As I cruised down MLK toward the Burnside Bridge, I got a call to pick someone up a few blocks behind me at Oregon’s Finest – another cannabis dispensary.

That’s not even the cyclical part of my driving shift. I mean, well…kinda. Call it a recurring theme.

I picked up a young woman who was just getting off work and took her home. We had a great chat along the way about…weed. I sometimes feel bad talking shop with my cannabis industry peeps, but she pointed out that the people that work in weed are definitely passionate about it.

Two rides later – ride eight – I look at my pick up and I’m getting called back to Oregon’s Finest.

Weird

I pick up another young woman finishing up her workday and take her home. Along the way, I tell her about my earlier ride and she wonders which one of her co-workers it was. “I dunno, can’t remember her name. Really nice, though. Orange hair?”

That did actually – even in Portland – narrow it down for her.

My last ride of the night – ride ten – was a pick up for a last minute run to the weed shop before closing time.

Any guesses?

Broadway Cannabis Collective.

There’s a damn weed shop on damn near every block in this crossfaded town and 40% of my rides in one day were to two of them.

Pretty strange occurrence.

Right up there with the day I picked up a guy to take him to work at Mr Nice Guy. I honestly wasn’t sure if that was a weed shop or an adult book store, but once we arrived I figured it out. As I sat in the driveway, trying to decide whether to go left or right to cruise toward home, I got a ride request.

Turns out, I was going left…to the other Mr Nice Guy a few miles away to pick up a customer.

Back to back rides with the same business? That amused the hell out of me.

But not every coincidence is weed-related.

Yesterday, for instance, my very first ride was taking a guy home from work. As we drove, we chatted about Portland real estate, because…why not? He interrupts himself to appreciatively comment about a rather fit looking age inappropriate woman. With anime pink hair.

“Probably a stripper, too. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!” he adds hastily.

Which segues – courtesy of your favorite Voice of Treason – into the generational differences regarding sex workers. Our generation – his and mine – still has obvious parochial guilt around the subject. Younger generations embrace sex work as an industry.

But that’s not the point.

I drop him off with a ride waiting and go pick up this young woman. She drops her bag in the car and apologizes for forgetting her mask before running back into her house to get it.

Such a nice young lady.

I ask her where she’s going and she says to the pet store to get a mouse for her snake. Mentally, I drive into a telephone pole, underreacting.

In reality, I laugh and change the subject.

“I have to say, you look exactly like your picture.” She’s surprised by this. I tell her that most people don’t even have a pic on their profile, but it’s helpful for me when I’m looking for people on a crowded street. Then I highlight my own short-haired profile picture versus my current shaggy reality.

“But your hair is even the same color in real life…I wanna say teal?”

She fusses with her hair and admits that she just touched it up, but in the picture from last year her hair is actually a little faded. We go on talking about how she always wanted to dye her hair that color growing up in LA, but never felt comfortable doing so until she moved to Portland.

“Portland is weird that way – there’s really just no ‘normal’ here when it comes to style”, I tell her before asking what she did for work.

stripper.

I shit you not.

Back to back stripper talk rides.

We talk about that for a while and I tell her how much I truly love that stripping is just a normal part of our bar scene versus some taboo, like in the rest of the country. She agreed, having been a stripper in LA she was kind of surprised by the shame factor associated with it there. The seedy locations. The judgment she encountered on the bus if her work bag wasn’t zipped all the way and her work heels showed.

“Not here, sister. In Portland, it’s weird to be drinking a beer and not have a naked person within three feet!” As we rolled up to the pet store, I thanked her for keeping Portland the right kind of weird. She told me to stop in to Mary’s if I was ever in the neighborhood.

I live three blocks from Mary’s. Which is actually the oldest strip club in town. Mary herself – well into her 60s – is still known to pop in for a set now and then. On top of the whole “gay” thing, a 60+ stripper is enough to keep a beer at Mary’s pretty low on my to-do list, but now…

Anyway, those are some examples of fun circles. But that’s not always the case.

Sometimes That’s Not Fun.

I’m glad I don’t have many bad rides. Bad, being relative, of course. Mean people or folks behaving inappropriately? Almost never. Out of over 1700 rides in the last 11 months, I think I could count on one hand the truly bad experiences I’ve had.

I’ve had a couple of sad story rides that could count as “bad”, too.

The two young ladies I dropped off at a funeral – the people entering the chapel were almost exclusively teenagers.

The woman whose long term boyfriend (and local concert promoter) had died prematurely the night before.

And this nice Black woman from the other night and her teenaged grandson. She was on her way home after spending a few days watching after her grandkids so their mother could help make arrangements for an elderly relative’s funeral.

It turns out, that death had been expected, however the day after that older family member died, two others had been killed in a car accident. A mother and her son.

I’d heard about that wreck. It was bad. The car caught fire after the wreck and both driver and passenger ended up dying.

It wasn’t until this grandmother got in my car that I understood how terrible the accident was. But it was heartwarming to hear about how the family pulled together to take care of one another. The grandson was actually going to spend a few days with grandma now that his mom was back home and able to take care of his younger sibling.

Also, his aunt was going to do his braids…still, that just seemed like the family taking care of each other in a “life goes on” type of way.

The circle here?

In what would end up being my final ride of the night, I was taking a hospital worker from OHSU high up on a hilltop in southwest Portland to her home in deep southeast. Like around 122nd. It was just about 11 PM and we were waiting to turn onto 122nd, her home was just a few hundred feet away.

The lights – I think, this is where I’m every stereotype of a bad eyewitness – had just changed to allow the cross street turn lanes the right of way. A car turning onto 122nd from the other direction was just crossing the center of the intersection when a car ran the red light on 122nd. They must have been going 50 MPH or more in a 40 MPH zone. They hit the rear drivers side of the car hard enough to knock it backward and across two lanes of traffic, narrowly missing a pedestrian when it landed on the corner diagonal from me. The speeding vehicle ended up in the gas station even further behind it pointed in the wrong direction.

I’d been – me being me – chattering away with my passenger when all of this happened 30-ish feet away from us. It was stunning, to put it mildly. It looked like the car that got hit only had a driver in it, but they weren’t moving. My passenger wanted to go home, so after waiting to make sure people were calling 911, I went on.

Coming back down 122nd a few minutes later, the intersection was filled with police cars – luckily they weren’t all down at the Justice Center, which had been the “story” from PPB a few days prior – and emergency vehicles. Still a little shaken up by the accident I’d witnessed, I carefully executed a left-hand turn at the intersection, switched off my app and pointed Angela toward home.

Like I said, there’s not many bad stories or circles from my time driving…but I probably should have saved that stripper story for the end, eh?

Car-ma

Pro-Tip

I was having socially distant beers with Filipina Fox recently – we were drinking in the park, surrounded camouflaged by homeless people milling about. She took the opportunity to ask my opinion on something that had been bugging her lately.

Food Delivery Apps.

“Easy”, I said. “Don’t.”

But, she explained her conflict – she is a more than competent cook, by the way – of wanting to support local business and be lazy convenience. But when she orders delivery, she gets mad that the restaurant has to pay a commission to the app, effectively removing the support she wants to provide. Plus, delivery drivers need the income, too.

I totally get that. All that.

However, working in banking as she does, specifically in a capacity where local, small businesses are her clients, she has seen the documentation of sales and expense restaurants incur as part of app based delivery services. The examples I’ve seen point toward that app portion of the fees being about 35% of the order value…and in food, that’s pretty much more than a restaurant’s profit margin. She wanted my opinion since when my Lyft Life gets a little too peopley or if there’s just no ride demand, she knows that I’ll flip on Postmates as an alternative.

Frankly, I really enjoy my untethered, non-professional gig jobs. The flexibility to work when I want, do what I want, yada-yada-yada…with no boss or corporate overlord to worry about. As an added bonus, both options allow me to flex a muscle I took for granted when I walked away from my retail career in disgust – namely: being in service to people.

Still, that a friend was demonstrating this level of hand-wringing worrying about how her actions impacted others made my little gig worker self feel appreciated in a way that most of my actual past bosses failed at.

Yet there I was, telling her to fuck worrying about me and my gig working ilk.

Why?

I was mad at Postmates, obviously.

Well, mad might be overselling it. But Postmates, I have observed in my last few attempts to customer them, has either been doing some shady shit or at least allowing it to happen. Since the reason for my disgust with retail was precisely that shady type of shit being allowed to fester versus holding people accountable to ethical standards…well, this observation bothered me.

So, I told the Filipina Fox my story.

The last few times I’ve ordered Postmates for my self, I’ve abandoned my order and found alternative forms of sustenance because I saw that Postmates wasn’t just making money on both ends, like apps do. They seemed to be actively price gouging.

Case in point:

I went to order from a local Chinese restaurant and found my favorite comfort food – Chef’s Special Fried Rice, which has shrimp, beef and chicken in it! – and added it to my order for $13.95. I thought that seemed kind of high, recalling that it was under $10 when I stumbled in there back in the good, old pre-COVID days and ordered at the bar, had a Heineken while I waited and left for under $20 with tip.

Then again, maybe I misremembered that since I’d had a few beers prior to walking in.

But then-then again, it is super yummy, so even at $13.95…worth it. So, I ordered it anyway. But just to make myself miserable, I googled Republic Cafe’s menu and, well…screw you, Uncle Bob.

Here’s why all that bothers me:

First, it seems to only happen with independent restaurants. When I’ve needed a Chipotle fix, those prices seem consistent with my prior in-restaurant orders. So, again, this is impacting small, local businesses.

Sidebar: I have noticed while driving, when I have to order and pay for something for a customer with my pre-paid Postmates card, that there are variations between what the app tells me the total should be and reality at national restaurants, but I don’t know what the customer is actually charged, so can’t definitively say that this doesn’t also happen with chain restaurants, too. But this sets up point number two pretty nicely.

Second, who knows whether this is a self-defense decision by the restaurant or something Postmates mandates. Regardless, even in the best case, the commission they are getting is off a higher priced menu, so they’re at least getting more for their 35% cut. If the best case here is that the restaurant is jacking their prices up 30% plus in order to offset the cost of selling through apps, well…that mitigates my friend’s concern, right?

Apps are still charging crazy delivery fees to the customer. Their other customer. Usually somewhere in the $3-5 range. So, on top of the $4-5 they would make on my $13.95 order from the restaurant, they add another $4-5 from the customer.

So, they’re making around $10 on each $15 order placed.

And I know, they promote restaurants with free or reduced delivery, too. I have no idea how that works out for the restaurants versus the apps. But on the flip side of that, for every order under $15, Postmates racks on a “small cart fee” of $2 to the customer, so…they’re making money somewhere or wheres – I don’t feel bad for them.

Like Filipina Fox, I feel a little bad for some of the businesses. But mostly, I feel mad that the customer is getting abused the way they are. The end result being that I will make decisions kind of like what she has been opting to do, which is just put on my big boy pants and walk down to the restaurant and pick up my own damn food.

No, really…I have to put on pants. Quarantine dress code and all means I’m probably sitting around in sweats versus dressed to go out. And sweats are not ok for going to pick up to-go food…it’s not like I’m getting on a plane, for Pete’s sake.

But, that’s a whole other rant.

Pro-Tip

Does This K Make Me Look Fat?

I’d forgotten about this…achievement with everything else going on.

Maybe that means I’m losing my competitive edge not being around other people. One thing I’ve noticed, having indulged in video chats with family and friends lately – ok, sure…I call them Virtual Happy Hours, but let’s call that Social Distancing Lubrication – is that we have to wait our turn to talk.

Tech limitations being what they are – or maybe my laptop is old – the speaker/microphone tend to be something of a one trick pony. If you’re talking, you can’t hear, so if you want an actual conversation, you have to actually stop and listen.

Bad news for these people who say they can do both, all they’re gonna be “hearing” while they talk over someone else is themselves.

Perhaps that’s truly their deep-seeded happy place. Maybe now is when they’ll realize it. Or maybe they will realize it and come out of this better – actual – conversationalists.

For my part, someone bothers to set up a VHH and then pulls that with me, I’ll turn the screen toward my sink and let them watch me drink wine and wash dishes while they conversationally masturbate.

Now…what was I talking about?

Oh, yes. Competitive edge.

Soon after I started driving with Lyft last summer, I became aware of the fact that Lyft was a sponsor for Portland’s MLS team, the Timbers.

It’s kind of a big deal around here.

I noticed this when they ran a story on their blog about sending a featured driver to the match as a form of recognition. That sounded cool. I have actually never been to a match – they are harder to get into than Elton John’s post-Oscar party and I can easily drink better expensive beer elsewhere, so…<shrug emoji>

But this sounded kinda like just my type of goofy fun.

Then I read the present featured driver had 5000 rides and a 5-star rating.

Ok, well, it seemed like I was gonna be logging a few miles before I got to his level. Plus, I’m aware that I can come off as quite a unit when I get going about something, so wasn’t expecting to maintain a 5-star rating long.

Don’t even talk to me about that 98% Acceptance Rate. Sore subject…

But, now you see the “K” I was referring to in the post title.

It really only took about 7 months, and that’s driving ~25 hours a week. Of course, I should have hit it a couple weeks earlier…thanks, Coronavirus.

An unexpected perk – and another way Lyft builds in recognition in their be-your-own-boss work environment is to award swag when you hit milestones. However, since my swag threshold kinda peaks at “sticker”, I didn’t pay much attention to this accomplishment/reward. My experience is that branded merch is pretty schlocky, so I tune it out.

Not that I was ever a smoker, but remember those jackets you could redeem your “points” for from cigarette brands like Marlboro or Camel? Yeah, that’s the image I have of employer branded clothing.

So, when I checked my PO Box yesterday and found a key to a package locker, I was completely surprised.

Even more surprised at how surprised I was that I forgot something like this.

I don’t know why that would have surprised me at all.

But it was a cute little experience, taking this package home and being surprised again and again and again at the level of care they seemed to put into sending me this little moment of recognition in a fairly anonymous work environment.

Seriously, that’s the inside of the lid. There was a note that was printed in a hand-written font by someone with an easy to make dirty name – think “Mulva” or “Bipple” – so I didn’t put that on blast here. The jacket itself was wrapped in a silver tissue with a 1K sticker holding it closed.

Really, all this for a jacket I won’t wear?”

But the last surprise – ok, second to last – was that I found the damn thing to be not only my style, but tastefully done, too!

Nothing too garish. A current tech fabric style.

Nice.

Oh, and that last surprise?

It fit.

I asked for a Large, aspirationally. I’ll reluctantly admit that I’ve been apathetically resigned to XL lately, and they just do not fit my frame well.

Luckily, iSolation has provided me with no excuses to procrastinate exercise lately, so my Large closet is getting less of a stretch lately, and this fit. Well, the arms are almost too short, which is normal for my gangly assed frame.

So, call this grumpy old man pleasantly surprised.

Plus, Myrt got something out of it, too.

For all those times dinner was late because I was driving…

Now, if I ever get back to driving, I can work on those Timbers tickets!

Does This K Make Me Look Fat?

Due To Whelming Feedback…

…from yesterday’s post, I went out for a drive last night.

Mind you, the feedback was neither over nor underwhelming, simply whelming.

Of course, the universe didn’t let that stop it from being a rather me evening.

To wit – or, since it’s me – to halfwit.

There I was, minding my own biznatch…watching my eighth or thirtieth consecutive episode of Star Trek Voyager of the day, and suddenly MomDonna chimes in cryptically via text.

I love how she just starts her text in the middle of the conversation. Hehe. I think that conversational familiarity is a hallmark of any good relationship, so I definitely count it as a blessing that I have that shorthand with my parents.

And like any good slacker son, since mom said, I did.

Did, in this instance meaning, I turned on my Postmates app while continuing to watch Voyager and simultaneously playing Words With Friends.

I’m sitting there looking for a place to play aioli and seriously within a minute I get an order. So I go.

Yes, I placed my word first…isolation priorities.

I walk the two blocks to the lot I’d parked in after my depressive two hour/three ride Monday morning drive efforts – I literally made enough to cover parking for the day – and realized the pick up was from the just the around the corner Italian joint. I coast over, park illegally and try to go inside.

The door was blocked by two septuagenarians waiting for a table. And the place is packed!

I immediately start to feel a scratchy throat coming on as I wait. Recreational hypochondria is an unsung hobby of mine, just behind “growing hair” but before “growing hair in weird places” on my free time to do list.

“This is how we all die”, I think, “these idiots.”

Mind you, I’m out picking up food for people, but:

  1. I was expecting that restaurants would be deserted on the night before the dine-in embargo became official. Look at me, with my uncommon sense. And;
  2. My mom told me to do it. What’s their excuse?!?
  • I drive my order from the NW quadrant over to NoPo – North Portland, our city’s fifth quadrant – and drop it off. With no other deliveries stacked up, I sit in Angela for a minute trying to decide what to do. Normally, I’d point my car toward home and then take orders if they came and quit when I got home if they didn’t.
  • Extraordinary circumstances, though.
  • Plus, I had been to the Silver Fox’s that afternoon and while there, peeked into his fridge. I’ve dubbed myself his real-life Kramer, so I feel it’s incumbent upon me to be weird and help myself to his food when he’s not around.
  • He’d abandoned me yesterday to keep his ex-wife company during her self-imposed isolation, so I figured liberating a kombucha from his fridge was the least I could do.
  • Empty.
  • Seriously, there was like a container of oat milk. I’d rather die than drink that before it’s 15 minutes of fame were up. Adding insult to injury, his ex’s grand nephew popped in to spend his spring break with them since Canada is closed…meaning I’ll probably not see The Fox again until it’s time to pull his plug.
  • Also meaning that I had to text him my disappointment at the fridge situation.
  • Knowing how to truly wound me, he replied that there were some frozen meatless burger patties in the freezer I was welcome to.
  • This is why we’re friends.
  • Anyway, apocalypse being now, I decided I best head to Gross Out for some frozen broccoli. If this outbreak kills me, I’d like my corpse to weigh a few pounds less than my live body does currently. If it doesn’t kill me, welp…Pride is in June, so I’ll exit forced isolation ahead of the game, eh?
  • I turn on my Lyft app to ensure I have every shot possible at scrapping a nutritious diet for pizza delivery, thinking there’s no way I won’t get distracted by one of the two apps before I get to the NE quadrant.
  • I get there. Who knew?
  • I go in and grab a couple salad kits then head to the frozen food coolers for my broccoli. They were sold out. The only thing left was albino broccoli.
  • I think I probably have something from Penzey’s that can make it palatable, but head over to the wine department, just in case.
  • I check out and get back to Angela, turning my apps back on for the potential ride home. Before I even push “start”, I have a delivery.
  • Sheesh.
  • I look at the nav…right across the street.
  • Woooow.
  • Apps are cool.
  • I pick up some guy’s dinner – a grocery bag full of Korean BBQ – and head off toward NE 60th & Couch.
  • Sidebar: You pronounced that wrong – it sounds like “cooch” here. But just the street, not the furniture.
  • So, there I am…sitting at NE 60th & – say it with me – Couch at 730 PM. I need to go home and feed Myrt the Murderous soon. She had a late snack, so I’m not feeling terribly guilty.

    Still, soon.

    But at the same time, I’m 80-ish blocks from home and would feel guilty just driving there straightaway. On the other hand, my caving to peer and mom pressure to get out and try some deliveries has netted me $7. Actually, after groceries, my net is -$25.

    This is why I don’t put a ton of effort into Postmates as anything other than a cure for boredom. Delivering two meals and earning $7 is way better than the alternative: drinking two $7 beers.

    Sure.

    Fine.

    Apps on, I point Angela toward the South Water Front and Oregon Health Sciences Hospital campus, thinking I might catch a shift change ride.

    I don’t.

    But as I’m weaving around the labyrinthine streets of SW Portland, I get a call up to the main campus on top of Marquam Hill. Technically, first I got a Lux ride that was 14 minutes away that canceled 90 seconds later. Seriously, that was a bummer because it was far enough out in SE that I’d probably have earned $40 on that ride, but if the passenger was gonna spend $60+ on a ride, they probably didn’t want to wait 15 minutes for it. Still, they couldn’t wait another 30 seconds and slide a $10 cancellation fee my way? Hehe.

    Ok, anyway.

    Then I got an order, then 30 seconds later I got the OHSU ride. I cancel the order – wondering what karmic shenanigans I’ve signed up for in doing so – and head up to OHSU.

    I drop the ICU nurse I pick up off at a Safeway in NE so she can do some shopping before heading home. This woman has some logic long game – she knew at 6 AM that she’d want to shop after work and parked accordingly. I pull out of the parking lot and am going around the block of one-way streets so I can head home.

    Another ride.

    Three blocks away.

    Seriously…this kind of takes some of the sting out of the Lux ride that canceled on me. But only just. I made $20 on Sunday – plus $5 off a delivery order – none of which tipped. My Monday drives had doubled those earnings, but I’d usually earn over twice that before the world slowly began ending, so I was pretty disheartened that Lux ride hadn’t happened to true me somewhat up.

    Alas.

    What ended up being my last ride took me to SE again, around 33rd, putting me a ways away from home. But I’d gotten a self proclaimed introvert to talk, so I was feeling pretty good as I pointed the car toward home once again.

    I actually made it home.

    However, since it was now 830 and the chatty introvert was the only tipper out of four “customers”, I wasn’t disappointed to call it a night.

    I had some dinner wine and went to bed so that I could wake up at 6 today and give it another go. I made about 30% more on my morning commute rides today – again, one tipper…disappointing trend – which put me at about 50% of my normal morning earnings. Enough to park Angela for the day and buy myself a coffee. To go, natch. But I got home to a push from Postmates telling me one of last night’s deliveries had tipped me $7.50, doubling my actual delivery earnings for the evening. Still not super impressed with the Income Potential from Postmates, but to MomDonna’s point, it got me out of the house.

    Plus, turns out Voyager wasn’t yanked from Netflix overnight, so I really didn’t miss anything.

    And that’s my last 36 hours of social-distance-slash-forced-isolation…one footnote to yesterday’s post, my first ride today – a nurse – demonstrated to me exactly how the US extincts itself.

    I drive in the mornings for the scratch, sure. Until the lottery decides to cooperate, anyway…But in these low earning days, I’d rather stay in bed. It’s being so close to so many (non-tipping, but still) medical professionals who Lyft to work since there’s no parking for them on campus that gets me up. Getting medical professionals to work these days is a reward that’s greater than the paycheck or non-existent tip.

    Seriously, one OHSU worker has tipped me in 9 months. And the buildings they live in aren’t dumps. Also, the wait list for parking on campus is long. One nurse has been on it for nine years. And there’s still 1000 people ahead of her! That’s what you get for building a hospital on a hilltop, eh?

    Anyway. I digress.

    This nurse tells me she was going to miss going out for St Paddy’s Day after work due to the forced closures. But at least she got to go out to her favorite neighborhood watering hole last night for a last farewell.

    I ask her which one and she tells me River Pig. I know it, I tell her. Ramzy – the owner – is a nice guy, despite spelling his name incorrectly. Kind of a douche, but still nice.

    Further demonstrating both my point about Ramzy and Governor Brown’s need to force social hubs to shutter to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or any of the lesser COVIDs, my nurse passenger tells me that Ramzy had told her he wasn’t closing. He was going to remain open for his regulars as a means of exploiting the 25 person or less private event loophole for restaurants and bars.

    Like I said, he’s a douche.

    But seriously, that’s how we die. Not some millennial taking a $87 round trip spring break flight to Puerto Vallarta, no…a nurse who should know better and a bar owner who clearly skews GOP values-wise. Oh, and 70-somethings going to packed restaurants during a pandemic!

    My workaround? I gave her a 3-star rating so I don’t have to risk picking her future COVID-zombie-self up.

    Stupid Americans…

    Due To Whelming Feedback…

    Take Four

    Well, here we are…another day, another loaner.

    Let’s see…where did I leave off last on my misadventures in being a lemon rancher?

    I think my last post was when Pat was in the shop awaiting the arrival of a replacement door seal that had been mis-shipped ground versus 2-day air. That ended up taking 11 days instead of the expected two.

    The important thing is that I got Pat back, right? After both passenger side door seals had been replaced, surely that would be that.

    Surely?

    Shirley?

    Oh, what a fool I must be to believe that.

    It was raining as I was leaving the dealer with my second new door seal in place, I reached back just to feel the satisfaction of a dry carpet in inclement weather.

    Naturally, it was soaking wet.

    What a craptastic situation.

    I mean, if the carpet is wet, it either means they are so incompetent that the seal they replaced was done incorrectly and was immediately leaking or they had never dried out the water damage when they did the repair. That’s the two options I can come up with, and I’m not one to just assume people are incompetent – despite best evidence to the contrary.

    In this case, I believed I had two brand new and properly installed door seals. But I was beginning to really have trouble deciding which was worse: if someone simply forgot to dry out the carpet or if the leak was simply just mis-identified and was yet to be discovered and repaired.

    One scenario was definitely more problematic than the other. If someone had deliberately returned my car to me without repairing the actual water damage…how friggin’ petty, right? I mean, assuming the seals were both installed correctly, it was either intentionally petty or half-assed work – after all, how can you know the leak is repaired if you can’t see whether or not new damage is occurring?

    The next day at work, I made use of my breaks and downtime by doing a little research into next steps. It was looking like suing the dealer was going to be my last recourse.

    I had to think about what I wanted. At this point, a functional vehicle was looking like too big an ask. So if I couldn’t have that, what would make me “whole” in this transaction?

    I knew I wanted my $200 that I paid for the first door seal returned.

    After losing out on two weeks of driving income – you can’t drive for Lyft without vehicle insurance in your name, and you can’t cover a vehicle you don’t have a registration for – and in that two week timeframe I was down about 1/4 of my monthly budget. That made February tough, and March wasn’t looking to start off any better.

    But what I really want is out of this car. It gives me dread to just consider dealing with a lemon for the foreseeable future. I was glad I had bought the extended warranty, but with only about 40% of the first three repairs falling under its protection, I was worried about the reality of owning Pat on day 366.

    That made me wonder. Could I trade this off? Not just financially, either…ethically, could I dump Pat the Problem on someone else?

    Hell, for that matter, could I even break even on a trade-in transaction? That took me to Kelley Blue Book to see. The value seemed to have held up over six months a lot better than Pat was. Which made me consider my purchase price. All things being equal, I knew from pre-purchase research that I had paid a fair price, but after the history of owning Pat, I was thinking that all things weren’t actually equal.

    The price I had paid was middle of the road for a car in good to excellent condition.

    That did not describe Pat.

    So I looked at the price for a car in fair condition – the lowest quotable condition on KBB. My purchase price was at the top of the scale.

    I’m thinking that maybe I should have paid more toward the lower end of that price range…which is where I felt I had a legitimate claim.

    But still a claim that fell below the threshold for suing in court, which is over $10,000, essentially funneling me back toward Small Claims.

    What I learned in looking into Small Claims was that before the court would consider an action valid, I had to notify the other party of my intent and let them have an opportunity to make good.

    Which I respected – even though one more chance makes the other three opportunities the dealer had to “make good” look like making good was maybe optional.

    At least until you email the GM and include the word lawsuit in your message.

    And that’s how I ended up sitting with the GM and Service Manager for an hour and a half today.

    Mind you, most of that was spent with me listening to him talk about his 25 years in the business and the math of selling cars. Occasionally, the Service Manager would interrupt with something equally unimportant to me – like the tight control on replacement parts. It seems if you order a duplicate part, you have to attach it to a vehicle. That was by way of explaining why they couldn’t simply order a duplicate seal once they learned the original seal had been mis-shipped the last time around.

    Smooth, right?

    But I still didn’t care – but only because the car hadn’t been returned to me completely repaired. Had that happened, all would be just fine and dandy.

    Yet, here these two were, sitting across the table from me trying to convince me that they didn’t mean to screw me in this deal.

    Lawsuit…powerful word. Motivating, in fact.

    And after talking to them, I don’t believe they tried to screw me. I never did. But if the reality is that I feel screwed after my car being in the shop three times in six months – literally sitting in their shop/yard for a full month – that the car I own is not the car they thought they were selling.

    So, there I am – feeling inadvertently screwed.

    It feels strangely similar to being intentionally screwed.

    In the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s #MeToo convictions, this was an ok reminder. With harassment – yes, rape is different than harassment, but both fell under the #MeToo umbrella – we are coached that intent isn’t the issue. Someone can harass you without actually intending their actions to be harassing.

    Y’know, like sometimes people are just genuinely dicks and until someone says, “That’s harassment”, the results of their actions are never their concern. That’s so America, too. I’ve been told over the course of my life to get along with bullies – both personally and professionally – because it’s easier to tell someone to buck up than to effectively change or stop someone else’s behavior.

    There I am, feeling torn about whether these guys need another chance or if I should reasonably feel like the only thing that is reasonable is a value correction on my purchase + lost driving income + refunds on my repair and extended warranty purchases.

    And if I throw a fit and demand that my way is the only way, then I’m the bully, right?

    Which is how I ended up in Renee the Renegade. I’m actually trying to remember in v1 of my loaner Renegades was silver or white. I remember white, but can’t be sure…but what a trip if I ended up in the same loaner twice in about 3 months.

    Of course, the price for me being reasonable and giving them a fourth chance was to subject them to a little Xtopher Life and Management Lesson.

    Namely, the GM’s big argument in support of the vehicle’s quality when he sold it was to wave a stack of papers at the DoJ complaint I filed.

    I told him that checklists are great…as long as someone is inspecting the checklist checkers. At the very least, that was obviously not happening here. If it was, then my car being returned after its third visit to the shop with soaking wet carpets was more of a conspiracy than it was incompetence.

    There’s a thought that’ll bounce around my head for a few forevers.

    But he acknowledged that it was true, and that he couldn’t explain how that would have happened – only that it shouldn’t have. A statement that’s smack dab in the middle of denial and accountability.

    In the meantime, I’m not sure what will happen with Pat. The GM offered to shop another deal around for me – and I don’t know if doing so wouldn’t have been the smarter move. I don’t feel ready to make a trade yet. I think I’ve talked before about how if I’d known I was going to love driving with Lyft so much, I’d have gotten a more bells-y and whistle-y vehicle. From that standpoint, getting something with leather seats and a heated steering wheel seems like an obvious yes. But the end result of this nightmare being these guys selling another car…that doesn’t seem exactly right to me.

    So, I’m in a holding pattern for a couple of days. But they promised me I’d be back in the drivers seat by Friday so I can hopefully get March started off not too far behind the 8-ball…we’ll see.

    Take Four

    I Get The January Thing, Now

    First, I feel like I should remind you about that time I was immortalized in a meme…

    “They” even made t-shirts!

    Now, while the people who know me consider how likely this actually is to be true, I can explain the January thing to the rest of you. Then we can all regroup and move on to the meat of this post together.

    Seriously, social media is on fire – once again – with memes like this.

    Apparently, January seems like a long month…

    Maybe it’s all the exercise?

    Perhaps the no drinking resolutions?

    Regardless, I’m witnessing a lot of this type of behavior

    For me, January is my birthday month, so I’ve always kind of looked forward to it. On top of that, the last two years, I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo in November, taking December as a “down month” to distance myself from my project before getting into writing and editing mode again in January.

    What I’m saying is that it’s a month I look forward to.

    But not this year.

    Well, ok, I did look forward to it, but it burned off. The month proceeded apace for the first few weeks, and then the last 9 days have been like boogie boarding in the La Brea Tar Pits.

    On top of that, the effect seems to be amplifying on some whack-a-doodle three day cycle.

    That realization hit me this morning, on the last day of this fucking year month.

    I was driving home from a UA for a new job I start on Tuesday when I noticed someone had won the $350 million Powerball. Now, I’d checked the tickets the Silver Fox had picked up earlier in the week and knew we hadn’t won. Still, there was a shadow of hope that that had been the rule. This provided confirmation that there had, sadly for most, been an exception.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still buy a ticket for $40 mil, but the SF doesn’t like to invest for less than a $100 million potential return.

    Anyway, there I was, driving home all mopey in The Fox’s car – what’s that? Why is Pat still at the spa?

    Well, they aren’t. Well, weren’t. After a week in the shop and $200 out of pocket, I picked Pat up last Friday to reports of a successful door gasket replacement followed by a dry – my tech stressed it was bone dry – five hour shower test.

    I took off from the dealer and went to work my part-time HR gig, excited to do some driving after work that evening.

    In true Xtopher fashion, the first person I picked up following work that day was living in an eerily adjacent orbit to mine.

    I picked her up about six blocks from work, at a satellite City of Portland building. My part-time gig – as you probably won’t recall – is providing contract staff to…the City of Portland. This has happened on several occasions, so I wasn’t anything other than mildly amused by this occurrence.

    I checked her drop off destination: Landmark Ford. Once she confirmed it, I mentioned picking up my car that morning after getting the door seal replaced.

    That’s what I’m having done! Although, I hope mine is more successful than yours…

    Then I hear squishing and splashing and turn my head enough to see her moving her feet up and down in a pool of water.

    To my credit, I didn’t slam on the brakes or vocalize the expletive I was thinking. That would have been something like this…

    I called the shop the next day and was told they could get me in on February 3rd…over a week away. I spent the rest of the weekend driving food around instead of people for Postmates, but it just wasn’t the same.

    Turns out, I’m that chatty old lady you sit next to on every flight you take. I love talking to people and Lyft gives me that every day social paycheck. The Lyft community is filled with awesome people with fun stories to share…and I miss them. Especially when I’m bored at home.

    And they seem to tolerate me pretty well, too. So I’m not just victimizing my Patsengers like that chatty old airplane broad.

    How do I know?

    I average 25% in tips each week.

    Also,

    Yeah, I’m gonna be humbly smug for a while after that. As a matter of fact, given the timing, I’m choosing to believe that this was left by Rashida Tlaib, who I got the privilege of driving around earlier that week in my loaner.

    Yup. I had 1/435th of the US House of Representatives in my car last week!

    She’d been in town for a Coalition of American-Islamic Relations event where she was the keynote speaker. She was a delight and I wished my ride with her had been longer.

    Anyway, after a frustrating weekend, I decided to drop my car off at the dealer on Tuesday. I worked my HR gig on Monday and was heading home after a meeting Tuesday morning, thinking about how quickly my financial bridge for February had collapsed and dreading paying to park my car on the street all day – and for most of the rest of the week.

    I pulled over and did some stress breathing and text therapy with The Fox. He told me what I wanted to do – which is the validation I wanted that what I was going to do was rational.

    I dropped my car off at the dealer and told them they could store it until the appointment on the 3rd.

    The Fox picked me up and promised I could borrow his car for work on Wednesday and a Thursday.

    Now, for those of you still back on my urinalysis appointment this morning…yeah, I’d gotten a new job. That was the meeting I was at on Tuesday prior to my meltdown that led to me tossing my problems keys at the Jeep tech and abandoning Pat.

    I’d been having weird discomfort at my HR gig the last few weeks. I was feeling ineffective. Not because I was being told I was doing things wrong or because the feedback I was getting was lackluster.

    It was quite the opposite, actually, but the owner of the company was growing more and more stressed at work and coming in later and later or even less and less.

    At the beginning of December, she’d asked me to prepare an end of year memo for the contract staff. Just reminders like updating addresses for tax time, recognized holidays, what to do in the event of inclement weather…pretty basic stuff. I cracked out a first draft and sent it to her. She likes to edit. Either my content or just to put my words into her voice.

    She never sent it out.

    This isn’t uncommon – I had been told in my first week that she wanted me to edit some policies and add updated information for the Employee Handbook. At first, she wanted to work with me on it. Then she started asking for what I had and I figured out that I should just do it. I submitted my suggestions to her for editing and the employment attorney’s sign off in early November.

    Nothing.

    What’s annoying about this is that one policy in particular needed some clarity. It’s the Alternative Transportation Benefit.

    Basically, anyone who gets to work without using a personal vehicle gets a monthly $30 offset from the company.

    The only thing was that there was no process. Every pay period – and I’m barely exaggerating, I think 9/12 of the payrolls I had done included an ATB for one or more employees…and the only tracking was memory.

    I’d even included the new process in the year end email she’d asked me to draft so that we could start the new year clean.

    But she didn’t send it.

    So, I sent my own version out just before Christmas with just the ATB and address update request. I’m pretty sure that was the second point.

    People – some, not all, of course – still submitted their ATB for the final payroll run of last year.

    Idiots.

    Then, on the first run of 2020, the owner decided we should just pay everyone who usually submits for January.

    So I did.

    Even knowing this would be a double payment for some. At least she was tacitly acknowledged that she knew what I had tried to do, even though only 20% of the usual ATB users complied with the new directive.

    Not my circus, not my circus, not my circus…

    I even got an “I forgot” email from one of our biggest Problem Child employees this week. I knew we would pay her – even though she wasn’t one of the employees that usually claimed the benefit. At least she’d read my email. When I told the owner about it, she behaved like our Problem Child always used the ATB.

    Of course, I checked the payroll database…

    Once.

    She’d claimed the ATB once in her tenure – which began shortly before my own. And I remember when that was, since it was the first payroll I processed. She was technically not eligible since the policy is one of those “after 30 days of employment” policies.

    Of course, we paid her anyway. The owner is just pro-employee like that.

    Then the Problem Child claimed the benefit again two weeks later on the next payroll.

    Bless her pointy little head.

    Sure, in true to her fashion, she’d fucked up the execution, but a writer likes to know he’s read, ok?

    Anyway, two Fridays back, I’d asked my handler to look for other positions for me. I like the owner and the recruiter.

    And I love the Chief Feline Officer.

    But I knew that the owner wasn’t going to change her behaviors that triggered me, nor did I have a reasonable expectation that she should. Well, except that she asked my advice on things and my take there is that peoples behaviors should actually reflect an effort to change if you bug me looking for feedback.

    Sidebar: this just came on in my place.

    🎼🎼I think a change, a change will do you good🎼🎼

    But that’s just my $.02…and if I take the random music happening while I write as indication that the universe agrees with me? So what!

    Back to my veiled beyond recognition point…Tuesday afternoon I get the call that the new client wants me.

    That felt good, and honestly, I think there’s room to grow not only into a permanent role, but also from simply a payroll position into the open HR position they mentioned during my interview. I wouldn’t complain!

    Really, I wouldn’t!

    Even though the trade off here is that I have to go back to a five day job.

    I went into work the next day with a plan to tell the owner the news. Partly expecting her to revisit taking me from temporary to 1099 employee, which was something we’d discussed in late October. I walked away when she offered me what she had paid my predecessor.

    As a company employee.

    I was born at night, but it wasn’t the night before that conversation.

    Just kidding, I was born during the day.

    But still, if I’m taking on the financial burden of city, county, state and federal self-employment taxes…well, it isn’t going to be for less than nothing.

    Seriously, it would be a financial step backward.

    Meanwhile, she’d be saving about 45% of what she’d been paying my temp agency. I’d gone into the conversation thinking we could agree on a rate that would cover my 27% (minimum) tax liability and still save her 25%.

    But I thought versus losing me, she might go back to that table.

    Little did I know, my handler had told her about my new gig Wednesday morning before the owner came to the office. I know this because I received an email from the owner at about 10:00 congratulating me and telling me that it was my last day.

    Mentally, I pictured a couple more chunks of concrete falling off of my financial bridge for February.

    And that’s where my unending and snowballing January ends: with five days off between gigs with zero opportunities to earn money driving between the two jobs.

    And it was seeing that someone else had won the Powerball on Wednesday night that finally triggered me.

    But as long as the hit I took off my vape last August doesn’t blow my UA out of the water, February will be a better month.

    January 2020…you were one hell of a year. Bite me.

    I Get The January Thing, Now

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    I’ve had this notion in draft mode for about 9 months now, so I suppose it’s about time I pushed this baby out.

    Nine months ago, I flippantly said to a friend,

    I’m not doing that. I’m post-that.

    I think it was the Silver Fox and I think he was suggesting we go to the gym…specifically so he could get into hiking shape for his then upcoming six-week shuffling through Europe trip.

    Post-that.

    It was a time in my life where I’d been scratching at the professional employment door for the better part of a year like an unwelcome cat.

    I was mentally preparing myself for an upcoming summer of gorgeous PNW weather…and dreading the main outdoor physical activity available to me being cycling.

    I thought about it for a bit and wondered what my motivation really was.

    This old Groucho Marx quote:

    I don’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member

    It kept popping up in my mind and casually in conversation. It got to the point where I had to acknowledge it; aka: obsessively think about it.

    Admittedly, I didn’t come up with the answer. I think ruminations like this evolve over time. What is important to get to – for me – was the core value that was anxiously raising its hand to say something just outside my figurative peripheral vision.

    I’d been applying for jobs I wanted with companies I wanted to work for and maybe getting interviews, maybe not, definitely not getting hired.

    When that didn’t work, I changed my focus and broadened my search to jobs with companies I didn’t necessarily want to work with, but knew I could meet the job expectations. Surprisingly, I got the same results. More surprisingly, I was offended at being rejected by companies I held in low regard.

    It all reminded me of how true my dating/interviewing analogy has always been. The way you (should) put your best foot forward in either situation, learn about the “opportunity” and then mutually decide whether it’s a good match. Ideally, both parties reach the same decision.

    <pause to glare at millennials>

    Moving on.

    But where do I move on to from there? That scenario – thanks to my own analogy – encompasses dating, too. There I was, kind of at the massive intersection of Work, Romance & Fitness Boulevards and I didn’t want to cross any of them.

    Fortunately, I didn’t want to jump into traffic, either. I think that’s a good sign.

    I really couldn’t tell if I was broken or protesting. It’s probably worth noting that this overlapped with my nine month haircut hiatus. My mother had gone from niggling at me to get a haircut to being envious of my natural hair flip to quietly telling me that my dad would like to see me get a haircut.

    That last one kind of got to me and I started mentally preparing myself to face a haircut. It also got me thinking that maybe what motivated me to work was making my parents proud.

    I kicked that one around for a bit.

    Then I remembered that my parent’s pride in me seems innate, not earned. It was a realization that made me feel truly fortunate.

    I’d written a book that literally dozens of people read.

    My parents were proud of me.

    I’d taken any job I could get – perhaps the only – just to get off my couch and do something.

    My parents? Still proud.

    So working professionally to please my parents wasn’t the answer.

    Maybe I was asking the wrong figurative question, then?

    I wandered back to dating. And quickly ran away from that notion. I’d have to be pretty self-loathing to expose myself to that group of people for answers. Because the answer to the collective question – What are you looking for? – for folks in the dating pool is not

    Y’know, an old, out of shape dude who’s adrift and underemployed. Yeah, that’d be nice.

    But what I did remember was my dating bar. I expected people I dated to enhance my happiness.

    Not make me happy.

    Certainly not erode my happiness.

    That got me thinking that I should absolutely apply that same bar to my work life.

    Then I remembered that I had and quit my last job because it was absolutely eroding my happiness.

    And just like a shit boyfriend, behaved the same way when I pointed it out.

    I had started this exercise where I’d admitted I didn’t know the answer. I was now at the point where I’d searched for an answer and not found one.

    You know where that left me?

    Fucking religion.

    Can you believe that?

    Who answers your prayers?

    God?

    I’d long ago put my faith in myself. Not god.

    Then I’d spent a few decades letting people take it away from me.

    Bosses.

    Customers.

    Boyfriends.

    Maybe I should just reach out and take that faith back?

    I mentioned earlier that I wrote a book that “no one” read.

    Y’know what? That didn’t bug me.

    I’d written a book!

    That realization made me feel good.

    Good about myself and that accomplishment that “few” achieve. Well, few people, but hundreds of monkeys – if you put them all in a room together with a typewriter.

    But it also made me realize that there were people in my life urging me to do it for a decade.

    Just a few.

    Not even a gang.

    They were never in the same room together and maybe only once crossed paths on the same Facebook thread.

    But they were there.

    Just like my parents.

    Maybe the answer I was looking for was actually those few voices that spoke up but were drowned out by the constant droning white noise of everyone else.

    I realized that those few voices were coming from the people I wanted to hear.

    Needed to hear, honestly.

    The sincere people in my life.

    But I’d been conditioned to listen to the masses and their collective white noise voice.

    That voice, however, was like the Great and All-Powerful Oz.

    Big and loud, but behind it? Just a curtain hiding small, scared individuals.

    I was over trying to get through to “them”, they didn’t listen, anyway. Without listening, there’s no conversation…just one-sided talk.

    I decided I was over that.

    Postthat.

    Post screaming into a void and expecting an answer.

    Job boards.

    Dating apps.

    Gyms with mirrors that reflected only negative extremes: what was perfect or what was imperfect.

    Declaring myself post allowed me the luxury to do what I wanted for my own satisfaction, not to meet the expectations of an undefined group of faceless people.

    To find my own satisfaction.

    Hell, to first define satisfaction for myself and start there.

    And in finding the faith in myself to set that bar, I felt empowered and optimistic…and it was sustained for the first time in years. But it makes me think that stripping it down to that level will allow me to arrive at a place where the definition I have for happiness overall is stronger than any I’ve had before. I’m not standing there asking some company or stranger-I’m-fucking-and-calling-it-dating for a sign off on my happiness.

    I’m doing my own happiness; specifically giving my time to activities and people that enhance my work-in-progress happiness.

    And you know what?

    Now I want to do the things that I was post-doing before.

    So, that’s a pretty good place to end up.

    PS: my favorite Groucho quote? Well, since you didn’t ask…

    Go read a book!

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