Tappa-Kegga-Day

That was what we called kegger night in college.Literally.

Ok, maybe just too old for a birthday on a three day weekend. Because the MLK day/Xtopher’s birthday alignment means my birthday was celebrated for four damn days.

Today is a day of rest.

Also, I have a handyman here (not) fixing things.

Having been busy yesterday, I just checked the Facebook for the first time since…maybe Saturday? Friday?!? Oh, the social media birthday love. It motivated me to share some of my weekend with you, which I wasn’t planning on.

My brain is fatigued and more than slightly pickled, though…fatigued from three weeks of daily writing. Im thinking of hanging that initiative up this Friday or Saturday. My goal was daily blog posts for a month. Would the 1st-26th count?

My original goal was to wear myself out writing so when I go in to try editing my book again, I make notes on what I want to edit. Last time I went in to try and edit, I started adding and fracked up my timeline.

I figure wrap up my January writing initiative, take a few days to read a book a blog buddy sent over – I’m seriously burnt out on words enough that I’m barely reading the blogs I follow. When I sat down to his book, the only opinion I had was

Nope. Cannot do.

(I’m sorry, Phil, I’m working on it!)

So, take a few days to read my friend’s work then get cracking on some damage control on my own.

Anyhoo, I’m sure you’ve already figured out the pickling problem.

Or, not-problem.

The unexpected outpouring of well-wishes I encountered on the Facebook surprised me, as usual. It also kinda washed over me and extended my birthday feels another day.

Friday and Saturday were pretty low key, drinks and shenanigans with my own version of Fox & Friends. Little Buddy shot me an invite, all spur of the moment, to go see a Power Point Improv show we’d discussed a while back. I couldn’t make it, prior engagement.

Birthday weekend shenanigans…

I debated not telling her it was birthday-related. I really am low key about my birthday. Swearsies.

Saturday when I was out with the Silver Fox, I asked him

My family has been quiet about my birthday. Are they up to something? If they are…I kinda feel like I should get a haircut.

He assured me that they were not. Then he casually remarked that I might want to get a haircut, though.

Jerk.

Hehe. I assumed he was commenting about my overall shagginess.

Resolutions for the new year?

Not exactly my thing. But when I do make them, they are me all the way.

1) Write and post a blog entry daily, which you all know.

2) Not cut my hair.

I’ve been trying to grow out a longer style for the last six months or so. Around June, I figured if I wasn’t going to work, maybe I should indulge my back of mind musings on having crazy old man hair.

Why not?

Only, the last few times I’ve gone in to get it cleaned up around the edges, I’ve ended up long on top, trimmed back to above the ears and looking like a Flock of Seagulls refugee.

So, I gave basic hair maintenance two tries and then embargoed it til the end of January. When I make up my mind about these types of things, I always feel bad for my friends. They’re the ones that have to look at – no, endure the fallout.

Anyway, I don’t care, my family isn’t planning anything, so I don’t give it much more thought. A little later, my mom texts me and invites me to brunch on my birthday.

Perfect. Nice and low key, just the way I like it.

For Sunday afternoon, The Fox and I had just planned on going to the hotel bar next door for a few beers. Then we were going to come back to my place and watch some Grace & Frankie. It was a perfect plan.

When we meet up on the corner, he announces that Owl X had texted him that Pallet Jack was back at Big Legrowlski.

Well, I guess we’re going to BL!

I’m laughing and crossing Everett before I even finish the sentence.

All things being equal, it’s Sunday afternoon. I know either bar will have some of my favorite staff working – all of whom definitely fall into the Guy Candy category. But Joey at Legrowlski is in his last couple of weekends before leaving the country to work overseas and has a habit of “accidentally” oversharing the most scintillating personal details. Unless the Tanner Creek boys are working in jock straps for my birthday, Pallet Jack and Joey win!

We walk in and I’m immediately irked by the twosome sitting in the corner. They brought their dog in. I love the dogs that come with or walk by at The Fox and I sit outside sipping away the Summer.

But not inside.

I’m trading hellos with Joey while I hope the Rug Room isn’t too packed, cuz I don’t want to sit on the small bar side with a dog.

Are you surprised?!?

I’m debating how to answer:

– Surprised you let a dog – other than me! – in?!?

– Surprised that I don’t see Pallet Jack on the tap list?!?

Don’t let anyone tell you that being a grumpy old man is easy.

Decisions, decisions.

The Fox is pulling me out of the way. I’m trying to look behind me to see whose way I’m in and he’s shoving me into the Rug Room.

Surprise!

My parents, siblings and brother in law are tucked around a pub table in one corner. Their table, I notice, is blocking the fire exit. The Fox is standing behind me, trying to get me into the group. They certainly know me.

Little Buddy, 2.0 and JOrtis are sitting around a low table, looking pretty happy with themselves.

Diezel and Linda Belcher are wrapped into the far corner, flanking some other guy. It’s kind of dark and the walls are all black in the Rug Room, but I really don’t know if I don’t remember him, can’t see him well enough to recognize honor if someone brought me a present.

Nah…that would be weird.

Not unwelcome…just weird.

What I should have said is:

Do you know what this could do to a man my age?!?

Or,

Surprised someone throws a surprise party for a something-ty-first birthday?!?

But instead I just stood there with my mouth hanging slightly open.

The Silver Fox is chuckling contentedly behind me and still nudging me, so I begin hugging my way into the room. As I’m finishing, people start shifting their comments toward birthday beers.

It’s not that they are out of Pallet Jack, it’s that in order to ensure they have Peej for the party, they’ve been sitting on a keg for the past two weeks! Owl X and I had even discussed it the prior week as I was leaving, neither palleted nor jacked and she said, “See you soon!”

You got any Pallet Jack on order?”

“Maybe. I’m not sure. Brendan” – the owner and Dude enthusiast – “said he wanted to keep it on tap always, so probably?”

Sneaky.

Joey takes me into the walk-in and I’m resisting saying anything about Three Minutes in Heaven. Somehow we manage to get about five people into the walk-in to document the transition. Several of us are lecturing Joey on how tapping a keg used to be a lot harder than what he talked me through…when we were your age.

I’d actually seen the new tap mechanisms back in my grocery working days a few Great-Job-Hunts-ago.

The Fox was talking about Rent Parties that we would have in college. Get a keg for $35 and invite your friends over for a $5 all-you-can-drink night!

I was telling Joey how we would have to manually pump the taps at those keg nights.

My sister was angling for a good pic. Hint: I no longer have a “good side”!

But here ya go…

Birthday Boy with his birthday beer!

A little later someone rectified the situation on the tap list, too.

That eventually – after we got booted from the rug room three hours later so the band could set up – evolved into having a Secret Tap “for the regulars”. A few of them stopped by over the course of the afternoon and evening and shared a pint with the party. Owl X had been a little late arriving and missed the tap moment, but she found the light controls and smoke machine! Karaoke was briefly discussed and abandoned.

I think we’d held the festivities – and the bar side – hostage with our sheer number of people for another hour before people started heading off into the cloudy evening. No Blood Wolf Moon viewing here in Portland!

Diezel and his date – the stranger was his. I mean, geez, D, it’s my birthday…you gotta let me unwrap something! – had another birthday party to go to and we’re the first to leave. I got to chat with them a while and I have to say, I’m glad Diezel may have found himself a good old keeper.

Not to jinx anything. Since I’m not involved, I think it’s safe…

Little Buddy took her guys and headed off toward the ‘Couv. She has a kiddo at home to think of feeding. I forgot to ask how the Power Point Improv was, but in retrospect, I think it may have even been a red herring!

My family was the next to go, but almost the last to leave besides The Fox, Owl X and I. Mom was “taking one for the team” as my sister put it and acting as the family DD. Still, having her driving after dark on a cloudy night was a little hard for me to be 100% comfortable with.

On the other hand, I hadn’t been drunk with my siblings since…I dunno. Maybe my sister’s wedding? But I don’t think we were out of control for that. My brother rarely has a beer, let alone what we decided was four for him that night. My sister shocked me by jumping in head first with her first beer. Since Peej was not yet available, she had a Notorious Triple IPA…just an 11.2% alcohol by volume concoction.

Hats off, sis!

My dad took a break from his canned water of choice (Coors Light, which I heard they were giving away in Flint for hydration, j/s dad!) and enjoyed some of Oregon’s Finest.

Tastes a little apricot-y.

My favorite moment of the night!

I’d said the exact same words to Little Buddy the first time her, 2.0 and I had gotten together for beers. LB and I were working together again, her and 2.0 had just decided to give the dating thing another go and I’d been convinced to try an IPA. I’d notoriously hated them for 20 years, opting instead for Ambers and Reds.

They were surprised by my statement.

Well, it’s definitely got a stone fruit note to it.

They humored me. Well, maybe they agreed that I had a weird mouth and I agreed to ignore their assessment.

“It must just be a weird palate thing with your family”, Little Buddy said.

This is why we’re friends.

Joey’s shift had ended and my other favorite bartendress had reported for duty, sneaking a crowler of the good stuff into my goodie bag.

Linda Belcher was the last non-regular to leave. Although, since she passes the bar on her way rom her office to the bus stop, she’s known to wander in looking for me on occasion.

Sometimes she sees me and joins me.

Other times I’m not there.

Still others, she doesn’t see me.

I think I enjoy the times she sees me and joins me most, but those times she doesn’t see me are pretty friggin hilarious.

We got to sit in the Rug Room and chat a little. The band was really good, just a him & her type duo. Not too loud, so we could enjoy both the music and some talk. Her husband – Bob Belcher of Bob’s Burger fame, obviously – is in Nepal for several months and I’ve been meaning to check in on Linda Belcher for a couple weeks…just…life.

There were some folks I’d have loved to see present. Some – like Filipina Fox and her husband – were out of town for the weekend. Others, the Silver Fox just couldn’t contact because he didn’t have their contact info. He’s not on social media, so he couldn’t use Messenger as a tool to reach out to my other known associates.

The biggest shocker wasn’t how well he pulled this off – starting with hiding the keg weeks ago. No, it was that he kept it a secret. That’s truly impressive. He’s always accidentally giving away the twist in a movie or show. I think the years that we’ve been friends have caused some of my sneakiness to accidentally rub off on him.

I woke myself up on my actual birthday morning because I’d been smiling so hard in my sleep that I think I couldn’t actually be unconscious and simultaneously that happy.

There’s worse ways to wake up.

We finally got to watch some Grace & Frankie last night. I know you were worried.

Birthday breakfast.

Birthday lunch.

And then the bottle of wine The Fox got me last year at my birthday to round out the birthday proper while we binged on Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s old-age misadventures.

I was exhausted after four days of friendly camaraderie and about a month’s worth of alcohol in that same timeframe.

My low key day today brought all the feels back just by opening Facebook. I’ve been doing a good job of only checking in once a day. Actually, I’ll miss days now and then.

Yesterday was one of those days.

That big old birthday smile came back. For some, maybe it’s not a big deal…but to me, having over 100 folks take time out of their day to wish me well is a big deal.

Touching.

Even Portland’s former mayor dropped me a note.

Replying to these messages is what made me think to blog about my birthday in detail. Plus, this gave me a chance to prove that I didn’t drink too much!

I remembered!

It started out about like this blog…

Then got sweet…

I didn’t even know I had birthday wishes! Outside of the lottery win that refused to comply…

Actually, there was a little WTF moment when I started responding. Check out the background…

Hmmm. <unfriend>? Actually, it fits my personality. Well, not the “god” part. But, it’s the thought, right?

And speaking of my personality. One of The Fabulous Baker Sisters has to weigh in!

And, I’m case you worried, we had more than a few Myrtle mentions…

So, here’s to another year of surviving Myrtle’s Gulag, life and the occasional happy surprise.

Thanks for reading, every one of you!

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Tappa-Kegga-Day

The Search Continues!

I went to the gym recently. Everything appeared normal as I approached…

Until I rounded the corner and approached the front doors. Normally, I feel a little intimidated walking into the gym.

Doors are heavy!

For whatever reason on this day, I tore my eyes away from my feet. I like to mind my steps, because falling down would hurt. Also, I tend to become easily distracted by attractive and unattainable men.

What I saw when I looked up filled me with a minor sense of optimism…

We’re Hiring!

Well, sure.

Why not?

I went inside, making sure to smile at the check-in biometric machine that was on duty…just to leave a good impression. Then I did my little fitness thing.

When I got home, I went to the gym’s website to apply for my next dream job!

Alas…it wasn’t listed as available. Which means that someone out there has my job!

But I’m going to go back, obviously. When I do, I’m going to keep my eyes open for the person with my job.

If I see them, they’d better hope it’s not near the top of the stairs. Now that I’ve set my mind on it, I won’t be satisfied until I can hold my head high as a member of my gym’s team.

As the Before Model.

The Search Continues!

So, It’s Gonna Be Like That…

Eh, Universe?

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

Nice to get plenty of notice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then a BBQ showed up on my old balcony.

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

Remember how rents went down 3%?

Yeah, she didn’t get the memo.

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

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

He’s gonna be one of those neighbors.

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

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

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

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

Alright, alright…I’ll go!

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

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

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

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

Oh, I’ll be able to find you.

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

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

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

Ah, the joys of the great job hunt.

Whatever, happy-fucking-holidays.

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

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

I debated reminding her, but then as the conversation began

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

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

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

I don’t think so…no.

– she says, sounding rather uncertain.

There are two District Managers for Portland.

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

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

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

That could be a sticking point.

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

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

To that, I say

C’mon, 2019!

So, It’s Gonna Be Like That…

Tse Tse & Me

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

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

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

I’m only suffering from that last part.

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

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

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

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

Ridiculous.

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

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

It was 3:30.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ugh, and then there’s the holiday.

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

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

I think dating can easily fall into the stop bucket.

Enough of that emotional mayhem.

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

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

Talk about a red flag.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off to the gym!

Plus, I just farted.

Tse Tse & Me

When The Chickens Come Home…

I recently lamented that my job search – targeting companies I’d aspired to work for either because of reputation or an alignment of values and lifestyle – was now becoming more a competition of companies racing to prove themselves unworthy of their reputations…

Case in point, I just completed an interview review on Glassdoor for an interview I had with Columbia Sportswear. I’d been talking to people about it for a while and finally decided that bitching and moaning might be therapeutic to me, but it rarely solves a problem.

Here’s the thing, a couple months ago I applied for this store manager job with them. It’s a role I’m extremely qualified for and Columbia Sportswear is an iconic Portland company. It’s also practically a B Corp, so good values, too.

Impressing me even more, the district manager called me the very next day, which was a Friday. We set up an interview for the following Monday, then he signed off saying something like, “If anything changes, I’m in the stores this weekend so just call”. I countered with I hadn’t expected him to be working the weekend when I suggested Monday as my interview day. He offered to meet me Saturday and I agreed, knowing that Mondays in retail don’t usually leave a ton of time for interviews.

Interview wisdom dictates that the best timing for interviewees is either to be the first or last person interviewed. If you’re the first person and crush it, everyone else has to overcome the bar you set. If you’re the last person and stick your landing, everyone before you suddenly blends into one big amalgam of an applicant.

I was first, in this case and learned the DM was only seeing three people before making an offer on Tuesday.

I did not crush the interview, by any means. For whatever reason, the DM hadn’t offered to take my jacket when we got to the office. Once he closed the door, the office immediately began to heat up. Within 10 minutes, I was sweating like the proverbial whore in church and took off my jacket. It took me another 10 minutes to stop sweating.

It was insane.

However, we joked about it and I kept knocking his questions out of the park.

What’s with my gay ass and sports analogies I have no business making?!?

His questions were biplanes and I was fucking King Kong. That’s an analogy I can back up.

He makes a point of talking about his husband. I make a point of not asking if they are in one of those ridiculous open relationships that is the herpes of Portland gay culture. Still, I ran a back burner argument during the interview about why him basically coming out to me during the interview bothered me when I know if he’d been a woman talking about her husband I wouldn’t have even noticed it.

I left the interview entertaining myself about being able to finish third for a job after a string of second runners up. In reality though, I knew I crushed it. But that whole sweating thing was bugging me. I finally felt comfortable with my answer to why I left my last job and we seemed to find common ground in my statement that if companies were going to go to the trouble of printing an employee handbook, they should bother to ensure their executives take them seriously and hold management teams accountable to supporting them. It was good, finally not awkward or defensive.

So, the following week I get a voicemail from this guy asking me to call him back so we can discuss the job. I held the phone away from my face, surprised that I might have actually gotten the job.

I call him back, only to have him tell me that he went with another candidate. What kind of fuck you tom foolery is this? You can leave that in a voicemail. But he goes out of his way to say he liked me as an applicant and wanted me to know that he’d keep me in mind for future openings.

Normally, I give these words my best Shania Twain. They don’t impress me much. But he’d gone out of his way to make sure we spoke. Who knows?

Flash forward a month.

A month.

The job is reposted.

I wait a day and verify through multiple sources – including the company’s own website – that the posting isn’t just a ghost from the earlier ad.

It’s not.

So I email the guy.

No answer.

This kind of surprised me and kind of didn’t. He hadn’t responded to my “thanks for your time, blah-blah-blah” email that I’d sent after my interview either. I’m more than willing to accept the margin of error associated with me mistyping an email address. This was also all pre-Craigslist new laptop, too. It could easily have happened.

So…I called him.

Voicemail.

I leave a great voicemail, balancing my continuing interest in position with an absolute absence of “neener-neener-neener”.

He never calls back.

Fine.

Except, that whole conversation we had about companies walking the talk keeps hollering back at me. After a couple of weeks, I go onto Glassdoor and leave an interview review.

Y’know, I remember when I was a young buck, the thrill of getting a waiter fired on the flimsiest of pretenses, even though the reality was that he probably just failed to flirt appropriately…

Then white women with a certain haircut ruined that for me and I had to satisfy myself with a certain generic grumpiness. Imagine my surprise, if you can, to seeing this pop up on my phone today.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I doubt this guy was promoted in the days and hours following my Hiroshima moment on the Glassdoor…

In short,

When The Chickens Come Home…

Survey Says…?

Maybe it’s just me.

I just applied for a job managing a BevMo! I actually applied for a job with this company before I left Seattle in 2015, and was kind of disappointed that their application process doesn’t seem to have been touched in the last several years.

Case in point:

Are any of these answers actually correct?!?

I remember thinking the same thought when I completed this process in Seattle. But that was pre-MeToo and frankly, I feel like even in Trump’s America, none of these answers are correct.

Actually, I think they are all less correct now. Let’s break it down:

Obviously, the first answer is 100% wrong. There’s freedom of speech but what you choose to say may have consequences. In a workplace, it’s your professional responsibility to ensure your speech does not reflect poorly on the organization.

The second answer is about 50% correct. No, maybe less, but I’m not sure how to quantify it. Sure, if a customer complains, they could get in trouble. Even if it’s not a customer, but an offended employee they could get in trouble. I think the most correct reason for “getting in trouble” would be that their behavior violates a company’s code of conduct policy, regardless of complaints or from whom they are received, no?

Answer number three is just mind boggling, not even half right in my opinion. Again, the act of telling crude joke should violate a company’s code of conduct policy. Shifting the location to elsewhere on the premises – particularly one accessible to all employees – tacitly condones the behavior and creates a hostile work environment. I don’t care what people do on their own time, outside of my business – mostly – but they sure as hell aren’t going to behave in a manner that erodes employee morale on my turf.

Clearly, I chose the fourth option. Strictly because it’s the least wrong, in my opinion. Employees should focus on their tasks and responsibilities while on the clock, of course. I think that work environments should be fun, especially in retail, but when employees self-direct their fun at work, they need to remain professional about it. If they don’t, I think that this redirect should either have an added consequence statement to acknowledge to unacceptable behavior or there should be a mention of a follow up conversation in the potential responses. Telling someone to “get back to work” doesn’t do enough to address and correct the situation. I mean, the goal should be to stop it and prevent it from happening again, right?

Maybe it’s just me?

My friends and parents ask me frequently how the job search is going.

This is kind of a fine example of how it’s going…companies that I think I’d enjoy working for demonstrating to me that maybe I wouldn’t want to work there after all. Without even bending over backward to do it.

Survey Says…?

*Not* Sleeping With The Enemy

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

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

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

Anyhoo…that was quite a sidebar.

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

This was after packing on 20 lbs in three months.

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

Maybe I was imagining that.

Maybe it was actually happening.

Who knows?

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

No filters.

Everything.

Hell, anything.

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

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

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

Escandoloso!

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

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

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

In.

Sane.

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

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

Oh, here…

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

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

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

Ok, so how does this job kick my ass?

I’m glad you aksed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carrying stuff.

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

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

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

FML.

There should be 16.

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

Or close.

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

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

Nice teamwork, right?

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

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

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

We feel lucky if 75 people show up.

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

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

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

I love systems like that.

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

I hate systems like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This bothered me…

The hell with that.

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

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

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

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

That’s a lot of seasons.

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

Oooh, conundrum.

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

That’s no bueno.

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

Three days…I could do three days.

Or…

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

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

This was bad for me because, why?

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

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

Bad ROI.

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

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

He asked if I could do the three day rotation.

No.

How about on-call?

Hmmm…maybe!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another win/win/win!

*Not* Sleeping With The Enemy

The Red Shirt Diaries #23

I got this completely random email today:

An unsolicited job offer.

In a protectorate that Britain has probably even forgotten is in its realm?

What could possibly go wrong?

I should totally do this. It’s only a few years and Luke says its great money.

Y’know, my survival instincts being what they are, instead of telling all of my friends and family, “See ya again…never” and disappearing into the Bermuda Triangle; I think I’ll just sit in my couch and laugh at Luke’s last name.

Dingledine.

Ok. Yeah. That’s unfortunate.

The Red Shirt Diaries #23

I Should Be…

Sleeping:

It is 2 AM, after all. But I went upstairs after dinner to charge my phone and woke up at about 1 AM. After tossing and turning for a while, I came downstairs to do something productive.

So fat – er, far – I’ve had a bowl of Kettle Chips and a Coke Zero.

Job Hunting?:

My sister asked me a few months back if I’d ever considered expanding my job search to Bend, Oregon versus just waiting for a position in Portland that I want.

Yeah, but now that your kid is getting ready to move there for college, I gotta wait a couple years so it isn’t weird.

I never claimed to be a reasonable person, a non-claim I fully embrace since the State of Oregon rejected my unemployment claim on the grounds that a reasonable person would not quit a job simply because a company failed to enforce its policies from its own employee handbook. Given that measurement, I’d rather be unemployed and unreasonable.

The thing is, now that I’m with the whole fam-damily in nearby Sunriver, all I wanna do is not leave.

Ergo, I should at least see what jobs are available here.

Reading:

I’m about two decades behind – ok…only a month -on my WordPress Reader content. I should be better about that…if only because there’s no easy way to go back a month to the last entry I read.

Scroll, scroll, scrolling I a-go!

Writing:

Yes, I know that I am writing…as a procrastination tool. I’ve got several V.O.D.s that I could be working on cleaning up – particularly one about visiting my cousins when I was young that’s been on my mind this week as I reunite with my family. The entry is about my second cousins, but having my first cousins around this week has pulled me back to it…

There’s also several new blog ideas that I’ve got in draft mode – V.O.D. stands for Very Old Draft, incidentally – that I’m putting off: a lil something about how I’m trading my time for money these days, a piece on Crazy Rich Asians that is morphing into a diversity piece as it sits being neglected and a Dating Into Oblivion update/catch up piece.

Instead, I turned on the fire, read a bit, snacked a bit and jerked this place-holder piece off into the blogosphere…I’m on vacation, after all.

Now, since I opted for caffeine over alcohol with my chips and ergo – won’t be sleeping anytime soon…back to reading!

PS: “ergo” usage count in this blog entry – 2. No, 3!

#lazywriting

I Should Be…

I know, I know…

A good chunk of my frustration in witnessing others’ ineptitude as they work is based on my frustration in landing interviews or – not to be greedy – even getting a job. Still, beneath that unusual and temporary layer of frustration is the normal level of service level expectations that aren’t being met by these seemingly over-employed folks that keep catapulting themselves into my path.

Phew. Still with me?

So, I’m gonna do some therapeutic writing. But I want to get a disclaimer out there up front: this all didn’t just happen this morning. I’m not that “Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” type that encounters a slight inconvenience and demands to speak to the manager.

Sidebar: OMG, they made a musical out of this camp classic movie!

Nor am I a “Sleeping With The Enemy” type customer who lets his own OCD overwhelm transactional encounters in my life.

That said…I probably need this tee shirt

Hey, I know my shit.

I felt my usual simmering frustrations starting to boil a couple weeks back, hell…maybe even a month ago when I wrote about Penzey’s Spices and then my trip to Darcelle’s after that.

Darcelle’s and Penzey’s are two businesses that are worried about more than just their bottom line. Actually, maybe it’s that their bottom line is people instead of dollars. I’ve always believed that in a service industry, if you put people first – be them customers or your employees – that the dollars will come.

So, there…a couple of disclaimers before I rail against some companies that should just. do. better. to demonstrate that I know what good service and business looks like and that I know I’m just a grump sometimes.

Anyway, I tried to recycle my cans this morning and everything went to hell.

This should be pretty simple, right? I live in a state that has a bottle and can deposit. I always recycled and I was fine paying a nickel a can for my entire life as an Oregonian without redeeming my recyclables for my nickel…back. I figured it was an income stream for industrious homeless people. But, when we triggered a deposit increase to a dime a can…I started redeeming those aluminum and glass bastards myself.

I hated it.

The reverse vending machines that grocery stores use to refund bottle deposits were dependably gross, crowded and usually broke down. It was a hassle. So when some industrious individual came up with the idea to lease the machines to grocery stores while also offering the service extension of a concierge type recycling program, I was in.

Welcome to the show, BottleDrop!

Ok, well, first I grumbled about the fact that it was gonna cost me a penny per can to drop my recyclables off and have someone else count them, because: grumpy. Then I came around.

But in contracting with a company to drop off a bag of recyclables in a secure area, have them counted for me and then have my redemption refund credited to my account within five days, well I had expectations that BottleDrop would fulfill their service commitment.

See? That’s not really too much to expect, right?

It started off small, little inconveniences like the drop area not being open when I tried to drop off my bag on my way to work. That’s on me for not knowing the hours of operation. That evolved into their 3-5 day credit window becoming a 3-5 – no, just 5 – day window before my dropped bag was acknowledged as received and then another 3-5 days before my deposit refund was credited. Then drop off centers started opening erratically or being closed because both the reverse vending recycling machines and the secure bag drop doors were broken…it’s a door.

Still, I was surprisingly ok.

Then a bag went missing.

I emailed their customer service and a few days later got a response apologizing and letting me know that they credited my account for my Average Bag Value.

That seemed pretty fair and still convenient, so I felt whole and cared for as a customer.

Then my next bag went missing. It was disturbing because my first six months with them, no issues. Suddenly, two consecutive bags from the same drop location disappear.

They credited me once again for my ABV – which sadly is not Alcohol By Volume. My next bag was credited as expected, so I chalked my two missing bags up to weird coincidence.

Flash forward to August and I can say that out of the 12 bags I’ve dropped this year – don’t look at me like that, a lot of the cans are La Croix or Diet Coke – only four have been credited as expected. I’m beginning to wonder what consistently receiving my ABV versus the actual value of my redeemables does to my ABV. Something in the back of my mind keeps reminding me that averaging averages is bad math.

I began debating just using the reverse vending machines and doing it myself. At this point in my relationship with BottleDrop, they weren’t earning their keep. So I head out with that in mind this morning.

I walk a quarter mile to the Safeway: there’s a sign posted saying the drop center is opening at 9 instead of the usual 7.

Ugh.

The struggle is real…annoying.

It’s only a little more than 30 minutes away. I consider going across the street to Nossa for a coffee but there’s already a line of dirty dudes with shopping carts so it’ll be a 30 minute plus a significant chunk of time while these recycling professionals make it look hard. Plus, as I told the Silver Fox afterward, I didn’t want everyone at Nossa feeling bad because I was rocking the Recycle Fabulous look with my green bag of cans while they sat there with their engineered pooches or in their clip in cycling shoes looking lame by comparison…

Instead, I set off on the alleged half mile to Freddy’s, still not sure whether I’ll drop the bag or recycle it manually. Turns out, it’s 8/10 of a mile. Close, Google…but no cigar.

When I arrive, there’s three employees standing around talking. I think two BottleDrop and one Freddy’s, based on polo colors. They’re talking about hot flashes. Specifically, the male is talking about how uncomfortable it is to sleep with his wife when it’s “80 degrees at 11 o’clock and my wife has a hot flash in bed” – a fact neither of his two female coworkers need to be told.

#ThemToo

The two recycling machines are propped open slightly. Even though they’ve been open almost two hours, I assume they are still just being prepared for the days recycling. Feeling like I won the lottery – since there are no ne’er do well millionaires in line – I ask if I can be the first.

“Oh, we don’t do that anymore! But if you have an account, you can just drop your bag right through that door!”

I don’t know if the BottleDrop lady’s enthusiasm is because she’s new on the job and showing her pride or if she’s just that happy to get away from her basic white guy coworker. I do know that I’ve kinda had it at this point as she keeps yammering away. When I open the door, it’s packed with green bags of recyclables.

Ok, BottleDrop…I’m gonna give you credit: you created jobs with your business. Ostensibly – based strictly off the two employees I saw today where normally there would be one – you’ve doubled your work force by eliminating the self-serve recycling machines.

But!

Both of your employees were standing around like they were waiting for the valet to fetch their Maserati when I arrived. They were looking fresh while I – after walking about a mile and a half in my thwarted recycling attempt – was dripping sweat.

To me, it looks like you’re wasting payroll. Not to mention my time…I want my penny back.

So, BottleDrop has a pretty big shitshow on their hands. It’s like the great idea was primarily a money grab and instead of having operational processes in place to ensure good service, they just throw money at the problem – be it in ABV credits or added payroll – to make it go away.

I’ve had two interactions with other companies this year that seemed to want to do better. That’s great, knowing your limits is admirable – like me avoiding large groups of people…it’s just not something I’m armed for and willing to deal with. Maybe I should acknowledge that using a weapons analogy when discussing large groups of people was a bad idea there…oops.

Starbucks.

Charbucks.

“Where self-hating coffee lovers go for coffee” is my unofficial slogan for them.

Outside of their Reserve Roastery that opened a few blocks from my place in Seattle, I can count the number of times I’ve been in a Charbucks in the last decade on one hand. Even if I’d had a fireworks accident as a child.

However, earlier this year – February, to be precise – I’d been forced by circumstance into one of their cafes. It was at the height of the second harassment allegation against my co-worker at my last job.

By the way, pretty sure that my last employer – Paradies – exists solely to make companies like BottleDrop look effective.

Anyway, I was on my way in to work on the day that two of the senior field managers were in town to conduct a formal investigation. I was fully expecting my peer to be terminated and was feeling a strange brew of empathy and relief for him and dread about the void his position’s vacancy would create in our operation because my boss absolutely sucked at people development…meaning their was a lot of shit only he knew how to do. So I was stressed.

But, speaking of shit…my stress manifested as an urgent liquification – Why is that not a word? – of my insides while I was heading into work. Seriously, I left the house feeling 100% ready to face the day. Twenty minutes later and two stops into my commute, I was running off the train looking for a bathroom.

Yup, Charbucks was the only place.

Now, being somewhat responsible and understanding that businesses do not have restrooms just to provide their employees with cleaning tasks during downtime, I resigned myself to buying a drink to fulfill my end of the “restrooms are for customer use” contract.

However, I had to go.

Unfortunately, I had entered from one door while an elderly couple was entering from another door, closer to the counter. We were the only customers in the store.

There were three employees behind the counter. One was making something against the rear counter with her back toward me. The other two were intently focused on this older couple as said couple stared at the menu above the counter.

I stood at the register, being ignored, clenching so hard that I was sweating.

“Let me know if I can answer any questions for you!” the cashier says to the couple.

“Can I order while they decide?” I ask, getting an “I’ll be with you in a moment” from the cashier. Her coworker is standing on the other side of her grinning at this old couple like they’re…I. Don’t. Know.

Optimistic and desperate, I go check the bathrooms. Locked.

I go back to the counter and ask too-happy-guy for the code, emanating distress.

“The code will be on your receipt!”, cheerily.

“Can I order now?”, I ask as the old couple asks something about whether they can get their breakfast sandwich open-faced. I’m afraid I’m about to make a gravy for their open-faced sandwich.

The too-happy-guy pries his attention away from the look-how-cute-they-are-ordering-sandwiches couple to tell me the cashier will be right with me.

She wasn’t.

But, having finally ordered my 16 ounce cold brew, I’m seeing a light at the end of my <ahem> tunnel.

“Did you want the nitro cold brew?”

Sure, whatever.

“And we don’t have 16 ounce cups, do you want a Tall or a Grande?”

Ok, lady…I don’t have the time to educate you on the fact that the entire world outside your cafe doors has 16 ounce cups and that they are just magically transformed into Talls and et als once they cross your threshold.

I’ll.

Take.

A.

Tall.

I pay and tip and then she starts to spin on her heel to walk away. “Hold on, can I get my receipt, please!”

“Oh, sure…I’m so used to it being in people’s app! I don’t think I’ve ever printed one!”

“That’s ok, I just really need it for the bathroom code!”

She takes a piece of scrap paper off the printer and then stamps it with the bathroom code.

Really? I’m disgusted by the unwillingness of too-happy-guy to stamp a fucking piece of paper to help a customer, but I don’t have time to go into that with him now.

I frantically make my way to the bathroom, unclenching as few muscles as possible to still be able to walk. Pretty sure that it’s just four muscles, legs are locked up and arms are contorted into claws as I do a zombie style shit stumble to the door.

You know, it could have been worse. Even success at that point would have cost 100% of my dignity, based on how desperate I surely looked trying to wait out the petty toilet tyrants working at Charbucks that day. Let’s just call the near-success Nicklecrap, since that was really all the evidence of my failure that left the cafe with me. It’s also a great riff of the way most people feel about Nickleback as a band.

I promise, that’s my last Nickleback joke.

I walked out of the cafe, briefly considering grabbing my tip back from the tip jar and leaving my coffee on the counter. I actually did try to leave my order there, but the third employee suddenly decided to be – pardon the entendres – worth a shit and reminded me not to forget. I took my drink, smiled and went home to change.

Of course, I tried the coffee before throwing it away.

Still crap.

Less than two months later, I’ve quit my shit company and the whole Starbucks Bathroom Debacle unfolds and I’m just sitting there reading about it and thinking, “Really, Charbucks? Really?!?”

I have some time to kill on my way home and then back to work.

I invest that time in distracting myself from the stressful day ahead by emailing my complaint to Charbucks. It’s a…sanitized version of what I just wrote. By the time I’m headed back to work, they’ve responded.

Ok, this is kind of impressive.

They are – of course – sorry. Not as sorry as they’ll end up being a couple months later. They want to give me a $15 gift card. Since I don’t have a rewards card with them – the only one they found for my email address hasn’t been used in years – so can they get my mailing address and they’ll just send a physical card.

That’s really nice of them, but really, just let the district manager know so that the bathroom Nazis at this store can be addressed.

They insist.

I give them my address and ask if they can send three $5 cards so I can use them as incentives for my employees, pointing out that my rewards account hasn’t been used in years.

The response was that they were super sorry, but the order had already been put through.

Ok, now that’s a fucked up reply. My request came through with my mailing address, so how could the order be “put through” before getting the information needed for the putting through?!?

You know what?

I let it lie and just say thank you. I’m not going to bitch about a company doing something nice for me.

You just thought to yourself, “Yet here he is, bitching about it”, didn’t you?

It’s okay. The same thought would have popped into my head, too.

But you know what else?

The cards never came.

Swing and a miss, SBUX.

My last story is similar yet hopefully quicker. I’m including it in the Grumpopotamus Diaries because this company did something over the top different in their pursuit of good customer service and good PR.

I was using my Kuhn Rikon peppermill to add pepper to my lunch back in June when the grinding mechanism dropped completely out of the bottom, adding not only whole peppercorns to my lunch but also some gears, springs and washers.

Ok. It was probably six years old. It had a good life. Ironically, I had a back up. I like the spicier peppercorns, which is what was in my now dead peppermill. My spare had regular tellicherry peppercorns in it for when I had company.

Basically, it’s lightly used.

Still, I’m a considerate enough host, right?

I take a self-congratulatory pic and post it to Instagram, pleased with myself for having a back up. I’m a regular boy scout in the kitchen.

Here’s the impressive part: Kuhn Rikon actually has a PR company that looks out for crap like this on social media. They reached out to me that day to offer a replacement.

I mean, I’m no fool…I said hell, yes!

They told me they would set it up and get me a new grinder. This was happening over a weekend, too!

Guess what?

Yup, never came.

It’s been two months. That’s probably a reasonable timeframe to expect fulfillment, right?

Here’s the deal, though. I’m pretty whole as far as this pepper grinder situation goes. I had my back up – which, truth be told, I got for free back when I worked for Sur la Table. I’m good.

What rubs me the wrong way is the overpromise/underdeliver aspect of this – and SBUX – customer service. I think any company worth a crap wants their customer experience to be the exact opposite. They want to overdeliver on customer expectations.

If they know enough to say that they need to farm these extraordinary types of customer service out so they don’t drop the ball, great! Do it! But don’t go snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by failing to follow through once your customer service team or your agency has made a commitment.

You lose all the points.

And then some bitter crank bitches about it in his blog.

Luckily, I don’t work for Bon Appetit or Business Insider, so no real jeopardy of my experiences going viral here…but if you know someone who does, feel free to let them know that I can write without cursing. J/S. End shameless plug.

Nope, wait…don’t forget to like and/or share! Now, end shameless plug.

Also, if you’re ever bored, google Bon Appetit Memes. So…disappointingly hilarious.

I know, I know…