Ooh La La

At my previous job, here is how I found myself dividing my days.

After two hours, I got a 15-minute break. I would work two hours and take my fifteen minute break, at which time I would pee and then walk the halls scanning Facebook on my phone. At 12 minutes, I’d dash back on to the floor so as to guarantee I would not be late.

After another two hours, I’d go to lunch. I’d generally take my lunch pail out to my car and drive to the far end of the parking lot and eat a baloney sandwich, listening to Hardball on my satellite radio. After 50 minutes, I would return to that hot room and continue my work.

After two more hours, I got another 15-minute break, at which time I would pee and then walk the halls scanning Facebook on my phone. At 12 minutes, I’d dash back on to the floor so as to guarantee I would not be late.

Then I would work one more hour, then would come my last hour.

My last hour was a strong visualized meditation. I would create a large pounding countdown clock in the air, surrounded by all sorts of fantastic noise and beating and sparklers coming off of it. It started at 60. 60. 60 60. 60.

It wasn’t so much clock watching as it was giving me a focal point to sit through the last hour of the job, a place to direct my breathing, my nervous and my angry energy, a place to get me through to the mad last hour of that hideous job.

Today, on my seventh day of training for the new job, the trainer said, hey, you bozos, it’s 2:30 p.m., why don’t you go home.

And I was like WHHHHUUUUUT? It’s that time already?

That’s living right.

17 Days

They can train you for 17 days, they can teach you every system, every TLA in the book, I mean you would not believe what goes into delivering your dose of fresh clean entertainment to your home every day, the systems, from the central facility to the local office to the pedestal outside your house that you always wonder about as walk or jog past it, like, what is that thing for? guess what, it’s probably the thing that brings your cable service to your home, to the aerial wire to the NID to your receiver inside, you would not believe how far that signal travels and how many men and women it takes to get it there, it really is a thing to behold. But they can train you for 17 days, and even though the trainer is dogged and funny and delivers the material effectively, you simply cannot ever be ready for the first days, the first days, when there will be strangers on the phone desiring answers from you, and to deliver those answers you must be in a minimum of four computer tools, maybe more, and they are complicated freaking tools, and the fact is that despite 17 days of training, you do not actually know a darned thing, and you feel feeble-kneed, and you say “uhhhhh” a lot, and you know you’re not meeting the client’s quality metrics, or the time metrics, or the service metrics, or the metrics metrics.

When I’m pretending that I’m a coach, I’m always saying, drop a pin right here because I’m going to tell you something you’re going to need in the middle of that call, in the middle of that call where the person is overly-insistent, or angry, or difficult, get the pin you dropped because here’s what I said when you dropped it: That is the customer who’s going to improve you. That is your breakthrough guy, your light-bulb over yer head, your teachable moment. When you are sweating and squirming and saying “uhhhhh” a lot, that, my friends, is called “learning.” And when you’re done with that call, you will, involuntarily, put your hands in the air like Bruce Friggin’ Jenner, because that feels goooooooood.

I’m just saying. I had one of those today.

I know I’ve been a mess lately, a real big whining pain in the ass making noises like a wounded dog. Sorry about that. I haven’t faced a disappointment that arduous in several years. And circumstances surrounding these 17 days made it more so the bittersweet. But that I’m having moments like that at my job, that is a good sign. The agita is lessening and the clouds seem to be parting.

Pumped Up Kicks

I still don’t know what pumped up kicks are.

The trainer we have is excellent. He tells us little funny anecdotes to keep things moving through eight hours of training. One of his anecdotes he had to mention the band Foster the People, and the song started in my brain again.

I HATE that song.

I remember when I first heard the song, with its catchy beat and its lilting vocals and its crazy pop sensibility. It bit my foot hard and didn’t let go. I couldn’t wait for it to come around again. I think I even bought it off of Amazon.

Some kind of shoes? I guess?

Then I listened to the song. Really listened.

It’s not new territory for a song to cover, certainly. Bob Geldoff did, as did Pearl Jam. But neither of those songs were deceptive about it. Certainly with “Jeremy” the music, the tone of it, the horror pastiche it creates, melds with the subject matter.

The FTP song just makes a kid plotting to kill his classmates seem like a walk in the park.

I always wondered how that band could continue after Sandy Hook.

Anyway. That’s my sideways way of saying that the gig I was babbling about here some weeks ago did not pan out and now I’m at a new gig and still training so that I can answer phones and explain things to people.

So that happened.

The Awful Store: Going Out Of Business

Many years ago, I found a job I actually liked. I got to answer phones and explain things to people. It wasn’t as prestigious professionally as I had expected a job or career to be, but I seemed to be good at it. I soon moved to answer phones and explain similar things to people who lived in the United Kingdom. This was a more elite crew, which was nice.

I will never forget the man who called me expecting our product to open his garage door. Because our product was a universal television remote control. He was furious with me for telling him it wouldn’t do that. I just had this image of this British man sitting in his car alone in a darkened garage, fervently pressing buttons on a television remote, and screaming and shouting because his “GAH-RAJ DOOOOOOR” remained closed. People are so weird.

(I also got to get off the phones sometimes to collate our group’s training materials. I coined a slogan for us in the process: “Helping the world change channels.”)

The company moved from my area to California. I opted not to continue and to move south instead, and of course I often wonder what would have been in store had I done that. I do know I was pretty darned good at answering phones and explaining things to people for a living because when I told my boss I wasn’t joining them in California, she nearly cried.

What went after, well, was pretty bumpy. And so, often, I say to myself, self, maybe you should have stayed with that nice company and continued answering phones and explaining things to people. Even though the company went belly up in five years. It might have been much nicer.

Now I’ve never been a real dynamic job hunter. I think my every job hunt has gone like this: Apply for one job. Get hired. Rochester was really no exception. I had a vague sense at the time that I would like to go back to answering phones and explaining things to people for a living. I found a company that does that. I applied for and interviewed for a job. I didn’t get that job, but the human resources department pointed me toward another job. I interviewed for that job and was hired.

It was miraculous. They needed someone who was familiar with hyper-text markup language (which I speak fluently), someone with experience in content management and e-commerce (which I had), and it helped that I had a previous career answering the phone and explaining things to people. I was on my way to driving to Arlington, Va. to get more stuff when I got the phone call extending the offer. This created a nightmare for my DOD and other loved ones who had to pack up things for me and get them up here or get rid of them, and I am thankful for that help to this day. But I have been at this job now nearly four years, and I have done it well, and I have enjoyed it immensely.

But nothing lasts forever.

We got a visit from the big boss in July. He told us they were striking the tents. We would have six months. But at midnight on January 31, 2015, the program I work for would no longer exist. Will no longer exist.

I do have a job waiting for me; the company I work for is ginormous so there is usually another opportunity around the corner. And the nice thing is at my new job, I will be answering phones and explaining things to people, and the things will be of a more general nature; more practical things then, you know, let’s fix the code in your header template. Virus protection. Printers. Stuff like that. I can’t wait.

But with something like this, there’s always that moment when it feels real to you, when it lingers in the air and you get the visceral cue that yes, this is actually happening.

That was today.

This post’s headline refers to my test Web store, The Awful Store, which will no longer exist as of the end of the week. Every employee gets a test store, and one challenge is to discourage people from actually buying your goods. Part of my approach was to name the store as such and the slogan: “The world’s worst online store in the world.”

I’ll sure miss it, though I am retaining the domain. Not sure what to do with it.

In Other News


Dunkin’ Donuts moves into neighborhood. Police presence in neighborhood increases noticeably. Coincidence? ‪#‎somestereotypesaretrue‬

In which some guy on the Internet vastly improves the theme song to The Gilmore girls, which I always have to mute.

He improved a lot of other ones, too.

Astronauts have to go through customs when they return to Earth.


How Do We Welcome Astronauts Back to Earth? By Making Them Go Through Customs (The Atlantic)

Mmmmmmm….dizzy. Perpetual Pizza

I Am Home

I cannot tell you how glad I am to have access to my own bathroom and my own bed. I have watched tonight’s Battlestacked Galactica. I have set up my Sirius Radio again. And I must, I must in the spirit of the previously blogged travel tips, give a plug to the following product.

They are called “Earplanes.” And they saved my ass tonight.

When I fly, I usually suffer from debilitating ear pain and stuffy head. I bought a pair of earplanes at the Brookstone store at the Vegas airport, almost as an afterthought. I stuck them in my ears before we took off and was amazed that by landing in Denver, there was no pain, no stuffiness, none, none, none. I felt normal. It was a miracle. But the true test was from Denver to Dulles. Weather was tough for that flight, in fact, my plane suffered a lightning strike in the process of landing. We held in the air for 20 minutes before final descent. Had I not had these tubes in my ears, I would have been screaming bloody murder. But I suffered only a minor stuffiness. These things are wonderful and were the best ten bucks I spent the entire trip. Travel tip. Buy Earplanes. They are wonderful.

A Mixed Day

Yesterday was mixed. I managed to wrangle the vendor to help me finally fix the WYSIWYG editor so I don’t have to write EVERYTHING in HTML all the damned time anymore as I have been doing for months. That was good. I did figure out a better way to archive a certain section of our Web site. That was good. I did finally find the sweet spot in the office where I can put my XM Repeater to get flawless reception and am now listening to Supreme Court arguments on the SPAN while I werk. That was good.

Taking out the side view mirror in the parking garage was not so good. Ouch. Poor Esther.

A Puzzling Trade Association Custom

I have just got back from what I find to be a puzzling trade association custom, the stuffing party. Or, perhaps it is just the custom where I work, and other trade associations have more sense about this sort of thing.

What you do, see, is you get a group of people into a big room, and some of these people earn $30 an hour for their jobs, and some of these people earn like $110 an hour for their jobs. So what you do is you have these people stuff envelopes, which is something you could be paying another group of people like $15 an hour to do.

It always confounds me, but I usually put in an hour or so anyway. I figure it’s entertaining to watch a group of people get vastly overpaid to do shit work.

Anyway, happy halloween, and happy birthday also to Kevin Pollak. I am reminded today that the photograph that heads this stupid blog is of me in a fabulous Halloween costume conceived and sewn by that lady who doesn’t eat onions. Thanks Mom.

Telephone Call For Mr. Horrible

I do not usually share much of the goings-on in my dayjob in this space. Today I could not resist though because of the life-imitates-they-might-be-giants aspect of this e-mail exchange.

A: “Does anyone know where the desk chair is for the empty office? There was a chair for that office and now it seems to have disappeared. Please let me know if you know where it is. Thank you.”

B: “Twice I found it in the locked file room and twice I’ve moved it back. Guess it has a mind of its own??”

C: “Thank you, that is exactly where I found it tonight. Would who(m)ever keeps moving it in there, please let me know and why you are moving it? If we need to get a chair for that office, we can order something, but please stop moving the office chairs. Thank you.”