Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How To Embarrass Someone -- 3 Easy Steps

Tuesday night I went to Target to buy some new khakis. What didn't occur to me was to leave the red collared shirt at home.

I got to the checkout line and the cashier looked at the two khakis I was purchasing, and my red shirt, and asked,

"Welcome aboard. When ya starting with us?"

Cute. He was apparently serious. But I turned the tables on him.

Step 1: I ignored him. This caused him to ask again.

Step 2: I stared at him.

Step 3: I said, "I don't know what you're talking about. I just happen to be buying new khakis. I'm not starting a new job, here at Target or anywhere else."

Now, I actually am starting a new job and they are for the gig. But he didn't have to know that. He turned as red as his Target shirt.

"I'm so sorry, sir," he said. "I shouldn't have assumed." (By this time I'm thinking, wow he really did think I was joining the team.)

I probably should've just told him yeah, I'm starting a new job. Chalk it up to a bad mood. I'm a jerk sometimes.

Monday, May 21, 2012

That Awkward Moment When...

As most of you know, I'm not moving out to Western Mass. after all. So life is pretty much back to normal.

One thing I forgot to do, though, is tell the guy in Adams whose apartment I was going to rent that I won't be moving in. (Luckily for me, he said he wasn't going to ask me to sign a lease until I moved in. Not sure why, it'd seem to make sense. Oh well.)

So when I got an email from said landlord Monday night, I was like, oops. That awkward moment when you forgot to tell the guy you won't be moving in.

I called him. I explained the situation.

I don't know what it is about Western Massachusetts They're much more laid back out there. He said, "Oh, OK, no problem. I wish you the best and good luck."

And I was worried. Five minutes of stress. Gone. Now back to the rest of my life.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pedestrian-Motorist War

I live on a side street off of Main St. in Fitchburg. My segment of the street isn't busy, but the first part of it serves as a cut-through for many motorists headed to the police station, the Y, the Fitchburg Art Museum, etc. etc.

You also have pedestrians walking to shops, the Post Office, and Market Basket.

I've been on both sides of this conflict. I've been crossing my street and a car comes barrelling in from Main Street and nearly runs me over. I've also been driving and taking the right turn onto my street and someone's crossing. And crossing. And taking their sweet time, as if they're the only person in the world who's out and about in the world.

The other night, things came to a head. A car in front of me wanted to bang a right on my street, and a group of 5 folks headed for a bar were taking their sweet time crossing.

The car in front of me beeped.

The pedestrians glared and gestured with their hands.

The car in front of me rolled down the passengers'-side window, and all of a sudden I saw spit coming out, aimed at the pedestrians, and then the car resumed its right turn.

The pedestrians began to throw f-bombs and trot after the car in an attempt to ramp up the violence.

I can be a salty-hot-tempered guy. But I've noticed the past couple of years I've started to realize some things aren't worth sweating. I'd be annoyed of it was me waiting for the group of pedestrians to primp and strut across the street. I'd also be annoyed if someone spit at me because they didn't appreciate the pace. But it's not worth vehicular (or other) homicide.

After the car-pedestrian war, I bypassed my street in favor of the next set of lights, where I can also turn and cut through a few streets and get home. I don't want to be an innocent bystander and take a fist that wasn't intended for me -- or worse.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Livetweeting The Bachelorette

This winter I became somewhat infamous for livetweeting (should that be capitalized? someone get back to me on this) The Bachelor. Monday night someone asked me if I would be doing the same now that The Bachelorette is premiering.

(An aside: I'm spellchecking right now and Blogger does not recognize "bachelorette" as a word. Really, Blogger? Livetweet I can imagine, but bachelorette? WTF?)

I never get that into The Bachelorette, for a variety of reasons. The guys on the show have a different mindset than their Bachelor female counterparts. They don't get as catty or devastated when they don't get a rose (although, in the five minutes or so I watched Monday night a couple of the guys did take it unusually hard and choked back tears. But then again, The Bachelorette was cutting 10 people on this episode so it was probably inevitable that someone would be an unhappy camper). And, of course, for me the eye candy factor is not there on The Bachelorette.

Still, now that I have more of a presence on Twitter than I used to, I somehow feel an obligation this season -- if for no other reason than gender equity. I failed at it Monday night. But, for better or worse, I will try to do better at livetweeting The Bachelorette.

Apologies in advance. You've been forewarned.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Never Decline a Job Interview

One rule I've always lived by is, never decline a job interview.

Clearly if you're unemployed this makes sense. But there have been times when I was gainfully employed and not looking for other employment when I was approached to interview for somebody and I've always found a way to clear my schedule for it. It's good practice for those times when you interview for a job you do want -- polishing your interviewing skills, practicing your smile, your firm handshake, your answers to the tough questions. And hey, you never know. The job opening might be more intriguing than you think.

I'm fortunate that this policy has paid off for me this month.

A couple of weeks ago, I was offered a job in which I would basically be a one-man sports department for a weekly newspaper out in the Berkshires. I recently received an MFA, and this was a writing job. Perfect. I wasn't excited about moving -- again, but the prospect of covering a couple of minor league baseball teams, two Division III colleges and high school sports was appealing. Ten years ago I left the world of journalism, expecting never to return, but you never know when life will come full circle and here was one of those instances. I looked for a place to live out in the Berkshires. I also nearly drove off a cliff.

In the meantime, all the job-searching I've undergone the past few months began to pay off. Past experience has taught me that it usually takes weeks or even months from the time a company posts a job opening to the time they start interviewing candidates, and now companies I applied or sent resumes to began to call me to schedule job interviews. Part of me was like, "Great. NOW they call." But the other side of me said, "You know what? You have a couple of weeks to kill before you head out west. Go interview. Can't hurt."

So I did. And sometimes you're at your best when you feel you have nothing to lose. Three different companies invited me in to chat with them. And through phone calls and emails they continued to engage me in dialogue after the interview. I was beginning to think they were really interested in me.

The benefit for me was, while all this was going on, things were changing out in the Berkshires. After I accepted the newspaper job, the job transformed before my eyes. Some new responsibilities were being thrown at me, responsibilities that weren't part of the original job description, and responsibilities that I wasn't interested in performing. I wasn't thrilled about the conversations I was having out there. And, when I was all set to write a check and put down a deposit on a place in Adams, thing were unraveling.

These seemingly unnecessary interviews came to the rescue. I've been offered all three jobs. One is a 35-hour-a-week job. Another is a part-time job (depending on the week anywhere from 5-25 hours). A third is a glorified freelance writing gig -- dull writing, but writing nonetheless. Who knows what will happen from here. But, faced with two scary choices -- moving across the state for a job I no longer want or turning it down and going back to Unemployment Square One -- I feel like this allows me sidestep the fear and gives me an opportunity to land on my feet.

So I've resigned from the newspaper job before it begins. Hopefully there will be no hard feelings out there. But I'm glad I figured all this out before putting down a deposit. I'm glad I don't have to muster up the energy to move again. 

And I'm really glad I went on those interviews.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Things You Don't Want To Hear While Apartment-Hunting

Landlord's phone rings.
Landlord: "Hello."
Voice on the other line: "Yes, this is the Massachusetts Department of revenue calling about your delinquent taxes."

Me: "I wanted to see if your place is still available."
Landlord: "Trust me, you don't want to look for a place up here."

Landlord: "You go down Route 8, then after the Cumberland Farms and McDonald's you tale a left and then a quick right and you're there."
Me: "Great! I'll meet you there in 15 minutes."
Landlord: "Oh, I'm not gonna be there. You're just gonna see it and call me if you like it."
Me: "How am I gonna get in to see the place if I don't have the keys."
Landlord: "Oh, don't worry, it's unlocked. I always leave the front door unlocked."

(Ironically, the front door was locked when I got there.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Brush With Death -- On the Hairpin Turn At Mohawk Trail, North Adams, MA

Being a native of Eastern Massachusetts, I'm used to Route 2 being an Interstate highway-type road. Out in Western Massachusetts, though, once you get past Gardner, it turns into backroads.

Tuesday I was on my way to North Adams, where it's not only backroads but also mountainous, as you're now in the Berkshires. I got a taste of this firsthand when I discovered that, as you cross the North Adams city line, Route 2 forms a hairpin turn. Your defensive driving skills and a guardrail are all that's stopping you from sliding into a ravine. Not good news for me, a stressed-out and control-freakish driver. Headed westbound, you're going downhill as you cross into North Adams so I slowed down to about 20mph and, despite some stress on a slick and rainy day, I negotiated the hairpin turn without incident, and the rest of Route 2 in North Adams was fine.

Then there was the trip back home.

On the way back, I took it even slower (10-15 mph). Of course, heading back east you're going uphill on the hairpin, and because I was taking it so slow, I didn't give the car enough gas. I stalled right at the turn.
And so I'm sitting there with my foot on the brake, I'm scared to bang it in reverse because I'm not sure how close I am to the edge of the road, and I'm scared to take my foot off the brake because I might roll in reverse, right into the guardrail and ravine, before I can get the foot back on the gas.

It's beginning to rain harder. Also, a car is coming up behind me.

I said to myself, "Great. This is how I die."

Then I said, "Here goes nothing," slammed my foot on the gas as quickly and as hard as I could and got my way up the hill. Shaken, but on the road back to Fitchburg.

If you want to see where this hairpin turn is, go to Google Maps and type in "Golden Eagle Restaurant, Clarksburg, MA" (it's on the Clarksburg side of the border with North Adams). Yes, there's a restaurant here. I look at it on Google and the hairpin turn doesn't look all that bad. I feel like a bit of a wuss. But I'm a Type A driver and I never like to feel that I'm not in control in the car. And, for about 15 seconds, I felt like I lost all driving control, and a quick perusal of the restaurant web site indicates the hairpin turn is 1,700 feet above sea level, and 1,700 feet is not a place where you want to feel out of control.

I will never take Route 2 all the way into North Adams again.