Friday, November 30, 2012

Writers Group

Last night I went to a writers group for the first time in a couple of months.

It was sorely needed. The past few months have been chaotic for me and because of that I had to put writing down for a little bit. It made me feel bad about myself. In January I gave a speech when I graduated with my MFA and one of the things I talked about in it was about the need to keep writing. And so the past couple of months I felt like a hypocrite.

I miss writing.

I also miss my writing friends. I find camaraderie is an important aspect of writing and it was just really great to share some stories with them. We also set some goals for our next meeting.

It's very refreshing to get back into the swing of things. Coming off the heels of my last day at my job, it was one of the happier nights I've had in a long time, and my writing friends were a big part of that.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Never Decline a Job Interview, The Sequel

Last month I gave my notice at The Chopper. While I enjoyed working there and made some good friends, I was offered a new job with Company A, a good opportunity for me to get paid a little more and to work significantly closer to home.

Then a funny thing happened. The day after I was offered this job, Company B (whom I had sent my resume to a few days earlier, before I knew Company A would offer me a job) invited me in for a job interview.

I once blogged on this site about one of my personal philosophies: never decline a job interview. And so, true to myself, I went on the job interview.

Sure enough, I soon had two job offers on the table before me. The two job offers were substantially identical. So identical that when I did the proverbial pro-con list, the pro and cons of both jobs came out as equal.

I don't like this kind of stress. So after a few days in limbo, I finally decided to go with Company A, for no other reason than the fact that they came through with the first offer. Company B was disappointed when I broke the news. Meanwhile, in the back of my mind I wondered if I was making the right choice. This was not because of any gut instinct -- had I chosen the Company B, I would have those same what-ifs rolling through my mind.

A couple of weeks into my new job, Company B called again, asking how the new job was going (clearly this was not the true reason for their call). When they called, I was at the new job. It was kind of awkward. But I appreciated that they saw something in me and politely said that I needed to run, but feel free to call me back.

The next day, things started to change at Company A. Actually, it's not that things really changed. It's that I started to notice some things. I won't go into detail. But let's just say that if Company A were an NFL team, the media would characterize Company A as having "team chemistry issues" and "poor coaching." And it was making my job considerably more difficult than it had to be. And so I swung by Company B (which happens to be conveniently located on my way home from Company A) later that day.

One thing led to another. Company B invited me in for a "second job interview," this time with the company HR Director, CEO and president. Once again, Company B offered me a job -- this time for considerably more money than the original offer. It was too good to turn down, particularly given the problems at Company A.

You can imagine how awkward things were the past two weeks at Company A (in fact, while I agreed to give Company A two weeks' notice, things have been so uncomfortable there that yesterday we mutually agreed to cut things off at a week-and-a-half's notice). I get it. I'm there for a month and then I leave. I don't expect people to be thrilled. But the sad part is, after I gave my notice, my boss at Company A started saying some nasty things about me to others. Saying that I need work on my "people skills" and "common sense" and that I "don't work well with women." Which smacks of someone crying sour grapes, or trying to cover her ass from potential corporate questions about why I'm leaving so quickly. These were never problems until I gave my notice. Also, give me a break -- I got a going-away party and cake when I left The Chopper, which was almost exclusively attended by female Chopper employees. Do people with poor people skills get that kind of treatment on the way out? I took the high road on my way out and it's disappointing that not everybody can do so.

Who knows, Company B may be a disaster, too. But I look at it this way: when presented with two opportunities, I've received a rare chance to sample both of them.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

I'm thankful:

* To have a job. Earlier this year I was going on my 18th consecutive month of unemployment, and in the last month of so of that my unemployment benefits had exhausted. It's been a difficult year, but it's nice to have a means of income.

* That Thanksgiving means two or three days of leftovers.

* That, to the best of my knowledge, I have my health. I say to the best of my knowledge because even with all the advancements in health care, we never know if we'll wake up to the day we drop dead of a heart attack. But I've always been pretty healthy and I hope this continues.

* That last night the Patriots beat the stuffing out of the New York Jets, a franchise that embodies everything that's wrong with America (narcissism, melodrama, gluttony and proselytizing). Also, that for the first time in my life, I laughed out loud at an NFL play.

* That while I'm human and make mistakes sometimes and can always look for ways to better myself, overall I'm happy with who I am, even when I go against the grain in life, and those who aren't happy with me for whatever reason are making more of a commentary on themselves than they are about me.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Traffic Stop 2, Small Town Boogaloo

Blogger's note: I know it's Thanksgiving today, but because the following happened to me the other day and in the interest of switching things up a bit, I'll do the "What I'm thankful for" blog tomorrow.

I'm right on time for work and, wouldn't you know it, I get behind a car with Georgia license plates, whose driver clearly has no clue where he/she is going, going at a rate of speed comparable to a snail in quicksand. This person begins to veer to the breakdown lane, but not enough for me to pass safely. So I'm slogging along behind, tapping my fingers on the steering wheel.

I look behind me and a cop has his lights flashing. Must be an emergency. Finally this car in front of me will pull over and I can pass.

You can imagine my horror when the cop pulls in behind me. License and registration, blah blah blah.

"Do you know why I pulled you over?" he asks.

"Honestly, no," I say.

"You were tailgating the driver in front of you." He looks pissed, like I ruined his day. For most cops, an armed robbery or triple-homicide ruins their day. "Also," he continues, "you were weaving back and forth." Clearly he has me confused with the jerkbone in front of me.

"I didn't realize that," I say. What I really want to say is, "Clearly you have me confused with the jerkbone in front of me," but I'm told that sarcasm isn't a good attitude to take with the police.

Great. I'm going to be late for work now. I am the king of bizarre traffic stops. Don't the cops have other things to do with their time, like stop an armed robbery?

In what appears to be a show of mercy, he takes my license and registration and brings it back to his cruiser and, within 15 seconds, returns. "Don't tailgate other drivers," he says and returns my stuff, ticket-free. I can get to work on time.

That's life working in a small town -- where tailgating slow drivers is a capital offense.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Retail Exhibitionism

It's getting toward closing time. There's a lot of stuff for me to do and never enough time to do it all, particularly when pesky customers keep coming in to buy stuff.

This one is buying vodka. I feel like he's of age to buy, but I don't see any outward clues that totally give it away (the onset of crow's feet, a few specks of gray hair, the beginnings of a receding hairline). So I ask him for ID.

"Shit. I don't have it. Seriously, you're new here. I'm 28. I come in here all the time."

If I had to guess, I'd say 28 sounds about right for him. But I pause. You never know if a sting is happening.

It was a long pause.

About 15 seconds later, from the car he was in emerges a girl, wearing only a bra and thong.

"Hurry UP!" she tells him.

I had to let him buy the vodka on principle.

Monday, November 12, 2012


"I once had a roommate who loved to hear himself talk. And, living in the same dwelling as him, that resulted in me sitting on the sofa on a nightly basis, tortured by having to listen to him talk my ear off about everything to the latest episode of Royal Pains to the Patriots’ defensive woes to his psycho ex-girlfriend’s plot to ruin his life. Most of the time I would pretend I was listening and nod accordingly. Still, I have to admit that every once in awhile he would say something that was actually quite profound, and I file away those rare nuggets to this day as proverbial 'words of wisdom.'"

n  Opening from a paper I turned in for a novel-writing class I took this past summer.

The topic of that paper is immaterial for this blog. The roommate in question was someone I lived with last year. He was mostly a good guy. I always felt like he just needed a break or two. And he did indeed have some moments where he would say something that brought some clarity to our crazy world. I’ve been told I’m a good listener, that I should’ve become a therapist, and I think the fact that I listened (even when I didn't always want to) caused him to take a liking to me.

Except that the ex-girlfriend’s plot to ruin his life became all-consuming, to the point where they would be at our place every night, fighting until the police would arrive. And then there was the day when he screamed at me for something ridiculously minor (getting him the wrong flavor of tea from McDonald’s). Whether he needed a break in life or not, I didn’t have to put up with mental abuse for any reason, let alone something as meaningless as tea. One instance was enough to me.

So even though I liked the place I lived in, I felt I had no choice but to move. But I always in the back of my mind wondered how he was doing, if he found a way to right the ship.

I recently found out that a couple of months ago he committed suicide.

We all have our problem and challenges we have to overcome in life. I certainly have mine. I feel like this is a lesson for me not to let my problems consume me. There’s always a silver lining, as long as you don’t sabotage yourself.

Friday, November 9, 2012

My First Trip to the Supermarket As an Ex-Supermarket Employee

8:24 a.m. -- Walk in.

8:25 a.m. -- Mutter to myself, "Where the fuck are the red baskets?" As someone who's single and shops only for himself, unless I got a 24-pack of bottled water, I never a shopping carriage because I don't need to do that much shopping. I used to hate it when I walked into a supermarket and there weren't any red baskets at the front of the store. Also, as front-end supervisor it was drilled into me: "Make sure there are plenty of red baskets out in the lobby," because they want to make sure douchebag customers like me wouldn't say, "Where the fuck are the red baskets?" In life, everything comes full circle.

8:26 a.m. -- Find and grab a red basket underneath Register 13.

8:27 a.m. -- To the produce aisle, to get my daily ration of four pieces of fruit. Just a reminder to my ex-work spouse: pluots are out of season.

8:30 a.m. -- Off to deli. When I worked at The Chopper I almost never bought anything at the deli. It was a function of the high-stress environment, I guess. Better to calm my nerves with a slice of pizza of chicken tenders then a slab of lunch meat (also, if you save it it'll go bad before you get home). It was refreshing to grab some American cheese for a change.

8:32 a.m. -- Grabbing some 93% lean ground beef. Also never bought this as an employee. See above.

8:34 a.m. -- To the checkout! It's early and there are not a lot of people in the store. Unfortunately there are fewer cashiers. So I have to wait in line. I used to hate this as a front-end supervisor -- being understaffed, having to hop on a register myself. Here, none of the soops jumped on. So I had to wait. Luckily the cashier was speedy and I only waited a couple of minutes.

8:36 a.m. -- I accidentally drop a 12-pack of ramen onto the belt and it bounces and nearly pegs the cashier. I apologize to her. I've dealt with some rude customers as a front-end supervisor, but none who ever threw groceries at me.

8:38 a.m. -- Done. Quick and painless. And I didn't have to worry about being written up for anything.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2012 Election Night Redux, or An Open Letter to the Republican Party

From the night he was elected in 2008, I never once doubted that President Obama would be re-elected. Not when his midterm approval ratings were in the toilet. Not when he slept through the first presidential debate last month. Never.

I say this not out of any rah-rah cheering for him. I’m the ultimate political neutral. I posted my political leanings as Whig on my Facebook Wall. I’m liberal on some issues (mostly social and foreign policy) and conservative on others (mostly economic). I think Obama has done a good job in some aspects of his first term and a lousy job in others.

In fact, the reason I knew he’d be re-elected has nothing to do with him. It has everything to do with the Republicans. They can’t get out of their own way. They continue to make the same mistakes over and over again and then act shocked when they lose. This is now four of the last six presidential elections that they’ve lost, and had it not been for some blind/dumb voters in Florida in 2000, it might have been a Democratic clean sweep of the six. The Republicans had a chance to unseat Obama this year, and they blew it.

So I know Karl Rove is still arguing the results, but since everyone else in America has moved on, I’m going to list an action plan for Republicans to get their mojo back and maybe win something important in the future:

1)      Find a candidate who at least doesn’t look the part of a white male CEO – After Abraham Lincoln, who resembled a starving lumberjack, virtually every Republican presidential candidate since has looked like a guy who just walked into a board of directors meeting. The two exceptions to this rule were Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and people can say what they want about their politics/intellect. But is it a coincidence that both Dubya and Reagan were re-elected? I doubt it. Perhaps the worst example of a Republican called from Central Casting was your most recent candidate – Mitt Romney, a guy who’s physically incapable of sounding like anything but the corporate CEO we all love to hate. For one night (the first presidential debate) Romney was kidnapped and replaced by a cyborg who seemed to actually care more about people than money. And then that Mitt Romney disappeared, never to be seen again, replaced by the one we all know and distrust, the one who builds elevators for his cars, who calls corporations people, who gets caught saying he doesn't giving a shit about 47% of the country when he thinks nobody’s looking. There are Republicans out there who actually look and sound like real people. Marco Rubio. Chris Christie (if he doesn't eat himself to death before 2016). Mike Huckabee. And you Republicans would be wise to choose one who does as your next candidate. Remember, Republican Party, despite what Mitt Romney may think, corporations don't vote. People do.

2)      Move on from abortion and gay marriage – What you fail to understand, dear Republicans, is that all the right-wing conservative voters are already in your fold anyway. They’re not going to stray. Who else are they going to vote for? Stop being so anal. But the independent voters – that third of the country that ultimately decides every election, because one-third votes Democrat no matter what and one-third votes Republican no matter what – are not going to base their vote on a candidates’ abortion or gay marriage stance. There are always bigger issues. Yet you continue to jam the abortion and gay marriage planks of your party platform down everybody’s throats, even when many of your own party members are pro-choice and pro-gay rights. It’s baffling that the self-proclaimed “party of less government” somehow seems to need more government when the issue switches to our bedrooms. Also, here’s a neat little bit of trivia for you: what do Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and California all have in common? That’s right. None of those states have voted GOP since 1992, when you Republicans first went all-out on your family values crusade. That’s 152 electoral votes – more than half the amount needed to win the presidency – that barring a complete Democratic candidate meltdown you have no shot at winning. Is that a smart idea of a dumb idea, Republicans? Seems pretty dumb to me.   

3)      Stop blaming the mainstream media for your problems – It’s also bewildering how the self-proclaimed “party of personal responsibility” constantly uses the media an a convenient excuse when they lose an election, and continually condescends to the voting pool by telling us we believe everything the mainstream media tells (or doesn’t tell) us. Are there occasions of liberal bias in the mainstream media? Yes. Definitely. But that’s counterbalanced by FoxNews, which is basically a p.r. agency for the Republican Party. So it’s a wash. This just in, Republicans: people have brains and can critically evaluate a news piece and formulate their own decisions. When you bitch and moan about the media, you insult everyone and that only hurts your chances to win everyone’s vote in the future. Take personal responsibility in your actions, Republicans. You didn’t lose last night because of liberal media bias. You lost because you had a lousy candidate.

I’m not posting this because I like Republicans or want the nation to go all red-state. I’ll admit that I do appreciate the Democratic Party’s commitment to civil liberties and opposition to endless military interventions in other countries. But I’ve never been on board with the Democrats’ need to throw taxpayer money at every single one of the nation’s problems. And for that reason, I want a choice. I hope you read this, Republican Party. Because if you don't, we may only be a one-party nation going forward.


Friday, November 2, 2012


As if switching jobs, soul-searching on my birthday and contending with Stormzilla Sandy wasn't enough to keep me busy, I also moved this week.

My lease at my old place was up. I have no hard feelings against my landlord. He's a good guy. I wish him well. I've had some bad landlords in the past and he is definitely not of of them. It's just that there are some things I need in a place and other things I don't need, and I found a place that suits me better at this time somewhere else.

I've also had some less-than-stellar success with moving in the past.

The good news: this was the least painful move of my life. It's almost like I wasn't even tired. Part of that is because I'm moving right up the street from my old place. Literally. I can walk to my old place from my new place -- probably a 20-minute or so walk but a walk nonetheless.

Finding this place, however, was complicated for a number of reasons.

As per usual, I had to give 30-days' notice that I'd be leaving. And 30 days ago, I didn't know whether I'd be leaving my old job (I had a lead on what is now my current job but it was far from a certainty that an offer would come from it), so I really had no idea where to look for a new place. Thus, I had to tell a little white lie to my landlord about why I was leaving -- i.e., my new job is too far away from here and I need to move closer to it. I wasn't proud of this. But I felt like I had to massage the truth.

The month went by and my work life began to settle into place. I did the final walkthrough with my landlord. He asked where I ended up moving.

I did some more massaging, and while I didn't give him my address (I don't need to, I paid first and last months' rent instead of first and security when I moved in), I told him that a new opportunity had come about and I'd be staying in the general area.

He was fine with it. We shook hands and he wished me luck.

And I feel better sleeping in my new place.