Category Archives: Work

Humble Pie

Yesterday I started reading Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato (spoiler alert) and also watched Julia and Julie. Let me just say I’ve been humbled. You may be surprised that I haven’t yet read Cacciato, because it really should be required reading for anyone of my generation, at least anyone who professes affinity to Literature with a capital “L.” And you might be amazed that I would be humbled by a Hollywood movie, because those of us who fancy themselves literary, cool, creative and hip, really need to distain Hollywood movies or be exposed as not being any of the former.

I’m not quite sure why I haven’t read much of O’Brien until recently. Quinn, my youngest daughter, who was blessed with an excellent English teacher, read The Things We Carried in High School and she loved it, and recommended it to me. She’s the one that gave me Cacciato for Christmas this year. The book sucked me  in immediately.

Paul Berlin, whose only goal was to live long enough to establish goals worth living for still longer, stood high in the tower by the sea, the night soft all around him, and wondered not for the first time, about the immense powers of his own imagination.

See, humbling. I’ve wondered about my immense powers of imagination. I was virtually an only child, my brother and sister were teenagers when I was born, and I kept myself company with elaborate fantasies. I learned to draw by illustrating the stories in my head. My sister, home from college, suggested that my parents take me to a shrink, because I spent so much time in conversation with my menagerie of imaginary friends, way past the age when imaginary friends are appropriate. I would go to sleep at night telling myself elaborate, juvenile adventure stories. I was an odd duck.

But I never did anything with it. I think I started my first novel at about nine. It was a historical novel, Minnesota was celebrating it’s centennial, the novel was about Henry Sibley. Of course I only got about three pages written when my attention went elsewhere, but not before I enlisted my teacher in the production of some sort of elaborate historical production. She put me in charge. It fizzled instantly when I became bored with it. To this day I have a hard time finishing projects. So I’m humbled not only by O’Brien’s beautifully woven story within a story and his superb writing, but also by the mere fact that he got it done!

Same with Julie Powell and her blog. She got it done. She set this crazy project for herself and got it done, even though she was working full time, doing the cooking and writing about it. Here I am, not employed with way too much time on my hands, trying to get this blog going and half the time I can’t think of anything to write about and when I do come up with something, it seems so stiff and forced to me. I read what I’ve written and ask myself, didn’t I used to be witty and clever? People told me I was. What happened?

Stay tuned. Tomorrow I’m going to try to analyze the situation and see if I can figure out what’s going on and what to do about it.

Catch Up Ball

I haven’t posted for awhile, and I won’t bullshit you by saying I’ve been too busy. Oh, I’ve been busy, but that’s no excuse. I’ve heard that some of my former coworkers have been following the blog to keep track of my post Dex adventures, so I’m going to use today’s post to update the world on this pilgrim’s progress. As if the world gives a rat’s ass.

My plan was to not write about the coffee shop gig here. It’s probably something that could get me fired and I’m a little uncomfortable with going into a situation “under cover” and then writing about it publicly unbeknownst to the subjects. But in this case I’m going to give you a bit of an update on my “barista” career, just for historical background on the rest of my adventure. Continue reading

Different

CrabbyBobI haven’t been behind a retail counter for 31 years. Until today. Last time I was slinging drinks, the cash register had real buttons with numbers on them. You rang up the prices, took the cash and made change. God forbid someone gave you a credit card, you had to get out that crazy slider thing. Change jumped into my hands, I didn’t even have to think about it, and a lot of the math I did in my head. Now each product  has a menu button and the array of buttons is mind boggling.

But that’s not the interesting part of my new job experience. Maybe I’m just self conscious but I think I noticed a little bit of reaction among the customers to the new guy. Which of these does not belong. The old person! I fancy myself as being pretty good at reading people and I definitely saw a range of interesting responses. There was, “This poor old fart is having to work behind a counter, must have gotten laid off somewhere,” to “We need to be extra nice and encouraging to this poor old man who has to do a young person’s job.”

It doesn’t bother me. I know what I left behind, which was for me insanity. I know it’s an opportunity to get out among people and make some extra dough to take some of the pressure off as I try to get my graphics gig up and running. But I think I get a little bit of insight into what it must be like for people who constantly see that “you don’t belong here” look on peoples faces.

You know what hasn’t changed though? You still have to smile and say, “Thanks for comin’ in!”

Brand New

early snowNew snow, new job, new carpet. There’s a theme here. It looks like a day of cleansing. As much as I hate to see snow in mid October, a new snowfall, one with “big hunky flakes,” is a beautiful thing. It looks clean, and even smells clean. New carpet, well it probably will smell like a chemical spill for a couple of weeks, but even that beats the cat pee stench that we’ve been living with for months. If we’ve entertained you at our house in the last three months, it means we are very comfortable in our friendship, or we don’t give a dam about impressing you, or both. And then there’s the other smell of newness, fresh brewed coffee! I start my new career behind the coffee shop counter today. I’m not going to make any comparisons  to my old job and cat pee though.

Doubt

doubtMaybe it’s the constant rain and gloom since I began my Post-Dex life. Maybe a former boss was right that I lack self confidence. Whatever the reason, nagging doubt has been creeping in. One of my freelance possibilities fizzled out last week, another lead hasn’t panned out. Did I do the right thing? I’m glad to be gone from Dex, because the job was killing me. Am I going to be able to bring in enough money to float the boat without finding another full time job? And if that becomes necessary, would I even be able to find one? But all of these I can chalk up to natural anxiety for a person in my position. I have some very specific doubts about my immediate future.

Remember the job at Caribou? I’m going in for an interview today. It sounds like it’s a mere formality and the manager wants to hire me. I’m still a little curious how she came to the conclusion I’d be a good hire. She says she’s talked to me enough, but I can’t remember much conversation other than “good morning” and “have a nice day,” and that’s usually at 6:50 am when I’m not exactly at my cheerful best, plus I’m the kind of person that, in a line of people waiting for service, tries to make the transaction as quick and simple as possible out of consideration for others. I try not to strike up any conversation with the person behind the counter, other than the occasional lame witticisms.  I’m OK with that though, actually I’m kind of flattered, I never really thought anyone there even noticed me.

But over the weekend I started having some serious, specific doubts about being able to function as a barista. One, my knees. I’m not entirely sure I can be on my feet for even four hours. I figure that’s worth a try though, good shoes and maybe my knee braces might be enough support to keep the pain to a minimum.

Secondly, I can’t hear. Yesterday I went to get coffee at the store in my neighborhood, and the woman who gave me Beck’s drink asked me,”mghphf grgh gorfrth?”  “I’m sorry.” “mghphf grahfuf hlmaf?” “excuse me?” “flemoof garfph mhlorfr?” “I’m sorry, my hearing is really bad.” “DO YOU NEED A CUP CARRIER?” “No thank you.” My hearing sucks and it even sucks more when there’s background noise, like in a busy coffee shop. A service worker can hardly demand that a customer, “SPEAK UP PLEASE!” This may be the motivation I need to get a hearing aid, but that won’t happen before I would start work. Plus that would mean I would lose my ongoing debate with Beck as to who’s more deaf and who should get a hearing aid first.

And thirdly, an most importantly, would I be able to stifle my outrageous flatulence behind the counter for four hours. They might have to take the “Breath” signs down? I don’t even think that the aroma of brewing coffee would overcome the stench that seeps out of me on occasion. Sometimes they’re such silent little puffs that I don’t even notice what I’ve done until the people around me are turning green and gasping for breath. And other times a sudden movement will rip one off that sounds like someone is kick starting a small bore motorcycle. This could have a chilling effect on retail business. Maybe I can get some of that fart absorbing underwear.

I am going to the interview today, I might bring up the hearing thing, but I don’t think I’ll discuss the gas issue. What to do, what to do?

Monday Monday

The fact that this is the first Monday of my post Dex life is significant because my lovely wife, Rebecca has had Mondays off for the last fifteen years. So it’s an extra day to spend with her and a extra chance to sleep in. The morning got off to a very Bob like start and continued to unwind from there. I was deep in REM sleep dreaming about, you guessed it, work. Barb and Laura and Feven were present and the office appeared to be chaotic, as if we were going through yet another move. The scenario involved a discussion of office supplies that were left out for the taking as people vacated their cubes. For some reason I was sorting through a stack of staplers. That’s when the phone rang. Not in the dream. Strangely I didn’t have that post nightmare sensation of “Oh, God, I’m so relieved that that was only a dream!” Continue reading

Change in the weather

wetswing After an incredible run of spectacular late summer and fall weather, my first day of retirement is remarkably dreary. It’s 5 pm and it looks like 10. I hope this isn’t an omen.

So how’s retirement so far? Well it’s wet. It’s been raining almost all day. I did demonstrate to Becky that there were benefits to having a retired spouse. I drove her the one block to the bus stop so she could stay dry while she waited for her bus. I think I might be winning her over to the idea, and I haven’t even done any laundry or cooked any fabulous meals yet. The meals thing is going to have to wait because she’s in the middle of a three day run of going out with her various women friends. To this I usually say, “I wish I had friends,” but that doesn’t work because I had lunch with my buds Steve and Lon today and tonight I’m meeting Mike for dinner and tomorrow, lunch with a musical buddy and former coworker who’s also gone off to entreprenuerate*. Ah the social round.

I did achieve one of my goals today. I got to be one of those guys that sits in coffee shops and surfs the net. Although that almost didn’t happen. The wi-fi was down at the coffee place and I couldn’t get on. I didn’t say anything because I thought I was just being the clueless old guy. Turns out the other three people were similarly unwilling to expose their ignorance.

But the real story of this trip to the coffee shop started yesterday morning as I headed into work. I stopped by for my daily dose of dark roast and ran into the woman who I assumed, correctly, was the manager. “You won’t be seeing much of me anymore, this is my last day at work.” She looked concerned before I reassured her I was retiring. Continue reading