Sunday, December 25, 2011

On Hiatus Until January

I am on hiatus for a while. We are moving from Arizona, and I will be offline until I have Internet service at our new location in North San Diego County.

I will return in January and will try my best to reach my goal of posting at least once a week.

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you continue to do so in 2012.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Not Gonna Get into That Debate, But...

On December 24, I am going to post this greeting on Facebook: Merry Christmas to my Facebook friends and family members in the states and abroad who are celebrating Christmas.

I don’t want to get into the Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays debate, but I’m fairly certain that I have some FB friends who don’t celebrate Christmas.

This annual controversy reminds me of a faux pas I made several years ago. But it wasn’t during the Christmas season.

A very nice lady, who was one of my college professors, wished me a Happy Easter before ending our phone conversation. I automatically replied, "Happy Easter to you, too." After I hung up, I thought, Oh, no! My former professor is a Hindu and doesn't celebrate Easter. I don't think she was offended though. If she was, it wasn't reflected in my grade.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Got off to a Bad Start, But Things Turned Out Okay

On another site (, I blogged about how I bailed out of a community college creative writing class without officially withdrawing. Yeah, I know, dumb move. Unfortunately, ignoring that formality didn’t bother me—until the last minute.

The evening before my short story project was due, I decided I didn’t want to flunk the class. Why did I change my mind? Well, according to my blog post, I thought an F would look bad on my academic record if I ever decided to take other classes at that particular college.

Actually, I fibbed a little in writing that particular post. I confess that I had previously attended that particular college for two years. I wasn’t afraid that an F would look bad on my record. I was afraid that my record would look worse. It already looked bad, with two F’s, one in French IV and another in World Literature 102.

At the end of my second year there, I flunked out due to my low GPA. My fault entirely. I just wasn’t motivated to do well in school back then. For one thing, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I also spent too much time skipping classes and hanging out elsewhere, mostly at Friendly’s restaurant. Then I skipped the world literature final because I was running late and didn’t want to throw myself on the mercy of the teacher.

I decided to take the writing class a year after I flunked out of college. I thought the class would be fun. It wasn’t. But there is a happy ending. I turned in my creative writing project and ended up with a C for the semester.

But wait, there’s more.

Two years later, I went back to the community college and made up the F in World Literature, replacing that grade with a B. Later, while working full time, I took evening classes in history, anthropology, and children’s literature at another college. I enjoyed those classes, but it soon dawned on me that they weren’t marketable.

Although I still lived with my parents, I had bills to pay. I was glad to be working. But I wanted to find a better, more interesting job than the ones I could already list on my resume. I was bored silly by jobs that involved butchering window shades, filing stacks of invoices, and setting trashcans on fire (yes, that actually happened). So I went back to the community college and enrolled in business and accounting classes. Although I had never been much interested in math, I discovered that I really liked accounting. I found a bookkeeping position with a CPA several months before I graduated with an A.S. in liberal studies.

I worked in the bookkeeping/ accounting field for more than fifteen years.

And then I went back to school. Yes, again.

Another story for another blog post.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Roller Skates and Ice Cream

Several weeks ago, I joined a Facebook group called Your (yes, your) Probably From Pittsfield MA If…. It’s a site where participants share memories about a specific area. Broyles Arena, a skating rink, and Friendly’s restaurant are two places that have generated a lot of comments from group members.

When I was in high school, those were two of my favorite hang-out spots. Sadly, Broyles Arena closed many years ago. And Friendly’s parent company, Friendly Ice Cream Corporation, recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Friends and I looked forward to skating at Broyles Arena on Saturday nights. Back then, the roller rink was a good, safe place for us to hang out. We had a lot of fun, even though we sometimes messed up and tripped over our own (or someone else’s) feet and ended up sprawled on the hard floor.

We met new friends there, including some cute guys. None of those rink-side crushes turned into to more serious relationships. It was probably just as well. We were teenagers, after all. However, several couples who met there ended up getting married.

After the rink closed for the evening, we went down the road to Friendly’s for a sundae or an ice cream soda. While we sat at the counter enjoying our ice cream, we chatted about “stuff” we had seen, heard, or experienced that night. We were usually quiet about it, but sometimes we weren’t.

One evening, we lingered long after we’d finished our treats. I’m sure the employees wished the customers would go home so that they could too. We weren’t the only ones there, but we were, um, actually really loud that night. I don’t remember what was so funny, but we all had major giggle fits.

The manager, who was scrubbing the grill, had his back to us. He turned and frowned at us a couple times. I was surprised that he hadn’t told us to pipe down. “Wow,” I said, “Friendly’s is really friendly. Any other place would have thrown us out by now.”

The manager turned around and grinned, “I’m on the verge of it,” he said.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Please Proofread Before Posting

I retired from my brick and mortar editing job last year. Six months later, I decided to look for either a part-time job or temporary contract work. I figured that getting out of the house for a few hours a day would be a good idea. And the extra money would be a plus.

Curious to see what type of responses I would get, I posted a “résumé” on Craigslist. The majority of résumés posted there are short job-wanted ads comprising one or two paragraphs. I posted a modified version of my résumé, with identifying information omitted. In two days I got three responses—all suspected scams. I decided to enjoy retirement for a little while longer.

However, before I submitted my own job-wanted ad, I read a lot of résumés posted on Craigslist. I was surprised at what I found. Way too many of those posts included bad grammar and sentence structure and/or were peppered with typos. For example, one job seeker wrote, “I am very throw [thorough?] and good at what I do.” An individual looking for carpentry work offered “free estamets.” Another person declared, “I am not afraid to talk to the pubic.” Yikes!

A little proofreading would be a good thing to do before posting job-wanted ads. After all, the goal is to get hired. Yes, a couple mistakes are okay in an on-the-fly Facebook post or in an informal text message. But people should take a little care when posting something that a prospective employer might see.

And legitimate companies do check the job-wanted ads/résumés on various sites. HR personnel are, most likely, unimpressed by those badly written résumés on Craigslist. My post wasn’t earthshaking prose. But at least it was literate.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

We Suspected He Lied About His Age

A few days ago, while sorting through still more stuff to throw out or give away, I found some old newspaper clippings I’ve kept since the 70s. One of them reported an adventure involving my former employer, the late CPA. For a short time, Mr. CPA was sort of a local hero. My co-worker, Esther, and I weren’t terribly impressed by the newspaper article. Nothing that man did surprised us.

Mr. CPA was, most likely, past retirement age when I worked for him. He earned his brief claim to fame by chasing down two teen-aged purse-snatchers. He might have been old, but he was feisty. Mr. CPA rarely discussed his personal life with Esther and me. However, he did mention that he had grown up in New York City. We figured that he probably had some previous experience with muggers.

Although he was our boss, Mr. CPA seldom commu-nicated directly with us about anything. (He left lots of notes; the man would have loved e-mail.) He never told us what happened at the shopping center that November evening. Esther and I read about it in the newspaper, like everyone else did.

Mr. CPA and his wife had finished shopping and were walking to their car. That’s when one of the teens yanked Mrs. CPA’s purse from her shoulder and took off across the parking lot, followed by his accomplice.

Mr. CPA took off after them. He chased the thieves through the parking lot, across the street, and into another parking lot. By the time he got to the second parking lot, another man had joined the chase. Mr. CPA and Good Samaritan cornered the teens against a fence, and someone called the police.|

Mr. CPA testified as the star witness at the teens’ trial. The newspaper article stated that he had refused to reveal his age in court. A court official told the reporter that Mr. CPA was “in his 60s.” Esther and I snickered when we read that. We suspected that our boss had lied to the court official. We were pretty sure that he would never see 70 again.

Apparently, Mr. CPA swore to tell the truth about everything except his age.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hooky, Horses, and a Hurricane

Other Half was a teenager when the Great New England Hurricane slammed into Hampden County, Massachusetts, in late September 1938. He had ditched school in favor of working at the fairgrounds in West Springfield during the Eastern States Exposition.

He was only fourteen then; however, he had worked on farms during the summer for several years. That experience helped get him hired for a short-term, 24/7 job at the horse barn. He looked forward to feeding and watering horses much more than he looked forward to sitting in a classroom. And dealing with horses was a whole lot better than dealing with school authorities. Horses didn’t yell at you because you weren’t paying attention in class. Or because you had failed to show up for school again.

“I stayed in the barn most of the time,” he said. And it wasn’t only the bad weather that kept him there. “I didn’t want to go outside a lot because the truant officer might be walking around.” Other Half had more than a nodding acquaintance with that guy. If the technology had been available then, the truant officer most likely would have had Other Half’s mom on speed dial.

Despite the wind and heavy rain, The Powers That Be initially expected to keep the agricultural fair open. However, the Exposition’s organizers revised that expectation when: (a) the roof of one of the buildings went airborne, (b) The Westfield River overflowed and began flooding the fairgrounds, and (c) the police “strongly suggested” that people get the heck out of there and take the animals with them.

Exhibitors with livestock trailers loaded up their animals and headed to safer areas. People without transportation rounded up the remaining horses and cattle and slogged through the storm to higher ground. Other Half was drenched by windswept rain as he led a horse named Scarlett O’Hara across an iron bridge and up to the old Agawam racetrack.

That was an experience he would never forget. And, of course, Other Half never imagined then that his job providing fodder for the horses in 1938 would one day provide a different kind of fodder for this blog post, written in between reading online reports about a hurricane named Irene in 2011.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Serial Faxer Gets a Surprise

Are you ready for another example of fighting fire with fire, aka retaliatory rudeness? Actually, this example isn’t mine.

But first, the back story. (You knew there would be one, didn’t you?)

Nine years ago, the company I worked for closed up shop in My City and moved to the Midwest. I was out on the street, job wise, along with the thirty or so other employees who had also stuck with that place for way too long. We gambled that things would get better, and we lost.

At least we were eligible for unemployment benefits. I hated being out of work. I applied for every job that I thought I might be even remotely qualified for. I figured I eventually would get hired somewhere, and it kept the people at the Department of Employment Security happy.

I also registered at a temporary agency, hoping to land a temporary to permanent position. I’ll call the woman who interviewed me “Millie.” Five minutes into the interview, I realized that Millie wasn’t interested in my qualifications and work experience. Millie was interested mainly in Millie. After I explained why I was currently unemployed, she told me that she was tired of working and would like to retire. She then spent the next twenty minutes talking about her grandchildren and her trips to Europe and Asia.

I was so tempted to say: Well that’s all very nice; however, I’m here to discuss my qualifications and work experience and opportunities with your agency. But I didn’t because I suspected that Millie had no intention of placing me in a job. When I left her office, I was sure that I would never hear from her.

I was wrong. Millie called me a few days later tried to talk me into accepting a four-week assignment at the university. I turned it down, reminding her that I was only interested in a temporary position that had the potential to turn into permanent employment. I felt a little guilty about declining Millie's offer because, at that point, I had been out of work for three months. However, three weeks later, a non-profit organization hired me for a temporary position that turned into a permanent job.

End of back story.

Recently, I bumped into to an acquaintance at Barnes and Noble. I’ll call her “Helen.” Before retiring, Helen was the human resources coordinator for a small company. We got into a discussion about good and bad interview experiences from the perspectives of both the interviewer and the applicant. I told her about the strange interviews I’d suffered through over the years. I mentioned Millie.

Oh yes, Helen knew Millie.

Years ago, Millie had attempted to interest Helen in hiring Millie’s temps by faxing numerous unsolicited résumés   to Helen’s office several times a week. Millie continued this approach for several weeks. It annoyed Helen, but she figured Millie would stop faxing résumés as soon as it dawned on her that Helen was ignoring her efforts to drum up business. Helen’s company rarely used temps, and if and when it did, she had decided that they would not be Millie’s temps.

Millie either didn’t take the hint or she decided to try harder. At any rate, she kept faxing résumés. Her serial faxing often tied up Helen’s fax machine and, even worse, it wasted paper. Helen got tired of pitching résumés into the trash can. She called Millie and asked her to please stop doing it.

Millie didn’t stop doing it.

In desperation, Helen had her assistant fax a ream of paper (yes, 500 sheets) to Millie’s office. That tied up Millie’s fax machine for a while. However, no paper was wasted because Helen's assistant faxed blank paper, and blank paper popped out of the fax machine at Millie’s office.

And the tactic worked. Millie never faxed another résumé to Helen’s office.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

For Gosh Sakes, She's a Cat

I have a friend named Mary Doe. Yes, you’re right, that’s not her real name, but that’s who she’s going to be here. Anyhoo, Mary has several older cats, including a cat named Daisy.

One morning Mary noticed that Daisy wasn’t acting like her usual feisty self. So she wrestled the cat into a pet carrier and hauled her off to the veterinarian. I don’t remember exactly what was wrong with Daisy. She didn’t have anything life threatening, but the veterinarian wrote out a prescription for his patient—Daisy Doe.

Mary dropped off the prescription at Big Box Drugstore. She took Daisy home and went back to pick up the cat’s medication. Figuratively speaking, Mary hit a brick wall at the drive-through window. The pharmacy clerk looked at the patient’s name on the packet and asked, “Are you Daisy?”

“No, Daisy’s a cat.”

“Well, this prescription is in Daisy’s name. So Daisy will have to pick up the medication herself.”

“Daisy can’t pick it up herself,” Mary said. “She’s a cat. I just told you that.” The clerk still didn’t get it and insisted that Daisy had to pick up her own medication. Mary decided that the woman had probably misunderstood company policy. She had been picking up medications for her cats there for years without a problem. Mary asked to speak to the pharmacist; the clerk told her he was out to lunch.

Realizing that she was holding up the drive-through line, Mary parked her car and went into the store. She found another clerk who, sadly, turned out to be a clone of the first one. “Daisy really needs to come in and pick up her own medication,” Clerk Two told her.

“For gosh sakes, she’s a cat,” Mary said for the third time, stifling an urge to spell out the word cat. “And anyway, I don’t think Daisy’s in a good mood right now.” Mary wondered why the clerks couldn’t understand that Daisy was an animal and, therefore, shouldn’t be required to pick up her own medication. Were they both new employees? Didn’t the company train pharmacy employees to recognize prescriptions written by veterinarians? Did the women think Mary was planning to get high on the medication or market it to her friends?

Fortunately for Mary, The pharmacist returned just as she was about to give up and go home without the medication. Apparently, the pharmacist was the only one in the department who recognized that the prescription had been signed by a veterinarian. And no, he told Mary—and the clerks, Daisy did not have to pick up her own medication.

Now, if I had been Mary, I wouldn’t have gone into the store. I would have gone home, wrestled Daisy into a pet carrier, driven back to the store, hauled cat and carrier over to the pharmacy, and announced:

Here’s Daisy, come to pick up her own medication.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I Was Guilty of Retaliatory Rudeness

According to etiquette mavens, one should not fight fire with fire. In other words, if someone is rude to you, you should not respond in kind. Doing so would be engaging in retaliatory rudeness.

I confess that I have engaged in retaliatory rudeness. However, I haven’t done it recently.

Way back during the Late Jurassic Period, I lived in a studio apartment in a singles complex, aka the party place. (Trust me; I did not know it was a party place before I moved in. I moved there only because the complex was within walking distance of my new job.) The apartments were not soundproof. One Sunday morning, a thumping noise woke me at 2 a.m. It sounded like someone was bouncing off the corridor walls.

A minute later, I heard the next door neighbor’s door slam. Either Neighbor or the friend he dragged home must have been partially deaf. I could hear their conversation without even attempting to eavesdrop; they might as well have been sitting next to me.

A few minutes later, Neighbor ramped up the noise level by turning on his stereo and cranking up the volume. My ears throbbed, and the lamp on the end table shimmied to the edge of the table and toppled onto the carpet. I stumbled out of bed, over the lamp, and into the bathroom to look for my earplugs.

I stuffed a wax blob into each ear and sat down on the sofa sleeper to consider my options. I could bang on the common wall with a shoe or book or maybe a frying pan. But I doubted that Neighbor would pay any attention to my effort to get his attention—even if he heard me.

Or I could call the cops. Letting them handle things would be an effective way to shut down the nonsense next door. However, that idea probably was not a wise one in a place where some tenants were rumored to be drug users and others were rumored to be armed. (Honest, I did not know this before I moved into the complex. I had moved from a small town to a city fifty miles away.)

And anyway, at that time, I didn’t have a land line, and cell phones hadn’t been invented yet. So, in order to call in a complaint, I would have to scrounge up a quarter and walk downstairs to the pay phone.

Not a good move in that place during the very wee hours of the morning, especially for a woman.

I never considered doing the most logical thing; i.e., going next door and asking him to please knock it off. I was just too chicken. (See preceding paragraph.) Mostly, I didn’t want to mess with a couple guys I didn’t know and strongly suspected were either drunk or high.

As it turned out, someone was braver than I was. About forty minutes after the racket started, I heard someone banging on Neighbor’s door. A few seconds later a door slammed somewhere across the hall. I guess Neighbor got the message because he turned  the volume way down on both the stereo and the chatter. I ditched the ear plugs and went back to sleep.

When I woke up, I couldn’t hear anything next door. I figured Neighbor was either sleeping in or passed out. I plugged my radio into an outlet on the common wall, turned it to a country-western station, and cranked up the volume as loud as it would go.

Then I went downstairs to the management office and complained about Neighbor and also confessed to my retaliatory rudeness. The managers were okay with that. They liked me better than they liked Neighbor.

“That wasn’t very Christian of you,” my brother commented when I told him what I’d done.

“Wasn’t very Christian of my neighbor either,” I said.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

My Really Cheap Retirement Wardrobe

When I retired from the NonProf, my “business” wardrobe retired with me. Both the NonProf and the company I previously worked for have casual dress codes. Think shorts, T-shirts, jeans, and sweat shirts. I wore jeans to work a lot, but I also wore slacks and knit tops—tops that were a little dressier than T-shirts.

I decided that I needed to keep those slacks and knit tops in good shape, just in case I got bored with retirement and started looking for a part-time job. So I hung them in the closet and started hanging out in more casual clothing.

For the better part of the last year, I’ve lived in jeans and inexpensive T-shirts. Thanks to last summer’s sales, I have an extensive wardrobe of these T-shirts in just about every color imaginable. I bought most of them on sale at JoAnn Fabrics & Crafts for about two or three dollars each. I also found T-shirts on sale at Target, Wal-Mart, and Walgreens.

And a few months ago, I snagged a T-shirt at the Grocery Outlet for a buck fifty. This one is an odd color, sort of in between beige and banana yellow. Not one of my favorite colors. Probably not one of anyone else’s either; that’s why it was so cheap. However, upon inspection, I couldn’t find any flaws in the material, and the seams were intact. So, for that price, I figured I why not?

On laundry days, Other Half frequently complains that I have too many T-shirts. I suspect that he might be right. I recently bought a four-drawer plastic rolling cart to store a bunch of them.

I haven’t counted how many I own, but I don’t think I’ll be buying more T-shirts for a long, long time.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Newspaper Isn't Worth Stealing These Days

The Powers That Be fenced in our apartment complex several years ago. Since then, the newspaper person has had to pitch the newspaper over the vehicle exit gate. Most of the time, it’s there when I get up in the morning. Sometimes it isn’t.

On the days that the newspaper is AWOL, I can’t decide whether another resident confiscated it or the newspaper person just decided to skip us that morning. I’m inclined to go with the second explanation. I don’t know why anyone would bother to steal it.

There’s not much in the newspaper these days, but Other Half can’t do without it. I could, and that’s sort of sad.

I began reading newspapers when I was six or seven, and I read “real” news items as well as the comics. I doubt that I paid much attention to the world and national news. However, at that age, I had an almost nonexistent social life, so I always looked forward to reading what would probably be described today as the “society page.”

In a small way, that page was the Facebook of its day.

I grew up in a mostly rural area, during a time when stories about residents’ activities and events routinely appeared in the newspaper. I remember reading about birthday and anniversary parties, family vacations, family reunions, and all sorts of other things that the locals, their families, and their guests participated in. My favorites were the wedding write-ups. I was especially impressed by descriptions of wedding attire that included every detail right down to the last bead on the bodice of the wedding gown.

Although I never saw the account of their wedding, my parents made the news when they got married. Other than that, Mom and Dad kept a low profile. However, when I turned seven, they submitted an account of my birthday party to the newspaper. The very short article noted that sixteen guests (and me, of course) enjoyed a lunch that included a variety of finger sandwiches as well as the traditional ice cream and cake. It concluded with the then-standard line that appeared in all blurbs about birthday parties: games were played and prizes were won.

I suspect that newspaper circulation numbers began declining on the day John Cameron Swayze first anchored the NBC Camel News Caravan way back in 1949. In addition to television, newspapers now compete with the Internet, which also never fails to report the latest crisis or scandal live and in color.

I confess that I don’t read the newspaper very often. I read the local, regional, and national news reports on the Internet. I figure if there’s something I really ought to know, Yahoo will tell me.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Temp Job Trumped the Permanent One

Way back in the last century, I worked at a bookkeeping service that no longer exists. (Come to think of it, a lot of places where I formerly worked no longer exist. But I digress.) Among other things, I processed payrolls, payroll tax returns, and monthly profit and loss write-ups for small businesses.

I liked the work, and I liked my co-workers. I also liked the majority of our clients. Most of them were sole proprietors who provided some type of service. The clients generally were pleasant, unpretentious individuals.

However, there were a couple things I did not like. To begin with, the owner’s good friend had developed the bookkeeping program we used. QuickBooks it wasn’t—not even close. As far as I could determine, no other business in the universe used the John Doe bookkeeping software. There was no point in listing it on a resume. It was not a transferrable skill.

Fortunately, the single-entry software was fairly easy to learn. I understood it by the third day on the job. Unfortunately, I never understood some of the clients. As nice as they were, too many of them were often frustrating to work with. Why? Well, I really, really would have liked to complete their write-ups in one day, but I generally couldn’t. Why not? They consistently failed to send us Something Very Important at the beginning of the month.

All too often, the other bookkeeper and I would start processing an account only to discover that the client had forgotten to include his or her sales figures, bank statement, or payroll information. We would do what we could using the available records; then that account would be exiled to the Missing Records Table where it generally vegetated for days. Or sometimes weeks.

If we were lucky, the client would bring us whatever we needed within a reasonable length of time, say five or six days. If the item was about three weeks overdue, the office manager would go out and attempt to snag it for us. That usually worked. However, there were a few times when the client surrendered the missing record just before we were due to get next month’s work.

I suspected that few, if any, of our clients had ever taken a class in bookkeeping or accounting. I often wondered how some of them stayed in business. I decided that they were probably great at providing services to their customers. However, I was fairly certain that, in the long run, their great customer service skills wouldn’t compensate for their lack of knowledge about good accounting practices.

After eighteen months, I decided it was time to move on. I wanted to find a job where I could finish the majority of my projects on the day I started them. And I needed to get experience in using software applications that I could list on a resume.

So I left the bookkeeping service and registered with several temp agencies. Within a week, I landed my first assignment: a short-term job at a company that published craft books and craft instruction pamphlets.

The woman at the temp agency seemed rather vague about what I would be doing. When I pleasantly demanded details, she mumbled that she thought I would be “doing something with accounts receivable invoices.” That seemed like a good opportunity. I had over ten years experience in the accounts payable area, but my experience with receivables was next to nothing.

As it turned out, the job had nothing to do with accounts receivable or any other form of accounting. Upon checking in with the supervisor, I was escorted to the warehouse, handed a pile of packing slips, and directed toward what seemed like an endless number of shelves stuffed with craft publications.

Well, that was a surprise and not exactly a pleasant one. But I decided to be a good sport. After all, I wanted more assignments, hopefully ones that involved an office environment.

I worked at the publishing company for a week and a half. Assembling orders was physical work, and I was tired by 5 p.m. But I also felt really good at the end of the day. Why? Well, because I could complete the projects I started that day, and I could start fresh with new projects the next morning.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Mornings at Starbucks

This morning at Barnes and Noble, I overheard a woman complaining about the cost of her Starbucks habit. I doubt if anyone is forcing her to buy a nonfat, venti latte with a splash of syrup and three shots of espresso five days a week. I suspect that millions of people all over the world drop a small fortune at Starbucks during the work week. I think I used to be one of those people. I’m not anymore.

For over five years, I stopped at my friendly neighborhood Starbucks every morning on my way to work. With rare exceptions, I always ordered a tall, decaf, nonfat, vanilla latte. Once or twice a week, I also bought something to eat, usually a muffin or croissant.

Ordering the same drink every day made it easier for me, the cashier, and the people in line behind me. To expedite matters further, I paid with my personalized, yes personalized, Starbucks Gold card. I didn’t get a discount on my purchases, but there were perks associated with my Gold card membership. The vanilla syrup was free, and after I purchased fifteen drinks (which took about three weeks), Starbucks snail mailed me a coupon for a free drink.

My Starbucks habit probably cost me between fifteen and twenty dollars a week. Well , there goes my reputation for being, um, a bit frugal.

Why did I spend the money? Quite frankly, hanging out at Starbucks was a ritual I needed before going to work. For fifteen or twenty minutes every morning, I could relax, sip my latte, and make notes about writing projects or chat with other customers. During that last year, my mornings at Starbucks were the calm before facing the storm of what was all too often a very stressful work day.

These days I don’t go to Starbucks very often. I’m retired from that stressful job, so the necessity of psyching myself to go to work is gone. Since I bought my Nook e-reader, I usually hang out at the Barnes and Noble café two or three times a week. I don’t miss Starbucks all that much. I don’t miss my vanilla lattes at all. I can still get them at the Barnes and Noble café.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ice Skating Fail

Bummer about the cold weather in Northern California on the first day of spring.

I hate cold weather. I don’t do winter well. You wouldn’t think so though. I grew up in one of the New England states.

I preferred indoor activities, especially during the winter. I was the kid who sat in the corner with her nose stuck in a book or magazine. However, when I was eleven, I really liked ice skating. Trouble was I wasn’t able to like it enough.

My participation in that activity was usually limited to thirty minutes or less. And, yes, I did dress in layers. For starters, I pulled on every sweater I owned. The rest of my outfit included three pairs of knee socks, slacks, a snowsuit, boots, a scarf, a hat, and gloves and mittens.

Dressing in layers didn’t help a whole lot. Actually, wearing all that clothing made it harder to navigate the bumpy neighborhood ice rink (aka the frozen swamp). After enduring single digit temperatures for fifteen or twenty minutes, I shivered so much that I had trouble staying upright. I usually stumbled around for another five or ten minutes. By that time, I felt like I was turning into a Popsicle and gave up, but only for the day. I peeled off my skates, pulled on my boots, and plodded home, determined to stay longer next time.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Post from the Past

[Note: St. Patrick's Day will soon be here, so this week I’m recycling an entry that was originally posted in March 2006.]

Every year around St. Patrick’s Day, I think about a fellow I met when I was a junior in high school. He had an Irish last name, an Elvis haircut, and a whole lot of freckles. We dated for approximately four months when he was on the outs with the girl he had gone steady with since he was about thirteen.

“Jeremy” liked cars. He liked to see how fast they could go. He also liked to see how fast he they could stop. (Hey, former neighbors, now you know how all those skid marks got on the road in front of your houses.)

During one of the several times that he was stopped for speeding, he told the policeman that he was “just burning out the carbon.” That excuse failed to impress the policeman, and Jeremy ended up in court the next day.

The judge he appeared before had a reputation for being unsympathetic to teenage boys with a hot foot on the gas pedal. When Jeremy’s case was called, the judge told him, “Son, there are three rates of speed in this town, slow, medium, and good morning, Judge.”

Sunday, March 06, 2011

I Went Berserk in a Department Store

Last week at the mall, I noticed several new, life-sized, white fiberglass mannequins in a store window. The mannequins had both arms and legs. At the same time, I noticed that the mannequins in the window of a neighboring teen-oriented store had no arms. (Maybe armless mannequins are cheaper.) However, the mannequins in the teen store had heads and faces, and they looked like “real” people. The white fiberglass mannequins in the other store had only half heads. Yes, that’s right—half heads. They looked, well, sort of like aliens that had missed the turnoff to their own planet and ended up on Earth.

I wondered if the half-headed mannequins had freaked out any little kids.

They would have freaked out the two-year-old me.

When I was a toddler, my aunt worked as a combination salesclerk/bookkeeper at a department store. My mother shopped there frequently, and she preferred to shop alone. She took me with her only when she had no other choice.

On those days, Mom crossed her fingers and told me to stay close to her. She knew what would happen if the sales clerks were in the middle of changing the clothing displays. As soon as I spotted a mannequin with an arm or a leg, or better yet, a head, missing, I’d throw myself on the floor and scream like crazy.

Outside, pedestrians would forget where they were going and peek in the windows to see what all the fuss was about. If my aunt happened to be working on the floor, she would flee to the back office. That left my red-faced mother to explain my fear of dismembered dummies to anyone who seemed alarmed by my behavior.

As soon as the store owner thought he could keep a straight face, he’d emerge from his office, walk over to my mother, point a finger at me, and say, “Get her out of here. She’s ruining my business.”

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Did I Sound Snarky?

The following sentences are from the bio that I posted on this site.

 In between office jobs, I worked in the retail field; that's always been my choice of interim job. Sad to say, I'm domestically dysfunctional, and, probably because of this, I have no aptitude for restaurant work.

Golly, I hope that last sentence doesn’t sound snarky. I have a lot of respect for people who work in restaurants. Those jobs are not easy ones, and sometimes they don’t pay well, even with tips included.

And I really don’t have the aptitude for restaurant work. I found that out one afternoon, way too many years ago, when I was shanghaied to impersonate a waitress at a friend’s restaurant.

It was mid afternoon on Saturday. I had been some-where, I forget where, and was on my way home. I didn’t think the restaurant would be too busy, so I decided to stop for coffee and conversation. When I walked through the door, I noticed that several customers seemed to be waiting for their food or waiting to order. They did not look happy.

As it turned out, Sam was working alone. He did not look happy either. Sam called me into the kitchen. He told me that the waitress who was supposed to be there hadn’t showed up. He had called another waitress. She was coming in—eventually. She couldn’t leave the house until her baby sitter arrived. In the meantime he needed my help again. Before I could escape, he stuck an order pad in my hands and gave me a shove. “Go get the orders,” he said.

I didn’t want to do it, but I sort of felt sorry for him. I knew he was having trouble hiring good employees. One evening, not too long ago, a kitchen helper hadn’t shown up. Sam had drafted me to wash dishes. Every time he popped into the kitchen he had complained that I wasn’t doing the job right. He had been especially annoyed when I tossed the pots and pans in with the glassware.

That afternoon, my first customers were two twenty-something men, probably college students, who ordered sandwiches and sodas. After they left, I found $1.40 in change on their table. I scooped up the money and headed to the kitchen, “Sam,” I said, showing him the coins, “those guys forgot their change.”

“That’s your tip,” Sam said, rolling his eyes.

During the next twenty-five minutes, I took orders, delivered food, and got more tips. And then a woman asked for a cup of coffee. “Put an ice cube in it,” she said.

Well, I’d never heard of anyone doing that before. I stared at her for several seconds; then I retreated into the kitchen. “Sam,” I said, “there’s a woman sitting at the counter who wants me to put an ice cube in her coffee.”

Sam shrugged and rolled his eyes again. “Well, PUT. AN. ICE CUBE. IN. IT.”

So I did and made both Sam and the customer happy.

By the time my replacement showed up, I knew that working in a restaurant was something I didn’t want to do ever again, even for forty-five minutes.

Postscript: Many years later I lived on a ranch in the Santa Catalina Mountains, several miles from a very small town. My job opportunities were so limited that they were almost nonexistent. I was offered a job as a bartender, and I accepted the offer. That job lasted all of two weeks.