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.