Monday, August 30, 2010

Surly Hairdresser

I went to Supercuts for a haircut. I had neglected the cut for a while and so had to explain to the stylist how the cut should go. I told her that I wanted it long at the jaw, short at the back with a drastic angle down to the jaw, stacked in the back creating a big bump, but blended with layers on the sides. I wanted the neckline feathery, soft and feminine. She seemed to understand perfectly and sat me in the chair, removed my eyeglasses, and draped me with plastic. Just then another customer entered. The stylist said, "I’ll be with you in a minute, Loretta." I thought, "A minute? It might take slightly longer for my precision cut." Sure enough, she cut my hair with lightning speed, handed me a mirror. I ran my fingers through the lengths and told her that the sides needed to be much shorter. She argued, "but this is the style." I said, yes, I know that this is a very popular style and very similar to what I want, but the sides need to be shorter to give the sharp angled effect that I’m looking for." She just stared at me and said that it looked good. I asked, "can’t you just shorten the sides?" She said, "I CAN, but it is going to look stupid!" Not wanting to allow her the opportunity to make it look "stupid" I went ahead and paid for the cut. Afterall, it did not look bad, it just was not quite what I wanted. I was very please to present my coupon when I paid. My mother was admiring the cut, assuring me that it did look good, when she saw several bunches of long hairs in the back which she clipped off. More evidence that the woman had just been impatient.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Suspicious Behavior

We had a neighbor in his 90s who was very healthy. He spent most of his time gardening and prided himself on keeping a lovely yard and a neat home. But one winter, while removing snow from the walk, he slipped and broke a hip. While he was hospitalized, he gave us his keys so we might bring him a change of clothes and his shaver. We assured him that we would bring him the mail and care for his pets. But when he came home to recover from his surgery, the intrusive neighbor across the street adopted him. Her disability benefits allowed her the freedom to nosey into everything in the neighborhood, so why not take charge of his care. I thought that I should continue to be as helpful as possible although holding down a fulltime job myself. But I felt instinctively that I should limit my involvement. Besides, the man was on the mend, and he loved his independence. The neighbor lady would give my husband and I almost bi-daily reports regarding his diet, progress, and medication. It became a nuisance. She and her 3 sons (all grown but living with their mother) took care of him, even attending to the yard. In fact, he was attended upon so well, that having no occasion to ever leave the comfort of his easy chair, he never regained any strength in his hip.

Now a virtual invalid, he relied upon her for everything. She took full advantage of it. After obtaining power of attorney, she pounded on our door and questioned us about several thousand dollars that had gone missing from his estate. We informed her that we have never had any business in his finances. Suddenly, the progress reports stopped. Shortly thereafter, she put him into a nursing home and let the grass die. (When the grass died, we knew there could be no chance of him returning to his home.) I approached her to ask where I might visit him? She said that he would not recognize me and that he was heavily medicated. I assured her that it made no difference to me, and pressed her for an address. She said it was on the north side of town, but she couldn’t recall the name of the facility. I named facilities, but none were familiar to her. She said that she would call me with an address later. She didn’t. Each time my husband inquired, her response was the same. The next thing we know, her and her sons are hauling away his furniture. We asked whether he had died. He was alive, but they did not expect that he would never return to the home. We weren’t concerned about where his things were being taken; we assumed that he was having them donated to charity (he was like that). And he didn’t have anything of value except for his classic vehicles that were in very good order. For some reason, he had purchased a flashy yellow pickup truck. We thought it very odd, since he was in no condition to ever step up into the cab, and it wasn’t the sort of vehicle that might appeal to an elderly gentlemen. He spoke of it being a prized possession, but I suspected that his caretakers were the ones enamored with the truck.

The next day, the police arrived to take a report of stolen goods. The neighbor lady was expecting them and gave them a tour of the home and the missing items (missing items that they had removed from the home the day before!). We did not interfere, but a theft was definitely something that she would have reported all over the neighborhood a few months prior. Not a single word was ever said about the matter. I assume she received insurance money.

Then one day, the flashy yellow truck had been moved into her own driveway and a for-sale sign was placed on the dead lawn. A couple of weeks passed and I received a phone call from a woman I did not know. When the hip was first broken, I exchanged phone numbers with a relative that lived out of town. Apparently, my number had been circulated within the family as an emergency contact. The woman had tried to communicate with her father for some, but all attempts failed and she wished to know something of his condition. I told her that he had not been living in the house for some time, but had been in a series of nursing homes. She asked whether he had died. I couldn’t verify it. Then she told me that she had seen a memorial online with his name and date of birth. His advanced age and last known condition being factored in, he had most likely died. Surely, the neighbor with power of attorney ought to be able to fill her in on the details, so I gave her the proper phone number. I find it highly suspicious that no report of his death ever circulated in the neighborhood.

On one hand, I think, the woman and her sons did care for him diligently and why should they not get his money? His family did nothing outside of a few phone calls. On the other hand, the sudden secrecy might indicate foul play.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Needy Coworker

I wanted to address the firing of our accountant, and the subsequent promotion of her assistant. The accountant is a wonderful woman, highly skilled, professional, and nurturing. Her assistant is a young recovering drug addict who started out as a server in the cafeteria. Under the tutelage of this motherly accountant, the young woman has been able to grow into a very useful assistant. But whenever I had the joy of working alongside them, it was very evident that the young woman relied heavily on the continuous reassurance and support of the accountant.

As you would expect, the residual effects of a wayward lifestyle are considerable. The young woman has a very difficult home life because her young boys lost respect for her from the days when they were in foster care. I learned that she would receive a morning wake up call from the accountant, and if the accountant felt an unusual amount of tension in the young woman’s voice, she would have a serving of comfort food ready upon her arrival. They would often have to take several minutes to compose and sooth the young woman before any work could be attempted. After any difficult situation (angry customer, heated employee meeting, etc.) a word of comfort would be applied liberally. They both seemed to benefit from the strange relationship, but I had thought of how exhausting I would have considered it.

When I heard that the accountant had been fired, I was certain that the young assistant would be devastated. I could not imagine how she would ever be able to face the job ever again, especially now, when so much responsibility would transfer to her shoulders. To my surprise, the surge of ambition kept the young woman on her feet. She seemed happy as a clam to have the opportunity to replace her predecessor. Now that I have the prospect of joining the same department, I wonder what boundaries will need to be set and what challenges I might face. I don’t do well with unpredictability. And I am not particularly nurturing.

I once had a friend that was bipolar. I did my best through her divorce, but finally had to distance myself from the situation because it had taken such a heavy emotional toll on my psyche. It seemed that no amount of effort would be enough; the more I gave, the worse she got. At the end of the friendship, she was ungrateful, and I was drained of every resource. She remarried a man that refuses to indulge her episodes of depression, and as a result, she is rarely depressed. He is very loving, but withdraws his sympathy when she is acting out. She actually fights her own depression to stay in his favor. It is a much healthier dynamic than her first marriage, and our friendship. We are now again on friendly terms, but with clearly defined boundaries. That lesson actually took me years and years to learn. So, the prospect of working with another unstable person is a bit unnerving.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Be Nobody!

For some months, I have been trying to secure a titled position at my place of employment, without success. I have no real title, I simply work in different departments to cover vacations and help regular employees catch up with duties that have been neglected such as filing. Well, the company has been making cutbacks, reducing allotted hours, and firing highly paid employees. This has caused me a lot of anxiety because I am viewed as an "extra" employee who serves no single vital purpose. Having been rejected for various job openings, I am still a nobody. But, being nobody has served as a protection. Those with titled positions are under intense scrutiny. Last week, our accountant was let go. She was one of the few highly skilled employees. Unfortunately, highly skilled also means highly paid. The fact that she is indispensable did not save her. I am dispensable—and low paid—and I still have a job. It pays to be a nobody!My husband works for the same employer, and despite being highly intelligent, he is also a "nobody." His regular job as a driver pays minimum wage ($7.25/hr) and he gets about 30 hours per week. He was asked to cover for a security guard recovering from surgery for at least 2 months. While in this position, he would make $10.00/ per hour and a full 40 hours per week. The shift he was meant to cover was graveyard. However, ‘the powers that be’ decided to close the facility at 10pm. This should have meant that my husband would no longer be needed. Besides this, his supervisor was looking for an opportunity to retaliate after my husband had reported an employee theft. So, my husband was expecting to be laid off. But instead, he was demoted to another position in another department. Later, we were thrilled to find out that this "demotion" pays $15.00 per hour! He was demoted to a promotion! Yes, he went from being a driver, to a security guard, to a lowly parking attendant who makes a lot more money. I think that there must have been divine interference behind the scene, because we have made our employment a matter for prayer, otherwise this turn of events would be inexplicable. Now, my hours were cut to one day per week, but since the accountant was fired, I was told that the regional controller may insist that the company give me full-time hours to help in that department. I will still be in a very lowly position, but it seems that I may enjoy relative job security as long as I am content to be nobody.

Monday, August 23, 2010

(123) 456-7890

The so-called "marketing director" for our branch is a very dull girl without any creative inclination whatsoever. For some time I thought it quite a mystery how she was able to produce the clever posters, flyers, banners, etc. being as hung-over as she often is. Incapable of working independantly, she often recruits others in the office to assist her in hanging posters or airing up balloons for weekly events. I have often acted as this assistant. After pointing out some errors in the printed materials, she had begun to rely on me as a sort of editor when she gets in a bind. As a result of our close association, I have been privy to the tools provided her. The wonderfully effective posters and banners she prints on her wide format printer actually come to her electronically. The graphics are completely laid out. She has only to change the address and phone number to match those of our particular location. Mystery solved.

Once, after assisting her on some grammatical refinement, she asked me whether I was a college graduate. Evidently, she was impressed with my education. I answered in the negative, and she acted surprised. I asked why she had supposed that I had a higher education. She said that I was smart when it came to grammar and spelling. I simply replied, "I learned all of that in third grade."

I started out being thrilled to be useful, but have since become rather irritated by her gross ignorance and careless mistakes. Each time she is praised by others about the great work she does, I cringe. And each time she humbly accepts such praise is another reason to cringe. My eye relentlessly finds mistakes in her work. If find these mistakes especially irritating, since I have so generously offered my services as editor.

Once she called me to help her to re-work a document. It was a series of certificates that would be given out at an award banquet to our top 5 clients. She wanted to give the certificate meant for the #1 top client distinction. My first suggestion was to spell the client's name correctly.

Another widely distributed advertisement lists services that we do not offer. I figured that since I was not responsible for the content of such advertisements, I would resist taking issue with it. But upon closer inspection, I realized that the phone number clients were directed to call for such unavailable services was (123) 456-7890. That is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0.

One of the lower clerks in out office receives many more phone calls than anyone else, by far. It remained a mystery for some time, but eventually, it was discovered that the company had been distributing letterhead featuring her direct line. When this lower clerk is on vacation, her voice mail box is always filled to the brim. All of the messages repeat the sentiment of frustration of customers unable to reach a live person for days on end. Once it was discovered, there was no correcting of the matter. Just an office full of chuckles.

No wonder my coworker bought me a t-shirt that says, "You don't have to be crazy to work here; we'll train you!"

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What Goes Around, Comes Around

About a year and a half ago, I was fired from a job after I pointed out several bad business practices of the new CEO. He had me disciplined (on trumped up charges), and fired. The members of the Board of Directors heard me out, but felt that the CEO needed free rein to accomplish his difficult assignment. They reluctantly fired me and promised to provide me with letters of recommendation (which I never received). I was very hurt over the ordeal because I had been sorely mistreated by all accounts. The CEO had made two employees managers, and had them write me up with a list of complaints about my performance. When questioned about the supposed offenses, the two managers had to defer to the CEO's explanation, since they had no idea why I was being accused. I was very angry that they signed the disciplinary form without even agreeing with the action. But I knew the CEO had pressured them to do so, probably under the threat of termination or demotion. Later, they both apologized profusely, saying that he had forced them to do it. The previous week, I had received a $1.50 raise in hourly pay and a gift certificate to a local restaurant from the CEO himself. I think he was setting me up to cover for him, for that is when the questionable business practices began. But my integrity did not fail me. I questioned him directly, but he refused to correct the behavior. So, I reported him to a Member of the Board of Directors. That is when it all blew up in my face.

Well, I drove by the place the other day, and the signs on the front of their building were all taken down. They used to be a very well-known charity, but apparently, they no longer have the rights to sully the name of this reputable charititable organization. They are operating under a new name. But, I can't imagine that the business will survive without the recognition of this international branding. Would you donate goods to an unknown retail store? I think we have seen the beginning of the end.

Monday, August 9, 2010

General Manager Blunders

The company that I work for traditionally does the highest volume of sales in June, July, and August. But the general manager decided to make some extreme staffing changes just before this period. There was a mass exodus, top sales people being fired, and a rash of promotions. The result has been an inept bunch of workers struggling to learn their jobs. Even if the replacements were skilled (I fear they are not skilled), they still have a steep learning curve to navigate. This dismal failure has necessitated cut-backs in employee hours. Each new roll out in cuts has decreased morale and increased frustration for client and employee respectively.

At our weekly employee meeting, my boss lady brought up the topic of client frustration and decreasing focus on customer service. Everyone seemed to agree that they could not return all of the phone calls they receive in a day, or address problems in a timely manner. Listening with some surprise, the General Manager thought it prudent to say something in defense of this accusation. "Well, that is because we are short-staffed with all of the cut-backs." I couldn't help blurting out, "Yes! That is exactly the reason for the frustration!" He didn't seem to acknowledge my assertion, but I hope it will hit him later.

He just doesn't understand that hurting employees is hurting his business.

I once worked with a crisis consultant. Before his arrival, the Board of Directors had cut employee hours and immediately stopped paying out wages. They informed the staff of the nature of our crisis (embezzlement & debt) and begged everyone to continue to work without pay. They intended to pour every penny into catching up on utility bills and other debts. When the crisis consultant arrived, he told them that was the absolute worst move they could have made, since it destroys employee confidence which destroys employee morale, which destroys production, which destroys your business. At his advice, they took out a loan to pay employees all back wages earned, gave key persons raises, and increased every one's hours. After all, if you don't have employees, what need do you have of lights?

Sadly, after a couple of weeks, the Board of Directors appointed an Interim CEO who dismissed the consultant, thinking better of his own business sense. In just over a year, he ruined the business.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Wacky Boss Lady

My supervisor loves being "the boss." She is very easy-going, but really gets over-enthusiastic when she gets to participate in some activity that is exclusively a "boss thing to do"--even if it means firing someone. Wednesday, as I clocked in, she told me to take the receptionist's station instead of logging on at my regular station. It wasn't unusual, but it was strange that there was no explanation given. Later, through the grapevine I found out that there was quite a story behind the receptionist's absence (her brother had complications from a surgery which included a stroke). So, I assumed the position and went to work answering phones. Just before noon, my boss said in an abrupt, authoritive manner, "Log off, collect your belongings, and go directly to the human resource office!"

Well, what would you have thought? The obvious, but inexplicable answer must be that I am about to be fired. Fired for what? I could think of no offense.

My boss followed me into the HR office where I was told that they were only going to need me on Thursdays from now on. The HR manager assured me that it was through no fault of my own; just a temporary cut in hours until the business recovers financially. They intended for the new arrangement to begin immediately and so I was being sent home. That would have left the department nearly crippled for the day's activity since so many were out due to illness or other personal reasons. Besides, I had car-pooled with a group that would work until 6pm or later. So, the benevolent HR manager arranged for me to work through the remainder of the day. Before close of business, I was also informed that in the week to come, I would have a full schedule because another department was short-handed.

This entire scare was probably for nothing. Still, it gave me a jolt.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Recycled/Upcycled Pop Cans

I'd like to introduce you all to
This is one talented recycler! She's made a business of upcycling aluminum cans into fun, flashy, pop-culture jewelry!

Her prices are very affordable!
She is going to be my first stop for gift-shopping this year!
Great inspiration for going "green!"

Monday, August 2, 2010

Do You Recognize A Joke?

Finally, I got a chance to watch an old movie about which I had been curious for a long time: Fiddler On the Roof. When the scene came on wherein the father sings If I Was A Rich Man, I said, "Oh, my goodness, he totally ripped that off from Gwen Stefani!" Everyone laughed at me. It was an awesome joke to be sure, since Gwen Stefani is a modern artist who sings a song, Rich Girl which follows the tune. Sadly, all of my friends thought that I had seriously mistaken who was copying and who was being copied.

Have you ever said something to be funny, and ended up being the butt of the joke?