The First Ones Against The Wall

February 9, 2009 at 8:25 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
  So this woman calls up Saturday night, after 1230.  We’re open until 2am.  I reflected that last week at this time I was on my way home, sick as hell.
  Oh well.  Things were going fine this evening.  Dinner rush had been busy but we handled it well, and that was a distant memory.  Late night had been slow, and everything was cleaned up and mostly put away.  I could make a pizza or two in the walk-in, no problem.  I settled back to read the Sunday paper from two weeks ago.  if I hadn’t heard it yet, it was news to me.
  And then it starts.  First I have an order for two sandwiches.  I’m in the middle of making them when I get another call.  This woman calls.
  "I’d like to order 6 large pizzas."  Oh, yay.
  "I need three cheese and three hamburger."  There’s some background chatter.  "What?  No hamburger?"
  I know often people project what they like onto other people.  I hate when someone says "Just get them with everything, and they can pick off what they don’t like."  Those people should be shot.  Not killed.  Just shot, in the knee.  With buckshot.  Give them a paper towel and a pair of tweezers, and tell them to pick out the buckshot they don’t want to keep.
  When they order pizza for us as a group here at the bank, they order some cheese, and a wide variety of veggie pizza bullshit.  Then some with bacon and onion.  Pepperoni and mushroom.  Nothing with JUST meat.  Because these are all bitches, ordering for what they think are all bitches, and they don’t give a shit about the three or four guys here who want just meat.  Bitches.
  I am diplomatic.  I offer her a suggestion.  "Perhaps pepperoni or sausage?  They are popular favorites."
  Tersely she responds.  "I don’t care.  I don’t want that in my house." 
  Oh…*Now* I get it.  You’re a bitch.  It’s pork, it’s not fucking heroin.  Because her guests are unlucky enough to be HER guests, they have to eat what is acceptable to her.  To me it is akin to going out to eat with a vegetarian at a restaurant, and that person demanding that I eat no meat either, because they don’t want it at the table.  Unless that person is going to suck my dick later, they can suck my dick.  Either way, one of us is having some meat.
  Back to the bitch.  She quickly makes her decision.  "Three cheese, three hamburger."  She also orders four-two liters of soda, so the total is over 60 bucks.  If I worked on commission I would give a fuck.
  I give her the total, and then, "And we will have that out to you in 35 to 40 minutes."
  "Oh–that long?  Will it be faster if I pick it up?"  Really?  It’s 1230 on a Saturday night, and you’re on a schedule?  Really?  These people around here, I swear to God–Everyone of them thinks they are all-important, time is money, snap-to, do my bidding, get on it ASAP.  No excuses.  And some other time-honored catch phrases for executives with poor time management skills that wait until the last minute and then expect you to hurry up and make the time that was lost through their inability to act quickly.  I’m pretty good at picking up stuff like this on the phone.  I answer her.
  "No, it won’t."
  "Are you sure it won’t be quicker?"  What I mean is, I have no idea about reality or work.  All I know is, I’d like my pizzas in 20 minutes.  It seems perfectly logical to me that you make them quickly and get them delivered to me because you can’t possible be doing anything else.  I’m the most important person in my universe so I must in yours as well.  Besides, I don’t believe you.  I’ve picked up one pizza in 20 minutes, so you must be able to deliver 6 of them in 20 minutes as well.  Did I explain to you how important I am?
  I sigh forcefully through my teeth.  "Yes, I am sure."  I then explain, "The hold up is not the delivery.  It’s making them.  I’m by myself, I have several orders, and it will take time to make them."  The biggest hold up, of course, is that the line has been broken down, cleaned up and put away.  I’m going to be making pizzas in the walk-in, which is not the most efficient method.  I didn’t tell her that, because some level of transparency is necessary.  Besides, it’s none of her goddamn business.  I did lie to her, to soothe her.  "As soon as they are done the driver will leave with them."
  I finished the sammiches from the first order (remember that?) and then made the pizzas quickly.  Paro waited for both orders, which was good–I wanted them out of the store as soon as they were done, in case she decided to be "proactive" and come up to pick them up before I could deliver them.
  As it turned out, she got them fairly quickly anyway, because Paro went there first.  I know this because the guy who ordered the sammiches called and asked where his order was.  There’s just no pleasing some people.  I guess I’m one of them.

–And I Feel Fine

February 9, 2009 at 8:22 PM | Posted in Personal | Leave a comment
  The ideal, perfect, happiest Leave-It-To-Beaver situation, of course, is this:
  The man of the house works 40 hours per week, 9 to 5 (or 8 to 4 Central Time) Monday through Friday.  He has a wife who doesn’t work outside the home, but instead takes care of the house and the 2.4 children.  Perhaps she volunteers a few hours per week, and is also a member of some ladies’ club.  The single income is enough to provide a good living, not to mention a savings.  There is also insurance and a pension.
  Everyone is happy, healthy, well-adjusted and not subjected to trauma.  They are all well-educated and well-fed, and excellent opportunities for advancement fall in their laps.
  After the kids move out–first to college and then to careers and marriage of their own–the happy couple continue in their happy life.  The man eventually retires.  The woman continues, of course, to take care of the house.  On weekends the grandchildren visit.  They putter around in the yard, making the perfect lawn.  Eventually the man dies, leaving behind insurance and pension for his widow.  She continues to take care of the house until she no longer can.  She then moves in with her daughter and her family, who has continued in this cycle with a husband and 2.4 kids.
  And they all live happily ever after, until they die.

  Has it ever been like that, ever?  Really?  Other than for a bried period of time  and for a select chosen few, I’d have to say no.  My parents were close to this idea, but even so it was not–  You know, I just realized that Detroit’s family was closer to "living the dream," more or less.  Right down to the 2.4 kids.
  I thought I had it good.  My parents both worked, and I grew up in that magical time known as the 1970s.  I’m sure I see it through psychedelic-colored glasses, but will we ever have it that good again?  And did we, then, have it as good as I remember?
  Compared to how it is anywhere else in the world, and any other time in history, we’ve had it pretty good here in ‘Merica.  Even as we zero in on America and see some poverty and some broken homes…and broken dreams.  And even the homes that aren’t broken, many of them are bent.  It’s odd to look at my own life and see it as a microcosm of the current geo-political and socio-economic paradigm because I’m a bit to close to it, but nonetheless:  there it is.
  However, from both within and without, what I have seen is the remarkable ability of humans–us people–to adapt.  I think that is one of the things that makes us human.  Whatever shit gets thrown at us, we deal with it.  Not just here in America, but all over the world.  Take Afghanistan, or any 3rd world-backwater-shithole country in Africa.  If we did what we sometimes contemplate, and "Bomb them back to the Stone Age," for Afghanistan that would be the middle of last week.  For some places in Africa, it would catapult them into a futuristic utopia.
  These people adapt and live…perhaps "thrive" is a strong word.  But they do well.  Well enough, anyway.  I mean, I’d be scampering over the mountains to get the hell out of there at any cost, but not them.  What makes them stay?  Most don’t see a way out of their situation, and for the most part, I agree; you play the hand you are dealt.  And play it they do.  There is a reason why there are billions of people on this planet.  We have found ways to adapt.  Scorching desert, snowy mountains, barren hills, deadly jungle–there is much variety to the human existence.
  By comparison even people living in poverty in this country have quite a bit more to lose.  Utilities, food stamps, and welfare programs, not to mention TV, cell phones and other electronic modern conveniences that keep their standard of living higher than the average of the rest of the world.  Not higher than the rest of the poverty-stricken world, but the rest of the world, period.
  My point then is, if something happens to Civilization (and by "Civilization" I mean "America") even the least of us will have much, much further to fall.

  So.  Is that it?  Is that our test?  Or is that our fate?  You can say "if" but I say "when" our civilization comes crashing down, we will learn our true mettle.
  And we will learn our ability to adapt.  Right now, I’m not as concerned about cannibalism as I am about paying my utilities.  This is about survival, and at any point my priorities may change.  Maybe civilization won’t collapse to the point of a Road-Warrior-like existence.  Maybe it won’t even be as bad as the Great Depression in the early 20th century (don’t let the media fool you, kids–this is no where near as bad).  But to whatever degree we do retreat, there will be some adapting.
  Many people are learning it already.  Taking second jobs, lowering expenses, and hunkering down in other ways.  I’ve been working a second job for ten years, so I’ve been ready for this for a while.
  But despite Obama’s promise of hope and change…
  Hope and change comes from inside of each of *US*.  The best I can "hope" for from the government is for them to not get in my way too much.  The best "change" I can think of is to not be taxed into extinction.  Let me be, and I’ll find a way on my own to survive. 
  Help from the government in this situation is exactly like giving CPR to someone  who is bleeding to death.  When you push on my chest, you’re just squeezing the blood out faster.

  Let me meander back to the point I originally intended to make.  As part of survival, and adaptability, we change.  The black and white world of Donna Reed is as much a fairy tale as Hansel and Gretal.  How are families and extended families structured in other parts of the world?  Some of them are at least as complex as mine, if not more.
  The new Nuclear Family is an amalgam of the pioneer days extended family and the modern days dysfunctional family.  Instead of genetic consanguinity as the bond holding us together, it’s a combination of genetics, emotion, and common-law.
  My complete direct family is this entire group:
  1 my two children who live with my ex
  2 my two adult step-children
  3 their children, my first wave of grandchildren
  4 my fiance (call it a common-law marriage)
  5 her two (semi) adult children
  6 her mother
  The only two people related to my by blood are my two children. 
  I guess I need to have pictures of all these assholes on the wall.  But this is the group that I feel the primary responsibility to to consider as "family."  Throw my ex wife in there too, and that would be one helluva family portrait.
  But then the inner core of that group is 1, 4, 5, and 6.  All the people who live with me, plus my genetic offspring.  This is the group I support.
  My curiosity got the better of me, and I looked it up.  The best way to describe my group is as a "clan."  I think that explains it.  Although when I think of "clan," I think of dirty, hairy people wearing fur and trudging across some frozen tundra.  Is that the past, or is the future?
  It’s a complex world, isn’t it?

–And Put Away Wet

February 9, 2009 at 8:19 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
  The sweet young girl who works at the gas station next door stopped by to pick up some food.  Idly making conversation, she asks, "How’s it going?"
  Perhaps it was another one of those moments where the question struck me in a way it had never struck me before.  Or perhaps it was the look on her face:  so young, so fresh and innocent, so full of wonder and hope–and not yet knowing the pain and heartbreak that the world had in store for her–that I wanted to crush.
  Perhaps I’m just projecting, and the road-weariness is all on me.  Nonetheless, when asked a question in a certain way, it unlocks a magical key and I will tell you the truth.
  "How’s it going?"
  "Well, I’m 43 years old, working a second job in a pizza place.  How do think it’s going?"

It’s Not Easy–

February 6, 2009 at 1:31 AM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
  –Being One of the Smart Ones.
  I swear to God I am not wrong on this.  Okay, this is going to get technical.  You don’t have to read this, I just have to vent a little.
  At the bank we use this program that stores all the files.  We scan them in.  That’s what I do.  After recently losing data, we have a NEW RULE:  You have to hang onto paper for two weeks before sending it for shred.  Why?  Well, it’s backed up every week, on Saturday.  So, we’d need to keep one week, right?  No.  What if the back up fails?  Then we go to the previous week’s backup.  Okay, look at a calendar with me. February, 2009, people.
  Every Monday, I would make a determination of what I could shred for that week.  I wouldn’t do it every day, just the one day.  It gets picked up on Thursday, but that’s not the point.  According to policy guidelines, "two weeks" means, for instance, on Monday the 16th, everything before the 31st can be shredded.  The rest I have to keep.  This is the policy.  This was the determination that they made.
  But why, exactly, am I keeping stuff that long?
  Leon from IT explained it to me several times, from the vantage that it made sense; obviously this is flawed.  "Do you understand now?"
  I told the truth.  "Leon, it still seems wrong and unnecessary to me.  But that doesn’t matter.  I will do as I am told."
  Not good enough for him.  He wants buy-in from me.  He explains it again.  But no, no, it does not make sense.  And he is failing to see my point.  But this is an abstract of archetype.  And it’s the difference in how we think.  I am a visual person.  When I look at it on a calendar, it seems pretty clear to me.  And I *know* that if I could just get a view graph, a projector, or a PowerPoint presentation together to explain it, he would understand.
  Or maybe not.  He is fairly linear in thought.  Hyper technical as well.  And he suffers from the–there should be a word for this because I’ve come across this several times–he can’t fathom that other people can be smarter than him–therefore I must be wrong or I misunderstand.
  Say we come in Monday, the 16th.  The two most recent backups are the 14th, and the 7th.  Say something fails on–the 18th.  Fine.  We restore from the 14th.  Rescan everything since, which would be 16-17-18.  Oh, my bad.  the tape was bad.  No problem.  We have redundancy.  I repeat:  we have redundancy.  Lets go back to the 7th and use that backup.  Then we just need to rescan From the 9th on to today–and this is beginning to be a drag.  But these docs are important.  Bank loans, mortgages, blah blah blah.  So why, then, do we need to keep all paper going back to the 31st?
  Let’s look at other days of the week, to poke holes in my thesis.  Say it failed on the 20th.  use the backup from the 14th.  It fails, use the back up from the 7th.  Aha!  At that point, we are keeping two weeks worth of paper.  No.  According to the rule, we still have everything from the feb 1st.  At that point, we have three weeks worth of paper.  We don’t dump that until the 23rd. 
  So the bottom line is, we keep AT MINIMUM two full weeks, which becomes up to three weeks’ worth when all is said and done.  All that is logistically necessary is one week’s worth, which nominally becomes 1 to 2 weeks max.  Basically, although they are saying keep enough to cover two backups what they are actually doing is requiring us to keep enough to cover three backups.  And I’m not wrong about this.
  Why does it matter?  Is it just because I want to be right?
  The difference is alot of goddamn paper stacked around the office.  Do you have any idea how much I scan in a week?  And yes, I want to be right.

  Of course, I may not tell anyone because I don’t want to step on any toes.  Or, I don’t want to lose my job because of it.  I had a brief illusion of being heralded as a hero and a great thinker, but then reality set it.

Why Florida Is Cool

February 4, 2009 at 1:20 AM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
     I read in the news that in Florida retirement communities, the women outnumber the men by 10 to 1.  There is also a big black market for Viagra.  The men must be pretty damn happy.
  When I get older, I want to be a part of that.  I’m gonna have me a Harem.  When I’m 70, I’m going to bang (if that’s the word) a different hot old chick (if that’s the word) every night.  And by night I mean the middle of the afternoon, before the Early Bird Special at Denny’s.
  So the upshot is, I may finally have my opportunity for  a threesome.  The downside, is, of course, that 69 won’t be a position.
  I told my girlfriend all this…and she didn’t laugh.  It wasn’t funny.  In fact, she was indignant.  She said, "Just where–where the hell am I supposed to be?  Dead?"
  I laughed.  "Oh, no hon.  I’m hoping you get Alzheimer’s.  Either way, I won’t have to answer alot of questions."

Everything Ends, Sooner Or Later

February 4, 2009 at 1:17 AM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
  I just chuckled when she told me.  Dina likes to be non-confrontational, I know.  But I pushed the envelope, forced the issue.  Plus, Tom the supervisor found out, so it all came from him.  Whatever. 
  And I mean that sincerely.  What-ev-er.  They truly-madly-deeply don’t own me.  Not at that price.  I was sick Saturday night, and I closed the store early.  Now, I can see both sides of this; I’m not stupid.  First my side:  I did what I did, what I had to do.  I was pretty sick.  I barely made it home.
  Their side:  they have policies, and they must be adhered to, and if they aren’t, there must be consequences.  I could make a case for special circumstances, but it has been my experience that in the corporate environment they like to make all-encompassing rules to avoid any decision making.  "This is the rule, therefore, this is what we do."
  Someone in another supervisor’s area was just fired actually–I didn’t know this–for closing the store early.  The fact that I did means there has to be consequences.  I know it hurt Dina to tell me.  She is sensitive, which in many ways makes her not a good manager.  Sometimes you have to not care to get the job done.
  So I would be written up for this, and then when the boss above the supervisor (whatever his title is; he’s the owner’s brother) saw it, my punishment would be–
  –a fifty cent per hour deduction in my pay.
  That’s when I laughed.  Then I said to her, "You’re going to have to find someone to replace me, really soon."
  I had my way out.

Apocolyptic Delirium Redux

February 4, 2009 at 1:15 AM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
…That’s funny–I was all set to write about the exciting adventure that was my weekend, when I had some deja vu.  All over again.
  No, seriously.  I write all my stuff on notepad, and save it on my flash drive.  I just opened up the folder and created the new doc, and I had the sudden memory of doing it before, this exact circumstance.  Odd.  But then, the experience I just went through does lend itself to anomalous space-time events.
  I looked back through my archives of 2008, and found in April of 08 I had food poisoning, or something like it.  A stomach virus.  When I think about it now, it must have been a virus.  I had fever and all that with it, and the suddenness with which it left–the fever broke and *poof* it was gone. 
  I called the stomach flu, however Detroit says that when it’s the stomach like that, it’s not the flu.  It’s just a virus.  Whatever; people commonly call it the stomach flu.
  This time, however, I’m pretty certain it was food poisoning.  I’ll explain why, when we get to that part of the story.

  Saturday night I’m closing at Domino’s.  All is well, for now.  We were fairly busy for a while, so I didn’t get to stop and sit down till about 9pm.  I made a small pizza.  I don’t remember the chronology very well after that. 
  I started to feel sick to my stomach, and tired.  I was in pain.  Some sit-down visits to the bathroom confirmed that I was indeed ill.  When do we close?  Two AM?  No fucking way I can last that long.  I made the obligatory call to Dina, the manager, but she didn’t pick up.  Just as well–I’m closing early.  We closed at 12, got out by about 1230.  I took three phone calls that I explained what was going on (not the details) and they seemed to be understanding.
  Well, I certainly hope the bosses at Domino’s are.  Not like it would hurt my feelings much if I lost this job, but I want it to be on my terms.
  Detroit, God love her, takes care of me before I even get home.  I call her from the car, have her talk to me to keep me from passing out on the way home.  She told me to pull over and she would come and get me.  I’m on the highway, and on cruise control.  I’m good.  She talks me through it until I get home.
  She prepares a few things for me–glass of ice water, bucket to throw up in, a towel–and she goes to lay on the couch. leaving me to thrash about on the bed.
  I’m a screamer, I admit it.  I moan and groan like a…fat guy being hit with something that makes him moan and groan alot.  About 330 in the morning, I throw up.  Forcefully, violently.  And not at all pleasantly.  But that was when I knew it was food poisoning; afterwords, I felt so much better.
  Which leads me to a nuanced understanding of what sick is and how one feels at various stages.  After that episode I felt enormously better–
  But I was still incredibly sick.  I spent all day Sunday in bed, with brief visits to the bathroom.  I never threw up again, but I felt several times as if I would.  And I wanted to, because I knew I would feel better afterwards.  That was a big difference from the first time…
  …when you feel it is upon you…
  …and you want to bargain, or plead…
  "No–no, no.  Please, no.  God.  Oh, no…no.  Oh, no–"
  I slept, or tried to.  I couldn’t get comfortable.  I wanted to lay on my right side, but if I did, I felt nauseous.  My body hurt all over, my mouth and throat were dry, and I had immense heartburn.  I remember at one point on Sunday I ate a brownie.  I slept through the Superbowl, but I could hear them in the other room, watching it and occasionally cheering.  Wow.  Must be a good game.
  Earlier in the day I called Domino’s, and told Dina what had happened–and what was going to happen later.  I wasn’t coming in Sunday night.  I also called Erica, my direct boss at the bank,to let her know that I probably wouldn’t be in Monday–and why–so she wouldn’t think it was self-inflicted and Superbowl-related.
  I was still hopeful that I would be better on Monday, but I knew I wasn’t going in.  But I did figure I would go in Monday night to Domino’s.  Sunday night I had a fitful night’s sleep, up every two hours.  My stomach was tender, like I had done a bunch of situps for no particular reason.  The rest of my body various joints were a little sore mostly from laying on them, I think.
  Another night of thrashing, and Detroit leaves for work, leaving me alone.  Brandon watched the game in the middle of the night.  I know this because I was up several times in the middle of the night, and there was a glow from the TV, sound turned down.  About 930 or so, my cousin Joe called me, wanted to know if I was dressed.  Funny, how’d he know I was home?  I said no…
  Can I go over to his house real quick for him, he’s too far away, and he has someone coming over to appraise his house for a refinance?  I’m too beat to argue.  It’s a short drive, I’ll go sit on his couch, excuse myself for not being well to whomever, then–
  I was pulling my pants on when he called back.  He had already asked his neighbor to do it, and now they were found, so I didn’t have to.
  Oh, thank God. 
  Heavily, I laid back down.
  Around noon or so, I called Domino’s.  I don’t remember what I told her, but I made it clear–I hope–that I wasn’t coming in that night.  I said, I should be better by now, but I’m not.  I’m going to call my doctor.
  They would be happy to see me.  Tomorrow morning.  I made the appointment anyway, even though by tomorrow morning I would be either much better or dead, but in any event not in need of medical attention.
  Monday night, I was well enough to sit and watch the game.  I fast-forwarded through most of it, watching the commercials and the big plays.  Quite a game, if you go in for that sort of thing.  I ate a small fry and most of a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s.
  That night I thrashed much less.  The fog was beginning to lift from my senses, and the all-over body ache was leaving as well.  All that was left was heartburn and fatigue.
  So Tuesday morning I get up, a bright, shiny new day.  I took a shower and shaved, and worked on my van dyke.  Thusly refreshed, I headed off to work, and shit was it cold.
  Now, here I sit at work.  Working.  Yay.

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