I’m Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today

June 27, 2011 at 11:14 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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Maybe it is over, as far as pizza deliver goes.
For now, anyway.
I left Pizza Hut in March, I think.  The anti-climax of all anticlimaxes, I just told them I couldn’t afford to drive to work, and then drive.  Not for what gas prices were–and are still, even though they’ve come down a bit, but not nearly enough.
These are trying times indeed.
But maybe that’s a good place to stop the book, if I were writing one.  Which I am.  At least it’s a good demarcation.  If I’m not currently working in pizza, I can concentrate on going back and filling in the holes in my story.  Sliding back and forth through time like Donnie Darko rattles the senses.  I need to be firmly rooted…in the past.
Speaking of the past, I have a new part time job.  I work in a little mom-and-pop liquor store.  It doesn’t pay much, but it’s not exceptionally demanding, either.  And it reminds me of another job I had oh so long ago.

In 19-
Wait, let me get my time line right.  In 83 I graduated, and went to college in the fall.  In 84 I flunked out.  In the fall of 84 we moved to St Louis.  I think that’s when I got the job.
There was this small chain of convenience stores in the area called “Majik Market.”  The company is long gone, but many of the buildings are still around, still being used by Asians as convenience stores.  The one I used to work at is actually an insurance office now.
I was fairly new here, going to school, and wanted to have money of my own.  My Aunt Gloria (who passed away this last December) was the one that gave me a line on this job.  “Majik Market is hiring,” she said.  “I talked to the manager up there.  You should go apply.”
So I did.
Of course, I didn’t know the reason *why* they were hiring.  At the store on Bellefontaine Road just a few weeks ago, the young woman working the register was shot in the face and killed.  It turned out that the robbery was supposed to be a setup between her and the robber, but he panicked.  Or maybe they were dating.
Either way, suddenly there were openings, and not just there.  A few people got cold feet and quit.  Enter me:  bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and gullible as shit.
I met the supervisor at the store on Bellefontaine for what I thought was going to be an interview.  Instead he took me down one of the back aisles near the cooler, and essentially had this conversation:
Him:  This job is pretty easy.  You check people out, make coffee, and keep the place clean.  Think you can handle that?
Me:  Sure.  I can do that.
Him:  Good.  Okay.  You need to call this number and set up a time to go to this address for a lie detector test.  Once that’s taken care of, we’ll call when we’re going to have you start.

I didn’t have an interview.  I had a lie detector test.  They may or may not have been illegal then, but they definitely are now, as a condition of employment.
The place was somewhere near the Arena, which isn’t there anymore.  It was late November, and we had a good snow…like 10 inches.  I didn’t let a little thing like that stop me; I made it to my test.
When they do a lie detector test, there is a pre-interview, where they screen some information in order to set up the questions they are going to ask.  That’s where I lied my balls off.  No, I don’t smoke pot.  No, I’ve never been arrested.  Yes, I promise not to masturbate in the bathroom on the overnight shift.
So I got the job.  I wasn’t going to work at the one on Bellefontaine, but rather the one nearer to my house.  The current staff was the manager–some 60-year old woman, and two other guys.  The black guy worked mostly 3rds and a few second shifts.  Let’s call him Ron.
The other guy was a middle-aged white dude.  Ken.  He was skinny and nerdy, and had a chip on his shoulder.  He had been promoted to “assistant manager.”  With four people, I’m not sure what that means.  We all worked by ourselves.  When I was there at 3am, I might as well have been the fucking manager.
This was my first job that didn’t involve bales of hay or fields of beans.  I figured out how to do it–I’m pretty smart–but there was no motivation to work very hard.  I usually had several hours in the middle of the night to do nothing whatsoever.  Not bad for 2.85 an hour.
After a week or so our manager got transfered to another location, and we got a new manager.  Nancy was younger–early 30s–and pretty cute.
We hired another guy after that who was about my age, but he didn’t last very long.  He was there long enough to cover for me (kinda) when I was going to a concert.  I still had to come in, but I could be an hour or so late.  Of course, this was Bruce Springsteen, the Born in the USA tour.  We had to leave before the show was over because he plays so goddamn long.  I’ve only left one other concert early.
I had this other thing going on that was a minor inconvenience, and I didn’t wonder until much later if it was the cause of other problems.  These two dudes I sort of knew would come up there and hang out–just hang out–in the middle of the night.  Like after 1 am until about 2 or 3.  My friends at the time revolved around my cousins and their friends, and these guys were friends of *those* friends.  So it wasn’t even a direct relationship.
They would come up and hang out and try to mooch shit for free off of me.  At first I did let them have some shit, but if you give an inch, they want a sixpack.  I had to start saying no and being a dick about it.  We would get high up there, too.  I think they were just helping me smoke *my* weed.  What the fuck?
Late at night when no one is around it does get boring and a little lonely.  But after a while, I craved to be alone.  They were pests.
Of course you have some regulars.  I learned the hard way that I actually do need to make fresh coffee before 5am, or I have a bunch of pissed off people.  There were also some Section-8 ghetto apartments behind us, so I had people trying to use food stamps for shit you can’t get with food stamps–but they have to try it on the new guy.
My worst times there were the holidays, and I had nightmares about it for a while after that.  We didn’t even HAVE gas pumps, but in my dreams we did.  Thanksgiving was a taste of what Christmas and New Years’ was going to be like.
Remember, this is the mid-80s, and there were not as many convenience stores around then.  And none whatsoever near us.  You decide on Thanksgiving morning you need milk and eggs?  Yeah, so did 140 other assholes in the last hour.
We–or I–got screwed on the holidays.  Thanksgiving was a holiday, but not until 7am that morning.  Working from 11pm the night before until then doesn’t count.  But don’t worry:  everyone has to come in and work about 4 hours so that it’s “fair” and so that everyone gets some home time.  I got off at 7am, and then come back and work from 2pm to 6pm.  That was time and half, that four hours.  If only I could come back again that night–but no, somebody else got the night of the holiday, with the holiday pay.
The same thing happened again for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years’ Eve, and New Years’ Day.  Fucked, I was.
After the holidays things settled down somewhat.  I worked some thirds and some seconds.  Ron worked all thirds.
Here it was towards the end of February.  There was a crisis at the store.  Also, there was a pretty rough snow storm.  I think all this went down right around my birthday.  When I showed up at 3 for second shift, Nancy said that there was a major shortage at the store.  Not money, but product.  Like ten grand worth.  I think maybe they should count again.  But I had to go down for another lie detector test–everyone did.  Oh, crap.
You know what?  I don’t think there was snow the first time.  I think that was early November.  No snow.  But there was snow this time.  I remember.  This was the big snow.
The next day I drive down, and it had started snowing.  It was late morning.  I get down there for the lie detector test, and the guy giving the test talks to me, so I have to fess up about something.  You know, I’m going to eat in the middle of the night.  I told him that occasionally I would eat something, but that I kept a running total of it, and when I got paid I paid it back.  I showed him the register tape, where I had about 14 dollars worth of stuff on it.  He was totally fine with that, and we did the test.
And then he wanted to make sure–can I get a money order for the amount that I owe, and bring it in?
Uh, sure.  Okay.  I hadn’t done anything else wrong.  This seemed minor, but I was taking care of it.  I went back–I actually had to work that night–I got a money order and I went into to work at 3pm.
With the snow, we were a bit slow.  Which was good, because every time some asshole came in for a pack of smokes I had to mop the floor behind them.
Long about 1030, I get a call from Ron.  I don’t know where he lives, no idea–but he says he can’t make it in.  There is 10 inches of snow, and it’s still falling.  Okay.
So I make the call I have to make.  I guess I called Nancy, but after I told her what happened, Don the supervisor called me, so I could repeat the story for him.  About 1130, Don comes in.
When the supervisor has to come in and work, it’s never a good thing.  When they have to come in and work a third shift, I imagine they aren’t very happy.  But he was the one who was going to relieve me.
He said that Ron no longer worked for us.  Don offered to get Ron a cab, and pay for it, to have him come in.  I guess Ron refused this generous offer.  Okay, then.
So without Ron, I worked third shift.  I worked ALL the third shifts.  For two weeks straight I worked third shift and did not have a night off.  That 14th morning, Nancy came in like always, but she was visibly upset.  Why?
Well, she had to fire me.  She got the call yesterday and was simply told to not put me on the schedule anymore.  Why, she wanted to know.  The fact that I took items without paying for them was theft, a violation of company policy, blah blah blah.  At least I wasn’t responsible for the grand theft–which was still a mystery–and she was relieved about that because we were getting along in a friendly way.  She was cute and I worked harder to try to please her.
So, I violated company policy, and I had to be fired.  But that came to light two weeks ago.  Why wasn’t I fired then?
Oh, because they had just fired Ron, and didn’t have anyone for third shift.  They kept me and strung me along until they could hire my replacement.
Am I bitter?  No.  I was then.  I’m not now.  I learned some things.  Besides, I’m still here, and I doubt Majik Market would turn up anything on a Google search.  Which is the lesson to be learned here, kids.  Don’t fuck with me.  You’ll go out of business.
Eventually.

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The Time Traveller’s Baby-Momma

June 24, 2011 at 10:03 PM | Posted in Fiction | 4 Comments
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This is another in the series of flash fiction from Chuck Wendig’s site “Terrible Minds.” The mission? One thousand words, mixing together a couple of these sub-genres: Steampunk, Super hero, Noir, erotica, farce, and men’s adventure. I’m not sure what some of those are. Check out the other entries here:
Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge, “Sub-Genre Mash-Up.”

ITT climbed out of his Delorean exactly the way you would expect a middle aged fat guy to climb out of a sports car: huffing, grunting, squirming, and not the least bit ironic, even when his toupee snagged on the overhead door.
“Fuck it,” he decided. It’ll be there when he comes back. His penny loafers squished in the semi-frozen blood that covered the ground. He ambled his way to the crowd that was gathered around the police tape and pushed his way through.
An old woman cursed as he pushed, then let him through. “Oh, it’s you!” She yelled out to the crowd, “Everything’s okay, folks! The Time Traveler is here!”
ITT reflected that fame was one thing, and notoriety was something else entirely. He made a mental note to travel back in time and find this old hag, and fuck her when she was young.
But that would be inappropriate.
The uniform was waiting at the tape for him. “I don’t think we need your help on this one.” There was a laugh in his voice.
“Ju-just tell me what you got here, Fenway.” ITT had a contract with the city to fight crime. ITT was the lowest bidder.
“Whatever. Come on.” Fenway talked as he led ITT through the carnage. “We got an air bus full of degenerates that fell out of the sky. It landed on the Blue Key–”
“Oh, shit–”
“Yeah. We don’t know how that happened. Before it hit, though, a street cleaner got under it. Maybe trying to stop it, we don’t know. Some the of the degens are programmed to save their hosts, so they climbed out onto the pipes of the bus. The first couple melted to it–”
“Naturally.”
“But that made a cushion for some of the others. About a half a dozen of these degen cyborgs made it out onto the wing and tried to get on the street cleaner.
“What about the pilot?”
“Most of these street cleaners are on auto; they just float around sucking shit up. No safety. So–”
“So the degens–”
“Got sucked completely off the airbus.”
“And not in a good way.”
“Is there a good way to suck a degen?”
“Ask your mom.” ITT ignored the reply from Fenway as he looked around. Robots and former human flesh was everywhere, and moving slightly, twitching, and in one case dragging itself toward the sewer opening.
Undamaged and untouched was the Blue Key, even though a street cleaner was shredded to pieces and balanced on it. On top of that was the air bus. A head and a robotic arm and shoulder slid out of a vent on the cleaner, reminding ITT of a turd.
But it was still very disturbing: The Keys were indestructible, yes–but they were also supposed to be untouchable, like a woman was to him at this stage in his life.
“We having a problem getting this cleaned up because of the Key?” ITT asked. It made sense–the power they generate made a field of impenetrability, like a chastity belt, or an aggressive bouncer.
“Nope. We have em on standby around the corner. FIC wants a look first. Here they come.”
Before he could react, a bulky-yet-sleek black and gold steamer came gliding in, making the horrible racket of real power and complete disregard that was the FIC’s calling card.
The Fucking Intelligence Community. Solar-powered Jesus, what next? ITT wished he wasn’t there. He and the FIC had a history, to put it mildly.
He turned around and noticed the crowd had dissipated. No one wants to be around when the FIC shows up. He turned to Fenway. “Why’d you get the short straw?”
Fenway said, “It fits easier in your mom’s mouth. I was tailing the airbus when it happened. They’re looking for someone to blame it on.”
ITT felt sick to his stomach. No one knew what would happen to him, but it wasn’t going to be nice.
To punctuate that point, the FIC team disembarked from their ride in one cool, synchronized movement, with the motorized accelerators on their legs clicking unison. No one was sure if the metallic arms were robotic, or cyborg, or just armor, but they bad-assedly raised dark sunglasses to their hosts’ faces. In unison. The group came towards them.
ITT really regretted the fact that he had gone back in time, fucked Fenway’s mom and got her pregnant, and that he was Fenway’s dad and Fenway didn’t know it. But that’s part of the gig when you are the Inappropriate Time Traveller.
He had mild regret about his next move as well. *I think I’m going back to the 80s, when Deloreans were cool* he thought to himself, and vanished.

Welcome To The Jungle (I’ve got your fun and games right here)

June 18, 2011 at 9:56 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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[Spring 1997]

And so, I left Steak n Shake, and came back to Domino’s Pizza again.
Except I never really left; I had continued my employment there as a part time driver for Romona in Hazelwood. It was easy for me to jump right in again as an assistant manager and pick up the hours I needed between two stores: Hazelwood and Cross Keys, the store I most recently managed before being sentenced to the fourth level of Hell that was Blackjack.  (I don’t want to over-exaggerate; everyone always says “seventh level.”  However, with the experiences I’ve had, I had some perspective.)
Bunny was managing Cross Keys and she was my friend. Romona was my friend also, and gave me more hours. I was in the middle of an estrogen duel, two women vying to have me all to themselves. I wanted to say, “Ladies, please! There’s enough of me to go around!”
But it wasn’t about me. It was about power. Bunny was an aggressive upstart, and Romona was a battle-weary warhorse. Who would win this battle of wills?
Ultimately Romona did; she was promoted to supervisor.
Now that she was the new North County supervisor, she had–
Well, it depends on how you look at it. If I were an optimist, I would say she had pull. If I were a pessimist, I would say she had problems.
Since I’m a realist, I have to say she had…problems.
One of those problems was Store #1539, Berkeley. It was a problem store in a problem area. It was ghetto. It was hood. It was bad. How bad?
Unless you know the St Louis area, it’s hard to summarize. Part of Berkeley was a small village called Kinloch. Kinloch doesn’t exist anymore because there was a buyout by the airport for a politically-motivated expansion that was never necessary but proceeded anyway, despite the fact that Lambert lost a couple of major hubs and air traffic decreased significantly and an airport was also built in the Metro-East that stands basically deserted.
Kinloch became a synonym for crime,
The major economic factor in Berkeley is drugs. The local government is part nightmare and part comedy. Businesses shut down left and right. McDonald’s a few other chains closed their doors and tucked their tails between their legs, cutting their losses.
Just look up the Wikipedia article for Kinloch, Missouri. Kinloch is attached to Berkeley like a tumor.
Domino’s was desperate to have success at 1539, although the definition of success varies. They made a deal with a manager: she would take over the store, be given free reign, “support” from marketing, and half the profit of the store, instead of the usual 15-20%.
Again, class: What is 50% of zero?
Correct.
This project was touted as a bold initiative, a new direction to create a brighter future and be model for future–
Blah-blah-blah. She lasted less than two months.
It probably wasn’t fair to put a (more or less) innocent suburban white chick in a situation like that. Luckily she didn’t get killed or raped, she just locked the doors in the middle of the day and walked out.
I don’t know if I was necessarily in the right place at the right time, but here’s what happened:
Changes were made, as always. Note the passive voice, to release upper management of responsibility. Jay was the farm-boy supervisor for the area, living in Illinois. He was returned to the cornfields from whence he came.
Does that sound harsh? Jay was a good guy, a quiet, by-the-book, no-nonsense sort of bloke. Yeah, humorless as well–those types usually are. Here’s a story about him:
As a supervisor, he came by Berkeley during dinner rush to do whatever the Hell it is supervisors do. You know, watch other people work. Make suggestions based on hindsight, unrealistic expectations, and fairy tales.
It was dark, so the mag-lock was on. Don’t make explain a mag-lock again. Most stores didn’t turn it on until after 10pm. Berkeley did it as soon as it got dark. Drivers come up, we buzz them in. Customers of a superficially non-threatening nature would approach, and we would buzz them in.
So it’s about 6pm in the winter, and it’s dark. A Friday night, so there is some business going on. A customer approaches, and instinctively Jay reaches toward the button to buzz them in–
A driver slaps his hand away from the button.
The “customer” was a large black male with a ski mask over his face and a shotgun in his hand. He bounced off the door, shook the handle a few times, and disappeared.
It was for the best that Jay returned to the green, green grass of home.
Romona was made supervisor, and now it was her problem.
I can’t believe that I was actually allowed to interview for 1575. Hazelwood was a cherry, and everybody wanted it. I was the only MIT that interviewed; the others were seasoned managers. However, I was a seasoned manager also, who happened to be an assistant at the moment.
Well, of course I didn’t get Hazelwood. I forget which numbnut they gave it to, and it doesn’t matter. Fine, I’ll continue as an assistant–whatev.
Over the course of several days, Romona hounded me. Berkeley was still open, and she was getting desperate. The store needed a manager. Actually it needed a SWAT team. She made offers, she pleaded, she made promises–
I swear to God, if I had held out longer I would have gotten a blowjob. I still remember the day I walked in when she was a manager, and she was sitting at the desk taking a break. And eating a corn dog.
You don’t forget shit like that. She owes me.
However, it was my completely misguided sense of duty that won over, and I accepted the position. I would take Berkeley.  I never did get that blowjob.

They Come in All Shapes and Sizes

June 16, 2011 at 11:29 PM | Posted in Fiction | 3 Comments

Crap, I’m doing it again. Short story about a robot. Robots come in all shapes and sizes. This is part of Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge, “Must Love Robots.” Not including this part, it’s under a 1000 words

Too much alone time can give a person a fixation on things. Sometimes it was the wrong thing.
Like the appliance in the kitchen.
He didn’t mind having it; the truth was, although he liked it he would never admit it. This, of all things, is what his parents gave it to him for his thirtieth birthday. His big party, with all of his friends and co-workers present. Even his boss was there. Everyone seemed so liberal and progressive in their thinking that it was perfectly okay and no one would judge him. After all, he was living in the Great Republic of Californication. Not even God judged you in LA.
But the placement bothered him. The instructions and warnings made it clear that you always install an Auto-Masturbator in the kitchen.
It just didn’t seem sanitary to him.
Plus, he felt like everyone who was there when he got it was watching him use it. That could have been the video feed. Damn it, was he the only one in the country that was self-conscious about his sexuality? He randomly flicked the holographic remote in his hand. He caught snippets of the news cycle. He paused on the sports page to see if there was anything interesting. He had money on this game, between the San Francisco Faggots and the Salt Lake Zealots.
“–This should be a good game today, as the rivalry between these two teams often results in bloodshed.”
“That’s right, Wendell. An ironic similarity between these two teams is that, unlike others in the league, these two have forsaken all artificial enhancements. The Zealots decry it for religious reasons, obviously. The Faggots, however, have a concern about what their drug-enhanced urine would do to the environment, not to mention how it affects the famous post-game golden showers.”
“Pete, didn’t you say earlier that these two teams are tied for last in the league?”
“Yes, Wendell. While the Zealot players often serve their mission in the league voluntarily, the only way the Cocksuckers can get players is to draft them–forced conscription. But after two seasons of tossing salad they are free to join other teams, and take steroids and other performance enhancing drugs the way nature intended.”
A quick 5-second commercial spot appeared ghosted in 3-d over the commentators as they continued: “Honey Nut Cheerios! Now with Human Growth Hormones! Ask your mom to buy you some. NOW!”
“And we go now to the field where Msurupal Zanzintone, the well-known first recipient of a brain transplant–or donor, depending on your perspective–will sing the Californication National Anthem!”
Jake kept that on a small screen while he surfed other video. He could hear the familiar chords of that ancient folk song by the Eagles, “Hotel California,” begin. Everyone in the stands stood out of reverence to the State and because it made it easier to dance. Jake didn’t stand, but he did put it on the full screen when everyone played the patriotic air guitar solo.
With the game on low, he checked the IM locator to see if he had any friends available. If they were busy, their location was hidden and their status showed the last update. His friend Larry’s was not highlighted, but it was flashing. He magnified it, and it said, “Currently getting a blow job, suckas!” He didn’t want to magnify Carla’s, because it just would have said, “Currently giving a blow job, suckas!”
Carla was his old girlfriend. He angrily switched channels to the news. There was a quick political ad, because it was election season. In Californication, it was always election season. The incumbent Dictator had a lot of money–all tax dollars–to run ads.
“You’ve eaten my salad dressing and seen my porn. Isn’t that enough? Vote for me, Cain LaFame.”
The news began with riots in Ohio over the naming rights to the tiny sovereign state being up for grabs, but he switched it off. He turned his head and saw the kitchen and the faint glow of standby lights on his Auto-Masturbator. Fuck it, he decided. He would use it, then go get something to eat. Then maybe come home and use it again, and go to bed early. His volunteer sports therapy that he was required to sign up for had him playing field foos ball tomorrow. He hoped it was coed, because very often the chicks spinning in the air wore no panties under their short skirts.
It was with the images from the last time he played that he got up and walked to the Auto-Masturbator. It was a narrow appliance, about 15 centimeters wide. He activated the control panel, and picked the setting from the previous time, which was a well-known HD star. He added the enhancements: “Hairy,” followed by “gymnast.” He switched the “aggressive” dial to eight.
Cautiously he stepped up to the machine. The sensors detected his semi-hard penis, and the artificial orifice reached out and delicately drew it in. Gently, it worked him to a sufficient state of arousal. Once this was achieved, it switched to the next cycle. This was the equivalent, a hundred years ago, of downshifting and stepping on the gas pedal.
Several minutes later, Jake’s member slid out of the machine as he fell back into a chair. Wow. He idly looked around, trying to regain his strength and considering what he wanted to eat. Sitting, he happened to be closer to eye-level with the Auto-Masturbator than he usually was, and examined it from this new angle. The orifice and controls were discretely closed; it looked inconspicuous except for the large familiar logo running sideways up its length in a special bold cursive script that said “Auto-Masturbator 9000. TM.” Underneath that in small type that he had never noticed was a short phrase like a sales catch phrase that for some reason sounded both familiar and inappropriate.
“Would you like to play a game?”

The Train

June 11, 2011 at 10:17 PM | Posted in Humor Me | 1 Comment
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(You must know that of course I do think like this, and I do write like this–but I generally don’t post like this–on my blog, anyway. This is part of Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge, “Dirty-Ass Sex Moves.” Check this out to read other entries and to verify that I’m not full of shit. About this.)

It’s important for you to know (for my own self-esteem) that of the various incarnations of Anna-Nicole Smith (hot, zaftig, fat, unconscious, freshly dead, or a several years’ dead) this true story happened when she was hot.

The hallway was wide and luxuriously appointed.  The man sat in a high back chair, waiting.  He was on the 30th floor of a swanky, expensive hotel in New York City.  He sat musing as he waited, wondering how a Midwestern, middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income guy would find himself in this situation.
He had entered the online lottery on a whim, not really believing the prize.  He had an email address already made up that he used to sign up for crap, so that all the spam would go there:      fornicatewithsheep@aol.com.
And then he dismissed it, and almost missed the deadline, checking it only because signed up for another BS online spam-trap.  What the hell?  A finalist?  He didn’t believe it, but he pursued it anyway, and after two and a half frustrating hours online, he got an email confirmation with air flight, ground travel, and hotel accommodations.
Of course, the hotel he was staying in was not this fancy, swank, five-star hotel.  His hotel didn’t have stars.  His hotel barely had electricity.  His hotel was in Jersey.  Good thing the ground transport (three bus changes, a taxi, and three blocks of following a transvestite) was included in the trip.
He was jolted out of his daydreaming when the door opened.  Then, nothing happened for a long, long time.  Finally, after what seemed like several minutes, a young black man emerged.  Tall, dark, and muscular, with a shaved head and a commanding presence…like a bouncer, or a pro wrestler.  He stood there, scowling professionally with his arms crossed and his feet a measured shoulder-width apart. He contemptuously refused to make eye contact.  Bryan shrugged, turned his head to face forward, but watched for movement with his peripheral vision.
After another few minutes, he heard some noise, but still saw nothing.  Finally, after several more minutes a man emerged from the room.  An old man.  A very old man.  He was pushing a walker and breathing oxygen, which was hanging from the walker.  He had a big, vacant, toothless smile, and he slowly pushed the walker and took tiny steps behind it.  The walker had tennis balls cut and placed on the front legs.  The old man was wearing pajamas and a coat, and those tennis shoes with Velcro straps.
Only when the old man had moved sufficiently down the hall–three feet from the door–the bouncer looked at Bryan and gruffly motioned him to follow.  Bemused, he stood and followed.
He entered the suite to find a singularly unique scene:  A cavernous, beautifully appointed luxury suite that was completely trashed.
Broken furniture pieces lay about.  Party trash was everywhere:  bottles, cans, pizza boxes.  A half-dozen or so people were casually tossed about like the trash, passed out.  They were of a variety of sexes and in various states of dress.  He had to step over and around things and people to make his way, and almost stepped on a naked woman’s hand.
When he dropped back through difficulty making his way through, the bouncer turned back to him and stage-whispered impatiently:  “Keep up!  In here!”
He entered the room, and the bouncer turned and left, closing the door behind him.  Bryan turned his attention to the person on the bed.  A blonde, buxom woman, wearing some skimpy lingerie.  She was looking at him, but she seemed to be out of it:  her eyes were droopy, and her head lolled a bit.  Was that drool?
She wobbled as she got off the bed.  “Hi!” she said.  “How are *you*?”  She came up to him, rubbed her chest on his.  “You’re a handsome devil.  What’s your name?”  Her voiced was slurred.
“Bryan.”  He cleared his throat.  “I’m–My name is Bryan.”
She walked around him, strutting, and touching him as she did.  “Well, it’s good to meet you Ryan.  My name is Anna.”

The room smelled of perfume, alcohol, and Cheetos, with the faintest hint of ozone.  Bryan wondered at that as he stood while the buxom Anna walked around him, babbling.  He was never sure if she was talking to him or herself or someone else.
“What a nice day. . .It’s been fun.. ..busy though.  Do you like chocolate?  I just took a shower.  That old man was frisky, but he smelled funny.  Where’s my ear rings?  Do you feel lucky?”
Bryan stood, watching her alternately prance and wobble.  He was surprised at how beautiful she actually was.  He watched her ass, which was bare, showing from underneath her short baby doll negligee as she bent over.  She knocked several empty Slimfast cans and a few pill bottles aside, and picked up an earring.
“Hey!” she said sharply, knocking him from is daze.
“Huh?  What–”
“I said–” she repeated, as she put her earring in, popped a pill, downed it with Slimfast, and sidled up to him, pressing her tits hard against his chest, “–‘Do you feel lucky?'”
“Oh.  Well, sure, yeah.  I guess so.”
“‘Cause you were one of only 723 winners selected to receive the grand prize.”  She paused, beaming at him.  “Me!”
“Uh. . .’723’?”
“Yeah, about 780 some-odd people entered the contest, and we had to weed a few of the real losers out.”  Bryan reflected at the barely mobile octogenarian who just left.
She saw his concerned look, and completely misread it.  “Oh, don’t worry; you’re one of the winners.  You get to have me!”  She giggled and pulled at his arm.  “See?  You are lucky.  Come on, let’s fuck!”
Anna pulled Bryan over to the bed, and basically undressed him, with some help from him because she was feeling the effects of whatever drugs she had taken.
Bryan was completely unsure about all of this, but his hard-on won out; being that close to hot chick undressing him–even her–kicked his cock into gear.
She saw the bulge in his underwear when she removed his pants, and said, “There he is!  There’s my wiener-mobile.  She pulled down his underwear and said, “Oh, my!  More like a polish sausage!”  Bryan’s cock was thick, and growing as she looked at it.  She looked at Bryan, and kissed him.  “Thank you.  Thank you for having such a nice wiener.  I’m going to suck it now.”
With that, she pushed Bryan back on the bed and attached her mouth to his cock.  Her hair flowed down around her face.  As she sucked him, taking his cock deep in her big mouth, and her fingers nimbly massaged his balls and stroked his cock, Bryan thought of how awesome it was, and how he’d like to cum in her mouth, and he thought despondently of his cell phone, which had a camera, which he had been forced to leave in a basket when the big black man had searched him upon his arrival.  Dammit.  What had he said?  “No cameras, no condoms, no dildoes. No freaky shit.  Behave your ass.”
He would love to have a picture of Anna-Nicole Smith sucking his cock.  He would show it to his friends, and they would think it was Photoshopped, but he wouldn’t care.  *He* would know.
She sucked his cock sloppily, wetly.  It was good.  She stroked him, lifted his cock, and placed both of his balls in her mouth.  Then she started to hum.  The sensation drove him wild, and he was really getting into it, until he recognized the tune she was humming:
“I’m a Yankee doodle dandy!
“Yankee doodle do or die!
“A real live nephew of my Uncle sam–
“Born on the fourth of July–!”
Bryan pulled back a bit, and she released his balls.  She took his cock back in her mouth for several more minutes of sucking, and she started humming again.
“I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Weiner,
“That is what I’d truly like to be-e-e
“Cause if I were I an Oscar Meyer Weiner–”
Bryan pulled out of her mouth.  “Oh, ready to fuck, huh?  Me too!”  She rolled over and got on her back, put her legs in the air.  “Right here–uh,—shit.  What’s your name again?”
“Bryan,” he said as he rolled to his knees to mount her.
“Yeah, Ryan.  Right here, Ry.  Fuck me, Rye Bread.  Fuck me good, Reagan!
He got between her legs, and she looked good.  Bryan checked out her body before he entered her:  Her eyes half-open, her big titties laying on her chest, her tiny little patch of bleached blonde pubic hair just above her pussy, and finally, her pussy:  the lips were wet, pink, and swollen, sticking out like a cow’s tongue.
She held out her arms for him as he got into position.  She grabbed his cock with one hand and shoved it to her hot, wet hole.  Hot it was, and very wet.  He was amazed at how wet it was; his cock slid right in.
Or did it?  He was sure he was in, but it was so wet and mucous-y that he couldn’t really tell.  And shouldn’t he *feel* her pussy if he was in it?  He felt nothing.  She groaned in pleasure.
*Hmmmph*, he thought.  *Let’s try this again.*
Bryan continued to thrust in and out of her, and he was feeling nothing.  Meanwhile, she was moaning and groaning like a porn star.  Was she really enjoying it?  Could she feel anything?  Or was this her attempt at acting?  His face was screwed up in concentration as he tried to discern if there was any sensation whatsoever.  His cock was thick, and yet he was not touching the sides.  This was one loose cunt.
He thought of asking her to tighten up a bit if she could, but he didn’t want to hurt her feelings, or for her to take it the wrong way–
“Say, your cunt is really loose and I can’t feel anything, can you take up the slack a bit?”
–You never know how someone will take constructive criticism.
Bryan had an idea.  Anna was in the throes of what he was sure was a fake orgasm–either that, or she really didn’t know what an orgasm was, and just thought she was having one–so he decided to ride it out until she was done so he could spring it on her.  He pounded away at her hard, for her benefit, and she seemed to enjoy it, but he was fearful of pulling out too far and then going back in and missing, because he couldn’t tell if he was in or out.
He realized it didn’t matter, because it was like fucking a five gallon bucket; there was no way he was going to miss.
When Anna’s orgasm–to the extent that it was an orgasm, the validity of which is uncertain–subsided, Bryan slowed his pace, and got her attention.
“Anna–?”
“Oh–Yes, Ronnie?”
“Bryan–”
“‘Ryan’?”
“‘Bryan.'”
“Yes, Ronnie?”
“Whatever.  Anna, do you want to switch and turn over, get on your knees?”
“Ooooo – –kinky.  Okay.”  Bryan pulled off of her and leaned back while she got up and turned over.  Whatever she meant by “kinky,” he didn’t know.  This was normal sex–
To the extent that fucking Anna Nicole Smith could be normal.
As she switched up, Bryan looked down at his cock.  Yes, it was still there.  Yes, he could feel it.  It was wet and sloppy from Anna’s pussy, the walls of which he could not feel.  He had doubts about feeling them from this position, too.  But he had a plan.
She got into place, her ass presented for him.  She waggled it at him.  “Come on, Ronnie!  Fuck me!  Fuck me hard!”
She had a nice ass, he had to admit.  Soft and round, nicely shaped, and he could see her pussy and her tiny little butthole.  Time to execute “the Plan.”
He grabbed her hips and guided his cock to what he thought was the general direction of her pussy.  He felt wetness, so he assumed he was in.  Anna-Nicole started making appreciative noises of pleasure, and he still had no idea why.
He put his hand on her pussy and got his fingers wet, and started to play with her asshole.  She muttered, “Naughty-naughty, Ronnie,” but moaned appreciatively.  He stuck his finger in her ass.
“Oooh!” she cried out quietly.  He continued to work her ass, only to see what he could get away with.
And he realized now, he could get away with it.
His cock was soaking slippery wet from her gushing pussy.  He pulled it out of her pussy, and just when she said, “Hey, did you cum yet?  You need to get back in there–” he grabbed the head of his cock, lined it up with her asshole, pushed it against it, and thrust with his hips and shoved his cock deep into her ass.
Anna-Nicole Smith screamed loudly and deeply as Bryan penetrated her ass.  It was pretty tight.  *A damn sight tighter than her pussy, that’s for sure*, Bryan thought.  He was in her to the hilt, and he could finally feel something:  The tightness of her ass.
Anna was panting and gasping in between light screams, and she said, “Wha-what–what the–what the hell are you doing, Ronnie?”
“I’m fucking you in the ass, Anna.”
“No– –”
Her protests trailed off and were replaced by moans of pleasure and pain.  She said no, but she wasn’t pulling away from him.  In fact, for the first time, she started to push back against him, at the right time.
“Oh, God, oh, yes, oh, God, Oh yes, Oh-God-oh-God-oh-God, OH MY GOD!!”  Anna came with a thundering quiver throughout her body.  Her pussy contracted and there was nothing there.  Her ass contracted around Bryan’s cock, and he just paused to enjoy the moment.  That was no fake.  He really made her cum that time.  She called out Ronnie’s name, which only made him fuck her harder.  She came once more, and Bryan realized he wasn’t going to be able to last much longer.
Bryan grabbed her ass cheeks with both hands, and started to really fuck her deep and hard, and with a purpose.  He pulled out as far as he dare, and went in to the hilt.  Anna was still moaning and groaning, either having another orgasm or still in the throes of the previous one.
He was enjoying the fuck, thrusting deeply, feeling his balls slap against the sopping wet pussy of Anna-Nicole.  He briefly feared them getting sucked up inside her cunt, so he thrust harder to keep them away.  They were socking and slurping as they slapped against her cunt.  They were wet, and starting to get itchy and irritated.  Idly, he reflected that he needed to cum soon so he could towel his nuts off.
He fucked her harder and harder, and the pressure started to build inside him.  His nuts started to tighten up, so they weren’t hitting her pussy as much.  He felt as though her pussy lips were surrounding his balls, like he was fucking her ass and her pussy at the same time.  The waves of pleasure started to roll over him, and his cock hardened and thickened, making her feel it more, as he spewed his cum inside her.
“Yes, Ronnie, Yes!  Yes!  Fill me up, baby!  Yes!  Fill me with your hot seed, Ronnie!  Oh, baby!” she screamed as she came again, while he was still pumping away, pouring the last of his cum inside her ass.
He finally stopped, and noticed she wasn’t moving.  He pulled back, and his cock slid out easily, with a plop…like a smooth turd.  Anna’s legs collapsed and she slid flat on the bed.  Bryan got up, and checked her.  Her face was sideways, her eyes closed, and she was snoring.
Bryan got up and took a quick shower in her bathroom while she slept.  He got his clothes on, and when he walked out of the bedroom, the bouncer was sitting in the living room, watching SportsCenter.  He completely ignored Bryan as he gathered his things and walked out.
Out in the hallway, a small, young Asian dude sat nervously in the same chair he had sat in.  “Good luck, dude,”  Bryan said as he walked away, and headed for the elevator. He waited a minute and held the door for the old man in the walker.  They rode down in silence.

Epilogue:
A few months went by, and Bryan heard, like the rest of the world, that Anna-Nicole Smith was pregnant.  He was not surprised in the least, but in an interview with Larry King, Anna said something that was incoherent to most people, but Bryan heard it.  He rewound the TiVo and played it over and over again to be sure.
Larry:  Who’s the father?  Can we ask that?  Do you know who the father is?
Anna, giggling:  Oh, Larry!  It’s you.  Ha-ha.  No, I’m pretty sure I know who it is.  Ronald Reagan came to visit me in dream and impregnated me.”
Everyone else thought it was random babbling, something about “really reaching me in a dream about being pregnant.”
But Bryan knew.
Many months later, after the baby was born, and then Anna was found dead, all of the media frenzy around death ignored a few facts because they made no sense.  Anna Nicole Smith had made up a new will, which was denounced as drug-induced babbling.  Here is an excerpt:

“And I want Ronald Reagan to take care of my baby.  I know it’s not his, but he is a good man who did something very special for me.  Whatever is left of my money after the vultures get it should go to him, to take care of my baby.  I love you Ronnie!”

No Crying In Baseball

June 8, 2011 at 9:46 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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I got out the Turtle Wax to get nostalgic about the past.  Summer–I remember the summer of 1976.
Maybe this is my “Sandlot” moment.  Maybe not.  However, fifth and sixth grade are always a magical time in a young boy’s life.
My first crush, Donna Bilyeu.  My foray into a life of crime as a street urchin.  My first development of social interaction.  How did these events shape me, and make the person I am today?

Although I was raised in the country, for two years we lived “in town.”  The differences were vast.
This is the mid-seventies, living in a city in the St Louis Metro East area.  Cars, traffic, hustle, bustle, people, activity–all of these things were a whirlwind that I, an introverted innocent country lad, adapted to easily.
I had a specific memory that I wanted to write about, but others are coming to mind.  I’ve talked about my life of crime already.  This is more about school.
Our school had a playground in front, asphalt, and fenced in to keep us from going out into the busy street.  The back was a very large playground.  Half was asphalt and half was dirt, but during the previous summer the back was asphalted also.  I guess it makes it better to play softball on?
There were two sixth grade classes because this was a big school.  Two male teachers, Mr Dresch and Mr Goldsmith.  I had heard all kinds of scary things about Mr Goldsmith, and didn’t want to be in his class.
So of course I was.  Before school started, the room assignments were posted.  Man, why did I have all the shitty luck?
As it turns out, Mr Goldsmith was a pretty cool teacher.  He was smart, he was funny, and he knew how to communicate with us hooligans.  Although…
One day for PE we are out on the asphalt playing softball.  The large class is divided into two teams, and positions were random.  On this occasion, I was catcher.  I think Goldsmith assigned me this position so I would have some practice throwing and catching, because I was not athletically inclined in the strictest sense of the word.  Or any sense, really.  Goldsmith was pitching.
I’m doing the usual amount of fumbling around that looks like an uncomfortable montage, but for the most part I catch the ball and more or less return it.  Here’s the windup, here’s the pitch–strike two!
I caught the softball in my throat.
Yeah, not in my nuts, which would have been funnier.  So sorry to disappoint you assholes.
Was my windpipe crushed?  It hurt like a sonofabitch.  Was that a fastball?  A fastball with a softball intended for grade school kids?  I was having trouble breathing.  Was I injured, or just hyperventilating?  It was about 35 years ago so I don’t remember what Mr Goldsmith said to me, but the essence of it was, “Man up.  Get back in there and catch.”
Contrast that with how we coddle and pussify our kids today.

The year before that, in fifth grade, I had to deal with a couple of bullies.  Why do they always seem to want to pick on me?  Did I seem that soft?  Was I an easy target?  A pushover?
The first kid I remember his name.  Wayne Welch.  He had dark hair in a crew cut, and a square face.  And he always smelled like pee.  He tried to hassle me a few times, and I didn’t respond correctly, so eventually it just led to him calling me names and occasionally trying to check me in hallway.
Of course, I had 30 pounds on him, and he usually bounced off ridiculously.
The other kid I don’t remember his name.  Let’s call him Stevie.  When I was in fifth grade, he was in sixth.  I never saw him much, except out on the playground during recess, which is really just an exercise in anarchy with a time limit.  He tried to bully me on the playground, and I was timid, so I put up with it.
Ever notice how most bullies aren’t really good at bullying?
I don’t know why–maybe I talked to an older kid and he told me to stand up for myself, and said it in such a way as to be convincing–but one day on the playground, he made his usual advance, expecting a retreat from me.
Instead, I pushed him back.  He pushed me back.
I don’t think I was fat–let’s call it Husky, like the jeans I wore.  Stevie was a few inches taller but possibly weighed less–he was very skinny.
He pushed me back, and I punched him.
He had a look of complete shock on his face, like he had just woken up and I was standing over him.  I punched him a few more times, and he may have swung wildly at me.  But he was retreating in a circle.
Like a car accident, a crowd gathered around us.  The 200 year-old black woman that was the playground monitor was off somewhere else and couldn’t see this far.
But as quickly as it had started, it was over.  Stevie gave; he capitulated.  He tried to save face—what else are you gonna do?–by saying that he has asthma and was having trouble breathing, and it was making him dizzy.  His nosebleed, too, was a side effect of this condition, and not the result of any punches I might have landed.
Which I kind of believe.  I think I was going for body punches.  The face never occurred to me.
Afterward we talked, and he tried to get chummy with me.  I didn’t understand much of what was going on.  The whole episode seemed strange to me.  But he was respectful if not friendly after that.  I never had a problem with Wayne Welch after that either.
But why in God’s name would someone that is a skinny, frail, asthmatic bleeder try to take on the role of a bully?

I got into two other fights that I remember.  One was epic.  The other one, not so much.
Behind the school, behind the playground and past the gravel alley, was the graveyard.  This was the standard meeting place for fights after school.  And we never went deep into the graveyard either–it was always right at the corner right at the entrance.
I ended up fighting someone there, someone I didn’t know.  It had to be an older kid, most likely a seventh grader.  Those seventh graders were all hardcore, tough as nails.  Bikers.  Gangbangers.  JDs.  That stands for juvenile delinquents.
Whatever happened, I got my ass kicked.  I was hurt, bruised, probably had a bloody nose, and my hands hurt from fighting back.  It happened quick and it was over, and I was left alone to get on my bike and ride home.  Man, I hope Dad wasn’t home.
But he was.  From a block away as I rode up, I could see him out by the car doing some kind of Dad thing.  Shit, what was my story?  A fight?  I didn’t want to get in trouble for fighting, even though nothing ever led me to believe that I would be, except that it should be the natural order of things.  I fell of my bike.  That’s it.
But the emotions from the fight welled up inside me and before I pulled into the driveway I was crying.
Dad didn’t buy the falling off the bike story.  He also knew that I wasn’t crying a few seconds ago.  He was able to put it together that I had been in a fight.  I wasn’t in trouble, but I would be if I kept crying.  Go get cleaned up.
That was the end of that.

How long can a fight go on?  Most fights rarely last more than a minute or two, except in the movies.
I had a wide variety of friends and friends of friends that I hung out with, and also friends that were not part of my regular group of friends.  One of those was Mark Walker.  He was a small, perpetually swarthy looking kid with thin lips, greasy hair, and a wild look in his eyes.
We used to play together on occasion, and hang out sometimes.  I never noticed it, but he never wanted to come around when I was hanging out with my other friends, Randy and Jay.
I don’t know how it happened, but one day during the summer we were in the back grassy lot of the Lutheran school that was about a hundred feet from our house.  The whole gang was there–a lot of people that I knew and some that I didn’t.  Mark and his older brother came around.  There was some interaction, some tension, some drama–
And ultimately it was decided that the solution would be had if Mark and I fought.
It took us a while to get started.  I didn’t really want to, and he didn’t want to get within my reach because I was bigger than him.  Eventually we started to brawl, and we fell into an odd pattern:  He would rush me, throw a bunch of wild punches that landed about 17% of the time, and then I would take one swing, right as his head, and knock him back, knock him down.
He would get up and rush me again, and I would punch him once and knock him down.  Repeat.
This went on for what seemed like hours.  But really–and as I said most fights are over in less than a minute–this went on for a good twenty minutes.
Eventually it was over, and Mark and his brother left.  They were on our turf, after all.  The Lutheran Church was ours.
That historic fight lived on in our memories, and I guess I earned some street cred from the guys.  They never talked about it around me, though.
But after that, Mark and I were never friends again.  I don’t know what the external causes were, but I felt like I was being made to choose between “the gang”–and him.

Maybe It’s A Metaphor

June 5, 2011 at 8:51 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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I went back to school in 2001.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.
In the fall, I hemmed and hawed and finally got around to it, thinking I was too late–
But there was a Saturday class, Intro to Computers, that I needed to take before I took anything else.  And it hadn’t started yet.  Oh.  Okay.  I guess I’m in.
It was an easy, easy class, a perfect way for me to get back into the school groove.  And it paved the way for other classes I wanted to take for my degree.  Starting in January of 02, I took 12 credit hours.
Keep in mind that I was working two jobs at the time.
Two of the classes were fairly in line with each other, and these were 100-level computer classes.  One was Hardware and Software Support–essentially the knowledge for an A+ certification.  The other class was Software and Hardware Concepts.
Think of it as “Turing meets Buddha.”
Maybe it wasn’t supposed to be this way, but the instructor who taught it was a PhD in–God, I *hope* it was Computer Science.  I never asked.
In this class we got a brief rundown of all computer topics.  Starting with math, we went from binary to octal to decimal to hex, with explanations on why and how.
We also learned how computers thought and made decisions, using Boolean algebra.  And we learned a little of the various layers of communication between a computer and a human:  machine language, assembly code, command line basic, and up into C++ and VB–Visual Basic.
I really felt that we were–or I was, anyway–learning the deep secrets of the inner workings of the machine.  Kind of like Tron.
So, this was a 100 level class, like IS 110 or something like that.  Pretty basic stuff.  The class began with about 24 students, a pretty good turnout.  By mid-term, there were about 18 of us.
After the mid-term, there were 12.
Nine of us passed the class.
Bob, the instructor, was a nice guy.  I liked him.  He was obviously smart as hell, too.  Although he didn’t show it, I imagine he held stupid people in contempt.  I respect that.  He had a fairly simple two-step process for weeding out the idiots:  the mid-term and the final.
Okay, the rules were the same on each test:
1) multiple choice
2) take home
3) use any resource whatsoever that you want, but no collaboration between students
Wow!  This was great!  This was going to be one of the great blow-off classes of all time!  How hard can it be, if it’s multiple choice *AND* take home?
I’ll tell you how hard it can be:  They were hands-down the hardest tests I have ever taken in my life, and probably the only time I EVER did any real thinking.
What made them so hard?  Well, it wasn’t a traditional multiple choice test.  The first pages of the test were just the questions, fifty of them.
The last page was the answers.  Twenty sets of A-B-C-D.  The answer to a given question could be ANY ONE of the 80 answers on that page.
The midterm was handed out on a Wednesday, and we had until Monday.  It wasn’t enough time.
It’s a bit blurry for me now–I wish I had the test still.  I don’t think Bob wanted it to get into the wrong hands, though.  If I had known that, I would have made a copy of it.
However, we turned them in, and then when we got them back graded, we went over them question by question.  Bob was willing to make concessions based on valid arguments and vague wording of questions.  I know that I initially got a B on it, but we successfully argued some that I got wrong, and worked my way up to an A.

By the time the final came around, we were less enthusiastic about the “easy” take home test we were given.  Same deal, just as hard.  Maybe harder, because we hoped at this point we would have an understanding of the style and that would give us a small step up.
No, it didn’t.
As I said, we lost students throughout the semester.  On the day we turned in our final, three guys just dropped it off on his desk and then left.
Bob graded them all quickly–about 12 tests–then handed them back to us for us to go over and argue.
Again we were able to successfully make our case on about a dozen questions.  I gained a few points, as did everyone else.
Of course, the students that dropped and walked did not partake of that luxury.
Yes, the moral and the object lesson contained herein are left as an exercise for the student.  You will be graded on your answers.  In fact, you always are–but this time I’m telling you.

A Scanner Darkly

June 3, 2011 at 9:21 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
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First came the mass email reminder to turn in our timesheets.
Then came the angst over filling out the time sheet.
The next day came the email reminder to our whole department from Bunny that timesheets need to be filled out accurately.  That was at 10:27.
At 10:28 I got an email that no one else got, also from Bunny:
“Please see me in my office at 10:30 about your timesheet.”
That’s essentially…right now.

She was waiting in her office, and so was Melissa, my immediate manager.  I’ve written about her before, but I’m not sure it was entirely accurate.  But then, I’ve never worked for her before.
Originally, I thought she reminded me of my ex, The Storm.  But that’s not her.  The Storm is an F-5.  Melissa is an F-2, tops.  But I don’t fuck her, so I can’t be sure.
But here’s what I do know, in all honesty:  I can read people.  Some people I can’t read well, while others wear it on the outside.  Her aura says “BITCH” in a  shiny, glittery, script font.
The thing is, she’s never done anything to me, but I can tell.  Among all the other little things, she has a…fake little laugh–this tittering that she does, a forced laugh to show that she’s easy-going.  Hell, maybe she’s in a 12-step program to overcome being a bitch for all I know.  And she just has the look on her face like she is disgusted all the time.  She has potential; I suppose she could go either way.
So I come in, and Bunny is professionally friendly, beckoning me to come in and sit.  I guess I paused–and she caught it.  Damn it, she can read me.  On to the meeting.
Melissa was mostly quiet.  I’ve been in these before; when I was written up, Erica had Carrie sit in on the meeting as a witness.  So I’m in trouble.
Bunny asks about the timesheet.  She’s not pointing to this week, she’s pointing to last week.  *This* week we had Memorial Day, and others my group reasoned that going “overtime” would be okay because it wasn’t overtime pay–we had only four days.  I had 8 holiday hours, but instead of 32 regular hours I had 36.
But she was pointing at last week, where I dutifully (I really don’t know how else to describe it–is “stupidly” a synonym for that?) wrote in 40 hours.  I arrive at 8am, take a half hour lunch, and leave at 430.  Eight hours a day, 40 for the week.
“Melissa said she knows that on more than one occasion last week, you were here at least until 515.  Were you just hanging around, doing some personal things–”
I can see she was trying to give me an out.  I didn’t want it.
“–Or were you working?”
Time for honesty.  Finally.  What had been brewing in me for weeks, I could finally express.  “Oh, I was working.”
I really don’t remember how she phrased the question, and the writer in me is struggling to create with fiction what she said in reality.  The gist of her question had to do with *why*?  Why was I doing this?  Why was I working for free when we just had a meeting expressly about this topic?  Why was I fudging my time?
The question was phrased perfectly so that this was the perfect answer:
“Because I–we–all of us in Shipping are scared to death that we’re going to lose our fucking jobs.”
I hope I kept my voice and tone under control.  I said it as calmly as I could manage.  Christ, I was close to crying, from the sheer emotional release because I could finally tell her.
She looked shocked, but not as shocked as she should have been if she didn’t know anything at all.  Bunny’s a smart girl.  She can put things together.  I continued, controlling the cracking in my voice.  “We are scared to death that if we don’t do everything that you want–all of this that you pushed on us–that you’ll fire us and replace us.”
She said a few soothing things, but I don’t remember what order they were in.  Things like:
She reminded me that she told us that it was going to be hell for us in shipping as they made these changes, and that eventually it would get easier.  I’m not buying that, but that comes later.
She also said that they–she–wasn’t looking to get rid of anyone in shipping.  She added that last as a caveat…was she looking to get rid of people elsewhere?  I guess they always were…
Also, doing this was not making it better.  If it took longer than they anticipated (which to me means they had pie in the sky dreams about this stuff being completely automatic and could be done in seconds but now the reality is starting to come home) then she needs to know to adjust her projections and expectations.  They need to know accurately how much can be done.
Melissa spoke up at this point, saying something about, oh, not being able to get the work done is not as serious as fudging your timesheet.  Well, okay.  In the cage match of the lesser of two evils, I bet on the wrong pony.
After that we talked about specifics.
Bunny admitted that she’s never really worked in shipping–but she’s done all the other jobs that lead to it.  She does know that Shipping has gotten shit on in the past, because anything the other departments couldn’t do or wouldn’t do correctly had to be fixed in shipping.  She wants to change that.
Starting with this stacking order project of hers.  How to gently burst this bubble?  We had 2 dozen stacking orders, one for each investor, because that’s how we did it five years ago.  Requirements have changed, and even the investors don’t necessarily need it that way.  So we were going to switch to a single stacking order that would start with the LOA, and stay with the file all the way through the process and everyone would be responsible for keeping it in that order so we wouldn’t have to stack the files any more.  It seems ridiculous to tear the file apart completely and put it back together–
Nonetheless, that’s what we do in shipping.  However, I had to tell her this point about three times before she heard me:
“Stacking the file is not the problem.  Stacking doesn’t take that much time.  Stacking is not the issue.”
“Huh?”
“Most files we can stack in less than ten minutes.  That’s not the problem.  The problem is all the other things that keep getting thrown onto us and added on to our work.  It turns a 15-minute project into a 35-minute ordeal.”
“Like what?”
Exactly.  She didn’t know.  “Everything else we have to do to the file, some of which is investor-specific, but it doesn’t matter.  We have to fill out forms, look things up, check numbers, and now fill out the insurance letter as well.  We have to make sure we have our lock and our appraisal early, so we have time to track them down.  We have to update Avista with the information.  Everything we do, in fact.”
I felt like I was pleading our case.  “Even after the file is stacked, it’s not the end of our day.  We have two hours or more of work *after* they are stacked.  They have to be scanned–it takes time, even if we’re doing something else, then it slows down the other things we are doing.  After it is scanned, they have to be imported–and these big files take time.  And then we have to convert them to PDF–and that takes time–much more time.  Just, please–understand–all of these things take time to do.  They really do.  We have been busting our ass over there–to please you.  All for you.  We have come up with every shortcut we can think of to make it quicker for us.  Every day we are fighting the clock.  Every day.”
Bunny had new information.  I could see she was processing it.  So now, the problem was out in the open.  Let’s talk solutions.  And we did, a variety of them.  I finally got out my idea about the tax sheet, which is brilliant and so I won’t get credit for it.  But it also led to the insurance letter discussion as well.  The bottom line is, these are both things we have to fill out manually but we have the software capability to have them generated and populated automatically, saving time and aggravation.
Judy, who is Bunny’s boss, poked her head in, apologized, and had to take Kim away for two minutes.  In the corporate world that is anywhere from 7 minutes to three weeks, but Bunny was back in ten.
While she was gone, Melissa and I shared some awkward silence.  Finally I had to tell her something that I couldn’t tell Bunny.  “You know, it wasn’t you, but when you were out for a few days and we had to go to Bunny to sign off on our files–”
“Sign off on them” is our office lingo for when they give us 12 gallons of shit to stuff into 2 5-gallon buckets and we know we can’t get it all done, but we give it our level best and then later in the day we return some of the unpacked shit so that it can be initialed and okayed by the manager to push off for the next day–they sign off on them.
“–she gave us all kinds of grief about it, not accepting any excuses for not getting the impossible done.  After that, it’s just been hard to bring them back because we don’t want to catch hell for it.”
We discussed that briefly.  Melissa conceded that as long as it was reasonable, go ahead and bring them back.  For instance, if you have 12 and can only do 10, that’s fine.  However, if you have ten and then only get 4 of them done, you have some explaining to do.  That’s logical, in theory.
I did ask for an allowance to make sure Serena and I can take care of the ordering, and she agreed.  Cool.
After Bunny came back, we discussed some particulars, and she said that they have been neglecting shipping, and now they need to get in there pay attention to it.  I’m honestly not sure if I want that.
But I feel better.  I feel I was finally able to tell her our side.  I went to bat for my team, and told her all of our concerns, and she listened, and even agreed to be reasonable.
Catharsis, like happiness, is relative.

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