Emptiness Is Not a Container

August 4, 2012 at 1:40 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
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I thought I would take a quick break from whatever the hell it is that I’m doing and try to catch you up on things.  I look at the empty folders of my blog and wonder if it’s a metaphor for my ridiculous life.  What do I write a blog for, anyway?
Before you answer that, let me give you some context–
–And who are “you”, anyway?  Sometimes I feel like I am writing to…the world.  My base of loyal fans, or future generations, or maybe God, asking for a detailed appraisal of my life because it’s in appeal whether or not I can get into heaven.  If so, I’m in trouble.
And sometimes I feel like I’m writing to my kids.  I don’t get to see them often enough now, and I know I am missing out on things going on in their lives, and they are missing out on mine as well.  I want them to know me.  It’s part of knowing themselves.
So maybe it’s for future generations after all…
And back to context:  I have said (and I still maintain) that anyone who writes poetry is whacked in the head.  I give as an example my own poetry, and my emotional state when I wrote it.
Likewise, when I started writing this blog–my journal, my life–I had some things going on, but I didn’t realize it.
Since I first started writing–maybe 2004?–this some of what has happened:
My mother had just recently passed away
We bought a house and moved
I left my wife
I met someone new
My father passed away
I moved again–a total of five more times
Divorce and so forth
Changed part time jobs numerous times
And those are the big things.  Lots of little things happened, too.  I wrote about most of them.  And some point I wasn’t writing regularly because not enough was happening that was interesting.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  An old Chinese curse is “May you live in interesting times.”  I understand that whole-heartedly.  My life has been less interesting in the last two years, and for that I’m grateful.
Of course, some things have happened and I don’t even know if I wrote about them because they were fairly painful and traumatic for me.  Maybe I should have, because I would remember them better.  Detroit ended up in the hospital a few times between December and January, and in January she had surgery, where they did a bowel resection and removed about a foot of intestine–remember, she has Crohn’s Disease.

So here’s what is happening lately:
Well, I’m grateful except for the part about Detroit, my lovely fiance, being out of work since Labor Day of last year.  Irony, anyone?  We have struggled to get by on my one and sometimes two incomes, her unemployment, food stamps, and creative juggling of the bills.
Twice I’ve made the New Year’s Resolution to not have any utilities shut off…and broken it by February.
Detroit has been actively looking for job.  I didn’t see it because I was at work, but I trust that she was.  And besides, I saw proof of it.  Last year in November she took a test that was required if you wanted to apply for any government jobs with the state.  By December she had the results–she passed and did well–and by January she started getting letters informing her of job openings for which she could interview.  I don’t know how many interviews she has been on–hell, she might not even know–but it’s been a fucking lot of them.
Just this week, after she got back from an interview, she got a call from someone who had interviewed her two weeks prior and offered the job.  What do you do when you get a job offer after being unemployed for 11 months?
You take the fucking job, that’s what you do.
She did.  She starts in two weeks.  Of course, just as there are hoops to jump for an interview, there are hoops to jump prior to starting a job.
Whenever she got a letter indicating there was a job opening, she had to either a) let them know she would go to the interview or b) let them know *WHY* she wasn’t going.  Otherwise, the letters would stop.
After she let them know she would, she generally had to fill out an application, get copies of her reference letters, and send them in either by fax or email or snail mail, depending on what each one required.  Then also bring that stuff to the interviews.
She traveled widely over the city and county and once to the neighboring county for interviews.
So it made sense that when she got this call, after she accepted she had to ask, “I’m sorry, but I have been on so many interviews–who are you with and where am I going?”
Her job is going to be near where her job with the Jennings school district was.  There’s a government building in a shopping center (now called Westfall Center after former County Executive Buzz Westfall, but I know the place as Northland Plaza) at the corner of West Florissant and Lucas and Hunt.
Her job will be with the division of family services, I guess.  In the same building they also do Probation and Parole, and she has interviewed for those jobs as well.  It is just a clerical/secretarial position–she won’t have to solve anyone’s life problems.
Now that she has the job offer, and a start time in two weeks, she has to do things like get fingerprinted and photographed and get an FBI background check.
A job with the state doesn’t necessarily pay that well, but of all of our hopes and dreams, being rich fell off a long, long time ago.  What a state job does offer is excellent benefits and pretty good job security:  she’d pretty much have to kill someone on the job and then lose the appeal process with the union backing her up to lose her job.
It’s good news.  We celebrated the other night and went out for steak.  However, Detroit does have some concerns, mostly about her health.  Is she going to be able to do the job?
Well, it’s not strenuous physical activity.  It’s office work.  For the state.  You have to not be a vegetable to do that job.  I think she’ll be okay.

Meanwhile, back at Eats–
A little about my job now.  In March, I had my seven-year anniversary at the bank.  One thing I earn at seven years is an increase in PTO.  I was getting 11.25 hours accrued per month, and it increased to 14.25.  That means that I went from three weeks to four weeks of time off, essentially.  If you do the math it’s a little more.
It’s a hell of a thing to bitch about, but 4 weeks is too much time off.  I can only roll over 40 hours into the new year; the rest of it doesn’t get lost but gets “banked” as something for use as, like…I don’t know, time I can use for family leave for extended illness or something like that.  I don’t want to have to find out.
Also, there is a rule–a federal law, actually, and most of what we do at a bank is controlled by federal guidelines–that all employees must take off five business days in a row during a calendar year.  They must take a week off.
The philosophy is not to guard our well-being.  It’s because they (the government) knows that people can’t be trusted.  Therefore, if you are up to some shit, it has a better chance of being uncovered if they can get you away from your desk for a week.
So when I started at the bank, I took quite a leap.  I realize that I never fully engaged the…I don’t know, the corporate culture or the mortgage culture.  People who are in it say mortgage is a different animal.  I’ve been witness to it over the past few years.
When I started, I was just scanning.  Essentially data entry, and the date I was entering was images of pages.  Documents.
But I did it well and I wasn’t promoted because that would be stupid–I had no idea what I was doing.  But I was given raises.
So for five years I did pretty much nothing except scanning.  I did take on other duties related to the equipment–I’m still the peripheral wrangler on my floor.  We had some shake-ups, and I did write about those.  There was a day when several loan officers quit and took a lot of their loyal support people with them to go to a competitor.  Over 40 people quit in one day.
About two years ago, I had some slack in my day and went looking for something to do.  I’m willing to learn and I’m fairly smart, but no one wanted to teach me anything.  I had a friend in department that was swamped, and she suggested I help them out.  I did, and I learned some new stuff.  I was pretty happy.  I managed to be in one department, be scanning for another, and be auditing FHA files for Lender Insuring–yet another department.
My boss noticed this–and there were other things going on as well–so I got moved to another department where my work could actually be measured.  I was moved to shipping.
I liked it, but I wasn’t doing very well.  I still don’t understand why.  But it was the first time I had time constraints and deadlines to deal with since coming to the bank.  It was quite an adjustment.  I loved the rush of…well, the rush.  It was like the old days at Domino’s when we had a thirty-minute guarantee.
And then there was the day about a year ago when about 20 people where laid off.  That was a hard, scary day as well.
After that, I started a new position:  I was in Final Documents.  It was like the finishing touches for our relationship with the investor.  I liked final docs.  I was doing it by myself, and then I had some help, and then by myself again.  Then they gave me some actual help, a stern but nice lady named Melba.  It went well with Melba for a few months.  In January, she went on vacation, and I started to get behind.  She got sick and stayed out longer, and I got behinder.  Then she came back.  Then she put in for her retirement, and was gone in less than a week, this time for good.  I got behinder and behinder.
They moved a temp over to help me.  I liked Janine, but honestly–
She lasted about a month with me, and I was grateful for the help.  She acted like I was her boss, and that was cool.  She left when she got an offer for a permanent job.  Good for her.  I was cleaning up her mistakes for the next two months.
I just started yet another new gig.  Now I do “Investor Accounting.”  My boss, Bunny, is trying to solve a lot of high-end problems with the mortgage pipeline, and she thinks if she can control the wires she can fix the pricing discrepancies.  I’m not going to go into any more detail because I don’t understand much of it, but I understand enough of it to know that it’s not very interesting unless you’re in the middle of it.
But she wanted to move me into a position where I can communicate with the investors, charm them, and get them to do things her way.  First I have to learn it.
So that’s what I did last week.  I learned this new thing.  I learned so much that my head hurts.  I am done learning new things for several days.  I guess until Monday.  I learned so much that I had this conversation with another manager:
She:  Are you okay?
Me: (surprised)  Sure–why?
She:  You just seem…you’ve had a scowl on your face all day.
Me:  Oh, that.  I’m just…very deep in thought.
And I was, too.  Trying to process everything I was learning, with knowing that Bunny was expecting me to learn it, know it, excell at it, and then make improvements.  It’s only been a week.
Yeah, it’s only been a week, and I’ve already made one improvement, and I have a plan for making another major one.  The one improvement I did make?
Here’s the old way:  I get these emails, print the PA (Purchase Advice) from the investor.  I go into a program and print the Pay History for that loan.  Using those two docs, I go into another program and fill out the funding sheet and then print that.  A three-page doc for each file.  The funding sheet I would scan in and send accross the street so that Dianna could process that part and make the wire transfers go through.  Not my thing.
Then I would take the three page doc and scan it into PowerFlow, our file system.  I would wait until the next day, in the morning, and do all of them together.  Then shred the paper.
You know…back in the 80s, we were promised paperless computer world.  We have computers *Everywhere*, and I see more paper than I’ve ever seen before.  At the bank they’ve tried to embark on this philosophy called “Paperless.”  I think I need to step up and champion the cause.
Friday, I didn’t print a single piece of paper.
I set my computer’s default printer to a program that prints to PDF.  When it does this, it creates a file and you have to name it.  I made a folder with Friday’s date and everything went there.  I quickly came up with a scheme to name the pages to keep track of them.
I emailed Dianna the attachements instead of faxing over copies of printoffs.  She noticed that they were so much easier to read.
I use a spreadsheet to track them all.  At the end of the day I called her to see if I had the same number of files that she had.  I could hear her rifling through papers as she counted–
Yeah, I think I can fix some of this.
Later I had time to do some of my old job.  Because, yeah, I still have my old job doing final docs.  I’m a one-man department doing that job, and I was understaffed when I was doing it full-time.  I had to drop off a doc at the title company, and Mary axed me could I clean her scanner for her?
I said yeah, remind me again on Monday.  I told her briefly about my new job, and how I still had my old one.
“Oh–did you get a promotion?  Or is it a sideways move, or…?”
“I don’t know.  What’s it called when you’re holding a bucket of poisonous spiders, and they hand you bucket of poisonous snakes and say, here, take care of this too?  Yeah, I got a promotion.”


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.”
“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.

Communication Is Over-rated

May 18, 2011 at 8:29 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
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I just got a phone the other day–I’d been without one for almost a month.  I’m working only one job, and that is not enough to pay the bills, bro.  I need to be looking for a new part time job.
And ye cannah do that without a phone.  Because what if you successfully lie to someone enough that they’re willing to hire you?  They’ll want to call me.
That’s…really all I have on that.
Meanwhile, my day job has been a bit of a drag.  It’s complicated and I’m not sure wherein the blame lies; however, I do know that I am working more and making less money.
I’m making less in two ways:  first, my “bonus”–my incentive–is not what it was before.  I’ve tracked it for the last few years, and it’s been averaging between three and four hundred clams per month.  Since I’ve been doing actual shipping in the shipping department, my incentive be different and I’ve made a (very) little over a hundred.  That’s *one* hundred.
Not only that, but I’ve been working harder–I’ve been actually working, compared with what I had been doing the past six years.  Look, before, my job was essentially this:  I get stacks of paper, I put them in the scanner, I click a button.  I enter some data in the appropriate fields.  Repeat.
Endlessly repeat.
Now Bunny is my boss again, and she promised me–no, she told me…no, maybe she vaguely hinted at the possibility of more money doing this other thing.
Let me explain briefly (if I can do it briefly):
I work in the mortgage division.  There are distinct sections, departments, that handle various phases of the loan process that always go like clockwork.  Origination, underwriting, processing, and closing.  Then there is the post-closing area, of which I am a part.  After closing loans go to pre-shipping–I still don’t know what the hell that is–and then shipping.  Me.  Well, me and a few others.  We ship the loans.
Why?  And where?  Well, the way we make money is we originate the loans with the intention of selling them to other investors.  The big ones are Bank of America, Chase, Wells, and BB&T.  After the loan closes, the clock is ticking.  Hell, after the loan LOCKS, the clock is ticking.  After it is closed and funded and the deal is done and people have their keys and they are moving into their dream home–we have work to do.  We have to get the loan to the investor and we have a limited amount of time to do it.
First we take the loan apart, pretty much page by page, and re-assemble it in a more astheticallly pleasing manner, called the stacking order.  And each investor has their own particular stacking order.
And there are other things along the way–check things off, verify information, print out certain docs, fill out paperwork.  Then we send them to the investor.  For the smaller outlets, we re-stack it, scan it into our file system, re-hole punch it, and ship via overnight UPS the entire loan package.  The others–most of them–we scan in, convert to PDF, and send electronically.  Of course, we still physically ship the live note overnight to them.
By the way, the average size of a file is almost 400 pages.  Most are in the 300+ range, and some are 600 pages.
So how many can one person do in a day?  That’s the crux of the situation, the heart of the matter.  How many can I do in an 8-hour day?
How many can I do in an 8-hour day when I’m busting my ass, and taking care of my other side jobs, such as ordering supplies and maintaining equipment?
When people say they work in a fast-paced office environment, what they mean is what I do.  I am quite literally working at a dead run for most of the day.
And I’m new to this.  Not new here, but new in this job.  When I first started, I was lucky to finish four or five loans in a day.  I’ve gotten faster–I had to get faster–but yesterday, for instance, we three that do the regular loans had ten each.  Me, Blair, and Kimmy.  (Serena is now in shipping also, and she does complex packages like Rurals and MHDCs, so she can do no more than five a day because they take so long.)  So we each had ten.  We have to really hump.  Kimmy is faster than both Blair and I; she’s been doing this for five years, and Blair for one year.  Me, three months now.
Long about noon Melissa, our direct manager, comes by with some good news:  We are each getting two more loans.  As an added bonus, it’s going to be like this for the rest of the month–shipping as much as we can–and no, no overtime is allowed.  As a collective, the wind just came out of sails.
There is a certain time of day when you want to be done stacking, and hopefully be done scanning and on your way to importing and PDFing (yeah, we made up that word.  That time is about 3pm.  It takes time to import them, and it takes time to convert the docs to PDF, and it takes time to ship them electronically.  We have a hella fast internet connection, but uploading takes longer than downloading.  And these files are large.  Converting it to PDF takes the longest amount of time, because, again, these files are large.

I have already put in a lot of hours for free.  Overtime was cancelled because we are “slow.”  We don’t seem that slow to me.  Other departments are slow, but they haven’t really lost a lot of people.  Our department lost people–all of our temps–and they throw more work on us.
My good friend Bunny is the boss, but she has pressure from her BOSS.  We need to perform, and do it cheaply.  They have us do all these extra things as they change operations.  Each time they say, “Oh, well that doesn’t really add much time to what you’re doing.”
But it does.
And–they remember all the things they’ve done to make our job easier and quicker (and I have no idea what those things are), and they exaggerate their estimation of how much time that saves us.
No overtime.
Last night, we were all at work until after seven pm.  For Kimmy, a ten-hour day.  For Blair and Serena, 11 hours.  For me, 12 hours.  I came in at 7, knowing I had ten files and I wanted to get a jump on it.
If things go smoothly, you can stack and prep a file in…20 to 30 minutes.
It hardly ever goes smoothly.  If something is missing or wrong or odd, you have to find someone, contact someone, fix it, figure it out, make adjustments.  Contrary to what managers think, this shit takes time.
This stuff has to go by a certain date.  But also, each day the loan stays is worth money, depending on many variables and beyond my knowledge at this point.  Every day  a loan stays in our house means money, but sometimes it is for us rather than against us.  Still, they want them out as fast as they–we–can get them right now.  Bunny’s boss has put unrealistic expectations on her because–she says–he wants her to fail.
So she pushes those unrealistic expectations on us, with a no-excuses attitude.

Here’s my problem:  She’s my friend.
I feel that they–management–have created an adversarial relationship between us and them.  They feel that we aren’t working hard enough, we are slacking, and every one us is a lazy pathetic slug looking to rip the company off.  Therefore they have to retaliate and defend themselves and make us work harder to offset the ridiculous amounts of money they pay us just to break even.
They haven’t–they won’t listen to us about what we are dealing with.  No excuses, get it done.  What if we can’t get it done without going into overtime?  Work faster.
But what if we already are?  What then?  No answer.
I’m going to work 50 hours this week, and get paid for 40.  And get ripped off on my incentive, because it is also tied to mistakes.  If we work faster, we’ll make mistakes.  What is the point of working harder?  And right now especially, I could use the money overtime would bring.  I’m dying over here.
I’d like to know that they at least appreciate what we’re doing–but I don’t see that happening.
Bunny is my friend.  I love her dearly.  But right now I don’t like her very much.  I wish I could tell her.

Santa Baby

December 20, 2010 at 10:36 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment

Jamily is the marketing director at the bank.  The other day she sent this email to three people, and I was one of them.

From: Jamily M
To: Carrie S; Greg H; Bryan B
Subject: Santa costume
Does anyone have a Santa costume I could borrow for a Marketing thing we’re doing?
I need it for Dec. 17 and Dec. 20.
Jamily M
Marketing Director – Mortgage Div.
From: Bryan B
To: Jamily M
Subject: RE: Santa costume
You sent this to a pretty limited group of people.  Do you want me to list some other fat people for you?
Merrily Christmas-y Yours,
Bryan Bushong
Shipping Department
From: Jamily M
To: Bryan B
Subject: RE: Santa costume
Not to fat people–I sent it to Fun people who dressed up in the past. And I thought Carrie’s church might have a costume.
I didn’t want to send to the whole building.
Already to sent the loan officers. If you know a few people, only send to them?
Jamily Maloney
From: Bryan B
To: Jamily M
Subject: RE: Santa costume
Good save.
I was hoping something like that was the reason you sent it to Carrie–You can’t do that to women, it’s not polite.
The closest thing I have to a Santa costume is red boxers.  I could wear a belt with it…
Merrily Christmas-y Yours,
Bryan Bushong
From: Jamily M
To: Bryan B
Subject: RE: Santa costume
Please don’t wear that.
And that wasn’t a save—it was the truth. I’ve taken pix from events we have here before, and I remember who dressed up and who didn’t!
Jamily Maloney
From: Bryan B
To: Jamily M
Subject: RE: Santa costume
I have to wear the belt or the boxers will fall down.  I don’t want to get in trouble.
Merrily Christmas-y Yours,
Bryan Bushong

Oddly Enough, I never heard back from her after that.

Cage Match

December 13, 2010 at 10:42 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
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With all this going on–

The Title Company was having a silent auction, with the benefits going to Lynn, one of their employees.
Lynn is a nice lady; I’ve worked with her and for her.  She generally goes to the City and County Government offices to take care of the recording, and I went with her a few times to learn how. I covered for her earlier this year when she was out sick briefly.
But she’s been out for a while and I didn’t know it–they got someone else to do the recording.  Lynn has cancer.  I don’t know the details but she is not working right now because of it.
Having spent some time with her, I know she has a boyfriend (which is odd to say when you’re in your fifties) that is in jail.  He is serving time for a DUI, or repeat offenses of that nature.  Maybe he is a good guy, with a bad turn of luck.  I’m not judging.
He’s supposed to get out of jail in January, after serving something like two or three years.
Because she gots no man around, I worked on her car this summer, doing her brakes for cheap.
So with all that going on, and then with the cancer, she’s been in a tough financial situation–hence the charity auction.
I’m not the most charitable person.  In fact, I’m kind of selfish.  But this is for Lynn, someone I know and someone who genuinely needs help.  I go check out the goods.
Some are decent but most don’t appeal to me.  But there is one basket I like.  It has a gift certificate to the theater, a DVD I’d like to have, popcorn, and various theater-style candy.
Opening bid, 25 bones.
I saw it up to thirty-five.  I want to help out Lynn, and be a good guy.  I write down fifty.  That was around noon.  I figured my chances were pretty good, but then again I don’t really know how these things work.
The auction ends at 2pm, so about 130 I make a circle and check it out.  It’s up to 75 bucks.  Shit.  Man, I can’t afford much more than that.  The last two names on there, of course, are Loan Officers.
If you don’t understand how this works, I’m not going to start at the beginning and explain it all to you.  Just understand this:  LOs have all the money.  They are super-salesmen and they sell loans.  In addition to making an ass-load of cash for themselves, they keep all the rest of us working.  LOs are gods.  They are The Rainmakers.
Several different LOs have the highest bid on most of the items.  Crap.  This is how it always–
I leave, and come back with about 6 minutes left.  I hover and check it out.  The movie package I want is up to 100 dollars.  Fuck.  I’m in over my head.  I could barely afford the fifty.  I was going to wait it out and raise it from 75 to 80.  I *was*, anyway–but that ship has sailed.
One hundred dollars.  The clock is ticking away.  How much is this about me not wanting to lose?  Most of it?  Does it matter what the motivation is if the money goes to a good cause?
That right there is a riddle for the ages.
A couple of other LOs are rolling around, checking things out.  Expensively dressed and perfectly coiffed–this is the office-wear of an LO.  I hung back against the wall in the small conference room near the movie package.  Four minutes.  At two minutes till I look for my opportunity–two male LOs are brandishing their penises in a mock power play of homoeroticism.  I casually grab the pen and take a breath.  I write down “105.”  We just got paid today, and I get some cash, and kind of tighten up over the next week.  I might be all right.  And I might eat ramen noodles for a while.
Just then Carol comes in, the manager of the title company and the one running the auction.  She says, “One minute left, guys.”
Upon hearing that, the latest LO to enter the room went over to the bid sheet for the movie package.  He looked at it and let out a condescending, dismissive chuckle and wrote down his name and his bid. “150.”
He’s laughing and joking with his compatriots, all made of money.  At six-three and well over 300 pounds, I don’t see how I could be invisible to them, but I was.
I just walked out.  At the reception desk, there was a fishbowl with about 7 dollars worth of ones in it for the small candy and banana-nut bread someone had brought in to sell for the event.  I just took the money out of my pocket–ALL the money I had in my pocket–what I had left from tips from the previous night, and tossed it in the bowl.  It was probably forty bucks.

What is a hundred dollars?  What is a hundred dollars to you?  I’ll tell you what a hundred dollars to me is:  I would have to work harder, pick up an extra shift or two, and smile and hustle more on my second job for a hundred dollars.  I have to work a second job for there to even be a goddamn hundred dollars that I can’t afford to give.
What is a hundred dollars to a loan officer?
“Oh, crap.  I accidentally tipped the valet with a hundred dollar bill instead of a ten.  Oh, well.”
That’s what a hundred dollars is to a loan officer.  That goddamn 105 that I was going to give sure as shit meant a lot more to me than the 150 does to him.  I was making a sacrifice.  He was making a selfish “I want it” decision, knowing his name was going to be on the list showing what a great guy he is.
I threw my forty bucks in there anonymously–and I’m telling you because I’m not sure who I’m telling so it is more or less anonymous.  I’m not bragging.  But basically I’m pissed because I didn’t win, and because of how I lost.  I was just swept aside and my paltry bid was just laughed off.  And maybe it doesn’t make me a good person to be upset about it.  Hell, I’m over it now.
What does a hundred dollars mean to you?

Is This The Real Life?

November 20, 2010 at 9:49 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment

Is this just fantasy?

I went over to the FHA Department to pick up some files to work on.  I have my own shit, but I try to help them when I can.  Janet gave me a tub of files, and as I walked around the corner I was following Kim.  Crystal was behind me, and she stopped at a file cabinet.  Crystal is a cute black girl.  She has long hair with big curls, not the standard tight weave.  I was only acquainted with her, but we have chatted a bit.
Crystal calls to Kim.  “Before you run off–Kim–what should I do with these files here?”
Feeling sassy, Kim turns to her and says, “Bend over and I’ll show you where you can put those files.”  Then Kim laughed and turned and kept walking away.
Crystal–a sassy little tart herself–turned around on hearing Kim, and slowly bent over, and then she slowly, seductively shook her ass.
And she had a nice ass, too.  It might even be considered small for a black girl.  For a white girl, it was full and firm and round, and not too big.  It was shaped nicely.  I wanted to jump right behind her and smack that ass.  Instead, I just stared right at it.
Crystal straightened up and turned around, and was startled to see me standing there.  She smiled and blushed purple as she said, “Oh–I–Uh, I thought Kim was standing there…”
I said simply, “No, she isn’t.  But thank you.”

Show Me The Money

November 9, 2010 at 10:38 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
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I had been so focused on the actual event–this thing I had to deal with–that I was surprised when this thought crossed my mind:  “I am SO going to blog about this.”
I don’t go looking for shit.  Shit comes looking for me.

We finally got the money from this insurance policy of my dad’s, three and a half years late.  A little bit.  My sister and I each received half, but we split the total three ways, with our brother.  Still, what was left was a hefty chunk.  And after all that time, it had accrued interest.
That part didn’t surprise me.  What surprised me was that *we got the interest.*  So each of us got almost 2 grand more than we were going to get originally.  I believe the correct phrase here is “Boo-yah!”
I’m not sure what my brother is doing with his chunk of money, but I think my sister is going to have herself committed.  Here’s hoping.  As for Detroit and I, we’ve been planning for a long time to remodel the kitchen.  Of course this money, even with the added interest, is not enough to out-right have our kitchen done.  Besides that, I had to pay a couple of bills.
And we were hoping to get new computers.
But the plan for the kitchen involves us doing the work ourselves, and we had been shopping around to get an idea of what we wanted and what it would cost.  The previous week we found the floor we like.  Boom.  Done.
We had an idea of what we wanted for the back splash, but we weren’t finding it.  We know what we want to do for cabinets–I’m going to make them.         Appliances?  We’ve been looking, but–
Detroit said that the Maytag warehouse store is having a clearance sale.  Okay, let’s go.  Actually, we went to a Sears outlet store in the mall first, and came away unimpressed.  Off to Maytag.
Well, the bottom line there is that we changed our color choice from black to white, for a couple of reasons.  First, our refrigerator is fine, and it’s white.  Second, we found a stove that was really damn cheap, and it was white.  Essentially, for the price of a stove, we got the stove, the dishwasher, and the OTR microwave/convection oven.  That’s a good deal right there, I don’t care who you are.

First Pass
After making that purchase, we wanted to check out the computers.  I had previously seen a sale at Wally World for this weekend, an early Black Friday sale.  The laptop I wanted was 398, and the one Detroit wanted 288, on sale from 398.
Now, why didn’t I want the 288 one also?  Personal preference, Jack.  So back off.
We selected our items, plus picked up an All-In-One printer for 32 dollars.  We rounded it off with two laptop cooler/support trays, and a USB mouse for me because I don’t like the mouse pad on the laptop.
Why yes, we would like the service plan for each of the laptops!  But no, not on the printer.  For 32 bucks, if I have a problem–hell, if I run out of ink–I’ll just buy a new printer.  Thank God for US commercialism and waste.
The card was declined.
This was my debit card, attached to the account with all the money in it.  It should not have been declined.  We ran it as credit first, then tried again as a debit.  No go.  We surmised that maybe I had a daily spending cap on my card.  Okay, we could try again the next day–Sunday.
My idea was that all of this is on the card, not necessarily the account.  I could write a check.  I told Detroit to go back and gather the stuff again, and I would run out to the van and get my check book from my bag.
Except I didn’t have my checkbook.  I then remembered I took it out and put it in a a drawer, because I so rarely needed it that I didn’t want to always be carrying it around.  I called Detroit, and told her I would meet her at the door, and we high-tailed it out of there.
Total time, including drive: an hour and half

Sunday, we go out and try again.  But first, I got online and tried to find some information.  I looked on the back of my debit card for a customer service number, and there isn’t one.  THERE ISN’T ONE.  Everyone else has a number to call on the back of their card.  What the fuck?
I go to the bank’s website to search, and there’s no information.  None.  Nowhere.  There’s a number to call if your card is lost or stolen, but my card was neither lost nor stolen; I had it right there in my hand.  Since it was a VISA debit card, I went to VISA’s website and looked.
It took several layers of clicking to get to a page with a phone number.  When I called an explained, a very nice woman with an Indian accent said that my bank serviced its card through Wells Fargo.  She gave me the number, and then also connected me.
I sat on hold for about 15 minutes before I realized that I wasn’t on hold, I was disconnected.  I called the number.
Now I had actual hold music, which is proof that I’m on hold.  When I finally talk to someone and explain, she says, “No.  No, that is not–No.  We don’t do that.  We only service Wells Fargo NA.  Not this other bank you speak of.  Only Wells Fargo NA.”  Shit, I had been lied to.  So the question remains:  Who did service it?
And why was there no phone number on the back of the card?
Total time:  half an hour

Second Pass, Third Pass
Undaunted, we drove out again.  This time, I have my checkbook with me.  As a way of checking, I stopped to buy a couple of sodas–the card did not go through.  Dammit.  Ever the optimist, I reasoned we were still good because I had the checkbook.
And also ever optimistically, we had all the items rung up again–both laptops, the service plans, the mouse, the printer, and the two laptop coolers.  Oh, and a pack of socks.
You’d think there would be no problem writing a check for 963 dollars, but it didn’t go through.  They use TeleCheck or something like that, so there is instant verification–or in this case, instant denial.
Stupidly, I thought, “Well, if there is a 24-hour limit, it hasn’t been 24 hours yet from yesterday.  Why don’t we go to lunch and come back later?”
Well, it was worth a shot.  In the meantime, however, we drove around, we found a tile store that was going out of business, and after we ate we went there.  We found our back splash tile.  Not exactly our choice, but damn close.  And for the price, we were on it.  We expected to pay three or four hundred for the tile, and we got it for ninety bucks.  We needed a win that day, so go us.  Life’s tribulations make the small victories ever so sweet.
Or, in other words, if you set your sights low enough, and you’ll be happy just to be breathing.
Total time just for this: about an hour and half again.

Bright Lights
Monday, I am resolved to talk to people here at the bank.  What’s this?  When I come in there is a message on my desk phone.  I never get calls.
So, there is a fraud department, I guess.  Not direct employees of the bank, but someone we farm out the service to.  They called, left a message with a callback number and a code.  I returned the call and went through the process of verifying who I was, but not without a little uncertainty–I mean, who can be sure anymore?
They called, of course, on a Sunday and left a message on my office phone.  My office is at a bank, if you recall, and generally not open on Sunday.  They didn’t have any other number for me, apparently–I guess that’s my fault.  However, again, I repeat and maintain:  IF they had a goddamn fucking number on their fucking shit fuck debit fucking card, I could have and fucking would have fucking called them to straighten this fucking bullshit out.
The lady was very nice, and explained that the bank pays them for the service of monitoring for fraud, I’m sure set up according to some computer algorithms, because I doubt that a person is watching the transactions slide by on the screen.  So when thousand-dollar purchase shows up at a Maytag store and then an hour later there is not one but two attempts at a Wal-Mart for almost a thousand, alarms go off.
Actually, alarms went off for the first attempt, and that’s why there was a second attempt.  And then an attempt that night at a gas station for ten bucks.  “Yeah, I was trying to get gas.  To get home.  I was almost stranded.”
So while their may be a daily spending cap or something like that, all of that was superceded by the fraud alert, which stays on until they verify from me that it is not fraud, or a stolen card.  Yeah, it’s me.  Yeah, I meant to make that purchase, and yeah, I have the goddamn card in my fucking hand as we speak.
Okay, then.  They will authorize the release of the lockdown on my account.  That means I can get my money?  My money, that belongs to me?  I can have it now?  Thanks ever so much.
Time spent, about half an hour, for this part and the next.

Polite and Cordial
I still needed to talk to someone at the bank, but I wasn’t sure who.  I wrote an angry letter, then a more calm and professional one.  I actually talked to Bunny, because I had called her Sunday night a few times.  I had hoped that she could loan me the cash to at least get the laptop that was on sale.  I called her about 3 times and texted her, all around 7 pm.
She texted me back about midnight.  “I’m home if your still up call me.”  Terrific.  I had been asleep for two hours at that point.  But in the morning she called me, and I told her the story.  She gave me a line on who I should talk to.
I sent Jordan my highly edited, less angry email.  Shortly thereafter, he called.  He expressed his concern and condolences, and for the most part made me feel better.  He acknowledged that the whole thing about not being able to contact someone was a problem that they would definitely look into.  But there should be no problem today.  Everything is cleared up.  You are good to go.  Like a chalupa.
At that point my exasperation began to wane.  It was over now, anyway.  The weekend was over, I could access my account–it was all good.

The Second Battle of Bull Run
Except I didn’t get that laptop–the one Detroit had picked out–for the sale price.  That’s 110 dollars, that’s a lot of cabbage.  But I’m not done yet.  Before I left work, I looked up the number to the Wal-Mart.  I left work early, because I wanted to make sure I had time.
Now, this Wal-Mart is near the Pizzarama that I work at.  I headed to Pizzarama, basically, and called Wal-Mart while I was in the car.  I know from experience that if you call a Wal-Mart, they don’t want to answer the phone.  If they do answer and you ask for a manager, you could conceivably be on hold for days on end.
I was actually on hold for a solid 20 minutes before a manager picked up.  I had to check on occasion to make sure I was still connected, because there was no hold music–and you know how a cell phone goes dark after a short time?  Was I waiting for nothingness?  I pressed the volume button and it lit back up–and showed me I was still on hold.
Kristin finally took my call.  I told my sad story, and she sympathized.  I asked her if there was any way I get that sale price today, that I had missed over the weekend?
She agreed to allow it, and said she would let the grunts in Electronics know.  Of course, by this time, I was pulling into a parking spot.  Happily I went in, grabbed a cart, and began to gather my items again.
The clerk remembers me, and knew where to go to retrieve the laptops.  Up to the checkout we go, he rings the stuff up, I run my card, and–
Not so fast, there, Bastardi.  It’s about 4pm, on a weekday, and the bank is still open.  I make a call.  Jordan isn’t in but I get connected to…Candy?  Candy.  After telling my tale so many times, I get pretty good at getting to the point.  She puts me on hold to look into it.  She comes back on and tells me she needs to talk to someone “downstairs,” in the Retail Department.  I hold.
They think they have it cleared up.  I run it.  Nope.  I hold again.  She comes back, says, try just the one thing, because that amount is tripping the system.  We do just the one laptop.  Nope.  “You’re kidding.”
No.  No, dear, I am not fucking kidding.  As much as I am usually filled with laughter and joy, you’ve pretty much managed to suck the mirth right out of me.  And not in a good way.
She comes back, says they have it figured out.  Give us about ten minutes, then try it.  And call us back, let us know how it went.  I told the clerk, and he suspended the transaction so that he could move on to bigger and better things.  I browsed for a while, watching the clock.  After about fifteen minutes, we were ready to try it again.
How pissed, exactly, do you think I am?  How embarrassing is it, to continually try to run your card and have it denied?  She said, “Hold on.”  In a few minutes, she came back, and said, “Try it again, and keep me on, because I want to know what’s going on.”
Yeah, you and me both, sista.
“You’re kidding.”  She said it again.  No, still not kidding.  Still not fucking happy.  Still not going through.  She started to say, “You know, we need to–”
I interrupted her.  “Listen…I need to go to my other job.  It’s about a quarter to five.  You do what you have to do to make it work.  When I get off work, about 8, I’ll come back by and try it, one more time.”  I paused.  “And if it doesn’t work, tomorrow morning I’m coming in and taking my four grand out of the bank.”
She said, “Well, obviously, you have to do what you feel is necessary–”
“I do.  It’s my money, and it’s being held hostage.  I want my money.  It’s mine.”
From the phone call to Wal-Mart, to when I left? About an hour and a half.

A Musical Interlude
I went into work at Pizzarama with a pissed attitude.  As I briefly told my story to Rob the manager, a thought occurred to me.  I’m bringing this up with these people tomorrow.  “You know, I’ve been in restaurant management for 20 years.  I’ve given away several thousand dollars’ worth of free food to customers, to make them happy.  What are they going to do for me?  What are they going to do for me to keep me as a customer?”
Rob’s reply, and my thought was the same:  Nothing.  Not a damn thing.

Outside the Box
I called Bunny, and this time she called me back before midnight.  As we have occasionally done in the past, I asked her if I could get cash from her tonight and pay her back when they give me access to my money.  Sure.  I want to at least get the one laptop that is on sale–the one for Detroit.  At this point, I’ve already invested so much time and effort and stress into this that it’s almost not worth it anymore, except I don’t want to lose and I don’t want this to be wasted time.  I can’t give up now.
We communicate (sort of) about when and where to meet up.  She fails to grasp that I am in St Charles, that I am talking about St Charles, and the Wal-Mart in question is here in St Charles as well.
“I don’t even know if the one on West Florissant has it, much less will they give me the sale price.  I know the one in St Ann doesn’t have it.”
“Oh.”  The gears in her head are spinning, as are mine.  Because of her busy schedule doing God knows what, we agree that the best thing is for me to come to her, grab cash that she will take out at the ATM, and then go and do what I have to do, or fuck off, or whatever.  I’m going to meet her at her catholic church/school gym where she is a coach for the girl’s volleyball team, between 8 and 930.
Of course I get off at 7, an hour early.  I drive back to town, calling Bunny.  No answer.  I’m early, can I find her early?  No.  You know, she has kids, you’d think she’d be more responsive to the phone.  Damn caller ID.
I drive around, I drive to her house.  Dark.  I drive to the school–there are cars in the lot, but not hers.  I park.  I wait.  She said 8, but I know how her clock is.  Still, by 815, there’s no sign of Bunny.  I take off, and drive towards her house.  About halfway there, I get a call.
I bet I passed right by her.  She’s at the school.  Instead of 300, she has 280, which is the max she could take out.  Okay.  I do the math on the long drive back.  the laptop is 288.  What’s tax?  I find one of the declined receipts, and the info is on the bottom.  7.5%  Shit!  It just keeps going higher and higher, doesn’t it?
Seven and a half percent on 288.  Well, 7.5 times three is…15, plus 7…22 and a half.  That’s 310.50 as a total.  But–it’s 12 bucks less than that–not quite a buck less in tax.  So I need 310.
I can use my card–my other card–if I have to.  But I have some cash.  Not much from tonight, but it helps.  With the other cash from the previous night, I’m good.

Mission Accomplished
It’s about nine when I get there.  I’ve been running all over, it feels like.  When I get there, the clerk I had been dealing with was gone.  Darn it, I wanted to offer him some closure.
Instead, it was this other freak…
Bob.  Bob was about 30, and obviously single and probably a virgin.  Bob was nice, but Bob shouldn’t talk.  I bought the laptop with cash.  Done.  I have 90 days to get the extended warranty, so give me a couple of days on that.
But I told Candy I was going to try it, so let me try it.  I grabbed one item, the mouse, and rang it up.
The fucker went through.
Well, okay then.  Let me try to get the other laptop.  By itself, with no warranty, it would be under 500, something that they had indicated was a trigger.
It was during this exercise that Bob decided that we had bonded.  We talked (he talked) about politics, GW and his father, and their father, Prescott Bush, and JP Morgan, and Rockefeller, and how, adjusted for inflation, some 1st century BC king was the richest man who ever lived.  Terrific.  I’m interested, really, but he’s spouting these facts with a goofy smile and some spittle, so he’s hard to take seriously.
Meanwhile, the card is denied.
It went through for the 10 dollar item.  But not this.  Hmmm.  Okay, I’m done.
Bob said, “Did you want to try it again?”
“Nope,” I said, grabbing my two items out of the cart.
“I can call a manager and do–”
“Not necessary,” I said, as I made sure I had both receipts.
“But we–”
I said, “Just let it be.  I did what I was here to do.”  I left.

I Believe the Word You’re Looking For
I said, as I came in the door with Detroit’s laptop, “Is ‘tenacious.'”
She was very happy, and I’d like to think she was impressed as well.  I never gave up.

All’s Well That
It’s not over yet, however.
Tuesday, I came in to work, still pissed about the card.  I had a couple of points that I wanted to make to someone–anyone:
*I’ve given away a lot of pizza to customers over the years.  What are they prepared to do for me?  Anything?
*Is it because I’m an employee that I won’t get treated as well as a regular customer?  What would they do for a regular customer?
That might be it.  I talked to Jordan in person.  Candy was busy, interviewing people I guess.  And anyway, I needed to talk to this other person whose name I can’t remember that handles employee accounts.  Jordan said he would have her call me or come over and talk to me or set up an appointment.
That was about 930 this morning.  It’s almost 2, and I’m getting ready to leave.  And I haven’t heard from anyone.  I feel like I’m getting shit on because I’m an employee.
When I leave, I’m going over there and taking my money out.

I walked over to the main building, and went in the lobby.  I snuck a peak around the corner–Jordan was gone, and Candy was in her office talking with someone with the door closed.  I guess that’s it then.
I went up to the teller and asked if Jaime was there–she’s the lead teller.  I wanted to tell someone…But she’s not in.
But what does it matter?  “Can I help you?”
Yes.  Yes you can.  We made the transaction–I didn’t take out everything, but I took out everything to the nearest hundred dollar.  I asked her, “Can you send an email to Jordan for me?”
Tell him what, exactly?  “Tell him that I got my money, and no has contacted me, and I’m *still* not very happy.”
I had my cash.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s over.

One Fine Morning At The Bank

September 15, 2010 at 11:21 PM | Posted in Journal, The Corporate World | Leave a comment

The man is walking around the office with a sense of both urgency and self-importance. Obviously, he’s a Loan Officer. They are the Gods. The Rain-Makers. The ones upon whom Our Existence is dependent.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Does a Loan Officer become self-involved, narcissistic, and egocentric after a period of time in the job, or do you have to be that way to begin with to even want the job?
Nonetheless, all of them are like that, to some degree. Really, all they are is super-salesmen. But man, do they pull down some cash. And the business they bring in gives all of jobs, so–
Back to the guy. I sit right next to the consumer loan department. It was early in the morning–before eight am. I show up early so I can leave early, and also to minimized my contact with–well, people like him. The consumer department works fairly closely with the mortgage department–customers get home equity loans tacked on to their mortgage, and so forth–so they have to deal with the loan officers. It wasn’t eight am yet, and no one was in the consumer department yet, and this guy was dancing like he had to pee.
Out of desperation, he comes to me, the Peon of Last Resort. He says to me, “No one is here yet in consumer. Do you know of anyone else that can help me?”
He’s talking to the wrong asshole. “Hmmm. Ginny, maybe?”
“No, she sent me over here.” That was smart. Who can I pass him off to? Finally he gets what–for him–passes as a bright idea. As he sets a packet on someone’s desk and writes a note, he tells me, “Whoever comes in first in this department, have them come and get me. I have a meeting about to start. But tell them to go ahead and interrupt me, and come and get me as soon as they get here. I have a meeting in my office at 8 o’clock, but this is important.”
I said, “No problem.” Except one, and I paused. I mean, I had a guess, but I wanted to make sure. Quite innocently I asked him asked, “And you are…?”
He looked at me in disbelief for a moment–surely I knew. Was I joking? He’s the King of the World! He’s the fucking James Cameron of our office. I just looked at him. He said, “Brad,” and I nodded my acknowledgment, and repeated his name to myself to help me remember it. He slunk away, disheartened. Nothing puts a turd in someone’s cereal bowl like some peon not knowing who they are when EVERYONE is supposed to know who they are.
Maybe…maybe I knew, and maybe I didn’t. But now that the story is getting around, it’s best if I maintain my ignorance. For all practical purposes, I couldn’t pick any one of the them out of a line-up. Too bad they all know who I am.

Dark Shadows

June 10, 2010 at 10:01 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
  It has gotten scary at the bank.  Job security?  Well, man, we are busy.  But I got an email that cryptically seemed to be speaking directly to me.  Maybe I should talk to the person who sent it…
  I don’t know.
  You know, everyone uses the Internet at work, a little bit.  And people stand around and talk to others, a little bit.  And people send emails to others, a little bit.  Am I doing it more than others?  I don’t know.  A little bit, maybe. 
  But not anymore.  I’m gonna keep my head down and keep working.  Shit.  Oh, Lord, please, just let me keep my job.  I may have fucked off a little, but not anymore.


The Safety Dance

June 2, 2010 at 11:27 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
  On the day job, I’ve been trying to learn more things, pick up more work, and be more useful.
  Altruism, my ass.  I’m trying to cover mine.  Ass, that is.
  The world is a scary place.  But, like politics, Armageddon is local as well.  I mean this for everyone, not just me.  If the world falls apart–when civilization goes down in flames–it is not going to matter to you what is happening even fifty miles from you.  What is going to matter is what is happening to you, directly.
  This job I have is in the mortgage industry, and Christ is that ever a scary place to be right now.  I have to have faith and rely on the wisdom and decision-making of the bosses over me to ensure that we can maintain our jobs.
  Luckily for me–so far at least–my bosses seem pretty adept at navigating these turbulent waters.  And they have the same vested interest that I do:  keeping our jobs.  Them maybe more so than I; these guys all make way more money than I do.
  So they keep doing their thing, and I keep doing mine.
  Originally my job was just scanning.  I have a high speed scanner at my desk and I put file in, click a button, and it feeds through, and I enter it into our imaging file system.  Not brain surgery by any stretch…not even a minor procedure, like a hangnail.
  But I’ve been doing it for five years, so I’m about the best there is.  Then I started to learn more about various documents, but also about the equipment itself.  When the guy who took care of that moved upstairs, I slid into his spot while the chair was still warm.  I have half a dozen high speed scanners on this floor, about that many large copiers, some fax machines, and over thirty printers.
  When there is a problem, they come to me first.  If it’s something simple, I can fix it.  I spend about an hour each day on average clearing paper jams and so forth, babying finicky equipment and moody women, trying to get them to interface without bloodshed or mechanical damage.
  I also order the paper and the ink and toner for the machines, and maintain that part of the supply closet.  On my own, I documented all the machines and their requirements, and try to keep track of them when IT moves shit around.
  When there is a serious issue that I can’t fix, I am the contact person for our service vendors.  I call, I relate the issue, I’m there to show them to the machine, and I’m there to learn what to do so I can fix it myself if possible.  Frequently, they can talk me through how to fix something over the phone, saving them a trip out and getting the machine back in operation sooner.
  Our own IT department handles the printers; nonetheless I am the first line of defense for those.  If I can’t fix it, or it needs parts or further maintenance, I place the work order, and help the people who are on the printer switch to another one on the network.
  I also dole out some regular maintenance, 90% of which is cleaning.
  Of course, rumor has it that they want to eliminate all or most of the printers and switch to a couple of big network printer/copiers.  Rumor also has it that they want to switch to a different file system program that would eliminate alot of scanning.  Since that is my primary job, hearing that makes me wet my pants a little.
  Diplomatically, my boss hedges as she explains that there will still be some scanning that has to be done.  However, I’m a realist (I hope), and I know that nothing lasts forever.
  And, you know–remember in the 70s and 80s when the dawning of the computer age really arrived for business, and it was heralded as the beginning of the paperless society?  The one hundred thousand-plus sheets of paper moved through the copiers each month would beg to differ.  And those are copiers of pages printed on the printers, so let’s call it an easy quarter of million sheets of paper each month…just on my floor.
  But I have often hinted–both subtly and directly–that I would like to learn some new skills, so that I can be more useful to them, and continue to have a job–for me.  Naught had come from it over the years, but recently I lucked into a better opportunity.
  The same federal regulations and interference that caused the financial mess we are in–
  [Oh, yes–I blame the lax standards of Fannie and Freddie for our current collapse, and the directly responsible for that is Barney Frank, among others.]

  –has caused a shift in our structure.  It used to be that our "FHA Department" was one person that was part of the Suspense Department.  But now, a larger and larger percentage of loans are FHA.  Now we have an actual department:  Linda, Stacy, Mallory, Pam, Kim, and Janet. 
  I had given Kim a ride home off and on a few times over the last few weeks.  We have gotten to be friends–I went to her grandmother’s funeral, and we have chatted and talked a lot.  In fact, I had started associating with them more than others on the floor.  Although I was technically in the shipping department, that was more of an ersatz hybrid; I feel like I am a department unto myself.  Besides, it’s mostly younger women in Shipping, and I didn’t have much common ground with them.
  But the ladies in FHA are more my age (except Mallory, who is a cute younger chick), and we could talk.  I didn’t try to weasel my way in; I got lucky and it just happened.
  So on a few occasions taking Kim home, she mentioned how busy they were in her department.  It fell on my deaf ears the first few times…until I had an idea.
  That morning I talked to Linda, and then to Erica, my boss.  Instead of asking her to find me something–which would place the burden on her–I had found something and asked her if I could do that.  She said yes.
  So now I help out in the FHA department.  It’s nothing more than clerical work.  Honestly, it’s all I’ve ever done anyway.  But my scanning the last month or so had gotten dangerously light.  I was working hard to milk a full day’s work out of an hour or two’s worth of scanning.  The first day I helped in FHA, I felt like it was the first time I had actually worked in weeks.
  I’ve managed to pick up a couple of duties that I help out with, depending on the flow, and it has made my day go by faster to have work to do.  Praise Jesus!  Hopefully I can learn more and more of this–
  And it also helps that they needed help and wanted to hire another person but the big boss didn’t want to.  I hope it helps make me look good.  I’m just happy to have work.

  In the meantime, I picked up a temporary duty from the in-house title company.  Most of what I scan is for them, anyway.  But they have someone who goes just about every day to the county court house and to the one in the city to get deeds and so forth recorded.  Lynn does this. 
  She was called for jury duty, and they asked my boss if I could fill in on that position.  Hell yeah!  I went with Lynn a couple of times to see how it was done, where to go, and who to talk to.  However, she got her jury duty postponed because of illness, and I filled in for her for a couple of days.  They still need someone who can do it if she is out on vacation or for a sick day–she has cancer, and occasionally battles with it.
  In the last few weeks, I have finally felt useful and good about the work I do.  It’s been a long time.

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