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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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.

Out With The Old

March 30, 2011 at 10:15 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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I haven’t been writing as much about Pizzarama, where I’ve been working lately.  Maybe I’m jaded?
Twenty-five years, dozens of stores, hundreds of employees, and thousands upon thousands of deliveries is bound to do that to a person.  I remember a time when I was innocent, fresh, and naive…
I don’t think I can relate to that guy anymore.

And I’ll go ahead and say it, because I don’t care anymore:  The place I work at is Pizza Hut.  When I worked at Domino’s, I named it.  When I worked at Scooter’s, I named it.  When I worked at Domino’s again, I named it–
Which caused some problems because I was doing things that weren’t exactly Cricket.  Thusly burned, I called Jimmy John’s “The Three Jakes.”  But Imo’s was Imo’s, and Steak n Shake was Steak n Shake–and they well still be.  I thought I might want an alias to protect me on this internet thing.  Maybe I shouldn’t be so cavalier, but I’m not doing anything wrong.
How about, “I’m not doing anything illegal, and most of what I do that is morally questionable is not a threat to the job”?  Better?
In the meantime, I subconsciously didn’t want to get too attached to anyone here, because Things Always Change.  However, I didn’t have much of a choice–some of them drew me in.
Of course, there’s The Dude, an ever-present fixture in my life and the reason I took the job at this particular location.  Meet our management team:
Tom is a young guy, quiet and stoic.  He seems to be laid back–like a hippie dressed as a businessman.  That’s the vibe I get.
Ryan is the other assistant.  Slightly older than Tom, but still so young.  And yet he has thinning hair.  He cares more about the job than Tom does.  Frequently they are both shocked at the ridiculous things that come out of my mouth.  Then again, that describes most people, I guess.
Rob is the manager.  Whoops.  Rob was the manager.  Rob got fired a couple of weeks ago, a victim of arbitrary grading or his own ineffectiveness, your choice.
I liked Rob–hell, I like all of them–but they way they manage stirs a deep primal desire in me.  A heat, a wrath, a bent to knock everyone over and take charge and show them how it’s supposed to be done.
But then my shift ends and I get over it.
So now we have a new manager, an older woman–older than me, even–named Julie.  I’ve met her exactly once, when I was coming in early (to make a good impression) and she was leaving early (even though it was a Saturday night and snowing in late March.
“Hi.  Who are you?” she says, looking at my chest where my nametag should be.
I put out my hand.  “Hi.  I’m Bryan.  Who are you?” I asked, already knowing the answer.  I looked at her chest, too, to let her know I knew what she was doing.  Not a sexual thing.  Not yet, anyway–but it is a weapon in my arsenal, if need be.
“Do you have a nametag?”  Before I could answer, she said, “And tuck your shirt in.”
I’ve been working there since June of last year, and I’ve never tucked my shirt in.  The cynical among you or those who have met me might think it’s because my belly prohibits it.  But actually, I have a long torso, and the shirts are always too short.  Really.  I could show you–
Never mind.
While I tucked in my shirt, she made me a new nametag with rainbow colored letters.  I guess we are inclusive now.  Then she left.  I untucked my shirt.
It’s what the store needs, and what these people need.  Someone to lead.  Rob–again, a nice guy–would rarely tell or ask someone to do something.  Jesus, you have to take charge.  Don’t be afraid to tell me to do something.
Don’t be afraid to tell the young punks working here to do something, either.  Because if you don’t, they won’t do a damn thing.  Us older folks–the drivers–we know our jobs and we get on it and we are proactive.  The kids need to be directed constantly, at least until they get the idea.
So hopefully Jules will be a good manager for the store and the crew.  It’s what they need.  Because these guys–

Temelko is our token Old Belgian guy.  He works the most hours of any driver.  He speaks the broken English very brokenly.  I’m starting to be able to make out some words.  We had a five minute conversation about a month ago of which I did not understand a single thing he said.  I sure hope I didn’t agree to something I’ll regret later.
John is a mid-twenties guy with a ponytail.  He’s quiet and good-looking.  I mean, good-looking enough to be gay.  He’s also an artist; we’ve had a few conversations about his interests, and that’s when he wouldn’t shut up.  He does computer animation, something I wish I had the patience for.
Nick is this guy–man, I don’t like him.  I mean, he’s okay.  He tries to be a smart-ass, but he’s not clever enough.  He runs shifts on occasion so he’s technically a member of management, which he uses as an excuse to fuck with people.  You know the kind of guy that’s only average in intelligence, but thinks he’s much smarter?  That’s him.
Don is the old guy.  He’s a carpenter by trade, and in this economy, delivering pizza.  He helped me tear the wall out in my kitchen and put a back door in.  Recently, he and his wife split up and he moved back in with his dad.  Yeah, he’s old.  And his dad is quite a bit older, I imagine.
When I say old, I mean he’s in his mid-fifties.  What the hell does that make me?
Don, The Dude and I are the Three Amigos, complete with pelvic thrust.  Because we are so…hip.
There are some other drivers in and out, part timers that I never quite caught the name of.  We also have Sean–Blond Sean from Scooter’s and Angelina’s fame.  He is also Rob’s ex-brother-in-law, but they are still friends.  (That’s why Rob hired him.)  Sean is an odd duck.  I thought he was a geeky, nerdy guy.  And I think he is.  He’s a nerdy guy trying desperately to hide it and be cool.  Or maybe he just turned over a new leave after he got divorced, which I can relate to.
Amber is our star pizza maker, and the hardest working person in the store.  She is about 20, a tall, gangly, clumsy looking girl.  She is just so quiet–until you engage her.  Then she won’t shut up.  I know way too much about her dysfunctional family.  She’s like the Marilyn in The Munsters, if the Munsters were all white-trash co-dependent addicts with poor decision-making skills.
Jarvis is this teenage slick dude.  He is cool, cocky, and confident.  I’m sure he gets laid way more than a teenage boy should.  He comes from money, and it shows–not just in the car he drives.  He has a sense of entitlement, and it shows in the way that he things the minimum effort he puts forth is a tremendous inconvenience to him and we should all be more appreciative.
[We’re busy.  People hustling everywhere, doing things.  The phone is ringing and ringing.  Again, we’re all busy.  He announces sarcastically to everyone, “Don’t worry about the phone.  I’ll get the phone.  I got it.”  Whatever he had been doing before was not time-critical to the rush.  Maybe he was folding a box or something.  “I’ll get the phone.”  I said, “Thanks for letting us know you’re finally going to do your job.”  That jibe cut him a little deep; he didn;t talk to me for about a week after that.]
And we have this other inside boy named Shane.  I–
Ugh.  I swear, some teen boys should be raised in a pasture with a high fence.  Electrified.  He’s a punk, through and through.  Sense of entitlement?  Check.  Doesn’t understand dick about anything?  Check?  Overly preoccupied with trying to look cool?  Check?  Unable to learn anything because he already knows it?  Double-check.
He has this car–I’m sure it’s a parent’s or something like that.  I hope, anyway.  Any adult who would give this retard a car should be locked up.  He’s always bragging about his car and how fast it is and how he can outrace anyone.  I don’t want to be that young and stupid again, if I ever was.
I’m leaving on a run about the time he got off work one night.  He hops in his car, revs it up, and keeps revving it up.  If it’s a stick, he’s using up the clutch.  If it’s an automatic, he’s even stupider.  I pull out, and I head down the line.  He pulls out real fast in front of me, causing me to brake.  Then he revs it some more and squeals the tires as he takes off.
I get to the light, and then he appears again.  Where did he come from?  Where did he go?  Who gives a shit?  He’s sitting at the light revving the engine.  He’s in the left turn lane, and I’m in the lane to go straight.  His light goes green, and he revs it and takes off, squealing the tires some more.
I know this is the old man in me, but he’s a fucking dumb ass.  Tires costs money.  A clutch costs money.  Gas costs money.  If he was paying for it, he wouldn’t be doing that to “his” car.
Honestly, I don’t even want to get to know him, because I don’t want to feel bad when he rolls his car and wraps it around a pole and dies.  He’ll do it all with a dumb expression on his face, the expression people have when they don’t understand the correlation between their actions and the consequences thereof.
We have Kelli, this girl.  This 20 year-old (“I’ll be 21 in two months!”) chick who started as a server during the day and then started to drive.  She’s short, she’s fat, and she loud and in everybody’s business.  She is so concerned that people are talking about her that she inserts herself into every conversation, and eavesdrops on everyone.  Christ, she bugs me.  Part of it, I can tell, is that if she gets a little attention she craves more.  She desperately wants to get laid.  I told Don that he’s going to end up fucking her.
“Christ!  Say it ain’t so!  Do I have to?”
Then, of course, we have my sweetheart, Courtney.  Courtney just had a birthday.  She just turned…17.  Wow.  She says I remind her of her dad.  So I have a year to turn that daddy complex into something viable.
Juuuuust kidding.  She’s a sweet girl, and one of my favorites there.  We talk, I gave her a ride home once (perfectly innocent!), and we have fun at work.

So that’s the people I work with.  And the people make all the difference.  Pizza is pizza.  Hell, pizza is as pizza does.  Pizza is the same, or different, or both, anywhere you go.  But the people are what make it interesting, and determine whether or not you want to go to work each day.
Although something else may be a determining factor as well:  Gas prices.  I swear to God, lately I feel like I’m losing money going to work.  I’m going to need to find another part time job, just because I can’t afford to work at this one.
Maybe the next job will be something not driving.

Jacob’s Ladder

March 20, 2011 at 11:19 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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April 2009

It was like some kind of horrible Vietnam flashback—
But I didn’t have to go.  I had immunity.  I had…a day job.
Still, I felt compelled to attend this “mandatory” manager’s meeting, for three reasons.  I’ll start with number two if that’s okay with you.
2.  Curiosity.  It had been a while since I had been to one, and never had I been to one with this company.  I wanted to see if they were everything I remembered.
1.  The bosses knew I had a day job and I was excused—and I was the only assistant with this affliction.  They didn’t like it; they wanted me to have “both feet in or both feet out.”  Logical, from their vantage point:  how can they control me and inflict harm and punishment upon me if I can just bow out, like the second string at a gangbang?  How could they squeeze all of my hopes and dreams and aspirations from me?
Too bad I had none left at this point.  Sucks to be them, doesn’t it?  Still, I didn’t want to throw it in their faces.  Absence may be the better part of valor, but it would actually be easier for me to be invisible if I showed up.  That’s irony right there, I don’t care who you are.
3.  I had loyalty to my team—the management at the specific store I worked at.  It would be a show of solidarity as well as—perversely—a bit of spying on the enemy.  And by enemy I meant upper management.  If you don’t understand that calculating mindset or the skewed reality behind it, you’ve never been in management.
At my day job, I made arrangements to be off for the meeting.  Actually, all I did was take some time out of my day, as for a doctor’s appointment.  The meeting was at 9am, so I went to work at my usual 7, left about 830, and got back around 11 because it was over at 1030—everyone had to get to their stores to open them.
Subdued surprise that I showed up—
Shaved, clean, dressed well, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  For most of them, this was too early in the morning, and on average they had been awake for 43 minutes.  I had been up almost three hours and had had two cups of coffee by this time.
There in the big conference room of the home office, the tables were set at the perimeter and we took seats like it was a UN function.  Coffee and donuts were had, and handouts and booklets were passed out.  In the middle of the room, center stage, Supervisor Tom and Director of Operations John tag-teamed us on the important items.  That is, they read the pamphlet to us.
It wasn’t a meeting in the sense that you might think there is a give-and-take and an even exchange of ideas and balance.  No, this was more of the Moses-hands-down-the-new-commandments-of-pizza-making type of meeting.
I wanted to remain low-key; I am not always the seeker of attention that many of you may believe.  However, once the floor was open, if someone among our ranks spoke and I had something to add, I would.  Overall, I was fairly quiet.
Except for this one time that makes me sound like an arrogant ass.  In other words, I showed my true colors.
Tom was speaking, and talking about product quality and consistency.  I sat with Dina and Stan, my people.  Tom said something about the irregular pie quality he has seen in the stores.  “I should be able to look at a pizza and not be able to tell the difference.  I should not be able to tell who made it.  Everyone should be making pizzas the exact same way.”
I snorted quietly to myself, and whispered something to Stan.  He let out a chuckle.  Tom heard.  “What?  What is it?  Is there something you’d like to share?”  Seriously, what was this, sixth grade?
“Well?”  I guess it was sixth grade.
Stan was still laughing.  “Tell him.”
I said to the whole group, “I’m not going to lower my standards.”
There was a mixed reaction from the crowd.  Some laughed, some oohed and aahed at the perceived challenge.  Who was this guy, anyway?  They didn’t know me.  They had no idea that I had made more pizzas than probably all two dozen of them combined, or that I had been doing this for as long as the average age in the room.
Tom said, “Really?”
I shrugged.  “You’ve seen my pies.  I’m just sayin.”
So much for invisibility.

About A Girl

March 20, 2011 at 4:36 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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I don’t remember if I posted this or not.  For continuity’s sake I will.  This happened about May of 2008, right before Scooter’s closed.

Christ in a fucking sidecar.  That’s the only way to start this.  Let me tell you about my weekend.
I worked Friday night at the restaurant for Scott, the owner, and my usual Saturday night.  He had to work his church’s (actually his wife’s church) parish picnic, working the grill for their food.  The same amount of business that 5 people can’t handle without getting bogged down he or I can do easily–if they would just get the fuck out of the way.
So I agreed to work.  Friday night is a bit much for the new young-fuck Matt to handle by himself.  I get there, and Megan, a cute little 20 year old driver, is trying to convince me I should let her off that night, there is a concert she wanted to go to that she had asked Scott off for but he had never given her an answer.
I thought about it a bit.  That would leave me with three drivers–kinda tight, but it should be manageable; the nice weather should make it a little slower.
I said, “Okay, sure…But I need you to wear those shorts the next time you work.”
She bubbled.  “Okay.  I can do that for you.”  She smiled and sashayed off.
I love college-aged chicks.  Firm, tight bodies, perfectly shaped asses.  Perky tits.  Naivete.  And inexperience in realizing what, exactly, constitutes sexual harassment.
“That’s what I like about high school girls.  I keep getting older, and they stay the same age.  Oh yes, they do.”
Meanwhile, before I even get there, Matt is working, and he’s called me twice already wondering when I’ll be there.  Fuck, shithead.  I get off work at 4:00.  The 24 miles in traffic takes close to an hour.  I’m scheduled at five.  I’ll be there at five.  He wants to leave.  He always has some lame kind of excuse, problems with the car, car got impounded, car on the side of the road, or he has to go do something for his mother.
I’m starting to realize, after these events transpired, that I’m probably being take for a ride; I think his actual excuse is the drugs that he needs to go take.
But when I get there, I don’t let him go.  He wants to skate without doing the two most important and time-consuming pieces of prep:  weighing out the tips, and pounding out the burgers.  This may not mean anything to you, but what it means to me is that on a Friday night, the busiest night of the week, I was going to have to do this shit on the fly.
Nuh-uh.
“Matt, you need to finish this shit.”  He stays an extra hour, at the most, and gets it done while bitching.  The place is still completely trashed, dishes piled high, prep tables piled and covered with crap, trash and boxes piled up, grinders and slicers filthy from use and chunks of meat and cheese and other foodstuffs scattered about wildly.  But I can deal; we’ll have three drivers.
But my third driver, Jody, never shows up.  Matt is a friend of hers, so he goes over to her house.  She calls and says she’s on her way, then calls back about half hour later and says she’s not coming in.
Many of the details I’m a little sketchy on, and most of what I’ve heard I tend not to believe, because it comes from primary sources trying to paint themselves in the bestest light.
The long and short of it is this:
Matt goes over, says he tried to get her up, says she was wasted or hung over or both, and says Jody punched him repeatedly.  He left.
My Friday night was one of the worst ever.  Mota’s wife Becca was working and she was a hero, the champion, of keeping it together for me.
Saturday, Everyone comes in who is supposed to.  Matt worked during the day, and left before Jody showed up.  Then, after they are all working, Matt shows up–with Jody’s…girlfriend.
This has become the fucking OC, or some other retarded modern teen night time soap opera.  Jody likes this girl, Janna.  But she cheated on Janna–with Matt.  To get back at her, Janna cheated on Jody.  With Matt.
Now Matt apparently likes Janna (good head goes a long way), but is friends still (supposedly) with Jody.  Matt continues to recount stories of how Jody–a little firecracker–keeps hitting him and inflicting other violence on him, for no reason.  “Why does she keep hitting me, Bubba?”
I had enough of this.  I had been close to boiling over all night, having this story inflicted on me.  I had heard all sides of it, including the stuff that he didn’t think I knew.
“WHY?  WHY IS SHE HITTING YOU?  WHY?  IT’S ABOUT THE FUCKING GIRL, RETARD!  IT’S ABOUT THE GODDAMN GIRL!  ALL OF THIS IS ABOUT THE GIRL!  YOU LIKE HER, SHE LIKES HER!  IT’S FUCKING JEALOUSY!  ARE YOU COMPLETELY FUCKING STUPID?  IT’S ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT THE FUCKING GIRL!  CHRIST!  MORON!”
The kid is completely irrational.  First, he’s in denial about it being about this stupid love trapezoid, or triangle, or octagon.  Pick your favorite polygonal icon.
Then he gets mad, and yells at me about how I don’t understand.  Of course I don’t understand.  I don’t understand how he can be this stupid.  If it’s NOT about this, then what exactly is it about?  Ask yourself that question, shithead.  He had left, by the way, gotten drunk or high or something, and then came back up to the store.  I had to keep the two separated.  Meanwhile, the mousey little Janna acts like an innocent victim in all this.  I’ve actually come to believe that she is a passive-aggressive manipulative cunt:  She knows what is going on.  She wants to have her dick and her pussy too.
I believe Matt may know as well, but if he acts like he doesn’t get it, he can get more sympathy, more ear time.
Lots of ridiculous things happen, and I don’t care to recount all of them.  Matt leaves because I make him, but he takes the girl with him.  He completely misunderstood.  “You told me to get the girls out of here.”
“No, dipshit.  I told YOU to leave.  I will get the rest of them out of here.”  He completely fails to realize that he is part of the problem as well.  But then he comes back–again, like a fucking herpes flair up, and this time he is lamenting his sad life, and talks endlessly of driving his truck very fast into a wall.
At this point I’m willing to point one out for him.  People who talk about suicide like this don’t mean it; it’s a cry for attention.  “Woe is me; I’ve nailed two hot chicks but I can’t seem to get that elusive threesome lined up.  Woe is me!”  Hard for me to muster any sympathy.
Although, his mother kicked him out of the house (again), he gets in trouble with the law repeatedly, having his car impounded once or twice, tickets and so forth, and he needs to pay for a lawyer.  His mother may be an alcoholic, I’m not sure.  He’s 18, his life is in turmoil, he has no one, no place, nothing…
But, he’s fucking moron.  He’s completely stupid.  He’s made bad decisions, and he’s made them poorly, and executed them in the most ridiculous manner possible.  I completely resent the fact that he is trying to cling to me like I am his father figure.  I don’t need this.  I have–

My own shit to deal with.  In addition, I have an 18 year old son of my own that I hardly get to see.  I don’t need this pathetic reject as a surrogate.  My son is smart, drug-free, moral, and a good decision maker.  Artistic and talented.  He has a future.  And he’s not a complete fucking drag to be around.

Plus all of this is happening late at night when I’m trying to get the place cleaned up and get out of there.  Matt’s out of it, drunk and drugged up and binging on self-pity, so he has no recollection of time.  He merely sees a group of people that he can suck the life force out of.
I had to go outside, and get between him and Jody.  The girl in question merely stands by, no expression on her face, not understanding, like Matt, that this is all about her.  Only Jody gets it, and that’s why she has become violent.  I make Matt leave.  I tell Jody to go check out, clock out, and leave.
Finally, it’s over.  Or is it?  After they have all left and we are doing the real closing work, trying to get done and get out, Matt comes back.  He has no place to go, no place to sleep.  He wants to sleep in the store.  No, that will not happen.
Mota makes the mistake of offering him a place to sleep.  Fine, you do that.  Then Mota and his wife ask if we want to come over to their house, party a little–
No.
Are you sure?  We have a pool, and a firepit–
Not a chance.
Is it because Matt is going over?
Bingo.  I’m done with the pity party.  Any conversation is going to be monopolized by his constant woe-is-me desire for attention.  He drains me.  I just want to go home.
Detroit came up to work to see me that night, by the way, and I’m glad she did.  For one, she may not have believed everything if she hadn’t witnessed it herself.  For two, she thanked Megan for wearing the shorts that night–I needed that kind of thing (of course I told her.  She knows me so well.  “You are such a pervert,” she said.  Hey, if they’re over 18, technically, I’m not a pervert.)
For three, she knew and understood exactly the stress that I had had inflicted on me that night, and said, “I will [take care of you] tonight when we get home.”
God, I love this woman.

Living The Dream

December 20, 2010 at 10:56 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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My one consolation is that he’s lost more on the value of his house than mine is worth.  Serves him right.

Whitmore Country Club.  Really?  Country club?  It’s just a high-priced subdivision with an intrusive and poorly designed golf course built in and around it:
“The third tee is a stunning par five with a dogleg across the pool and through the common area, and some of the hazards are the parking lot and the over-privileged teens.”
And don’t get me started about how special they are that there is a gated entrance that you can’t get through because they won’t give you a code.  Because of this, you have to drive–and I’m not kidding here–about 4 miles out of your way to go in through the back entrance.
It especially pisses me off when where I need to go is by the front, but I still have to go in through the back, and then go back the same way and come out the back as well, because you can’t even exit the gated area without a code and they won’t give you one, so you can go as much as 6 miles extra, out of the way, for a two dollar tip.
Yeah, two bucks.  These assholes in their 658k dollar (and falling) houses will order 40 dollars worth of food and have the trophy wife come to the door with a two dollar tip.  Two bucks is five percent, by the way.  Tips are the reason I’m good at math, and bad tips are the reason I bought the Anarchist’s Cookbook.    And since the economy is so bad, trophy wives aren’t as hot as they used to be.
Twenty years ago, two bucks was a good tip.  Twenty years ago, for two bucks I’d fondle your balls.  Maybe it’s the same today but the grip is slightly different.

I wrote that piece a while back, intending to go back and finish it.  I’m sure it was the start of a rant about some wonderful night I was having, but I don’t remember the specifics now.  They all seem to run together.  Like Sauce through the hourglass, so goes the slice of our pie…
I did think, though, that as much as I have seen and heard and done and had done to me, I thought I might be more jaded than I am about the people.  And not the customers.  The marks–the marks are all the same.  I’m talking about the people I work with.
Since I’ve been trying to remember the past and write it down to fill in the holes I need to fill for this book, I’m in the state of mind where people from the past come up in my memory.  I wasn’t going to get into specifics here–but man, have I worked with a ton of people.  I don’t think I’ve fired as many as I thought I had–but I have “encouraged” many to quit.  I have hired over a hundred, I’m sure.  And I’ve worked with thousands, because there is so much turn over in the food industry, people can come and go before you realize they are gone.
And because I’ve worked with so many, I thought that I would be…I dunno–bored with people, maybe?  But there is so much of an infinite variety of personalities, that even if I see something in someone that I may have seen before, it’s interesting to see it play out differently.
The job is the same, always.  Take a pizza.  Give it to someone, take their money.  Come back.  Repeat.  Clean.  Do prep.  The last 25 years have been a blur of that entire short list.
But the people make the difference.

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