Why I Make the Big Bucks

April 26, 2011 at 10:09 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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November 1986

Jonathan’s wife is hot.  Too hot for him.  He’s a short, chubby, slightly Mexican-looking dude.  She looks like a model.  I’m a tall, chubby, basically Caucasian-looking dude.  What gives?
Ah, well.  I already have a girlfriend.  She’s not young and hot, though.  She’s old but still pretty.  The lesson I’m sure that I need to learn in life is to not always let my dick do the driving.  But there’s still time—I’m young.
I’m finally able to put some names to the faces, and remember the faces.  I thought two of them were the same guy, but it turns out they are brothers, Ricky and…the other one.  Ironically, they have a Latina last name but don’t look it, while Jonathan doesn’t, but does look it.  There’s also Marty and his brother as well–didn’t catch his name.  There are others, like this cocky football player-looking dude, some tall guy I hear people calling “Mabes,” and a random assortment of others.
Oh, and Thomas just rolled onto the scene.  He’s new here but he’s done this before, he said.  After a fashion he kind of latched onto me, so I guess I have a friend.  Thomas is a good guy, a little insecure, and a loud talker.  Don’t tell him I said that.
During one conversation with him, he said that from some source (I wasn’t really paying attention) he learned that the secret to making more money—getting a raise or what-have-you—was to act like you were already earning that money, and worth it.  “If I want to make 3.60 an hour,” he said while we were both sweeping the floor, “I need to work like I’m already making 3.60 an hour.”
Minimum is 3.35 an hour.  I couldn’t see much difference in the effort for 3.35 and 3.60.
Besides, that was a quarter.  Nobody got a quarter raise.  He might get a dime or fifteen cents.  Not a quarter.  I kept quiet; my personal belief was that with delivery, you made your own raise by getting better and more efficient at it, taking more runs and kissing the customers’ ass more.
I had no idea how to do that.  Man, I wish I did.  That jackoff football player-looking dude—Jeff—always made out really good in tips, or at least he claimed to.  If so, he was much nicer to the customers than he was to anyone here in the store.  I had to make up for what I lacked in social skills by driving fast, and running hard.
We all run.  We run to the car.  We run to the door.  We run back to the car.  We run back into the store.  When the phone rings, we run to it.  Two rings, max.  Always.
So I run.  I’m not built for running, so much, but I do it.  Plus I like to get high while I deliver.  I didn’t do that so much at first because I wanted to get used to the job and learn the area.  But after a few months of driving up and down these streets all over the place, I rarely look at the map, except to figure out the right hundred-block.
Getting high kind of slows you down, but I have a solution.  I take some mini-thins.  For those of you not hip to the drug lingo, that’s speed.  Actually, they’re just caffeine pills.  But three minis will get me through a close, and I can still get high.
I was having a pretty good Saturday night—I was closing.  It was just after dinner rush and a few drivers were cut.  It would start to open up for me.  I came back from a run, and Tom grabbed me and said, “Hey, come in here a minute.”  The office.  He closed the door.  Hell, I didn’t even think this broom closet-sized office had a door.
We had a quick meeting.  “Bubba, I just wanted to tell you, that you’ve been doing a really good job, and I’m impressed.  I really didn’t think you were going to make it—“
Which is always nice to hear.  Did I suck that bad when I started?  I guess so.
“—but you’ve proven yourself, and you have integrity.”
“Aw, well, hey—thanks.  I appreciate that—“
“Starting Monday you get a raise.  Three-fifty.”  He raised his furry eyebrow, letting it sink in, because 15 cents is the highest increment raises came in.  I had only been there a few months.
“Awesome!  Thanks, Tom!”
“And Bubba—listen:  don’t tell anyone about it, okay?  Not everyone is getting a raise right now.  Just keep it to yourself.”
I nodded.  But I had a question.  “Why you calling me ‘Bubba’?”
He was taken aback.  “I thought—“  He grabbed a clipboard and flipped back a couple of pages.  “Every time you sign the daily—see there?  You’re signing ‘Bubba.’  I thought it was your nickname.”
“That’s just my initials.  BB.  I didn’t really want a nickname.”
Tom looked down sheepishly.  “Yeah…it might be too late for that.”
Fuck me.  But I got a raise, so what the hell.  We exited the office.  Joel caught my eye.  “Bubba, you’re up.”  That fast?  It happened that fast?  Christ in a—

So I continued to have a good night, and I was happy about my raise.  It wasn’t the money, really.  Fifteen cents over thirty hours, or sixty, on a biweekly paycheck—was going to be…a couple of bucks.  The difference between a couple of decent tips and a couple of good tips.  But it was a marker, like proof that I got a pat on the back.  Recognition for a job well done and all my hard work.
In the course of having a good night I may have celebrated a bit, like taking a few hits from my bat—my one-hitter.  The mistake, of course, was that this was some serious skunk weed, and had an odor to it.  An odor that lingered, and clung to me.  Imagine my surprise when later, about 930, Tom caught me and had me come into his office again.  He had a somber expression on his face.
“What’s up?”
“Bubba, I need to ask you to not get high anymore while you’re working.”
You know pot makes you paranoid, right?  Getting busted doesn’t make it better.  I was shaking on the inside, so I froze, held completely still.  I may have held my breath.  Tom continued.  “We can smell it on you, and a customer called—“
“Yeah.  So don’t—don’t do that anymore on the clock.  When you’re off I don’t care what you do.  But I don’t want to catch you high on the clock anymore.”
I nodded.  “Okay.  No more.  I promise.”
And I meant it, too.  He would never catch me.



April 26, 2011 at 9:01 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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October, 1986

I’ve been here at Domino’s about a month now.  I really feel like I’m starting to get the hang of it all.  I must be doing a good enough job because I’m working more hours.  Not quite forty—maybe thirty—but the money is good.
I get cash every night, my tips and mileage.  I was so used to just that—
Imagine my surprise when I got a paycheck also.  Hell yeah.
And I was now getting to close two nights per week.  I come in sometimes at 430 and sometimes at five.  You never know when you are going to get off unless you are scheduled to close.  It could be two hours, it could be four hours.  Whenever we slowed down, people were off.
If I closed, I stayed until we were done.  We closed at 1am during the week, and 2 on Friday and Saturday.  We want to get out as soon as we can after close.  The manager deals with the money and paperwork, and the last two drivers do the cleaning.  Usually one does the dishes and one does the front, and they both sweep and mop.
This is my first experience with time management, I guess.  In between runs and when we are slow, we try to do what we can without interrupting the flow of business.  Maybe this is obvious to all of you, but I’m new to this.
The first couple of times, closing seemed…hard.  Now, after a couple of weeks, I’m a real pro.  Okay, not a real pro.  But I am getting the hang of it.  I’ve learned all kinds of important tricks, like what I learned the other night.  I learned that you can’t pull the mop bucket along by the mop, because the wheels don’t roll well and you’ll tip the mop bucket over.
And spend an extra fifteen minutes mopping up the water while the manager and the other driver bitch about it.
And after close, one driver follows the manager to the bank while me makes a deposit in the night drop.  The first time, Joel just said, “Follow me to the bank, okay, Guy?”
Sure, okay.  I follow him, pull up along side of him while he makes the drop, and I just sit there.  Now what?  I feel silly now, because he had to get out of the car and come over to me and explain that it was procedure, for security, and I’m supposed to hang back in the parking lot to keep an eye out, not stick to close to him, and now that he made the drop, he would just wave me off as he was done and we would go our separate ways.
Ya know, I’m from the country.  Security is as alien a concept to me as paved roads.  But he only had to tell me once, and I got it.
The same went for most things:  the first time, I am out of my element and struggling to understand it while I follow along blindly trying to grasp the situation.  After I go through it once and I get it and see the purpose, I have no problem.

For instance, what is the deal with this “borrowing drivers from another store” thing?  What gives?
Well, Snidely, I’ll tell you what gives.  We have the thirty-minute guarantee, right?
And we want to avoid giving away free shit, because we aren’t a charity.  We schedule to anticipate business, but sometimes shit happens, and who ya gonna call?
Not Ghostbusters.  But you can call another store in the franchise.  I was unclear on this at first, but the company I work for is Domino’s Pizza, yes—but it is not a corporate store.  There are no corporate stores in the whole metropolitan area.  They are all franchises, and the franchise I work for—A&M Pizza—owns about seven or eight stores, something like that.  Who owns the rest?  Other franchises.
A&M also owns the stores in the Springfield, Missouri region.  Art, the A in A&M, is here in St Louis over these stores, and Marty, the M, is in Springfield.  I have yet to meet Art.  I don’t understand the hierarchy…I guess there are managers, and then there is a supervisor, Scott Wilson, whom I have seen.  And then there is Art.  Okay, I guess I do get the hierarchy.
Anywho, what with this being an urban-suburban area, the stores are fairly close, and if one gets busy they can call another one for help that is usually only ten or fifteen minutes away.  If you look at the map here, you see our area outlined in marker.  To the north is written the phone number to the store that covers that area.  To the west and south, the same thing.  To the east is the Mississippi River, and generally we don’t deliver there.
So it’s not mandatory…but we are strongly encouraged.  I’m always up for some excitement, so I have gone to both Spanish Lake, to the north, and Ferguson, which has a monstrously large area to the west.  To the south is Baden (technically the City of St Louis) and that store is owned by another company, so we don’t have to go there.  Thank God; Baden is a shithole.  North St Louis?  You don’t want to be there, brother.  Not as a white boy after dark with a brightly lit sign on the roof of your car that says “I have money and food, come and get it.”
There are details and protocol to the whole idea of lending and borrowing drivers.  A store gets busy, they assess the situation and realize they need help, even for a brief period of time.  They make a call or two.  If a store has someone, they’ll send them.  Or they will ask:  “Want to go to Ferguson and take a few runs?”
Sure.  What the hell.  I wasn’t sophisticated enough to know there was much of a difference between these neighborhoods.  I would clock out here, at my home store, and drive to the other store.  I would take some runs, or sometimes one run, and then go back.  Then I would clock back in.  The stores would communicate—that’s what we have all these five-line phones for—and the borrowing store would pay my labor for the travel time as well.
And the time clock is weird, but it makes it easy to do the math.  If you leave your store at 606 and come back at 654, the time clock says 6.1 and 6.9.  You were gone for .8 of an hour, and the math is easy.  Is this metric time?
There isn’t someone available all the time to make the trek.  Sometimes everyone is busy—and sometimes no one wants to go, especially if it’s to a shithole like Normandy.  In that case, sometimes the drivers are coerced, bribed, blackmailed, or just forced to go, and take one for the team.
I think I just learned my first adult lesson about working in the corporate world:  Being a team player means taking turns getting fucked in the ass.  Coming up next—it’s mine turn to bend over.

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.

The Year Of Living Dangerously

December 20, 2010 at 9:45 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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2010 has a been a rough, rough year on us here at the homestead.  I’m not complaining, I’m just going to enumerate them.  I’m not blaming anyone–whose fault would it be?  And I’m not looking for sympathy, either.  Not for this devil, anyway.
We started off in January–New Year’s weekend, in fact.  That was when our beloved dog Mac died.  That was hard.  The first dog I ever really liked, the one that showed me what it was to have a dog.
Shortly after that–and this ran all the way through the spring–Kim was having a problem with her shoulder.  She went to physical therapy, which didn’t work.  So she had shoulder surgery, and then more physical therapy after that.
I’d like to say it was an uneventful summer…oh, except I got my car repossessed.
One of my good friends had a death–her fiance committed suicide.  Worse for her, I know.  But it was a tragedy, and it continues to touch our lives, as I help her cope, give her a ride to work, and hear people talk behind her back about what a whore she is.
In the fall, we were going to go to a memorial service for one of her uncles up in Michigan.  However, that was Kim’s first Crohn’s flare-up and her first time in the hospital.
A few weeks later, she was in the hospital again.  This time it seemed worse, the flare-up.  This was all September-October.
In November, Kim’s boss died in a car accident.
In December, the same night she went into the hospital again, my Aunt Gloria died.
And now this.
Kim fell on the ice yesterday and broker her hip.  She had surgery, and she’ll be off her legs for 6-8 weeks.
Of course some little things–I started a part time job and quit, and started another one.  Always a little stress there.  My oldest  granddaughter moved to Texas.  At first she thought she was pregnant, but she’s not.  She’s still getting married.  My oldest grandson is in drug rehab.  Another grandson broke his jaw in September.
My daughter was having anxiety problems, and chipped a couple of teeth–we just got those fixed at the dentist.
I have some financial problems and some tax problems–the usual–  Hell, I had to make the decision to let the car get repo’d in order to keep the house.  I’m trying to get some answers for my sister about a judgment against her and filing for bankruptcy.  Et cetera, ad nauseaum, ad infinitum…

On the one hand, there’s not much else that can go wrong this year.  On the other hand, there’s still time left…

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?

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.

The Raven

October 4, 2010 at 6:39 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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I thought there was an underground railroad, for cars. If you get upside down on your loan and can’t pay it, and to keep the finance company from repossessing it, I thought you and your car could escape through the financial underground railroad and escape, and be free, and live forever in happiness, and freedom, and open roads. I thought there was a place you could go where you didn’t have to fear having your car taken from you in the middle of the night by The Men in Black. The Repo Men. The Raven…
I also thought that having a luxury car was supposed to be a joy, a thrill. A never-ending automotive orgasm where I furtively spurt 5W-20 motor oil as I take a hard right turn and say, “Wheeee!”
I reminded myself just the other day, when I was missing Nigel and wishing I had kept him–and I do wish that–that Nigel was getting a bit long in the tooth. He was getting older and had some miles on him. He was still quick and spry, but you could tell that when you weren’t looking, he was nursing his aching joints.
We put him out to pasture–quite unexpectedly, I think–and I miss him.
Having the Mercedes was exactly like having a love affair with a younger, exotic, foreign woman. At first–at first it is exciting and fulfilling: The the adventure, the night life, and the jealous glances of lesser men all added to the thrill of wrapping myself in this expensive, luxurious beauty.
But there is always a price to pay.
And often, that price is actually money. I have recounted my financial problems with the Mercedes–how I couldn’t even afford to pay the personal property tax on it to license it, for starters.
Even working on the car was like being with an exotic foreign woman. I didna understand the language she spake; and when I puzzled it out, I had a hard time relating it to what I needed to do to please her.
Just figuring out how to change the windshield wipers was an adventure. Changing the oil for the first time was an epic tale of misunderstanding, stupidity, and frustration.
But that may be all in the past. This torrid love affair, this scandalous experiment in European couture is over. If one can no longer pay for the services of madame escort, then madame escort shall bid you adieu.
Like a poorly-done spy thriller, her people tried to blackmail me, and then they double-crossed me, see? I ignored (or perhaps forgot) their demand for payment, and as their patience wore thin they just took it! They took my money! They absconded like common criminals with money from my account! Extortioners!
As Bugs Bunny famously said, “Of course you realize–dis means war.”
But I guess I am glad they did that, because what it did was brought to my attention the fact that I could no longer afford this sordid affair with German engineering. Maybe if she didn’t insist that we go to the most expensive restaurants and hotels…
I couldn’t afford her, and I started to resent her for it, and it showed. The sweet Fraulein got a taste of what middle-class America is like: fast food trash, mud, and the wrappers of cheap cigars. She was starting to feel used. Vindictively, I felt she deserved it for what she had put me through. Talk about high maintenance.
I held off the calls for about a month and a half. They were really starting to sweat, I think, wondering what I was doing to their little Germanic princess I was holding hostage. Finally, I answered the phone.
Tactically, of course, she measures her words. But the question was, did I want to continue this game, this charade, this cat-and-mouse chase? No. I was done.
The woman was still trying to leverage me when I told her that I am ready and willing to give up my hostage. Where do you want me to make the drop?
Her tone changed from stern but friendly to hostile and accusatory. “You knew what you were doing! You knew!”
“Indeed,” said I.
But it was a game of he said-bitch said. I say they didn’t have authorization to withdraw funds. She said I did approve it, and she herself handled the transaction, because she told me if I couldn’t make the payment by the end of the month to give her a call back.
So now she’s my holla-back girl? Even if that is true…I don’t explicitly recall saying, “Yes, take money out of my account.” On the recommendation of my personal banker (and everyone should have one), I closed the old account and opened a new one. Instead of needing a new debit card, they simply attached the card to my new account.
And not just because I work at the bank at which I bank. My personal banker (You know, he’s just a glorified teller that has a wood grain cubicle off to the side instead of standing behind the counter. And he was the next one available when I went down to see him. Still, that makes him “my” personal banker.) said that whenever there is an issue like this–some breach of security or private information–they recommend closing the account and opening a new one.
That happened back in August. The week I was on my useless vacation, they withdrew the money from my account on Wednesday. That just happened to be the day *before* I got paid, which was Thursday. So they put me in the hole.
I didn’t check my account until the next week, and by then it was too late. Since I’m petty, vindictive, and passive-aggressive, I approached this with a new, calculated strategy. I refused to answer the phone when they called. And they called often. A few times per week. The funny thing–the odd thing–is that right after they would call my work phone and it went to voice mail, my cell phone would ring. My brand new cell phone with a new carrier and new contract and new phone number that I had not given out to ANYONE. How did they find my number? Oh, I know how they did it. I’ve watched Veronica Mars; I know how this works.
But the man leaving me messages on my phone was different and had a different tone than the woman calling my work phone. It made me wonder, really, was it just a coincidence?
In a very stern tone that was meant to indicate “You’re in trouble,” the man would say this: “Today is September 27th. A file has come across my desk with YOUR name on it. A decision must be made concerning this matter. It would be better for all parties involved if you were a part of that decision that needs to be made. Call my office at blah-blah, blah-blah-blah, blah, extension blah-blah, before 4pm Pacific time today, September 27th.”
Yeah. Notice how they never *said my name*. It’s a new phone number for me. I don’t identify myself by my full name on my voice mail–hell, I might not use my name at all, I need to check–so am I supposed to presume the message is for me? Not on your life. Hell, for all I know, it could be one of those identity theft-phishing scams.
But during that time it also gave me time to assess my financial situation. I have pages of budget spreadsheets figuring shit six ways to Sunday, color charts, bar graphs, pie charts–and all they do is tell me in a variety of interesting and colorful ways how broke I am.
No matter how I did it, the number that I was in the red every month…was curiously similar to the amount of my car payment. There was just a point where it clicked with me. I had been looking for ways to make more money–sell blood, sell semen, sell my body–and looking for ways to cut my bills, but *that* bill I never conceived of being able to reduce.
But I could eliminate it completely.
By eliminating the car payment, reducing my car insurance, and going from a big phone plan down to a cheaper one (I’ll explain that in a moment), that puts me in the realm of not being in the red every month. Maybe not “in the green,” but out of the hazard.
We also changed the phone plan. Again. Out of desperation. We had been with–let’s start at the beginning. I was with Sprint when Detroit and I first met. We got together and went with Verizon. Last year, I think, we switched from Verizon to Sprint…for two weeks. Then we went to AT&T. I thought we were getting a good deal–but Christ. Detroit and her son and I, unlimited data and text, and 700 shared minutes *should* have been about $120 per month. But it ended up being about 184 per month, when you add on late fees and all this other stuff. Taxes. Things like that.
So I owe them money now, because we just dropped them like a bad transmission, and went to Cricket. Alex joined his Grandmother’s plan, so we don’t hasta worry about him. Detroit pays her Cricket and I pay mine. Thirty-five bones per month, unlimited text, unlimited voice. And nothing else.
I could get data and web and other crap for another 10 bucks a month, but fuck it. I never used the internet on the phone before. The only thing I can’t do is text photos. I think I’ll live. So our phone bill went from 180 to 70, and *mine* went from 180 to 35. Fucking sweet. Even if it was just the right amount, call it 120 bucks. The car payment was about 275. Four hundred, easily. When I redo my insurance, it’ll be less as well.
I wonder–should I get full coverage on my truck? It is paid for. Regardless, insurance for a ten-year old truck should be cheaper than the insurance on a 10 year old Mercedes.

When my handler finally transferred me to a repo case worker, he was more polite. He explained some of the particulars, and offered me some other options, but that only served to firm up my resolve. First of all, I paid 10 grand for the car. I know I overpaid right there-I bet the car was worth only 8, maybe less at the time. But then factor in my bad credit and what they chose to ream me for on the interest rate–
And by the way–a year later I was able to refinance my house, so how bad was my credit *truly*? But the ganked me on that as well. So, Juan tells me that I’ve made 23 payments–that’s over 6300 dollars–and I still owe over nine thousand. Based on the year and miles of the car, it’s probably worth about 4 grand, he tells me.
It’s the beginning of October, so the car would probably be sold at the end of the month. At an auction, they aren’t going to get anywhere near the four grand it is supposedly worth.
And good luck getting that out of it with a cracked windshield, a trashed interior, body damage, needing engine work and a tune up…oh, and surprise!–A big honking computer monitor rolling around in the trunk.
So by January I would hear from their lawyers, and be responsible for the balance due, which they could garnish my wages or put a lien on my house. Hmmm.
Is it the truth or is it a tactic?
Don’t know, not sure, and I’m a little concerned. Juan did ask me about my bills. I said, with my house payment and child support, I can’t afford the car. That’s the whole point. Can’t afford it. “How much do you bring home a month?”
“About 2 grand,” I answer.
“How much is your house payment and your child support?”
“Eleven hundred and five hundred.”
“How much are your utilities?”
“About four hundred.”
Yeah, cowboy, that adds up to two thousand. Not much there to garnish, is there?
Here’s hoping.
Juan faxes me a form to sign and fax back, for voluntary surrender. But I wanted to make sure, so I emailed my lawyer-friend, and I haven’t heard back from him yet.
Last night–or this morning, at 215 AM–I hear a knocking, gentle knocking, at my chamber door. Actually, first I heard the dog bark. Then I heard someone talk to the dog. Then I heard some other muffled voices. Then someone knocked on my bedroom door. “Someone is here to take the car.”
Really? Really? At 2 am you want to do this? Really?
He was a smallish, short guy in overalls. He seemed slightly taken aback to see my large frame come through the door in the middle of this cool October night wearing only knit shorts and nothing else. I mumbled something about why they couldn’t do this in the daytime. His excuse–echoed by the unseen guy in the truck–was that they tried to call and leave a message. Sure they did. Sure.
I trodded out to the car and grabbed my Pizzarama Hat from the back seat and my lighter from the dash in front. Damn luxury car–the cigarette lighter never worked. I looked for my sunglasses…but shit, it was dark and I was half asleep. I’ll have to buy another pair for ten bucks.
I handed over the key and walked back in the house. I wonder if I was supposed to sign something? Oh, well. As I snuggled back into bed, I heard the truck drive off, followed by the car.
Quoth the Mercedes, “Nevermore.”

Why I Does What I Does…

September 4, 2010 at 9:57 AM | Posted in Journal, Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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Why I deliver pizza part time:
Last night wasn’t typical, of course. But I’ve had some nights just as good. Last night I was scheduled for three-hours, from 5pm to 8pm—prime dinner rush.
It was threatening to rain, and I did get sprinkled on a bit, but nothing big. But we were busy, and I ended up working until 830 basically.
We were busy, but there were lulls, or spaces, where I waiting for a delivery. Also, our area is big and unwieldy, so sometimes it can take a long time to get from one end to the other, especially with suburban rush hour traffic and construction always going on. So even though I worked 3 and a half hours, and in other places I could have taken more deliveries, I took 14. That’s about 4 per hour, which is really not a bad average.
So, 14 deliveries. I get the pies in the car, I drive around, I listen to the radio, I go up to the door, give them the food and take the money, and go back to my car, and drive away. I’m not sure if you can really call it “work.”
I made 65 bucks in cash. Fourteen of that is the dollar per run I get from the company to cover gas. And then I get paid by the hour—minimum wage, which is currently 7.25
Ready for some math?
Sixty five divided by 3.5 is 18.57. Add the minimum wage to that. I made 25.82 per hour last night.
Now, the problem is, I can’t do that for 40 hours a week. First of all, they don’t need me for 40 hours. They are busy for about three hours a day, around dinner, every day. I work about 3 or 4 days per week, anywhere from 10 to 15 hours.
And that money I made is not average or typical; it’s the high of the high-low. What’s low? Several nights I have worked 3 hours and made in the neighborhood of 25 bucks in cash. Now, that still gives me about 14 bucks per hour….but your gas is included in that number.
All in all it’s a good job—if you can take it. If you’re tough enough. What does that mean?
Well, even though it is easy, and often I hesitate to call it work—you have to have a little something on the ball do it.
You have to be able to read directions and follow a map. I’m going to say it right here, right now, to your face: GPS is for pussies. If you can’t read a map you’re goddamn lower primate. And, while I do intend to get a mapbook and put it in my car in case I need it, what I have been doing so far is reading the map on the wall at the store, remembering where I’m going, and then leaving with nothing written down.
Yeah, I’m that good.
In fact, last night one of the runs I took was actually four runs: a four-stop. They routed well, and although I am still somewhat new to this area, two of the streets I had been to before, and all of them were in the same general area.
And this goes to the difference in how people read a map. If you need “directions,” like turn left here, turn right here, go two blocks—“ that’s not reading a map. That’s reading directions. What if you had the four stops I had, and didn’t know the area? You’re going to need a page of written directions. Do you have time for that?
No, you really don’t.
You look at the map, and first you see where the streets are that you need. Then, you look for main roads, and roads that are familiar to you. Then you try to string them together, what you are familiar with and the new stuff. But not with directions. Visualize the map. See the map in your head. All of the these streets you get to from McClay. You know how to get to McClay. Don’t worry about that. Get to McClay. First street on that side, then wind a bit, and there’s a court. Come back out and continue onward. Turn just past the light, and remember a street name—your street is off of that. Find your way out. Go back to the light, and head up. This is more complicated, but you remember what the map looks like in your head. You go in, you come out. Head back. Take that main drag back to the other main street, and turn up it. There’s a court off of it somewhere….there it is. Found it. Now come back.
Instead of countless directions, I remembered what the map looked like, and two street names to look for that I had to turn onto. Much, much simpler. I made the round trip in traffic in about 25 minutes. No wrong turns, no delays.
And this is why I’m better than you at reading a map, and why GPS is for pussies.

The River Is Wide

August 16, 2010 at 8:50 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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…And it’s too hard to cross… 

So many things going on, so much as happened.  I’ve know that when you have time to write about it, there’s nothing happening.  When there is shit going down, you’re too busy dealing with it to write and reflect and ponder and so forth.
To me, that’s why a journal style of personal record keeping is optimum.  A daily diary can’t string together events over a period of time without appearing choppy.  A journal-style (or at least, *my* journal style) lets me tell a story that may have happened over a period of weeks, or months, or years.
Or hours.  Sometimes I get long-winded.
But not tonight, children.  Gather around the radio with your hot chocolate and let me give you several brief synopses.  Ah, where to start…?

The radio show seems to be going well, let’s start there.  We had a rough month, though.  Race was a big topic in the news, and we did a show about it.  It was harsh, and ultimately unairable.  Luckily for us, there were technical difficulties, and it didn’t record anyway.  The following week, we did a better show, and still touched on the subject but in a different way.  That show, too, disappeared into the ether.  Not the ethernet.
Thrice we tried.  This show was better.  It was good.  But–what happened?  The following week, we received word from the studio (in other words, Lou) that due to technical issues, there would be no show.  That was a week ago.  Lou assured us that by the following week, we would be good to go.  I certainly hoped so–
So much had happened in the news, I was chomping at the bit to get my opinion out there, like it matters.   But it was frustrating.  Finally, Saturday, we show up–
And all appears well.  I say “appears” because, although we did record and it did seem to go well, until it’s posted in a couple of days, I’m not taking anything for granted.  But Bill’s show just got posted, so here’s hoping the technical issues are over for now.  This week, Lou should post our last show, and then the most recent one.  He thinks he can recover a majority of the last show we did before the gremlins overtook the machines.
That’s all I have on that, except this:  The show is taking up alot of my creative energy.  I do have some to spare, but not much.  But this is unique for me in many ways.  It’s a collaborative effort (with partner Suzan) and I’m working on something tangible that other people can experience, thanks to Lou and his network.  It gives me drive and focus and a reasonable desire to succeed.  We may never have an audience to speak of–
–and I swear to God, all I want is someone–anyone–to tell me that they’ve listened to the fucking show!  Just tell me that someone is out, there for Chrissake!  Fuck.

Things at Pizzarama are going well.  I work about 3 or 4 nights per week, anywhere from 12 to 15 hours a week.  Just enough to piss me off and not enough to solve my financial problems.  It’s a precarious balance.  I’ll write more about that when I feel like it.

The first week of August, I took a vacation.  Kind of had to–financial industry requirements.  However, I still had to work the night job, and I also worked the Tuesday as an election judge.  Basically, I had a shitty vacation full of unfinished projects and unfulfilled dreams.

I have several friends named Kim.  Of course, there is the one I sleep with, Detroit.  Then there is my life-long friend Bunny.  At the bank I have a new one, whom I shall call…Kimmie.  Nice woman in a trashy kind of way.  The previous week, I was on vacation, and I also had no cell phone, because that’s what happens when you don’t pay the bill.  She wasn’t able to get in touch with me.
Her boyfriend committed suicide.
Christ, I can’t imagine.  But it must be hard.  I feel shitty for not being there that week.  Dammit.  I’m trying to be there for her now.

Speaking of being there, I got cash problems.  I made a decision a few weeks ago, and slowly it solidified for me, and I realize that I have to do it.  But now, I’m okay with it.
I’m going to have to let the Mercedes get repossessed.
No matter what I do, every month I’m in the hole about the amount of that payment.  They charged me too much for it, and then they screwed me on the financing.  If the payment was half of what it is, I would try to manage it.  Hell, it’s been a problem since I got it, which you would know if you were a regular reader of my column here.
I have my truck in the garage, which hasn’t run in about a year and a half.  For less than one payment, I can get Fred running again.  Hell, I should have done that instead of buying the car in the first place.  I think we might have had other plans at the time, but I’m not sure.  Hell.
The plates are up on the Mercedes, and it needs a tune up.  The plates being up means inspections and it also means I need to pay the personal property tax I haven’t paid that was due December 31.  But I’m going to have to pay that to get the truck on the road as well.
The difference is that monthly payment.  That will make me or break me.  As it has already shown, it’s breaking me.  It’s going to fuck my credit, I know.  But I have the house.  I have two houses, actually, and me paying the mortgage affects both of them.  It’s more important to keep the house than it is to keep the car.
This is me, chewing off my arm to get out of this.

Sapphire In The Moonlight

July 12, 2010 at 10:05 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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No, sometimes the title really doesn’t mean anything…
After I talked to The Dude, I conspired to talk to Rob, the manager at Pizzarama.  First things first, however.
Friday, I left the bank about one-ish to see my shrink.  I brought with me some self-test for the ADD that I had done.  One was a before/after, where I graded myself on how I was before seeking help, and now.   From zero to four, with zero being none of the time and four being constantly.  On 34 questions you want to be less that 2 as an average, or less that 64.
For the before part, I scored over 80.
For after, I scored in the 30s, I think.  Even if I did cut myself a break, that’s still pretty good.  But subjectivity is in the eye of the beholder.
I did the whole test because I wanted to see where I stood–I felt that maybe I wasn’t getting better.  But this put it in perspective.  Plus, it allowed me to see (again) that many of the hurdles I face are my own, that I have to overcome.  And I have seen improvement.  Likewise, I was able to clear some of the brush from the forest, so now I can see the trees that I’ve been walking around.
What I mean is, I have a handful of big tasks that I’ve been avoiding, putting off.  I put the pro in procrastination.  But now I see them more clearly, and also see a game plan forming to tackle them.  I swear to God, you have no idea what it’s like inside my head.  Imagine a loud bar, with several bands playing and a different channel on 17 TVs all over the place.  And no one is getting carded.
After the shrink, I went to–
Hey, I had a great idea for a game.  Go the the psychiatrist’s office and sit in the waiting room, and try to guess what’s wrong with the patients by looking at them.  It’s fun; you should try it.  Feel free to vocalize your diagnoses by shouting them out like you’re playing “Yatzee!”  The first one to make someone cry wins. 

Speaking of which, afterward I visited the ex and gave her more money than I should have for child support, but I’m still behind a few months.  I’m glad she’s being cool about it.  Eventually the damn will burst.
She said something that made me so happy:  “Your son is so much like you I just want to strangle him.”  I’ve never been more proud.

Then I drove by Pizzarama, and talked to Rob.  We cleared the air, I hope, and had a good talk.  After what the Dude told me, I had to straighten shit out.  Here are a couple of points, briefly:
*  The knee:  It really was hurt, but this is not a thing that happens all the time.  I’m not a sickly guy.  I don’t call off.  But it was serious.
*  Some people thought I was being aloof:  that doesn’t describe me.  But the previous manager so emphasized that people had to be working, that I put my head down and worked so I wouldn’t be seen as fucking off.  Plus, I like to feel the place out so I don’t say something stupid.
*  Like the whole thing with the tip on the credit card.  I apologized again, hoping it would stick this time.
And Rob said we are cool, and is putting me back on for just a few days–less than I want, but he wants to make sure my knee can take it.  I can see his point; he wants to cover his ass.
Sunday I got some calls from numbers I did not know, so I ignored them.  However, I listened to my messages, and some driver chick named Ashley was looking for someone to work for her that night.  I called her back:  Hell yeah.  Her many messages and texts indicated that she was desperate enough to pay me for it, but I wanted to get in good with everyone there, so I did it for free.  I need the money, anyway.
Besides, I’d rather have a handjob.

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