Friday, October 29, 2010

Attention Connie Willis fans!

You know who you are! Have you read "Blackout" and "All Clear" yet? I am on the waiting list for "All Clear" at my library and I can't wait to get it.

Time for some grouchiness

I don't know which grouchy complaint to write about: the friend who got the layoff with a large serving of no dignity allowed, or the incredibly poor 'we could care less' customer service incident. So, I will write about both.

A husband of the missus' friend and his co-workers were called to the conference room several weeks ago to receive the bad news: layoffs. Bummer, but then we are all vulnerable these days. However, it is bad enough to get this news, but it gets even worse: they were told to grab their jackets and purses and clear the building immediately. Talk about a kick in the rear after you've already been knocked down! No dignity allowed, no time to get the mind around the sudden, wrenching change in direction. They were permitted to return at a later date to retrieve their possessions. What has happened to treating people with dignity?

Here's my second grouch: I went to the type of store that requires the purchaser to supply two types of ID to buy certain things that start with g and end with n unless there are more than one such item being bought in which case it begins with g and ends with s. So, I handed over my ID and did the deed. At the end of the transaction the clerk said I was done and being as I had an hour drive ahead of me, I hurriedly exited the store for home. Five days later I went to retrieve something from my wallet and realized that I had left both my driver's license and military ID at the store. My fault, but the store not only had the ID, they also had my phone number. Couldn't they have called me? So, I called them. They said they'd look around and call me back. Three hours later and no call. I decided to drive to the store since it is only 20 minutes from where I work. Got to the store, asked the girl at the register about the ID. She knows nothing. She directs me to the guy behind the counter. He says go talk to the girl, she has the lost and found. She knows nothing. The guy says he knows nothing but they'll look around and call me. I say how long can it take to look in this small store? They say come back later. I say I will have to file a police report for the missing military ID. They call the manager. He won't come out but says to look in the lost and found box that the girl at the register has. She looks and pulls out my DL. I ask about the military ID. She pulls that out too. I leave before I say anything I will regret. A week later I stop at the store on the way home from drill to pick up the thing that begins with G and ends with N. I've already paid for everything. They tell me I owe another $40 before I can take it. I say no way. I say their policy is that everything is paid in full when the transaction is complete. They say that is true but I owe another $40. I don't have my receipt with me. They tell me to pay up or too bad. I spy the guy who waited on me and drag him into the conversation. He says that he remembers what happened and reminds the manager that the information was entered into the computer wrong and he had to redo it which is why it shows me owing another $40. The manager looks really steamed. He gives me the thing and walks off. I thank him, the guy who spoke up, and the guy who is standing there watching the whole thing and leave. I vow never, ever, ever to go back.

Now I no longer feel grouchy.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Time marches on

I took oldest son to the airport today for his first business trip. He'll be in D.C. for a week and a half getting training at the State department and visiting various government agencies that he will interact with. It is his first trip of this type (discounting his various military adventures overseas) and undoubtedly the first of many. We talked about the trip and about how I traveled on business for 28 years until I got my latest job which has no travel involved. I don't miss the traveling now at all but over the years it greatly expanded my horizons. I missed my family greatly while traveling but the plus side was that I visited many interesting places and met some memorable people.

So now my son is grown up, with a real job and career and talking about buying a condo or a loft. Time marches on. I am very happy for him but a bit melancholy for me as I enter the home stretch for my working career.

I can't wait to hear his tales of the road, the places he will visit and the people he will meet.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rant Interlude #2

Early Saturday morning we had a thunderstorm with booming thunder, lightning illuminating the room through the closed window blinds and finally driving rain. The thunder moved off and grew more muted as the storm passed. Thunderstorms are rare in this part of the country and especially this time of year. It was nice to have the sound, and the light, and the rain and to be able to lay in bed and know that it was no matter that I was awake because it was Saturday after all and nothing, absolutely nothing had to be done that I didn't want to do. I thought about the lyrics from the Bob Seeger song:

I woke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off I sat and wondered
Started humming a song from 1962
Ain't it funny how the night moves
When you just don't seem to have as much to lose
Strange how the night moves
With autumn closing in...

So true in many ways

Rant #2

We now return to our regularly scheduled rants:
I ride the train each day and bring my bike on board. This isn't an unusual occurrence and a number of us do this day in and day out. There are designated spots on each car with a neat-o sign that has a picture of a bike and says (in English) bike storage area. Pretty plain and matter of fact.
The other day I got on the train to go home. I was getting on at the second stop as the train originated at Union station in downtown L.A. I'm used to a bit of crowding and riders shifting around to accommodate everyone but I wasn't ready for this sight:
Five middle aged ladies apparently had done their month's shopping at downtown L.A. (for cryin' out loud!) and were taking their booty home with them. It was piled in the bike area and across from the bike area, and on two seats so that these five women had effectively occupied the space of seven people and four bikes. I had no place to go so I stood and held the bike. The conductor (the coward) took one look at me and left the car, not to return for the rest of the time that I was on the train. As we moved down the line three more bikes got on the same car, each one snared as I had been: from outside the car the mound of groceries, flowers, bananas, tote carts, and the like could not be seen from outside and when the door opens a rider has about 20 seconds to get on. Very little time to decide to try another car and the next train is 45 minutes behind. So we squeezed in. The ladies were nonchalant and really could've cared less until a young Hispanic man got on with his bike. suddenly they cared that he had no place for his bike and one of the women tugged ineffectively at the pile 'o produce to make room for his bike while the other pointed at the isle and presumably asked (in Spanish) if he would put his bike there. He answered firmy (in English) 'that would be a hazard' and stayed with the rest of us in the bike mash.
While we were all dealing with this, at one of the stops a phalanx of deputies pushed onto the car, went up the stairs to the second level and came down with a young woman between two of them and hustled her off the car. She had a little smile on her face like 'this happens all the time, no worries'. Just something else to add to the drama of the trip.
Do you wish to know what was the worst of this little encounter? I'll tell you. About half way through the ordeal, as we clutched our bikes and tried not to fall over as the train lurched and jerked and people squeezed through us and gave us dirty looks, the ladies proceeded to open up bags of fresh bakery bread which they proceeded to eat without even offering any to us! All would have been OK if we had gotten a bite of that bread. It smelled great.
Afterword: The next day the same group was inspected for train tickets by the deputies. They tried the 'no comprende' routine and the 'no English' routine but eventually dug out their tickets. The deputy wasn't amused.