A Return After Starting New Work In November But Still Hoping For Part of My Dreams…

Driving in Monday morning, after a nice three day weekend wherein I took a day off on Friday for a car inspection and to free up Saturday to basically sleep, I was about 32 miles, roughly halfway to the office, fighting heavy traffic when I thought…’What am I doing?’.

I had been rested over the weekend, I was feeling hope, feeling happiness, feeling a strength that I haven’t had in a while, doing things I actually wanted to do and had time to do, things which I haven’t done in a while like walk, read, watch old movies and anime, found myself enjoying life, getting enough rest and with the help of the cats I was keeping most of my demons at bay…

By the end of Monday I was thinking of a long day on Tuesday with an eye exam I scheduled since I figured heck, why not get it in when I have insurance they are open and no one is requiring special hours or anything like that…

As a quick aside, for an eye exam, retinal photos, new lenses and frames, insured it was $200 but w/o insurance would’ve been about 800 bucks (700 w/o new frames)—who can afford even basic medical care anymore?

The tired feeling intensified coming home from the eye doctor’s on Tuesday, when I was an hour behind normal schedule but with the standstill traffic and a mass increase in volume prior to just an hour prior (~2:45 normal 3:45 that day), you’d have thought they rerouted all I90 and Van Wyck Expressway traffic to those roads. I’ll say this for the experience, if that 1-hour shift made a huge change, I’m further convinced, if I hadn’t lost Ipas, I’d have had to leave as my original and still on paper 1.5 hour commute was already 2+ and with that traffic would undoubtedly be nearing, at or over 3+ hours.

Keep one more thing in mind…I left the eye doctor’s about an hour after I normally leave the office which put me on those same sections of road slightly before 1 hour later than normal and I got home approximately 1 hour later than normal.

All that seems logical…but remember that 1 hour later was starting from the eye doctors not the office, so I cut off 20+ miles of travel from the normal starting point and still was 1 hour behind arriving home, which speaks to the travel conditions and volume of traffic that the trip from the doctor’s to home wasn’t quicker but took the same time to transverse 20+ fewer miles as it takes to travel the full distance 1 hour earlier.

By the time I was driving in on Wednesday, listening to ‘Arthur’s Theme’ and once more seeing traffic that would make the L.A. Freeway blush at 6:45 am, while remembering how a fraction of that traffic was on the roads five months ago (and for a good 7 years prior), I thought to myself, ‘If given the chance, means and opportunity to retire, move with my human and feline family somewhere peaceful, a comfortable home with land and privacy and if I could have no more money worries (e.g. no debt or need of income), would I retire tomorrow?

Unlike all the other times I’ve asked myself that, realizing that it was work which got me out of the house, had me interact with others and kept me from being a complete shut-in, this time I answered myself in the same mental breath, ‘Without a second’s hesitation. I’d retire, move somewhere with quieter roads and if I felt like it, get up at 6:00 am and just go with the flow driving those peaceful roads with no specific destination or time to be there, maybe ending at Vermont’s or New Hampshire’s equivalent of Flo’s Diner, where I’d become a regular breakfast or lunch guest.

Don’t misunderstand, I am happy to have work and there are far worse places I could be working, call centers for one…people here are nice, location is nice, work conditions are nice and it is nice (am I overusing that word?) to be closer to home than I was…so overall it’s a good (caught myself that time) place to be and I’m very happy to have a job. I would like a window as sunlight truly helps my mood and I think is part of what boosted my mood during the weekend, seeing and being in the daylight…anyway, I was feeling hope again…

Hopes for my dreams to move to Vermont, hopefully debt free and from what little I’ve see of the jobs up there even during the pandemic, a few chats with job agencies and just random looking, it’s obvious they pay more…albeit still not gonzo rates, but hope exists if their bottom prices are about $16/hr. that I can get up to the level I need.

I also believe for someone of my skills, knowledge, experience and talent, it’d be easier finding a job up there than it often is where I am now but where I am now has this weird view of things.

There are times I was told, despite having done and currently doing the exact things being looked for, as my title might have been ‘Facilities Coordinator’ and not ‘Facilities Operational Coordinator’, then obviously, despite the current job description and duties matching what they are looking for to the point it looks like a copy and paste job with just the title changed, there is no way I can be a ‘Facilities Operational Coordinator’.

I was actually told that once and I regret to say at first I was left speechless and secondly that the snappy comeback which did come to mind had to be bitten back for fear of turning that bridge into splinters.

Of course, not sure I should have cared since if that is how narrow their view is, or how much of a gullible sap they take me for, I doubt even left standing, the bridge would have been of any worth to me or that with both hands glued to their own … they could find their own…but I’m straying off topic.

Well, I am trying something new and for those that care to read it, will be writing sort of an off and on journal along this lines…it might be a stream of consciousness and I often might have help of a feline family member walking across the keyboard, so please excuse any grammar errors.

Thank anyone that has taken the time to read this…comments, thoughts and such are always welcomed.

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Long Overdue Job Search Update and A Request for Assistance

A lot has been going on in the months since my last posting…I hope everyone has been well and everyone is doing okay during these difficult times.

Even if you don’t read the rest if this entry, please check out the end and help if possible and even if you cannot, please pass it on to others who might be able to…I truly appreciate it and the help.

I am so sorry this has to be my first entry back as it is far from me at my peak and I do have a request, a plea. at the end. It is something that embarrasses me to even ask about and something that is not like me at all to usual make requests on, but I’ve reached the point I have no choice. Anyway, on to my job search struggles…which I hope no one else is facing or if you are and want to share your stories, please let me know…I’m always interested to hear what issue others are facing and help if I can.

Well first some good news, two new kittens have moved in with me, expanding my feline family a bit. One kept charging me when I went out to take out trash, not sure where he came from but was seemingly abandoned, I took him in, had the vet check him and he’s doing fine…so little Maverick has joined my feline family, photos to come.

I’ve had some leads, some interviews and enough recommendations on how to redo my resume and LinkedIn page that if any of them actually merited money, I’d have enough in my bank account to buy the Biltmore Estate, hire someone to ghostwrite weekly entries for me about my job search experiences and the spare change left over to try for a real life ‘Jurassic Park’…slightly less, or is it more, sarcastically but directly said, if I used each one of the changes I was told to make and an MTA Pass, I could get one roundtrip ticket from Woodhaven to JFK.

Into this mix of fun resume changes, enter my former company, who, rather belatedly, said they had paid for a free month with a local job search/coaching agency I’ll call Jones Smith Sanders (JSS), for all laid off in July.

The only kind things I can think to say about JSS are that they certainly have a high opinion of themselves and their procedure.

To JSS the procedure is their deity… seriously, I thought some of the better known “employment agencies” were fixated on procedure, on form over substances, but JSS puts them to shame.

My first meeting with my JSS career counselor was revealing. It was also a fight to get that meeting on the first day the monthly clock started running as they had the idea it could be a week or two in as I would have access to their website, resume redesigns (no comment) and webinars on interviewing and job searching (again, no comment).

I was and still am getting the feeling they are trying to do enough to look good, but not enough to actually get anyone a job as they are looking for more money by bringing someone close and feeling if they only extended the program by another month…but I digress.

Well, in my first JSS Career Counselor meeting, I found just who wedded they are to their system when I was asked what I precisely hoped to gain from their services.

To paraphrase myself, I said that I’d been through a lot of resume revisions, had paid to have my LinkedIn page changed several times, had been applying for sometime for work, tried my own network to get my foot in the door but to no avail as they are mostly in the same boat as me and that I’ve also had my share of job agencies that have me take assessments but are appalled I ask for something that is near or above industry average for the position (often 7 dollars more than what most places are willing to pay and 8 dollars under what I should be making) and promise to call if anything comes up, only never to call.

Therefore, what I needed from JSS was not a job agency that would take my name, number and keep me in mind for something in the future with no intention to ever call, but someone to kick a few doors open for me through their industry knowledge or contacts and get me in for an interview, since I know if I get in the door, I stand my best chance at getting a job through the interview.

I stand the best chance because I’ve bypassed all that computer screening, needless steps of proving I can do what I’ve proved I can do and because I interview well.

It’s no secret that I can b.s. with the best of them and I come across as very personable in interviews…or so I’ve been repeatedly told…oddly, even by my JSS career counselor, when listing off what I might be able to get help with, told me that I seem like I would be strong in interviews…however, I slightly digress.

My response to what I expected out of JSS merited a shocked silence, long enough I thought the phone line had dropped.

I did eventually get a response that basically amounted to, “We have our system and if you follow it, you might have a job offer or two within a month…but if you don’t…well we wash our hands of you and don’t you dare darken our doorstep again”.

It was phrased much nicer, but I’m on of those people who actually picks up on nuances and got the threat clearly…I follow their system and they might help me, I don’t and well they won’t help.

Part of that came when my JSS career counselor mentioned several people they worked with that within a week or two already had job offers but dodged the topics of “in what industries”, “Full-time/Part-time/Temporary/Contract/etc.” and “what general salary range”…merely stressing these people followed the system and got offers. Actually, each time I speak with them, they mention someone they know and worked with that got job offers.

So for about a week, I’ve been following their system, playing the game, as it were, had another resume redo, learned about the SOAR system and again about networking.

I tired to shortcut that lecture by saying I am networking and it isn’t working. That only led me to being provided with a list of sights to try networking through and the thought that even if my contact doesn’t directly know anything, they might know someone who then in turn knows a person that has knowledge of an open position…

Okay, at that point I did somewhat shortcut the lecture by replying, “That’s very true. It is possible that they might know a guy that knows a guy.”. Truthfully, I don’t think my JSS Career Counselor got it, only that I was making a statement that wasn’t pure agreement and praise of how great an idea they offered.

As to SOAR, or one of the several dozen other acronyms that exist on this idea…you basically look at what you’ve done for each position and come up with a good story.

You have several ready to tell in your interview of how you did what no one else could, the problems you encountered along the way, how you overcame them and how your success benefited the company in a concrete way (numbers if possible) and then make that story a concise bullet point for your resume starting with action words and with added percentages if possible, because everyone (but me it seems) loves metrics and those work better than saying “I solved a problem and my solution is still in use after 7 years, at the company.”.

Of course, even with these stories, you need to tweak them slightly, not to mention your entire resume bullet points of these stories, for each job you apply to as to pass the automated screening systems.

It was also recommended that you should have about 60 or so SOAR stories on hand to make sure your retelling stays fresh for each person you talk to and it never reaches the point it is obvious you are reading from a script…

I sometimes wonder what someone like James T. Kirk would do with these silly interview ideas and processes…

Kirk: “I saved humanity from its own shortsightedness by returning the extinct species of whales to the planet, whales who told that probe vaporizing our atmosphere what to go do with itself.”

Starfleet Command: “Yes, but you stole and blew up the Enterprise first, sabotaged another Starfleet vessel and then lost a Klingon vessel and thereby our ability to study their cloaking technology.

So, how did your saving humanity from its own shortsightedness actually overcome those problems you caused?

We need numbers, Kirk, percentages of the people saved versus those that would have been lost if you hadn’t interviewed and screwed up other things. Also I must add your solution violated about 30 Temporal Regulations.

So, citing precise numbers and examples, how did such violations actually benefit humanity as you unquestionably changed the course of history? How do those things show the value you’d bring to our organization?”

Kirk: “Because if I hadn’t. you and I wouldn’t be here to have this conversation, is that justification and value enough?”

I know I couldn’t get away with comments like that last one, but sometimes there are not reasons behind why something happens or numbers to justify things…I’ll be honest, my SOAR stories are true, but the numbers I’m putting with them have been pulled out of thin air and if anyone tries to confirm them, they will be unable…however, they will also be unable to disprove them, so that is a bit to my advantage.

Anyway, next week I have another discussion with my JSS Career Counselor when I again press them on what contacts they have, since for a full week I’ve been the good one following their systems to the letter…and so far it’s gotten me no further than I was before I started with their program…oh, one last thought on JSS, the job search system that was so vaunted to me, it’s a catch all system that draws from several others and doesn’t actually have any original or unique jobs on it…

Oh, it has a few bells and whistles other sites lack, but it’s a catch all warehouse…think of it as a Superstore that in the era of the Malls dominance. It’s a place that would have carried Kenmore and other Sears, J.C. Penney, Strawbridge’s and Clothiers, Macy’s, Profit’s and other once huge anchor names items under one roof. It’s convenient one-stop shopping, but isn’t really anything new or exciting that offers greater opportunities or leads and in fact might offer a few less since it is combining them all in one location.

So even that is not as impressive as advertised…but so far JSS has been merely form, form and more form and not even a whiff of substances…about the only positive I can think of is, I’m not paying for these services…especially now when I can’t afford them, I’d be really upset this is what I was getting in return.

Now for my plea and my request for assistance.

It’s a story that goes back to February when I was driving into work and unexpectedly had a seizure. My car was totaled and I was in the hospital…thankfully I had health insurance with absorbed some of the costs, but debt was still incurred a lot of debt…then as you aware back in July I was laid off and have been out of work since…I’ve worked some deals to pay minimums on some of my debt but there is still a lot out there and as it is increasingly obvious I might not have work for some time and am trying my hardest to keep a roof over my head and food on the table, I’ve reached the embarrassing moment of having to reach out and ask for help in paying off the debt.

Well, as said, it’s been a while since I’ve talked about my job search, but that is not because I’ve been gainfully employed, but in part because I have been frantically searching for work and the USB I had which contained my notes and drafts of what was being posted here got fried and I lost so much that so far has been unrecoverable…I’ve been trying to rewrite and get my notes back both to help in my search and post here but thought it best to start from the present before going back in time again to the past and my last few days of work back in late June…

Even if you cannot help, please pass the word to those that might be able too help. I truly dislike being the one asking for help rather then the one offering help, but I’ve reached the point where my debt is such that without income I can’t help but ask for help in clearing the decks of debt so if, when, I finally get work, even if it is for just minimum wage, it can go to ensuring rent is paid and food is on the table.

Thank you again for whatever help can be provided during this difficult times, even if it is just passing the word along. I am truly grateful.

Everyone, please take care out there…I will update the next blog entry hopefully a lot sooner then the last one.

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Continued Job Search Story

Many things have changed. I wrote about two weeks ago how I was laid off, but I wanted to continue what I had written before that time for now… also will try to start a GoFundMe page. Like so many of us these days, I need to raise money to pay off medical debts.

If anyone is good at writing these things, please give me some pointers. In the past I’ve barely raised $70 for trying to cover medical debts, while someone raising money to visit ice cream parlors in each state raises $50,000.

Anyway… to pick up from where I last left off about being unemployed but debt free, one of the two of which I am now…

Obviously, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t already feeling nervous and worried about continuing to have work, have enough to pay debts, of finding a position where I wasn’t starting over from where I was 7 years ago, if not further back than that, and about many other things that were unfolding at the company.

There was also the thought that even if I survived this round of trouble within (ABC), it was long past time to leave, if not just because of the changes that have happened over the past 3 years alone, of how things have already become more insecure at (ABC) and surviving one round only means having to fight that much harder to survive the next.

(ABC) remains in many ways a place I’ll miss, but is also a place that at this point I won’t recommend to others and will merely raise a glass to, in honor of the fond memories I’ve had at the office and the surrounding area, an area that is also greatly changing, has so greatly changed, but more later on the changes that have happened in the area not just over 7 years, but the rapid changes over the last three years.

These are how the places near my office were once, not are currently, so much has changed….

Yet, in so many other ways it is a place that I will not miss as much as I would have even a year ago, as (ABC) and even the surrounding area, as previously said, is a place I no longer feel as if I had a place, partly because of all the changes.

As such, it is one that I will merely remember as giving me excellent benefits in a time of great need, along with knowledge, experience, skills and some contacts that I can hopefully parley into another position, eventually.

Therefore, as I started to talk about earlier, I find myself seeking work within a heavily flawed job search system. A system that is so biased toward the companies seeking employees and against those seeking employment, especially in “Right-to-Work” states and anywhere that doesn’t have a Union backing the employee, I’ve actually been told by several job search agencies they couldn’t help me because of where I was last employed.

Yes, indeed. It seems it was, and still is, a conflict of interest to assist me in finding work elsewhere because they occasionally place people at the company I was working for at the time I first reached out to them.

A few thoughts on that, their placements were always on a temporary basis and secondly, if their fear is word getting around, well I’m not going to broadcast, nor do I believe they would, the fact they helped me get another position in another location, especially now when I’m am no longer with (ABC).

Lastly, is it not in their financial best interest to place me as I’d help them make a decent bit of money for a while if placed in the right position for the right pay?

Yet, despite all of that, they deem it to be a conflict of interest and still refuse to help.

In fairness, it’s not that I don’t completely understand their view or realize that certain companies would hold it against them to help a current or recently laid off employee find other work, while that company also uses them to get temporary workers… and yet, I also want to take that view and shove it back down their throats.

That said, at least they’re upfront about not even wanting to help.

Far too many other companies (some of these are local places but others are the national chains, where everyone knows their name) have promised big, telling me they often get jobs matching my skill set or how starting the 1st of the year or starting the following month or week, they’ll become the exclusive job agency for (blank) which will dramatically increase the types of jobs I’m looking for within their job bank, so I just need to be patient…

Only come the 1st of the next whatever the next is, I never hear from them so, as is increasingly necessary in many walks of life these days, I must prod them, remind them of our conversation and see if they even have any more leads that might be promising as they indicated would be likely happen.

It is then when I’m told that they don’t recall the conversation, even if I’ve recorded it or have a word for word transcription, and then they go on to say that whoever I claim to have spoken with, would never have made such a statement as no one in their company ever makes such statements as doing so would go against company policy, but I just need to be a bit more patient, because I am highly skilled and talented and there are companies they know who get the jobs I am looking for and would love to help me once such a position opens but there are none at the moment and blah, blah, blah…

I’m seriously starting to wonder what would these people would have said to those left on the Titanic as it was going down, “Enjoy the music and get ready for the shuffleboard tournament tomorrow, because we have some great prizes planned for the winners.”?

If alternating between people that refuse to help and those that can’t remember their own false promises wasn’t annoying enough (didn’t Lincoln once say, “No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.”?) the job search system has also become like everything else in this world, information hungry.

There are times I am shocked someone hasn’t asked me who was my favorite teacher in second grade, what subject did they teach and which 007 movies did they show us and which opening was our favorite.

They ask practically everything else to the point some of the questions become very invasive and a lot of their questions are leading, many are badgering, irrelevant or call for speculation and others, asked/answered repetitive. (Sorry, grew up in a family of lawyers so often think that way about questions asked).

Common examples of the noninvasive basic questions include:

  • How many years have you’ve been doing a certain task and/or how many years of experience do you have with a certain system?
    • Actually, both are reasonable questions.
    • I’d be disappointed if they didn’t at least ask me to include such information on the application, even if it is already on the resume… though don’t hold me to this statement, as I might contradict myself later about how I loathe having to give the same information multiple times during the application process, i.e., asked/answered repetitive.
  • What are your salary expectations?
    • On the surface a very reasonable question.
    • Look deeper however and it is a way to weed people out.
    • Think about it, if four people apply and all else being equal, three ask for about 60k each per year for the work being asked and based on their current or previous position doing that same work for around 60k and one asks for minimum wage, who’s likely to be the favorite?
  • List at least five references
    • Until about 1 year ago (2019) it was only three references.
    • There was also rarely any restrictions on the type of reference, that is they could be professional or personal, though it was often requested that at least one be professional.
    • Now, they not only have to be professional, but in many cases at least three must be current or former supervisors and the others someone that works in the same field, i.e. if you work in Compliance, so must they, in some way shape or form, have directly or indirectly worked in Compliance and ideally at your current or most recent company.
    • While they can be from a different company, they should be someone that I’ve worked with at the same time within the same department and not merely at the same company at the same time.

Frankly, I think they’re pushing it asking for five references to start with, but to then get so restrictive and nitpicky, especially by asking for supervisors, well it’s another time I want to provide all the information they ask for by shoving it up their…

I believe to know why they are trying to ensure they get three supervisors, they rightly believe people will cherry-pick references, as is a time-honored tradition, to provide people that will give great reports and also because companies feel that supervisors are more likely to be overly neutral or not guild the lily as much.

I’ve also been told the reason they ask for so many references is because there are times when they might reach out to the three given and only hear back from one within two days of their initial request to make contact.

I admit that a no reply is a problem, often caused by tight turnaround demands in general, but it is one that the person giving those people as references needs to address, not one that should merit companies preemptively requesting five or more references.

Additionally, demanding supervisors as references is highly improper at any stage.

Even if asking for references in general is fine late enough in the process, the request occurring increasingly on the initial stage of application, before you even know if there will be an interview, is beyond unacceptable.

Being so early in the process is something that increasingly makes me fear that eventually my references will be bothered enough answering questions for jobs that don’t even reach the phone interview stage, that they might cease to be references.

In a given day (minus Sunday) I might send out two applications or I might send six. Either way, over a week that is potentially 12 to 36 places reaching out to them and even if you halve both those numbers of those sending out requests to my references, it’s still a heck of a lot of people potentially asking the same things over and over again.

I touched briefly on supervisors as references, but let me add that on an increasing number of applications there is a section requesting that you provide the name and title of your current or most recent supervisor, their phone number or e-mail address or both if available, and to please include this information even if you’ve listed them as a reference.

If they don’t ask for it as a reference or separately as the above, they will try and slip it in when asking for information about current and former places of employment, by asking for the phone number of those offices and your supervisor’s name, which again for former ones I have no problem with, but current ones…

Are they nuts? Why on earth would anyone give them that?

Under normal circumstances they should be belted for even considering asking such a question.

Granted, given what happened at the office and what was going on to have spurred my search into high gear, my supervisor had given a nod and wink to job searches before it was known both of us would be gone and even went on to say she fully understood if I and my co-worker looked elsewhere.

The grocery store across from the office before the major renovation took the small friendly, hometown local feel away from it. How I saw it for 5 years.

That said, I still didn’t want the company to know, or any supervisor to know, about my searching before I had a final job offer in hand, it just isn’t proper.

Though given how I rarely took time off, but toward the end was mysteriously taking random pockets of time, I think she suspected, but still gave a nod and a wink, to the requests.

There are also those questions on applications which seem completely off topic, seemingly used to judge you on some psychological level. A few of my favorites are

  1. If I could choose between eating lunch with my co-workers and reading a book at lunch, I’d pick….
  2. Would I go home early if given the chance, or stay and help a co-worker who is stuck on their project, even if it meant I’d then be several hours late leaving the office?

The introduction to these questions often claims that they’re checking if you are a team player, can work well in the group, etc.

From my perspective these are mini psych evaluations that are hilarious because often, the way in which they introduce and then ask the question, the answer wanted shines like a beacon.

I also don’t feel that these questions get to the heart of the matter, at least not what these people claim to be looking for when they ask the questions.

If anything, the first question reminds me of a thesis put forward in a translation of a Japanese lite novel that I’ve read, which states, “Just because one isn’t lonely when by themselves, doesn’t mean they want to be alone.”.

Likewise, neither the fact that someone enjoys talking with co-workers over lunch or prefers sitting by themselves reading a book, proves or disproves, that by the end of the day, they will make a great or horrible team player, that they will work well with people and help projects succeed or be lazy and directly or indirectly work to sabotage projects.

What’s one of the classic Sam Spade lines, “Never fully trust any person who is always smiling and extremely friendly, because they have the most to hide and will be the first to turn on you.”?

In full disclosure, I personally prefer the company of animals, cats and dogs in particular, but I also interact well with people and interact in social situations to the point of having a team work flawlessly together and a project succeed with few if any hiccups.

Regardless, since what I believe them to truly want to know (how well people can get along), can’t be truly quantified, they ask these more amorphous questions.

So they take the answers, compare them to charts, national averages, etc., assign them numbers or meaning based on those charts and the frequency of how often someone answered a question in a certain way and then they try to assign percentages of likelihoods that a certain answer will lead to a certain outcome, look at the answers they received and try to interpret that information by turning it into the artificially created and assigned percentages and then determine if someone applying for the position will or won’t be a team player.

Even worse, I say “them”, but it is often done in the blink of an eye by a computer that only knows the numbers and answers it was given to match results to, and wouldn’t know if the person they are judging based solely on answers to questions, was Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, Mother Theresa or Gandhi.

In the end, all these items become is more information that is in some fashion turned into metrics, which are merely a fallacious means of having numerical, “data driven”, methods to determine if, purely by the numbers and charts and matching graphs, you’re a fit for a given position or company.

A position which might have the same duties you’ve been performing at your current job within the same or a similar industry for about seven years, and have performed over all in many industries, around 20 years.

Yet, it is not just information they gain through such questions which goes into these metrics, it is also the results of assessments, skill badges earned through your knowledge, previous job titles, words on the resume, their own assignment of how much weight knowing Excel but not knowing another spreadsheet program means, etc., which are turned into metrics and used to judge.

The really funny thing is, it is possible that you might score perfectly in the metrics, have job titles and such that match wonderfully and yet you still might not get a position.

Oh, not because of any fault of your own, or a bad interview or personality conflicts with the interviewer or other staff while onsite for the interview (a stage you might not get to even in phone form), no, those would be acceptable reasons.

No, the reason you might not get a position is despite passing the assessments, despite possibly getting the metrics on your side, is because they’re allowing some computer program to try matching word for word the skills you have on your resume and application to what the company states they are looking for in the job descriptions.

In my experience, most of the computer programs performing such scans are intelligently stupid.

They are smart enough to know “Welcoming Visitors” and “Greeting Visitors” means you’ve assisted in an Administrative Front Office role but are dumb enough to believe, because they are worded differently, or worse because they are defined as something different within some manual or guidebook it was programmed with, “Welcoming Visitors” and “Greeting Visitors” are two entirely different things.

Yes indeed, the computer might go down a list and flag you as not having a skill you have and therefore either not pass you on to a real human to review your qualifications or pass you on but tell that human you only have 4 of 10 requested/required skills, because you didn’t specifically list a task that is obviously included in what you did list in the precise manner it’s worded on the job description and/or don’t pass you on to a real human because as we all know “Welcoming Visitors” is not the same thing as “Greeting Visitors, nor is “Vendor Relations” the same as “Supplier Relations” and please spare me the parsing of word meanings as an excuse or justification of the computer’s actions.

Therefore, in the summary the computer does pass on to people that read the resume for all of 3 seconds on average, it shows you as unfit for a position you might be able to do in your sleep.

The way these computers often scan and act during multiple portions of the process, I half expect them to stop their scans in the middle one day and break into a chorus of “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do”.

Now I have been given recommendations on how to overcome this issue with the computer scans.

The most common suggestion for overcoming the issue of the computer scans, is to personalize the wording and style of the resume, cover letter and other information for each job to which you apply.

In general practice this might actually be a great idea.

However, the time, energy and effort required for anyone seriously job hunting and possibly sending out even as few as four applications in a single day, to engage in such personalization is a ludicrous waste of time, effort, energy and resources. Not to mention it is very difficult to achieve if job searching while also still employed and often a pointless exercise in futility either employed or unemployed.

Companies that are in essence requiring such personalization of resumes, cover letters and other information in order to pass the computer scans and reach even just the possibility of a 3 second human resume scan for the chance at the first of about four interview stages, ought to be forced to recompense, up front in cash, each applicant that uses their system and has made some obvious effort to personalize their resume, cover letter and other information.

I actually had one company tell me point blank, “I’ve reviewed your experience, and you may be a good fit as an admin in our company. Everything looks good so far, however I will need you to send me your resume in core-functional format (required for new hires), along with the first date you can begin so we can move forward.”

The latter is understandable and reasonable, even if the reply is “I must give two weeks’ notice to my current company.”, but the first request goes along with the ludicrous nature of needing personalization.

Simply because their company requires a given format, which would contain the same information merely presented in a different manner, they can’t even consider a person for hire until they get that person’s resume in the other format?

Maybe it is their way of testing how skilled a person is in their ability to make the changes, or, in their minds, how committed a person is to the position by actually making the changes.

Yet, I don’t buy that doing any wording personalization, forget changing the entire format, shows your commitment and dedication to the application processes.

That’s utter nonsense. Oh, it makes a good tagline for companies specializing in such personalization to place in their advertisements trying to sell you their services, but in reality, it, like most advertising slogans, is truly just meaningless drivel.

After all, it is possible the best and most qualified person for the job, simply doesn’t have the time or resources available to do such personalize because they are either already working and dedicated to the task at hand at their current company despite the fact they are looking for a change, or are working multiple jobs as it is to try and make ends meet and survive while looking for a way to better their existence.

Likewise, the one deemed the most dedicated for making such changes, might have enough time on their hands to engage in such personalization because they are completely ignoring their current job duties to make the changes, which also says something about dedication to tasks at hand, but I digress… tbc…

Posted in changes, changing world, job search, Memory, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Layoff and continuation of job search

Well, to start with, the layoff notice came today. I’ll copy it in later on as I adapt a bit of what I’ve written, but suffice it to say all but one person in my department is gone, including my manager, and the person left is… well more on them later.

This is another long entry, so thank you for reading it.

Though as a quick aside, especially during these times, if anyone has a tips, tricks or hints on finding another position, I appreciate it… now to continue from where I left off talking about the SOP guide.

On the surface the guide seems like a logical step.

The way things are going anymore at (ABC) there is far more separation between even teammates and less known about what each teammate is doing then in the past.

This was one of the ways I no longer felt as if I belonged and a massive change from when I started when everything actually felt like a team and family, and there weren’t so many blasted secrets and “you only need know what you need to know” speeches, such as when a former CEO was let go.

(ABC) is a flipping non-profit, I can demand and get the salary records for each individual in the company as well as a complete list of how each dime taken in is spent… secrets, bah, only from the staff not from someone with even a passing interest in getting them… after all, even if (ABC) was not a non-profit, there is the old adage (I think from Philip Marlowe) that if anyone is truly determined to get information from you or about you, unless it is something only you know and will die to keep secret, then there is nothing you can truly dothem finding that information.

I’m still here for you.

Nonetheless, the supposed idea behind the guide was to help each teammate have the knowledge on hand to cover for the other in the event that one is out for an extended period (hopefully just on vacation).

Ironically, my department was actually ahead of the curve for once as this idea was something later being proposed in various forms as an excellent way to capture knowledge within all departments.

It was said to allow (ABC) to engage in “capturing critical pieces of the knowledge and expertise that each (person) bring(s)” and prevent that knowledge from walking out the door with anyone they terminate, as it did last time.

See, the last time (ABC) let people go, some people got wind they would be let go and most were just ticked at how the process was handled from the outset and didn’t care if they would be kept on or not and deleted their personal files and anything none essential or critical to (ABC)’s operation they might have had on their computer.

Thereby, (ABC) not only lost information through the knowledge, skills and experience they tossed out the door, but by those that basically raised the preverbal middle finger at (ABC) by deleting data and procedures in a method that was, at the time, allowed as a means to ensure unused data and files weren’t kept to take up space and cause confusion.

The company stating they were fearful of losing knowledge aside for a moment, I also can’t neglect the guide was said to be needed because systems and roles are becoming so specialized that it is possible someone can use the same system but have no idea how to perform another task within that system.

Nor can it be ignored that, in addition to very visible tasks, each day people perform functions and activities that might go unnoticed, things they don’t even think about and they do without conscious thought of how difficult it might be or how the duties have almost become habits to them to the point such duties would continue to go unnoticed by anyone else until they aren’t completed.

So, in many ways even during normal times it was logical to create a guide that allows people to cover for each other both within their own department and outside it, especially should any individual or everyone in a given department be out for an extended time.  

Yet, the requirements for making the guide were so stringent and were required to be so detailed that they were being designed so not only can others within the same department or anyone with even just a vague understanding of the general systems can perform them, but so any of the students from the local elementary school could easily perform the duties.

That is not nearly the hyperbole that it might seem.

Truthfully, and slightly paradoxically to all I’ve said, to have such a detailed guide asked for under any other circumstance is nothing I’d consider an issue worthy of concern.

For in addition to the reasons for it already outlined, (ABC) always tends to overreact, calling in bulldozers to search for buried teacups.

They’ve recently had outside trashcans (which have been in the same place for the several decades the office’s been in its current location) moved, out of fear a bomb might be placed in them.

Ironically, because they’re seemingly only concerned about the distance from the office’s main entrance, the trashcans got moved directly in front of a Children’s Pediatrics … I guess they are ignoring the possible implications of their having had the trashcans moved to that location should someone use them to hold a bomb with the intent of impacting (ABC).

They also so overreact to the very possibility of the most minor of threats, Sun Tzu and Clausewitz are probably crying at how little strategy these people put into everything they do to try and protect themselves, all while claiming to be strategic geniuses.

Take for example how they decided to darken the front facing first-floor windows of the office (which are not all the first-floor windows of office let alone the building).

That decision alone has drawn far more attention to the office, as people notice the darkened/reflective windows and try to peer inside, far more than they previously did with clear windows.

Then step outside the building on a dark, rainy or even just dark and cloudy day, and compare the office’s darkened windows to those that aren’t darkened in the office or in the rest of the building.

While you can see in the other windows, you have to stare to make anything out, whereas with the offices’ darkened windows, one need just glance to be able to tell what’s written on someone’s coffee cup, even if they are a fair distance, I’d estimate 50 or so feet, from the window.

Yeah, it is as if there is a huge spotlight behind those windows, illuminating them to the outside world. 

Therefore, not only has darkening the windows drawn more attention to the office even in passing but it’s made it far more obvious something is being hidden.

Yet, they seem vaguely aware darkened windows are not sufficient to “protect” the office and therefore to better protect their people, they’ve drawn even more attention by placing enough cameras, not only on the inside of the office and the main building’s public areas as to make a casino blush, but on the outside, especially noticeable by the entryways. Again, this only further calls attention to the fact something is being hidden.

In thinking of the cameras I’m also reminded of the old saying, “If they have eyes, assume they also have ears, especially if they go out of their way to show you their ‘eyes’.”.

While it had been stressed that no one can listen in to staff conversations that are captured on camera, I’ve seen people watching the cameras and replaying scenes with headphones on, which seems contrary to that claim nothing is being recorded.

One other thing occasionally done was to send out an e-mail saying whatever they were doing was being done in the name of safety and security and then within the message, they took bows for how in doing whatever is being done, they were making the office safer.

Those statements are very ironic to me, as seemingly every one of their attempts to make things more hidden, have merely made it more obvious something is being hidden.

Clearly none of them have ever read the Purloined Letter by Edgar Allen Poe or understand the concept mentioned from Phillip Marlowe and again put forth in a Nero Wolfe novel (written by Rex Stout) that if a person is bound and determined to bring harm to you, there is nothing you can do to stop them; just like that person then cannot prevent the consequences of their actions from impacting them.  

So, to cycle back, in many ways, their push to have detailed manuals fits right in with most of their ideas and could even be partly justified for the reasons mentioned.

Yet, coupled with the announcement below that occurred right before Christmas 2019, the idea of the manuals also became very concerning.

Human Resources sent out a message on Christmas Eve (an office holiday for the record) afternoon, which read:

Emailing: Senior Administrative Coordinator JD – John Q. Public

Date: Tue 12/24/2019 1:01 PM

                “Hi,

We are in the middle of wrapping up our audit of employee files. During our audit we discovered your file didn’t have a signed Job description (JD).

A signed Job description is a required document needed for our employee files to be complaint with varies regulatory agencies. I’ve attached the JD we have on file for your position, please sign and return to me.

Please note: the attached JD was the job description used when you applied to your current position via ICIMS/WorkDay or the JD used to promote you into a newer position.

We understand that it may not be 100% accurate in outlining the duties you perform today, but we need this version signed.

Warm Regards,

Jane Q. Public

Senior HR Generalist & Recruiter

(ABC)”

Firstly, the e-mail came from a member of HR that has since (less than two months after the e-mail was sent) left (ABC), either by their own desire or someone else’s, is unknown.

However, given that they sent out an e-mail about celebrating people’s birthdays on the fifth of a given month and then 5 days later there was a message from HR saying that person was leaving effective that very day… I’d guess they either had another job in the pipeline from which they got a solid offer they couldn’t refuse that required a same day decision, or they were terminated. Given the circumstances surrounding and the nature of their departure, I believe it to be the latter, but again have no concrete proof or evidence either way.

That said, the timing of things and how there was no “farewell” e-mail from them, as there often is with voluntary departures, tends give further creedence to it being the latter, but again no proof either way.

As for the e-mail itself, even with all the earmarks of a phising e-mail exercise (which IT tended to do over holidays) the e-mail turned out to be legit, which was yet another major concern.

Frankly, unless HR was very careless with their files (which was entirely possible given some of their history), their claim not to have a signed JD was nonsense.

It should be noted for the record that there’s someone in the HR department, a person who started a bit after me and is now the last standing of the HR department from that time who is also one of the few to survive the latest purge, who’s fanatical with ensuring correct and complete documentation is attached to each personnel file. With them continually monitoring and checking files, to even consider that not just one but multiple JD’s from multiple files are missing, is unthinkable.

When titles were changed, leveled or whatever they called it (back in 2017 according to the JD itself), Human Resources, in particular that member, was quick to ensure each file had a job description and that each job description was signed by the employee and their supervisor…

It should also be noted that this time, while there was still a blank signature line for the supervisor on the JD e-mailed to employees, the supervisor was not required to sign on that line.

Rumors immediately started running wild that HR wanted signed job descriptions to be able to point to the fact the employee knows what they should be doing and what is not being done or that several, some, or all of the listed duties no longer exist and therefore there is no justification to continue the existence of the given position, despite what work that person currently does… either concept would be seen as a means to justify termination…

Of course, being in a “Right to Work” state, I am not sure they even needed that much, unless they feared reprisal and challenges from terminated employees. Given the history of how they handled such things in the past, EEOC challenges were very possible if they handled it the same way this go around or had some new innovative way to screw it up.

Now, given all that has been mentioned, my full focus should’ve been on getting out of here, on getting another job, and while much of my focus was, my thoughts also increasingly turned to winning the lottery or being successful in crowdfunding.

Though truthfully, I’m not sure either will ever happen, as I don’t think I’ve ever won more than $5 in the lottery (though at times I’ve come within one digit of one number from winning $250) and when it comes to crowdfunding, I frustratingly watch as people asking for $2,000 to visit every ice cream parlor in their state will raise over $50,000 within two days and yet in over thirty days, I can’t raise more than $70 (that was during my most recent attempt and is $70 more than I’ve ever previously raised in attempts for other projects) to cover medical care, rent, debt payment and help me cover food expenses for my cats as I’m trying to pay for older owed medical care debts.

Regardless, I think of how even winning or raising enough money to pay my current debts, car loan, medical debts (which are outrageous) with maybe a tiny bit extra to cover a few months of reoccurring debts, such as cat food and rent, and/or if I’m really lucky enough beyond that to afford a move to a place where showers drain, lights work and toilets flush (my housing is its own story), or simply to be far less greedy, and stick with just get enough to square my current debts, how that would very much relax my mind…

True, in any of those scenarios I’d merely be debt free from current debt. I’d still need money to live, still need money to get food, pay for gas, cell phone, the necessities needed to live in the 21st Century and to search for work and avoid rapidly going back into debt.

Work would also be needed to avoid placing me in a major mess of possibly more medical debt to come and to allow me to ensure I and my feline family stay fed, and in certain of those scenarios, the debt of a mortgage or rent on a new place would also require employment.

In short, even being free of my current debts, I’d still need another job and medical benefits to replace the job and benefits lost, in order to continue to survive.

Yet, somehow, even just that position, merely being currently debt free, would be mentally so much more relaxing I’d feel a huge weight off my shoulders despite what else might come… which is why I am working my hardest to be, come what may, this time next year down hopefully one large debt…(tbc)

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Some Reasons the Search Initially Began

No hiding it, this is a long entry and a lot has been going on since my last post. Official notice of when there will be official notice of layoffs has gone out, I’ve had to drive into the area of the office to meet with IT to help me with a computer issue and I’m still fighting with an insurance company about getting coverage for one bill.

Anyway, to pick up where I left off.. There are places I’ve come close, places that just by feel, felt more like home then where I currently am, but those leads, while promising leads within my current search, have often ended oddly and in a manner befitting a comedy or perhaps a comedic farce, but let me get back to those in a moment.

Since I’ve touched on some of what I’ve encountered in my job search, let me mention why I started searching for a new position after almost 7 years at (ABC).

My most current job search started slightly over two years ago, when, as mentioned, I saw (ABC) had ceased to be the (ABC) it was when I started. This made my search important to me but not as intense as perhaps it should have been even at that time.

Truthfully, all else being equal, if just one factor from the final months, let alone today, existed when my search started two years ago, as I noticed that (ABC) was no longer the place it had been when I was hired, I’d have been looking far more seriously from the start.

That one factor is an increasing feeling I no longer had a place, no longer belonged at (ABC).

DSCN2975

We’ll always want you.

That alone made me realize that even if other events hadn’t occurred, events which have made my search be one of great urgency, I’d still be looking with an increased seriousness, especially the less I feel like I belong or am wanted.

As things stand, the great sense of urgency itself arose when it was first announced there would be a significant funding cut to about one-third of the overall company budget due to a major sponsor cutting back on what they provided the company. Granted, from what I’ve been told by trusted sources, it could have been much worse, for had it been about a year prior, the donor’s cutting back might have been the instant demise of (ABC).

This was also before the Covid-19 pandemic and numerous other donors cutting back either this year or going forward where future budgets will be cut and more likely laid off and nothing will be stable on a 6 month, forget annual, basis.

Even before the pandemic there was no question of layoffs, and with other world events, COVID-19, having taken place, there was merely a brief delay in any layoff announcements, likely to wait to see where funding fell and likely finding further ways to make cutbacks to funding, and planning more layoffs and other changes.

For those remaining, there is the possible decrease in benefits, some other offices closing, possible reduction in hours of staff not “laid off” (this started in part when, during our work from home time, the office closed at noon Fridays… oh, for the time being the full week’s of work hours must be completed, and it was full oay, but who knows if tgst will last) possible cuts in salary to all staff, reduction in overall office space… and since at least some of these are items I’ve know were whispered about and are being put in action as a means to attempt to conserve funds… the latter, benefits and salary cuts, seems all but a certainty.

I do wonder though, if they decide to cut salaries, will the top brass also share in getting a salary cut and if so, will it be proportionality similar to all others cut? Or will they be given a pass as they are “working on solving” the issue and therefore “it’s more important than ever to retain good people at the top”?

If it’s the latter, well it would fit with the world today, but I’d still cry out in protest and argue they are part of the group that allowed us to get into this mess in the first place by not diversifying and spreading out our donors and sources of funds to the point no one donor cutting back would have such an impact, and therefore they should be the first to quietly and humbly take salary cuts to preserve not just jobs but the projects those jobs support.

Yes, I know what I said is not nearly as easy as it would seem on paper, but given how long that one major donor (who was seemingly so important they have directly or indirectly impacted who’s been retained in a leadership position through several regime changes since I joined) has remained a major donor, it doesn’t seem like much was done to even attempt the diversification of donors from a few large to many, many smaller.

This especially applies to the current CEO, who in various upper level positions has somehow lasted through no fewer than three major restructures to the top power structure (in just 4-years) rising from about 5th in line to end up in command. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion it has more to do with their ties to the major donor then their leadership abilities, but that is based on observation as to the former and is only speculation based on a conversation with a trusted source, as to the latter.

Still, it is my opinion that if any two people should be the first to take the preverbal bow to the audience before exiting stage left, it should be the current CEO and their 1st Louie (the COO).

While I understand what yet another disruption to the power structure, especially the resignation of two of the top officers, could look like to donors and the possible further impact to funding it could have on (ABC) especially during these times, I have a few things to say to that…

Firstly, that CEO should be the one held most accountable for not working to change and diversify the funding, especially being the only one left from the power structure that existed 7 years ago.

Over those seven years to the ascension to CEO, they were in multiple positions toward the upper echelons of power. Actually, for as many years as I’ve been there and more previous, they been in such a position, albeit not always at the very top, to influnce policy. If pressed, I’d say within the structure that existed when I first started, they might have only been fifth or sixth in the chain of command. Yet that still means they held tremendous power.

They had the ear of the CEO and others, the ability to influence policy and leverage contacts to gain new donors and yet they seemingly didn’t… granted I have no clue if they tried but it wasn’t until recently when the impact from this particular donor went from what would have been an instantaneously fatal blow to (ABC) to one that is instead likely to be a much slower, lingering demise, that they at least publicly started to lead the charge to diversify.

At that same time they were also talking to the staff about wonderful conversations they’ve had and what a wonderful relationship they’ve got with the major donor and went on to say the donor didn’t only cut what they did, what they had been funding to (ABC), because it was an across the board thing for them, that that means the impact was not just targeted at (ABC).

Fine, but saying our ship isn’t the only one in the fleet that’s rapidly taking on water doesn’t help the situation in the least or change the fact (ABC) is sinking.

To me, even their presumed attempt to offer comfort, to try softening the blow, was more a brag fest about their relationship with the major donor, the relationship being the only reason some say they are still here and are the only one of the old guard of eleven kept on through so many changes to leadership.  Of course, I must acknowledge their wonder relationship eith the donor has, to date, provrn so essential, so useful, that it, along with a Metro Pass, would get them a ride on the MTA.

I’ll be furtherly honest, I have no clue what part, if any, the CEO played in the diversifying suddenly happening, though I suspect as little as the bar tender does with bottling the whiskey.

It is entirely possible that the donor themselves merely gave far more advance warning of smaller cutbacks that were easier to make up for and were done in a manner that reduced the blow to a large one from a fatal one, before this one was announced.

I’ll go further to say that even if the plan to weaken the impact of this major donor possibly cutting back on funding, was a plan already in place by one of the previous two CEOs, long before this cutback was even suspected, and that these things taking the time they do to work, only started to come to fruition under the current CEO, it is they who are now taking bows for the result…

Regardless of which of any of those options or any other options is the truth, it remains my opinion that the current CEO failed multiple times and on multiple levels to take the necessary steps to, or push to, diversify the donor base as to ensure a majority of (ABC)’s eggs weren’t in one basket.

If they can prove otherwise, I will withdraw such a comment, but until they do, I fall back to the number one rule of leadership, “Everything is your fault”.

And yet somehow, despite the failings I’ve seen, despite what seemingly wasn’t done by them, even if that was just to become the squeaky wheel which couldn’t be ignored and which might have prevented this entirely or at least lessened it, along with their second in command (their 1st Louie, whose addition to the staff is its own story), they’ve been one of the few to survive far longer than those that might actually have been more helpful, able to exert far more of an impact and perform far more meaningful duties in keeping (ABC) afloat for just a bit longer, maybe until (ABC)’s version of the Carpathia arrives, but more on both of them later.

DSCN2929

I’m a cat, nothing is ever my fault.

Secondly, as I already intimated, it’s probably already too late to save (ABC). If anything, even before the economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to further decrease funding, (ABC) has been rapidly changing with those that are currently in command being so by-the-book that I think they use the book to decide when it’s time to eat and sleep.

They appearef far more focused on finding a way to let people go this time in a manner that didn’t anger those that are left and “avoids the mistakes” of the previous massive purge, then in finding a way to preserve jobs and maintain the family feel.

I’ll give them some credit, they certainly try to talk a good game, but I fear in their focus of saying everything just right (which means they say everything precisely wrong) they are missing the larger issue. That is, that it is likely no longer a matter of if the ship will sink, but how many more sunrises (ABC) will see before it is fully submerged.

Take their promise to be rather generous with the packages for those to be laid off, which the CEO discussed in a meeting and was later followed, that same day, with an e-mail repeating those promises but also included the massive disclaimer line of “It is important to note that these are our intentions today, but as we know, the world can change quickly and without warning so we will need to adapt to whatever comes our way.”.

To phrase it more succinctly and directly, ‘I’m saying this stuff but ain’t promising nothing’.

They are basically hoping that much like a commercial, people only hear the first part and ignore the disclaimer throwaway line or say, “we understand”.

I do understand the world is changing and nothing can be certain, but then again in such a situation I wouldn’t promise anyone anything as large as the moon or as small as two slices of cheese pizza, unless I am 100% certain I can deliver.

See, I get it that people tend to get upset when things change for the negative after being promised something heavily in their favor, this group seems to be missing that to this day, almost a month post layoffs.

Therefore, with so much unknown, with so many questions unanswered floating in my mind and propelling me to get out on my own terms, my urgency to search for an escape had increased within the last 6 months.

Yet, as the urgency increased, I found myself reaching ever increasing moments, points, during my search when I’m not sure if I should laugh at the absurdity of the entire thing, or cry from the frustration of continually feeling that I’m expanding a lot of time, effort, energy, and at times money, to move in any direction.

A direction that I’m not even sure is forward, but often feels like an expenditure of time, money, energy and goodwill to fight tooth and nail for 30 steps forward all to ensure I lose only 5 steps from that day’s starting position.

Okay, this is not entirely fair as there have been several moments when I’ve felt that I was on the brink of a great success, of being able to get away from the mess that was currently at (ABC), or in one case to walk away before it even truly began to be a mess and things reached the point of teetering on a great precipice.

Yet more on that moment’s rather comedic ending in a moment, as despite how close I might have come in that attempt, it didn’t happe. Meanwhile I was at a point where there were less than subtle signs that time wss running out much faster than I had initially thought and I might be forced to at least attempt to get something that is less than ideal.

The subtle signs included my department working on putting together a “Standard Operating Procedures” manual. A manual which includes step-by-step guides on how to perform each department member’s key duties. (tbc)

Posted in cats, changes, changing world, job search | 2 Comments

Continuing Thoughts on the Job Search

I mentioned a lot has changed in my life and there are many reasons I’ve been away for a while. Some of it was medical, some was trying to job hunt and find something before things reached the critical stage they might soon reach.

Thankfully for the medical, it has so far been proven to be far more costly in terms of dollars then anything, but more on the medical another time.

As I started to write about my experiences and thoughts on job searches, I tried to make it a bit like a story with hopes of keeping it fun and to eventually put into book form. To that end I would greatly appreciate feedback on how this is sounding or shared stories of your own searches.

As you may have noticed from the first part, I’ve not truly edited anything yet and a lot of it is basically a stream of consciousness, but it covers a lot of what I’ve encountered in this job search, my reasons for searching and some other random thoughts related to both. Thank you all for reading.

(continued from last post) It is with the contract positions or positions through a job agency (more on them later) that do offer benefits either through the job agency or the company, that even today, even with a pandemic, I’m not sure who would use their medical benefits being a temporary employee.

Be it with a company or through an agency, as a temporary or contract employee, these benefits firstly cost a lot of money. Secondly, you likely don’t have sick days, at least not paid ones, to take and missing work means missing pay while paying out for medical care; and thirdly, it might occur to you as it has to me that, rightly or wrongly, by taking sick time, you look less reliable to an agency or company and thereby potentially jeopardize your chance at becoming permanent at the company or getting other positions through the job agency.

Yes, I know there are laws protecting workers and preventing companies from terminating employees, refusing to hire employees or otherwise taking actions which impact their job negatively for medical related issues, but as a great television theme song once put it “In between the lines there’s a lot of obscurity (…)”.

See, these companies aren’t terminating you, lowering you on their list of people they will place in other positions first, shifting your duties elsewhere or reducing your hours because of a medical issue itself or because you took time off for a medical issue.

No, that would be illegal.

These places are simply not continuing your contract, seeing you as promotable material or are putting you toward the bottom of their placement list because you are not the right fit for the position. It has absolutely nothing to do with your medical issue(s) or related time off for such a issue(s).

Regardless, this discussion of medical, vision and dental benefits is actually trending toward a far larger issue with the overall cost of and ease of getting medical care itself and based on some recent personal experiences even prior to the pandemic, raises the question, to me, of if the medical industry only views us as worth keeping alive so long as we can pay them to do so… but as said that is another issue entirely, and one worthy of its own discussion and debate.

In short, even just based on the little I’ve mentioned so far about looking for work, it should be obvious that looking for work in real-life can be extremely stressful and offer few rewards.

Though I suppose, if you are really lucky, it might provide a few cheap laughs at your own expense along the way. I’ve certainly had moments which qualify, but I’m jumping ahead a bit.

Unlike searching for work in the real world, finding work within an RPG is often as easy as walking into a village or town, encountering townspeople who mention a major problem they’re having, recommend you speak to the village elder who gives detailed information about the problem and sends you on your way to save the village in exchange for a promised, usually substantial, reward of gold, a title that guarantees you land and housing and/or some mystical rare item.

No, in the real world, if you’re lucky, you might get a tip about a job which might or might not still exist by the time you apply and/or when you go to investigate it, might have so little information written about it beyond a title and general description of duties which you recognize as ones you’ve done and/or feel you can do based on what you have done in the past, that you’ve no idea if your applying to be a bus driver, pastry chef or CMO of the Enterprise.

This leads to its own issues, such as reaching out to the company or agency posting the position, who might ignore your request for more information about the position or insist you first register on their website. Then once you are registered, they might answer your questions by referring you back to the job description or say that posting was filled months ago and still showing in error and their bad for not telling you sooner.

The former has happened to me three times so far and the latter twice and these were direct to the company postings.

If one thinks that job agencies are the answer to skirt some of these issues as they will act as the middleman for you and ease some of the burden, well, let’s compare going to any job agency such as some I’ve reached out to recently (both locally owned and national chains) to going to the local Adventurer’s Guild in an RPG town.

Sure, you can look at the “bulletin board”, the job postings offered by a job agency online or in person and in so doing you might find a job that offers an acceptable pay level and so matches your skills, knowledge and experience it looks as if it was written just for you, but then you start to apply and reach a point where whatever ease you’ve felt so far in the process, ends abruptly.

Unlike the Adventurer’s Guild, finding such a job posting and then taking the posting to the reception desk (applying for it), rarely seems to end up with the job being assigned.

Heck after the application process, you might not even ever be given the courtesy of knowing your application was accepted and received in the system. You might also never receive a request for more information, which is annoying but is another sign they at least acknowledge you have applied for the position.

Yet more often then not I haven’t gotten either after spending a lot of time on “quick apply” applications, which are rarely quick.

As things are, even getting a response after applying often leads to the requirement of completing more skill tests and assessments.

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Skills tests? The only skill you need is keeping these plates full of food.

Skill tests that will “prove” you can do what you’ve been doing for x number of years, that prove your references, who may have already been contacted and have already verified you’ve been doing what you claim, aren’t lying and confirm something that by itself should only serve to only further solidified the fact you’ve obviously been successful in using those skills with the company you been with and using them for, the number of years you’ve been with a company. All of these should make it obvious you can do what you say without the tests.

If anything, the circular logic continually demonstrated in needing to prove the proof provided is in fact true and then prove that what you have just proved is in fact authentic proof, makes me think of RPG game I once test played where someone erred in the editing … that or they just had an extra quest they didn’t know how to fit in and ended up doing it in a very screwed-up fashion.

Within the game there is a moment where you enter a local Adventurer’s Guild and go to a Guild Receptionist to request a posted quest, a village pleading for help to be saved from an ancient curse.

Now despite of the  fact that Guild records show you’ve saved eight villages from eight different ancient curses, the fact that the receptionist instantly recognizes your name and those of your party members as the ‘legendary heroes’ whose coming has been foretold in the Prophecy of Vaalyun as recorded by the infallible Great Oracle Elauthin, you are still required to prove you can save that village from the ancient curse by first saving a completely different village from a different ancient curse.

Now within the game, once you save that other village, proving that which was already known and verified before proving it, you receive the quest to save the village you originally requested to save.

However, had it been real life, based on my experiences, after saving that separate village, you might, just might mind you, be given the quest to save the village you initially requested to save, from the ancient curse it faces.

Yet, it is far more likely you will learn that quest is no longer available and the village is either cursed for all eternity or the posting itself was all a mistake and the quest should never have existed. See the Guild recently heard from the village that it was a blessing from Alloria the Goddess of Light, and not a curse from Xanteron the Demon Lord, which was placed on the village and the whole quest request was a mistake.

At this point, in real life, the Guild would thank you for your interest, promise to keep the record of your successes, the prophecy and villager testimony of your work, in their files for the next time you apply, swear they will contact you should a mission matching your skills and experience appear in the future as they get them all the time and then send you on your way with good wishes for future success, after which you’ll never hear from them again.

Yeah, be it a fouled-up scenario within a game or demands for proving that which is already known in real life, it doesn’t make sense either way.

Only in real life, there’s no debugging group to complain to or way to report an issue with “game play” with the hopes for a patch to fix the problem.

Now as nonsensical as having to prove what is known to be a fact, in order for it to be accepted as fact so you can prove the proof of it being fact, might be, that is actually not the worst thing I’ve encountered… annoying, yes, increasingly frequent, yes, but not the worst thing.

I’ve seen positions being listed on a company’s site which are still accepting applications, but are no longer available.

I’ve heard from agencies, or from a person in an e-mail, that the position they e-mailed me about two days prior was shown to me by mistake because despite the fact I have proven that I’ve got over 14 years’ experience and excel in doing the very things they ask for a minimum of 4 years’ experience doing, nowhere in my 14 years’ experience do I have the 4 years of experience that they are looking for…

Though the kicker of all kickers, I’ve been assured no one wants me to risk my current position by being caught interviewing, only for that same company to put me through multiple interview stages, always at least two by phone at a time that I have to come up with an excuse to be away from my desk for an hour, at least one or two in person interview(s) either of which usually ends with being told that the position is no longer being hired for… but a more detailed story about that later.

At this point I must, in fairness, say that even within games, especially those with branching paths or the massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), a lot of jobs are time based or on a first come, first serve basis (but what isn’t in this life), so it is possible to miss your chance at one of the jobs either before you get to the Guild to claim it or before you even know it exists.

Therefore, admittedly, it’s not always a given to find and succeed in obtaining a job, or at least one you want, even within an RPG.

Yet, I will still argue despite the flaws, despite at times sloppy programming, despite the time limitations and such, the system of finding work that exists within RPGs, is fairer and better than any which exists today in the real world.

Truthfully, if I can’t have the job search options from an RPG world, I’d settle for my current search to be as “simple” as whatever I did to find my current job.

Though in full disclosure, after over about seven years, I honestly can’t remember if it was a job board, if it was stumbling across the company site itself and seeing the job, someone contacted me, if it was a lead from someone I knew, a tip from a job agency or what happened.

I just remember it was a lot of time looking and that after several interviews, in the end by pure luck, everything clicked into place at the right moment.

That said, as things existed toward the end of my time at my company (hereafter (ABC)), a small part of me wonders if everything else was kept the same, their need for a given position, the person holding it retiring, the job still being what it was at the time, my interviews being the same, the pay rate equal if not better, etc., if I went to interview at the offices and found (ABC) then was the current (ABC), would I have taken the position and the answer I keep coming up with is, no I wouldn’t have… mostly it would have come down to a feel thing, but that is very important and often underrated thing when finding a place to work or a place to live.

Of course, if (ABC) then was the current (ABC), it is also possible I wouldn’t have even gotten the position offered to me, or if for some reason it was and I still took despite the feel of the (ABC) then being the current one, I don’t think I would have lasted as long as I did, either by my choice or not…

Yet such questions and thoughts aside…maybe I’m over thinking things about not having found anything pre-pandemic, as while this isn’t working out as quickly as I fear it must or desire it too as things worsened at my company and it is obvious I need a job closer to home or perhaps I need to move to be more comfortable overall (but that’s another topic for later),  it might merely be a situation that it is not the right time and right time and situation is still to come.

Maybe it is merely as “easy and simple” as being in the right place at the right time to find the right situation that fits and allows things to click into place as seems to be the case with the place I was for 7 years.

Perhaps that moment of things clicking is still out there just waiting to click.

I’ve certainly come close at times, and there have been places I’ve been which feel far more like home then where I currently am both in terms of office and living are but so far nothing has clicked, yet as is a bad habit of mine, I’m getting ahead of myself. (tbc)

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Thoughts and Job Search Struggles

It has been a very long time since my last post, far too long.

A lot has been going on in my life and I hope over the next few weeks to document a lot of it, but in the meantime, I wanted to post something I started before the current pandemic, thoughts about and my experiences with searching for work…  However, allow me to start with what will be an addendum, eventually incorporated into the work, a note of how things are regressing during the crisis.

I just got off the phone with a employment agency, as the non-profit I’m working for will be laying off a lot of people, and the range of jobs the agency has is limited to about three and is now offering only $10 to $13 an hour, down about $5 an hour on each end from even a month ago.

Anyway, I am going to start in the next paragraph and second section of what I am writing might be long, but I thank you for reading through it and providing feedback on how it sounds and maybe sharing some of your experiences if willing. Now without further ado, the beginning of what I started writing earlier this year…

Listening to my story“I imagine outside of Role-Playing Games (RPGs), job searches have never been fun, enjoyable or easy and the rewards found at the end, or the treasures found while striving to reach the end goal, are never as exotic and exciting as opening a treasure chest and finding Firesoul the Sword of the Eternals, The Staff of Erna or Glenlaire the Impermeable Cloak of the Dragons.

Sure, the “treasures” found along the way in real life are said to be experience (which is not to be undervalued) and if you succeed in obtaining employment, the end “reward” is said to be a feeling of safety and security through having income and whatever other ‘benefits’ are gained by having employment.

Of course, in many cases these days, employment barely lasts two years at most, hardly the time to build up a retirement fund if any employer still truly offers such a thing, and it is a joke to call the income offered for the work people desire performed to be a “reward”.

What is asked for versus the pay offered nowadays is akin to asking a NASA scientist to hold eight consecutive one-hour long astronomy presentations every day for a month to a group of visiting dignitaries, for the wonderful payrate of up to $18/per hour.

Such wonderful rates are increasingly offered as companies start classifying their jobs, even those requesting a high level of skills and experience as “entry level” or because, as I’ve been told several times, that amount is either all the company has budgeted for the position or all that the company really feels it is worth.

A recent example is a job I was offered via about four different companies (one company had two different people call me about it). The job would have been a senior administrative position with a major international corporation dealing in heavy machinery. The position was offering up to $20/per hour.

Ignoring the obvious fact at least one of those phonebank call centers doesn’t have a crosscheck feature in their own records to ensure they aren’t reaching out to a person someone else in their company has already spoken with (which is incredibly ironic since they want to be the exclusive “agency” for anyone applying to a given position), one of the other agencies that I dealt with was a bit refreshing as their agent actually made some sense and at least talked a good game.

As a quick aside, that agency having two different people call me wasn’t the first time such a thing happened.

There was another agency where on a Thursday, a lady named Janice, part of a local agency that is part of a national chain, called me to set up a phone interview for the following Wednesday. Then that same week on Friday, she called me again.

No, it was not to talk about a change to the interview or say the position had been filled. It was to make me an offer about the same position and to ask if I wanted to attend the same interview… yes, it was the same Janice who, once she realized her error, muttered something about looking at an old contact list and hung up the phone.

You ever feel like no one knows what they are doing, while you’re supposed to not only be a Jack-of-all but also a master-of-all-trades?

That it is if the entire world is merely going down a checklist that itself isn’t being vetted properly? That you’re becoming just a number on a list?

That no one truly knows or cares about what is going on beyond ensuring each box is checked on the list to show they met their quota for the day or week or month or merely to prove that they followed their proper procedures as a means to cover their own asses in case someone complains?

If someone wants to turn me into a number, can they at least assign me the number 007? Life and death situations aside, I’d love the items from “Q”, the gadgets, toys and special modifications to the cars. I will give a solemn promise that I would find a good “meaningful” use for each and every modification and item given to me, such as the lighter that doubles as a blowtorch or the pen with acid ink that could melt locks.

At any rate, for the position with the national company that I received three calls about, the one agency that has impressed me, initially at least, was the only one to actually acknowledge that the pay offered for that job was low for the talent that was being requested.

They acknowledged my skills were worth a lot more than an approximate 26% drop in my current pay (forget loss of benefits) being offered for the position, and also were rather candid in admitting they were having a hard time finding anyone to fill that position.

They were furtherly candid by saying the difficulty was in how the talented people they called, justifiably refused the offered payrate and anyone they found who would accept it, had skills, knowledge and experience to merit a call, but lacked the skills, knowledge and experience that the company would accept in a candidate.

The agent was also one of only three I’ve dealt with so far, that mentioned frustration at how they’ve continually stressed to a company, that the company will never get the candidates they’re looking for at that the offered pay range and the feedback being given indicated that the company had to raise the pay range offered and yet had that national company acting haughty, sticking to its guns and refusing to budge on the pay offered to candidates.

I suppose, like those companies with job descriptions covering no less than three pages and requiring no less than four years’ experience for all the duties listed and at least five years’ experience for the job’s major job duties but only offering, at most, $18/per hour (about a 33% drop in my pay), they will eventually find someone skilled, knowledgeable and experienced enough for the company to accept; a person who is also desperate enough to take the position at that level of pay, at least in the short run.

As such, the company will be emboldened and feel they were justified at having held their ground at that payrate since they found someone to take the job at that rate, and therefore repeat the process the next time.

Let me quickly add something about that particular offered position. Despite the low pay for what was being asked and required, it was one of few that, according to the agent I spoke with over the phone, actually offered some benefits, which admittedly is an increasing rare thing these days.

I’ve come to believe the offering of benefits is becoming rarer because of a ‘clever’ loophole companies use to get around any legal requirements to provide benefits, but more on that in a moment.

Honestly, a position not offering any benefits is insane. Especially for what is often being advertised as a position seeking “dedicated professionals”.

It is even crazier when there are jobs advertised at a local gas station, admittedly only starting at $12.00/per hour for a supervisor role, with “big benefits”. According to another sign inside the gas station itself, not only might it be up to $12.50 an hour for supervisor’s role but those “big benefits” include health, dental, vision and unspecified retirement.

Such a ludicrously low pay rate aside for a supervisory role (keep in mind in some places, starting positions at McDonald’s pay $15/per hour), and the fact they bill working four days a week as a benefit (I view it as one less day to be paid on an hourly basis) the fact benefits are even offered puts this gas station lightyears ahead of those places offering up to the glorious rate of $18 or $20/per hour for a non-supervisory role.

So how do companies get around offering benefits for the various positions they are hiring for, positions that often require specialized knowledge, skills and experience?

Several ways, though listing it as “entry level”, when it clearly isn’t, only impacts the offered salary and might buy them some time before they have to give benefits, typically 60 to 90 days.

No, it is because increasingly these positions are listed as being temporary, temporary to hire or contract.

In other words, companies are getting highly skilled, specialized knowledge from experienced professionals and skirting the law requiring the providing of benefits such as medical, dental, vision and any type of 401(k) or other retirement benefit(s), by classifying the employee as someone who is either a contractor or on a 3 to 6 month “contract” which might have the possibility of extension or conversion to permanent, at which time benefits would be offered, but not currently an actual employee of the company.

Now, in fairness, I have seen some postings both for long term and 6-month contract to permanent positions for which benefits are listed. In general, these benefits are listed as being ‘health, dental, vision, (and rarely) 401(k)’ in the vaguest of senses, but sometimes they do get more specific. Though when they do, it gets laughable.

They will indicate there is a 401(k), but then stress nothing is truly “vested” for a year (kind of difficult to reach if you are on what is only guaranteed to be a 6-month contract) and from some basic ‘teasers’ of the medical benefits offered, it seems clear the medical would cover little more than the very minimal, such as an annual physical, and of course they don’t list co-pays or deductibles which I imagine are very high. (tbc)”

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My Feline Family and my return to blogging

It has been far too long since my last post for which I can only defer to the cliché of ‘life got in the way’. Some of obvious reasons some have just built up over time.

Some are tiny things, but they have mounted up… yeah, I’ve never been a believer in “don’t sweat the small stuff.” After all, it might have been the final straw that is credited with breaking the camels back, but if that same straw had been by itself or the first straw, the camel would have been fine.

Yet, as said, they have thankfully been small straws which so far are merely mounting.

I plan on covering a lot of these in a few blog entries over the next few weeks, but for now, just to get back to posting, I will list a few of the highlights of how life got in the way, some more detailed than others for the moment.

  • A, thankfully, minor medical issue in February, with requests for yet more follow-ups and with bills are still coming in for which I am continually having to double check what was already paid.
  • Because of those bills, there are increased costs in the form of bills to pay off at high rates of interest, i.e. about $5,000 from the hospital (out of $19,000, for just two nights in the hospital, thanks to good healthcare coverage) is adding stress and fear of spending money as even paying what I still owe is adding about of $250 a month to the budget.
  • I am barely at home anymore, with a commute that should be about an hour now taking about two hours, bed at 9:30 pm and wakeup before 5:00 am, it is getting hard to keep focus as to what I am doing (other than making money to survive) but then I must ask myself, I am living to work or working to live… neither are truly appetizing prospects.
  • With all that ongoing, I am growing increasingly tired to the point sleep that was once sufficient, is barely enough as I feel continually tired, especially at work… though that too could have something to do with so few duties these days.
  • A lot can also be inferred about where I work when I am continually tired leaving work, but full of energy after my Japanese and Tai Chi classes… albeit they are more enjoyable.
  • It was a Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season that in some ways never was and in others has yet to end, wherein many of the usual holiday scenes near me that walk that ever fine line between Norman Rockwell and Clark W. Griswold, were missing and through part of April I was hearing the occasional version of holiday music playing I can only describe by saying, think Pavarotti singing Johnny B. Goode.
  • Even Valentine’s Day was off with fewer flowers and balloons delivered to the office. Overall it had less cheer to it, despite the attempts of a new member of the executive team trying to have a mandatory cookie decorating contest.

Of course, they didn’t help the holiday feel by suggesting the best way to show love to the company, fellow workers and to bring about a trusting family feel (a feeling that left dock about 4 years ago), is through automated payroll deduction donations back to the company.

I don’t know what’s worse, that they seem to believe that plan will work, or they fail to understand (or are pointedly ignoring) how all the ways they have destroyed the family feel (firing people and creating an atmosphere that has lead others to jump ship, cutting funding to various programs/holiday events, making everything more corporate and bound to metrics, removing the spirit of fun and comradery that was prevalent here, etc.) makes recapturing such a feeling nearly impossible. Or said differently, using their methods to recapture that feeling is like trying to catch the Millennium Falcon, with a four-year head start while traveling in hyperspace, with an early 20th ocean liner whose boilers are only now getting up to steam.

  • Even that aside, there has been a rapidly growing feeling of working in a place where I am no longer wanted or perhaps desire to be, as duties shrink, more friends leave and I (and the others) must write up detailed instructions of how to perform our duties, supposedly for a Standard Operating Procedure manual which will allow anyone to cover for us in an emergency. Maybe that is true, but to me it feels more like writing a training guide for the replacement.

I am at the point where there are days where by the end of one, someone can ask me what I’ve done, and I’d reply, tracked down two invoices that A/P was holding up due to a glitch in their system and checked meter readings on the printers…

Yet, even with that said, I cannot leave this position without another source of income, far too many debts (though honestly, one debt is far too many) now exist… if only I could win enough money in the lottery to payback my debts then I would be freer to just take a leap of faith…

  • While some employment agencies are now reaching out to me (a change from 7 years ago), most are reaching out with short term contract to hire positions, for incomes that would set me back near to or further then where I was 7 years ago, and/or for locations which require massive relocation.

For the record, I am more than fine with relocation for the correct position in the correct area (Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Madison and Milwaukie Wisconsin; Burlington, Vermont) for the right amount of pay.

  • It is also revealing, not to mention disheartening, to realize how closely my resume is looked at by some humans, as evidenced during interviews, when the interviewer suddenly discovers I am not in their city or perhaps even in their state and that makes them backpedal, even if I am less than 140 miles away roundtrip.

Yet, even that is somehow better than having a computer look at it, wherein I am immediately weeded out for some administrative jobs that I not only know I am the perfect match based on the job description, but for one, again based on the job description, I could write the book on how to perform.

What’s worse for a resume that no one seems to look at, is how much emphasis is placed on the style (which everyone wants to be slightly different) and the fact it must be attached (even if it is not a replacement and cannot be submitted in place of an application that asks for the same information), to each application.

  • Assessments have taken over in both recruitment agencies and now sadly with a lot of online job application submissions.

As someone who has previously and repeatedly passed such assessments, as someone with a few years (over 10) of working with those skills being ‘assessed’ under my belt and as someone who is working fulltime using those skills, I find the very thought of them insulting…

Not to mention when everyone needs their own version (which at times means the same questions in a different order), it is very hard to have quick turnarounds and mass applications which are needed these days, because I must do these at night (not on the company computers) which also means I am doing them in a tired sate yet, I fear, they are growing as not only employment agencies but now almost every company state in order to provide timely turnarounds.

  • My neighborhood is changing, traffic is unexplainedly increasing and while with some recent changes in neighbors the area is not becoming unfriendly, it’s also not as friendly as in the past.
  • The nearby city, once filled with unique and local family owned shops and restaurants, is turning to overpriced and franchised, all while also voting down light rail and pushing for more buses to clog the already congested roads.
  • With all that said, I’ve been trying to move not only to another job from one I decreasingly feel as if I belong or am wanted, but along with my indoor feline family and the feline family that lives outdoors (if they will come) who has become dependent on me for food, water and petting, to move to a place that reminds me of where I grew up, where people honored tradition and were not bound by it; where history was recognized and not rewritten to fit current social mores; where people actually thought about things and didn’t just follow the masses.
  • Regardless of my fear of lasting employment, it is increasingly obvious I must make a change as the commute is now about an hour on paper, but one recent night took me 2.5 hours and that was leaving 30 minutes earlier than normal.

I know people have longer commute times, but when I once was able to leave the office around 5:10 and be home around 6:15 and now at times leave around 5:00 and don’t get home until 7:30… well the distance has not changed but it is still getting to be too far.

Then there is the idea that I’ve recently had more fun and felt more relaxed and at ease then I have in many months at work, not only when having a four day weekend, or when at a business writing seminar I attended but also on the morning I took time to meet with a Recruitment Agency, but on a day off I took in order to go to Walmart to buy a few items to help wash my feline family’s bedding that suffered some weekend accidents before looking for other jobs while old T.V. sitcoms and westerns played in the background..

  • It is also strange given what I know and have experienced over six years to see new people coming in so excited and happy, with big smiles on their faces.

Perhaps it is simply that I’ve become too jaded to still see what they do as while I can’t deny that even with all lost, a lot of what exists here today might be hard if not nearly impossible to duplicate elsewhere, I still wonder, if/when they experience some of the things I have, if they’ll become as jaded, as I have, as many others I started here with, some of who have left, have become…

  • Then there is the odd, tiring issue that resolving one problem immediately causes another, which upon solving causes another then another and another, in a never-ending cycle:

o  A headlight burns out, is replaced

o   A stone from a dump truck chips the windshield the next day, is repaired with a DYI kit that weekend

o   A light burns out in the hallway within an hour of the windshield repair and is replaced only for within another hour to have two burnouts in the kitchen, which are then replaced.

o   The next day one of my furry family tries to climb the television, something they’ve never done, and it smashes to the floor, thankfully and most importantly not hurting my furry family but destroying the television, which is being replaced.

o   A light in the carport goes out and is nearly impossible to replace because of how the cover was designed and then wielded in place.

o   Etc., etc., etc.

While I know there is no apparent causal relationship between solving a problem and another problem triggering, after a while one does start to wonder if they were to leave something minor go unfixed, like a burned out light in the hallway, if that wouldn’t stem the seemingly endless cycle for a few hours, if not days, if not weeks, if not months, if not entirely, thus allowing things to return to a time when problems were sometimes close in occurrence but not continually happen on top of one another.

Well, that is a bit of what has been happening anyway, and for some of these I really do want to write more about what is happening, especially to something not on the list, an idea of what is happening to the neighborhood where I am now work and how that is sadly changing to something other than what allowed it to be what it has today become.

At least my feline family is taking everything in stride, sleeping on their sides near fans.

Seriously, how can I get their life?

 

 

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Is all I seek an illusion?

Increasingly there is a desire to travel open roads lined with trees or farm fields that wind their way around gentle curves, past soft rolling hills and perhaps travel on a day with a gentle rain or snow just for atmosphere. Rural Farm

A road that passes old houses and barns, that goes through one stoplight main streets, that encounters signs of history, places with a natural character that has grown over time and a road where the chance of passing another vehicle for miles is rare.

Evermore there is a longing to find walking trails that head to new adventures; trails that ramble alongside gentle streams and through woods to ‘new’ locations filled with old footbridges, abandoned train tracks, forgotten sections of parks, forgotten depots.

I desire to find towns built as part of the landscape, towns which have a true history that is honored and cherished, where people respect their past, for better or worse, and who understand that while history is an important tool to learn from, to gain insight from and to hopefully use as a means avoid the same mistakes, especially the horrific moments of history, a majority of history is something over which the social mores of today cannot and by which the morals people live by in the present should never stand over in final judgement.

landscape townsI long to find towns where by just spending time within them, you can feel the love and life that has filled them, and sense they are waiting to tell the tales of all they have been witness to over many decades, if not centuries.

There is a yen to find people who still gather and spend time together in natural and friendly ways and who come to know a friend’s or stranger’s history and habits in a manner that isn’t prying.

There is an urge to rediscover people who are caring enough to do all possible to create a warm and comfortable atmosphere through greetings, inclusion in local customs, local foods, for all those they encounter, be it friend or stranger, who are in need and perhaps even more for those who don’t even know they are in need.

Increasingly, there is a desire to find a place far from the known, the common and established.

Somewhere far away from the ‘brave new world’ in which we all suddenly find ourselves living.

A ‘brave new world’ where people are addicted to mobile devices, foolishly surrendering their freedoms and privacy, for the convenience of a garage door that can be remotely closed from the other side of the planet, a fridge that texts them they are out of milk, or a GPS that can monitor their every move, allowing them to remain in ignorance of how to read a map, thus denying them the tremendous joy and discovery even minor deviations from a fixed path can bring.

A ‘brave new world’ that fails to understand how it is not safety, or like-minded thinking, or people bullying their view onto others, but freedom of action, freedom of thought, discourse with those you disagree with, which are the things that drive a people, a society forward, leading people to discover far more than they ever knew they were seeking and through such discoveries, lead to those unforgettable moments and days which make life worth living.

I long to find a place that allows moments which might only exist in fiction, in scenes from movies or scenes from various anime. Scenes of a snowy night, an overlook in a park that looks back toward the city.

kimi no na wa snow sA place to see the lights of the city below in brightly light buildings, the distant neon signs, traffic travelling the highways and maybe the occasional train racing through part of the city.

A view that inspires moments of 物の哀れ, and wistfully thoughts of a future that wasn’t and a past that has yet to be, while providing renewed faith and belief in the possibilities of both still someday existing.

Or maybe a place that allows a chance to walk quiet city streets as the snow gently falls and there is a sense of great serenity, a momentary tranquility where for just a few moments it is possible to believe the world can be at peace and that people actually care for one another.

There is an increasing need to find a place away from where people are so easily offended that society would never allow movies like Airplane to be made now and a society that shudders at signs like “We keep our beef prices so low…. because we have an uncle who is a cattle rustler.”, crying out how improper it is to joke about such things.

A world far away from where everything has turned so vanilla and tilted toward plebian that even the “new” is often trite and cliché, if not merely a reboot, a retread of the “safe” and “known”, simply packaged as “new and edgy”.

To find a place people understand sarcasm, cynicism, puns and the various subtleties of speech. A place where people know what is meant when, in reply to Verizon’s new ad campaign seen in stadiums (“Verizon: Are You With Us?”), someone replies, “Well, let us say, for the moment, I am not against you.”

A place where people don’t cry out that anything that is not complimentary must by default be insulting and offensive.

KentuckyThere is a fervent desire to discover a people who understand sometimes doing the right thing is the wrong thing, that good intentions aren’t always welcomed or wanted, that darkness and light cannot exist without the other, that there are times when there is far more beauty found in imperfection then there is sanity, rationality and logic found in “perfection” and that there are times in life when the only way to win, is to lose.

To find a place where people are not so hidebound by rules that they fail to understand that the rules will always reflect the greatest self-interest of the ruling class, which only occasionally benefits the masses, which is why at times the rules must be viewed as mere guidelines.

There is a strong desire to find a place where people are intuitive and self-aware enough that they don’t need things explained in such minute detail that asking them if they want soup for lunch must involve explaining what a spoon is, which hand is best to hold the spoon and at what angle and degree the spoon should enter the soup bowl and then be brought to the mouth.

Once, oh around a decade to a decade and a half ago, I knew people who were intuitive and self-aware enough to know you don’t touch a hot stove with a boiling pot on top, but now… well, I know people who demand to know how it is possible to categorically state it is raining, simply by looking out a window and then complain there is no sign telling them to take an umbrella posted at the exits before seeing such a sign posted and complaining there are too many signs.

country roads take me homeBack then I also knew roadways where one could travel for miles without encountering another vehicle, passing through echoes of a town’s history.

I knew of walking trails to hidden oases away from crowds, where one could find the solitude to reflect, sitting near ivy covered chimneys rising from overgrown abandoned houses that were once part of an old farming community but now part of a botanical gardens.

But recently as four years ago, a once peaceful roadway lined with trees, rolling farm fields, a single stop sign and hints of what the area must have been fifty years ago, had within two months gained a traffic light, saw the woods leveled and farm fields ploughed under for several developments offering the chance to ‘live in the luxury homes of tomorrow…. today!’. In my opinion those developers take a very liberal definition of ‘luxury’, with homes slapped together in about six weeks, on lots with homes sitting closer together than any of the words on this page.lyons estates

Perhaps, for a whole variety of reasons, while that moment of an area’s transformation was not the straw that broke the camel’s back, it was the straw that first lead the camel to feel the increasing weight.

I truly mark that time period as the moment I became aware of the growing ennui that fills me each time I must adapt and each time I find that these adaptions feel, at best, like a sideways step where nothing is gained, while there is a vague feeling of something lost and at worst feels like a step backwards where a lot is lost and so little can even be claimed as holding steady it is laughable.

Perhaps this is also when I realized that the new adventure I seek, might not be as simple as a new road to travel, or a new park to explore, but require, through my own choice, a change of location and/or employment.

It is an odd feeling because though in a different era and place, I lived a long time in the town I was born, saw many changes, though admittedly most toward the end of my time there and few prior negative in nature and never truly felt the need to move rather than travel and explore in order to have new adventures.

Manhattan phone bookIt is odder to think that even as I feel the push today to move forward, even within a town whose glory is far more historic and aggrandized than true, even with a commute that is a getting more dangerous and far too close to double what it should be and even with an employment situation that is leaving me spiritually and emotionally drained within a work location that in the past year has garnered enough faults to fill four Manhattan phonebooks, there is an odd sort of comfort.

I can’t truly explain it, since it has become a place where everything from the job, to benefits to the surrounding area is so ethereal, that it feels as if a slight shift in the clouds, a soft breeze, the sneeze of an ant, or a leaf landing half on the grass and half on the sidewalk, could shatter everything. 

Obviously, that is not the most restful or comfortable feeling.

Maybe because of the dueling feeling of being comfortable and yet uncomfortable, I keep remembering something Georg Lichtenberg once wrote, “I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.”

I have been looking into changes, both long and short distances and thought a short distance would admittedly help, it might only be a temporary moderate help as a lot of the problems of the area would remain.

Truthfully, the thought of finding a job in another city, another state and perhaps another time zone, has me excited and terrified. I’ve moved before, about four times so far in my life not counting college but, and I hate to say it, but there are also moments when I think of the short turnaround I might have, needing to find a new vet for the feline family, finding new Tai Chi and fun Japanese classes, finding a part of the city that isn’t at its apex but will last 20 to 30 years in which to live and think, I’m getting to old for this…

Yet I also cannot deny that change of my choosing would be refreshing and is something that is probably sorely needed at this time.

Wood desk clockRefreshing to find a place that is not mired in lies and paranoia. A pointsplace that doesn’t use the words “compliance” and “best practices”, to justify ending an over three-decade tradition of giving beautiful clocks and globes in recognition of longevity, and replace it with a grocery store, gas station, credit card company points reward system where one needs around 50,000 points (a slam dunk if you are with the company for 45 years) to even sniff an item that would be useful and practical, that is other than toothbrush holders and non-stick bread pans which can be gotten for 15,000 points.

Refreshing to find a place that embraces ideas such as light rail, rather than show such vitriol toward the idea that I am starting to wonder who is funding campaigns against the light rail (it isn’t the local transit authority who has already publicly endorsed the idea) and what light rail ever did to those against it to merit such dislike.

It would be so refreshing to find a place far from where people use a logic that would make Vulcan’s cry to make major corporate decisions, namely, “If it is something that hasn’t been personally seen before, even if it is something being seen now that is working successfully and has been proven to have worked successfully for decades, it obviously cannot exist in the manner in which it is now being observed, because it has never previously personally been seen to exist that way”.

Oh, how I would love to engage those people in discourse on matters of spiritualism, mysticism and especially religion.

It would be refreshing to find a place where people are worldly beyond their limited scope of work and necessary knowledge.

studio ghibliA place where they might know the works, beyond just some titles, of Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, George Orwell, H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Akira Kurosawa and be able to name at least one movie by Studio Ghibli or something other than The Birds and Pyscho by Hitchcock and be able to get MST3K and Doctor Who references.

A place where they are honest that the reasons for a “Time Sheet Completion Competition”, is not for a chance to win one of many fabulous prizes, but because of the tiniest flaw in the new timekeeping system, namely that it will crash if even one staff member’s timesheet is ten minutes late each week… seriously, this is stuff one just can’t make up and what is it with all these contests with chances to win one of many fabulous prizes from HR… is someone in HR a frustrated wannabe game show host?

A place away from where HR is taking benefits from front line employees and giving them to (over their quietest and most inarticulate protests no doubt) the ‘humble’ and ‘lacking any hubris’ top brass, who merely believe a job well-done is reward enough… well ‘reward enough’ along with their midrange six figure salaries that is… I am suddenly thinking of both a satirical comment and a joke, but not sure either are printable before the children are tucked into their beds.

I seek a place where people are like my former mentor at the office; acerbic, humorous, willing to work with others, quick to teach the angles and introduce the true powerbrokers and who truly care about those they work with knowing when the rules are to be treated as if they actually are ironclad and when they are to be considered little more than guidelines in order to successfully complete assignments.

A place where people aren’t like so many of the new hires in the office, literalist, sycophant, myopic, rule bound, kowtowers, who amaze me at their daring to eat a slice of pizza without a detailed instruction manual, spoken and written approval of their direct supervisor or spoken, written and notarized approval from no less than two other members of management in their supervisor’s absence.

Farm StandIt would be refreshing to be in a place where co-workers don’t try so hard to play the hero that I often wonder why they don’t go for broke, don a cape and cowl to prowl the night, striking fear into the vile criminal scum that plague our fair town… a town which, if you believe office security’s “weekly safety bulletins”, has enough crime in just the two block radius of our office to make Gotham City look like bucolic farm community whose biggest threat to public safety is someone swiping eggs from a roadside farm stand for the sole purpose of throwing them back at the vendor.

I long for a place people actually respect time off, understanding time is the most precious and most limited resource a person has and understanding this, doesn’t book time off they have no intention of taking, thus preventing others from taking it.

A place away from where people don’t respect or value time-off they are handed on a silver platter by either staying online in case any e-mails or questions come in only they can answer or attempt to use that time to themselves look good.

An attempt often made by working on projects that frankly have so little importance to the continued welfare of company, that there is greater potential for positive or negative cosmic impact to the universe, and perhaps the multiverse, riding on my decision of okonomiyaki or pasta for dinner, than from their finishing or even just working on, a project during a day the office is closed due to flooding, high winds, heavy snows, power outages, local, state or federal holidays or just for the heck of it.

It would be so refreshing to be a place where co-workers don’t waste their days playing up to management before crying they are so busy they must stay past 7pm, doing the work they didn’t do during the day and (as they have been seen by others) staying to scrub break room counters until they shine before the cleaning staff arrives… there’s a joke in there somewhere about ensuring a house is spotless so the maid doesn’t form a bad impression of the household…

I desire to find a place where it is possible to have help in seeking new employment, rather than encountering people and places who send me to interviews for jobs that don’t exist, tell me since I am employed they cannot help, refuse to help for fear of a conflict of interest due to business done once, 26 years ago, with my current company, or tell of a great opportunity and promise to get back to me regardless of there being an interview arranged, only to never get back.

I long to discover a place where they actually believe in the words of the late Anthony Bourdain, “Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.”

Such a place would be far away from where they focus on how “great a match” or what “percentage match” a person is before judging and comparing them to others based on those numbers… which admittedly is far easier since it is the computer or some metrics system doing the judgement which offers a cushion to anyone hiring that makes the wrong choice. I mean they were merely following the computer’s decision and computers are flawless so if the choice was bad, obviously it was a one in a million flaw in the computer program and not the judgement of the one hiring.

A place systems for job searches are either free or geared to the job seeker not the employer, as they are in so many ads on radio and television for Monster.com, LinkedIn, Indeed, ZipRecuriter and others, who are blatant about selling a metrics based project to employers looking to hire.

Employers whose self-admitted inability to accurately and timely shift through resumes to find the right candidates to even interview let alone work for them, likely speaks far more of their own skills and abilities in reviewing and judging potential employees than it does anything else.

boulder curseYet, to hear the employers tell their tale on radio, and news shows, the task of reviewing resumes must be a Herculean one far more onerous than Sisyphus’s curse, doomed for eternity to roll a boulder uphill, and requires so much time and effort that if The Odyssey was written today, surely Homer would make reviewing resumes and judging skills and employment histories to find the right candidate, a trail Odysseus must overcome, replacing one of those silly trails, like defeating the Cyclops, escaping Circe or overcoming the Sirens’ call.

I desire to find a place where people don’t cry foul when they unknowingly, or knowingly, play the straight man and feed beautiful setup lines.

For example, take one nameless company’s ad for their job services which ends, “I thought we were looking for an Operations Manager, but we were really looking for an Oscar.”

That is a beautiful setup line begging for a follow-up of, “Yeah, well with that script and acting performance, don’t hold your breath… however, if you’re looking for a Razzie…”

These days, that simple return of an all too perfect straight man feeder line would be a written warning from HR, seriously, no one here has a sense of humor anymore.

I long to find a place where the leadership at least pretends to listen to employees and keeps their promises to open their doors to ideas, implementing those they can, even if it is something silly like Taco Tuesdays or a Free Froyo Fridays.

rose coloredI long for a place where the employees remove their rose-colored glasses, if only just long enough to engage in the increasingly rare concept of trust but verify when it comes to everything and anything the leadership says, especially about what they say is good for the employee.

I desire to find a place where I can get sleep and feel rested each night. There is a current ad on radio for a sheet and blanket company which mentions how few people ever get the sleep they want, in response to which, with no punchline intended, I find myself saying, “I’d settle for the sleep I need.”

A place I can escape worry and have at least some fun being at work, as I once did, and can be excited about going in each day, which once was the case.

A place where each new day doesn’t hold the question of if I’ve reached the point that there are now more “I remember when’s” then can be counted on the fingers and toes, which if anyone ever does reach that point is often a sign it is time to move on and start fresh.

Is there such a place? Are there such places?

Do places still exist where one can be excited about what is to come next, rather than only seeing so many endings without new beginnings that they become weary and spent?

Is there a road, literal or figurative, to start such a journey to the place(s) a person needs, and hopefully wants, to be?

Or is all I seek merely antiquated symbols and ideals of a bygone era, an era that understood and acknowledged how critical relaxation is to overall mental, spiritual and physical health and wellbeing?

Maltese Falcon.jpgHas the world changed so much that all I seek is like the Maltese Falcon, and merely “the stuff that dreams are made of”?

I ask my feline family and they stretch, yawn, nuzzle me, climb on the back of my chair and drape their tail over my shoulder as they go back to sleep. It is almost as if they are saying, “You’re talking to cats. We’re always perfect and can’t understand why humans worry so much about things they can’t control and then struggle so hard to obtain barely passable mediocrity, but don’t worry, you know where to scratch us behind the ears, which blankets we use each night  and know what food prefer and where to place our bowls for breakfast and dinner, so we love you regardless of all your faults.”

Perhaps they truly are wiser and are saying don’t sweat it and for the moment at least, I should continue to seek what I want, continue to strive for answers to my questions, without worrying if the answers truly exist.

Well, I do know I need to find another way to seek employment elsewhere but for now plan on taking a few moments to nap with a feline family member in my lap and a good book that is asking to be read this night.

Posted in cats, changes, changing world, childhood, Feline Lessons on Life, felines, new location, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Things remembered this last day of Toys “R” Us

Fare-thee-well Toys “R” Us.

Your end came, in my opinion, not just because of a changing era but because of a private equity firm that bleed you dry, sucked what profits they could from you and who in the end proved what I’ve always believed, they care little for the workers or companies they purchase, just for the profits that can make from them.

This is perhaps part of why it is a bittersweet last day for Toys “R” Us and for better or worse, the day the world bids farewell to the world’s largest and perhaps last major brick and mortar toy store.

There are also stories of how many rank-and-file workers, some at the stores for over 30 years,  are leaving with nothing, as severance pay was stopped during the liquidation. That is a part of bankruptcy, all monies are frozen and paid back to creditors in a certain order.

What doesn’t sit well with the anyone is how the  executives drew millions in bonuses just days before filing for bankruptcy, therefore their bonuses would not be frozen by the bankruptcy proceedings, not to mention how Bain Capital, which allowed Toys “R” Us’ demise, is leaving with around $475 million in profits. 

As all of this news, as memories of more innocent times at Toys “R” Us, Kay-Bee Toys, Lionel Kiddie City, float into mind, my feelings and thoughts tend toward what my Japanese sensei referred to as 物の哀れ(mono no ware), an awareness of the transience of things, mixed with a transient gentle sad wistfulness at their passing and a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life.

Most of my memories are of happier moments from childhood, of moments in time, people, places and events, I haven’t thought of in years.

Such as Toys “R” Us’ classic Christmas catalogs, that like the old Sears catalogs, were thicker than a Manhattan phonebook and came, once upon a time, unsolicited to mailboxes. I remember the excitement of looking through the catalogs and braving decorated stores with my parents to meet Santa and ask for my favorite items and of Christmas ads.

Those now classic commercials showing houses decorated as to make the Christmas Vacation house blush, of trees everywhere, of grandparents bringing presents, of Santa delivering gifts, of snow angels and snowmen, of families opening gifts around the tree, and children trying to sneak down to see Santa deliver presents and of seeing new ones each year that feature the latest toy or gadget.

Admittedly, these commercials primarily aired during Christmas shows like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and, now that I think about it, rather ironically during The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

With these shows in mind, I can’t help but think of my family gathering by the television near the Christmas tree, not only for the annual tradition of seeing these ‘classics’ of Rankin-Bass and Hollywood (It’s A Wonderful Life, Bishop’s Wife, White Christmas, Shop Around the Corner, etc.), along with some ‘newer’ not so classics that have mercifully been lost somewhere in time and space, but also of live musical holiday events and the occasional throwback variety show that was still just clinging to life in the early to mid-1980’s.

However, these moments were merely part of the holiday season crescendo, as the season started with the annual mid-October, Kirby’s Mill Fall Apple Festival.

The Kirby’s Mill Apple Festival was a place to witness the process of how apple products were made and purchase freshly made Apple Cider and Apple Cider Doughnuts before touring craft booths of all kinds (I still have two marionettes purchased there) and visiting the old gristmill which at the time was undergoing now completed historical renovations.

Even just part of a day spent there was a lot of fun walking around and seeing the leaves starting to change, feeling the air cool and watching everyone bid a welcome to fall and a fond farewell to summer, all while enjoying the live music, arts and crafts stalls, enjoying the many apple themed dishes and speaking to historical interpreters demonstrating the gristmill in operation.

Closely following either on the Saturday or Friday before Halloween, if Halloween was a Saturday,  was the annual Halloween Parade.

For several decades that whole time period was a spectacle to behold.  Around the middle of the month, Main Street filled with scarecrows, carved pumpkins, witch’s hats, silhouettes of black cats, orange lights strung across the street and businesses hanging those curtains to cast ‘monster shadows’ in their windows at night.

On the day of the parade, Main Street closed around noon to allow the gathering of, at times, around 100 floats and countless costumed people, who would either ride or march. These were the days when the only guidance on floats or costumes was a recommendation on how scary things could appear and even that was a very generous limit by any standards,  which was wonderful as it allowed variation and creativity.

To this day, I haven’t truly seen anything to equal the parade or atmosphere in any location I’ve been or lived since, though the Woodhaven section of Queens, New York came the closest with nearly every house decorated for Halloween. As for the parade in my hometown, I can happily report, according to family and friends still in the area, it remains strong today.

No much can be said about any town celebrations for Thanksgiving. While I do vaguely remember decorations along Main Street and a few craft booths selling wooden pumpkins and other items for the Thanksgiving table that were popping up in a park across from a local branch library about two weekends after Halloween, even 30 plus years ago there wasn’t much else in the town crying out that it is Thanksgiving.

To be honest, rather than Thanksgiving town events, I have more memories of family gatherings to eat out on Thanksgiving Day, first at a National Historical Site, the ‘largest log cabin in the world’ until it sadly burned down due to an accidental electrical fire, and thereafter at a café which was designed to appear as an artist’s studio with rotating displays of local artwork and stunning views of the Delaware River, at times made even more beautiful with views of falling snow and large ships brightly lit against the gray skies, slowly moving along the river either toward or from Philadelphia.

However, in all fairness, even without major town Thanksgiving celebrations, 30 years ago was not as bad as it is today where at times it feels as if we go from Labor Day, if not the 4th of July, right to Christmas.

While I can only speak for the public elementary and middle schools and Quaker high school I went, they put on Thanksgiving plays, sold turkeys for local charities and had charity drive ties to stores and food pantries. Through them it felt a lot less like Thanksgiving was just as stepping stone between Halloween and Christmas.

Now Christmas, that was a very different story within the town which held an annual Dickens’ Christmas festival.

Each year around December 1st, Main Street became a winter wonderland with lights, wreaths and garland. Businesses showed their holiday spirit by draping lights across their windows, putting up trees, and having lit candles (believe it or not, some of the them were real candles).

From the moment the decorations appeared, shops along and just off Main Street would open their doors both to customers and merely to offer holiday cheer in the form of cider and cookies to those walking Main Street.

On the day of the festival, around noon booths selling handmade holiday crafts also popped up during the afternoon of the festival and in the early evening, Main Street closed (which happened a lot for various festivals) as people in Victorian era dress roamed the streets, interacting with visitors directly through mini performances and by encouraging caroling “door-to-door” to the various shops and homes that dotted Main Street

After dark but early enough for kids to still be present (no pun intended), Santa arrived in Victorian area costume, driving a horse drawn carriage to the main gazebo to help light the town Christmas tree and pass out a few early gifts.

It is actually the small parts of the festival which stand out the most to me, the moments which some people today might not do and were a bit throwaway but where also so  unique.

One such event took place in a classic gothic style bank dating late 1800 – early 1900’s. The bank itself appeared to be something out of an Old West movie set, sitting behind a town clock on the corner of an intersection, and directly across from an old authentic stagecoach stop dating back to 1810.

Considering this was still a working bank at the time it was even more amazing how they would slightly alter the interior to appear like what ‘counting houses’ might have in the Victorian era and have someone dressed as Scrooge standing near the original bank vault, handing out chocolate gold coins to children who entered, before teasing them about being as bad as Cratchett for wanting their holiday pay.

 

My how times have changed… can anyone image a bank or any business having someone in costume handing chocolate out to kids? Of course, the fact such things happen so rarely if at all these days, to me, makes the world a sadder place.

On a side note, I recently learned that not only is the bank building sitting empty and up for sale but the old Stagecoach Stop caught fire and was unsalvageable so had to be demolished.

Yet, in some good news, thanks to a historical preservation mandate going back to 1973 for the downtown area, it was rebuilt as close to the original as possible, and from the photos I have seen it does look similar to the original.

But, maybe because I remember eating inside of the original, going to a tailor inside of it, going to a framing store there and remember all the quarks a (at the time) 170 year old building had, I see this new version as a mere shadow, an incomplete copy. I have never seen the new building in person and only seen a few photos and yet something about it just lacks the charm, not to mention the loss of 200 years of history… sorry I am digressing.

As these and other thoughts continue through my mind, it hits me as being rather funny that all these memories and feelings were triggered from a simple jingle that I’ve heard countless times over the years and yet only today do they trigger.

Perhaps given the mix of happy and bittersweet memories coming to mind this day, it is fitting that only on this day, a jingle for a company which did bring joy to so many people and that which come the next dawn will, for all intents and purposes, no longer exist, acts as a trigger for these memories and thoughts.

Maybe I am just being wishful, but I hope that someday future generations will have something that jingle to trigger memories within them some 30 years on. I also hope that in some shape or form, a small part of Toys “R” Us will survive, before it completely fades into history to become nothing more than a footnote in a book about brick-and-mortar stores of the 20th century or just a Wikipedia entry, much like Kay-Bee Toys (though I have heard there is a small revitalization for them) and Lionel Kiddie City (turn your frown… upside down).

Well, come what may, for now let me just say, here’s looking at you, Toys “R” Us, thank you for triggering so many memories this day of people, places, events and things, both happy and bittersweet, that I haven’t thought of in years.

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