Sunday, June 28, 2009

Workin' the Late Shift

When I was first interviewing for my job, they told me I'd be working from 10-7 for the foreseeable future, and I thought that rocked. I'm not exactly a morning person by trade, and this would give me the chance to stay up late, and as a natural result of that, sleep in.

It hasn't exactly worked that way, but it's still good. I go to the gym before work, which entails getting up around 6:30 am, but at least I know it's done and I get home before 9pm each night. Also, while I'm actually at work, things slow down after 5:30 or so, so I can use that time to either catch up on back work or do nothing. Plus, the boss leaves at 5pm, so not having him there (as much as I like him) for a solid 1/4 of my work day isn't bad either.

Before Friday, I thought the only kinda sucky thing about the late shift was during the summer when I knew all sorts of other people, including my friends, were enjoying beverages and being done with their work weeks at 5:02 pm Friday while I had another solid 2 hours of time left to go. Friday, that all changed.

If you're not a regular reader of this blog, before you go any further I'd like to direct you here. Read up a little on this guy at work Dwight, because he is a key player in the story I am about to tell. I was walking downstairs to check out the end of Employee Appreciation Week! (no good stories came from Employee Appreciation Week!, sorry) free ice cream setup my company had thrown together when one of my co-workers said, "Did you hear about the fiasco this morning?"

Well no, I had heard of no such fiasco, what might you be talking about? "You didn't hear about Dwight throwing a cup of coffee on Rachel*?"


NO, I did not hear about that. Tell me, NOW.

Quick note about Rachel, she occasionally acts like she's the sh*t at work, when she's really not. And it does on occasion get annoying. So apparently on this morning a group of people were gathered talking about whatever, and Rachel was kinda making fun of Dwight (she likes to bust balls) but also tapping his shoulder with a ruler (Rachel is just shy of 6', Dwight's a solid 5'7). At first, everyone was laughing, including Dwight. Then, as I was told, he out of nowhere got a serious look on his face, and tossed a half cup of coffee all over her dress (about belt level and below).

When I heard this, three questions immediately came to mind:

How did I miss this?
How is Dwight still alive? and perhaps most interestingly
Why is he still here acting like nothing happened?

The first one is a simple answer, so let's go to 2 and 3. I was told at first everyone was just silent, and pretty much in shock. Who does this? Seriously, at just a basic human decency level, who throws hot coffee at someone else? And how did the person who had the coffee thrown on them not go into a murderous rage immediately thereafter (as I almost certainly would have)?

After the initial shock wore off, apparently Rachel relatively quietly, and showing much more restraint than most people would, just told the guy he needed to walk away. Now here's where it gets even better. He didn't just snap out of it and apologize. He didn't walk away. He kept talking, telling her she couldn't treat people that way. If this guy wasn't a possible sociopath that might show up one day with an axe to grind, I might almost be impressed by this. It wasn't until another co-worker literally pulled the guy away that he got out of her face.

Now the bigger question, what was he doing there all day. Apparently there was talking of bringing the whole thing to HR, but some people suggested they could both get in trouble based on her not vicious making fun of him and the goofy tapping on the shoulder with the ruler. The final decision appears to have been that the dude is a giant psycho/asshole but it wasn't worth getting into a huge HR mess that might lead to both parties getting in trouble.

So everyone goes back to work like nothing happened. This one isn't over yet though, at least I don't think it is. Her personality/ego is too big and he's just a little too nuts for there not to be a round 2. But next time, if the two combatants could wait until after 10am to start things off, I for one would really appreciate it.

*Names again changed to protect the innocent, and me.

Listening To: John Butler Trio
About To: hopefully watch the Yankees finish of sweeping the Mets

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I don't care that Michael Jackson's dead

That's pretty much all I have to say about it. He had some great songs, and now he's dead. That can be said about a lot of people. Throw in the fact that he might have been a kid toucher, and my skin's been crawling over the last couple hours at all the "so sad MJ is gone" status updates I've seen on facebook.

But I have no interest in saying anything more about this guy, instead I'm going to write about the person who's probably the most happiest that all this happened today, and the people who are getting most screwed over by it: Mark Sanford, and the Iranian people.

First off, the fine governor of South Carolina. This guy is such a jerkoff I can't help but love him. When the story first broke that he was nowhere to be found, the first thing I remember hearing was that he often did this when work had been really crazy. How cool is that? Work has been kind of a pain in the ass for me this week, I think I'm just going to disappear of the face of the earth for a couple of days. I think I'm going to try that next week.

Then, somehow this Appalachian Trail story gets out, but he left a state owned car at the Atlanta airport. Really? You're trying to leave the country to bang your mistress, and you probably floated this appalachian trail story to your staff, but then you borrow a STATE OWNED MOTHERF*CKING CAR and take it to the airport? Nice move.

I've been reading/hearing some people on the right complain the last couple of days that only Republicans get in trouble for this stuff and it's un fair and blah blah blah. Stop getting caught and you won't have to worry about it. And, the reason why Republicans get blasted for this more is because they're the ones who go around judging the morality of other people. Mark Sanford was big time for Clinton's impeachment back in the day, and when he was in Congress and Newt Gingrich had to resign, he was the first Republican to argue that Gingrich's proposed replacement back off because he had cheated on his wife. You don't get to do all that and then get a pass when you're flying down to Argentina to cheat on your wife (side note: why not fly her up here, since he's the governor of a state and already was a leading presidential candidate and all?). Besides, I vaguely recall that Eliot Spitzer guy getting hit pretty hard when he was caught paying for a hooker.

But enough about all that, something more important: Iran. I can't necessarily explain why what's happening there grabbed me right from the start, but I was kind of paying attention to the upcoming election and when I started to see the news that something very bad seemed to have happened there, I just couldn't stop paying attention to it.

Of course, if I wanted to really get information about what was happening in Iran, the web was the only place to go. Monday morning, the first weekday after an election was apparently stolen in the middle of the Middle East, and CNN, the station that made it's name on live coverage of an event in that part of the world (Iraq War Part I), is hyping Larry King interviewing the Jonas Brothers. I know I've got a bit of crotchety old man in me: I couldn't pick a Jonas Brother out of the lineup, I don't know a single thing they've ever done and I don't really want to. The point is that this is a news station and this ginormo story was getting ZERO coverage. It was pretty messed up. Honestly, if you care about Iran and want to try and find as much info as possible concentrated into one place, go here. Andrew Sullivan has been on top of this story since second one, and the passion he has for it comes through in his writing.

Fortunately for Mark Sanford and unfortunately for the Iranian public, their stories will now be buried in the background. It doesn't have to be this way though. When CNN starts talking about Michael Jackson, John & Kate or the next pseudo-celebrity crap fest, change the channel. It's not that hard, and maybe you'll learn something.

P.S. I wasn't going to write anything tonight, until I happened to skip by MSNBC and saw they were running live footage of a helicopter carrying Michael Jackson's body to the coroner's office. That was kind of the last straw.

P.P.S. Right before I started writing this, I was watching the premier of The Real World: Cancun that I had DVR'd last night, so I know I'm not perfect in the bad TV department.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Not a Problem ... Now That's a Problem

I'd say this one fits in the "Really?" category. Sometimes this blog just writes itself.

So one of the many things my group was just starting to get used to around the time I started is that part of our evaluation process would include recordings of our phone calls. Four calls would be randomly pulled every month, and scored on 13 different categories. Basically everything from how you answer the phone to how you say goodbye gets a score from 1-4, so 52 is perfect.

This all started for real last month, and a couple of weeks ago my boss pulled everyone in individually to show us the score for one call, what the forms look like and how this part of our evaluation will work.

I had no idea what to expect, but my first evaluation went pretty well. I got a 49 out of 52, which I can't have any complaints about. One point came off because at one point I let there be too much silence while I was waiting for something to come up on my computer, and I'm supposed to try and keep a conversation going. Ok, that makes sense, lesson learned.

The other two points were a little different, I lost two points in one category because towards the end of the call I used the dreaded phrase that apparently shakes our company to the core:

Customer: Thank you so much for your help, I really appreciate it.
Me: Oh ... not a problem ...

Can you believe I did that? How can I even possibly have a job, let alone succeed? Yup, apparently at some phone etiquette seminar or something, the managers of our team were told that the phrase not a problem is really bad because ... wait for it, it's as though we are saying "oh, if it were a problem, I wouldn't help you."

Really? Is that what it's saying? Or maybe it's a friendly way of saying, it's our pleasure to provide you with this assistance, don't even think twice about calling in because that's what we're here for. This never would have become a big deal, until we had a group meeting a week later and my boss happened to bring up in the meeting that I had points knocked off my score just for saying that little phrase. Then it became this huge thing among the people in my group, and of course, because we're all talking about it, now I'm saying "Not a problem" NON F'ING STOP. I remember one call shortly after the meeting where I"m sure I said it 5 times in about 10 minutes.

Then it just became a joke among the group. No matter what the conversation was, pretty much every time we spoke to each other it ended with Not a Problem. After about a week of this, we won, because we randomly got an e-mail from my boss that said using the phrase not a problem will no longer be a negative score ... as long as we aren't excessive with it. Still kinda silly, but much further down the ridiculousness scale. I'm eagerly awaiting the next normal phrase we aren't allowed to say.

These are the songs I keep singin'
I picked up a new ipod last week, and I"m very happy about it. The gym is so much better with it as is just about any other activity where I'd rather not hear the random crap (i.e. people) going on around me. My first chance to block out this crap was the ride into NYC for the Yankee game last Saturday. I wanted to post this because I think the playlist was a solid example of my decently sized (although nowhere near this guy) but eclectic music collection (comments in parentheses when I feel like it).

Tailspin - moe. (best studio song from a solid jam band)
Bring tha Noise - Public Enemy w/ Anthrax
I'm Gone - John Cunningham (the last song he played at his last Pitcher Wars at The Brewery)
Cry Me a River - Justin Timberlake (ok ok, mock if you must, but it's a really well produced pop song and it pretty much single handedly destroyed Britney Spears)
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap - AC/DC (no explanation necessary)
Dead and Bloated - STP
C.R.E.A.M. - Wu-Tang
Constructive Summer - The Hold Steady (keep pretending this band doesn't exist, I like it that way)
Rusty Cage - Johnny Cash
Beverly Hills - Weezer (they have many songs that are better than this, but it's so damn catchy)
Disarm - Smashing Pumpkins (more on this band later)
It Ain't Me Babe - Bob Dylan (need to see this man live)
Disorder in the House - Warren Zevon (it's Zevon and Springsteen doing an anti-Bush song, if you don't like this, I don't like you)
Walls - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (finishing up an excellent Dylan/Zevon & Springsteen/Petty trio)
Melatonin - Silversun Pickups (Silversun Pickups is what would happen if Smashing Pumpkins and an emo chick banged, had a kid, and that kid became a band)
Word is Bond - House of Pain (yup, from the album they released after the one that had Jump Around on it)
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me - U2 (possibly the first one I'm slightly embarrassed about, but I'll argue it's the only good thing from Batman Forever)
Allison Foley - Better than Ezra (yes they made more songs than Good, lots of them, and if you don't listen, your loss).

Listening To: Marker in the Sand - Pearl Jam
About To: collapse in my bed before 10pm, what a wuss

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Massive Nights

I've been listening to music a lot more recently. Part of it is just my natural rotation of things I do while chilling out at home. Sometimes I'll watch everything I can on TV, sometimes I'll be reading a book a week and sometimes I'll be listening to albums straight through as much as I can; and right now we're on the music train. Part of this is because of my friend's new blog, which you can find here. If you're the type of person that actually listens to music as opposed to having it on in the background, I think you should definitely check it out.

The title to this blog is a Hold Steady song, a quick little sub 3 minute ditty (spelling?) that probably would have made the band well known back in the mid to late 90s when pop music stations actually played semi decent rock music. Instead, it was on an album released in 2006 and they're only played in NYC on the only radio station even conceivably worth listening to; and I only heard of them because a friend of a friend of mine told her (and she told me) a lot of the songs seem like they were written about her and I decided to check out their myspace page.

This song gave me the inspiration to write because I've been missing NYC a little recently. I'll be there on Friday, but it's been just short of a month since my last trek on NJ transit. Even though I'm only a quick 50 minute train ride from the city I need to move back to (or at least much closer to) as soon as I can, there are just some things you can't experience unless you're a cab ride away. One of these things I might miss the most is my version of the Massive Night, the random weeknight that was supposed to be quiet and before you know it goes completely the other direction. Here's a quick recap of a recent favorite.

It was the Wednesday before 4th of July weekend last year. My friends were going to Whistling Dixie's Texas Tavern, a wannabe country dive bar type place that tries to get male clientele to trek to 11th Avenue on Sundays by offering free drinks to strippers. Eh, I wasn't sure I would make the trip until I heard two wonderful words: free beer. The bar was giving away free beer for a couple hours to celebrate their first anniversary. As I was unemployed at the time, free = good. And my plan was to hang out there for a couple hours and then head home for the night. But the night had other plans for me.

We ended up going to another bar nearby $1 mini burgers and $3 beers at all times (it didn't take much to convince me to stop here). From there next thing I know a good friend of mine from college is in town with his wife and will be at a bar down in the Meatpacking District where the wife's sister is bartending.

Now I don't think anything says friendship more than me leaving a bar with $1 burgers and $3 beers to go to a place with $7 Heineken Lights in my least favorite part of the city (and possibly my least favorite place on Earth) to see a friend. But we went there and bounced around a couple of bars and out of nowhere it's 2am on a Wednesday. So of course, when we all piled into cabs, we were headed home so (most of us, myself not included) could get up for another day's work.

Or maybe we went to a Japanese karaoke place in midtown and rented a room for an hour. Because sure, that makes sense. And the night, which I thought would be relatively tame and over by 8pm, turned massive with a room full of (at minimum) slightly intoxicated people singing/yelling Thriller at 3am on a school night. That's the kind of night that I miss, and that's the kind of night I have to know will come around again soon.

Sidebar - Am I turning into what I dislike?

Everyone knows those annoying, inane conversations you have with co-workers where you just repeat tired old cliches because you can't/don't care enough to think of something original to say. The usual Monday again, hey it's Friday blah blah blah nonsense that goes on in offices everywhere across these fruited plains. I actively try to avoid this stuff to maintain my sanity, but I seem to be falling into one of them with my boss.

My boss is a very good guy, and of the four people on his level I could have conceivable ended up working for when I got this job, I definitely got lucky. As long as we do our work, he stays off our back and has fun. If we don't he tears us the new assholes we clearly deserve, and I respect that.

So he works about 7:30am-5pm, and if I run into him around 4:30 on any given day he usually makes a comment like "almost out of here" or "quitting time soon," whatever it might be. And I realized today that I think I've fallen into the awful pattern of always having the same boring response each time:

Yeah ... for you.

Ew. Yuck. Ugh. Pick your one syllable word for disgust. I'm better than this (I think). And now that I've noticed it, I have to try and force myself to be a little more creative in how I respond. Just like I have to be careful not to say "Not a problem" on the phone, but that's a story for another time.

Listening to: Heartbreaker - Led Zeppelin
About to: catch up on some Colbert