Oh no, not again

Somewhere in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams recounts how the Starship Heart of Gold uses its Improbability Drive to escape an attack. By using the drive, the missles converging on the ship become a whale and a bowl of petunias, which is rather improbable. As the petunias fall through space, the only thought it had was “Oh no, not again.”

I know how the petunias feel.

So, in 2017, I was “laid off permanently” by IBM. My brother the attorney said there was no such thing, but my assumption is that by terming it “layoff”, they didn’t have to report the numbers somewhere. When I called the benefits managers, it turned out I had retired.

This was the most traumatic event of my life, and I’ve been divorced. I was shell-shocked for quite a while, but at least I had severance pay for a bit.

It took almost a year to find a new job because I’m old and my resume is all IBM and not something useful like AWS or Google. However, I finally got a job on an IBM project as a contractor. I became the liaison between IBM and the customer. This was challenging to my sanity, but not that challenging. I did learn a lot of Watson stuff, but, again. IBM.

That project got terminated by the customer and I had about two weeks notice that my contract was ending. Everyone felt really bad, because it wasn’t my fault the system really didn’t meet their expectations.

Oh no, not again.

I got another job rather quickly, ironically at IBM, because now I was a Watson person. On the bright side, I was an employee of the contracting company, not just a hourly contractor. We spent six months trying to figure out all of the documentation the development team had never bothered to produce, and here we are, at the end of another quarter.

Oh no, not again.

I was told Wednesday at 4:45pm that my contract ended that day. It’s a good thing I’m not a contractor, or I’d be out of work! Ah, but as my contract was ending, I was being furloughed. “Furloughed” is “laid-off” if you have a Masters Degree.

So, one job for 19 years. Three jobs in three years.

The Day from Hell

Last Monday was a Day from Hell which stretched into the Week from Hell, and so much of it is blamed on “Corporate America” and so much of it was preventable – not easily, perhaps, but it’s not like they didn’t see it coming. Even more chilling, it’s going to happen again.

Every year about this time, we have Spring storms. On Sunday afternoon, we had a Texas-sized Spring storm. Trees down all over the place, a crane fell on a building, you name it. It was pretty bad, even by our usual Spring storm standards. Also, it was fairly predictable that it would happen eventually.

So, just like every year when we have a Spring storm, the power went out. This is because all of our power lines are overhead and nobody trims back the trees which are going to fall during a Spring storm. Therefore, power lines come down.

Oncor

Also, just like every year, Oncor sends out a note “Power will be back tonight”, then moves it to “tomorrow” and then eventually just sets their voicemail to a self-congratulatory message about how hard their crews are working under such stressful conditions (it was beautiful out on Monday, the day after the storm, not that I could enjoy it), and how people from other States are coming in to help restore their patient customers’ power.

Here’s a thought, dumbasses – how about trying prevention, since your damn cure always takes days?

I hate Oncor. This is probably not a secret. When Texas deregulated electricity a few years ago, what they really did was create another set of middlemen that do the billing. They buy electricity in bulk and sell it to the consumer. Whoever can lower their costs, say, by having no customer service whatsoever or selling at various prices under different names, can provide the lowest price.

However, Oncor owns the lines, the generators and all the other components that fail every damn year during Spring storms. So, every “electric company” in my area of the State has a sign on their website that says, “Oh, yeah, when you have no power, don’t call us, call Oncor.”

Oncor is what happens when you have a monopoly. They just cash the checks and don’t really consider making real improvements to the infrastructure because that costs money. They just make repairs as needed, at whatever speed they can manage.

I was just in the Caribbean, on the island of St Maarten, which had been virtually wiped out by hurricanes a couple of years ago, and as they’re rebuilding their completely destroyed infrastructure, they’re burying their electrical wires, to help withstand a storm.

There’s a thought. If the lines were underground, trees would have a more difficult time falling on them. Dallas has their streets torn up constantly anyway, why not bury the damn power lines?

The real issue is that some bean counter at Oncor is looking at the statistics, and we had power 362 of the past 365 days (mostly.) So, we had a 99% uptime. That’s really good.

Here’s the problem – all those downtime statistics don’t recognize whether the downtime was all at once. If we had an hour here or there all year, that’s one thing. 72 hours in a row is when all the food goes bad, the dogs become more psychotic, and I end up in a hotel.

So, Oncor disappointed me, but didn’t surprise me.

The irony is that Oncor has their own weather people. Apparently, they can’t predict any bad weather, but they can recognize it after it hits. I can do that without a degree in meteorology – if you want to know if there was a Spring storm, look out and see if all the houses are dark in the middle of the afternoon. If you wait until evening, it’s even easier to diagnose.

Here’s why power is important to me. There are basically three things I do at home, besides cater to the dogs and appear to obey my wife. I eat, I work and I sleep. With Oncor’s courageous three to four-day repair cycle for a very predictable, almost annual occurrence, I can’t eat (we’ll be throwing out all the food in the refrigerator and the freezer), I can’t work (I need WiFi, which needs power – even though I’m pretty sure the phones are working because their lines are underground) and I can’t sleep (I use a C-PAP for my sleep apnea, and without it, I wake up constantly during the night. I spent Sunday night constantly dreaming I was drowning. It was not pleasant.)

So, I’m a wee bit bitchy as I’m starting to write this on Monday night, because the only way for me to get a decent night’s sleep – and get some work done in the morning, was to break down and get a hotel room. I am now at a work staycation, two miles from home, at $200 per night. The Spousal Unit is home with the dogs, who are freaking out about being in the dark all day.

I got the hotel room because a couple of other companies failed me. One I hadn’t dealt with in years, and one I deal with constantly.

Amazon

First, the one I deal with all the time – Amazon. How do you get around a dumbass power company? You purchase another independent power source. Amazon had a battery backup that other people used for their CPAPs, so that would be perfect. Sure, it’s $250 that Oncor should pay, but it would be delivered by Monday evening.

Wrong. Somewhere between hitting Enter and the first delivery update, the delivery day got changed to Friday. By Friday, even Oncor should have the power restored. (It actually arrived on Wednesday.)

So, great try, Amazon, but when I order something for same-day delivery, there’s a reason.

REI

When Amazon said “delivery on Friday”, it meant I could spend another sleepless night at home or find a generator or battery locally. We called everybody we could think about – and nobody had one, but then I remembered someone had mentioned “camping with my C-PAP”, so we went to REI. The one by our house was sold out (obviously, since I was not alone in this thought), but they found us one in Plano (which wasn’t affected by the storm), so we drove the 25 miles to the Plano store to pick it up.

We had selected this unit from the small list of units available specifically because it could be charged in the car – it has a 12-volt adapter. Since we have no working outlet to plug it in, we needed a backup power source without spending another $150 on a solar panel. This is partially on us, because we should have asked, but the 12-volt adapter is the one thing that is not included in the box.

We talked to Lee at the Plano store (who shouldn’t be at REI, he should be at Dick’s, because he is one) and his solution was to try to upsell me to the more expensive model because “those batteries come charged.” Then, he suggested just going to Walmart or McDonalds and plugging it in. Uh, I’m not going to spend eight hours in a McDonalds, Sparky. I’m on a low-carb diet.

So, Monday I bought two battery backup units in one day and one will be here Friday, and the other one could easily be charged in my home if Oncor restored the power – which was the problem in the first place.

So, REI Dallas, rock stars. REI Plano, not exactly helpful. (While Lee was trying to upsell me, Virginia called the Dallas store to see if they had the adapter, and they said “No.” She asked if they could see if any other store had one, and they said, “Sure, but the guy in Plano can do that.”

Then, it turned out the upgraded unit was available in Southlake, which is another 50 miles or so of driving, so we declined.

Sprint

The final culprit in my near-breakdown is Sprint, who must have lost some towers during the storm because our cell service was for crap yesterday. I couldn’t get anything done without being on WiFi. I couldn’t make calls, I couldn’t browse. If all I had was cell service, it wasn’t going to work.

By evening, the Sprint connections seemed to be improving, so maybe there is hope for humanity.

Actually, there is hope for humanity, because every dark cloud has a silver lining (or a lot of rain.)

Starbucks

Finally, some heroes, or at least companies that meet the challenge of a Spring storm in Dallas. Thanks to Starbucks for being open, having coffee, and having a web app, so I can walk in, see a line around the store, find a seat, log in and order my coffee, bypassing the line. By the time I explained to my boss online (over their free WiFi) that I was going to be out all afternoon with a doctor’s appointment and had no power or Internet at home, so I was taking the day off as vacation, my coffee was ready.

That was the final blow. I’m a contractor on my current project, so taking a day off basically means losing money. I really couldn’t see charging someone when I was probably going to be dozing off all day, and I was supposed to start a three-day medical test Monday afternoon – and was told to expect two hours to install the equipment.

So, I took a day off.

I got to the doctor’s office fifteen minutes early. They were closed for the day. The building had no power.

DoubleTree by Hilton

Every hotel around me was booked solid, because my neighbors were smart enough to avoid the four hours of touring the Metroplex while trying to find a generator and just moved out of their houses for a couple of days. By the time I conceded the fight and decided I needed a hotel to sleep and work, everything at a reasonable rate was taken.

I’m not saying DoubleTree is unreasonable, I’m just saying it’s a rate I’m used to paying with an expense account, not out of my own pocket. By the time I booked, what they had available was a Junior Suite. Not the most inexpensive room in the building, but if you’re going to suffer, suffer in style.

I love this place. I would stay here all the time, but it seems silly to stay in a hotel two miles from your house, and I can’t afford it all the time.

The staff is great, room service is fast and on-time in the mornings, the WiFi works, and I have a view of East Dallas out my floor-to-ceiling windows. Suffering should always been like this.

I had the room to myself most of the time, since my wife declared she “wasn’t leaving the dogs.” I’m not sure if this was to remind me of my place in the hierarchy or make me feel guilty, but it’s very hard to make me feel guilty when I’m looking out a 10th floor window and I already know where I rank.

She did spend afternoons at the hotel, which made working a wee bit difficult. I’m not used to the person in the next cubicle laughing at Facebook videos and memes. Well, I was at one point, but I’ve been home-officed for so long, those memories faded.

The hotel even had enough outlets so we could plug in the REI battery backup unit so my wife could have power for a reading lamp at home. She didn’t need it as badly as the dogs, who are apparently now afraid of the dark. (Actually, they’re afraid of the normal noises in the neighborhood they usually don’t hear – so much for dogs’ vaunted hearing ability – because the windows aren’t wide open to get a breeze in the house.)

We did not have the famous Doubletree cookies because my wife is minimizing carbs and she was watching me. After we got everything set up in the room and she went home because “she wasn’t leaving the dogs”, I forgot to go back downstairs and get one. Or six.

Epilogue

Just after I booked the hotel, Oncor texted me that the power was back. After just enough time for me to start cursing and reading through the cancellation policy, they texted and said it was out.

The Oncor auto-text messages went from a specific time estimate to “We are reviewing damage in your area.We will provide an update when your power will return.” which is the marketing version of “Beats the fuck out of us. Ask one of the power guys from another state. They seem to know what they’re doing.”

My favorite text from them is “Your power is restored. Please reply “N” if it is not.” Don’t you know?

The power finally came back Wednesday, so I went home after work that afternoon to help throw out all the food in the refrigerator and the freezer.

I spent one last night at the hotel so I could do my homework and because I didn’t have much faith the power would actually stay on. Also, it was a nonrefundable rate. (At one point, our power was back and the house across the street was still out.)

Kick ‘em when they’re down

A job search is a very painful process when you’re an old, white guy who has spent the last 19 years inside the same company (especially when the company is often an industry punching bag.) So, I should be used to rejection letters by now. I usually don’t mind rejection letters that much, since at least it’s closure, and it’s a chance to think, “I didn’t want to work there, anyway.” With today’s automated application systems, much of the time, your application and resume just go into the bit bucket and you never hear anything at all.

However, some rejection letters are really unnecessarily detailed. Like today’s.

I got an email from a corporate recruiter last week, thanking me for my application (I actually thought I was a reasonable fit for the job), and asking me for some times for us to discuss the position. (I was lucky I saw it, since it was in my spam folder, but I check my spam all the time because I can’t afford to lose a lead.)

It got my hopes up. I should know better by now, but hope spring eternal.

So, I replied, and heard nothing. It’s not a mega corporation, so I thought, “His mail went in my spam folder, maybe mine went in his.” So, I replied again.

This morning, I got a reply.

I reviewed your resume with the manager and compare to the job description and requirements we decided to not move forward.  This system email was sent in error.

Ouch.

So, rejected before the screening call. A new low.

I’m not really sure why this hurt more than the others. I’ve gone through three levels of interviews in before getting rejected twice, but this one really hurts.

I think it’s the implicit “we were wasting our time reviewing your resume.” After all, the erroneous system email was the bright, cheery note that asked me for available times to chat.

So, their applicant system failed twice. First, it told them they might give a shit about me, and then it told me they might actually give a shit about me.

They don’t give a shit about me.

For any other recruiters who may be reviewing my resume, I really don’t need two reasons why I was rejected for your company. Just one is plenty, and is one more than the apparent industry standard of zero. Also, if your system is sending emails in error, an apology would be nice. You’ve wasted my time now.

I sent a “thank you for letting me know” note, but I really wanted to say, “If you would like someone to come review your recruiting system to determine why it’s sending emails to obviously unqualified candidates, please just let me know.”

Also, I wanted to say, “If your system email is a bright, cheery, personalized email from your internal recruiter, but the core system can’t accurately match candidates to positions, you’re customizing the wrong part of the system.”

The search continues.

Stayin’ Alive

The job search continues. It’s been a bit busier lately, but nothing of substance yet. There were a couple that were close, but not close enough. I’m still looking at random alternatives, and there are a lot of sites that seem to think I would be a really good Uber driver. There are also a plethora of recruiters who seem to be keyword-matching my resume to jobs and then asking to present me – if I send them a copy of my resume. Uh, how did you think I was a fit for the job? Maybe I should start a recruiting company.

We’re not going to sell the house and get an RV since the Spousal Unit has decided she’s probably afraid to drive an RV. Luckily, she determined this before we dropped a hundred fifty grand on a rig (and sold the house), so I have that to be thankful for.

I’m also thankful that this year can’t possibly be as bad as last year. (Yes, I realize that is a challenge to the universe.) However, I realize that every other time I thought I had hit rock bottom, I bounced, and then fell further, but I’m pretty sure that losing a job after 19 years (“retiring”) is about as low as it can go. If nothing else, I outlasted the co-op who also wanted to retire as an IBMer. Also, technically, I retired. On the bright side, it was a job I really hated. I didn’t hate the job, I just couldn’t handle the politics. So, if you need a program manager and you’re at a company that’s too small to have politics and turf wars take up most of the productive time, call me.

So, I’m still alive. The dogs still like me as long as I cough up the snacks. I can still work, if somebody needs a presales technical engineer who can learn a product in a week or two and be presenting to customers the week after that. I’m constantly amazed that even though I’m apparently very old, companies seem to be choosing millennials over me, especially since I’ve seen millennials almost pass out while doing a presentation, and use instant messaging to ask a question of someone in the same conference room. For the record, I’ve never passed out doing a presentation, and I just ask questions if I don’t know something.

So, my New Year’s resolution is to survive until 2019. It’s one of my poorer resolutions, but hopefully, I can accomplish it.

Still Retired

It turns out that I wasn’t really permanently laid-off from IBM. I had been there so long, I “retired.” Unfortunately, I was not planning to retire this early, and so the job search continues. 

It’s interesting trying to do something that should be an intimate, personal experience all online, with no immediate feedback, but so it goes. 

You don’t talk to people first any longer. Most of the time, you don’t talk to people at all. You fill in forms, upload resumes, and hope to hit enough keywords to get to the next level. Even if you don’t get to a human, you can get rejected after a couple of months. So, you can’t just send in an application and wait and see. You have to fill your pipeline of rejection.

Here’s a question – if your resume doesn’t get past the computer scanner, how does that take two months to tell you? Aren’t computers fast? The ones I used to have were, and they were old.

I’ve submitted over 250 applications at this point. I’ve had less than a handful of actual, personal replies. 

At a company I really wanted to join, I was told on my second interview that I wasn’t technical enough. I think he meant “you know IBM technology, instead of ours”, but I may be trying to justify it. 

Another “almost” was a phone call two months after the application, “Are you still interested in the job?” I said that I was most interested, so I was invited to a in-person team interview. I survived, I thought. There was someone leaving when I arrived, so I expected an offer or “We’re going with someone else.” After hearing nothing, I sent a follow-up note, and the reply said, “We just had a reorganization, so we’re not opening a center in Arlington, after all.” (I will not miss two hours of driving each day, but still.) 

The most painful (even more than “you’re not technical enough “) was applying to a firm where I had a friend on staff, which seemed to help. I had a pre-screen and was quickly invited to an interview with one of the managers. After I called the recruiter (who had never called with results), here’s what I was told: “The manager who interviewed you grades all his interviews. He gave you an “A.” He never gives people an “A.” Unfortunately , we had some changes on the team, so the position was filled.” So, at least that was close.

Most don’t bother to reply, at all. 

I had two calls with a corporate recruiter just before I left on vacation, and then, radio silence. This would be the same job I was doing before I retired. No reply.

I had an interview I scheduled during my vacation to meet the interviewer’s schedule, and I thought it went well, but now the manager and the recruiter won’t answer me. I would like to at least be told there was a re-org.
It’s almost like dating. Unfortunately, I never needed to date to pay my expenses. (That is the one industry I haven’t considered.)

On the happy side, I will be a guest educator for Enriched Schools, it’s part-time but I’m looking forward to teaching (even as a substitute) in the Fall. So, technically, I did get a job.

I just need something to do in the meantime, to fill the hours and the bank account. 

Job Search Updates

The job search is ongoing. My manager said this morning that he’s been told to start the separation paperwork, so I should get some emails next week. I guess the divorce is about to become final.

So, no job, but a couple of prospects on the horizon.

I did update my resume, and that has started calls from some recruiters, so I recommend take a resume course if you’re looking.

I also accidentally discovered the fastest way to find a new job – become a recruiter.

I got a call from a woman in Houston yesterday at 2:25pm. She had a perfect position for me and wanted to discuss it at my earliest convenience. I was in a meeting (ironically with another recruiter), so I missed the call, but I sent her a polite email and said I’d call today.

I called at 11:34am this morning, asked for the recruiter, and the receptionist said, “She’s no longer here. Could someone else help you?”.

I said, “No longer with the firm?” and the receptionist said, “She decided she wanted to follow a different path.”

So, my recruiter found herself a new career and left the firm in a little under 22 hours.

WTF?

I guess if you read job requisitions all day long, eventually, you will see one, and say, “Screw this! I could do this job!” and just send over your resume instead of your client’s.

I wish her good luck in her new career, whatever it may be. I hope she’s not a presales software engineer, as I really don’t need the competition right now.

In the meantime, the receptionist found my by my phone number, found the job requisition in question and gave me the name of my new recruiter, who had just left for lunch. She will call me.

I should have asked, “Are you sure she’s coming back from lunch?”

Permanent Layoff

I was selected as a member of IBM’s Resource Action, Class of March 2017. So, after almost nineteen years at IBM, I am back on the job market, and immediately available.

I consider myself an experienced technical leader with a proven track record in first-line management, technical sales and support and development roles.

I’m most accustomed to customer-facing assignments providing pre-sales systems architecture guidance, technical education and technical support.

Any pointers are welcome.

My Failed Bid For Pope

I was cleaning up my domain list the other day (aka Why am I still paying for this?) and I found popexriva.com. I had forgotten it was there, actually.

My problem is that I will come up with something that is hysterically funny to me, pay the small fee for a domain, write up the basics, and then forget about it until the rather large renewal fee is extracted from my bank account. So, it’s time to clean house.

When Pope Benedict stepped down, I decided to run for Pope, so I put up a website. I’ve preserved the contents here, since I’m not going to pay the renewal fees. I may put it back if the office opens up again.

Pope Xriva I

REJECTED. White smoke from the Sistine Chapel and no missed calls on my mobile. I’ve been passed over again. However, it’s somewhat political, so my new campaign starts as soon as our new Holy Father appears.

I have tossed my hat in the ring for Pope. I actually don’t have a pointy hat, but I do have a number of baseball caps. I will have better hats once elected.

I have added a personal statement and my qualifications.

I do hope this isn’t breaking any Cardinal rules.

Personal Statement
I realize that there is not really an official application for Pope, since the College of Cardinals is guided by the Holy Spirit to choose the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

However, since the only people they see in the locked room while deliberating and voting are the other Cardinals, one of them invariably gets elected. Hopefully, if one of them is idly surfing the web during a particularly boring presentation, he will find this site and think, “Hey! A new guy!”

While I don’t have any real experience leading the one true Church, I have been a team lead for years and have heard the Lord’s name invoked on a fairly regular basis. Hopefully, this will be enough.

I’m in my mid-fifties. I’m not going to retire any time soon. I like most Italian food. My wife wants to visit Rome. (Oops. That may be a deal-breaker. I suppose divorcing her wouldn’t help.)

My fervent hope is to be the first overweight Irish-German-American-Texan Pope.

Qualifications
  • Baptized
  • Confirmed
  • Former Altar Boy
  • Wedding Officiant (Universal Life Church Minister)
  • Only divorced once
  • Team lead of technical team, so used to personnel issues
  • World Traveler
  • Not looking to retire within eight years
  • Hear the Lord’s name invoked on a regular basis at work

Endorsements

  • If I can get some red Prada shoes – New York, New York
  • Anything to get him out of the house – Dallas, Texas
  • Anything to get him out of the office – Coppell, Texas

Smokey and the Bandit IV

Every once in a while, you realize how entertainment sometime actually reflects real life. This time last year, I was thinking about Survivor and why I find it difficult to watch. (The same thing happened last night.)

I was thinking about Smokey and the Bandit the other day, a fun movie – not a lot of deep messages, really, but a fun way to kill part of an afternoon. Bandit is challenged to drive to Texarkana and back to Atlanta in 28 hours with some bootleg Coors. (Since some of my fraternity brothers later borrowed my pick-up to drive from San Antonio to Texarkana to get bootleg Busch kegs for a party, I can say the story makes sense. Somewhat.)

Of course, Bandit was not the truck driver, Cledus (the Snowman) was. Bandit was the blocker – a distraction to make sure the truck made it through (and a good excuse to have a Trans Am in a movie).

The corporate world doesn’t really have many blockers, which is unfortunate, since a shield is a good thing every once in a while. Here’s how Cledus would fare in the corporate world today:

Cledus arrived at work one day and was told, “Congratulations! You are our new truck driver!” He was a bit surprised, since he was in charge of the entire factory floor, but management knows best, so he became a truck driver. He anxiously waited for his first assignment. And he waited. Then, he noticed there weren’t any trucks anywhere around the factory. There was just an old beat-up van, parked in the corner. It was either parked almost on top of some tomato crates, or it was up on blocks. It was hard to tell.

One day, about three weeks later, his boss asked why the tomatoes were all rotting in the warehouse. “Why didn’t you drive the tomatoes to Chicago last week? The van is in the back of the warehouse.” Now, that explained the van. It didn’t explain why a van driver was called a truck driver, or how Cledus was supposed to have divined that tomatoes went in the van to Chicago, but at least he had his first assignment.

He apologized profusely, ordered some new tomatoes after going through sixteen levels of management approvals, and drove them to Chicago in the van. He had to do the speed limit, since there were no blockers, and the van couldn’t go that fast, since it was overloaded with tomatoes. Also, one of the tires had a slow leak, so he had to stop and fill it every few hundred miles. Corporate had said they don’t reimburse for tire repairs.

When he got back from Chicago, Cledus went to tell his boss he was back, and the tomatoes had been safely delivered. His boss said, “Where are the sausages?” “What sausages?” “The ones you were supposed to pick up in Milwaukee, on your way back from Chicago.” “Why did nobody mention the sausages to me?” “What do you mean? Joe knew about the sausages. It was discussed in three meetings while you were away. Everyone in marketing knew about the sausages. The web team is waiting to photograph them for the web site. Are you not a team player?”

So, Cledus got ready to go get the sausages. First, he looked around to see if there was any rotting fruit in the warehouse, in case something else he didn’t know about was supposed to go Northbound. Before he left, his boss said, “There are too many sausages for you to carry in the van. You need a truck. You will need at least six people. Take Bob and Phil with you.”

Cledus wasn’t sure how to tell his boss that adding two people to himself was three, not six, and Phil was in a wheelchair, but he set out for Milwaukee. He took the van, since there still wasn’t any truck in sight, and corporate directives specifically forbid renting trucks. He wondered if they would ever get a truck. He wondered when he would have his title changed to “van driver” which would be correct. He knew an actual van driver in another department, but he drove a forklift.

Halfway there, his cell phone rang. “Hey, I need Bob on a different truck in Memphis, tomorrow. You’ve trained him to load potatoes, haven’t you? It came up in our staff meeting this morning.” Now, Cledus wasn’t sure how to answer, since he hadn’t even taught Bob to load sausages yet. Oops.

So, he dropped Bob off at the next town so he could catch a bus to the warehouse where he would load potatoes. First, he stopped by the store so Bob could at least see a sack of potatoes before he left. That way, he could say he trained him. (Cledus asked Bob to call him and tell him if they were loading a van or a truck. Bob called the next day, and said it was a station wagon.) He thought about asking Phil to drive, but the van wasn’t a handicapped-accessible van, and Phil had forgotten his distance glasses, anyway.

After loading sausages for two days, he and Phil headed south. Phil still couldn’t drive the van. It was really smelly in the van.

He got home with the sausages in spite of the challenges, and was pretty happy with the results. He boss said, “There are only twelve dozen sausages here. I called the manufacturer in Phoenix while you were on the way and told them I wanted sixteen dozen. Where are the rest?”

Cledus wasn’t sure where to start. The manufacturer didn’t have any control over the independent warehouse in Milwaukee or his ordering system. Nobody told the warehouse or him. The manufacturer simply was the wrong person to call. Maybe this wasn’t his fault.

No, it was. His boss said so.

So, he was given one last assignment, to prove he was worthy of being a truck driver that didn’t have a truck.

Late that evening, Cledus texted the Bandit, who was working for a different company. The text said “Do you know if there is still a land bridge?” Cledus is a truck driver. He has to deliver a van full of pickles. To London. From Cleveland.

I miss Cledus. You can go really fast in a van, but it’s a long way to jump from the US to the UK. If you don’t make it all the way on the first jump, there’s only so long you can hold your breath, and it’s hard to swim and pull a van at the same time.

Some of his co-workers wanted to name the warehouse in his memory, but he got a really bad final review for drowning a load of pickles and losing a van.

Eastbound and Down has a whole new meaning in the corporate world.

Un Poquito Espanol

I have been dealing with our corporate team in Latin America lately. They are lovely people, very easy to work with, but their customers all speak Spanish. This has been a challenge. I took Spanish in prep school, never did that well, and never practiced after that.

The first internal call with the team, I apologized and explained I knew “Bar Spanish.” It is a very simple dialect:

  • “Una cerveza, poor favor.” (A beer, please.)
  • “Uno mas.” (One more – can be repeated.)
  • “Gracias.” (Thank you – after each delivery.)
  • “Manana.” (See you tomorrow.)

They found this quite funny (whew.) I did not cuss in Spanish, which I learned in college, although not officially. The problem with Bar Spanish is that it only works in Cozumel, and they all speak English there, anyway.

Most of the rest of the basic Spanish I remember is “Una cerveza y dos helados” which is “one beer and two ice creams.”

It was from a story we had to read in sixth grade, a picture book using basic phrases as captions for each picture. I never understood why a Dad would order beer while getting his kids ice cream. Then, I had my child.With grandkids, I would have to learn “one defibrillator and three ice creams.” 

For the record, my former manager (current translator) told the Latin America team about beer and ice cream, and they found it hilarious. At least laughter is the same in English and Spanish. I hope.