Tagged: Ed Garsten

Track Me, Google!

googletrackingeyes

Are you upset Google can track your every move? I’ve decided I don’t care. Oh, I’m not naiive. I just look at this situation as an opportunity to have some fun. For instance, when I get in my car today to go buy some bagels, I think I’ll take a route through several church parking lots and the nearby Christian book store. Hopefully, someone at Google will catch wind of this curious route and deduce, “That Jew’s got identity issues..let’s make sure he gets ads for both the kosher deli and dating sites to find a shiksa.” I’m already married to one so Google’s already got the algorithm wrong. I wouldn’t mind knowing where I could buy a box of those tasty communion wafers, though..and a matching wine.

googletrackingI might decide to take circuitous routes to further confuse the nerds in Mountain View, Calif., say, driving to a gun range then directly to a shrink’s office and then Victoria’s Secret. I wonder what conclusions they might draw. Of course, I’m not actually getting out of my car at those places but the little “timeline” map I could call up on my phone would make a nice conversation starter while waiting in line at my ultimate destination..the pharmacy.

As a kid I became fascinated with maps when my uncle sent us a huge atlas of the U.S. that literally weighed 9 pounds. My father was an engineer so we always had pads of tracing paper around and I traced the maps of every state, learned the capitals and major cities and roads. I’m still that way.

When I traveled with my CNN crew they nicknamed me “Rand” as in mapmakers Rand McNally because I’d learn routes and cities I’d been to only once or twice. One time we were going through Findlay, Ohio..a place we hadn’t been to in five or six years, and it was lunch time. Shooter wondered out loud, “where the fuck are we gonna eat in this town?” “Oh,” I chirped. “There’s an Arby’s if you make a left here..about a mile down the road.” “No!” he yelled. “You shouldn’t  know that! Why would you?” “Well,” I replied tartly. “In case we were in Findlay during lunchtime some time.”  Yes, I believe I may have been the model for Google’s location tracking.

So it makes sense I would embrace Google’s awesome ability to basically make a map out of my life and have fun creating nonsensical itineraries just to screw with them.

To be honest, I wish technology had come along this far way back when I was an aimless teenager. Who knows? Maybe it would have helped me find myself.

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Survey? My Opinion? Don’t Ask!

CustomersHateSurveysCan I ask you a question? OK. Can I ask you another question? And another, and another and another? If you’re like me, your email box is is stuffed with surveys that seem to pop up almost as soon as you’ve walked into a store, checked out of a hotel, debarked from a flight or stumbled out of a schvitz. It’s getting ridiculous.

One day I expect to receive a survey from my lungs asking how satisfied I was with my last 9,000 breaths and how likely would I choose them to process my subsequent breaths..on a scale of 1 to 5, of course.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate a business asking for input as a means of improving their product or service. My only regret is, to respond to every survey I receive would mean answering to my family and friends as to what I’d been doing for the last six days. “Oh, just answering some questions,” I could reply, which would, I’m sure spark the rejoinder, “here’s a question. Are you an idiot?”

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Sometimes I actually warm to the task, especially if I’ve had an extremely positive or negative experience. True story: recently we checked into a mid-priced hotel for a two-day stay. Everything seemed fine…at first. We went about our business for the day and when we returned for the evening discovered a little surprise in the shower..a still-wet washcloth hanging over the tub. Maybe the housekeeper needed to hose off after a vigorous vacuuming of our room, or the hotel offered “pre-soaked terry cloth” as an un-advertised feature. Either way, it was gross. I gently removed it and tossed it in a corner where we would eventually dump the rest of our wet towels. No, I didn’t ring up the front desk because honestly, we had a full schedule and didn’t want to get involved. I also knew I’d be receiving a survey by the time we got home, which we did.

In the section asking if there was anything about my stay that was less than satisfactory, I related my encounter with the wet wash cloth. The next day I received a very apologetic email from the manager who asked if I’d like to have a phone conversation about the incident, I guess, so she could ask me more questions. Seems pretty cut and not-dry. What more could she ask? Maybe, “did you not appreciate not having to soak the wash cloth before using it? Many of our busy business travelers appreciate saving those 20 seconds.” I graciously thanked her for her response but declined the phone call.

On the other hand, I’m very happy to point out excellent service or the fine quality of a product, if asked. Sometimes, however, even a compliment is not accepted well. I once wrote positive thoughts about our experience at a restaurant located in a Michigan casino. The manager thanked me for the nice review then asked, “what didn’t you like about our other restaurants? Huh? Oh..well..the restaurant we ended up at just had a shorter line but ended up serving fine food accompanied by super service. Sheesh. Take a compliment and shut up!

The airline survey is the one that gets me the most. Unless you’re in first class you know the experience is pretty much gonna suck from being herded through airport security, to wrestling for an overhead bin with a guy trying to store his cello up there, to having to hold your breath on a transcontinental flight because the guy sitting next to you is wearing Eau d’Possum cologne to gagging on the bag of trail mix you bought for a buck because they ran out of free beverages.

So when I ultimately receive the airline’s survey I find it’s much quicker and easier to complete by skipping all the “on a scale of 1-5” questions and going right to the field asking for comments where I can write, “my ordeal on your airline actually made me covet the experience of a feed lot hog awaiting its metamorphosis from living being into pork chops.” Curiously, I never receive a follow up email requesting I expand on my thoughts.

I think it might be fun sometime to turn the tables and reply to the survey senders with a a survey of my own.  I might ask questions such as:

1-On a scale of 1-5, how do you think you treated me?

2-On a scale of 1-5, how satisfying do you think your “free” breakfast offerings are which consist of toast, greasy breakfast sandwiches, watery oatmeal and a waffle maker that always seems to be fought over by 3 old guys who may not live long enough to see hear the beep when their waffles are done?

3-How would you characterize the stains on the carpeting?

   a-usual shit hotel guests drop and don’t clean up

   b-detritus from “trucker’s night” in the lobby lounge

   c-evidence in recent homicide disguised as “prom night faux pas”

4-Would YOU stay at your hotel? Only available choice, “NFW!”

So..what do you think? On a scale of 1-5, of course.

This Aging, Retiring Thing–It Ain’t Workin’

badretirementJuly 29, 2016 was the last day I spent as a full-time employee anywhere. I swiped my badge one more time to activate the revolving door that released me to breathe free air for the first time since 1973. Remember what George Costanza said when Seinfeld et.al wondered what happened when George told them his ex-girlfriend who left him because she was a lesbian went back to him? Yup. “It didn’t take!” georgegirlfriend

Oh, I tried it for three months and took a part-time job at Automotive News. It was a nice little job but the work dried up and so did my employment there. All good. I figured I’d just go back to retirement. But I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I notified the world on Linkedin I was free again, really just to explain why I was updating my profile. But friends came a-callin’ and offered me opportunities. I politely explained I’m trying to be retired, sort of, and would not accept any full-time employment. “Good!” they said. “We only need some freelance help. Make your own schedule. Work from home. Work from a bar. We don’t care!” Shit. I just can’t get this retirement thing right.

So I happily accepted the offer to become a “contributor” to Forbes.com. That means I don’t really work there. I just, um, contribute. It’s always nice to make a contribution, even if it’s not tax deductible. But it means writing for a prestigious news organization and maybe someone will read what I wrote and I’ll be satisfied.

Other people have approached me about writing, doing public relations, media training–all the stuff I know how to do. I might actually take on more duties…but only part-time. Hmm..all this part-time stuff could become a full-time commitment… to not retiring.

When my father turned the same age as me, he and my mother did what’s expected of people in their late 60’s. They sold the place in New York, moved to Florida, he became an officer on the condo board and captain of the shuffleboard team, my mother played mah jong with the yentas at the pool and didn’t do a lick of work, beyond harassing the board president that the water in the pool is too cold.

Me? I play ice hockey all year ’round. Not with other alta cockers but guys in their 20’s through 50’s. Maybe one other guy in his 60’s but he only shows up in odd numbered years. Can you imagine your retired parents playing ice hockey? On ice? On skates? Maybe on nitro glycerine. I ski. In the cold. On skis. Down a hill. My wife and I kayak on actual water in a river. But we never play shuffleboard. There are no shuffleboard courts I know of in Michigan. Don’t make fun. My father, who was a chemical engineer, very seriously explained what a game of strategy shuffleboard played properly is.

What’s the issue here? When I left Fiat Chrysler people wished me a nice retirement. My team bought me lunch and made a video telling me what a great boss I was. There was pizza in the conference room. Then I screwed it up and didn’t retreat to the golf course or hammock or oblivion. If my parents were alive today I think they would wonder if I’m a little mishugah. I can hear my mother now. “Edwooood! You’re retired! Are ya nuts? Relax! Sit by the pool and pee in the deep end.”

Just doesn’t seem to be working…because I keep working…but it never feels like working. It feels like fun..especially when it’s not to make a living, but to keep on living. And if I ever decide to take my later mother’s advice and pee in the deep end…I’ll never post it on Linkedin, but watch out Instagram!

My Necco Dreams No-Go

neccos.jpgI never had much faith in Bitcoins, which is why, as an astute investor, I put my money in what I call Necco-ins. Never heard of them? Good for you because the joke’s on me.

A few months ago I read about a mad rush by people who enjoy the horrible candy called Necco to buy them up because the company that makes them was going out of business. Not wanting to miss a potential windfall I hurried over to Rocky’s in Detroit’s Eastern Market where they sell little rolls of Neccos in bulk.

A quick look up and down the rows and rows of candies did not reveal my quarry. When I inquired about them the woman working behind the counter directed me to the last bin and said, “get ‘em while you can. I think that’s our last batch!”  So I filled a bag and scurried off with a Necco-eating grin figuring I had my Necs-egg all but secured.

I jealously locked the rolls in a drawer until the price of the endangered candy peaked and then I’d unload them on some pathetic sweet toothed decay demon for a sweet profit.

Every day I watched the price of Neccos grow on eBay and simply sat back awaiting the right moment to list them and satisfy a sugar sniper.

But then last month my dreams of splurging on a summer home in Dearborn or a box of real black licorice evaporated faster than Jimmy Fallon’s ratings. I was incredulous as I read how an investment firm run by some sick billionaire swept in to save the company that makes Neccos.  It’s a horrible candy and there was no reason to save it! I was counting on my pile of extinct nasty-tasting sugary wafers to feed my avarice!

Now my little cache of worthless candy sits in a box, perhaps hoping someone will put one or two of its brittle tasteless wafers their mouths as a poor substitute for dessert. For me, my visit to financial Candyland will forever leave a sour taste…although I’ve discovered Necco wafers are quite useful as shims.

Spilling the World Cup

world cup russia 2018 wallpaper-2018I guess I’m mildly interested in World Cup soccer, although given my past I should be a total fanatic. Indeed, my soccer/football/futbol, your choice, was such a part of my life it affected the college.

Back in the 60’s they didn’t have the soccer leagues they have now. I think that’s because the minivan wasn’t invented until 1984 so moms who would have been tasked with ferrying youthful kickers had no viable means of transportation.

I tried Little League Baseball, but if you’re dad’s not the manager, you basically only get to play the two innings required in the regulations and are relegated to playing right field because no ball ever reaches right field except for when the shortstop throws his relay 12 feet above the first baseman’s head.

I dabbled in soccer in day camp but it was a Jewish day camp and I quickly tired of the counselor whining, “what!?!” every time I made some sort of mistake. That didn’t kill my enthusiasm for a sport that required no use of the hands and encouraged bopping the ball with your head.

In junior high I tried out for the school team and made it! That’s the good news. The bad news was the coach never scheduled any games against other schools. Development slowed after that.

eg69soccerBy the time I got to high school, my luck changed. The previous year’s varsity won the championship and then all but a couple of players graduated. The Martin Van Buren High School soccer team was officially in a rebuilding mode. A bunch of us took advantage of this situation and Coach Marvin “Killer” Diller decided that most everyone who tried out made the squad.  Before he could figure out my true skill level I quickly bought a team jacket and affixed my “VB” varsity letter.

My junior year I sat on the bench and only got in one game for 12 seconds while a regular threw up.

Aside from myself, at 5’6” and 120 pounds, there was another lightweight named Daryl, about my same size, and we kept the bench more than warmed, awaiting our chance.  It  was hard to crack the lineup because ahead of us were the Riofrio twins from Ecuador who could do everything with a soccer ball but make it dance the cha cha. Then there was an Armenian named Sirkus who felt no pain. Every. You could kick him in the face with the ball a dozen times and he’d shake it off.  After the Riofrios and Sirkus, the depth chart quickly descended to a talent level that could fairly be labeled, “none.”

Indeed, our team was so horrible when a visiting team made the journey from the other side of Queens to play us at home, they were so upset at how easy it was to beat us they jumped on our bench after the game until it broke. Most of the members of that team had immigrated to NYC from Armenia and were therefore excellent players. In their best broken English they chanted, “you horrible, horrible. Bus ride not worth it. Horrible, horrible, suck!”

By my senior year enough of the good players graduated that I finally won a starting spot as a left winger. Swell. But the season didn’t start until Thanksgiving because New York City teachers went on strike. Killer Diller attempted to hold workouts at a public park near the school but once the union steward found out he put a quick end to that. Naturally, with no practices, our team was totally unable to improve from crappy to mediocre.

First game of the season I ran on the field..my first as a starter, and did not distinguish myself. I had a few chances but being such a little guy, it was easy for almost any opponent to steal the ball from me or knock me on my skinny ass.  Coach Diller pulled me and in his lispy way whined “Eddie, you were so much better in practice.” No kidding. In practice there were no Bulgarian goons from another school trying to kill me.

I started one other game after which fate stepped in and saved me. I landed a part time after school job as the stock boy in the linens and domestics department at the S. Klein department store at the nearby Lake Success Shopping Center. When I informed Coach Diller I was quitting the team in favor of folding towels and table cloths he squeeked, “but you finally just became a starter after sitting on the bench for a year!”  I could swear that was just for show and that he secretly turned to no one in particular and mouthed “Yes!”

For some reason I still thought I had a future in soccer and when it came time to choose a college I picked SUNY Oswego because it had a strong soccer program.  But again, it was not to be. I went to the first meeting of the soccer team where Coach Peterson made the profound announcement that “remember, academics means absolutely nothing. Soccer means everything!” I turned around and walked out the room never to return.  A couple of weeks before that meeting I landed a job as a DJ at the campus radio station and made the instant decision that if I couldn’t play soccer, I would pursue a position that required no use of my feet or head…just my brain and mouth! And that’s what I’ve done every day since that fateful day in 1969. Indeed, over a wonderful 45 year career I believe I reached my GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLL!

Standing up for office furniture

Being semi-retired, my attendance in the office is only semi-regular. That means I can only stand..or sit..guard over my workspace semi-regularly. So I was only mildly surprised, but thoroughly disappointed when I showed up the other day after a few days away to find my chair in two pieces, on the floor with two screws sitting on my desk. No explanation until my boss happened by and I pointed to  the wreckage while giving him a questioning look.  He kinda laughed as he explained the person who sits across the aisle from me had a “chair emergency” while I was gone and grabbed my chair. That meant the carnage on the floor was actually her chair and not mine. My chair was under her butt.1db0ebb3-25ff-41c0-99a5-30a16c75c7c7

After an embarrassed apology my chair was returned and the victim of the “chair emergency” got a spare chair from some other office.

barrellsIt all got me thinking not only about how important our office furniture is to us but how it can also be used as just another form of bullshit one-upsmanship.

Cases in point.

At a former employer..a large corporation…office furniture was doled out according to your “band” or pay level. A vice president or above got a big office with a defined furniture formula of a walnut partner desk, meeting table with four chairs and a credenza for displaying photos, awards and free shit from media events.

The formula cascaded down quickly to a counter with 6 drawers and a meeting table all the way down to a cube with two file cabinets, a counter and a trash can. Actually, that’s about as much space as most anyone needs to do most jobs.  When I was promoted to a glass office with 6 overhead bins and nine drawers I just dumped crap in them that I didn’t want to take home. I did use two drawers for files and another for my lunch.

varideskOne day things suddenly changed. A co-worker decided she needed to stand while she worked and got the office manager to order one of those Varidesks. Maybe you’ve seen them. You plop it on your real desk then raise or lower it to a comfortable level. Pretty cool. The cheapest one is about 400 bucks. After a few weeks it looked like Varidesks were growing wild. They started popping up all over the office. Short people, tall people, busy people, people who didn’t do 3 minutes of work a day all decided they would be more productive if they could just have the option to stand while they surfed Zappos for shoes, played Solitaire or screwed off on the boss’s dime in any number of ways. At one point I could hear at least one standee emulate Mr. Ed because she was sleeping standing up and snoring like an old nag.

I couldn’t help inquiring of the office manager while the company was spending all this money on stand-up desks when budgets were otherwise tight.  She didn’t want to tell me at first but finally admitted that once the first person asked for one others became jealous that a co-worker got something new and they wanted one too…even if there was no physical reason for working standing up. In fact….it wasn’t long before some of the me-too standees realized they couldn’t stand standing and ordered high stools so they could sit at their standups.  I don’t have to tell you once the first stool arrived, more were demanded because why shouldn’t they have what someone else has..even if it’s malaria.

As time went on, I noticed many of those who had stamped their feet for a standup desk caught wind of the “vari” part of the Varidesk and began using its various settings to gradually lower the desk until, after a week or so, the standup desk was simply sitting on top of the sit-at desk and the high stools were shunted into a corner and used as coat racks or just another surface to stack crap.  This left the original Varidesk requestor feeling mighty lonely because she really needed to stand to help ameliorate a painful back condition.  I had to ask her how she felt about the jealous copycats demanding, then abandoning their Varidesks.  Well…she said. It was satisfying that as the one person who actually needed it.. she was the last one standing.

Now I work mainly from home. My wife and I each have our offices..and our own chairs. Invoking the crazy guy in the movie Stripes, we always joke with each other, “you touch my chair…I kill ya.”

 

 

 

Cutting through the bullshit of “busy”

toobusyHow often has your temper boiled while being forced to cool your jets waiting for someone to reply to a simple question, make a deadline or serve you the sandwich you ordered 45 minutes ago? When you ask for the cause of the delay, the reply is usually some variation of “oh, I was busy.”

Busy is a loaded word. It’s loaded mainly with bullshit. Oh, it has actual definitions…which are also bullshit. Dictionary.com contains several meanings for busy:

  1. actively and attentively engaged in work or a pastime.
  2. not at leisure; otherwise engaged
  3. officious; meddlesome; prying
  4. full of or characterized by activity

Let’s examine those definitions. #1 means the person is either working , or not, since you wouldn’t equate a “pastime” with work. A pastime would indicate something you’re doing for pleasure and one wouldn’t be described as “busy” doing something fun…but rather involved in an activity they were able to do because they weren’t so damned busy.

#2 is completely at odds with #1 because now busy is defined as not being at leisure, meaning you’re not involved in a pastime. So what is it? Can you be busy and not busy at the same time doing the same thing?

#3 is incomplete. The complete term is “busy BODY.” Fact is, you can be a meddlesome prick even if you’re not busy. For some, prying into others affairs is a pastime. Uh oh. Does that now make them busy or not if referring to #1 or #2?

#4 simply means you’re doing stuff. Living a life, peeling bananas, catching up on Stormy Daniels films. Does that mean you’re busy, or simply not stationary. Indeed, some folks might argue being stationary is their way of keeping busy.

When someone responds to my second or third inquiry as to why they haven’t responded sooner with “oh I was busy,” I know they’re making it up. Maybe they were, in fact, involved in a pastime…that pastime being too freakin’ lazy to follow through. Maybe they were too busy just blowing you off because they’re immature or arrogant. Perhaps they were engaged in a questionable activity that would get them fired, but use the catchall “busy” to cover up that activity with a word that actually means nothing.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am totally sympathetic to those who at time can be buried under a growing number of tasks and deadlines, but that’s no excuse for being unresponsive. Grow up, prioritize your activities, perhaps send someone further down the list an acknowledgment you received the inquiry and will respond in line with any deadlines that may have been set. If none have been set, ask for a reasonable time frame for completion. But watch out. Often, those pleading they’re busy just want you to come through on your end faster than necessary just so they can get the project off their calendars…and then they can get busy…with their pastimes.

So when you tell me you’re too busy to reply, to respond I know what you’re really busy doing. It’s what a bull does when it squats in the field. I’ll bypass the stink and move on to greener and cleaner pastures.