It’s been almost four years since I walked out of my last full-time job a free man into what’s become semi-retirement and a life of doing what little work I do, in my home office.
I want to warn many of you who are now working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic…you may not want to return to your offices.
Before I retired in 2016 I worked from my own glass-enclosed, private office. I didn’t like it, but in the idiotic way some corporations operate, your workspace reflected your “band level” AKA, if you’re standing in the payroll/title hierarchy. When I got promoted to a level that “awarded” you an enclosed office, I asked to remain in my spacious, but open, workspace because such perks seemed stupid and also cut me off from my team. I asked if I had committed a felony, warranting my confinement to a 12×12 cell. HR said if I didn’t move it would “send the wrong message.” Company politics being what it is, several people were actually jealous of me and said nasty stuff about me, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
I spent my final three years before retirement in that office and hated every minute of it. So I would constantly get up, walk around, touch base in person with my teammates. When another glass office denizen would pop by congratulating me on “finally getting the glass office you deserve,” I thanked them and expressed my anticipation of one day being paroled, which in all their shallowness, they did not understand at all.
Now that I’ve been working from home in my very comfortable workspace..I don’t call it an office..I get more done in a day than what I accomplished in my old office in a week. For one, there are none of the dreaded “got a minute” drop-bys. You know how that goes. “Got a minute,” really means I’m bored and I’d like to waste as much of your time as possible to avoid going back to my desk and doing actual work. Many minutes later your plan for the day is blown so you may as well get up, get some coffee, take a walk, or retreat into a zen state in order to purge yourself of thoughts of committing that felony.
One day, in answer to “got a minute?” I replied that I didn’t. No problem. The annoying inquirer had his rejoinder locked and loaded. “Oh..it’ll take less than that!” Bullshit. Sigh.
Other aspects of the office life I don’t miss are random comments you can’t unhear even with a closed door. Examples include: “This fuckin’ printer doesn’t work!,” “This coffee tastes like burnt jerky!” “Bob sucks!” “Just like you,” “The boss has his head up his ass,” “I wish 5 o’clock came at noon.”
Then there are the endless meeting invites. When you work remotely, you can call in, put your phone on mute, do other, more productive, things while someone blathers and then chime in when appropriate or called upon. You can also make faces as an immature, but satisfying demonstration of your opinion of the proceedings.
I do enjoy popping into the office about once a week for an hour or two at one of my fun freelance gigs. Great people who are fun, smart and talented. We see enough of each other to cement our bonds, I appreciate the chance to get to know the staff on a more personal level and they quickly understand I have what I would describe as a “very limited” wardrobe with some items probably older than many of my colleagues.
Then I hit the freeway for the 25 mile drive home, and retreat to my cozy, personal workspace where the only ambient conversations I may hear are “Dinner’s burning!” or “The Jones’s schnauzer shit on our lawn again!” It’s so suburban. So natural. Then I get back to work, unimpeded, un-interrupted until my wife ventures down to my subterranean refuge, stops at the door and asks, “got a minute?”
I’m retired, but I’m not totally retired. I’m retired from full-time work, but I do some freelance things which means I’m not interested in climbing the corporate ladder and I certainly don’t care about a better title or office with its own bathroom. So it makes things a little tricky when I’m at an event that includes time for networking.
Oh….don’t get me wrong. It’s not difficult for me. I’m always happy to make new friends. I don’t even need benefits. Plus, networking has served me very well in finding freelance gigs. But it sure sucks for the non-retirees who made the mistake of striking up a conversation in hopes they’ve made a new connection that will result in new business or the inside track on a better job.
Take, for instance, an event I attended this week. The networking breakfast lasted an entire hour before the main presentation. I grab some food and coffee and camp out at a high-top table with three seats. I’m a sitting network duck. A guy aims his two-blue lasers at me, pivots to the empty seats and gamely asks, “these seats taken?” Me being a wiseass reply, “only by a layer of dust, but I’m sure it won’t mind if you sit on it.” The guy is intrigued and sits anyway. Oh boy, I’m guess I’m gonna get networked. We introduce ourselves and he stops and gives me an appraising look before asking the inevitable question, “So what is it you do?”
My answer always stops ‘em at square one. “Oh, whatever the hell I want,” I reply with a smile. “I’m semi-retired!” His face drops as he thinks to himself, “oh shit, now I’m stuck with a guy who’s useless to me and my career until I can find a graceful way to escape.” I know this and amuse myself with that thought.
He seems like a nice guy so I get a little serious and explain that I freelance as a journalist and also work as a consultant for a PR firm. The guy looks a little happier although it’s obvious we have no common ground.
I, of course, know networking protocol, and make the required inquiry as to his line of work. “I’m in real estate. Commercial real estate.” An excellent profession. Now, hoping to justify wasting 10 minutes with me he gives it his best shot, asking me, “so where’s your office?” I love this one because I get to shatter his last hope by responding, “My basement. It’s awesome. Has a window that looks out into the woods, a microwave and a bathroom four steps away.”
Poor guy is ready to eject from his stool and uses the excuse I certainly have used many times. “Well, I’m gonna go get some more coffee.” He gets up and thinks he’s done with me. I decide to give him a scare. “Hey, me too!” But I’m not a complete jerk. I hang back and let him make his escape.
I actually do refill my coffee, grab a pastry and return to my high-top perch. I’m on reset. Here comes another one. “Hi! My name is Ralph, what do you do?” I go through the act, thoroughly disappointing him and this time it takes only 3 minutes before we both decide we need refills.
But this being a sort of game for me, I know I won’t always win. I see an old friend and we start to catch up. A woman who knew my friend pops by and I’m introduced. I have a feeling about this one. She’s looks really confident, and happy… and is carrying an empty coffee cup. “Oh, what do you do?” she asks, half expecting me to bullshit her with a fancy executive title. But being honest, as well as a wiseass I give her my stock reply. “Whatever I want. I’m semi-retired.” She half smiles, gives me a knowing look and says, with a conspiratorial air, “Me too. But the coffee is free and I need a refill.” “I do too!” I gratefully respond. “Damn right,” she says.
I was exposed to politics at an early age–6 to be exact. My first foray was quick, decisive and an utter failure. It was time to choose a first grade class president in room 102 at P.S. 186 Queens. Since we didn’t have a class president in kindergarten, I was thoroughly unfamiliar with the process. I didn’t even know what a class president’s duties were, but it seemed better and more prestigious than class clown–an office I already held–unofficially, of course.
My parents always took me with them to the polls so I imagined electing a class president would be a similar process, you know, with votes. But our teacher, a severe spinster who was also the school’s music teacher and broke out in spontaneous operatic arias, was having none of that. In her mind first graders were not mature enough to choose their own leader so she discarded any sense of democracy, standing in front of the class and barked, “Who wants to be class president. Raise your hands!”
Well…we all raised our hands, with at least one kid named Steven vocalizing, “ooooh, oooooh, ME!” for emphasis. That was my first exposure to overt campaigning. But our operatic instructor ignored Steven and chose another boy…because he was tall. That was my first exposure to what I later came to know as “optics.” Turns out the tall boy was a wuss. He was supposed to keep the class quiet when the teacher had to leave the room but he was deposed in a coup carried out when we launched a barrage of pencil erasers and the ceremonial dumping of a 64-pack of Crayolas. Teacher was nonplussed and simply asked the class, “well, who wants to be the NEXT president?”
This time none of us were stupid enough to raise our hands so she chose a girl in a pink dress who immediately began to cry. Since she was cute and apparently had no political aspirations we didn’t give her any crap when teacher left the room and vowed never to run for political office in the future, choosing instead to consider transferring to Catholic school where students had no say in anything. Ultimately she remained in our class when her family’s rabbi took issue.
Politics remained a part of my life when my mother became very active in the Eastern Queens Democratic Club. She rose to a leadership position, supporting Democratic candidates for New York City Council, NY State Governor and the Legislature. We helped her fold flyers while my father muttered, “why are you helping that asshole?” He considered all politicians as assholes and my father, a highly intelligent chemical engineer, was rarely wrong in his assessments.
My mother’s political connections did hit paydirt for me during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college. She landed me a total political patronage job in the New York City Comptroller’s office. It was an awesome job in one of the majestic Municipal Building. It’s that flat building you see as you cross the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan. Everything about it was over done, including the men’s room. The urinals were about four feet high and about a foot wide, and you had to step up on a slab of marble to get to them. Every pee was like a performance on your own little stage.
Anyway, my job was to type, on an old Royal typewriter, checks to people who had successfully sued the city for pothole damage to their cars, or heath issues when they received slipshod treatment at a city hospital. I typed maybe five checks a day. I spent the rest of the time reading the papers and studying for the FCC license I would need to pursue my career in broadcasting.
Once, out of boredom after lunch, I attempted to file some case folders but I was almost tackled by one of the regulars who said, “we don’t file in the afternoon in the summer. It’s just too hot!” She ordered me back to my desk which was in a long row like in a classroom. I sat in front of an old dude with a gray crewcut named Higgins. His entire job was rubber stamping the date on a stack of papers. He’d been doing it for 20 years and aspired to nothing. Yup…gotta love those political patronage jobs. By the way, I did study enough to earn my FCC license.
After that, I’ve attempted to avoid any sort of active involvement in politics although I follow it closely. I did watch the debacle in Iowa with great interest though, because who doesn’t love a trainwreck..especially if only politicians are casualties. After all, as my late, wonderful father always said, “why help those assholes?”
I’ll lay my quid on the table forthwith. I’m on team Sussex. For one, you can’t go wrong rooting for a ginger man. Case in point, the late, great, irascible Cream drummer Ginger Baker. Wild, impatient and foul-mouthed, but a brilliant talent. He pissed off almost everyone with whom he came in contact, but you couldn’t dispute his skills.
Now, Harry is neither brilliant nor skilled, but apparently irascible in that he managed to piss off his granny, who just happens to be the Queen of England. That takes a pair of brass kippers.
Then there’s Meghan. She went from “Suits” to fruits–meaning being sucked into family so inbred its genome has only one step. If you sent their DNA to “23andMe” the result would be “23ofYou.” Her dissatisfaction with the royal life was a no-brainer since most of the family is a no-brainer. Young, beautiful and talented, the Duchess of Sussex was destined to ditch the dreariness of royal duties that mostly involve a lot of shaking, hugging, bowing and birthing.
And now the Sussex’s have decided to make their Sussex-it, high-tailing it to North America, presumably, Canada, where Meghan lived while shooting “Suits,” and trademarking their own Sussex Royal brand.
I can see it now where Duchess Meghan appears on Home Shopping Network hawking Sussex Royal brand pacifiers, tea sets, jewelry and crop tops. Perhaps Harry would join her to promote his own “special collection” of polo mallets, jodhpurs and Ginger Prince Ale.
Personally, I’d be in for a couple of Sussex Royal bobbleheads. You see, they’d be special. In the spirit of defying the Queen’s express order not to make their escape announcement, the bobbleheads would only shake their heads “no.”
I also envision a Sussex Royal production company. Duchess Meghan could resume her showbiz career producing, perhaps, royal-themed programming such as “Paparazzi Death Wish,” “A Curtsy Too Low,” and a twist on the the groundbreaking musical, “Corgi and Bess.”
As a former helicopter pilot, Harry would take on the important role of remaining in the sky and out of the way, occasionally making airborne Starbucks and pho runs for the cast and crew.
So it seems obvious, this was a well thought-out decision and I wish them the best of luck. Indeed, if they are, they may actually re-write the rules of royalty. I believe it will be titled the “Meghan Carta.” I want those bobbleheads autographed.
Just got back home from finding myself in the middle of two feuding Canadian families. It’s ok..no one got hurt but at least a few were embarrassed. Yeah..our family buzzed up Hwy 401 to Toronto for a taping of an episode of Family Feud Canada, as the old game show finally arrives in the Great White North.
My son is a game show aficionado and always wanted to see one live. Since he’s not much of a traveler, flying out to the west coast wasn’t an option, but a four-hour drive was.
It’s been many years since I last attended a game show. It was in the early 1970’s. I grew up in NYC so popping over to 30 Rock in Manhattan was an easy bus and subway trip. My friends and I showed up one morning and they happened to be recording a couple of episodes of “Sale of the Century” host by Joe Garagiola. The whole thing took barely 90 minutes…but Family Feud Canada was a whole different bowl of poutine.
They told us to show up at the CBC building at 11:45am. We showed up at 11:30 and there already was a line to check in. Once we did that, we were told to get in another line. Stood there for an hour. Suddenly the line started moving and we were stuffed into padded elevators in small groups and taken to the 10th floor where, we stood in another line. Must be about time to enter the studio, eh? Naw…we stood for another hour while, we came to learn, the fun folks at Family Feud Canada were still rehearsing. Do you really need to rehearse, “survey SAID!!!!!” Apparently so.
Finally, we were ushered into a very large studio with a sparkling new, modern set. We lucked out and were seated in the second row on an aisle, but since the seats were angled, it was like scoring front row seats.
Nothing happened for awhile but then this chunky, bouncy, balding guy named Marty popped on stage and did the warmup. You know..get the audience happy and peppy and energized. Told us when to applaud and say “awwww” when a contestant gave a wrong answer and useful stuff like that. He also warned us about games we would be subjected to. Ah..the games. Later.
So the show finally starts and host, Gerry Dee bounds out and does the shtick. Yeah..I hadn’t heard of Gerry Dee either but came to find out he’s a famous Canadian comedian who does a long-running sitcom about a sort of schmucky teacher. It’s called Mr. D. I found some clips on YouTube and it is pretty funny.
Ever wonder what happens during the breaks? Well…our friend Marty pops out with a million watts of energy and orders us to get up and start dancing and when the music stops we’re supposed to freeze. If you don’t freeze, a woman named Tracie, also nicknamed “Madam X” comes by and slaps an X on you and that means you’re out. I swear I froze but Marty seemed to be appalled by my dancing and declared me out. Madam X was apparently also so disgusted by my personal choreography she didn’t even bother to slap the X on me…just said “sit down!” Yay! This went on for 10 minutes. Isn’t a break usually about two?
Next break, Marty comes out again and insists on annoying us with another game this time we all had to stand again. He would yell out things like, “whose favorite movie is Shawshank Redemption?” If you agreed, you sat down. I figured out pretty fast, it would be personally advantageous to agree to something quickly, so I plopped down when he told anyone who shaved in the last week to sit. That break was another 10-15 minutes. Now game shows usually record 5 in a day. These hosers were gonna be lucky to knock out one.
Finally the show proceeded but the producers wanted to review almost the whole thing before they got to the final, “fast money” round. Out came Marty again making us stand or dance or yell “woo woo!” or some other nonsense to keep our energy up with Taylor Swift and Katy Perry braying over the PA. Maybe another 10-15 minutes goes by and they do the first half of “fast money.” Then it’s time to bring out the second family member to complete the game.
I was watching the prompter, having had many years of reading off prompters and all Gerry Dee had to say was, “OK, you need 22 points to get to 200 to win 10-thousand dollars!” Easy, right? Poor Gerry Dee. This was only his second show but he made the mistake of trying to put the words on the prompter into his own words. He wasn’t close. Family member #2 has to go backstage and run out again, then Gerry Dee would give it another try. No good. Rewind. Family to backstage, run out again, Gerry botches it again. Gerry Dee finally decides there are too many numbers and orders “200” be deleted. Family member #2 slogs off backstage, and, almost out of breath, runs out on stage again while Gerry Dee attempts the truncated version of the line. Aw..it only too three more times!
Finally nails it, the guy does get 22 points, the family from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories wins 10-grand and the game is over…right? Naw….we’re going to overtime! Marty’s out rousting us from our seats to jump and dance and woo-woo to still one more Taylor Swift song and we’re all trying to shake off what’s now become an ordeal. We find out the producers didn’t like how the show opened so they have to do it over and we have to stand, and clap and woo-woo! with the same energy we had at the start. Meanwhile the losing family is skulking just off camera watching this and while awaiting the cue to record, Gerry Dee cracks to them, “you’re thinking, can we fuckin’ go yet?” Biggest laugh of the day so far.
The open is re-recorded, the show is over and we get to leave, four hours after we first arrived. The actual recording of what will amount to 22 minutes of television took about 90 minutes.
It’ ok! My son had the time of his life, we got to jump up, dance, say woo-woo! a lot and have a cool experience. Survey SAID! “FUN, EH?”
I never owned a snow blower…until yesterday. That means I lived almost 25-thousand days without one. I never once wished I owned one, because that would mean I’d have to be out in the cold snow…well…blowing it.
For 11 years, when we lived in Arizona and Georgia, there wasn’t really any snow to blow, so that’s more than 4-thousand days right there. When we moved up to Michigan from Georgia back in 1989 the house we lived in for 25 years had a long, straight, double-wide driveway as well as a circle drive. Didn’t need to blow the snow away because the people who sold us the house had employed an excellent plow service and we kept them. They never let us down.
A little over two years ago we moved to a bigger house with a much smaller driveway. So small, we couldn’t get a plow service to accept us. So my wife and I figured we could shovel the stuff. Oh, that worked out until this past Monday night when we got hit with an early blast of snow…about 9 inches of it. We went out after dinner and started shoveling. But it wasn’t as easy as it once seemed. After half the driveway was reasonably cleared, we hung up our shovels for good. We made a solemn pact before turning out the lights that night that we’d finally have to concede to reality and buy a stupid snow blower.
Snow blowers fly off the shelves once the first flakes fly, so I got up early and was the first person at the nearest Menards when it opened at 6:30 a.m. I had already chosen which blower I wanted and confirmed on the store’s app they had a few in stock. It said they had five. When I got there they had two. Whew! After I quickly grabbed the giant box containing the blower they only had one. Another guy was next to me who wanted something more beefy. All they had left was the floor sample. He snatched it off the shelf and hightailed it to the cashier. We gave each other that knowing look that said, “ha! we’re badass early risers who beat the other losers to the last snow blowers! Shovel THAT!” Yes, men are often morons.
As soon as I got home I couldn’t wait to extract the machine from its box and assemble it. It was easy. No tools required! The operating instructions were also easy. Then…the big moment. I fired up that snow eatin’ machine and commenced to blowin’! Having never before operated such a device, I thought it would be a drag. It wasn’t. I discovered the wonder of the chute that shoots the snow you just blew to somewhere it wasn’t. You could grab this handy rod and rotate the chute in any direction. Suddenly I had created a game where I could imagine aiming the chute at annoying pickup truck drivers and blowing them off the road with SNOW FORCE! I’d reach the next level by picking off poodles piddling on my lawn and giving door-to-door salesmen snowy face washes. Bam! Whoosh! Freeze! My snow blower had become the most awesome game console this side of my Atari 2600.
Then I came back from my Frigid Fantasy and realized my driveway was clear. I sulked like a six-year with no smartphone as I wheeled the blower back into the garage. For the rest of the day I would check the Weather Channel app in hopes more snow was on the way. It looks like we may get a dusting tomorrow. That’s fine. That’s plenty. That’s more than enough.
This boy’s pumped and ready to blow. That otherwise mundane appliance is now my force, my power, all I need to conquer the coolest and coldest….First Person Chuter.
I got behind a Kia Telluride the other day and couldn’t help admiring the brand’s new SUV. In fact, I had considered buying one when I was in the market for a new full-size SUV last year and gave it a good look at the Detroit Auto Show. I ultimately chose a Subaru Ascent. You see, even if the Ascent didn’t win me over by a few salient points, I couldn’t have bought the Kia anyway.
The reason had zero to do with the quality, appearance or performance of the Telluride. Indeed, I can’t bring myself to buy any Kia. It’s not what you think. I have no problem with buying a vehicle from a South Korean automaker. It has everything to with the company name–Kia.
You see, my father was a World War II veteran. He was actually a hero, awarded the Silver Star for capturing a house of Germans by ordering them in Yiddish, which sounds a lot like German. He passed away in 2007, but something he said to me when we were driving around one day long before that stuck with me.
My father started shaking his head and said to me, “Ed, that car in front of us. It says KIA on it.”
“Yes,” I told him. “That’s the name of a South Korean automaker that just started doing business here in the U.S.”
“Are you kidding me?” he said. “Do you know what that means? In the Army if you’re designated KIA, you’re dead—killed in action! Who wants to driving around with Killed in Action on their car? Someone made a bad mistake!”
I explained that KIA stood for something in Korean that has nothing to do with the Army designation and that they were pretty good cars.
“Even so,” he said with a little laugh, “I’d be pretty spooked driving around with KIA on my car.”
I hadn’t thought of that day for a long time because I had only bought Jeeps in the years near the end of his life until I retired from Fiat Chrysler in 2016. But when I was ready to consider other brands, I…just…couldn’t…do a Kia.
I did admire that Telluride and almost put it on my list, but I kept hearing my father’s voice–bewildered and bemused at the same time, saying “I just couldn’t drive a car that says “killed in action.”
When I got home from the auto show I told my wife about the Kia Telluride. She flashed a big smile and laughed as she said “Kia? Killed in action? Your father would never let you hear the end of it.” And that ended it.