There’s trouble in Amazon-land and it’s not only holding my stuff hostage, but promising delivery of an item that’s already been delivered. Indeed, I know someone who works for the online sales behemoth and he confirms, “it sucks.”
Now I’m quite aware all home delivery services are overworked thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic that’s kept so many people at home, for fear of encountering selfish and foolish cretins who refuse to wear a mask for fear of being identified as smart, considerate or a Democrat.
Today’s Detroit Free Press, as well as a number of other news outlets, tells the story of an Amazon driver who was fed up with the workload and abandoned his delivery van full of packages. The guy announced his, um, resignation on Twitter. He didn’t use nice language.
Since I’m a semi-retired journalist, I won’t use that kind of language, but you can infer similar words when I relate my latest trip down the Amazon hellhole.
First, I order a CD. Go ahead, get it out your system, “Hello Boomer!” OK..don’t infer, accept my good natured, “fuck off.” Anyway, I keep getting notifications that it will arrive some time in July. That’s awesome. I actually received it two weeks ago. I wonder if I’ll receiver another one…just to share with another Boomer who may also still have an impressive collection of 8-tracks.
OK..that one isn’t so bad. The one that’s hacking me off is my order for a new controller for my lawn sprinkler system. Yeah, yeah. First World problem. I ordered it on June 19th. Normally, even with Amazon’s slowest delivery option…aka “free” it doesn’t take more than a week. First I received an apologetic notice that it was “running late” and I could expect it this week…July 1. Then yesterday I receive another email giving me the bad news that “there is a delay in shipping some items from your order. We apologize for the inconvenience.” Aw…that’s sweet. The drone who wrote that must have been brought up with good manners. The bottom line, the “delay” amounts to basically an expected delivery a month from when I first ordered the thing. I’m glad I wasn’t ordering something more important…like a respirator…or Larry David edition of Mr. Potato Head. Maybe it’s on that guy’s abandoned deliver truck.
I know I’m not nearly alone in whining about my Amazonian experience. I know the U.S. Postal Service is under water as well and shipments are delayed due to huge volumes and understaffing. Honestly, a sprinkler system controller is not my idea of Chanukah in July, but you now how it is. Once you order something, you get anxious to receive whatever it is you wanted, even if it’s replacement vacuum cleaner bags. Hmmm…I need to order those too. Crap. …and those wet things you attach to a Swiffer…and a needle for my record player. No rush.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. This is my 36th year as a dad and the 13th year since I lost mine. Oh no, we’re not gonna get maudlin. We’re gonna have some fun, because that’s what my dad was.
Actually, he was sort of sneaky fun. Generally quiet by nature and not nearly as outgoing as my mom who aspired to sing and act on Broadway, but gave it up to raise me and my brother. Some trade, huh? She would have had a shelf full of Tonys.
No, my father was sneaky fun in a few ways. He was a chemical engineer by trade–not a profession generally associated with yukking it up. “Hey Al, hear the one about the constricted pipe nipple?” But he was a master punster who both loved to hear them and let one loose. Whether he was delivering or receiving, at the punchline, he’d grab his throat and make a choking sound. That was sometimes misunderstood by folks out of earshot and at least one time a concerned citizen ran over about to administer the Heimlich Maneuver on my dad thinking he’d swallowed an olive whole. Poor guy. Not only didn’t he save my dad’s life, he ruined his punchline.
What was the pun? Oh, my father’s absolute favorite mocking of country music. The set up was, “Oh, I hate country music!” His victim would always ask, “how come?” The reply/punchline was always, “They have stupid titles like (and he’d sing it like Hank Williams) ‘He fell down the sewer and they called it sewer-cide.” Hand to the throat. Choking sound made. Victim suddenly remembers he’s late for root canal…and looking forward to it.
One think my dad absolutely hated was cigars. Hated how they looked in a guy’s mouth and despise their smell. Back in the 60’s it was OK for folks to smoke in other people’s homes and we had an impressive ashtray collection to facilitate their early grave. Cigarettes? OK. Pipes? OK. Cigars? No OK. One night when the weekly poker game was at our house one of the players decided to fire up a stogie. My dad had laid down the ground rules many times, so he felt no need to repeat them. Instead, he simply whipped out a fat rubberband, made it tight around his fingers, and shot the cheroot right out of the guy’s mouth. The shocked guy knew he done wrong. All he could say was, “shit, I forgot the rule, but you could have just asked me to put it out.” Nope. My dad knew how to make a memorable moment…and his point, without uttering a word.
Speaking of making his point wordlessly, that same guy who broke the no-cigar rule turned out, after awhile, to be quite the asshole and the guys wanted to kick him out of the game. They didn’t relish the confrontation so my father, ever the brilliant one, again came up with a way to send the message without getting into what would likely be an unpleasant verbal exchange.
He shared his plan with the boys, whom he had arrive a little earlier than usual. When the jerk arrived at the usual time, he was greeted just outside the door to our apartment with 7 guys armed with seltzer bottles who drenched him in bubbly water. We never saw him again…and not a word was spoken. Told you. My dad was quiet.
I miss him every day and memorialize him by taking out my gee-tar and singing his “favorite” country song, afterwards reaching for my throat and making that choking sound. Oh, I’d never perform it in public. Would be professional sewer-cide.
You would have thought our governor announced free six-packs of Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale for all on Friday. I, personally, would have appreciated that very much, since I’m down to my last few and they’re going fast.
No, the collective jubilation heard ‘round the Mitten was her declaration that we could all…after everything we’ve gone through over the past few months…after suffering through a terrible pandemic, mindless searches for toilet paper, avoiding human contact and appreciating the wonders of curbside pickup and Grubhub…..can finally get our hair cut!
For the stylists, barbers and salon owners who have endured months of financial disaster, I’m thrilled. For those who have simply suffered blows to their vanity, get over it. It’s just hair. If someone only appreciated you, lusted after you, respected you only because you were stylishly coiffed, snip them out of your life! Give ‘em the brush off! I’d chase ‘em with a blow dryer and muss up their locks while shouting, “your hair sucks! We’re through!”
Personally, I just don’t care. I own an impressive collection of ball caps that match the colors and styles of just about anything I choose to wear. Bad hair day? No problem. Pop on a top with the logo of my favorite team or car brand or place I’ve visited. I have an especially tacky one I acquired years ago while covering a story at the Ontario Tobacco Growers warehouse. It’s not only ugly, it offends anti-smoking types. I’m not a smoker, but I do like lighting up prissy puritans once in awhile.
When I worked as a TV reporter I was forced to pay close attention to my hair. It wasn’t always bad. The TV station where I worked in Tucson, Arizona paid for our haircuts. They had a deal with a salon located in beautiful old house and my assigned stylist was gorgeous. It was a nice change from our previous salon run by a crazy woman who often ran out to her car in the middle of a styling, apparently to huff a white powder. She wielded her Conair blower like a Glock when she returned and when we informed the station we would no longer sit in her chair like sitting ducks they thankfully moved us to the much nicer place where none of the stylists potentially faced arrest.
By the time I worked my way up to CNN, the network merely reimbursed us for our haircuts since the on-air folks were strewn around the world. At first I was lucky enough to find a young lady who was quite talented and that lasted for a year or two until she got married and quit. I looked around for someone new and was referred to a stylist who was quite experienced and received positive reviews. Things went well for a bit until she experienced “man problems.” For the entirety of my styling she’d go into a rage about men, her man, how men suck, how she’d like to kill all men. Given she was holding very sharp scissors and I happened to be a man I was not, in the least, relaxed. I finally just stopped using her and moved on.
That was better until the new stylist said she only wanted to work one or two hours a week and none of those hours coincided with any of the hours I could come in.
At that point I honestly didn’t care anymore. I visited my nearest Fantastic Sams. Didn’t care who I got. Waiting like everyone else. Got someone different almost every time. Got a fine haircut almost every time. No rage, no threats, no problem. Then the shop owner decided Fantastic Sams franchise fees or whatever were too expensive so she went out on her own. Best yet. Independent owner, talented stylists, 12 bucks plus tip for an excellent shearing. Sometimes they speak English, sometimes they don’t. Don’t care. They speak the common language of “follicle.” Been going there for a decade. I’ll be happy to return.
But meanwhile, my hair has been silently growing, thankfully covering the thinning bald spot on the back of my head. I’ll miss my mop when it’s cut. I may even grow it back. I just hope the same stylists return to my favorite place. I have nightmares I’ll get in the chair and looming down over me with sharpened scissors hovering over my ears is the man hater raging about how I walked out on her all those years ago. Snip Snip. Oh shit. No tip.
Has it happened to you or a family member yet? So far we’ve escaped, but others are not so lucky–and it’s causing longer, slower lines at neighborhood ice cream and custard stands as well as testing the patience of hardworking scoopers and shake makers.
It happens to all of us at one time or another, but since things have gradually reopened during this pandemic, I’ve been an eyewitness to a new degree of the inability to accurately convey a preference. It’s a malady I can only blame on months of being holed up at home, separated from society without the need to make any big decisions–most notably, regarding frozen desserts.
I present to you a few recent actual events as evidence.
I’m in a properly socially-distanced line at a neighborhood ice cream stand…much like those in the photo above. At the front of the line is a guy who, let’s just say, looks like he comes here often. I can’t hear him order but the efficient worker quickly brings him two shakes. NEXT! Right? Nope. The guy kinda gives the two cups a confused look and asks, “are these mediums?” The attendant replies there are, in fact, smalls. “Aw, sorry…I wanted mediums.” The attendant apologizes and goes back to whip up two larger shakes. Meanwhile the line is getting longer and you figure when the attendant returns with the two medium shakes our guy will be satisfied. Heh. All this quarantining has his mind completely addled. “Uh…jeez…sorry again.” The attendant appears to be feeling around in his pocket for something–perhaps the cyanide capsule he’s hidden in his apron for such an occasion. “Yes sir?” “Uh, didn’t I also order two medium twist cones?” “No sir, you didn’t.” “Aw shit, sorry. Could ya do those too?” The cyanide is looking better all the time. He dutifully makes the two cones but that’s NOT GOOD ENOUGH. “Aw, man. Could ya turn ‘em upside down and put ‘em in cups?” Nah..cyanide is fast, but not fast enough. The attendant gathers himself and returns with the two, now, upside down cones duly placed in cups. Mercifully, the customer accepts them and leaves.
By now, with those waiting standing six-feet apart, the line is roughly 50 feet long and up to the counter steps a skinny codger with a scraggly white goatee. I tell my son, “this guy’s trouble.” Father knows best. Customer places his order. “I’d like two small chocolate cones.” Easy. Not easy. Attendant still recovering from the last customer quickly comes back with two chocolate cones. “Aw, crap. Jeez.” Attendant starting to take on that 1000 yard stare. “ I really wanted TWIST and not just chocolate.” Attendant disgustedly dumps the two chocolate cones in the trash, and remakes the guy’s two cones. Hands them to him without a word. Customer endures hard stares from those in line and submits to the walk of shame back to his car. We all hope the cones melt before he gets there.
My turn at last. The attendant is wary. He’s thinking, “oh shit, another old guy who looks like a Rocky Road short of his 31 flavors.” I pick up on this. I order. “Two small cups of vanilla and one SMALL twist cone.” I see the doubt on his face. I smile, and add, “and that’s my final answer.” He laughed. I laughed. I paid and left. The crowd applauded.
One day this will all be over. Our minds will recover, and it will be safe to once again order frozen desserts correctly.
While we’re all waiting for the world to spin back on its axis and people aren’t getting sick or afraid of breathing in public, I thought it might be fun to kill some time thinking back to one of life’s most uncomfortable episodes–that horrible first day on the job.
You know how it is…you don’t know where anything is, everyone in the office is giving you the eye wondering if you’re OK or a jerk or if you’re gonna try to steal their job or be an ass-kisser or slacker. Your main challenge is delicately asking where the washroom is and where the office supplies are hidden. Some wiseass gives you directions to the washroom, but after you memorize every turn and finally find the door as you’re about to explode, you discover the schmuck didn’t add that you need a key to enter. Sound familiar?
I’ll start with a couple of my most memorable/horrible first days, and then I invite you to join the fun by adding yours in the comments.
The date was November 30, 1981. My first day at CNN in Atlanta. I was hired as one of the first producers to launch their second network which was known at the time as CNN2. It later morphed into Headlines News and now HLN.
I had been working as a producer, reporter, anchor at KGUN in Tucson, Arizona. If you know anything about Arizona, it’s extremely laid back. No one gets dressed up, much. Especially producers.
Well…I saunter into the crazy, busy CNN headquarters on my first day figuring I’d wear my “producer clothes.” In Arizona that meant casual pants, an open-necked button down shirt and comfortable shoes. Psych. I look around and everyone else is wearing serious business clothes. Women wearing dresses. Men in dress shirt, ties, jackets, polished, black shoes. I’m already marked as a rube from out west. My boss kindly takes me aside and whispers, “you may have noticed there’s a bit of a dress code.” Well..yeah…would have been nice if someone told me in advance. But that wasn’t the worst thing about my first day. That would happen momentarily.
The boss said we should go out onto the newsroom floor and learn how the national assignment desk worked. So I go up to the first guy I see on the desk. He’s a big, balding, bearded volcano about to erupt. I introduce myself and ask if he could take a moment to explain how things work. Cue the eruption.
“YOU WANNA KNOW HOW THE FUCKIN’ DESK WORKS! WATCH THIS!!!!,” he screams at me. He picks up the tie-line to the DC bureau and starts screaming at the producer on the other end using the most vile language one could muster. This goes on for about 20 seconds. He slams down the phone, glares at me and screams, “THAT’S HOW THE FUCKIN’ ASSIGNMENT DESK WORKS. NOW GET THE FUCK OUTTA MY FACE!!!!” I took that as a most instructional lesson, took my leave and, you know, I never got the guy’s name or saw him again, which was just fine. Boss later asks me if I got the lay of the land on the national desk. I told him about the “guidance” I was given and just grinned, replying “yeah, that’s pretty much how it works.”
First day number 2. August 23, 2005. My first day at what was then DaimlerChrysler and now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. It was my first corporate job. Hired away from The Detroit News to ghost write and manage a blog for the head of corporate communications. Cool job.
I’m led up to the sixth floor PR offices at corporate HQ and plopped in my new boss’s cube for all the first day stuff. First thing I was told was to look at my new badge.
“See your badge? It’s green. That means you’re a contractor not a REAL employee. REAL employees have blue badges.” I feel welcome already. Then the next indignity.
“Come with me. Let’s look out the window. You see those parking decks close to the building. You can’t park there. Those are for REAL employees. See that surface lot..somewhere beyond the horizon? That’s where contractors park. So that’s where YOU park. It’s not too long a walk…except when it’s raining, snowing or the wind is howling. Then…it sucks. Welcome to the company!!”
I became a REAL employee about 13 months later but always hid my blue badge. It was out of consideration for the other green badged contractors who were still trudging into the office from the corporate back forty. They would also call me bad names.
Went to the supermarket this morning to buy some basic items: milk, OJ,
prescription-strength Lysol. It was one of those supersized supermarkets that also sells stuff you can’t eat but can wear. Never understood that because none of them have try-on rooms. Just grab a chicken, juice and a cute top and pray they both taste good and look tasteful.
But that’s not the point of this post. I’m getting to that, but first I have to walk in the correct direction on this one-way aisle of prose. Yes..that’s the point. The giant, supersized supermarket has one-way aisles to help prevent people from crossing paths and spreading coronavirus. Excellent idea. In theory.
My first experience today involved finding the brand of soda my wife wrote on the list. I noticed the green sticker at the head of the aisle which meant I could enter. I felt like a law-abiding cart pusher. The problem was the workers stocking the shelves were darting about in every direction crossing paths with me several times. At one point I just stopped short before the stocker and her giant cart of soda bottles broke my plane. We were both wearing face masks and gloves, but I was tempted to make a citizen’s arrest of the obvious one-way aisle scofflaw. Are stockers immune? Do they have special dispensation by order of the one-way aisle cop? Seems they’re as likely to transmit and catch coronavirus as a suburban schlep like me. Aside from trying not to die, I don’t want points on my license for shopping the wrong way down a one-way aisle. I’ll actually have to call my insurance agent to add “supermarket aisle directional indemnity” coverage.
This particular supermarket made my task more difficult by separating brands bottled by Coca-Cola and Pepsi by a full aisle. My mission was to buy two bottles each of one brand, bottled by Coke, and two bottles of Pepsi. I was already at the end of the Coke aisle and ready to grab the Pepsi, but I would have had to walk all the way around since the Pepsi aisle was one-way…the other way. Screw it. I parked my cart at the end of the aisle, which is a directional no-man’s land. There was no one in the Pepsi aisle, so I took a chance, feeling oh, so cavalier, and took the few steps the wrong way to grab the two bottles of Pepsi. I’m sure no one saw me, but I’m also sure my misdeed was captured on the security camera. I wonder what the statute of limitations is for such an infraction.
The rest of the shopping trip went fine as I dutifully obeyed all green and red stickers. A red sticker meant you were at the wrong end of the aisle. DO NOT ENTER! OK, I was a good boy, but I saw two couples absolutely blow through the red stickers in the french fry aisle much to the horror of the guy traveling in the correct direction having a hard time deciding between spring and egg rolls. As the wrong-way couples passed him, he looked like he might need a ventilator right then and there, just from anxiety.
I do like the idea of one-way aisles to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. They’re really just a minor inconvenience and I’m sure a boon to the burgeoning colored sticky floor arrow industry, which, before this all happened, was pointing towards hard times.
Got a mask? A lot of people do and that’s a good thing. It’s all about being safe. Who wants to breathe in someone else’s viral voom?
I like these two kids in love using their masks like kissin’ condoms. No tongue, no problem. That’s real social distancing.
I thought I was ahead of the game when I found a couple of old face masks in my garage that I use when I’m spray painting something or the pollen gets to me when I mow my lawn. But I quickly discovered a boring white, pre-made mask is almost a fashion faux pas during this terrible pandemic.
Stuck at home with so much free time, people are getting creative, using whatever materials they happen to have on hand to stick over their noses and mouths.
My wife, being a master crafter, quickly created this one for me out of one of my old, discarded dress shirts. Despite being semi-retired for almost four years, I can still smell the stench of corporate meeting rooms on the material and, while wearing the mask, often have hallucinations of being trapped in an endless Power Point presentation.
I call the mask this guy is wearing “The Shmotah.” That’s Yiddish for rag and that’s pretty much what this gentleman has decided will do the trick for him. Personally, it looks more like something you’d use to chloroform someone attempting to steal the toilet paper from your shopping cart.
Which brings me to a masked marauder I discovered in a supermarket. That shopper decided to emulate Jesse James by affixing a bandana around her nose and mouth. Was she there to stock up on soup and crackers, or awaiting the arrival of the next Wells Fargo stagecoach in order to stick it up? Regardless, I gave her wide berth, and removed my watch.
I don’t know what this person was thinking by slapping a lettuce leaf over most of her face. If she had done this here in Michigan, the poor thing would have been immediately doused with ranch dressing.
I found this photo of a guy who seems to be protecting himself from coronavirus while also launching a campaign promoting electrolysis for anyone suffering from a new affliction I hear the CDC is calling “Hirsute Blue.”
There are some Jokers out there combining prophylaxis with paranoia.
This little girl found a way to stick out her tongue while keeping it in.
Minnie Mouse doing her part to provide maximum facial cover.
Ooops…Mardi Gras’s over. No masking this couple’s cluelessness. All they needed to do was look to their left to realize, “we made a boux boux, chere.”
So whether your mask is of the pre-fab, store bought variety, a shmotah, bandana, home crafted or creatively improvised, don’t forget to slap it on because right now, the last thing you wanna do…is go viral.
“Take it easy!,” “Take Care!,” “Take it Light!,” “Be Well!,” “Rock On!” We love to kind of wish people well at the end of a communication while at the same ordering them to do so. Sometimes people add these little phrases of mandatory good wishes about our health and general well being because they just nice, sincere people. Others just can’t think of more creative ways to end it. I guess it’s better than just stopping short, or writing, “shit, I’m outta bullets…later!”
Earlier today, just passing the time to socially distance myself from doing actual work, I watched an old George Carlin bit on the Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson era. During his short set Carlin ruminated about people telling him to “have a nice day!” It kind of pissed him off in only the way it could to Carlin. He suggested that perhaps he’d had enough nice days and would be selfish to have any more. Y’know..to leave some nice days for other people.
It got me thinking….
During this awful time we’re in right now almost every communication I’ve received–emails, texts, actual conversations–has ended with “stay safe!” No one bid me to have a nice day, or to take it easy or light or on the chin. One good person wished good health to me and my family…but couldn’t stop there. So..so hard to resist. Yes…the whole thing read, “Health to you and your family my friend……and STAY SAFE!”
It’s actually an appreciated imperative because, I have to admit, I get careless at times and touch my face or forget to wash my hands as thoroughly as I should, or get tempted to sneeze on the person in the produce section of the supermarket who decided it would be a good thing to squeeze every freaking cantaloupe leaving his viral detritus for the rest of us to host…then die..or at least feel really crappy.
Of course, being a native neurotic New Yorker, 55 years removed from my Bar Mitzvah, I must, must think of the down side. Hmm..that well-meaning person bid me to stay safe. What if I wasn’t safe in the first place? That would make the whole thing irrelevant, or at least presumptuous. Should the proper order of safety admonition be, “Get safe!” then the next time you communicate with the person, you give him or her the benefit of the doubt that they did so, then offer some support with “Stay safe!”
What if the person you choose to help survive the pandemic is a safety scofflaw? Ending things with “stay safe!” is a waste of effort since you know they’re gonna blow you off and act like a contagious schmuck. But realistically, you can’t get into a whole give-and-take about whether the person is, or wants to be, safe since you’re just trying to end the damn email so you can move on to binging Ozark.
Still, I like that we’re at least showing concern for our fellow human beings as we all try to avoid being infected with, or spreading, coronavirus.
Well..that’s all I have to say on subject, for now. Can’t think of a snappy ending. So..um…”Get Safe, Stay there… and then HAVE A NICE DAY!”
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.