Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hi-Ho Hi-Ho

A little update on the work situation...

A few posts back I mentioned that time was an issue I was going to have to deal with at the new branch. I also spoke of the other personnel in the office and their stand-off attitudes towards me. Those two things, along with the knowledge that my superiors have an actual plan for my departure, were my biggest obstacles in the new branch.

Since I can't do anything about my bosses wanting me gone, all I can do is keep my nose clean. Like I mentioned before, they have to come up with 3 strikes to let me go. So far they don't have anything on me, but they sure are trying. The first goal is to make sure I don't hit my sales numbers. I've been placed on a permanent rotation of filling in for a number of other positions within the branch, and each one of them makes it impossible to do my job or to make sales. As a result, I'm behind in almost every sales category with 3 days left in the month. In direct comparison, the other two people on the desk are way over their sales because they get all the roaming customers and phone calls that normally would have been mine.

But that's one thing that has changed: my coworkers. There was definite tension before which played out by all of them keeeping their distance. But with me filling in so many positions and working in so many areas I've now spent time with every person here. And in each instance I made sure I did the best job I could so I could win them over. The hesitation to associate with "the guy who's being phased out" has turned into a true desire to do all they can to help me make my sales numbers.

But the time thing is still a huge problem. Don't get me wrong, I'm not whining or moaning about stuff I could do if I just buckled down a little more. I am so swamped doing all those other jobs that I simply can't get anything done in my office. I would literally have to stay until 10 o'clock every night to finish all the paperwork, but most of the offices and departments I need to communicate with are closed by 5 pm. See my dilemma? It's not that I don't work hard, it's more that the timetables needed to do my responsibilities are occupied by my filling in for other positions. I simply can't complete anything.

The key to my success here is going to come from the other employees. They can see the time restraints that have been placed on me and have repeatedly offered their assistance. I'm taking it and returning the favor by working by butt off in the other positions I fill in for. It's a nice exchange.

But my goal is still to move on from here. The machine wants me gone and know I can only hold it off for so long. I desire to walk out on my own terms, so I have to be looking. Since there is zero personal time at the office, my efforts must be made outside of work. I've had three leads for jobs, but none of them are full time positions nor do they pay a full salary. I'm not being picky, but I'm also not going to just take the first thing that comes my way. I still think my paths are lead by a higher power, so I have to have faith He has this under control. Wish me luck and throw a prayer my way if you're of that persuasion. Thanks.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Taste Test

Kimmy may be right, I'm talking a lot about food lately. Oh well, here's another one...

So Ell is having training tonight at the Cafe and she has most of her new employees here experimenting with food. I am doing my part and eating all the food they don't like. Just kidding, I'm not eating it all, but Brad is making me another wrap right now to try. What a guy isn't he? But seriously folks, the food here is going to be amazing. When this thing finally opens, you should check it out. You won't be disappointed.

I'm off to partake of another random offering of food. Later.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My weekend.

For all of you who could care less about the commune thing, I'll change the subject for at least one post and tell you about my weekend.

Last Friday I headed down to Columbus with Ell and Brad. I was delivering a woodworking saw that my Dad had bought on EBay and Brad and I picked had up for him. As we always do when we go to Columbus, we stopped to eat at (cover your eyes Kim) Chipotle. Since I get home so late from my new branch, we barely made it to Chipotle before they closed. As I often do, I ordered the Vegetarian Fajita Burrito. It comes with onions and peppers instead of beans and it also has guacamole without paying extra for it. You can get the beans if you want, which I did, but it makes for a bigger messier burrito than they usually are. When I finished eating it, I wasn't full at all. I know I've mentioned it before, but ordering the Vegetarian is much less filling than the ones with meat. So much so that I've often joked I could probably eat two if I wanted. Well ladies and gentlemen, I went for it.

I went back up to the line just as they were getting ready to close up shop. And you know what that means? It means they wanted to get rid of all their leftover food so they piled it into my burrito. So the second one ended up being even bigger and messier and absolutely amazing than any burrito I've ever had before. And yes, I finished it. One more life goal off my list. Hurray for me! :-)

After the eating extravaganza (yes that's what we're calling it now) we dropped Brad off at his Dad's house in Westerville. He was going to stay for a few days and visit and maybe do some of his school. After a few minutes of tears and hugs at our impending seperation, we pulled away and headed to my Dad and Mom's house. We got there around 11 pm and almost immediately Mom pulls out a pile of Christmas presents. We try to tell our family we don't need things but I have a feeling Mom's can't help themselves. She had made most of it, so that made it pretty cool. One of the gifts were monogrammed towels for our bathroom with our last name and different scenes of outhouses. We love outhouses, so they are perfect. Mom's are awesome aren't they?! I was drained from driving for 5 hours so we hit the sack pretty soon after that.

I slept in till around 8 am but still made it downstairs to watch This Old House. But it turned out to be last week's episode. I guess the Columbus PBS network is a week behind the Akron-Youngstown network. That means I may have missed the end of the current series. That sucks because I really wanted to see how this house turned out. The owners dumped a crapload of money into it and it was turning into a pretty amazing place. Oh well, maybe they'll re-show it at some random time this week.

After that, Dad and I went out to his shop and put the new saw in it's (temporary) home. I asked Dad if he wanted me to plug it in to hear it run and he said no. I could tell he did, so I did it anyway. Big smile. But once that was done we needed to go back in. It was so dang cold my Dad was actually freezing to his chair and I swear our skin was going to break.

When we got in Mom was getting ready for work, so Ell and I headed towards Downtown. My middle sister (the not-blood one) went to Capital University after high school which is right on Main Street in Columbus. While she was going there, her and her husband (then boyfriend) used to eat at a place called the Drexel Radio Cafe. With their constant raving about it, and Ell's new curiosity at all things "Cafe", we decided to go there.

I see why they loved it so much, because the place was awesome. And so unique! They had a make-your-own Panini menu, the usual muffins and bagels and cheesecakes, seven or eight interesting sides, a burger menu, wonderful salads, a great alcoholic-coffee selection, three beers on tap (one being Guinness), and eight or ten craft brew selections. And three of the beers were Great Lakes, which is hard to find too far south into Ohio. All in a tiny little place that couldn't have seated over 40 people. So cool. I got a Panini, a medium side of broccoli salad, and a Great Lakes Commodore Perry. Ell got a Panini and a coffee drink called a B-52. She swears it was mostly alcohol and very little coffee; in other words: really good.

After leaving the Drexel we headed to my sister Karin's house. It's so fun to hang out with my nieces and nephews. They get so big in such little time. Karin posted some pics on her blog if you want to check them out. (Karin in my blogroll.) We stayed for dinner of some amazing pizza from some place I missed the name of. They sold the pies uncooked so you could eat them fresh. If I hadn't still been stuffed from the extravaganza and the Drexel I could have eaten a whole pizza.

We left there and headed to where my Mom works. She showed us around and then tempted Ell with her 15% off employee card. They did have some really good deals, so we bought some stuff. Then we headed back to Dad and Mom's house for the evening. The next morning while my Dad did his morning rituals, I put new wheels on his wheelchair. We watched some church shows on TV and one of the guys brought a VW Bug right onto the stage as an object lesson. Now that's cool! We headed for home in the afternoon, but only after stopping at Chipotle for another burrito. (Only one.)

Before I tell you this next part, you need to know that this past weekend in Ohio was the coldest of the winter so far. That said, when we got home, our kitchen thermometer read 28 degrees. (Remember we don't have a furnace or anything, only the woodburner.) It was so cold our leaky kitchen faucet had formed an icicle out of it. The pitcher where the water leaks into was frozen solid too. Surprisingly, our pipes weren't frozen but it seemed like they may had been because the toilet had overflowed. It wasn't broken, so no problem a few towels wouldn't fix. I made a fire but it never really warmed up the house. It did warm up the space right in front of it so Ell and I spent the night sleeping right there wrapped up in ten or so blankets. Ahhh, the joys of an old log house.

Monday was MLK Jr. day, so I was off work and Ell didn't have school. She did go to work though, and when I finally crawled from underneath the blankets I saw that she had texted me to call her. When I did she told me she thought the car had been broken into. My dad had given us gas money to bring the saw down, and Ell said it was on the ground and the money was gone. The ashtray, where I keep all my loose change was emptied and thrown on the ground. The glove box had been opened and rummaged through. But the cd's, my wallet, some stuff in the back of the car, none of it was gone. All they did was take about 22.92 and run so it had to be some kids or something. But whoever it was, it's still kind of creepy.

That afternoon I went to my friend Chip's house and we smoked our pipes and talked for an hour or two. We haven't done that in a while, and it was really nice to catch up. We talked about my whole job situation and hashed out some ideas. It's good to have friends that think out loud on your behalf. Know what I mean? I left there, picked Ell up at Starbucks, and we headed home for some sitcom watching and another cold night in our old house.

So there it is. My weekend.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The C word, pt. 2

I much appreciate the wisdom of the elder statesmen who visit eleven, like my Dad and GuyK. They make very good points. The main one being that Socialism (the basic social practice at the root of any good community) is a flawed system. Or rather, the fact that humans are involved makes it a flawed ideal. Point being... when there a social system that allows a little wiggle room in the responsibility department, people will push that as far as they can. That is Socialism's weak link: an opportunity to become lazy and selfish. Trying to force it, such as in Gov't Socialism, is no less effective and even more flawed, which is what Guy was warning against. And I agree with all of that.

But if you think I've given up on my dream, or that by agreeing with those men I think the C word is an impossible ideal, you'd be wrong. The concept is still a good one, and the ideal is noble.

Community and Communal living has worked in many different areas of the world in many different times in history, and I have very little doubt it can work again. The key is who's involved and if they desire the same things. Indians (to show one example) did it for centuries. Did they have problems? Of course! And I bet that's why there were so many different tribes when the whitey's showed up. So they fought and they split up, and then those groups fought and split up too. But I don't view that as a negative but rather growth in different directions.

On a somewhat-related bunny trail, the fact that the Native Americans were so divided and spread out probably accounts for the fact they were beaten and driven from their lands. If they had been united they would have stood a hundred fold better chance of survival and victory. But that takes nothing away from the fact that communal living worked for them for hundreds of years. Conflicting ideas have always been around, back to Cain and Abel. The fact that tribes split once or 100 times doesn't mean they thought the system didn't work. Even in their primitive times, they could tell the system wasn't the problem, they were.

If I can clarify any of what I was saying in that last post, it would be that I'm not 100% sure communal living or Socialism or even the exact opposites of each, are the perfect systems. There may not be a perfect system. But for me, right now, in the place I'm in, I see promise in community. I see promise in the support for and from my fellow man. I see promise in economic-conscientious thinking and acting. And I see promise in the pursuit of what all that means. My only point is that it has worked in thousands of applications over the eons, I don't see why it couldn't work now.

But like I said, it would only work for the right people. I have no desire to push my agenda onto everyone else, I just think this is where I'm headed now. And I'd welcome anyone who wants to talk about it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The C word

No not that one.

I've rewritten this post 40-11 times, and I just got done scrapping four or five paragraphs of good stuff. I was trying to set something up, make it make sense, but I think I just need to get to the point.

Let's get real for a minute. Why do I and my neighbor both need a lawn mower? Unless you live on one of those sprawling estates where it takes 5 days straight to mow the lawn, you probably don't use your mower more than one day a week. So why couldn't you and your neighbor, or even 3 or 4, go in on a nice one together. You work out a day schedule and you get it on your day. Sure there will be a few time issues, but you work those out with your neighbors. And an extra bonus just happened: besides the cash you saved paying half or a third off normal price, you now know your neighbors and have a relationship with them. Something being lost in this day and age.

How many more examples can you think of?
-Setting up a swing set between yards for all the kids.
-Putting in a pool for 3 or 4 families with everyone pitching in on the added insurance expense.
-Sharing a car if you only have a part time job.
-Doing weekly meals with family or friends.
-Doing laundry together with your neighbor in a jointly bought washer/dryer.
-Use your imagination... (Of course there are logistics and issues than can arise, but if you focus on only those you'll always find a problem and never the joy.)

You know what all these things are pictures of? Community; the C word I was talking about. I've craved that community for a long time. I've always scoffed at the extravagant lifestyle of others and thought extra "stuff" was unnecessary. (In bare honesty though, I have often stretched for the very same thing myself, and none of it brought me the joy I thought it would. That joy has only ever come from the people in my life.) The American culture has taken large steps since WWII in a search for independence, but I have to wonder if some of those steps might have been backwards. Getting and owning more and more stuff, and not sharing any of it, isn't where's it at for me.

These thoughts have been in my head since I was 16 and they've continually grown stronger. I've talked about communal living with some of our dear friends for over 8 years now. Living with family in close knit communities worked in this country for 250 years, why did we abandon it? I don't want to anymore. I want to live a little smarter and simpler. And I have a feeling I'm not alone in that desire. If only I could find those other people.

I'm reading a book that four people have told me not to. It's called Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. I guess much of what he talks about is what I've spoken of here, and those well-meaning friends are afraid the book will convict me. We'll see. I just started it this weekend so I'll keep you informed.

Monday, January 14, 2008

One week down

I think Zoooooooooma (Chris) may be on to something. Maybe the best thing isn't to shy away from what's going on in my life just for the sake of not boring readers. Maybe talking about things as they happen would be a nice way to keep you all informed and to keep me out of the loony bin. My depressed state of a couple weeks ago is gone, so an every-so-often dose of info couldn't kill anyone, right?

So here's how my week went, in a word........ weird. I came into this branch with the assumption that I was making a lateral move and my position wasn't going to change. Turns out the only thing that didn't change was my title. This branch is staffed in an awkward way, with an over abundance of top-heaviness. So that left some gaps in strange places that it's now clear are going to be my job to fill in. So over the course of 5 days I worked the desk, the teller line, the detached drive-thru, marketing placement, small business officer, meeting planner, meeting supervisor, supply ordering, security trainer, and janitor. Yikes Andy!

The whole thing was crazy. Like I said in my last post, it seems that most of the people in the branch know I'm not here for keeps. So everyone has kind of kept their distance. But with me having to be in each and every person's business at least once during the week, there had to be some personal interaction at least once. So I decided to make some proactive efforts towards that end. In an understated psychological way I let each person know I wasn't going to step on their toes and I didn't want to disturb the peace or the flow they had. But at the same time, they needed to know I had to be involved and that the expertise I brought would help them rather than hurt. It seemed to work well. Once they opened up and allowed me into their personal space, I discovered they are all really nice people.

I still miss the ladies at my old branch, but I can make this work too. The situation would have been really bad if the people sucked. They don't, so at least my daily interactions are now pleasant and kind. That makes life easier. One problem down.

Second problem is time. Covering so many positions, many of them overlapping the next, I've had no time to set up my office or get my own duties accomplished. In the process of asserting my presence, I need to make my time part of the picture too. That's proving to be a little harder because no one sees me as their boss. Even though I'm still the Office Manager, meaning everyone answers to me, I won't be here forever. That realization that my status is temporary causes them to completely skip me and go above my head to my boss. Because in the end, he'll still be here and I won't. I see where their brains are and I understand their thought processes, and as such I can't blame them for their actions. Somehow I have to find a way to assert my priorities without making too many waves or enemies.

One more thing, there have been 2 incidents where someone accidentally mentioned my tentative position in the branch. Both times the people were left with their foot in their mouth. What would that have done to me two weeks ago? Tears and a self pity party. Now? Laughter and a smile. They are stuck with me for a little while, and if that makes them uncomfortable or off balance then I'm glad I'm not the only one. And it makes me happy. I still have my job and I still have my sanity, and I'm making the most of both.

All in all, besides the daily loss of 2 hours, this thing isn't too bad. Still looking for another job because I must, but a bit more at peace with the situation at hand.

Monday, January 07, 2008

I'm ready

I first want to apologize for the depressing tone of the last couple weeks. Being faced with the possibility of losing your job is a bit unnerving, and it affected every facet of my life. Even though many of my friends were home, I got to go backpacking, my wife got a raise, and the holiday season came and went, I couldn't help being down in the mouth and sour in my mood. It wasn't pretty. Thankfully I've had some thoughtful and respected people in my life give me some very encouraging words in the last couple days, and my outlook is a bit different now.

Some questions...
1) So where do I sit in the company now? Where has all this left me?
2) What kind of conclusions did I come to?
3) Where do I go from here? What steps do I take next?

1) I reported to the other branch this morning. I have spoken to a few people within the company and I now know for sure the plan is to eventually remove me from employment. Furthermore, my boss had a moment of error this morning and accidentally said one of the platform positions needed to be cut. He tried to backtrack but it was all the proof I needed. The spot of bright news in this confirmation (if you can call it that) is that within the banking industry it is difficult to get rid of a person. There's a whole process that has to be followed, and that can take over a year. So unless they move me to an even further away branch and I just can't afford to make the drive, I'll stick this out as long as I need to.

2) I spent some time in the woods with some friends last week. In addition to the joy I felt being with those people, the quiet of the trees and the mountains gave me a lot of time to reflect and think. And when it was all over I came out ready to go. Does that mean I don't think my situation sucks anymore? Of course not, it still sucks really bad. But I needed to realize and then decide how I was going to deal with it. My conclusion is I'm just going to push forward. I still have a job, and I still have opportunities to pursue. So that's what I'm going to do.

3) Since it's clear the corporate machine is chewing me up and will eventually spit me out, I need to make other plans. I'm going to take a few days and get settled into my new place. After that the #1 goal is to find another job. That goal will be all I focus on and all my energy will be towards that end. Ell and I will be working on my resume, I'm going to check out the local Internet work sites, and I'll be looking into Monster and the other work sites on the WWW. Thanks to those friends I spoke of earlier, I have a few new ideas and I'm going to do everything I can to figure out how to chase those ideas. It's still scary, but now there is a tinge of excitement in the air.

Thanks again to all of you who have had me in your thoughts. I appreciate all of you and am honored to have you in my life. Thanks for letting me ramble and I promise to leave this topic alone except to share updates on the job search. Until then... here's to being great in O-8.