Thursday, November 18, 2010

Calling In


I was attacked late last week. Armies of germs descended upon my sinuses in waves. My body didn't stand a chance. Headaches, rivers of mucus, and a sinus infection were the unfortunate result of this assault. I couldn't function properly. I woke up Friday morning with a fever and a need for sleep. I wrote a brief email to my supervisor telling her that I wouldn't be able make it into the office and rolled back over in bed.

This is the picture that I painted. After years of improv and acting classes, I was finally able to deliver a convincing performance.

Here's what actually happened. My girlfriend was in town last week. We wanted to go for a hike during her visit, but wanted to avoid the weekend traffic on the San Diego trails. Upon her arrival I made the decision to take Friday off.

Normally, I would have simply informed my supervisor that I was going to take a personal day. At previous jobs, sick days and personal days were mixed together in a pool known as PTO. At Traveltime, however, operations are conducted a little differently. Richard doesn't enjoy paying people for their accrued time off. Sick days are forfeited at the end of the year. So, in order to save some of my vacation time, I made the decision to create a big, fat, uncomfortable lie.

I'm not good at lying. I never have been. If someone asks me if I think their baby is cute, my mouth might say yes, but my facial expression says, "Oh my God, no! What happened to him/her? This child is straight out of my nightmares."

I'm uncomfortable with the process. My girlfriend kept insisting that I just call in. There are rules in place to prevent me from saying anything more than that. HIPAA is awesome.

But I couldn't do it. I needed to convince myself and my coworkers that I was indeed sick. It began with a headache that I couldn't shake on Wednesday afternoon. What's that? You have a Midol? That would be fantastic!

The Midol didn't work. The pretend headache got worse. By Thursday, it seemed to be paralyzing. To add to it, my neck started stiffening up and my throat was getting tight. On a normal day, when I'm not pretending to be sick, I regularly need to blow my nose. Unfortunately my snot was not complying with my lying ways. My nasal passages were barren. I got nervous and decided to take drastic measures.

My supervisor regularly raves about Dayquil. She says that whenever she feels sick, a shot of The Orange brings her back to life. It was perfect! On Thursday afternoon, I asked her if she had a secret stash of the stuff. She opened up her drawer, pulled out a bottle, and poured me a shot. I stood there looking at the syrup and back up at her. I never had any intention of actually consuming it. I only wanted to create the illusion that I needed it, but I was in an uncomfortable spot.

I stood there, transfixed by the Dayquil for a moment too long. My supervisor sensed my hesitation and said, "It doesn't taste too bad." Upon hearing her voice I snapped into action, taking the shot and heading back to my desk. I sat down and tried to get some work done, but had a fuzzy feeling stomach and a slight aura of drunkeness hanging over my head. On one hand, it was great because I could really get into my role. On the other, it was awful because I was lost in the Orange Haze.

I left a couple of minutes early on Thursday afternoon, because I generally didn't feel well from the Dayquil and wanted to really sell the lie. I arrived home feeling more normal, and was ready to enjoy my extended weekend.

Thursday night my girlfriend and I got lost in China town, went bowling, and got a little drunk. On Friday, we slept in late, went hiking, and classed it up at Olive Garden. And all because of lying. It's an amazing tool.

I arrived back at work on Monday, trying to maintain an aura of recovery. Everyone in the office wanted to know what happened and if I was feeling better. Without thinking much about it, I claimed that I was seized by the effects of a sinus infection. I've never had a sinus infection, but that didn't stop me from throwing out tales of visiting doctor's offices and taking antibiotics. The lying continued. I was getting too comfortable. It was all coming too easy...

And then someone asked me what I was taking. I stumbled for a moment. I shook my head and said that I wasn't sure what the prescription was called. She said that she got sinus infections all the time, and that her doctor always prescribed something called Z-Pac. I felt my face flush. I mumbled something about an orange vial of pills. I gave her the ugly baby face. I was guilty of lying and I was about to be punished.

But, nothing happened. She knew that my ailments were fabricated. I could see it on her face. I calmly tried to return to working, but felt terrible about what I had done. So I enjoyed a day off, and a beautiful hike to a waterfall, and delicious breadsticks and salad at Olive Garden, and some great quality time with the girlfriend. Was it worth the deceit, guilt, and lying?

Yes. Yes it was. I'm already planning my next sickness.

-More to come...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Impactful Words


Words are weapons. When used in a certain way, they can be very painful, and that pain can last for many, many years. In 7th grade, while on a family trip to Florida, I took my shirt off at the beach. I was excited to be in the warm Floridian sun and couldn't wait to jump in the rolling waves of the Atlantic. Before I could make it there, my mother asked me a simple question. Jokingly, she said, "Micah, did they just let you out of the concentration camp?"

It took me a moment to process what this meant. I looked down at my body. It was the first time my skin had seen sun in several months, and I was being ravaged by the effects of puberty. My bones simply grew too fast for my muscles to catch up. Maybe I had a few ribs poking through. Maybe I looked like a starved, half zombie. But so what? Should my own mother have ridiculed me in that way? No!

I immediately started doing push ups and consuming massive quantities of ice cream. My eating habits worsened. I needed to get out of the concentration camp!

Finally, my stomach caught up with the rest of my frame, but by that point I couldn't stop eating french fries and Snickers. Now I have a kangaroo pouch sitting on my hips, with an ever expanding roo inside. And all because of a couple of words. (I hope you're loving this mom).

This phrase was so impactful to me because it was the first time my mom had ever ridiculed me. Before that it was always, "Micah you're so smart," (true) or "Micah you are such a handsome young man," (very true) or "Micah you are my favorite child" (the most accurate thing she's ever said).

With less frequency, the sting of certain words becomes much more effective. Say, for instance, the word "idiot". When I first heard my boss use the word, I cringed a little bit. He was talking to someone on the phone and called them an idiot. I couldn't imagine the reaction from the other side. It had to have been infuriating.

That incident was on my first day of work. On my second, I heard him use it again. Only this time it was in reference to his wife. His 'idiot' wife had done something with a bill that he wasn't happy about. I winced a little, but not quite as much as the first time.

And then I heard it again on my third day, and on my fourth, and pretty much every day since then. If anyone does something that he isn't pleased about, they earn the nickname 'idiot'. His dogs are idiots, along with his handyman, and the barista at Starbucks, and the people at Sears, and the phone in his office. It's gotten to the point that I don't hear the word any longer. The only way that I know he's really upset is if he uses "F-ing" in front of "idiot". But even that is losing its impact.

Words are Richard's weapon of choice, but his weapons are getting old and dull from overuse. With just a little restraint, his verbal barbs could be much more effective. Not that I want those selected words or phrases used on me. God knows I don't need any more body issues.

-More to come...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's a Virtue


Patience is a tricky thing. We all have desires. We all get annoyed by things. Personally, there are times that I have difficulties in dealing with people. I don't enjoy waiting for things. I like results to be instantaneous. My version of hell is me, waiting at a bus stop, listening to someone tell me about their crazy dream from last night, while I'm holding my wrapped Christmas present.

Ugh. Thinking about that just gave me a knot in my shoulder blade. It's human nature to react strongly to seeing something that we desire greatly. We turn into excitable dogs waiting for a treat. Ooooo Heath Bar Ice Cream? Yes! I want that! Why won't you give that to me? Want to see me roll over? No, that didn't do it for you? Crap, I just peed myself a little. Do you see what happens when I don't get want I want? Gimmee, gimmee, gimmee!!!

We are born to be impatient. How we react to those tempting situations is how our patience is displayed. If we are able to quell the desire to punch someone in the ear, or the temptation to honk in a traffic jam, or the longing to steal the pair of hot pants that you can't afford, we can then be described as being a patient person.

My boss cannot be described as one of these people. I'm used to it at this point, as demonstration of his impatience has become a daily occurrence. However, at first it can be a little offputting. Let me give you an example:

We have a postage machine in my office. It's handy. There's a scale, and a push button menu, and a little tray that will stamp letters for you. I use it every day. I will admit that the machine is not the most user friendly. It possesses a wide variety of error messages that can lead to frustration. PC Load Letter? WTF?

However, if you take time to read the message and process the information it gives you, the troubleshooting becomes easier to navigate. My office-mate (we'll call her Mike) has become something of an expert at the postage machine. With her and a little patience, there's nothing we can't properly stamp.

Last week, Richard came into the office with three large envelopes to stamp. He approached the machine and started pushing buttons. After several minutes the frequency of the button pushing increased. A couple more minutes went by and the swearing began. I started feeling bad for the machine. He didn't ask for my help or Mike's. He exited in a huff and I didn't think twice about it.

Until fifteen minutes later. Richard came back into the office and we spoke to the postage machine's help line. The customer service rep started walking Richard through the process. Buttons were pushed. Everything seemed to be working...

...and then the error message appeared...

Richard grabbed the phone. He began swearing at the help line, and pushing more buttons. More error messages appeared. The buttons must have been screaming in pain at that point. Richard told the help line guy that his machine was completely f-ed, and demanded that they send someone to fix it. He hung up the phone and continued to jab at the machine. $40 worth of postage and several offensive phrases later, Richard had three stamped envelopes. I thought the matter was resolved.

I was out of the office the next day. Apparently Richard called the help line again, cussed out the help representative, and set up an appointment to have the machine fixed. A rep came into the office and walked him through the process of stamping his packages. Office-mate Mike had all of the necessary information, but Richard wanted professional help.

This still wasn't enough for him. According to Mike, Richard yelled at the rep again and exited the room in an angry, belligerent state. The rep left, the postage machine cried, and we still don't know if Richard can properly stamp a package.

To top it off, I received an invoice from the postage people yesterday. The office visit is going to end up costing the company $405. That's three hours of travel and consulting at $135 per hour. All because Richard couldn't take the time to read the error messages or ask my office mate, Mike, how to properly stamp his envelopes.

We are all impatient. It's understandable. A little restrain, however, goes a long way. It also helps prevent $400 invoices.

-More to come...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Close Encounters


I like to go out. I don't do it as much as I used to, but I do enjoy a night of drunkeness each weekend. During the rest of the week I try to remain productive and healthy, waiting for Saturday night to arrive.

The problem with this strategy is that I try to cram my entire week of partying into a 5 to 6 hour time span. Drinking games? Absolutely. Beer bongs? Yes! Shots of tequila, jagermeister, and Fernet? Ummm, sure...

Madison taught me a lot of things. In particular, the great University taught me how to drink. I don't mean that I can consume alcohol in large quantities. Not at all. I'm like a 16 year old girl. Give me three bottles of Zima and I'm good for the night. Give me four and I'm most likely going to end up puking and passing out in my parent's front lawn.

My drinking education was more this: Social drinking doesn't exist, you drink to get DRUNK. I've followed this philosophy for 10 years. It's lead to questionable decision making, white suburban dance offs, and countless memories that I can't really remember.

Last weekend, my roommate and I decided to get after it. We played our customary games of beer pong, baseball, and flip cup, leading to the usual evening of debauchery. We went out, danced, ate burritos, and woke up with a hang over. Pretty typical.

On Monday morning I was sitting at my desk, regretting my lack of sleep over the weekend. My boss came in, said hello, and asked how our weekend had been. Midway through our conversation, a hazy memory struck me. I saw my boss on Saturday night!

Or that's what I thought at first. I continued to look at him, trying to figure out why I was having this feeling. I think that Richard looks a little like a Badger, especially when he's mad.

However, I love Badgers. I cannot equate my boss, who I do not love, with my favorite creature in the world. As such, I will say that he looks more like a weasel.

As I looked at his weasel face, the realization struck me. I hadn't seen Richard at the bars in the midst of my haziness on Saturday night. I saw his daughter.

His daughter shares many of the same characteristics as Richard. She doesn't look like a 50 year old guy, but if you saw them next to one another, you would definitely know that they were father-daughter.

I don't remember much of the encounter, except that I said repeatedly, "I can't be around you right now." I didn't want to reveal my level of drunkeness. The last thing that I need is for bossman to think that I'm a lush.

So, throughout last week, I didn't say anything to Richard about the encounter. I kept expecting for him to say something, but his daughter maintained silence...

Until Friday. I walked into his office to discuss some bills and he said, "My daughter tells me that she saw you last weekend." Guilt immediately flashed across my face. He continued, "Did you not think to tell me about it?"

I didn't know where to go with that. Rather than responding at all, I just made some sort of noise like, "Uhheeeaa..." There was a pause in the conversation before I said, "I thought that I would let her tell you."

He seemed fine with that, making it clear that he didn't care about his daughter's drinking habits. He continued by telling me a story about how he was driving home drunk one night and pulled his car through the back wall of his garage.

We laughed about it and shared some additional drinking stories. We kept talking and I thought that we had moved passed his daughter. As I was about to leave the room he asked, "So where did you guys see each other?"

I responded, "A bar in PB."

He asked, "What bar?"

Hesitantly I responded, "It's a bar called Thrusters."

There was another awkward pause before he said, "Thrusters?"

I responded with another word-like sound, "Eeeaaaaa."

All he said was, "Sounds interesting."

I left the room. If a future employee ever tells me that they saw my drunk future daughter at a bar called "Thrusters", future me may be prone to getting punchy. Thankfully my boss doesn't share the same feelings. Although he may look like an angry badger, check that, weasel, his bark is far worse than his bite.

-More to come...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Double Agents


Accountants are weird. They sit around all day getting excited about excel spreadsheets and depreciation schedules. Some are more gung-ho than others when it comes to professional manners. Their level of joy in reading accounting pronouncements or hearing of tax structures is excessive. I am not one of these accountants.

People are also weird. They can appear completely normal in public. They get their coffee or the morning paper and move along with their day. You wouldn't think twice about them. But then, when they get home, their freak comes out. They obsess over feet, or aliens, or sucking the jelly out of donuts and leaving behind the empty casing. I am not one of these people.

What happens when these two personality types are combined into one person? Super weirdness, right? It's scary to think about. You wouldn't really want to be around this person, let alone work with him or her on a daily basis. You certainly wouldn't want to be married to them, right? What happens to the person that takes the weirdo's job?

Well, nothing as of yet...

Dan Bland was the former accountant for Traveltime. On the surface nothing seemed out of place. He was a middle aged guy, a little old school with his accounting tactics, preferring manual general ledger entries to adopting computerized accounting systems, but he was regarded as somewhat normal. He was important to the company and handled everything from bank deposits to financial statements. He was married with a couple of kids. Normal life, right?

Well, mostly. I guess the only thing that might appear a little strange was his obsession with young men... Who would have sex with him... In a hotel down the street from our offices.

Dan gayness wasn't what was strange. There are plenty of gay men that work in my office, and they are great. It's not that he was having sex with people younger than himself. That happens all the time. It was that he was married with children, and leading a completely seperate life on the side. It caused him to do some strange things...

...such as surfing the internet all day for porn. While looking through his old accounting documents, I came across a folder filled with his favorite internet links. Here are the names of a few of them:

-Young Boys First Time
-Western European Nudists Resorts
-Gay Tours
-Boys and Daddies

At one point Traveltime had a male receptionist. He was just out of high school and it was too much for Dan to handle. He would IM the receptionist throughout the day, sometimes with normal messages: "Has the mail come in," or "I'm expecting this call." Other times it would be less appropriate. To the point that the receptionist had to quit because he was feeling uncomfortable. Our boss offered to lay him off so that he could collect unemployment and not sue the company for sexual harrassment.

What ultimately lead to Dan leaving Traveltime wasn't this behavior. His trysts were known about, but they weren't openly discussed, and never directly dealt with. It was what his obsessions lead to which caused his dismissal.

Dan's double life wasn't cheap. The gay superspy took vacations, purchased presents, and spent a small fortune on personal grooming, while his married cover had to pay for mortgage payments and children's clothes. I can tell you from experience that this position doesn't pay enough to cover those expenses. Dan knew it too. He was a weird accountant after all. His solution? Stealing money.

And a lot of it. Over $100,000 in the last fiscal year. His credit cards were linked up with Traveltime bank accounts. He forged checks. He even withdrew from the petty cash fund. He was the only accountant in the company, and nobody knew what he was doing. It wasn't until he was on one of his many gaycations that he was caught. Another employee was on his computer, printing a check to Sears, and noticed a number of checks made out to Dan. Otherwise the embezzlement could have gone on for much longer.

I fell into Dan's job and have been dealing with the results of his actions for 4 months. The company can't really take any action against him because it would require an investigation of the accounting records. And, because Richard has mixed so many of his personal expenses with the company's, he is hesistant to reveal the information.

Dan is now the proud owner of a Quizno's franchise in the neighborhood. No one knows how his life is going, but I have some ideas. My best guess? His staff is chock full of teenage boys.

More to come...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bubble Theory


In an episode of 30 Rock last season, Liz Lemon explained the concept of a beautiful person bubble. Basically, beautiful people are sheltered from criticism because everyone wants to be near them. They want to stare at them like a work of art. Due to this, beautiful people never develop a true sense of how they fit in society and live in a sheltered bubble.

I wholeheartedly agree with this concept. I think that it should be taught in school, like the Pythagorean Theorem or verb conjugation. Only I don’t think that Liz went far enough. I think bubbles extend to other social groups as well, particularly to athletes. An athlete could resemble a chemically burned rat, but praise and attention will be thrown upon them as long as they continue to score goals/touchdowns/buckets.

My theory was strengthened when I began working at Traveltime. I shared an office with our Vice President of Sales for the first several months. We’ll call him Bob Ramsey. I would use his real name, but I think he’s the type of guy that regularly googles himself. Especially when he’s at work.

Within the first couple of days I sensed that there was something going on with Bob. I would ask him a question regarding the business, usually a simple question like, “How are sales going?” 45 minutes later, as he was discussing the connection between leprechauns and Starz premium cable, I realized that I made a grave error. The man loves to talk. That’s fine. I’ve surrounded myself with talkers. The problem is that he doesn’t have anything interesting to say. I don’t care about him hitting on 20 year olds, or his thoughts on luxury automobiles. I learned to never ask him anything. It got to the point that I wouldn’t even make direct eye contact. I just stared at my computer screen until he lost interest.

It was his laugh though, more than anything, that really got to me. Ugh, even thinking about it makes me cringe. He was on the phone throughout the day. Some of his calls were business related, but the vast majority were about football, or about his kids, or with old high school friends that had nicknames like The Duke or Weasel. Bob Ramsey style jokes would fly all over the place, which would inevitably be followed by the phrase, “That’s funny,” and then him chuckling in a “Huh huh huh,” manner. It ruined the phrase “that’s funny” for me. I can’t hear it without hearing the laugh. I’m thinking about it right now and making a “I just smelled a fart” face.

After a week of being in the office with Bob, I was asked by one of my coworkers about my opinion of our VP. I was new to the company at that point and I gave a very canned response. She informed me that she thought he had been hit in the head too many times during his football career. I laughed it off and didn’t think much about it at the time.

It wasn’t until later that I realized the truth to her statement. I did a quick search on Bob Ramsey. He had, in fact, played football. A lot of football. Our VP of Sales played in the NFL for a number of years. He wasn’t a star by any means, but he made a decent career of it. And that’s when it all made sense.

The poor conversational habits, the jokes, the constant need for attention. All of it because he was living in the athlete bubble. I felt bad for him. He was once a star, but was now reduced to selling Traveltime to corporate clients.

I can excuse most of the annoying behavior. He never knew any better. The bubble is to be blamed. But the laugh…Oh, the laugh. That will continue to haunt my nightmares.

-More to Come…

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fraud with Friends


In my experience within the business world, I've often heard about a company's "culture". People talking in business speak would say, "company X has a really great culture," or "I love how company Y fosters an innovative culture." Usually these phrases would be followed by discussions of their portfolios and blue tooth settings, and my attention would quickly drift away to thoughts of talking monkeys and wizards. It wasn’t until I entered my current position that the concept of a culture really hit home. In previous jobs I always thought of myself as one little circuit in a giant, Voltron sized machine. I was often told about the culture, but I never experienced first hand until now.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never worked for such a small company before. With only 16 employees, Traveltime (code word for my company’s name) is smaller than most accounting departments that I’ve worked in. Most of the employees have worked here for the majority of the Traveltime’s 27 year history. Over that time, a very unique “culture” has been created. It’s like a group of people that were stranded on a deserted island. They’ve never known anything else. It’s only a matter of time before they turn on one another and start worshiping a pig’s head on a stick. Or turn to cannibalism.

But this familiarity isn’t the driving force of the culture here. Far from it. I think in any organization, the attitudes and personality of its leadership slowly seeps into the nooks and crannies of its members. Traveltime’s fearless leader, someone I will refer to as Richard (actual name), is one of the most hyper-sensitive, reactionary, and ill equipped micromanagers that I have ever worked for. How he has managed to create a business that has survived for 27 years is beyond me. Over the last several months I’ve heard him tear apart his agents for lack of business, watched him give the silent treatment to someone who was leaving, and smelled the wasteland that he leaves behind in the bathroom (I’m not sure it’s human).

The last paragraph seems harsh. I’ve read it over several times, and I would like to water it down, but I’m having a tough time cutting anything out. As I was writing it, Richard was spraying venom because he had to answer a phone call. You would have thought that someone kicked his dog the way that he was reacting to the situation.

Most of the time he is friendly and cordial to me. I’m not sure why, but he seems to withhold his anger. I’ve never had to deal with the spittle and vitriol. Instead, my frustrations with Richard usually come in financial form. I’m the only accountant for the company. I pay bills, process journal entries, and produce financial statements. Traveltime’s financial statements are not pretty. There are losses each month. It’s not because the business isn’t doing well. Sales are up, costs are down, and new clients are on the horizon. The company is losing money because of Richard.

The line between personal and business expenses doesn’t exist for him. Richard wants a new deck for his house, Traveltime pays for it. A new Mercedes? Here’s a Traveltime check. Every member of his family owns a corporate credit card. I had to classify his daughter’s bar bills as a company expense last month. A $600 bill at an LA plastic surgeon doesn’t exactly scream "company expense" to me. Over the last four months, I have been complicit in more tax evasion tactics than the mob (okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but still, it’s been bad).

If you’ve made it this far, you might be asking yourself why I’m still here. Why participate in fraudulent activities in a hostile work environment? Well, for one thing, I nearly ended up on the streets before I got the job, and for another, it’s fun to watch everything unfold. Each day is a comedy of errors. It’s like I’m living in The Office, only less funny, and with many, many more curse words.

More to come…

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Life in the Employed Line


I know that you’ve been concerned. It’s been months and I haven’t written a single word. You probably thought that I was kidnapped, or murdered, or, at the very least, very badly burned. What else could keep me from providing updates on my daily activities, right?

A job. That’s what is sucking all of my time and energy away from me. And an accounting job, no less. I know, I know, it’s awful. It’s more jarring news than if I had been burned. Since May I’ve been in the accounting department of a small company in San Diego. Soon after my last entry I received a job offer, and my creative pursuits were put on hold.

That is, until now. I’m back! Somewhat… Well, this is the first attempt to revive my once proud, and amazingly popular, blog. I have no idea how it will go, but this job has provided a wealth of stories that need to be told. And, I’m starting to run out of things to do during the day. Hopefully that will allow me to sneak an entry in here and there.

More to come (hopefully)…

Monday, May 3, 2010

New Beginnings


Hope. A small glimmer of hope. It appeared today amidst gathering darkness. The streets were beckoning for me. The homeless of PB began looking at me differently. It was as if they recognized a new member. Instead of asking for change, they simply asked me how I was doing (and then quickly followed with a request for money). But this disaster has been averted for a small period of time. I have an extension to my budget. This hope came from the acquisition of a job...

Don't worry fair readers! This doesn't mean that I've escaped from the unemployment line. Far from it. I may be employed, but it is temporary. I may be receiving a paycheck, but for little more than what a Subway employee makes. I may be able to pay my rent next month, but it will come at the most extreme of costs...crippling boredom.

As I've discussed, I am currently using the services of several job placement companies. For months now, I've patiently called them, asking about any possibilities. When I manage to get a hold of them, which happens quite infrequently, the answer I usually receive is that they are still looking for the "right fit" for me. I told them that I would be willing to scrap gum off desks, using only my mouth, but I still couldn't get their attention.

And then last week happened. Out of nowhere, when nearly all possibilities were extinguished, I received a call about a position The job pays $12/hour, and is only supposed to last about a month. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity. There was no job description given, no discussion of an increase in pay. I needed employment.

I arrived at an office building today and was escorted to a conference room with approximately 20 other drones. Every one of us had the gaunt appearance of unemployment and the stank of desperation hung over us. We eagerly awaited our laptops like it was a bowl of gruel.

Once we were all set up, we were given excel documents with line after line of home addresses. The company is purchasing tax liens from Florida. These liens are on distressed property in four different Floridian counties. Once the company purchases the liens, they are entitled to the tax payments from the homeowners. If the homeowners go into default, this company is then entitled to first rite of ownership on the property.

As the worker bees, we looked up each address in google maps. Using the satellite function, we determined whether or not the property existed and what kind of condition it was in (either "good" or "bad"). I did this for eight hours. Here is a breakdown of my mental state during the day:

8:30 - 10:30: Excited. I wanted to do a good job and prove that I was the best of the faceless masses.
10:30 - 12:00: Hungry. I've grown unaccustomed to the working world's eating schedule. Also, I started getting very tired.
12:00 - 1:00: Content, but restless. They brought in sandwiches for us, but we had to work through lunch. I slowly ate my meal, while staring at properties in Port Saint Francis.
1:00 - 2:00: More restless. My butt started hurting. I readjusted myself about once every thirty seconds.
2:00 - 3:00: More tired than I've ever been in my life. I couldn't click on the search button without falling asleep. I injected caffeine directly into my bloodstream with little effect.
3:00 - 3:30: Angry. Google maps was taking too long to load, and I considered punching my screen.
3:30 - 3:45: Defeated. The reality of the job started to sink in at this point. While I was earning money, the thought of returning tomorrow made me consider selling body parts as an alternative.
3:45 - 4:00: Excited. The day was coming to a close. I walked to the bathroom and managed to see the beautiful day outside. I could taste the sweet air of freedom.
4:00 - 4:15: Thoroughly annoyed. Every minute lasted an hour. The girl sitting next to me had a weird whistle to her nose-breathing. I couldn't focus on anything else.
4:15 - 4:30: Murderous. In the time it took to get from 4:17 to 4:18, I aged five years. The whistling wouldn't stop and I could hear the regular employees laughing and having a great time. I was looking up vacant lots in Lee County at this point and wanted to tear my eyeballs out.
4:30 - Now: Sooooo happy!!! I'm free for the evening!!! I will eventually receive money for my actions today, and can't wait to spend it. My spending will be restricted to paying my credit card bill, but still, it's something to spend money on.

I haven't started thinking about tomorrow quite yet. I'm sure that if I had waited to write this blog, the tone might have been significantly altered from its current state. While I'm not out of the woods yet, at least there is a tiny amount of that oh-so-important item...hope.

More to come...

Friday, April 16, 2010

No Pride Left to Swallow


I like history. I enjoy learning about it. I like historical movies, and the History Channel, and Michael Jackson's HIStory.

I think history is important to know and appreciate in order to learn from it and apply its lessons to your own life. Here are some of the most important lessons that I've learned:

-If I ever happen to be the leader of France, I will not to try and invade Russia during wintertime.
-I will not ever, EVER, ban the consumption of alcohol, for it will lead to an increase in organized crime and violence.
-A woman with warts and a fondness for cats is not necessarily a witch, although she still might be frightening.

-I shouldn't ever leave a job without having another one in waiting. Searching for a job in San Diego is a fruitless affair.

I've carried these lessons with me for my entire life. I've never invaded a foreign country, never discouraged drinking, never killed a witch, and never left a job without....

Crap! See, this is why I should remind myself of my history. I would have remembered how awful it was to find a job in San Diego. Instead, I left my current employment, confident that I would have another position in very little time. Even when I began my job search, my level of self-entitlement was too high. I was too picky. If a position was too far away, or if the pay was too low, or if I didn't like the look of the company's website, I wouldn't send my resume.

I surfed through websites that I felt were somewhat legitimate. They weren't Craigslist, which is the red light district of the internet (I mean that more in the shady/gross sense, rather than its proclivity for pornographic material). Career Builder, Monster, San Diego Jobs were part of my daily routine. I looked through the sites and would pick out one or two positions that I considered potential candidates. A day or two would go by before I sent a resume, often feeling like a cover letter was unnecessary, and I would wait for a response. I followed this pattern for a couple of weeks. Results: 0 jobs.

After seeing no results from my first method, I moved onto phase II of my getting-a-job plan. I started visiting recruiting agencies. I noticed through my website searching that the majority of job postings were performed by these agencies. I set up a meeting with one of them, convinced that I would have a job in a limited time span. I selected the one that I thought was the best. This conclusion was mainly due to the appearance of their website rather than any additional research. I've been with them for over a month. Results: 0 jobs.

Phase III of my plan included expanding the breadth of my recruiting agency exposure. I met with another one last week, sent my resume to another this week, and placed phone calls to three others yesterday. I stopped caring about the appearance of their websites and decided to get them all working for me. Results: 0 jobs.

I recently dove into Phase IV. I want to warn you before I begin; It's not pretty. I spent the last several days on Craigslist. That's right. After vowing to never return to the muck-filled gutter that is this website, I've found myself creeping around the "Jobs Board" yet again. Today, I applied to a "staff accountant" position at a San Diego summer camp and a "general accountant" position at a hotel. They pay $13/hour and $15/hour respectively. Results: 0 jobs.

By ignoring my personal history, I'm now stuck applying for Craigslist jobs that contain candidate qualifications such as, "College Degree - Preferred". I'm calling recruiting agencies that haven't returned my phone calls in weeks. I'm starting to look at the Subway employees, and wondering how much they are paid on an hourly basis.

I have no pride left. I'm willing to do anything, and yet, the results remain the same. 0 jobs.

More to come...

Sunday, April 11, 2010



Stress-bots: Deadly creatures that come at the most inopportune, inappropriate, inconvenient times (adding "in" makes it the opposite, apparently). I spoke briefly about the effect of the stress bots in my latest sports blog posting ( - it's amazing), but I thought that this was the more appropriate forum for me to delve deeper into the subject.

Earlier this week, still in the midst of trying to find that damned junicorn, I was viciously attacked by a rabid pack of stress-bots. I wasn't afraid initially. Stress-bots appear friendly at first:

Don't be fooled! These foul creatures are never fun to deal with; especially for those individuals who haven't dealt with them in a considerable amount of time. Say, for instance, over two years. You forget about their steely, cold grip and their dead, light-bulb eyes.

At first, you might even welcome the stress-bots into your life. You might feel like you are doing something productive for the first time in, say, over two years. It could feel good to have a clearly defined purpose and goal for yourself. This is when the stress-bots are at their most dangerous.

In very little time these creatures turn into all-consuming monsters of death. They feed off of your outside interests.
-You want to write blog posts? Nope, sorry. Stress-bots ate those as appetizers.
-You want to exercise? Please. That's their soup and salad.
-You want to devote more time to your significant other? That's what they enjoy most. It's their t-bone steak.
-You have hopes and dreams of being a writer? That's the meal these robots eat at midnight, when they've digested their dinner and aren't ready to turn off for the night.

The more the stress-bots eat, the more powerful they become. Say you are trying to sell your group of friends on making an investment, you can't catch a junicorn, your bank account is dwindling, you aren't actively working towards your dreams, your parent's stopped paying attention to you because their first grandchild was born, and you're trying to make a long-distance relationship work (this is purely a hypothetical scenario). What kind of stress-bot will you be facing?

Oh No! It's become of stress-dragon! And it's even cuter than before! I can't express how dangerous this is!

Be careful out there.

More to come...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Unexpected Results


The beginning of April is here. Spring has fully arrived. The weather has been warmer, the flowers are blooming, and the beach is once again whispering sweet nothings in my ear. It's a time of rebirth, promise, and hope after the long, harsh winter (actually, San Diego's winter is not all that long, or harsh, but it helps to demonstrate my point a little better...). Nearly everywhere I look, things are thriving, excited by the promise of the season. Everywhere, that is, except in my employment status.

When I made the decision to leave my bartending position, I didn't think that my job hunt would prove to be this difficult. After all, I was planning to enter back into the corporate world. I was willing to accept a mind-numbing, soul-sucking, accounting position. I was even planning to dust off the business casual section of my closet, for Christ's sake. And yet, the job continues to elude me like some sort of mythical creature. I've been hunting through the murk, sending resumes through numerous websites, fax machines, and electronic mails for nearly a month, but the junicorn (that's job and unicorn combined) keeps escaping my grasp.

Prior to my venture into the world of unemployment, I managed to amass enough work experience fodder to create a mildly impressive resume. I worked at a big 4 accounting firm, I created accounting processes at a highly complex trading desk, I started two businesses, and still managed to be proficient in Spanish (don't test me on this). Apparently, however, this page of Micah information does not seem to stand out among the masses. Of the 30 or so positions for which I've applied, I've received responses from only one. This position, which I've previously written about, was for a glorified Home Depot representative. Super!!!

I started working with placement service companies recently, hoping that my success rate would improve. I even interviewed with one of them. I told them that I was looking for anything that paid, from the most menial tasks to executive level positions. I left the meeting feeling fairly confident that I would have at least some opportunities within the following week.

It's now been nearly three weeks since that interview. I've called the company four times, and have spoken to my placement service representative twice. The first time that I spoke with her, she told me to call her back in a week. Today, being a week later, I talked with her again. After two minutes, she told me that she was getting another call, and that she promised she would call me back once she was finished. It's now been five hours since that conversation, and I'm starting to get the idea that they might not have much to offer me.

Over a year ago, I often wrote about my experiences with Craigslist. At the time I was looking for writing and acting jobs and felt like Craigslist was one of the shadier locations on the interwebs. I felt like I was sending out countless emails, getting very little responses, and was occasionally exposed to various scams. I didn't expect to get the same dirty sensation while searching for legitimate employment, but I'm starting to get that all-too-familiar scuzzy feeling once again.

The hunting must continue. That's my only choice, really. Either I catch that damned junicorn, or I start sleeping in the streets. As always, I'll keep you periodically informed.

More to come...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Running on Empty


My body hurts. My brain feels like it's partially deflated. I'm squinting in order to make the words less blurry. I'd like to blame an excessive work schedule or an all-night writing session, but I cannot. If I could point at a crying child or excessively loud neighbors for my current condition it would make me feel less guilty.

No, I brought this on myself.

Drinking made me feel this way. And not just one night of drinking. This was a legitimate binge. It was the perfect storm of drinking conditions that caused this outburst: A holiday dedicated to green beer, a visiting friend, a basketball tournament, and a life in the unemployment line. A stronger man would have foregone some of this temptation, but unfortunately I am weak (as evidenced by my soft mid-section that is beginning to hang over my waistband).

Although the details of the last five days are blurry, here is a rough outline of my schedule:

Wednesday: St. Patrick's Day bar crawl - First drink, 2 pm.
Thursday: Arrival of friend from Minnesota - First drink, 8 pm.
Friday: Badger basketball game - First drink, 12 pm.
Saturday: Back yard party - First drink, 5 pm.
Sunday: Badger basketball game/ epic boccie ball tournament - First Drink, 11 am.

Here is a brief list of accomplishments during that time period: Drank green beer, created drinking game (Totally Taut Towel Toss), lost a beach football game, lost a credit card, lost a driver's license, danced with a pole (different than pole danced), climbed a palm tree, lost a flag football game, watched the Badgers lose badly, spent too much money, ate terrible pizza, ate a delicious street hot dog, threw a boccie ball into the street, and destroyed my body.

Here is a list of accomplishments that did not occur during that time period: Finding a job, saving money, writing, going to the gym, cleaning my room, practicing good oral hygiene, eating one healthy item of food, or figuring out what I'm doing with my life.

It was an incredible weekend, but the hangover is severe. As I've gotten older, hangovers have gotten progressively worse. When you throw in the fact that I'm unemployed, running out of money, and without a clear plan of the future, it makes things hurt all that much more. It's time for me to get back on the wagon, be productive, and get a job.

That is, at least, until this weekend.

-More to come...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Product Pushing


*quick note: The following is an update to my previous blog posting. If you missed it;
1) What are you thinking?
2) Are you intentionally trying to hurt my feelings?
3) You can find it here, so that you are fully up-to-date when reading this entry.

On Tuesday, I went in for my second interview with the advertising/marketing company that I interviewed with last week. After arriving in the same drab waiting room, I was quickly whisked away to the wonderful world of Home Depot. There was sawdust in the air, and the color orange dominated my vision. The interview took place as we walked around the store, offering unsuspecting customer the opportunity to receive a free kitchen remodeling consultation. Most people didn't want to be bothered. They made it very obvious, yet my interviewer didn't seem to mind burrowing deeper under their skin. Here is an example of a conversation that took place:

Interviewer (I): "Are you a home owner?"
Customer (C): "Yes..." (said as they turned back to their task of finding screws or light bulbs)
I: "Great! Are you aware of the promotion that we're offering?"
C: "No, but I'm not..."
I: "We're offering a free consultation on kitchen remodeling."
C: "Thanks, but I'm not..."
I: "It's free!"
C: "Really, I'm not..."
I: "Oh, come on. Have you ever thought about remodeling your kitchen?"
C: "It may have crossed my mind, but I'm not..."
I: "Then why don't you come have a free consultation?"
C: "Because I'm just here to find some nails. Not to remodel my..."
I: "It's free!"
C: "Again, thank you, but I'm not..."
I: "What's the harm? It's a free consultation. No pressure."
C: "Can you please just leave me alone."
I: "If you don't come get a consultation, I will follow you home."
C: "You're starting to scare me."
I: "I will follow you home. Maybe I'll give you a free consultation, or maybe I'll do something else."
C: "Like what?"
I: "I'm not saying that I am going to hurt you...But I'm not saying that I won't hurt you either."
C: "Ok, fine. I'll have a consultation! Just don't kill my family!"
I: "Great! Lets sign you up."

I was uncomfortable with the process. While I haven't found many job prospects in my week of searching, I knew that this wasn't the position for me. I didn't want to push cabinet refinishing on people that were simply looking for a leisurely stroll through the aisles of the Depot. I'm not a salesman. I enjoying fulfilling the needs of customers, but I don't want to push anything on them either. Let me offer a couple of examples:

1) I worked at TGIFridays for a portion of my life. Part of their training involved an extensive exercise in upselling. Say the customer wanted a mixed drink. Maybe a vodka tonic, or a beer. Instead of just taking their order, we were instructed to try and push an Ultimate Mango Mai Tai or a Patron Cosmo Rita Shaker (these are actual drinks that Fridays sells). Our introductions were always supposed to be, "Welcome to Fridays. Can I interest you in a refreshing _____ or some delicious ______?" The blanks were supposed to be filled with more descriptive adjectives and a specific food product.

I was not comfortable with this, and would leave my customers alone. This did not please my manager.

2) I spent a summer at Abercrombie & Fitch. I did it for the clothes discount. That's my excuse. You're allowed to judge for the remainder of this paragraph, but not any further. Agreed? Okay. While at Abercrombie, we were instructed to leave the customer alone, unless we were approached. Then, we were supposed to suggest clothing items that might match the article that the customer had chosen. "Oh, you want to try on those jeans? Why don't you match them with this shirt? And maybe these sandals? You know what would bring the whole thing together? Some cologne. And also this hemp necklace."

It grossed me out. I didn't want to have anything to do with it. Instead, when I would see a customer approach me, I would turn in the other direction, effectively avoiding any potential interaction and product pushing.

This tactic lead to my manager placing me in front of the store, welcoming customers. For 8 hours, I would stand in the entryway, listening to the overbearing Abercrombie music (Smashmouth was particularly popular at that point) smiling at people that passed by. Needless to say, I wanted to shoot myself. And, my manager was not pleased.

My point, you ask? It's that I don't really enjoy pushing things on customers. This must have been overly apparent to my interviewer. By the end of my hour in Home Depot, while I was making a I-just-smelled-a-fart-face, she told me that she had some concerns. She said that she thought I would fit in really well, but that she was worried that I wasn't very excited about the job. I hesitated for a moment before telling her that she had made a fairly accurate assessment. We said goodbye, and I headed back to their office.

I met with the office manager when I returned. We had a brief discussion and I told him that I wasn't interested in the position. Despite the inflation of my ego during the first interview, I managed to avoid the trap during the second. We shook hands and parted ways.

He and my interviewer went back to pushing product.

I returned to the unemployment line.

More to come...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ego in Flight


My ego is vulnerable. My ego is large. My ego is fragile, but it's an essential part of me.

No, I'm not quoting lines from the "Ego Monologues". I'm simply reminding myself of the dangers that my large, vulnerable, and fragile ego gets me into. Every once in a while, I need to refresh my memory of this fact, otherwise I will find myself in the middle of Home Depot, hawking cabinet refinishing for my next job.

I had an interview today. Over the last several days, I sent out countless resumes to a wide variety of job openings. When I received this interview, I was initially confused as to which position it was for. Was it for part-time tutoring? Maybe the data entry position? Could it be for the administrative assistant role at the publishing company? I had no idea.

After a few minutes of conversation, I remembered that the job was in entry-level advertising. Previously, I had looked over the company's website, and was intrigued at the possibilities. I've always considered myself a fairly creative person, and there was a period of my life that I imagined myself creating marketing campaigns and writing advertisements. I took the interview, and was looking forward to the opportunity.

I entered the office suite, and was greeted by a relatively drab looking reception area. There were hole marks in the walls, dust everywhere, and fake plants that looked like they were dying. To add to this, the company that I kept in the waiting area, was not all that reassuring. I was told that the dress for the interview was "business professional". I put on my suit and tie, however, my fellow interviewees must not have interpreted the message in the same way.

There was one guy in a button-down and slacks, which is close enough. Another guy rolled in with jeans, a nice shirt, and a tie. Not really business professional, but not unacceptable. The worst was the guy in the hooded sweatshirt. He carried a professional-looking black folder with him, but he appeared to have skipped the showering/cleansing portion of the "business professional" class.

Due to my first impression of the company, my initial excitement was tempered when I went into the interview. I met with a very nice woman that began going over my resume. We talked for 20 minutes or so about my various goals, employment history, and my preferred working environment. I fell right into her devious trap. She talked about how she saw leadership ability in me. That she thought I had management potential. That she was only offering the position to three people, and that I had bumped someone from her top choices. My ego was soaring. Wings spread, it had taken flight and was lifting me far out of the 80's style office chair that I was sitting in.

This all occurred before she said a word about what my actual job duties were going to be. Here's how they work. They place employees within big-box stores such as Home Depot or Best Buy. Those employees then promote certain brand names that those companies sell. My job would be to stand in those stores, trying to sell Direct TV installation packages or cabinet refinishing services to customers, from 10:30 to 7:30, including weekends.

I just threw up. Writing that was just as bad as hearing it from my interviewer. She had built me up so much, talking about my future management role, that I had almost signed a contract without learning about the job. My ego had grown so large that it was dominating the rationale portion of my brain.

Thankfully, she didn't offer me the job on the spot. Instead, she offered me a second interview next week with her manager. I was powerless to say anything but, "Okay, that sounds great." So now, I'm meeting with her and her manager, to learn more about the process and make an in-store visit to one of their selling teams.

I just need to remind myself that this probably isn't something that I want to spend my time doing. I want to write, I want to entertain. I don't want to put on an orange, Home Depot uniform. Now, if my pesky ego would just take the day off, I may be able to escape the interview without a job.

-More to come...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Back Into the Abyss


Oh, hello fine readers. It's been too long. I haven't seen you for months. That doesn't mean that I haven't thought about you. Not in the least. Sometimes I lay awake at nights, wondering about you. Not in a creepy way. Just thinking that I was neglected your needs over the last six months, and I never even had the decency to explain myself. Just like in any relationship discussion, I'm going to try and offer an apology using a laundry list of excuses. Here goes:

-I was writing a more substantial (not necessarily better) piece of work. My time and creativity were devoted to completing the project. Could that be defined as cheating? Maybe. It's a gray area. I was still writing, but it wasn't specifically for this blog. However, if you would like to read this book, I'd be happy to oblige. In the end, I was writing for all my readers.

-I had a brief love affair with the ocean, as noted here. I couldn't help splashing around like a third grader, often having conversations with Poseidon. That's not meant to be an exaggeration, by the way. I really would say things to the mythical God of the ocean.

-Lastly, I became more and more involved in work. Longer shifts, later nights, and a proposed night manager position. Business hasn't been great over this time span, and our staff has been pared down to a skeleton crew. There are only four bartenders left, which means a higher level of responsibility and less time to devote to the fair reader.

This sounds bad, I know. It sounds like I'm building to a break up. I'm not. I promise. In fact, I have good news.

-The project is finished. Well, almost. I have quite a bit of editing and rearranging to do before I will be completely satisfied with it, but the heavy lifting is done.

-The weather in San Diego hasn't been the most conducive to playing with my part-time lover, the ocean. It's frequently overcast and rainy, and the water is cold enough to turn portions of my body into ice cubes. Like those little plastic balls that you put in the freezer, and then your beverage of choice. Not something that a devoted partner should do. Shame on you, ocean.

-I'm no longer going to be employed by the bar. I've taken too many days off for travel and play, my manager is calling my commitment into question, and business seems to be following it's downward path. On Sunday, I received a subtle hint regarding my future employment status, when the schedule showed that I'm the "on-call" bartender for Friday and Saturday nights. This means that I'm probably not going to have a work shift this week.

So, what does this mean for you? Well, it means that I will have more time to write here. I haven't started on my next big project yet, the ocean continues to be cold and unresponsive to my needs, and I will soon be heading back into the unemployment line. Could there be a return to E-3, riding bicycles, and a heavy intramural schedule. Most likely. Stay tuned for more.