A Boss And Her Toy

As Sophia on The Golden Girls would say, picture it: Largo, Florida, 1989. After high school, I had gotten a job as a microfilming clerk in a place off of Ulmerton Road in Clearwater near a new series of industrial and commercial offices called the ICOT Center.

My boss was a woman in her early to 30’s who was rather pleasant to work with for someone in me who was a few months shy of 18. I wasn’t the best of clerks there, and I got ridden pretty hard when I made mistakes prepping medical documents for microfilming. (I just a Google search on the company, and as I suspected, they are no longer around. Perhaps one of my victims in the technological boom of the last few decades.)

She was also a wrestling fan, and would often demonstrate for us the way James Hellwig (The Ultimate Warrior) would grab and shake the ring ropes as part of his ring entrance. She also had a fondness for, ahem, female martial aids. One day, she surprised a few of her female co-workers by bringing in a few dildos that resembled the male genitalia.

It was a big culture shock for me, never having seen one of those before. Just as it was a culture shock for me going to middle school (which I began a few days before I turned 11 in 1982) and having to take showers with my male classmates. I had already gone through puberty at that point, one of the few in school in the sixth grade who had any grass on his field, so to speak.

Anyway, I left the job when I got the radio gig at WTAN. The microfilming gig only paid $130 a week, and I thought at the time that I should have been paid more for the grief I’d gotten and the skills acquired. As they say in the Mob, it wasn’t anything personal, it was just business and getting the chance to do something I thought I’d love.

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Pauly The Walmart Janitor

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A trip to Walmart months back produced this kind of haul…

When I can’t pull a story out of the present, as with the writer’s block I had yesterday, I share with you a story from my life.

One of the reasons I talk about Walmart frequently on this blog is that I was a janitor for a store in southeast Charlotte, North Carolina for a year from 1999 to 2000. (That’s a regular Walmart, not one of the Supercenters.) It was pretty mundane, actually. I cleaned and buffed the floors at various times around the store. On occasion, we’d also remove the wax and re-wax a given area of the store, which I was never all that good at. I would also vacuum and sweep the carpeted floors when I wasn’t giving the floors their often needed wax-ons and wax-offs. If emergencies arose, such as spills, or if they needed an extra hand to make sure someone got to their car safe, I’d likely be called to tend to it.

Let me put it to you this way: 16 years and change from having worked there, if you gave me the tools and asked me to do the same job today, I couldn’t remember it to save my life.

A few months after I started working there, I wasn’t the only member of my family there: my mother began working at the same store, which is probably why I stuck around so long.

The one day I’ll always remember was the shift leading up to Black Friday of 1999. My boss Steve, a great guy, was working everyone over as if the store’s appearance was a life or death struggle. You know how it’s said Christmas sometimes turns normal people into maniacs? That was us that night. My goal was to keep a low profile and do whatever my higher-ups wanted.

Remember that this was 17 years ago, and Black Friday that year is probably a cake walk compared to the “zombie apocalypse” it is now. The store re-opened for business at 6:00 am the day after Thanksgiving. Usually I got off work at 6:30, but they told me to take off before the store was besieged by shoppers, as the next shift was already in place to handle them. I left around 6:02, and I was lucky not to be knocked down by the hordes of people who came in, frantically looking for the best deals to put under their Christmas trees.

Just another one of the many stories of my Forrest Gump like existence.

Telephonic Phonies

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I’ve been trying something new with my little personal war against all the telemarketers who called me up during the course of the week. Living in Florida, I must confess to you that I too was once a telemarketer, with jobs of that ilk still proliferating here in the Tampa Bay area. It’s not impossible that one day I could be a telemarketer again, but I hope not.

The normal concept dealing with these people is to avoid the calls like they are Bubonic plague. Last week, I thought about this, and figured that this avoidance course doesn’t really change anything. Perhaps instead of blocking all of these people with my IPhone as I do when they call my cell, I should unblock them, and take things as they come?

Someone called looking for Mr. Paul. Paul is my first, but not my last name. I suggested trying that senator from Kentucky who works up in Washington, D.C.

Then someone called looking for Mr. Bloom, or that’s the way they choose to pronounce my last name. Fortunately, my last name has one O, not two, so it’s not pronounced as it is had it had two O’s. Hey, how do I know they weren’t looking for a Bloom?

I told that fella, “Sorry pal, I don’t know any Bloom.”

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of calls from “Rachel” at a place called Cardholder Services. These scammers are a never-ending tug-of-war, and telling these people to place your number on the Do Not Call List only seems to buoy them. They’ll stop calling you from one number only to start calling you from another number, and keep changing their numbers frequently so that you never really get rid of them. Recently the voices I hear on the other end of the phone have changed. These used to be American voices, now they seem to be emanating from Pakistan or from India.

I once asked them, “Who owns Cardholder Services?” They hung up on me quicker than you can say Visa and MasterCard. Apparently if you don’t cooperate, they hang up on you without any kind of negotiations.

I have gone back to the tactic of trying to keep these people on the line as long as humanly possible. They offer to put me on a Do Not Call List, but I tell them that I don’t want that, because the DNC list only works for one number at a time as I previously mentioned, making the offer irrelevant.

You can’t fight a war with these people by avoiding such a war. You have to get in there and roll with the punches!

Don’t Let The Bedbugs Bite

There was something a bit odd about my last employer, 24-7 In Touch Marketing, off of US 19 in Largo (or was it Clearwater?). I just couldn’t place it, that is until I was watching the return of The X-Files last night and saw the FOX 13 news tease about a bedbug infestation there, a story that got started on Reddit, of all places.

(Here’s the video of the story, reported by Evan Lambert.)

It doesn’t really surprise me that a call center running ads seeking employees at $10/hr, then telling them the job’s initial pay rate is more like $8/hr, would have this kind of a problem. The way the piece on the local news ran, the management doesn’t think they have a problem, while the employees getting bit will tell you otherwise. Usually when management is in denial, it’s usually a sign of a big problem they don’t know how to handle yet.

When I trained there, they promised you the moon, but would always fail to deliver. They said that the final test would decide whether or not you had the job: it didn’t, they took practically everybody in. They also said that anyone who made racket during the final test in particular would be released immediately, something else that didn’t happen when people in the class didn’t show any consideration for others.

Now, the employees there seem to have a choice between keeping their jobs and shutting up about the bedbugs or speak out and risk losing them. (I seem to remember from the training I took that the company keeps an eye on social media for negative commentary about themselves and discourages it, so getting people to speak up about it on local stations has to be a challenge.)

However, if the bedbug problem is serious, there’s always the chance the place will have to be tented and properly fumigated, and the employees might lose their jobs anyways.

Needless to say, I’m glad I got out of there long before the bedbugs arrived.

Brother, Can You Spare A Billion?

Powerball is still on my noggin this morning. It appears (as of this writing) that nobody won the grand prize of matching five numbers and separately drawn Powerball last night, so the prize Wednesday will be a minimum of $1,300,000,000.

I figure with the high demand for tickets, the prize should go up to $1,500,000,000 with ease. If there’s one winner, and that one victor takes the lump sum, that’s about $900,000,000 or so after Uncle Sam gets his cut if the prize gets to a billion and a half.

There’s so much money on the line now, I don’t know if I will feel happy if one person (or pool) wins the dough, or feel sorry for them.

More on this topic as events progress.

My Christmases In Radio

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I had the honor (and I always thought of it as such) to work in radio either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, sometimes both days. I did so five straight years from 1989 to 1993, hit an unemployed stretch in 1994, and was in the biz but had the nights off in 1995.

Christmas of 1989 really sticks out for me, because of the big freeze we had that gave the Tampa Bay area a teeny bit of snow flurries Christmas Eve morning. This aircheck off of WDAE (then at 1250 AM on the dial) mentions the unusual forecast that weekend. I had the midnight to 7am overnight shift at WTAN radio on the night of December 23rd and morning of the 24th, but this night, it presented a problem with freezing rain and sleet in the forecast that night. My shift didn’t start until midnight, but I arrived at 8:30 that night just in case the weather made travel impossible later on.

The guy running the board before me was throwing a decent sized party at the radio station (who had a nubile blonde girlfriend who seems interested in me, though she was spoken for), and without any real prep to do, I heavily imbibed on some Budweiser beer among other beverages. It was only the second time in my life to that point that I had gotten drunk, young teetotaler that I was. As midnight approached, it was time to run the WTAN board, which was only playing a set of cassette tapes in a proper sequence. I always had a digital timer on me, so while the tape played for 45 minutes or so, I slept it off, getting up in time to change sides and play commercials. That morning, I aired J.T. Gardner’s gospel show from 6am-7am, and I don’t think anyone was wise to my inebriation, thankfully.

The next four Christmases I worked at Sun Radio Network in either the Feather Sound studios in Clearwater, or after 1992, at the complex in St. Petersburg not too far from the Home Shopping Network. Instead of talk radio, we played Christmas songs from 6pm Christmas Eve all through Christmas Day off of half a dozen or so reel-to-reel tapes. I’d play the top of the hour news from UPI Radio, later the USA Radio Network, then right after it ended it was Christmas music wall to wall, no commercials. I’d cut away from the music ten seconds prior to the top of the hour, hit the news, cue up the next reel, and do it all over again.

I loved the hell out of it, and looked forward to the Christmas programming every year I ran the board. It was the easiest shifts of the year for me to do, and it was a guaranteed night of no hassles and a lot of fun. Every radio station that doesn’t play music ought to do this every year.

But that’s just my opinion.

Tomorrow, a little treat to help you get into the Christmas Spirit…the post is scheduled for 6pm US Eastern time Christmas Eve.

A Serendipitous Day

Up until the cowardly terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday night, I was having a pretty unique day.

Sadly, the job I had at 24-7 InTouch didn’t last, by my own choosing. The people were great, but the hours I chose for the job were incorrect. I should have chosen days instead of the 2nd shift that I did choose. That’s my fault totally. I couldn’t stop yawning in the training class, and it also effected my retention on the information given to us.

The other factor was that I would only be making $10/hour (and that was after 90 days, I started at $8/hour) for this customer service job that was, in my opinion, worth at least $12/hour. This company was hiring people by the bushel, and in my work travels, a company that constantly hires is a company that constantly fires. It just seemed to me that something was missing out of the equation, and my guess was the job that I had with them might not be there after 2016 began. It looked like a pig in a poke to me, so I got out.

Fast forward to this Friday past. I share wheels with a family member, so on this day, I had to get up to work and back on public transit to pick up my first and only check thanks to the ever-growing PSTA.

I catch the first bus, check their app to see where the next one I needed is, and according to the app, the bus is very close by. The moment I put my phone back in my pocket, the bus is within my sight.

Walking the brief distance to my now former employers, I waited in a room to get my check. Had I stayed, the subsequent checks I would have received via direct deposit, which made what happened even more unique. There was a woman also waiting for her check at the same time, and she’s looking very closely at me. After doing so, she tells me that she and I went to elementary school together. My mind is blown. What were the odds that two people in the same grade in the same school went to the same job at the same time, leaving the job at roughly the same time to pick up their last checks?

I walk the brief distance to pick up the PSTA bus to go home, and just as I get there, the bus gets there. From there I have to walk a bit of a distance to my house, but a neighbor spots me and offers me a lift.

It was just one of those days where everything was going right. Perhaps it’s a message from the “powers that be” that I wasn’t meant to be there. As for future employment plans, I do have something big planned, but it might take a little time to get going. I do have the finances to bide my time over the holidays, but I’m not waiting forever on this. More soon.