Friday Five: Stuff I Don’t Get Either


Well, look at that!

In an effort to get my lazy self blogging again, I’ve resorted to the old standby of the Friday Five, a series of questions posted by a random Internet person that I, most likely another random Internet person to you, will answer. So let’s hop right into it.

1. Twitch is an enormously popular livestreaming platform mostly for watching people play video games. It has more than 1.5 million broadcasters and more than one million visitors per month, and Amazon acquired it for nearly a billion dollars in 2014. Which of your computer activities would you livestream if there were a way to make some money doing it?

I lead such an exciting life, online and offline, that I wouldn’t know where to begin (obvious sarcasm). But if I were any good at the Xbox games I have, I guess I’d stream those provided anybody wanted to watch me drive a car since I don’t play much of anything but racing games. FPS games confuse me — too many controls. Then again I’m an old fart and the current generation of kids wouldn’t bother tuning in other than to “roast” me. (Yeah. I have a teenager and that’s a completely acceptable term as of this post.) That’s just console video games. Computers? I don’t use my computer for gaming so I can’t imagine anybody wanting to tune in and watch me open up iTunes and manage my music collection.

2. EDM (electronic dance music) is usually performed by DJs on stage in front of audiences, playing tracks they’ve mixed, right off their laptops. If you were a push-button DJ playing your tunes in a club, what would be your opening and closing songs, assuming everyone’s there because they’re into whatever sounds you’re into?

I know nothing of this genre except that it’s not my thing. But I suppose if given the chance, I’d open with Perfume’s “Edge” (Triangle Mix) and end it with with Electronic’s “Idiot Country.” I guess. Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe this Friday Five thing wasn’t such a good idea after all.

3. What’s a good Adele song, and why is Adele so popular?

There’s a few things I know about Adele. First, I’m not familiar with any of her songs other than her big hits and I don’t care for any of those. In fact I’ll change the station in the car the second I hear her (provided I’m listening to a station that plays her — a rarity, and the reason I’ve always got my phone connected to the radio). Second, she seems a bit long-winded and whiny about lots of things which isn’t scoring any points with me. Maybe there’s a reason why she likes to carry on for so long but I’m not aware of it. I’m just not a fan of hers. As far as her popularity goes, the only thing I can attribute to that is she entered the scene right about the time Amy Winehouse left this earth and she’s filling the void she left behind. Why or how is beyond me; I wasn’t a fan of hers either.

4. The Walking Dead?

I’ve never seen an episode in any of its incarnations and don’t plan to. In case you aren’t aware I’m not a big TV or movie fan, especially any that are popular, and this one is no exception. Name a show — chances are I haven’t seen it. But this one? Oooh, zombies and blood and shit. Big deal. And while we’re on the topic of “Stuff I Don’t Get,” I can’t forget those people who dress up as zombies at those [whatever]-cons and schlep themselves down the street en masse while grunting and groaning. You do you. I’ll do me, thanks.

5. Every generation seems to arrive at a “They don’t write ’em like that anymore” attitude. Why does it seem like most middle-aged people lose interest in new music?

This one is easy: today’s music sucks. There’s little to no substance in today’s music, nothing like the epic storytelling “American Pie” or concept double albums anymore; it’s mostly commercialized garbage. Well, I can’t say all of it because — get ready — there are some current artists that I listen to and enjoy. Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Panic! At the Disco (Death of a Bachelor is unbelievably spectacular), even Lady Gaga to a certain extent. But out of all the artists on the scene today, Bruno Mars tops them all in my book. His songwriting is amazing, musicianship top-notch, and he can dance like nobody’s business. Look up his Super Bowl performances and Prince tribute — pure talent. That cat can do it all.

Well, that’s it. I started this post this morning and finished it up on my phone right now. I’m still fighting off some kind of cold or something so it’s time to go relax and probably fall asleep early.

Have a great weekend, provided the world doesn’t end on Saturday.

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Humblebragging


I suppose I can’t really get to the context of this post without a backstory of my own, so here goes.

Back in 2001, I was managing a one-hour photo lab – kids, go ask your grandparents – when the events on 9/11 unfolded. Naturally, like most people, I was shocked and wanted to do anything I could to help in any way I could.

A few days later and with the owner’s approval, I printed out a bunch of 4×6 color shots of an American flag, stuck a magnetic backing on the back of each of them, and sold them for $1 each with 100% of the proceeds going to the American Red Cross. (The shot was mine – see image above – so there were no releases or anything involved.) I then put them on the counter with a small sign so customers could see them when they picked up their orders.

We raised a modest amount in cash which I delivered personally to my local Red Cross chapter, where they asked for the company’s information so that they could send a thank-you letter. I obliged so that the owner could have some kind of record should there be any tax implications.

When it arrived, and thinking it was the right thing to do, I displayed it on the counter as proof to customers that the money raised was delivered and not used for a Burger King lunch.

Until that one customer came in and saw it. They scolded us left and right, up and down, for “making a big deal” about raising and donating the money. They saw the letter as nothing more than a pat on the back during a time of crisis and turmoil when my intention was to simply inform them that the money raised went exactly where we wanted it to go. They just weren’t buying it. If social media was around back then and I had posted the letter, some might have considered that move a case of humblebragging when it actually wasn’t. Totally different circumstances.

Flash-forward to today. As I get older and seemingly more cynical and less tolerant of things that get under my skin, the one thing that really bothers me is seeing people go out of their way with the aforementioned humblebrag. Granted I’ve done my share in the past when it comes to my workouts but as of late, I haven’t and I’m not going to anymore. I’ve come to realize how incredibly narcissistic they sound are and have decided to put a stop to them for my own good, along with other forms that might fall into the same category. (As a side note, I have pretty much scaled back posting anything personal on social media. We’ve all got problems but I don’t think they all, if any of them, need to be shared.)

But there’s some bragging, of course, I don’t mind.

Finish your first marathon? Great! I’m happy for ya. Hold that medal high – you’ve earned it! Finishing your 11th marathon in 3 months, with each one setting a new PR, and proudly stating that this will get you ready for your 12th in a few weeks? We get it, Achilles.

Win Employee of the Month? Awesome! Winning it again and again and again and saying “another one for the wall”? Let’s not be so modest, mmmkay?

Y’all gotta know when to quit. But there are others that simply want to make me punch my phone/monitor/etc. The one that really drives me insane is when people make it a point to post on social media when they donated to charity or partook in a charitable act.

Here’s where my qualifying story makes more sense. Posting the letter from the Red Cross was done in order to clear the air from a business standpoint; no malice was involved or intended. The letter proved everything was on the up-and-up and all but one customer understood why it was posted. Fine and well.

Trust me, I’m all for raising awareness if it encourages others to be proactive and give themselves. No problems there.

But when you post a smug, unshaven Instagram selfie from Skid Row, one of Los Angeles’ most notorious homeless neighborhoods, and say that you’re “making a difference…out of my own pocket” to feed others, I think you’re fucking insane and frankly don’t give a shit about what you’re doing, if you’re doing anything at all. The proof is that picture of your lunch that you were eating from the comfort and warmth of a Skid Row restaurant posted minutes before that damn selfie.

Also, along with the selfie, posting a picture of someone’s makeshift alley home is just as disturbing. “Look at me, I’m really here. I want everybody to see.”

Seriously. I can’t think of enough awful things to say about that or ways to put you down for being so goddamn insensitive.

(I wish I was kidding about the story above but I’m not. I’ve seen it – more than once.)

Wanna really make an impact, Rich Uncle Pennybags? Then get your pad and pencil – it’s gonna be kinda right.

First, turn off your fucking phone because you won’t be needing it.

Second, with those deep pockets of yours, go back and buy several bowls of that delicious orange chicken, take them out in the alley with the homeless, and sit and share a meal with them. In fact, give yours to someone – you just ate. Don’t just throw them a buck and walk away; get to know these people and listen to them. They are human and most likely haven’t had any positive interaction with an outsider for a long time because most won’t give them the time of day or any kind of respect.

Talk to them, smile with them, help them. Look them in the eyes and try to feel and understand their sorrow. You might learn something – one of them could be a veteran, a father, a musician, or all three of those. They may have incredible stories to tell so shut up, listen and learn.

Finally, when it’s all said and done, and with your phone still off, humbly walk away with the satisfaction of knowing you did something out of the kindness of your heart to help your fellow man and not to raise your social media standing with friends.

Charity is never about you and not everything has to be a Facebook status. It’s about others, and the best way to keep it about others is to not blast your face and tell your stories all over your social media accounts because, believe it or not, people are much better at sensing bullshit than you might think. And once they do, they’ll never look at you the same way again.

And before you ask what I’m doing to be charitable, well, you don’t need to know. That’s the whole point of this post.

Need some attention? Hey, fine. Go buy a puppy. But wanting the exposure at the expense of those living on the streets isn’t just wrong, I think it’s the sign of someone who is completely disconnected from reality and has only their ego in mind, not the act itself or who it will benefit from it.

Do it for reasons, not the “likes” and accolades.

And for shit’s sake, be humble about it.

My Muse Got Stuck in Traffic and I Don’t Care


My schedule at Big Name Supermarket is sporadic at best. There’s no telling how many hours I’m going to work or in which department I will spend them in but either way, I’m beginning to think that the job has run its course on me after being there only 8.75 months.

Promises were made but have only been fulfilled partially despite the excretion of my (proverbial) blood, (real) sweat, and (frustrated) tears. And although I’m inching up on the grand ol’ age of 46 and feel great, the physical strain of the job—bagging, retrieving shopping carts, stocking merchandise, lifting heavy items—is getting to be a bit much. In the end, for everything I’ve put into it, all I’m getting out of it is a paycheck that equals my tax and health insurance deductions at a previous job.

After working office jobs for years, I thought that going back into a retail/grocery environment would do me some good. It did but not for very long and now I’m thinking that maybe an office job wasn’t that bad after all.

Maybe to some, working a grocery store is a fine and dandy career choice. For the cashier whose husband makes ridiculous amounts of money doing [redacted] for [redacted], scanning bananas for 30 hours a week is simply gas money for their watercraft and ATVs. Throw in working there for well over 20 years with her hourly rate of pay and she’s got enough gas money for her neighbor’s car. Career grocery cashiers can make over $20/hr. plus get all that union gobbledygook once they decide to hang up their apron. For the money and benefits it’s easy to see why they stick around doing the most mundane and brainless job any human can do.

But I’ve got more than cars to feed. I’ve got a family.

picardOh, speaking of unions, here’s another thing about my job: union dues. Granted, they are minimal but when you’re working less than 25 hours a week those few bucks missing from your check would have been nice to have. As of now, the only major thing I’ve seen from my union membership is ridiculously cheap health insurance for me and Anthony. Yes, I’ll take it, but as far as the rest of my contributions go, I have no idea what they do with them. I’m not a big fan of unions to begin with. (An aside: it’s been my experience that the union reps and employees never seem happy unless they are stirring up trouble. When I first went to the local office to join, the environment felt extremely tense, almost as if they were waiting for a strike to break out so they could go out and enjoy some good ol’ picketing and mudslinging.)

Pay raises have been incremental. After so many hours, I get a dime added to my hourly rate so as of now, I think I’ve earned 20 cents since my start in February with my next raise due after working another 970 hours or something like that.  But in the end it doesn’t matter because now that I’ve been “promoted” I have moved up to some new stupid level according to the Great and Powerful Union which means that they are now taking more money from my check. What’s better? If I don’t make sure those deductions are being taken out, I get fired.

I worked hard for this?

Also, my “promotion” simply means that I’ve been trained in a few departments so now they can pass me around like a joint at a Foghat concert. I was made to feel valuable but in the end it only seems like they are getting more work out of me for less labor costs. And what will this “promotion” get me? Eventually working as a cashier years later?

Working in the Bakery has been a sheer joy and I say that tongue-in-cheek. Outside of writing frosted sentiments on tops of cakes, my skills in the department are minimal at best which makes me more of a liability. I can’t make cakes, I’ve been shown very little, and whatever I do has been critiqued by yet another person who has made a career out of doing mundane tasks (read: throwing dough in an oven).

Yeah, so I should be happy to have a job and blah blah blah. I get that and I am, but there are an awful lot of quid pro quos that go along with that. And with all of this worrying/anger, I tend to eat much more than I normally do. Tell that to the two Big Macs I had for dinner yesterday.

I spent last night searching the job sites and found nothing. I then thought about what exactly it is I want to do and I can’t really answer that. All I know is that this place is draining me quicker than any other place I’ve worked and it’s time to move on.

I did that back when I was in college. One semester was filled with art classes, all of which I needed to earn my AA in Advertising Design. I worked hard to keep my grades up and loved every single class I was taking because, for all intents and purposes, I am an artist. One class in particular was Freehand Drawing and the instructor, whose name I forget but will refer to as Alan, was a free spirit like no other I’ve met. At the time I was taking his class, I was working the day shift at a photo processing lab. All was fine until I had heard they were going to move me overnight, a move which would have impeded on my school schedule.

Despite my protests, the move was going to happen anyway and I was faced with the choice of going to school or working. It was impossible to do both. Frustrated, I spoke to Alan about the situation and wanted to get his input on the matter. I told him I felt like quitting on principle because they knew I was going to school. His words still resonate whenever I’m faced with a challenge with work or anything I’m confused about.

He simply smiled and said, “If you don’t do it now, you’re not going to do it at all.”

Damn. Damn. DAMN. Why must you us artistic people be so freaking deep and romantic?

I went to work the next day, walked into the HR office and much to their amazement, quit on the spot. It felt good and Alan was proud of me for being so bold and facing the music. But now things are a bit different. I can’t just up and quit something; I’ve got to have something lined up. And as of now, I don’t and for all that college I took, I didn’t finish my courses to earn my degree.

So after searching for a job last night, I thought it would be good to do some meditation and hopefully get some insight on things. But before I did, I sent out this tweet because, well, that’s what people do with random thoughts these days:

To “summon your muse” in the writing world means you’re looking for inspiration, a plot, an idea. But the thing is that a writer, or any artistic person, should never be void of any idea. I mean, really. I’ve gotten this far on this post telling you how much my job sucks coupled with an old war story from my college days. I find it hard to shut off my mind long enough to meditate.

Anyway, what I got from meditating 15 minutes was a feeling of calmness, of bringing a big, fat ball of positive energy into my life which I could almost physically touch and see even with my eyes closed. At any rate I reached for it, grabbed it, and brought it in. And what I took away from it was this.

I have to be my own muse. I have to do my own thing. Waiting around expecting anyone to do it for me is just silly.

I want to take the family places, do things, even have a nice dinner with them now and then. I can’t do that shoving dough in an oven, bagging groceries, or whatever else I do at the store.

More than ever, I need to make a move and better myself.

And I am starting right now.

This Post’s Title Should Be One Giant F-Bomb


Calm blue ocean. Calm blue ocean.

I guess I should have waited to blog after what happened today at work but as is the case with life, who knows what the next minute will bring? I thought writing about my phone pretty much becoming a useless chunk of microchips would be the most eventful thing to happen to me but, as you might guess, I was wrong.

It was a little after 4pm when in the middle of doing my workplace duties, I saw a customer speaking to one of my coworkers about something he witnessed in the parking lot. The coworker, knowing I owned a scooter and that there was a good chance I’d be the victim, directed the customer to me.

“Do you own one of those motorbikes out there,” he asked. I nodded in agreement.

He then proceeded to tell me that kids from a local school were playing on and around one of them – I didn’t know at this point if it was mine – and knocked it to the ground. By the time he got over to where it was, the kids had already fled the scene.

Now keep in mind what happened with my phone today and remember it’s not just a phone. It’s my lifeline as I no longer have a home phone. It’s also my camera, my music device, my exercise mate and now, it’s just a chunk of shit with a shattered screen. Functional, but still shit.

I had already been through enough emotions regarding the damage sustained to my phone and I was just about coming to grips with what happened to it, ready to accept it and move on knowing that I was the causer of the damage.

But that quickly changed once I exited the store.

I park my scooter along the side of the store and can always see one of the mirrors peeking over the wall of the cartwell. This time, however, I didn’t see it which I knew was bad news. When I did go and take a closer look, this is what I saw.

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Yup. My mode of transportation, my way of getting around, the reason I studied so hard to earn my permit was lying on the ground thanks to the carelessness and downright disrespect of school kids.

I had already crushed once today but this one felt a little more personal, like when my 1991 Nissan Sentra was broken into way back when. This one really hurt – and angered me more than anything else had in a long time.

How mad was I? Let this GIF give you an idea.

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As I stood there incredulously looking at my scooter on the ground, I just about flipped. If it had been a windy day and a strong gust came by to knock it off balance and this was the result, of course I wouldn’t have been so angry. Disappointed for sure, but not angry. But when it’s something that shouldn’t have happened in the first place, that’s where Dave gets human.

I finally came to my senses and decided to pick up the scooter –  it doesn’t have a name – to see what damage it might have sustained.

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The hand deflector that the scooter landed on is not only loose but it also horribly scratched.

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The force of the fall was so strong that it knocked the seat off its fitting. I had to force it back into place. I don’t know if you know this or not but motorbikes, whether a motorcycle or simple scooter, are really heavy.

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The stand was also scratched in the fall…

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…as was the left side mirror cover.

Calm blue ocean. Calm blue ocean.

Now let’s get cover a few things before I go on a diatribe of biblical proportions.

Yes, I’ve been trying my best to keep negative energy and thoughts away by studying Buddhism. Yes, these are only material things and yes, #firstworldproblems. But at the same time, there are things and days that are handed to you and you, being of flesh and blood, sometimes can’t make any sense of them.

That’s where I am now and this is where the rant begins.


To the Kid/s Who Thought It Would Be Fun to Sit on My Scooter and Knock It Over:

Who fucking raised you? A band of apes? Have you no common sense? Are/Is your parents/parent (provided you weren’t the product of a one-night stand) that disassociated with your lives that they don’t have the wherewithal to tell you what’s right or what’s wrong? Do they just let your hoodlum selves run rampant between school and the city bus that drags your criminal asses back home?

What would it be like if I decided to sit in your parent’s car and fuck around with shit inside of it just for the hell of it? Would they like it? What if I slashed the tires after I was done? Break a window? Drop a deuce inside and leave the windows up on a hot day? Would you like it if I found your phone and cracked the screen after intentionally dropping it? OOPS! OH WELL! HAHAHA! LOL! What you did is exactly the same: destruction of personal property and vandalism and that shit is not cool, you shitheads.

And oh, do you have any idea how I got to riding this? The sacrifices I had to make like giving up my 2013 Kia Optima because I could no longer afford to make the payments on the damn thing on my current salary? And that I’m working this job because nothing else has turned up? This is all I can afford and you fucked it up for the sake of your entertainment. Do you think I enjoy watching you little shitfucks running around my store and strealing (yes, I know you do) and bagging groceries for you ungrateful pricks and your parents? I do a lot to earn my pittance (get your dictionary, if you even know what one is) in order to feed my family and pay for this. What do YOU do to earn anything?

The next time you decide to fuck with someone’s shit and cause damage to it in the process, perhaps you should hang around and face the music when the owner realizes what you’ve done. Oh, I’m sorry. That would be the responsible thing to do, something you or your parents obviously have no idea about.

Stay away and off of my shit. For real. I really, really hope your parents are proud for raising little assholes like you.


Ahem.

I think I said what I’ve been meaning to say all day long. I feel only slightly better.

The good thing is that there are cameras outside the store and we know which school the kids came from based on the timeline of events. It’s only a matter of time before we find out who they were and being that kids these days love to post everything on social media, I’d be willing to wager they took a picture or video of it and uploaded it somewhere.

Also, I was told that I could possibly be reimbursed for the damage these senseless little fucks caused. While grateful, it still should not have happened.

Calm blue ocean. Calm blue ocean.

But on the plus side, I did buy a PowerBall ticket for this Saturday…

California’s Plastic Bag Ban


plastic-bag-be-green-1Today in California, our former-turned-reelected governor Jerry Brown signed a law that will ban the use of plastic bags in grocery stores next year, with convenience stores and pharmacies following suit in 2016. The idea behind the ban seems to be twofold: reducing litter and saving the environment.

That’s fine and well even though I’m not a tree-hugging hippie.

But what I am is someone who works in a grocery store who has a few stories to tell and some points to consider, so let me go ahead and break stuff down for you.

Nobody Can Remember The Ban
My fair city has had the plastic bag ban in effect for at least three years. That said, you would think that consumers would have already gotten used to bringing their own reusable bags into the store with them.

Nope. I’d say that around nearly half of our customers can’t seem to remember that the law was passed back in 2011 and therefore, have no reusable bags to put their groceries in. At that point, we have to ask if they would like to purchase paper bags (10 cents each), a reusable plastic bag (16 cents each), or even one of our reusable bags that sell anywhere from 99 cents to $4 depending on the material they are made from. They also have the option of using free boxes ala Costco should we have any on hand but those can be clumsy and not easy to carry.

Unless they are using the free boxes, their total goes up by however many bags they purchase and believe me, I hear about it. I know of one customer in particular who is absolutely adamant about not buying any kind of bag and when you ask him if he would like to, he goes on a diatribe that runs the gamut: unions, local government, Illuminati, you name it. He would rather die than spend pocket change for one bag – his exact words, not mine. I’ve since remembered his face and know not to ask him anymore but this is just one of the many negative responses we get.

Some Simply Don’t Know
There are cities surrounding the one I call home that have not yet banned plastic bags and on occasion, we get customers from those cities (or out of state, for that matter) shopping at my store. When asked if they need bags, the response is usually the same.

“Oh shit, that’s right. I’m in Long Beach.”

That quote implies that even those out of the city know about the ban yet most within the city don’t. Go figure.

Then there are those visiting or on vacation from other states or countries who look at you with strange eyes if you ask them if they would like bags. The expressions on their faces could be easily translated into, “Well duh, I want bags. This is a grocery store, isn’t it?” Then when we give the spiel about our city not using plastic bags, the reaction is almost always the same: “Well, that’s stupid.”

Sorry, not my idea. Write a letter to City Hall.

A Bacterial Hotbed
As I said, some customers remember to bring their reusable bags which is fine and well. (An aside: if you have reusable bags, put them on the conveyor belt before your groceries so that we have something to put them in. Otherwise, I will start bagging your stuff in paper or plastic bags that we will charge you for, or just let your items pile up until I get your bags. Thanks.) But just because they’ve brought in reusable bags doesn’t mean that they are being exclusively for groceries – or clean for that matter.

I’ve seen a lot of stuff inside bags while filling them with groceries: dirty clothing, used paper towels or facial tissues, receipts, toys, foodstuffs, etc. But the fun is only beginning.

I’ve also put groceries in bags that were moldy, dirty, smelly, covered with blood stains from leaking packages of meat, and, perhaps the worst of all, one that smelled like the customer’s cat urinated inside of it. Granted, we’re not there to pass judgment or give opinions but after bagging the items in this particular bag I had to walk away to get some fresh air and wash my hands. It was utterly disgusting. The customer didn’t seem to mind the smell at all as they grabbed their stuff and left, all smiles.

And just think: grocery store baggers are sticking their hands into these bacteria-infested bags for the sake of a few measly bucks, exposing themselves to who knows what the hell is inside those bags. Yes, it’s a minimum-wage job. Only those who have dedicated their lives to working in such an environment are making what one would consider good money. I fall into the former category, not the latter.

So yeah, most customers don’t wash their bags which is disgusting considering that food is going into them. They just let the funk of 40,000 years continue to fester inside them.

Shoplifting Is Harder to Determine
If a customer doesn’t want to pay for a bag or use a box, then chances are they will walk out of the store either carrying their items or rolling them out in a shopping cart. It’s an everyday occurrence, especially for the people who work in the offices behind the store. The problem here is that a customer who is carrying their items or is rolling them out of the store in a cart looks exactly the same as a thief who just picked up an item off the shelf or filled their cart with things and is leaving the store. It’s become so common to see it happening that it’s harder to determine who’s a shoplifter and who isn’t, and we can’t accuse anyone of anything unless we know for sure. In short, stuff can just walk out the door and we’d have no clue if it was paid for or not.

And you know what happens when stuff starts getting stolen from stores, don’t you? That’s right: prices go up and everybody pays for it.

The plastic bag ban may solve a few issues but knowing what I know, it opens up a gigantic, smelly can of worms at the same time.

(By the way, I never voted for Jerry Brown. I was too young the first time and wiser the second time.)