Economy, Money, Work

Lyft Lyfe


CLICK ME IF YOU USE LYFTI had been silent about this since the moment I considered it. Why, I don’t know. Maybe I was being too critical about all of the negative aspects that may come with being a driver for one of the many ridesharing services which, in this case, is Lyft.

But I guess the only way to find out was to get involved. So back in October, shortly after my scooter accident and the purchase of my car, I signed up to be a Lyft driver. And I’m not gonna lie – I also applied for Uber. I figured now that I was driving again I might as well see what this was all about.

I ended up with Lyft for many reasons. Their vetting process, vehicle inspection locations, and customer service (for drivers) were all superior to Uber. I have yet to have my car inspected for Uber because their nearest location isn’t really convenient and frankly, I’m not doing this as a full-time gig. If it were then I wouldn’t have a problem with finding the time to get it done.

(Side note: I was also a vetted driver for the short-lived Sidecar service.)

Anyway, I was approved to hit the road way back in December but never bothered to go out to try to make some money. But that changed today.

Shortly before the start of the Super Bowl, I decided to give it a shot. I ended up parking for a little bit by our local airport – it’s about 5 minutes from home – to see what was going down. I figured having an airport in close proximity would prove to be a goldmine, but it depends on many factors.

Not a single ride request showed up on the app. Besides, this airport currently only allows drop-offs for ridesharing services but I see people waiting all the time across the street. It’s a way to skirt around the rule since you aren’t on airport property to pick up your ride.

After waiting about 15 minutes, I decided to drive down to the gas station then go home since it didn’t seem like a lot was happening. But on my way to the gas station, I got an alert for a pick-up which was only a mile away. I had been so hesitant to try this whole thing out and like new every job, there’s a bit of nervousness when you start.

Long story short for my first rider, it went well. They were on their way to a Super Bowl party and had a bag of goodies they were taking. The destination was 8 miles way so we had a good chat on the way. I dropped them off and thanked them, rated them, and drove away.

Simple, painless, and paid. I could probably get used to this.

Still in Online mode while driving away, I got another alert for a rider that was close by. And here’s the thing: although I was a little bit farther than I had preferred to go, Lyft requires that drivers be at a 90% acceptance rate or they are penalized or something. It’s all new to me. I had completed one ride with another waiting. If I had turned this one down, 50% acceptance. Why mess with things?

Lesson 1: Always accept new rides when you’re starting out. It’s just smart.

So I accepted the ride and picked them up. The difference here was that they weren’t sure of the physical address; just a general area. I can see why: it was condo complex and having delivered pizzas in the past, they can get confusing. Another easy pick-up and drop-off.

By now, I was out for about 2 hours (1.25 of actual Lyft-ing) and had completed two rides, the second one with my fuel warning light flashing. Remember? Low on gas? Fortunately, my car is an econobox that gets great mileage so it wasn’t a major concern but I stopped and got some nonetheless.

Afterward I figured I had put in enough time for the day and headed home to have dinner with the family. Shortly after I arrived, I got a text from Lyft stating that my first rider may have left something in my car. I checked the back seat and sure enough, they did.

Lesson 2: Make sure your ride has all their personal belongings at drop-off, checking either visually or by asking.

So I called them and verified that their items were in my car and I would drive back to deliver them. But rather than drop them off at their destination, they told me it would be fine to leave them at their house which I thought was a nice thing to do. They could have been mean about it being Super Bowl Sunday and all but they weren’t. I appreciated that.

So let’s get to it. Is driving for one of these rideshare companies worth the effort?

Lesson 3: This will not make you rich.

There are so many variables involved that can make or break you: time of day, time of year, local events, weather, etc. all have an impact on what you are paid. If you rely on this as your sole source of income, you’d best hustle and alternate between Uber and Lyft apps when the other isn’t busy. I don’t plan on doing this full-time but it’s nice to know that should I need it, it’s there.

In the end, before Lyft’s fees, I ended up with about $20 after 1.25 hours of driving. By comparison, I make more at the office but I’m sure others probably don’t. Once Lyft deducted their fees it dropped to about $16. Then, of course, factor in the daily wear-and-tear on your car, gas, and everything else and chances are I made much less.

But I suppose there’s more to it than that.

It’s the freedom to go online when you please to make a few [extra] bucks. It’s meeting new people and helping them get where they need to be, especially on a day when many probably shouldn’t be driving. And while I don’t deal with the public at the office, it was a welcome change to do it again and have conversations about whatever came to mind.

Would I give up my job for this? Perhaps if I was making much less money at, say, a grocery store I probably would. This freedom is so much the opposite of the shackles of retail but if you’re working there part-time to keep your affordable health insurance, this is a great way to earn a few more bucks.

Do I plan on doing it again for extra money? Sure. It’s easy and pretty fun, and Lyft no longer requires that unsightly fuzzy pink mustache on the front of your car.

And I’m sure there’s more I will learn along the way but for now, it’s not all that bad.

 (Note: Already use Lyft? Click the logo at the top!)
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Holidays, Work

Happy Holidays!


Ah, the holidays always bring out the “best” in everybody.

We made a quick stop at our local Dollar Tree for some stuff we needed. As usual, we ended up with more than we had come for and spent much more than the name of the store implies.

Anyway, at checkout, there was a guy arguing with the cashier about his lost receipt. Apparently he was trying to show her that he was overcharged for the Thanksgiving card he just bought.

At Dollar Tree. Three days after Thanksgiving.

The cashier continued to ring up the customer in front of us while she tried explaining the cost of the card, with tax, to the other guy. But he wasn’t hearing any of it, and he just kept arguing.

It was going nowhere and I had had enough.

“Hey man, if I give you $1, will you shut up?”

Mind. Blown. The dollar would have covered twice the cost of what he was arguing about. But he insisted on getting his proper discount. Not only that, he then got pissed that I got involved and called me an asshole in front of my family.

I smiled and turned to Ann.

“Reminds me of our neighbor — an angry drunk.” Then I looked at him, still smiling.

“Happy holidays, sir. And Happy Thanksgiving.” He didn’t know what to say and by then the manager had come over to smooth things out with him. And Thanksgiving had long passed, so in your face, Tipsy McStagger.

Look, I don’t normally get involved in petty shit like this but dude was being a complete jerk to the Dollar Tree employees, none of whom make diddly-squat at that job and none of whom should have to deal with bullshit from people like this any time of year.

But at the holidays, the number of idiots increases exponentially. Come on, dude. Dollar Tree. You’re arguing over a lost receipt and fifty cents at FREAKING DOLLAR TREE.

So I had to say something. And in the end, I didn’t offer him the dollar because that would be better spent elsewhere.

Like on these killer candles!

photo-nov-27-1-18-20-pm

So to all of the employees at my local Dollar Tree, I’m sorry you had to deal with the moron. But I’m not sorry for saying something in your defense.

Because I’ve been there. It’s not pretty.

And now you have a story to tell when you get home.

Economy, Money, Work

At Last


In my Year in Review post, I had mentioned that (among other things) there was a good chance that my current freelance assignment was going to turn into a permanent, full-time affair.

I had been freelancing there since August and only had maybe three weeks off between then and today. They called me back when one of the other proofreaders—that’s what I’m doing yet again—went on vacation in September. I’ve been there ever since.

Then things got interesting. The word was that we had just landed a huge project with a current client and they were going to be in need of help. Naturally, the company started to search for potential candidates so that they could be in place once the work started to materialize. That said, they let all employees know that this was also an opportunity for them to move up and into one of the new vacant positions.

One of them was Proofreader*. Naturally, I applied.

And although I’d been there since August, I was still a bit nervous about how I would measure up against others who might have applied—and if they would even consider me at that point.

But my worries were all for naught. For some reason, they like me but I guess the feeling is mutual: I really enjoy working there, especially someplace that is not Ralphs. (In fact, I’ll refer to the new place as Not Ralphs or NR for this post.)

About two weeks after submitting my name, I was informed that my freelance gig was extended until January 31 and, as of February 1, I was officially hired. No more freelance; I was now an official NR employee.

And I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was.

No more waiting until Thursday or Friday to find out if I was returning on Monday. That was probably the worst part of freelancing: figuring out the bills when nothing was guaranteed the following week, and how to split what could have been my last paycheck into little chunks in order to pay everybody. That game was finally over.

No more going home after 3 or 4 hours when there was little work. Granted, I’m paid well enough to where even working 20 hours a week at NR was significantly more than what I made for 40 hours at Ralphs (not that I ever got more than 30 hours while there but you get the idea). Now that we’re starting to get the work for the new project, it’s full-time hours. There’s going to be plenty of stuff for us to do.

I no longer have to travel light. I’ve started to decorate my cubicle with personal items, something I refused to do while freelancing. In fact, my old Ralphs name badge is now one of the items on my desk—just because.

It’s Monday—Friday, 9 to 6. Bank holidays are paid days off and we get so many freaking perks as far as days off go that it’s insane, but NR knows that happy employees are good employees. Some of those days off include three Summer Days that we can use during the summer months in case we want to do something with the family. Then there’s floating holidays and personal days, not to mention two weeks of vacation that accrue each calendar year. I can finally take a vacation with the family and have money to do things. That will be nice when the time comes.

Speaking of money, we spent last Saturday at a local outlet and did some serious shopping. I can’t tell you the last time we did that but I can say with certainty that it wasn’t during my 18 months at Ralphs. We could barely pay the bills, let alone treat ourselves to much of anything.

Then there’s the commute which is about 20 minutes from home. It’s an easy ride on my trusty scooter that is easily filled with gas on less than $3 a week in most cases.

And the views downtown are spectacular, as is walking down to the marina during lunch.

My Chinese zodiac sign is the monkey and in this, the Year of the Monkey, it seems my luck as finally changed. As I’ve mentioned to HR and the boss, NR is exactly where I need to be at this point in my life.

NR is everything my last place wasn’t and I am so freaking grateful for the opportunity they have given me. I look forward to being there for a long time.

*I’m a much better proofreader when I’m being paid to do it. Considering the time I write these posts, I can’t much guarantee ye olde blogge will be 100% free of errors so don’t bother to point any out Smile

Economy, Money, Work

Night and Day


I was fired from my job recently. Well, if you consider a few weeks ago as “recent” then it was.

But there’s a long story behind my termination that involves my [former] union, a department manager who was perpetually dissatisfied with my performance (and therefore a hindrance when it came to the possibility of advancing my uh, “career” at the grocery store), and all other sorts of nonsense.

I had taken the time to go into great detail writing about the events that led to my suspension and eventual termination but after all that, it really only comes down to a few pictures.

Here I am working the overnight shift at the store. I used to work those shifts as well as being subjected to working in the bakery or, as I called it, the place “where dreams go to die.” I’m stocking bags of dog food in this picture at oh, 1:33 am. And I look totally happy doing it for minimum wage with part-time hours, don’t I?

Don't I Look Happy?

You really have to reassess what your life as become if, at age 46, this is what it takes to get food on the table. Yet there I was, punching in and out and dealing with it because I had to, and this was pretty much my expression most of the time. To say I was disappointed was an understatement and this was well before the little verbal spat I had with my department manager.

Then the altercation happened and I was put on indefinite suspension. I had no income for at least two weeks.

But during my suspension, something happened. I found a freelance proofreading job at a local ad agency that was not only a full-time gig but they also agreed to my hourly rate – nearly three times than that of the ol’ grocery store.

Then things changed. I didn’t come home smelling like frozen dough and covered in flour and with cookie/bread crumbs in the pockets of my stupid Ralphs apron. I didn’t have stories of how despised every second of my job anymore. I was relaxed knowing I wouldn’t have to deal with the usual nonsense I was subjected to on a daily basis at the grocery store.

I now work 9-6 daily and have weekends off. The office has a kitchen that you could probably live in complete with video game systems and ridiculously huge LCD HDTVs. We get breakfast two days a week and a Social Hour on Wednesday. The scenery around the office is beautiful and, if I need to, I can bring Anthony to work as I did last week.

11892279_10153265501414118_3967696643630396980_n

This is me now.  I’m being paid well. I’m respected and doing what I’ve been doing for years. I’m freaking smiling at work and after work. I’m relaxed, happy and for all intents and purposes, thankful that this opportunity came my way.

What was a one-week trial period has turned into a gig that will be entering its fifth week on Monday as they keep extending my services. It seems that they like me there, which is more than I can say for The Powers That Be at Ralphs. I was such a horrible employee that they didn’t want me anymore yet I’m now proofreading documents for automobile manufacturers at a place where I get along with everybody. Huh. Imagine that.

I’m a creative person, and working in an environment where my creativity was being suppressed and where I was spoken to like a moron by people who could have used a dictionary when writing their nasty you-didn’t-do-this-last-night notes to me was difficult to say the least. And when I finally had enough of it, I did the only thing I could do: defend myself which was what led to my suspension and eventual termination.

But I’m glad that “my services were no longer required” as it was so eloquently stated at my meeting with the store manager. There’s no reason for me to ever go back or ever want to. Except for when I’m out of almond milk and need to make a quick trip.

I’ve since removed Ralphs from my resume so that it only shows jobs pertaining to writing, editing, and proofreading. This is where I need to stay and listing that horrible year-and-a-half stint at Ralphs stands out like a sore thumb.

The difference in my attitude really is definitely night and day and unlike my last job, I’m enjoying every second of my new gig. I couldn’t ask for things to be better, except for maybe being hired permanently.

And if that happens, I’d be as happy as I was miserable at Ralphs.

Health, Life, Work

Broken 


That’s pretty much how I feel after today’s unplanned visit to my doctor.

The tendinitis that’s been bothering my right wrist/thumb turned out to be a little worse than another doctor had diagnosed. I kind of figured that was going to be the case because the pain is still there and only seems to be getting worse.

In fact, this doctor — my on-again, off-again sawbones — did a much more thorough exam that included my squeezing his fingers and a lot of poking and prodding along the areas where I feel the pain. He confirmed that’s it’s definitely tendinitis and recommend a cortisone shot to alleviate the pain.

I’ll get it sometime. Today wasn’t that day.

Also worth noting is that the compression band I’ve been wearing on my wrist isn’t doing much good because most of the affected area is in my thumb. He suggested one that not only covered my wrist but thumb as well.

As far as the cause of it, he believes it to be a work-related injury because I can’t honestly tell you anything I might have done outside of work to bring it on. I’m 46 and my extreme sports days are far behind me (as if they ever existed) so he’s probably right. When I think about everything I do and have done at my job it’s easy to see how it could be the cause. Plus, throwing around 20-lb. boxes of frozen dough in the Bakery every night probably isn’t helping me. The job is very hands-on and physical with little time to take it easy.

In short, it has broken me.

Now the fun part. Because I’m in the Bakery, I’m constantly putting on and taking off gloves. It’s gotten to a point where putting a glove on my right hand is a painful experience, one that is repeated all night long. There’s no way I can get better if I’m doing this, plus wearing a compression sleeve on top of that. I haven’t even mentioned how many times I wash my hands in a typical shift (let’s just say it’s plenty).

And if it doesn’t get better then surgery could be in my future. Just what I always wanted! (Can you sense my sarcasm?)

If I get a doctor’s note that limits my workload, I really don’t know what I would be doing because everything in a grocery store is very physical. I know for sure that my current position would be out that’s since what broke me in the first place. Bagging and front end duties would also be impossible. I just don’t know, but I guess I’ll find out when I get a note from him on Monday. The only logical solution would be to get a less physical job and trust me, I’ve been looking but nothing is turning up. Even so, writing with a pen tends to inflame the injury, making it hard to do. Heck, even moving it in the wrong direction will make yell with pain. It’s no fun at all and makes me grumpy. We’ll see what happens.

I also found out I gained about 15 pounds between visits (about 7 years) so he wants me to work on bringing that down as well as getting some blood work done. I’m on it.

But there has to be some kind of good news amongst all this, right? Well there  is. I’ll just let this tweet summarize things.

So…there’s that.

Goooooodnight, everybody.

Composed on my iPad using the WordPress app and SwiftKey, because it’s not as painful as typing on a traditional keyboard 

Work

The Safety Dance


Okay. First, I know it’s been a long time between posts. There are reasons for that, the most prominent one being my really goofy work schedule as of late which has been all over the place. I’ve worked overnight shifts, early morning shifts, and everything in between. As a result I’ve been spending a lot of my downtime doing what I need to do most: sleep, and sleeping during the day (and not really having much time to spend with your family) sucks donkey parts.

Also, my sciatic nerve has been acting up and that’s been taking me down for the count. What a drag it is getting old.

Second, this is a head’s up to my loyal readers – all three of them – that my domain mapping will expire at the end of the month. I must scrape up a whopping $13 before then in order to keep things in order or else my domain won’t redirect to the blog. I’m sure I’ll get it together but it’s a warning nonetheless.

So onto the post.

Safety is of the utmost importance at work for both customers and employees, and part of our job is to fill out these little survey cards whenever we see a coworker do something that resembles an act of safety. The card layout is as follows:

In (department), I observed (employee name) (behavior).

As a result of my quality observation, I (my name) Coached or Recognized (employee name) by (explain my actions).

Once we fill out three of these cards, we are to turn them into the supervisor at the end of our shift.

Yeah. They’re pretty boring, wouldn’t you say? Most just fill them out with a few words and leave them at that.

Well, I refuse to have it that way. I’ve made it a point to use the smallest print I can muster in order to make my replies more of a proclamation, something so noteworthy so as to spread peace within the Kingdom of [Company Name Withheld].

So dig it. Here’s a sample of the cards I’ve been turning in.

It would help to read this with the best British/Shakespearian accent you can do. Ahem.

Be it known to all in the Kingdom of [Company Name] that on this (day and date), mine eyes bore witness to (employee name) engaging in (action, in this case a sweep) the hourly cleansing of the castle floor and performing said action in the Kingdom’s mandated and appropriate zig-zag manner – a most noble act of heroism, selflessness, and might. 

As the result of my quality observation, I, Dave, recognized (employee name) with endless verbal praise over a pint of the most aromatic beverage of their choice, the likes of which our palates have never tasted before or shall ever taste again. Victory is sweet, and the Kingdom of [Company Name] shall remain safe forevermore due the swift and valiant actions shown by (employee name).

EXCELSIOR!

Aaaand with that, I turn them in to the boss at the end of the day. I haven’t gotten any feedback from anyone just yet which leads me to believe they either a) don’t read them or b) read mine and simply mumble “Smartass” and throw them away.

No matter what they do, it’s just a way to make the mundane job of working a grocery store that much more tolerable.

Commentary/Opinion, Complaint, Life, Work

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.