Friday Five: Payday


Yep, so I’m a day late with this one. With the release of the SNES Classic yesterday, I spent the evening playing Super Mario World with Anthony on my original console.


Seen here with Super Star Wars, it’s ugly, turning yellow and still works, but I’m not sure for how much longer. It couldn’t seem to handle some of the more intense movements in certain games — because, you know, 16 bits — so who knows. Anyway, that’s the reason for not posting this last night.

Let’s go with the Friday Five!

1. From whom did you receive your first real paycheck?

My first job ever was at a one-hour photo lab inside a grocery store (The Giant branch of Ralphs that took over former Zodys locations). It was called PDQ 1 Hour Photo and I still have my name tag somewhere. I made a whopping $4.25 an hour which I think was minimum wage at the time. The Giant was a warehouse-style grocery store ala Costco that featured smaller shops on the inside. It was an interesting concept but it didn’t last.

By the way, saying someone got their clothes at Zodys was an insult back in the day.

2. Among board games involving the exchange of money, which have you enjoyed most?

Easy: none. I hated and still hate Monopoly and never really dealt with board games that involved money. I spent way too much time playing games like Perfection which probably explains why I’m this way.

3. PayDay is the name of a candy bar consisting of salted peanuts rolled in caramel surrounding a firm, nougat-like center. How does it sound to you if you haven’t tried it, and how do you like it if you have? Is there a similar candy bar you like better?

I like PayDay bars but they are hardly satisfying if I want a snack. Lots of protein, yes, but I normally have a box of protein bars in my drawer at work. I get my protein and my chocolate craving in one sitting. I’ll still buy a PayDay now and then but they aren’t at the top of my list.

4. When did you last do something nice for yourself just because it was pay day?

Why, this payday I did! I bought an Xbox One game called Cuphead, a hand-animated scrolling shooter adventure made to look like a 30s-era cartoon. I have been waiting for this one and downloaded it today after Xbox got their server issues in line (*shakes fist*). The music, dialog, animation, everything is to-the-era perfection. It’s like you’re playing a color version of Steamboat Willie but a lot less Disney-fied (read: animated violence).

5. What person with the surname Day are you most familiar with?

Although Morris Day is the first, I’m going to post Doris Day video. Just because.

The kid is venturing out with friends tonight to go to Knott’s Scary Farm/Halloween Haunt, a local event at Knott’s Berry Farm that’s been going on for over 40 years. It’s a big local event that is packed every night and something I myself would never attend. I was scheduled for a few Haunt shifts when I worked at Knott’s. Way too many people for my liking. Nope.

But the good thing is I got fantastic corporate pricing and it gives me and Ann the chance to have a dinner sans kid. It will be nice I’m sure.

Peace out!

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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.

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.

A Mickey Mouse Job, Part Deux


As you might recall in a previous blog post, I had an interview with The Happiest Place on Earth and in the end was given a note telling me that I was pretty much short-listed should any positions become available.

Deep down inside I never thought they’d call, but I got an email a few days ago stating that they were still interested and to schedule a time for the Casting Agent to call me. I did just that.

My interview was scheduled for 10:30 am today, July 18, just one day after Disneyland’s 59th birthday.

They called 9:20 am. The Casual Part-Time position of Vacation Planner (read: Ticket Seller) was offered.

And I turned it down.

Mickey-Mouse-Surprised

I know there are tons of people in this world that would most likely kill at the chance to work for Disneyland and are yelling at their collective monitors right now because of my decision, shaking their fists in disgust.

But most people I know who do work there are a tad bit obsessed with The Mouse and all he represents. But I’m not one of those folks.

I applied at a time when I needed a job and was fully committed to working when they wanted me to. We also had two cars back then and the situation was a little different. Yes, I could ride my scooter but coming home at odd hours of the night could prove to be unsafe.

Things have changed since I applied and I wasn’t ready to commit myself to it so I did what I had to do, and I have even more reasons.

First, the hours. There was simply no guarantee of the hours I would be getting which would defeat the purpose. For a part-time job that requires 100% of your time, I think that’s kind of ridiculous. At least I have some flexibility at my current job, so much so that I was able to land a second job just this week. More on that later.

Second, things are happening at work. Our manager has his eyes on two people that he wants to promote as soon as Corporate allows him to, one of which is yours truly. It may take a few months but I am guaranteed it is going to happen. Besides, I’ve already paid my union dues and I’m never getting them back.

Third, I have a family. As a neophyte, The Mouse needs you to be there whenever he wants you to and that includes Friday nights, weekends, and holidays. That’s zip-a-dee-doo-dah fine and well for someone with absolutely no commitments (*cough*my brother*cough) but I have mine, and I enjoy the time we have together. I’m just not ready for that – at least at minimum wage.

Then, of course, is the adherence of their strict personal appearance policy or the “Disney Look.” I sort of don’t like someone having control over the way I look. That should be my choice.

I understand that there are magical perks when it comes to working there, such as free Park entry to ANY Disney Park in the world and, of course, the mystique that comes along with saying that you work for the original Disneyland, Walt’s dream-come-to-life.

I had to weigh the good with the bad here and in my case, there was more bad than good. During the interview I did tell them that I would honestly love to commit to it, I just can’t do it with my current impending promotion and second job. The Casting Agent even asked if it would interfere with my current job so that should tell you what they expect.

So I won’t be selling anyone Disneyland tickets any time soon, and I think I’m okay with that.

Now, onto the second job.

Seeing my hours getting cut at my current job, I felt I had to to something in order to make up for them. I was scouring Craigslist nightly since most job sites aren’t really offering anything I was interested in.

But Craigslist offered one that seemed intriguing, a simple retail position. I’ve worked retail. Should be easy. I applied, interviewed, and was hired on the spot for a part-time position at store that will be opening soon. If you’re a fan of the blog, I’m sure you’ve heard of it before.

So now I have two jobs, both of which are close enough for me to ride my scooter around safely. One is less than a mile from home; the other might be a little over a mile away. I could work both on the same day if I needed to without any goofy restrictions or need to be available all hours of the day or holidays (although I did work on the 4th of July). When compared to what The House of Mouse wanted, my work-life balance will be much more stable this way.

And that makes me happy…just not happy enough to link to the Pharrell Williams song of the same name…

Our Friday


Last Friday, Ann and I had a list of things to accomplish:

  1. Sell our old refrigerator. It was an extra taking up room in the garage and hadn’t been used on a regular basis since I was laid off in 2009, back in a time when I actually made decent money and we could afford to buy extra groceries and store them in the garage. It was money sitting around that we could use.
  2. Get rid of the Kia Optima. While it seemed like a wise decision at the time, what was our 20th anniversary gift to each other turned out to be a nightmare when I was let go from my last proofreading job. Unemployment just didn’t pay enough and I couldn’t find a job so despite our best plans to keep the thing, we just couldn’t do it.
  3. Look into a means of transportation for me. I had told Ann that while I can easily walk or ride my bike to work, there may be days when I need to go a little further than either foot or bicycle could take me – comfortably, at least. A scooter of some sort was the best solution we could come up with so we had a list of stores to check out.

So let’s cover each and every bullet in this list.

The Fridge
IMG_20140702_180325We had plugged it in a few days before so that potential buyers could see that it was working. Then Thursday morning, I placed an ad for the fridge on Craigslist and got a bite later that night via text message. We were initially asking $400 for it which we thought was reasonable considering it was over $1500 brand new.

The buyer thought otherwise. Stating that she was unemployed (and a host of other sob stories I won’t elaborate upon), she told me that renting the U-Haul truck cost more than she expected and asked if we would take $280 for it. Ann and I discussed it and agreed we would. We arranged the pick-up time of 9:30 am on Friday morning since we had planned to be at Carmax to sell the Kia at about 10 am.

They didn’t arrive until 11 am but the buyer was keeping in touch with me via text message (traffic on the freeway, etc.). Both of us were nearly livid despite her good nature. But when she and her helpers arrived to pick it up, she then said it wasn’t what she expected and that she thought the entire unit was stainless steel, not just the doors. You can guess where it went next.

That’s right. She wanted to pay only $200 for it. By now, Ann was fed up with all the bargaining and just agreed to take it to get this person out of our hair. I concurred. Take your fucking shit and leave. We already wasted our day waiting for you to arrive. Hell, I even threw in an old tube TV that someone down the street was getting rid of. I was going to use it for my NES but figured I’d never get around to it, so I let her have it.

The lesson learned here: don’t sell shit on Craigslist. Just don’t. You’ll get burned.

The Kia Optima
20140711_125642What you see here is the last picture I ever took of our 2013 Kia Optima as it sat waiting in line at Carmax. We had it appraised earlier in the week for X-dollars and came by to rid ourselves of it.

Of course, it wasn’t as easy as one might think, especially when the vehicle has negative equity. This means we had to pay the difference between what Carmax offered and what the buyout quote on the lease was. Yes, we had to take out a loan with Frankie and Knuckles to cover the cost of the negative equity but in the end, we left free and clear of the car we could no longer afford.

Now let me tell you about Kia. They are jackwipes. Total, complete jackwipes. Shortly after I was laid off, I called them to ask what we could do in order to keep the car: defer payments, return it, sell it, etc. Their only suggestion was to sell it to a private party which in essence we did. But when I inquired about deferring payments, they refused to help because it was a leased vehicle.

Hmm. That’s strange. When I had a 1991 Nissan Sentra, Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation was kind enough to defer two payments for California residents after the Northridge Earthquake and a bunch of wildfires – even if they were nowhere near either. When we leased a Ford Escape and I was laid off, a call to Ford was all it took to defer three months of payments so that we could get ourselves back on our feet. Toyota also lent a hand when when we needed some financial help.

Kia? No way. They wouldn’t budge. They are the cheapest and most unsympathetic group of bastards I’ve ever dealt with, and they even gave Carmax a hard time about selling the Optima to them. I will never, ever buy another Kia or for that matter, Hyundai. Same thing.

The lesson learned here: be like me and don’t even think of buying either. Kia will not help you when you need it.

The New Ride
It was a long day by now. We took $200 less than we wanted for the fridge, the selling process at Carmax took much longer than expected (three hours, mostly because of Kia being a bunch of jackwipes), and we were adjusting to the reality of having only one car. It sort of hit us hard and kind of left me deflated. But we had to press on and look at the possibility of getting me a way to get around.

I had been doing some research about scooters and had a few in mind and where I wanted to check them out. Earlier in the week I visited a local shop that had a few Lance scooters in their tiny showroom.

What, you’ve never heard of Lance Scooters? It’s okay. I bet most haven’t. Anyway, it all sounded okay and then I asked about financing.

They wanted half the cost of the scooter as a down payment and post-dated checks for the remainder of the term. They would deposit them as each month came around.

Yeah, no. I didn’t have the $1200 to put down.

After we sold the Kia, we went to another local store to see what they had. It was a small selection and they were only 50cc, meaning a small motor that wouldn’t go very fast or keep up with traffic. Besides, they salesman didn’t seem to interested in helping. By the way, the used ones they had were actually Honda Metropolitan models that were used by Rose Parade officials during the parade. Kind of cool, but only 50cc. Next.

It was getting late and I wanted to check one more place which was by the in-laws’ house. By now we were all cranky and in need of a break. We went to Del Amo Motorsports and spoke with a cool guy named Martin about what it was I was looking for.

He showed me everything that would do the job and then some. In the end, the overall best deal was the Yamaha Zuma 125, the number obviously implying the motor type (125cc). It had power, it didn’t look like a wannabe Vespa and unlike a Lance scooter, parts would be easy to come by should it ever have problems. It’s a Yamaha, you know.

Then the number-crunching game began. I always hate that part of making a big purchase and was hesitant about it. Then again, the cost was nowhere near that of a car nor were the payments. In fact, they are about 1/4 what we were paying on the Kia Optima. After some wheeling and dealing we came to an agreement, shook hands, picked out a helmet that was part of the deal and then like the rest of the day, waited – again.

But this was a good waiting period. Things were happening and everyone at this shop was a total pro and very thorough. I signed some paperwork, got approved, then was made a fool of as they announced over the paging system that they had sold a Yamaha Zuma 125.

Then I banged the gong to let everyone in the store know I was the lucky dude. The scooter was prepped, I was shown how to operate it and then nervously, hopped on it and took it for a spin.

Did I mention that it had been years since I last rode a scooter and damn near hit my own car with it? Yeah. Maybe not.

But it was different this time. Maybe all of the cycling I’ve done has made me more aware of things and not as crazy when riding because I handled riding this like a champ. It took a few runs up and down the street adjacent to Del Amo Motorsports to get a feel of it but once I did, I had it down.

The lesson learned here: buy your scooter from Del Amo Motorsports. You won’t regret it, and tell them Dave sent you. I get rewarded for referrals!

The End of a Long Day
The ride home was fun and I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way. It was literally fun. With Ann following me, I took the long way so as not to encounter much traffic. It was at an open stretch of road with no cars around that I decided to open it up a little and hit a speed of 45 MPH, which feels a lot like 90 MPH on a scooter. I took it easy the rest of the way home.

When I pulled into the driveway I had a smile on my face and told Ann, “You need to get one of these things!”

And for what it’s worth, here’s a collage of my new ride.

2014-07-12-10-33-19_deco

The mileage on this thing is estimated to be around 89 MPG but naturally, depending on a number of factors including driver’s weight, YMMV. The Optima never managed to deliver more than 19 MPG even while using cruise control. It had horrible mileage despite what Kia claims.

With the scooter’s 1.6 gallon tank and an estimated 89 MPG, we’re looking at around 142.4 miles per tank. It doesn’t seem like a lot but with me working so close to home and not going very far otherwise, that could last me a long time.

Besides, who couldn’t get used to this?

2014-07-13-16-21-40_deco

It didn’t have a full tank when I drove it home and with me riding it home and doing a little local riding plus going to work, the gas had gone down to a little over half a tank.

It may now cost me $5 to fill my tank versus the $25 for half a tank on the Optima. And in addition to cutting payments by 75% versus what we paid on the Optima, the cost to insure this is lower as well.

We’re saving money on insurance. We’re saving it on gas. We’re saving it on monthly payments.

For everything we put up with last Friday, I’d say we ended the day making the right choice.