Monday, June 27, 2005

Karaoke Gone Wild (Part Something - I Lost Count a Long Time Ago)

Last night, I went to karaoke without DM. Yes folks, that's right, DM bailed on me. I understand the whole "being sick" and "back hurting", but what a week to miss!

Since I was not picking up DM, I decided to hang out at my dad's a bit longer and finish watching, "From the Earth to the Moon" with him. (Excellent series by the way.) By the time I walked into The Chalet, it was after Bryan, Angie, Andrew, and Big Wayne had shown up. Bryan came running over and said, "We've been worried sick about you!" Geez, who knew that 20 minutes was that important?

As I am walking in the door, I see that Andrew is snapping his warm-up pants back up. I had a friend, long ago in another phase of my life, that would do the same thing to a certain pool hall junkie that Angie did to Andrew last night. She ripped his pants right off him inside the bar.

Darts kept everyone occupied for the night, I still have my cold so I decided not to sing too much. In fact, I only sang one song, and that was at the very end of the night. Char and her roommate, Matt aka "Nat", showed up. We joined the table with Liz, James, and Barry. There was an exciting conversation about what will happen when we die and how our bodies will be disposed. James wants to be cremated and have keychains made up for all his friends. I guess it makes keeping track of your keys much more important.

The part of the evening that makes it karaoke gone wild happened after most of the patrons had cleared out. On the way out the door, James (who, by the way, had been drinking quite a bit all evening long) decided instead of just telling us he wears boxer briefs, thought he would SHOW us. So, James took off his shorts.

On that note, Char and I left (Matt had already taken off).

Bryan and Liz are going on vacation and will not be at The Chalet next Sunday. James, Barry, etc. will not be showing up and I have been invited to a party held by someone from work, so karaoke stories for next Sunday will be lacking. Depending how dead to the world I feel on Thursday, I may go Thursday night. This week is going to be earlier than the previous ones have been and there is a day I have to be at work by, ouch!, 9 AM.

DM, we missed you up there last night. There was some crazy stuff that I'm sure you would have enjoyed seeing and laughing with everyone.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Unmaking of a DMan

As a large group of N.A.B.A.B.N.A. employees sat around laughing and smiling at Patty McGovern's on Thursday night, I posed the question, "Why do we only get together when someone is leaving?" Luke, a man from New Orleans that I've known for over 5 years now, said, "We had something like that back home. People only get together for weddings and funerals, both somber occasions." Now, I'm in no way near to the cynical levels that Luke's views dictate, but I am always wondering why the night shift doesn't go out after work, have a good time and just get to know each other.

There was a survey, about 6 months ago, at the call center and one of the questions was, "I have a best friend at work", and people were to rate the truth of this statement on a scale of 1 - 5. We're striving for a 5, but our center was at a 2.8. There are some thoughts about the phrasing of the question, but it still seemed a bit lacking. Why don't we connect with each other at work? I have never felt connections lacking, but then, I've always wanted to go out after work with members from the team, friends from other teams (this is how I know DM, Keem, Matt, Char, et al). But nights planned out at local bars/restaurants are few and far between. Unless someone organizes a going away party, few decide to get together.

All of this brings me to Thursday night, the night of Donovan's going away party at Patrick "Patty" McGovern's, an Irish pub in downtown St. Paul that serves Guinness on tap where the old St. Paul crew used to frequent. There were 14 people from our group there and only 2 were high with the spirits. Donovan and his childhood friend, Tyler, were both enjoying the Guinness, although Donovan was enjoying it at a much faster rate. In a period of 7 hours, Donovan consumed over 11 "tall" Guinnesses (more than a pint) and he was loving life. Luckily, Donovan is a friendly drunk, no violence, no swearing, just wanting to share affections. He enjoys being the center of attention, which is great since it was his party and he deserved the attention.

He sat at the table, toasting us all, "Here's to you, and here's to me, friends we will always be. And if we should ever disagree, feck you, and here's to me!" He sang songs and drank his beer. Sometimes he would get restless and decide to stroll outside the bar, enjoying the summer night air and checking out the bikes as they passed.

At one point, Donovan disappeared. This was nothing new, he would like to walk around the bar and return, it is a safe neighborhood, so we were not too worried about him. Tyler suddenly spots Donovan and calls me over. Across the street, on the hood of someone's Toyota, there was Donovan, awake but sprawled out, looking as if he wanted to sun himself in the moonlight. Thankfully, that is when Uncle Carl (a nickname Luke has given Carl, don't ask why, no one knows, not even Luke himself) showed up and we were able to get Donovan back into the bar. A few of the early arrivals started to leave and Donovan had himself a good time saying his goodbyes.

Soon we found Donovan again, this time on top of a Jaguar, complaining that the guy who owned the car was in no way as cool as his dad, another Jag owner. After his stint at being a traffic control cop (in which Tyler and I kept telling him to get out of the middle of the street before he got hit by a car or arrested (does the phrase, "Drunk in Pub-lic" come to mind?)), the Jag looked like a comfortable place to rest. We were able to lure him away ("Donovan, there are people inside who came here to see you. You should go talk with them.") and he decided it was time to go home.

I had offered, early in the evening, to give Tyler and Donovan a lift back to Donovan's apartment (6 blocks from the bar). Char hopped in the car with us and we had our own little adventure. My Johnny Cash CD was in the dash and Donovan (a huge fan) kept turning up the volume and singing along. He directed us to turn left (while pointing right) and tried to help us find a gas station open at 1:20 in the morning where he could pick up sodas, snacks, and cigarettes. His directions failed us only once, where we found ourselves right in front of a garage that said, "DETOX". Debating whether or not to drop Donovan off, we headed to the gas station and he did get his diet soda.

Eventually, Char and I were able to get to Donovan's apartment and drop him and Tyler off. Hugs were exchanged and Char & I were both able to feel the wetness of Donovan's lips on the sides of our faces. He and Tyler were home safe and it was time for us to head back to Patty McGovern's, to get Tom and head out for a bite to eat.

Donovan is a good guy and even if he is a Republican, he's still fun to be around. We are going to invite him to karaoke in the future and contact will be kept. And plans to have an afterwork get-together are in the making, we're not waiting for someone else to leave anymore.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Little Black Book

Scratch that. Make it Little Stripey Purple and Brown Book.

In my purse, I always have a small notebook handy. Currently, it is this brown/purple/cream striped one with a little pocket in the front (holds my list for karaoke songs and a picture of Taco and Chip that I found tucked in one of my old manuals at work). The pages in the book have many beginnings of posts written or maybe just ideas for posts. Over time, I've become accustomed to having it nearby, ready to capture a moment that may or may not cause me to burst out laughing at a later date.

When I open the cover, the first page I see happens to be almost blank, but holds important information for a post for Out of the Mouths of Morons that I meant to write BEFORE DM and I went to Portugal to see Johnny. This is how far behind I truly am. The unwritten lines are there for me to tell the story about maybe the worst interview story I've heard, but the top only reminds me of what I meant to tell. All it says is, "Phill's interview. Growth. Cysts." This is my reminder. Sounds delightful, does it not? Could I remember to write it? No. Heaven forbid I write it while I sit on my breaks, wondering what to think about or do or I sit at Perkin's, awaiting my friends to appear and engage ourselves in lovely conversation.

The next pages are full of notes of random thoughts and sayings from times where I found myself out and about with DM, Char, Tom, et al. Who would not want to know the full story that prompted me to write:

"We are looking for the mall that should be easy to find."
"Which mall?"
"The mall that is not a mall."

This is followed by the words, "Camelot Square." I sort of remember this day. It was when DM and I were shopping 'til we dropped right before our departure to Lisboa.

All of this crazy rambling is followed by 23 double sided pages with notes and directions and half written posts from Portugal. There are more pages full of half lines and images that should bring back more and more to me, but the amount of what I wanted to write has disappeared. Does anyone from the night remember Bryan's full out conversation about "hamburger squishing foot fetishes"? I sort of do. Do I remember enough of it to still be funny? Probably not, even though the phrase itself could send many on a tirade of typing.

Then I find two more ideas for Moron Mouth posts. Would a post about how the bank is responsible for the infertility of a customer's wife actually be funny? Hardly, but it is written down, an idea for a future date when I can do more than ramble about what I'm not doing.

The notebook does not always house blog ideas, although that is the primary purpose of the paper. I do have notes about the interviews I performed while trying to hire a team lead (who, by the way is doing fine, recovering from his surgery and our team misses him terribly and cannot wait for him to return). I have pages full of ideas for team building exercises, meeting agendas, training materials, and compensation rewards that struck me one day while I was trying to enjoy the HOT summer days. (Minnesota is not normally quite this insane in the summer. Yes, we get our warm and humid days, but 90-degree PLUS days normally surface around the end of July/early August. Not in June. And leave it up to me, the "business woman" to wear a t-shirt, a long sleeved button down shirt, and a black jacket on possibly the hottest day Minnesota has seen in three years. I'm a smart one.)

I suppose all of this brings me to the last two pages of writing in the notebook. They are both full of observations from nights out this week, not even close to the posts I keep wanting to write but never find the time for, and I probably do not have time to finish writing them up tonight. Why do I not have the time? Because I'm leaving the house in 30 minutes to meet up with Andy, my former boss, and Char & Tom at the pool hall. We invited Charlie (another manager) and his wife out with us and we're all having our own anti-going away party for a different team lead. It's not so much that I don't want to wish her goodbye, it's not that at all in fact. It's more of the fact that as supervisors (Andy, Charlie, and I), we are all a bit weary of participating in an activity that will ensure underage intoxication and we each value our careers with N.A.B.A.B.N.A. It is also Andy's birthday tomorrow and I am supposed to make him blush a bit at midnight. It should be a good time. Seriously folks, watching Andy play pool is one of the best sources of entertainment out there. It's not that he is a bad player, it's that he just is a funny, funny guy. There may be an "Ode to Andy" coming soon. Hey, there's a good excuse to tell the stories of "My Boss, milking cows, and lots of manure", "How my boss 'almost died'", and "Did you ever know that you're my hero?" Three, maybe four, birds with one stone! Classic rock and/or roll time.

See how easily I digress? Writing anything of value has completely escaped me. It may have a bit to do with a stressful situation going on at work, but it could also be that I'm completely exhausted (mentally and physically) with this weird sleep schedule I've been keeping. Watching the entire third season of Quantum Leap and LOVING the first season of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (Dean Cain, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...) probably has not helped my time devoted to blogging either. Hey, I get distracted by hot men on the TV. This is why I am NOT pushing play on the DVD player for the first season of The X-Files right now. See how much I adore the blogging world?

But I wanted to write up a couple of the observations from this week. They are nothing overly special, but some were quaint moments, moments which surprised me (shout out to Johnny! (Where the hell did I pick up the whole "shout out" thing from?))

Pool Hall Blues

On Tuesday (and Wednesday in fact), I went to the pool hall with Char. Tuesday nights is ladies night and table time is free, a gift to both of our wallets. Karaoke is also going on in the place on Tuesdays, although I have yet had any desire to put in a song. There's something about karaoke where Bryan is the host that makes it special. Usually, the singers at the pool hall are much more intoxicated than at The Chalet (is that possible?) and every single week a couple decides that Summer Nights (from Grease) should get the "treatment". I have twinged more than once at the final note of the song, praying the person decides to go low rather than high for that last little bit.

This last week did not hurt my ears. The singers were talented and I rather enjoyed having the background music (so much better than Tony's usual Hip Hop station and that "Drop it like it's hot" song). There was a woman who got up to sing a song by Susan Tedeski. I believe the song is called, "It Hurts So Bad", but I may be mistaken. She wailed out the notes, hitting each perfectly and putting so much raw power into the lyrics that I appreciated her efforts and wanted to hear more. As Char and I were leaving, we had a special treat. A man was sitting in the parking lot, on the hood of his car, strumming at a guitar and singing, "Wonderwall" by Oasis. An Oasis fan I have never been, yet it was a special moment, catching someone who wasn't playing for anyone and his voice carried over the night air. It was soft and clear and meaningful. The moment would have been perfect, if not for the man relieving himself on the other side of the parking lot.

The other story I want to share is about last night. Donovan, of Harleys and Guinness: The Making of a DMan (not updated recently), has now said his farewells to our call center. No longer will we see our Republican friend strolling around, answering questions for bankers, and telling fun stories at work. It is a bit sad, although I think contact will be kept. Donovan was one of those long term fixtures in the call center, a good guy, and he will be missed. He was great at his job and to say goodbye, we did all get together and say farewell at the classic bar, Patrick McGovern's, aka "Patty McGovern's", an Irish pub in downtown St. Paul, near to the old dungeon call center location.

Donovan was quite prepared to have himself a good time last night. By the time I arrived (around 8:45), he had already drank himself 6 tall Guinnesses and was feeling the effects. By the end of the evening, the count was somewhere around 11 & 1/2 + and Donovan was having a grand olde time. And the time I had to tell the story has disappeared. Well, now that I've wetted my appetite for blogging again, I may be able to complete a few stories by the end of the weekend.

Hope all is well in the blogging world. I know I've been slacking on commenting lately, I do apologize. I hope to get caught up over the weekend.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Taking Time to Travel to Tomah

DM has written a couple of posts about our day trip to Tomah, Wisconsin to visit with Mark, his son and his son's friend. We had a wonderful time and I'm not going to repeat all that DM wrote. What I do want to do is let everyone know the pictures from the day are loaded onto Flickr and invite you to check them out. Many of the pictures were taken while we were driving down the road and a few are of things we saw when we pulled over to get pictures.


(There should be about 130 pictures, give or take a couple.)

Read about the trip here and here. Pictures can be found here.

Tomah 054


You know this post: "The rest of Steve's first day, his first full day, and night workers bonding."

Yeah, I wrote it. Then I managed to not save it and lost it. And it wasn't that exciting to begin with.

I should be at work right now. I will be soon, but I should have gone in about noon. I'm thinking I'll be there by 1. I don't HAVE to be there before 1, but I should.

Also, I think DM gave me the cold from H-E-double hockey sticks. Bah.

Without much further ado, I give you the condensed version of the rest of Steve's first day, his first full day, and then what we did at night.

I thought I hired my opposite. In work strengths and weaknesses, I did. When it comes to interests, Steve and I share some odd connections. 1. He likes to do math. 2. He likes monkeys (this has spawned my idea of having a Top Banana award for our team). 3. He enjoys karaoke. 4. He has a blog (don't ask for the address. I don't know it and I'm not asking him for it. Blogging is a private thing. He and I both have the opinion that you don't share the site with people you know, just random Internet people. Although I do give the site to close friends, but I am picky.)

Friday was Steve's first full day with the team. He did a great job. Our team was #1 in our call center for the day, a feat we've been trying to achieve since day one. He is great at coaching sales and motivating certain team members (it also probably helped the one person that won't make a sale was not there on Friday, but let's let Steve relish the glory). To make Friday night fly by a bit, I took Steve out to lunch at Chipotle and we ate there, sitting on the patio and enjoying the weather. I consider it a business lunch. He also got to witness the wrath of one of our bankers who likes to draw attention to herself (she may be a large source of my recent stress).

After work, I went to play pool with Char, Andy, DM, Tom (Char's husband), "Nat" (Char's roommate), and Steve. We had a good time and almost everyone had a couple of alcoholic drinks. Why did I have a drink? I don't know, but I was having a bit of fun. I didn't have a lot of alcohol; just enough to make me not concentrate on pool all that much. Andy is a funny, funny guy and we all enjoyed his antics. Then we went to dinner at Perkins, laughing the whole time we were there.

It was a fun day and I'm glad to now have a team lead. He's out on leave for two and a half weeks now, so stories about him will be a bit lacking. (He had a surgery yesterday. Nothing serious. Don't worry. And the team did send him Get Well Soon flowers.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Where does the time go?

It sounds horrible and like an excuse, but I do honestly feel like time is flying by and I do not have enough time to stay current with blogging and it's driving me batty.

There are a few things I want to write about and just not enough time in the day to do it. Gah!

Here are a few of the posts to come:

Swimming with the paranormal

The rest of Steve's first day, his first full day, and night workers bonding

DM & I travel to Tomah to meet Mark (DM may write this one up, I'm not sure)

Why I am disliking softball (aka Yea. Softball.)

Thoughts about my father & the Father's Day dinner

I've Been Tagged (What I Miss Most About Childhood)

Picture Perfect (pictures from recent days)

Constant Reminders

Work Stories, including:

  • Holding a co-worker back
  • Funky Pants Saturdays
  • My Boss, Milking Cows, and Lots of Manure
  • How My Boss "Almost Died"
  • "Did you ever know that you're my hero?"

At least I have plenty of ideas, it's the time I'm lacking an abundance of.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Enthusiasm, Excitement, and Exhaustion

It is official. I have a team lead. Yesterday marked the day I could offer the job and the lead started immediately after.

I suppose introductions are in order. Although he knows nothing of the blogosphere and my site, I'd like you all to meet Steve J. Steve was the second interview mentioned in this post. He was the candidate that halfway through the interview, Andy (my previous supervisor who is also looking to replace me) thought, "This is the guy Beth is going to hire." When the interview was over, Andy and I led Steve out of the room and then sat there talking. The entire discussion was pure excitement.

Steve has been working at N.A.B.A.B.N.A. for just over a year. In this time, he has been a successful banker working on DM's roommate's team. He has worked as a coach in our training queue and all the new bankers on my team know who he is because he has helped them so much already.

A piece of advice was given to me at the beginning of the process, something I had already thought of but liked to hear the reinforcement. The training department manager, without anyone in mind, said to me, "Even if it seems hard, hire the person who is not like you." She was talking about strengths and weaknesses. If there are areas I am not great at, I want someone else who is great at them. I found this in Steve.

When I arrived at work yesterday, the approval was still pending. The offer email ended up in our center manager's email and he just hadn't looked at it yet. I stopped in and asked him about it, explaining my excitement over Steve as a candidate. The manager then approved it (while I was in the room!) and forwarded it on. I spend the next two hours, unable to do anything else, pacing back and forth, waiting for the regional manager to approve the offer.

Steve had a pretty fun day at work yesterday. Since he had been there a year, he walked in the door to find his current supervisor pulling him aside to tell him he was rated as a "superior" performer (we rate on a scale of 1 - 5, at 3 you can keep your job, 5 is the best and hard to achieve. Steve was a 4 for his first year.) He was also told what his salary increase would be.

Once I had the approval, I was ready to tell him. All the other turn downs were done, so I could announce as soon as he knew he got the job and he accepted. I got the approval and was off. I found Jeff (DM's roommate and Steve's current manager) and found out that Steve was at lunch.

My patience was gone yesterday. I am typically know at our center for having infinite patience with bankers, but it was gone. I was too excited to tell him. While Steve was at lunch, I hovered near his desk, watching the doors and waiting for him to return.

Finally (it seemed like AGES) he returned. Jeff signaled to me that it was okay and I approached him before he started to take phone calls. As I walked up, he was smiling because he had received another Thank You (little rewards and encouragement) while he was at lunch. He told me that it was his second of the day (most people get one or less a month). It was fun to see him happy and pleased with himself. I asked him to go into a training state on his phone and if he had a few minutes to talk.

We walked to the room where the interview had taken place and I was going to try and be a bit suspenseful, but I was just too darn excited. As we entered the room, we sat down and I said to him, "Thank you for all the time you've invested in this process. I know you've interviewed with a few different people now and you've been waiting for any type of response or feedback. I just wanted to let you know it takes a bit longer to get a 'yes' than it does to get a 'no'. I would like to offer you the position and here is what I'd like to pay you."

He said yes immediately. He received his second raise of the day, a promotion, and started to earn a shift differential (10% more). Then it was time to announce throughout the center.

Steve expresses excitement differently than I do. I tend to go crazy a tad overboard, he just stands there and smiles. Without the aid of caffeine, I was hyper. I clapped, spoke quickly, and "bounced" around in the call center. He stood there smiling a HUGE grin all day long. We stopped by Jeff's desk so his old team could hear the news. Then we visited the training department to introduce him to our new bankers that will be on our team in 6 weeks. We then went back and announced the news to the bankers on our team that were there yesterday (it was only two of them). Those bankers were excited, since they both knew him from the training queue.

I have much more I would like to share about Steve's first day and my excitement, however I need to get to work. This post will be updated later.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Today should be fun! Assuming approval from three people since yesterday and that a delivery of of review information was given this morning, I'll be able to go to work and make my offer to the new team lead.

I have a feeling the person does not know just how good of a day this is going to be for them. The person is getting an annual review today (raise) + I want to hire them (promotion + another raise) + I get to tell them that not only am I giving them a raise, but they will be qualifying for a shift differential and get an additional 10%.

My own feelings are those of excitement. I am thrilled to be hiring this person and I can't wait to see the look on their face when I tell them. All of my turn downs are done, so once the person accepts, I get to announce it to the team (who are starting to believe I am not hiring anyone) and the center. Today is going to be a high energy day and this thrills me!

I've been bouncing around for two days, excited about this decision and the way it turned out. I have such a wonderful feeling about the team and nothing (not even the slightly bad news about it that I can't share yet) can bring me down. Knowing the process is done is also a huge relief. I can spend more time focusing on the team with the decision being made.

Yea! I'm just happy, happy, happy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

THe Curse of Murtle

As I walk into the state-of-the-art bathroom at our multi-million dollar building, I am reminded of a story. It is a tall-tale, a campfire yarn, and it is completely fictional. The story was created to "spook" a former co-worker, and yet...

Sometimes, it is easy to get caught up in the story, to start to believe in its roots, and to cause you to look around cautiously.

The story is of a haunting of the women's bathroom located in the center part of the building on floor two. It is specific to this bathroom in particular, none of the men tell their tales of odd sounds and movements.

Our state-of-the-art facility is equipped with everything modern. The toilets flush themselves and sensors start the flow of water to wash our hands. As far as public restrooms go, it’s not a bad place to relieve ourselves. But…

The modern mechanics sometimes backfire. When only one person is in the bathroom, toilets will start flushing. The sinks will start running without anyone near them. This is where the tall tale of Murtle has originated.

One of the girls who worked with us had an experience one night in the bathroom. As she was finishing washing her hands, the sinks next to her started to run water in succession. She then heard banging on the steel walls of the stalls. Being one who easily believes in spooks, she ran out of the restroom, pale as the “ghost” she believed to be haunting her in the restroom.

When she returned to the floor, she told all of us about her experience. Everyone had a story about the bathroom, each exaggerating it to scare her a bit more. Another team lead told her, “Ghosts only show themselves to those who believe, so those who keep telling you nothing happened are just blind to the possibilities.” A few made-up incidents, you know, spooky sounds, whispering in the stalls, and towels being moved without anyone near them. Anything was told to her to convince her about the ghost named Murtle.

A person was creative enough to establish a story about our building being built on top of an old cemetery. It is a completely unsubstantiated rumor, a bogus story, but it had her freaked right out. No one left remembers where the name Murtle originated, but it makes me laugh. We’ve been in this brand new building for less than three years, but fictional stories have already emerged. I wonder about the future, in twenty years what will the story be?

As a participant in the story telling, I have to admit I helped to spook myself. I know, full well, that there is no ghost haunting the restroom at our call center. The toilets flushing and the sinks starting with no hands to trip the sensors were problems with the electrical system. The incidents have decreased. Then one night, when I was in the restroom by myself, the sinks started to spray water. And I hightailed it out and back to my desk! Maybe it is management’s way of making people get back to work faster or maybe Murtle really does exist…

For those wondering if I believe in spirits and spooks, I feel the answer will come when I tell another "tall tale" about a swimming pool and my youth. I promise this tale within the next seven days.

What tales do you know not to be true? Are there urban legends in your life? Stories that started as a joke but quickly became a campfire yarn?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Posting Cute Pictures in a Desperate Ploy to Avoid Writing Anything of Substance

Smoke Plays (13)

This is my mom's kitten, Smoke. "Little Smoke Brooks," that's what she calls him. He loves to sleep and hunt. Mom has found little rodents and birds laying on the kitchen floor and has watched Smoke play with his food in the backyard.

Mom has not had a lot of experience with kittens. Mac joined her family after maturity and this little guy was quite a surprise for her to find. When I go visit, I tend to play with the kitten, throwing balls against a wall and watching him try to trap them.

One of the toys that Smoke likes is a stuffed soccer ball. It is a hold over toy from the days when Taco would run back and forth, fighting for it. The last time I visited, Smoke hid behind a door, pawing at the ball. These are just some fun pictures.

Smoke Plays (4)

Smoke Plays (1)

Smoke Plays (7)

Smoke Plays (5)

Smoke Plays (9)

Smoke Plays (11)


Those who have been following the details of my hiring a team lead process, I have to announce that I've made a decision. Unfortunately, due to paperwork, waiting for approval from those on vacation, and scheduling, I cannot announce WHO I have decided upon until sometime next week.

My first week as a supervisor (actually doing the job) has been a busy one. There have been rewards and happy moments and those are what I am holding on to. I do have to admit, honestly, there were a couple of trying moments, but nothing that patience and getting used to the job cannot solve.

In the past week, I've learned that having another person of authority there with me to help coach is a blessing. I've learned that making a decision about who to work with closely for a long time is no light decision, but sometimes the candidates shine and show you quickly who is the right choice. And I have also learned that telling someone that they didn't get the job is something I do not enjoy. No matter how well some of the turn downs have gone, it is still hard to talk to someone and tell them the answer is no.

This past week was also a discovery of myself. I found that I can stand my ground to employees who are trying to push boundaries to see how far they can go. I can celebrate success and still be firm when those are not performing as they should. And I watched a banker make a complete turn around in one night and become a top performing banker. And her smile and pride in her success made me love this new job.

But, I want my new lead to start. The process has gone like this:

  • Have 30 applicants turn in resumes
  • Grant 10 interviews
  • Spend two weeks sitting in the hottest room inside our call center, hammering questions at people and getting their ideas
  • Narrow the 10 down to two outstanding candidates
  • Spend two days pulling my hair out trying to decide between the two candidates, knowing each were fantastic candidates and that I would love to hire them both
  • Make my decision between the two, based on experience, personality, and performance
  • Sell my new boss on my decision
  • Talk with Human Resources about how to make an offer
  • Write up a justification on my decision and email it to my boss for approval
  • Start declining applicants

At this point, there is still a bit of work left to do.

  • Wait for approval from my boss, her boss, his boss, and the head of HR (the person on vacation)
  • Make the offer (hopefully on Tuesday or Wednesday)
  • Finish turning down applicants
  • Announce the position (if the applicant accepts)

Hopefully, this explains why I've been a bit lacking on posting lately. Not only have I been working more hours and harder this past week, but I've been working various shifts and my sleep schedule has been a bit off. I may be a bit scarce for a few weeks, but I'm going to try and keep up on reading and writing in the blogosphere.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Yet another anniversary...

Today marks the eight year mark for my employment at N.A.B.A.B.N.A. In those eight years, I've worked in three different locations (other than helping at other branches for a day or two) and held 5 different positions. I've had 9 different managers, 6 different team leads, and 3 different upper management bosses (that I worked closely with). I could probably name 250 people at least that I've seen come and go in my time with the company, but the best parts to share are the stories.

Over the past eight years, I've...

  • Watched a brand new Chevrolet truck drive 60 miles an hour into a brick wall.
  • Witnessed a drunk employee (this actually has happened more than once).
  • Had to manage racial slurs being said (not fun).
  • Dealt with state troopers inside our call center.
  • Physically held a co-worker back from leaping over a counter and punching a customer.
  • Had to calm an elderly lady down from having a heart attack when a co-worker became a maniac.
  • Led a team into the safety deposit box room during a severe thunderstorm since I was the only employee to have actually read the emergency procedures packet.
  • Walked over urine and feces in the elevator when we worked in the dungeon.
  • Helped trap a bat.
  • Named the mascot at Saint Paul, a grey owl. The name was Lucky.
  • Had almost 200 CD's stolen and my car window broken into in January. I don't keep that many CD's in the car anymore.
  • Helped move computers when the roof flooded in. We worked in the basement.
  • Heard about a man being stabbed in the behind outside our building and then witnessed as police officers entered the building and questioned certain employees about an incident "unrelated" to what happened.
  • Sat, stunned, as an employee went off of medication and started harassing a co-worker. He kept mentioning the gangstas in Chicago and that she "knew all about it."
  • Almost was assaulted on Christmas by twelve-year olds. Thanks to the security guard, I made it to New Year's Eve.
  • Waited on the customer whom would use our bathroom as a perfect place to snort cocaine.
  • Sat on top floor of the parking ramp, watching fireworks.
  • Hung out in downtown Saint Paul in the middle of the night, just because it felt like our place.
  • Stayed home one day when our location closed due to the heightened fear of 9/11.
  • Watched a man look for his imaginary friend, "R-AAAAA-NNNNN-DDDDDD-Y" and then made up stories about Randy.
  • Learned that an employee had a Darth Vader tattoo near his unmentionables. This prompted the catch phrase known to Sheepsheadians as, "Who wants Darth Vader on your @$$?"
  • Took a co-worker (and a rather attractive one if I do say so) to the casino after our last night in Saint Paul party so he could sober up before letting him drive home.
  • Had my share of inappropriate, inconsiderate, or just plain prank calls.
  • Figured out how to rig up the phone system to get music pumped into the place on a slow Saturday night.
  • Talked to a man who kept threatening to kill himself and scored a perfect score on that call for quality assurance purposes.
  • Spoke with a man who threatened to cause physical harm on employees of N.A.B.A.B.N.A. Luckily, he lived over 100 miles away from the nearest branch.
  • Reported an employee for being verbally abusive to someone on the other end of the phone in the breakroom. He was threatening her life.
  • Experienced a power outage in a building that supposedly has back-up generators.
  • Watched my boss "almost die" while B-B-Q-ing in a rain storm.
  • Played bouncer and prevented my other supervisor from choking a team lead.
  • Had an employee make a bereavement claim. His father passed away 13 years prior to the time he wanted off of work.
  • Coached an employee whom I like to refer to on these sites as "Mario". He is a category of my history in and of himself.
  • Learned that you cannot deposit a $1,000,000.00 check into an Automated Teller Machine. It will reject due to the amount.
  • Got exercise by pushing DM around the call center in a chair for two hours on a really boring Saturday night.
  • Ruined one of DM's favorite red T-shirts by getting a tin stuck on it.
  • Witnessed the acts of Murtle, our ghost of the 2nd floor women's bathroom.
  • Managed to get fondled by three different male team leads in one night (this was back in my drinking days). At least one of them was straight.
  • Spent an entire summer looking for the ice cream truck before realizing that the sound I kept hearing was the sprinklers hitting metal poles.
  • Been a shoulder for numerous crying employees.
  • Started a traveling stage show with DM while singing "I Want to Rock & Roll All Nite" by Kiss.
  • Participated in funky pants Saturdays.
  • Witnessed "God" playing a prank on a high employee.
  • Held my cool after being hit repeatedly by a team lead during a meeting.
  • Had candy thrown at me and received an apology from the manager who threw it.
  • Received another formal apology from that same manager when he decided to smack me purposefully in the head with a wrapping paper tube.
  • Witnessed a supervisor drop kick an orange and have it land perfectly in a light fixture.

Here's to many, many more years at N.A.B.A.B.N.A. and more interesting experiences.

If you want more details on any of these stories, please comment and let me know which. There are a couple I think I'll write up, but I don't mind ideas and suggestions!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

What a Day!

Today was my first day working where I was actually acting as a manager in our call center. The past couple of weeks have been filled with responsibilities for both teams.

I have mentioned before that one of my first priorities, besides getting brand new bankers to be top performers, is to hire a team lead to assist me in producing a number one team. My former boss and I had 30 applicants and we narrowed down the interview field a bit. There were minor hiccups (some qualified applicants who didn't want the hours, etc) and we're in the process of interviewing now.

For legal reasons, we have a set of interview questions established. As much as I'd like to ask some of the crazy questions Andy and I came up with, I do have certain things I actually need to know to make my decision. We've been asking these questions over and over now and getting good, bad, and ugly answers.

Today, in the midst of being a brand new manager and having different meetings going on, we gave two interviews. One of the candidates was someone I was excited to talk with and the other was someone who was recommended an interview, but not someone I knew previously.

I have to say, the second interview went AMAZINGLY. I am not close to a decision yet. I still have three more interviews to do, but I was impressed with this applicant. The person jumped right up my list to a top candidate. All the answers were great and this person has the right strengths that offset my weaknesses. I also see terrific potential in this person.

All-in-all, I'm excited to see such great candidates (a couple of the others were amazing as well). It makes it easier to make a decision, even if it is a bit harder. I would rather have a choice between great candidates than have a pool of people who none seem to shine.

DFG, otherwise known as, Drunken Flirty Guy and a Pool Hall Adventure

Alcohol has a way of creating stories. People act differently when they are intoxicated and once in awhile I run into drunken individuals when I am out and about. Last Wednesday night was one of these times.

Char and I went to RC’s to play a bit of pool after work. Tony was up there working again and we got the usual table. RC’s is a “sports bar” with a full bar and a pizza joint. There are two types of patrons of the establishment. You have those who love to play pool on one of the 20 tables inside or you have those who sit at the bar and take shots and chase those shots with pitcher upon pitcher of beer. Moderation is rarely observed in these patrons.

Normally this is no problem for Char and I. The bar is on the other side of the building and we stay content at our table, shooting stick. It is when the drunken patrons feel playing pool will sober themselves up that we get to enjoy a show.

An hour before last call, two men wandered over to the nine-foot table near our seven-footer. Neither were unattractive but the vast amounts of alcohol consumed by them made them uninteresting, in respects to dating. Since they were so close to us, and we were the only females in the building, we were the objects of their affection. That is where the hilarity began. The following will be random observations of the two men and their attempted interactions with us.

Drunken Flirty Guy (DFG) is the main character in this tale. Obviously more intoxicated than his buddy and more interested in looking for a little action, he made more attempts to interact with Char and I. The weather was a bit nicer this past week and so he was wearing sandals (thankfully NOT with socks on), shorts, a gray T-shirt, and his baseball cap on backwards. His first attempt at talking with us was to walk up and try and ask questions. (Translations follow.)

DFG: R U shoooooooooootin’ poo’? (Are you shooting pool?)
B: No, we’re playing soccer.
Confused look as the sarcasm sets in.
DFG: Wa ta pla doublassss? (Want to play doubles?)
B: No.
DFG: Are ya ‘fried? (Are you afraid?)
B: No, you’re drunk.
DFG: Yar ‘fried. Ter-i-bee ‘fried. (You’re afraid. Terribly afraid.)

At this point, I just stopped talking to him. He wandered sashayed back to his table. Have you ever seen The Birdcage? If you have you’ll understand this. Nathan Lane’s character tries to imitate John Wayne (and does rather well) and the characters realize how The Duke actually walked. This man did the same, but in his drunken state it appeared rather feminine. Especially with the hands outstretched at the ends of his limp arms.

The duo starts playing eight ball on their table. DFG is racking for his buddy to break and bangs his head into the overhead lights. The lights start swinging. He finds this amusing. So he head butts the lights, full force.

In a drunken state, the notion of a pendulum seems to slip one’s mind. The theory of objects in motion remaining in motion did not occur to him. Since the lights were attached to the ceiling, the only path for them to take once they reached the end of their cord was right back into his forehead.

The sound that pool table lights make when smacking a drunkard in the head sounds a bit like, “BAM!” The reactions of young women at a nearby table when witnessing this is to try and hold in smiles and giggles and not being successful in any way. The pool hall attendant (Tony) has the reaction of walking over and warning the pair that if this behavior continues, they will be thrown out.

Another common thing in a pool hall is music. Rock music, blues music, country music and sometimes (as much as Char and I beg and plead to have the station changed) rap/hip hop music. This evening was 80’s Hair Bands and the song; “Live and Let Die” started playing. DFG is a fan of this song. He sang screamed along, over powering the actual song. I had to comment, under my breath to Char in my sarcastic way, “I. have. never. been. so. turned. on. in. my. life.”

DFG got it back in his head that there were females present. He sat over at his table, yelling at me (not in a way that he was angry, no, yelling because the notion of volume control has now escaped him). “’Ow ooolld ah ya?” (How old are you?) When I declined to answer, he kept asking. When I got up to take my shot, he stopped attempting to ask that question.

Pretty soon, DFG became tired of the game of pool his buddy was playing with him. He dropped his cue on the table hap-hazardly and exclaimed, “I’ dun!” (I’m done!) I do have to hand it to his buddy. He just said, “Okay, pick up your cue and sit down then.”

As DFG found his way to the chair, the bartender announced last call. There is an intercom system at this pool hall, yet it is rarely used for last call. Instead, the bartender will place his hands by his mouth and yell, “LAST CALL!!!” It is quite effective.

The duo already had two pitchers of beer at their table and thankfully they were not drinking them. DFG sat in his chair, unmoving, with his chin resting on his hand. This lasted for twenty minutes and Char made the comment, “I think Drunken Flirty Guy is dead.”

Almost on cue, DFG made a movement. I’m sure he felt the movement the next day, once he sobered up and regretted his actions from the evening before.

I know a woman who has a nervous reaction to anyone falling down. No matter what the situation, she will laugh. She does not want to laugh, but she cannot help it. If she had been with Char and I, she would have died of laughter.

The chair DFG was sitting on was a tall bar chair. The seat is a good three feet off the ground and it has no armrests. He tumbled out of that chair like a pro. His head went first. Being drunk, his arms had no reaction to the fall, they were limp and his forehead is what met the floor first. His legs went straight out in the air as he fell and then he rolled over and went to sleep.

No one in the pool hall did anything for three solid minutes. We all just stood there, staring at him. We each realized he was not hurt, just still really drunk, and then everyone had a bit of a chuckle. His buddy tried to make him get up and sit back on the chair and then realized that may not be a good plan. If he’s on the floor already, he can’t fall again.

The buddy made a deal with Tony about the price of the table and he played out the remainder of his game. DFG lay silent on the floor for twenty minutes until his buddy went to pick him up and bring him home. I timed how long it took his buddy (who was licking his chin through most of the night) to pick him up and get him on his feet. It only took 45 seconds. I was a bit impressed.

As they swayed out the door (DFG was the drunk one, the buddy was not actually that bad, it was more of the fact DFG couldn’t walk and he had to move with him), DFG was in the front. And then he opened the door with his head.

BAM! A drunk man’s head slamming into a glass push door makes a similar sound to that of a drunk man’s head crashing into a row of pool table lights. Just subtract the metal clang and you’ve got it.

Char made the comment; “Do you think this means he won’t remember us?” Again, I had to laugh. At least we got some entertainment!

Monday, June 06, 2005

A Former Life...

Those who read this blog regularly may be aware that I am not much of an alcoholic beverage drinker. A few reasons keep me from partaking in the spirits. I don't like to drink and drive home. I don't like to drink alone at home. I'm not a big fan of the taste of alcohol. And maybe the most important reason, I don't like the person I become when I drink.

That does not mean I have not been part of a few different parties in the past. There are two parties from my days of living with Adam that have pictures that I do want to post. I am not so much interested in posting the stories of those parties (but I probably will mention them a bit) as I am in posting a couple of the pictures.

April 2003

Adam and I threw a few parties together. In two years of living together, we hosted four parties. There were even a couple at my mom's house before we moved in together. People tended to enjoy the parties, but I'm not sure that I did all that much. There were fun moments from each, sure, but many times it felt that it was an excuse for Adam to invite all his friends over who could snub my friends. Some of his friends were nicer than others, but the overall effect was not pleasant.

I'm not posting pictures of his friends on here at all. I don't care and I hardly remember some of their names. But this was a party where I did not get hammered (good) and the best part of the party was the after party. And it is an excuse to post pictures of Adam's shirt. He wore it to work one day and everyone teased him about being a cowboy (Rhinestone Cowboy, pick any song with the word cowboy in it and you get a picture of the day he had).

These pictures were not taken on a digital camera and have been scanned using my old, crummy scanner.


This is what I looked like at that party.


I do love this picture of DM. She's smiling and having a good time and I love it.

Adam cowboy stand

Just so you can fully appreciate the shirt. And he wore a cowboy hat! It's too classic!

October 2003

We threw a party that we called, "Adam & Beth's Autumn Bash". Our two bedroom apartment held 24 people (including Adam, his live-in boyfriend (a bit of a sore spot), and myself). Of the 21 remaining people, 2 were people I considered mutual friends of Adam & myself. Then there were four other people I considered my friends. That leaves 15 of Adam's little buddies running around.

At the beginning of this party, I did not drink any alcohol. Adam, being as unobservant as always, made me a martini with melon flavor in it. I handed it to Matt. When Adam made me another one, I handed it to Matt in front of him. His reaction, "You like these." When I replied I did not, he said, "But you had one that night we went out for pizza." To which I replied, "Remember how I took one sip and then gave it to you? That might be a clue that I didn't enjoy it much."

I should explain, before going too much farther, that I had recently caught Adam in a lie. It was a lie he used during a fight nine months prior to get out of the fact he deliberately hurt me. That compounded with the fact his boyfriend moved in without consent or any additional rent two weeks before had me in a sour mood.

There was a friend whom I wanted to call and invite to the party, but I didn't have his phone number. So I called another friend to get the number. This other friend is a guy that I've known for a few years and had had a bit of a crush on. It was one of those crushes that I figured nothing would ever happen with and it was more that I was just attracted to a good looking guy. I never imagined any type of relationship (other than the friendship we had) and so when I invited him to the party (because I felt guilty calling him up for someone else's phone number) and he surprised me by saying, "Yes," I decided that was a good time to start drinking.

The rest of the party was a bit crazy. I was extremely drunk by the end of the night (those who were there do NOT need to comment on details of this party). I had a fight with Adam at the very end of the night (which needed to happen and I would have never brought it up if I hadn't lost all inhibitions). I also had a newly formed awkward state in my friendship with the guy I called because of actions by both of us.

Matt kiss Dana

Matt had been partaking in the spirits a bit as well. None of us know why he felt that DM needed to be kissed, but that is exactly what he did when she walked in. And of course, it is caught on camera.

Matt and Beth

One thing that Matt does when he drinks is pick people up. Not hitting on them, but exercising the muscles in his arms and hold people. He did manage to lift up two guys at once during this party, but this is the picture I'm choosing to post to demonstrate the point. Also, this is what I looked like at this party.


This is not a fantastic picture of my friend whom I called, but it works. And now you know what he looks like. I do miss his friendship. We were pretty close friends before this evening happened and we are both trying to obtain that again. (This includes drunken phone calls on his part, emails, and a bit of text messaging recently. Recently as in last night.)


It's been a busy time for me at work, even with things in my personal life falling apart. I was just promoted and the last month has been quite the adventure. Before I got the job, I had two separate interviews with upper management and human resources. Since I got the job, I guess I did pretty decent in the interviews.

Now the tables have turned. As a supervisor, one of my responsibilities is to interview applicants for our call center representatives. Last week I did one of these interviews. Let's just say the applicant did not get the job.

Banker interviews are not the only interviews I need to give. My former boss and I are both in the process of hiring team leads (someone to do the job I was doing). When the job posted, we received some duplicate applications and we each got a few unique resumes sent in. I had 25 people apply and he had about 5 more that were not copied to my posting. If we do the math (and why not? It's fun!), that's 30 people we need to narrow down to 2.

The pair of us have a set of interview questions ready for the hour slots of time (we're giving out about 10 interviews), but we have started to joke around about questions we'd like to ask. We are a bit random and we're having fun with this process. The questions we are coming up with have NOTHING to do with the job and will not actually be in the interview, but I thought I could maybe share our fake interview here:

1. Which constellation in the night sky do you identify with the most? Give me a synopsis of the mythology of that constellation, the correct coordinates in the sky, and the reason why you have chosen that constellation.

2. What do you think of the color yellow?

3. My team lead needs to have the skills to tell me stories, complete with hand gestures. Go.

4. What is your opinion about clowns? Do you hold the same opinion about clown shoes?

5. Which member of The Beatles was your favorite? Why?

6. Can you build an ark if there was a flood? Would it float?

7. Follow up to the ark question. Which ten species would you NOT take in pairs on your ark?

8. What is the cure for cancer?

9. Without the aid of a calculator or paper & pencil, what is the square root of 1,234,567,789?

10. Tell me your thoughts about sprinklers.

11. If you had a choice between being able to fly and being invisible, which would you pick?

12. What do you think about hats?

13. Here's a scenario. Aliens have just invaded the planet and are colonizing in Minnesota (because they are crazy - you know aliens, never doing enough research about weather patterns). They have decided to not kill all humans and earth creatures and look for employment. How would you coach an alien in selling banking products?

14. Do you participate in Internet forwards? Do you believe that sending the email actually gives you good karma?

15. Have you ever dreamed of monkeys ruling the world? If so, please describe the dream in detail. Be specific about the differences if monkeys were creating policy.

The questions are meant to be completely random and trip up an interviewee. If only I could actually ask them...

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Who's Counting?

On May 23rd, DM wrote a post about her one-year of blogging. Today is my day to do the same.
One year ago today, I was sitting in my old apartment and wanted to comment on one of DM's posts. I decided to create a profile and a blog. That night I wrote two posts. One was an introduction and the other was about my friendship with DM.

Since that night, I've met people over the Internet and formed friendships through blogging. DM and I met Johnny because of one of the posts I wrote and I was able to add her to my list of IRL friends when we visited Portugal in April.

I've learned some formatting and changed my template about six times. I found out about uploading pictures to the 'Net. I uploaded a ton of the pictures from our trip and you can find them here.

I created categories for my different posts. I was even able to learn about drop down menus and minimized the size of my sidebar.

And today, I will leave you with a series of links that help show you a bit of who I am and what I have done in the past year.

Family (category)

One of the many reasons why I love my mom
Part two of stories about my dad
Mom has three pets at the house at the time of this post and we take two out for a W-A-L-K

Dating 101 (category)

Four hours of torture
Five years later

Growing Up (category)

And I was six

Obsession (category)

Seven books and hours of reading later (hey, it fit for the theme!)

16 Tons and What Do You Get (category)

Eight years of NABABNA means a whole lot of stories

Apartment Living (category)

Almost nine months later

It's the Portie Way, You Know (category)

Top Ten reasons to love our adventure of a lifetime

Losing count, and if you are still interested, here are a couple of more random posts/stories/etc.

Are You My Type?
Stupid People Post & Reply (these two are almost infamous!)
Corresponding with God - I got chain mail from Jesus!
Take a Piece of My Heart Baby - My car gets sick
Bait and Switch (AKA Take My Breath Away) - A bad, bad night where the "date" didn't go as I had hoped

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Smaller Than You Remember? Part 2

Part one can be found [here].
Over and over I hear people talking about the old days. It happens quite a bit, remembrance of glory days. This blog proves my guilt in the retelling of old tales, sharing moments of the past. The name of this site, Sheepshead & Other Stories, invokes images of the summer of 2001 to my mind. That year had been one of great change for me, one where my social circle changed and I was no longer the pool hall junkie. It was the year where the Sheepsheadians formed and I think back on that summer as glory days.

Simply put, the Sheepsheadians are employees of N.A.B.A.B.N.A. that worked the same shift and became accustomed to playing cards together after work every night until the sun rose. Our namesake is derived directly from the German-rooted card game that gave us such catch phrases as, “Shearing our Vision since 2001,” and “Life is like a game of Sheepshead, you never know who your partner is going to be.*” Yet our group was, and still is in a different capacity, so much more. We were people who bonded quickly and grew to love each other as family.

In the early days of our group, the core members were DM, Keem, Adam, and myself. There have been additions and subtractions since the formation, but most of the core group is still close. Matt has become a constant member to our group and as hard as it is to say sometimes, Adam is no longer someone I would consider a member. We do not get together every night to play cards anymore, in fact Keem, DM, and I have not even played one or two hands more than three times in the past few months. But there are still stories of the old days and new stories being formed.

The story I have been trying to tell (and straying from the topic quite a bit, sorry, bear with me, it’s how I write) is the story of the first road trip our group took.

It only took one off-handed comment about showing Adam my first house. Because of that one little comment, I found myself loading my car with the Sheepsheadians on a Sunday morning and driving south towards a small town in Iowa.

The drive itself was a bit uneventful. We listened to music and talked and laughed and DM fell asleep in the backseat, as usual. Our jokes about the convenience stores were lame and we still giggled each time we saw the signs for the “Kum & Go.” Our cameras were out and pictures were taken of our time in Waterloo.

We stopped at my aunt’s house and visited for a little bit. The conversation was great and in no way was this “The Trip of a Lifetime,” but it was special. I can’t help but smile when I think of the four of us driving around downtown Waterloo looking for the hotel and finally realizing that the tallest building in town was the Holiday Inn.

The purpose of the trip of course was to show my friends the house I lived in for the first five years of my life. It was an excuse to get out and have a bit of fun and it worked. Sometimes I think we should just hop in a car, drive for four hours and find a place to explore. Then I remember that we all have different schedules now and the chances of just getting away for a day have decreased. It takes so much more planning now to do something as impulsive for us in this day and age and I still want to do it.

The night of our road trip was spent playing Sheepshead in our hotel room. We all drank back then and did have some spirits during our never-ending game of cards, sitting around in our joined rooms in our pajamas. The score was kept but never remembered in the end. Who needs to remember the score when you can remember the feeling of friendship?

Before we went to the hotel, we did visit my childhood home. The neighborhood was still as small as I remembered. I take that back. The neighborhood had not grown over time and it was still quaint and cute, but it seemed a bit smaller than I did remember. My perspectives had changed and three blocks no longer seemed like the world to me. The feeling of safety and security was still there and as I drove across the train tracks my mom used to speed over, I had a sense of nostalgia.

The showing of my old home to my friends was quick. A picture was taken and we moved on. Tours were not every hour on the hour and it no longer is a place I can just walk up and enter. I did pause as I looked at the house that I played so many games and learned in, but felt glad that it was just a piece of my history. After we saw the house, we continued down the street towards the park.

What would be a road trip to a childhood home without visiting the ghosts that haunt one’s memories? It was time to check out the BIG SLIDE again and laugh at myself for my silly fear.

The layout of the park had changed over the twenty years, but the monster still remained, reaching for the sky. I was able to feel better about my fear once I saw it towering there. That slide is HUGE!

Most parks I have visited in my life that have slides have child appropriate slides. I would say most do not tower too much over 6 or 7 feet tall. Parents do not fear their children climbing to the top and falling on the way up. The ladders are usually slanted and the mom or dad can usually still have a hand on the kid’s back as they make their way up the steps. I am not overly tall, only 5 foot 4 (without my boots), but reaching up I can touch something 7 feet tall. The top of the BIG SLIDE was still high above my stretched fingertips.

What should four friends do when they have no obligations to be anywhere and are just out to have fun, finding themselves in a park for five-year-olds? Play, of course! That is just what we did. We each took turns swinging and climbing the stairs to the top of the slide. I have a picture in one of my scrapbooks of DM sliding down arms out and still remember her exclaiming, “Whee!”

Adam had us all laughing as he hung upside down on these rings attached to the swing set. We took turns sitting on the rocking horses and kicking sand off of our shoes. Comments were made continually about how large the slide was. Even as fully grown adults still clinging to our youth, we all felt the slide was a bit large. Looking through the pictures, I would estimate it is only about 10 to 11 feet tall, but its stairs are still a bit intimidating. Instead of a gentle slope, the angle is perpendicular to the ground and the gaps between steps take a bit of effort.

Facing my childhood irrational fear, I climbed to the top of the slide. My perspectives in life have changed and I still found the climb to be scary. The view from the top was enjoyed a bit more at this stage of my life but I still cringe when I think of the climb and the forcing of myself to make the trek.

Thinking back to that day trip to Iowa, I smile. I remember the sunset as we left the park that turned the sky a brilliant pink. I have a picture of the four of us, taken with the use of a timer, standing together each grinning from ear to ear. If there is a time of my life I miss, I do miss the glory days of the Sheepsheadians. I miss the time when we could all get together every day and just laugh. It was a great trip and a great time of my life.

And the slide, as I mentioned, was as large as I remembered. My perspectives may have changed a bit, but that stayed the same. The fear of it being smaller than I remembered was subsided and replaced with the fear of climbing to the top again, but I do have a fond memory of what it took to make it to the top. My friends were beside me when I faced my hidden fear and that means the world to me.


*In four-player Sheepshead, your partner changes each hand based on who is holding the appropriate queens. This is one of the main reasons our group loves to play this game.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Oh My!

Unfortunately, part 2 of the "Smaller Than You Remember?" post is not finished as of yet. It was the plan to write that up either last night or tonight, but 'the best laid plans' and so forth. Instead I would like to bring to you a few moments from my past couple of days that brought a bit of a smile or a confused gaze to my face.

What's Your Worst Moment in an Interview?

There is another post in progress, saved in my blogger account, that will be finished one of these days (the weekend is arriving soon!) about interviews. In the past month, I have had a bit of experience with job interviews. Two of the times I was the interviewee and now with the new job responsibilities, I am the interviewer. The interviews I am conducting are panel interviews and my former boss is sitting next to me, looking to replace me as I stumble through asking the questions (I am not a pro at interviewing as of yet).

In all of my interviews, I've never had a moment like the one that happened today. My former boss, of the male gender, had a bit of a problem. I had to supress a smile and try not to shake my head during this hour slot of time when, as the applicant was answering something (probably why she should get the job or something like that - you know, standard, boring questions) and I noticed his arm move under the table and heard a zipping noise.

I do have to hand it to the applicant. She never missed a beat, didn't acknowledge him zipping up his pants, and kept sailing smooth. But then, maybe she didn't notice it. I wish I hadn't!

Drugs are Bad, Mmmmkay

After work tonight, I headed to Saint Paul and picked up DM for a little bit of fun out at the Chalet. I'm sure there may be a small post or stories from the night to be posted later, but I do have to share the experience I had with drugs tonight.

It is a common place experience for bars to have people arrive throughout the night who peddle flowers, jewelry, and other junk to drunks. It is a way to make a bit of cash and sometimes there are people who buy the stuff. I, myself, have never been a fan of dead flowers and cheap jewelry that will fall apart before the first wearing so I never purchase any of the things being sold.

At the end of the night, a woman arrived, carrying a bucket filled with flowers, mostly carnations of various colors. The flowers were wilted and her sales were not going well. She made a pass though the bar and after hearing the repeated "No"s, she took a 'short' break to use the facilities.

About five minutes after she disappeared into the woman's restroom, I felt nature call and made the trip myself. Inside I was confronted with an odd smell. Typically bathrooms do not have the most pleasant smell, especially bar restrooms where drunks have regretted how much they spent on and drank of the various 'last legal drugs'. Sulfur is not a typical smell for the bathroom at the Chalet.

I was a bit worried. The Chalet is a great place to go and I enjoy the atmosphere. Why would someone be lighting matches inside of the bathroom? My growing concern lasted through the washing of my hands (without paper towels I might add, that gets a bit annoying. At least there was TP in the stall.) As I left the bathroom, the smell disappeared and I asked DM to sniff around to see if she would have the same concerns.

When I mentioned the bathroom smelled like sulfur, Bryan poked his head inside as the flower woman came rushing out, wiping her face off with a ton of toilet paper. She had a crazed look in her eyes and grabbed the bucket of flowers, running around the bar, trying to sell the remaining droopy florals at rock bottom prices.

Bryan made the comment, "I think it's the smell of crack. It's the Crack!" My first thought was that he was joking.

But no, the woman was smoking crack in the stall next to the one where I was. The joke, "They're smoking crack," or "It's crack smoking," has been common place in the Sheepsheadian group, but I never took the literal meaning of the phrase. I actually witnessed a crack smoker!

These are just a couple of minor things that have happened in the past couple of days. I have three posts in progress, which would you like to see first?

  • Smaller Than You Remembered Part 2 (and the conclusion)
  • The Interview I Would Like to Give
  • DFG, otherwise known as Drunk Flirty Guy and a Pool Hall Adventure

Tomorrow is the last day of training for my new team at work and I will be actually stepping into the role of supervisor fully next week. My schedule has been a bit off for the past week or so and this does help account for the lack of regularity in my posting (besides the break I took). I am excited about the new position and will probably write a bit about the experiences here, sharing my thoughts on the new job at some point. Don't forget to vote for which post for me to finish first!

Oh, and the post for Sunday is already written. I'm just waiting to post it.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Smaller Than You Remember? Part 1

As I’ve grown up, I’ve noticed different perspectives. There are, of course, the differences in opinions formed (a high school student is much more willing to a three day weekend than the adult who has to make schedule changes if our school system changed), but I’m referring more to physical surroundings.

I lived in a small town just outside of Waterloo, Iowa for the first five years of my life. Our little neighborhood consisted of three streets, each with about 10 houses on them. The yellow house my family lived in had a huge cornfield and abandoned train tracks in the back yard. At the very end of the block, a community playground was set up, complete with swings, a small-scale merry-go-round, and a slide.

The youngster in me was terrified of the slide. To me it was a giant, a monster of steel that climbed its way to the sky. The thought of making it up the stairs to the top had me frozen. My child mind saw the top touching the clouds. I had the notion it would take at least an hour to climb to the top.

I have a fear of heights that I’ve never truly identified the source of the irrational fear. I don’t know when it started or where it came from, just that I’ve always feared heights. It’s a common phobia and people deal with it all the time.

They’re funny. Phobias I mean. Maybe not a “laff-riot”, but still not serious. It’s a nervous laughter you get when people talk about their fears. I joke around that I don’t like water, but I get scared to death when I think of swimming past the shallow end of a pool. Spiders and bugs make me scream and my skin will crawl for hours after seeing a little bug. Heights are the same, with a slightly different effect. I will be rendered into a state of ice where moving is a forced, deliberate action. Maybe it’s not the heights so much as a fear of falling.

I’ve been forced by friends onto roller coasters and cried for a half-hour after the fifty second ride. I’ve challenged myself to try to conquer the fear of heights by riding this monstrosity of a ride at Valleyfair (an amusement park in Minnesota) called Power Tower. Believe me, it was not pleasant.

But I digress. Back to the park and the slide. I have always known the slide as the “BIG SLIDE”. When my family lived in Iowa, I would go to the park to play. Times were different then and it is still a quaint little neighborhood, so it was nothing for a four-year old to go to the park a few houses down the road to play alone. Sometimes I would stop across the street and bring my friend, Amy, with me. She was six at the time.

When I went to the park by myself, I would sit on the swings, kicking back and forth, or play in the sandbox, coming up with my own stories. I was never lonely. There are values of how to entertain oneself when one is an only child. I learned independence and some creativity. If I didn’t do something, no one else was going to do it for me.

I would also look at the monster, the BIG SLIDE, with wide eyes and think of what it would be like to climb to the top.

I tried it once. At four-years old, I tried to conquer my own fear. It was one of the times I went to the park with Amy and I was more afraid of looking like a coward than my fear of the slide. I tried climbing to the top and sliding down.

It took me forever. It seemed like an eternity and enough time passed that the moment etched itself so well in my memory, that now, twenty-two years later, I still remember trembling and gripping the sides of the ladder for dear life. Each step was carefully planned and mustered up courage I never knew existed. Once I finally reached the top, I sat down and looked around.

I couldn’t get down fast enough! There are people out there that would have enjoyed the new view, looking down, but not me. My butt scooted down the scorching metal gleaming in the summer sun’s rays and I did feel accomplishment. I had conquered the monster. The feeling of accomplishment and success was not enough to make me try again.

Our family stayed in Iowa until I was about six years old. We actually moved to Minnesota right before I started kindergarten because my dad found a job up here. I had not started school yet and was really only leaving my first best friend behind. I remember knowing that I would miss Amy. We talked and talked, agreeing to keep in touch. Luckily, we both had pretty smart parents who helped keep us in contact. I had fond memories of playing a Smurf board game with her and sitting up all night, making pictures on her Lite Brite.

Over the years, we did visit Amy and her family many times in Raymond (the little town). My aunts live in Waterloo, so Christmases were easy times to stop by and say hello. I saw the house I had known as a kid change color and the trees in the front yard grow more each year. I never made a trip down to the park at the end of the block during those visits.

Jump forward in time with me to the summer of 2001. Are you here yet? I can wait, don’t worry. Okay. I’m now twenty-three years old. I’m still afraid of heights and Amy’s family has moved away from the old neighborhood. The yellow house is now blue, but I don’t know this quite yet. My perspectives have changed and the sky is higher than I believed as a child, but I still hold a fear about that BIG SLIDE.

One summer night, to have some fun and waste a bunch of time, I was hanging out with Adam. We were looking for something to do. We’re driving around the cities, checking out different sights. To kill an hour and a half, we head out to a small town quite a bit north of the Twin Cities and Adam shows me the house he grew up in.

As we’re heading back to the highway that brought us back to our neck of the woods, I make an off-handed comment. “Sometime, when we have 8 hours to kill, I’ll show you my first home.” With that minor comment, the idea for the first Sheepsheadian Roadtrip was conceived.

In August of that year, I packed up Foxy, my Geo Prizm, and drove Keem, DM, and Adam to that small town just outside of Waterloo.