Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Drinking and writing; is it a crime?

I go back and forth on whether I have a drinking problem. I tend to think that I do but then I will go months and months without even thinking about drinking because it is difficult to read and game while drinking (which begs the question -- is playing a WoW character while under the influence wrong?).

So suddenly here it was 11:00 AM and I want a drink. I seriously contemplated whether I wanted it and decided that indeed I did/do. Made a drink knowing that my tolerance is now minimal and that having that drink means a couple of things:

1. Will end my functionality for the day. Since I already applied for 2 serious jobs as well as a making the decision to go back to school I decided that this is okay.

2. Will not end with one drink. Because that's the way I'm built and is why I believe I have a drinking problem.

Regardless, I started drinking at 11:00. I sent a text to Ed letting him know that I was drinking in the middle of the day and would probably be asleep by the time he gets home. He called me back immediately (not being a text kind of guy) and we discussed whether this was a good choice. His only complaint was that I was drinking without him.

After completing my second drink I feel like writing. I guess it's better than driving drunk but what if I regret what I write? Then I realize that it matters not one iota whether I write drunk or not; I am a plebeian writer at best so it's not as if scholars in later years are going to study my body of work and be repelled to my drunken stuff versus my sober stuff.

This thought frees me but also relaxes me to the point that I now would just like to take a nap.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Not a jewelry designer either

I own the components to make as much jewelry as you could imagine wanting. I prefer silver and copper for my medals and lapis and turquoise for my stones. I get in a creating mood and get everything out and then find that I have no idea what to do with them. I can make designs that I see in the many magazines and books I own on the subject but I have absolutely no new ideas of my own. I even have this great silver/clay stuff from which you can create your own silver components, rings, etc. and then fire and finish. It's all still in the box because I don't know what I would make with it.

I think I will ask the creative people I know to design something and I will make it. We can be partners. Because I still have the urge to make things and I still don't have any ideas in my brain.

Calling all jewelry designers: send me your designs and I will make them. We can decide what to do with them once I am finished. If you need to see what supplies I have with which to work I can photograph and email them.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Not a writer, it turns out.

I just don't write. That's the bottom line. I have lots of things to say and I format them in my head and modify the sentences, etc. but I don't have the discipline to actually write. It feels like a chore and I am not a fan of chores.

Nothing new in the world of Walmart cashiering. The job doesn't tax me in any way except that I would always rather stay home then go anywhere. Once I am there I count down the hours until I get to go home again. The day is broken up quite nicely by breaks and lunch. 15 minute break 2 hours into the shift, 1 hour lunch at 4 hours, and then another 15 minute break at 6 hours. My favorite days are when it's busy enough that all my breaks are a little late so the rest of the shift goes faster afterward.

Once in a blue moon I am irritated by either a customer or a coworker but not enough to crack through my mood much. Mostly I smile, scan, bag, and smile. I like it busy rather than slow because we have to clean, zone, bag for each other, or anything else to stay busy. I can get pretty anal about the cleaning and zoning but there is still only so many ways to wipe down the area and straighten the candy and drinks, you know? And bagging for each other only works if there are customers. I prefer to be at a register that gets the bulk of the customers whether busy or not so I don't have to constantly worry about whether my coworkers need help. Not that I am unwilling to help, it's just easier not to have to worry about it.

I continue to learn my produce codes. Did I mention that I found out these codes are universal? So bananas are 4011 at all grocery stores everywhere. That means I wouldn't have to relearn the codes to get a job at another grocery store...and you can well imagine how that pleases me.

Today is Easter. Alex called me to let me know that he is having pressure and pain in one of his eyes and that it is bloodshot but not goopy. He needs to get seen so I referred him to El Rio Community Health Care since he has no insurance. It's Sunday so they aren't open but he will call tomorrow to find out how to register with them and get seen. Their web page discusses all of the extreme patient types that they take care of such as the homeless, HIV/AIDS patients, pregnant patients, etc. but they don't mention the working poor. I hope they have room for Alex who isn't homeless, just too poor to pay for health insurance. I will now worry about him until I hear back that he has an appointment and then that he has been diagnoses and treated. The other option is that his symptoms will completely go away and then I won't worry about all the dire possibilities that involve his symptoms. Knowledge may not be dangerous but it sure is uncomfortable.

The weather is fricking amazing in Tucson right now. It will get too hot to be comfortable soon but right this moment it is perfect. It's the little things.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Time flies when you are scanning your ass off.

This morning I finally got to do the CBLs for cashier. It took about 3 hours and then I was back on the registers. It was so busy from 3 to 6:30 that I never got my break. The Customer Service Managers (CSMs) are responsible for making sure everyone is covered for lunches, dinners and breaks and they just forgot me. It was fine because it was so busy I would never have been able to close my register to go anyway. I took my break at 6:30 and then clocked out at 7.

As I stated previously, this job is just not stressful. I guess if I had never handled money before that might be a stress point but I did in my teens and twenties and it's not as if you forget how to add or anything. You can't let the lines get to you, you just keep scanning, bagging and taking payment while smiling and greeting.

I was off the entire weekend and that was nice. My schedule is going to be Saturday through Tuesday from 11-8 (some days are from 12-9). Ed is bummed that I work every weekend but I do have Wednesday through Friday off every week and he gets Friday off every other week so we have that, anyway. I asked for this coming Saturday off for the Air Show! I am so excited to see all the jets. Love my jets!

On a sad note, I have a sister who is an alcoholic and she has started drinking again. She doesn't live in Tucson so I cannot do anything to help her. I can't honestly say that I would help if she were here because my tolerance for alcoholism is pretty much zero. My mother was an alcoholic and I do not react well to drunkenness unless I am drinking as well and I haven't been drinking much in the last year and a half or so.

What's interesting about all this is that I just had a revelation last week about my drinking. I have always considered myself an undiagnosed/undeclared alcoholic. I go years without drinking and then start drinking regularly and then quit again. But if I were to actually give myself the diagnostic test for alcoholism I would not be considered one. And the revelation is that I really am not. Alcohol has never interfered with my work, my personal life, or in any way, really. I don't really crave alcohol but I will say that when I do start drinking in a given night that I don't like to stop. That's what always made me believe that I was an alcoholic. So I guess I may have tendencies? Doesn't matter too much, really. The last time I drank was a couple of weekends ago when we had a friend over. I drank 3 beers.

I was discussing this with my younger sister who doesn't drink at all. What I told her is that on a day to day basis I want to be able to concentrate on reading so prefer not being drunk every day. So maybe I am just a bookaholic. I do still have a really hard time getting to sleep, though, so sometimes I wish I could have a drink just to get myself to sleep. I don't do it because I figure that's a really fast way to build a tolerance. I hate not being able to sleep.

This job is nice for the staying up late because I don't have to be ready to leave the house until 8:45 and I never sleep past 7 so I have all the time at night that I need to get sleepy. Of course, Ed falls asleep by 8 at the latest so we don't see much of each other in the evening...still, we work it out.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cashier apprenticeship

I seriously like being a cashier.

Most of my family have been or are in a service industry and all of my employment has been service related. There are known sociological and psychological reasons for this so I won't go into the "why" of that.

Most of my adult employment (so not speaking of carhop and waitress years) has been in health care which happens to be one of those fields in which the odds of having a happy outcome and/or happy interaction with your patient/customer are low. That means that though the work can be fulfilling, as often as not the care provider will go home after a day's work feeling drained or depressed.

If, as I chose to do the last 10 years, you decide to take a step back and give service to the caregivers instead of being in direct patient care you probably won't have to deal with as many bad outcomes. That doesn't mean, though, that you are completely buffered from their pain and anxiety. Because of the complexity of the laboratory software that I supported, there were often times that I was unable to help with the problem either because of a defect in the software itself or because the need wasn't specifically addressed by the software as it was written. That meant that those ten years were still filled with angst and a referred pain (certainly felt when the client's frustrations with the limitations of the software became verbal abuse of the messenger/me).

So cashier world is so stress free in relation to what I have been doing for 30 years that I can only describe myself as chipper as I go through my day. Not that the job is easy; I am quite surprised by the complexity of the job, but it doesn't stress me at all. Once I become proficient at it I imagine the stress will be even less.

The only annoyance I have is that what I have learned so far is purely OJT (On the Job Training). There are CBLs (Computer Based Learning modules) for the position but the system hasn't yet acknowledged my job change so they are not yet available to me. They include training on the cash register, how to bag groceries, and other basics that would be really, really helpful. Especially I would like to get the training on bagging. I try to use common sense while bagging but, as everyone who knows me well would attest, I really like manuals and that includes manuals on how to do my job.

Physically the job is much easier than produce but I still am sore after standing for 8 hours a day and my low back wants to whine a bit. The store does have those floor mats that are designed to lessen the problem of standing for so long and I will probably start doing so abdominal strengthening to address by low back issues but otherwise I think there isn't much to be done. I think the most physically fit would still feel leg pain if they stood for 8 hours a day.

Tucson Festival of Books this weekend; Ed and I will be going tomorrow. And next Saturday is the Air Show!!!! I specifically asked for 3/20 off to go to it and we are actually buying VIP tickets for it. The tickets give you access to a covered area in which there is comfortable seating and refreshments. That means that we can walk around looking at all the static displays and not have to worry about finding a shaded spot, renting chairs, and then staying put until the show begins. As anyone who has ever been to an Air Show can attest, shade is at a premium on a flight line.

My oldest son, who is in the Army, and my daughter-in-law are still expecting my first grand-baby and are in the process of moving to Alaska. My daughter is going to finish her undergrad this semester and is in the process of applying for grad school while continuing to live with and love her poetry man. The twins are continuing as they have been; one in the Navy going to school to become a Fire Controlman (which has nothing to do with fire and everything to do with weapon systems) and the other working at Walmart and submitting his FAFSA to facilitate his college-boundness.

Ed's kids are also continuing as they have been; the oldest in Afghanistan with the Army, the middle son working on joining the Navy as an aviator, and the youngest in college while working part time as a photographer. So all is really right with our worlds (except for wishing that our troop was already home from Afghanistan). I will continue to update as I have information.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Change is good.

Last I wrote it was about how hard the work is. This weekend I realized that I am not physically up to doing it and I called the assistant manager to let him know...essentially I quit. I felt badly about it but really couldn't see a positive outcome from the heavy lifting.

I, along with some of my siblings, have badness in my back. I have multiple herniated disks in both my cervical and lumbar spine. Most days my pain level is at about a 2 or a 3 and I do not intend to have surgery for what is mostly just irritating pain. The herniations in my neck are the worst and my neck pain tends to give me more trouble than my low back but that doesn't mean that my low back is pain free; just that it is more constant and lower level.

I don't know why I thought I could successfully do the lifting that working in produce entails and it isn't as if I wasn't warned. I guess I thought it would be a little bit of the work when in reality it's the bulk of it. And my low back was definitely letting me know there was a problem with that. So I called in quit and though that was the end of it.

I received a call this morning from the personnel manager asking me if I was willing to continue working in a different position that doesn't require heavy lifting. I agreed to becoming a cashier and will be training for the next 3 days. There is still a little bit of lifting but nothing like in produce.

It never entered my mind that Walmart would invite me to continue working there after giving no notice and I was really impressed that they were willing to find a different position for me. The managers made it clear that they like me and want me to continue working there. That was very nice and really unexpected.

I will write about working as a cashier once I do that. Melissa did this job at K-Mart before she joined the Air Force and I know she hated it. We will have to see if I feel the same way.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

OMG this is back-breaking work

Tuesday, 3/2/2010: I am sore all over from working 2 shifts. Part of the problem is that I agreed to work two shifts almost back-to-back so that I could learn from the most experienced guy in the department. I worked 1-10 PM Sunday night and then turned around and came in at 5 AM Monday morning. Because I have such a hard time getting to sleep and require such a long wake-up routine in the morning that means I got approximately 3 and half hours of sleep between shifts.

The rest of my pain comes from sitting on the couch for five months and then doing a job that requires much lifting, pushing, pulling, walking, stooping, and more lifting. The job description that I signed says lifting up to 50 pounds. I don't believe anything I lifted was greater than 50 pounds but that certainly allows for some heavy shit.

And may I say that people buy way too many bananas? Keeping bananas stocked is going to be my downfall. Cases and cases of bananas...and more cases. The banana spot is the closest to the "back room" where all is stored. Whether this is by design I don't know but I am seriously grateful. On Sunday I stocked 10-12 cases of bananas and yet as I walked out the door at 10 the cases looked half empty. Good Christ stop buying all the fucking bananas!

Wednesday, 3/3/2010: Don't really have anything more to say about the job. I can only say that it amazes me that people do this for this kind of money. It makes me very sure that I will get moving on getting my fingerprinting done for my substitute teaching certificate. I don't know why I have been putting it off because I have wanted to substitute since I got back to Tucson. Just need to do it.

On a positive note, the physical demands of this job are good for me. If I can protect my lower back then the rest of the work will just be good for me. Right now I have to honestly say that I do not want to go back to work tomorrow.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Completed Day 2 of Work

I was way too tired yesterday when I got home to write anything so I will discuss both days now -- they were essentially the same anyway.

We had our initial orientation in the break room and at about 0900 the daily store meeting happened around us. I had heard that all Walmart employees do a special cheer as part of their team building but I didn't expect to be a part of it. I don't know about other stores but our store does the cheer. Every morning.

The history of this store is short which is a positive, really. It will have been open 2 years in July. The manager has been with the company for 13 years -- since he was in high school -- and has worked his way up to having his own store. He is young, enthusiastic, respectful to his employees, and follows the rules, as far as I can tell. Morale seems to be good though there is the standard whining and a little bit of negativity. There are only 78 people employed at the store so everyone knows each other (or will once we last 3 have met everyone).

Walmart has training down to such a science; it warms my efficient heart. They use a Computer Based Learning (CBL) system and you are assigned modules based on your job definition. That means that I had training in produce processing, etc. while my co-newbies Reggie and Stacey had training in cashiering and Over the Counter Drug stocking, respectively. Of course, we also had common modules such as Sexual Harassment, FMLA, etc. etc. As new processes come out new modules are written and assigned to each employee and we are responsible for logging into the system and checking for pending CBLs.

The first 3 days are set aside to complete the CBLs (approximately 25 of them) but it is encouraged that you complete them sooner than that. I started them after lunch yesterday and finished them today at about 1:15. It gave me brain-drain but it also meant that I got off work early today because my trainer didn't work today and there was nothing else for me to do.

So tomorrow I will be in produce learning my job. Joe is my trainer and he seems both nice and competent -- anyone who knows me knows that the competence matters more to me than the nice.

Oh, and time clocks have changed considerably since my last exposure to them (in 1980). I love technology.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Health Care Reform

We went shopping yesterday for my uniform and I really enjoyed it. This is an outfit I would wear normally, really. Well, I prefer a skirt to pants but khaki skirt/pants with a colored shirt is right up my alley. I also found a green hoodie to match since I figure that I will be in and out of a refrigerated space and I don't want to cover up my outfit with the wrong colored jacket.

Today we did a couple of things. The reason Ed is going up North is to help with butchering the pigs that our friend has been raising (one for each family). For any Vegans or for those who don't want to know where their meat comes from I won't go into any details but once the pork is off the bone it has to be bagged for storage. That's where my part of the work would have come in and that's what my handy-dandy FoodSaver is for. Since I won't be there, Ed will have to help Darryl butcher and then do the bagging and sealing himself. Michele, Darryl's wife, may be able to help him though she will be doing all of theirs so may not have time.

To assist him with that I made bags in advance out of all the rolls of FoodSaver bags we have so that he doesn't have to do that first. This way he will only have to place the meat in the bag and press on the vacuum/seal button. It's actually kind of fun to play with this thing and I also vacuum packed the steaks he brought home while I was doing this.

Since this doesn't require all of my attention I have been watching the Healthcare debate while sealing bags. It is wonderfully illuminating. There will be no deal, that's all I can see from this. Reconciliation is the only answer now and I wish that the public option was going to be the way we go.

We have 2 cats; Marty and Sammmy (Samantha). Marty enjoys going outside and for awhile I was letting him out with me when I smoked on the front porch. We have a courtyard and he didn't seem to want to leave it so we were both happy...until he actually jumped the courtyard wall one night and I had to cut him off. During Ed's shopping trip today I asked him to get harnesses for both cats so that we can let them out again on a leash. Getting the harnesses on the cats was very, very interesting. Marty adjusted quite nicely and has been outside with me already. Samantha, though, has not adjusted well and is still slinking around the house as if she has a brick on her back. It's pretty funny. I am going to take her outside next to see if she enjoys it. They really have no choice about it but I like to act as if they do.

Tomorrow morning is my first day of work so I will try to enjoy this evening. Bummed that Project Runway isn't new this week but it's for the best since I have to get up so early tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Employed? Yes I am.

I start orientation this Friday at 8:00 AM. I will have a uniform (and what does it say about my parochial school childhood and military adulthood that I am pleased as punch to have one?) that I have to buy. I will be wearing a green polo shirt and khaki pants with tennis shoes. The manager was quite apologetic that I have to buy the shirt since they are about to change that policy and will eventually be giving each employee two official green shirts to wear but until then I have to supply my own. I have no problem with that; I haven't been clothes shopping in so long that I am excited to get to buy something new!

The sad thing is that I won't be able to go on a trip to Northern Arizona that Ed and I planned for this weekend. He will go without me so I will be taking the bus to my first day of work. I won't be able to see the snow or the friends we planned to stay with up there but Ed will let them know I wanted to come. I certainly missed a lot of fun trips while working my old job so this isn't even unusual for me.

Ed and I are both thinking of this as an adventure. He agrees that it will be fun to find out what it's like to work in a grocery store and that the physical part of the job will be good for me. I won't stop looking for work more in my area of expertise or wage range but this is definitely better than sitting on the couch getting angry over the latest ridiculous statement made by some fundamentalist in Virginia

Job offer

I just got the call that I passed my drug screen and background check and I will be going in today to be given my job offer and get scheduled for orientation, etc.

So I am actually going to do this thing. I hope to be able to do the job well, regardless of pay, and that I will be respectful of all of my coworkers, bosses, and the customers. This will be a good way for me to work on my prideful nature, which is one of my serious downfalls.

My challenge in writing about this will be doing so without trying to spin it to make me look better than reality might show is the truth. Of course, only I will know if I am succeeding and I would hope that my desire for truth will force me to write accurately.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Off topic

The big news today is that Tiger made a statement about his issues. Ed (husband) and I watched but there wasn't anything surprising in what he said. I am sure the news shows will go on and on about it but there just isn't anything else to say about him, his wife, or his kids. Leave them alone, is all I can say.

Meanwhile, my state (Arizona) is controlled by the republican party and has managed to out-do themselves with truly ridiculous legislature. They voted for free hunting and fishing for Eagle Scouts but refused to add Gold Medal Scouts (the Girl Scout's equivalent). There is a bill to increase the wait time for divorce, a bill that will require all candidates for the president to prove their citizenship for Arizona elections, one to change the federally mandated minimum wage for those 18-22 to 75% of the minimum...and it goes on and on. Meanwhile, they have not finished balancing the budget for this fiscal year. Insanity in my home state.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The beginning

Without going into the details of why, I will start by saying that I find myself unemployed during the worst recession in my lifetime (I am 51). I have now been unemployed almost five months and have had no success in getting a job in any of the fields I have previously worked (and for which I was well qualified and well paid). With multiple degrees and various certifications, and having applied for every job that met my salary requirements, I have had only three interviews and no job offers.

I believe strongly that all able-bodied people should work for a living and I would only ask for assistance from the government if it was the difference between my children eating or not*. My kids are all adults now and taking care of themselves, and though my husband and I are definitely stressed over my lack of income, we not only wouldn't qualify for assistance, it is against my nature to ask. *It should be noted that I am not opposed to government aide for those who need it.

I do not believe there is any job that is "beneath me" so when my son challenged me to apply at Walmart I had to take him up on it or explain why not. This is a journal of that experience. Do I think I am unique in that I am willing to do a minimum wage job for which I may be over-educated and over-qualified (though in reality I have absolutely no experience in retail so am completely unqualified)? No. Do I think many people are actually doing it? I don't know. I don't even know yet if I have the job so this may end before I even begin.

Yesterday I had an interview at a Walmart Neighborhood Store (grocery store). I was interviewed by three people and was told that if I pass my drug screen and my criminal background check I will be offered a job in the produce section. The hiring manager is aware that I have no experience at this but that I am willing to learn and work hard. I will be told my hourly wage when/if I agree to take the job. It is part time, which was explained to me will be from 16 to 33 hours a week. I will have no benefits. He did note that if a full time position opens it is possible for me to move into it.

This morning I submitted my urine for a drug screen and I found it fascinating. The technology used by the clinic was awesome and the safeguards to ensure that my urine wasn't tampered with were well done while still leaving me my dignity. The testing itself was started via instrumentation while I watched and the results were then automatically emailed to the Walmart manager via the instrument's software within 30-40 minutes. Very nice system and I wondered how expensive it was. Being a Navy veteran, I have done my fair share of drug screens but this is the first as a civilian and the first in which I didn't have someone actually watch me urinate. Seriously awesome experience.

Because I don't drive and my husband was at work, I took the bus to the clinic for the drug screen. The clinic is just across the street from the Walmart so the bus trip was a good way to confirm that I can get to work via the bus if necessary. It was a nice trip; had my kindle so I wasn't bored and there was only one transfer. It took about 30 minutes to get there. Getting out of the house was rather refreshing.

I am looking forward to working at the Walmart Neighborhood Store in the produce section and will update when there is new information.