Thursday, April 28, 2016

Blanche DuBois Ride

"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."  -- Blanche DuBois

So I guess this article is a big deal this week.  I read a couple of references to it before someone actually linked it.

I hear the comments to the post are infuriating.  I don't know because I don't read comments to things like this. It's just a bunch of trolling.

The FB people I know who are complaining about it are saying something about damaging biker-motorist relations and blah, blah, blah.

I don't know.  It was weird.  I read the article and pretty much agreed with every sentiment in there.  Somebody said something to the effect of the article was "engineered" to create a division between humans on bikes and humans in cars and why can't we all just get along or some such B.S..

Don't get me wrong.  I would love it if motorists weren't complete lunatics.  But the truth is, they are. It doesn't matter if I'm on a bike or in a car.  The absence of "we/they" isn't going to happen.  The vast majority of motorists are cautious.  They are careful and considerate and I appreciate it.  But if 1 in 500 is a stupid asshole who has no business behind the wheel, you'll likely encounter him while you're on a bike ride.

Since you're (usually) going much slower than cars, you see a lot more cars than if you were driving.  How many times when you're driving a car do you see somebody doing something stupid?  If the answer is never, you're the one doing it, moron.

Like I said, most people are pretty cool.  But it only takes one bad one to end you.  That's why we get mad at them.  It's kind of a big deal.  And no.  Getting mad about it doesn't make it worse.  It might seem like it at the time, but if the motorist is truly in the wrong, screw that guy.  He's not going to get better or worse.

Oh hey that reminds me.  I kind of um, lost my temper last Tuesday.  I was done with my workout and was heading home all nice and easy like.  I was on a short, but bad section of road.  It's the road that turns into Cuming to the west, just north of the Pedestrian bridge.  There are 2 lanes of traffic, but it's kind of busy on that little stretch.

I was riding along and a large Rental truck (Ryder) buzzed by me at about 45 MPH.  When he first passed me, he gave me about 2 feet of room.  By the time the back of the truck cleared me, I had less than 6 inches.  I got as close as I could to the curb and focused all of my attention to gesturing in his Mirror.

I had a tailwind that day.  A strong tailwind.

But he was still going way too fast for me to catch up to him and respectfully enter into a conversation about safety and the law, etc.

But I had to try.  It was like my civic duty and stuff.

So I pedaled pretty hard and got up above 30. I was in all out attack mode when a silver car pulled up beside me and the passenger gave me a thumbs up.  He said "Go get that asshole!"

I just smiled, encouraged, and upped my pace a bit.  The adrenaline doing wonders for my output levels.

One thing that happens when you drive way faster than the speed limit is that you have to stop at the red lights and wait for all of the people going the speed limit to catch up to you.

There sat Mr. Ryder.  Left lane.  Front of the line.  The right lane (my lane) was empty and I was closing fast.  As I got even with the back of the truck, the light turned green.  No point in stopping to chat.  The truck would take off.  So I just kept going.  Once I was in front of the truck, I again restated my opinion with hand motions.

I don't think the driver or passenger of the truck agreed with my opinion, so they came up to tell me about it.

They pulled up beside me (going about 15 at this point) and began to question my behavior.

"What the fuck is your problem, man?"

I began to discuss basic courtesy and the law and everything, but the driver continued to yell and threaten me.

He said, "I will fuck you up. How you like 'at, boy!"

Then I understood. I had been speaking the wrong language.  I responded In kind with various assertions of my manliness and his lack thereof.

Of course this was all bluff.  But it's was a powerful one.  There's no win for the guy who squares up against a guy wearing lycra and road shoes.

I am not kidding (it surprised me though) when I say my taunt actually startled the guy. Totally unexpected, but I could see the driver in this moving truck was afraid of me, a guy on a bicycle.

Then we both looked forward to see that there was some construction that narrowed the street to one lane.  The left lane. The truck's lane.

Mr. Ryder Stomped on the gas.  We were only going 15.  Big trucks do not accelerate well.  I was in the perfect gear and big tailwind.  I jumped.  Easily outsprinting for the single lane.

I got in front of the truck by a whole bunch and took over his lane.

Then I thought I had maybe done the most foolish thing imaginable.  All he'd have to do now is run me over.  But I was clear of him and swung to the right as the construction cleared.

I looked back to see a most marvelous sight.

Remember the silver car?  Apparently, they had been hanging out behind me this whole time.  When I sprinted for the lane, they followed my lead and blocked the truck.

Next, they pulled up beside me, close, so the truck couldn't go anywhere.

The passenger said, "What the hell's the matter with those guys?"

"I honestly don't know."

Well we talked about it for a few seconds, while Mr Ryder was becoming furious, stuck behind the silver car.  Honking.  Yelling some bitch-ass shit.

The silver car passenger asked me if I was going to be ok if he took off, and I showed him the weapon I always carry with me.  He understood and gave me another thumbs up and was on his way.

My next encounter was to be with the truck.  But I was not afraid.  Maybe I should have been, but I figured I had the power here.

Lots of people have no problem being complete assholes.  Very few want to be seen that way on YouTube though.

So I took my phone out and pointed it at the truck.

They quietly went by, slowly and respectfully giving me the whole lane.  They were also silently returning my gesture from earlier, but their fight was gone.  That was when I whipped out a big smile. I had won.  And it wasn't by handing out poppies to motorists or some such nonsense.

So yeah, FTG.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I've tried

But I really have nothing.  Below is a photo of 4 drafts that all sucked.  Goodnight.  Oh, by the way.  I'm racing in Iowa city next weekend.  I'm pretty stoked about that.  Maybe then, I'll have something to chat about.  Or maybe not.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Learning to keep your mouth shut (I fired a guy, part 2).

A few days ago, my boss came to me and whispered.  She often whispers, because she's smart.  We live in the cubicle world and anything you say can and will be held against you.  If it's heard.

The problem is that since I look so young, like maybe 25 or 30, she speaks so low that these ever-growing ears can barely hear her.  I am often saying back to her, "Eh?" almost certainly destroying the illusion of my youth and giving away most of my 51 years.

She was whispering something about would I  mind asking a certain colleague to lunch.  I told her I'd be glad to.  This is a person that I will be working with a lot in the near future.  I don't really sit near him so we've never really just gotten together to B.S.

So today we went down to the dome to eat lunch and chat.  He's been at our company from roughly the time of the recent round of U.P. layoffs.  Mostly because he was one of them.  He had been at the U.P. for 12 years.  He started as a contractor in St. Louis.  He worked for Transcentric and UPDS or whatever. He moved to Omaha when it was required to stay on at the company.

He is now a contractor at our company and I hope he gets hired on.

Anyway, we were chatting about some of the people we both know and I learned a ton of rumors. Juicy stuff.

We were laughing about how the U.P. compels you to step forward and report anything you see that is in any way an EEO violation.  He and I were both of the same opinion.  I will sign the paper, but I'm not going to report anyone for just anything I might have overheard.

This really happened in my group while I was working at the U.P.:

Somebody sent an email to everyone on his team.  There were about 12 people who got the email.  I also got the email.  It was "The Fable of the Grasshopper and the Ant."

It might have been altered a bit.  I don't really remember.  I had started reading it and thought it seemed like political propaganda.  I then deleted it.  My indifference about those things is and always shall be so incredibly high.

There was a person who received the email who took it as racially charged.  He felt he was being singled out.  He read the story as saying that his ethnic group was being called lazy.  To be fair, he came from a teeny tiny country called "Grasshopperia" so if I squint, I can see his point.

What happened next was that everybody got called into the boss's office to account for why nobody reported the racist email.  We had all agreed to report any such behavior.  We had signed things promising to snitch on anybody who might have said anything that somebody might take offense to.

So yeah - U.P. meant it.  But it's totally stupid. I understand what they are trying to do, but this sort of Big Brother "tattling" is something I have always shied away from.

Well.  Not always.  But ever since I worked at Idelman Telemarketing.

I remember Idelman having similar policies as the sort of thing UP was doing.  "If you see somebody stealing something, you must report it."

Guess what?  You've hired security for that.  I don't actually think they were asking us to report what we saw.  I think they were trying to scare us by saying, "If you steal something and anybody here sees you, they are required to tell us about it."

Challenge accepted.

In a way, my telemarketing job was the first "professional" job I had.  It was in an office.  There were all kinds of political correctness things to learn. But I had become firmly convinced that tattling on a coworker will bring you way more trouble than clamming up.

For example, one time when I was working at Butsy Le Doux's, I had to fire a guy because of my big mouth.

A combination of bizarre circumstances landed me the cushy assistant manager post at the restaurant.

Jim, the assistant was considering leaving the company to go work for the state. But the jury was still out. Most people didn't believe he could do it. I wasn't so sure. I knew one thing.  If he did leave, I was the obvious choice for new assistant.  What with my mayonnaise extraction acumen and everything.

Ultimately, Jim did leave and my title became "Night Cook."  Mother was so proud.

As assistant manager, I had some responsibility.  I was involved with ordering food.  I had to decide on the soup and specials for the day.  It was normally just something I'd whip up from Paul Prudhomme's cookbook with whatever food we had to get rid of very soon.

Never order the special.

I felt the power of my authority coursing through my veins.  Having never been in a position of authority in my 20 years, it maybe kind of, sort of went to my head a little.

Even though this was 31 years ago, we still had to leave the kitchen to smoke.  There was a stairway in the back of the kitchen leading to the outside. If I went out for a smoke break, I'd go there and usually daydream as I watched the crew doing the kitchen things.

On one occasion, my eyes rested on William. William was an incredibly friendly guy.  Always soft spoken and quick with a smile.  He was about 6'6" and 250 pounds of no fat.

William lived near 48th and just north of Dodge in a halfway house.  Yeah, William the big ol' lovable ex-con.

The thing about William was he had to hold a job.  Any job.  Something about his parole agreement.  He needed this job even if he didn't really need the money. I liked William.  I liked him a lot because when the owner hired him and introduced him to everyone, my first thought was, "Oh my shit.  This fucker is totally going to kill us all immediately."

So my expectations were low.  Once he settled into the routine of the job though I started to think, "I love the way William hasn't killed any of us at all yet!"

But as I was smoking my cigarette watching William, something seemed off.  I couldn't quite put my finger on it. He was holding a butcher knife and slicing frozen okra.  No big deal there.  He had the cutting board sitting on top of a garbage can.  Ok, probably not the most sanitary, but I'll allow it.  The tops of the okra get discarded, so maybe he's just sliding them into the trash and the rest into the pan.

So I watched him.  He sliced up about 20 pieces of okra to the perfect width. Then with the knife, he scraped all of it into the garbage.

I was so confused, I watched until he did the whole thing again.

I ran down and said, "William!  What are you doing?"

He snapped out of a trance.  He looked at me.  He looked down at the cutting board and into the trash.  He looked back at me and grinned a huge grin.

"I am so fucking wasted," he confessed.  This was horrible.  He can't lose his job.  Especially for being wasted at work.  I've known a ton of good people who never ever could have been honest with me at that point.  But he was.  I wish he would have lied.  Not really.  I wish his confession would have been to a better manager.  A manager like say, me, 5 days after this happened.

I told him it was ok; that he should go home and straighten up before he came back.  He was cool with that.

Then I made my mistake that I have yet to repeat.  Not at U.P.  Not anywhere else.

I tattled.  I figured I needed to know what to do about the situation, so I went to the owner that hired him and told him what happened.  I was stupid.  I thought he'd guide me in whatever punishment William was in for.  I envisioned something like, "Just tell him if he ever does that again ..."

No.  "You saw it.  You need to fire him."

Gulp. Not only was I terrified of the idea.  I didn't agree with it.

William's next shift was the next day and I had worried about what I'd say to him the whole time.

In the end, I deflected.  I told him I didn't want to fire him, but the owner was making me.  I was sorry.  William surprised me once again.  I hated myself for essentially ratting him out (this is why I have never seen myself as "leadership material").  He said, "It's cool.  It was my mistake."

He shook my hand and left.  At that point I thought about how I'd probably be all crying and everything if it were happening to me.  Also, I probably would have cried a lot in prison too, so.

The experience was awful, but the lesson was worth it: No matter what the man says, keep your mouth shut.  Fuck that guy.  Also, where did William get that weed? Seriously.  That had to be some righteous bud or whatever.

Friday, April 08, 2016

The time I had to fire a guy

I've decided for now at least to pretend that I haven't ever posted any posts.  I'm doing this so when the story I'm about to tell touches on stuff I've touched on dozens of times, I don't feel the need to say stuff like "I know I've mentioned it before," or "As I've said many times before," or "It's like Deja Vu all over again."  Just kidding, I never said that last one.  But I have an eerie sense that I have.

So anyway, quite possibly my first blog post:

I used to work at Wendy's.  I was pretty proud of it.  I thought it was easily the finest restaurant of the big 3 burger joints.  I was a little bit of a Fast food burger snob.

After a couple of years of that, I got a job at a real restaurant. Butsy LeDoux's. I was a cook.  There was a manager and an assistant manager.  The assistant manager had actual culinary school education or something.  The manager.  I don't know what experience he had. But he was funny.  We became pretty good friends.  Darrell made me laugh.  I made him laugh.  But I'm pretty sure he was laughing "at" me. That was OK.  It was a pretty good laugh (still is).

Jim was the assistant. I don't remember if Jim laughed too much. Jim was Irish.  This is only pertinent because Darrell (coincidentally) had the same last name as Jim.  

Jim was nice and tall.  About 5 foot 6 inches or so and possibly 145 pounds.  Jim had light, wispy blond hair.  He also had a light, wispy blond mustache. So sad about Jim's mustache.  He wouldn't shave it either.

Darrell was about 6'4" weighing in at around 3 bills. Darrell was big.  Real big. Darrell was not Irish.  Darrell was an Indian.  I don't know if people were saying "Native American" at all back then.  Mostly because it is such a cumbersome term.  It's like you're telling a story instead of specifying an ethnicity.  So we just called Darrell: Darrell.

So one day, I said something like, "Hey Darrell, you're an Indian, right?" I think I was going to ask him about college and would his parents adopt me.

"No. I'm an Irish mick bastard just like Jimmy over there,"  I think "Irish mick bastard" is still the P.C. term.

"You're Irish.  Of course," I said, nonplussed.  Nonplussed in the traditional way.  Not the newfangled way that is actually just wrong.

"No really.  I'm Irish.  That's why Jimmy and I have the same last name."

"You don't look Irish."

"Well, have you ever heard of 'Black Irish'?"  Another term I'm sure is completely fine with everyone.

"As a matter of fact, I have.  Some people have used that term to describe my dad.  Irish, but dark features,"  I confessed, thinking that sonofabitch Darrell was actually going to pull this "Irish" thing off.

I didn't know it at the time, but I went to high school with one of Darrell's brothers.  Well, I knew I went to high school with that guy, I didn't know he was Darrell's brother.  Because I didn't know Darrell then.  Or any of that guy's brothers, so.

If you're ever riding down the keystone and you see a tall, relatively thin guy riding along with a long, dark ponytail, you might think, "Hey - there's a native american guy riding a bike down the keystone."

But chances are, it's Darrell's brother Barry.  And Barry's Irish.  Because Darrell's Irish.  And they're brothers. So yeah.

We all had such a good chuckle over this "Darrell's an Irish guy" thing that we ran with it for the entire time I worked at the restaurant.  At some point, Jim left and I took over as "Assistant manager." There was no longer any reason to claim Darrell was Irish because Jim (same last name) was gone.
 But we had so much fun with it, we not only kept it going, we expanded it to all kitchen staff.  You work in the kitchen, you're Irish.  End of story.

Whenever we'd get a new waiter who'd say something like  "Who's that big Indian back there," I'd shout "Oh that's Darrell!"

"Shhhh!"  the waiter would cower and attempt to wave me off, but I wasn't having any of it.

"Hey Darrell, the new guy thinks you're an Indian!"

Mortified, the new guy would exit the kitchen and Darrell and I would start singing "Oh Danny Boy" or "Tura lura lura".

So yeah, everybody in the kitchen was Irish.

1) Me (literally)

2) Then there was Darrell of course.

3) José the dishwasher. This was our toughest sell especially since he would often bring his mother's tacos in. Which by the way were the best tacos in the world. When people come here from California (particularly southern California) they're big huge snobs who refuse to eat tacos anywhere in Nebraska because they have "the real thing" all over in California.

Well I've been to Southern California a few times and I've eaten some incredible Mexican food there, so I understand why these douchebags (oops - there I go again) I mean "Native Southern Californians" think there's no taco anywhere in the world (even in Mexico) that can match what's in California.  In fact they're almost right.  I've never had tacos in Nebraska anywhere near as good as what you'll find every 10 feet in L.A.

Until I had José's mother's tacos.  So don't talk to me about gristly pork (calling it carnitas doesn't make it suck less) tacos at some subpar taco truck ... But yeah. José washed dishes meaning he was in the kitchen.  So he was Irish.

4) The one girl who was a stripper, but cooked part time until she could go full time stripper. We always tried to encourage her that if she'd practice more, she'd get there sooner.  That kind of backfired on us when she called our bluff. I think her name was Tammy.  One day Tammy was talking about the 3 or 4 hundred dollars she had made stripping the night before.  Darrell didn't believe her. Called her out.  Darrell was a genius.  "What could you possibly do that would be worth that much."  So she started to show us.  She danced for a while as we leered. The orders backed up.  Fortunately for the restaurant, most of the waiters were, uhhh, immune to her wiles (they had their own dance).  The waiters stepped in and stopped the stripper so the cooks could get back to the business of cooking.  The waiters were definitely not Irish. Tammy was Irish.

5)  The stoned guy in the back of the kitchen slicing okra.  He was half Irish; half baked.

One thing the owners hated more than anything was wasting food.  It makes sense.  The whole idea is to sell food.  Well, they would talk about selling an experience, but it was centered around food.

At Wendy's, when the big plastic gallon container of mayonnaise was nearly empty, we would cut it in half and scrape out every bit of mayo that remained.

I did that once at Butsy LeDoux's.  Actually, I had done it about 4 times, but the first time an owner saw me do it, he flipped out at it's brilliance.  Henceforth, we were to always cut the containers in half to get every last drop of mayo.  This was not real popular with the Irish, but It led to a hefty raise and promotion for me.

The promotion didn't give me hiring power or anything.  But nobody likes to fire people. Especially if the person to be fired is a big stoned ex-con.

So here's what happened ... Oh shit!  That clock can't be right, can it?  Well, this part will have to wait.

I promise, I might tell it next time ...