Archives for the month of: January, 2013

We had pizza today at work.

The guy who runs the courier service brought it in. He didn’t want to do Pizza Hut so he went and picked it up himself from Pasquale’s. It says a lot about how good this guy is to us: he spends his money to buy us pizza and cares enough about us to go pick up the good stuff when he could have ok stuff delivered for free.

I didn’t even know we had a Pasquale’s around here. Nice surprise.

The day has been filled with nice surprises. I received the pizza, which we all partook of gladly. Then the office manager from our temp service brought me an Edible Arrangment, along with a couple of journals to record my information in. All in all, it’s been one pleasant thing after another. Everyone has been so very nice.

Goodbye

Goodbye2

Goodbye pizza

Goodbye watch

When I was given a bag from the folks here at work that contained a card and a very nicely engraved pocket watch I made it a point to tell everyone that I was not going to turn on the waterworks, but when reading the card that everyone here signed for me I saw one simple message that amost pushed me over the edge:

You will be missed.

Goodbye card

I’m flying solo at the moment and it feels pretty weird. Not bad-weird, just weird-weird.

Since I have been off the road and working in Haines City, a lot more has fallen on Jess about regulating our household than I really anticipated. Oh, I do dishes, take out trash, scoop litters, and fix broken things more than when I was gone all week every week. But she runs things.

I am ok with that, because she is good at it. Sometimes I make noises over a particular line item but we both know that if she stands firm I will give way on household decisions. It works well.

Now she’s gone until the 30th, will be home for a day and a half and then gone for a couple of more weeks. I’m the boss.

Maybe I should gather the troops for a good harangue; I don’t think they got the memo. Pixie walked all over my desk last night while I was trying to use my PC. Spike is at fault for any typoes in this post since he is continually rubbing his cheeks against the hand holding the phone. Celeste is sleeping in my spot in the bed. The dog – well she’s dumb so she doesn’t count for much but at least she’s on the daddy-is-boss-now wagon. Needing leash walks multiple times daily will give one a different perspective on who is in charge, I guess.

I have been taking advantage of Jess’s absence to do and eat things that she doesn’t enjoy. Yesterday I had breakfast at a local Cuban cafe. Two cuban coffees will kickstart anyone’s day.

Then I bought a couple of big packs of steak. Cooked two of them and ate them as a meal. Cut the rest of the steaks up and have been making jerky ever since. So nothing major, just different.

I took yesterday off. 

I needed to drop my wife off at the airport and when I talked to the boss about just coming in later that day he suggested I take the day off.  I am walking away from some paid time off that isn’t payable when I leave so he suggested I just use one of those days.

I used the time to get some things done.  At the end of 2012 my dad gave me a truck.  Really nice truck, too – with more options than I’d ever pay money to get.  I went down to the Pinellas County Tax Collector office yesterday and got the title moved over and the registration taken care of through 2014.  That’s off my list.

I also fixed the bathroom sink.  The drain stopper has just been a pain for the last couple of months.  Wouldn’t open or close properly and when I adjusted the linkage it would stay adjusted about as long as Peter stayed in hell.  So I bought a new assembly and replaced the old one.  And it only took one extra trip to the hardware store.  Not bad; and that’s off my list.

Getting things off the list is becoming higher priority these days as our Florida days are numbered.  It won’t be long before we take off to start our AT hike.

I’m starting to feel a little bit of tingle when I think about that part of things.  I’m not getting bubbly about it but I am building some excitement internally.  I realized last night laying in bed that I was doing a mental loop of the music from that old US Air Force commercial I used to see on network TV:  “Off we fly, into the wild blue yonder!”  Well, we ain’t flying.  Walking is about as far away from flying as one can get and still be moving.  And it ain’t wild.  Despite the perpetual false belief that hikers lilve off the land and are regularly accosted by bears, violent bands of thieves hiding out in the woods, and extraterrestrials, it’s pretty tame.  The trail crosses interstate highways over a dozen times along its length and food resupply via towns is really never more than a day away except for a stretch in Maine.  That’s why the success rate is as low as it is, in my opinion.  It’s really EASY to walk from the trail and into a motel, grocery store, and train/bus/air transport facility. 

So, assuming you haven’t done very unlucky like breaking a leg, which generally requires a team to extract you, if you decide that you want to get off the trail at any given point you can.  And most do.

 

 

What?

If they can make The Hobbit into a trilogy, then I can make a two-part post about ‘changes’ while

    still

feeling morally superior to Hollywood.

A number of people have approached me on the topic of changes. What’s going to be different when I’m gone? What’s going to be done differently? Who is going to do what? Etc. All of the uncertainty that arises when management staffing changes.

I’ve told everyone some version of the same thing: there will be changes.

There’s no point in saying otherwise. The truth is that if I did not leave here, there would still be changes. There are always changes. There always have been changes since the beginning of time and always someone has kicked and dragged and clawed and screamed trying to hang on to ‘the old way.’ And change always happens anyway.

I don’t expect that my about-to-be-former workplace will run the same when I’m not here. It will take time for people to adjust, find their equilibrium, and adjust their style to get the results they want from the resources that they have. And it won’t be the same.

If things were the same after I left, then that would mean that I have had zero impact – or that the rest of the management team here have all been and will remain passive. I know that I’ve had an impact; and it has been a positive one. I feel good about that. Also, to assume that I am the only motive force in the management team here seems to be a version of Holmberg’s Mistake, and just as wrongly implied as the original.

I know that the people who will be running the show are good and talented people who want to do well. And they will. “First place, first loser” – I got that culture from the folks who are going to remain at the post, holding away the dark that is mediocrity.

However, it won’t be my show any more. So I won’t give people false consolation and tell them that nothing will change. That would be less than honest.

When we were getting ready to open and I went through the process of interviewing to hire almost thirty warehouse workers for the facility, I repeated the same thing to everyone and I’ve continued to beat that same drum the whole time that we’ve been here: I want to work with adults.

It wouldn’t seem to be a lot to ask for, but you could be surprised how often grown people don’t expect to act and be treated like adults. I certainly have been (surprised) often enough. Enough that I have made it a meme within our building culture by making people repeat it until I heard it everywhere.

Of course, not everyone understands what being an adult is. Some seem to think that it involves behaving in a responsible manner most of the time. And it does. But that leaves a lot out. If I had to sum up ‘behaving like an adult’ in as few words as possible I’d say that it involves being responsible when no one is looking.

Somewhere I read, and I’m paraphrasing from memory here so I’m sure I’m not quoting perfectly,
“Being treated like an adult:
You’re fucking up. This is how you fix it. Now fix it.
Being treated like a kid:
You’re trying really hard. Results don’t matter because it’s your effort that counts. Keep trying.

I have had to tell grown men that various disciplinary actions were going to stand as issued when they came to me with complaints that they were trying really hard when they broke procedure and committed service level errors. Those moments were initially disappointing, personally. (After all of my talk about adult behavior how could someone not understand? Didn’t they know what I meant, what I felt when I told them all those things? Hello, Egocentricity – haven’t seen you in like 3 seconds – it’s been forever.)

However, these discussions did provide me with opportunity to explain why and allow those individuals to experience what it is like to be treated like a responsible adult. Salutary for some.

Responsible adults don’t always like what they are given, but they deal with it.

So, as easy as it would be to pat people on the shoulder and tell them that there will be no changes, I’m treating them like adults and telling them that there will indeed be change, that no, I will not be its master, and that they work for good people and should not fear change but instead involve themselves in it.

As pious as I may come off when talking about this – I think that’s the adult way to do it.

As my time at the job I am leaving grows short, I find that I am more and more sentimental about the people and the places that I’ve encountered during this particular stint of employment.

I came to work for the company back at the end of 2005.  At the time it was a big decision for me.  I left a company that was filled with good people and where I had a reputation built up for getting things done and generally being good at almost any task thrown my way.  There were promotion opportunities available as long as I was willing to take on the tasks.  In short, to an extent I had it made.  And I bailed.  I needed more.

Coming here, there were seemingly insurmountable issues.  Major technology changes were in the works and we would need to bootstrap our operations.  Business was exploding beyond expectations and capacity.  Enterprise business can have odd entanglements that tie your hands at times.  Turnover was high; morale was low.  Performance was spotty.

At one point I recall telling my boss that I was surrounded by opportunity.  I’d committed myself to using positive words as a version of workplace affirmations.  Despite the personal satisfaction that I get from wallowing in cynicism, I really meant it.  New workplace; new leaf, and all that.

I really didn’t sign on just to be in the middle of chaos and negativity.  I signed on for development and opportunity to grow.  And I got it.  There were good mentors here.  People who not only were willing to give their time and energy, but also gave it sincerely.  (I’m the type of guy who prefers receiving an honest ass-chewing over having smoke blown up my ass with only decent performance.  There’s first place and then there’s first loser.  You can keep the participation trophy.  I was actualized the moment I started working on whatever it is you’re giving out recognition for and anyone who actually needs a participation trophy probably hasn’t had their face pushed in enough in life.  I admit my outlook could use some moderation.)  I got both criticism and praise. Honest feedback.

Things got better.  People got better.  I got better.  I grew.

And I enjoyed all of it.  Even the sucky parts.  I’m a glutton for punishment.

I got to do really interesting things.  I totted up my list just now and I have visited and worked at 24 different distribution centers for the company.  Not all of them by any means, but a lot.

I can honestly say that I could go ask for a job in several different departments and be immediately snapped up.  I’m appreciated and valued.  And I’m leaving.  Bailing even.

Not for a different job this time.  I could never run out of challenging opportunities in this company – it’s simply too big and too willing to improve itself for me to ever do that.

I am leaving for a new challenge.

We have the chance to go hike the Appalachian Trail.  I first heard of the AT years and years ago.  A friend had Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods and started talking about hiking the AT.

To my knowledge my friend has not completed a thru-hike, but that’s not surprising.  Most people who talk of such a thing never do manage to go do it.  Most people can’t pull it off.  It’s one hell of a big disruption to career, finances, family and the cosumer lifestyle most Americans believe is the only way to live.

Heck, most people don’t want to pull it off.  I think that you have to be a special kind of nutjob to enjoy spending half a year or so trudging from Georgia to Maine with everything you are going to use for your day-to-day life in a pack on your back.

Hi. <——-

Of the people who actually go buy gear and set out on the trail with the stated intention of completing the trek, around 20% finish each year.  The numbers are a bit spotty because there's no real official definition of a thru-hike.  There's no place you have to sign up or report your start and/or finish.  No one challenges your criteria.  It's purely self-reported. And it seems to have been around 20% since people started keeping track – kind of.

The length of the trail is questionable as well.  This is mainly because portions get shifted all the time by the various volunteer trail associations that maintain the trail.  Areas get overused and suffer erosion and pollution and the trail gets shifted to promote recovery.  It's somewhere in the vicinity of 2,175 miles.  Plus or minus a bit.  If you're walking that far, does a few miles more or less matter?  Not to me.  Close enough.

So the plan is to start at the beginning of March and finish in August.  I bought an AT patch (it says 2181 miles) to sew on my pack last year.  It's been sitting around untouched ever since.  I guess I should put it on some time in the next month or so. 

It wouldn't be right to get started without my participation trophy.

AT Patch2

I can remember when forty was unimaginably O-L-D.

Now it seems pretty ok.

Except for the creaks and pops when I move certain parts of my body.

And the hair growing from non-standard hair-growing body parts.  WTF is going on with my ears?

And the places that used to have hair that don’t any more.  It’s just wrong to need sunscreen on your scalp.  I have hair, could someone please pass that on to my scalp and tell it to stop frying when I go out in the summer?

My body has a whole lot of ‘you’re-not-twenty-sport‘ issues, actually.  But they’re all things that have gradually eased their way into existence so I’ve come to accept them, if not gracefully at least with quiet resignation.

I’m still not so cool with seeing people who weren’t born when I graduated high school graduating themselves.  I’m too young for that to be true.  I’ll wake up any time now and discover that it’s only an elaborate ruse to make me feel old.  If for no other than reason than that I have to pee.

I am one of those persons who thinks that there is a story behind everything. Here’s one.

In May of 2011 we traveled to Washington DC for vacation.  We flew in and were met at the airport by friends whom we had a hiking and camping outing planned.  These were BIG PLANS.  This was to be a multi day trip in Shenandoah National Park and the first multi day outing with us as couples and there were to be elevation changes – the biggest ups&downs that we Floridians were to experience to date in our hiking outings.  And part of what we were hiking would be on the AT.  Lots of questions and lots of unknown variables. We were both excited and a bit nervous.

The first uphill trek out of the parking lot kicked our butts.  All four of our butts.  It was tough.  Hiking uphill is way harder than hiking in FL flatlands with a little sand.  We had several rest breaks on that ascent. Panting, sweating, leg-muscles-whining, what-did-I-get myself-into-breaks, not oh-here’s-a-nice-view breaks. Then one of us had a fall.  Not a hospital trip type of fall, but definitely a ‘Dude, we have not been out here for under two hours – do we need to go back’ sort of moment.  We decided to try a little longer, and it got better.  Being passed by a bunch of kids who weren’t even looking worn out despite being on their way back out helped stiffen our determination.  We are not that old.

Azaleas could be seen blooming both near and well away from the trail.  My understanding is that they are remnants from old hotels and homesteads from pre-park days.  At any rate they were beautiful.

After the initial ascent we got into a bit of a rhythm.  The guys led, with the ladies trailing five to ten minutes behind.  I need to specify here that my wife CAN outpace me and that I am the slow one.  And I better not forget it.

Just to be sure that I don’t, the end of my rest-my-feet breaks are usually announced by a good-natured ‘Come on, Nancy!  It’s time to get moving.’

We began to work our way down a series of easy but long switchbacks after crossing a couple of summits and that’s when it happened.

I heard a cry from uphill.  ‘Bear!  Bear!’

I spun.  Trekking pole at the ready I looked forward and back but no ursine form was apparent.  Where bear?

Giggles floated down on the still mountain air.  Then snorts.

‘That’s my bear.  I call him Nancy.’

Yep.  Spotted in the peripheral vision of a hiking companion, downhill, walking on a switchback that she did not know existed and partially hidden by vegetation, I was mistaken for a bear.  Take your victories where you find them folks.  I was not mistaken for a weasel, a pig, or even a dog.  I am a bear.

Then we all stopped together for lunch.  And I don’t know what it was that I ate. But everyone knew who was guilty. I had worked up some pretty good flatulence and there was no way to ease them out silently. Sweaty cheeks. You are welcome for that imagery.

Before I was done swatting mosquitoes and packing away my lunch trash the transformation was complete; I became known as Nancy The Farting Bear.

So maybe I’m not such an intimidating bear.  Still beats being mistaken for a skunk.  See previous note about victories.

This week I decided to try blogging.  WordPress seems to be the tool of choice for mobile devices and they host both paid and free blogs.  I started an account and downloaded the app.  Then I compared the blog financial options. Free is an option.

Free?  Yup, free.  That sounded just about like the sweet spot in my price range.  So with the desire of keeping this simple enough for me to stand a chance I signed up my email address and entered a blog name on WordPress.

Taken.
No problem.  I am a creative individual.  I’ll think of another name.
Taken.
Taken, taken, taken.
I started to feel like a juvenile Forrest Gump standing in an Alabama public school bus seeking a seat.  Everything was taken.  How could I blog if every single cool blog name had already been snapped up by savvy and witty twenty-somethings who already had a leg up on me by being relevant and knowing how to type with their thumbs?

Even cool programs designed to bail out people like me came up dry.  When infinitely resourceful websites such as namethingy.com and Randomainer.com were unable to spew out anything unclaimed yet desirable, I dug deep and became willing to go new places.

Hence, fartingbear.wordpress.com.

Now you know.

Our First AT Marker