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I'm a writer. I love everything about it, the nuts and bolts and the free hand creativity. I especially love to talk about it. I am also an online marketer, SEM & Social Media my specialties. I'd love to discuss with you your online marketing needs!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Caller Blocked

I have a couple of favorite words. One is “caller” and “blocked” is the other. Strange words to be up there among the top two? Why not “love” or “happiness” or “family” even? I’ll explain.

Readers of Notations know that I've been out of work for over a year. That I have no unemployment benefits. That I have bills to pay. Unfortunately, bill collectors only care about that last one - bills to pay. They don't care that I don't have the money to satisfy them. That might be because if not for me and others like me, they'd be out of work too. I'm being kind. I don't care a whit about them at all. They are the Darth Vader, the Cruella De Vil, the Hannibal Lechter in my life right now.

The phone in my apartment rings almost constantly. Funny thing is that I've discovered the cycle I'm on with most of the collectors. I can usually tell by the time of day which collector is about to leave a message of urgency for me. They start early, around 8 a.m., and end late at approximately 9 p.m., which is fine by me. At least I'm not being awakened from my money woe nightmares to hear someone telling me about them.

I don't answer these intrusive phone calls. It is sad enough to hear the messages, even more depressing to speak to these people and tell them all about how I don't have any money to pay them with.

A couple of years ago, well before I got laid off, I bought a new phone for my home. My old one had died. I'd gotten so used to the phone I'd used for upwards of ten years that it took forever for me to choose a replacement. While shopping, I quickly learned that phones have changed quite a bit in ten years. Well, of course I could have guessed that, but it was still a shock to see the upgraded phones in person.

I finally, after shopping at several stores and driving the sales people to reconsider their career choice with all my questions, settled on a pretty (yes, appearance counts) Panasonic model. In the store, my eyes glazed at all the things it said it could do on the box. When I got home, I read enough of the directions to get the thing charged up and working then stored away the frighteningly thick manual.

Back to the business of all these unwelcome phone calls. When the onslaught of these calls started, a little niggling thought began to tickle at the back of my brain. It was enough of a nuisance to get me up and searching for that long ago filed away phone instruction booklet. Upon finding it, I thumbed through the pages and to my utter delight found step by step instructions for blocking callers. Oh happy day! Immediately, I set to work. In the next twenty minutes I'd stored a whole bunch of phone numbers that I never wanted to hear from again.

The next day my phone didn't ring any less, but my answering machine light never once blinked an obnoxious red like some Terminator relentlessly seeking me out. I learned that my now not-so-new phone blocks the calls but rings once to let me know that it’s doing its job. Weird, but I can live with that. So I get the one ring and if I deign to look at the screen on the receiver, I'll see two of the most beautiful words ever invented: Caller Blocked.

Today I smile when the phone rings and imagine the growing rage and frustration of the call center bill collectors. I can just picture them in their seedy little cubes, a computer screen of names and phone numbers in front of them, their fingers slamming on the keyboard as they are again unable to get through to me. I wonder if they are paid on commission? Oh, that would be sweet. From my misery they should make no money.

Once in awhile a message slips through. My quick response is to grab up the receiver like a sword or mighty pen and add this new and devious caller to the blocked list. Ha! I admit that it is not an easy battle. These collectors are tricky little creatures. Some of them catch on to when one particular number is not getting through and start calling on another line. Ha! I say. Try me! I'll block you all!!!

The other day, much to my dismay, I hit the limit of callers I can block. What?!?! Twenty, only twenty. Oh no. But fear not, I won't be discouraged that easily. Many of the numbers I'd originally blocked were now old, so I deleted the lot of them and started over. Muuuahahahahaha!

I'll not be thwarted. Oh my precious Caller Blocked, bless you.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Oh My Aching Feet & Then WTF!?!?

For the past week, I have been working. There is nothing unusual about that. However, if you've been reading Notations you know there is much more to the story. Before last week, I was out of work for over a year. After being laid off, I went through the throes of The Interview Process, of which I came in second place far too often for my liking. It got me nowhere, no crown, no whirlwind tour, and the winner was always able to fulfill her duties.

So, I started seeking work outside my career path. For an eye blink I thought it would be in Retail. I got not one, but two jobs, at major department stores. The first one was an on-call position. Funny thing is -- they never called me! I called them, twice, to ask about hours. Both times that I did, the person who answered was polite, apologetic, and promised a return phone call soon. I went through their training and that was that. I hope to receive a check in the mail for my training time served. We'll see. If not, I have another phone call to make to them. The second Retail job was also for part-time hours much to my chagrin. I am certain that in the interview full time was discussed, but halfway through training I was informed otherwise. So much for that. One week of on-the-job training and I was on the job hunt again. In order to buy food and pay rent, I need at least 40 hours a week.

Around the corner from where I live is a store where I have sent faxes on occasion. The last time I sent a fax was about 2-3 weeks ago. While filling out the cover sheet, I noticed a help wanted sign on the counter. I asked about it and was handed an application. I returned it, completed, the following day.

Long story short, as the saying goes, I was hired a few days later. I am now a packaging, shipping, faxing, copying apprentice. I even have a logo shirt and name tag to prove it. Oh, I've never been more proud! Hey, this job is $8.00 an hour, probably 40 hours a week. I might even be able to see a movie once in awhile! After I catch up on all my overdue bills, that is.

Anyway, back to my feet. The two that are aching. And when I say "aching" I mean excruciating throbbing agony. For all of my adult life, I have had a desk job. You know, a sit-down job where the computer is right in front of me, a bottle of water at my fingertips, snacks in a handy drawer to my left, phone just to the right of my keyboard, bathroom just down the hall. I don't think that in all of my adult life I have needed to stand up for more than 30 consecutive minutes, maybe 60 if the movie I was in line for was a blockbuster on opening weekend.

Well, after a week at this packaging, shipping, faxing, copying store, I have arrived at the conclusion that Humankind was not meant to stand for any extended length of time. Why else would inventors have toiled so long and hard to perfect the chair, stool, lounger, bed, couch, sofa, davenport, wing-back, bench, rocker, chesterfield, divan, love seat... well, you get the idea.

We have a fascination with sitting and we're very good at it. Standing is over-rated. Actually, its never even been rated at all. We don't like to stand. It affects our posture, causing us to slouch and slump. It strains our backs and puts uncomfortable tweaks in our necks. It even swells our feet and legs. Why then does every single store I have ever entered force their cashiers to stand in front of their machines for hour after hour? Seems simple enough to have available a chair or, heck, even a stool to sit upon when the feet hit that inevitable wall. You know that wall. It's when when emergency signals race up to the brain screaming "Take the freaking load off us. We're little and way down here. We can't take your weight for one more damned second!"

You never see management standing for eight or more hour shifts. No no, they sit in comfy chairs, sipping coffee, gossiping and giggling about which poor slob they'll send all the way to The Back to get more (heavy) inventory to stock on shelves and racks. Or maybe it'll be a mission all the way on the other side of the store in a department you don't even work in. And then they'll watch on monitors or slouched over a counter to ensure that said slob does not hesitate or sit or lean upon a counter for even half a minute.

You might think I'm exaggerating. Maybe I am, but surely not by much. In my latest endeavor at the packaging, shipping, faxing, copying store, the owner sits for much of the day (when he is there at all) at his desk toward the rear of the store. Typically, he is occupied by his phone or his computer, while eavesdropping on his slobs at the front as they handle the customers. For all I know, he's surfing porn back there.

When he hears something we say that he feels requires additional explanation (and usually much to the dismay of the customer who just wants to drop off his or her package and escape), he jumps up and yes... stands! For about five or six minutes, before returning to the security and comfort of his chair.

The counters of his store where I and the other employees stand are just a little too high for us to easily slide on and off of. There isn't even a chance of resting a single butt cheek to offer our suffering swollen feet a moment's reprieve. On purpose? You decide.

I purchased new rubber soled shoes and even added cushioning. I was "gellin'" but it sure wasn't "workin'" for me. Four hours of solid standing and I whimper my way daily to the bathroom where at least women have the luxury of a porcelain throne to recline upon for a few precious minutes. Whether I actually need to go or not is not the issue. What is important is that I lengthen my stay there for as long as possible without letting anyone think I've fallen in or perhaps died. And then back to the slightly too high counter for me until I hit the next insurmountable wall.

A co-worker has happily told me that your feet never stop hurting. I thanked her for such a blessing to look forward to.

And then....

Today, I got laid off.

Yeah, again. From a crap job. Seems that the person who was supposed to be leaving changed his mind when the boss offered him something he couldn't refuse. Horse's head, anyone?

So, tomorrow off I go again on the Job Hunt. Yay me. At least this time, I know what to expect.

It's going to hurt.