Monthly Archives: August 2014

What You Do To Make You ~ A Guest Post by Dare Mick, Edited by Nathanielle Crawford

The decade is almost half over. My brothers and I have all undergone major transformations in our lives as adults and so it is my pleasure to have Daryll, my brother, write the 99th post for my blog. A lot of what he says here perfectly fits the theme of Confessions of a Cart Jockey, which is to never underestimate someone based on your own estimate of their life choices. His story is as inspiring to me as I hope it will be to all of my readers.

                ~ Nathanielle

I’m almost 30 years old and after 28 years I’ve had time to reflect. I always hear the Thirty-Year-Mark horror stories as we all do, and I figure I’ll just get it out of the way now before my hair decides to recede or change colors. Getting older isn’t all that bad and in fact I’ve enjoyed the ride so far.

The inevitable question we all encounter at some point or another is “What have I done with my life?”, which is an easy question to ask but almost impossible to answer since doing so would make you a zombie. But we can ask and answer the question: “What am I proud of in my life?”

I started my life of labor like a lot of people do, with a fast food job. I got my first job at a McDonald’s in a small town in the south, Alabama to be exact. Friday nights were full of football games, tailgating and parking. Lots of drunken people living vicariously through their children… It was Hell. I worked in a few of the other major fast food chains after my first job until I was almost out of high school.

Failing my last year by a half credit and being told I would have to stay another year in this “wonderland”, I decided to remove myself from school and work through the summer to move to another state and finish school there.

“Statistically,” the principal said. “you’ll probably just become a drop out and do nothing with your life.”

I signed my papers and left.

Stretching my legs almost a year later in the beautiful state of Vermont I was in a new school, with new people, new possibilities, and a new perspective on life. I had hopes of finishing high school and getting my diploma, mainly to prove others wrong. It would be years before I started doing things for myself. I did get my diploma and after having to pack up again and leave, I had to return to Wonderland.

I met up with some old friends, showed off my diploma at the High School I had fled, and settled into another crappy fast food job. Soon after I left Alabama again and headed to North Carolina where I worked at a Golden Corral as the meat cutter.

I made good money and lived with my now wife (Long before we had our son). My manager was Costa Rican. By now, I knew enough Spanish from my jobs in the south that I could hold a small conversation and both give and follow directions.

After North Carolina, we moved back to Vermont where I worked at a few retail stores, a factory, and a nice business cafe in the city. Then back to Alabama, back to Vermont, over to New York, back to Vermont, and finally (I say that now) back to Alabama. In between there were all the moves, many minimum wage jobs, the birth of my son, the rise of my own education and my endeavors as an entrepreneur in the local music scene, along with a few other schemes my wife and I explored, all legal of course.

Through this I recognized a stereotype. A lot of people I met and talked with were apologetic. “That sucks”, “Sorry you’ve had such bad luck”, “I hope you get somewhere stable”, “Can you get on welfare?”

I had to pause for a minute and take it in.

According to the standard I was doing something wrong. I was “floating” from job to job. “Running” from state to state. “Scraping Pennies” to make ends meat. I never thought about it like that. I never realized how I lived, and others living similarly, fell into the category of failure.

I have seen more of the USA than many people in the small towns and cities I’ve lived in. I learned a second language by sharing the kitchen of many restaurants with cultured individuals. I learned how to repair computers, sell to businesses and keep smiling under stress from the best friends and managers anyone could hope for. I have been able to spend so much more time with my son than my father was able to because of the part time schedule. I have amassed many skills including machine operation, management, marketing, people skills, computer and technical knowledge, general kitchen skills, and a list of life enriching information not the least of which is what cut of meat will go best on my grill, (thank you Golden Corral).

Added to the benefits of my “poor” lifestyle, I have had time to start my own small record label, helping local musicians get CDs and shows. Then I started college for a degree in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering with a focus on Space Technologies which I am currently 2 years into. I even have hopes of following this pattern in the next few years to apply for a Work Visa in London, allowing me to see even more of the world. And yes I intend to work a minimum wage job there.

So… “What have I done with my life?”. Well I know what I’m proud of, and I know who I am. I know that the value and success of a person can’t be measured by their peers. I know that it doesn’t matter what you do to make money, only what you do to make you.

My Final Defense of Robin Williams

There has been a lot of judgment being passed over a situation of which 99% of us know nothing. That’s right, whatever documents may surface, whatever new information may come to light, no one but Robin Williams knows what happened that night that drove him to his tragic end. What bothers me the most out of all of this are the horrible judgments of people who are the self-proclaimed masters of hindsight. This is why I want to share the story of my best friend, whom I will call Peter.

Peter was and still is the one friend I needed but did not deserve. Heavy set but gentle as a mouse, he and his older brother are two of the sweetest human beings I have ever met. The last time I saw him, he was making a living filming football games for the high school. I did not know this, but at the time we met he had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at roughly the same time I was. We were both in the same resource room in middle school and I met him when I had transitioned back into mainstream school after a brief stint in an off campus program, but that’s a story for another day.

One afternoon, out of nowhere Peter flipped. He began shouting and slamming his body against the wall. He repeatedly beat himself over the head with a text book and shouted “I don’t want to live, I don’t want to live.” It took two teachers to restrain him and get him to a point where he was too exhausted to move for about an hour. I only know about most of this because we talked about it later that year and I got his perspective of events.

What happened? His mother made a well intentioned error with his medication. A lot of parents get the misguided notion that they can take a slight liberty with the medications their kids are on. I’ve personally baby sat for kids who needed meds and their parents forgot to tell me so. While I can’t claim to know everything I do know that there are some pills you do not screw with. You do exactly what the instructions tell you to do until a doctor tells you otherwise, or the consequences can be varied but in no way pleasant for those involved.

Again, Peter told me all of this later on. So at the time, as an observer way off to the side, all I had to go one was the event in question without any input of my own. Mind you, I didn’t jump to conclusions because I knew Eric personally, but I have witnessed similar events from people I did not know. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have knee jerk reactions to someone having a meltdown in public or to a person experiencing delusions or other symptoms of psychosis. People always their two cents to throw in whenever they witness something like this. And everyone thinks their opinion of how a situation should be handled is the correct way, however misinformed or outdated their opinion might be.

There’s an old saying about throwing stones in glass houses. There’s also the saying about doing unto others as you would have done unto you. We don’t know what was going on in Robin Williams’ mind. No one knows but him and if there is a Higher power that judges all of these things, then it is still not our place to offer harsh judgments or retrospective quick fixes.

My Original Review of the True Blood Energy Drink ~ Originally Published in 2010

Ever since True Blood: Season One came out on DVD fans have wondered two things: Will I see anyone naked and will they come out with a Tru:Blood energy drink?

Tru:Blood – for those of you who still like the idea of your vampires sparkling and lusting after high school girls – is the artificial blood substitute created by author Charlaine Harris and introduced in her series of novels known as the Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries. The invention of this new artificial blood is what allows vampires to “come out of the coffin” since they are no longer required to feed on humans to survive.

Throughout the series we see Bill Compton, played by Stephen Moyer, drinking Tru:Blood at social events, which according to Moyer’s commentary tastes a bit like passion fruit.

During the year long wait for Season Two (Because not everyone has HBO) fans debated over what Tru: Blood would actually taste like if the drink were to be released as a beverage. Obviously blood itself is out of the question. But the next obvious move would be to make it an energy drink, which is all the rage these days and is practically a dime a dozen.

Fans finally got the answer to this debate when Season Two was released on DVD. In stores like FYE, 14 ounce bottles of the signature beverage lined the display shelves with the box sets. The price varies from four to six dollars USD, but the current promotion at the time of this article offers a deal at five dollars if you also buy the DVD. (You marketing execs know certainly how to tickle our pickles)

Being the fanboy that I am, I actually bought two bottles of the stuff. I was basically expecting another Red Bull or Monster clone like the ones you can buy online for promotional events. You know, the ones that leave your heart racing faster than eye contact with Donald Trump.

But, I was surprised to see on the bottom of the label that they actually used blood orange as the main ingredient, which is sweet, but doesn’t need to be chilled right away. So not acai berry, not guarana seed extract, and not a bigger dose of vitamain B than you would need to give a blue whale a heart attack. Blood orange is an actual fruit that’s sweeter than regular oranges and has all of the same benefits.

On the first sip I’m actually impressed. It’s sweet. It actually tastes like it says it’s going to. I could actually get to like this stuff.

Now I’m sipping it slowly. Because I tried a very similar product called Blood, which came in a cool IV style pouch. But after drinking too much in one morning I had a massive anxiety attack from the sudden energy rush. This was entirely my fault but at the same time, not a very pleasant experience.

Thankfully the Tru:Blood drink did not produce this side effect in my body. Even after I drank the second bottle, I didn’t feel the trademark jitters that comes from drinking Red Bull or Monster, nor did I get the nasty aftertaste that comes with drinking either of those beverages.

Tru:Blood does contain some of the same ingredients as Monster and Red Bull. But the sodium content is encouraging for people on a low sodium diet. Add that to the presence of Folic Acid, an important nutrient that encourages the creation of new blood.

Holy Blood Lust Batman! An energy drink that contains a vital nutrient! With a side effect that might actually encourage it’s target audience to buy it with it’s practicality? How has this not become more popular than Harry Potter’s Butterbeer? Maybe the price is a turn off. At the moment you can only order it online and any retailer is going to have a mark up, so the novelty will wear off quick. While I wouldn’t recommend freebasing off of this stuff, I dare say that Tru:Blood is actually the healthier energy drink.

Peabody Essex Museum Wins on Game Day

The last time I visited the Peabody Essex Museum ended in this encounter. Shortly after my Yelp review, one of the directors sent me an apology for my experience and assured me that they are trying to get locals to take more of an interest in the museum. She asked me to please visit again and to consider changing my review.

My reply was that I would not alter the review of the experience or the rating, because I felt that people who were planning to spend the vacation money they probably saved over a long period of time, should know about this experience and factor it in to their plans. However, I promised that if I were to visit the museum again and have a much better experience than the one before, I would write a new review and rate it accordingly.

When the advertising went out to announce that the museum would be having “Game night” on the 21st, I was fortunate enough to have that day off. And the experience was definitely a hundred and twenty-five percent more improved over my encounter with the overzealous ticket agent.

My favorite feature of the museum is the atrium, which is spacious and naturally lit. When I heard the sounds of David Gahan imploring me to enjoy the silence, I knew the evening was going to be a pleasant one. There was a “live action” Pacman game set up in atrium, with foam tubes set up to form a maze. Children were invited to use the remote control Pacman and Ghost, which I tried to get a video of focusing just on the game itself, but the kids kept getting into the shot. I didn’t want to look like some weird guy taking videos of kids, so I abandoned the effort.

The tables each had a Rubik’s Cube and a deck of Uno cards. Sadly, no one wanted to play Uno, but I did have some fun fiddling with a cube as I ate a really good salad from the museum cafeteria. After about a half hour I kind of burned out, but it wasn’t a disappointing night. There was great 80’s music and the atmosphere was fun and an inviting.

I Reject Your Assistance and Substitute My Own

There are many kinds of help, but the one I’m fondest of is the kind I’ve asked for. 90% of the time, when a customer or coworker thinks they are helping me, they’re really just making things ten times more complicated. This is one small example.

SaberSave’s parking lot is on a bit of an inclined plane. So when a gust of wind gently brushes the lightweight shopping carts, they typically go flying downhill. Coupled with the fact that the parking lot here is ten times more condensed than the one at Generimart and I’m basically working in a giant pinball machine.

I managed to get four shopping carts to sit still long enough for me to retrieve one more. If I haven’t mentioned this in previous entries, I should point out that SaberSave does not use the electronic cart pusher, so we are forced to hand push carts five at a time. Other cart jockeys push the envelope, but that’s their problem if they get hurt. I only wanted one more.

A customer finished loading her groceries. The corral was literally right across from her and it’s not like she had to cross a four lane highway. But like so many short sighted people, she saw my row of carts and thought, “I be that poor young man would appreciate my meddling.”

She brings the cart just close enough to the row of carts without touching them and leaves it there. Would anyone like to guess what happened? That’s right. The very phenomenon I eluded to gently pushed the cart into the established row of carts, forcing me to scramble and get control of them before they slammed into someone’s car. The remaining shopping cart broke away from the row and veered into the traffic, forcing me to have to try to grab that one and keep my row from going any further. It was not as simple as I made it sound. And all because a customer thought she was helping.

We all want to believe that our assistance is appreciated wherever we go. But if you saw a firefighter trying to put out a burning building, you wouldn’t run up to the flames with a bottle of water and try to douse the raging inferno, would you? No, because it’s dangerous and you would likely cause more damage and liability issues than you intended. Similarly, if someone is being paid to do something than you’re helping them in anyway is not only extremely presumptuous, but also entirely unwanted.

The Pay Day Equation ~ An Entry from Confessions of a Cart Jockey Beta, circa 2012

For clarity’s sake, it would be better to explain some things up front.
         First there’s the cart pusher, which I have affectionately named Wally. The most essential piece of equipment in the cart attendant’s arsenal, Wally is a five hundred pound machine that can move as slowly as the bulky, yellow remote control’s turtle silhoutte would suggest, or as fast as the equally accurate rabbit icon. One of our shopping carts is attached to the front of Wally, and we count this as one cart, as Wally can only push a maximum of twenty-five carts at a time and we must be careful to only add twenty-four, or the best case scenario is that he will refuse to budge until we lower the amount. The worst case scenario is that Wally will “die” under the strain, forcing myself and the other cart attendants to hand push up to seven shopping carts at a time throughout the day. This is no small task in any way, shape, or form, and the last time Wally had to have his batteries replaced, it took them all summer. So we try to keep Wally fully functional and well rested at all times.
         The second thing to understand is how the front of our store is arranged. Most of our locations have two entrances. In our store, one entrance is closer to the electronics department, while the other is closer to the grocery and pharmacy areas. Since my store is attached to a mall, it’s naturally very busy and also quite a bit larger than other locations in the chain. So rather than one large section, there are two separate sections for storing the shopping carts known as cart corrals. The cart attendant works tirelessly throughout his shift to keep both of these corrals well stocked with shopping carts, sometimes all by himself, even on the busiest days such as weekends and major holidays, or post holiday sales.
         At both entrances, there are automatic doors that allow a customer to exit or enter the store. Between these two sets of doors are two single doors with large red signs that read “NOT AN ENTRANCE/EXIT”. These “cart doors” lead to a section that is cordoned off from the rest of the vestibule by large bars that are meant to discourage people from crossing the space, but don’t always work because they are not electrified. It is important to understand that it is this particular section where we guide the long line of twenty-four shopping carts, pushed by Wally, who is being powered by a remote control in one hand, while the cart at the front of the line is guided with the other hand.
         This maneuver requires negotiating a stretch of parking lot that is frequently choked with heavy traffic, especially in the holiday months. When we reach the sidewalk in front of the store entrance, there is yet another block of space to traverse as pedestrian customers enter and exit the store, or flit by on their way to the mall entrance, on one side, and the Dollar Store on the other. It’s important to remember that when Wally is pushing the maximum of twenty-five shopping carts, one half of the line is always in the parking lot, still impeding traffic as I try to guide the front of the carts into the special door without damaging property or human beings.
         Suffice it to say Wally is heavy. Add to those twenty five large mounds of steel and plastic that are our shopping carts, which we try to move as fast as safety will allow, so that you, our customer can shop, and you have something that can, and will, cause quite a bit of damage given the circumstance. One former cart attendant was actually banned from using Wally after hitting someone’s car and subsequently fired shortly after I came along.
         I suffer from a healthy dose of paranoia in regards to my mechanical co-worker and its proximity to other bodies of sufficient mass. If a vehicle is directly in my path, or it looks like a driver is about to back out of a parking space, I won’t even move Wally, or the row of carts until the driver and I are on the same page. The same goes for human and particularly fragile bodies such as the elderly, children, or animals. This paranoia is never more acute than on the final approach to the cart doors.
         Generally we need to keep the cart doors closed until we are ready to bring carts in. Part of the reason is because during the warmer months, hot air affects the fresh food near the grocery entrance and during the colder months customers and coworkers are bothered by the cold air that blows in. Anything that makes the cart attendant’s job even the slightest bit easier is a major inconvenience to everyone who views us as the company whipping boys. The reason for keeping the cart doors closed, aside from no longer being in the mood to argue with anyone over what blows in through what doors, is that customers will often mistake the cart doors for an entrance or exit that they are within their rights to use. Most of them are surprised by the enormous line of loudly rumbling shopping carts being pushed by the large red machine with the flashing yellow light, but don’t actually have the decency to look embarrassed as I stop Wally and yank hard on the carts to slow their momentum and prevent possible injury. Another popular move is for me to be within inches of entering the cart doors, only to have come customer think they’re being cute by darting past me like a small child running through the sprinklers. This causes even more anxiety as more and more often, I get closer to having a customer’s fatality on my watch.
         You may be asking yourself, are people just that stupid? Do they not comprehend how badly they could be hurt by not respecting Wally and his awesome strength, or is there something else going on beneath the surface?
         When it comes to screwing a store out of money, the most complicated maneuvers of the most duplicitous customer will usually involve the returns desk. But there’s another equation that is lodged into the back of everyone’s mind, even those with an application for sainthood just days from approval. That equation is: If “X” happens to me while I am at “Y”, I will get “Z” amount of money.
         During a single viewing of Wheel of Fortune, you can expect to see about twenty ads from various law firms announcing the launch of a new campaign of lawsuits against drug companies or improperly coded buildings where asbestos exposure was likely. People often joke about how much money they could get if they sued this or that major company. And although frivolous lawsuits are certainly not an invention of this century, we have to remember that not too long ago, McDonalds, and more recently the tobacco industry both suffered blows to their bottom lines when someone took them to court over things that the majority of the world believe were the plaintiff’s own damn fault.
         I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it myself. Every time I cross the street, I think of the money vultures that would be at my bedside if one of the many idiots who are just a lead foot away from their fifteen minutes of fame on The World’s Dumbest Drivers struck me down in the crosswalk. Since the law of averages says that the chances are better every day, I frankly need that thought just to get me out of bed every morning.
         So as sure as the sky is blue, I have no doubt that some of these people see my store; one of the best known retail chains in the country. Then they see me with Wally and the long row of carts that I’m guiding towards the cart entrance. They think of how easy it would be to get injured, just enough for it to be visibly damaging but maybe not enough to wound them mortally. And I’m sure it’s this new sue happy culture, exacerbated by morons who sued for things that were blatantly their fault and still won, that makes the customer see a potential collision with my cart pusher as the winning lottery ticket.
         I’m no legal expert but I have been thrown under the bus a few times. What people don’t get about those cases you hear about in the news is that they are most likely just the ones out of the thousands that actually saw the light of day, much less ended in a big payout. And as fast as the Pay Day equation has ingrained itself into our minds, a new subculture of paranoia has taken root in the legal departments of all of the major companies you know and love.
         McDonalds now includes calorie counts on their menus. The tobacco companies send out information on how to quit smoking in each pack of cigarettes. And the store I work at is so afraid of being sued by its own employees that they practically guide you to the time clock at gunpoint if you’re in danger of being so much as a minute late for your lunch break.
         If someone were to get hit, in the parking lot, or in the store, and my hands were undoubtedly the ones handling Wally’s controls, there is no measure to how fast they would kick me to the curb. By the time you, the victim, arrived at the hospital, every other cart attendant would have immediately received new training on the cart pusher. They would then be required to sign a paper saying that they were retrained, thus creating a paper trail to show that they have taken steps to rectify the mistake of hiring someone so incompetent.
         Even if you were to file a lawsuit against my company, the best you could hope for would be that your medical expenses and court costs would be paid. It would not be enough to buy you that car you’ve always dreamed of. The worst case scenario, for you that is, would be a 72-hour watch when investigators watched the CCTV footage and determined that you had caused yourself harm. I’d still be out of a job and likely blackballed from any place that required the use of heavy machinery.
         There’s always the possibility, of course, that I’m reading into it. Maybe people really are just that stupid.

© Copyright 2012 NateSean (UN: thevampirenate at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.

Phil Of the Future

These days I never jump to conclusions about people. All of my observations are based on actual experiences and it’s important to remember that some people simply never change. If they’ve been locked in a certain pattern all of their lives, no amount of amiability or patience is going to change that. You can either choose to ignore them or you can expose their mannerisms to the world and get it off your chest once they’ve gotten too far under your skin.

As a new employee at Sabersave or in any company, I try to find some equilibrium with the rest of the seasoned employees. Even I think I know what I’m doing, I always ask so that I don’t unknowingly violate some rule that a specific company has in place. Two different front end employees gave me a rundown of how they do things. So when the glass bottle machine needed to be empties, I went to Phil, who does general store maintenance as well as bagging groceries. Again, this was simply to make sure I knew how they did things here and I was simply looking for confirmation about what another employee had already told me.

Me: Phil, do we use the Uboats to change the glass bins.

Phil: What?

Me: Do we use the Uboats to change the glass bins.

Phil: No, you use the little blue bins.

Me: *Patiently* No, what I’m asking you is if we use the U-boats to bring the bins back.

Phil: *Oblivious, like he hadn’t heard me* You use the U-boats to bring the blue bins back.

Me: That’s precisely what I just asked you.

One occurrence right? No big deal, I need to be more patient with people? Is that your first reaction. Fast forward to last night. The cart wipes we keep in the vestibule for customers to alleviate their germophobia (While handling fruits and vegetables that have likely been manhandled by transients). So I took the empty bag of wipes out of the fixture and since Phil was in the vestibule vacuuming the rug, I asked him what I already knew. I don’t know why. Blind optimism?

Me: Phil, are the cart wipes in the supply closet behind the break room. I just want to make sure before I run all over the store.

Phil: *Again, oblivious* You put it (the bag of wipes) in the fixture.

Me: *taking a deep breath* Phil, are the cart wipes, in the supply closet. The closet behind the break room.

Phil: Yeah, you need to get another thing of cart wipes.

Me: I’m aware of that. I need to know where they are. Never mind, I’ll find them myself.

Phil: No I’ll show you where they are.

So he takes me to the supply closet behind the break room. All he had to do was say yes but then, I suppose all I had to do was just not assume he was going to be helpful at this time.

Understand that Phil is not mentally challenged or disabled in anyway that I can tell. And I might have more patience with the guy, except that he is clearly one of those people who is oblivious to his own idiocy. This became clear to me when he started running his mouth to me about emptying a trash barrel, which I’ve been doing pretty competently for two straight weeks. I also pointed out to him that he is not a supervisor and that he shouldn’t be telling me what to do period. Later, in the checkout lane, I saw him talking to another employee and I overheard this exchange:

Phil: “That new guy with the glasses, does he have something wrong with him?”

That is where my patience for the moron ends. I didn’t make a fuss about it right then and there and I didn’t say anything because I couldn’t prove what he said or what intent was behind it. All I know is that if I wasn’t going to make excuses for stupidity at Generimart, I’m not going to excuse it at this or any other place I work.