Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Keurig Laptop

We all drink something near our computers. This is especially true if we live in a small space, or we have a lot of crap to do and not a lot of time to make work and eating two separate events. Whatever the case, I spilled coffee on my laptop the day before Thanksgiving.

Of course I handled it with calmness and rationality. By that I mean, I broke down in a puddle of shame and misery and couldn’t function for the better part of the morning. But the Bossman was really helpful and understood what I was going through, so he gave me the day off to get things sorted.

Fortunately, when I bought the laptop, I got the protection plan and the good people of the Best Buy Geek Squad were able to work out a replacement for me free of charge. I just need to wait a couple weeks to have it delivered, so the posts will be few and far between.

Oh well. Birthday is in one week and that means my very first birthday open mic will also be coming up. Fran’s Place in Lynn, if any of my blog trolls are interested.

Am I… Am I focusing on the positives for once? So this is what it feels like.

So the final total for my kettle at the Liberty Tree Mall was close to two hundred dollars. That was more than the daily totals from all of the previous ringers at that location, so however poorly I might feel about ringing at a particular place, I’m doing spectacularly.

Yesterday I was at Crosby’s in Salem. Aside from a couple of people who had to throw in their two cents (in the strictly metaphorical sense) the patrons surprised me again with their generosity and warmth. I can’t wait to see the numbers for this one.

I wanted to write a big thing about my experiences on Saturday, but honestly, this is one time that I think I can let certain things drop. People had the best of intentions, whatever the final result was and I don’t want to alienate people at this time, which is exactly what that post would have done.

But don’t be disappointed. I’m sure I’ll have other things to rant about and in a couple of months, the social criticism will be right back on.

Some Notes for the Donors

There’s another, bigger post I want to make, but I’m still waiting to find out how much my kettle actually pulled in on Saturday before I write that one. Since I want to also make a video post accompanying the text post, we’ll just have to wait until later this evening for me to shove my observation down your throats. In the meantime, here’s a small critique on the public in general in regards to the bell ringing position.

Let me up front about this. I appreciate any and all donations. People are usually very giving and very generous and they’re more comfortable dropping money in a kettle when they know they’re giving directly to the organization, as opposed to making a donation to an unknown third party organization using a retail cashier as their middleman.

That being said, you don’t to apologize for anything. I am not a panhandler and I’m not robbing you, so there’s no need to feel guilty to the point of telling me that you are sorry that you don’t have any money to give, or that you’ve already donated to another bell ringer, or telling me the entire history of your donations in the past because I am not keeping score.

Some people only have pennies to give. That’s fine, because it always adds up. And you have to remember that we’re a charitable organization dedicated to reducing and eliminating poverty. So if that handful of change is the difference between you eating this week and winding up among the people who are dependent on our services, then you don’t need to explain why you’re not willing to give that up. There’s being generous with your time and money and then there’s being so giving and so sacrificing to the point of missing the point.

When you’re donating money, the amount is not what is important. The intent is. You’re already showing me how decent you are by giving what you are able to give, without thought of reward. And I am not judging you because you were unable to give that particular day. If you feel that a bell ringer is being particularly judgmental for some reason, tell the organization so, because I guarantee you we don’t want those kinds of people representing us out there.

When you see a bell ringer out there, by all means tell them how much you appreciate their work. Compliment them, buy them a hot cocoa or coffee if you can, or tell them how their organization helped you one time. But don’t be a jerk.

Not five minutes into one shift, I had a guy ask me, “Aren’t you getting tired of hearing that bell ringing?”

What am I supposed to say to that? Oh yes, I’m totally tired of it, let me join you in your negativity because surely it’s not going to hurt your cause.

Also, please don’t make comments like, “I hope you’re being paid for this.”

What business is it of yours either way? I sure don’t hear that sarcasm when you go to the soup kitchen for a meal, or to the thrift shops, or the shelters that give you a warm place to sleep at night, so why would you give the bell ringers a hard time for raising the money that supports those organizations? This is the most effective way to raise that money and you’re showing absolute disrespect to them by implying that they’re time and effort simply is not appreciated.

For the record, yes, I’m being paid for this. If you’re interested in doing this, ask me and I’ll give you the information to do your own research, because they’re certainly always looking for people, especially around the extremely busy holidays. But be prepared for the same amount of red tape as you would find at any other job, seasonal or otherwise. And don’t expect me to share your jaded world view that the paycheck is what matters, because I had my choice of jobs where the paycheck was all I could expect for my trouble.

As I said in a previous post, this job is a huge improvement over my retail experiences, so the laundry list is a lot shorter, but there are always going to be things to improve upon. This is one are where I feel society at least puts in a 99% acceptable effort.

That Being Said…

That being said, I have some notes.

Like with any job, my main beef is always going to be with the coworkers. I think if I had to deal with them any longer than the initial hour when we have to show up at TheStore and the hour long van ride to get to the locations where we will be ringing, as well as the ride back to TheStore to turn in our kettles and equipment, I would probably commit one or two hell-worthy trespasses before long.

When you’re ringing bells, of course there’s some negativity that you have to deal with. For example, when kids ask what I’m doing and why, they’re usually genuinely curious and are often very moved by the idea of doing something nice for people who don’t have a warm place to sleep, or clothes, or food. When adults ask me those same questions, it’s usually to try and goad a reaction. For those people, I just politely insist that they call the number on the sign for more information. Yesterday, I politely, but firmly shut someone down who was about about to launch into an Obama rant over immigration.

Then there was another guy who admitted to me that he was panhandling for a “bus ride”. Which would have been more convincing if he was over by the bus stop as my location was at the other mall entrance, outside the Cheesecake factory.

But I only deal with those people for a few fleeting moments. There’s a Vietnam veteran who does bell ringing and is also allegedly a pastor. I say allegedly, because from conversations that he was having with other people in the van, I gather that he is more of the loud, annoying street preacher variety “pastor”, although whether or not he is actually ordained I couldn’t tell you.

He spent most of the van ride home ranting about Obama and how there’s no religion in schools and blah, blah, blah. And that would be fine, except the rest of the van had to chime in as well to the point where I very much wish that I had some way to drown them out without having to make a down payment on an Ipad.

It’s amazing because for seven or eight hours, depending on how long it takes to gather everyone up at the end of the day, I literally have no complaints about the actual work involved. I have a few notes, some things I would like to throw out there to all prospective donors, but I will save that for the next post.

Recovering From the Dark Place That is Consuming my Soul

The bottom line is this. Yes, I have bills to pay. But I’m not going to get those bills paid any quicker if I get so sick to my stomach from working in a place where I am not appreciated and more to the point, bullied to the point of feeling backed into a corner and forced to fight back.

This bell ringing job is seasonal only and the only way it pays off in the long run is if I work over forty hours every week. We’ll see how things pan out, but even after two days, I feel a hundred times more fulfilled than I did anytime over the last ten years or so.

Yesterday, I made a positive impression on a little kid who was visiting America for the first time with his family. The generous donors and the fact that I’m working for a place that is pretty much universally loved and respected for their actions is giving me that emotional boost that I need to recover from the dark spot I’ve been in.

For that reason, I am making a conscientious decision to not pursue any other job until after this seasonal job as a bell ringer is over. My mental health is just as important as my financial situation, if not more so, because I can’t pay rent in a mental hospital. I need to end this year on a positive note and begin the next year even more so.

People have their opinions of course. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am. You’re just going to waste your time and more to the point, you will be showing your true colors as someone who does not belong in my life.

Oh My Lord, of the Rings

Yesterday was my first day at TheStore. My position at TheStore is to collect donations for a charitable organization that I’m sure we’re all mostly familiar with. I have to say that so far this is the first job where I haven’t been sick to my stomach over stress. There is literally no way to screw this up, as long as I never lose sight of the kettle in which we collect the money.

I would be a little worried that my life is about to become like that Christmas episode of Ziggy way back when, but as I have stated, we mostly know about this organization and therefore I’m certain it’s not some Fly By Night Santa Scheme.

My primary snag is with some of the other ringers. The saving grace is that I only have to deal with them for one percent of the working day and the rest of the time I am completely alone, which is the best.

Just a few examples of what the “Co-Ringers” have done so far that grates my skin.

There’s a “veteran” of the Bell Ringing position. Like a lot of people who occupy this position, they seem to think of themselves as the Nurse Ratchet of any place you work. They’re the ones who “have been there” and “know everything” about the place where you are about to go and damned if you try to prove otherwise.

When we were at the main building waiting to be shipped off to our various locations, he approached me and introduced himself. So I tried to be polite and introduce myself and then with a warm smile he said, “So, have you done this before.”

“No,” I said, honestly.

“Well have you thought about what you’re about to do?”

“Yes I have.”

“No, have you reaaaaaally thought about it?” He flashed that ‘Santa Groped Me at the Mall and No One’s Going to Believe You” grin as he spoke. So I just politely walked away and avoided people for the rest of that hour. If only it stopped there.

Later, the Bossman gathered everyone together and did a “roll call” of sorts. Several times throughout the morning he and a few other people called my name and I responded. This is important.

There are two women of note in this story, who I’ll just call Bertha and Anne.

They gave Anne a bunch of cards with people’s names and the locations where they would be working. Anne called my name and gave me my card, instructing me to place it in the kettle once we got to my location. The card was where they did the math afterward to count who got what amount of donations at the end of the day.

Before we got on the vans, Anne spoke to the Bossman about something and kept pointing at me. The Bossman asked her to talk to me. So immediately I’m wondering what the hell I could have done wrong in my first hour as an employee here and what could anyone possibly be complaining about? But it wasn’t as sinister as all that.

You see when we’re out in the field, so to speak, we have coordinate our breaks because certain stores won’t hold our kettles for us. And the mall is a big place, so what they usually do with another guy who is in my position is they bring the kettle to him to have him watch while they go on their breaks.

That’s all well and good except that Anne decided to spring this info on me at the last minute, even though we were told pretty implicitly at the orientation that we are responsible for our kettles and the money within and that we could only leave the kettles in the stores. Nothing gets under my skin more than people introducing last second changes to policies that could result in possible termination and/or arrest if violated.

So I flat out said I wasn’t comfortable with that, because I wasn’t told beforehand this would be the case. Now that I understand the situation, which they had a whole hour to explain to me instead of approaching me like a creepy uncle, I’ll try to work a little more closely with everyone and hope today goes smoothly.

On the van ride to the Mall where I would be working, Bertha was riding shotgun and I was all the way in the back next to Anne. I hate loud conversations in an enclosed space and I hate being in a vehicle for a drawn out period of time with the heat blasting no less, so all of the boxes on my “seconds from psychotic rage” checklist were definitely being checked twice.

“Does he know where to put the kettle on breaks?” Bertha asked.

I didn’t know who she was referring to at first, because there were two other members of the masculine gender in the van, one of whom was driving. So I assumed she’d know that guy’s name since it was on a lanyard around his neck.

“Does he know where he takes his kettle on breaks?” She asked again.

Anne replied, “I don’t know,” and turned to me.

“What’s your name?”

“Who me?” I said, trying to keep that balance between jovial chatter and annoyance. “I’m Nathanielle. The guy no one wants to address directly, apparently.”

To their credit, everyone did laugh at the statement because they probably understood that being spoken of as if I wasn’t even there was a teensy bit rude. So that cultural faux pas out of the way, we established where I was to bring the kettle for break. It was thing that had already been established, so really the entire van ride was about repeating crap that I had already heard.

Oh well, I have to give them some credit. When I announced that I needed to use the restroom before I started ringing, they didn’t give me a hard time. The volunteer that drove the van dropped me off last, helped me set up my kettle and rang for me while I went to pee.

So if it seems like I’m being an ungrateful asshole well there you go. Don’t prevent me from peeing and we’re golden. So to speak.

“The Irish are Immune to Psychoanalysis”

There’s no actual evidence Freud said this, so maybe it’s more accurate to say that Martin Scorsese was right. Maybe Irish really are immune to psychoanalysis for the simple reason that we as a people have never been wealthy enough to pay someone for the privilege of hearing all of our problems when there’s a pub down the road that’s much cheaper.

When you’re seeing a therapist for the first time, it can be like trying to introduce someone to a long running television series. You only have season 12 on DVD and your friend only has one hour to spend with you, so there’s no time to go over the back story, the character biographies, the deleted scenes and the commentaries and it could all be for nothing anyway because your friend just might not be that invested.

For the two weeks I saw this guy who was the Urgent Care coordinator for psychiatric triage at the hospital. But he was not to be my actual therapist, which makes things really complicated because I was comfortable telling him certain things about me. He introduced me to this new woman who was closer to my age, probably, and now we’re back to square one because she didn’t even know if I would be seeing him again. So clearly there’s no communication between the two of them and now the ball was in my court to fill her on on the stuff I just told him about.

I had my first session with her yesterday. For all intents and purposes it went well enough, but by the end of the forty-five minutes I just felt like I had wasted valuable time trying to explain my entire life history to this woman. And I just decided right then and there that it wasn’t going to work out and I canceled our next appointment. This wasn’t anything personal against her, I just couldn’t see myself wasting hour after hour trying to get at what I really wanted, which was a referral to an actual psychiatrist who could help me apply for SSI.

Here’s the thing, I already have people in my life that I can “get stuff off my chest” with and they don’t bill my insurance for the privilege.

It’s all been a study in futility. I start my seasonal job today and hopefully I have another job before that ends, so we’ll see where I am after the new year. I’m sure the stories will flow from this new job as they do with the others and that I’ll hear just as much arm chair quarterbacking as I have in previous entries.