Story time with angels

Every once in a while I like to think I can write decent fiction. I’ve been thinking of doing some online publishing and discovered that GoodReads, my favorite website for book nerds like me allows you to publish your own writing. So I dug up the one half decent short story I could find and posted it. You can find it at

One of the many problems with Angels is that they are not discreet at all. For instance, Javier sits on the edge of my desk calling out the intimate details of my co-workers as they passed by.

https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/367036-the-angel-zone

Here is how it begins:

One of the many problems with Angels is that they are not discreet at all. For instance, Javier sits on the edge of my desk calling out the intimate details of my co-workers as they passed by.

“…still wonders why daddy left…”

“…hasn’t had sex in six years…”

“…husband is a mule for a drug cartel…”

How can you not love a story that begins like that? Okay, it’s not Steinbeck. But it is very short and enjoyable. I hope you like it.

Shyontology update and musings

  • Last week I saw someone in front of the Shyontology building killing weeds with a blowtorch.
  • Why don’t any of the cars in their parking lot have bumper stickers? My theory is that they are not allowed to enjoy anything outside of Shyontology but they don’t have Shyontology stickers because they don’t want their cars vandalized.
  • Today I walked past a young latina who seemed to be mopping the grass outside their building. She looked so startled when she saw me approaching that I later wondered if I should have asked her if she wanted help escaping.
  • Can Shyontologists go to Disneyland?
  • A couple of years ago there was a huge car accident in the street in front of our building. Several people from my office went out to comfort a woman trapped in her car until the emergency services arrived. A few Shyontologists arrived on the scene, offering their help as well (as well as some free passes to their Shyontology movie). I’m told that the woman was adamant that she did not need their help. In my imagination’s revision of the story she actually lifts the car off of her and runs away.

10 Things about me

Here are a few things I would like everyone to know about me:

1. I did a Brazilian martial art called Capoiera for ten years. While it’s been over a decade since I’ve trained I look back at those years as some of the most important of my life. It was there that I found many lifelong friends and learned important social skills that I somehow missed out on earlier in my life. I was also able to travel to Brazil and Russia with this group. However, do not count on me in a fight – I will resort to hair pulling.

2. I have a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and an MBA. I use neither in my life but I am still paying for my student loans. It’s like my husband says though, it’s all about the work ethic you develop in school, not the information you receive.

3. I had a monthly opinion column in my hometown paper when I was 19. I once wrote an article titled How to Treat Your Waitress that got more hate mail then any other column in the paper’s history. Actually, I’m just guessing that fact but I’m sure I’m right. The day the article came out, my dad went to get his hair cut and there was a man there foaming at the mouth with rage about the column. It was supposed to be funny. That was a hard thing for a 19-year-old to deal with though and it put me off writing for a long time.

4. My career plan in High School was to be a rock star. FYI – I have no musical ability or talent whatsoever. In retrospect, this probably explains why I never did my homework in school.

5. I love superheroes and supernatural stories, movies, TV shows, etc. My current favorites are: Doctor Who, the Avengers, Star Wars, Supernatural (TV show) and anything by Joss Whedon. Owning an authentic Stormtrooper costume is on my bucket list.

6. I’ve never done drugs or smoked cigarettes. I’m not a prude but there was a lot of drugs in the neighborhood where I grew up and I hated the people who did them because they were jerks to me. I remember one man grabbing my shirt when I was a child and blowing marijuana smoke in my face and laughing as I freaked out.

7. I work for a mental health agency that used to have a locked psychiatric facility for adolescents. This facility is where I spent my first five years with the company. It was there that I participated in restraints, had a girl on all fours chase me and try to bite me while barking like a dog, and witnessed shocking acts by children and staff. I also learned the importance of boundaries with children and the complexity of mental health issues (huge understatement). I may also be slightly desensitized to many things now, including violence.

8. I played hooky from work so I could watch the first Harry Potter movie in the theater along with a few hundred kids. I love Harry.

9. My family is Jewish but I am agnostic. Not the lazy kind of agnostic who just doesn’t want to be bothered with thinking about spiritual issues. I’m just… open minded. Except when it comes to organized religion. Seriously, nobody has all the answers to the mysteries of the universe, that’s just stupid. We’re all going to have the questions answered when we die. Or we’ll just stop existing. But I’m hoping for the former.

10. I really didn’t think I could think of this many things to write about me.

Check back for updates as I think of more interesting things about me. Of course, that could be it…

 

My first employee

Sallie Mae was my first employee and she was a mountain of a woman. Six feet tall and 350-plus pounds. We both worked as administrative assistants for a locked psychiatric facility for teenagers. She started a couple of years before me and was hired because her mother, who worked there, recommended her. This is an example of the high level of employee vetting our company had at the time. Sallie Mae had a plethora of health problems and I frequently had to cover for her absences.

Sallie Mae affirmed for me that the most ignorant people often have the biggest mouths. On more than one occasion I heard her refer to some of our clients as “colored girls”. In her seven years of employment she had been moved to a different office 13 times. Mostly because her office mates would complain about her obnoxious behavior so much. Nobody told her the real reason why she was being moved, but she knew something was up and by move eight or nine she began crying uncontrollably before packing up her belongings.

As fate would have it, I became her supervisor for the last year we worked together. The facility administrator, Janice, told Sallie Mae that she wasn’t eligible to apply for this position due to her lack of a college degree. Sallie Mae  then sat at her desk and cried as she did so often and I sat with her, being supportive while she whined about how unfair it was that I was being promoted just because I went to college. Clearly Sallie Mae had yet to understand how life really worked.

Once I started as her manager her absences increased and I became acutely aware of the abysmal quality of her work when she was there. Janice and I talked and the decision was that it was time for Sallie Mae to no longer be employed with us.

The path to termination is a long one at our company and it began with an initial counseling. I had to tell Sallie Mae that morning that I was going to give her a disciplinary action later and she had a right to union representation (which she refused). Then I ran away to my office like the big chicken I was. The sobbing immediately commenced. Loudly.

I sat down with Sallie Mae and Shirley, our HR manager, and read a few paragraphs I had written, explaining her offenses. When I was done I didn’t know what else to do. There was a moment of intensely awkward silence and then Sallie Mae threw her arms and head down onto the table and started bawling. Shirley and I looked at each other uneasily.

Shirley did most of the talking after that (thankfully). She reiterated what I had read and explained to Sallie Mae that we valued her as an employee.

“Well it doesn’t feel like it!” She spat and looked at me. “I left you messages asking you to call me when I was out and you didn’t!”

I was stunned. Yes, I remember her voicemails asking me to call her so she could give me details about her migraines and diarrhea and wanted no part of it. In my naïveté, I couldn’t figure out why anybody would want to talk to their manager when they were sick. Several of my therapist co-workers later explained what attention-seeking behavior is.

When I talked to Shirley later on to get her assessment of the meeting she looked at me and said, “Well, I’ve just never seen anyone cry so much before.”

Her performance did not improved after this. She barely talked to me and refused to voluntarily go to the weekly supervision meeting we had. I frequently heard her crying in her office but nobody paid any attention anymore. I wasn’t looking forward to another disciplinary action but desperately wanted to get rid of her.

But then, the unthinkable happened: Our facility was being shut down. We had two months to find new jobs or go on unemployment. When they officially announced the closure I had already lined up a potential job in another division of our company and had to watch everyone else agonize about their fate. Not surprisingly, Sallie Mae was not taking it well.

Several positions were opened in the same division I was going to work for and staff were lining up for them. Sallie Mae applied for several of them and received coaching for her interviews but she was too infamous in our company and no one would hire her. Nobody told her she wasn’t being hired because of her frequent absences, poor quality of work and general ignorance. She just assumed she would be getting one of the positions and started to freak out when she kept getting rejected.

During the last couple of weeks Sallie Mae’s anxiety shot through the roof. After having argument after argument with her she finally jut stopped speaking with me. I didn’t really care at that point though. On the last day, I saw her carrying boxes out of her office and offered to help her carry them. She just glared at me.

A few weeks later I was talking to my new employees.

“I’m so glad that Sallie Mae was wrong about you,” said Sharlene.

“Huh?” What had this awful woman been saying about me? Was I ever to get rid of her presence?

“She told us that you were the Hitler of managers,” Sharlene laughed.

Ironically, most of the complaints about me these days are that I’m too nice. I’m good with that though.

Sweatpants, not flowers!

I think I’ve learned to have low expectations for birthdays and other celebrations in my life. When I was a kid I would give my friends a daily countdown to my birthday party starting a month ahead of time (you know, so they would have plenty of time to shop for me). But when you set your standards so ridiculously high, there’s no way you’re not going to be disappointed.

By the time I was in my 30’s I was satisfied with just going out to work with my co-workers for my big day. But I wasn’t a very social person and I rarely made connections with my co-workers. But I was always the one who made sure everyone else had a good birthday. Still, no birthday lunches came my way.

Then, one year, when I realized that nobody was going to take me out to lunch I sent out an email inviting my co-workers to have lunch with me for my birthday because, dammit, if nobody is going to do it for me I’d better do it myself.  It was a good lunch and in the years following I didn’t have to do so much planning for my own birthday. And I get more and more presents every year.

It’s the same with Mother’s Day for me. The first year I had an idea of what I wanted to do and was deeply disappointed when it didn’t happen. But since then it’s gotten better. This year we had a family brunch at our house and we ate in our newly furnished patio. It was very enjoyable.

I also told my husband I wanted sweatpants instead of candy or flowers and he really came through – with Wonder Woman pajama bottoms! I couldn’t have been happier.

This led me to think: Maybe next year we could replace all of those flower vendors on every street corner with sweatpant and pajama vendors. I think the world would be a much happier place.

Let’s complain about customer service together!

You have to admit, bad customer service is usually pretty funny. It’s just unfortunate you have to pay for it.

I go to Jamba Juice a few times a week for my 16 ounce Pomegranate Paradise. The staff there know me pretty well but one of the employees insists on calling me “Heather”. This was our conversation this morning:

Jamba Employee: “Good morning Heather! How are you?”

Me: “Um, my name is Hilary.”

J.E.: “Good!”

I don’t have anything profound to say about this. I’m just a little disappointed at how some people can give the impression of good customer service by being friendly and energetic when they’re really just on autopilot. I like a little authenticity with my smoothie.

I do enjoy a good (re: bad) customer service story though. I’ve been known to peruse the Yelp reviews for entertainment purposes ( I highly recommend reading the reviews for Gilbert’s in Monterey, California). So, what’s your worst customer service story? I would genuinely love to hear it!

The Obligatory Chupacabra Post

When my boss, AwesomeSauce, first became my supervisor she seemed to be a very stoic, almost humorless person. That was four years ago. We have both come a long way since then but I’m starting to think that maybe she’s picked up a little too much of my craziness.

It starts with a need to train employees about where our blood spill kit is located. Every year we ask a few staff where the kit is and every year they fail to know that we have a blood spill kit. It’s understandable, I mean in the grand scheme of things it’s not a very important piece of information. Unless, of course, you need it. Hence, the need to educate staff on its location.

We wanted to make the training fun so that it would be memorable and since it was October we figured we could use some fake blood from a Halloween store.

Well, October is also The Great Shake Up – on October 17th at 10:17am (the anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake) everyone is supposed to have an earthquake drill. Just for the heck of it we decided to throw in a dangerous person drill. We did this a few months ago and had a staff member walk around with a fake knife and we tried to evacuate everyone – it was a total bust as our intercom system failed to work and our dangerous person enjoyed her role a little too much and thought it would be fun to fake stab as many people as possible.

I swear I was joking when I suggested we throw a chupacabra into the mix. However, AwesomeSauce’s eyes lit up and she got really, really excited. Apparently, AwesomeSauce came of age in New York in the 80’s when the legend of the chupacabra became big in the Puerto Rican community. She’s always wanted a t-shirt that said: “I survived the chupacabra” (which I quickly ordered for her upcoming birthday).

After hammering out a few details, this is what we planned: An earthquake occurs and triggers PTSD in a dangerous person who just happens to have a chupacabra. They set the Chupacabra loose on our unsuspecting staff. With a trail of (fake) blood, staff will have to find the blood spill kit and clean it up. A questionnaire will be passed out afterwards with a bonus chupacabra question.

It’s days like this that I realize why I haven’t left my company for another workplace. That, and I have no skills that would make me attractive to any other employer. But, whatever…

Follow-up: We totally chickened out and just sent out a questionnaire saying: “A chupacabra attacked what do you do?” And then we offered prizes for the first 10 people to turn their questionnaires in correctly. At least the planning was fun.

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo was earlier this week. It’s more of an American drinking holiday, but we like it. However, in the town where I grew up it has brought quite a bit of conflict.

Here’s the short version of what happened: A few years ago on Cinco de Mayo at Live Oak High School in Morgan hill, some fights broke out between latino and white students . The following year, in an effort to avoid more altercations, the Principal asked a group of white males to either remove their American flag shirts or turn them inside out. The boys refused and were sent home. Their parent sued. And lost. And then they sued again. And lost again. I’m not sure how many lawsuits and appeals there were but it seemed interminable. This year, a group of “patriots” decided to have a rally in front of the school. They waved American flags, wore their most patriotic clothing and probably had signs with misspelled words.

I’ve become fascinated with this story and I was able to talk to a few of my co-workers who have children who attended Live Oak at the time. One person reported that the boys were known troublemakers and had every intention of using their shirts to start trouble. Some told me how livid they were that these boys are still getting so much attention. One parent was very upset that her daughter’s school day was interrupted by the protesters, media and police.

I read online comments from both sides of the argument. Nobody seemed interested in looking at the issue objectively. Endless generalizations were made. Many rose to the other’s bait and lashed out at the opposing viewpoints. My opinion is this: I sympathize with those on the boys’ side because the Principal certainly should have handled the situation better. But I’m not up in arms about it. I’m glad that the Principal tried to prevent violence. However (and excuse the run-on sentence), when I see protesters in front of a school, wasting the time and energy of children, teachers and officials over something that happened so long ago that all of the students involved have graduated, I not only can’t support their current outrage but they are at a serious disadvantage for future outrages as well.

Why I love Superheroes

All my life I have loved superheroes. It doesn’t matter if they get their powers through a lab accident or through supernatural means — I’m gonna watch that movie, record that t.v. show and read that story. You don’t have to be a psychologist to deduce that this stems from feelings of powerlessness, particularly when  the world around us seems to be getting far more dangerous.

Take Ukraine, for example, I wish the Avengers would fly in and set things right. They could make the Russian troops leave the area and for a comedic finale, they would spank Putin with one of Hawkeye’s arrows.

Perhaps Doctor Who (yes, I know his name is the Doctor but you have to say the whole thing so non- Whovians know who you’re talking about) could take his tardis to North Korea and whisk Kim Jong Un and his cronies to a distant planet where they have to work in a medical waste facility for the rest of their lives.

School shooting? Send in Buffy.

Global warming? It’s time for Superman.

Ebola outbreak? The Star Trek crew can wipe that shit out.

Although, when it comes to the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls, forget about the superheroes – I want to go there myself and rescue them. Maybe at the head of an all-female army with synchronized periods. None of the kidnappers would survive our amazonian onslaught!

I say all this despite the fact that I am very liberal. I don’t support the death penalty, I would like the military to be cut in half (at least) and I want prisons transformed from places where we punish criminals to facilities that promote human betterment.

But superheroes are such a simple, appealing solution. Something, whether it be God or Science, has endowed them with the right to take justice into their own hands. And we don’t have to police them – they have moral and emotional struggles that do the job for them and they always end up doing the right thing.

So, who’s with me for a trip to Nigeria?

Things not to listen to at work

I usually listen to NPR while I sit at my desk and work all day. Today I got a little tired of hearing about the horrible things happening in the world so I put on a YouTube video of Anziz Ansari. Here is a partial list of some of the phrases my co-workers walked in on me listening to:

  • “… suck dick…”
  • “…hippo cock…”
  • “…jizz everwhere…”

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t turn it off right away. Well, that would be the sensible thing to do, therefore… no. I just kept turning the volume lower and lower thinking that each time would be sufficient for passers-by to not hear. Alas no, several people heard jokes about dick sucking coming from my office.

Eventually I turned it off  but it kinda left me feeling like a quitter.