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Feral Purrfessional – Part 3

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Where we are: Katie Kitty has been given a scholarship to Mid-America Animal Tech. She plans to become a Feral Purrfessional to provide medical care to the feral cat population. She has arrived at the school with her mother and sister Charlene. They have just met Katie’s roommate Elise and her father Edgar. Read the beginning of the story here and Part 2 here.

Elise: We start tomorrow. Let’s go see where everything is.

Katie: Great idea! I think the labs are across the street. And the lecture rooms are the next building over.

Charlene: That way you guys can’t blow up everything at the same time.

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Katie: Thanks, Char. We really appreciate your support.

Katie looks at her mother and Edgar.

Katie: Are you coming, Mama?

Mama: I don’t know. I might be more frightened than ever about leaving you here.

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Edgar: Let’s go with them, Mrs. Kitty. That way you can see how safe it is.

Mama: Please call me Rose. No one calls me Mrs. Kitty. It sounds so strange.

Edgar: All right, Rose. I can explain what things are. It will make you feel better.

Rose: I guess that’s a good idea.

The girls race ahead chattering about how much fun they are going to have. Rose and Edgar follow close behind. There is a puma guard at the door to the labs.

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Guard: I’m sorry, but you’re not allowed in the building until tomorrow when classes start.

Edgar pulls out an identification card.

Edgar: It’s OK. I’m Edgar Khatt, Anatomy Purrfessor.

Guard: I’m sorry, Purrfessor. I’m new to the building. Please go ahead.

They enter the building, and Katie looks at Elise.

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Katie: Your dad works here?

Elise: Yeah. I don’t like to tell people. They think he got me in the program.

Edgar: Don’t worry, Katie. She won’t get more help than anyone else. I have an assistant who does the grading.

Katie: That’s pawsome, Purrfessor Khatt! I already know one of my teachers.

Edgar laughs.

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Edgar: That’s the spirit, Katie.

Rose: You mean you’ll see Katie every day, Edgar?

Edgar: Not every day. But several times a week.

Rose: I’m so glad to hear that. You don’t seem scary at all.

Edgar laughs again.

Edgar: Well, I’m glad to hear that. Here’s my lab.

He opens the door and turns on the light.

Charlene (startled): There are dead cats in here.

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Rose (terrified): You’re going to make them kill cats?

Edgar: Of course not. These are models, not real cats. We need the students to learn all of the bones and such so they can help others.

Rose (relaxing): Oh, of course. That makes sense.

Katie: Look, Mama. This one opens up to show the muscles.

Charlene: And this one has bones.

Elise: And they have real cats come in to show how the parts work for walking and jumping and other things.

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Katie: I can’t wait!

Rose: Well, I guess this isn’t too bad. What about the other classes?

Edgar: The students are very closely supervised. Some of the skills are practiced on each other, like weight and length.

Rose: How do you know when they’re ready to graduate?

Edgar: It’s a two-year program. Then the students work in our clinic for 3 months to practice their skills.

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Rose (hesitantly): Well, it does sound like a good program. Do you think she’ll be safe here?

Katie: Mama! Stop asking so many questions. You’re embarrassing me.

Edgar: It’s OK, Katie. (Turning to Rose) It’s very safe here. We’ve never had a problem with any of our students. All of the buildings are locked at night, and guards patrol the campus.

Rose: Thank you, Edgar. I feel much better.

Edgar: I’m glad to hear it.

The girls have been examining all of the models and displays. Katie and Elise seem to be bonding. Charlene still thinks some of the models are real cats.

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Edgar: Anybody interested in an anchovy and tuna pizza? I know a great place.

They walk to the restaurant and find a table. Katie and Elise talk nonstop about classes, books, shopping, and room decorations. The others mainly listen. Finally, they walk back to the dorm.

Edgar: How long are you staying, Rose?

Rose: We’re going to sleep here tonight and catch the train in the morning.

Edgar (disappointed): I was hoping to show you more of the town. At least let me take you to the station in the morning.

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Rose: That’s very kind of you.

Early the next morning Edgar picks up Rose and Charlene.

Rose: I want to thank you again. I feel so much better about Katie staying here. I’m going to miss her, but I won’t worry so much.

Edgar: If you’d like, I can call once in a while to let you know how she’s doing.

Rose: That would be wonderful. Here’s my number.

Charlene: There’s our train. We have to go.

Rose and Edgar purr.

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We will be taking a break next week for Cat Forum: Surviving Back to School. Then we will find out how things work out for Katie and Rose.

All pictures courtesy of Google Images

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2

Dear Santa, I’ve Been Really Good This Year (Mostly)

Dear Santa Claus,

I know that Thanksgiving is in three days, and you will start getting inundated with requests from small children about what they want for Christmas. I thought that I should remind you how good I have been this year, so you will be ready when I send my list. From what I remember about Christmas when I was little, the whole “naughty and nice” thing was pretty much a gimmick to get kids to behave. However, based on some of my recent gifts, I think there may actually be some sort of behavior standards for adults.

I remember from Sunday School that Jesus said something about how thinking about committing a sin is as bad as doing it. But I also remember them telling us that Jesus isn’t Santa Claus, so we couldn’t just keep asking Him to do stuff for us. That means I don’t have to be as good for you, right? I mean none of us are perfect (except that woman at work who keeps telling everyone else how to do their job because she knows how to do everything better than the rest of us). 

In case you or one of your spies elves have been too busy to notice, I have summarized the year.

I have been taking better care of myself physically. I finally got that annual exam I’ve been meaning to get around to for the past however many years. Just for the record, I am completely healthy. (probably should cut back on my two favorite foods though – chocolate and anything with sugar – and go to the dentist – and get some real glasses – doctor says I should exercise more even though I have an active job – I bet she doesn’t stop by the gym after work)

I’ve been trying hard to follow the rules at work (except the stupid ones – how am I supposed to straighten stuff on the top hooks without kneeling on the ledge at the bottom of the display? what about getting the stuff at the back of the pallet without stepping on it? climbing on the carts in the cooler to get to the stuff at the back? It’s not like I walk around with my box-cutter open – although it is non-regulation)

I try to be kind to everyone (except the ones I kinda throw under the bus once in awhile on this blog – but no one knows who they are anyway, so I don’t think they count; maybe I talked about a couple of people at work, but nothing everyone else wasn’t already saying)

I have been trying to read the posts of everyone I follow and liking what they write as much as possible (except the couple I had to drop because they were just too healthy and made me feel guilty – and that guy who was so conservative I wanted to smack him every time I read a post)

I have been doing my best to comment graciously on other people’s blogs (except those two people who got offended by what I wrote – it’s not my fault they didn’t get my humor, right?)

I have been taking care of my mother’s finances (except those couple of times I forgot to send checks to my brother when she asked – I probably should have done it right away or in the next day or so)

I am a courteous driver (I only remember pulling out directly in front of someone from my driveway one time this year and I really thought I had looked first – I only speed when I’m really late for work or church and there really aren’t that many people on the road that time of day anyway)

I am always helpful to the customers at work (except when I go to the break room/exit through receiving to avoid everyone, but sometimes people are so annoying and avoiding them is better than ignoring them, right?)

One final thing, Santa. You do grade on a curve, right?

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We Don’t Care; It’s Your Fault

I may have mentioned that safety is one of our “Core Principles” at Ralph’s. We all have to sign an oath that we are  committed to 200% safety, own own and the other person’s. As far as I can see, the only flaw in the plan is that the store itself isn’t a party to the agreement.

The most recent innovation is the introduction of “safety shoes”. These are not real shoes. My mother’s elderly uncle (and most other people) would have called these things “rubbers” in the days before every word had some relationship to sex. They are black pseudo-rubber and pull up over your own shoes, more or less covering the bottom and sides. The idea is to keep people from sliding on the floors in all areas working with fresh food.

You may recall that I am technically part of the deli, although I spend 10 minutes or less each day in the deli itself. Nonetheless, I must wear safety shoes. I’ve heard that these items were chosen specifically for their ability to walk on wet and oily surfaces.

I can assure you they were not chosen for climbing on ladders. The first day I had them on, I climbed a step-ladder to get an item for a customer from the back of a top shelf. I have done this same thing many times. Make sure the ladder is anchored correctly, step to the proper level, reach forward, grab the item, and give it to the customer (yes, we have procedures for everything).

The first three steps went fine. I turned to face the customer and slid off the ladder. Too bad my kids are too old to appreciate the amazing bruise I got from the shelf that my arm caught on the way off the ladder. I did not make the connection that tight hold would not translate to flexible footwear.

Even more embarrassing was when the shoe caught on the floor of the cooler while I was opening the door. The door moved, I did not, and my face met the door. Management had told me that the one place I worked that absolutely required the shoes was the cooler. I am guessing that no one considered that a room full of cardboard boxes would not be particularly slippery. Luckily no one saw me that time.

After the ladder incident, my team leader asked if I wanted to file an incident report. I assured her it wasn’t necessary. In the first place, I wasn’t really injured. In the second place, it would have triggered the much dreaded “safety violation”. The stores all aim to be accident-free; it looks bad on the company’s public record if employees are continually being injured at work.

A year or so ago, I sprained my bicepal tendon. It was caused by a sudden impact to a repetitive motion injury (RMI). I had tried to pull a cart out of an overcrowded cooler (not my own) and twisted wrong. The amount of paperwork was overwhelming, and I had to watch a 45-minute safety video before I could go to urgent care (hopefully the order would have been different if there had been blood or protruding bones).

I was supposed to be written up for a safety violation. I had pulled the cart rather than pushed it and jerked it to get it free (it was wedged in such a way that I had no choice).The only thing that saved me was that it aggravated an RMI. I had to wear a sling and go to physical therapy for several weeks.

My manager didn’t talk to me for a week. The only reason he forgave me was because I didn’t miss any time. Lost-time accidents accidents are many times worse than regular accidents; apparently they go on the store director’s permanent record (like some high school behavior). I guess he was somehow responsible for the warehouse sending too much stuff and the planners somehow putting in too few coolers. The same as I was responsible for trying to work quickly in that environment.

For some odd reason, they put the beer and wine sections right outside the doors to the back room. And my cooler immediately inside those doors. And a major food-stocking vendor across from me. And the baler and receiving in the same section. And aisles barely wide enough to let two carts go by each other. I guess no one realized that a lot people would need to go in and out the swinging doors at approximately the same time.

I don’t know whether you are familiar with that type of door. They have a small (2′ x 3′??) plexiglass window that somehow becomes almost immediately scarred. I have never seen anyone actually touch the window. They swing in both directions. Our informal rule is that whoever has the heaviest load gets to go through first.

The rule would work well if you could actually see whether someone was on the other side of the door. From my front-row seat seat (which usually puts me in the way while loading and unloading carts), I have seen that we all find a way to avoid a major collision. Fear of paperwork and disciplinary suspension are as much to credit as 200% safety.

We had an update meeting recently. Management was excited to tell us that the company has decided that some accidents may not actually be the employees’ fault. They did not explain what such a circumstance would be.

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My Family is Not THIS Dysfunctional

I saw Ralph (as in Ralph’s Mega-Mart) on TV the other night. They were interviewing him about a new store opening and asked him about his formula for success. He said that one of the keys to his success is that all of his employees are treated like family. I wonder what type of family he grew up in.

The father of one of my co-workers recently died. When my Team Leader heard the news, her response was “But I need her here on Saturday!!” I’m sure that if someone had explained the situation to the poor man, he would have planned things a little better. Of course, this is the same Team Leader who resigned a few weeks later because the stress was making her sick. It appears that employee support is not considered a family value.

Recently the company introduced a new program. It is called Personal Responsibility for Your Behavior (or something close to that – the real name faded once I realized that the message might be new to a 10-year-old). We work in a very “us vs them” environment. If we are more than a minute late arriving, punching in from break or punching in from lunch, we receive a 1/2 point on our record. If we call in sick, we receive 1 point on our record. If we no call/no show, we receive 4 points on our record. If we behave inappropriately or unsafely we receive points on a different record. If either record reaches 12 points in a year, we are subject to termination (kind of death by boredom by that point).

The new policy said that it is our responsibility to control the number of points we accrue. If we went four months with no points, we would get a face-to-face meeting with our manager (!!) so that person could tell us what a good employee we have been. So, if you’re bad, you get points; if you’re good, you get to talk to your manager. And you are responsible for which one happens!!!

As part of a “family” we need to make sure that everyone is safe. So we have quarterly safety updates and videos and readings. The bottom line is – if you get hurt, it’s your own fault. One new employee hurt his back moving a pallet, then got hurt lifting some boxes, then ran a pallet jack over his foot. He was terminated for being a “safety risk”. Of course, no one explained to him why he kept getting hurt –  he had sat through the 9 hours (no joke) of video training before they let him out on the floor. If management had been paying attention at all, they would have told him that taking mind-altering substances at work will lead to lapses in judgment that could affect your health (and safety).

They don’t really have anything that counts as “light” duty. If you are not able to do your job fully, you have the option of toughing it out (and having your co-workers complain that you are not pulling your weight), taking time off (without pay), or becoming a greeter. Greeters are those people who say hello and good-bye as you enter and leave the store (in case you couldn’t figure it out yourself). Greeting is the most boring job on earth (or at least at Ralph’s). They can’t tell you ahead of time when you will be working – as far as I can tell you either take the place of an ill greeter, a vacationing greeter, or a greeter who is injured themselves and has to stay home.

Ralph’s prides itself on hiring people at $0.25 over minimum wage (that’s $10/week closer to the bottom of the poverty line if you work full-time). However, if you are a cashier or service worker, you lose that extra money. Apparently dealing directly with customers all day is not considered as difficult as putting bags of cheese on a hook. Of course, no one is hired full-time so all of this is relative anyway. I wonder what kind of allowance Ralph’s kids get?

If you have the audacity to leave and then want to come back (regardless of how long you have been gone), you have to re-join the family. You have to complete the drug screening (probably a good idea since you know what you’re coming back to), the hours of video training and the on-the-floor training. The best part is that even if you have only been gone a few weeks, your pay drops back to the starting salary and you have no seniority toward vacation, 401(k) match or anything else. You have to be really desperate to return to our family.

Our equivalent to “Wait til your father gets home” is the senior management visit. Whenever someone important is supposed to come, we have to clean, make sure everything is tidy, and stock everything (you would think that would be the norm, not a special occurrence). The higher up the chain of command the visitor, the more stressed out the store director becomes, and the more unpleasant it is for everyone. Does anyone really think that the VIPs don’t know what’s going on? Maybe they are as clueless as some parents.

Thinking about it, maybe Ralph read too many Victorian novels about families. There seem to be a lot of stories with rich families who take in poor relations and seem to be helping them while ensuring that none of the wealth actually gets to the relations.

At any rate, my second ‘family’ is not coming to my house for Thanksgiving.