21

Why am I Working Here?

First a brief overview of my past for those of you who missed it at the beginning (about 95% by my non-scientific analysis).

I grew up blue collar in a Detroit suburb. Went to a highly regarded mid-western university (does not go by the initials ND). Got a couple of very well-paying jobs.

Had two psychotic breaks. Discovered I was bipolar and my job stress had to go. Finally ended up stocking cheese at a big box store. Low stress; low money.

Started blog about work. Got bored with that. Moved on to other subjects. Which is why you are reading a blog called Adventures in Cheeseland that has nothing to do with cheese. Have been told it’s a very bad idea to change the name of the blog.

Life has been pretty good in cheeseland. I like the people (most of them). The work is low-stress. My hours are early, but I like them. We are unionized, but that’s not one of its selling points.

It’s family-owned. When I started it was run by a man who was philanthropic, family-oriented, and good to work for (if you’re looking for that type of work).

[Warning: from this point forward it’s sarcasm, not the kind of humor you usually see in my blog.]

Unfortunately, he died. His sons took over. From all appearances, they learned very little from their father except how nice life could be for them with a lot of money.

They have been steadily climbing the Forbes 500 list of wealthiest people. During the United Way campaign, they asked us to contribute to help support people earning less than $27,000 annually. No one in the room was making close to $27,000 annually.

They started to buy a lot of their inventory from China (not the food). In fact, they have opened a distribution center in China “to be closer to their suppliers.” Some slippage in quality; some increase in price.

Their store brand used to be comparable to the national brands. Now the only thing I will buy are the pasta and canned tomatoes (to start the pasta sauce). They raised the price on cheese so high that sales started to drop.

The company hired a non-unionized workforce to do some of the stocking. Higher pay, same benefits as the rest of us. The union said to let them know if anyone had their hours cut because of these people.

Excuse me?! All of the work they are doing should be done by union workers. Michigan is now a right-to-work state. But standing by while the company pays non-union workers more money is not one of the definitions of right-to-work. At least is wasn’t when I did employee benefits.

When Michigan raised the minimum wage, the union made no attempt to get a higher wage cap for the employees who were already above that level. I’m guessing the idea never crossed the brothers’ minds.

The union contract is up next year. We no longer need to belong and pay dues. They may want to start working a little harder. Even the stewards are advising that we get rid of them. (They did save the job of a guy who went totally ballistic when someone took his food out of the microwave after he left the room.)

But all of that pales next to the company’s most recent initiative.

Work-motion studies have been around for more than a century. (Anyone remember “Cheaper by the Dozen”?) But the company seems to have created theirs without actually studying what the employees do.

Their basic idea is to get the maximum number of employees at work during the busiest times of day. Sounds logical, right? In fresh foods they do it by taking the people who set up the departments and having them start 2 to 3 hours later.

Problem? Nothing is set when the customer levels increase. Solution? Don’t change the standards for when the set-up needs to be done. But don’t allow workers to have carts on the floor because that’s inconvenient for the customers.

Employee can’t meet the standard? Write him/her up.

Best usage of this idea? In the bakery they have moved the slowest person to a schedule that requires her to do the majority of the baking before the store gets busy. Hope she doesn’t currently have any performance points. We only get 12 before we’re terminated.

There is ABSOLUTELY NO OVERTIME. Yes, the memos capitalize it. Currently, we can work 7 extra minutes each day without incurring overtime. It’s helpful when you’re trying to help a customer or finish a display.

We are moving to being paid by the minute. Which means that we can have 7 extra minutes per week before we have overtime. But we get paid for those extra minutes. And we get written up for that 8th minute. Seriously.

If we are helping a customer and it gets close to quitting time, either the team leader needs to take over or we need to call the manager to see if we can stay the extra time. Seriously.

Did I mention that the store is understaffed? The only ones who want to work here can’t pass the background check. Seriously.

I’m guessing that by now you understand why I no longer write about work. Work is no longer humorous.

I wonder if there’s a call for cat-sitters around here?

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2

From Slates to SmartBoards

Back in the dark ages of education (even before I went to school), students had individual slates they were supposed to bring to school every day to write on. I’ve seen them in living museums. I really don’t think I get the concept. (Yes, I know – you use chalk to make marks on the black slate then use a cloth to remove them.)

Including the wooden border, they appear to be about the dimensions of a laptop. While I can appreciate the need to be mobile, I don’t understand how you would really be able to practice penmanship or do more than a couple of math problems at a time. I guess that’s why the rich kids got to use pen and paper.

Which, sadly, is where things stood when I went to school. (Pen and paper, not slates) There was a large blackboard at the front (sometimes they were green). We used pencils for math, and pens for the other stuff. I even had a teacher who made us practice penmanship and diagram sentences, although I heard that she was the only ogre left in the profession.

I have been helping a family get ready for school this year. I cannot believe the changes. Calculators are now allowed in all grades. I am so jealous. I had to calculate logarithms by hand (I can’t even spell it now). I’m not really sure what the point to it was. I’m told that previous generations with slide rules had it easier than we did. I don’t know. I saw one once and was traumatized.

One of the requirements for the lower grades now is ear buds. Since my kids just graduated, and I had never seen that on a list, I was confused. I have seen several memos about not using them in class.

Turns out that much of the instruction on computers is oral for the younger kids. The earbuds allow them to concentrate better. Probably cuts down on talking too. I can see this as a teacher’s dream: a room full of kids learning and no noise.

It makes me think of the language lab we had in college. The system for teaching was computerized, but there was no way to listen individually. Sometimes it sounded like the UN. More often it was like trying to study in Grand Central Station.

Most people tried to be considerate, but there are always a few who really don’t get it. I can’t ever think of studying Russian there without remembering the person learning Arabic. Maybe the guy on the tape was just really loud.

The libraries have turned into media centers. According to Merriam-Webster the definition of library is “a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale”.

A Media Center is a place where media is kept. (There is no official definition.) Apparently it is a media center because it now has computers. The books, magazines, newspapers, videos and audio tapes are still there. The computers are obviously technological snobs. Library was good enough for all the other media.

Students are now requested to bring supplies for the teachers too: sanitizers, tissues, band aids (?), pens, pencils. Obviously the teachers didn’t ask for the supplies. There are no requests for Valium, aspirin, or parent-teacher negotiation trainers.

One thing obviously has not changed in many years. The team mascot is the Dreadnoughts. The first time I heard it, I wondered where my education had gone wrong. I thought it was a ship. Silly me.

Who knew? They really do have a battleship as their team mascot. The dreadnought (fear nothing) was the predominant battleship of the early 20th century. It was armed with all heavy caliber guns and used steam turbine propulsion.

Nothing makes me think of 21st century high school football like steam turbine propulsion. I wonder what all those Eagles, Tigers, and Panthers think of it. I imagine it would be hard to drum up too much fear of a team when you don’t know what it is.

 

3

Have You Ever Woken Up Crabby?

I am generally a consistent Type B personality. I notice a lot of things, but very few of them actually have any impact. But every once in a while, I feel like the Incredible Hulk after he turns green. Things that are insignificant before and after annoy the heck out of me:

They play “Escape” (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes a lot at work. Have you ever noticed that both the man and the woman are using the personal ads because they are bored with each other? He gets all excited because he finds out they actually have a lot in common. What have they been doing all this time – staying in and watching TV since their first date?

A woman comes in with two little boys. She asks the one little boy if he is looking for his drink. When he does, she tells him he doesn’t have it because he was too busy playing his “technology games”. Why did she bring up the topic? Why does she keep calling them technology games?

A couple is standing in front of the cheese slices. She asks him what kind of cheese he likes. He tells her cheddar, provolone, pepper jack, etc. She gets all excited and says, “So do I!” Of course you do – he’s listed pretty much everything except limburger. Are they on their first date at the grocery store?

The road I work on has a speed limit of 50 mph. They are (very slowly) doing work on a part of it and lowered the limit to 40 mph. I almost never run into traffic on my way to work at 3:30a. But if I do, they always seem to feel the need to slow down in the zone. Nobody stays at 40 mph during the day (it’s hard to stay motivated when you can’t find the workers). Why do they feel the need to obey when we’re the only ones on the road?

We have to punch in no more than 2 minutes before start time and no more than 1 minute after. I see no reason to get there more than a few minutes early. I pretty much know what time I will arrive by what time I leave the driveway. But if I’m and minute or two behind my “preferred” time, I will stress all the way there over the possibility of being late. When I know I won’t be.

Of course, the day that I’m late is also the day someone has left a cart in the spot I want to pull into. Getting there early lets us pull through one spot into the one in front of it to avoid backing out later. Unless there is a hidden cart which prevents it once you have pulled into the back spot.

I use an intersection with two lanes turning left on a light. The trade-off is that the left-turn light is very short. At most five cars in each lane can turn. Unless the front person isn’t paying attention. Then the first couple of cars turn and the rest of us get irrationally irritated by the extra 90 seconds or so we have to wait.

I go past an extremely convenient gas station. It even has the type of gas that doesn’t guck up the works and cost me a couple of miles per gallon. But it won’t take any card that has the ability to be a debit card. Only the ones that are strictly credit. Almost no one carries enough cash to pay for a tank of gas anymore. Are they in some sort of collusion with the credit card companies?

I love using the self-check at the grocery store. I have used them since they were first introduced. Some people really need to have a cashier help. Like the ones with a basket of produce that all needs to be weighed. Or the ones who can’t seem to find the UPC to scan on each of their items. Or the ones who don’t seem to realize that they need to press the “Pay” button before the machine will take their money.

I don’t really like hamburgers, but my husband and son do. When I pick up the supplies, I like to get decent buns. Onion rolls are my favorite, but anything with real bread will do. I generally shop at the end of my shift, about 1p. Why do I ever run into the situation where all I can find are the icky store-brand little cheap buns? I keep roaming between the bakery bread aisles like I can magically make what I want appear.

Oddly enough, relating all of this has not irritated me. One the other hand, it has reminded me that people can be really annoying.

6

Rhetoric and Questions

I was going to title this post “Rhetorical Questions.” But then I realized that I might not actually know what that phrase meant. And I certainly wouldn’t want to embarrass myself with that type of silly error, would I? (Correct usage of a rhetorical question.) So I went to my source of all things correct, Wikipedia (sarcasm, not rhetoric). And here is what I found.

Rhetoric is the art of persuasive discourse. That means talking to inform, persuade, or motivate an audience.

Rhetorical questions are asked to encourage the listener to consider a message or viewpoint, not to get an answer. So if someone asks you, “Are all dogs this dumb?”, you may want to consider the possibility that the person doesn’t like dogs and is looking for support of that position.

Ever get the uncomfortable feeling that you are learning something from my posts? (Correct usage of a rhetorical question)

The following questions are rhetorical, and I do not expect an answer. You may answer quietly to yourselves if you so desire. (more sarcasm)

Why would the store put a picture of a live lobster in the middle of a picture of Valentine’s Day gifts? Among the candy, flowers, and cute stuffed animals was a live lobster. “Happy Valentine’s Day! I brought you a live lobster! If you don’t want him as a pet, you can cook him for dinner.”

Why did the heater on my car die during the coldest winter in recent memory?

I started wearing my mother’s jacket instead of my own because there would be room for a hoodie under it. So why do I never remember the hoodie until I’m freezing in the car?

Why is the iciest patch of the road right at the end of my driveway?

Why was management so much more supportive of my being sick when I returned healthy than when I called in sick?

Admittedly I’ve been looking a little shaggy, but did no one in my family actually notice that I had 3 inches of hair cut off?

Why are the people who complain the most at work usually the same ones who don’t want to listen when something bugs you? (Actually, that happens in real life too)

Why are people surprised when they tell a coworker a “secret” and then hear it from someone else later? Haven’t they noticed how much gossip they hear about their coworkers?

Why was I so surprised that the new management trainee in the deli didn’t know how to use a string mop? A very nice middle-aged male customer tried to explain it to her, but was unsuccessful. Isn’t there something about a place that serves freshly roasted chickens, soup, salads, and sliced meat that screams “at some point, you’re going to need to clean something up?” How naïve am I that I was surprised she didn’t stick around to watch me actually use the mop? (3 questions-for-1 situation – bonus)

How did we get to the point that we’re shocked when a stranger does something nice? A customer I had never seen before stopped and gave me a Valentine. I put it where I could see it and thought about him several times during the day.

When did my standards for weather get so low that 17 degrees and sunny qualifies as a nice day?

Why does the template for these posts say the heading is optional? Everywhere else they tell us how important a good title is for drawing people in.

Why can I never find a decent close for this type of post?