4

My Wrists are Making My Head Hurt

 

I got my new job stocking overnight.

 

My hands and wrists started to hurt a lot more.

I went to see the hand surgeon.

 

The resident told me that the reason my thumb hurt was because of arthritis due to my age.

 

I said that the x-rays didn’t show any arthritis.

 

He said everyone gets arthritis in their thumbs.

 

I said the x-rays didn’t show arthritis.

 

He said he hadn’t looked at the x-rays. He asked who read the x-rays.

I told him whoever worked in his clinic.

 

He said it didn’t matter, we were there to talk about my hands.

 

I said that I wasn’t comfortable with him.

 

He said we were there to talk about my hands.

 

I told him I wasn’t comfortable talking to him.

 

He told me that he was fully trained in the functions of the hands and the surgery.

I told him I didn’t want to talk to him.

 

He stalked off.

 

The surgeon came in.

 

He talked really loud.

He said the test results said that I had mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome, but that he would say it was probably moderate based on the readings.

 

I said that the doctor had said the same thing at the time of the test.

 

He looked at me. Who did you talk to?

 

I wanted to tell him, “The man who came in and introduced himself as the doctor in charge of the department.” But that doctor was really nice, and I didn’t want to make him sound obnoxious. I said that I talked to the tech and then the doctor came in.

 

The surgeon said OK, I agree. That test was done in 2014, so things are probably worse by now. We should do the release surgery as soon as possible to prevent any more damage. You’ll have to be off work for two weeks and on light duty another two weeks.

 

By the way, most people do get arthritis in their thumbs when the ligaments stretch as they age.

I went to work and explained the situation. My supervisor told me that he would tell me a good time to take off.

 

My husband told me that he might lose his insurance in June.

 

I told my supervisor. He said to go ahead and schedule the surgery for the end of April.

Three weeks later the time off request was still pending. I asked if he had changed his mind. He said I hadn’t made the request in the system. I said I had.

 

He called me in the floor. Didn’t realize I would be off that long. The store director would have to approve it. Had I spoken with the third-party administrator (TPA)?

 

The TPA can’t help me. I haven’t been with the company for a year and am not eligible for an official leave.

 

How long have you been here?

 

Six months.

 

Oh. I thought it had been a lot longer. I have to talk to the store director.

No response a week later. I ask if they have talked.

 

Yes, we did. The store director makes these types of decisions. The answer is no.

 

My head started to hurt.

5

Never Thought I’d Live to See the Day

It’s not like I have to look a long way to feel old. My kids have somehow morphed from being small, cute little people to fully grown, attractive people. I really don’t understand it. It’s not like I’ve gotten any older.

Even my husband has a smart phone. I have sat at dinner where he spends more time on his phone than the kids. Actually, he’s worse than the kids. My daughter uses the phone as a timer for some medications she has to take, and my son uses it to look up information we don’t know during discussions.

But my family is pretty traditional. You might have noticed that the paragraph above mentions both family dinners and discussions. We discuss politics, always a challenge (2 conservatives, 1 traditional liberal, and one populist). We also talk about religion, world events, literature, and history. I don’t discuss the dinners in public; it seems a little retro.

And (of course) the kids rarely swear in front of me. When I was young, someone told me that using too many “bad” words wasn’t sophisticated. It just showed a lack of vocabulary. I agreed, and over the years and have found various vegetables and animals effective substitutes for most things. Since it wasn’t a hot button for me, the kids respected my point of view. (I’ve come to find out that’s kind of weird too.)

There was also the issue of my mother swearing a fair amount. Who wanted to do it if their mother did?

But I have started a new job. You may remember that I am now working midnights. To stereotype, there are two groups of people there: Millennials and bitter people waiting to retire. Of course, there are a couple of people who fall outsides those groups, but they aren’t any fun to talk about.

Everyone is friendly and welcomed me into the group. I like them all. But I have never been with a group of Millennials who are relaxing with their peers. Some of them seem to be incapable of saying a complete sentence without using a word that used to be a vulgar term for sexual intercourse.

I went home and asked my Millennial son why some of his peers seemed to use the word as noun, verb, adjective, and (incorrectly) adverb. He joked and told me that if I hadn’t heard it used as a preposition, I had not heard everything. He then told me that people only used it when they were relaxing with their friends. Okay. I guess I’m flattered.

So I asked my Millennial daughter why. She said that people liked to use it because it was a “forbidden” word. She said that there were only two words that were now forbidden in “polite company.” (A term showing my age.) The other word is one that refers to female genitalia in a particularly vulgar way. Apparently that one is still more common on social media than general conversation.

I stock in an area that includes condoms and other personal items for a large chain store. I am totally in favor of condoms. Preventing pregnancy is good. Spreading disease is bad. And I’m sure that moving them out from behind the counter has been nothing but good.

However, I pity the poor teenager looking for something for his first experience. Gone are the days of choosing between three or four types of Trojans. I guess the variety in deodorant and toothpaste has come to personal protection.

There are three racks of choices, plus the selection on the shelf below and hanging on the display nearby. They pretty much all promise a more sensitive experience for him and a more sensual experience for her. You can now buy them in boxes of up to 40 which I hope are purchased by people in committed relationships. I guess the other option would be a guy with really high hopes.

The more surprising thing is that you can now buy items that go over the condom to give the female additional stimulation. I’m not sure, but I don’t think those things existed when I was young. At least they were not available on a rack in plain view of everyone, right next to the vibrators that could remove the male from the picture entirely. I wonder what the parents say when their child wanders down the aisle while they are looking at razors.

I kind of miss the days when s*** was still uncommon and the most embarrassing thing to explain to a child in a grocery store was the sanitary napkins.

 

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?

0

I Don’t Remember any Vacation

A few weeks ago, I realized that my work anniversary was coming up soon, and I still had vacation time left. When I started at the store three years ago, that would have meant a decision between taking the time off and getting the extra money.

However, management has changed hands. Now you either use your vacation by your anniversary date or you lose it. There was no announcement of the change in policy, but it didn’t take many people losing the money for word to get around.

Studies have shown that vacations are good for productivity. I hope that the studies were referring to work productivity. Today is the last day of my vacation, and I honestly don’t remember how I spent most of the time.

I decided to take one of those vacations where you just stay around the house and relax. My husband was working and the kids had school, so I could just hang out.

Except for the newspapers everywhere. And the 10+ magazines laying around. And taking my son to his driving test. And picking up his “new” car. (It’s a ’72 VW Beetle, and it is SO cute!) And the meeting in Detroit. And needing to do church stuff.

And hundreds of e-mails. (I love you guys, but for some reason you never seem to write fewer posts just because I’m really busy. Gotta work on my telepathy.) Don’t tell me to read everything through my Reader. I rotate who comes by email because the Reader is full of other blogs that I look at occasionally. If I promised to read everything in my Reader, I would never look at much of anything.

So here I am on Sunday evening. I read a few of the magazines. I threw away some of the papers (after reading them). You can’t tell the difference. It still looks like we’re waiting to paper the walls with newsprint.

I caught up on all the Internet news services I follow. I’d forgotten just how depressing the news can be when you actually read the full stories. I may just go back to reading the headlines and celebrity gossip.

Could someone send me a note if ISIS makes it to Ankara or Ebola wipes out an entire nation? I don’t need to know if George Clooney and his new wife get pregnant with the world’s current cutest baby ever. Remember to mark it “Urgent”. I’m not sure how long it will take for the e-mailbox to overflow again.

I finished a book. Yay!!! That only leaves about hmmmm twenty-five or so to go. That does not include the ones on Kindle since I read those on breaks at work. I got caught up on the reading for my Monday night class.

If it sounds like I spent all my time on my rear, you are wrong. I also spent a couple of naps with the cats. They were amazingly friendly once they got over the trauma of me not getting up at 2:30a to feed them.

Kommando Kitty has learned that if I’m lying on the sofa using the laptop, she only has to try sending one email before I pick her up. She has also turned on Spotify a couple of times. (She has terrible taste in music.)

I did not get the yard ready for winter. I did not look for another job. I did not do one single thing that I will be able to tell people tomorrow when they ask what I did with my time off. And it’s great.

The really scary part is that I only really have trouble with my sinuses at work. At home, I am generally tissue-free unless there’s some kind of front coming through (you Michiganders out there know what I mean). But this morning I woke up with dry eyes and a semi-runny nose. The aching in my front sinuses is there too. MY BODY KNOWS IT’S GOING BACK TO WORK TOMORROW. And it’s not happy.

I see by the ads that some of the Halloween stuff is already on sale. Anybody in the market for a taco costume for your dog? How about some orange and brown chips for cookies. (I think they’re all chocolate, but it doesn’t come out and say that.)

The Christmas toys have been clogging up the back rooms for a while. The sooner you buy the Halloween stuff, the sooner we can all start complaining about the commercialization of Christmas. Time’s a-wasting.

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.

4

Another One Bites the Dust

Apologies to Queen. I would have preferred to use Bohemian Rhapsody, but could not find anyway to tie it in. This concert at Wembley is supposed to have been one of the best ever at that stadium.

I always miss the good stuff. I took Friday off to take my daughter to an appointment. Yesterday morning I got to work and discovered that someone had been removed from the schedule. Actually, no one ever disappears the first week they are gone. The name stays but the hours are gone so everyone knows someone left. It’s for people like me who don’t actually pay attention to who works when but will notice when there is a week of empty space next to someone’s name.

The interesting thing about this person is that not soon after she arrived, she became the “heir apparent” to be the next team leader-in-training. I think the team leader is/was anxious to get someone to help with the team, and the employee felt she should be promoted. Pretty much from the day she started, she saw the need to tell the other team members what they should be doing and report those who were not behaving as desired (by her). You may have met people like this.

It appears that her need to correct was finally her undoing when she came up against the team leader. Since the team leader is another person who is never wrong, it was probably a crisis waiting to happen at some point. They got into a huge fight in the deli. In front of the rest of the staff. In front of the customers.

It’s not really that unusual for the team leader to disagree with someone. Loudly. That’s what happens when you have all the answers, but don’t understand all of the questions. In fact, I know of a couple of instances where there have been rather unpleasant exchanges between different people and her. The difference is that this time someone complained to management.

If there’s one thing that management hates, it’s customer complaints. And people fighting rather than working. And people disrupting other people working because it’s hard to interact with customers when you can’t hear them over your co-workers yelling at each other.

So the team leader and the employee were called to the office. (Life there always seems like high school replaying on a continuous loop.) The employee walked out with no job. The team leader walked out with a job but a warning. It’s generally the rule that they don’t get rid of bad leaders, they just send them to the equivalent of Siberia at an undesirable store.

In this case, I think we are just going to have to live with her. Management already knows about her talking about her employees behind their backs. To other team members, not fellow team leaders. They know about her inability to order food correctly. And her inability to get new staff.

There’s a breakdown in logic somewhere along the line. She insists she doesn’t have time to call prospective employees for the first interview. She doesn’t want any of the other team leaders to do it for her. Then she complains about having no staff.

The last time she did interviewing, she saw four people and said she was going to hire three. One started and will probably not stay because she gives him panic attacks by yelling all the time. The second one didn’t pass the background check. I can’t imagine what that person did, but it must have been pretty awful to not make it into the deli. She was sure the third one was destined for management. Lots of deli experience and very enthusiastic about serving customers. There was a delay in his background check. Then he fell into some black hole. I believe he has found another job.

One of the day people who was also “destined to move up” did just that. But not at our store. She’s running a deli at another store. I’m sure she’ll do very well. And be a lot more relaxed.

The woman who moved from afternoons to days did it based on seniority (we do have a union after all). She’s a wonderful woman and works very hard. Unfortunately she also has a significant hearing loss and can’t work on the counter. The team leader neglected to tell her that since she couldn’t work the counter, she would be deep frying chicken parts all day. She might have been able to do dishes part of the time, but the team leader likes that job. It’s one of the few she doesn’t complain about doing.

There are two people who roast chickens. The first has Aspergers and is getting worse daily because the team leader is constantly yelling. The team leader wants to replace him because he’s too slow. The second one has significant health problems and should be out on a long-term disability. The team leader wants to replace her because she calls in sick too much.

The team leader wants to replace them with an employee from another department who has shown interest in transferring to the deli. But he’s only interested on the condition that he will stock, not wait on customers. We need stockers, but she won’t hire anybody she can’t use on the counter and with the chickens. We won’t be getting that guy.

So life goes on over there. The team leader complains about the employees. The employees complain about the team leader. The employees complain about each other. The other departments laugh about the dysfunctional deli.

It probably won’t be long before another one’s gone.

6

In Praise of Thumbs

No offense intended to the rest of the digits, but thumbs definitely rock. I guess it’s their opposability. (WordPress says that isn’t a word, but play along.) That and their ability to play well with others.

As usual with these things, it came to mind because one of mine is being difficult. As you may have guessed, hauling boxes of cheese around and putting it on hooks is kind of physical work. Thankfully I haven’t had any trouble with my back. (Leg and abdominal muscles also deserve a round of applause while we’re at it.)

Not so much luck with my right arm. The current issue (hence the title) is my thumb. I’m not sure if it’s tendons, joints, muscles or whatever. It kept me awake a couple of nights. Yesterday it was awful. Today it felt like something snapped a few times in my hand/wrist and it’s much better. I think it’s some kind of evil spirit.

Some days I have almost nothing to think about at work and my mind wanders. It’s been like that for years, but is much less disruptive without the job requiring thought. Unless you count matching the colors on bags of cheese as deep thought. In which case we should probably talk about the viability of your own blog.

Without further ado, here are some of the things thumbs don’t get much respect for:

It is almost impossible to zip up jeans without using your right thumb. It is particularly an issue if you have gained weight since the last time you wore the jeans. Or are in denial about the true size of your body.

Pulling open potato chip (or other unhealthy) bags. It seems like such a failure to need to resort to scissors. Besides, it’s pathetic to need something like that so badly that you can’t wait. Go with an ice cream cone.

Holding an apple while you eat it, even if you slice it. Or French Fries. Or pickles. Some things just can’t be held like a cigarette, and a lot of them are food. Do you have any idea how silly you would look holding a pickle spear between your first two fingers when there is no obvious reason for it?

Doing dishes. I admit it. We are also the only family in suburbia without a dishwasher. Holding soapy dishes without using your thumb is most useful for getting rid of the hideous dishes someone gave you for your wedding but you haven’t ever gotten around to sending to charity.

Holding your cat while you try to brush the winter furs out from the spring ones. One one cat seems to be a cross between a Siamese and something that lives in the Arctic circle. Gorgeous soft fur that sheds and sheds and sheds.

Peeling vegetables. Probably less of an issue for those of you who live at Taco Bell or PF Chang’s. Or have a significant other who cooks. Or children who could be coerced into doing it. Or use frozen vegetables.

Writing by hand. It means taking a pen or pencil and making marks on a piece of paper that someone else can look at and see meaning. It is a relative of texting and email which are also more difficult but don’t require grasping a small round instrument to do. Also crossword puzzles.

Opening pill bottles to get at the pain relievers that are supposed to make it easier to do things with your injured thumb. You need one hand to hold the bottle and the other to push down or line up or whatever to get the bottle to actually open. Both jobs require thumbs.

Forks are really difficult. Chopsticks are impossible. Of course, it takes me several bites to remember how to use chopsticks anyway. You can’t even pick up the food discretely in your hand. Forget eating that really excellent chip dip at the party unless you want to have your date feed it to you. Don’t do that unless you are still in high school or it is your wedding.

Shaking hands. You will feel like the dog when he puts his paw in yours and you shake it up and down. You will have no control over how long or hard it is shaken. I do not recommend growling to get it back.

Holding the shampoo bottle while you are pouring some into the other hand. Same problem with controlling the force of ketchup. Pump bottles start to look better.

Using a corkscrew. I guess you shouldn’t be drinking alone in the first place, so this issue can probably take care of itself. Let’s hope they remember to take the cork off the pointy thing after it’s out of the bottle.

Turning the key in your ignition. Unless you have a button ignition. In which case, you probably have one of those gear shift levers on the floor that you have to press with your thumb to release it for the rest of your hand to pull back. Once you get moving, you’re fine.

Scraping the snow from your car. Never mind. We won’t think about that.

Snaps, hooks, buttons. Tying your shoes. Might work as an excuse to go to work in your pajamas. Doubt it, but you never know. Going in naked is an even worse option.

Of course, you can also perform most forms of housework and lawn maintenance poorly. Unfortunately it’s sort of a mixed blessing since you’ll have to fix it all eventually. You may have the same issue if you get your spouse or children to do it for you.

On the bright side, there is more white space and fewer words in my post. You should be able to get through it more quickly.

(Correction to previous post: Dick and Jane’s cat is Puff, not Fluffy)