Friday, August 29, 2003

And another thing... at the moment, the only two people in the lunchroom are one of the repair techs and me. We have a large TV in here. The tech actually cycled through a bunch of TV channels before deciding to watch.... a golf club infomercial. Huh? Was that the BEST entertainment he could find out of all these cable channels? LOL, no wonder I bnring my PDA to work. At least I can provide my own entertainment by, oh, I don't know... creating and editing blog posts. ;o)
So far, the nominee for the Harridan of the Day is a person that I'm quite thankful to say I didn't call. I was going through the list of service orders that need to be reschduled, when I encountered one that some other luckless person had the misfortune of having called. Among the highlights (or lowlights) of that phone conversation that were listed in the messages screen were the fact that the customer became irate and verbally abusive, and declared that she "is going to call the news on you people".

How charming. What a way for that other calling-center employee to begin their day.

At the moment, I'm eating lunch and wondering if Mother Nature is going to cooperate with me by raining, at some time other than tonight's rush hour, so that the "I parked under a tree" residue will be rinsed off my car. I would really like to see Mother Nature rectify this problem, since she is the one that caused the mess in the first place. ;o)

Thursday, August 28, 2003

What a week! I never did get to the softball game on Tuesday. I was exhausted, and when Mark didn't want to go with me, I was too tired to make the drive myself.

This wasn't a normal kind of tired, either... I fell asleep at about 7:30 PM and stayed that way nearly the entire night. I should have remembered that megasleep mode has tended to precede a migraine, but it's been about two months (yay) since I had a migraine. How quickly we forget...

Well, Wednesday morning when I got up, I wasn't feeling well. The fact that a migraine was coming on never crossed my mind. I thought it was allergies or the beginnings of a sinus headache. I even took Naprocen (anti-inflammatory), as I've done just about every morning since AADB. I find I have fewer aches and pains overall, particularly from my knee, if I take the Naprocen every day. I still kind of think it's among the reasons why it's been so many weeks since my last migraine.

However... apparently, even taking a dose of Naprocen every morning isn't enough to stave off EVERY migraine. I start work at 8 AM, and by 9:15 I could tell that it was a migraine, not a regular headache. Did I have meds with me? NoooOOOOoooo. To make a long story less long, I wound up leaving work at 12:30. Just as well... I was a bit nervous at driving that whole way home (on I-476 and the Schuylkill Expressway), period. But especially, the thought of braving either of those roads at rush hour, in that condition, made me cringe. So, home I went.

Today, I was back at work. Good. My headache was largely gone. Also good. But the traffic on the way home.... HIDEOUS. It took me 90 minutes to do what should have been a 40-minute drive. Argh!!! I really, REALLY need a job that's closer to home. The sooner, the better.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Funniest repair request I've seen so far: "TV/VCR combo. DVD jammed in unit".

Another day, another desk. People who work here are on varying schedules -- many of them work on Saturday and have a weekday off. I've been shifting from one desk to another, depending on whose desk is empty on any given day. I'm kind of glad today is overcast... this time last week, the desk I'm using had sunlight shining directly onto the PC screen, and MAN was it ever hard to read.

Now if it'd just rain this afternoon, and wash some of the "I parked under a tree" residue from my car, I'll be glad. ;o) It's welcome to clear back up in time for the Flyers/Phantoms softball game, mind you -- just as long as Mother Nature gives my car a nice rinse today, I'll be satisfied.

Speaking of rinse... Mark got a laugh when I refilled my Super Soaker last night. I've had it in my trunk for years, to rinse the car windows off when Windex alone isn't enough.
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So much for the softball game in Voorhees tonight... it started raining just as I got home. Last time I went to a game even though it was raining, the game was called off. I'm too tired to drive to NJ for no reason, so I came home instead.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Another day, another Kiwi Teawi from the grocery store that's near the building where I work. I got hung up on yet again between my morning break and lunchtime, btw. Geesh, is this "National Grouch Day" or something? 'Cause if it is, I missed the memo.

OK, so on to my fun day *yesterday*. The Flyers/Phantoms had that charity softball game in Bellmawr. Mark and I arrived early and brought the folding loveseat, so we were able to pick out a nice spot by the fence near home plate. Chain-link fences are all right, as long as I'm close enough to be able to put the camera lens through it when I want to take a photo.

The Flyers didn't win, but they made a strong showing (falling 25-21 to the Creato Southpaws, an all left-handed team). It was nice to see some more of our boys again for the first time since last April, including Pete Vandermeer who arrived from Alberta within the past few days. but the highlight of the day was getting John LeClair to pose with his fellow #10, Hat Trick. :o) The pic is a riot -- John is trying SO hard not to crack up laughing. Hey, at least I broke up the monotony for him -- he was spending the rest of his time on the bench signing stuff. At least his writing hand got a rest for a few moments. ;o)
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I'm convinced, after this afternoon, that the managers in this calling center completely understand that the people who perform my job function can come down with a severe case of Frazzled Nerves. I had some questions about how to handle certain problems that might crop up during a call, and they were extremely patient and answered in detail. And, I hasten to add, took a LOT more time doing so than I expected... but this was a Day From Hades anyway, and the break from using the phone did me good. I really hit the jackpot with obnoxious customers today... four hangups by lunchtime, and then TWO of them had the audacity to lie to customer service about what I said to them...! Their noses should grow like Pinocchio's, it would serve them right. Fortunately, customer service is used to this. It turns out that most people don't have the nerve to admit that they hung up on the person who was trying to reschedule their repair. Customer service has seen it all... and if anything, their job is even tougher than mine. They KNOW the customer is irate, and they have to call the person anyway. UGH.

Thank God yesterday was a nice day. At least I walked INTO this aggravating day with a good disposition. I hope to heck tomorrow is better. Of course, given the way this day went, it'd almost HAVE to be an improvement over today.
Good grief. It's not fun being me today. I start work at 8 AM; I take my first break at 10 AM. In that time span, I've already had a Harridan of the Day nominee, PLUS I've been hung up on three times. (This morning's harridan got irate because we have to reschedule the repair of her dented refrigerator door handle. Not a calamity by any stretch of the imagination.)

Fortunately, it was LOTS of fun to be me yesterday. I will write about THAT and then post it, but first I had to get this morning's aggravation out of my system.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Wow, what a gorgeous day! Not only was the humidity low for the first time in weeks, but we had fair-weather cumulus cloudsfor the first time in eons.

Mark and I went with the rest of the PPPC board to fill out new signature cards at the bank this afternoon. Later, we met Joe M, Bob, Karla, and Al for dinner. Later still, at Karla and Al's, we made plans to go see Big River in NYC on the 13th of September. Front row center seats for the matinee show, I couldn't believe it! I'm looking forward to seeing this production because it's done in both sign language AND English together... all the people on the stage are signing, it's not like there are two interpreters off to the side signing. I've read about this particular method of putting on a signed/spoken performance, and it sounds amazing to watch.

Friday, August 22, 2003

I made an Executive Decision a few mornings ago, and I've stuck by it ever since. For my first few days of driving in here, I'd tune in to the all-news station to get the traffic report (every ten minutes, on the 2s) before switching over to the music station I like best. However, I discovered early this week that the music station offers the same traffic reports about two minutes after the news station has them... not to mention, it's not like I have Clue One of an alternative route to get here if the way I know is having a traffic jam, anyway. All the traffic report does is forewarn me if there's congestion on any of the roads I'll be using.

So now I leave the music station on ALL the time. Life's too short to listen to the news when you'd really, really prefer to have music on.
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Cleverest answering machine greeting I've heard so far: "Darn it all, we missed your call! Please leave a message..." ROTFLMHO! After the beep, I introduced myself, left the 800# for them to call and reschedule, and followed it up with, "By the way, your answering machine message is great!" :o) Life is short, pay compliments, even to complete strangers.
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PIZZA! I'm not sure what the occasion is, but there are a whole bunch of pizzas in the lunchroom for everyone. Yay, :o)!
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Tonight there's another Flyers/Phantoms softball game. The only problem is, it's in Warminster PA, and I have no idea where the ballfield is. I think I'll give this one a miss and aim for the one that's in Bellmawr, NJ on Sunday afternoon. At least I've had a couple of recent hockey fixes, between seeing Neil a couple Sundays ago and seeing the game on Wednesday. Even more important, I've had a couple of GOALIE fixes, since Neil was at both events. anybody who's aware of what a Goalie Junkie I am knows that this is a major thing. :o)
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GOOD THING I didn't try to go to the softball game tonight. The best way for me to get there, the PA turnpike, is closed due to a jackknifed tractor trailer that spilled fertilizer all over the road. Traffic on I-476 North and the Schuylkill Expressway Westbound (both the opposite direction of the way I drive home), headed toward the turnpike, was at a total standstill for miles. Even if I had a clue how to find the ballfield, traffic is so messed up that I would have been lucky to get there by the time the game ended.

Bring on Sunday afternoon's game in South NJ; at least I have a pretty good idea where Bellmawr is!

Thursday, August 21, 2003

It turns out that there *are* some people who have decorations adorning their desks after all. Some of the Nameless Nationwide Department Store's permanent employees do have a few little items (be it small souvenirs, family photos, etc) in their workspace. Even so, the desks that people have put their own personal touch on are in the minority, and even the decorated desks look pretty sparse to me.

Then again, when I worked at the bank, during my 12 years there I went out of my way to turn that cubicle into a home away from home. There wasn't one place you could look without seeing What I Like, be it photos of Mark and me, pics of the cats, or decorations related to the Flyers, Phantoms, or Due South (my favorite TV show). Even my computer desktop had a favorite photo for its wallpaper. Then there were MY appliances, including a coffee machine and a fan. I felt that I was spending eight hours there per day, so I might as well be surrounded by My Favorite Things. I guess that's why I feel like a desk whose owner has only made it their own space by adding, say, a pencil holder that's too fancy to be company-issued and one family photo, isn't a home away from home to that employee.
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Well, we have a first. Our Harridan of the Day was a MAN. Fortunately, my encounter with him came with about 15 minutes remaining in the workday, so I was able to get the heck out of there not long afterward.

Let me clue you all in on a secret. For the time being (until Nameless Nationwide Department Store changes their computer system, which is supposedly going to happen soon), I have a little bit of leeway regarding scheduling service dates. I click the button to show me the next available dates, but if there is a VERY good reason, I can manually enter an earlier date. I can't bend the rules for everyone, all day long, but sometimes there are valid reasons to work with a customer and provide them with a better date. If I'm still around after they switch systems, I won't be able to do that any more, but for now, I can.

Now let me clue you in on another secret. When a customer acts like a total figlio di puttana and makes fun of every word I say because he's Not Getting His Way, it is going to be a cold day in you-know-where before I stick my freaking neck out for him and bend the rules. You want to sit there and insult every single thing I tell you? Fine. Then I will sit here and insist that the best service date I can give you is the one that the computer is giving me, even when I know darn well that I COULD do somewhat better for you. Not as much better as THIS customer demanded... it's humanly impossible for me to give you a first-thing-tomorrow-morning repairman visit when I'm talking to you at 4:45 PM today. That just flat-out can't be done, at least not by me. But a better date than the computer was giving me? Yeah, I could have done it. I probably would have, too, if I hadn't had to sit there for ten solid minutes and listen to insults every time I tried to tell him anything.

Eventually I convinced him to take down the 800 number to call customer service. They probably WILL give him a better date. Fine. But I was darned if *I* was going to do it. Not to mention, if I recognize his name on any MORE service orders, I'll be dratted if I'll call him again unless I absolutely, positively must. I pity whoever lives with this guy... nobody, but NOBODY could possibly spring into Evil Mode that readily unless they've got plenty of practice doing it. God help the people who have to deal with him face-to-face, and can't be done with him by simply ending a phone call.
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On to lighter news. I watched my odometer turn over to 30,000 miles on the way home today. I was on I-476 South, crossing the Plymouth Creek, when it happened. That means I've pretty much doubled the mileage it had on it when I got it. I bought my little 1989 car used in 1991. At the time, it had about 14,500 miles on it. It's nearly 12 years later, and now it's got 30K miles on it... I guess you could say I don't drive a whole lot, huh? :o) That's a result of living in the city, where I can take public transportation or walk to a lot of the places I need to go.

With any luck, before long I will be able to go BACK to not driving so much. I would love a SEPTA-accessible job assignment, or at least one that's not a 50-mile/day round trip.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Lunchtime. I just bought a bottle of Snapple. I figured a flavor named "Kiwi Teawi" was something that was definitely worth trying. :o)

If your local store has this flavor, take a good look at the label. I did, and I started laughing out loud right there in the aisle. Under the "Kiwi Teawi", in small print, it has the words "from Down Under!", and under THAT, the SNAPPLE logo is printed upside-down...! LOL!

In the bottlecap, I found Real Fact #143: " 'Q' is the only letter in the alphabet not appering in the name of any US state." So there you go -- you and I are both that much better prepared to play games like Trivial Pursuit. :o)

"Kiwi Teawi"... heeheehee-wi! I love that name! (The flavor was pretty darn good, too!)
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Afternoon break. I got to do messages from 1PM through 3PM. Unfortunately, when I'm done this break I get to to carryovers. OOOOO, but people hate finding out that the tech has to reschdule their appointment... Oh, well. A two-hour reprieve from calling people and being the bearer of bad tidings is better than no reprieve at all.
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Work is done. It was a relatively peaceful afternoon... I didn't make any calls to anyone who put the "cuss" in "customer". ;o)

This evening was even more fun... the Flyers/Phantoms softball team played the Mt. Ephraim/Gloucester County (NJ) police and fire department softball team. It was a charity event to raise money in memory of three local firefighters who died in July 2002 fighting a fire in a house that collapsed. :o( A good time was had by all, and I think Keith Jones (former Flyer, current Comcast Sportsnet hockey analyst, and the game's announcer) tacked on a few extra runs here and there to help the police/fire department catch up. Mark and I arrived in the second inning or so, and the Flyers/Phantoms team was already waaaay ahead. The first person we saw was Neil Little, signing for kids while he waited for his turn at bat. I asked him what the score was, and he didn't know. LOL... so we headed over a bit closer to the ballfield, and found someone who knew that it was the second inning, and the Flyers were ahead something like 12-3. I wound up standing behind the barrier that was behind Keith Jones, since that was a good vantage point to see the field AND to get pics of any players who might have been nearby signing for kids. A couple of innings later, the Flyers were ahead 20-6. Keith Jones took it on himself to announce that the score was 20-10. LOL.

The final score was Flyers 24, Police/Fire team 23, though I'm not sure how many of those 23 runs were tallied by Keith Jones's creative arithmetic. ;o) But money was raised for a worthy cause, and everyone had fun, so it's all good.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Aaaah, good grief! Doing the message screen is no shield against doing carryover calls. I get to do both now. Gack. It's gonna be an interesting two hours between now and 5PM. I hope I don't chat with any harridan nominees. ;o)
Welcome to my Tuesday and my morning break. So far it's been a nice, harridan-free day. Not that it's exactly nice to spend the morning breaking bad news to people, but even the most frustrated customers I've spoken to so far have been polite to me.

The person who was going to show me how to work on the message screen, which is the way that people here communicate with the repair techs who are out on calls, will be in today. (She has Mondays off). I am hoping to get trained on that today for real, instead of just watching her to get an idea of what the screen is like. In particular, I'm hoping to get trained on the message screen and avoid doing what's called "carryovers" toward the end of the day. Carryovers happen when a tech is unable to complete all the calls on the route, for whatever reason. It could be that they had a job that ran longer than expected, their truck broke down, they lost time because they got very lost on the way to a customer's home, they're going home sick... you get the idea. Techs CAN work overtime, but they can't be forced to do it. As a result, we get carryovers at the end of the day, and these seem to be the customers who react the worst when they're told that we need to reschedule.

I have to say that I don't blame them for being ticked about waiting all day, only to learn at 4:30 PM that their tech won't be coming at all. On the other hand, a few of those mega-frustrated-customer calls in a row can really drain a person.
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OK, lunchtime. Still no harridans. :o) Well, not for ME yet, anyway. One of the other people here called a customer to forewarn her that the tech who was slated to do a maintenance check on her appliance was working on a prior call that was a serious problem and was going to last far longer than expected. She offered the customer the option of rescheduling her own appointment, rather than wait all afternoon for a tech that might not be able to come. That customer immediately started to holler and swear and demand that her original appointment be honored. I heard this call going on and thought, "Holy COW, it's only a freaking maintenance check! The appliance hasn't even got anything WRONG with it!" Talk about having anger management issues... 99% of people who have actual broken appliances are more civil if their repair needs to be rescheduled. So, if I don't have any harridans between now and the end of the day, I will bestow the Harridan of the Day award on that customer that screamed at my colleague.

Monday, August 18, 2003

I'm happy to report that the Harridan of the Day award for Monday went unclaimed.

Man, are my eyes tired. First I spent all day staring at a computer terminal. Then, I came home and finished up the minutes for tomorrow night's PPPC general meeting. (Mark and I went to West Chester yesterday, and I spent the entire trip out there typing the first half of the minutes on the handheld. If it hadn't been too dark to read the outline I printed, I'd have spent the trip HOME typing the second half.)

So now, of course, what am I doing? Resting my eyes? Naaah. I'm logged on to check e-mail and message boards, of course... I have no internet access during the day, so I'm playing catchup now.

But what I had better do soon is catch up on SLEEP. This leaving the house at 7 AM is for the birds, but if I leave any later than that, I start running into nasty traffic. I wish this job's hours were 9-5 instead of 8-5... on the other hand, I can just imagine what the traffic would be like if I left the house an hour later. Maybe I'm better off leaving the house at the crack of dawn after all.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Mark and Hat Trick and I went to the Phillies Photo Night tonight. It was originally scheduled for June 7, the same day as the Belmont Stakes. However, the weather was as horrid down here as it was in NY, and the game was rained out. Photo Night was rescheduled for tonight, and THIS time we were able to go.

It was set up a bit different than I'd hoped. The fans were standing around the field (and short people like me had one heck of a time getting a decent line of sight), and the players were walking around. ARGH. I was hoping it would be like the Phantoms STH Meet and Greet, where the guys sit at tables and the fans walk through. No such luck. Instead, the fans stood in one place and the players walked around. So some of my pics came goofed up, some players I missed entirely since they walked through before Mark and I got to the field, and some shots came out A-OK. Thank goodness the one I got of Pat Burrell, my pet Phillie, came out good. I dote on that guy. Even if he DID buy into that odd fake-blonde hair color thing that's sweeping through major league baseball at the moment. Argh on shocking fake-blonde-color hair. Unfortunately, Pat broke out of a long hitting slump right after he bleached his hair, so I fear we'll be seeing this hair color on him for a while yet. YAY on the breaking-the-slump part, but OH DEAR on the keeping-that-frightful-hair-color issue. ;o)

It was nice to see the Phillies come back and win tonight. We've had some issues with scoring lately, so for us to get back-to-back homers and win the game was a Nice Thing. We won 5-4.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Some observations on this assignment, outside of the rant-mode post I put in yesterday...

It's possible that the reason for this is that multiple people use these desks during the course of the day, because the Nameless Nationwide Department Store's routing center operates with multiple shifts during the day. However, it crossed my mind on my second day here that there are NO desks with any kind of personal decorations whatsoever. No pictures, no mugs, no calendars (beyond the standard-issue desk calendar, speaking of which mine appears to have gone missing after I left last night). Not one single thing sits on any person's desk to mark that spot as a person's 8-hour "home away from home". It's a little odd; I've never been in a workplace where thenonly decorations are furnished by the company. Case in point, there's a framed print on the wall that reads, "ADVERSITY: anyone can take the helm when the sea is calm". The first time I saw THAT after my first Encounter with a Harridan, I realized WHY someone from the company had decided that would be a good slogan to post in this office.

Speaking of which... it's my lunch break and I'm pleased to report that the first half of my day has been harridan-free. Here's hoping that my post-lunch work time will be similarly peaceful.
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Afternoon break and still no harridans... knock wood! Maybe I can have peace and quiet for the rest of the day, and just get my job done like a normal person.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

I think I'm going to establish my own personal award, for the worst customer interaction experience I have on any given day. I'll call it the "Harridan of the Day", and bestow it on whichever customer commits the worst verbal abuse, has the largest anger-management issues, or both.

The Harridan of the Day award for August 14 goes to the woman who I called when the technician who was supposed to work on her appliance took way longer than expected on a previous call. He wasn't going to have time to visit all the customers who remained on his route, and so he requested what's known as a "carryover" -- the customers who were scheduled toward the end of the his route would be rescheduled for a later day.

As I said yesterday, this is not news that people want to hear, and some of them get grouchy on the phone. I hear them out, because I've been a customer, too, and I know how frustrating it is when these things happen.

But there's grouchy and there's out-of-control. This particular customer brought "out-of-control" to whole new heights... or, more accurately, to new depths.

"WHAT?" she bellowed. "YOU MUST BE $%*#@& JOKING! I WAITED EIGHT F*****G HOURS AND YOU ARE FIXING MY REFRIGERATOR TO-DAY, DO YOU HEAR? TO-DAY! OR I'M CALLING MY F*****G LAWYER!!!!" She continued in that vein, refused to listen when I tried to give her the customer service number so she could register a complaint, refused to reschedule, refused to accept my putting her on hold, refused to stop screaming phrases that contained the F word. I couldn't even get a word in edgewise to tell her that I didn't have authority to dispatch another repairman today, but I wanted to put her on hold so I could talk to someone above me and work something out. If the supervisor couldn't get a same-day repairman visit, maybe they could escalate it so a repairman could come sooner than the "first available opening" listed on the computer system (which was several days away).

She just kept yelling into the receiver as if I wasn't even there. Finally after about seven sentences containing at least one F-bomb apiece, I said, "Ma'am, please hold" and hit the hold button.

Then I turned to Pat, the woman who appears to be in charge of the temp workers (of which I'm one). "This customer isn't only irate, they're swearing repeatedly. I just got bombarded with F words".

Pat was sympathetic. "Tell him that he needs to stop swearing or you'll have no choice but to hang up. You don't have to put up with that".

I laughed. "Believe it or not, this customer is a WOMAN", and gave her a cleaned-up version of what was said to me.

Pat was ticked that a customer could unleash a barrage of verbal abuse like that. But she was willing to work it so that a repairman would visit this foul-mouthed customer tomorrow.

I took The Harridan off hold and told her I'd talked to someone above me and we could schedule a repairman to come tomorrow.

No dice. "NO!!!! TO-DAY! DO YOU HEAR? OR I'M CALLING MY F*****G LAWYER, YOU $%*#@&!!!!" She continued on that vein some more, ignoring my request that she stop swearing, and capped it by hanging up on ME with one final insult.

I got my own form of revenge, though. I wrote in the comments area of her service order: "CUSTOMER WAS IRATE. REFUSED TO RESCHEDULE. SWORE REPEATEDLY (HER FAVORITE ADJECTIVE BEGINS WITH 'F')." At least now, the poor unfortunate schlep whose misfortune it is to call her back will be forewarned.

So, there you have it. The Harridan of the Day. I thought that YESTERDAY'S Customer from Hell was the worst ever, and couldn't imagine how anyone could sink lower than she did. Today's Harridan proved me wrong.

About fifteen minutes after this, I talked to Pat again. There are several different functions that take place in the routing department, which is where my assignment is. Some involve communicating with customers, as I've been doing, and some involve communicating with the technicians on the calls. I asked Pat, "Is there any particular duty in this department that doesn't involve breaking bad news to people? I think I'd like to learn that, too, and then do that for part of the day".

So she began to show me how they do what they call "messaging", which involves receiving and responding to the text messages that the technicians send back to the office throughout the day. The techs all have THE coolest laptops with them on jobs, which connect to the company's computer system wirelessly, and they are able to communicate with our office by sending and receiving text. I definitely want to take over at least some of the messaging duties, for at least part of every day, because this constant calling of customers to tell them their repairman isn't coming today is *wearing* on me. What I've done for the past two days is DEFINITELY not a job function that a person with clinical depression should pursue over the long haul, let's put it that way. I can put up with it for a while, and I will, but I won't keep at it if I see it's having an impact on my overall health.

I'll keep on pushing to take on messaging as part of my responsibilities, and then see what happens. Being able to alternate between being the Bearer of Bad Tidings and doing other things is going to be a deciding factor in how long I continue with this assignment.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

So, here I am, after my first day on this new temp assignment. I am SOOOO glad that I postponed starting this until today and took part in filming the commercial yesterday. I'd have hated to miss out on that under any circumstances, but all the more so once I learned that part of this temp assignment involves remaining diplomatic while irate customers rant at you over the phone.

If you live in the southeastern PA or south NJ area, and if you got a call from a Nationwide Department Store (which shall Remain Nameless), rescheduling an appointment from a repairman who was slated to arrive today, chances are you heard from me. This job is in a call center that serves this region. When one of the techs calls out sick, a repair truck breaks down, or a visit to a prior customer's site takes longer than expected, there are going to be customers on that tech's route that can't be served that day. Their calls will have to be rescheduled. I am, at least until the end of the month, one of the people who calls the customer and attempts to reschedule the repairman's visit.

It doesn't sound too challenging, until you remember that there are some people who are more than willing to shoot the messenger who delivers bad news. Most people were polite. Some were polite but frustrated, and I was more than willing to hear them out, because hey... haven't we all had this kind of experience at least once? It's very aggravating, and I can empathize.

What I *can't* empathize with, however, is the mindset of people who are downright mean. There's just no excuse for that. One particular customer whom I contacted will forever stand out in my mind in this regard. Her washing machine is broken. I can understand being upset over that; I've lived through it and it's a pain. But this lady was acting like it was the end of the world... no, let me rephrase that. She was acting as though we evil, evil customer service reps were deliberately causing the world to end due to our boundless malice. She went well beyond the bounds of "frustrated customer" and crossed into the territory of "I enjoy verbally abusing people".

As unsettling as it was to listen to her... and it also shook up the person training me, to whom The Shrew demanded to speak... there was one part of her rant that nearly caused me to laugh in her ear. Thank God I was able to keep my composure. The Shrew shouted, "I took a day off from work for this! I make $200 an hour, are you going to pay me for that? Are you going to do my laundry?"

First of all, I believe that she makes $200/hour like I believe that pigs fly. Her claim was SO exaggerated as to render the entire statement ludicrous. Second of all, all I could think was, "She supposedly makes $200 an hour and she's never heard of a laundromat?" But I kept my mouth shut and let her keep yelling.

What a creep! She threatened to return her washer AND dryer and buy one from "the store down the street". (Yeah, right, someone who makes $200/hour lives right down the street from an appliance store... I'll believe THAT when pigs fly, too.) I don't think there's even ONE person in the customer service department who had to deal with this harridan today who'd be sorry if she took her business elsewhere. The woman refused to let me reschedule the appointment *and* refused to accept the customer service number I was trying to give her so she could call in her complaints. I pity the repairman who eventually does go there, because she's sure to give him at least as much grief as she gave me and the person training me today.

I'll deal with this job for now, because it pays better than sitting on my tail at home job-hunting (which doesn't pay anything). But I intend to keep looking for other positions, believe me. There's no way I could do THIS long-term. The verbal abuse would burn anyone out after a while.

I hope that other job I interviewed for a couple weeks ago, the one where I'm supposedly waiting to see if the client company calls the temp agency back, comes through. The commute AND the pay will both be greatly preferable to what this assignment has to offer.

Oh, well. At least I worked today.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Today was a pretty cool day. Well, not in terms of temperature, but in terms of events.

The Phantoms needed some people to come and film their latest commercial. Their intent was to place a few dozen Phantoms-garbed fans in the Spectrum seats. The fans' job was to watch a game intently, then break into celebration when a goal was scored. The trouble was, they didn't have enough willing participants to fill the seats for the ad.

Well, MY afternoons have been open for a while now, so of course I agreed to do it, along with some other fans. It sounded like a pretty interesting thing to do, IMO.

The first step for me was deciding which jersey to wear. I finally decided on a game-worn purple Neil Little jersey that I got from a Flyers Wives online auction about two years ago. (See a pic of me wearing it here; I'm the one on the left.) I was a bit concerned that they'd tell me it wasn't suitable, since the Phantoms no longer wear the purple jerseys; now their road jerseys are black. But out of the choices in my closet, I thought the purple one was the best option, so I wore it.

So, did I mention that the coolness of this day was completely unrelated to the temperature? That's because when I got in my car to drive to the Spectrum, I discovered that my A/C is flat out not working. AT ALL. It seems to be the fan that's the problem, because I couldn't feel any air coming out of the vents whatsoever, no matter what setting I had the fan on. So I rolled down the window and thanked the Lord that it's only about a mile's drive, because it was extremely hot in that car.

When I got to the Spectrum and gave my name to the guard at the will-call window, they showed me into what I believe is the Kixx (local soccer team)'s locker room. There were hoagies and beverages in there, so I had some lunch. Hat Trick got to take a picture in whoever's stall has a number 10 on it, lol. He also got to pose with the "Maggiano's Meatball", which is used for promotions during intermissions at Phantoms games.

We all got Phantoms t-shirts for participating, and I got a Phantoms rally towel that's autographed by Pete Vandermeer (one of our forwards who's coming back this year). Then we all went upstairs. To my surprise, they took us up to the SECOND level to do the filming. Somehow I figured we'd be down on the first level, closer to the ice... or should I say, to where the ice USED to be. Arrrgh! I'd never seen the bare concrete floor before today. It looked so... strange.

We all settled down in the northeast corner section of the second level. They arranged us in our seats, starting with the second row of seats and working our way back three or four rows. It took a few minutes for them to shift us around in our seats and get the look "just right". That was when I started to be glad I'd gotten a rally towel; there was no a/c in the Spectrum and it was HOT up there, but I had the towel to blot the perspiration so it didn't LOOK so much like we were filming in July. Then they turned the lights on us and it went from "hot" to "sweltering". Boy, those lights give off some SERIOUS heat!

That wasn't the worst of it, though. There was a funky odor, like something rotten, emanating from somewhere. We finally pinpointed it as coming from a large puddle of black-coffee-colored stagnant water, about 2" deep all through, that had collected below the very front row of seats. Due to its location in a very shadowed area, it was hard to see the filthy water until one of our front office people accidentally stepped into it. BLEAH. That not only revealed the stagnant swamp's presence, but also stirred up the water and increased its pungency.

I dubbed it "Lake Ick", and then "Lake Biohazard". I was in the second row of seats. Lake Biohazard was directly in front of me, so I made sure that Hat Trick stayed IN my bag. I didn't want him to wind up anywhere near, or (God forbid!) IN that horrid water. If he'd gotten that revolting muck on him, I wouldn't have even BEGUN to know how to decontaminate the poor little guy, so I kept him out of harm's way until the shoot was over.

Our instructions were to sit and pretend we're watching a game, as the text of the ad was read. At one particular point in the text, we were to burst into cheers and applause as though the Phantoms had scored a goal, and remain cheering until the end of the ad. Meanwhile, the ad, which was to promote the $48 Phantoms Family four-pack (four tickets, four sodas, four hot dogs) and to highlight the new feature of the four-pack: four Dave and Buster's Power Cards. The cards alone are worth $40, so IMO this is a darn good deal.

In any event, we ran through this sequence about four times, maybe five. The whole thing was over in an hour. It was fun (except for the puddle-of-scuzzy-water part).

All in all, it was a good way to spend what might just be my last weekday afternoon off for a while. I have a job assignment (yay!) in Norristown (boo, on the long commute!) that's slated to last until at least the end of the month (yay!). Of course, I'll believe it'll last that long when I SEE it, because I've had supposedly long-term things change on me in the past. But maybe this one will continue as long as it's supposed to. We shall see.

Oh, brother... it just occurred to me: driving to Norristown with a broken air conditioner tomorrow should be an adventure. I'm DEFINITELY going to have to have this car fixed, ASAP.

Monday, August 11, 2003

What a great day yesterday was! It certainly didn't start off as a great day, unfortunately, but the afternoon's bright spots more than made up for what went on in the morning.

Yesterday was the second Sunday of the month. For those who don't know it, on the second Sunday of every month, I interpret a Mass at the church where I grew up. I've been doing this for almost five years now.

So, off I went to interpret, and the first thing that I noticed when I arrived was that none of the regular Deaf attendees was there yet. That was pretty unusual. There aren't many regulars, but they're very consistent about attending. The elderly Deaf husband and wife normally arrive first, the 60-ish Deaf man and the 40-ish Deaf man (who come to Mass separately) normally arrive closer to the start of the liturgy.

I didn't interpret at my old church on the second Sunday of July, because I was at AADB that day. So I wondered if the elderly couple had decided to visit their daughter in Virginia at some point between the last time I saw them (in June) and now. Finally, a few minutes before Mass began, the 40-ish Deaf man arrived. Soon afterward, the 60-ish man arrived also, and he told me some news that really shook me up. On July 19th, the elderly Deaf wife had passed away suddenly from a heart attack. Her husband was now with his daughter in Virginia, and was contemplating staying down there with her. I was as shocked as I was saddened at this news. How I wish I'd known! I certainly would have attended the funeral if I'd been aware of her passing. As it is, I'm very sorry to think that I won't be seeing that delightful lady any more, and I'll be even sorrier if her equally nice husband chooses to move away from the area.

Actually, let me clarify this. I do believe in the afterlife, and I do believe that we'll all be together Up There someday. But that belief has never stopped me from missing the departed person NOW. If someone has the answer to THAT issue, please feel free to e-mail me with it. Otherwise, I'll keep on knowing that our loved ones who are gone are now in a better place, but I'll keep missing their presence here nonetheless. And I most certainly will be missing that lovely, charming Deaf lady every time I see her unoccupied place in the pew when I go to interpret. Sigh.

While I was still in my "What?!", completely shocked phase after hearing the news, the bell rang, the cantor announced the opening song, and the Mass began. Well, God only knows what in heck I signed during that hymn. I hope to God it made something resembling sense, because I honestly was having a hard time processing ANY form of rational thought for those few minutes.

The priest was no help, because he was in what I call "auctioneer mode", talking 90 miles an hour. I'm going to presume he had some reason for wanting Mass to end early, because it's not like this priest to speed through everything like that. Thank God that most of the Mass consists of prayers I've interpreted countless times. This is combined with some prayers and the scripture readings that change weekly, but which I always look up and practice in advance. The only thing that I can't practice ahead of time is the homily (sermon) after the Gospel. Fortunately this priest gives sermons that are not only good, but also basic in vocabulary, clear in meaning, and not difficult to interpret. Even yesterday, when Father was going through the Evelyn Wood Speed Praying version of Mass, his homily was still nice and straightforward, and not hard for my still-shocked mind to interpret properly.

Somehow I made it through the Mass in one piece and with my composure intact ...did I mention a couple posts back about that deep-rooted "not crying in front of people" barrier I've got installed? Yesterday I was grateful for it. I was also grateful that I had some plans for the afternoon which were 10000% guaranteed to lift my spirits: my favorite Phantom, Neil Little, was making a public appearance and I was planning to go. In fact, Mark and I were planning to stop briefly at home to change into casual clothes right after Mass finished (normally, that happens at noon), and then off we'd go to the King of Prussia Mall. That should give us plenty of time to get there early and get a good seat for this event.

Of course, what we planned and what happened are two different things. While I was getting a snail-mail address for the elderly Deaf man, so that Mark and I could send a Mass card to him, two beginning ASL students came up to me. They wanted me to sign the forms they were carrying for class. I didn't read through it thoroughly, but the heading was something to the effect of Deaf Interaction Experience. When I was taking ASL and Interpreting classes, we had similar forms to the ones I saw yesterday, so I knew what they were for. Then everything started happening at once: the students wanted me to help them talk to the two Deaf men who were at Mass. The woman who'd lectored at Mass, who'd noticed the elderly Deaf couple's absence, wanted me to interpret for her to find out what had happened, and when I told her what I knew she was distressed and wanted me to interpret so she could learn what occurred in more detail. The younger of the two Deaf men wanted to let me know that he'd had a bereavement in his family, too -- a cousin of his had died in a car accident a few weeks before, and his family was quite sad about THAT. All this was going on simultaneously, and for a few minutes there I felt as though I was standing in the middle of a cyclone of words and signs. And why, but WHY, did all this have to happen on the one Sunday when I had plans to go somewhere immediately following Mass? Why couldn't this be one of the zillion weeks where my post-Mass plans consisted of "go home and relax"?

Finally, everything was straightened out. Mark and I had the snail-mail addy so we can send our condolences. The lector had a clearer idea of what had happened (and she was as surprised and saddened as I was to know that the Deaf lady had died). I exchanged contact info with the two ASL students, because in a couple of weeks we're hoping to have the local deaf-blind group of friends go out to dinner, and I think both these students would enjoy coming along. And what do you know -- it was not very long past noon by the time everyone went their separate ways. Maybe it was fortunate that Father had been in Speed Praying mode after all, lol! Mass ended early enough that we could have all those conversations and still be only slightly behind schedule by the time we got on our way to King of Prussia.

We arrived at the Mall with about a half-hour to spare. We found the location of the event, which was something oriented toward young kids. And I do mean YOUNG: the age range of the kids in attendance appeared to be from preschool through about age 5, with a few really tiny tots thrown in for good measure. I still am not sure who the sponsor was, but there were all sorts of toys being demoed and a young lady was conducting a trivia contest about Disney movies.

Mark and I found some good seats, but before long, Mark said he'd take a walk around the mall and be back later. About 10 minutes before 2 o'clock, I looked up and who did I see? Someone carrying the Sony Mavica which I know darn well belongs to the Phantoms. Not only is it in evidence at every Phantoms public event I've been to, but you can even see a pic of Phlex holding it on the Phantoms' website, at the top of the Photo gallery pages. Well, I figured that if the camera was around, Neil must be around, too. Sure enough, there he was, standing off to the side and talking to someone connected to the event.

Ah! Yay! If you're ever in search of a way to cheer me up, having my favorite goalie stand about five feet away from me will most definitely do the job. That goes double if the last time I saw said favorite player was after the last game of the season, when we were at risk of missing the playoffs by one darned point and he KNEW it. The whole team knew. I took pics of a lot of the players after that game, as it was "Shirts off our Backs" night and the guys were presenting their game-worn jerseys to fans who'd won them. But when I got home and looked at the pics on the full-sized computer monitor, I found it hard to bear seeing the sad expressions on the guys' faces. And that was my most recent sight of him from April until yesterday. Ouch.

So anyway, there I was, feeling glad to see my favorite player again, and even more glad to note that he was looking happy and upbeat (in contrast to last April). My "glad" quotient promptly increased several times over, when Neil looked around and picked out the one familiar face in the crowd -- mine. He came over to say hello, and while we were in the process of "good to see you" and "how was your summer", Mark returned from wandering through the mall and Neil greeted him, too. One thing that really impresses me about Neil is that he returns loyalty from fans... when he gets to know a person by sight, he'll be the one who says hello to the FAN first. He has known Mark and me since the two of us went with some other Philly fans in 1999 to see Neil play in Grand Rapids, to which team he'd been loaned out. He's made a point of being friendly to us both from then until now. It's nice to see a pro athlete, especially one who's as immensely popular with the team's fan base as Neil is, who does NOT take fan support for granted. It makes me all the more willing to cheer for a player who's not only talented ON the ice, but good-hearted OFF it.

Mark went back on his walking tour of the mall, and Neil asked me, "Who's sponsoring this event? Is it a card company? What am I supposed to do here?" I said "I know it's something to do with kids, but I'm not sure who's running it. I do know that there's a question-and-answer session, and then a signing".

He looked surprised to hear that there was a Q&A involved. I did my best to keep my amusement off my face, but I did wonder what in HECK our PR office had told the poor guy. Sheesh, I guess we were lucky they managed to convey what time and where they wanted him to report. But one would think they'd have also mentioned what they wanted him to do once he arrived, no?

A few minutes later, Neil got introduced to the crowd. It was about a zillion little kids, their parents, and Hat Trick and me, lol! Shortly after the Q&A began, a fellow Phantoms fan, someone I've known since I started attending games, arrived and took the seat next to mine. Good, now Neil had TWO familiar faces in the crowd, since he's well-acquainted with this other fan also. The questions kept coming from the kids: who's his favorite Phillie (Brandon Duckworth), what other sports does he like (football and golf), does he travel a lot (yes, especially during the season), does he see his teammates or his family more often (during the season, his teammates, and during the summer, his family), what are his hobbies (playing golf and flying a private plane).

Then the host of the event caught me off guard. He pointed me out in the crowd and said, "We can take questions from adults, too. You look like a fan, you seem to be smiling a lot -- do you have a question?"

Holy cow, I wasn't expecting that! So I blurted out the first thing that crossed my mind... which, incidentally, is a question I've wondered about for a while. I asked Neil, "What's your middle name?"

Neil looked a little surprised, too. "That's a trick question. NEIL is my middle name". Then the host called on a little kid for the next question, which I never heard. I was too busy processing the answer I'd just gotten.

I turned to my fellow fan and whispered, "What? Did you know that?", but this was news to her, too. I felt a little better knowing that one of his other mega-fans was as taken aback as I was, lol!

When the questions were done, a table was set up so Neil could sign autographs. I waited for a long line of kids to get their signatures and have a few words (and there's nothing I enjoy more than watching our hockey-playing big kids interacting with tiny fans). Then I headed over to the table myself.

"So... what's your FIRST name?"

Neil laughed. "You mean you don't know?"

I can only guess why he thought I already knew... I suspect it has to do with my having been a poster on a now-defunct hockey board where a college friend of Neil's used to be the moderator. Thanks to Neil's old friend, I got to know not only Neil's college nickname, but its origin. Neil found that out, and I guess he just presumed that his friend had volunteered lots of other stuff, too. Good, let him think I'm either omniscient or psychic, lol! ;o) But rest assured, this first/middle name topic was never broached by his college friend, not on the message board and not any other time.

"No, I don't. But if you don't want me to repeat it, I won't."

Neil laughed again. "Nah, you can repeat it. It's Leslie. I'm named after my father, only he goes by 'Les' and I go by 'Neil' ".

"I didn't know your dad's first name, either. When I met him, I took the stance that his first name is 'Mister'. I feel funny about calling people's parents by their first names. I wasn't brought up that way". I thought of something else. "So that means you're a Junior?"

"Yep, I'm a Junior".

So, there you have it. I finally know my favorite player's first AND middle names, and neither one was what I expected it to be. But I know 'em. :o)

Yesterday afternoon was terrific. Even Hat Trick got into the act! And after the past week's worth of sad news, it was JUST what the doctor ordered. It was an ideal antidote for my case of Hockey Withdrawal Syndrome, and it was just an all-around enjoyable time to get to see and chat with my favorite player again. I really, REALLY needed something like this event, and it did me a world of good.

Friday, August 08, 2003

I completed writing up the minutes for the Phantoms Phan Club board meeting and e-mailed them so they could be photocopied in time for Monday night's meeting. For my next trick, I'll be compiling the general meeting minutes (although I have a few extra days' leeway between now and our next general meeting).

Let me advise anybody who plans to take minutes for a meeting to not only take notes, but use a tape recorder as well. Boy, did listening to that tape while reviewing the notes I took make my job easier! That's going to be my M.O. from now on, any time I take minutes for any meeting, not just the PPPC ones.
YAY! How terrific is THIS news?

[[Sunday, August 10, 2003 2:00 PM Neil Little at King of Prussia Mall

Goaltender Neil Little will be a guest at "Kids Time" from 2:00-3:00 p.m.
this Sunday at King of Prussia (Pa.) Mall. He will be answering questions
from young fans and signing autographs for everyone.
]]

Outstanding! Not only do I get to finally break this hockeyless drought in my life, I get to do it by seeing my favorite player! :o)

Well, now you all know where *I'm* going to be on Sunday! ;o)

Thursday, August 07, 2003

What a couple of days it's been. My godfather's wife, Dolores, passed away over the weekend after having battled lung cancer for the past few years. :(

Dolores and her husband, whom I call "Uncle Freddy", have been friends with my parents since forever. At the very latest, they all became friends as teenagers, and I think my dad knew Uncle Freddy even before that. Now they're all in their 60s, so you can imagine how close their friendships are. They're more like brother and sister to my parents than friends, I think.

This is a hard loss to bear, on several levels. It hurts to lose such a good person as Dolores. Even if I hadn't known her myself, to know how good she was firsthand, just the fact that my parents set such store by her would have been enough to convince me of it. My parents could never be such close friends for so many years with anyone who was cruel or dishonest.

It also hurts to see my parents, particularly my mom, grieving. My mom is beyond devastated, and she can't always quite keep it from showing, even though she puts up a strong front. So does my dad, and although he's a little bit better at hiding his pain than my mom is, I can tell just by the sound of their voices that they're hurting. Sunday morning, when my dad called to tell me the sad news, I could tell before he'd uttered three words that something was seriously wrong, and I braced myself. I wasn't sure WHAT I was preparing myself to hear, but I knew it was going to be bad news and I was right.

This has also sent my inner five-year-old reeling. In that part of my mind that holds childhood memories, Uncle Freddy and Dolores Were Always There, and they were Always Going to Be There. Period, end of sentence. I remember them when I was tiny. I remember them at my birthday parties when I was in grade school. I remember going to THEIR three kids' birthday parties, including Bonnie who's my age and is my dad's goddaughter, from the time that all four of our ages were in single digits. I remember being 11 years old and being at their house watching the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Buffalo Sabres, because Uncle Freddy and Dolores had cable TV and we didn't. I remember them celebrating Bonnie's and my high school graduation with my parents and me (Bonnie and I were in the same HS and graduated in the same class). Bonnie was Valedictorian and I got the English Award, and I remember that a few weeks later, Uncle Freddy gave me a picture he'd taken with his 35mm camera with a zoom lens: it was me on the stage at Convention Hall, receiving the English Award from Cardinal Krol. I remember Dolores at my bridal shower. I remember them both at my wedding. I remember them at every important juncture in my life. Because Uncle Freddy and Dolores Were Always There, and in my child's mind it felt like they would Always Be There.

Just like my parents, who are the same age.

Last night at the viewing, and today at the Mass and the funeral, was a bittersweet gathering of some friends of my dad's and Uncle Freddy's who I am CERTAIN have known one another since they were all in grade school. They're all so lucky to have reaped the benefits of long, LONG friendships. (I think my parents have passed that trait on to me, as I can count friendships that have lasted since the fourth grade, fifth grade, seventh grade, and ninth grade among people whom I still feel close to now.) Now they were together because of the death of someone who'd been a friend for decades. And the first thing they started planning to do was to make sure to get Uncle Freddy out of the house as soon as things start to settle down. "I'll call him to come over one night", one of them told my parents, "and then I'll call you to come over, too".

Today, after the Mass but before the cars left for the cemetery, another of the mourners was catching up with my dad. His hair was all white and he looked like he was about 10 years older than my father. When the funeral director started trying to get people to go to their cars so the funeral procession could begin, the man ended the conversation with, "Take care, Joey". Never, in my entire nearly-40-years of life, have I EVER heard anyone address my dad as "Joey" until that moment; everyone in my experience has always called him "Joe". I couldn't help but grin and wonder how young they both were when they first knew each other. They must have both been boys.

At the cemetery, just as I placed my flower on the casket, my dad's oldest friend, whom he's known since they were about 3 or 4, set down his flower, also. I was close enough to hear him tell Dolores quietly, "God bless you. Take care", and then he kissed his fingertips and placed them where the flowers were. I had to move aside quickly before he noticed my reaction: thinking about what close friends they've all been for so long, and now they're saying goodbye to one of their own, started my eyes welling up quickly. Only my deep-rooted internal barrier against crying in front of other people, something which I have willed myself to do since I was very small, kept me from bursting into cascades of tears on the spot. Those tears will eventually happen; I can guarantee that. They're just going to wait until there's no one else around before they start to fall.

At the luncheon that followed the funeral, my parents and I sat with the rest of the Group of Oldest Friends. There were some other people at our table, too, and when one of the courses of the meal arrived, the waiter miscounted by one and left one of the ladies without a dish of gnocchi. Then he forgot we still needed one more serving at our table, and started to serve guests at other tables. The lady raised her hand, then waved it, to no avail; he was focused on what he was doing and wasn't looking our way. I quipped, "Let's all sing. Then EVERYONE will look toward our table".

As I made the joke, and everyone laughed, a tune ran through the back of my mind, as if that was the one we should sing. Just the tune, though, no lyrics, so at first I wasn't sure just which song I was remembering. As I ate, I mentally followed through the tune for a few more lines, trying to remember what the title of the song was. And then it hit me. It was Heart of my Heart, and it probably crossed my mind because it reminded me of my dad and all his childhood friends, including Uncle Freddy:


"Heart of my heart"
I love that melody.
"Heart of my heart"
Brings back a memory.
When we were kids
On the corner of the street,
We were rough and ready guys,
But oh, how we could harmonize!
"Heart of my heart"
Meant friends were dearer then.
Too bad we had to part.
I know a tear would glisten
If once more I could listen
To that gang that sang
"Heart of my heart."


The events of this week mark the end of an era in my family's life, in my parents' lives and in my life, too. Along with feeling sadness for Dolores and her family, I'm having to let go of one more childhood presumption that Things Will Always Be Just as they Are. Things won't stay the same forever, whether I accept that fact or not.

But I do know one thing. My dad's friend was right: God bless you, Dolores. Thank you. We love you and we'll all miss you.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

There's still no word regarding that interview last week. I just called the staffing service that did the interview. and they told me that they haven't heard back from the client company yet. However, they will let me know if the client company responds to my resume.

That answers ONE of my questions, anyway: if the client company has a copy of my resume, then I'm still in the running.

I can't wait to see what this company is like -- they're putting all this effort into the selection process for people who'll be working on a three-month project. This appears to be more work than some companies I've seen go through to hire a permanent employee.

I should know. Some of my past temp assignments have had me scheduling interviews with prospective employees at the company where I was assigned. The selection process was not this rigorous.

I'm so tired of this cruddy job market.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Well, there's still no breaking news on KYW (all-news radio station) to signal the beginning of labor troubles at Verizon. The union has been working without a contract since midnight Sunday, and for the past three days negotiations have continued.

But I got a call from Mark today that there was a chance something would happen at noon. If the union employees staged a walkout he would be home late from work tonight. I put KYW on after I hung up from that phone call, so I'd know right away if anything happened. But noon was 17 minutes ago and there's still nothing being mentioned on the radio about Verizon. Maybe they'll stay on the job for the rest of the day, I hope.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Well, yesterday's outing proved only partly successful. Mark and I waited for a friend, Jim, to meet us at Front and Chestnut streets, about a block from Penn's Landing. Jim was taking a bus from Roxborough (the northwest part of the city) and one of its stops is at the corner where Mark and I were waiting.

Jim was a bit late, partly due to SEPTA and partly due to his needing to make an unexpected stop prior to meeting us. Eventually, he did arrive... and when we walked to Penn's Landing, instead of a German festival, all we saw was a sign that read, "The German Summerfest has been cancelled. Sorry for any inconvenience". GRRR... Good thing we arrived when we did, though. There were two older ladies who also had come for the festival, and they were searching unsuccessfully for a pay phone to notify a third friend that the festival was cancelled. Mark was able to lend them his cell phone to try and make the call, but it was too late. There was no answer at the number, so we're guessing that the third lady was on her way already. Drat, for her sake.

By the way, I had to take a picture of Hat Trick looking at the sign, since that's as close as he was going to get to attending a festival.

Mark, Jim, and I wound up eating at an indian restaurant called Shivnanda, which is on the first floor of a building where I had a temp assignment last year. Mark ordered a chicken kebob (tikka-kebab musulini)... they accidentally gave him lamb but he liked it anyway. Jim liked part of his order, the samosa, but wasn't too fond of the main dish (palak-paneer, its main components were spinach and cheese) and ordered some soup. I, on the other hand, have had palak-paneer before at a lunch buffet that includes Indian food, but since that place doesn't label their food, I had no idea what the dish was called until yesterday. It turns out that I love the stuff. My main order was called "maharaja kofta". I was flying kind of blind because I'm not extremely familiar with Indian food; I only know that what I've had so far, I've liked. But the ingredients on the menu looked promising (Indian cheese, spinach, tomatoes, cashews, raisins, and spices), so I ordered it. Now I know that there's yet another Indian dish that I like. It just goes to prove that you can order things you've never seen before, and end up really enjoying the meal. :o)

It turned into a nice outing (at least my taste buds thought so), even if it was nothing that we originally expected it to be. I just hope that the next time we head for a festival at Penn's Landing -- because they have various events just about every weekend during the summer -- they actually cooperate with us by HOLDING the festival in the first place. ;o)

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Well, midnight has come and gone, and your guess is as good as mine if Verizon is on strike. Mark was expecting his supervisor to call late on Saturday night with information, but he hasn't called yet and it's now 1:17 in the morning.

If there is a strike, Mark has to arrive at work at 5(!!!!) o'clock in the morning on Monday. UGH. They're trying to get the management (who are non-union) into the building before the picket lines start forming and the entrances become blocked. Eventually a court injunction would arrive so that the people who work in the building would be allowed in, but that takes time.

If there is a strike, Mark will be working 12-hour days, six days per week until it's over. Whew.

That's why I'm glad Mark and I are doing some things together this weekend. For starters, we went to the Phillies doubleheader tonight. San Diego won the first game, the Phillies won the second. Highlights included Hat Trick's posing for a picture with the Wolf Pack (the fan group that supports our pitcher Randy Wolf and has been to every home game where he's pitched), and a sighting of a rainbow that I got some pics of, too.

This is "Wacky Promotions Weekend" at the Vet, and during the break between games, three people were shot out of cannons. They were a father and his son and daughter. They're all nuts, lol. I got MPEG files of all three of them; unfortunately, I haven't got a convenient place to upload MPEG files online right now, so I can't provide a link to them. Yet. Give me time. ;o)

Tomorrow (well, later today, actually), if the weather holds out, we want to go to the German Festival at Penn's Landing. Hat Trick will like that, I'm sure. ;o)