Friday, September 30, 2016

Working for a Living

Today marks the end of my third week at a new job. After doing a little of this, a little of that, a bit more of this and then my own thing for a while, I stepped back into the world of working stiffs. I went cold turkey from “make my own hours” to “chained to a desk” and it’s been a transition, to be sure. But there are perks such as “having other adults to talk to” and “getting paid regularly.”  

My new job? Thanks for asking. I now man the front desk at a busy pediatricians’ office. I can’t tell you why, but it’s always been on my job “bucket list” and I decided this was the year to mark that bad boy off. You don’t have a job bucket list? Huh. I’ve had one for as long as I can remember. Let’s see. 

One stop shopping for small appliances, jewelry and home decor.

There was a local department store in Nashville called Service Merchandise. It went out of business years ago, but even if it hadn’t, Amazon would have been its undoing. I shopped there as a child because that’s where you went for everything from a new watch to a new toaster or a new piece of luggage. I thought it was a fun place, so that was where I went my senior year of high school to get my first job. I quit when, after just a few months of working there, I asked off for Halloween so I could go to a party and was denied.

100% synthetic, 0% comfort.

I always wanted to work outside, perhaps as a life guard or roller coaster operator. So, the summer after my freshman year of college, I applied for employment at the now extinct Nashville amusement park, Opryland. I thought I might roll in and be appointed to work the flume zoom or the Wabash Cannonball. Ha. I was handed a starched-within-an-inch-of-its-life 100% polyester sailor uniform and instructed to report to Kid Kountry, the small rides area designed for kids five and under. It was Hell right here on Earth. Each morning began with doing a sweep of each of the rides and attractions to look for snakes that could and did sneak into these areas overnight. Then I worked eight-10 grueling hours breaking up fights, reuniting lost kids with their anxious parents, getting kicked in the shins, called a “poopy head” when I insisted they wait their turn, and occasionally getting puked on. The shift ended by pulling a rope that hoisted all of the balls in the ball pit up into a net, allowing the night crew to hose out the bottom of the ball pit. You have not seen horrors the likes of which lurk in the bottom of a ball pit at an amusement park. I’m scarred from what I saw and, because of this, have never been in one since. There was “ball pit gravy," which consisted of leftover rinse water from the night before, dew, spittle, kid pee, and the occasional spilled drink. Also found in the ball pit:  shoes, socks, shirts, diapers, hats, sunglasses, loose change, paper money, a camera, park maps, various food items, watches, keys, oh, and snakes. After a week, I put in for a transfer to another attraction. I was assured my paperwork would be processed and I would be notified when an opening became available. I spent the entire summer in Kid Kountry. It was a long summer.

Party 101

Next on the job bucket list was “work at a party supply store.” After the debacle of working at Opryland, something cool, indoors and air conditioned seemed like the next logical move. Now in college in Memphis, I applied at a new party supply store that opened close to campus, Party Headquarters. My boss was high all the time and was eventually fired when they caught him in the back eating wedding favor jordan almonds as fast as he could. When the phone rang, we had to answer, “Thank you for calling Party Headquarters, where every day is a party. This is party animal, Valerie. How can I help you get your party started?” It was a lot. A new store came to town and opened up just across the strip mall from Party Headquarters. They sold clothing that was cute, fashionable and reasonably priced. I spent most of my paychecks at this place called “Old Navy.”

Once out of college, I ticked off other roles and jobs from my list:

  • answer phones at a busy switchboard
  • graphic design
  • work for an ad agency (Bonus points for having strategic meetings like Darrin Stephens and Larry Tate. Bonus points for you if you know who these people are.)
  • work for PR firm
  • work in glamorous world of marketing

Any day ending in "Y" is a day to have cake and celebrate.

And then some items on my list were very specific:

  • work at a place where you have to wear a lanyard/security badge and swipe it to get in places

Note:  not all it was cracked up to be. Totally stunk when you got to work and realized you’d left your badge at home or sitting on your desk on the other side of the security checkpoint.

  • work at a place that has a cafeteria (or gym)

Note:  I worked at a place that had both. They also offered free/all you wanted snacks & soft drinks, had Friday lunches, and had someone who would pick up and deliver dry cleaning right to your office. The down side? They expected you to work a 60-hour week without complaint and that was a typical week. Who needs to see their family? That’s what picture frames are for.

  • work for a non-profit

Note:  Learned quickly that “non-profit” is just a tax designation and that non-profits are very much about the profit

So, as you can see, my resume is varied and comprehensive. I decided the next item I would tackle would be “work in a busy doctor’s office.” Yes, it surprised me as much as it did you because I am a self-described germaphobe and, on top of that, I don’t really like kids, other than my own. And she’ll tell you, there are days I’m not crazy about her. But I’ve sat in various doctors’ offices and watched them take calls and make appointments and play with patient charts with the stickers for the first three letters of the patient’s last name, and then talk about which pharmaceutical rep was coming with lunch today and I thought it seemed fun. 

Now, here I am at the two-week mark working in a pediatrician’s office. I don’t know about fun but I’ve really enjoyed my time so far. It’s busy. From the time we open to the time I walk out, I don’t have a lot of free time. In fact, there are days I get home and think, “I haven’t eaten or gone to the bathroom today.” It’s like that. But the good thing I’ve already learned? There’s no work to take home. There’s nothing to sit up working on after everyone else is in bed. There’s no “get up early to prepare for the next day.” I go in, I work hard while I’m there, and then I come home. It’s that easy. And that, my friends, is money in the bank.

Stay tuned for more Adventures from a Pediatrician’s Office. Until then, take your vitamins, wash your hands, and get your flu shot if you haven’t done so yet.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Doggone Dumb

I love animals, especially dogs. If you know me at all, you know my motto is “I tolerate people; I adore dogs.” I have actually swerved while driving to avoid a dog or squirrel only to notice afterwards that there was a pedestrian whom I did not register being there at all. I sacrifice decent sleep and comfort on a nightly basis so my pups have room to stretch out. My girls eat breakfast and dinner before I do. I’ve spent more on a dog sweater than I have on a people sweater for myself.

With all this said, I’m getting ready to say something seemingly uncharacteristic:

Dogs don’t need to be everywhere, all the time.

There, I said it. Your pooch is not an accessory. Now, time and schedule and weather permitting, I’ll load up one or both of our girls to make the drive to school in the morning or afternoon, provided it’s going to be a quick, non-stop flight. They love to get out and ride and see things and sniff things. But I’m seeing an epidemic of people with dogs in all kinds of wildly inappropriate places and I wonder “what are you thinking?”

Here are a few recent examples:

1.  At school.
There are only a couple of Moms who do this, but they’re repeat offenders. If it was a “Fido has been sick and I’m keeping an eye on him” situation, I’d be all over that, offering to make canine-friendly chicken soup. But it’s not because it happens regularly. What it does come across as is “I’m an introvert and this furry crutch I’m holding will help me in conversation.” Totally fair, coming from this world-renowned introvert. But still, not OK. Here’s my issue with it:  not everyone likes dogs. I know, I don’t get it and trust me, I trust dogs a lot more than people. But it’s the truth. As a fairly empathetic person, I realize that there are people out there with fears and allergies and just general wariness and ambivalence that I couldn’t and shouldn’t try to help them overcome by forcing my dog into their inner circle.

2.  At sporting events.
So your kid is playing a double header soccer game Saturday and you’ll be at the ball park from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon on a Saturday in August? For some people, this means dragging a drooling, panting dog all over God’s green earth, desperately seeking shade and water. Not to mention, anywhere where there will be a ton of small children is not a good environment for any dog, no matter how well trained or behaved. I’ve never met a dog that loved seven different short people coming up, surrounding it, shrieking in their little kid voices and touching him all over. It makes the dog nervous and a nervous dog is never good.

3.  In the car.  
Of course, most of us know not to leave our precious pups in the car on crazy hot days. And if you don’t, I promise I’ll be more than happy to break your window if I stand there and watch your dog suffer more than 10 minutes on a blistering hot day. But what about the other, not-crazy-hot days? Is it fair to drag your pup along with you as you run a day’s worth of errands?

4.  Chained in the yard. All. The. Time.  
We have one of these in our neighborhood and it breaks my heart. Especially as I’m giving my pups extra snuggle time and asking them which treat they’re in the mood for while hearing plaintiff cries down the street from a dog who just wants some attention, good or bad. I’ve never understood why people get a dog when they don’t seem “all in.” Now, I know not everyone is willing to share their lives inhales/exhales with their pets as I do and that’s fine. But what is the point of having a dog chained up in the far back corner of your yard? You might have wanted a pet but perhaps a goldfish or plush, stuffed animal would have been a better option.

5.  As a photo prop.
This is my last one for today. Again, I adore dogs. I truly do. But I respect them, too. Regardless of how I treat and speak to mine, I know deep down they’re not human. They’re animals. And because of this, there is a tiny part of them that is unpredictable. And that’s why I cringe every time I see a photo like this:

It’s not cute. It’s not wise. It’s selfish and not thought out well by the new parents who are probably stumbling around in a sleep-deprived stupor.

Now, in closing, I’ll offer some good suggestions for places to take your pet:

1. Find a dog park nearby. Take a leash, a ball, a collapsible bowl and a bottle of water. Adhere to the posted rules, especially regarding size.

2.  Go on a picnic. Find a secluded, shady spot somewhere just off the main drag of a park. Bring a tether or tie out so Fido can roam further than a leash and explore the surroundings.

3.  Go for a drive, but don’t get out. Roll the windows down as low as you’re comfortable doing and let them soak up the smells out there. You get bonus points for driving by the vet, but not stopping.

4.  Visit a DIY dog bath and get Scruffy, well, less scruffy. They give you all the supplies you need and you walk away with a healthy back and a clean bathtub at home.

5.  Schedule a play date with a friend’s or neighbor’s pooch. Make sure ahead of time that their temperaments are compatible but social interaction is just as important in canines as it is with your other kids.