Hey, Honey!

It’s pathetic, really, but I still get warm fuzzies thinking about the time I called Carole from a crowded downtown Seattle coffee shop (one with a green and white mermaid logo) and loudly exclaimed “Hey, honey, they have Starbucks here in Seattle too!

You could have heard a pin drop anytime in the next ten seconds. It was just perfect.

Good times.

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Performance Review

I’ve worked for my current employer for almost 19 years. In that time, I’ve been through a vast swamp of performance review systems. You name it, we’ve probably tried it, from picking three co-workers to review you, to reviewing yourself and having your manager go over the review with you, to reaching into a bag of randomly selected biting crustaceans and … well, no, we haven’t tried that one.


This year’s system is a bit less onerous than most. Rather than pointlessly setting goals for 2017 that are dead on arrival due to the unpredictable and ever-changing nature of my specific job, mostly I was asked to look back on 2016 and say that I worked hard, made a difference, reflected corporate values, and so forth.

Since I work really, really hard all year and take my job very seriously, there’s never really been much difficulty coming up with a list of all the stuff I did all year to make customers count, embrace change, promote innovation, and so forth… and generally each year my manager ends whatever subsequent discussion takes place with some form of “there’s not much for me to say, really, except ‘attaboy’.”

I just submitted the final version of this year’s review and got asked to complete a quick little survey from Corporate asking how much I liked the current process, did it make a difference, etcetera, etcetera. It ended with “Describe your opinion of the process in three words.”

Naturally, I put down:

  • “Zesty”
  • “Empowering”
  • “Pellucid”

I’m sure they’ll take my opinion under advisement as they begin to put together what system we’ll use next year.

I’m hoping for something that involves cheese.

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The Banality of Hawaii

Carole (aka Squeaky) and I are leaving for vacation in a couple of weeks. We’re heading to Hawaii, for a cruise that starts in Honolulu but spends a couple of days at Maui, Hawaii, and Kauai. The cruise is six nights and seven days, and we’ll be staying on Waikiki Beach for three days both before and after.

This is only our third cruise ever — we’re not really cruisy people. But the idea of carrying our hotel with us and visiting more than one island in this, our first trip to Hawaii, kind of appeals.

The thing that my thoughts keep coming back to, though, is the oddness of visiting a location that to me, will be rather exotic (I’ve been to 49 states, some Caribbean islands, and the UK and France, but never to Hawaii) but to others is a place they’ve often visited or, in some cases, they used to live in.

To me, it’s exotic. To them, it’s like reading about someone’s vacation to Parsippany, NJ. In other words, not that exciting, and what we’ll think of as “super cool and neat” they’ll think of as “they did THAT? When ___ was ten minutes away and much neater?”

I get the impression that I’m among the last of my friends to go to Hawaii, which I’m sure isn’t the case, but given how many people I’ve seen checking in from there, I know I’m not the first.

Does it sound like I think it’s not going to be as much fun to go someplace that everyone else has been?

I guess I might be conveying that impression. But in actuality, I’m not jealous that I’m only now going there when everyone else considers a Hawaii trip old hat; I’m just acutely sheepish about how pedestrian my “Once In A Lifetime” Big Hawaii Vacation is going to seem to some people.

(That’s me, always attempting to look at myself from another person’s point of view and automatically assuming that they’ll deem me hyper-lame.)

Ah, well. If my vacation photos result in massive ho-hums from all and sundry, I can always try to go someplace more interesting next time.

Maybe Tulsa.

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Strangeness at Night

Last night I woke up around 2:30 am, sitting upright in bed, with the light on, having been dreaming of trying to sign someone up for Vermont Health Connect. I think I was trying to sign my cat Starlight up for health insurance, only she already has it, so that’s okay.

I knew it would happen sometime. I’ve been doing this (signing people up for insurance, not somnambulating) forty hours a week for I guess about 3 months now. That stuff gets into your head.

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Strangers at a bar

“So there I was, working construction, doing site cleanup work where a new office tower was going up, okay?

“And I came across this little bottle buried in the mud. Nothing special to look at. Little brown bottle with a cork in. Pretty well buried when I came across it. Who knows how long it’d been down there?”

I nodded at the rough, heavyset guy in jeans and a dirty Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt on the next barstool who’d decided, lacking any other obvious targets in the all-but-deserted bar, to honor me with his life’s story. Since he hadn’t yet tried to wheedle a drink out of me, I let it go. It could’ve been worse. I’ve known a lot of rambling drunks; he could’ve been drooling, or worse, drooling on me.

“So I pulled the cork out. Not like I expected anything to be in it, but someone’d taken pains to jam the cork in there pretty good, so I figured something had to be in there.”

I nodded, following him so far. “You weren’t worried that it might have been something bad? Poison? Something toxic?”

He glowered down at his beer. “Buddy, I wish I’d been so lucky.”

“No, what was inside was like outta one of those movies or fairy tales. Some sparkly, shiny smoke, and then a little guy about six inches tall dressed in pajamas and wearing a little helmet. Shiny little gold helmet. Little orangey-yellow guy. Damndest thing you ever saw.”

I turned and stared irritably at him, wondering where this was going. This was a bit outside your normal late-night drunken bar rambling gibberish, although to be honest, I guessed I owed him a point for originality, if nothing else. “An actual genie? Came right out of a little bottle you found in the mud?”

“I guess. Only this genie didn’t give me any three wishes or nothin’ like that. He said thank you, and he said that as a reward for freein’ him he’d give me all the talents and abilities of the next seven people to walk by on the street.”

Frowning at the strange direction this odd story had taken, I motioned him to go on.

“So he did. Only the first six guys to come by were all accountants from the same company down the street, all heading out to lunch after a hard morning doing revenue projections and audits and tax preparation and so on and so on.” He made little “blah blah” motions with one hand while gripping his beer with the other.

For a moment there he sounded like he was channeling one of those guys you meet at Rotary who hangs on your lapels wanting to talk investments and tax preparation. Not what you’d expect, looking at him. Nodding, I said “And the seventh?”

“He was a mortician.”

“A mortician?”

“Yeah. An undertaker. A funeral director. One of them guys.”

“So now…?”

“Yeah, so now I’m sitting here, never done anything but construction and demolition in my life, an’ I’ve got my head crammed full of every damn number-crunching concept invented since Adam ‘n’ Eve got kicked out of the garden, with no sort of professional documentation nohow. I know how to do all that stuff, but who’s gonna pay me to do it?”

I had to agree he had a point.

He glared back down at his beer. “But the worst part is I keep looking at people and imagining what they’d look like stretched out all naked on the embalming table.”

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The Weirdo On The Plane

As someone who spends a lot of time on aircraft (122 flights in 2016), I’ve gotten a lot of experience sitting in a semi-comfortable chair and staring blankly off into space.

I take a book along on trips and of course I’ve got my Nexus tablet, which doubles as a ebook reader, if I want to read anything I’ve downloaded. Often, though, neither gets any use. I hop on the plane, stow my backpack in the overhead, take a seat, and either go straight to sleep or I adopt a ten thousand foot stare that leaves me almost entirely unaware of what’s going on around me.

Yesterday we’d been airborne for about five minutes before I went “Oh. We took off.”

I think this behavior sort of creeps people out. You know how cats sometimes like to sit staring worriedly at something only they can see? I do that sometimes too, with much the same result on the people around me.

Friday night I found myself in seat 4B on a regional jet on the way home from Chicago to Burlington. I wasn’t at all sleepy and I didn’t really feel like reading, so for some reason I found myself staring fixedly upwards toward a light on the ceiling of the cabin, completely lost in thought.

The light wasn’t on — the cabin had been darkened for evening travel and most people weren’t using their individual reading lamps. The light was in no way remarkable. But I stared right at it, like a cobra trying to hypnotize its prey, for so long that eventually it freaked out the flight attendant. He came back and somewhat timidly asked me if there was some problem with the cabin ceiling; he even poked the panel with the light in case it was loose or something.

I replied “No, no, I was just staring off into space.” Then went right back to looking at the ceiling.

He stood there and looked worried for a moment, then turned and went back to his jumpseat, glancing back over his shoulder at me a couple times in case I gathered myself to spring (or something).

I don’t know exactly what that scores on the “Weirdo On The Plane” index, but I bet it’s pretty good.

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Bidding Farewell to the Circus

Parenthetically, I won’t miss the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey circus.

I believe I last went to a circus in Blacksburg in 1978 or so. I have the vague idea that they set up behind Gables Shopping Center, but won’t swear to it.

In any event, despite the tradition of the circus, I’m much more interested in animal protection… myopically, since I still continue to eat at McDonald’s now and then and don’t take pains to investigate the source of the groceries and clothing I buy.

I guess there’s always Circ du Soleil when you want acrobats and trapeze artists and so on. On the other hand, I don’t see a huge tragedy in the elimination of clowns as a national menace. Silver lining in every cloud, and all that.

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