Jul 08

Okay, so the boy and I signed up for summer camp again this summer.  We missed last year due to our whole family going on a cruise and me not being a doctor or a lawyer or some other rich dude who can afford all kinds of frivolous vacation expenses.   In the past, the boy and I have attended Medicine Mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Camp Laramie Peak in Wyoming.  This summer, the troop had decided to go back to Camp Laramie Peak (CLP).  At first, I was a little hesitant, because last time we went wasn’t exactly a stellar, a-plus experience.  In fact, I blogged about it.

Now, I have written a couple of lengthy posts about scouting.  They are some of my most-“Googled” posts.   I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I love scouting.  I love the leaders, I love the kids, I love what we are trying to instill in the young men.  Between cub scouts and boy scouts, I have been an adult volunteer for around 8 years (and the last two years, I have been involved in both cubs and boy scouts).  Let’s remember that I am a cynical smart-ass and I make fun of stuff (myself included) whenever I write.  Every time I poke fun at BSA, I get some militant buttmunch who comments about what a horrible example I am, how I should quit scouting and pull my kids out, and how I’m just an all-around jerk with no business posting anything negative about scouting online.  To those with no sense of humor about scouting, please leave now.  I think you may have a more pleasant experience here.

So, I somewhat reluctantly agree to follow the troop to CLP to help with the scouts.  A short time before we’re ready to embark on this journey, the Scout Master approaches me.  He tells me that he has some work obligations, and because I have been with the troop for awhile, he wants me to serve as acting Scout Master while we are at CLP.

Crap.

Responsibility, paperwork, having to be the adult that wakes up early enough to get the boys up…

sigh

“I’d be honored,” I told him, and I actually think I felt my nose grow slightly longer.

I am not the kind of person who handles stress very well.  I don’t have a high-paying job with with a large amount of advancement opportunity because those kinds of jobs usually involve a large amount of stress.  If I deal with an upset customer on the phone, I usually handle it pretty well on the surface.  I can usually make the customer happy.  However, I have the knowledge that I will ultimately die of a massive heart attack while on the phone with one of these people because I get so stressed while talking to them.  Either an upset customer — or having to deal with employees under my direct command and their issues… management material I ain’t…  So, the inherent stress involved with being directly responsible for 20 scouts is not something I am really looking forward too, but I can’t imagine another leader that I am sure all of the boys of all ages will respond well to.  Kids like me (probably because I haven’t really grown up yet myself… going to have to do that one of these days).  Besides, there are a lot of other adults going with the troop, and I know there are a few of them who are going to be great assets with the boys.

Finally, camp time arrives and we load up the cars and take off.  CLP is about 2 1/2 hours from Scottsbluff and the drive goes by quickly.  My car consists of my boy and two other scouts that are my boys age.  I’ll just call those boys Mada and Neb to protect their identities.  I have been dealing with these scouts for years now and we all get along splendidly.  I always crank up the stereo and blast some tunes when I have a car full of scouts.  They usually enjoy it.  On this trip, I got the Mumford and Sons blaring and I hear giggles from the backseat.

“What’s so funny?” I ask.

“What’s this crap?” says Neb.

“Yeah,” says Mada.  “Is this folk country or something?”

“It’s… it’s Mumford and Sons,” I say.  “It’s good stuff.”

“It’s Garbage and Sons,” says Neb.  “It sucks.”

I turn the stereo down, blinking back tears, and proceed onwards toward CLP.  It’s going to be a long week…

Our actual Scout Master did an excellent job of preparing all of the paperwork for check-in at camp, which made checking in once we arrived a snap.  We were guided through the camp to our campsite.  Every time we approached a sight, I could hear scouts mumbling, “this must be it,” or “maybe it’s this one.”  Needless to say, the sites we passed weren’t “it” or “this one.”  Our campsite was Pawnee, and it was about as far as you can get from the main activities of camp… it was always an uphill walk to get there.  I think our Scout Master requested a site on the outskirts of camp… because I think our Scout Master may actually be satan.  Old fat guys with high blood pressure and weak wills are not meant to walk long distances uphill — several times every day — for a week.

So we get settled in and start our camp schedule.  Up at 6am, flags at 7:45am, breakfast at 8am, merit badges at 9am… etc, etc, etc. Life at camp is supposed to be pretty predictable.   And for the most part, it was.  I had a really good group of scouts and parents.  Everyone seemed to get along.  I was very proud of the boys of all ages.  The older scouts included the younger scouts in most of their activities and fun was had by all.

I was duly impressed with the staff at CLP.  The food, although pretty much like a school lunch and very high in carbs (although not a single bagel was to be found :) ), was plentiful and none of it sucked (although I did hear some of the health freaks from Colorado make complaints like “I never eat like this — so much processed food — oh my — I’ll have to eat salad for a week after I get back to straighten out my digestive system…”, thing is, there was a salad bar served with every lunch and supper, but there was no gourmet lettuce on the bar, and Coloradans like to make themselves sound healthier than they really are…).   The counselors were all relatively knowledgeable and seemed to enjoy what they were doing.  The staff was, for the most part, friendly and willing to answer questions.  In other words, CLP this time around was a complete turn-around from when we attended in 2010.

One of the things I always find amusing at every boy scout camp I’ve been to with the troop is, no matter which camp we go to, there is always at least one cute girl serving on the staff who becomes a topic of discussion amongst the scouts.  We try to get the boys away from the normal things of this world and help them get closer to nature and developing outdoor skills, and they end up infatuating over girls, which is what a lot of them do as a normal thing in regular life.  At CLP, there were “the twins”.  The twins were two attractive, outdoorsy young women who most of the boys would go out of their way to get a gander at.  Mada in particular (one of the scouts who rode to camp with me) became very fond of the twins.  I don’t think Mada actually talked to either of the twins, but I think he had visions of dating one — if not both — of them at some point in the near future.

The week progressed nicely.  All of the scouts seemed to handle being away from home just fine, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.  Some of the boys weren’t showering quite as often as my nose would have liked, but that is just part of a week-long camp with boys.  By the time Thursday rolled around, everyone was in high spirits.  Thursday was the last day for the boys to complete any merit badges they were working on.  Friday, we had planned on taking the troop on a hike up the side of Black Mountain to the fire lookout post at the top.  It’s like a 3 mile hike uphill and it tests the younger scouts endurance.  By the time the scouts hike up, check out the awesome views from the lookout post, and stumble back down, everyone gets a good night sleep before packing up camp and heading home on Saturday.
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Spending a summer living here would be pretty cool...

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Now, we had heard that there was a forest fire in the area, but it was a long way from camp and was in no way a threat to us.  We all went about our scheduled business on Thursday.  The camp director informed us that his wife had given birth to their son the previous evening and he would be going to spend time with the newest member of his family.  He turned the reins of the camp over to one of the other staffers, and no one doubted her ability to get us through the remaining two days.

A couple of older scouts had no scheduled activities, so they decided to take a hike up Black Mountain just to say they did it twice at one camp.  Upon their return, they informed us that a new fire had started from a recent lightening strike and it may pose a threat to CLP.  Throughout the day, we were given bits and pieces of information about the nearby fire, and the stream of smoke pouring over Black Mountain grew in intensity throughout the day.  By evening, there was speculation that there may be an evacuation of the camp… just as a precaution.

Beside the Pawnee campsite, there was a hill that we figured would provide us with a cool view of the smoke coming over the mounatin.  All of the scouts and leaders took a short hike up the hill and were amazed by the ominous black cloud  that rolled right over the fire lookout at the top of the mountain.
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CLP Evacuation Smoke 2012

You can see a touch of the actual blue sky in the center. All of the dark is smoke coming over the mountain.

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Although the sky was filled with smoke, no one seemed to concerned.  You really couldn’t even smell the smoke, and the fire seemed so far away… until the sun went down.  As what little light that could be seen in the sky disappeared, the entire horizon over the top of the mountain glowed orange.  I didn’t get any pictures of the orange glow because, at this point, I am starting to freak out a little.

We have the entire troop return to the camp site.  By this time, it’s almost 10:00 pm and 10:00 is supposed to be lights out — everyone in their tents and down for the night.  Well, because of the eeriness of that orange glow, one of the other adults and I decide we’re going to make the long hike downhill to the office to see what the plans are.  We get to the dining hall and one of the staffers stops us.

“Can I help you?” she asks.

“Well, it’s lights-out and we were wondering if we should have the boys go to bed or what because the orange glow on the ridge is kind of freaky and I’d hate to have them get all comfortable just to wake them up to tell them we’re evacuating and that would probably freak them out more than if they just stayed up and …” I was settling well into freak-out mode before she stopped me.

“Listen,” the staffer said, “if and when… when (she looked me straight in the eyes)… we call for an evacuation, the fire bells will sound.  Keep the boys up and listen for the bells. ”

“Okeedokee,” I said, and we started the exhausting hike back up the hill.  We made it about 50 yards before another adult leader from another troop came running by.

“Did you hear?” he shouted.  “They are going to evacuate!  Get your boys ready to meet by the dining hall!”

Then he was gone.

Crap.

The other leader and I started to run — uphill — to our site.  The other leader, being in much better shape than me (it doesn’t take much) soon had the lead.

“Screw… this…,” I barely was able to emit between grasps of breath. “I’m… calling… someone…”

The other adult kept running while I pulled out my cell phone and dialed one of the leaders back at out campsite.  The smell of smoke that had been mysteriously absent earlier in the evening started to fill my nostrils.

“Yeah?” answered the adult back at camp.

“They… are… going… to… evacuate…” I stammered.

“What?” said the adult on the other end of the call.

I took a few deep breaths to try to catch mine, and I repeated the evacuation edict.

“What do you want us to do?”

Just then, the fire bells started ringing.

“Line all… line all… of… the boys… up…,” I stuttered while still trying to catch my breath, “and… wait… for… me…”

“Will do,” and the phone went dead.

I continued my brisk jog up the hill toward our campsite at the edge of the universe thinking about how much the real scout master must hate me for having chosen a site sooo far  from everything.  As I ran, I could feel my heart trying to beat its way out of my chest as my head felt like there was a balloon being inflated inside.

“I’m going to fall over dead of a stroke right here on this stinking trail,” I thought to myself… because talking to myself would have used too much precious breath, ” while I’m supposed to be helping a bunch of scouts to safety…”

When I finally stumbled into the campsite, the smoke was hanging heavy in the air, but there was a row of scouts and adults  diligently lined up in a single file line, ready to head out for the evacuation instructions.

“Alright, guys, ” I said as calmly as I could, “they are going to have us leave camp early because of the fire.  We are in no danger, they are just being overly cautious, which is a good thing, but I don’t want anyone to worry.  We are all going to be just fine, so stay calm and let’s make sure ever one is here.”

From  a nearby campsite, I could hear another adult leader screaming at his scouts, “Would you guys hurry up… there’s a fire coming and we need to meet at the dining hall to find out what we need to do to get out of here… HURRY UP… DO YOU ALL WANT TO DIE!!!

I glanced at my scouts to see if they had overheard the other adult with the other troop — their faces all remained calm, so I couldn’t tell.

“We don’t need to overreact,” I tried to reassure them as that balloon in my head grew a couple of inches in size.   I counted the scouts… and came up with 19.

“Nineteen,” I said, calmly at first.  “There are only nineteen scouts here.  We’re supposed to have twenty.  Who are we missing?”

Everyone looked at one another and then back at me with blank faces.

“There are only nineteen scouts here… and we are supposed to have twenty.  NINETEEN IS NOT TWENTY… WHY ARE THERE ONLY NINETEEN INSTEAD OF TWENTY… WHO IS MISSING?”  The balloon in my skull felt like the Good Year blimp and my vision started to go all kinds of wacky, while I’m sure that my voice sounded like that of an 11-year-old girl.

One of the younger scouts at the front of the line looked at me and calmly stated, “Don’t you have a roster?”

Roster?  Why yes, we had a roster.  In fact, they made us have three copies of that stinking roster and I remembered thinking that was nothing more than overkill: two copies to the camp and one for the campsite.

We rounded up the roster and I performed roll call.  When we I got to the name that didn’t elicit a “here”, a tent was checked and a sleeping scout was roused.  Now we had twenty scouts and we headed to the dining hall for further instructions… all the way back down the hill.

A small group of leaders were taken inside the dining hall while the staff led the remaining adults and the scouts in some rousing campfire songs to keep their minds preoccupied.  The fill-in camp director calmly gave us our evacuation instructions, which consisted of tearing down our campsites, getting everyone to their rides, and getting everyone calmly and orderly the hell out of Dodge.  We were all to meet at Safeway in Wheatland, WY to make sure that everyone had made it out.  There would be available locations for us to safely sleep in Wheatland once we arrived.

We went back outside and calmly gathered our troops and headed all the way back uphill to our campsite, which we promptly tore down and loaded in our trailer.  Once loaded, we hiked all the way back down to the parking lot and loaded the boys in their appropriate vehicles.  As each vehicle left the parking lot, CLP staffers stopped the vehicle and took a tally of who was in the vehicle and compared it to one of the copies of the roster that we gave them.  We then started the caravan toward Wheatland.

For the journey to Wheatland, I chose Adele’s Set Fire to the Rain as our departure music.  No one seemed to mind.  As we traveled the dirt roads leading away from camp, the orange glow on the horizon gave us perspective on why we were leaving camp near midnight more than 24 hours early.  After Set Fire to the Rain, I selected Someone Like You as our evacuation music.  I noticed that Mada seemed especially upset during the Adele ballad of broken hearts and lost love.

We silently snaked along the roads all the way to the interstate and then into Wheatland.  We arrived in the Safeway parking lot only to stand in another line while our names were once again compared to yet another copy of the roster that we had turned into the camp.  We then assembled on the sidewalk next to Safeway and awaited further instructions.  Finally, one of the twins came over to us and let us know where the city park was where we could sleep for the night.  I glanced at Mada and saw the sorrow in his eyes as the twin walked away.

When we got back to the car, Neb whispered to me, “Please don’t play any more Adele.  It reminds Mada that he may never see the twins again.”

“Okay,” I smiled gently as I put the car in drive and cranked Adele on the stereo.

By the time we arrived at the park and got everyone either sleeping on tarps on the grass or in the cars, it was around 2:30am on Friday morning.  When we awoke a few hours later, we must have looked like a bunch of vagrants littering the park to all of the Wheatland residents walking around the park… and there were a lot of residents walking around the park.  Apparently, there isn’t much to do in Wheatland, WY but walk around the park on a Friday morning :)  We received some strange looks and a few questions… and a lot of “we’re glad you’re safe” and “welcome to Wheatland”.

The drive back to Scottsbluff was a cheery one.  Everyone seemed to be in a grand mood… even Mada.  I later asked him if he was still upset about his missed opportunity with the twins.

“It’s not a missed opportunity,” he explained,” just postponed.”

The whole ordeal from our adventure at CLP gave me some perspective on scouting and the important lessons scouting teaches:

  • “Be Prepared” is not only a motto, it is a way of life.
  • Rosters are good and you can never have too many.
  • Boy Scouts of America trains it’s people well.
  • Always have some Adele on hand.  You never know when it may come in useful.
  • Never — I repeat, NEVER — select a campsite as far away from everything as possible to try to teach some sort of lesson to the scouts.  You (or your designated substitute) may actually have their head explode (which I’m pretty sure mine almost did) in case of an emergency…
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Jun 01

I originally started writing this blog to capture my journey through turning 40 and the pain that journey entailed.  I wanted to, at least somewhat humorously, document how much turning 40 sucked.  Well, I turned 40, it did suck, and now here I am at 42 and things get no better.  People always say crap like, “Just give it time, things will get better,” or “At least things can’t get any worse.”  Well, I have come to a realization: people lie.  The only thing my future potentially holds is turning 50; I’m sure that will be a joy ride.

If you are down in the dumps or have a touch of the blues, people say ‘things will get better’ to prevent you from jumping off of a bridge or walking through the local Walmart with your hunting rifle a’blazing or something.  There is no real guarantee that anything is going to get any better.  In fact, things run a pretty substantial risk of getting worse.  Still, you should not jump off of a bridge or take out the entire population of a Walmart (believe it or not, there may actually a few good people in there).

When I start feeling down about the suckiness that life often dishes out, I blog.  It makes me feel better.  It might piss some people off, but then maybe they need to start their own blogs.  A small part of me has always thought that if I sit down and practice writing on a regular basis (i.e. blog), I might improve my writing skills to the level where I can actually making a living writing.

“Why would you want to make a living writing?” you may ask.

I don’t like dealing with people.  Any form of conflict stresses me out to a degree that I can barely function, and you cannot deal with people and avoid conflict.  What really amazes me are people who seem to thrive on conflict.  You know them, the people who can take a completely calm situation and turn it upside down by inserting a touch of drama… which always leads to conflict.  These people need to be locked away on their own island… hey, Total Drama Island!

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Good cartoon... I miss it :(

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I have not always been like this, but over the last several years, the degree of my anti-social thoughts and feelings has multiplied to the point that I really am pretty miserable a lot of the time.  This is mostly related to time when I am actually earning a living.  At home, and even in the occasional social setting, I am happy and pretty comfortable.  I have tried to think of a job where I would have very little personal contact with people in the realm of the method I use to earn an income, and writing seems to be an excellent choice.  There are additional choices, but none of them seem to fit quite right:

Methamphetamine Manufacturer

Oh sure, making the meth sounds like a great way to make a living.

*You can work at home.

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*You make a very high (no pun intended) return on investment.

*All of the simple instructions are easily accessible online.

*The only people you would have to deal with would be your dealers.

*I’ve seen some of the people who make this stuff… you don’t have to be a rocket scientist.

*You are making a product that is in demand and makes people feel better about their miserable lives.

However, if you really look at the consequences of making meth, you find that there may be some drawbacks.

*You can burn down your home.

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*Meth may make people feel better, but it has been discovered that it may not be good for them.

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*Apparently, making meth is illegal.

*The only people you would have to deal with would be your dealers.

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So… meth is out.

Pornography Actor

Okay, so you would have to deal with people, but I’m sure there wouldn’t be much conflict.  Even if there is conflict, who cares?.  Three words: female porn stars! This doesn’t sound like a bad choice…

And then reality sets in…

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CPAP

Yeah... no one is going to pay to see that...

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Crap!  I think the wife may have an issue with me being in porn… as would God.  Porn  is out.

Let’s see… what are some more jobs that would either be enjoyable or have limited conflict…

Bookstore Owner/Employee

I love books and used to think working in like a Barnes & Nobles would be a blast.  I mean, who in their right mind would be unhappy in a bookstore.  I used to think that way, until I saw some poor information booth employee at Barnes & Nobles get chewed up one side and down the other by some jerkwad who was bent out of shape because the store didn’t have a copy of some obscure philosophy book.  Jerkwad was upset that he would have to wait a couple of days for the store to get in a copy of Larry Fleitzerhinie’s Mans’ Walk on an Impartial Plain of Reason in the Twilight of the Mountains of Contradiction… or something like that.  “What kind of bookstore is this,” Jerkwad yelled.  Seriously… is there not a job on this planet where jerkwads are not present?  So the bookstore idea is out.

Working with Children

I used to work at Discovery Zone (a Chuck E. Cheese-like place with tubes and tunnels and ball pits and video games and birthday parties etc. etc. etc.).  One would think that a fun place like that would be reasonably stress free… but one would be wrong.  Parents become absolute imbeciles  when it comes to the happiness of their children… especially when they are paying for it.  And these imbeciles love to yell at whatever employee is closest to them when their child is for one second not having the ultimate in fun (like the kid just got reprimanded for biting another kid in the butt).

“You have no right to discipline my child, you minimum-wage piece of $@#&!”

Meanwhile, the parent of the child who was bitten is screaming, “You need to keep better control of the kids in here.  I should sue!”

Of course, neither of these parents say a word to each other… let’s just take it all out on the minimum-wage piece of $@#&!

So it is becoming relatively clear at this point that there is no such thing as an enjoyable job… or at least a job that is stress-free.  I understand that stress is supposed to be a good thing in small amounts because it helps us make decisions and whatnot… but I’m getting too old to deal with the stress crap anymore.  You know, if I had the money flowing in that I expected to be making in my “prime income-earning years”, the stress probably wouldn’t get to me as much.  Sounds silly, but it’s true.  If I was making six figures, I think my tolerance for all things stressful would be a little higher because I’d be able to put a sizable amount of that away for retirement and I’d have the knowledge that I would not have to deal with the crap forever.  However, given my current situation, I will be dealing with some sort of crap for every single workday for the rest of my natural life.

Go ahead, say it.  I know there is someone out there who is wanting to say it…

“Suck it up!  Quit your whining and do what you need to do!”

“Nobody ever said life was going to be fair, so shut your mouth and get busy working!”

“People who complain like you need to be thankful they aren’t a starving child in Africa!”

“If you worked as hard as you complained, you’d be making more money!”

“Quit feeling sorry for yourself!  We all gotta deal with it and you don’t hear us complaining, do you?”

Oh my… if I had a nickel for every time I was the recipient of one of these comments, I’d already be able to retire.  I have never stated that I am not thankful for what I have.  I just want more out of life than being a working stiff who begrudgingly works a job until the day he dies.  I think it is best stated by Drake in Nikki Minaj’s song Moment 4 Life:

I’m really tryna make it more than what it is, cuz everybody dies but not everybody lives!”

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Apparently, one needs to look like a pink blow-up doll to be living life right?!?

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Word!  … does anybody really say “word” anymore?  Yeah, probably not.  I’m kind of out of the loop.  I am 42, after all…

Good gravy – I’m quoting a Nikki Minaj song?!?   ‘Bout time to wrap this post up.

Anywho, writing is about the only job I can think of that would have the limited public contact necessary to eradicate a large portion of the work-related stress from my life.  Of course, I only enjoy writing as a way to bitch.  If I had to write how-to manuals or reviews of laundry soaps or something like that, writing would suck.

So, if anyone knows of a good writing gig that requires a whiny writer who loves to bitch, give me a shout out.  Word!

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Sep 28

Are you an optimist?  Do you like to look on the bright side?  Do you see the glass as half-full instead of half-empty?  Do you tend to tell friends who are going through hard times things like, “Don’t worry, things will get better,” or, “Smile, at least things can’t get any worse”?  I’m sorry, but things don’t always “get better,” and things can always “get worse.”  In fact, I recommend that if you are going through hard times, you should not only not expect things to get better… but plan on them getting worse!  I’m a pessimist, and I’m proud of it.

Being a pessimist isn’t always easy.  Sometimes, we too let a little bit of hope crowd its way into our daily lives.  However, once that hope is shattered by the lead bullet of reality (hollow-point-style), we are quickly reminded why we chose to be a pessimist in the first place.  That’s right, I wrote “chose”, because being a pessimist or an optimist is initially a choice.  Over the course of a lifetime, different experiences form our attitudes and opinions, and we can chose how to experience those… well… experiences.  My belief is that most of us start out pretty naturally optimistic.  Our parents take care of us.  We always have food in our tummies.  When we get a boo-boo, there is someone to kiss it.  Santa Claus is going to bring those presents.  The tooth fairy leaves some pocket change for our lost teeth. Our friends are going to be happy to see us after a summer apart when school starts in the fall.  When we make a mistake, an apology is all that it is going to take to make things all better again.  And then reality sets in.  Over the summer, maybe we put on a little weight and now have a belly (yes… I’m a fatty), or maybe we developed a case of acne.

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Rich as a kid...

Don't call me "pizza face"... that just makes me hungry for pizza!

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Our friends may still be happy to see us, but they are making fun of us as well.  The reunion with those friends we hadn’t seen over the summer isn’t as enjoyable as we had imagined it would be.  Or maybe we studied really hard for that final exam and believed we were going to ace it… and then we barely pass because the stupid teacher made it an essay test instead of multiple choice… and she didn’t care for the way we worded our answers… and our GPA plummeted.  Or maybe you ask that nice, pretty fellow-junior girl to the prom, and she tells you that she won’t go with you because she is expecting that tall, popular, good looking senior boy to ask her.  Or perhaps you apply for that dream job only to be told that you aren’t as outgoing as the person needed to fill the position… and that stupid optimism leads to more hurt and pain than necessary if we had just been more realistic in our expectations.  We slowly learn that pessimism is synonymous with avoiding pain.

My belief is that people who have more positive experiences in life tend to be more optimistic.  For people whom life isn’t quite as “fair”, pessimism is the road more often chosen.  There are those who would argue that optimists attract more positivity because of their optimism, but I would disagree.  I believe an optimist is more optimistic because, through physical appearance, family wealth, station in life, or plain and simple luck, they tend to have more positive experiences.  Of course this is not all inclusive, nor is it, in my strange little belief system, a steadfast rule.  There are people who have a picture-perfect life who tend to be pretty negative, and there are people whom life has completely screwed who are able to keep their chins up… but these are the exceptions and not the rules.    However, as a basic, general rule, I believe I am right.

It always kills me when the pretty person who comes from the upper-middle class family says stuff like, “If you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything,” or, “I don’t understand negative people…”  Of course you don’t understand negative people!  It’s easy to have sky-high self-esteem when the masses in general find you attractive and you and your family aren’t worrying about how they are going to pay for your college.  The world population in general treats people it finds attractive different than it treats the rest of us.  Don’t believe me?  A middle-aged, overweight woman in a muumuu is broken down on the side of the road.

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Pessimist

Please, won't someone help me? My belly has fallen and it can't get up!

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Along that same stretch of road, a twenty-something of better-than-average appearance wearing short-shorts is broken down as well.

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Optimist

Do you really think she is going to have any trouble getting free roadside assistance?

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Who do you think is going have more offers of help from passersby (and I’m guessing that this would be consistently higher for both men and women stopping).   Which one of these stranded ladies do you think tends to be more optimist… and rightfully so.  Nobody said that life was going to be fair… but it seems to be less unfair when you’re good looking (or so it seems from a relatively unattractive person’s viewpoint).

Let’s move on to success.  Who do you think is going to have a better shot at a career in sales: an attractive gentleman who has a aura of financial success

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Dude

Buy from me... because I obviously make a lot of money doing this.

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… or the poor, ugly schmoe who, based on appearances, you would be afraid to leave your small children in a room alone with.

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Perv

Hey... I got some candy in my left-front pocket. Why don't you reach in there and grab yourself a little piece!

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Which of these gentlemen do you believe would be more optimistic?  Of course it’s the rich-looking dude… that’s how life works.  This is why the wealthy constantly find themselves on the cover of the local newspaper.  There are articles about how this rich person is doing this, and that rich person is doing that.  One local rich guy is going to be on TV on the Speed channel because he is rich and has fancy cars.  Do you think this guy is more of an optimist or pessimist?  I, on the other hand, am not rich (well, I am “Rich”… I’m just not “rich”… stupid name).  I’ve never been on the cover of the local newspaper, even though I did write a relatively funny article about technology one time.  I work relatively hard and have what I consider to be a strong work ethic.  In my 42-years of life, I have never once called in sick to a job.  I’d have to be puking my guts out with a brain-searing fever to consider calling in sick.  Luckily, I don’t get sick very often.  When I do get sick, I have never felt that I was sick enough to not be of some value to my employer.  Want to know what my years of working through my mild illnesses has garnered me?  Absolutely NOTHING… except boiling my blood pressure whenever I have to take-up the slack of someone who has called in sick.  And the pessimism simmers below the surface all the while… eroding my hope and will into the darkest abyss.

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Dark Abyss

Don't know what this exactly has to do with the "darkest abyss," I just love this picture. Goth stuff is cool...

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Pessimism is a defense mechanism.  Like I stated earlier, we all pretty much start out as optimists.  It’s only after (usually) years of unmet expectations and irreconcilable defeats that we develop our pessimism.  When you expect a positive outcome, and that outcome is negative instead of positive, it hurts.  A few of these defeats are natural and build character… or something psychobabblish like that.  After a few, the pain involved with the disappointment of failure becomes more powerful than any character-building gains you may receive.  We begin to expect the worst.  In most situations, the pessimist is the voice of restraint (or, as I like to think of it, “reason”); the one who has thought-out all of the possible negative outcomes to any given process or procedure.  The pessimist isn’t prone to “dream”, because “dreams” in the past have meant painful disappointment.  To refrain from hope is to avoid the torture interwoven with that hope’s demise.  And guess what… every once in awhile, things don’t turn out as poorly as we expected they would… and that is a gracious surprise!  Like around 17-years ago when I asked my wife to marry me.  Do you think I had any hope that she would say yes?  Of course not!  I expected a resounding “NO WAY”, and then I would have been free to get on with my miserable life.  However, she surprised me by saying “yes” and it was a pleasant surprise indeed.  If I had actually been expecting it and she had said yes, it wouldn’t have been a surprise, nor would it have meant as much.  So, by avoiding the optimistic risk-taking that so often ends in failure and despair, we actually glean a gleam of happiness when our negativity is proven wrong.  It is better to be wrong and happy about being wrong than it is to be wrong amongst the shattered remains of a precious dream.  Pessimists don’t dream much.

The problem with being a pessimist is that we don’t dream much.  Sometimes, in order to find some sort of value in this life, we need to dream.  Often, after decades of having giving-up on all dreams, the pessimist forgets how to dream.  This isn’t necessarily bad, since dreams so often lead to disappointment.  However, at times, the pessimist may find that a dream is something he or she may want to work towards making come true.  We used to have the choice to be optimistic or pessimistic in any given situation.  After so much time passing with pessimism working so well for us, we forget how to be positive.  We forget how to believe in ourselves or others.  We still have a choice, but we have forgotten how or lost the tools necessary to follow a dream with a positive attitude.  We can’t see the glass as half-full.  We don’t really even see it as half-empty anymore.  Now, we believe that because the glass isn’t full to the brim, it’s not even worth drinking… and through our stubbornness we run the risk of dehydration.  The choice is still there, but the pain that used to be experienced by being an optimist has reached legendary proportions in our memories, and it is a very difficult choice to make.  So, we usually continue along in our pessimistic ways with the occasional happy surprise of being wrong.  And we hate optimists.

We are all equal in the eyes of God, and He loves us all equally as His children.  Sometimes, I’m sure, He has to wonder what exactly we are thinking when we do stupid stuff, but He still loves us.

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Jesus has a sense of humor
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However, in the eyes of man, the pretty people with the money rule and find themselves with the self-confidence necessary to be optimistic on a day-to-day basis… which leads to less misery in this realm.  I wish I had been born with good looks and money, but I’m afraid I posses neither.  My only hope for a touch of optimism while here on earth is the coming zombie apocalypse.  My hope is that when the zombies attack, they will go for the rich, pretty people first.  It’s only fair that those who have had people falling all over them because of their looks and wealth in this life also have the brain-starved zombies falling all over them during the apocalypse.

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Die, optimist!

Die, optimist... DIE!

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Then again… nobody said life was fair…

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Sep 13

So about six months ago, I go to our Quick Care clinic to get a referral for a sleep study.  I leave the appointment with the referral… and a brand-spanking new prescription for blood pressure medication.  Stinking people looking out for my health.  Anyway, so I had a six-month prescription, and that prescription was about to run out, so I figured that I better go see a real doctor about my blood pressure.

Now, when I went to Quick Care, my blood pressure was like 170/130.  I’ve been tracking it ever since, and although there are times when it spikes in the 160/110 range (which is pretty much any time I get pissed off… which, as you can imagine, is almost daily), it’s usually in the 140s/90s.  Still high, but better, no?

I make an appointment with an actual real doctor (figure I’m about at the age where I need a family physician).  The appointment comes, I go to see the doctor, and my stupid blood pressure is still high.  It’s 148/98.  So, the doctor wants to double the dosage of the lisinopril that I’m on, and I’m fine with that.  Aside from a constant nagging cough, I don’t really suffer any side-effects.  Then the doctor tells me that he wants to check my cholesterol.  Crap.  I have no doubt that my cholesterol is high, and I’m sure that I’m going to have to fork out money for a prescription for that crap every month too.  The nurse sticks a needle in my arm and draws a couple of vials of blood.  I’m amazed at how dark the blood is… almost black… and I’m thinking to myself that may be part of my problem.  With all of the tons of fat that I have eaten in my 41-years of life (’cause, damn it, it tastes good), the crap has actually morphed into actual oil in my system.  Of course my blood pressure is going to be high with Pennzoil 10w30 running through my veins, and I’m way past the 3 month/3000 mile mark.  Can’t I just get a stinking oil change and a lube job?.

I heard from the doctor’s office today.  Low and behold, I have high cholesterol.  SURPRISE!  They called in a prescription for some statin-thingie to Walgreens, and as of tomorrow, I’ll be medicated for my condition.  Possible side effects are muscle cramps, drowsiness, and liver damage.  They recommend taking it before bed so that the side effects are less noticeable.  The drowsiness thing happening while I’m sleeping makes sense.  However, being awoken in the middle of the night with a charlie horse doesn’t sound very pleasant, and I’m sure my wife would agree with me on that.  As far as the liver damage part goes, I’m kind of hoping to avoid that.  I guess if I have liver failure or something, having that happen while I’m asleep might be a plus?!?

Why is everything that tastes good bad for you (and if someone tries to tell me that steamed broccoli or broiled fish “tastes good”… I may punch him or her in the lying, filthy little mouth)?  “Everything in moderation,” you may say, but I would reply that moderation sucks.  Stupid common sense.  If I’m stuck in the Craphandle of Nebraska with nothing to do and no real future worth caring about, I want to be able to eat what I want when I want.  Eating is one of the very few pleasures I have… and now it just happens to be killing me.

AARGH!

Apparently, high cholesterol makes one very pirate-like?

With the history of high blood pressure and heart disease that infests my family tree, I figured all of this was coming.  I just hoped that maybe I was going to be the branch that could remain healthy.  I’m telling you, optimism in all shapes, colors and sizes, leads to nothing but disappointment, which is why I usually do such a wonderful job of avoiding it.

Okay, so here’s the Catch-22.   The potential side effects of the statin-thingie don’t sound very pleasant.  So, I figure I need to lose about 20 to 30 pounds and start eating gross crap, which doesn’t sound very fun.  Then, when I’m all sickly skinny and eating leaves and twigs, there is still a chance that I will need to remain on cholesterol medication.  Stupid genetics.  So, do I just let the doctor medicate the hell out of me and potentially destroy my liver (a problem that may never come to be… look at me, the stinking optimist) while I continue to enjoy one of the few simple pleasures I have in life: eating good food?  Or, do I give up one of the few simple pleasures that I can experience in the Craphandle of Nebraska in an effort to extend my life so that I can potentially live out an extended life in the Craphandle of Nebraska with no simple pleasures?  And even if I give up the simple pleasure, there is still the chance that I will need to remain on the liver-destroying medication, so I may actually give up the simple pleasure and still die of liver failure.  Sounds pretty much like a lose-lose-lose situation to me.  There… now I’m sounding a little more like the pessimist that I know and dislike an awful lot of the time.

So, now I have a doctor.  He wants to see me again after about 30 days on the current medications to measure my progress.  I should be proud of myself for taking some responsibility for my health and trying to be there for my family’s future, right?  But all I can think about is how I’m 41… and it is just going to be a matter of time before Mr. Dr. is going to be thinking that he needs to be sticking his finger up my butt.  Seriously… if I’m falling apart this much in my 40s, what bright, shiny stars can I expect in my 50s… and beyond?  Well, with the Dr. seemingly intent on destroying my liver, I may not have to worry about it at all…

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Sep 10

If you were to judge this post based on the title, you’re probably thinking this is going to be me ranting about some crappy service I received from some crappy company that I need to vent about.  Wrong.  I am feeling the need to rant about crappy jobs in customer service, of which I have held my fair share.

You hear “business gurus” lament constantly about how poor customer service can destroy a company.  I do not disagree.  The gurus preach of the importance of customer service skills for every employee who could potentially come in any sort of contact with a customer or potential customer.  Amen!  The gurus don’t seem to understand why so many companies can’t provide quality customer service.  I think I can help answer this question with one word: money.

Oh, I know, money isn’t everything; job satisfaction isn’t reliant on money alone; there are numerous ways to motivate employees other than with money; blah… blah… blah.  The people who come up with these unrealistic views of the importance of money in employment have listened to the gurus for far too long!  Money is the reason that most people go to work every morning.  If you don’t believe me, think of it this way: if you won the lottery and would never have to work again for financial reasons, would you go to your current job every day and do it for free?  If you would, you are either a very lucky person who has found your calling and are able to utilize your inherent gifts and talents in a satisfying manner or… you’re an idiot.

So, back to customer service.  I am going to use my recent employment experience with an unnamed cellular telephone company for demonstrative purposes.  The unnamed cellular telephone company was Alltel.

For anyone who has ever had to wait in line at  a cell phone store to have an issue resolved, I feel for you.  For anyone who has had to wait in line at a cell phone store to have an issue resolved and then took out your frustration on the person who finally waits on you… go pound sand!  You have a problem; you would like that problem fixed; you’re mad because you’ve been in line for 45 minutes or so; so you yell at or cop an attitude with the person who you expect is going to fix your problem… seriously?!?  Remember, this person who you are yelling at has probably already had half-a-dozen other nincompoops yell at him or her and your yelling is getting pretty close to the straw that is going to break the camel’s back.  Do you want help or not?  If so, please remain calm and speak the way you would like to be spoken to.  If getting your problem resolved is not the true reason for your 45 minute wait in line and you really just want to yell at someone and make a donkey-butt out of yourself by causing a big scene to prove to everyone within a 4-block radius of the retail store exactly mad you really are… keep yelling, sap-sucker, ’cause when you finally finish your little tirade, you are most likely going to be told that your problem is unsolvable: “So sorry, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to GO POUND SAND!”  And it’s not that your problem is really unsolvable… it’s just that  you have  caused such a commotion and made such an… uh, to put it in acceptable English/slang/cockney format… “arse” out of yourself that you are beyond help.  If your problem is actually fixed, a precedent is being set that people who throw a temper tantrum and behave like an arse get their way just to shut them up… and that is a precedent that is not going to be set.  Why, you may ask, is that precedent not going to be set?  Why will the squeaky wheel not get the grease?  What is going through the head of the customer service representative at that crucial moment when he or she makes that uber-important decision not to help you resolve your problem?  I can tell you in one succinct sentence exactly what is going through the mind of that representative: THEY DON”T PAY ME ENOUGH TO DEAL WITH THIS.  And Mr. and Ms. business guru, all of a sudden monetary reward is important to get people to perform in menial jobs!

“Well, if current employees won’t get the job done, fire them and hire people who will!”

While I put in my time at Alltel, the turnover rate was over 30%.  What that meant was that for every 10 people hired, more than 3 people quit… and this was at a time when Alltel was striving for aggressive growth!  Finding someone who is willing to deal with belligerent customers all day (and actually not making any real money unless selling to said belligerent customers) takes more than $8 to $12 dollars per hour, especially when the rules that are put in place to actually take care of a ripped-off customer are ignored by all levels of management from store management to regional management… and rules that actually benefit the customer are few and far between!  Let’s look at an example from my personal portfolio of the crappy-life files:

A friend was having trouble with his cell phone.  I had recently quit Alltel, but I was still the “go to” guy for friends’ and family’s cell phone questions.  The friend had trouble with his cell phone ever since he first got it.  He was on his third replacement phone (“replacement phones”, by the way, are often refurbished pieces of crap… as are “insurance” phones).  His original new phone and three refurbished phones all froze up.  He was about a two-weeks past his original one-year warranty, but he had received his last replacement less than a month previously.

I wasn’t a vast clearinghouse of knowledge for every rule and regulation of Alltel while I worked there.  However, I did know every policy and procedure that was beneficial to our customers as far as receiving a POS phone (and there were a lot of POS phones) and what extents could be gone to in an effort to make a pissed-off customer happy.  I explained to my friend that, although he was past the original one-year warranty on the phone, each replacement phone (exchange by mail phone, or XBM) came with it’s own warranty above and beyond the original manufacturers’ warranty.   It has been over three years since I worked at Alltel, so I don’t remember if that warranty was 30, 60 or 90 days, but I remember that my friend’s was well within the XBM warranty period.  I told him that, at the very least, he should be able to get another POS XBM phone.  However, since he and had been through three replacements, there was a “lemon policy” that the store manager could apply which would result in a brand-spanking new replacement phone of like value.  I told him to go to his local store, to be “nice”, not cause a big stink, and ask politely for the manager if the customer service rep wouldn’t help him. I stressed the “be nice.”

Well, he called me a couple of days later and told me that no one there was willing to help him.  The rep and manager who helped her both said that I didn’t know what I was talking about.  They told him that the XBM phones had no warranty of their own and since he was past his original warranty, he was out of luck.  Pretty much, he got a big, “Sorry, sucks to be you!”

I was furious!  I was ready to get on the phone with that stupid manager and give her a piece of my mind… and then I was going to call the district manager and let him know what had happened!  Then, in a flashback,  remembered what it was like to work at Alltel.

“Did you remain calm and stay nice?” I asked.

“Well… I started out nice.”

“That’s not what I asked,” I said.  “Did you remain calm and nice throughout the conversation?”

“Well… no… but they weren’t willing to help me!”

“Did you yell?” I asked.

“A little.”

“Did you personally attack the person helping you?” I asked.

“Well… she was being a bitch!”

Now, I know that this friend can be a little demanding as a customer.  He is the sort of person who will hold up a line at Walmart for 15 minutes arguing about a 25 cent perceived difference in the advertised price and the price that rings up at the register… even when he is wrong.

“Yeah, maybe I was wrong about that XBM policy thing,” I concluded.  I was not wrong.

When I worked at Alltel, I never screwed a customer just because they treated me like crap, and employees who did abuse their “power” really pissed me off.  However, I can think back to what it was like to be treated like complete garbage by an abusive customer.  It wasn’t fun… and I tend to blame most of my current stress-issues on the two years I spent at Alltel.  Every time I deal with just about any stranger in just about any potentially confrontational situation, I am braced for the worst… which is stressful.  I couldn’t handle it, so I quit (and remain scarred from the experience).  For those who can stick it out… if they need to screw-over the occasional asshole just to keep their sanity (and keep working there), more power to ’em.

By being the guy who always did everything in his power to take care of the customer, I developed a reputation as being the guy to go to if you had a problem.  People would wait an extra half-hour in line just to see me with their problems, which was fine.  The problem I had, with the Alltel gig being commission-based, was that those same people weren’t nearly as willing to wait for me when it came to making an actual commission-earning purchase… they went to the first available rep… and those were the straws that finally shattered the spine of the hump-backed mammal… because the money wasn’t there.  The district manager told me, when I informed him that I was quitting, that if I just stuck around for four or five more years, I would start to see that loyalty from the problem-solving start to turn into sales.  I told him that I would be dead of a heart attack before I would ever reap those benefits.

And you know what’s strange?  I really think that if the money had been significantly better, I wouldn’t have minded dealing with the crap quite as much.  It’s harder to get stressed about a situation when they actually are paying you enough to deal with it.

Tagged with:
May 24

In my last post, I pointed out how both high school and college graduates are often (usually) unrealistically optimistic. That’s me, destroyer of young dreams… but I only tell them for their own good.  Better to have no dreams or to know that your dreams are probably unachievable than to dream and have those dreams shredded and left on the compost pile of life.  Did I just quote Shakespeare?  Wasn’t that in Hamlet?  … maybe not…

I felt kind of bad for presenting the future of most of these graduates as the miserable abyss that, for most of them, their lives are going to become.  I wanted to make a modest attempt, in my own very special and unique way, at letting them know that everything is gonna be alright.  Here we go…

Sometimes, my family worries about the level of pessimism (or, as I like to think of it, “realism”) that I display on my blog.  I spoke to my dad on the phone shortly after he read the last graduation post. He seemed slightly concerned.

Dad:  “Son, I bet people who don’t really know you think you’re very bitter.”

Me:  “Ya think?”

Dad:  “You’re really not that bitter , are you?”

Me:  “I thought you knew me.”

Dad:  “I do, I just have a hard time believing you’re that bitter.”

Me:  “Yeah, me sometimes too.”

Dad:  “I mean… you’re really not that bitter… are you?”

Me:  “Not always.  Sometimes, I sleep.”

Dad:  “… oh…”

Hahaha!

Nothing says “good times” like making your parents believe that they somehow failed you in your childhood and your current level of life-misery is all their fault.  No worries, Dad.  All of my pessimism is self-induced.  Life has taught me that it often sucks without any help from you… although the short-gene that you have passed on to me hasn’t helped.  How was I ever supposed to live out my dream of playing in the NBA when I come from short European stock?  But, you just passed on what was passed to you, so not really your fault  (I don’t want to piss off my dad… he’s one of 3 people who read this blog regularly.)

Ok, back to encouraging high school graduates.  I think part of the problem I see with the whole free education system is that, by the time you are finished with it, you are still way too young to have a decent idea what you want to do with the rest of your life.  “I’m going to be a doctor” or “I’m going to be a lawyer” you may say if you are one of them real smarty-pants-types… or you actually have parents with enough cash to help you get through medical or law school.  But, do you really want to be a doctor?  Do you really want to be a lawyer?  You’re 18-years old.  How can you really know what you want to do with the rest of your life?

You can’t.

When you are 18-years-old, you know you want an attractive person of the opposite sex to pay attention to you, you know you like hanging out with your friends, and you know that you like to eat food that, a couple of  years in the future, is going to end up straight on either your gut or your butt; this is what you know about life.  I’m 41-years-old, and I only really figured out what would have been pretty cool to do with my life a few years ago… and by then it was too late.

For my college education, I went the business route.  4-years and a lot of money went to Montana State University and the Bozeman community while I earned a bachelor of science in marketing.  Now, I knew I could make more money if I chose something like engineering, but I always had issues with science.  I didn’t enjoy it, so why would I want to apply it to my career for the rest of my life?  Teaching sounded okay, but kids who took the teaching path seemed to be looking for the easy route.  Besides, teachers don’t make squat, right?  Business… no crappy science, and good money, right?  Oh, how wrong I was.

There needs to be a large disclaimer when someone enrolls in a business program at the university level.  That disclaimer would read:

This degree does not guarantee any kind of future success.  This degree will most likely lead to some crappy job in sales or retail management.  If sales and/or retail management aren’t what you are looking for, chose another program of study!

Of course, this disclaimer does not exist… until now.  I am warning you, if you get a business degree (unless it is very specialized, like accounting) you will most likely wind up as an assistant manager at Walmart or trying to sell computer software to companies that don’t need it and who cringe every time they see you come through the door.  This is a proven fact… well, I don’t have proof, but I’m pretty sure it’s true, which is almost the same as fact, isn’t it?

So, I went through college, got a crappy retail management job, and jumped from crappy job to crappy job every couple years.  A few years ago, I realized that an education in literature would be more up my alley.  I’ve always liked reading and writing.  Maybe that teaching thing wouldn’t have been so bad.  Besides, as crappy as I perceived teacher pay to be at the time I was making career decisions… in reality, I’d be making a hell of a lot more if I had been teaching for the past 20 years than I am now… and I’d have my summers off.  Hindsight… it’ll kick your ass every time.

A few years ago, I figured, heck, why not try pursuing something that would be a little better fit with my personality.  I enrolled in an online graduate program through Fort Hays State University in Kansas.  I was gonna get me a Master of Liberal Studies with an emphasis in English.

“What could you do with that?” you may have asked.  Well, boy howdy, I could have taught English at a community college.

“How does that pay?” you may have asked.

“Like crap,” would have been my response, but I was going through a brief period of insanity in my life where I thought maybe money wasn’t everything.

I enrolled, took a couple of classes, loved the classes, started to get a fresh perspective on life, and then reality smacked me upside the head.  First of all, I stopped working for a company that had a really good tuition reimbursement plan, and college classes are not cheap.  Second, I realized that taking these classes was interfering with family time (and my kids aren’t going to be around forever… they will get out of high school and, I’m assuming, move as far away from the panhandle of Nebraska as possible).  Third, I realized that the odds of getting an actual job teaching English at a community college were pretty slim, and, even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to support a family on that kind of crappy pay.

See, even a seasoned pessimist like me can let stinking dreams and hope and all of that other positive garbage creep back in every once in awhile.  I’m just glad that dream got smacked down before it grew too large.  I was in my mid-30s when that one snuck in.  I’m in my 40s now and any silly hope of getting an education that would lead to some sort of life-happiness is a thing of the past.  Once you get family obligations and mortgages and car loans piled on you and once you get accustomed to a certain quality of life and start thinking about the prospect of being able to retire some day, going backwards financially to make silly dreams come true becomes what it really was all along… a pipe dream.

So, you may be wondering how these words can be construed as “encouragement” for recent high school graduates.  I’m not exactly sure.  I guess my words of encouragement would have to be:

DON’T STRESS IT!

Don’t stress the fact that everyone expects you to plan out the rest of your life through the choices you make at age 18.  Plans change.  Dreams change.  Hopes change.  And most importantly… YOU change.  You will not be the same person at age 28 that you are at age 18, and 38 is going to make 28 look like a total stranger.  You will see the world differently, you will value different things, and your passions may change hundreds of times before you leave life in this realm.  Very few choices that don’t involve death are permanent, and any wound that doesn’t kill you will heal.  Scars are badges of effort,  and it takes effort to survive.  Whether you accomplish your goals or realize your dreams, or if you end up living the disappointing life of the average mortal, you will get some scars along the way.  Wear them with pride.  They show that you made the effort.

Now, if you end up bitter and pissed at the world like me, I’m thinking I’m probably going to be looking for a protege to take over this blog in about 20 years (if I ain’t dead by then).  If you are 18 now, you’ll be 38 then (which is how old I was when I started this bad boy) and we may have to get together and discuss you taking over old Happy Stinking Joy.  See, even when your dreams are dead, you may still have something to look forward to… or not…

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Mar 28

The worst thing about being an adult is not being able to speak your mind at all times.  There is a certain social etiquette that dictates times when we have to internalize our thoughts.  I don’t know who came up this social etiquette, but he or she and all of their relatives should be flogged with wet noodles throughout eternity.  Social etiquette sucks.  In fact, many aspects of our current society suck.  At least to me, and that’s all that really matters.  See, we all feel pretty much the same, but we aren’t allowed to say so, because social etiquette dictates that it isn’t proper to say that you only want what’s best for you.  We have to think of the good of the whole.  Did I mention that social etiquette sucks?

Oh sure, I care about others.  I don’t like children suffering around the world, and my heart goes out to the people of Japan.  I wish that everyone had a decent job, and I wish poverty and war could be eradicated from the face of our planet.  But none of this changes the fact if I want to send out a smart ass email at work, I shouldn’t have to worry about who I offend.  I’m a smart ass.  Period.  When I send an email, having to hide my smart-assness only limits me from being who I really am.  But social etiquette dictates that I cannot be a smart ass in business related email… or with coworkers… or with customers.  Screw that.  Life is too short to have to pretend you are someone you really are not.  But, I will continue to be polite and try to hold back on the smart ass comments while at work.  We all need a job, right?  And social etiquette dictates that we have to behave a certain way in order to perform that job, right?  Did I mention that social etiquette sucks?

Part of the training for social etiquette begins when we are young.  Schools, at times,  seem to like focusing on social etiquette more than teaching things of real value.  I have a son in middle school.  That son recently fractured his foot in PE.  So, he can’t participate in actual PE activities until his foot heals.  In order to pass PE, he needs to show up and pay attention.  Sounds pretty fair, right?  Well, the son recently was docked points in PE.  Was he docked because he didn’t show up on time?  No, he arrived in a timely manner.  Was he docked because he wasn’t paying attention?  No, he was paying as much attention as could be expected from someone sitting on the sidelines and not able to participate.  He was docked points because he didn’t have his shirt tucked in.  Seriously, because he didn’t have his shirt tucked in, he lost participation points for that day.  Social etiquette dictates that if your teacher makes a rule, you must follow that rule, even though the rule was put into place so that middle school boys can’t look up the shirts of middle school girls during various middle school PE activities and said rule really doesn’t apply to you… because not only are you not participating because of an injury you received in PE… but because you are not a girl.  But, of course, social etiquette dictates that you can’t have a rule for girls that you don’t have for boys; that wouldn’t be fair.  Social etiquette is all about fairness for the masses and doesn’t really allow for individuality.  The whole incident hasn’t really led me to question why my son didn’t have his shirt tucked in.  This incident has got me to thinking about why I had to pay my son’s medical expenses.  I mean, if I were hurt at work during a work related activity, my employer would pay my medical expenses.  My son was hurt at school during a non-optional school activity, shouldn’t the school pay for it?  Just wondering.

Social etiquette is all about learning the rules and learning to do things in a manner so as to not upset someone else.  Often, following social etiquette prevents someone else from being upset, but it leaves you really pissed off.  In my 41+ years of life, I have usually tried to follow the rules of social etiquette.  How has it benefited me?  Well, high blood pressure and a constant upset stomach seem to be about the only things I can think of  that have been the result of following social etiquette.  In other words, social etiquette sucks.  I haven’t made a fortune following social etiquette.  I don’t have a plethora of adult friends because I have followed the ways of social etiquette.  I don’t feel personally or professionally fulfilled because of the wonders of social etiquette.  I haven’t gained respect through following the mystical ways of social etiquette.

I desire for my kids to think outside the box… to be independently successful on their own terms… to never have to answer to someone they have no desire to answer to.  I want them, if someone is pissing them off, to be able to tell that person to take a flying leap.  In my mind, this is the way to true happiness in this life.  Selfish?  You betcha, and each and every one of us would like to be able to do it.  The schools are going to keep right on teaching social etiquette.  The schools are going to keep enforcing the same rules that I thought were stupid when I was a kid… and I still, as an adult, don’t see the value in.  I guess if we all want the same cookie-cutter society that we have had for the last century, this is fine.  But we aren’t given the same promises in life that our parents were offered.  My employer doesn’t offer a guaranteed pension, does yours?  Social Security isn’t looking like it’s going to play much of a role in my retirement (even though I’ve paid into it every year since I’ve started working).  I have a retirement plan, but not much is going in, and it sure isn’t growing too fast.  At the current rate, I will not be able to retire (which, as far as I can tell, is when you can tell the whole social etiquette thing to take a hike).  I want to be the crotchety old man who always speaks his mind and doesn’t give a crap what anyone else thinks.  I may never get to that point, so at least I can wish that for my kids.

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Feb 14

My snore has been likened to the thunderous growl of a Tyrannosaurus rex. Now, I know that no living person is exactly sure what a T. Rex growl really sounds like, but I have been told that my snore has to be in the ballpark.

T-Rex

Of course, I have never heard my snore. My snoring has woke me up in the middle of the night on thousands of occasions, but by the time I’m actually awake, I’m done snoring. Funny how that works.

Anyway, my wife and I have been married for over 16 years.  My wife has complained about my snoring for, well, a little over 16 years.  I finally decided that maybe it was time to do something about it.  See what a great guy I am?

Why would I avoid going to the doctor to have something done about my snoring?  Well, the reasons are multiple:

1st:  I hate doctors.  I don’t hate them on a personal level, I just don’t like the fact that I have to rely on someone who makes a buttload of money for my physical well being.  I also don’t like the fact that I have to pay said person a buttload of money for services rendered.  Yeah… it’s all about the Benjamins.

Benjamins

I couldn’t be a doctor because I’m really not smart enough, and the thought of messing with someone’s other than my own bodily fluids makes me slightly light-headed.  Just another of the “life isn’t fair” deals that pisses me off.  Okay, so maybe I do hate them on a personal level…

2nd:  When you go to the doctor, he or she always ends up finding a bunch of crap wrong that has nothing to do with the reason for your visit.  It’s kind of like when you take your car in for an oil change, you know.  All of a sudden, you’re needing new brake pads and a front-end alignment and your head-gasket is leaking… you, at the doctor… your car, at the mechanic… it’s all the same.  Now that I am “in my forties”, I know that crap is going to start breaking down at an alarming rate.  I’d really rather just not know about it.  After all, maybe I can get another 2000 miles out of the car without fixing the problem, right?  Besides, it seems like when they start trying to fix one problem, everything else starts to go to hell.  You know, like the 35-year-old lady who goes in because she sprains her ankle, and they discover she has pancreatic cancer, so they cut her open to get to the cancer, and they find out that it is EVERYWHERE, and she is dead within a couple of weeks… because of a stinking sprained ankle.  If she hadn’t gone in for the stupid sprained ankle, she would probably be alive today!

3rd:  Uh… I don’t take exactly the best care of myself.  I know this.  I don’t need some yahoo driving a BMW to point this out and talk down to me while doing so, because when he or she does, my level of class-envy goes through the stinking roof!

Okay, so I don’t like going to the doctor.  In fact, I don’t even have a doctor.  I go to a local urgent care clinic (Quick Care) for all of my medical needs… which are few and far between.  You’d think that, seeing as how I’m getting to the point where annual visits are looming on the horizon, I should probably find a doctor.  I don’t like shopping for shoes… and I like shoes… so why would I spend time shopping for a doctor?

So, back to the snoring.  I call one of them “sleep centers” (Western Sleep Medicine, I believe it is called) to see how I go about getting fitted with one of those Darth Vader masks to make me stop snoring.

Darth Vader snores?

They say I have to be referred by a doctor.  I say I don’t have a doctor.  They say I can use Quick Care to refer me.   I call Quick Care and make sure that they can refer me, which they reassure me that they can.  I ask, “So, uh, I’m wanting a referral for a sleep study… and that’s it.  You aren’t going to test me for a bunch of other crap, are you?”  And I am reassured that I will only be tested for the condition that I am visiting about.  Great!  So I drive on over to Quick Care.  Never believe medical people.

I get to Quick Care and they make me fill out the stinking form that all medical places make you fill out when you first arrive.  I get done filling the stupid form out and I realize that right beside the line where I fill-out my date of birth, there is a line for me to fill-out my age.  I ask the receptionist, “So, why is there a line right beside my date of birth for my age.  Wouldn’t just my date of birth be sufficient?  Can’t you figure out my age?”  Of course, I’m being a little smart-assy, but in a good-natured way.  The receptionists at Quick Care are not exactly “good natured”.

“It’s there so we don’t have to figure it out,” the receptionist says, and I can tell by the look on her face that I’m pissing her off by breathing her air, so I let it drop.

So now I’m thinking to myself that I may be making a mistake by not actually having an actual doctor.  I’m thinking that using Quick Care for a referral may not have been the swiftest of my most recent decisions.  Did I have to list my age beside my date of birth so they didn’t have to figure it out… or because they couldn’t figure it out?  I know, I should assume that the receptionist (or anyone else who touches my chart) would be able to figure out my age from my date of birth.  However, before I entered Quick Care, I assumed that a receptionist in a place where people are going to have medical issues addressed and are looking for a little comfort would be able to smile… or at least be partially pleasant.  I have learned to never trust my assumptions.

After a short wait, I am led into an examination room.  The nurse tells me that the first thing she needs to do is check my blood pressure.  Crap!  This is exactly what I don’t want.  This is why I called before I came… to make sure unnecessary crap wasn’t going to be tested.  What does my blood pressure have to do with my snoring?  But I’m already thinking I need to keep my mouth shut because of the whole receptionist encounter, so I sit down and let her test it.

170 over 130.

She looks at me like I should already be dead.

“Uh, is your blood pressure always this high?” she asked.

“No, these places freak me out,” I said.  “It’s usually more like 150 over 100.” Of course my blood pressure is high.  Everyone and their dog stresses me out.  I hate any sort of confrontation and life is full of it… confrontation that is.  The older I get, the less I am able to deal with the basic BS that every person on the planet seems intent on dishing out.  If I could hole-up in a dark room and not have to ever deal with anyone or their problems, I bet my blood pressure would be just fine.  I pray to God to let me not get stressed out, but stress is still there around every single stinking corner in this road of life… and God just looks down from heaven and laughs.  I think jacking around with me is how God deals with His own stress.

Again… she looks at me like I should already be dead.

“I’m going to get the P.A.,” she said and disappeared out the door.

P.A. stands for “physician’s assistant”.  A P.A. is like a doctor, except they didn’t have to go to school as long as a doctor, and instead of BMWs, they usually drive Audis.  I don’t hate P.A.s quite as much as I hate doctors.

The P.A. comes in and he talks about getting me a referral for the sleep test, he fills out the necessary paperwork, and then he starts talking about what we are going to do about my blood pressure.  He has the nurse run a ECG, and then she sticks me with a needle and red crap comes out my arm into a little vial.  I’m ready to pass out as he tells me about the blood pressure medication that I’m going to be put on.

Crap!

So, I leave, I go and get my blood pressure medication, and I go home.

The next day, I take the first of the pills.  It’s Lisinopril.  It’s supposed to have very few side-effects.  I notice nothing and think I’m golden.

I take my second pill the following morning.  All is well… until I get out of the shower, reach for the hair gel (it’s Sunday, and I gel my hair up on Sunday to keep from looking like such a hippie freak), and I fall to the floor with chest pain.  I can’t even stand up.  The wife and kids are already gone, because the wife takes the kids to Sunday school.

Crap!

Okay, so I figure I’m having a heart attack.  Figures, right?  I mean, if I hadn’t gone in for the stupid snoring issue, I would have been fine.  Anyway, I’m downstairs, and I need to find a way to get upstairs.  I figure out that if I bend over and do not stand straight up, I can walk without a ton of pain.   So I hunch it upstairs and sit down at the dining room table.  I start weighing my options.

I can call the wife and freak the crap out of her.  Yeah… not going to happen.

I can call 911 and get an ambulance coming.  That would, however, be expensive.  I’m all about the Benjamins.

Benjamins

Then, I start thinking that I really don’t feel like I’m going to die.  You know how people who have heart attacks claim that they get all freaked out because they can tell that they are dying?  Well, I’m not freaking out.  I’m just pissed because my chest hurts.  There is no pain shooting through my shoulder or up my arm, just a sharp pain under my left man-boob.  Feels more like something is pulled than I’m dying.  I think to myself, “If this cramp in my chest gets worse, do I feel like my heart is going to stop?”  I answer myself, “No.”  So, I sit there and wait for the pain to go away.

Western Sleep Medicine is supposed to call me to schedule a sleep study.  I haven’t heard from them yet.  I may not have to worry about it.  After all, I went to medical people for one problem and they discovered another.  I give myself two weeks, tops.  Damn it…  I swear, I could have got another 2000 miles out of this s.o.b.

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Sep 15

I have come to the conclusion that the negative attitude I hold toward all things Nebraska is starting to have a negative impact on my health.  My family has an ongoing rivalry with heart disease, and heart disease seems to be winning.  All of the males (and some of the females) on my dad’s side of the family have battled high blood pressure and I am no exception.  I can actually feel my blood pressure rise when I get stressed, and I am constantly getting stressed.  The stress gets so bad that, once it kicks in, I can’t concentrate.  My thoughts flutter around my head like moths around a campfire.  If I try to pull those thoughts into my psyche to concentrate on, the thoughts, much like the moths, burst into flames and are forgotten.  The feelings of hopelessness then descend in waves, and I actually begin to question my sanity.  Ever felt like you were going crazy?  Not a good time.  Stress makes me feel like I’m going crazy.

In order to try to alleviate a little of the stress I feel in my life, I decided to focus this entry on something about the panhandle of Nebraska that actually makes me happy.  That’s right, I’m going to try to find a positive angle to follow on something.  Finding something in the panhandle that I don’t perceive as completely sucking is not easy, but I’m going to give it a shot.

Nebraska is known for its beef: marbled, corn-fed beef that practically melts in your mouth.  If you want a truly great rib-eye steak (perhaps the best rib-eye on the planet), and you want to experience that steak in a truly Nebraska-esque setting, there is only one place to go…

The Oregon Trail Wagon Train.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

The Oregon Trail Wagon Train is a local landmark.  It used to be known as “Gordon Howard’s” until the Howard family sold it.  I’m sure that most folks are familiar with a chuck-wagon-style cookout.  Many of the touristy places in the West and Midwest have these kinds of cookouts, but most of them serve crap like barbecue beef or barbecue chicken… you know, the shredded stuff that goes on a bun… and with most of them, you are paying for the experience (because the food sucks).

I remember going to the Flying T chuck-wagon supper last summer near Rapid City, SD.  It was over $20 per adult, the food was not impressive, and the portions didn’t come close to filling me up.  The staff was kind of rude and barked orders to the paying customers (which, I guess, is supposed to be part of the charm).  There was some good-old country music after the meal (if you like good-old country music… which I don’t) and the band tried to hawk their CDs the whole time.  I love Rapid City… the Black Hills are one of my favorite areas to visit… but I will never go back to the Flying T.  There are much better places to eat in the Black Hills.

Anywho, back to a good chuck-wagon meal.  At the Oregon Trail Wagon Train, the ambiance is pretty rustic.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train,Nebraska,panhandle

They have a horse-drawn wagon and they take you for a short ride.  Usually on the wagon ride, the driver will point out spots in the vicinity that were actually part of the Pony Express trail. It’s pretty cool to think that Pony Express riders used to actually ride so close to where you are about to enjoy your heavenly steak.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train,pony express

The “cowboy coffee” is plentiful and is cooked over an open fire.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train,Cowboy Cofee

When you get to the botton of your cup, you get a mouthful of grounds… which is the way it should be.  If you ain’t chewing your coffee, it ain’t real cowboy coffee.  All of the food is cooked over wood coals from a real fire… as opposed to a fake fire, I guess.  The boiled potatoes and the green beans are cooking in these funky, homemade-looking metal structures, and the “grill” is loaded with fire wood.  When they light the wood, you know that good times are getting near.  See, this is the thing with the Oregon Train Wagon Train: you pay something like $22 per adult (same as the Flying T), but you are actually getting an honest-to-goodness rib-eye dinner that exceeds the quality of a steak you could get in a fancy chop house.

On my last visit to the Oregon Trail Wagon Train (which was a couple of weeks ago), there were a crapload of grasshoppers.  I happened to notice a spider hanging in her web on the eave of one of the old buildings.  I figured that, since my family was about to dine on some good grub, I would treat the spider.  I grabbed a grasshopper and threw him into the spider’s web.  Honestly, I didn’t figure the spider would mess with him, but I went back about fifteen minutes later and found the following:

Oregon Trail Wagon Train,Spider eating grasshopper

Oregon Trail Wagon Train,Spider eating

I showed the kids (the wife refused to look) and they thought it was gross.  You can actually see where she has her mouth attached to the hopper.  You know she injected her venom into the hopper, waited for the venom to start dissolving the workings inside the exoskeleton, and is now sucking out the juicy remains.  Awesome!  The kids didn’t really think so… not right before dinner.  Still, I thought it was pretty cool.

While I was playing with the spider, the wood on the grill had been started.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

Now we were just waiting for the fire to burn to coals and the steaks would go on.  There are some pretty cool things to check out while you are waiting for the steaks to start cooking.  There is a path you can follow that takes you back to the North Platte River.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

Usually this area is kind of mosquito-infested, but this late in the summer, I guess the mosquitoes had other things to do.  There is a little fort for the kids (of all ages:) ) to check out.  You can actually climb up into the watch tower and check out the grounds.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

There is a old black lab that hangs out (except she seems to disappear at meal time) and she loves to have her belly rubbed (if you are so inclined to rub a dog’s belly… which I am).

Oregon Trail Wagon Train,Nebraska

There are a variety of old tools attached to the sides of the out buildings that are kind of fun to check out.  The Oregon Trail Wagon Train also has a small gift shop and a small bar attached to the gift shop, so you can buy some overpriced, low-quality toys and nick-knacks right before you start downing the brews.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

I usually avoid the gift shop and the bar.  Why pay for a beer when there is all of that free cowboy coffee to chew on?

For the more sportsy people, there are a couple of horseshoe pits.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

Yeah, I guess horseshoe tossing ain’t really a sport, but this is Nebraska, so horseshoe tossing is right up there alongside tumbleweed chasin’, cow tippin’, and sheep… uh…

sheep,nebraska,scared,nervous,oregon trail wagon train

… shearing?  Besides, tossing a shoe from time to time can be kind of fun.

If you run out of things to do and are feeling a little bored waiting for the steaks to go on the grill, there is a multitude of spiders which I am sure would love to find a juicy grasshopper in their webs :)

Oregon Trail Wagon Train,spider

Finally, the fire has burned down to coals, the coals are raked out nice and smooth, and the steaks get thrown on the grill.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train Coals

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

Oregon Trail Wagon Train,rib eye steaks

Every time I have been to the Oregon Trail Wagon Train, the guys in charge of grilling the steaks seem to have a beer in their hands.  Every time.  And dinner is served 7 nights-a-week all summer long.  I wonder if they are hiring?

The dinner bell rings, we all get in a line, and we proceed by the grill.  They ask you how you like your steak done, and you get it exactly how you like it.  You then get a heaping spoon of green beans and a large, red boiled potato.  You help yourself to the available condiments (from which steak sauce is absent… and you better not even think about asking for it) and make your way to a table.  Waiting for you on the table is a freshly baked loaf of the best sourdough bread in Nebraska.

After you gorge yourself on a hearty meat and potato meal, you head to the ice cream counter and get yourself a cone filled with delicious home-made vanilla ice cream.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

While you are licking your dessert, you are directed to the campfire area where one of the steak cookers (half-baked on beer) will lead the entire dining group through several sing-along songs that are usually silly and probably quite fun (if you go for sing-alongs… which I do not).

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

Oregon trail wagon train,Bayard,Nebraska,panhandle

We usually leave after a song or two and head for home, quite satisfied.

I promised myself that I was not going to bitch about anything at the Oregon Trail Wagon Train.  This chuck-wagon-cookout is the best cookout-type place I’ve ever been to, and I am trying to manage my blood pressure.  However, I am know for breaking promises… and it goes against my nature to not complain about something, so I’m gonna complain about the flies.  The Oregon Trail Wagon Train is out in the middle of nowhere.  You can see Chimney Rock from the cookout site, which is also in the middle of nowhere.

Chimney Rock,Nebraska,Bayard,panhandle,Oregon trail wagon train

When you are in the middle of nowhere and you cook-up good grub, you are going to be invaded by flies.  And I’m not talking about a few flies, I’m talking about flies of horror movie proportions.  The setting is great, the food is awesome, but you are going to spend a large portion of your time waving flies away from your plate.  I guess this doesn’t bother me too much.  The food is worth the waving, but I kind of wish the owners of the Oregon Trail Wagon Train would do something about the flies.  I don’t know what they could do, but if they could find something, I would not have a single bitch about the place :)

If you ever find yourself in the panhandle of Nebraska, I have a couple of things to let you know.  First, I want to apologize that you are in the panhandle of Nebraska.  Second, if you find the time, check out the Oregon Trail Wagon Train .  It’s out of the way, but worth it.  Besides, the entire panhandle is out of the way, and your here, so you might as well eat some good grub!

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Aug 08

I work for a wireless Internet service provider.  What exactly is a wireless Internet service provider, you may ask?  Well, a wireless Internet service provider (WISP for short… which I could have notated a couple of “wireless Internet service provider” mentions ago… but I’m a sucker for the want to hunt and peck out extremely long, tedious sentences… which is why, I figure, most people who visit my blog stay less than 53 seconds…  a person can’t read one of my posts in less than 5 minutes, ’cause I’m way to wordy and I take WAY to long to get to my point… as the current sentence proves… and if you are still reading this far into the sentence, you have my eternal debt:) )  is a person or company that provides Internet to people who cannot get (or are sick of dealing with) cable and DSL Internet.

Anyway, back to the whole wireless Internet provider (WISP) thingie.  Three years ago, I had very little idea what a WISP was.  I knew my wife did the finances for one, but I was still clueless.  And then, out of nowhere and thanks to the urging of my wife, the owner of this WISP approaches me and says, “How’d you like to work for me?”  Well, at the time, I was working for Alltel… which sucked… and I really liked the way the guy combined “how” and “would” into “how’d”… ’cause that shows a laid-back persona, as far as I’m concerned.  Now, I was making fairly good money at Allhell… er… Alltel, and I would be taking a pretty significant cut in pay to work for this “WISP”… but I figured with the approaching-forty thing and the high blood pressure and the inability to deal with stress and/or pissed-off customers, how could I say no.  So, I said yes and the rest is history.  Now, I deal with the stress of pissed-off customers every day and I get to make less money.  YEAH ME!  Of course, I’m kidding (i.e. my boss reads this blog).  In all seriousness, although not perfect, I don’t hate my current job.  It frustrates me at times and there is stress (I don’t think the stress-free job exists because there is not a job where you do not have to have any contact with another person… and people cause stress… period).  But, the lack of the corporate rules and rigidity and BS makes this job much preferable to the hack job I held at Alltel.

My boss is very active in an organization called WISPA.  WISPA is the Wireless Internet Providers’ Association.  WISPA is also Womens International Squash Players Association, but that may or may not be the topic of a future post.
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WISPA,Womens International Squash Players Association
WISPA, the one with sweaty chicks.

WISPA,Wireless Internet Service Providers Association,geeks,techies,nerds
Founding members of WISPA, the one without with less sweaty chicks… or maybe this is Microsoft… who knows.  All them tech people look the same to me.

WISPA,Cadbury
WISPA, a candy bar from Cadbury containing no known sweaty chicks.

WISPA is a non-profit organization that serves the interests of WISPs not only in the US but around the world.  So still, you’re saying, “I still don’t understand what a WISP is.”

A WISP provides an alternative to the crappy, government-subsidized telephone company DSL and dial-up Internet services provided around the country.  WISPs also compete against outrageously-priced cable and satellite Internet providers.  A WISP does not need telephone lines or fiber-optic cables  to bring the Internet to your home or business.  WISPs mount radio equipment on towers and broadcast the Internet through microwaves to a receiver on your property that gives you the Internet.  In other words, WISPs provide Internet in rural and hard-to-reach areas that cable providers and DSL providers are not willing to spend the money to service.  WISPs are the cowboys of the modern age; they go into uncharted territory and do whatever it takes to bring civilization (i.e. high speed Internet) to the wastelands.  I am, of course, stealing from my boss with the whole cowboy analogy.  If you are at all technically savy and want to learn more about this industry, check out the boss’s blog at Wireless Cowboys .

Long-story short (I know… too late), the boss is active in WISPA, so somehow I end up handling a large portion of the billing and member-support responsibilities for WISPA as part of my job responsibilities.  Normally, these responsibilities are a breeze and take little of my time.  Then, all of a sudden, the WISPA people decide they need to hold a regional meeting.  “Regional meeting” means that there are registrations and tickets and confirmations and whatnot and, somehow, a large portion of the dealing with this stuff gets thrown in my lap.  All of a sudden the easy and somewhat fun WISPA responsibilities become a several-hour-a-day monstrosity that consumes much of the time I am supposed to be spending on my real job.  This goes on for well over a month.  This would probably not have been that big of a deal… except for the facts that I took a week off for scout camp with my son, and the family and I took our week-long family vacation, all during this registration period for the WISPA Regional Conference.  It was kind of like ‘take some time off’ and then ‘really bust your ass’… then ‘take some more time off’ and then ‘really bust your ass’.  I’m feeling like I am not meant to come back from these vacations.  Then, the boss says, “I know you’ve been working hard, so I’d like to bring you to St. Louis to help with the conference.”  I’m thinking he’s kind of blowing smoke up my rear to keep me from freaking out.  Then, the president of WISPA calls me and says, “We know how much time you’ve put into this, and we are trying to talk the board into allowing you to help at the conference.”  Well, all of a sudden I feel appreciated.  All of a sudden, I’m potentially going to be rewarded for all of my hard work with a trip to St. Louis.  I’ve never been to St. Louis, and I’m getting kind of excited.

As the conference approaches, the board decided to allow me to help at the conference… and I’m thinking, “Hey, St. Louis, here I come!”  Bright lights, big city, right?  Fast living and good-ol’  St. Louis style pizza right?  Blues and a trip to the Arch, you know?  There is an airplane flight that will be involved… and I hate flying… but I’m excited!  This is going to be a great time.  St. Louis, HERE I COME!!!

Gateway Arch,St Louis

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