The awkward reunion

I did a series recently on the trials and tribulations of a new job that I had started at a local restaurant.

The long and short of it was that it didn’t work out. Among all of the disappointments, one stood high above all. I was mad at myself for walking out. I have never in my life left a job without leaving notice and completing it. But this one time, I had an argument with a co-worker that drove me to leave at the end of my shift.

I had trained a kid with a smug expression and an entitled attitude. It wasn’t an assumption, I knew from the moment I met him that he was going to do a bare minimum, help no one but himself and think he’s entitled to more than he deserved. Sounds like a leap to you I’m sure, but I was right on and he took little to no time to prove me right. But I tried to make it work, I may be cynical but I’m fair and I trained him the best I could. He proved to be a decent worker but I knew his snarky attitude was going to cause a problem. On his second week, it happened.

On a busy Saturday he became overwhelmed. I stepped in to help him and he snapped and started yelling at me. He didn’t want help. I knew for the sake of the business that he needed it. It got ugly. I was furious. Normally people who talk to me like that end up spitting out some teeth but I walked away. But I was so disgusted at the fact that my owner did nothing and my coworkers showed me no support that I decided that there was no way I could work there anymore. I was pissed off, and I was embarrassed. The only positive was that I didn’t say or do something that I would regret to the kid. I’m not a violent person but I can be spiteful when wronged and he really pushed my buttons.
I finished my shift, three and a half hours of barely suppressed rage, and I headed for the door. I gave my friend and boss a chance to say something, anything, and he didn’t so I punched out and never went back.

I took a few days to process it. I felt real bad about leaving with no notice and I would address that later. My anger at the kid was still boiling up inside me. I began to imagine scenarios in which I would see him again. What would I do? It’s a small area, I knew there was a good chance that we would meet again.

Last week I went to my local Wal-Mart to pick up some prescriptions. When I approached the counter I saw a familiar face. Yup, my little friend from the restaurant was now a Pharmacy Tech. He saw me and his face was priceless. I grinned as he ducked into the back room. I was told that my scripts were going to be a few so I sat and waited. I watched as he moved about and knew he was clearly avoiding eye contact with me. I averted my stare and asked myself how I wanted to handle this. Several minutes later, I watched as the woman at the counter asked to leave for her break. I laughed to myself as my little friend reluctantly approached the register to replace her. I nearly laughed openly when I was called. Yup, he was going to be the one to serve me. It was too perfect. By then I knew what I was going to do.

I approached the register, gave him my name and DOB and waited for him to gather my order. As he began to ring me up, with almost ZERO eye contact, I stepped to my left to get around the plastic sneeze shield that separated us and I said “Kid, for all it’s worth I have no hard feelings. The past is the past.” The relief visibly washed off of him. He smiled and replied,
“I was hoping that was the case.”
We talked a bit about the restaurant, I congratulated him on getting a better job and I left. I thought about it on the way out. Sure, I could have wanted an apology. I also could have been rude in so many different ways. But I was pleased with the way I handled it. Anger, bitterness and resentment are heavy and cumbersome. I don’t like carrying it around. I chose to forgive it for me, not for him.

I think I did the right thing.

A much needed reminder

How are you don’t lieInstead of heading straight downstairs to find a seat for dinner I asked my Brother John to save me a seat. I knew many people at the event but I always prefer to sit with close friends at these events and for some reason, one which will reveal itself at the end of this post, I wanted to sit with John. I can’t put my finger on it but for some reason, we really click. He agreed and I went outside to clear my head and put on my “everything is fine” face. I knew that I would be asked how I was doing by many. My health history is well known and it is a blessing and a curse that many inquiries regarding my progress are made. I needed to be ready. You see, it is my opinion that for some the greeting “How are you?” is generic at best. But among my brethren they really mean it. And they know me, I have famously said “fine” to the greeting hundreds of times when I was anything but. A true friend would push and ask for the truth. That night, it was going to be difficult to satisfy those people because despite my robust physical appearance, I was bearing the weight of the world. Someone was going to call me on it.

The walls really were closing in on me. I was beating myself up over leaving my first Insurance Job. Three weeks in I was being pushed too hard and trained too little and despite my Herculean efforts to learn and apply TONS of information from Licenses to Certifications they weren’t happy with my progress and we parted ways. It really isn’t a huge deal career-wise. It wasn’t a good fit and I wasn’t contracted yet. Still, I felt like a failure, as I am prone to do. I was miserable. On top of that, I was disgusted and upset that my recently-broken-up-with ex-girlfriend didn’t have the decency to even text me after I drove over an hour out of my way to give back some belongings. Why would she be so childish and angry with me after she dumped my ass? She broke my heart and n top of reeling from that, now I have to wonder about this? I was consumed and my mind was racing. I shook it off and went inside.

I joined John and a few other good friends for dinner. It really was a tremendous set up. The room was full of well-dressed happy people. The decorations were lovely, the food was amazing and the bar was open. As expected, many inquiries were made about my health. I think I fooled all of them. Then John says to the whole table, hand resting on my shoulder, “Bill has the most amazing attitude. He is the most determined, optimistic and cheerful guy I’ve ever met. He’s been through so much and he keeps dusting himself off. He’s an inspiration to me.” Everyone at the table offered up similar sentiments. I gratefully acknowledged them and thanked them profusely.
Then it hit me.
There was the reason I had felt compelled to sit with John that evening. Because I was destined to hear that. Not for the praise, despite how flattering and humbling it was. No, it was a REMINDER to stop spiraling down the drain of negative thinking and remember that I have survived so much big and important shit in my life that I can’t let a couple of setbacks get me down. Somehow I had lost my mojo but John’s words snapped me right out of it. To Hell with the heartbreak, it’s her loss. To Hell with the job, it wasn’t the right company but I’ve still got the license and I will use it. To Hell with negativity in general, I needed to get back on track.

I know this is hard for some people to believe, but sometimes things really do happen for a reason. I was at an absolute low and by the end of dinner, I was actually in a decent place. I can’t begin to understand how it happened that quickly, but I can’t deny that it happened.

Today, I’m not 100%. I still miss her terribly and I still wish the job had turned out better. But neither of them are getting me down. And for now that is good enough.

A new venture

I’ve been away a while. When I get really involved in something I totally dive into it and I don’t allow time for other things. This includes Blogging. I really got into something and I just now feel that I have time to get back to putting my thoughts to paper (as it were).

The biggest change in my life of late is the confirmation that I am in good health and should be, depending on how diligent and committed I am to maintaining it, for a very long time. While this is to be rejoiced, it presents a new set of challenges. For one, my Disability Benefits are expiring and I have to return to work. I’ve known this for some time but it’s getting closer and closer to the day they cut me off. I look forward to going back to work, I’m not really a big “collecting” kinda guy. I’m excited actually because this time around I may be able to find something I want to do as opposed to a life of tolerating jobs because my family and finances required it. Fuck money, I’m never going to be rich and my overhead is a lot lower now. Satisfaction and the possibility of helping someone is the goal.

So I started interviewing.

Despite hiring a professional Resume service, with the specific request that my skillset acquired through years in the car business was presented in a more universal manner because I believe that the skills are transferable. Many hundreds of dollars and several weeks on job sites later…you guessed it. Car sales were what I was being offered. Double sigh.

Then I got a call from a recruiter who offered me an interview in a business that had always interested me, Insurance. So I interviewed. A good group of people with a lot of good products in a fairly friendly atmosphere. They offered to take me on, as a contractor. Agents are generally not salaried and benefitted employees. Again, at this point in my life, I can do something like that so I asked for the next step. I was told I couldn’t do anything until I got my State Insurance license.

Oh boy, testing. My favorite thing, with the possible exception of shaving my scrotum with a cheese grater. But I decided that an Insurance License would give me a tool for life to earn a living. There are so many possibilities. I was excited. So I signed up for the prep course.

For 3 weeks I lived, ate and breathed Life, Accident and Health Insurance and Annuities. I worked my ass off. All the while the agency checked in with me on my progress. I registered for the test on the following Monday and 2 excruciating hours later I passed with an 84. A 71 was the minimum score allowed. With one click of the mouse I received my license and producer number and I became a licensed Insurance Agent. My life was about to change.

the notice

*this post is a continuation of a story. It will stand alone in many ways but for missing context please go back a few…*

One week after giving my notice there was an incident. The guy I was training was a young kid my son’s age. I disliked him from the start. From the day I was introduced to him, I could just tell that he was a wise little prick. His smug expression spoke volumes. I had him pegged and it took very little time to realize it. When I tried to show him things he was dismissive. When I told him the expectations of what we do when it was quiet, clean something, help stock the beer cooler, organize the walk-ins and storage areas, etc., he wanted nothing to do with it. He was a “specialist”, he only wanted to make pizzas and helped no one but himself. I was so glad I wouldn’t have to work with him for long.
I didn’t know that day that it wouldn’t be long at all.

As dinner hour arrived he was working alone. I jumped in to help him. It was par for the course to have help on that station at busy times, no one person could handle it. But when I went to help he burst out, “dude, what are you doing?!” in a very loud voice. The place just stopped. I gave him my best watch your mouth or I’ll pound you into little asshole Mcnuggets look. He persisted with the attitude so I yelled back, “what’s the problem, kid?” He went off on me telling to get the fuck away from him, to get out of his way, to get lost, etc.,” He was shouting for all to hear.
I was floored. At that point, I had two choices. To walk away or rip his fucking head off. I have a thing about how I’m spoken to and this wasn’t happening on my watch. Because I am physically much larger than him, old enough to be his father, and because it is illegal to beat the shit out of someone, I walked away. I was FURIOUS.

The kitchen manager told someone to switch stations with me but that was it. I would think that after all the help and goodwill I had shown to my coworkers that someone would say something to him, but nobody did. They just let it happen. I don’t know what they were supposed to do but I felt very unsupported. I told the manager on duty that when my shift was over I was all done. In hindsight, I should have waited for Vinny but he wasn’t there yet and she had asked me what happened. When Vinny got there I knew that he knew. He ignored me the entire night.

I did what I promised, I worked a very busy night to the completion of my shift. As the night wore on, my decision didn’t weigh on me nor did I consider recanting it. I replayed the events in my head. My conclusion was that even if the little prick was right, in any way, about objecting to my assistance it was the way he handled it that bothered me. Cementing my decision was the fact that I could never work with him again, even for a short period, and that the lack of support I received made me too embarrassed to ever show up for a shift again.
The end of the evening came and as promised I left the building for the last time. I crossed paths with Vinny several times that evening and he didn’t even bother to ask me once what had actually happened. Not even as a courtesy. Allow me to be clear, I was not expecting or hoping that he would try to talk me out of it. Not my style. His failure to even try to acknowledge that I wasn’t the problem was all that I needed to know.

I left not necessarily proud of myself. But I knew there was no other way for me to handle it.

The Short-timer

*this post is a continuation of a story. It will stand alone in many ways but for missing context please go back a few…*

At the end of May, I officially went to 4 days. It wasn’t a huge issue because the store hours had been reduced due to lack of help and to give the existing employees, who had been working around the clock, a break. At that point full-time hours were not that feasible. Somehow, despite the reduced hours, the aggravation level increased. Vinny was unbearable to us as well as the customers. Criticism by customers was greeted by a “it’s my place my rules if you don’t like it there’s the door” mentality. It was so bad that when I offered to make an order for a customer after hours I was told that it was “tough shit” for the customer. I made it anyway. Now, of all the things that I disliked about the place, I could add that my friendly and customer-oriented style wasn’t even welcome.

On the relationship front, I confided in my girl about the job and about how conflicted I was. Yes, I continued to waffle back and forth about staying. I liked the money but, well you know the rest. I got the sense that she was annoyed by it. So I kept it to myself after that. We were starting to argue. I certainly take responsibility for my part of whatever was happening, but I was starting to see a side of her that concerned me. She consistently claimed to be a non-judgmental God-loving woman of grace, but she fought like a pissed-off wombat and was as forgiving as a Southern Baptist minister. I, on the other hand, refused to fight to win, I always sought resolution and harmony above all. Still, things were ok, the fights weren’t constant. But there were red flags that were, in hindsight, bathed in neon light.

We weren’t seeing each other very often at that point because of the job so I tried to focus on the positive and blocked out the rest.

At the beginning of June I was working a particularly busy night and Vinny was chirping in my ear about something so objectionable and poorly timed that I got into it with him. He replied with a “shut the fuck up”. I knew at that moment it was over. At this point in my life I had enough money (enough is big with me, I don’t need or desire a lot, just enough) and enough self-respect that I simply refused to be talked to like that. I knew what I was as a person and a worker; friendly, hard-working, helpful to all and respectful. Simply put my values were not fucking valued.

The next morning I gave my notice. I sat him down and told Vinny that I would work until the end of July as to not leave him in a bad place. He appreciated that and thanked me for not walking out and leaving him hanging. He had an ace in the hole, he had just hired someone for the kitchen and with my training he should be able to pick up where I left off. As we concluded I realized that working until the end of July was a period longer than I had even been there. How was I going to do that?

As usual. I decided that it will work out either way.,

Committed

*this post is a continuation of a story. It will stand alone in many ways but for missing context please go back a few…*

Committed. At least I should be, anyway. I am nothing if not a man of my word and I dove back into the job. My head was a mess. Between the red flags about the viability of the job being a long-term prospect for me, and the flags were plentiful, and my head being all messed-up over my new relationship my mind was racing all over. This may be a good time to interject that, if you have not read me before you may not know that I have moderate to high general anxiety. My temperament could best be described as, despite outward appearances, “everything is a big deal to me”. I am a classic over-thinker.

The red flags were the pace, the people, the physical and the collateral effects. Added to the mix was the realization that customers can really suck the big one sometimes.

The pace was frantic. When I took the job I was excited to make food, plain and simple. I am very good at that. I had no idea how busy the place would start out and continue to be. It was non-stop all the time.

Enter the personalities. Vinny, who was starting to reveal the rude and ill-tempered side of his personality. The Kitchen manager (who I liked overall) loved to accuse people of everything and clung to her knowledge as if it were the National Treasure and refused help with anything. Then there were the various dolts who simply couldn’t do the job or thought they were more important than they were.

Physically, I was getting stronger. Vinny was true to his promise to give me hydration breaks whenever I needed. But I was still struggling and I don’t do well in the heat as it is. I went home in a lot of pain every night.

Then there were the customers. Despite the fact that we were making a herculean effort to keep up with the demand, the customers were less than understanding. The cranky old people in town were bad customers. Demanding, impatient and insufferable. The people that came from surrounding areas were downright impatient and negative. They bitched openly at the exasperated employees and posted negative reviews which only served to send Vinny into a tizzy that was then transferred to us.

After a month of that, and not seeing my lady I realized that something had to give. I broke down and asked to reduce my hours. Surprisingly, Vinny was ok with it.

the results are in

*this post is a continuation of a story. It will stand alone in many ways but for missing context please go back a few…*

I returned home with mixed emotions. I was excited that my numbers were normal. But I had no way of knowing if this was a temporary thing. There was still a very real possibility that I had done permanent damage to my kidney. Only persistent bloodwork would tell the story. In the interim, I needed to go talk to Vinny about my status at the restaurant.

He, and the rest of the staff seemed happy to see me. I assured them that I was fine and I pulled Vinny aside to speak with him. I told him that, pending lab results it could go either way. I told him that, while my doctor was not excited about it, should I stay hydrated he would sign off on it. Vinny promised that he would take me off of the Pizza station and make sure that I had water breaks whenever I wanted. I hated half of that. Pizza making was the only thing I enjoyed about the job. I explained that I didn’t want my position to change but I would welcome the water breaks as offered. The biggest caveat was that if my numbers spiked again, there is no discussion. I would have to leave. I agreed to work the next day provided that I could do labwork in the morning and come in after. I would wait for the results (they usually came in same day) and we would go from there. The next day I went to work after I left the hospital. I would not get my results that day.

The next day, while at work, I got the call. The results were excellent. I was thrilled to say the very least. The indication was that there was no permanent damage. If I could have jumped in the air like a Toyota commercial I would have. The downside, my out should I want to leave was gone. I have to say that at that point, after only a week I really didn’t like it. It was too much for me physically (which I knew would change over time as I got conditioned) and I didn’t like a lot of things about the job. There were too many personalities, too much bitching and complaining and the customers…well, they sucked. The same cranky old people that I had to deal with in town were now cranky old customers and they got on my nerves. Also, I didn’t mention this before, but Vinny was proving to be an asshole to work for. He spoke to me in a way that I didn’t appreciate and I was too old and too experienced to deal with it. He liked to yell at me and that was simply unacceptable.

But, and this is a very BIG but ( I like big buts and I cannot lie), I knew that everything mentioned above was magnified tenfold by the fact that I had a girlfriend 100 miles away that I wanted to be with. At the time, I thought she felt the same. Who knew that she didn’t? (that is called foreshadowing) I sure didn’t. That aside, unless I wanted to lie about the results and walk away (an option I never really considered, making people worry about me falsely is some seriously bad karma) I did the right thing and told Vinny that all was good and that I was staying.

A very dark place

*this post is a continuation of a story. It will stand alone in many ways but for missing context please go back a few…*

There I was, a week after starting a new job, in the Hospital. It was late Friday night, and I was being processed by the Nursing staff. I hated this part, reviewing info that they already had in the system. Having to repeat my name and DOB every time I got an aspirin. I was distracted, and annoyed, I even felt bad for leaving my boss and my coworkers in a bind. I’m stupid like that. To be fair, I was scared. They were all but convinced that I was rejecting my new Kidney. That was something I just couldn’t process. I’m sure I don’t have to explain my concern, but try to grasp the emotions I was grappling with and the thoughts raging in my head. Was I going to lose what I can only describe as the biggest blessing of my life, a fucking rebirth, already? A mere 8 months previous I was on dialysis, sick and depressed with little or no interest in life and no hope for a future. The only thing stopping me from suicide was what it would do to my children. I now had a job, a possibility of a future, a girlfriend that I thought might be the one. Was I really going to lose all of that already? I was in the worst possible place.I had a sleepless night ahead.

I met with my Transplant Doctor the next morning. I really like him and I knew him well. His face said it all. He explained what was ahead. Bloodwork, Infusions of steroids over 2 or more days if needed, all hands on deck to get my creatine down. There were no guarantees that it would work, or if any changes would be permanent. I asked him how concerned he was on a scale of 1-10. He is always honest, he held up 8 fingers.

The only positive was that Cat was coming to see me. I asked her not to but she had already started the two-hour drive to my house to get my mother and then drive another 2 hours to see me. She wasn’t about to be talked out of it so I didn’t try. It warmed my heart that I had found someone that cared that much for me. They visited me, she held my hand the entire time. It was of great comfort. They stayed most of the day. When they left she whispered an “I love you” in my ear. It was a brief but profound moment of happiness. It was certainly a reason to fight, not that I didn’t still have it in me.

The people from work were all concerned. Especially Vinny. He asked about me frequently. He was concerned about me and of course he had to know if I was going to be able to continue. He did have a business to run. I posed the question to my Doctor. He wasn’t a big fan of me continuing. He felt that the heat in the kitchen and the tough working conditions were too harsh for me. But pending the outcome of my treatment, he left it up to me.

On Monday morning I tested below my normal creatine level. It was excellent news. They agreed to release me and I was told that future (immediate) retesting would tell if the damage (if at all) was temporary or permanent. As for work, my Doctor told me that it was still up to me to make the decision.

I made the wrong one.

missed chance

*this post is a continuation of a story. It will stand alone in many ways but for missing context please go back a few…*

At the end of February I was informed that we had an opening date of mid-May. Not much had changed on the frequency of work or my involvement. I had done my part to be harmonious, it’s unfortunate that I felt the need to show my ability to get along, by getting to know Susanne. Susanne was the woman Vinny had hired to run the kitchen, a decision that he refused to believe I was okay with. She was still running her soon-to-be shut-down business. She was waiting until a firm start date and then she would shutter her restaurant. I visited her frequently at her shop. We would compare our backgrounds and discuss ideas for the new place. I had absolutely no problem with her and she seemed to like me as well, even going as far as to say that she looked forward to working with me. I wasn’t worried about working with her, I figured we would get along fine. My only concern was where I would fit in. Vinny of course failed to see the good in that, he still thought I had an issue with her. That was the first time that I realized that I really didn’t want to do this new venture. I had a bad feeling but I ignored it because of loyalty and the fact that it was too close to opening. I was too late.

Things with Cat were still good. But I was starting to see some potential problems. She had a terrible drinking problem and a worse memory. I was shocked and saddened to learn that some of the best moments and conversations that we shared were lost. She had absolutely no memory of them. It was if they never happened. Plus we were arguing a bit. Not a lot, but she had a nasty side when we did. Still, I believed that I loved her. She claimed to love me as well. It was moving fast, too fast, but I was feeling things that I had not felt in a long time, perhaps never. I was dreading being away from her on the weekends, which was the only time we had to be together. Once the store opened, I would be working all weekend. I HATED that thought. But I told myself that I had to wait to see what happened.

In a rare moment of confidence, I found an opening in a conversation with Vinny to mention that I was not looking forward to working all weekend every week. He said, “Well, you can either wait to see what happens. I promise that once we are established I will find time off for you. Or you can quit.” He was testing me. I was tempted. But I didn’t take the offer. I knew, with all the hype around town, that we would be busier than a one-armed hooker with two customers for the first month or so. I decided that I would try to have the patience to ride it out and see what happens. I missed my chance to do what I wanted to do most.
Walk away.

I was in love, I was thinking too much about spending time with her. I was aware of the foolishness of that. In addition, my personal code of conduct told me to follow through on my commitment. I concluded that if it was meant to be then our relationship would survive a few missed weekends.

more cracks

*this post is a continuation of a story. It will stand alone in many ways but for missing context please go back a few…*

It was now February. Not much had changed. Vinny was still involving me less and less and I was growing increasingly frustrated. I wasn’t being utilized yet I made myself available. The few conversations consisted of him going on at length about the grandiose plans he had for the restaurant. I was getting anxious ( I suffer from bad anxiety) listening to these conversations; in essence my anxiety was whispering in my ear, “you can’t do this, it’s too much.” The little voice in my head was in agreement. In essence, I felt he would be really hard to work for, even in my controversial “self-inflicted minimized role”. I should have spoken up and told him my concerns. But I didn’t. Not knowing how to react, I remained quiet. This, of course, made him think that I was not into it. It was a constant and annoying process.
And I now had a girlfriend who I wanted to see and the neurotic bastard in me was already concerned that I wouldn’t be able to see her very much. While we still months away from opening.

Things with the girl were going well. I really felt that I had met “the one”. I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. At the time I thought she did also. So there I was worrying about something that hadn’t even happened yet.

I made the mistake of telling her my concerns. Of not being able to handle it. Of hating the hours. Of not being able to handle Vinny, who was increasingly showing me signs that I was making a mistake. And of course, of not being able to see her.

I now regret that