Friday, May 23 – Monday, May 26

Four days in a row: not easy

As most people enjoyed a holiday weekend I worked four days in a row at the Major Home Improvement Retailer.  Now, that might not seem like much, but consider: I work in the garden department, and this is just about the busiest time of year in that department.  To say that these were very busy shifts would be the understatement of the year.

For most of the day on Friday I was dragging myself around after having been out to such an ungodly hour on my airport trip. Normally I wouldn’t care, but I was hoping to make a gym trip because I knew it would be hard to get much done over the next several days with my exhausting schedule.  By the time 8 pm rolled around I had recovered enough strength to make it through my shift at the MHIR.  It helped that my tasks during the shift were relatively easy, mostly pack-out of fairly light items (cleaning supplies, insecticides, gardening tools) in the “inside” garden area.

Yes, I actually made it to the gym on Saturday, and did mostly back work.  I started with one-arm dumbbell rows: 4 x 8 x 90/90, 2 x 8 x 95/95.  These went well, especially as I concentrated on form.  Next up were shrugs on the standing calf machine: 4 x 10 x 360.  I had wanted to do some T-bar rows, but the apparatus was constantly busy, and in any event the one-arm dumbbell rows were successful enough that it didn’t matter.  I finished the session with biceps curls on the EZ-bar, 4 x 8 x 40.  Yes, that’s a laughably low weight, but my right elbow was bothering me a bit and a couple attempts with a heavier bar were too painful. Work on Saturday’s 8 to midnight shift was harder than Friday’s, with all sorts of heavy stuff being hoisted and hauled.

Sunday and Monday were a new dimension in brutal work.  Both were 8-hour shifts, 12:30 to 9 on Sunday and the more typical 3:30 to midnight on Monday.  With the garden center being jammed, I basically ran around nonstop.  The times I waited on customers were a welcome relief, but most of the time I was carrying and lugging stuff – often in the hot sun, especially on Sunday.  It was absolutely exhausting, though at least there was a cookout for employees on Monday.

Published in: on May 27, 2014 at 9:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, May 21 – Thursday, May 22

That was a lot of driving.

Two workless days, as I’m off this week from my regular job and wasn’t scheduled either day at the Major Home Improvement Retailer.  Which does not mean that these were idle days, not by a long shot. During the day on Wednesday I didn’t do all that much, but around 4pm left to drive a family member to LaGuardia Airport. He was going on a one-day trip to Chicago. Even though we were going against the main flow of traffic, the Long Island Expressway was busier in the westbound direction than I would have expected.  Though not, needless to say, anywhere near as bad as what it was like eastbound. We drove most of the way in the HOV lane, which unlike its counterparts in many places operates in both directions during rush hour.  It came in handy, though we still encountered a bit of stop and go traffic in western Queens right after the HOV lanes end.  Even with this traffic the 50-mile drive took about 1:10, which was less than I had been expecting.

It was about 6:20 when I left the airport and I knew that rush hour traffic would be in full force during my trip back.  And of course the HOV lane wouldn’t be an option.  In a modification of the Panera Bread Strategy that I had used when driving back from worksites in Connecticut and Westchester, I found a Burger King not too far from the airport and hung out there for about a half-hour.  It was after 7 when I resumed my trip, taking the Grand Central/Northern State Parkway through Queens and Nassau and then switching to the Expressway for the rest of the way.  Traffic was a bit sluggish in a couple of spots but really wasn’t bad.

Upon returning I went to the gym for a chest and shoulder session.  I really wanted  to do some dumbbell bench presses but of course all the benches were occupied and looked as if they’d stay that way for a while. It mystifies me why management doesn’t add a couple of benches, there is ample floor space available.  Trying to make the best of the situation, I started out with flies, 4 x 8 x 175, followed by dips, 5  x 8 x bodyweight, and then dumbbell shoulder presses, 3  x 8 x 40/40.  As far as I could tell none of the benches ever were free.

Thursday was definitely not a fun day.  I had to take care of some matters at the DMV, which seemed to be slower-moving than usual if such a thing is even possible. Then in the evening it was back to LaGuardia, which would have been okay except for the fact that the flight was delayed over two and a half hours by weather.  This meant waiting in the airport for almost three hours, an experience I do not care to repeat anytime soon: it was quite hot, there were skells sprawled around, and of course the parking was obscenely expensive.  By the time I got back it was well after 2am, I’m sure glad it wasn’t a workday the next day. At least there was no traffic to speak of on the Expressway.

Published in: on May 24, 2014 at 3:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, May 19 – Tuesday, May 20

Days One and Two of Five

I now can say that I’m officially into my week off from my regular job.  A week in which I’m going to try to be reasonably productive rather than just fritter away my time.  Indeed, Monday got off to a decent start, as I took advantage of the nice weather to walk for a while in a nearby park. It was good to be outdoors, I’ll say that.  I even did some housecleaning and other errands.  In the evening, it was off to the Major Home Improvement Retailer for the 8 to midnight shift.  I was scheduled for plant watering for the entire shift, but continuing the theme from yesterday I was able to complete the work in a little over two hours (thanks, learning curve!)

It was pretty quite for the rest of the shift, with only one other person in the garden department and not much cleanup or freight handling to do.  The highlight was moving three heavy pallets of mulch with a manual pallet jack, they were so heavy that one person had to pull on the jack and one had to push.  We got it done, but it wasn’t easy.

No work scheduled on Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean it was an idle day.  What with the weather being really nice I decided to walk along the beach in the late morning.  That was very nice, and even better it was free.  Starting after Memorial Day that latter aspect is definitely going to change.  One thing about Suffolk County, and New York State, is that they’re not content with high taxes, there also have to be high “user fees” for just about everything (grumble).

Later on, I went to the gym for some back work.  With no benches available – as much as I like Unique Fitness they really need a few more benches – it didn’t look as if one-arm dumbbell rows would be feasible. Instead I opted for T-bar rows, and they went well: 5 x 8 x 135.  After I finished them I noted that naturally enough there were benches free, but now it was too late for one-arm dumbbell rows. Wonderful timing! I did shrugs on the standing calf machine, 4 x 10 x 330, and though I had been planning on doing some biceps work I was running short of time and had to get going. That’s not as bad as it sounds, as the reason I was running short of time is that we were going out for sushi to celebrate a family birthday.  We went to Kotobuki Sushi in Hauppague, which is just about the best sushi anywhere … even the tapeworms are tasty.

Published in: on May 21, 2014 at 2:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, May 17 – Sunday, May 18

It’s sort of hard to think of these two days as a “weekend” when (a) I worked both days and (b) I will have off most of the coming week.  In effective, they have been transmuted into weekdays.  But whatever, I’ll stick with the customary terminology and say weekend.

On Saturday I worked the 8 to midnight shift at the Major Home Improvement Retailer.  There still were quite a few customers in the garden department when I arrived, and most of the first hour to 90 minutes involved waiting on customers.  I like doing that sort of stuff, especially now that I know enough about the department to be reasonably useful when customers ask questions.  Which they do, all the time.  In many MHIR departments contractors comprise a significant percentage of the customers.  They rarely need assistance, and often know more about the products than many of the employees.  The garden department’s different, with most customers being homeowners who are relatively unfamiliar with the products.  After the store closed I did general merchandise handling, in particularly getting the flowerpot and planter aisle in order.

Sunday was a longer shift, 3:30 to midnight, and like Saturday involved multiple duties.  For the first four hours I divided my time between waiting on customers – and there were plenty of them, believe me! – and “flagging” for an employee who was using a forklift to bring pallets of garden supplies (mulch, topsoil, potting soil, stone chips, and so on) from the storage area along the driveway outside the store into the outside garden area. Upon returning from my “lunch” break at 8, it was off to plant-watering duty.  This went easier than it had done a few nights earlier, in part because I had a better idea of what I was doing, and in part because there were some new, better hoses for me to use.

Published in: on May 21, 2014 at 1:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, May 14 – Friday, May 16

Back to yoga

Wednesday was the first of my two days at the same worksite.  This happens every two weeks, and combined with the fact that the worksite is just a short drive away makes for an easy end to the cycle.  At least it usually does.  Wednesday was in fact a fairly low-pressure day, with more than ample time to finish my assignments and no sense whatsoever of being rushed.  Couldn’t ask for anything more.

After work on Wednesday I decided to go to yoga – yes, yoga! – for the first time in a couple of weeks and the second time in two months.  Hard to believe I was away from it for so long. As I was heading to the studio I was quite concerned whether I’d be able to handle the heat or make it through the entire routine.  Would it be like going back to square one as a rank beginner?  As things went, I did better than expected but it was still a struggle.  My endurance was as good as it had been, no slippage there, and my flexibility was pretty good too.  My balance, not so much, that seems to have declined a bit from when I had been going regularly.  With a bit of luck it should be back to normal soon.

Thursday’s work came as a bit of a surprise.  As the second day at the two-day worksite it should have been a breeze. That’s certainly the usual pattern.  To my distinctly less-than-welcome surprise, however, it was a tough, challenging day.  One snag after another after another. Most likely this was because I will be off next week and had to clear up loose ends.  Speaking of the week off, one thing I found out is that there’s a chance that when I return the day after Labor Day I might have different worksites on my rotation.  It wouldn’t matter too much if that’s the case, as on balance the new sites wouldn’t be any more distant than the existing ones, but all in all it would be preferable to stick with the existing ones if only because I’ve gotten to know each one’s quirks. I will know for sure on Wednesday.

Friday seemed like a day off even though I went into the Major Home Improvement Retailer for 8 to midnight.  Got errands done, goofed off, spent too much time online, the usual drill. What I did do that was more productive is have a really good gym session. Now that I’ll have a week with ample time on my hands I have no excuse not to get back into a regular gym (and yoga) routine.  As part of this, I’ve also decided to reduce my use of machines and concentrate on free weights.

First came dumbbell bench presses.  Not having done them in a few weeks I figured it would be best to start with lighter weights, and concentrate on the always-difficult way of getting them into position.  I ended up doing 3 x 8 x 80/80, 2 x 8 x 85/85.  What I figured out is that if I prevent my arms from going too wide while getting the dumbbells into position it will be much easier to manage them.  I actually had no trouble with the 85’s and should be ready for the 90’s soon. Next came a brief sojourn back into machines, with some flies: 4 x 6 x 175.  Then it was back to the dumbbells for overhead presses, 4 x 8 x 40/40.  I would have preferred to have used  a barbell, but even though it was late Friday afternoon the gym was crowded and no spare barbells were to be had.  I finished the session with dips, no more machines for this, 2 x 8 x bodyweight.


Published in: on May 18, 2014 at 2:41 pm  Comments (1)  

Monday, May 12 – Tuesday, May 13

From bad to good

Monday was an awful, awful day.  While the sore throat that had bothered me over the weekend had not worsened, my energy level on Monday was so low that I could barely make it through the workday.  This was not ordinary tiredness that everyone experiences at work from time to time, but extreme exhaustion that made even the simplest tasks an ordeal.  What was really strange about the situation was that I had had a relatively easy weekend, with no 8-hour shifts at the Major Home Improvement Retailer.  Maybe it was that I hadn’t had a full day off. Whatever the case, the only saving graces were (1) the worksite was only a short drive away, and (b) I wasn’t working at the MHIR in the evening. In fact if I had been scheduled there I would have had to call in.

Tuesday was a better day all around.  I got a text early in the morning re-directing me to a worksite to the east. It was off the Sunrise Highway, though not as far as the one I had been to on Thursday.  My energy level was much higher than it had been on Monday, though still not quite up to normal, and I made it through the workday with no trouble.  Later that evening, it was off to the MHIR for an eight to midnight shift.  This was a bit unusual because I was assigned to plant-watering duty for the first time. Watering plants for four hours is much harder than it might sound.  Not only are there a LOT of plants to be watered, but reaching the ones in the temporary display area in the parking lot required setting up a network of hoses and connections.  I was lucky to have another worker show me what to do, as I had gotten no official instructions or training.

Published in: on May 15, 2014 at 10:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, May 9 – Sunday, May 11

My usual pattern is to have Fridays completely off from both jobs, and then to work 8-hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday at the Major Home Improvement Retailer.  Or sometimes an 4-hour shift on Saturday and eight hours on Sunday.  And it’s also usual that I’m left pretty worn out come Monday.

This weekend was a bit different.  It wasn’t really a weekend at all because I worked all three days.  That will make for a long stretch between days off.  Yet it all turned out fine, however, because I worked only four hours each day, 8 to midnight to be precise. It was amazing what a difference that made.  Four-hour shifts zip right by, to the point that one of the feels like maybe a quarter of a standard 8-hour shift rather than half.  Given that the workload was very heavy all three days, and that I had a sore throat on Saturday and especially Sunday, the lack of a long shift was very welcome.

Published in: on May 14, 2014 at 8:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, May 7 – Thursday, May 8

Heading east

On Wednesday it was off to my scheduled workplace that’s located to the east.  Eastern Long Island was my stomping ground during my late and very unlamented days in life insurance, however today I rarely go that way other than on my biweekly visit to this worksite.  It’s one of the better sites on my schedule, as the workload generally isn’t too bad and it’s in more orderly shape than some other ones. Most of all, though, it’s the fact that to get to and from the site I’m driving against the main flow of commuter traffic.  That’s a nice treat.

On Thursday I was supposed to be at a site not far from Exit 57, but instead got rerouted to one that’s also off to the east.  This one, off Sunrise Highway, is not on my usual rotation though I’ve been there before.  I was glad enough to have gone there, as it’s an easier site than the one I’d been scheduled to go to, and once again I got to drive against traffic.  I started at 7, instead of 8 like I usually do, and the one-hour difference definitely made the day seem to go a lot faster.

Normally, I would have been working at the Major Home Improvement Retailer from 8 to midnight on Thursday, but my shift had gotten canceled earlier in the week.  I went to the gym and did upper-body work.  As all the flat benches were occupied and looked as if they’d be that way for a while, I decided to skip dumbbell bench presses.  And truly, my enthusiasm for that exercise is flagging.  I started on the plate-loaded seated dip, 4 x 8 x 380. Unless I can wrangle up some of the scarce 100-pound plates, that’s the highest weight I’ll be going on that machine, as the weight arms aren’t long enough to hold anything else.  Next came flies, 8 x 130, 8 x 145, 8 x 160, 8 x 175.  I then decided to do some overhead presses, a sort of exercise I’ve been neglecting for too long: 8 x 95, 2 x 8 x 105, 8 x 95.  Yes, I know that’s not much weight, but it takes some time to get used to the overhead pressing motion.

Published in: on May 9, 2014 at 2:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, May 5 – Tuesday, May 6

A slow recovery

Cinco de Mayo was not one of my better days in physical terms.  I was dragging myself around all day, still exhausted from the very tough weekend at the Major Home Improvement Retailer.  My right knee was quite painful too, though I don’t remember injuring it.  Maybe if I’d had a really easy day at my main job I might have been up to a short gym trip in the evening, but of course that didn’t happen.  It was the start of a new 2-week cycle, and what with learning curves and everything the first day of a cycle is usually the hardest.  Monday was no exception, and to top things off I encountered quite a bit of traffic getting to the worksite, which is near Exit 57. Still, missing an evening at the gym is not a disaster, and as I won’t be working two eight-hour weekend shifts for at least the next few weeks things should get easier from here on out.

I was much more energetic on Tuesday despite some lingering knee pain.  As befits the second day of the work cycle, it was easier than on Monday and I finished up about an hour earlier. While I encountered some traffic getting to and especially from the worksite, which is off Sunrise Highway, it was within the bounds of tolerability.

After going out for burgers at Bobby’s Burger Palace (as always, excellent), I made a fairly late trip to the gym on Tuesday evening.  I wanted to do back and biceps work, though I decided not to try one-arm dumbbell rows on account of my not fully pain-free knee.  Shrugs on the standing calf machine also were out.  Even so, I had a decent session.  T-bar rows: 4 x 8 x 145.  Life Fitness pulldowns (same machine I used last time): 4  x 8 x 160.  Biceps curls, EZ bar: 10 x 50, 2  x 10 x 60.

Published in: on May 7, 2014 at 4:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, May 3 – Sunday, May 4

While bad weather earlier in the week cost me money, by way of canceled hours at the Major Home Improvement Retailer, the mostly good weather on the weekend nearly put me in an early grave.  I worked 3:30 to midnight both Saturday and Sunday, and more to the point was in the outside garden center both days.  There was a nonstop stream of customers until at least 6:30 or 7, and it seemed like most of them were buying bags of mulch, fertilizer, and topsoil.  All heavy bags.  As part of the MHIR’s commitment to service, customers can have things of this sort loaded into their vehicles.  Care to guess who was doing a big chunk of that? While there was no way of tracking the amount of poundage I hauled and hoisted, it must have been enormous.  Then, in the second half of each shift, I did “recovery” work, which involved restocking the inventories of mulch etc.  Suffice to say I was completely beat by the time Sunday’s shift was over.  What a way to make money!

Published in: on May 7, 2014 at 2:36 am  Leave a Comment