Saturday, October 25 – Sunday, October 26

Bright (sort of) and early on Saturday morning I headed off to the Major Home Improvement Retailer for my much-dreaded shift in the plumbing department. To say that I was intimidated would be a great understatement.  Knowing next to nothing about plumbing, would I be a bumbling idiot? Especially since it was a weekend day, when many DIY types come in and often need advice. Advice I was most assuredly not qualified to provide.

It wasn’t as bad as I feared. An experienced employee gave me a 20-minute rundown when I first arrived,  showing me where things were located and going over some of the more common questions. That helped me a great deal. Many of the questions I got from customers actually involved the adjacent kitchen and bath department, about which I know quite a bit more.  And there usually was another person on duty in plumbing who could help me when necessary. There were some stumbles, but I survived.

Sunday’s shift was quite different.  I spent eight hours as the greeter,  saying “Welcome to [the Major Home Improvement Retailer]” to arriving customers. It wasn’t as mind-numbing as it might seem. It was nice interacting with people, and every so often I would show people where things were located and would be able to get away from the door a bit. True, it started to get tedious after several hours,  and all that standing was no treat for my feet, but all in all it was one of my better shifts.

Published in: on October 29, 2014 at 12:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, October 23 – Friday, October 24

No inspection woes

Thursday was an easy enough day at my regular job. It was at the most distant of the worksites on my rotation, about 30 miles to the east. My first trip out there in my new-to-me Toyota. One thing I have noticed is that the fuel economy is much better than it had been on my Subaru. In part that’s because the Subaru had all wheel drive, which increases fuel consumption, and in part because it was old.

Friday was my day off as usual, and I brought the Toyota in for its first inspection. When I registered it last week I had gotten a ten day temporary inspection sticker. Logically speaking, I had no reason whatsoever to be concerned,  as the car was in fine shape with low mileage. Yet I was still ever so slightly worried. I guess that’s because the last few inspections with the Subaru were a bit troublesome. Old fears die hard, and all that.

Friday evening I went to the gym for some weight-loss exercise. I did a 22- minute course on the stationary cycle, a course that went through what looked like Mayan ruins and had some steep upgrades. By now I’ve (more or less) mastered changing gears on the cycle, which can make it both more challenging and more realistic. I finished with 20 minutes on the elliptical.

Published in: on October 28, 2014 at 11:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, October 20 – Wednesday, October 22

My prediction was correct

Yep, I was right.  Last week I was fairly sure that the next two-week cycle at my main job would be easy.  On Monday, when I started the cycle, that expectation was confirmed.  While the tasks I’m doing aren’t what I’d call scintillating (not that they ever are), they were pretty easy.  Even though it was the first day of a cycle, when things are always more complicated, and I was at one of the busier worksites, I was able to finish right on time.  Most often I stay an extra half-hour or more on the first day.  Tuesday and Wednesday continued with that theme.  I was expecting Tuesday to be easy, as the worksite is one of the smaller ones, but Wednesday’s site is usually more of a challenge.  Not this week.

No work at the Major Home Improvement Retailer during the week, in fact for the next three weeks I’ll be working exclusively on Saturdays and Sundays.  Not sure if that’s actually a good thing.  If I’m going to work 16 hours a week, which seems to be the normal pattern, rather than work eight hours on both Saturday and Sunday I’d rather work a couple of four-hour shifts on weeknights and eight hours on either Saturday or Sunday.  Or maybe one weeknight shift and then just four hours on one of the weekend days.  As I’m done with my regular job by 3pm I have ample time to do a four-hour weekday shift.  Whatever the case, I would imagine that there are seasonal factors behind this scheduling, and that at some point it will change.  And if not desirable it’s at least fully tolerable.

When I went to the gym on Monday evening I decided that for the next couple of weeks I’m going to concentrate on weight-loss exercise (I hate the term “cardio”) rather than weights. I haven’t gained any weight in the last few years but I’d like to drop maybe 15 or 20 pounds.  I started out on a variety of elliptical in which the motion is more up-and-down than back-and-forth.  Whatever the contraption is called, it was tough.  I spent an exhausting 12 minutes on it, which felt more like an hour.  Next came a 10-minute course on the stationary bike that has the screen projection showing your route.  Corny, but a nice touch.  I finished with 20 minutes on a standard elliptical, which after the first one was really easy.
Tuesday evening it was off to hot yoga.  The instructor was one I’ve never had before, and although she was a bit heavier on the metaphysical aspects than some others I found her quite good.  We did a variety of positions that I’ve done only rarely, which made for a nice break.  While it would be an exaggeration to say that the session was a breeze, I made it through more or less intact.  Wednesday was an evening off.

Published in: on October 24, 2014 at 1:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, October 18 – Sunday, October 19

Another weekend that wasn’t (is there some theme here?) I spent both days doing 8-hour shifts at the Major Home Improvement Retailer, 8 to 4:30 on Saturday and 9 to 5:30 on Sunday.  Saturday was the easier of the two, as I did general sales associate stuff in the garden department. There was a decent customer flow during most of my shift, never enough to make things overwhelming but enough to keep me reasonably busy.  After work, we went out to dinner (Raan Thai in Smithtown), which was very good.

Sunday was definitely not an easy day.  There were more people on duty in the department, to handle most of the customer service work, so along with two other people I spent most of the shift putting several pallets’ worth of Christmas items in the overhead storage spaces.  Ornaments, lights, artificial trees, lawn inflatables, you name it.  When we began it looked as if there would be no way all the boxes could fit into the available space, but somehow we managed.  I used an electric lift platform as much as possible, to save having to climb up and down a rolling ladder, but it was still a tough day.

Published in: on October 23, 2014 at 3:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, October 15 – Friday, October 17

An easier return than expected, and in more than one way

After all the driving I had done over the past two days, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the fact that I would be working at both jobs on Wednesday, my regular job from 7 am to 3 pm or so and then the Major Home Improvement Retailer from 7 to 11.  Would my energy stores have empty shelves? Fortunately, while I may not have had a great deal of energy, the workday was much easier than I had expected/feared.  I had completely forgotten that my regular job would be at my rotation’s two-day worksite.  That meant a slow pace, not much in the line of pressure, and the ability to leave about an hour earlier than usual.  Yay.  As for the MHIR shift, a large amount of Christmas merchandise had been delivered earlier in the day and much of my time was spent moving pallets around with a pallet jack.  Not the most thrilling work, but it wasn’t too bad, not being particularly exhausting (most of the pallets were quite light) or dirty.  Before I knew it the shift was over.

Thursday at my regular job was even easier than Wednesday had been. I also found out that the year’s remaining work cycles should all be pretty easy.  That’s a relief.  Later in the day I finally made it back to the gym for the first time in an eternity.  Rather than do weights, that would wait until the next day, I decided to burn off some calories.  I ellipted for 20 minutes at a fast pace, did an 8-minute video racecourse on a stationary cycle, and then finished with 12 minutes on another cycle, for a total of 40 minutes.

Friday was my day off, and also was the day for my much-dreaded DMV trip so I could switch the car registration.  I was fully prepared for a hideous, hours-long experience.  After driving to the insurance agent a couple towns away to get a new ID card, I crossed the threshold of the DMV office  – and had a VASTLY easier experience than I ever would have dared hope for.  It was less crowded than I’ve ever seen any DMV office anywhere.  I was in and out in less than 20 minutes, and while the workers may not have been pleasant they were at least efficient and business-like.  It was mind-boggling. Later in the day I did some bench pressing and shoulder work at the gym, but for some reason – possibly my state of ecstasy over the DMV experience – I didn’t keep track of what I did.  It wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy, however.

Published in: on October 20, 2014 at 2:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, October 8 – Tuesday, October 14

I’m in no hurry to take another road trip

Back from my travels.  After working both jobs on Wednesday, thankfully they were pretty easy, I dropped off the rental car using the after-hours key drop.  I am quite happy not to be driving that Dodge Charger anymore.  It wasn’t a bad car, don’t get me wrong, just not my idea of happy motoring.

On Thursday morning I got dropped off at Islip airport for my 8:25 flight to West Palm Beach.  Southwest Airlines doesn’t have assigned seating but instead uses three boarding groups.  Being fairly late to check-in meant that my boarding pass was in the last of these groups, and as the gate agents were announcing a full flight I resigned myself to a middle seat.  As I was walking toward the rear of the aircraft, however, I saw a row in which a 50ish man was in the aisle seat and a woman of about the same age in the window seat.  I though to myself “I bet they’re a couple, and if someone asks for the middle seat one of them will slide over to sit next to his or her spouse.” My intuition was correct, the woman moved to the middle seat and I got the window.

It was a quick flight, and yes I had some decent views thanks to the window, and the aircraft itself was a 737-800 that seemed very new. Naturally it didn’t occur to me until after the flight to check the registration number, which would have allowed me to learn its delivery date.  I noted with some bemusement that the list of prohibited electronics items on the safety card now includes e-cigarettes.

After a couple days in Florida I headed back on Saturday morning, driving what is now my new car, a 2007 Toyota Corolla. With fewer than 20,000 miles it’s practically a new car and is MUCH nicer to drive than that Dodge had been.  I drove to my stepdaughter’s place in Athens, Georgia, which worked out to be 699 miles and took about 13 hours.  It would have been shorter had I not missed a turn off of I-75 in Macon, which would have resulted in a more direct drive to Athens (which, curiously, is not on an interstate highway). Another thing I realized is that Orlando is not in northern Florida.  When I passed it heading north on the Florida Turnpike I figured I was almost into Georgia.  Not hardly.

I was sorry to have to leave on Monday morning, as I enjoyed my visit and the town itself.  I got underway about 10 in the morning, and after taking I-85 to the beltway around Atlanta got onto I-75 north into Tennessee.  Similar to what had happened with respect to Orlando, I had significantly underestimated just how much of Georgia lay between Atlanta and the state line.  Eventually I got to Tennessee, my first-ever visit to that state, and then made a quick detour onto I-24 west so I could cross the line into Alabama and add another state to my roster.  That was a bit adventurous, as to get to the state line I had to drive up an extremely steep country road that rose high above the Tennessee River.  How people manage that road when there’s snow on the ground is quite the puzzle, as despite the southerly location the high elevation means that the area probably gets snow on a regular basis. I ended up going only about mile into Alabama, in the town of Bryant at the state’s northeastern corner, before returning to Tennessee.

After passing through Chattanooga, not a bad-looking city, I headed north on I-75 through the very pleasant countryside of eastern Tennessee.  As the detour into Alabama took longer than I thought, and rush hour traffic in Knoxville delayed me further, I decided that trying to add Kentucky to my list just wasn’t practical.  I suppose in a sense I had already been in Kentucky, as about 20 years ago I had changed planes at the Cincinnati airport, which is over the river in the Bluegrass State. As darkness fell I got onto I-81 and crossed into Virginia.  I had wanted to get as far into the Old Dominion as possible, and made it to a Comfort Inn in the city of Wytheville, about 60 miles past the state line.  It ended up taking me about 10 and a half hours to cover about 575 miles.

Tuesday was another long day on the roads.  I-81 through Virginia seemed utterly interminable, and some very heavy rain along the way slowed my down quite a bit.  Fortunately the weather cleared in time for me to see the scenic Shenandoah Valley, and after quick slices of West Virginia and Maryland I was in Pennsylvania.  East of Harrisburg I switched to I-78, which I took to the Holland Tunnel. I crossed Manhattan on Canal Street, and got the Williamsburg Bridge to I-278 and finally the Long Island Expressway.  Traffic wasn’t too bad on I-78 and through the tunnel, mainly because I was going against the main flow of rush hour traffic, but I-278 (the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) was a clogged nightmare, as was the Long Island Expressway until almost the Nassau line. The total drive was just under 600 miles and took a bit over 12 hours, though I had made a longish stop at a Panera in New Jersey.

I’m glad I got to add two new states, but after all this driving I’ve had my fill of road trips for the foreseeable future.  Now I’ve got to go to the DMV on Friday to switch registrations on the Toyota (oh joy!) and then try to sell my Subaru. Oh, and start getting back into the gym routine too.

Published in: on October 15, 2014 at 1:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, October 6 – Tuesday, October 7

The mixed joys of a short week

What with my flight on Florida on Thursday morning, this is a short workweek for me, Monday through Wednesday at my regular job, plus Monday and Wednesday 7 to 11 pm shifts at the Major Home Improvement Retailer.  I’ll then be off from both jobs until Wednesday of next week.  Given the way my poor feet are aching – two 50+ hour workweeks in a row will do that – the break will be most appreciated.

My tasks for this (abbreviated) two-week cycle are relatively easy.  That’s both a good and a bad thing.  Good because, well, easy tasks are better than hard ones, bad because it will be a shorter cycle than usual for me.  All in all I’m glad that these two days went by quickly and easily.  Even my Monday evening shift at the MHIR zipped right by.  On Tuesday evening I considered going to hot yoga, but my feet were just too sore.

Published in: on October 8, 2014 at 9:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, October 4 – Sunday, October 5

Yep.  Another non-weekend “weekend,” most of which I spent working at the Major Home Improvement Retailer. Each day was an eight-hour shift, 8 to 4:30 on Saturday and a ghastly 7 to 3:30 on Sunday. Going into work at 7 on a Sunday morning, really?

If there was a saving grace, it was that both shifts went by pretty quickly.  As it was raining most of Saturday, and there weren’t many customers in the garden department, the department head let me spend a few hours doing training on the computer.  I’ve got a lot of ground to cover by the end of the year, in order to become fully certified in the department, and while that may seem like a long way off it really isn’t.  In addition, I’ve also decided to get trained in operating the forklift and the reach (a smaller, electric-powered forklift), and that will take additional time.  So I ended up spending a decent chunk of my shift delving into power washers, generators, and roofing.  The last of those is actually within the scope of the lumber department, but because shingles and other supplies are stored in the outside garden area I am expected to have some familiarity with them.

Sunday was as pleasant as Saturday was gloomy, and the customers came out in droves.  I was running around the store seemingly nonstop.  In particular, I was helping people who were in search of wood pellet fuel, an increasingly scarce commodity.  Eighty-eight pallets (four truckloads) arrived on Thursday of last week, and by the end of my shift on Sunday afternoon fewer than ten remained.  From what I’ve heard, not only are the manufacturers hard-pressed to keep up with demand, but it’s also difficult to find enough truck drivers to make deliveries.


Published in: on October 8, 2014 at 9:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, October 2 – Friday, October 3

Day off? What’s that?

Thursday was a reasonably decent day at my regular job.  Not surprising, as it was the second day at the two-day worksite, and I already had gotten most of the tasks done on Wednesday.  I was done a couple hours earlier than usual, which was good as it gave me time to rest up before hot yoga at 8 pm.  I hadn’t gone in a couple of weeks, on account of the brutal work schedule that’s also kept me out of the gym, but I figured I now had an opportunity and should go.  It was the same instructor whom I’ve had on Thursdays, but for some reason she used a different routine this time, one noticeably harder than the past ones.  Possibly for that reason, it was a bit of a struggle to make it through the session.  But I did.

Friday is usually my day off.  “Usually” is the key word.  This Friday was an exception, as I worked from 7 pm to 11 pm at the Major Home Improvement Retailer.  Still, not getting a day off wasn’t that bad, as I’ll be off for several days starting next Thursday when I go down to Florida, and in any event a 4-hour shift at the MHIR usually goes by very quickly.  Tonight was no exception, in fact with the exception of the last half-hour, when I had a very exhausting task to complete, it was pretty easy.


Published in: on October 7, 2014 at 3:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, September 29 – Wednesday, October 1

In the second-week groove

Monday marked the beginning of the second week of the two-week workcycle at my main job, and as always things were easier than they were in the first week.  I was at the point where I was able to do most of the tasks almost by rote, even if the ones each day were slightly different than those the day before.  One thing I found out is that the next cycle is going to be another tough one, on par with the brutal one of a couple cycles ago. I will, however, be missing three days of it, for my flight to Florida and drive back.

On Monday I worked at the Major Home Improvement Retailer from 7 to 11.  It was, alas, one of my worse shifts. Not because of anything the company did, but because for some odd reason there seemed to be an unusual number of rude and/or difficult customers.  Which fell into different types: (a) confused-seeming customers who react with annoyance (“I’m good, Buddy”) when I ask if they need help; (b) customers who interrupt me when I’m in the middle of talking with other customers; (c) customers who seek help while lacking even the most basic information (“What chain do I need for my chainsaw?” “What size is the chain and how many drive links does it have?” “I don’t know”); and, finally (d) people who are just plain weird. But hey, it’s all in a day’s (or evening’s) work, right?

Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty much nothing days: easy enough at my main job, no shifts at the MHIR, that sort of thing. What with all my recent laziness I actually had plans to go to hot yoga on Wednesday evening, but other things intervened.  Thursday, definitely.

Published in: on October 3, 2014 at 1:13 pm  Leave a Comment