(Not So Great) Expectation, or New Uses for Toothpicks

“The San Francisco Airport train on the opposite side of the platform has just been taken out of service,” interrupted my normal morning commute.  Pulling in to the station, it was clear that the platform was full of waylaid passengers, ready to do their best sardine impressions.  My current cozy environment was about to become hot and crowded.  Luckily, I only had a few more stops.  My expectations were set appropriately; I was sitting in the middle of the train and it would be a game of commuter twister to exit.

I was not disappointed; I bumped, grinded and politely asked the woman who shifted 6mm to really move, as her gargantuan backpack still blocked my path.  Keep in mind, she was not a slip of a thing, her backpack was her reverse doppelgänger.  Eventually, I was able to exit the car before the doors closed, thought this was never a certainty.  What I did not expect lay before me.

The platform was overly crowded.  I had not thought about the effects of the mass of displaced humanity on stations down the line.  Nor did I expect the complete loss of common sense that on display like a Melissa Gorga dance single.  Imagine this, a narrow platform, crowded with displaced people, milling about like the children of South Park performing the works of Phillip Glass.  It was neigh on impossible to pass.  I felt like the Black Knight was trying to stop me from going forward.  There was actually plenty of room, but the imbeciles in front of me worked hard to block my egress.  I couldn’t imagine what they were thinking; their actions indicated their desire to force me off the platform into the path of the next train.  Luckily I persevered and made my way towards my morning coffee and ultimately, the office.

I’ve learned to set my expectations accordingly.  For instance, it never fails that at one intersection on my walk to work at least one car will ignore the stop sign and ignore my rights as a pedestrian in a cross walk.  Similarly in Chinatown, people will inevitably decide to veer to their left and force me to my left, because, as you know, “in Chinatown, no one walks one on the right hand side of the side walk.”  I guess I missed that lesson.    Especially today, when the man with the murderous look in his eye walked straight at me as I hugged the curb to my right and forced me to my left.  He must have thought walking in Chinatown was the same as driving in England.  I mistakenly missed that clear connection.  Of course, by now my expectations have been reset.

Upon entering the building lobby a cloud of noxious air assaulted my olfactory glands. In Peanuts Pigpen leaves a cloud of dust in his wake.  Pepe’ Le Pew does similarly with his stink in the cartoons.  Clearly, a woman in my office decided to merge the two characters and use the most offensive scent imaginable.  It was so thick you could almost see it.  I painfully trudged through it, wishing I had a fan to serve as my urban machete in this toxic jungle.  I was sadly aware that this woman had found a fragrance worthy of the name my internal monologue had bestowed it, au de Durian.

I could only imagine what the wearer of this odoriferous assault was thinking.  No one would notice?  Clearly everyone did.  One of my coworkers had noticed another coworker went heavy with her scent each month for a few days.  He asserted that it was her way hiding Aunt Flow from the rest of the staff.  If that was the case today, Aunt Flow came for a month with all of her sisters and half the street urchins from menstrual town.  Clearly her expectation that her condition would go unnoticed were fallacious.  Nothing like attracting attention when you are trying to slide under the radar, right?

Once in the office, my expectations changed.  I sit at my desk, trying to be productive.  I set my goals, realistically as my expectations, which are rarely too far off, are to be ignored, left out and asked to do some minor secretarial duty from time to time.  That’s my typical day.  I’ve become quite adept at laying low, not trying to help where I am not wanted and ignoring the circuitous conversations headed off a cliff when I have the answer they need.  They don’t want my input.  It has been made clear.

One area I look forward to is my (almost) daily trip to the bathroom.  I know you think you know where this is going, but trust me you don’t.  In the late afternoon I visit the left urinal and do my business.  Nope no colorful language, just efficiency.  There, pointing at 2 o’clock is a sturdy wooden toothpick, half under the urinal screen.  Why is this interesting?  Besides the fact it has been there more than 2 weeks, soaking up fluids from a myriad of human sources like some teenage biology experiment from one of Cthulhu’s disciples?  Shouldn’t that be enough?  I mean the bathroom gets cleaned 2-4 times per day.  Perhaps the janitorial staff need special nuclear gloves or tongs? Why are they waiting for the screen to expire at the end of the month?  What makes this so interesting is really a history lesson concerning small minds trapped in conflict with mismanaged expectations.

We moved into a new office almost 2 years ago.  Within a short time, the expectations of the facilities staff were out of whack.  They picked a very beautiful carpet and layout that looked fantastic in several magazines and advertising campaigns.  However, it was both impractical, counter-productive and filled with questionable decisions.  As an example, the carpet.  While stunning to look at in its large sweeping patterns of light colors and (rumor has it) just as stunningly expensive, it is inappropriate for a large office setting.

In an office of over 100 people (seems like a good place to draw the line doesn’t it?) there will be all types of people – considerate, careful, conscientious and altruistic.  Of course with that many people, you will also find some people that are rude, clumsy, unthinking and selfish.  It is just statistics and human nature.  So actions were taken.  Emails are sent out regularly to make sure people don’t fill their cups too full, always use a lid and heaven forbid DON’T SPILL!  If you sit at your desk too much, you must get a mat, to save the carpet.  What is too much?  I think its 2 hours a day. Since conference rooms are in short supply, people sit at their desks.  Yes, there was no expectation that people will react poorly when they are treated like a kindergarten class being unruly at nap time.  The key take away here is that everything was designed for looks, not functionality or actual use.  But don’t say anything; that would be worse.

But, enough about the carpet, back to the bathroom.  One of the first thing I noticed was that urinals were designed for maximum splash back.  This isn’t the master suite at some hotel where you pay $1500 a night, this is an office where functionality, perhaps even minimalism, should rule.  Facilities noticed there were puddles in the men’s room.  The pretty tile floor was not designed to hide the splashes that occur in many such rooms.  So immediately, this became a crisis.  Emails were sent, notes were posted and nothing changed.  The problem is the urinal, not the people.  Somewhere, a woman surely thought that most of the men in the office were doing fire hose impressions to ruin her wonderful bathroom design.  Let me assure you, men have limited control over how much extreme presume they can exert at the urinal.  But since her expectations were that emails and notes would run the people like sheep down the gangway to the slaughter of modified behavior, they were unrealistic.  Unless no one uses the bathroom that won’t be happening.

There were complaints that the modesty panels were being stained.  Too late.  Yes, stainless steel can be stained.  There was the infamous “hit it or sit it” cartoon, where someone drew in yellow puddles.  Then there were the fly stickers so the men had something to aim at, theoretically minimizing splash back.  While these were fun experiments, my favorite was the constant carousel of urinal screens.  One smelled like apple jacks.  One was ginormous.  My all-time favorite looked like square patch of AstroTurf.

Keep in mind, the urinal screens don’t really help if that’s not where the hose is pointed.  It is more to assuage some deranged need to control actions that are in way related to the original flawed design.  After all, Ford didn’t solve its problems with the Pinto through an extensive campaign extolling the virtues of NOT plowing into the rear of the Pinto in front of you.

Remember the AstroTurf?  It became a magnet for any debris that found its way near.  Let me be clearer.  Men shed pubic hair, on occasion.  At the end of the first few days it looked like the shower at the home of a victim on The Strain.  You’d have thought only Bigfoot used the urinal.  Imagine the end of the first week, then the first month, because that was how long the unsanitary removal cycle was.

When I saw the toothpick at the end of end of July, I knew it was going to be around for a while.  That’s why I often go at 2.  I wonder when it will point to 3 O’clock or become extinct, like the Dodo.  My expectations are that it will be my afternoon companion for another 2-3 weeks.  By then there will be more irrational expectations and ridiculous situations to be shared here.  I began to dwell on its ultimate disposal and the discoveries later day Darwins would find and attribute to it, unknowingly

Food Posts

Today I wrote about Mac n’ Cheese, but request of course. It is here: http://stuffandthingswithlee.wordpress.com/recipes-and-food/mac-n-cheese/ do any of you look at these? There will be more of course.

More Black Marks on my Permanent Record

I’ve avoided this corner of the web because I don’t want to seem harsh or only use it to vent. Let’s see how even keeled I can be today.
I’ve been pondering management quite a bit lately; more accurately, mismanagement. I see quite a bit of it these days. People often mistake management for knowing every arcane detail to the point of being ridiculous or completely controlling people so that they can’t make a decision to do anything other than breathe or shit without asking permission and guidance. Of course if management is not highly valued, incompetence and counter-productive behavior is allowed, even encouraged to proliferate.
Industry has looked to flatten management. The stock market and a generation of corporate raiders have shown that middle management was excessive and unneeded; filled with fat. Cutting out those layers in response, without appropriately adding in the skills to handle the world by managing for results and leading people to grow their skills have led to responsibilities being added to existing jobs, without the support mechanisms and guidance to help the average person. I know many people whose responsibilities have tripled (or more) in the past several years. Is this a cause and effect or is it just my time on this earth allowing me to see things differently?
There are many different styles of management and none are always correct. Different people and different situations require different approaches and tactics. I’ve come to realize that management is lost art and most of the managers I work with are a one trick pony. Years ago, I told a VP I was consulting for that he needed to stop managing his staff the way he wanted to manage and start managing the people the way they NEEDED to be managed. It seems simple, but it is not. Some people need to be micromanaged. Others need to be inspired and given goals to achieve. Others need something in between. Very few people need nothing.
Exceptional managers are often exceptional leaders. But let’s be honest, these are two very different skills and do not always go hand in hand. Very rarely do I meet a manager that understands the difference and works to make those two skills work hand in hand. There are also the needs of tactical achievement versus strategic goals. I often see managers not understanding the difference and thinking only about,” what fire do I need to put out today?” Of course putting out the fire that you started does not make you the hero either. I have learned a lot during my career and have lots of examples of styles and performances I use to keep myself in line.
I used to work for a highly decentralized company. I was responsible for IT in one division and worked hard to forge relationships with business users and find ways to improve their environment, creating efficiencies that allowed them to make more money. It was an exciting time and we improved the way things got done. Processes were smoother, productivity skyrocketed and overall profits increased. Of course some small thinkers in the corporate office only saw the increased IT costs.
One day, this company decided to centralize. One “powerful” executive had a few key phrases that guided how he centralized and remade the company, specifically the technical side. At the time I was appalled. In retrospect I see it even worse. He preached that “perfection was the enemy of the good.” On the surface, that might sound like a restating an incremental improvement goal. It wasn’t. It was his understanding that things weren’t efficient and setting the bar very, very low so no one complained and that it looked, like things were changing.
I was different than most people in my position. There were 15-20 us, running IT for the various units. I was an IT professional. I had 7 years of IT management experience prior to coming to this firm. Most of my peers were the guys that “like” computers and were moved from line jobs to IT management. A few were developers that were hired from outside, because developers make great managers. Sadly, most people don’t see the disconnection in that last statement. And again, management as a skill is disregarded.
I’ve always been an achiever. I see the endpoint, wallow through the ambiguity and find results that exceed expectations and change processes. Those results are not possible when you set the bar too low. And when you set the bar high, you identify your issues and solve them. That’s not saying “we can’t,” it is planning for the tough work that follows, even if it remains ambiguous. I’m all for continuous improvement, but creating illusions of success and change are counterproductive now and in the future.
His other favorite phrase was “some people have to take a step backward, so others can take a step forward.” As you recall, we had drastically changed our workflow and increased profits. Since other divisions had not, my division was “ordered” to adopt new processes and abandon the systems and benefits we’d implemented over the previous 5 years. These new processes were basically the processes we had left behind years before.
One example was our accounting system. We were in a specialized financial industry and had a separate accounting system for our clients. When I started, people used to run reports, analyze the reports (ok line item entries) and highlight the report; they changed the data and started over again. This process was a full time job for 1.5 people. We actually built a system to aggregate the data, highlight 90% of the needed changes and show the results of the change in real time. This reduced the effort needed to less than half of a person per month, which allowed us to assign more resources where they were needed.
The new system we required to move to worked similar to the old system, but we had to send our changes to a third party to input the changes and send us reports the next day. The new system took more than 2 people per month PLUS the fees sent to the third party. Not only did we move backward, costs increased, which represented a decrease in management pay.
I guess I forgot to mention that management was incentivized in our division by having a significant portion of pay determined by profitability. Innovation and improvement was encouraged. Yes, there was significant dissent and upheaval. It didn’t matter. It was to be. The other divisions did not have that component, so increased costs meant nothing to them. It was someone else’s decision. The fact that there were differences was completely ignored. I was not surprised the stock price dropped significantly over that period of time.
Needless to say, the innovations we had made were thrown away. 5 years later, a few were brought back as some other manager’s idea. In that way, my current role is similar. I was caretaking a department for several months. I worked with the various departments to understand their needs and goals to improve their environment. The new manager came in and decided that he knew more and contradicted every decision that had been made and cancelled every plan in place. A year later, most of them are back in place, albeit late and not understood. Imagine if he had the managerial skill and acumen to understand thing before he decided he knew best? We need not go in to the other mismanagement details.
In graduate school I did my thesis on the productivity paradox. In a nutshell computers, specifically PCs were supposed to make industry more productive. They didn’t. Much like giving a teenage power tools won’t make him a master carpenter, training, direction and leadership are needed to help one understand the craft and the art of the possible. We have a new productivity paradox. Today we throw people problems and often don’t support them with the skilled (or even competent) management talent to help them achieve and grow. Am I the only one that sees this?
Suddenly I see a world populated with managers like Ashely Broad. THAT might be worse than the zombie apocalypse.

Another Black Mark on my Permanent Record

I’m in a strange headspace these days.  There is so much going on around me, and so little going on with me.  I can usually tell things are off when I sleep through the alarm, which I’ve been doing lately.

Today, as my normal, I walked into Peet’s for my morning cup of coffee and saw to my, again totally normal, dismay the coffee of the day was the House Blend.  For those of you unfamiliar with Peet’s House Blend, let me describe it as Maxwell House meets Starbucks in dark parking lot exchanging insults.  Clearly, it is something I won’t drink.  So, as become my new norm, I ordered a press pot of one of the roasts I do like.  Today it was the Tanzania.

Sadly, however, the small press pot is 12 oz.  And by 12 oz, I mean it is about 6-8 when poured.  It is sad in its little cup, made sadder by the last oz being filled with grit.  We know the press pot, like an old cabernet, has lots of sediments we shouldn’t drink.  The first 80% was delicious, I just wanted more.

I often want more.  These days my work day is filled with small secretarial chores.  “Lee, will you order this?” “Lee, can you type this request up?”  “Lee, I created a ticket on the thing 5 minute thing I didn’t want to do, that you did last week.  Will you add notes?”  Those were the highlights of my last week.

There is plenty going on around me, but clearly I’m not being asked to participate.  Yeah, I probably did myself no favors by calling out the village idiot after a few months of him talking to me like I was a dog.  “Here boy” “Fetch!” “What a good job!”  There is more to life than peeing on the pad each time and waiting for the treat.  I might have changed the wording a tad, but the inflection and intent are unmistakable.

As an example, the parent company where I work (8k+ staff) did a survey to see how IT services can be improved.  Generally, these go by with nothing said.  This year the CIO stopped in our office (that never happens!) to give one of my coworkers and me recognition on “excellent customer service.”  This included a “Certificate of Recognition.”  I was touched, but as you might know, I really don’t want public accolades.  What I wanted less was the village idiot to comment, “Way to go on the certificate Lee!”  It was said in the same tone you’d tell Rover he was good for going outside.  I think I’d rather work with Cesar Milan.

Of course let’s compound this with 2 key facts – everyone likes to avoid confrontation and the understanding of how to manage people, projects and deadlines is largely absent.  Often, getting down in the weeds and micromanaging the details, often with incorrect information, is the substitute for superior results and achievement.  It is frustrating having insight and ideas that are not wanted.  I don’t work on areas I have unique and deep understanding of because, “I get in the way.”  I got in the way because I understood the needs of the customers and build solid relationships with them and that was perceived as being “on the other team.”  Let’s ignore that mistakes are being made daily and that misinformation and fiction are being sold as truth.

So I sit here, with my sediment laden coffee, trying to look busy and realizing how much is going on around me that I’m not doing, because I need to be “asked” to participate.    I don’t want to butt-in; I don’t want to upset the apple cart.  I let some things flounder because it is not my place to speak up.

I remember years ago in my first job the CEO describing why I felt things were going wrong.  “People need to stay in their box.”  I laughed to myself and waited till he retired.  In general business needs innovation to drive growth.  Meanwhile I am sitting in my box till 5pm when undoubtedly I’ll be asked to write an email or purchase and item and have another 10 minutes of work to do.

And then it occurs to me, as it does most days, maybe it is me.  Maybe I just wasn’t made for these times.

 

Can a pig whistle?

Lately I’ve been drinking a lot of Manhattans. I am sure it comes as quite a surprise to you that I like my drink.  A lot.  I think perhaps I have watched too much Mad Men and yearned for the day of yore.  I can imagine my dad going to work in the 60s, a bright energetic 20-something, being called into his boss’ office to have snort of the old Scotch and talk about the secretaries or the Celtics.  Except he doesn’t drink and he didn’t work in an office.  More of a factory.

Back to my drinks.  I haven’t sworn off vodka, but the Martinis are become less of my standby and more of my pinch hitter.  I’ve been challenging bartenders to make me something with rye, like a Manhattan, which with Rye might really be a Brooklyn, but I digress.  I like the name and I think I’m supposed to like Rye. If it’s good enough for my Ruben, it should be good enough for my drink.  And I do.  I like  Bullit and I like Templeton.  Last night, when ask what the good rye was, the barkeep handed me list of the top shelf.  And there it was.  I had heard about it.  I had seen it, but I had not had it yet.  Whistle Pig!  It was delicious and yummy.

I could go on and on about how this flavor or that flavor blew my mind, but I can’t and I won’t.  I was drinking.  I can tell you what I do remember, though.  $19.  Wow.  A pizza place in Oakland charged me $19 for a cocktail.  Yeah it was a fancy wood fired pizza joint, with a water view.  (Don’t get too excited, the estuary is nothing too special.)  I’m not complaining I was just surprised.  I think I’ll go find another Manhattan in a few moments.  Cheers!

Parking Wars: The Follow-up Episode

Shortly after I posted my open letter to the parking Nazi here, a friend parked in one of these oh-so controversial spaces.  He was meeting me for lunch.  The soon to be crazy cat lady chased him down and ranted about the access “the truck” needed.  Keep in mind his car was more than 30 feet up the street of the supposed door to be used.  And two other cars were blocking said door.  He said he walked on and tried to ignore her.  Finally, he turned as said, “are you an officer?”

“No,” was the reply

” Are you going to write me a ticket?” he asked.

“No.”

He turned and walked away as she went back to the rant on the truck.

After lunch we walked back to his car and there was a note on the windshield.  “Leave your # so we can call you when the truck comes or else we will have to tow.”

Seriously? Who is giving this crazy lady their phone number?  That would render the phone useless.  Why would she think that anyone listens to her.

Oh, and I spent 10 minutes talking to the parking enforcement officers in the neighborhood today.  They reconfirmed how ridiculous this was and that no company would be towing our cars.

You realize I have now made up my mind to tape the open letter on their office.  Probably quite often.  There might even be a picket line.

A Piece of Tape Too Far

An Open Letter to the Parking Nazi at 217 (or is it 229, Who can tell?) Harrison in Oakland, CA.

As you and I both know, I park in front of your building when I drive to work.  I park there because there are always spots there.  You have done such an effective job of scaring everyone away, there is always a spot.  You must realize it is your fault that I infuriate you so much.

(For those of you coming late to this party, 217 Harrison has a banked curb leading to 4 loading docks;  3 of these docks have been converted to office walls or doors, making them LEGAL parking spots.  The office puts flyers on cars, trying to intimidate them into leaving.  I love knowing that 95% of the time I have a spot waiting for me.)

I returned to my car recently, finding 2 new notes.  There was they typical “NO! NO! NO!” flyer, which is often found in on the sidewalk around the neighborhood.  There was also a note, loaded with vitriol, about how you’ve told me many times not to park where I park.  There was also paper taped to my driver’s side window saying “Tow this car!”

I think it is time we clear the air.  For the last several days there have been no flyers on the cars parked where I often park.  Are these your cars or have you been ill?  If you have, I hope you feel better.  I’m neither vindictive or evil, contrary to what you believe.   I feel sorry for you.  Your parents must not have taught you the hard lessons about sharing.  Did you scream when other kids touched your toys?  It must have been lonely not having friends as a child.  The public parking spots on Harrison Street are not yours alone, you really need to share them.  I can only surmise sharing is foreign to you.  I would also point out that putting flyers all over car does not make you my friend.  It does, however, make your passive aggressive and inconsiderate.

Let’s not talk bullshit about how the (mythical, magical) truck needs to park parallel and therefore you are saving me from being blocked in.

  1. Trucks back up to loading docks
  2. Trucks block traffic all the time in our neighborhood
  3. I have never, ever, ever seen a truck at your location
  4. Let’s not forget the time you told me, in our only conversation that you needed access to the windows 8 feet off the ground,  which  told you was ridiculous
  5. Go ahead, block me in.  I work till after 5, often after 6.  What truck driver is leaving your business that late?  That’s right. None.

I won’t minimize the fact that you want these spots all to yourself (or possibly your firm.)  Its an admirable, if misguided goal.  The fact remains that these are public spots and the signs you have posted are not legal.  You do not own the street and any implicit easement was eliminated when your firm build walls rendering the loading docks ornamental.  The parking authority won’t write tickets for the spot I park in and tow trucks won’t be towing me based on your note.  The past 18 months of results bear all this out.

Perhaps you had an “incident” and your sense of reality is skewed.  Did you take the brown acid at Woodstock?  seriously, you were warned. Let me help you in ways your parents and coworkers clearly have not.  Your notes and wishes won’t change reality.  The fact that you don’t want people parking there won’t make it illegal.  I want to win the lottery.  Just because I want to, won’t make it so.  Nevertheless, my odds of success are far higher than yours. Rather than tilting at windmills, perhaps you’d be happier accepting reality and getting on with your life.  This isn’t the Twilight Zone and you won’t wake up tomorrow finding that your misguided sense of reality is the new truth.  Grow the fuck up.

How sad must your life be if you spend this much time placing flyers on cars that aren’t yours?  I’ve seen your work on other vehicles and more importantly, all over the neighborhood.  Clearly you realize that we work near the water and the wind kicks up in the afternoon, cascading your inane flyers over several blocks.  I’m guessing the police are looking for you.  With all the green initiatives in the Bay Area, how do you sleep at night knowing you are a major litter contributor, let alone resource waster?  Have you no consideration for the forests you’ve decimated and the trees you’ve condemned to be part of your folly?

I think you would be better off finding a new hobby.  I don’t think it would be out of line to suggest you start fostering cats.  Start with one, and with your obsessive nature you can add more. Clearly, you will agree that being a crazy cat lady is far better than your fixation on my parking habits.  Let’s be honest, you’ll probably have more friends as the Crazy Cat Lady than you will as the Parking Nazi.  Or at least  you’ll have cats.  And Grumpy Cat on the internet.

Of course if you really wanted to have my car towed, you would have called a tow company.  And since the car isn’t yours the liability you and your company would face in the light of an illegal seizure would be monumental.  It appears that the note you put on my car is a feeble attempt at drawing unsuspecting innocents into your fantasy.  I think it is time you gave up on this fantasy, became and adult and embraced reality.

As I have tried to empathetic to your plight, I know your therapy bills are probably much higher than any plan your company provides, I feel I must be honest with you.  You have annoyed me far more than you have a right to.  I’ve stopped finding your notes funny, silly or sad.  That you have gone so far as to use tape on my car, I feel that your behavior encroaches on battery or defacing of property.  My car is my property and it is not your bulletin board.  Any further defacement of my vehicle will result in my filing charges with the police and ultimately lead to a civil suit.  I am actually considering a class action suit.  You have badgered many people and I’m only too happy to find them and develop a much larger action.  Do you really think all the people you’ve pissed off don’t care?

This is a warning.  My attorney is only too happy to proceed on my next phone call.

I hope you are feeling better.  Perhaps your therapist should increase your Xanax.  You might suggest that on your next visit.

Gravity Catches up to The Glass Teat (with appologies to Harlan Ellison)

I’m realizing that my television viewing has been changing, albeit subtly.   I’m not sure if my tastes are changing or if they suits in charge of some of the networks are nudging me away.  In either case, my viewing defaults have become exceptions, rather than givens. (Unspoken truth : I’m becoming a bitter old coot.)

Before we bought the house, I found myself moving toward HGTV as a first stop.  I would watch David Bromstad on “Color Splash” and enjoy the designs and whimsy.  I would watch “Design on a Dime” and think, “yeah, I can’t do that.”  But I was basically in love with the programming and it often helped spur my creativity. Now, not so much.  (Hidden meaning to this paragraph:  my parents ruined my life by keeping me from being a designer.)

Sure, “Love it or List it” and the “Property Brothers” were fun at the beginning.  But the manufactured drama part always annoyed me.  So did the “David can’t find us a decent house… till the end of the show” meme.  And then the endless reruns.  Luckily there is still Kitchen Crashers.  Yeah, I’m a sucker for Allison’s good looks.  She’s no Mike Holmes, which is a good thing.  Who doesn’t love a contractor in high heels? (Hidden meaning to this paragraph:  Lee like TV with good looking women; it is why channel surfing was invented.)

But it seems like design shows have gone by the wayside, mostly.  Every time I turn on the channel it seems to be some flavor of House Hunters.  And while I understand that the house buying candy is quite popular, it’s not for me.  In fact, having just checked, from Noon to 11pm today, the only programming is flavors of House Hunters and Love it or List it.  Seriously? (Subtext:  America still like a buffet.  What programming idiot missed that?)

Can I just request more David Bromstad,Sabrina Soto, Candice Olsen and Genevieve Gorder?  Having just looked, even finding the personalities on the HGTV website is a pain.  No thank you, I don’t need another “let’s have the amateurs have a contest “show. (Smart Creative People yes!  Stupid reality based game shows, no!)

Sadly, this is the same process The Food Network went through and MTV before it.  Ever try to find a music video on MTV?  Music is the 2% of its programming they don’t want you to watch.  But if you want to learn about teen moms or Italian Brats in New Jersey, it’s the network for you.  (Sad truth, MTV no longer cares what I think.  Nor did they ever)

I used to love watching the Food Network.  I learned a lot from Alton Brown.  “Good Eats” should be required viewing for any home cook with a life.  Sadly, Alton has gone from “Good Eats” and “Feasting on Asphalt” to “Cutthroat Kitchen”.  If I wanted to watch games, I’d watch GSN, which I don’t.  And if they think I want to watch “Pioneer Woman” or “Hungry Girl” they are mistaken.  (Hidden meaning:  tv thinks we are all stupid.  Oh wait, Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty are still way too popular.  Shit even Toddlers and Tiaras take a back seat to those.)

Yes, I will still watch “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”  It does provide a great deal of inspiration to the food I plan and make.  But for god sakes, do I really need “Guy’s Grocery Games?”  No fucking way.  What happened to real, meaningful cooking shows?  Where is Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse when we want them? “Restaurant Impossible” is nice candy, but it is way too easy to overdose on.  Yes, I did. (I’m admitting I am kind of a sad case here, but you got that.)

So helpful creative shows are out.  Goofy personalities are in.  Maybe I should work on being just a bit more eccentric in my demeanor.  Maybe I should be more like Moon Boy, Butterbumps or Patchbface? Oh ho! I kno!.  Nope, that’s not happening don’t fret.  (Yes, it was the gratuitous ASOIAF – Game of Thrones for you non readers – mention.)  

Thank god for endless commentary on football this time of year.  And yes, I do dwell on the fact that one horrid call was a contributing factor to the 49ers being the 5 seed rather than the 1 seed in the play offs.  Who said I was rational?  Not I.  (Football is life, but you knew that.  And yes, the Steelers got screwed out of the playoffs.)

If you’ve made it this far, you have my sincerest wishes for a Happy New Year for you and yours. (ok, deep down I’m really just a nice guy.)

Blue Tuesday

It was a Tuesday, much like any other Tuesday.  Filled with hopes and dreams after the depression that was Monday, but still lacking the joy of a camel on Wednesday.  Nevertheless, dawn broke and employment beckoned.  So, I got up, showered, dressed and joined the commute to work.  This was the day the BART strike ended, but there weren’t many trains running in the morning.  Thusly I drove. Amazingly enough, nothing memorable happened on the way to the office.    When I drive, I park on the street (surely you know this and the parking Nazi at 229 Harrison St.), but then I climb some stairs and take a sky bridge over the train tracks to my office.

Our story will start at lunch.

I decided that lunch should be consumed about 12:30 or so.  I grabbed my book and made my way to Chop Bar for lunch.  I eat there at least once a week and would eat there more if my diet didn’t prohibit me from my previous lusty relationships with their Reuben and Hamburger.  But, at least they have two different salads that allow me to believe I’m eating both healthy and (marginally) decadently.

We may be different you and I, but when I sit at the counter by myself I like to leave an open seat on either side.  It probably goes back to relatively large size and not wanting to encroach on other people’s space.  Or have them in mine.  I don’t like strangers in my space.  Especially, on BART.  So I took a seat one to the right of the couple talking.  She was on my left and he was on her left.

As I opened my copy of The Republic of Thieves, I quickly realized this couple was not a couple.  I saw that there was an open seat between them, but the real eye- opener was his voice.  Gravelly like a rock quarry and grating like brake calipers with worn pads, he was trying too hard to hit on the woman next to him.  He was 3 or 4 beers into drinking his lunch and she was scarfing down the last few bites so she could escape.  “Good,” I thought, “it will make it much easier to read my book.”

I enjoyed roughly 5 minutes of peace when another woman walked in and took the same seat. She ordered a drink and set up her iPad for use.  And then it started.  Reading became difficult and soon reading became a charade.  This was entertaining.

“Is your accent fake? It seems like it.”

He wasn’t happy with that question.  He was from New York and New Yorkers sound like him.  How could she not know?  Turns out she was from upstate New York, so he belittled her for that.

“Is Yiddish your first language?” I couldn’t really believe she asked that.

“Why would you say that!” he raged as though she called his mother a whore.

“My Husband’s Jewish.  You look Jewish.”

From there he attacked her naiveté.  And then he got to the fact that he has triple citizenship: US, Italy and **gasp** Israel.  If this guy is Jewish, I many consider converting. I’ve always thought the Hare Krishnas were on to something.  If G-d wants me in heaven, he needs me to have a ponytail to pull on, right?

Let’s be honest:  he was an asshole and she seemed to one of the people who help keep the average IQ at 100.  Not stupid, but she’s not in line for a Nobel Prize or finishing the Times Crossword Puzzle any time soon.

By now she’s flustered and her food arrives.  She asks for a to-go box and gets out of there quickly, though he is still trying to engage her.   3 minutes after she leaves, he leaves.

At this point I’m the only one at the counter.  I’ve probably read 5 pages. I’ll never finish this book (I did).  I notice the staff gathering at the other end of the counter buzzing about what happened.  I wait a moment. When one looks my way I say “if you want to know what happened I’ll tell you.”

They had missed most of the conversations and thought he was nice.  I dissuaded them of that opinion.  We all had a good a laugh and I went from the guy who comes in all the time to marginally more than that.  Good thing I can chat with some of them about Game of Thrones.  Yeah, I know a bit about that.

A weird experience:  a bit annoying and ending with a laugh.  Not bad for lunch.  But for Tuesday?  Nope.  There’s more.  So much more.

I tried to leave about 5pm, but silly little things kept cropping up and it was just after 6 when I was able to head to the elevator and make my way to my car.  Since I drove, I get off on 2, say goodnight to the guard (yeah, our building has the guard on 2) and walk across the sky bridge towards my car.  Straight across is the parking structure for the building and there is a large apartment complex to the left.

Being the observant buy I am, I scan the building to my left (It’s called The Bond, in case you care.)    Not expecting to see much I looked and saw too much.  I stopped and gathered myself.  FUCK!  I didn’t know what to do.  On one hand I’m appalled. On the other I’m shocked.  I turn and walked back to the guard at the desk.

“Uh, can you call the cops for me?” I stammered.

The young guard looked and me quizzically.

“Not 911. It’s not an emergency, but there is a naked man masturbating in the window across the street.  I really don’t think the women of the building want to see that.”

And by naked man, I’m guessing 6” 375lbs.  He’s got a substantial and firm gut.  I really shouldn’t know this much.

I’m all for letting consenting adults do whatever they want in the privacy of their own homes, but nothing about this event was private.  It was meant to be a spectacle.  I figured I should do something about it.  I don’t want to be guy who did nothing.  That’s too easy and too wrong.

The guard pulls up the camera on that side if the building and, nope, it stops right below his window. He believes me but doesn’t know what to do.  He radios his coworker.  The coworker won’t talk on the radio and insists they talk on the phone.

When he gets off the phone, he tell me that since it is not in our building he can’t do anything, including calling the cops for me.

Seriously?  I might have been shaking with anger when I left.  So much for doing the right thing.

Years ago, when I worked in the Financial District in San Francisco a coworker caught a guy trying to steal his wallet from his jacket.  The jacket was behind his office door.  We were on a locked floor in a secure building.  This guy was in a ratty suit.  If you glanced, he looked like he belonged in the office.  If you looked, you could see the suit was threadbare and his shoes had holes in them.  I came when hell yelled for me and we escorted the thief to the guard downstairs.

When we got there, the Guard shrugged, the thief bolted out the door.  We looked to the guard who calmly said, “I didn’t see him do anything, I can’t do anything.  There’s too much personal liability and I’m not allowed to.”

That’s when I learned the cameras in the elevators were props and building security is an oxymoron in most cases.

Back in the present, I walked back out of the building and about 10 minutes had passed .  The Wanker, as I was calling him in my head, was still at it, although off to the side, rather than front and center.  As I crossed the street, I realized the light was on in the lobby of his  building.  I walked across to the building and knocked on the window for the desk person to let me in.

I was probably a bit disjoined as I explained what the problem was.  She looked at me like I was nuts.  I asked if she was going to do anything.  Clearly she couldn’t use the “it’s not my building” excuse.

“We got a call about that earlier,” she said.

“Oh.”  I started to leave.  And then I stopped.

“When did you get that call?” I asked.

“Around 11.”

“Seriously? It’s still going on!  Don’t you think this is a bigger problem than that?”

Then she told me in effect that it was none of my business.

I left there madder than a hatter.  No wonder people don’t speak up more often and try to help; doing the right thing can be aggravating when others prevent you from doing anything.

Oh, and he was jerking off, fully naked, in the window again Wednesday after work.  I still see him in the window most nights, but now he stays a few steps back and has at least a shirt on.  I doubt that will last.

 

 

 

Parking Wars: A Descent into Madness

As you might have heard, we had another BART strike in the Bay Area.  This forced every commuter into new modes of transportation.  That meant I had to drive to work.   There were two key impacts here:  traffic was ridiculous and I needed to move my car each day at lunch.  There are plenty of pay lots, but with the abundance of 4 hours spots, and meter maids that only make 1 circuit, it seems silly to pay $7 a day.

You may recall, I have an on-going feud with a business around the corner that harasses people who part outside of their office.  The walls of their office had been cargo bay doors, but now they are walls.  There is one door which might still be a bay, so I don’t park in front of it.

I tend to park other places in the morning, because I can always park in front of their faux driveway in the afternoon.  A few weeks prior I had noticed they had added a new sign on their walls (not the steel doors that protect the walls at night).  They read “Tenant Parking Only  Violators will be towed.”  This is the part of our show where we get to discuss reality and some people’s lack of it.  I have no doubt that the tenants want to park there.  But, as I discussed with a parking enforcement officer, unless there is an official city sign, those signs that were bought on line for $20 hold no weight.  Wow they must be committed to the cause.

(Seriously, check out that link.  Clearly there is a market for people tricking others into not parking in legal spaces.  I bet they make a ton.  Wish I was selling these idiots their signs.  And yes, I know I completely ignore the fourth wall.)

They must have forgotten that the street and sidewalk are public property.  They have no specific rights to stop others from parking there.  While there was a cargo door they had easement rights of access and the right to be unimpeded, but they forfeited those rights when they built walls. The reality is that if they tow someone’s car for parking legally in front of a wall, in a public space, they are liable for the cost and inconvenience. I personally would love for them to tow me so I can sue them and go after punitive damages.  I will.

As delusional as their signs and appeals for drivers to park other places are, they have finally hit a new low.  Last week I got a new harassing flyer.  I put it back in their mail slot, so I’ll have to paraphrase.

[In an angry, yet pleading tone:]

You can’t park here.  We will have you towed.  Really we will.  We haven’t yet because we don’t know how to contact you.  We need these spaces because when we use the cargo door, we need to park the truck at an angle so as not to block the street.  We WILL tow you.

This is so ridiculous that I don’t know where to start.  How about that it’s a very wide street and only a double trailer will block the street?  Or that trucks that are unloading block streets all the time? Perhaps they use the only driver in the US that worries about other cars being able to drive when they are off-loading?  If they park at an angle, how will the cargo be off loaded to the bay, if the truck isn’t flush?  Let that sink in gentle reader.  Reread this list till you realize that it has been proof of sorts.  (I’m sure more than a few of you took geometry in high school.)

Thus, I believe we can safely say that if their goal isn’t to use the bay door as a cargo bay, because the cargo must go the sidewalk before it can be lifted up, then they don’t really need a bay door and the need to not block it is silly.  The truck can park parallel to the parked cars.  I really can’t see how they are making their case.

Therefore, I propose a call to action.  Everyone should find a reason to park in front of 229 Harrison St. in Oakland.  (This is a visual daily double.)   If you look at the picture, you’ll see 4 garage doors:

  1. The first has a stair case in front of it you can park there
  2. I’ve never seen the 2nd open, I wouldn’t park there
  3. The third is an office wall
  4. The fourth is an office wall

This is our cause, take up your keys and park happily.  And when the wicked witch of parking delusions accosts you, tell here Lee sent you.  I don’t suffer fools and neither should you.

This was the start of an exciting several days, don’t miss the next post, you won’t believe my Tuesday.

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