Revisiting a Day from Hell in 2003

While having lunch today, my friend Allison asked me where I worked before SCI-Arc. I was reminded that my days installing high speed cable modems prepared me for the worst. A really bad day at SCI-Arc is laughable in comparison. Here is an account of one such day I resurrected from my old website. Remember, this was just one day of MANY. Much profanity follows, you have been warned. I hope that my misery entertains you!

7:42 PM 9/20/2003

Following are my accounts of this “Day from Hell.”

It started out innocently enough. We were looking at a workload of approximately 125 jobs. This would be considered an extremely heavy day but it was predictable. This had been going on for weeks now. Routing 24 trucks with a such a full workload requires foresight,calmness, and optimism. Perhaps it even requires plain luck. These are all qualities I feel I possess except of course the luck, which is out of my control. Explaining the frightening feeling of despair this day delivered requires a visit to seemingly trivial events of the past week.

It started last Saturday when one of out techs met his own “day from hell” with an impossible lawyer from La Cañada. My tech was held up for hours and ended up missing two of his appointments. Of the two customers one was saved and the other, who claims to have been missed for the third time, was not. This caused me great aggravation. I couldn’t sleep knowing I was ultimately responsible. Sure, we were slammed with jobs and were asked to do the impossible, but that didn’t matter in the “real world.” This wasn’t Charter’s fuck-up, it could never be. It was our fuck-up and I owned it. The asshole lawyer and the customer I couldn’t save exposed me. In my never-ending optimism I embraced this as a lesson learned. I would arrive to work even earlier than before. I would focus on my follow- ups. I would call more customers than before. I would delegate better than ever. Yes, that was the idea, maybe now I finally understood what being a manager was all about. Thank the heavens for my misfortune. This was the lesson I needed to learn. This was MY wake up call!

The rest of the week was tough. Tuesday we were told we had to be in one hour earlier than usual. The calendar indicated Wednesday was the early day and we were informed of the change at 2:00PM but guess what? We made it! We were in on time. This shit was really working. Thank the heavens!

Charter had no white cable for the whole week. Everybody prefers white cable. This caused issues. We dealt with them. Charter is extremely low on materials. Not enough fittings, splitters, and roca clips just to name a few. We dealt with it.

Come Thursday morning we learn that our technicians will face a price drop. This means they will work harder for less money. My heart dropped. The last time this happened I was a technician myself and I quit. I believe one should be rewarded for their hard work and remain persistent in moving forward NOT backward. I was fortunate enough to have the skills necessary to move into management. Most people don’t. The technicians keep this company alive. As a whole they are the hardest working bunch of mother fuckers I have ever known. Although I believe our owner has nothing but the best intentions and a sincere concern for them, I believe they keep getting fucked. They deserve more. Still, I reminded myself of my position as their leader, as their role model and stumbled out my support.

Friday morning I received an e-mail that made its way to all the Charter managers. It states our tech spoke badly of Charter in front of a customer and came back at 9:00PM in street clothes to drop of a digital box. Nice one…

Friday evening was the beginning of the end. One of our techs “lied” to the wrong customer in Azusa. “We’ll be there in 10 minutes.” …45 minutes later… “Were still behind sir, I don’t know when we can get there.” Somehow this customer obtained the direct phone number to our office and speaks to our dispatcher. Although we had someone standing by to come to the rescue the customer requests we re-schedule for first thing next morning. Fine. I wrote the address down and scheduled it as a “first call, must do.”

So here I was at Saturday morning. The “Azusa call”, as I had labeled it, was just one of many follow-ups I had to deal with this morning. There was the guy in Norwalk who was a “must do 10 to 12.” We couldn’t find the main line from the junction box to his apartment Friday and he was pissed. “I took the whole day off, I have a business to run, it needs to be done today!!!” Also in Norwalk there was the computer that would no longer turn on after we installed a network card. Then there was a long underground run in La Cañada scheduled for 1 o’clock that would tie up both of my lead technicians. Add 3 more “tech calls” to this and 125 chances for something to go wrong. Murphy’s law did not let us down.

At 9:20AM the Azusa guy calls our office. He is pissed. “You were supposed to be here at 8:00… no, ok, I remember you said 9:00 after all but you’re still late. Were are you guys?” Somehow (still under investigation) it takes our techs an hour to travel 2 miles. These are the same techs that dropped the ball last night. Giving them the job again was a very bad call in hindsight. Maybe I felt they would somehow vindicate themselves by completing the job after all. Then, I wouldn’t have to yell at them about it as much. Maybe I hoped the customer would express how disappointed he was and they would learn their lesson. Maybe I just wasn’t thinking at all. This turned out to be the customer nightmares are made of.

Once again this customer magically obtains MY direct cell phone # and lays in on me. This has happened before. It’s part of my job but this time it’s different. I hear the usual ‘How can I trust you after all that has happened?’, ‘They told me you would wash my clothes and take out my trash!’ and ‘How can you run a business this way?’ but there was more this time. I didn’t realize what it was till later. He couldn’t handle my cell phone breaking up so he requested I call him from a land line. He thought I was lying about the phone breaking up but I did as he requested, called back, and we spoke for another 15 minutes. He proceeds to invade me…making me feel nervous, shaky, and out of control. Still, I managed to say the right things and felt the fire was out. Save for one thing.

I called back the wrong person! There were two numbers on the piece of paper I was scribbling on. I called the customer’s business partner! Their voices sounded so similar (and we were talking about the same situation) that I didn’t suspect I had called the wrong person. Fuck! The customer still awaiting my phone call was now fuming! I call the right number as soon as possible. This guy is twice as bad as his partner. He is unreasonable beyond belief. He speaks of suing us for missing his appointments and ruining his business. He eventually does not want to talk to me and will settle for nothing less than speaking to my superior. He doesn’t like the title of my superior (Operations Manager) and insists on the top of the food chain, Chad. I make it happen and predictably enough get yelled at by Chad as well. Later, Chad calls back, calms down and assures me everything will play out just fine. In this last conversation with him I realize why this customer upset me so much. He was doing this BECAUSE HE COULD. There was no reason for him to be as upset and nasty as he was. We hadn’t fucked up that bad. He knew no one would defend the mistakes we had made. He could act as atrocious as possible without fear of opposition.

This was further reinforced when I retrieved a voice mail he left me. He said “Alright Zuma, you want to play the game, then we’ll play the game!!!—click” Our technician also called later to say that the customer would turn and say “Watch guys, this is how you play the game,” before calling me. My perpetual optimism seemed to be mocking me. The human race became evil. I felt like an idiot for letting it absorb into my every nerve. This is fucking cable t.v. folks! What the fuck is so important about watching t.v. and checking your fucking e-mail? How about finding a hobby you fuckheads? And this is what I do for a living, hook up assholes like this? Am I the biggest asshole of all? Oh wait a minute, hold on. I’m not mad at the world, television, or the Internet. Just this asshole. Never before have I truly understood the meaning of the phrase FUCKYOU! So FUCKYOU Mr. Dickhead in Azusa! Finally, my installers finish The “Azusa call”. Yet, the day is not over.

At 11:00am Larry cut the power cord to a computer instead of his cable line (they are both black and similar in diameter!). At 12:30PM my lead Fausto breaks down with a leaking radiator hose. I take him to AutoZone where they give us the wrong part. We go back to find they don’t carry the hose and settle for a universal one. Now it’s 2:30PM and the super long underground run in La Cañada is still waiting. So, I take over his tech calls and hop on the 210 West. I take a follow up from yesterday and Larry’s cut power cord call.

The follow up from yesterday is a nightmare. I get yelled at for being a day early and the 5th guy to mess up a time frame. She lets me in anyway. The whole call is her fault. Her new Dell laptop is missing the built-in ethernet driver. I skip the explanation and the hero routine and just fix it with her Dell system disks. Her computer is full of spyware and stupid little toolbars…whatever. Her AOL pops up and she screams, “I don’t want AOL I want Charter!” I explain it popped up automatically. I turn it off and proceed to show her Internet Explorer. She screams even louder,”I don’t want Internet Explorer, I want Charter! Where is the Charter service!!!” I cringe and wonder how I am ever going to explain this concept to her. She asks,”Internet Explorer is not going to charge me also are they?” I say no and she seems to drop the matter. Then she wants e-mail. I kiss 20 minutes goodbye as I call Charter to set up (exactly) what she wants. I set it up in Outlook Express and show her how to send and receive e-mail. Just when I think it’s going well she needs to confirm her “forwarding” abilities. Yes people, THESE are the fucks on AOL that send you all that shit! As usual AO-Hell manages to convert every single message into an attachment and she has a fucking heart attack. “You Charter people are making this so hard! Do you realize how many messages I forward? I can’t have this happen!” I explain to her Charter uses a standard e-mail service and is simply receiving the e-mail as AO-Hell sent it. She flips again. Without looking me in the eye she tells me to leave and to make sure no one show up tomorrow. Gladly! I proceed to the “cut cord” tech call.

…I walk in to a room with no electricity. I panic for a second. Think, think, think. I find the electrical panel. The breakers are off. I switch them on and all is good. I replace the cord, configure the pc and all is well. The house is too small for this family. The house is untidy and the floor smells like cat piss. But guess what? This is the happiest moment of my day. These people are poor and their house is shit but they are so fucking nice it kills me! My installer just left them with no electricity and they think their computer is screwed yet they are so appreciative. Call it what you want. Ignorance? Fear? No, I don’t think so. How about these people actually fucking understand what the important things in life are like compassion, humility, and gratitude. Poor people win today. My-life-sucks-beacuse-I-own-my-own-business-and-I-can’t-watch-tv people lose.

A total of three broken underground lines, another nasty voice mail, another “I’ll be there in 15 minutes incident” and a customer who was offended my installer did not speak English well later, I went home. I drank a beer. I played my bass loudly to some Duran Duran and Power Station and then I wrote this.

I must give a big thank you to all the people that helped me make it through the day including Hector, Fausto, Anderson (who fixed the Norwalk computer), Gretchel, Elaine, and of course my partner in crime Frooshie, who had a bag of Spongebob Bubble Gum, a Spike burger, and teri-fries waiting for me.

Goodnight.

12:30 AM 9/21/2003

Being Grateful

We all know we should be grateful for what we have but, it seems that we need a reminder of this more often than we care to admit. More likely, events in our life will do just that when we least expect it. After coming back from my short holiday break I was hit with this:

http://hawaiitribune-herald.com/sections/news/local-news/missing-tourist-found-dead.html

I am not going to pretend to know this young man better than I did. The truth is he was a casual acquaintance. Still, I consider myself a pretty good judge of character and I believed this person was a kind, gentle soul. He always said hello and smiled often. Anyone who works at a school knows there can be a bond with students that you just can’t explain. I wasn’t his teacher but he was a student that we all cared for. May you rest in peace Yogi. We will miss you.

Sometimes it does take a horrible accident like this to realize, “I’m glad to be alive!” I’ve experienced some hard times lately but you know what?! Screw all that negative thinking, all those dark thoughts…I’m still here. Being alive, like being in good health, is something you can’t buy. It’s precious. A few days later I experienced even more reminders.

P1010206

Thursday morning I experienced a horrible nightmare. I dreamed that I was holding my beloved puppy Pepper and she was dying in my arms right before my eyes. I woke up screaming, “Noooooo!” It was terrifying. I was so relieved to realize it was a dream and feel her little body sleeping next to me, however, the morning would become worse.

My mother called me very early, just an hour or so after my nightmare. She never calls me that early. Something was very wrong. My sister and my niece were involved in a pretty bad car accident. I rushed to the scene. It was only 2 minutes from my place. As I approached the scene I began to make out the shapes in the distance – a big fire truck, paramedics, CHP cruisers, an ambulance. Then I saw what made my heart drop. I could barely keep it together. Everyone was converging on my niece, getting her out of the car. Soon she was on a stretcher with a neck brace. Those minutes of uncertainty were truly horrifying. Fortunately, the car absorbed most of the damage. They are going to be fine. My niece walked away without a scratch. I am so grateful for their safety. They are still here too.

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So yeah, this week I was reminded of some pretty big things to be grateful for. Of course, there are tons of smaller things to be grateful for but that’s another post for another day.

What are you grateful for?

Let’s talk coffee

I can’t remember exactly when I began to consider myself a coffee drinker. Sure, I drank it here and again. I was also a sucker for those ice blended drinks that Coffee Bean and Starbucks make. I didn’t need it on a daily basis, though. The caffeine really affected me. I’ll never forget the day I went to Starbucks and the cashier asked me if I wanted a double espresso shot. I said, “Sure, why not?” Soon my heart felt like it would pound right out of my chest. It was kind of scary. I’ve never done that again! I’m going to guess that around 3 years ago that all changed.

It was all around me at work yet I was never really tempted by it. I actually took a little pride in the fact that I didn’t drink it. At one point, though, I remember feeling so damn tired. My mornings were dragging along in a very bad way. Maybe I was just bored at the time, maybe I wasn’t sleeping well. Whatever it was, I had to do something and coffee seemed like a safe enough alternative. I would stop being a healthy rebel and join my fellow coffee drinkers.

Soon I started to have it every morning. I finally understood two things. First, there was a feeling that coffee provided. It wasn’t simply the energy boost I had used it for in the past. This was a happy feeling. A pick me up. I brain booster. I was now writing a significant amount of SQL and coffee made a lot of sense. I had graduated to supreme nerd status writing code with my coffee in hand. That brings me to my second point. The workplace encourages coffee drinking because it makes you more productive. Caffeine is a legal drug as far as I’m concerned. I’m sure someone out there has figured it that it’s much cheaper to provide caffeine for their employees than to let them be sleepy and dim-witted. The Dunkin’ Donuts work provided was tasty enough but soon this became like beer.

I was excited to try finer beans just like I love to discover new, delicious beers. Now let me be clear, nothing reigns supreme over my love for beer but the process was similar. I still have a lot to learn about coffee. So far I have tried some pretty good stuff like Illy, Stumptown, Larchmont Bungalow and  Intelligentsia but this one is my favorite at the moment:

That’s Tierra Mia coffee amongst my coffee kit at work. That’s real raw cane sugar in the jar baby! I don’t usually do creme or milk either. I like it just sweet enough. Anyhow…this is their Oaxaca, Mexico roast. It’s a very earthy flavor, almost chocolatey. Mmmmmm! I’m not versed enough in this stuff to describe it better than that. I discovered this place quite by accident. I was at the library with my niece and it was right next door. I just walked in and took a chance. It was worth it!!!

This reminds me that I’ve been wanting to try one of these contraptions:

Incred-a-brew Direct Immersion Coffee Maker

To close, I would just like to say that I actually don’t drink coffee every day anymore. I do enjoy it a couple of times a week but things haven’t been regular at work lately and that’s when I get in to the daily groove. I actually rarely have it on the weekends. Is it merely a coping mechanism for work? Are the weekends inherently easier therefore the caffeine is not needed then? Hmmmmm…

Merry Christmas everybody!!!

 

 

Who sleeps there?

This post is not about throwing a pity party for myself. It’s more about the beautiful mind of a child and the profound things they surprise us with. I actually had a pretty good day. I played catch up most of the morning. Listening to music, catching up on replies and planning the day with my computer (along with my revolving stash of handwritten notes) is certainly a favorite activity of mine. Soon it was time to get ready for spending the rest of the day with some good friends and family.

We took my niece to see a play. It was probably her first live theater experience. Here she is talking up her wishlist with the Santas. I believe she asked for a Barbie, amongst other things of course!

After the play we grabbed a bite to eat at a sushi restaurant. She’s a very picky eater but I figured chicken teriyaki is a safe bet with kids. Wrong. She did go for chicken but it was basically a dish of breaded chicken strips. She loved the white rice too. This gave her some major energy.

She was bouncing off her booster seat the entire way home. This was no short ride either. I don’t think I could have turned up my radio loud enough to cover her voice. I didn’t necessarily mind but half an hour of that kind of energy can get tiresome. Eventually we made it home safely.

We were all back at my place. I fired up the television and got some music videos going. I went upstairs to perform a quick check of things and feed my kitty. I am a pretty organized dude but you never know when your underwear might like to make a guest appearance. Everything was pretty much where it should be except for my bed. It was kind of half made. I heard the unmistakable sound of my niece running up the stairs. She walked in my bedroom just as I was pulling the covers over the right hand side pillow, completing my 10 second bed making operation.

“Uncle, who sleeps there?”

“I do, that’s my bed.”

“No, who sleeps there?”

“What do you mean, this is where I sleep, that’s my bed.”

“No! Who sleeps there, where you just covered up the pillow?”

Oh gosh, I thought…she sees two pillows and thinks that it means two people sleep there. My mind drifted in to so many places at once. Would I simply say that the number of pillows don’t matter…a don’t-worry-about-it-kid kind of explanation? I then remembered that I committed to honesty after a recent, painful experience.

“Well…unfortunately…” I began.

“Fun-futch-ly what?” she asked, waiting patiently for me to finish.

“Well…I sleep alone here.”

“But uncle, then who’s going to take care of you?” she asked, with genuine concern in her eyes.

Fuck. I completely melted inside. Without missing a beat, she went from trying to pronounce the big word I had just spoken to that. Just try to imagine a little 5 year old asking you that and you can probably see why I had no response. I might have said “I don’t know baby,” but I can’t be sure. A better answer would have been that I was slowly learning to take care of myself, to define myself again.That’s not exactly material to share with a child though, is it?! It didn’t really matter. She had made my night and continued to bounce off the walls promptly thereafter.

Later in the evening I played guitar and sang to my niece and her mother. It was a rare moment…too rare of a moment for a musician to be having actually. I need to do that more often.

I’ll leave you all with a song I shared with them. Everything about this song is simply beautiful. I hope you love it as much as I do.

Goodnight

Olivia Newton John – The Promise (The Dolphin Song)

LOX-EE-TAHN!

This post serves to fill the debut spot of my Miscellaneous Ramblings category. In reading the title I have just showed you how to say L’Occitane! This video is quite entertaining. The fields of lavender at the end are pretty awesome. That isn’t the point of my post, though. This is a story about a man and his deodorant.

I have been using this wonderful product for years now:

Thanks for the photo Nordstrom.

I usually purchased it at Sephora. It seemed the only non-online place you could get it without going to a proper L’Occitane store. I know $15 or so is a lot for deodorant but it is one of the luxuries I allow myself. Let’s talk armpits for just a bit.

I usually don’t care how well a deodorant works. I mean, if you take shower often enough and don’t eat crap food then most anything will do the trick. I would even propose that sometimes you don’t need deodorant at all. C’mon, we’ve all forgotten to wear it at some point or another. Did your armpits smell like Campbell’s soup? Did people run away in disgust? Probably not. Anyhow, this roll-on does work and simply smells great…a lemony scent. It’s not classified as a product for men but I find it manly enough. It also contains essential oils which is something my ex introduced me too. I have consequentially become a big fan of essential oils but that’s a post for another day. So…I am on my last licks of this sweet smelling roll on and decide a trip to the nearby mall is in order.

I went to Sephora in the Montebello Town Center…”Sorry, try somewhere else, maybe a bigger Sephora?” Damn, that would mean going to Old Town Pasadena and I wasn’t going to make that trip in holiday traffic. I’ll just get this online. I can wait a couple of days. OUT OF STOCK. Everywhere I went. Some joker already has one on eBay going for $34. No thanks. This morning I called a L’Occitane store.

A very nice associate informed me that this product is currently being reformulated to remove the aluminum. February is the current estimate for its return. I always knew it had aluminum. That’s why it works. That’s usually the difference between anti-perspirant and deodorant. I guess it was always a little sneaky for them to call this product a deodorant. This made me think…

How do they test the efficacy of deodorant nowadays? Do they still do it like they did in this famous picture?:

Or…do they now have some sophisticated bacterial swab to do this kind of thing?

Well, regardless of their testing methods,  I’ll have to find something I can live with til this product returns. I don’t like anything with a very heavy scent. I don’t think anyone around me should be able to smell it. That’s what cologne is for! Any suggestions?

What is one cosmetic product YOU let yourself splurge on? Ladies, I know you may have many. Men, don’t be shy. You can think of something.