Thursday, April 27, 2006

Things Unplanned

I know, I know. I haven’t posted in a while.

What can I say? Sometimes life just runs up and kicks you right in the Jewels when you least expect it. Hell, it’s ALWAYS when you least expect it.

2 weeks ago, my grandfather was rushed to the Emergency room after he admitted to passing out for seemingly no reason. I say he “admitted” to passing out, because over the last few months, he had passed out a handful of times before, but he had consistently told us that he had “just tripped”. I guess this final time scared him enough that he finally decided to fess up and asked for help.

My grandfather is 93 years old, and still as strong (and as stubborn) as an ox, God Bless him, which made him being admitted to a hospital all the harder. While we waited in the Emergency room (for 24 hours before we were able to get him a Damn room!), he told me that he hadn’t been inside a hospital for over 50 years. That is an incredible statistic to me, and makes me think that maybe God blessed me with some good genes.

I have always had a very close relationship with my grandfather. Yes, I know, everyone loves their grandfather (and puppies and rainbows!), but I am especially close to mine. One of the biggest reasons for this was the fact that we lived together until I was 27.

When my mother worked during the day and went to school at night, and my father worked 2 jobs to keep food on the table, it was primarily my grandfather who took care of me. He picked me up from school, took me on vacations during the Summer, and was always the first one to jump into the car to drive me to 30 different Toy’s R’ Us stores until I found the latest piece of crap toy that he knew I wanted.

As I said, he’s a physically strong man. Before last week, I had never once seen him appear weak. He drove a car up until last year, when he had FIRST EVER fender bender. He regularly still mows the lawn and uses the snow blower. Hell, one time 2 years ago I stopped over to see him hanging from the roof, fixing a shingle!

I think that’s what scared me so badly about this ordeal. To see him weak for the first time in his life really put the fear of his mortality in me. It’s something I of course am conscious of, but stubbornly (I wonder where I get THAT from), refuse to dwell on.

Anyway, after 1 week of being in the Cardiac ICU, the heart specialists finally diagnosed him with a condition (can’t remember it’s 2,000-letter name) where the blood flow through his carotid artery has become very weak, and even such simple actions such as turning his head too fast, could cause him to pass out.

The doctors ordered him a pacemaker, which they said would keep the blood flow through his artery on an even keel. The surgery went well, and the pacemaker was installed. Then while he was being moved to recovery, one of the leads to the pacemaker disconnected, and he basically had to have the entire surgery all over again.

Overall, about 6 hours on the operating table for a 93 year-old man, and he’s already back home, climbing up and down 2 flights of stairs, and generally Raising Hell.

My grandfather is STILL as tough as an ox, and just as stubborn, Bless his heart.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Look For The Union Label

Sorry for not posting before now after last week’s Cliffhanger Ending, but I had a lot going on this week, and haven’t even THOUGHT about the computer.

In a nutshell, the rumors proved true. I have once again managed to avoid the Eye Of Sauron and keep my job. I DID see a lot of good friends walk out the door, however, which made Friday not the best day for me, but it takes the sting away a little bit knowing I can still pay my mortgage. Thanks so much to those of you out there who sent me sympathetic emails and well-wishes. It meant a lot to me.

Which brings me to my current gripe. Unions. I dislike them. No, that’s not strong enough…. I HATE THEM!

I realize that there was period of time in the world where unions had a place, a necessity. Unions acted as the voice for the little man against the big Corporations, a last bastion of defense for the blue collar worker who needed help and a leg to stand on during the Great Depression. Unions acted as a way for workers to unite and become one strong voice, where hundreds of small voices went unheard. I GET that. I do.

But somewhere along the lines, unions have crossed over into the Bizarro World and become a distorted reflection of their former glory. Most unions nowadays are almost nothing more than grandiose pyramid schemes, enabling the senior members to reap benefits off the work and hard-earned dollars of the newer members. Most members of unions will go their entire working lives not getting ONE benefit from a union, but yet they were forced to belong to it, and pay dues to maintain it.

Which leads me to my story. When our company was taken over by the Borg-like superpower that I have mentioned previously, said Borg-like superpower’s first order of business was to unionize us, since they are a unionized company themselves. They took it as an affront to leave us to our own desires.

Trouble is, like a Vampire, local laws state that a union can not solicit themselves to an organization unless they are invited in to speak by an existing employee, and within a few months, that’s exactly what happened. While not able to force us to unionize, union members began bombarding our employees with correspondence praising the Nirvana-like state one enters while being a part of the union. After awhile, some of the weaker-willed people here fell for all the bullshit, and some departments here ended up becoming part of the union (mine didn’t, thank God!).

Anyway, for the past 2 years some departments here have been paying union dues, only to see ZERO benefit. The union was able to negotiate for them a 2 percent raise this year, but the smarter ones quickly tabulated that union dues accounted for 3 percent of their current salary, so they are still paying for nothing. Most of our company got substantial bonuses this year, but the union failed to procure a bonus program, so unionized members got zilch. Wow, those unions are really protecting the little man, aren’t they?

To make matters worse, our particular union has a BUMP rule. The rule is complicated, but in a nutshell, in case of a layoff, a person that has been targeted to be fired can elect to BUMP someone else to be fired in their stead. The only caveats are that the person you choose must have less seniority, your jobs must be similar in scope, and that you can assume that person’s position immediately, with no training.

No one here really knew about this Bump rule before Friday, but believe me, we all know it now.

As people got fired Friday, they were told about this rule by our HR department, and in accordance with the rules of the union, were given a sheet with prospective fellow employees they could have fired in their stead. As you could imagine, many people took the union up on this opportunity, but their intended targets weren’t told that THEY were in fact the Weakest Link till this week. Dozens of people who thought they had escaped the firing squad, instead once again found themselves back on it this week. Again, some were good friends.

That sucks, plain and simple. Why would ANY organization put their employees thru such a horrible and humiliating experience? What is gained by this? Any organization with a collective brain in their head, in the face of a layoff, would consider it a no-brainer to either:

a) Fire the person that manager WANTS to be fired. There must be a good reason that manager wants that person gone in the first place

Or

b) Just fire the newest members of the union every time. That’s what happens in the end anyway, but THIS way there is a lot less confusion and humiliation and hurt feelings.

Isn’t it JUST that simple, or am I missing something?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

 Take This Job And Shove It

Tomorrow morning, the place where I work will be laying off 50-75 people.

I really wish I could work up enough emotions to care, or be concerned, but try as I might, I just cant.

As a company, we have all known about this impending doom for about 3 months now. The date keeps getting moved back, and changed, then moved back again, but we all have known it was going to happen since Christmas. Having knowledge like that really helps foster a nice warm feeling around the office (especially during the holidays!).

It isn’t as if this if the first time we have experienced this kind of thing either. Nope, this will be Layoff Day # 4 since our company was sold to a huge conglomerate back in 2001 (the 2nd in the past 12 months). So maybe we are all just getting used to it.

Back before 2001, we had close to 500 employees here, and after tomorrow (if the Voices of Doom prove accurate), between the layoffs and people just getting so damn sick and tired of waiting for the axe to fall that they quit, we will be somewhere around 220 or so. That is a staggering statistic to me. If someone from the future had come back and told me in 2001 how this company would look after tomorrow, I would have wracked my brain trying to fathom what level of incompetence would be needed to displace that many people's lives in so short of a time, to turn what was once a VERY successful company here on Long Island to a cubicle wasteland?
In all honesty, the worst part isn’t even the friends who I will be saying goodbye to tomorrow, but the other people (3 in the last month), who just can’t take the aggravation anymore and have decided to move on before they get whacked.

I wish I had THAT kind of initiative to just move on, or maybe I just need to be more pessimistic, which is really weird because I am the most pessimistic person I know. The glass is ALWAYS half-empty with me.

Which makes my decision to stay here and ride out this storm very strange for me. This was such a good company, back in the day. A GREAT company; the best I have ever worked for, bar none. The executives really cared about their employees. Raises were plentiful, and bonuses and perks abounded.

But those good ol’ days have long left us. After we were acquired by good old MEGA-BIG-BUSINESS-AND-PROFITS-FIRST Corporation, it didn’t take long for us to just be another number in the machine.

Maybe my not caring about what happens here tomorrow is a direct reaction to the repeated layoffs and walkouts, where friends I have known and worked with for over 10 years continue to do the Bunny-Hop out the door, while fewer and fewer of us stay here to hold down the fort. Maybe at this point I have pretty much desensitized myself to the horrible feeling of what it could feel like to lose your job.

Word on the grapevine is telling me I should again skate thru tomorrow's purging untouched, but I hold nothing I hear anymore with any real weight. If it happens, it happens. At any rate, maybe I should start looking at the glass as half full? Without work, I could REALLY start posting more articles! And sleep late! Yeah, I think I’m getting the hang of this positive outlook thing now!

And if it DOES happen, maybe that will give me the final kick in the ass I needed to get out there and pursue all of my lifelong dreams.

Hey, does Hugh Hefner need a poolboy?Keep your fingers crossed for me tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Extra Innings

By B.E. Earl

Yowza, yowza, yowza! Thought I would expand on my last Sonic Youth/Pauley -Name Removed - post with a couple of odds and ends regarding both.

The radio station that I heard Sonic Youth on a few weeks back was something called the Radio X Underground Network here on Long Island. It can be heard on 94.7, 94.9 and 104.5 on your FM radio dial just about anywhere in Suffolk County. Unfortunately the signal is pretty weak in my hometown of Huntington, but hopefully they will correct that someday. Their tagline is “transmitting from the top of a really big tree in Ridge”. So they will never be confused with the old K-Rock. They play a healthy dose of alternative music that is currently missing from the rest of NYC/LI metropolitan area. Besides WFUV (90.7FM), it is the only radio station that I really listen to.

What I didn’t mention in my last post about hearing “Titanium Expose” on Radio X is that I had never heard it on the radio…ever! It’s the last song on Sonic Youth’s “Goo” album, and at almost seven minutes long it is not what you would call radio-friendly. The only thing I could think of was that it was on the soundtrack of Pump Up the Volume, a 1990 film featuring Christian Slater as a teenaged underground radio DJ. Then I became really sad because I knew it was on the soundtrack of that mostly forgettable film.

You see, my obscure film trivia knowledge is the biggest factor in my not leading a fuller, more important life. I’ve been known to say that the portion of the brain most people use to lead a normal life is filled with utter nonsense about movies in my brain. Anyway, back to our story.

I started to see more references to Pump Up the Volume on this radio station on a daily basis. They play an audio clip from it between songs. “Are you listening…are you out there?” or something like that. They also played Concrete Blonde’s version of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” which was also on the soundtrack. Maybe they feel they have a kindred spirit in the character that Christian Slater plays. Who knows?

Now, I own the soundtrack. It’s great! It’s got Ivan Neville, The Pixies, Liquid Jesus, Cowboy Junkies, Beastie Boys and Bad Brains performing with Henry Rollins! All great stuff! I just think that it is a little weird for a new and developing radio station to have a soundtrack from an obscure movie made 16 years ago on its playlist. Weird, but I love it! I may be the only person listening who loves it, and at 39 I’m probably not the demographic that they were looking for, but so be it. Talk hard! Steal the air!

As for the lovely Pauley -Name Removed - , you can read an interview with her in the current issue of Risen magazine that is on newsstands now. That is, if you are able to find it. I went to Barnes & Noble to see if they had it, but nay…they didn’t even carry the title. Then I went to Tower Records and an extremely helpful sales clerk informed me that they carry it in the Music section and even spent five minutes or so trying to help me find it in vain. I thanked him and continued to peruse the magazine racks because I wasn’t quite sure if it was actually a Music-type magazine. Just about to give up, I found it on the bottom rack next to a Heavy Metal magazine and a video game rag.

After reading it, I’m not sure how to classify it. They feature interviews with will.i.am from The Black Eyed Peas, Anne Rice, Danny Trejo (how cool is that?) and Pauley -Name Removed - . I guess you can say that they feature artists from all mediums, but there is a great focus on spiritualism and religion in each interview. Maybe I should have gleaned from the title (the sub-title is “it’s not what you think.”), but I just wasn’t sure. Either way, it is an intelligent and totally different type of magazine that strays far away from the normal interview fare. You gotta love a magazine that will ask the hard questions like “Where do you see yourself in 10,000 years?”

You can check out Risen magazine at www.risenmagazine.com, if that kind of thing floats your boat. It comes with my personal seal of approval. Yeah, I know…that and $3.60 will get you a double tall vanilla latte at Starbucks. Sigh.