Nickel and Dimed

Nickel and dimed : great book I am reading, as always, over 10 years late. Writer goes undercover to work and survive in menial labor jobs. Written before the recent recession, I don’t know how she could have even ATTEMPTED it then. Very interesting to me because I have worked some jobs she does and tried to find low cost housing before. Just recently I realized that where I live here is actually less per day that the ” North Beach Hotel” I spent my first 5 nights in. What keeps people in that type of housing is both the inability to come up with a chunk for deposit and first month as well as the fact they often can’t prove enough steady income. The author of this book, moving and trying to ” make it” in several US locations repeatedly comments about how no one moves alone and does this unless in the witness protection program!! And yet she is virtually living MY life except for living only on what she can make working two full time jobs. But it is such a parallel with her discussion of how long everything takes: job seeking that goes nowhere, transporting, etc.

I find there is no reason for me to continue to blog: my life is no more interesting than yours. Probably email you anyway and you can always email me. So unless something super interesting happens, I doubt I will post anything else. Thank you for listening and keeping me sane through my darkest days of being alone my first two months. I still hope more of you will figure out a way to come to the city, enjoy it, and visit me. Have a wonderful spring!


Spring has Sprung( did I start this in AUGUST???)

Well what on earth have I been doing?? I don’t know, but every day is busy in some way, and my calendar/ planner book has so much written in it is almost undecipherable. In fact, that kind of fits with what I wanted to talk about.
I am not a New Year’s resolution person, but this year I wanted to do something different and keep myself on track. I also moved i those first few days of the new year, so it was good to come up with a system: I elected to type a spreadsheet of the most important weekly goals. It has worked really well.
For me, I elected to pick volunteer, work, city exercise, home exercise/ yoga, friends, etc. I was specific as to how many times /hours/ whatever I wanted to accomplish each week. Printed a sheet for each month, so each sheet showed all 4 weeks. I could then mark it and especially see where I was falling short. Sometimes I could make effort and squeeze more of that category in. Other times I would have to try to make it up the following week. After 3 full months I have to say I am very happy with how this has worked out!

When Cary emailed the other day,checking in on my lack of checking in, I really was able to reel off the volunteering ( schools and homeless group), work ( sub and tutoring), friends, etc. that were keeping me busy: not to mention taxes!! One thing NOT on my spreadsheet that I am very good at is that at least twice a week I go to some lecture, play or movie. I joined the Commonwealth Club, which is easy to get to and has speakers almost every night: I go maybe once a week. They start by 5:30 or 6 pm to attract people before they have gone home from work, and that works really well. The topics I choose are often science based, and the speakers might be well known or fromBerkeley, etc. I feel I am really taking good advantAge of living in an urban setting: make a quick decision, jump on transit and go! Especially nice now that it stays light later.
By the end of this weekend I will know if I have a new job with a family in a well to do area of Oakland. I would work half days every day and one full day: the K boy is unable to be in school due to respiratory issues, so sort of a modified homeschooling. I would really like to make this happen. it is UNBELIEVABLE to me the $ some people have: they are actually seeking full days of schooling for him for 5 days: I would offer less due to my own schedule and other students I already have. But to do so they would pay the tutor company around $10,000 per month!!! I googled the family and know why they are wealthy. One advantage in making positive connections like this is the ability to have them recommend me to others. my other families are already open to doing that. So, where a few months ago I was massively frustrated, things are slowly coming around.
And what is up with Kindergarteners?? Who would guess that would be the age group I am working with, but it is pretty fun one on one except for attention span issues. You can imagine I have spent my fair share of time researching appropriate standards, lessons, materials, etc. so glad my former colleagues like Pam D. said,” come sub kindergarten!! You can do it”. From there I had other opportunities at other schools, and , as they say, the rest is history!

I will return to WA around Mother’s Day, and I think I have made the decision to sell my car. I love that car but it is a car and I can buy another when needed. Brent has been so gracious to keep it running, take it for the emission test, etc., and I just can’t leave it sit or take advantage of his kindness.

By the way, I was recently ” removed” without warning from the sub system in Federal Way: did they not KNOW who they were dealing with? since when have I ever gone quietly into the night? I still proudly hold the distinction of getting the district to raise the pay level for retired subs who retired but weren’t on Plan 3( one of my two proudest accomplishments in recent years). So of course I have also been busy preparing the documentation of how that went down so the union can determine next steps( not for me but for everyone that could be affected).
Ok see, you waited for a new entry and got the ” kitchen sink” version. Loving this city. My jobs. My new friends. My home. Hope 2013 is going well for you, too!

Kiss The Blarney Stone!

Why are YOU still reading this? I am not sure my life is any more interesting than anyone else’s, and I am obviously not doing this very often anymore ( you might choose to have an email notify you of posts?) anyway, because crazy stuff happens, I will keep relaying a few incidents. As for me, I am busy and enjoying myself!

While down in BART station the other day, a guy was hitting us all up by saying, ” could you help me get something to eat? When he got to me, since he was holding a decent sized container of nuts someone had given him, I said, ” it looks like you already HAVE something to eat!” Then he replied, ” I know but I would like to get a burger” The girl standing next to me chimed in and said, “well the nuts are way healthier!!” As he walked off, I thought, well, there are times I would like a burger or an item I see on a menu I pass that I can’t afford… And I go without. Funny how a beggar handed an expensive container of nuts by someone thinks he should get a burger free instead. minutes later he was back with a BART ticket in hand, riding with us to the East Bay. Really broke.
Within the same 5 minute period a guy, listening to headphones, was doing this Michael Jackson- roll- on the floor exercise, gyrating all over the place. Once he almost fell on the tracks!! He actually got on my car and continued to do this all the way to Oakland : so about 20 minutes! And the BART announcement says to ” report suspicious behavior”?????

I had gone to a hardware store to get some plants for my patio. I went into SafewAy to get a coffee and read. As I sat at a table near the exit, two young men had a cart whose tires locked as it wasnot to be taken out of the store. They proceeded to contact people, mess with the cart etc. for at least 5 minutes: and it had 3 bags inside!!! I was carrying more than that myself all the way back to the city, and they couldn ‘t just grab their bags and walk to their car?? It was like they could not think outside the cart. Real life continues to be funnier than fiction.

My mother continues to prove she is part cat: using up more of her 9 lives. She cheated death once when she fell ill on a cruise ship and refused to be left in Hong Kong ( who can blame her?) but upon reaching Seattle, instead of going to a hospital or calling her kids, she toughed it until the following day when she traveled back to Wenatchee. When finally at a doctor, he said the only potassium level he had ever seen that low was in a dead person!

Many of you know she fell a year ago into a bathtub after tripping on a scatter rug. She remained in the tub over 20 hours before being found!

A week ago she was returning to bed in the night after a bathroom break, lost her footing and fell backwards. she struck her head on the edge of her tv stand, cutting her head badly and deeply. 911? NO, not her! Call someone the next day? Only her hairdresser to cancel her appointment! She had gotten in the shower (!) to rinse her profusely bleeding head then just gotten back into bed, laying on towels. My brother found out and took her in where they decided she needed staples, not just stitches. Sheesh. On St. PAtrick’s eve I will give a shout out to her incredible Irish stubbornness mixed with a little luck o’ the Irish!!

Kind of fun to report I am writing this in Caffe Puccini coffee shop in North Beach: the scene of my very First Blog entry in August!! I am still so grateful for having lived here a month as it is a fablioso neighborhood.

Customer Service : an oxymoron?

Do you think it is a good thing we don’t live forever? Wouldn’t the subsequent generations finally drive us crazy? We remember growing up, especially most of us from the radical times, and the complaints about our music, our hair, etc. the same thing happened with hip hop/ rap, etc. we start to hear ourselves sound like the elders of our past as we complain.

Yet does a decline in customer service become ” acceptable” and the norm? From my hometown of Wenatchee I can think of SavMart, still amazingly in business, because even though prices are higher they have people in the store readily available to actually help you, and they do wonderful service oriented things upon delivery ( i bought a refrigerator once, and they not only hauled away an old broken one from a tough to access area but they moved another one from one garage to another: steps involved, etc. And the attitude was always friendly. yes, as Dar says later, your own JOB is dependent on this business remaining intact!

Here is what had recently happened to me : ( cut from an email)

( the day of flight delays/ hassles) “Within 2 min. Of arriving home, my phone rang and it was Comcast. they wanted their money NOW! I am sure I told you about that whole fiasco. (How I had tried to pay early but got routed back thru the same steps).
Well I gave her a piece of my mind!! Yet I stayed calm and relatively polite, I wasn’t cussing, I said I knew it wasn’t HER fault, but I detailed the things they needed to fix on their website: ability to call them, etc. at one point she interupted me and said,’ Ma’am, Ma’am.’
I was immediately reminded of a story i did NOT tell you about calling DeSoto cab, ( a cab company that had made harassing phone calls to Dar and Shelley when they were visiting) having the guy arrive finally( I see him) and then he drives away without calling me, trying to find me, etc. Sowhen I called back dispatch, again I was unhappy, and that guy interrrupted me and said, ” Karen…” . I hung up on him.
Now, with this chick pulling this stuff in my classroom ( volunteer!) I am wondering if we are seeing a new breed of young adult who doesn’t realize THE CUSTOMER IS RIGHT. EVEN IF THEY ARE NOT. LISTEN AND HEAR THEM OUT! It is called customer service.

Dar’s response ( with permission: she is a teacher and Tacoma business owner)
“I agree – there is a new breed of adult – the ones who think it is okay to curse and rant on social networks, without regard for what people might think or feel. There is a rudeness that pervades some areas of society. But, I wonder if other generations always thought that of the younger generation? Nevertheless, customer service does seem a problem in many places. I often call them on it, but in a nice way 🙂 Commenting on the fact that they might be having a tough day or .. And, they may be tired of dealing with rude people themselves – but the mantra that the customer is always right seems to be now that the customer is in my way of having a lazy day. Some service people act like you are the biggest interruption in their day. And, I wonder if that comes with longevity. A couple of them seem to not get the idea that the better the service, the more people will come back and business will stay in business and that means your job as well.
The Murano Hotel in Tacoma just got a four star rating based on their customer service and hospitality. They pride themselves on providing a top-notch experience. And, hopefully, those young people spread that kindness to their own kids and people around them and bring that attitude to whatever other jobs they may have in the future.”

Well said, my friend!!with Yelp etc. out there, it is obvious some businesses don’t even READ what people say, otherwise it is pretty specifically stated what people do and don’t like.

My challenge to you: get in the habit of doing one review every two weeks: a positive one and MAYBE a suggestions for improvement one. Make sure deserving businesses get the stars that will bring in customers.

Framing our perspectives

Amazing how busy I have been. Making new school connections and always on the hunt for tutor clientele. Good times with local friends : I have a to do list with almost nothing crossed off! ( my full time working friends are understandably gagging….)

i have been thinking about perspectives lately. Think of all of us and how varied our views or perspectives might be. We may have gotten so we listen very little to someone else’s view. plus we probably have surrounded ourselves with people who SHARE our views, so there may not be much chance to hear anything different.
blog reader Colleen, my friend and roomie from college days, spent 4 hours talking with me this past summer. We sat on her East Wenatchee vacation home deck ( she lives in Everett) : it was finally cooling down on a summer night, the Columbia River flowed below us. Colleen was very open to letting me share my views, which had diverged from hers over the years, and she reiterated what she believed. We had a good talk that never got contentious. Likewise, my sister and her husband are very supporting of my life in SF and they don’t try to tell me how to live. Most of us realize we don’t convince others that our ideas are RIGHT by beating them over the head with them.

My recent thoughts on this were shaped by a slight problem in this apartment complex. Remember it had 4 highrises with a minimum of 250 people in each building. Not all of them have elected to be on an online connecting site called NEXTDOOR, but a good crossection have: representing all ages, ethnicities and length of tenancy. There had been some comments/ concerns/ complaints about hot water not being available at certain times of the day. Where some had only made comments to their local doorman, we agreed it was important to communicate this with the proper people at ” the office”. Even though the issue was, ” how can we insure adequate hot water at all hours and how can we prevent a scalding blast when someone flushes a toilet?”
From this, it was interesting to see the responses. I enjoyed trying to analyze the perspective they were operating from ( in brackets).
” Yes. This is unacceptable in a high end rental” ( like myself, this is probably a recent tenant within the last two years paying BIG BUCKS. We want hot water!!)
“Sally in the office is so busy we shouldn’t bother her” ( someone who has maybe been a ‘Sally’ in the workplace and has undue sympathy: Quinster thought: the Gateway can afford to hire help for Sally!)

“I have lived here 35 years and I have never had any problem” or “i have….and this is just the way it is” ( a person or dare I say generation that is not used to rocking the boat. Definitely no union background 🙂

” i just assumed I had no hot water because everyone had showered in the hour prior to me” ( nice person, goes with the flow, doesn’t automatically think about a solution but will be willing to get on board)

We often are in the workplace with these people, and understanding where they are ” coming from” leads to greater understanding, and maybe everyone’s view can morph slightly toward a solution. ( any politicians listening??)

Ending on this note: a recorded message that plays in the BART/ MUNI entrance/exit tunnel states: ” please report unusual behavior”. Sorry. have you BEEN to San Francisco??? they need about 10 Sallys manning THAt booth. Unusual behavior is the norm!!

Another message soon on Customer service: Karen and Dar’s thoughts.

Experience/respect: now I understand military hierarchy!

So as seldom as I post I am surprised if anyone still reads this. But it makes a good way to ” journal” events, so I will continue. Several of you know I made a quick ” president’s weekend” trip to WA. I had a chance to go to the ocean beach north of Ocean Shore for two nights. Good time to see Darlene and Shelley. Frustrations with flight delays on both ends ( I travel less well as I age: very impatient, etc). Very little time to do what I needed to do at the beachhouse ( and was only there in the dark!!) I returned within 2 hours of needing to be at a tutor job. These are fun and the duration is much more within my stamina these days. i say that because yesterday I had a sub job for which I needed to leave the house by 6:30 am. I went right from the school to a tutor job, and got back home at 5 pm. It reminded me how exhausting this profession is in terms of no time to sit down!! And also that I am very NOT used to working a full day. However, a funny thing happened that day. This would be most appreciated by teachers, but maybe also anyone who has spent many years in a profession. I was at a new school, one I was happy to be working at. The class and I were doing well, and it was nearing lunch time ( with an early start, we had been together almost 4 hrs. ) It was time for a short session called Homework Support for which I had been told a couple of volunteers would arrive. A male employee of the school arrived: not the principal but someone in authority. He had 2 women with him: a returning volunteer quickly agreed to work with one student and they left to work at a hallway station. The other young (20’s) woman was introduced as new that day, a friend of his, and someone who would be coming in two days a week. The class was beginning work on 3 choices, quietly discussing things within their seat groups while some went to computers. Suddenly the new volunteer, whom I will call ” Sally” suddenly said to the whole class, ” You need to get quiet NOW!! I can’t even hear myself think!” I think I was as stunned as the class, as we all just got quiet and looked at her. She came over to me and said, ” I think they are trying to take advantage of you.” At this I had to resist bursting out laughing, because anyone reading this knows my teaching/ management style is NOT a free for all. but I also learned early in the subbing game that you don’t go in and recreate a group in your own image for one day: you pick your battles, make learning fun, and keep everyone safe. I recognized immediately that this new volunteer felt she was in charge. I asked her to take 4 students to the computer lab, and i stead of doing what I asked, she grilled each of them until they backed down from wanting to go. She was intimidating in a way that makes you watch with awe: pulling military style tactics that would work for maybe an hour at best. I just figured it wasn’t MY problem ( but it WILL be for the regular teacher!) and sort of watched her operate with interest. I had a brief chance to inquire as to her classroom experience, and she proudly announced she had worked a year in 3rd grade as an Americorps volunteer. There is a point at which you have to just shake your head and walk away, as I did, looking at the clock and realizing she would be gone in 5 minutes. During that time she made no effort to build any rapport with any students, instead just behaving in gestapo like fashion. Sorry, I stiill believe in honey vs.vinegar. ( and back in my days at Sterling Middle School, we even expected CERTIFIED teachers to sit down, shut up, and not say anything at a staff meeting for one year: until they had learned the culture of our staff and understood the protocol . I am amazed these days at the chutzpah ( gall?) of some young people. Anyway, Can you believe it is already going to be March?? Simply amazing how fast time flies. Keep in touch! As of April 1st I will only be using this for an SF address: 550 Battery St. # 1408 San Francisco, CA 94111