The Burger Debacle

I’m a bring-your-lunch-to-work kind of guy. When earn your keep in the downtown of Chicago, that’s for the best. Getting a meal at the local food court sets you back at least $15. Any sit down restaurant where you need to tip is $20-$25. I tell you all this to bring some context to my emotional reaction in the narrative that follows.

On the weekend we had friends over, and made burgers. And not just any fly by night, from frozen patties, cow slabs. No, these were preformed but fresh. In a word, following my grill master attentions, these were “delicious.” The company enjoyed them, but we cooked all we had purchased and had leftovers. Having extra is good news for me, of course, because of my thrifty lunch habits. When I went to work Monday, I had four patties to work with. I ate two on Monday for my midday meal.

When I came to work Tuesday, I only brought a few sides with me, secure in the knowledge that I had two remaining burgers to eat that day. I entered the kitchen that morning to find tupperware, that looked suspiciously like the container for my burgers, sitting on the counter and half full of sudsy water, as if someone had been in the process of washing it before I walked in. I opened the fridge to stow my side items, and, my suspicions aroused, checked for my burgers. Indeed, they were not there. The tupperware on the counter, I concluded, had to be mine.

My next investigative action was to determine if the offending party had eaten my burgers or tossed them. I became a trash snooper. Luckily, it was early in the morning, so the containers hadn’t filled with too much offending materials. I set my disgust to the side, and dug in. In the second trash receptacle, I found my two beautiful patties, discarded like so much tossed junk.

A few coworkers were in the break room while Operation Burger Debacle began and expressed sympathy with my cause, though none of them volunteered to search the trash with me. I was, in a word, incensed. With my coworkers words of sympathy in my ears, I finished the half-hearted washing job on my tupperware and stalked back to my desk with the container gripped disdainfully in my hand like a second place trophy held by a perennial champion. I wanted to fling it out a window.

Instead, I found a sticky note and wrote: “Please DO NOT throw away my perfectly good food next time.” I scrawled this message with a sharpie and I can’t vouch for the quality of the handwriting. My penmanship isn’t award winning to begin with, but in this case the t’s were crossed with rage and the i was dotted with acrimony.

I returned to the break room and left the tupperware, with this love note fixed to the top, next to the fridge for the remainder of the day, and then picked it up before I left for the day. I thought my message would then have had time to reach my adversary and communicate my frustration. A thought that proved true, as you will soon see.

That afternoon, I elected to not go out and spend $15 on a Chicago lunch, and instead contented myself with my side items. I may be stretching the word “contented” in this case. My rage burned as hot as the microwave I wasn’t getting to use.

The following day, a Wednesday, I again entered the break room in the morning and opened in the fridge. Inside was a tupperware container that looked identical to mine. My tupperware, as the reader will recall, I had taken home the day before. This new tupperware had a note affixed to its top. I pulled it out and read: “I thought the burgers were mine and threw them out. Please accept these in return.” Inside the container were two burger patties to replace the ones I’d lost.

I immediately called my wife, who like me had raged against the “refrigerator Nazi” the day before. But upon the news of this act of contrition, proclaimed that her faith in humanity had been restored. I must admit to feeling similar sentiments. The person, who remains anonymous to this day, went from fascistic to fantastic in a split second. I continued the communication with my former adversary via sticky note, and wrote that the offering was very kind and thanking whoever had done the deed.

Sometimes little acts of kindness matter a lot. Is there an instant like that in your life?

The long walk

The cycle of your life is reflected in walking. When we begin life, walking is impossible. Almost a year passes and we’re ready to give it a go. My sister has a young son at this age now, and though he’s built to fall, she agonizes every time he totters and collapses. But she need not worry. Our learning to walk accelerates quickly, we become proficient so fast, it’s a little mindboggling. Continue reading “The long walk”

Micturate

I’ve come to Phoenix to see my dad in the hospital. A tumor in his head was threatening to kill him, and they removed it two days ago. They also put radioactive beads covered in gel in his head to (hopefully) stop the tumor from re-growing in the┬ásame spot.

Since I’ve been here, he has been talking about how he has “heavy metal” in his noggin. Meanwhile, the chorus of the Imagine Dragons “Radioactive” song keeps popping up in my mind. Continue reading “Micturate”

Riding the train, riding the bus

My new job means that I’m on the train for work and then I transfer to a bus for another 20 minute ride. I’m still getting comfortable with being a public transportation professional. I’ve noticed some things in my month plus of riding.

First, people generally don’t talk to each other on the train, unless they are already acquainted. I haven’t made any bus or train friends yet, but I do think some of the people on these modes of transport are only friends because they’ve ridden together so long. But for the most part, people put their headphones on, watch movies, listen to music, a few read books, and many scroll through facebook. This isn’t a place for deep conversation, it’s a place for decompression. Especially on the way home. I’ve been trying to use my time wisely when I’m on the train, make it productive (in fact, I’m typing this post on the homebound train), but it’s much more difficult in the evening. After a long day in the city working, you just want to do something mindless. I’ve heard that Facebook’s reach is on the wane, but if the people on the train are any indication, Zuckerberg’s company should be pretty safe in the near term.

I love the engineers and bus drivers. Most of them are black, and they’re no nonsense, funny, gruff, sassy, practical and some are jovial. I overheard one, a gentleman probably in his fifties, tell a gaggle of admiring female riders that it was his last week on the job. He was switching to something new so he could spend more time with his family. You could tell the women adored him. He had them laughing the whole time, even with his sad bit of news. “Tickets,” they shout, and you better have them ready. “Up top,” they shout and everyone is ready. Well, not everyone. A few days ago, someone said he’d already shown his pass to the conductor, who hadn’t seen it. “Don’t get rude if I honestly hadn’t seen your pass.” But it was a minor incident without any lingering animosity.

The bus rides can be more challenging. I’m not sure who designed the seats on the Chicago city buses, but they are a slight step up from lying down on a bed of nails. They are too narrow, uncushioned, and want you to conform to them rather than the other way around. Your body rebels against them after only a few minutes of use. People on the buses are even less social, but that’s probably because it’s harder to form relationships with a more random set of people.

One more note on the train conductors. I love that they wear uniforms and caps. Sure, they’re sometimes wrinkled, and some are ill-fitting, but it’s that little bit of effort that makes it work.

I know people get sick of the commute into the city, but I’m not there yet. I wouldn’t call myself Mr. Professional Commuter yet (for example, I don’t know what car to get on to exit the train in the perfect place), but I’m getting there.

Defining Success

Because I’m thinking about goals and objectives at work right now (both for myself and my employees), defining success has been on my mind of late. It strikes me that you can get pretty far in life and not have defined success for yourself at all. It would be interesting to find out what percentage of the human population never defines it, just has “success” in their minds as a nebulous quality of having “made it” or “getting there.” I think the percentage is likely high. And then, when “it” never really happens and “there” seems as far away as the peak of Mt. Everest, disappointment and envy settle in.

Is the most difficult thing in human life defining your goals and sticking to them? Does discipline separate those who are satisfied with their lives from those who aren’t? I’m not sure. I think there are plenty of content people who haven’t ever defined success for themselves but do end up feeling satisfied with how things turned out. This may even happen at a biological level. Because the human organism prioritizes itself over others (whether this is eating the choice cut of meat or knowing at a cellular level one’s way of thinking about things is superior to someone else’s) and because as you age, you mellow out. Biology and the human process of aging mean you’re “ok” as the twilight years come on. The passions that drive the young to goals fade away. You find yourself on a porch, rocking, hoping that your kids stop by to play Uno.

All that said, I wish I had defined success earlier for myself, and constantly struggle to stay focused on what success means for me now. I recently watched a few interviews of Jordan Peterson, and participated in a future planning course. It is arduous and easy to let the goals you set up slip. At least it is for me. But I’m glad I did it – I’ve accomplished more this year (with it being the end of February) than I would have if I hadn’t done the program. Over and over the message rings out – define your success. If you don’t, well, you may be content, but you may also never know what you could have done.

I’ll keep revisiting this idea, whether at work, with writing, or at home dealing with my kids. This post is as much for me as anyone reading it. Success- define and achieve, define and achieve. Rinse and repeat.

New job

There’s a certain energy when you start a new job, which I did today. It’s taking a leap, it’s shaking new hands, shaking some trees, and people wondering about you and you wondering about them. “This guy seems all right,” they might be thinking. Or, “This guy might not know squat and now he’s in charge of what? Madness!”

I’m supervising people that I want to put at ease. A new boss from outside is always a strange thing. I know, it’s happened to me. There’s an art to doing it right and I want to do it right.

I’m working for someone new, and I want him to like me, but I don’t want to come across as a bootlicker. Keep your balance and pride, young man! A little bootlicking can go a long, long way.

I’ve inherited from my dad a lack of ability (or maybe interest) in retaining people’s names. That’s not a great characteristic to have on your first day. People open with their names and by the third sentence in the conversation the name is gone like hot breath on a window. No vestage of the name remains. My wife, who taught college classes, made a point of learning all her students names on the first day of class. What a gift she has. We’re a good team. She knows the names, I ask her about the names after the person at a party we’re at has wandered off. “How many times have I met him?” I sometimes wonder obliquely, a little afraid of the answer. She might give me a sidelong glance on that question before she answers.

I was at my last job for ten years. A long time by today’s standards. There was a lot of comfort in the job. I enjoyed it, and did it well without taxing myself. But this feeling today, where all is new and fresh and scary and jumbled and frantic was good. I wouldn’t want this feeling every day, but today, it was welcomed.

The Perfect Plot Twist

For the perfect plot twist to work on you, you have to feel afterward like you should have seen it coming, but you didn’t. As a result, when the big reveal happens, it blows you away.

If I know there is a twist in a plot – then, Game On. I’m like a hog snuffling after a truffle. Some (my wife) might say I have a problem. Continue reading “The Perfect Plot Twist”

Thanksgiving and 70

My mother turned seventy this past week. I flew my family out to surprise her in Colorado. As part of the surprise plot, my mother and my sister picked me (and only me) up from the airport, because my brother and I told her months ago he and I were going to celebrate with her. But she had no idea the whole family was going to be sprung on her. So while they were picking me up, my bro-in-law was picking up my wife and kids at another part of the airport. The conspiracy was on! Continue reading “Thanksgiving and 70”

Favorites

My youngest was on a favorites spree two nights ago, and my wife was coming out on the losing end of the stick. I was the big winner in almost every competition. “Who’s your favorite – a chocolate milkshake as big as your head, or Daddy?” “Daddy!”

We were at the dinner table during this episode, enjoying a meal my wife had lovingly prepared, and she was holding it together pretty well, until the dam finally burst. I think my youngest had picked our dead cat (whom she’d never actually met) over her mother, and the gloves came off.

“Who cooks your meals, changes your diapers, wipes your nose, takes you to therapy after therapy after therapy, agrees to be Stitch or Mulan or whatever random Disney character is lodged in that head of yours and I don’t even beat the cat? I mean, come on!” Continue reading “Favorites”