Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stories from the Working Trenches: The Rich Cheapskate

We have a high net worth client who did something astounding the other day.

He was spotted one recent morning at the local Starbucks, slinking in to the store. With sunglasses on, presumably so no one would recognize him, he picked up a New York Times newspaper from the newsstand, looked around, and then walked out with it. Without paying for it. He didn't even buy a coffee.

He has between four and five million dollars in his retirement account.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Working Girl

After almost 14 years of retirement I have gone back to work. Having spent all of my working life in the creative side of high tech, and the last 14 years doing all manner of volunteer work and blog writing, not to mention birthing and raising three boys, I am now in the field of real estate management, investments and documentation. It sounds a lot like what my husband does. In fact, I get to see him a lot during the day.

After my first week, I both made my mark and realized there are some challenges to jumping back into office life. There is now a coffee machine in the office, I'm learning lots of interesting things like how hard it is to evict squatters running a meth lab on your property, and I have a new respect for the letter carrier who deals with the massive amount of correspondence coming and going on a daily basis. Our company pays the salary of at least one full-time postal worker with the amount of postage we go through. In fact, if the job at the office doesn't work out I'm going to apply to be the letter carrier serving the office.

It is an understatement to say the last three years have not been kind to us and our industry. We've gone from a high of eight employees to one. And now me. I'm pretty busy. It's a good thing I don't have any time to stare out the window because my view sucks. I look out on a fence and a stucco wall behind it. But what this job lacks in view, it more than makes up for in flexibility, which is pretty much the most important quality in a job for me. I bring my dog to work, and I leave every day at 3 o'clock to pick my boys up from school and taxi them around.

After more than a month, the part I am really finding difficult is coming home at 6:00, 7:00, or later and then having to prepare dinner. In the past I had the luxury of shopping for and preparing dinner early in the day if the afternoon was busy. I am finding that it is a challenge to keep everything stocked and healthy food on the table for dinner. I am constantly sending my husband texts (SOS milk emergency) to stop and pick up a gallon of milk on his way home .

I wasn't sure what to expect, going back to work, with the added strangeness of sleeping with my boss. I've waited to write about it because I am still figuring out how I feel about it all. It's going OK. It is nice to use my brain and my skills in a different way, to feel productive and have a sense of accomplishment. I understand a lot more about the day-to-day operations of my husband's company, and I am able to be a real help during a time that my help is needed and appreciated. Maybe this is a good balance for me, as my children are needing and appreciating my help less.

So as I go about my transition to working girl, I will be sure to share stories about the office, and the characters that come in (like the one who operates a medical marijuana establishment and comes in smelling strong enough to give us the munchies). I've seen tears, panic, anger, lawsuits served, lives in shreds and lives being rebuilt, and that's in just one month in the office. I promise to be nice to Jenn, the star employee, helping to hold it all together. I can't piss her off, she makes a mean panini and there's no way I can do her job. Plus she lets me tag along to bingo night at the Italian Men's Club.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Hole is to Dig

One of my very favorite children's books is A Hole is to Dig, by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. My blog post today is inspired by it.

A girlfriend is for . . .
changing the passcode on your cell phone and making you crazy as you lock yourself out of your phone trying to guess the code, and then to be told the code is "love" and forgiving all.

A hole is for . . .
skirting around as you walk the fine line of writing about your adolescent and teenage boys' love lives and respecting their privacy.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Vocabulary Lessons

We like words in my family. Some of us like to talk, some like to read, and some have a new pernicious obsession for the iPhone app Words with Friends.

This morning we had the usual teenage joking and grunting, with a remarkable lack of comprehensible words strung together. I tried to think who they reminded me of, when suddenly I thought of Beavis and Butt-head. I have never watched more than 30 seconds of the cartoon because I find it inexplicably stupid. But suddenly I had an epiphany of recognition. The creator of the cartoon was merely capturing and recreating certain kinds of teenage behavior. For example, this little clip of the characters watching old videos is similar to the conversation my two older boys were having while flipping pancakes eight feet in the air (the dog was disappointed none of them fell).

Now that I live with people who occasionally resemble these characters, I find this funny. (If you told me ten years ago that I would find anything associated with Beavis and Butt-head funny I would have claimed you were demented.) The only reason I do in fact find this funny is that, THANK GOD, I only see glimpses of this behavior. It is rare.

No longer temporarily inarticulate, my middle son interrupted his homework session later in the day to say, "Mom, what is that tantalizing aroma wafting up here?" It was homemade chocolate chip cookies, with a trace of bacon smell from breakfast still in the oven. I swear I think he became stoned on this aroma. Later, he proudly mentioned that he used three of last year's vocabulary words in one sentence.

My youngest son has always been a big talker. When he was a toddler, I would have to say to him, "Mommy is out of listening energy," as an appropriate way to tell him to shut up. Now, at age ten, that phrase doesn't work. I am much better at selectively tuning his chatter out, or, on desperate occasions, just telling him to shut up. He is endlessly entertaining to those who don't have to hear him all the time, so we try to give him lots of opportunities to talk OTHER PEOPLE'S ears off.

I sometimes prefer my words in written form, but my usual book or three a month is being interrupted by a certain DING on my iPhone telling me my dad has just made a move on Words with Friends. He recently got an iPhone himself and has gone from dipping a little toe into the water of the digital age, reading his email twice a year, to playing fiercely competitive online Scrabble games day and night. It is just weird. Or so I thought until he hounded me to "get the app," a truly strange phrase to come from my father. I got the app, and now I find that playing two games at once, against my dad and my friend Jenn, might not be enough for me. However, if I'm ever to get anything done in life I should probably limit it to two games at once. But I really need to find someone I can beat, so I might have to take on a few more competitors, preferably ones with a vocabulary similar to Beavis and Butt-head.