Tag Archives: goodbye

It Was Almost Like A Song

I'm not going to lie to you. This image has nothing to do with this post except it will one day be framed and placed in front of a funeral home.

I’m not going to lie to you. This image has nothing to do with this post except it will one day be featured at a funeral home in place of my face for my Wake Me Up Before You Go Go. I will remain anonymous to the bitter end.

Nothing too heavy today…

And, regarding my beloved chemical suit, I leave that to … what? Are you kidding me? None of you get that. I’m taking it with me. Bury me in it!
The Last Will and Testament of Tom B. Taker, Chapter 1, Section A, Article 1

As most of you know, I have been busy most of the last few decades planning my wake. A wise man in a Stephen King movie once said, “Get busy living or get busy dying” and I took to that advice to heart like a leading a guru to tequila and telling him not to drink.

Of course this planning primarily took the form of picking out songs that participants (guests? attendees? celebrants? wakers? invitees? z-list celebs?) would, at least once, get to enjoy my eclectic taste in music.

I thought it was a pretty good plan. Besides, nothing pleases me more than the thought of people coming together to remember my life and having to listen to some random songs while they are left to ponder, “What the hell is this crap supposed to convey to us about Tom?” Ha ha ha! Suffer!

Then, this week, in the name of research, I attended the memorial service for a gentleman I knew and I thought to myself, “See? This is what happens when you fail to plan and allow your loved ones to pick the music on your behalf.”

Actually, I didn’t really know the man that well. He was the father of one friend and the husband of another. After attending the service I have to say I regret not knowing him better. He was a great guy, the kind who would give away the shirt off his back, always with a warm smile at the ready, and the sort who could cheer people up even when the chips were down.

I also knew him from the liquor store where he seemed friendly enough as he handed me bottle after bottle for several years before he got sick. See? We just went full circle. From tequila to the liquor store and back again. That’s what this guru calls the circle of life.

This post will document the set list that was used to send this soul on its way back home.
Continue reading →

Graphing the Apocolypse


Hello in a Restaurant

My wife told me to be short when writing. I told her my height doesn’t change.

When I walk in a restaurant, I don’t expect much. But I do like to be greeted. A little eye contact. The word, “Hello.” This should be from the first person who sees me. If even a single employee walks by and gives me the “I pretend not to see you because greeting customers is not my department” then I become irritated.

I understand that employees in a restaurant may be busy. Hell, they may even not be poised at the ready saying, “Tom should be here any minute. Look alive, people!” All it takes is a second to say, “I’ll be right with you.”

Above all else I’m a reasonable guy.

Without eye contact, a greeting and a friendly “I’ll be right with you” I can wait about two minutes before saying (to myself), “Fuck this place!” For every employee who gives me the “not my department” routine you can take a minute from that time.

If greeted, though, I’ll happily wait five minutes or more.

Then there’s this other guy…

My wife and I were in the restaurant, already at a table, enjoying our lunch. A guy walked in. I’m not sure why but he caught my eye. It might have been the way he bellowed.

He strode in, stopped a few feet inside the door, which had just closed behind him. He then waited 1.5 seconds without being helped. No wait staff was in sight. Then he bellowed, “Hello???”

Every head in the restaurant turned. Forks dropped to plates. Everyone was stunned. What the fuck was going on here? It’s rather unusual to yell like that. Something must be up.

A waitress ran from the back. I watched the whole thing go down. I was zoomed in. I had the tunnel vision.

“What are the hours of the haircut place three doors down?” the man demanded. “Their door is locked.”

Ah. I see. You obviously saw our sign that reads, “We help customers from all businesses that are not are own.” Yeah, why don’t you go fuck yourself?

The waitress, who is naturally a nice person, tried to help. “You see, we don’t know about that. That’s like a whole other business. They don’t check in with us. We have no information.”

The guy angrily strode out.

This is the planet I live on. A planet where people like that exist. Then, as we were leaving, the guy came back in for more! I gave him laser beams of death as we fled the building. What an enjoyable meal. Speaking of meal, I would very much like to feast on his soul.

Hey, look. This was less than 500 words.

Operator, this is an emergency!

Blog subscriber, reader, follower, friend, phone nerd, countryman, lend me your ear!

I come not to praise U.S. Cellular, but to bury it. The evil that companies do lives after them…

“That’s really great service,” I said. “Now let me assure you of something. At the earliest possible moment when my contract is up, which isn’t too far away now, I will be terminating my service with your company and you’ll never see another penny from me as long as I live. Is that enough quality for you?”

Source: Shouts from the Abyss – We disconnect with you

At last the circle is complete. Now I am the Master.

Maybe it wasn’t the “earliest possible moment” but at long last, the long dark nightmare of the Abyss is over. I am no longer a U.S. Cellular customer!

I called U.S. Cellular recently to cancel my account. Oh God, this was gonna feel so good! Even so, I decided to take the high road, keep it mature, and, of course, no gloating!

I think I started off the phone call with, “Neener neener neener!”

Note: U.S. Cellular “quotes” in this post are paraphrased from memory and may not be 100% precise.

The greeting message seemed to have changed. “Your call may be randomly monitored for quality assurance.” Interesting! Nothing about “recording” calls? Perhaps they had changed their policy?

The customer service person on the other end of the line was downright cheery. “How can I make your day better?” she asked in the way of a greeting.

Oooh. This was gonna be good.

I informed her I was calling to close my account. “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” she said. “And you’ve been our customer for X number of years, too.”

I had resolved not to bring up the past, but she really wanted to know why I was contemplating such a crazy course of action. I may have mentioned something about how U.S. Cellular did nothing for me when I originally called about being charged a different rate than their sales rep had said to my face. And that we’ve been paying that higher rate ever since then.

We went over a few details, then she said she had to transfer me to someone else to finalize the termination. This person was even more cheery!

She was nice enough. As I would expect from a retention specialist. But she had met her match. Short of sponsoring my blog to the tune of $79,500 a year, there was nothing she could do to change the outcome. Yes, I can be bought. Nike? Call me! Well, maybe not call. I no longer have a phone! Maybe you could have Tiger stop by with a check?

She practically groveled for a reason. I may have mentioned the whole recording incident, too. She said brightly, “Oh, we never know when a call will be recorded. The people on the phone are unable to control that.”

What the hell? The automated message said nothing about even the possibility of this call being recorded. Are they being up front about that? I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they reserve the right even if they don’t announce it. (That’s just my hunch, not a factual statement.) Either way, that’s the sort of thing that should be against the law. And, by no small coincidence, a reason why I no longer have a phone. Heh.

In the wholesome pursuit of voluntary simplicity I will not be getting a new phone. Perhaps, maybe, a prepaid track phone for the singular function of keeping in touch with Mrs. Abyss. Hell, no one besides bill collectors ever tried to call me, and why should I pay $70 a month to enable that?!?!?

One step closer to living off the grid… Victory!

Goodbye means we are done

Rude? What is this "rude" of which you speak?

It’s been a couple of months since I left my old job. Yeah!

Today I wish to present a blast from the past and recount a conversation I had with my office manager that took place shortly before my last day of work.

The background information is this: I worked at the company for over five years. During that time, among my other duties*, I programmed their ecommerce website entirely from scratch. Because the boss was so picky, only a homegrown and highly-customized solution would suffice.

* I was also forced, against my will and under threat of termination, to do things like: Retail sales floor, customer service phones, production, secretarial and janitorial. I naively thought I had been hired as “webmaster” but found out that even job listings can be viciously “bait and switch.” In fact, my actual job title was often just a tiny slice of my day.

So there I was, called into my manger’s office, and this is pretty much how it all went down:

“After you’re gone, when we find bugs in the software, you’ll fix them for free, right?”

Holy crap! What a thing to say. This really floored me. I mean, how rude! The sheer audacity of it is truly staggering.

I’m still so proud of the way I responded.

“Absolutely not.” I was unequivocal.

The manager had the balls to put on a bewildered look. “How can you say that? You wrote it, right? Any bugs in there are your mistakes. Don’t you stand behind what you do?”

Sad. This was truly sad.

“Sure I do. But let me ask you a question. When is the last time you heard something like this? An employee leaves a company and two weeks later a mistake of theirs is found. Have you ever heard of that employee going back to the job and fixing the problem for free?”

Even amongst all the greatest assholes of the world this caught my manager flatfooted. Yeah, delicious!

“Look,” I continued. “When I was working as an employee for this company, I gave it my absolute best. My goal was to provide the highest quality product I possibly could. Even so, there were two problems. First, I’m human, and I will make mistakes. They will happen. Second, I had absolutely no control over my work environment. Computer programming ain’t exactly like painting the Sistine Chapel, but it ain’t ditch digging, either. It’s hard and requires intense concentration and logic. It’s not exactly the kind of work that can be done in a blender. Yet that’s the environment that has been forced down my throat for the last five years. That sort of environment increases the error rate. I’m sorry about that, but that’s just the way it is.”

Of course, I’m paraphrasing just a wee bit here. Call it artistic license. 🙂

“So what happens when we find bugs? We’re screwed?”

“As I see it, you have three choices. Live with it, fix it yourselves, or hire someone to fix it for you. As your employee, when mistakes were found, I could fix them as part of my day. You didn’t require me to clock out and work for free. As your ex-employee, you still have the same option, as long as I remain willing and available, of course.”

And so it came to pass that I would not be fixing every bug from the last five years and doing it for free.

After I left the company we briefly negotiated a renewable weekly contract where I would work from my home office for 20 hours a week. But their final offer was insultingly low and I refused. I now do ongoing work for them, as needed, but at my final offer of an hourly rate, not theirs. After five years the tables have finally turned.

And yes, if I’m working as a contractor, I stand behind my work. That means I fix bugs for free. But I also control my work environment.

Sometimes it is good not to be the employee.

So Long, and Thanks for All the Pish

It’s official. I am out of The Shit Hole, Galactic Empire Designation Death Star One.

I have done punched that clock for the last time.

Yah, me!

To think I’ve been blogging about hating my job for well over a year now. I never imagined this day could actually come.

I don’t really have a lot to say about it right now. Here’s a little run down on some official Last Week goodness:

Late last week, one of my fellow employees, recently code named The Waffler, had finally had enough. Like me, his big beefs with the job revolved around things like nanomanagement and how employees are treated.

A few weeks back The Waffler had been put on notice by management. He had to improve or he’d be fired. Like me he’s been with the company for over five years, and, like me, the boss always says that he’s “family.”

Late one afternoon he received an email with an enormous list of tasks and was told, “These must all be completed today.”

So he stayed late and kept working while the rest of us clocked out and went home.

Ever the curious one, I waited until after payday and kindly inquired if he had been paid for working late.

“Nope,” he replied. Ah! Just like what they’ve done to me, the company illegally modified his time card.

“Did they offer you any time off to compensate?” I asked.

“Nope,” he said. “I’ve heard absolutely nothing about that.” And, unless I miss my guess, he never will. The company just doesn’t pay overtime and not once in my five and one-half years was I ever comped any time no matter how many freebie hours I put in.

A few more shitty things happened and finally The Waffler had had enough. Early one morning he requested a meeting with the boss. “I’m going to quit,” he confided in me as I greeted him that morning.

I was aglow with anticipation and excitement. “This is gonna be good,” I thought. Of course, my negative side was whispering in my ear, “Get over it. It ain’t gonna happen.”

The closed-door meeting began and we all clearly heard the boss through the paper-thin walls. “I want to start by apologizing to you.” Uh oh. Not a good sign. I knew then he wouldn’t quit.

He didn’t.

The meeting lasted two and one-half hours and along the way morphed into the boss telling The Waffler the myriad of ways that he sucks and had better improve. Epic fail.

Two days ago he was reprimanded for not saying “thank you” to the boss regarding something said in chat and for not saying “I’m sorry” after making a mistake.

I’m still amazed how the boss was able to completely turn The Waffler around from his decision to quit to taking abuse again.

To celebrate my last day of work, the boss decided today would be “crazy hat day.” I walked in and everyone was wearing stupid hats. I knew something was up!

I was forced to pick a hat. Since the employee’s have been joking about it being Christmas for me all week long, I picked the Santa hat.

Goodbye stupid hat. Merry Christmas. Goodbye stupid office chair.

After arriving at work I learned that the company was buying me lunch to say goodbye. Of course I was standing there stupidly holding in my hands the lunch I had brought in since no one bothered to tell me. If I had known I could have been spared from bringing in my lunch. That would have been convenient. And, like always, the person of honor is never asked anything about what they’d actually like to have for lunch. Management can’t allow employees to make any decisions no matter what. “Here! Eat this shit that we bought. We ordered for you whether you like it or not. Enjoy. That’s an order. Comply.”

You’re never supposed to leave a man behind, but today I selfishly ran for cover leaving three of my cohorts deep in the shit. I doubt I’m going to be awarded the Medal of Honor for that.

In closing, here are the two final employee whiteboards from my last week on the job.

I drew this one causing much confusion. One theory speculated that it was Jesus walking on water in front of a sunrise. It’s actually a person stepping on a land mine while a Bouncy Betty is tossed in.

The final employee whiteboard of my Shit Hole career

All Access Death Star: Behind the scenes endings and negotiations

You were right about one thing, Master. The negotiations were short.

Photo credit: Special thanks to David Delarosa for permission to use this image from his Flickr photostream!

A long time ago, in a sick fuck’s shit hole… Work Wars…

My heroes have always been cowboys. Well, not really them, but inspirational people like Living Dilbert and Jen Curran who wanted out of their jobs and actually found a way. I was so jealous of their stories of leaving their jobs behind and moving on to something else, until…

I’ve been rather cagey about my place of employment. A place I’ve repeatedly referred to as The Shit Hole. Now, at the end, I can finally reveal the whole truth. I work on the Death Star. Detention block, to be specific.

I say I work there, but that is about to change. As I write this it is Thursday. Or as my fellow employees and I now call it, “Christmas Eve.” That means tomorrow is The Day of Many Names. Some call it “Christmas.” Others call it Ending Day. I just call it The Last Day.

Yes, a couple of weeks ago, I quit my job.

I’m not being overly dramatic yet, am I? Tip: To learn even more about me, check out my twitter feed, or as I like to call it: Journey to the Center of my Ego. Anyway, please let me know if I heap on too much drama. I want to be informed if I go a skosh too far. (A “Skosh Too Far” is also the title of my upcoming biography.)

Here comes the tedious part of this post. This is where I decide that y’all need some of the all-important background.

The last decade was not a good one for me. I don’t even know what you call that friggin’ decade. The Zeros? The Aughts? The 2000s? No matter how you slice it the decade sucked. I find it no small coincidence that it was the decade of George W. Bush. The 2000s were, by far, the worst decade of my miserable life.

The decade started off for me by staying up all night in November 2000 and still not knowing who had been elected president. That was weird.

Then, in early 2001, I decided to move from the big city to a small town. I was tired of the rat race and enamored with a concept known as “voluntary simplicity.” I wanted to embrace a slower and different kind of living. Never in my life had I ever had trouble getting a job. I assumed I’d show up and quickly find work. I assumed wrong.

The local newspaper had very few job listings and none in my chosen field of professional jerk off. I was going to have to compromise.

After months of looking, I had a hot lead. It was a part-time job paying close to minimum wage that offered absolutely no benefits. Yah!

The day of my interview was Sept. 11, 2001. I kid you not. My wife stirred me out of bed and we spent the morning glued to our television and watching the towers fall. After that, things were a little unclear. Was I still supposed to show up for my job interview? I did, I was hired on the spot, and my fate was sealed.

This was my first job in my new small town. It consisted of retail sales, customer service on the phone, handling tedious price quotes and lots of other shit duty that the boss called “hats” and I hated every fucking minute of it.

I did that for about five years when I happened to meet the guy who would later become my new boss. He was paying a lot of money for me, through another company that sold my services, to work on his web site as a contractor. As the project wrapped up, we both realized that making me an employee could be a win-win. He’d get me a lot cheaper and I’d finally have a job doing something I enjoyed. We made the deal. He made me an offer, I accepted, and I quit my existing job.

I’ve told this part of the story before, but I love it so much I’ll share it again. Once I was in between jobs and fully committed and past the point of no return, my new boss had me stop by, on my own time, for a “tour” of his operation. That so-called “tour” turned out to be a full day training session. What was I trained on? Retail sales, working the floor and the cash register, the multi-line phone system, and, of course, the minutia of his shitty little line of widgets. There was absolutely nothing said about working on his web sites.

I’ll never forget that day. I left his building, walked out into the parking lot, sat in my car with the door open and dry heaved my guts out.

What an auspicious beginning to our new relationship!

The first day on any new job is a nervous time, but mine was made extra special. My “desk” was a hutch. The doors were left open and a computer had been shoved inside. Ergonomic was not a word that came to mind. They didn’t have office space for me, either, so … get this … my workstation was located in a corner of the fucking showroom floor. I had customers milling behind me all day long. Fucking hell.

So here I was in the small town I now called home working my 2nd job. It was part-time, no benefits, low pay, consisted of doing all the things I hated and I had the most insulting work space ever in my entire life. But the boss had what he wanted, namely a Girl Friday who could also be pressed into service doing the expensive things to his web sites that he wanted.

The rest you pretty much know. On top of it all, he’s not a good person. I’ve documented it in some painstaking detail in previous posts.

The operation consists of the boss and his wife, an office manager, and four of us employees. I affectionately refer to the employees as the “Island of Misfit Toys.” We are:

  • Yours truly, a misfit simply for being in this situation. I also have my plethora of flaws that make me a full-fledged member of this humble little team.
  • The Waffler – another long time employee (we were hired the same month 5-1/2  years ago) who hates his job and the way we are treated but hasn’t quit yet. He just went in to quit his job yesterday and was featured in this tweet of mine: “Co-worker requests meeting to put in his notice. Somehow the meeting morphs into he’s staying and boss telling him ways that he sucks.”
  • The Felon – A guy who has been in and out of jail on mostly a bogus charge and has been seriously kicked around by the company just because they can. He recently was called in to get a raise and ended up having a huge blow out with the office manager and was almost fired.
  • The Thief – Our newest employee and considered by management to be one of the best workers because he can “multitask” and stuff, but who also just happened to purloin some cash from the till. Amazingly he wasn’t fired (long story) but kept on the team and someone who can now be extra pushed around, too. They kept him around and he was grateful for that, but now is full of bitterness and hate over how he gets treated.

We also call ourselves The Fight Back club. So there you have it, me the hater, a guy who wants to quit, another guy who wants to quit and was almost fired, and our bitter thief. Such a great team our boss has built. I think everything flows top down and that a company reflects its ownership, so that’s really saying a lot.

Long story short (ha!) I recently found a job listing that seemed to be up my alley. It was only part-time but sounded promising. Since I was considering quitting outright with no prospects a job like that could be a real boon. I went for it, liked the guy, and had a good interview. I landed a job offer and accepted!

Almost two years ago I finally made full-time. Now here I was putting in my notice and leaving my full-time job for a part-time one. If that doesn’t make a statement to your boss I don’t know what will.

One last thing about negotiations, the topic that was supposed to be the lead for this post. 🙂 Back when I was a contractor and being resold through another company, my boss used to pay $X amount for my services. Then he got me (as an employee) for about 15% of that rate. (What I currently make.)

Now he wants to continue our relationship with me as a contractor. Since I wrote his software he needs me to continue on running his stuff and working on new projects. I would also be very expensive to bring in a new programmer to take over on my stuff. Or to convert all of his sites to something else. I’m cool with a contractor arrangement (again) as my new job is only part-time and I’d be working from home being my own boss.

Nice guy that I am I offered him a mere 35% of $X as my contractor rate as part of a renewable contract. He countered with 22.5% which is almost an insult. I came back good faith movement in his direction with 30%. His response? 22.5% and take it or leave it. In other words, his negotiating position is “I’ll pay this. Nothing else. Take it or leave it.” In Star Wars lingo that’s known as “the negotiations never took place.”

I’m proud to say I stood up to the blockade of the Trade Federation. I rejected his offer. There will be no deal. He will continue to use my services, perhaps, but only at the rate I specified, and only on a per project basis. The plan for a win-win renewable contract is out the window along with his stubborn dickishness.

I could go on, but this post is already way too long. Now I can safely say that at least one percent of the story with this fellow has now been told. There is still much that remains unsaid. Perhaps some day all can be revealed. Perhaps.

Tomorrow is The Last Day. Christmas comes early for me this year.