July 27, 2006

1 more day!

My last day is tomorrow. Not "last day" as in the Grim Reaper gave me a 24 hour notice (I'd try to move or at least work up a good disguise), but my last day working at good ol' Rob-May. And as a fitting compliment to my ending, the macy*s signs went up on the buildings. Out with the old, in with the new.


I can't decide if I should go in late tomorrow or leave early? Hey great idea, I'll do both! Those of you who know me might have the slightest hint I may be a bit on the emotional side, but I assure you my tears will be controlled, no public displays of sadness or nostalgia. Just firm handshakes, thank yous and goodbyes, and a quick wave and I'm out the door.

Just gonna have to be a different man

It's not like I'm leaving the city, I'll be back to the mall many times and of course I'll stop in to visit. I'll probably hang out at Starbucks every day about 10:05 (9:05 on sale days) or I'll bring my homework to the lunch court and you can all stop by and say hello.


Ok, gotta go pick out a tie for tomorrow, one that hides tear stains. I love you all, and I miss you already.

July 25, 2006

3 days...

So why the countdown? Why all the drama, the suspense, the eager anticipation? Just what are we waiting for?!?!? I'm quitting my job, that's what. Retiring? No, I'm not that old. Got a better offer? Nope, nobody wants me. Win the Lotto? Do you think if I was suddenly $98,000,000 richer I would be whining and bitching about being useless and incompetent? I'd pay someone to write how much money I was spending, with hourly updates.

But I am quitting, in a matter of hours I will be unemployed, because I want to be a teacher.

I know, teachers don't get paid a lot. ...But they get summer vacations.

It's a thankless job, no one appreciates teachers. ...They have 2 weeks off at Christmas.

Teachers teach kids, and kids are loud, silly, rude, loud, smelly, snotty, loud, goofy and loud. ...But there's no class on the weekends, or holidays, or special classes that last until midnight throughout the month of December. And there are no coupons!!!!

TMW&BWITW* and I have talked about this for years, especially when she came home from "work" one day and said for the one millionth time how she really loved her job. After 500,000 times I had gotten the point, at #732,006 I used the classic retort "so why don't you marry it?", and after #872,340 I threw my hands in the air and gave in: if she was going to love her job then I wanted to love my job too.

I did try. But I did the math: working 5 days a week x 48 weeks a year x 25 more years until I can retire = over 600,000 shirts to fold! Yes, there are certain things I would like to do 600,000 times in the next two decades of my life, especially if I'm getting paid for it, but I'm not sure how we would explain it to our tax guy. But I just don't love folding shirts, and it was affecting the quality of my laundry skills at home. The basket of clean clothes would sit there, day after day, waiting patiently for me to sort and fold and stack, but it was getting harder and harder for me to apply myself to the task. The cat didn't mind, he had a nice soft place to lounge, but the boys were getting teased at school for their wrinkled, fur-covered tees and shorts.

So I need a job I can love. And hopefully a job that will love me back.


TMW&BWITW = The most Wonderful and Beautiful Wife in the World, of course.

July 17, 2006

9 days...

Went to work at noon yesterday, thought it would be an average normal day...

I was standing outside the south entrance, looking up at the guys in the cherry picker taking down the "Robinsons-May" sign on the side of the building, and I know I was standing outside the safety cones, or maybe leaning up against one of the cones but still not technically inside their danger zone, and I was watching carefully the whole time, it's not like I was daydreaming or talking and smoking with The Girls, when all of a sudden the guy shouts "Look out!" but by the time I could figure out it was the guy up above me in the crane, the guy supposedly holding the 4' tall "R", the guy with the look of panic and lawsuit and unemployment on his face, this huge glass and metal R meteor crashes down right on my foot. My left foot. The foot that already had scrapes on it from my new flip-flops. The foot that was already sore now has a giant R on it, with shards of glass and metal shrapnel flying out in to the parking lot, landing on top of the cars and knocking the security dude off his ten-speed bike, and as the butter-fingered guy 15 feet up is hollering at me "are you okay? are you okay?" I'm looking back up at him trying to yell back "no you freakin' idiot I'm not ok I got a ton of R smashin' my foot into the asphalt why do think I'd be ok --" and I see behind him, this suddenly safety-conscious guy worried about everybody down below his alphabet missiles, I see the rest of the letters start to peel off the stucco, like your science project photos because Mom bought the cheapest glue stick, and the letters are still connected to each other and pulling each other off the wall, free at last! they've been bolted up there for 20 years, and the S smacks into the crane basket so the guy turns just in time to catch the O straight in the chest and he's hanging on like it's a lover but he's heading for the sidewalk followed by NS-MAY and everyone is screaming and running, except the guy that can't run because there's a huge R pinning his foot to the ground (that would be me), and then the last letter breaks free from the wall, the Y lets go and like alphabet soup down the drain the letters crash to earth, sending the clumsy construction worker flying into me, knocking me, except my left shoe, free from the R. And but for a few scratches and a lot of dust, everyone is alright. There is a mess to clean up, but it's not my job.


The sign guy apologized, and I went in a picked out a new pair of shoes, free of charge.


just kidding.


But they really did take the sign down yesterday. I wonder if they recycle the letters, sell them cheap to a store called "MOORS AN NIBY'S" or something.


July 16, 2006

10 days...

It's interesting that when I think back on 8 years @ RobMay my mind fast-forwards over the 10 hour days, the midnight shifts, the boxes of stock on the dock/in 3 stockrooms/under every table, the rude yelling customers, the disappearing associates, the thieves, the confusion and chaos.... Obviously it's still in my brain, hopefully I can lock those psychologically scaring memories away in a deep dark recess, and keep them buried under less painful and damaging memories like having my wisdom teeth pulled or my first marriage. I know they'll surface some day, triggered by a hanger on the floor at Wal-Mart and I'll have post-retail traumatic disorder flashbacks and start folding every shirt in the store. Some day I'll be in my first classroom, staring at my students on the first day, and instead of seating them by name I'll sort them by color and size, smaller kids in front and hey you two in the third row, switch seats your binders are clashing. Where will I go on a holiday? I'll need to get to the picnic site 3 hours early to make sure the benches are straight and somebody is assigned to restock the condiments when they run low, and of course we can't all eat at the same time, Uncle Fred you're not scheduled for lunch until 3:00!

yes, you must

...listen to this song:

In Spite of Ourselves John Prine w/ Iris DeMent

...dance to this album:

Riot In My Heart by James Hunter

July 12, 2006

11 days...

A little background music, please...

start at the beginning? With chicken and a blue checkered shirt, looking like a greasy tablecloth and eating bbq'ed potato salad sandwiches to avoid another bite of chicken?

or the beginning of retail sales -- would that fall under the category of
"Blessing" or "Curse" ? 22 loooong years later. Wait, how could it be 22 years? That's impossible! Hmmm, recheck my math... 40 (but a youthful 4o) minus 18, carry the 1, divide by # of promotions, add 6 for each midnight shift... yep, 22 years in retail. Shoot me now.

or the beginning of my current post, my banishment to the outskirts of the city. Who knew there was a mall in El Cajon? Feed stores, pawn shops, trailer parks sure, but a shopping mall? But there it was, right off the 8, my new temporary (I thought) place to work until transferring to a cool and beautiful store in Fashion Valley or UTC. Then came the customers, the man with the tiger face, the superhero in a yellow cape and waaaaaay too small tights, and all our special friends dropped off by bus every morning to hang out at the mall. Throw in a few insults, questions regarding the sexual orientation of a male working in a department store, and I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. And I had not yet been exposed to the other personalities of The Boss, the yelling and throwing, the notes written in red ink letters 6" high underlined and tearing through the paper, the withering glare, the "No, no, no, no, no, no!!!"

But the best was yet to come, and I mean The Best: the people I worked with every day. My co-workers, my associates, my partners in crime, my teammates, my friends. We won't count the flakes & weirdos, the thieves & losers, the liar & the gossip. Not worth the time and energy. The people that are worth remembering are the people that made coming to work each day worth any and all black clouds that may have come along. The people I worked hard with to get projects done, the people who worked together to get through busy days, who helped each other through midnight shifts, working on Christmas Eve, working during 9/11 and earthquakes and personal tragedies. The people I laughed with, counseled and commiserated with, cried with, laughed with some more, disagreed and argued with, bitched and complained with, celebrated with, and always kept laughing with are the reason I came to work every day and those are the people I will never ever forget. How do you forget family?

13 days...

First, I believe the people who added the life-altering addictive to Starbucks "coffee" also are involved in the "NEXT BLOG" link, paralyzing the web community for hours at a time until one realizes the entire night has gone by and one has read 6 thousand entries on yarn, crocheting knit caps, the World Cup, or all three in one awe-inspiring post! Second, why are 80% of all blogs in a foreign language?!?!? How am I supposed to know what they ate for dinner and which friend stopped by and how Ronaldo scored twice on a banana kick and a diving header while doing a garter stitch when it's in Croatian or Thai? C'mon, people.



Ok, a little over two weeks left to work and to be honest and quite frank, I'm bored. I enjoy walking around and talking to everybody, even though I'm supposed to be telling them to stop leaning on the counter and talking. I usually enjoy catching people chatting, the excuses can be amusing (a nickel for every sentence starting "I was just...") and being the evil bastard always picking on the poor over-worked associate makes the evening go by quicker. But I am trying to be extra nice these last few weeks, I want to feel loved when I leave. I could spend 8 hrs a day going from dept to dept, checking on how things are going, answering questions or just listening as they talk. Sometimes I get the "move along now, shouldn't you be doing something" look, but for the most part they tolerate me. I work with some very interesting people with stories to tell or points of view on everything from our customers to reality shows to geo-political issues, people who have lived all their lives a bus ride from the mall or people born on the other side of the planet. Those of us working on the 4th of July would have rather been off, outside in the sun with family and friends, but we appreciated what we shared: hotdogs and potato chips in the breakroom, watching the Space Shuttle launch then the World Cup on the Spanish tv station, and counting how many different languages could have been spoken in the room. Amazing....

July 10, 2006

14 days...

Depression control: a huge bowl of Apple Jacks and Kix, with granola sprinkled in so I can say it was a healthy snack; iTunes repeating REM (Shiny Happy People), the Who (Happy Jack), the Beat Farmers (hubba hubba hubba hubba) and anything by the Partridge Family; top it all off with the toasty warm glowing wave of heat radiating from my 8" high sunburned forehead. I am ready for Optimism! Hope, confidence, cheery and cheeky good humor!


Who says I'm depressed? Or did they just mean depressing? I have no reason in the world to be down, moping, or sullen. I have it all, and I appreciate every minute of it. Sitting on the couch right now is The Most Wonderful & Beautiful Wife in the World, watching HBO on the 32" flat screen in our air-conditioned Spanish-tiled Martha-Stewart-would-approve home while the Boys are snoring upstairs in blissful slumber. The cat's snoozing somewhere around here too. I live in the most beautiful city in the world (isn't "el cajon" Spanish for "garden of Eden with 90 degree heat and a tattoo shop on every block"?) surrounded by family and friends, beaches and mountains, Disneyland and Tijuana. My kids are smart and good looking, just like their Dad, and The MW&BWITW tells me every day how happy she is. So not only is she Wonderful & Beautiful and Happy, but she's very good at her job and makes enough money to put gas in my truck and still be able to let me quit my job and go back to school.

For the day I die, I'mma touch the sky -- does it get any better than this?

Obviously, I have no reason to be depressed. I didn't even start listing my own stellar qualities, any number of which would lift a lesser man from the darkest depths. (Ok, I could work on humility.) I really do appreciate the blessings and treasures in my life, even the most mundane aspects of life should not be overlooked or taken for granted.

So what do I appreciate? Hmmm...

  • cereal with cold milk
  • Ringo Starr
  • taco night!
  • my skateboards
  • no broken bones
  • watching Her sleep
  • the Pacific coastline
  • TPetty & his Heartbreakers
  • remote controls
  • my truck
  • "shuffle"
  • babysitters
  • post-it notes
  • #1's good nature
  • #2 taking care of #3
  • #3's imagination
  • Roald Dahl
  • strawberry pizza
  • the Bro's writing
  • OHP breakfast
  • superheroes
  • walks
  • the sun
  • sand + water = beach
  • Starbucks
  • Her smile
  • double plays
  • John Steinbeck
  • road trips
  • Van Morrison
  • ESPN
  • Balboa Park
  • Her soft skin
  • dreams
  • pecan pie
  • family sayings
  • digital technology
  • street football
  • movie night
  • all-time all-star team debates
  • amazon.com
  • Ford Prefect
  • sunday mornings
  • gardens
  • late summer evenings
  • Abbey Road
  • earthworms
  • coffee breaks
  • e-mail
  • bare feet
  • play-doh
  • libraries
  • Springsteen
  • spellcheck
  • greeting strangers
  • globes
  • Her humor
  • cheeseburgers

...and all without mention of Prozac or Pacifico. See, no depression here! Of course we close with Van Halen's Happy Trails to you....

July 8, 2006

15 days...

There is more than one way to skin a cat, so they say, and there is more than one way to cause a man to take a long hard look at his life, measure his worth, search his shallow soul, and entertain thoughts of mortality, destiny, and whether his life has been worth spit.

One way, as you might have guessed, is to turn 40. "About 60 years left" sez the Bro. I estimate, based largely on what I eat and the exercise I don't do, I'm good for half that. 30 more years puts me at 70, probably the upper limit of this mortal coil. So I'm on the back side, heading downhill -- slowly at this point, no real momentum, but there is no way to go backwards to that half-way peak. I'm ok with that. What's more fun, waiting in line for 45 minutes behind 80 wet and screaming kids and a fat guy with a hairy sunburned back, or the wild exciting rush of the water slide?

Another way to get a man's attention is through the miracle of Fatherhood; a new dad is made quite aware of his place in the cosmos, how insignificant he is when it comes to the wants and needs of his children and their mother. The blessed event often leads a man to poetry, exalting the beauty and joy of his baby's toes, or to letters, a volume on his new-found maturity and the responsibility of ensuring his wit and wisdom is passed to future generations of his seed. Of course this birth-inspired literary bent is quickly stamped out by the reality of diapers, teletubbies, sibling rivalry, and six billion legos sprinkled like grass seeds throughout the house.

Litigation, jail time, jury duty, any intrusion by the legal system into a man's life. Combat, medical emergencies, divorce. The realization your son is now the better athlete, as your best fastball clears the fence or your fadeaway jumper is smacked back into the gardenias. The loss of a parent. Hair loss. Traumatic events in a man's life lead to introspection, to the search for explanations, a sense of reason and significance in the universe.


Not having a job, a career, a calling. Not collecting a paycheck. Resumes, applications, interviews. Peel a man to his core, expose his deepest fears and weaknesses. Underqualified, overqualified, not what we're looking for, nothing available at this time. We'll get back to you.

I will be out of work in 15 days. Fifteen days not including weekends, so three weeks left as a man bringing home the bacon. Fifteen more days of work until I am out of work, off the payroll, unable to come in pick up a paycheck. All those jokes about not coming back when someone goes on vacation? I'm not coming back after my vacation. Call in on Sunday to check my schedule? I'm not on the schedule.

July 4, 2006

What I meant was...

When you turn 40 you're supposed to take a long hard look at your life, both back down the road traveled and up ahead to see what the traffic is like; if you're lucky/talented/rich both lanes could be smooth and clear, with fresh blacktop and no speed limit, easy to read road signs (children 3 miles, stock split 12 miles), no boneheads cutting you off so you miss an exit and have to make a u-turn at the next one, 8 years and a divorce down the road. If you're like most people (which most of are, hence the term) you look back at a twisted path of potholes and hills, up and down and up and down and how did we make it over that last mountain, how did we make it through that 7 car pile-up? The road ahead doesn't appear any more clear, the construction crews are still laying asphalt and through the clutter and haze there's no telling which way the turns will take us.

But we have to look.

I don't want to. I repeat my mantra of "no regrets, no worries" and appreciate the moment, enjoy where I am and what I have right now. Not one of us is promised tomorrow, right? But there must be an innate self-review board, triggered by the 40 candles to convene and take stock. This Internal Committee reviews photos and press clippings, culls highlights for a video montage, and takes a red Sharpie to The Checklist of Goals and Achievements. Hmmm, not a lot of checks in my accomplishment column, and actually there are quite of few items completely crossed off the list with the notation "not ever gonna happen" ...although to be fair some of those goals were stretches from the beginning, involving Heisman trophies and/or an entire crew of flight attendants. So again I try to avert my eyes, focus my gaze any direction but inward, even though the introspection enzyme is already coursing through my bloodstream, compelling me to rank and rate Past Present and Future.

So as I Ebenezer my way through my life, I have to narrow the search or be overwhelmed. Actually underwhelmed would be more accurate, or simply room temperature-whelmed. It's been ok, nothing to brag or wail about, and that's the way I like it. But I can't get away with it, the ghosts don't let me pull the covers over my head and fake snore until they leave, I have to actually get up and take a look at where I've been and what I've done, how the whole Consequences concept shakes out. As Dad always said every action needs an equal yet opposite reaction ...or was it every action gets a reaction so act fast ...? Something like that. Really, I was listening.