Friday, April 29, 2011

Relax, Man

I have to get out of the office more often. I spend my day going from one meeting to another or at my desk doing work. Sometimes the meetings are in different buildings so I do get to briefly go outside, but mostly I'm indoors from when I get in until I leave in the evening. It's not exactly what I'd call a big problem or anything like that. It just is what it is, y'know? I get busy and before I know it, I've been sitting in my cube all day (minor confession here: I came really close to saying "my office" just then to give the impression that I'm not just sitting in a drab beige-grey box with no top. As if I might actually have a door or *gasp!* a window...but alas, I do not. My cube does have one "wall" that has glass in it but that's not really the same as a window is it? No, it's mainly a source of annoyance when people stare at me as they walk by. Keep it moving people. Do not make eye contact).

I sometimes go for a short walk during my lunch hour (maybe down to the Charles River or over to Central Square to people watch. Central Sq. may be a lot less sketchy than it used to be but hoo-boy there are still quite a few characters to be seen) but as the weather gets warmer, I have to limit my range. Why? The "sweat factor". I know....I'm gross. But seriously, if I walk too far and/or too fast (not really an issue...let's be honest), I run the risk of becoming a sweaty mess. As I may have mentioned before, I generate enough heat to power a small city. If you add to that a high ambient temperature, or god forbid, humidity, well, that's a recipe for disaster. It is out of courtesy for my fellow workers that I will keep things under control.

As the weather improves, I must bid adieu to a rarely used but wonderful way to recharge myself. I call it "urban camping". Urban camping for me means going to my car in the garage here at work and sitting inside quietly while trying to clear my head (again, not really an issue for the most part). Sometimes I'd just take a quicky nap (like 15 min) but the main idea is to just take a break from what's going on and relax. I've never read anything about how to meditate but I think I have the basics. It works really well for me. I don't think I'll be able to do it as much during the summer because I like to have the windows rolled up so that it is as quiet as possible. That's kinda hard to do when it's 90°F out.

Speaking of 90°F days, they're coming and I am not looking forward to them. Since I can't do the camping thing nor can I go for a walk when it's that damn hot out I'm going to have to find some alternative. I thought about trying to book a conference room for a half hour or so as a solution but the walls here as so super thin that I think it'll be too distracting for me. Plus, I'm not sure what the perception of someone meditating in a conference room is here at the office. My guess is that it may not be positive. I have to find some place to do this though because I like the way it helps me focus. I'm not an afternoon coffee person (used to be during the Hate Bus days) and I'm suspicious of the 5-Hour Energy stuff and their ilk, so I've come to depend on these sessions to help keep me going. I hope I'm not turning into a hippie, I'm allergic to hacky-sacks.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Everyone Will Want to Buy This Product!

Right around the same time that I was "taking a break" from college and trying to find a career path that best suited my lack of experience/terrible attitude, I wandered into the clutches of a multi-level marketing job (which is a polite way of saying "pyramid scheme"). This particular episode of Vocational Errors by Your Host Mark took place sometime during 1991 since I was living in Jamaica Plain at the time. As a matter of fact, I just realized that this Vocational Error is a two-fer since I was also working at Copy Cop (making the lofty wage of $7.50/hr). So I was doubling down on the stupidity. Let's dive shall we?

A friend of mine had heard about another friend of ours who had had recently come to be involved in this really lucrative and exciting business. He said that we should meet up with him and see what this business opportunity was. He was super excited to do this and I was pretty naive (read: dumb) so I agreed to meet up. Our friend suggested that rather than the 3 of us meeting that we should instead come to this office building to meet his contact (Business Dude). Whatever, just tell me where to be and what time to be there. (Note: that's 4 uses of the word "meet" in one tiny paragraph. What an excellent vocabulary, Mark. Actually the whole paragraph is poorly written and confusing. Meh, I'm too lazy to fix it now.)

We met with the Business Dude and he was impressive to the 1991 me. He looked completely legit with a dark suit, nice hairdo, and rented office space. He even had a big wooden desk and framed pictures on his walls. Clearly, this guy had made it so I should listen up and pay attention here. He went on to explain what the product was and how the business ran. We were to give people the opportunity to experience the superior quality of NSA Water Filters and at the same time let them in on the rewarding and financially liberating world of sales! He showed us how our friend had sold X amount of filters and was now moving on to amass his own team of sales guys (a.k.a. the two of us. Oh man, what a poor choice he was making). The Business Dude said things like "You can make your own hours! Work as much or as little as you want! These things sell themselves!", which to a guy like me who was lazy and unmotivated that's the equivalent of saying "It's like college where no one really cares if you do the assigned work or not. It's totally up to you and your well-defined work ethic. Go get 'em tiger!". Business Dude assured us that this model was working for him, would soon work for our other friend and could, in fact, work for us.

What I should have said was "No, I'm not interested in being a marketing/sales dude. I'm more of an introverted cube-jockey kind of guy. Got any jobs like that around here in this one-room office?" But what I did was sign up on the spot. I also purchased the sales starter kit which included a couple of the sink filters, some pamphlets, a video tape of a woman who was entirely way too excited about the virtues of filtered water, and some freebie give-away things (pens, stickers and shit like that). Did I mention that I had to borrow money off my friend in order to buy this kit? I went to a sales meeting/cult-like motivational speech thing at a local hotel and listened to person after person get up and tell their remarkable stories of success selling these overpriced and shitty wonderful water filters. Each person's story was more fantastic than the next. "I used to be a real estate broker," one woman said. "But I got tired of getting broker and broker! <she paused for a waayyy-too-forced laugh break here> So I started selling NSA filters and supplies to all my dumb friends! Now look at me! I'm so successful that I'm standing in a Holiday Inn conference room on a Tuesday night talking to all you assholes!" (I'm paraphrasing of course). It was thrilling. I was convinced that I'd be one of those successful douchebags within the year.

I went home that night all psyched up about my new found fast-track to wealth. All I had to do was sell hundreds of water filters and filter-related products to all the people I knew while I recruited them to be in my sales crew. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, except the fact that 2 of my friends were already doing the exact same thing and hitting up the very same, now rapidly dwindling supply of peeps. Ah shit. Plus, I have a full-time job and no car. Pfffffffth. Whatever. What I decided to do was to install one of the filters on the kitchen faucet in my apartment and then take the only other one in the kit and install it in my parents' apartment. What a brilliant marketing plan: Put the product where the least amount of people will see it. I think this is the same way Dyson sold all those vacuums. I could be wrong about that.

About 2 weeks later I was contacted by Business Guy. He was just checking in to see how amazingly successful I was by now. I explained that I had not exactly had the rapid rise to success that everyone had expected of me but to rest assured, I was certainly massively qualified to run my own off-shoot of this business. It would only be a couple more weeks before I found my groove. Business Guy also wanted to know if I needed any more filters or other things that he could sell to me (no, I didn't pick up on this red flag). I bought a couple more filters from him (along with a couple of the portable models which, he told me a little too quickly, could be used to filter your own urine into potable drinking water. Um, ok...I'll take your word for it mister). I failed to ask him if there was any kind of training or management support for a dumb-dumb like me out there in the field. Basically, I just said "yes" a lot on the phone and went blindly forward. I was 4 weeks and a few hundred dollars into this deal and had nothing to show for it.

The next several weeks resulted in zero water filter sales for Team Mark. Actually, I'm not sure I can legally call it a team since I was the only member. My friend who had joined up with me had also not had much success. One of the biggest hurdles that we both faced was that these things were fairly pricey (I believe they were in the $200 range) and everyone we knew were Po' Folk who didn't mind drinking water straight from the tap. This was 1991 remember so the whole filtered\bottled water thing hadn't really taken off (that's it! we were AHEAD of our time!!). I floundered around with this "business" eating at my tiny budget for another week or so and then I made the call to the friend who got me into this whole mess in the first place. "Look man," I explained. "I'm not going to do this anymore. I haven't sold one filter thing and I can't afford to buy samples and supplies." He made a last-ditch effort to front me some filters and other supplies to keep my sinking business afloat until the sales started pouring in but I turned him down. "I quit man. I'm done." He hung up on me and I don't think I've spoken to him since. Ah well. At least I had good drinking water for another 5 months until the filter clogged up and it stopped working.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I'm Going to Miss You Harry

Unfortunately I again find myself in the terrible position of reporting sad news. Another member of my family has died and way too soon. We lost Harry Climenson on April 6th. Harry was married to Amy's mom Cheryl and so I've known him almost as long as I've known Amy. Since Amy was 27 when they were married, she never called Harry her "step-dad" she just called him her "Harry" (as in when introducing them to people: "This is my mom and this is my Harry". It just made more sense). Harry was such a constant presence in our lives that hard to accept that he's not going to be there anymore. Yeah, I know I can "keep him in my thoughts" and "keep his memory alive" and all those things that people say when someone dies. I'm sorry, but that's not good enough. I just want to have dinner with the guy again and I can't (Harry was a phenomenal cook and Amy and I enjoyed many a meal that he prepared. Seriously, the guy could tear it up in the kitchen).

I don't know where I currently am in the K├╝bler-Ross model but I think I'm jumping all up and down the scale. When I heard that things had taken a desperate turn for the worst I simply couldn't understand it. We had just visited him in the hospital and while he certainly didn't look like he was going to run a marathon anytime soon, it did seem like he'd at least be able to go home soon-ish. I figured we'd all help him adjust to whatever the scenario would be (I had envisioned him having to retire from his job, tote around an oxygen tank, and give up his beloved game of golf) but we didn't get that chance. On Sunday the infection he had contracted got worse and the doctors decided to put him into a medically induced coma to help his system fight it. They moved him into the critical care unit and tried everything they could to knock down the infection and the reverse the damage it was doing to his lungs. They simply weren't successful. All of this forced Cheryl to make the hardest decision she will ever (hopefully) have to make. Let me be clear here: It was the absolute right decision to make. But that doesn't make it any less heart wrenching and awful. I've buried both of my parents and a mere 5 months ago we lost Amy's father but I can't imagine what losing a spouse must be like. Let's not think about that right now ok? Ok.

I have to confess that this hit me a lot harder than I had expected. I think I can attribute this to making myself more present in the moment this time around. I didn't allow myself to retreat into my favorite defense mechanism. That's where I disassociate from what's going on and everything feels like I'm watching it all on a TV. It has its uses but I do tend to rely on it too heavily. So much so that I'm not really sure I've ever honestly confronted my own feelings about losing my parents all those years ago. And every time since when I've had to go to another funeral for an aunt or uncle I have watched myself wander through the proceedings and say all the things people say from a tiny monitor somewhere far away. Not this time. This time I forced myself to be present. At the funeral when Cheryl sobbed, I felt that pain like a rabbit punch to the kidney. When I looked over at Harry's long-time friends Tommy and Vic and saw the hurt and sadness in their faces I let that sink in. I tried to not shrink away from any of it. I think I was successful but goddamn that shit hurts.

So now what? I don't know. We have to figure out what to do next as a family. I have no idea what this will mean or how it will all pan out but it has to somehow. It always does right? I'm guessing it does because we're all still here but I can't remember how any of this works. Maybe it just does? No, that's bullshit. As a matter of fact, that's borderline defeatist. I'm not saying we have to work every waking moment but I'm certainly not putting any "faith" or whatever you call it into some higher being to make everything all better. People make things work or not work. I'm determined to make things work. I'm not saying I can "make it all better" but I can make sure that it is less shitty. That may not seem like much but that's all we have. This is our new "normal".

Shit. I don't know what I'm even talking about. All I know is that I'm really sad that he's gone. I'm going to miss you, Harry. Rest in peace.