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Posts Tagged ‘life experience’

  1. Pet Peeve: Someone Should…

    July 27, 2015 by Ryan

    In my Facebook feed, I follow several restaurants and businesses. Almost always, when one posts something, comments follow saying, “You should open a Sticky Fingers in my city!” “You need another Wingers on the North / East / South / West side of such-a-town” “I really miss Target since I moved and wish there was one close to me.”

    I also follow my city’s Facebook page. Frequently, when they announce new developments, they get comments like “Cheesecake Factory should open in the city!” “Put a Starbucks location on the North / East / South / West side of town – with a drive through, because the morning traffic goes right by there and it would be an awesome location!”

    This just irks me every time.

    I get the thought they are trying to convey. But these posters are missing a fundamental point.

    What I hear them saying is, “Someone should do this for my convenience.”

    Why don’t you do it?!

    Yeah, I’m talking to you, poster of the comment!

    If this is such a great idea – a foolproof moneymaking operation – why don’t you get the capital together and make it happen?!

    These businesses and restaurants don’t just magically happen. It takes money. It takes management. It takes employees. It takes incentive. It takes guts. It takes risk. Someone stands behind it, and rises or falls with it.

    The city council doesn’t vote to open a new Taco Bell or Trader Joe’s or In-N-Out Burger and then – poof – construction machines show up and start moving earth.

    Real people decide that the venture is worth it, and they make it happen.

    Real people like you!

    If you don’t have the money to do it, pool together with your family or friends and invest in it. Or get a business loan. Find someone who has the money and pitch the idea; go in on it as a 5% or 10% investor.

    But don’t just complain on Facebook that someone else should make this thing happen for you. You do no market research. You assume no risk. You just want it to be there to suit you.

    That is downright cowardly to make such suggestions and not be willing to back them up.

    Yes, Facebook commenter, I just called you a coward.

    Understand that I know where I’m coming from. From 1998 to 2001 I owned and operated my own small business.

    In a small city, with my own money to invest, I signed a lease on some business space and I opened a computer store.

    I can say for certain that I didn’t make millions of dollars. I wasn’t exactly a failure either. I learned a lot of lessons, and I did well enough to get by during those years. It was very much a challenge. I wouldn’t trade what I learned from that experience for anything else.

    Especially what I learned about respect for a business owner. I take my hat off to anyone who makes that decision to invest themselves and their resources into making an honest enterprise happen.

  2. Grocery Shopping

    July 28, 2012 by Ryan

    Grocery shopping.

    Don’t mention grocery shopping.

    I seem to have a special talent surrounding it.

    If I go with a mental list of two items, I will forget one and buy the wrong thing for the other.

    Writing it down, and my chances of getting it right improve only slightly.

    Today I took the girls and a list of items – the description, quantity, and price written carefully down. The list was even divided roughly into food types (dairy, produce, etc).

    Somehow, I ended up with the wrong brand of noodles and 7 wrong brands of pudding, each costing about 3 times what I expected to pay, and throwing off the needed “on sale when you buy in a group of 10” requirements.

    And the hair care stuff rang up at full price when it should have been half-off.

    I didn’t notice this until I came home. Glorajean pointed it out.

    She is good at reading the receipts like that.

    Glorajean did it all with gentle kindness. I’m the one that is way to hard on myself, and take these mistakes as some sort of personal failure to operate as a normal human being.

    So I went back to the store to return those and try again.

    The clerk at the customer service counter was very kind. He said that this particular sale had confused a lot of people, and he had made a lot of returns. He apologized profusely, took great care of me, and did everything right from a customer-service angle.

    My reshopping experience went better. I was much more careful in selecting 10 new things. The deal went through. The transaction was successful.

    We then went to another store.

    The entire family came along, stopping on our way to visit her parents.

    Glorajean’s eagle eye for clearance deals spotted Tide laundry detergent. We scooped up several boxes, for us and for her parents.

    As we loaded the car, we talked about going back to get more. We decided to do so later, if they still had some. Besides, she could look over the ad and see what else we might want, and look for coupons for the detergent.

    Later, she sent me out with another list (another buy-10 type of sale) and a coupon. There were now only two boxes of detergent left, which I grabbed. I carefully shopped for the rest of the items, and checked out.

    Though the price worked out, I bought several packages of “whole-grain” noodles instead of the regular white flour noodles.

    We are not sure if the intended audience will like the taste.

    I shake my head and try to laugh.

    If I laugh loud enough I might cover my wounded pride.

  3. I know something that you don’t know!

    July 17, 2011 by Ryan

    The Savior once taught, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (see Matthew 5:43-45). Then and since, His followers have had some pretty intense persecution to overcome. I feel fortunate that I don’t have what I would consider any serious enemies to threaten me (at least not that I know about). However, I do have a story to tell about an opponent I once had.

    Several years ago, I became involved in a legal dispute. The dispute was not with me, per say. My name was legally attached to a title, as co-owner of a piece of property. The dispute was really between the other owner and a service hired to make some improvements on the property. I was aware, from the sidelines, of what was happening, but was largely uninvolved in it.

    That is, until the day I received the summons.

    When the argument escalated to a point that one of the parties felt it could not be resolved, he filed a lawsuit against the owners of the property – which included me. When the court’s clerk delivered a document requiring that I appear in court and sit at the defense table, I became intimately involved.

    From what I knew of the story (which was told to me by the other property owner), I didn’t feel that there was a need to go before a judge. I thought things could have been worked out; but apparently the plaintiff felt differently.

    Over that month, I listened carefully to the story, as it was told to me by the other property owner. I met with a lawyer briefly, and explained how much I didn’t know about the case. Mostly, however, in that period of waiting for our court appearance, the issue naturally nagged upon me and caused me a little concern. It concerned me how the judgment might affect me if it went the other way. It annoyed me that I needed to take time out to do this. It irritated me that the other party felt he needed to press a lawsuit to satisfy the dispute. I had never met this individual, and I was not directly involved with the dispute, yet I was being sued at the law.

    During that time, I continued on with life, family, and employment. At work I continued to serve customers at a retail store. I did my best to compartmentalize that portion of my life, set it aside, and focus on my daily tasks.

    Then a very interesting life test was given to me.

    One day, a customer came through the front door. I greeted him as I would any other customer. I first noticed his baseball cap had on it the logo of the professional service that had pressed charges against me. His appearance seemed to match the physical description I had been given of our plaintiff.

    He had come to the store with a possibly defective product. I invited him to the back, where we tested the item. While waiting for the tests, I slipped into the conversation casual questions such as “Who do you work for?” and “What do you do for them?” This customer’s answers confirmed that this man was indeed the owner of the business, and he was the one who had filed suit against me.

    I was now in a very interesting and potentially powerful position: I knew his identity, but he did not know mine. My enemy stood before my face, outside of the field of battle.

    I didn’t reveal my secret knowledge to him, but instead made the instant decision that I would serve him as if he was the most important client to my business. Even though it was eating me inside, I was going to do everything I could to treat him as a valued customer. I was going to show him the kindness and caring that I hoped he would in turn show toward his customers.

    The product soon did fail its test, and I cheerfully replaced the item according to store policies. All the while I thought, ‘I know something that you don’t know!’

    Following that, he selected some additional products to purchase. I began ringing them through the register, and gave him the total amount. It looked as if the encounter was winding down and about to end soon.

    Then came the big test.

    He choose to pay with a method of credit that required me to ask him for some very personal information. I provided him with the form; he filled out the information without hesitation. He provided a copy of his government-issued identification, which I photo-copied and attached to his application. I then completed the transaction, and he left the store a happy customer.

    Meanwhile, I was left holding his identity. In my hands was a piece of paper that contained enough personal details that, if I choose, I could have used to steal his identity and bring immeasurable harm to him, for possibly years to come. To make the moment more interesting, the store was now experiencing a momentarily lull. No customers were waiting. It was just me holding the piece of paper. The other store employee (and my manager) was nearby, but not paying attention to me. I could easily have done anything with the paper in my hands and gone undetected.

    I studied the paper, disbelieving this twist of fate that had been dropped in my lap.

    I looked up at my friend and coworker, called his attention, and explained that the man whom I had just served was the same man who had filed a lawsuit against me.

    The other employee stared back at me, also in disbelief at the odds of such a thing happening. At a glance, he recognized the paperwork I held in my hand, and the potential it had. He asked me what I would do.

    There had never really been any question in my mind what I would do. My moral compass was clear on that. Every Sunday at church I partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, and renew a covenant to “always remember Him, and keep His commandments which He has given” me (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:77). I could not work ill to my neighbour and still walk honestly (see Romans 13:10-14). Even though I held the advantage, I could not take the advantage of my neighbor.

    I walked the paperwork to the back room, and filed it in the proper place. At the end of the day, it was transferred to the main storage for such documents and I never saw it again.

    The day of the court visit arrived, and I remember seeing my accuser again eye-to-eye. I’m pretty sure that he did a double-take, and I nodded and smiled back to his direction.

    The outcome of the case was a draw – the judge decided that both parties shared equal fault. Unfortunately, the judge decided that the defense should pay the legal fees for it all.

    But for my part, looking back today I consider the pre-trial experience a win.

  4. Fresh Courage Take

    May 6, 2011 by Ryan

    My boss was overwhelmed with big projects and needed to write the motivational message for the support-department monthly newsletter. I saw his need and ghost-wrote this for him. Presented here is the second-draft version, created after he sat with me for 10 minutes and asked if I approved a few minor edits. Then, in his hurry, he forwarded the first draft on to the editor anyway, and it was published.  Yes, this feels like a cheesy motivational message (because it is!), and I am slightly embarrassed to reread it.

    Have you ever went to a large store and stood in line at the “returns” counter? Go take a place in the back of the line. Observe the people in front of you, and the attitudes they convey. Often, the employees are “beaten down” from the constant stream of negative energy put off by their customers. They move slowly; they don’t smile; and they seem disinterested. Never do they have someone wait in line, and when they reach the counter, exclaim “The things that I purchased here at your store are working great! I have no issues, and I’m enjoying them tremendously! Thank you for selling quality products and providing exceptional service!”

    Being in a support position carries much of the same mental risks. Taking phone calls from customers who generally are not happy with the product can take a toll on support agents, who might begin to change their attitudes so that they only see the “wrongs” in the world. They risk becoming like gloomy old Eeyore of the Winnie the Pooh stories, who always fails to see the good things going on around him.

    To counter this potential workplace hazard, each technician must find ways to take fresh courage. The antidote will be a little different for each person. Find ways to continue to smile. Mentally always seek ways to count your blessings and always stay alert to the good things – to the people you enjoy working with, or to the exciting features of the software that work very well.

    True is the axiom “There is always a choice about the way you do your work, even if there is not a choice about the work itself”1 You always have a choice about the attitude you retain. Your attitude is contagious. Your coworkers will catch it. Your customers will feel it.

    1 “Fish!: a remarkable way to boost morale and improve results”; page 37; Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen.

  5. Amber Lynn’s Graduation Party

    June 4, 2010 by Ryan

    First of all, I want to offer my congratulations to Amber Lynn!

    It was my last night on a business stay in the south. At the hotel, I noticed her graduation party banner covering the door of conference room 1 on my way in. When I stopped right in front of the door, I could hear muffled music coming from the room. I continued on my way, wondering what Amber Lynn and her friends were doing at the party. I thought along the way and imagined what kind of games and dancing they might be enjoying this evening.

    Apparently, Amber Lynn’s party was pretty hot!

    I guess I shouldn’t be so quick to accuse her though. After all, I don’t know for sure if she was responsible. It might have been another set of guests at the hotel who ordered Papa John’s pizza to be delivered hot and fresh at the time that it all happened.

    One or the other of those events (or both) might actually be a complete coincidence to the fact that the hotel’s fire alarm went off at 11:30 pm.

    Oh, sure, this was the night I had gone to bed a little early. My wife had packed some nice pajamas for me, and I was snug under the covers when I awoke to the alarms.

    As I woke, I was more confused than anything. Shaking off the sleepiness, I thought that this was not my alarm. Must be someone else’s. But slowly I awoke enough to recognize that this was a fire alarm.

    Probably a drill, I thought, and I almost went back to bed.

    But as I awoke a little more, I decided to heed it. I grabbed my wallet and cell phone as I jumped into my shoes and went toward the stairs.

    When I arrived at the stairs, I ended up in the middle of another group of guests who were descending from one of the floors above me. Some of their group was excited, as though on an adventure. Some of the group was obviously only half awake and not pleased with the goings-on. But none of them seemed to know what the reason was, as we all piled out the side door at the bottom of the stairs.

    Once outside, one of the members of the group hurried ahead to the front of the building. I moved out to the edges of the parking lot and surveyed the activity. I noticed that the advance scout returned to his group, shouting that the pizza had arrived. The patriarchal figure went up to the front of the building to pay for the pies, while other enterprising members of the group lowered a tailgate of a truck and prepared the feast.

    I continued around the hotel, hearing bits of conversation. No one had seen or smelled smoke, but someone confirmed that a pipe was burst on the forth floor and water was gushing about.

    I observed the many and varied people of the south as they assembled outside. One older gentleman appeared that he only had time to hastily put on some shorts as he left the building. One lady had evacuated in style with a glass of wine in her hand. Some younger people had chosen to make the hotel swimming pool their gathering place, as we all listened to and watched the fire trucks appear.

    While I appreciated the opportunity to mingle with the people, I observed something about the climate. At home on a night such as this, I would have expected it to be somewhat warm and comfortable. It was warm, but was also wet with humidity hanging about the air.

    To make a short story long, after about a half hour, they allowed certain floors (including mine) to take the stairs back to our rooms. I went to the stairwell nearest my room, but was turned away by a fireman who was sloshing large quantities of water down the stairs and out the door that I had previously used for my escape. I walked the length of the hotel, and used the other stairwell to return to my room.

    As I lay down, I drifted back to sleep listening to the sounds of the firemen cleaning up outside.

    It was such a popular form of entertainment that they offered a repeat performance at 1:24 am, though this time the alarm only lasted for a minute.

    And there was no word on how Amber Lynn’s graduation party concluded.

  6. Everything I need to know in life, I learned from watching ‘I Love Lucy’

    March 3, 2010 by Ryan

    * With all that knitting going on, people will naturally start drafting conclusions * Everyone should write at least one play, one novel, and one operetta, and create one sculpture in their lifetime * If you cannot decide how to celebrate your wedding anniversary, get separate dates with the same dating service * A happy little loaf of bread will rise with a full cake of yeast * Be sure that you have a valid marriage license before you practice marriage together * Kleptomania is sweeping the nation! * Keep an updated file photo in your resume * A side of beef won’t fit in the freezer * Take your Vitameatavegamin every day * Cheating will get you nowhere, but dumb luck will win the grand-prize in the bonus-round * It is important to stay organized and keep a schedule * A pound of rice per person will be plenty to serve dinner * Grace Foster will be happy to help you with your surprise anniversary present * Never get caught without a spare handcuffs key * Real French perfume will cost half price in Mexico, so if you buy it you’ll save twice as much (besides, no one can actually afford to buy it in France anyway) * Televisions do not make good neighborly gifts * Pick the right moment to tell your sweetie that you are enceinte * The birth of your baby is so special, you should dress up for it * Some people have just “got no sales resistance” * Never accept at face value an explanation for a black eye * A woman has a right to change her mind over and over * Your lease clearly says no children or pets are allowed * Being an unwitting third party in a love triangle is a bit embarrassing * You can always pay for things out of your allowance * Washing machines do not make good neighborly sales transactions * Friendship awards ceremonies bring out the best in everyone * Husbands are such sloppy dressers * Carlotta Romero is a can’t-miss, must-see show * Put on your best clothes and manners when the people from the TV or magazine are coming by * John Wayne’s footprints would look great in your home * Every train has a jewel thief onboard * Know the difference between a radio show and a rodeo show * Have proof that you were really born * You can get a better exchange rate on the street corner, and see parts of Paris that most tourists never do * Avoid excess airline weight charges by disguising foreign cheese as a human baby * Superman is a hit at children’s birthday parties * Don’t get overdrawn at the bank; those tellers are always telling someone something * To get a Frenchman across the Mexican border without a passport, simply win a bullfight * In France, they have ‘Masculine’ and ‘Feminine’ – in America, you do not have that * Always do whatever it takes to get into the show * Take it from Aunt Sally – spend more money on your pralines than you do on your signs * When taking a road trip, plan your dining and lodging options carefully and well in advance * Smoking is hazardous to your nose * The best way to pass the buck is “We’ll wait until daddy comes home and ask him” * You’ll be the one to learn the lesson when you try to teach someone else a lesson * You can squeeze four people onto two seats at the theater * Raising five hundred chickens is not cheap * Don’t get too chummy with the neighbors too quickly * Building a backyard Bar-B-Q certainly has a ring to it * The sultry young blonde at the dance is about as blond as Lucy is red-headed * Take a look at the Alaskan property before you put your money down * If you’ve got a horse in the race, personally take the reins * No problem is too difficult to solve with the help of your best friends *

  7. Reality Check

    February 19, 2010 by Ryan

    It is easy to get too close to things that you no longer recognize them (This advice is coming from the guy who loves to escape to Disneyland and blur the line between reality and fantasy). People confuse their wants for their needs. So today, hope to do a reality check, and momentarily put life into perspective.

    My reality: If I miss lunch, I am starving.

    My reality: It is inconvenient to wait a minute for the hot water to start flowing in the shower.

    My reality: My world looks for ways to create physical activity in order to exercise.

    Reality check: Other people in true poverty are fighting for a scrap of food. I really don’t know what true hunger or discomfort is. And I could stand to lose some weight. I don’t haul bails of hay, milk 250 head of cattle, or plow a field for survival. Through his prophet Joshua, the Lord reminded Israel, “I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat.” (Joshua 24:13) I should be immensely grateful for the blessings that I so often take for granted.

    My reality: Communication and interaction with others is virtually unlimited.

    Reality Check: Interaction with others is limited virtually. People are more important than pixels, yet it is easy to forget and lose time and self in the safety of hiding behind the keyboard. It feels foreign to deliver a message by voice over a telephone, or to go to a front door, knock, and speak in person.

    It is ironic that I write this thought without touching a writing utensil at all. Rather, I electronically manipulate black specs of light shining against white specs that surround it. This missive does not actually exist; rather it is the alignment of zeros or ones, which are converted to positive and negative polar extremes existing on a magnetized round metal disc.

    Entertainment is rarely ever presented live and “unplugged” – rather it is recorded, edited and enhanced, and digitalized. Who would ever think to meet with their friends and neighbors to sit together and enjoy a performance together? My MP3 player will never deliver the human connection that comes from entertainer and performer looking into one another’s eyes and sensing how much each is enjoying the experience.

    My reality: My society is smarter than and superior to the past generations.

    Reality Check: As a society, we have done a tremendous amount of good. We have paved the wilderness. We have carved out large nooks in the land and created cities of grandiose spectacle. We have eliminated some diseases, quarantined others, and dare to dream that we can continue to defeat more still. We have an nearly unlimited reservoir of knowledge and the benefit of the experience of the ages.

    My ancestors hauled their possessions across the country by foot in a hand-pulled wagon. They weren’t highly educated, but they worked the land and sweated by their brow to made their living. They didn’t operate with safety nets of government assistance or mandated health care. They weren’t advised by boards or warned by lawyers of what was good or bad for them. They attended the school of hard knocks. Through sickness and health, good times and bad, they had to tough it out. If they failed, they fell hard.

    In real life, there is no “undo button.” No “continues,” “extra lives,” or “God Mode” cheat codes. We are free to choose our actions in life, but our consequences might remain with us for a long time after. Our trials are different. Our stresses come from different influences. I believe that, if given the opportunity, my ancestors would NOT choose to trade me places – they would look at the world of crazy priorities that I live in, and have wanted to stick with what they had. Our priorities are based on a much higher standard of comfort and living. Yet the skills that got then through and will take us through have not changed. The Boy Scouts called them being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. The Mormons say to be honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and do good to all; at all times and in all things, and in all  places that ye may be in. Those attributes won’t fail us. They are truths that will hold us up and keep us strong.

    No matter what reality we live in.

  8. Growing Up Diverse in Utah

    January 18, 2010 by Ryan

    Growing up in Utah, “diversity” meant finding someone in my grade school class who attended the Catholic Church (Which surprised me, because I wasn’t aware that was a Catholic Church anywhere in or around my city, so I assumed they must travel to Salt Lake City to worship). I was told that some people have hatred of “Colored” and “Whites.” I supposed that if I ever met one of these “Colored” I would find out what that was about, and try not to hate them. Perhaps it has to do with separating the laundry? Someone then tried to tell me that the “color” was actually “black” which made even less sense – black is not really a color, is it?

    In short, there simply was not a lot of racial diversity in Utah for me to learn from.

    Even today, the diversity is still not visible by skin color. It is mostly evident by people who talk really fast and say words like “Hola! ¿Cómo es usted? Múdese de mi manera; juego mi coche estéreo fuertemente.”

    Let’s face it … even today, the greatest display of “racial diversity” in Utah happens when the Utah Jazz play a team from out-of-town. And in that venue, the out-of-towners get booed by the home crowd.

    I grew up with a vague understanding that Martin Luther translated the Bible into German. I was told that his translation was one of the truest and most-faithful translations, when compared to the original text. Although to be honest, I never read either the original text or Brother Luther’s translation – I have stuck mostly with King James’.

    Martin Luther King Jr. took up Martin Sr’s cause of doing good, and told people to treat others nicely.

    Though, let’s be honest: I’ve not yet been able to fully grasp the connection of a man in 1483 having a son in 1929. I might be mixed up on a detail somewhere in there. I’ll check Wikipedia later.

    I’m pleased to report that in the years since, I’ve started to straighten these things out in my own mind. My work has taken me to South Carolina a few times, where I’ve met some fantastic people with naturally darker-skin (I am told it is natural, anyway – back home people of darker skin go to one of those forbidden business with tanning booths). And I am pleased to report, I have found nothing to hate about any of them (some of them are Democrats, but I still don’t HATE them for that). So I treat them like I would hope to be treated, and things have worked out really well.

    I heard some of them even go to a different church than I do (I suppose I’d expect that since 3000 miles is a long way to travel just to come to the same church). But I think most of them believe, as I do, that we are all brothers and sisters of a Heavenly Father, who loves us all.

    And that part makes perfect sense to me.

  9. I have to be dreaming…

    December 1, 2009 by Ryan

    I was woken up by the phone ringing around 6:00 am. I answered it, and found it was someone from my temporary employment agency calling me. I did not recognize the male voice – I had never worked with him before. He said that he was sorry, but my services were no longer needed.

    That message seemed strange to me. The back story details suddenly filled my mind: Two days before, I had been “let go” from my job. One day previous, I had been rehired by my previous employer as a temporary employee. I had been a little bit upset that they did this to me after five years of service to them – presumably so they could have me work for them at a “starting-over” salary and without benefits for 90 days. But I had reported to work. My two-week assignment was to teach the manager of the temporary office how to use the company’s specialty software, inside and out. That assignment had not completely made sense to me. The software is very specialized to the dental industry, so why would the temporary employment agency manager need to learn it? But figuring that it was a paying gig, I took the job. And so the day before this phone call, I had completed day one of my work.

    That is why this call seemed out of place. The male voice, whom I had never worked with before at the agency, then said my name and goodbye. But he didn’t say my name correctly. He had hung up so quickly, I could not ask about it. I thought he must have made a mistake – my assignment was for two weeks, and he did not get my name correctly, so he must have called the wrong person.

    I decided that, since it was time to wake up anyway, I would start my day and report to work as I knew I was supposed to.

    I went to work, which had relocated overnight to the location of my old high school. Next door to my high school was the old seminary building, a building owned by my church and used for “release time” religious class instruction for the high school students who elected to take it. I walked through the seminary building in my route to my high school / new work location.

    As I walked in the building, the impressive pictures inspired by the life and miracles of and prophecies about Jesus still greeted me on the walls. I walked down the hallway, and I remembered the good feelings and memories of classes I had taken in that building.

    Then I came to a roadblock. Two seminary teachers, one dressed in a suit and the other dressed in a dress (because one was male and the other was female) stood in the hallway blocking traffic.

    By traffic, I mean “me.” I was told I could not go that way, as they were setting up for a show. I could see the area yellow-taped off, but felt that I could easily navigate through it. I protested and explained that I was just trying to pass through to get to work. But they insisted I would have to wait until the show was over. It would be starting soon anyway.

    When the show began, I discovered it was the Muppets performing there in the hallway. Except these were not the main-stay characters (Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, or Miss Piggy); this show was entirely made up of the “Muppet What Nots” (those background one-time characters that are used in a couple of sketches and then never seen again).

    Having no choice, I watched the Muppets perform their highly entertaining program. While I ordinarily would have relished such an opportunity, I was a bit edgy at this time because I needed to get to work, and I was eager to find the new location of the training room where I would be working in. I eventually recognized that the Muppets were going to be performing for quite some time, and so I backtracked out of the building and hurried along the path outside to get to my high school / work.

    As I walked toward the high school building, I naturally slowed my step, as memories of that time of my life came flowing back. I wondered just how much changed the facility would appear now? I walked toward what I remembered having been an entrance, only to find it was no longer there. Apparently, I was going to find the building changed considerably from what I remembered. I hunted for a while, panic again returning as more time passed and I still did not know a way inside.

    I finally found an entrance, but was dismayed to see another coworker was leaving the building carrying his personal belongings in a non-descript cardboard box. He was crying, and I tried not to make eye contact. Apparently, they were firing a lot of people. I hoped that he would get his job back the next day, as had been done for me. If that is what he wanted. I really didn’t know if he would want to come back after being treated such a way. I was still a bit upset over my treatment. But I had decided that a job was better than no job.

    Which reminded me – I needed to get inside the building to go do my job.

    I entered the building, and was again surprised to discover that what used to be a high school had now become a three-story shopping mall.

    As I wandered around, desperately trying to find the location of the training room where I needed to be, I found myself on the third floor. Although I really didn’t know where anything should be, my gut feeling told me that the third floor was wrong. So I decided I should make my way down a level and continue searching.

    That’s when I discovered that I was not wearing a shirt.

    I was about to pick-up the cell phone and call my wife, to let her know that I needed her to bring me a shirt, when I noticed that she was right beside me. I told her about my shirtless dilemma, and how I was concerned that I would not have time to go back home, get a shirt, and still make it back to find the training room on time. In her wisdom, she pointed out to me that we didn’t need to go home. We were in a shopping mall. We could purchase a new shirt at one of the stores. She is so smart – just another reason why I love her!

    Concerned that my financial earnings had just went down due to my firing and rehiring, we agreed that we would try to find a shirt on clearance rather than pay full price. But if that could not be done, we’d get a shirt so I could get on my way.

    We walked around a bit, but only saw women’s clothing stores. Then we passed the mall’s nursery. We both stopped short at the sight of a couple dozen babies, all peacefully playing or sleeping in car seats. The seats were set up on shelves three rows high. Babies sitting there in their car seats, dropped off by parents who had come shopping (or maybe workers at the stores, I suppose too). Fortunately, all the babies were pretty happy. We looked all over but could not see anyone in charge – no nurse, no babysitter, no worker in charge of the day care store at all. This was incredible! What a dangerous situation, leaving all of these children unattended like that, sitting unbelted in infant car seats, on shelves high up in the air!

    What was somebody thinking!

  10. How My Friday the 13th Went

    November 13, 2009 by Ryan

    I was one freeway exit away from my employer. It was the early pre-dawn hour, and I was heading in to work for a 6 am shift.

    The freeway was quiet, and I was driving along alone for several miles. The professional microphone operator was spouting his opinion over the radio. I was half-listening, and half-reflecting on the weather we’d been having.

    The forecast the day before had called for an inch of snow to be on the ground this morning. That might have been true in some areas, but where I was there was only a little moist mist during the night. The freeway road was dry, and I specifically remember thinking how glad I was not to have a slick commute.

    Then, in the dark, driving along, it appeared just like a deer in the headlights – mostly because it was just that, a deer in my headlights. It was standing in my lane, a few feet in front of me. The animal was facing the inside lane, as if its intention was to cross the freeway, but it had stopped here for whatever reason.

    I tend to drive slower than most people (doing 60 – 65 in the 65 mph zone – yes, I’m one of THOSE people). But it doesn’t matter if you are doing 60 or 65 or whatever when the deer appears in your headlights, and you have no time to think – only react.

    My reaction was what I believe, in hindsight, a good one. I swerved to the right shoulder, to the back of the animal. Had I gone to the left, in front of the deer, and it also decided to move forward, we might have collided. Had I hit the animal straight on in the size of car I drive, I feared I would have knocked out its legs, propelling it directly into my windshield.

    Now heading fast toward the shoulder, it occurred to me that I would run off the road. So I attempted to make a correction and move left to return to the lane. In hindsight, this might have been my mistake.

    I overcorrected, and began a spin back into the road.

    Fortunately, as I mentioned before, the road was very quiet. There was no traffic to collide with, as I found myself turning 180 degrees while I drifted further to the inside. My momentum was too much and eventually I came to a stop by introducing the passenger side of my car to the cement barrier that divided the northbound and southbound traffic. The back corner of the car took the brunt of the impact.

    My car pretty much stopped at that point, fairly safe in the small left hand shoulder – with the exception that I was now pointed the wrong direction and facing oncoming traffic. Instinct kicked in, and I turned on my hazard lights, restarted the engine, and tried to pull the car a few inches closer to the side and as far away from traffic as I could determine.

    I watched the deer for a few more helpless seconds, but quickly lost track of it. Cars came, and no one seemed to use any unusual evasive action, so I figure it had left the freeway.

    I felt my heart beating hard. A few fast seconds, and it was all over. And yet I realized that there was much more I still had to do.

    I reached into my pocket for my cell phone. I called 911. I described what had happened, and that no one was hurt. They said they would send the highway patrol.

    I called Glorajean and let her know what was happening. She talked with me until I saw flashing lights approaching.

    When the police car stopped, I began to step out of the car to greet the officer. He flashed his light at me, and I sensed that he didn’t know what was going on with my situation. I put my hands up where he could see them, and he asked me why my car was parked the wrong way?  I explained what happened, as I realized that he was not from the Highway Patrol but instead from a small city police department and happened to be passing that way when he saw me.

    He explained that we will want to get my car turned around, as this was dangerous (I’ll forgo the normal sarcastic comment). He then explained what I didn’t know, that when the Highway Patrol came, they would block the lanes and slow down traffic so I could turn around, and then get moved to the right side of the road.

    During this waiting I noticed how drivers don’t move over to give extra room when a car is parked to the side of the road – even if that car is facing the wrong direction with hazard lights blinking. Even with the police car and its flashing lights, folks just cruised right by at close proximity instead of moving laterally within their lane.

    It took some time for the Highway Patrol to arrive (apparently they were on a traffic stop and that took precedence, and a scheduling problem meant they initially called for an officer who was on vacation that day), but when they did, we worked the plan. I could tell that something was wrong with the alignment of the car as I maneuvered it across lanes of traffic, and again I was surprised by the fact that with two police cars guarding the way behind me, drivers still continued cruising by at full break-neck speed, as if nothing unusual was happening.

    The patrol man offered for me to sit in the squad car to fill out the paperwork. He opened the passenger door for me, and my sense of humor kicked in. I replied, “I’d much rather sit in the front seat than in the back!” He smiled and replied that he felt the same way. In a tense moment, it is good to have a laugh.

    The tow truck came, and I was on my way, to deal with insurance questions and make decisions about whether to repair or replace the vehicle. That is, after I sprung the car free of the tow yard, where they charged far too much money for the “after-hours” towing. Had I been thinking more clearly, I would have asked to have left the car on the side of the road until after 8:00 am.

    In conclusion, Friday the 13th was a lucky day for the deer, and in a lot of ways lucky for me too. I’ve replayed the situation in my mind several times, thinking of what could have been done differently. In the end, the result that I got seems to have been the best one. I was not injured, and there was no other travelers injured either. The car was banged up, but (except for some sentimental attachment) that is ultimately of no consequence. Life went on, and I hugged and kissed my wife and girls again. For all of that, I am grateful!