The beer man cometh

There was a knock at my door tonight. Somehow, I knew who it was. He hadn’t come around for a while and it was about due. It was Stan, (name changed for privacy). Stan comes around every so often wanting to do some small task for cash and/or a beer. My brother and I never got to cleaning out the flower beds last fall. Now, there’s still dead leaves, and some litter that blew there, covering the spring growth of daffodil and tulip stalks and already-blooming crocus and grape hyacinths.

Stan has a sharp eye and has trained himself well to spot things like that. I’ve obliged him in the past as has my brother, but did not the last few times he came around. This time I went a step further, and told him we’re just getting by here and can’t afford to pay him to do things we can do ourselves.   He could tell by the resolve in my voice that I meant it and only tried again once. Normally, he’ll keep talking and try to squeeze some money out of you.

You might wonder why I would ever oblige him in the first place, or have any sympathy. Well, for one, he’s pretty good at what he does. If he put as much energy into trying to keep a job as he does in coaxing some cash out of the neighborhood denizens, he might do okay.

Also, shortly after my brother and I moved in, we had 8 tons of topsoil delivered to restore the back yard. Because of the narrow alley and a retaining wall restricting access for the dump truck, the soil had to be dumped in the abandoned part of the alley next to the yard and then distributed by shovel and wheelbarrow. I had to leave for my part time job after we were at it a while. Stan ended up helping my brother finish the job, and I got out of doing most of it.  My brother was so grateful, he gave him what cash he had and asked me for some more to give him when I got home.  That was fine. It was a huge job.

Unfortunately, it set the stage for repeated solicitations of odd jobs for cash or a cold one.

That was eight years ago. Stan’s methodology evolved over time. He became more engaging, sneakier, and he always had a story of why he was short on dough. That, of course, wore out, despite his efforts. Seems he always just started a job but didn’t get paid yet. His girlfriend kicked him out, at least twice. You get the picture.  He also would start out saying he’d do a chore for $10, but then by the time he finished, he was suggesting $15 or $20.

Tonight, he didn’t push the issue too much with the leaf gathering, but he still asked for a cold beer. He’ll tell you he’s an alcoholic and then ask for a drink. I guess that’s supposed to make you more sympathetic or something. Well, I said I didn’t have any. I had a few, but why should I give one to him. That still costs me money. Money that I work long hours to earn. Plus, if he really is an alcoholic, which he most likely is, then I’d just be enabling him.

Stan seems like a decent guy, and at least he’s willing to do something for the money. Not just plain asking for a handout. He’s engaging to talk to, so you let your guard down.  I’ve learned though, to say no, pretty much automatically, now. Neither my brother or I will give him anything anymore, but it took us a while to get to that point.

Yes, having a hard time saying no runs in the family, but it’s also because we care about others and know that life can be hard. But when that gets you taken advantage of, and enables unhealthy behavior in another, you’ve got to put your foot down.

Maybe Stan was sent here to teach me (and my brother) that lesson.



Obligatory year end review

Yes, everyone does it, but why not?  A year in review:

My first full year as an assistant store manager at Family Dollar.

I stepped down as president of Allentown Film Crew, a community filmmaking group.   I held the group together and got a project filmed two years ago with little support, and set up some workshops and guest speakers for meetings over the last year, but didn’t have the energy or the gumption to follow through on ideas I had.   Stability turned to stagnation.  I decided to let someone else take the reins and take a supporting role for myself.  My friend and original member, Trisha Thompson took those proverbial reins.  I may have created a monster.  wink,wink, nudge, nudge

I started this blog.

I attended my 25th class reunion.  Still can’t believe I’m that old.

First full year of having adopted cat Smokey, to whom Wiley has been amazingly receptive after being the sole cat of the house for ten years.

I lost another 15 pounds, added to the 25 lost in the previous two years.

Things I’ve learned:

Even people who are friendly with you at a retail store will steal right under your nose.

Coworkers will talk smack about you to no end.  Everyone’s a critic – of everything you do.  I bury the judgments and criticisms I feel toward others and then resent the overt negative talk from others, because I don’t have the gumption to dish it out.  And then get over it.

When assertiveness doesn’t come naturally, it’s a life long effort to keep doing it.  If you’re not assertive, people will walk all over you, leave you out in the cold, and have a lower opinion of you.

Anxiety, paranoia and resentment are inhibitive of personal growth.

Man was not made to live in a vacuum.  I need to find a partner in 2015.

It’s a struggle to keep seeing the positive in humanity, but it’s worth the effort to keep trying.

Putting your foot down about something can cause friction, but will be for the better in the long run.

I’ll probably add more later.

In the meantime, have a prosperous year as you pursue long time interests and dreams.  You’ll find some kind of satisfaction and fulfillment, no matter what the final outcome.


Workin’ hard

My fellow assistant manager is one of those people who is really cool as long as things go his way.  He is admittedly, more efficient than I am both at getting things done himself and utilizing the help he has to get things done.  I’m improving on both counts, though.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m too nice a guy that people don’t always bust a gut to get things done on my shift, or if it’s that I don’t give clear enough goals or instruction.  My counterpart is very aloof and doesn’t like to be bothered while he’s working on his stuff.  That’s not a good thing, but at the same time, I think he gives the associates clear assignments before he disappears.  It seems to work as far as getting things done, but it’s not my style.  I think management should be approachable and supportive.  I think I am those two things.  I just need to be more assertive, decisive and authoritative.  I truly don’t care about being liked.  It’s more of a confidence thing.

The best managers I’ve had over the years have been nice and approachable, but still commanded respect because they were clear about what they expected, and were not afraid to both delegate and to express disappointment and discipline when necessary.  I respected and liked those managers.  I strive to be like that.

It’s challenging to get on people’s cases for not getting things done sometimes because I struggle with it myself.  The job is fast paced and demanding, with CONSTANT interruptions.  But there are times when I’ve thought that I could work circles around someone and I am too gentle in telling them to pick up the pace.   Part of the reason for that is that I have a hard time relating to people who are not self-motivated like I have always been.  Many people will get work done when you give them a specific goal and check up on them.  The checking up on them is the key part for most, which I tend to lag on.  When I’m given something to do, I want to do it for my own sense of satisfaction upon completion.  I’ve had one or two associates like that in over a year as an assistant manager of a dollar store.  I’ve realized with some disillusionment, that even good workers usually need to feel that someone is watching to put the maximum into the job.  Maybe that’s fair, if they think you won’t notice either way; whether they bust their ass or slack off.  I know it’s on me as the one in charge.

People might think that being an assistant manager of a dollar store is easy, but there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.  Like many businesses these days, discount retailers rely on minimal staff/payroll to maximize profit.  A “fast paced environment” means understaffed.  “Multi-tasking” means doing three peoples’ job (for less pay than your predecessor).

It is what it is, and I strive to do it to the best of my ability.  I feel that I am continually improving, but it’s frustrating, especially because I could be doing so much more.  I lacked support or guidance when I was younger.  (See Father’s Day post)  but I’m not blaming disappointments in life on my parents.  The choices I made and actions I took, or didn’t take, are mine to own.  That’s what keeps me going.  If I blamed everything on others, I’d be bogged down in self pity and bitterness.

So, I do the best I can where I am while looking ahead and trying to plan for the future.  That’s all anyone can do.