jobs, life, memories, reminiscing, universal

First Job

My first job was working at the bottle register in a grocery store called Price Chopper (now known as Market 32). Back then, they didn’t have the machines that took the bottles for you. However, there was one thing that was similar to the machines of today: instead of me giving the customers money, I gave them a receipt for how much they returned, which they could then cash in at the customer service desk or when they went through the checkout line with their groceries.

Needless to say, it was a dull job. When there were no customers, I had to find things to do. There was always taking out trash, taking out the buckets that had all the smashed-up bottles in them, and cleaning up behind the counter. If I finished that up and there were still no customers, then I would either go over to the end of a cashier’s aisle and bag up groceries for the customers, or I’d go out to the parking lot to gather up the carts that customers left near their cars.

Was it a stressful job? No, it was a simple one. Not too hard to understand or execute. And that was what made it irritating when people did certain things. For example, there were these two “dudes” who looked like Keanu Reeves and what’s-his-name from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure  who would come in every now and then with MONTH’S worth of returns. Their order alone would take fifteen minutes.

The policy of the store was that we weren’t supposed to take any single order that was over $25. If someone had that much, then we had to tell them to go to the end of the line with whatever was left over. I knew this, but one of the girls who covered the register while I was on lunch break didn’t, so when I come back and take over, the next customer in line gets mad at ME for what someone else didn’t know.

“That was ridiculous! i shouldn’t have had to wait that long,” he said.

I understood his frustration, but at the same time I didn’t like him (1) getting mad at me about what SHE did, and (2) getting mad at HER when she didn’t cover my station a lot. I don’t think it’s right to hold it against someone when they didn’t have the knowledge to know any better, so I decided to address it.

“I’m sorry about that, but she was just covering for my lunch break. She doesn’t normally work over here, so she didn’t know the policy,” I said.

“That’s no excuse. She….blah blah blah blah blah.”

At that point, I realized there was no reaching him. I just processed his order while he complained.

Other employees could be irritating too. I remember going outside one morning to start bringing in carts. Another employee came in and said, “Hey, someone left a six-pack of empty beer bottles out there between my truck and that car.”

I looked at him, dumbfounded, and I said, “So instead of picking it up and bringing it to me, you just walked past it…even though you knew it shouldn’t stay there?”

“That’s your job,” he said. “You’re bottle boy, not me.”

As he went into the store, I said, “It’s probably better you left it for me. Wouldn’t want you to strain yourself.”

Then you had your usual pain in the ass supervisors, who liked to be condescending every chance they got and/or flex their authority. For example, one night I was upstairs cleaning the break room when I got a call that there was a customer at the bottle register. When the customer was gone, the front end supervisor said, “You can’t take breaks whenever you feel like it.”

I said, “I wasn’t, I was CLEANING the break room.”

She left without another word.

Another time, I was only halfway through my shift when I got an upset stomach. Fortunately there were no customers, so I made it to the bathroom in time. (Yes, this part of the memory is gross: I had diarrhea.)  When I got back, I asked the supervisor if I could leave because I could tell I might be hit with another bout of it.

She said, “Are you sure you can’t stay? Because if you go home, I’ll have to work the bottle return.”

I was thinking: aw, poor baby…so don’t be a supervisor…so now I have to run the risk of crapping myself because the bottle register is beneath you…sorry it would add one more thing to your plate, but that’s why they pay you the big bucks!

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all bad. In fact, during the summer when I went in and found out I would be on carts instead of the bottle register, it was actually fun. Between runs to the parking lot to get the carts, I would go inside and bag groceries for customers. There was one cashier in particular (a stunning blonde named Suzanne) whose aisle I would always pick. Things never went anywhere with her, but it was fun to flirt.

Also, I was completely unsupervised when I was out on carts. I’d often just walk around the parking lot, writing poems in a tiny notebook that I could keep in my pocket. If a supervisor did come out and see me, I told them I was walking around to see if there were any carts hidden between cars. Hell, one time I even took a stroll behind every store in the Price Chopper Plaza, simply because I wanted to kill time…although, to my surprise, I DID find carts back there!

I was young. My biggest responsibilities were homework, bottle return, bagging groceries, and retrieving carts. At the time I hated that menial job, but now…shoot, I WISH I could walk behind those stores again!

Got a first job story that YOU would like to share? Comment below!!!

~~~Steve

everyone, habits, life, observation, universal

Strange Habits We All Have

Ugh…I didn’t get to do anything that I wanted to do this morning because, for some reason, my alarm was set to go off only on Saturdays and Sundays. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how the day goes), I woke up just in time to get ready and not be late for work.

Still, it irked me to no end that I missed out on my morning ritual of getting up, having a cup of coffee, and then taking care of various tasks. Writing this blog is one of them. The other two are: (1) submitting my novella Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real to ten blog sites that accept submissions for reviews and (2) properly formatting at least 5 pages of a novel I uploaded to Amazon.

Out of everything I just wrote in that last paragraph, there is one word that stands out: “ritual.” Routine. Habit. This is what inspired today’s blog because it got me wondering: “What peculiar habits do other people have?” I just revealed a few of mine, although you might not realize it. Let me describe things a little deeper, and you will see what I mean.

Submit to at least 10 book review websites

How is this a peculiar habit? Simple: I have a list of over 600 websites that accept submissions for review. However, I can’t think of the list as a whole. If I did, then it would be too overwhelming for me. (“My God…600 websites to submit my book for review!!! I’ll never finish!”)

Also, aside from having to submit books I already wrote for review, I’m also thinking of ones I want to publish. When I upload them to Amazon, I know the formatting doesn’t translate exactly how I want it when I view it on Kindle. That means having to revise and reformat (more on that shortly).

Last but not least, as of this writing I do this only on weekday mornings. That’s because I have my kids on the weekends. The last thing I want to do is ignore them while I type away on a computer.

Therefore, I had to break down the list to a number that would accomplish three things:

  • It wouldn’t feel so daunting.
  • It would leave me with time to work on other things.
  • It would leave me with a sense of accomplishment by the time I was done on Friday morning.

I settled on the number 10. Multiply that by 5 weekdays, and you get 50. That means in two weeks, I have reached out to 100 sites. At a rate of 100 every two weeks, that means I will have contacted all these sites in approximately 12 weeks/3 months. Then I can give myself two weeks off, and start from the top again.

Formatting at least 5 pages of a novel I uploaded to Amazon

In MS Word, the novel comes to 195 pages. If I do 5 pages per weekday, that means I do 25 per week. 4 weeks would be 100. That means I would finish reformatting in about 8 weeks/2 months. That might seem “long,” but believe me: it takes me a while to slog through those 5 pages because I am very particular about how the writing will look on the Kindle. This means I agonize over those 5 pages. If I tried to do more than that, I’d burn out.

Miscellaneous

Here are some other areas where I have strange habits:

  • When it comes to debts, like a credit card, I plan out how much I am going to pay them by dividing the amount I owe by 10.
  • When I read a book, I count the number of pages and divide that by 10. If there is a remainder, then I read a couple extra pages on the first day. (EXAMPLE: A book is 303 pages long. Divided by 10, that would be 30 days, but there are 3 pages left, so I will read 13 pages on day 1.)
  • Let’s say I come up with a list of CDs, movies, and books that I want to buy. What I will do is look at my calendar for my next few paydays, and I will pick one item from each list to buy on those days.

What quirks/strange habits do YOU have?

Please feel free to share them below. I promise: there will be no judgment here!

~~~Steve

criticism, lesson, life, music, universal, writing

Taking Criticism…When It Makes Sense

For some reason, this morning I woke up thinking about criticism and how I have gotten better at taking it. (Higher self-esteem can give you this ability.) However, the more I thought about this, the more I realized something: I have never really been BAD at taking it, but it has to mean something or else I can’t take it seriously.

This can make it seem like I can’t handle criticism. I remember telling a young woman I knew about a criticism a friend had of one of my stories, and she said, “Have you ever thought about taking people’s remarks as ways to make your story better instead of just being like, ‘Haha they’re so ignorant?'” To which I said, “Yes, I can…if it’s logical criticism.”

Let me explain the story in question, and you will see what I mean.

In this instance, I had asked a friend to read a script I’d written for a martial arts movie. (For the record, I called it Shaolin Secrets.) The story was about a half-American, half-Chinese martial arts star named Raymond Liu who gets drawn into some mysterious plot. I’m not going to explain the whole movie here; I gave you the very basics so that I could get to the part that drew criticism from my friend.

Raymond’s mother died when he was very young, which left him to be raised alone by his father. (His name: Jian.) Now some of you reading this might not know the history, but there was something that happened in Chinese history called the Sino-Japanese War. During this conflict, the Japanese committed many horrific war crimes; some people even refer to it as the “Asian Holocaust.” Jian lived through that and, as a result, developed a racist attitude toward the Japanese, which he passed on to Raymond.

You see, in most stories, the main character experiences some kind of growth by the end of the story. In this case, my intention was that Raymond would shed his racist attitude, and I had a way to do it that didn’t seem preachy/heavy-handed.

Then my friend got back to me with what he thought of the story. He liked the action sequences, liked the plot, liked the dialogue, liked the characters, but there was one thing he didn’t like.

What was that?

You guessed it.

The fact that Raymond was racist.

I asked why not, and he expressed a view about martial artists that has to be one of the most common myths out there. He said, “Well, it’s because he’s a serious martial artist, and most martial artists are enlightened, and they can rise above petty things like that.”

I said, “Really? So what about those martial artists that confronted Bruce Lee about teaching kung fu to whites and blacks? Or what about the Chinese guy who runs a school in Albany, who I’ve heard say disparaging things about the Japanese because he grew up through the Sino-Japanese War, just like Ray’s father?” (SIDE NOTE: I based Raymond’s racism on this real-life example.)

So when I passed my friend’s remark on to this other person, that is when she said I couldn’t take criticism. Incidentally, this same young lady was the source of another critique that I never took seriously because, again, it didn’t make sense.

At the time, I was in a band. This young lady and her boyfriend came to see one of my shows. When I saw her at work, I asked what they thought of our performance. She said the songs, lyrics, and my guitar playing were all good, but the singing fell short because I sang monotone. I asked what she meant by that, but she never explained it.

This is why I couldn’t take it seriously: I doubt she knew what the word meant. That sounds like I am mocking her, but think about it. If you went and saw a band where the lead vocalist sang “monotone,” then it would sound something like this:

I know for a fact I don’t sing like that. Near as I can tell, what she REALLY meant was that I didn’t sing with enough guts/passion, that I didn’t sound like I “meant” it, which is a criticism I’ve had of myself over the years. Still, that wasn’t the way it was communicated to me, so therefore the “criticism” was brushed aside.

In summary, I have no problem with criticism, but I don’t believe it should be taken blindly. Sometimes you might have knowledge of the subject being critiqued that the source of the remark doesn’t have that renders it meaningless. That doesn’t mean you can’t TAKE it; it just means it doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny.

Maybe most people reading this post are not writers or musicians. That’s fine because this idea of analyzing criticism can be applied to any part of life. Think about it: let’s say you buy some shoes that you think are the most stylish shoes ever made. You ask a friend what they think, and all they say is, “They’re ugly because they’re gray.”

Okay, well..maybe YOU like gray, so that is why, to you, they were awesome shoes. In my opinion, that would be a form of criticism that could be dismissed because it doesn’t hold up to close examination.

I always write my blogs with the intention of making what I say applicable to everyone, not just writers, musicians, and other artists. I bet you thought I was going to leave you folks out this time, huh? No, I’m going to always do my best to NEVER do that.

Until next time,

~~~Steve

everyone, inspiration, lesson, life, universal

The Lesson of Job

I’m not a very religious person. I’m not sure I believe in God or an afterlife. I’ve always been drawn more to Eastern philosophies like Taoism, which stems from my martial arts fanaticism. However, the other day I had an epiphany that could be tied to Job from the Bible. For those who don’t know the story, I’ll tell you how it goes, and keep in mind I might be messing up some details or oversimplifying.

God and Lucifer were talking one time, and the Dark One focused on this fellow named Job. He said that the only reason Job sang praises of God was because the man felt his life was blessed. If he suddenly ran across a string of tragedies, his praise would stop. To prove Satan wrong, the Lord heaped a pile of bad times on Job’s life, and yet Job’s praise of the Lord continued, thus proving Satan wrong. Once that happened, God brought good fortune back to Job.

Now we can talk all day about why God would care what Satan thought, but that could be another blog entirely. No, instead I want to focus on how this related to my day.

I went to work on Tuesday, and at first it felt like any other day. My start time is 8AM. I looked at the clock and saw it was only a little after 9AM, and for some reason my heart just sank. I felt anxious, stifled, bored, worried, depressed, etc. I can’t explain the feeling exactly, but I can sum it up by saying I just didn’t want to be there. Normally I don’t mind going to work, but yesterday I couldn’t STAND it.

I am in training for my current title, although I still have to do some tasks related to my OLD title. The daily procedure for me is: get all the “old title” stuff done first, then go see my supervisor and ask what she wants me to do. When I went down to her yesterday, she handed me a report and said, “Here, go over these transactions and make notes on what you think should be done with them.”

I went back to my desk and got to work, and wouldn’t you know it? I felt like I knew what I was doing. Suddenly, my mood lifted, and the day started flying.

Then, when I got up from my desk for break, the thought hit me: “I can’t rely on feeling like I am good at my job. There will be days where I don’t have a clue, but I can’t let that get me down. I can’t let that make time slow to a crawl. I mean, I’m in training right now. It’s to be expected that I won’t always know what I am doing…for now, but a day will come where I am completing the transactions like a champ.”

And then somehow my brain tied this to the story of Job. He faced dark times, but he was patient, hence why you might hear someone say about one of their acquaintances, “That guy has the patience of Job.” He kept the faith that the dark times would pass, and the good grace of God would shine on him again someday.

That is what I need to do. Hell, that is what we ALL need to do.

(Oh and by the way…God? We have to talk about this whole need to prove Satan wrong thing. Why would you care what he thinks???)

everyone, inspiration, intelligence, life, universal

No Patience for Dumbidity

What’s that, you say? “Dumbidity” isn’t a word. Well, I know this, but I had to give that title to this blog because that is the way I feel about the levels of intelligence I encounter sometimes: it’s so low that you have to make up a new word to describe it. Seriously. Sometimes I feel like I’m talking to Archie Bunker all day, and I expect to hear them end the conversation by saying, “Well, I gotta go. My wife is late for an appointment with the groinocologist.”

At my day job, one of my duties is to answer questions people have about civil service tests and jobs. Believe me: I understand that these exams and jobs and civil service rules can be confusing. I’m not saying these people are idiots for not understanding all of that, because NO ONE would grasp it all unless they worked behind the scenes like I do. However, there are certain aspects that you should grasp even if you are just a “layperson,” and yet I am still astounded by the things I hear.

Here is one example.

CALLER #1: I’m calling because I took the test.

ME: Which test?

CALLER #1: The civil service test.

ME: (taking a deep breath to calm down) Well, ALL state tests are civil service tests. I need to know the title of the exam.

CALLER #1: Oh…I don’t know that.

This blows my mind because in order to take a state exam, you have to:

  • Go to the website.
  • Find the exam.
  • Go through a lengthy application process.
  • PAY for the exam, and then…
  • Go sit in a high school classroom for several hours on a Saturday to take it.

And yet despite all that, they can’t remember what test they took?

Another example.

CALLER #2: I interviewed for a job two weeks ago, and I was just wondering if they made any decisions yet.

ME: Unless you interviewed for a job with our agency, we wouldn’t have records of that, but I can still help you out because I can get you the phone number for the appropriate human resources office. Where did you interview?

CALLER #2: Oh, uh…I don’t remember.

ME: (rubs eyes in disbelief) You don’t remember where you interviewed for a job?

At this point, I’m thinking, “My God, I HOPE this person showed the same amount of intelligence at the interview that they are showing on this phone call, because that would tip off the agency to rule him out.” I mean, can you imagine someone like that in a position of any major responsibility, like a Correction Officer or something? That’s the kind of person who would neglect to lock some gate, and the next thing you know, all the prisoners would be out running rampant in the street!

Let me restate what I said earlier: I don’t expect everyone to know the rules like I do, but I think these two examples illustrate what I mean. The average IQ of the world is either (1) dropping sharply, or (2) lower than I ever thought it was.

Now it might seem like I am an intellectual snob, and I’ll be honest: for a long time, I was. However, lately I’ve been rethinking this. I don’t know what it was, but something just clicked in my mind recently, and I realized that my snobbery makes me no better than skinny people who mock fat people, or pretty people who mock ugly people, or tall people who mock short people.

What I’m saying here is: no one asks to be fat, ugly, short…or less intelligent. Therefore, I have no damn right to look down my nose at them for it. I mean, it’s the equivalent of all those bastards that I hear mocking people for being “retards.” It sickens me, and I’m sad that a part of me was like that.

But now, that part is gone. I used to get very irritated when faced with these things, but I’m learning to be patient. If people can’t understand something, and someone else does, then I think it is a moral obligation to HELP them understand instead of mock. Like the guy who played Dr. Octopus in SPIDER-MAN 2 said, “Intelligence isn’t a privilege, it’s a gift, and you use it for the betterment of mankind.”

Well, going forward, that is what I’m going to do. If you don’t understand something that I do, I’m not going to be looking down my nose at you. I’m going to be looking right at you, eye to eye, and I’m going to say, “Well, this is how that works…”

Intelligence can be used not just for the betterment of mankind, but for the betterment of yourself as well.

everyone, universal, writing

Returning with a Plan

Well hello there, everyone. Yes, it has been a while since I posted here. Nearly a year in fact. That’s because I was unsure of what to say or when I could even fit this into my daily hectic schedule. Plus I’m no stranger to blogging. In the past, I maintained a couple different blogs. One was for writing, one was for fitness, one was for martial arts, one was for music. I could go on, but why bother? I don’t want to talk about the past; I want to talk about TODAY.

Okay…well, that is a bit of a fib there. I have to mention one more thing about the past, but then it’s all about today, okay?

The reason why I gave up on those blogs was because, for one reason or another, the flame went out. With writing, I no longer felt like sharing my stories online, and I didn’t want to write about writing because, let’s be honest, how many people can identify with those struggles? With martial arts, I felt a similar burnout. When it came to music, there were only so many developments I could discuss. For fitness, I was trying to use the blog as a way to extend my Beachbody business, but no one was buying, so I stopped trying to sell.

I think the real reason I fell out of writing blogs was because it became a chore to think of any content. It was also very limiting. People tell you to be super strict. If your blog is about fitness on Monday, then you can’t write about music on Wednesday. More time was spent on coming up with new topics than writing the blogs themselves!

That got very discouraging, so I stopped, but now I’m back, and I have better goals in mind.

Just write.

That’s all.

No limits this time. I mean, I would like to try and maintain a certain universality about my subject matter. After all, the point is to be heard, right? Otherwise there would be no point in posting here; I might as well just scribble in a notebook in my bedroom. However, even if I do write about my nerdy, niche interests, I will still try to tie them to a message that anyone can understand.

Oh, and if you like my writing in these blogs, then I have plenty of other things here you can read like novels, novellas, short stories, and poetry collections…although those cost, of course.

So look out, world. Here comes the new Steve Grogan blog.