The Guilty Party

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pain and Rainbows

OCTOBER 28, 2008

Life is a challenge, but the days, all sorts of days, can still be good. I had a couple of days at the end of last week that brought that home to me.

Last week my work schedule was all over the place. On Friday I had to be there at 4:45 AM in order to open up for and then lead the crew that would be stocking the shelves with an enormous amount of merchandise that had come in the night before. There is a separate crew that empties the truck and places the merchandise on the aisles. They go home around midnight.

We had a few things going against us. I had never been team leader for this effort before. There was going to be a killer amount of merchandise with a lot of stuff mixed in that we would have to sort and pull aside because it belongs to a big holiday set-up that would be executed in a few days. And four of the relatively experienced crew members of the regular staff of sixteen had excused themselves for one reason or another and I would have four absolutely brand new crew members to work with.

I couldn't sleep the night before, afraid that either I had not set the alarm clock properly or I would sleep right through my three o'clock wake-up call. I must have checked the clock at least six or seven times between ten o'clock when we went to bed and 2:50 AM when I finally said the hell with it and just got up. I got myself ready, had a filling breakfast and headed out. Twenty-five miles to work. The drive wasn't bad, traffic being light around the four o'clock hour in the morning.

The aisles in the store were awash in jumbled product, some still in the master cartons. The night crew had not had time to completely do what we call Slash and Dump, which when done properly actually leaves the morning crew with neat stacks of product that can be immediately worked on to the shelves. We were faced with a massive amount of catch-up work and it was obvious to everyone. But I didn't hear any complaints. They recognized that the night crew had been up against it and they understood.

At five o'clock I led the crew in some fun warm-ups, including a few from my old acting days. Limber muscles were gotten with some basic stretching, reaching for the ceiling, stacking one vertebrate on top of the next one, etc., and I even threw in a round each of a couple of vocal exercises, "pucketa, pucketa, pucketa" and "mywah, mywah, mywah", which everyone seemed to enjoy. I figured it would not only bring an early morning smile but assist with the need to communicate clearly during the process.

Everyone, rookies and two-month veterans alike (nearly all of us started late August) worked very hard, but by eight o'clock it was obvious we were not going to make our ideal goal of Done by store opening at nine o'clock. Not even close.

But nobody expressed discontent. Nobody grumbled. Nearly everyone volunteered to stay later than their scheduled ten o'clock shift end time so we could collectively Get it Done. When someone had completed one section, they either found another area that needed attention on their own or came to me wanting direction on where they were needed most.

Eventually I was able to start sending people home. I continued as long as I could, my shift lasting well beyond its scheduled time. It wasn't exhaustion that sent me home, but the store manager, worried about overtime. But it was okay, because the store looked pretty damned good. And I felt pretty damned good, which surprised the heck out of me, considered my vintage and the amount of lifting, pushing, walking, sometimes running, and ladder climbing I had done over the past umpteen hours, and all on a collective three hours of sleep.

The drive home had way too much traffic, but the public radio station was interesting. On my way I stopped and did some grocery shopping. When I got home I made dinner, even helped with a load of laundry. We sat down around eight o'clock to watch a recorded "Daily Show with John Stewart"and I was out like a light.

All in all an exhausting day.

The next day when I woke after ten hours of relatively uninterrupted (let's consider my vintage, shall we?) sleep my right knee hurt like a son-of-a-bitch. I mean really hurt. I took a couple of ibuprofen so I could make it through a completely different sort of a day. We attended the Mesa Arts Center Storytelling Festival. No exertion on my part required outside of sauntering from the parking garage to the theaters where the marvelous storytellers (people actually make a living doing this and I think it is amazingly wonderful) were holding court. There were three inside venues, all with a common lobby, and one outdoors and something was going on in all four at any particular time so you had to choose. Either it was a no lose situation or we chose well, because the four storytellers we saw were great. Sitting seemed to aggravate my knee pain, so I had to keep flexing the thing as I sat, but often I found I was so transported by the stories and songs that I didn't notice the fifty-three year old knee at all.

When lunch time came around we took a short stroll down Main Street and actually found a little cafe that was open (we will talk about the mournful state of my hometown's downtown at some other time). Good sandwiches and huge cookies and some great people watching.

All in all a very relaxing day.

So anyway, life is challenging. A lot of this has to do with the damned economy. It sucks and a personal manifestation of that is that I have a job which demands much and pays nowhere near what my last job paid. But I enjoy the work and the people I work with.

And because money is really tight, we have to find economical sources of entertainment. Well, the Storytelling Festival was free on Saturday. A bargain on a grand scale.

The next day I rather hesitantly put my still sore knee to the test by playing tennis with my long time buddies Jonathan and Andy (Paul, our fourth, passed away a couple of years ago). I would have given tennis a pass that week but for the fact that I've had to give most weeks a pass lately on account of the job that doesn't pay a whole lot.* It turned out that all I had to do was concentrate on good form, keep my knees bent, and not push myself too hard. After an hour of hard court action my knee actually felt pretty good.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.**

*I would like to make clear that the fact it doesn't Pay A Whole Lot doesn't mean it's not a good job or that I don't feel quite fortunate to have it.

**You're on your own with joint issues. I'm just telling you what happened with me.

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A Bit About Me

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I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.