Archive for the Working in the Real World Category


Posted in Activism?, Adventures and Interludes, Communication, crazy landlords, MANNERS, Mockumentaries, Philosophy?, Thoughts, Working in the Real World on May 13, 2010 by Admin

Sometimes Customer Service people can be impeccably nice, and easy-breezy to deal with, working with you to solve problems or reach a mutually-agreeable result.

Just the other day I wrote a letter to the Corporate Headquarters of Air Canada commending Alexis (a man) on how kindly he treated me in accommodating my spinal issues for my flight and all connections. I praised him to the nth wordiness degree. I believe in commending people who do a great job. Customer Service is all about the customer, and is so-named perhaps to remind said representatives. Right?

Other times, not so much. One can run into peevish types; patronizing and scoldish, even if they have antiquated methods and know gosh darn well that there is a problem on their end, yet somehow still feel like scolding you, even if you are completely innocent of all charges. That was my experience today.

I have a storage space at A-Z Rentals in Easthampton. It is not cheap. That place is a goldmine. Do the math. Even I can do that math. An art studio is cheaper, my new plan. It is such a gold mine that I dare guesstimate that they can afford a few computers, some training, and one of those springy date-stamp thingies, with a matching pad of ink. Every month my bank sends a check out  – what is called a RECURRING AUTOMATIC PAYMENT  – perfectly scheduled to arrive 1-2 days before the end of the month, to pay for the upcoming month’s rent, at the lofty A-Z Rentals in Easthampton. I have never had a problem with my bank sending out a check on time, in the perfect amount. They use computers to do this. BIG complicated computer networks, with data regularly backed up, on servers kept in fire- and bomb-proof rooms, kept at controlled temperatures, and with generator systems to account for every emergency, and backup systems for the backup systems and backup generators for the other backup generators, probably in an underground bunker somewhere, like the one my old company had in a town in Germany called Erding, manned by 3000 employees in shifts covering 24 hours every day, so that no data could ever be lost.  At the beginning – so nervous was I at this little operation – I used to manually stop in and hand deliver my check so I could get a receipt with the date on it. When I moved, I stopped in with a check for another two months so as to pay one month ahead, knowing full well that this bill paying stuff, and, well, just about everything, gets all confused and crazy when moving, and so, at that time I gave A-Z Rentals my new address, in person. With the extra month rent paid ahead. I said, “I have a new mailing address. Can I give it to you?” <— clear and concise, yes? The woman behind the very formal counter, dividing THE OWNER and the employees from us renters, wrote it on a piece of paper. I asked a few times if this was to be entered into some sort of computer system. “Yes, of course”, I was told.  I felt uneasy about such lax processes – and my intuition is always spot-on –  but no amount of nagging could get her to put it in the computer at that moment, and I was assured that it was now in my “file” and I was not to worry and so on. I left uneasy at this little handwritten note in my manila folder. I love that phrase, it reminds me of grade school – MANILA FOLDER.

I left picturing data entry and a green screen, with visions of my new address in the hands of cat-eye glasses on a fake-jeweled chain, and blueberry-stained “teeth”, but no rainbows and unicorns, no, this was not a kumbaya premonition and it was to come true, with wrist slaps and scoldings and interruptings and phones a’ slammin’. AND, I must note, I had also given them my phone number AND my email address, when I first filled out the very formal application (Congratulations! You have been FULLY APPROVED for a 10 x 10 space at $75/month!), Though I did NOT leave that time-warp assured of deft use of any interwebby mail stuff. But, a phone…. everyone can operate a phone, yes?

It was a tired old place, with bright fluorescent lights and dust and possibly some framed “prints” on the walls, though my recollection is of standard eggshell paint walls – of course –  and way too bright lights and dustiness.  It left one un-invigorated. It left one uneasy, well, me anyway. Yet I still left $143 lighter, having left that check, for one month due, plus ONE MONTH IN ADVANCE because I knew things would get scatter-y and crazed while moving –  that thing one does when they cart their junk around and frequently end up needing storage spaces – such that it would not be a stretch to assume that people working in the STORAGE SPACE INDUSTRY might understand; changing of addresses and how to contact people and all that rigmarole. Right?

So now they also had my phone number and email address, as filled out on the very official hand-typed-looking form. And then one day I decided –  because I really don’t feel the need to drive across town to hand deliver a piece of paper, especially in the winter – to set up a recurring payment to go out automatically, every month, from that behemoth, Bank of America. No problem. Or so I thought.

So, to get to the point of this rant, today I received a snippy letter saying, “We have continually sent you bills reminding you of the rate increase ($1) that began November 1, 2009 (all in bold, on a sheet that looks a LOT like it came off an actual typewriter). At this time you owe a balance of $7.00.” It goes on to threaten/say how they reserve the right to lock my unit for unpaid rent, and fees that accrue for all unpaid rents, and so on, exponentially increasing their take. Then it says “Feel free to contact our office if you have any questions…”

So, I contacted the office, only to be told by a woman that all the letters sent to me  –  to the old address, which she VERIFIED, (I just knew this would happen)  –  were returned (VERY odd, as ALL other mail was duly forwarded to my new address and I have never missed a thing from any other source. This seems so very very archaically and peevishly odd). So I asked, “well, then how did this snippy letter manage to  get to me here at my actual address?” Miss Scoldy-Miss said they had noticed at some point that the return stamp electronically-generated by the very modern post office, where they use computers and that interwebby thing,  indicated my new address. Well, WHY didn’t you notice that when the very first one was returned?

Then she admits that there is a note in my file about my new address. Uh huh, so someone fell down on the job, didn’t they?  AND THEN.. …it gets worse. Out of nowhere she tells me, in a scolding and superior tone, “You know, rent is due on the FIRST of the month. And our records show that you are always a few days late. Nothing to worry about of course, but they really should be here by the FIRST.”


So I get on my computer – while on the phone with Miss Admonishment- and pull up my account and tell her that actually, according to the modern day electronic methods that BofA uses, my check is ALWAYS there 1-2 days before the end of the month which is, of course, before it is due. She rambles on about something to do with something (I got the very clear and unmistakable feeling that she was ad-libbing, especially when she started ad-libbing) and goes on to explain that they get “thousands of checks” from renters and companies every month (hmmm, if everyone even only paid the $75 that I do, this would add up to like 75,000 to 300,000 and up per month, which would easily pay for a data entry person and a computer, for starters) and then, inexplicably, she actually starts naming off large area companies (large, for the area) as in, their exact company names! At this point I interrupt her because I don’t want to hear their client list. Upon further questioning she finally admits that it takes days, and days and days, because they do data entry by hand, AND, this is the crucial part,

“the checks are logged in as being received on the day that the data entry person logs them in, NOT on the day that they arrive in the mail.”

WTF? I ask Miss Peevy (not her real adjective, but rather, a descriptive one) WHY the checks are notated as being received on the day they are entered, rather than the day they arrive, which would be legal and honest and fair. She starts another lengthy explanation of all the checks and companies and I interrupt her again – because I still do not want to hear their client list which is actually none of my business, and is irrelevant (as if the exact company names should both impress me and validate her workload, and as if that should in any way negatively contribute to my credit rating? Because at the end of the day, marking me down as paying things only when they get around to data-entering my check, is by NO means an exact or fair assessment of my bill-paying habits.  So now I have interrupted her again by asking her to please stop listing their clients’ names and she says, angrily, “LET ME FINISH“, and goes back to her litany of time-consuming checks to post and etc. I realize that somehow her workload is justification, by her logic (oh, great and misunderstood philosopher), yet to me this seems like something irrelevant that she should take up with her boss, or THE OWNER (angels sing), and not me, and my credit rating.

Would anyone really want to hear any of this, after being SCOLDED for being late when they have NEVER been late? Ooooooh. Are you kidding me? So we debate whether or not my checks are late and she says, “Well, what does it matter? We have a 10-day grace period so it is ok anyway.” I first ask why she bothered to scold me, if it does not matter, then tell her it does matter to me because I have an excellent credit rating and am not going to let their archaic record-keeping methods ever change that in any way, even if it just for another storage company calling them for a reference (which is seeming more likely by the litany)  I also tell her I do NOT LIKE to be scolded (when did she become my mother or boss or anything like that?).

Hell, if I am going to be marked down as late, I might as well BE late, right? Why prioritize this bill by its due date? Maybe by the 10th they will have sorted through most of their data entry and can get to my check promptly, and then my money will have stayed in my account 12 more days, thus earning me interest, right?  So, Miss Judgement says, “Well, I can go back and pull all of your checks and see the exact date they arrived”. So I say, “Okay.”

“What?”, she asks, sounding furious and incredulous.

“Okay. Yes. Let’s do that. And then the records will be straight and I won’t have that ‘SPOTTY PAYMENT RECORD’ (her exact words) for which you admonished me”.

“You can’t expect me to go back and pull all your old checks to see when they arrived. That would take too much time.”

“But, you just offered to. And I accepted.”

Well La-di-da! Maybe this is THE OWNER (angels sing, renters cower)

And, she does have a good point, but only because of said archaic record-keeping practices. If one is keeping physical logs and etc then of course there would be no time left over for pulling files, BUT, didn’t you just offer to do just that? AND, how about a date stamp? Now there is an implement that also dates back to the 50s or whenever data entry was invented, so I have a BRILLIANT idea! Why not date stamp each check as it arrives in the daily mail and enter THAT date into my account so I am marked as paying exactly on the date on which I do pay, 1-2 days early EVERY SINGLE MONTH?

She says she won’t do this, so I tell her “Ok, then do not ever scold me again for being late when I am not”. She goes off AGAIN about how it is ok to be late and the 10-day grace period and etc and this is really just too much to take so now I do what she did before –  I yell over her, EXACTLY in the same manner in which she yelled over me when I tried to speak earlier, and say, BUT I HAVE NEVER EVER PAID THE RENT LATE.

She fumbles a bit and says “THE OWNER (angels sing again, street sweepers cower, everyone else yawns) says you can call her tomorrow.” Evidently I am either on speakerphone or they use also-archaic hand signals or some such thing and she has caught the onwer up-to-date on our debate and the owner has answered, also in sign language, that I have permission to call her tomorrow, after her nails dry.

Gosh!, thanks for that permission. But I DON’T WANT to talk to the owner tomorrow. What I want is to NEVER receive a snippy demand letter again; for them to take responsibility for getting the address which I gave them on September 30, 2009, correctly entered or, hand-signaled, into the “system”; to be marked as paying on the EXACT DATE that my payment actually arrives; and I want them to never ludicrously scold me for “always being a few days late” ever again, rather than having me in “the system” as ALWAYS LATE.

Mind you, BofA – oh great behemoth of electronica and interwebbyness –  can prove EXACTLY when my payments are delivered to A-Z Rentals. Mind you, other customers are actually late, or don’t pay, and I am a GOOD customer.

But she is yammering away and won’t let me speak so I speak over her again TRYING to AGAIN reiterate that ALL I want is to be credited when my check actually arrives, NOT when they “find time” to “data enter” it, along with that whole list of “big” area companies. Sigh. I am not impressed by “big companies” or “Owners”, or even by money. I am impressed by intellect, kindness, manners, and soul. Material things and spending one’s life “owning” a storage-rental complex is not my life goal. Happiness is. And my good credit rating, in case I ever want to rent another storage space, which is becoming more and more likely by the minute.

And then, she hangs up. On me. So evidently she is not much qualified to be a Customer Service Representative. Maybe she should be a Street Sweeper or Disciplinarian, She who must be allowed to finish sentences, but who does not allow others to finish sentences.

I did not get to finish fully 60% of all sentences and I did not get mad till the very end. And this is how they treat a good customer who pays on time?


I will not be humped. (Explanation of my new phrase “humping”, will be in the next post.)

THIS CONVERSATION WAS RECORDED FOR QUALITY ASSURANCE PURPOSES. Maybe I will post the audio here, so everyone can enjoy the great intellectual debate. ;-)


An Amoeba, a Fat Cat, a pile of ridiculously cute Shar Pei Puppies, Diego Rivera, and Micahelangelo’s David all walk into a bar…

Posted in Activism?, Confusion, The meaning of life, Thoughts, Working in the Real World with tags , , , , , , on April 22, 2010 by Admin

and say to the bartender, “We’ll have a round of your best MERELY, and set one up for the whole bar, as well!”


What do any of these things have to do with the case of Clay Greene and Harold Scull? Not a thing. Only I know why I put them there.

Creating a petition is a very scary thing. It takes time of course, which none of us have, and it takes courage and thick skin. If you asked me for advice about creating one I would, SADLY, possibly even tell you not to bother; that maybe commentary lamentation and expressing outrage is all we can expect to be done about such matters. I don’t much know; I do not understand.

I would even advise you suchly; Do not make the mistake of thinking that if people do not belabor you with lamentations of being VERY BUSY and having NO time, accessorized with endless litanies of millions of tasks to be completed, that they are not busy. Eveyone is, by virtue of being alive, busy. Comparisons and evaluations are fruitless and a waste of precious life time.

I would further explain that Maybe some of us will not tell you how busy we are, just as maybe some of us will not ever say, “Hot enough for ya?” on any or every day in July and August, or, in response to mention of cleaning your apartment or home, will not reply with “When you are done, come on over to my house! Hahahaha!” I have a point here but I have no wish to explain it.

You will see that your friends are reticent to put their names to anything (though my petition allows you to use a nickname rather than your actual legal name, and only asks for you to put an email address – which of course is NOT PUBLISHED, and which requires clicking on a link in an email to be verified) and that this will hurt.

Especially if you have duly and dutifully fanned their cat’s  page and so on, promptly and immediately upon being asked.

Maybe people fear putting their name to anything until all the facts are out, which I FULLY admire, and which is why my petition MERELY asks for a THOROUGH INVESTIGATION and NOTHING MORE so that the full truth will come out and then, if necessary, applicable laws might be reviewed and even changed, as will, possibly, future procedures in similar situation; some of which might even affect us in that future.

Meanwhile, since I have pushed that button, rung that bell, sounded myself, and, sadly, scanned the list of signed names hoping to see many that are familiar to me, I feel responsible for furthering my cause to collect signatures for the sole reason of REQUESTING A FULL INVESTIGATION INTO THIS CASE, AND A REVIEW OF APPLICABLE LAWS.

There are now allegations of abuse and this saddens me two-fold-ishly; if they are true, I am sad, but still hope, and will continue to pursue signatures politely asking for A THOROUGH REVIEW OF THE CASE, and if they are not true then A THOROUGH REVIEW OF THE CASE is more necessary than ever. So you see, my petition has a built-in insurance clause. It’s a win-win in that it has such a simple request such as to retain its relevance regardless of the underlying truth. It MERELY ASKS FOR A THOROUGH REVIEW OF THIS CASE AND ANY AND ALL APPLICABLE LAWS.


I hope nothing like this ever happens to any of us. but if it does, perhaps then everyone will have truly been to Woodstock, lost their money to Bernie Madoff thus explaining their lack of a mansion, and signed the petition.


Meet Harold and Clay


The response to the horrific story of Clay Greene and Harold Scull has been very gratifying and inspiring. Clearly, their story struck a chord in all of us. To some degree we can’t help imagining ourselves in exactly this situation. Forty-eight hours ago, few people knew their names, and now a Facebook page in their honor has more than 5,000 fans. Quite simply, this case demonstrates how our relationships as LGBT people are so fragile, especially when we reach our later years. Just one small incident, in this case a fall down some steps, sends the world crashing down.

Harold and Clay were in a committed relationship for twenty-five years, and they lived together for twenty years. Both Harold and Clay had worked in Hollywood and were passionate collectors of film memorabilia. Harold had worked for MGM studios in the 1950s and was a favorite of Louis B. Mayer in the studio’s heyday. At the same time, Clay worked in television with many popular stars of that period. In addition to his film industry career, Harold was an accomplished artist and avid collector, especially of Mexican and Central American Santos religious art and artifacts. Art, heirlooms, and memorabilia graced the walls of their leased home, in which they planned to live together until their deaths.

Several folks have commented about the legal status of Clay and Harold’s relationship. These tragic events began in April 2008, one month before the California Supreme Court’s historic marriage ruling. By the time the California Supreme Court ruled and marriages began for that brief six months, Harold was already hospitalized and Clay imprisoned in a nursing home. The two men had not registered as Domestic Partners, and they may not have even known that option existed. But they had filled out all the paperwork that attorneys advise same-sex couples to create, including wills and powers of attorney for health care.

In every case our clients are human beings, and they are not perfect, which is why we all identify so fiercely with those we represent. At the time of Harold’s fall he had already been experiencing some degree of mental impairment, and had been drinking. He fell down the stairs and became angry when Clay wanted to call an ambulance because he was afraid of what the result might be. (And as it turned out, he had good reason to be.) The paramedics who arrived on the scene suspected the possibility of abuse. But that suspicion was false. What happened over the next two months is when the nightmare truly began. Once Harold was released from the hospital to a nursing home, the county refused to tell Clay where Harold had been placed, forced Clay into a nursing home where he did not need to be, auctioned all of his possessions, including treasured and valuable works of art and family memorabilia, and took away his two beloved cats. The level of inhumanity is staggering.

After 25 years of a rich and shared life of devoted commitment, a couple at least deserves being able to be at each other’s bedside at the last moments of life. Not only was Harold denied that comfort, and Clay denied the ability to be there to say goodbye to his life partner, but Clay was stripped of everything that mattered and gave him stability in his life.

We can’t change what happened to Harold and Clay, but we can do what we try to do every day: to create a world where what happened to Harold and Clay never happens again.

kate signature
Kate Kendell
Executive Director
National Center for Lesbian Rights

You can shave the baby

Posted in art, Artists, The meaning of life, Working in the Real World with tags , , on February 7, 2009 by Admin

I received an email from a non-related, doppelganger-like acquaintance in California the other day about supporting (which I did) a benefit for cancer in which she will shave her head. So I thought I’d post the link here in case that might serve to help her cause. I’d say that’s an impressively bold and brave move for a boldly destructive disease.

And, (according to grammarphobia it is ok to start sentences with “and”, Gnomus, but I do blindly [blithely?] break all the rules here) speaking of shaving, later that day I saw an intriguing image of a doll covered with patches of red hair called, “You can shave the baby” which at first I thought to be a real toy. So I fact-checked it at (Our human technology meets your biggest organ! Even no concept but still good sense!), home of the bengigngirl phone and other lovelies.

As it turns out, it is a 1994 piece by Polish artist Zbigniew Libera, whose 1996 Llego Concentration Camp Set caused… well, read about that here.

Libera - you can shave the baby

Libera - you can shave the baby

You Can Shave The Baby, 1995
10 dolls in cardboard boxes, [10x] 55,9 x 20,3 x 25,4 cm

Another Libera piece I find hilariously frighteningly hilarious is Ken’s Aunt.

Libera - Ken's Aunt

Libera - Ken's Aunt

Ken’s Aunt, 1994
24 dolls in cardboard boxes, [24x] 32 x 8 x 5 cm

I googled ‘Ken’s Aunt’ in hopes of finding more information about this piece and found, “He knew the only place for Ken was behind bars. He persuaded Ken’s other relatives to tell the police everything they knew. On Paul’s advice, Ken’s Aunt …” from, The Coed Call Girl Murder. I am not sure if this work has any relation to that book but I like to think it does. [LINK]

The big deal about Brie

Posted in Confusion, Narcissisim, Philosophy?, Popular Culture, The meaning of life, Working in the Real World with tags , , , , on November 22, 2008 by Admin

Cardboard boxes and hints of forgotten things, these are often full of the most mysterious things.

Newsweek Magazine December 31, 1985 THE YEAR OF THE YUPPIE

Newsweek Magazine December 31, 1984 THE YEAR OF THE YUPPIE

Last week I moved a bunch of boxes out of storage and into my studio. The resulting chaos is a pile of cardboard boxes full of things I barely recall packing. As I go through them and try to somehow assimilate them into my very finite space, I am finding all manner of thoughts and artifacts.

“What Yuppies have discovered is nothing less than a new plane of consciousness, a state of Transcendental Acquisition, in which the perfection of their possessions enables them to rise above the messy turmoil of their emotional lives. They know that Beauty is Truth, and Truth is Beauty, which is why their most eloquent symbol is the Rolex watch, which has both.”

A lot of the boxes were packed back in 2002 when I moved out of my Hewitt Street apartment in Roslindale – just one of many an apartment in the Boston area – in preparation for a move of hilariously epic proportions for its Odyssian foolishness, and which, something like 18 states later, landed me here. I think a lot of these boxes were never unpacked at that apartment; the contents seem to hint at being packed when I was 17 and packed to move to my first apartment.

Among these things are journals with entries about getting on stage with a band at Sheehan’s and playing the maroccas (Evidently on October 12, 1985; wonder who the band was. I have no recollection of this, and likely had no recollection the very next morning), and articles and pictures scissored out of magazines, clothing, random framed pictures and adornments from past, decorated, apartments, and this intriguing issue of Newsweek Magazine from December 31 of 1984. Evidently 1984 was THE YEAR OF THE YUPPIE.

"It is on the move again - that restless vanguard of the baby-boom generation, continually reinventing itself as it conquers the undefended decades of the 20th century." - Newsweek, December 31, 1984

Isn’t it funny – the phenomenon that was the yuppies – that it merited a special Gary Trudeau illustration and the cover of Newsweek? Funnier even that people posed for the photographs inside as bona fide yuppies and proud of it, because apparently they didn’t know the article would not entirely make them look good. I love the pics of yuppies restoring their gentrified townhouse in outfits that seem to never have seen a dirty moment. I was not a yuppie in the 80s. I was too busy getting perms and shoulder pads. But the article makes for great soundbites, especially when removed from context…
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Hair and Water

Posted in Activism?, Communication, Narcissisim, The "Cover Me" exhibit, Working in the Real World on February 7, 2008 by Admin

Years ago I worked at a little dot com startup in Boston. There were 7 of us. My extension was 107, being the last one in the door at that time. When I called people from my office phone it would read out on their phones as, “x107 Mo”. We were all in the habit of reading who was calling and thus answering the phone with, “Hi Madonna”, or the name of whoever it was calling. But the engineers often changed mine to read things like, “x107 Mop n’ Glo”, so my boss would often answer the phone by saying, “Mop n’ Glo?” and I just thought he had an odd sense of humor. Till someone clued me in after a round of drinks.

Umbrella Locks in TokyoI had interviewed for this job as a one month contract position. The ad in the paper said to either send or email a resume to the address listed. I had a website which was basically a narcissistic site about me. It had design work I had done along with loads of pictures like, “Here’s me and my friend Gwendolyn in Las Vegas”, and, “Here we are at Mister Donut in Tokyo!”

(There were Mister Donuts’ on every block in Tokyo and they were always mobbed. Clubs had umbrella racks outside with locks. Like locks at ski lodges. These things, and the bathrooms, are among the things that stick out in my mind from that trip.)
Maybe this blog is not so different from that first circa 1995 website.

hairetc.jpgAnyway-I emailed my resume and a link to my site. I got the job because out of a hundred or so applicants, I was the only one who applied via email and with a link, and in spite of an incredibly bad hair day.

I had a really silly hair stylist at the time who had given me a modified bouffant. These were the days when that particular hairstyle had made a thankfully brief yet hilarious comeback. When I left my apartment in Southie I looked fabulous, according to my neighbors. It took some serious work to get that bouffant just right. I walked to the interview which meant walking down the length of A Street, which runs along Fort Point Channel. As I walked I wondered how I’d forgotten what an amazing wind tunnel A street was but because I love wind I didn’t think beyond that. I love wind.

Riding the elevator to the interview I happened to glance at my reflection in the button panel and I suddenly realized that my bouffant was no longer modified, it was aloft. But just then the door opened and I was faced with people so I had to endure the interview as is. I was sure they just thought I was sunburned and had walked in the wind.

Days later, after a round of drinks, it would come out that after (and during, actually) my interview the whole office had a huge laugh at my hair but decided to hire me anyway. That could be why they looked surprised when I showed up for my first day (via the subway) with a normalized semi-bouffant. I am tenacious and couldn’t quite let the bouffant go entirely as the trend was not yet totally over. Maybe it filled the foppish void left in my life when perms went out of style. This was years ago. I have embraced many silly things.

After a week or so they offered me a full time position so I stayed. I stayed 5 years actually, through 2 buyouts and a relocation, memorable business trips, an elevator dj, and up until I accidentally moved here nearly 6 years ago.

Anyway-it only took a few days to notice that we didn’t have water. A few times a day the entire office (all 6 of us, the boss didn’t come), would take the elevator down to the street and go to the little store nearby and buy bottles of water. It added up, although the frequent walks were pretty fun. We’d also buy swedish fish and toy soldiers with parachutes to throw off our roof deck. So I said, “We should just get water service”, and immediately the task was assigned to me, with much commenting on getting the boss to spring for water. So I approached the boss (let’s call him Ajax) and suggested water service and he said no.

So I made charts and graphs with quadratic formulas and diagrams clearly illustrating all the time we’d actually save not going out for water and did productivity analyses with crayons I found lying around, and presented them to Ajax. Still no. In every meeting I brought up the water issue and how dehydration leads to fatigue and cited more reports and studies about how people can die of thirst. I’d call Ajax and he’d answer the phone with, “Sheriff Mo?”, or whatever new things the engineers had made my phone read out that day, and further my campaign.

I calculated cost analyses (from fliers for Poland Springs and other water companies that I had found on the sidewalk) and wore Ajax down till he finally agreed to the 30$ monthly fee. As he conceded he said, “Do you always get what you want, Mo?”, to which I replied with exaggerated incredulity, “Ajax, it’s water.”

And now we had a watercooler to hang out at.

I often think I must have imagined that whole *real world* thing.

Posted in Working in the Real World on January 7, 2008 by Admin

This morning I was on Matt Dineen’s show on Valley Free Radio, Passions and Survival.

We talked about how I used to be part of the corporate world in Boston before it began to interfere with my art. It’s hard to imagine those days when I would run home from work and remove my suits and nylons and get busy. Mo RingeyIn my 15 years in Boston I worked in a lot of different corporate settings because I was doing what I was supposed to do, as I understood it.

My first job after college was at a large women’s clothing retailer and I struggled to fit in. It felt like playing grownup. As an entry level half-person, my pay was low yet I was expected to not only wear suity things every day but to also wear nylons. Runs were frowned upon. Every run meant another 4$ pair of nylons. I tried every trick I heard of including washing them and freezing them to increase durability. I always carried clear nail polish in my (empty) briefcase and tried to stop runs as soon as they began. Arriving at work with a run in my nylons often elicited a, “Do you know you have a run?”, to which I’d feign surprise. Then I’d have to explain how this run I allegedly didn’t know about already had clear nail polish on it. I learned to lose the surprised act and explain that it happened getting into the car and I fixed it at a stop light.

The dress code was well-defined: no sleevelessness, no open toe shoes, no shoes that showed toe cleavage and so on. Once, when the whole advertising department was gathered around a table in the grown_up_style.jpgcommon area for an informal meeting, a snarky girl said loudly, “Are those staples holding your hem up?” I had actually been proud of my innovative measure to fix a hem in a bind, till everyone laughed.

At that job I learned that those girls in the after school specials all now work at large retailer of women’s clothing.

We had lots of vendors who always stopped at the nearby Mr Donut and got a box of assorted on their way in with press proofs. No one else would eat them so I pretty much had donut carte blanche, which seemed an enviable perk at the time. At holidays they brought Godiva chocolates which came with diagrams which was great because then I’d not accidentally get one with walnuts.

Once I got to go on a photo shoot for an ad. It was in a big loft in NY. suit.jpgWe ordered cappuccinos by the dozens and delivery people brought them. And lunch was catered in and served in stainless steel chafing dishes with sterno below. During a break the photographer napped on a couch and people seemed to disappear so one of the models and I amused ourselves by throwing brownies out the window at the sidewalk people 11 flights below. It’s not like we had anything against the people – it was because the brownies had walnuts.

The other model spent the break fighting with her boyfriend on the phone. They were real people.

Another time a vendor sent a private plane to pick a bunch of people up and whisk them off to West Virginia for an overnight visit and tour of their printing plant and somehow I managed to go along. The plane was a Piper-something. When we arrived at the little airport south of Boston it was a downpour with a very scary thunder and lightning storm. Being the lowest on the totem pole and because everyone was nervous, I was ordered to sit up front with the pilot because there were only exactly enough seats including that one.

It was kinda scary at first but as soon as we were in the air the pilot made us feel at ease by pointing out that cockpit.jpgunder each set was a refrigerated drawer with assorted alcohol. After a lot of alcohol people got over flying in a storm and saw that the pilot and I were having a blast in the front so I was ordered to a seat in the back.

But the alcohol made everyone have to go and the bathroom was this funny thing with a tube and a funnel, in the back of this little 8 seater plane, with only a sliding pleated plastic door. No one wanted to be first so I was ordered to use the bathroom. After that everyone felt comfortable using it. I was not your average Girl Friday.

restaurant.jpgThe head person of this big printing company took us out to dinner at a fancy restaurant. We had a private room in the back like you see in the movies. He had extraordinary manners and was very charming. He was from Germany I think. Anyway – part of his mannerliness seemed to consist of extending hosterly duties and so he asked that someone choose the wines. No one wanted to do it so I was ordered to make the choices, by way of a suggestive comment followed by a kick under the table.

The wine list had no prices so I couldn’t use that trick but I had worked in a snooty waiter.jpgrestaurant where I had to wear a tux so I recognized some of the wines the owners used to order when I had to wait on them. I figured they had taste since they had money. I was 21. Although word was that they were totally mafia so maybe they didn’t have good taste? At any rate, our host smiled graciously when I chose a Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a Pouilly-Fuissé. I felt sure I had pronounced the wines competently but again, I was mimicking the mafia guys whose restaurant I had worked at.

Now I don’t wear suits and I wear things till there is no use left, which would explain the jeans I am wearing on the cover of Dean Nimmer’s book.

Since that book photo, I have new old jeans. The Goodwill Store in the Haight is the best place to get cheap used jeans. But of course I need to fly to get there so maybe it’s not such a bargain. That Piper-Something private plane would be handy for shopping trips to the Goodwill Store in the Haight.

Looking back it seems such a long strange trip.

The Elevator DJ

Posted in Adventures and Interludes, Working in the Real World on December 20, 2007 by Admin

bcdj.jpgMy office in Boston was conveniently located in the Leather District which is that area between Chinatown (sushi, pedicures) and South Station (transportation). It was walking distance to Rowe’s Wharf so sometimes we walked over to our favorite dive for lunch or for drinks after work. It was called the Barking Crab. It was a shack on a pier, enough piers away from the fabulous Rowe’s Wharf so as to be unfashionable but close enough for suits to wander over for a fun evening of, “slumming it”. But mainly it was non-suits, some boater-types, and regulars.

It was slightly crooked and it was like a tent with a wooden frame with half walls and plastic sheeting that enclosed it when they shut down for the night. You could sit at those high tables with high bar stools and look at the view with wind in your hair. The roof was a red and yellow striped heavy duty fabric and from the underside (which was the ceiling inside) hung old weathered lobster traps stuffed with bunches of tiny white holiday lights like the ones in my new header image. It was rustic.

The view from The Barking Crab was my favorite view of Boston. It looked at the backside of the Boston Harbor Hotel with the great arch through which you could see the raised highway of route 93. I guess you can’t see that now. I imagine the Big Dig must have gotten it underground and out of sight by now. For some reason I rarely go to Boston these days so I am not sure what that view is like. Ages ago a forward-thinking architect proposed putting the highway under the city and he was laughed out of town. Yet years later it seemed such a brilliant idea. You never hear about that original guy. The best ideas are often ridiculed. I had a great idea the other day that went undone. That’s how it goes when you have great ideas that need budget or approval from others.

From the seats along the outer rail of the BC you could look down on lots of boats tied up below. You could see people in their boats. Often people just went and sat on their boats and drank beer. We drank beer and watched them from above. For years there was a houseboat parked just under the shack. Rumor had it that the people that lived on it were renters. I would have lived on it. I am used to living in things so living on something would be a nice change. We could spy on them from our barstools.

One brilliant day we were in the elevator on our way back from lunch. I think I had my whole department with me which was like 5 people. We were returning from an “offsite”. Often our executives and their visiting counterparts would have meetings that were so important that they had to be held at area hotel conference rooms and which they importantly referred to as, “offsites”. So sometimes I’d take my department for an “offsite” which meant a nearby bar or the Barking Crab. At our “offsites” we didn’t talk business. We played expense account roulette and made fun of “offsites” and other silly executivisms couched in quotation marks.

So we were on the elevator and the phone rang. It was the elevator phone. It was ringing. It had never rung before. I’d never heard an elevator phone ring anywhere. So I pushed a button that said “answer” and said “hello?” and a speakerphone voice said, “Is this The Barking Crab?”. We said no, it’s an elevator and the voice said, “yeah right. seriously, can I make a reservation?”. The Barking Crab doesn’t take reservations. We smirked audibly. We went back and forth but the woman on the phone didn’t believe us. Right then we reached our floor and I had a flash of brilliance; “What number did you dial?”, I asked. I wrote the number on my hand and a new day dawned.

We all gathered around the desk and couch in my office because it had a view over the wall of the elevator. It also had a view of the helpful lighted arrows that told us when someone was in the elevator and which way they were going. Whenever someone got in the elevator we dialed the number and invariably they’d get curious and push the answer button for the speaker. Then we’d cleverly disguise our voices and say, “Hello. This is the elevator DJ. Please make a request.” If they refused to make a request we’d play Barry White on my computer and hold the phone to the speaker so they could hear it. If they did make a request we’d play Barry White. No matter what, we played Barry White, always that song where he speaks the first few lines in his oh-so seductive voice, “Sometimes it’s not enough, I just can’t get enough babe…” before launching into, “My darling I, can’t get enough of your love babe…”. But sometimes we’d play, “Loves Theme”.

This went on for days. It was totally hilarious. We could hear the passengers talking amongst themselves. They sounded annoyed yet they always answered the elevator phone. Then we added more songs. I forget what we played but I do remember that we chose songs for their annoying potential, like, Billy, Don’t be a Hero” and the like.  And once I remember reading horoscopes to the passengers. Imagine an elevator that tells you your horoscope? I’m sure if we had a bible handy we’d have read passages.

When the bell would ring signifying that the elevator was stopping at our floor we would scatter and look intently, separately, innocently, busy. Then one day the big boss (of all bosses) got off the elevator and as he walked past our cluster of cubicles we distinctly heard him say something about childish behavior and getting to the bottom of it and calling building maintenance. And the next day when we called the number it was out of service. I don’t have that job anymore.

It’s really hard to find pictures of tectonic plates.

Another bloody day in the real world

Posted in Working in the Real World on October 27, 2007 by Admin

sillystring2.jpgThursday, May 24, 2007

I don’t know why but just now as I was logging in to make a post about something arty, I had a flashback to the most embarrassing day in my life. I guess it almost qualifies as performance art.

I guess arty things make me think of the contrast of my life now to the days when my life was filled with corporate things. Come to think of it, most of my days in the, “real world” were pretty much embarrassing attempts at trying to fit in. It’s like I had landed a role in a soap opera and my role was that of corporate misfit and every year I was nominated for worst actress, or something convoluted like that. Actually, it is pretty much embarrassing to be me in any setting at any time, yet it is rarely dull, so I guess there is something in *that*.

Anyway, a while back I posted in my newsletter about a dramatic rescue from my balcony by the hotel staff on my first big business trip and people loved it and asked for more stories from my corporate adventures, so here is my most embarrassing day ever. This is a true story, sadly, and not at all embellished, even more sadly. I lived this day and have told this tale many times. It took a long time before I found this experience amusing.

Years ago when I was fresh out of college I managed to land a job as an assistant to a big-ish wig in the advertising department at the corporate headquarters of a worldwide (snooty) women’s clothing company. It was a dream come true kind of job, or so it seemed. Just the name [redacted] looked so impressive, so corporate, so worldly and valid, on my resume.

The first week was fairly smooth. I dressed up every day in my new suits from TJ Maxx and Dress Barn and I was well-protected from sartorial humiliation by my blissful ignorance of just what constituted good fashion sense. I wore nylons and pumps and the averted glances of the other women with a sort of ignorant pride. I mistook the enigmatic smiles of my co-workers for a maternal approval at what could be done on an entry level budget. I could post for days about the parallels between this company and high school but maybe another day.

Having survived my first week, I drove to work the next Monday with a bit of confidence. It has been my experience since that whenever I gain a measure of confidence in this life, the universe will check me on it in a big way. The universal plan is for me to be at base camp humility at all times but I didn’t know this then. I dared to not fear the day.

So I drove to work in my first car, a brand new Hyundai Excel. It cost 6k brand new and was made of tin. I barely knew how to drive a standard but I was learning, mile by mile. I had the Sunday New York Times in the back seat because now that I worked in the corporate world I felt I needed to be worldly. As I inched along in Boston traffic I would grab sections and attempt to read them before tossing them back onto the seat behind. I was smooth indeed.

My new Boston Apartment had no screens and the night before my boyfriend’s mom had given me moth rings (which were like some sort of translucent hardened gel) to hang in my closet as I had complained that I was finding moths inexplicably eating my man-made fiber suits. As I drove to work this hot summer day I could smell the moth rings and hoped that the smell would not stick to me.

I got to the massive corporate headquarters parking lot and parked my car and made the long pedestrian trek to the main entrance. Once inside I proudly showed my picture ID to security and then began the walk to my office. Perhaps I even strutted, with a confident clickity-clack of my heels on the tiled flooring, and this caught the attention of the gods. The advertising department was at the farthest possible point from the entrance and was isolated from the rest of the company by a huge empty warehouse. I think advertising was the least genteel group and was thusly situated out of view. We *did* look less the part of well-heeled garden party attendees than the rest of the company. We didn’t even wear real pearls.

As I was walking the long main hallway, a guy from my department caught up to me, let’s call him John, and so we walked together and chatted about how I was adjusting to my new work world. He was very nice. There were dozens of important executives and the like all round us, rushing to their desks perhaps, or to beat their assistants.

Suddenly one of my steps was impeded. I tried to move my right foot forward and it was met with resistance! I looked down and saw the problem. My slip had somehow dropped to my ankles and was bound around my ankles like a sort of frilly white rubber band. I was mortified. We had a huge audience and people actually stopped and watched. John turned bright red as well. Just his luck to have decided to walk with me. But he tried to help. He was carrying a giant portfolio case so he used it as a sort of shield and held it up next to me while I tried to wriggle the slip back up under my skirt without actually lifting my skirt up. Somehow I managed to get it in place enough and we resumed our walk in silence (there was really nothing to be said at this point) with him carrying my brand new pleather briefcase (filled metaphorically with the stuffing material that came in it) for me while I used both hands to hold my slip up under my skirt.

When we reached the department I frantically begged Janice, the kindly assistant to the Creative Director, for help. She gave me safety pins so I went into the ladies room to pin my slip to my skirt and then I had to rush into a full staff meeting. All throughout the staff meeting I nervously fidgeted, imagining that everyone was smirking at me, and obsessively brushed my fabulous Farrah Fawcett hair from my face. I could swear the smirks were getting smirkier and that the people speaking were trying not to laugh but I knew the story had gotten around before the meeting and figured I was being paranoid.

Then Janice came in to deliver an important message to the Creative Director and on her way back out of the conference room she looked at me and stopped, seemingly alarmed. She gestured something and I made a gesture of incomprehension back so she leaned over and solemnly whispered, “Go to the ladies room right away”. I locked myself into the ladies room and looked in the mirror. I had red streaks running up both cheekbones. Evidently I had pricked my fingers while fumbling with the safety pins and was making little bloody streaks every time I moved my hair aside. I BURNED with shame. I sobbed, removed all of my makeup, reapplied my makeup, put little voodoo hexes on everyone in the conference room, and returned to the meeting, humiliated, with little imaginary f-word rebuttals circling above my head like the stars that circle over cartoon characters’ heads when they get bonked.

At lunch time Janice sympathetically took me under her wing. In the cafeteria I ordered what she ordered, afraid to make my own decisions, and we stood in line to pay. Someone bumped me from behind causing me to jostle my tray and my soda tipped over, the lid popped off, and my drink went all over my tray, over the edge and onto the back of the dress of the important woman in front of me. She shrieked in surprise from the sudden cold and wet on the back of her dress and when she realized what had happened she loudly called me a, “[redacted] stupid little [redacted] [redacted]” among other things. She was a Director of something, a big person in this big company, and had a big temper to match. I had chosen my victim with peculiar inadvertant precision.

Somehow I got to the end of the day and left for home. When I got to the parking lot there were all these cars in Lot B backed up and honking. People seemed really pissed. Something was going on. As I walked toward my car I realized, sinkingly, what the problem was. It seemed that *somebody* had failed to set the parking brake and a little blue Hyundai had rolled in front of the exit, blocking everyone in. Something in me died a little bit at that moment, but I bravely [not] got into my car and set about unblocking the exit.

My car REEKED though. It was 80 degrees out. The moth rings had melted in the back seat and I was nearly overcome with that intense mothball smell. I quickly rolled down my windows and popped open the back window thingies that tilted out, and got on the highway. As traffic became less sparse I sped up. Then I heard this huge sucking noise, immediately followed by a screeching noise and horns honking. Before I could even look behind me I heard another sucking noise. My lofty newspaper was being sucked out the window and blowing about in traffic, page by page. No words can describe how I felt at that moment.

I pulled over and sat in the breakdown lane for a very long time, until the passing parade of hand gestures abated, and assessed my life to date. Once safely home my roommate, who was very tall and proportionately-boned, asked me to go out for a drink. Over drinks I told her the story, during which she had an incomprehensible look on her face. When I finished she said, “I am so sorry. I borrowed your slip the other day for a job interview. I think I stretched the elastic.” She totally paid for every drink from that moment on.

Oh the blood, the Macbethian gory sticky blood.


Posted in Working in the Real World on September 10, 2007 by Admin

An old story from my newsletter archives, dedicated to my boss Ann who seems to still like me somehow.

So it was like 2001, January perhaps, or March. Probably not February. I was flying to our Miami office for meetings with people there and act like an executive and have meetings and pay attention. Before leaving, I went shopping for what I imagined to be appropriate Miami casual office wear. Back then I shopped at stores. I had a paycheck and expense account and health insurance. I had dental and optical too. I used to go to the doctor just for checkups. It was fab.

My flight was due in at 10 pm, I was due at the hotel at 11 pm. My boss Ann said to call when I got in. I took a cab from the airport. We were staying at The Doral which is a fancy shmancy hotel with private little mansions in back for their more famous folks. “The Doral name has long been associated with an elegant legacy of extraordinary golf and superlative service, providing a rich yet understated backdrop for discerning guests.” The cab had to go through a guard house and I had to show an ID to get in.

The girl at the front desk had a heavy cuban accent. She told me my room number and it sounded like first floor and I really wanted to sit on a balcony and drink things with silly names and umbrellas in them so I asked for an upper room with a balcony.

CubanDeskGirl: But we have a room for you with a king sized bed. The only rooms we have with balconies upstairs only have a double bed.

Me: I REALLY want a balcony, the biggest one you got. Upstairs, with a view and a breeze. And fireworks and a built in blowdryer.

CDG: But the room we have for you is so much nicer. This is a mistake.

Me: I don’t care about the bed. I live in Boston. It’s winter. I must have a balcony. BIG balcony.

So we went around a bit and she grudgingly gave in, rolling her eyes (which I reported her for) – -and a golf cart came and took me to my room. It was giant. It took ages to saunter to the other end and it had a giant palm tree next to the bed and a big, beautiful balcony.

I unpacked my pink suede capri pants and Donald Pliner Slides (which I thought of as my entry level Manolo Blahniks), pulgged in my cell phone to recharge and opened my laptop. But I couldn’t get my laptop to recognize the data port so I had no internet. I expertly jiggled all the cables and rebooted the laptop and while I was waiting, I pulled a little bottle of wine and some $50 macadamia nuts out of the mini bar.

Still no internet. It was 11:30 PM by now and I had forgotten to call Ann. All I wanted was to check my email just because this expensive hotel had a data line and not for any other reason. So I thought I’d call Amy from my team back at the office because I knew she could walk me through it and would still be at the office (we were never allowed to leave).

Amy said try this and that and then reboot so while it was rebooting I walked out onto my beautiful mega-balcony with my glass of wine and the room phone, careful to close the sliding glass door behind me so as not to waste the air conditioning and let humidity taint my new pink suede capris or undiscern the sumptuous legacy-tastic aura.

We chatted a minute about how awesome the weather was here and how unbearable there and how grown up I must be to be on a business trip and have her to order around and then I looked through the door and the laptop showed life. I opened the door to go back in but it was locked. Ann’s face loomed in my head with that look often reserved for “serious chats with Mo resulting in beatings”.

So I asked Amy to call the front desk and tell them to come let me in. Her punky side replied (she was 19 and pierced and tattooed and of the punkassbitch breed, albeit sweetly), “YOU call, YOU’RE the one who is locked out”. I said I didn’t have a phone to which she smartly pointed out that I was talking on it. “I only have the curlycord thing and the handpiece”, I said, “the crucial part, with the necessary buttons, is on the other side of the locked door”.

She said to jump off the balcony and call her later. Finally, since she worked for me, I ordered her to call. She smirked audibly and hung up.

I settled in a chair with my glass of wine to wait, watching the door on the other end of my vast room. Suddenly the door burst open and 5 cuban men RAN in, all wearing red shirts and khakis.

I smiled my most winning smile and waved breezily while perfectly executing a nice-to-meet-you-is-this-not-hilarious gesture with my wineglass hand and then I noticed that they were frantically pulling on the door. Once open, two of them grabbed me by the arm and yanked me in, insolently spilling my wine.

Everyone started asking me questions at once and one guy shouted into his walkie talkie, “Cancel the police. No ambulance. We have it under control. Over.”

RIGHT THEN my cell phone rang and, inexplicably, one of the security men with a thick Cuban accent answered it. He then handed it to me saying, “It’s your boss”.

When I got on the phone my polished boss, Ann, mused, “Funny thing Mo, it sounds like you have a dozen Cuban men in your room. Didn’t you just check in a few minutes ago? Is there a fiesta perhaps? We have a breakfast meeting at 8. I hope you can make it. I will talk to you in the morning.”

And she would NOT let me explain. I was like, “No, it’s actually not a party–I would totally have invited you, it’s the rescue guys, it’s actually really funny, everything is perfect, PLEASE don’t hang up”. And as I was being hung up on, my room phone rang and the same guy, still with the inexplicability, answered it. And now it was Joy, another manager. Joy let me explain. Joy giggled but wouldn’t venture a guess as to whether or not I was in what we called “hugh jass” trouble. “HughJass” was my IM screen name for a while. That and “OhNoItsMo” and “SherrifMo”. It was crucial at this company to have an array of creative IM names at the ready.

So I hung up and asked the men why they thought I needed to be rescued and they said, “that girl, she said you would maybe jump down but it would be better if we let you in. And you specially asked at the front desk for a balcony. You said very important, balcony. Big. Upstairs”.

At breakfast, with executives (actually they were just human beings but they had that “real job” thing going on) from the Miami office, I tried to explain but Ann kicked me under the table. She was always kicking me under tables.

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