Monthly Archives: April 2012

Stuff You Probably Don’t Understand About Hotels

The week just started and I already need to get away from my job. Today was one of those “anything that can go wrong” days.

So, I’ll take you back to my first full-time job upon my last graduation. This is the kind of post that makes me wish I had a lot of readers, because this is must-read material here.

See, my first job after law school was working the front desk at a hotel. Like a bunch of other law school grads nowadays, I couldn’t get a job practicing law or even being a paralegal. Student loans were either deferred or close to coming off deferral/forbearance, so I no longer had time to play. I needed a job. This was kind of before I figured out that I wanted a career in information technology.

I wanted to do something easy and incorrectly figured that working in a hotel would be it, especially at night. I wanted to work night audit, which involves some accounting-type of stuff and is also basically like being a night manager, and I was told when I was hired that I could work 40 hours doing night audit. Er…found out in training, though, that the manager had told almost everyone they hired (this was a new hotel that hadn’t even opened yet) that they, too, could work night audit and get 40 hours. Apparently, I was the only one who noticed this and realized that there was no way this could be true, and I brought it up to the assistant manager.

Long story short–ended up with about 30 hours working pretty much every shift, which basically made me a regular front desk worker who checks guests in and checks guests out except on the weekends when I worked night audit. My schedule was all over the place, except for the weekends (until I eventually got on night audit full time).

That’s when I started to see that front desk workers don’t just check guests in, check guests out, deal with payment and book reservations.

See, prior to having to work full time, I used to travel quite a bit. I still go a couple of places a year and often end up staying in a hotel. When I go to Michigan, I stay on the University of Michigan campus at the law quad most of the time, which is like staying at a hotel that doesn’t have everything a normal hotel has. The reason I thought working front desk at a hotel was easy is because my hotel stays have always included minimal contact with front desk staff. I would speak to them to check in and check out–that’s it. My parents were basically the same way whenever we traveled when I was a kid. I had no idea that this wasn’t how other people operated.

I was so blown away by stuff hotel guests do and say and expect until I sat down one night and started coming up with a list of things hotel guests need to get through their heads. I came up with over 10 things, but this was years ago and several laptops ago. When I saved the most important files off my other laptops, I guess I forgot the list existed and failed to save it. But for you…I still remember some of these things that I must pass along to you travelers, plus probably some additional ones.

1) Don’t leave home without knowing where you’re going. I am not sure I can really think of a good enough excuse to have to call the hotel and get help with finding them. There’s GPS on phones and in cars. There’s google and mapquest both on phones and on computers/laptops. There are even–my father’s favorite–old school maps! But, most of all, why would you go to a completely different city–especially if you’ve never been there before–and not have mapped out  exactly how to get from point A to point B? You’re asking for bad things to happen to you.

2) If the hotel has working computers, for crying out loud, use them. What is the sense of coming to the front desk and asking them to look up stuff for you if the hotel has a “business center” or computers available for your use? Better yet, don’t the majority of you bring cell phones with internet access and/or laptops? It seems as if some of you just don’t think front desk workers have enough to do, so you take it upon yourself to give them busy work. Cut it out.

3) By the same token, if you’re not staying at a luxury hotel, don’t ask them to call anybody for you. I don’t get this staying at a Choice Hotel and asking front desk workers to call cabs, restaurants, pizza places or even the police for you. You have a phone in your room. Hell, you probably have a phone in your pocket. I think most hotels will act like this is the front desk’s job even if it has not been explicitly addressed. But I just don’t see how, in a cheap city like where I live now, treating you as if you should not have to lift a finger at all is included in a $59 or $69/night room…or how in, say, downtown Chicago, a $119/night Choice Hotel room means you should not have to lift a finger. Make your own damn restaurant reservations.

4) No, the front desk cannot control your next door neighbor. Oh, it’s 2am and somebody down the hall is being noisy? Tough schitt. Especially if you don’t want to move rooms. If you don’t want to move rooms, what are you calling the front desk for? Did you really think the front desk worker was going to leave his/her actual job behind–manning the front desk–to come up to your floor and tie some kid up or put tape over the mouths of some ghetto adults? No can do. Beyond calling up to the noisy person’s room and asking him/her to quiet down, there’s not much the front desk can do. And even that or going up to that person’s room usually doesn’t amount to anything. And, please…if you’re going to whine about someone being noisy and seriously expect an effort to be made to shut somebody up, know the noisy room number. Finally, threatening to call the police on noisy people…um, unless they are fighting, banging on your door, shooting and such…you’re just being a little bit dramatic.

5) Please learn this about every type of customer service worker, including but not limited to hotel front desk workers–if you can easily access the person, he/she is probably not that important. This means that this person makes very few decisions and has very little power. Hotel front desk workers often can’t do anything about your complaints, especially if you’re looking for stuff like free or reduced-price rooms because your stay was allegedly so awful, upgrades to suites and so on. And they usually are not at fault for the hotel being garbage in terms of the internet service, the breakfast served, the rooms or bathrooms not being clean enough for you, or anything else you can think of that’s wrong with your hotel stay.

6) In light of #5, save your damn tantrums–they won’t get you anywhere. And it’s not simply because the person with whom you’re throwing a tantrum is a scrub. Just because someone works front desk at a hotel does not mean you’re better or smarter than they are, and it doesn’t mean you get to take out however you feel for whatever reason on this person just because he/she can’t really say anything back to you. So, if a worker feels mistreated for these reasons, the worker is going to have an eff-you attitude when it comes to assisting you. There are people who serve people in some capacity every day who don’t seem to understand this. One of the guys at my job complains all the time about our tech support callers, and, yet, he was being an ass on the phone with a customer service worker who, I guess, screwed up some order of his. Personally, the way I respond to a customer or client depends on how pleasant and reasonable the client’s demeanor is. Some people think being an ass gets results. More often than not, though, workers avoid you and leave you on hold longer when you call or pass the call off to someone else, and the people who are in charge start to not care if they lose your business (while you’re threatening to take your business elsewhere, a lot of people are silently hoping you will so they won’t have to deal with you ever again, i.e. that’s not an effective threat). But I will jump through hoops for nice people.

7) Front desk workers are not babysitters. This means that they’re not just sitting at the front desk keeping an eye on your car. They are working. So, if something bad happens to your car, unless the front desk worker did it, it’s not the hotel’s fault (yes, my hotel was blamed for someone breaking into someone’s car). If a stalker boyfriend might come to the hotel and find you, no, the front desk can’t keep an eye out for him (yes, I’ve had requests similar to this one once or twice). If you’re just checking into the hotel and want to leave your car right in front of the hotel entrance (blocking traffic), no, the front desk can’t make sure nothing happens to it or to your belongings.

8) Don’t pay with a debit card. Don’t even book with one, if you can help it. Weird stuff sometimes happen with debit cards, which leads to bewildered or angry hotel guests and silly confrontations with hotel front desk staff in which the guest doesn’t believe anything the front desk worker says (and, of course, it’s all the front desk’s fault). Long story short–if you don’t want to get charged before you check out, especially if you don’t have enough money on your card, just pay cash or use a credit card (or switch to a debit card when you’re checking out and get your cash back if you paid cash…CCs will not have been charged). You might not have issues every time or at every hotel with debit cards, but save yourself the hassle that one time at that one hotel by just never using them. And while you’re at it, learn how to read your card statements correctly (i.e. there’s a difference between “pending charge” and an actual one, and just because there’s a pending charge doesn’t mean it will go through).

9) Maybe the most important thing I can teach you about hotels–hotel front desk workers are usually poorly hired and poorly trained. There’s a lot of turnover in hotels, and, though it seems that most jobs suck at training new employees, hotels particularly seem to not believe in training. They love to just throw a brand new person right on out there, and if the newbie is lucky he/she has been shown how to check people in, how to check them out, how to book reservations in the system and how to process payment. If the newbie is lucky. But considering that there’s an entire hotel layout–complete with a breakfast area and ice/drink machines–paid parking in the most major cities, specials and promotions, hotel booking websites like Hotwire that fax over reservations, different amenities in different bedrooms, guests who think the front desk staff is supposed to know any and everything about the hotel as well as the city, ways to handle certain situations and so on…newbies need way more than they get.

I don’t know what’s crazier–the fact that guests assume front desk workers know the local area like the backs of their hands or the fact that I’ve never known a hotel to include the local area in their training. The funny thing is managers will hire people who don’t know the area and this might be barely discussed in the interview, and then later on they’re kind of like, “Oh…XYZ doesn’t really know the area as well as she should…” And that’s not the only thing hotels screw up in hiring people. Hotels hire more bad fits for every single position they have–including manager–than probably any other industry. Because of the turnover and the fact that hotels are cheap–which leads to their not hiring enough workers, as well as their not doing everything they should to make their hotel meet customer expectations–they conduct quick interviews that don’t focus on the right things, such as customer service skills, the ability to calculate monetary change/prices/tax, and other areas that a particular manager might care a lot about (such as knowing the area well, if that’s important to that manager)…and then they are shocked when a front desk worker sucks or they can’t keep front desk workers for more than a few months. A lot of the time, it just seems as if they need someone and they grab the first person off the street. That’s not quite how it goes, but they do hire and put a new person at the front desk with the quickness.

—–

So, after learning all of this and doing night audit, I was basically handed the keys to that first hotel in which I worked. It would have been my business, except I wouldn’t have been the owner. But I would have been running it by myself. All nine of the things I just listed probably had something to do with the reason why I didn’t accept the keys, but none was bigger than #9. For one thing, I knew I had no business running a hotel. I learned from working there that the manager/owner had no idea how to make the right hires, and I had not been trained at all on how to run a hotel and would have received very little guidance on that. So, instead of looking at “I’m getting a promotion” or “I’m getting more money,” I looked at my lack of knowledge of the hospitality industry, my lack of knowledge of management and of my lacking the type of personality to “run” anything. I also looked at how everyone who had that position before me failed, and that eventually ended up including the main manager/owner.

But I got great references from that job, though. And plenty of crazy stories. I will never look at hotel stays the same way again, though.

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Samantha Brick Has a Point

For those who don’t know or who forgot, Samantha Brick is the chick who’s too sexy for France, the UK, the American media and…well, female friends. Maybe instead of writing this article that seemed to piss everyone off, she should have just put out a Right Said Fred remix? She would probably be more liked than she is right now, plus would have more money.

Although some of her stories to support her belief that women don’t like beautiful women seem a little crazy, her basic belief is not that crazy. I would not necessarily frame it as “women don’t like beautiful women,” though. And it’s far from all women. But there are many women out there who have issues with attractive women–enough for me to not really have a problem with what Brick has to say. I can’t say anything about the truth of her experiences, given that I don’t know her and don’t know what people in Europe are like. I don’t really have an opinion about her supporting arguments, but I can look at my personal experiences and observations.

Warning: This post has the potential to offend some people. If you are easily offended or have issues with candid racial discussions or homosexuality, please exit now.

Okay…You have been warned. 😉

Before I get more into why I kind of agree with Brick, I would like to point out two big things that jump out to me about the discussion surrounding what Brick had to say.

1) A lot of people have looked at Brick and said something like, “She’s not even that good-looking.” Well…I’m hearing this from a lot of Americans. But Brick lives in France, I think, and she’s from the UK, I believe. What some Americans do and don’t find attractive is not necessarily going to be the same standard in other nations. In fact, Americans don’t even all have the same standard for Americans. My observation is that what is attractive depends quite a bit on the race, sex, sexual orientation, primary environment and age of the person judging, and we also tend to go through general “fads” in the US in terms of what is attractive.

One of the only things that I’ve seen come close to being universally attractive or attractive throughout time is being a blonde as a female. Brick does have blonde hair. I don’t know about Europe, but–to me–in the US at this particular time, what’s in for women is being blonde (as always), Asian or Latina, perhaps in that order. And what that means is if you fit the fad, you don’t have to be attractive to get the attention of men–you just have to have some characteristic that is “in,” i.e. blonde hair, or being Asian or Latina. In fact, if it isn’t in the article I linked to above, I believe it’s in another article where Brick says that she didn’t start getting all of this attention from men until she started coloring her hair blonde.

Now, with the exception of Latin ancestry, these fads are not the same for women-to-men attraction. As best as I can tell as a lesbian, the men who are in are rich, powerful, good-looking and/or muscular white men (as always), black men and Latinos–but not Asians–and probably in that order. These are the guys who can be attractive even if they’re not actually physically attractive, at least at this point in time in the US.

The other thing that I believe has been overlooked when assessing Brick’s attractiveness is her age. In other words, I think one of the reasons a lot of people say she’s nothing special is because it’s obvious she’s not in her 20s. While there’s a growing sect in the US that especially appreciates women in their early 40s, there is still probably a larger sect that has a hard time finding a woman in her 40s especially attractive. Brick ends her article by indirectly acknowledging this sentiment, i.e. saying how she looks forward to age taking her beauty.

2) Brick is the victim of something more than just being “too beautiful”–she is also a victim of the conflicting messages we receive from society regarding how to feel about ourselves and how to speak about ourselves. The majority of women probably have issues with how they look. A lot of women don’t think of themselves as beautiful. We’re told that we shouldn’t feel this way, though. We’re told that we should realize that we’re beautiful and celebrate ourselves. There are campaigns from companies like Dove and even Fruit of the Loom relating to this issue with women. But, apparently, we’re only allowed to feel that we’re beautiful–we’re not allowed to say we are.  That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It’s double talk. It is and it isn’t okay for us to believe in our own beauty. It is and it isn’t okay to be humble or even less than humble about our beauty. Well, what’s right?

I know I definitely pause whenever I hear a woman talk about her own attractiveness. Usually, it’s either because I don’t think she’s as good-looking as she thinks she is, I wonder how she got to know/feel that she’s attractive–especially to the point of saying it out loud–and/or because I would never say what she just said. My point is I don’t think I’m the only one who feels a little weird when a woman acknowledges her beauty, and the reaction to Brick kind of supports that.

My Experiences

Now, I don’t think I’m attractive. I never have. I don’t feel bad about it, and I don’t think it’s important that I feel attractive. When I was a teenager and then in college, I took pride in being very intelligent, being talented and being funny. Since I’ve realized that my intelligence and my talent are worthless to most people, I am basically down to feeling pride about being funny and–whenever I am good at my job–being good at what I do. I am far more concerned with whether or not I’m good at work than whether or not I’m attractive.

Except for announcing “I’m beautiful,” I definitely relate to a lot of what Brick believes about her life. The difference is the types of things she says happen to her and the similar-but-different types of things that have happened to me…well, I don’t really know or understand why they happen to me. She is sure they are due to her looks. I do know, though, that my relationship with women has almost always been adversarial or alienating in some way or another–particularly black women–and I do know that I do not have these issues at all with men. Men do nice things for me, start conversations with me, stare at me (to the point where it’s awkward/annoying) and some ask me out. And this is pretty much all [types of] men, with the exception of asking me out (which is pretty much just black men). Women rarely speak to me, let alone do nice things for me, unless they are significantly older than I am (Brick says she has a lot of problems with older women, though). But this is a big step up from how women used to treat me when I was in school, including law school.

All of this is just great for a lesbian, by the way, y’all. Sarcasm.

Well, I can’t be sure if there is a connection here, but…although I am a black female and, thus, not “in” with men (or with women), I–much like Brick–do have some characteristics on my side that I do recognize as being attractive to some people even if I’m not actually physically attractive myself. I have long/so-called “good” hair and light skin. This works with black men, particularly older black men who grew up in that timeframe when black women were really their only socially acceptable dating option and these crazy things were what they used to determine the beauty of a black woman. Very frankly, when men hit on me, I assume that’s why they’re attracted to me (which, if I weren’t already a lesbian, would be an instant turnoff). Obviously, I have no idea if that’s true. But I do get hit on more by older black men than I do by anyone else, with Africans being a distant second–yet another group that cares about skin color.

I don’t know what this means for my relationship with women, or even my relationship with non-black guys with whom I develop more social relationships than all groups of women and always have. But I do know that I sometimes indirectly get the idea from black women–just from general discussions, not ones directed at or including me–that I am the bad guy or women like me are the bad guy, or “society” is the bad guy, because of my lighter skin color, my hair–especially the fact that I don’t wear my hair natural–and because I don’t immediately run to black people to show that my hair/skin color don’t make me feel that I’m better than them or don’t want to be white. And let me not forget that I’m also a bad guy for all this special treatment that I get because of my hair/skin color–special treatment that I’m not sure is that significant or helpful. If I were going to have a theory about my relationship with black women, this would be one. My theory about other women is they don’t talk to me because I’m black and they’re not, which they’d frame in smokescreen ways such as “we wouldn’t have anything in common.” But this doesn’t explain why some non-black guys are friendly with me.

I also have to point out that, although I think a lot of people have a different sense, the majority of lesbians don’t view women the way men do. I think many of us react to women much the same way as heterosexual women do because we’re socialized to do so most of our lives. In other words, a lot of us also have the same issues with women as heterosexual women do. When I hear about the same women in Hollywood all the time, like Kim Kardashian, I’m not responding with “XYZ is so hot”–I’m saying that XYZ gets on my nerves! She doesn’t get on my nerves because she’s “too beautiful.” She gets on my nerves because she’s shoved down my throat and because I’m sick of the Hollywood standard of beauty in the US. “She” is not just Kim–it’s pretty much all those Hollywood women who are shoved down everyone’s throats.

I don’t hate beautiful women, but I treat beautiful women the way most women treat me. In other words, I’m not mean to them, but I am less likely to interact with them at all than with other women and with men. This is especially true for beautiful non-black women. I have a really good white female friend, and we have talked about this a few times before. She has blonde hair, blue eyes, she’s thin and she cannot get men to leave her alone. I admitted to her that she and I would probably not be friends if we had met in person (we met on the internet). It was not that she was beautiful, which was not and would not have been my first thought about her upon first seeing her picture or if I saw her in person. It was the assumptions I would have made about her based on how she looks, including the fact that she’s white, the fact that she’s stereotypically attractive (even though she doesn’t think she is) and the fact that I’m tired of white women being valued more than other women–especially ones that look more like her. What would she know about 80s rap music (which she does know about)? What would she know about racial consciousness (which she does know about)?

Yes, I am saying that I treat women the way I believe women treat me. But I’m also saying this treatment is usually not based just on a woman’s beauty alone–it’s assumptions and characteristics, or at least that’s my theory.

Ironically, I think attractive women have the most negative assumptions made about them, especially by other women. And assumptions can be a problem even after knowing someone and allegedly being their friend, i.e. how Brick describes women with whom she previously had a friendly relationship becoming cold because the woman assumes her husband is interested in Brick and Brick would engage that interest. However, I have gotten to know some beautiful women and, upon getting to know them, I liked them more. And that was because I could overcome the idea of them that I had in my head by seeing that they were better people than that. Who knows? Maybe Brick’s problem is that she doesn’t overcome the negative assumptions women make about her, and maybe that’s on her. Or maybe these women she knows are that narrowminded. I know I don’t overcome negative assumptions women might hold because I never make any social effort with women, but I can’t say anything about Brick.

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A Month Later, I Still Suck At My Job

Last night, I had a hard time sleeping. Actually, I was struggling to stay awake after an emotionally challenging day at work (I realized quite a while ago that being sad, upset or angry drains your energy, but I’m also starting to realize that being bored or feeling nervous/anxiety drains it, too…I think that’s why I feel so dead when I get home from work). I was trying to watch the NFL Draft, but an hour into it I really just wanted to go to sleep. But I knew I needed more conscious hours away from work. I managed to make it to the very last pick in the first round of the draft (which would be the end of the show for Thursday) and fell asleep before it was announced!

But then I woke up around midnight or so and couldn’t get back to sleep. I actually was awake for over 2 & 1/2 hours, just thinking. In fact, the fact that I couldn’t stop thinking is why I couldn’t get back to sleep.

I didn’t really think specifically about the trying day I’d had, though. I was thinking about how irritated I am that it has been almost four weeks on my new job and I still can’t perform my job on my own or without so many bumps in the road. But I was also bothered because I don’t know if I have reasonable gripes or if I’m the problem.

I’ll list some of them here, and you be the judge:

1) As I mentioned in one of my earliest posts here, I feel more like a receptionist than a network support specialist. There’s good and bad to this, and there are times every single day at work when I am happy that the person on the other end of the line is not calling with a problem. However, the majority of the calls that come in are for someone else and not tech-related. Sometimes, the call will be tech-related, but the caller is asking either for a tech geek with whom they are familiar or for a tech geek with whom they’ve been working on an ongoing issue. Sometimes, people will call and ask to speak to me because we’ve been working on something, and that happens with other tech geeks at work. That’s fine.

But the fact that I primarily redirect calls in general is my issue. I just cannot recall any indication during my interviews by several different people that this is what my job would consist of, let alone consist of it as heavily as it does. Every now and then, this really bothers me–like yesterday–because being a receptionist just is not in my skillset. By that, I mean I am not particularly good at asking who, what, when, where, remembering all of that or quickly writing all that down and relaying it to other people. If this is the majority of what we do, then having that skillset is, uh, kinda important. To top it off, callers sometimes make things harder by talking on speakerphone, using cell phones against a noisy background, not speaking loudly or clearly enough, or speaking with their mouths not well-positioned to the receiver.

2) In close relation to #1, there are too many times when callers are asking for someone who is not where he/she is supposed to be. At least half of the time, this puts in me in a bad position. What happens those times is either the caller will then expect me to help them with something I really don’t know anything about, primarily because I have not been trained on handling those situations, or they express frustration. This partially bothers me for the “I’m not a receptionist” reason. But I also started thinking last night and wondering why so many people seem to be allowed to come and go as they please. It seems as if every day someone is either off or coming in late. Some people just seem to take breaks when they get ready to. Some people, I just have no idea when they are coming to work or if they’re coming to work, which is a problem because people like to demand, “When will XYZ be in?” or “Is XYZ coming in?” or “ABC told me they’d call me back but I haven’t heard from them. I need to hear from them” and blah blah blah, as if I can magically make them appear or force them to return calls. As mentioned in an earlier post, I am basically being forced to answer most calls. So, I’m the main person dealing with this crap.

Another thing about people coming and going when they feel like it is I just cannot ever really see myself being able to get away with the things these people get away with. I can’t see coming in half an hour late most days and no one having a problem with it, calling in several times within one week–especially when I’m the only one who does my particular job duties–disappearing for undesignated smoke breaks several times a day, and so on.  I just have a feeling that if I did something like these things, they’d somehow use it as an excuse to fire me, especially since I’ll honestly probably never be as good at my job as everyone there is at their job because of how I’m trained and because I’m being used outside of my skillset.

3) Speaking of the training method. I have mentioned here that I am not happy with it. To me, it should not take over a month to train someone. I view their training method as very inefficient, given that the majority of the calls are not tech-related, yet this how they expect me to learn my job–by just taking calls.

I have been reading a lot lately about career-related topics, including training employees. One thing I’ve read more than once is that employees really should be given some sort of manual. Even before reading this, I wrote on this blog that I feel my sort of job should have some sort of documentation for how to handle, at least, their most typical situations. I think either a manual or a computer database of some sort would be excellent and would probably have me doing my job on my own by now. And because there is so much down time at work, I don’t see why no one has ever written some sort of documentation for employees. All I was given my first day was a general outline of what my trainer would go over on the first day, most of which had nothing to do with providing support to clients.

Another thing I’ve read is that employers should set expectations for you and let you know what those expectations are. I realized last night that one of my issues with how things are going is that I don’t know where I should be right now in terms of readiness to do my job  or where I’m expected to be. I believe that the key people at my job think that not setting a firm “you should be able to do this by week 3” or “you should know this by week 4” shows their understanding that different people learn at different rates and that there’s not a lot of pressure to be up to speed. But I know there is a point when not being up to speed will be a problem, and an estimate of when that point would be is more helpful than wanting to appear flexible. I have been told by a few people that I’m doing fine, but I have not been told this by any of the people who matter the most and who I’m sure have been communicating with my trainer about my performance. My trainer has told me I’m doing fine. But I also feel that I need to take most things any of the tech geeks say with a grain of salt because of how fake they can be.

4) One of the things I hated about my last job was that most of the people who ran the place clearly had never done the work that their employees do. Thus, they created standards for work that they’d never done, which resulted in unrealistic standards for us. Nothing we ever did was good enough, and we heard it every day in some way, shape or form. The person who hired me at my new job is also someone who does not have a tech background. She is the one I’ve written about who kind of hangs around sometimes, which I feel she does to assess me socially and in terms of my progress in training. Uh…but she doesn’t have a tech background. If she can accurately assess anything, it’s my receptionist skills (which most people can assess), which suck. And how I fit in socially, to me, should not be of her concern. I understand that employers have to worry about employees being unhappy and leaving, and social fit at work can affect that a lot. But so can a need to pay bills.

5) In retrospect, my last job was the best training experience I’ve ever had. In every other full-time permanent job, I believe I was poorly trained. I survived one of those jobs despite that while a lot of other employees were fired, and I became the best employee there. I was fired at the other job. My new job reminds me a lot of the job at which I was fired–from the volume of stuff I needed to learn and was expected to learn by being thrown into the fire immediately, to the “we let people we like get away with a lot of crap” type of vibe. Obviously, these are different people, different jobs. But the parallels still make me really uneasy, especially still questioning whether or not I deserved to be fired or if I am right that poor training set me up to fail.

The biggest thing, though, is several other people have been trained the way I was, as far as I can tell–none of them seem to have a problem with it, including the receptionist issue. On the job where I was fired, the same thing seemed to be true–employees who were hired after I was didn’t seem to have an issue with being thrown into their position right away. I know not every personality responds to one type of training, but it still makes me question if maybe I am the problem…because I believe that I could eventually be considered the problem to my employer based in part on the fact that no one else had my issues.

 

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What Being Glued To the Cell Phone Means

Since this is a post about being glued to the cell phone, I felt it was only fitting to write it on my iPhone (or at least as much as possible). This is not easy for me, because I hardly text with people and I’m not good at it. I hate texting, actually, and I know several people who seem to insist on this method as a primary form of communication–and who get mad when they don’t get responses from people in a timely fashion over text.

I am, though, one of those people who can frequently be seen with a cell phone. I can certainly leave the house without it, especially since cell phones are not for calls–at least not in my world. They are for media. I am the kind of person who will pay $100/month for 200 talk minutes and unlimited data (internet, email, text), tv channels, music channels…really, 200 talk minutes is too much. So, it’s not essential to me to have my cell phone all the time.

Still, if I’m out and I’m fiddling with it constantly, there is one of three reasons–1) I’m bored, 2) I don’t want to look suspicious or lonely, or 3) I don’t want to talk to anyone.

Yes, I am saying that cell phones are not for talking to people, but for not talking to people!

A lot of people truly do prefer to text in order to communicate with others, and I suppose some people really are so important that they need to be one with their phone constantly. But I think the three reasons I just listed are the main reasons people play with their phones all the time or feel the need to have them near. I know some people really need to be in touch with someone, maybe a family member, and need to be easily accessible. But sometimes, you just need to not look as if you’re casing a joint–especially if you’re black, and especially if you’re a black male. I can’t just sit outside of an establishment and look around, you know? Cell phone time! Even though I know ain’t nobody emailed, called or texted me.

Not wanting to talk to people is huge, though, and not understood. One of the benefits of working with a bunch of white guys, as a black female, is that I’m fairly certain I won’t be getting hit on. I’m not saying white guys don’t like black women that way–just that the majority of them won’t hit on a black woman. Since I worked with a lot of blacks at my last job, I had to deal with a lot of black men. I’m not saying all of them were interested in me, but there is a lot wrapped up in what I am saying.

For one thing, I live in the South. My guess would be that black men expect black women to speak to them most places in the US just based on a shared racial identity, but I believe this is especially true in the South and that it’s especially in predominantly black environments. Southerners in general seem to believe in “speaking” and being friendly with random people in a way others don’t. It’s a good thing, but it can also be annoying–especially the expectation of speaking. I don’t have to deal with this with white people to the degree that I do with blacks because of race, but white Southerners definitely “speak.” People just “speak” more in the South than they do elsewhere.

Sometimes, though, a guy really is interested, and sometimes he’ll put you in awkward positions or will approach you in a disrespectful manner.

All of this is how my iPhone comes in handy.

[Switching to the laptop.]

See, at my last job, I couldn’t always avoid the expectation that I’d stop and either smile, return a greeting or engage in conversation. This almost exclusively was an issue with men. When guys clearly expect something from you or want your attention–especially when you notice this is happening with them and not with women–it’s hard not to get defensive and not want to show any signs of interest if you’re not interested. If this is going on with a number of guys, it’s hard not to get sick of it. If you’re someone like me who is naturally a loner, it’s hard not to just want people to leave you alone entirely.

That’s why on breaks, I’d immediately get “busy” with my iPhone. In fact, I’d take it a step farther than a lot of people do and shove earphones into my ears, whether I was listening to music or not. A lot of the time, though, I was. But usually what you see is people checking email, texting or finding someone to talk to on their phone (trust me, 90% of those calls are not essential). I strongly believe that, the majority of the time, these things are either a “don’t bother me” sign or an “I’m not a loser–I have a social life/I have imaginary business to take care of” sign if not just from flatout boredom.

Now, I’ve seen many an article lamenting how people can’t let their cell phones be. I, myself, used to complain about how people could barely see where they were going–uh, walking–for looking at their phones. I once had a guest check into the hotel where I used to work, and she would not stop looking at her phone the whole while. I think I had another one who wouldn’t get off his cell phone while he was trying to check in.

Are these things annoying? To me, not as much as they were about 2-3 years ago. I think now, after dealing with hiding from men and working jobs with tons of down time, I understand better why people are always staring at their phones.

The most interesting complaint I’ve seen, though, about cell phones is along the lines of how it’s ruining socialization and tearing people farther apart from each other. Basically, the complaint is that cell phones and mp3 players and phones with mp3 players are “don’t bother me” signs. But a lot of these articles and blogs have been written as if they don’t understand that this might be the point.

I’m telling you now–I think that’s the point. I know it is for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to make new friends, meet someone with whom I could fall in love–although, for me, that would be a woman, not a man–or just have a nice conversation with a stranger. But I think cell phones and mp3 players give us more power in terms of how and when these things happen. In other words, if I don’t feel like talking to anybody (unless it’s someone I choose from my cell phone), I can use my cell phone as a way not to talk to anybody. If I don’t want to deal with the world, I can block out the world. I know I might be missing something that could be valuable along the way, but at least I made that choice. At least I’m not doing something I don’t feel like doing because it’s culturally expected of me.

And because most of us work or go to school, there will be plenty of times throughout the day when we just don’t have the choice–we simply have to deal with people, whether we feel like it or not. So, I’m fine when people take control of the times in their day when they do have the choice.

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America’s Most Ignorant

I have never wanted kids. I just have never had a fondness for them. That’s not to say I hate kids, but kids feel as if they can completely be themselves around me because I am not parental or authoritative in my demeanor, i.e. kids behave badly around me. I guess that might be a reason why kids have always liked me, and I guess that’s why people in my family always had to give kids some version of a “Ren really is an adult, so you need to treat her like one” speech. So, because I have older sisters who have done the typical married-with-children thing, I have been fighting kids off with an invisible bat since I was about 13 or 14. Kids think I am fun and funny, and I always have stuff that they like. So, I can’t figure out how to get them to leave me alone.

Don’t worry–I’m never having kids. I know I have no business with any! Too many people don’t know that about themselves, though.

One of the reasons I don’t want kids is because it’s too much work and too much responsibility for me. I look at my sisters, and I just cannot imagine living the kind of lives they live. I don’t mean that in an insulting way. But if I were given two choices–to live the life I currently live or to be married with kids–I’d choose the life that I currently whine about on this blog, i.e. the life where I have all these expensive degrees that I don’t/can’t use, owe all this money, live at home with my parents in a city I don’t like and work a job where I’m bored and make peanuts. The way the majority of adult women live simply isn’t for me, that’s all. And I’ve realized it’s not even just about kids–I think I generally have anxiety when it comes to responsibility, at least in terms of tasks (and yes, I am the “baby” in my family). This is why I don’t run my own business, why I tend not to take initiative with things and why I tend to only want raises and not promotions.

Unfortunately, because I am related to one of the many people in the world who didn’t seem to understand that she had no business having kids–and her excuse for a husband likewise seemed not to understand this about himself–I am now in the position to have a hand in some kid being my responsibility.

I don’t know if I can articulate how uncomfortable responsibility makes me in a lot of cases. At work, it’s usually a scared sort of flipping out; at home, it’s usually an angry sort of flipping out. When I used to babysit, it would be more of a scared flipping out, though. So, imagine how I feel when I’m given other people’s responsibilities.

See, one of my nieces has moved in with my parents and me. Really, she was kicked out of her house. In most ways, she’s a normal teenager. So, she didn’t really do anything all that unusual to warrant being kicked out of the house. Her mother (my sister) and her stepfather are just, very frankly, fucked in the head, that’s all. My father has very little to do with my sister because of this, and I have very little to do with her because of this. My other sister doesn’t live in our city, so that kind of solves having anything to do with her. My mother is the only person who hasn’t known how to let go, but I think that’s changing, especially after this stuff with my niece being kicked out for no real reason.

My family is not at all full of geniuses. But my parents have worked as educators, and my closest aunt and uncle work as educators. I’m the best-educated person in my family on paper, having attended–what I call–an Ivy-Like university and a Public Ivy university, as well as earning a law degree. So, I never thought I’d be related to someone whom most people would consider dumb.

People, I’m not a politically correct person–my niece is dumb. I’ve known this for a long time, but now that she lives with me…wow.

My father still teaches at a college, even though he’s technically retired, so he is not shocked by my niece. No one in my family really seems to be shocked by it, except for me. My father sees it all the time–very dumb people who somehow make it through high school and into college. “Dumb” means they can’t read, the way they text and write on Facebook is the way they write school papers and school presentations, they cannot speak standard English or speak with any semblance of good diction/enunciation, they can’t think critically and they don’t know school basics. Obviously, I knew that my niece speaks like crap and writes like crap, but I didn’t know she couldn’t read or that she is learning absolutely nothing at school but is somehow passing on to the next grade most years (not every year, though). She’s either a sophomore in high school or a junior in high school…really can’t tell because she has failed a couple of classes.

I now know that she can’t read because one of the ways in which I’ve grudgingly become responsible for her, being known as the most intelligent person in the family, is by having to come home from work and “help” her with her homework. I was not asked to do this. This has been forced on me. And you have to understand something–you’re talking about an average Joe expected to do something that really can’t be done by an average Joe. That is, my niece, having gotten as far as she has and being as bad off as she is academically, is way beyond just typical help with homework that you’d give a kid or teenager. The girl…can’t…read.  She is in Spanish 2 and she gets all this Spanish homework, but she doesn’t…know…any…Spanish. Of course, no one else in my family knows any Spanish, except for me and my sister who doesn’t even live around here.

She needs professional help at this point. Honestly, she needed professional help years ago. Of course, no one wanted to pay for this professional help years ago when my parents knew she needed it, and no one wants to pay for it now. Money is not an issue for my parents. But these are people who have no problem with heading to the casino 2 or 3 times a week to throw away at least $100 each time, and they say, “It’s not my responsibility.” So, somehow, that makes it mine?

And it’s not, but I’d still pay to send my niece to Sylvan if I could afford it and if she could get to/from Sylvan (which, I can’t help with either of those things). I would much rather do that than spend 9+ hours away from home at work/in traffic and then be expected to come home and do some teenager’s homework. Because with someone this far gone, you can’t “help” them with their work–someone else either basically has to do it or it won’t get done. And doing my niece’s homework has been my parents’ answer for so long that now there is no hope that she can just sit down and do it herself. If she can’t read, she can’t do her homework. My parents just want her to pass. They are not necessarily concerned with her learning or developing the skills she’s lacking.

I don’t know if you think I’m selfish or not. But 1) I do not believe in doing other people’s work–and I am referring both to my niece’s homework and to the fact that my sister is the one who is supposed to have this burden; 2)  I don’t have kids and never will have kids in part because I do not want the kind of life where I have to spend all day at work and then come home and deal with kids, kids’ homework and all that stuff; 3) I don’t like drama, and years of drama related to my sister truly makes me wish she and her entire family would disappear because I’m tired of all of that. Furthermore, my niece is not that different from her mother. They are both the type of people whom, every time you turn around, it’s something. I don’t want to deal with that.

If these things make me selfish, then I’m selfish and smart at the same time…because I’m not one of those dumb parents who actually has kids they don’t want to come home and deal with and, thus, won’t come home and deal with.

See, it’s not my niece’s fault that she’s dumb. And America’s most ignorant is not just all these dumb kids who are in high school and college and who will someday take this nation down to even lower depths than we’re currently experiencing. A pretty good percentage of America’s ignorant people are today’s parents (and today’s school administrators/teachers).

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Men Are Bitches, Too

I’ve been on my new job all of three weeks, and I’ve mentioned a couple of things I’ve learned in that short period of time–that hands-on tech work is more my thing and that I don’t like or want to work.

Well, I’ve neglected to fill you in on another learning point, this one more of a nugget of life that we all can benefit from knowing.

Er…men are bitches, too, y’all.

That’s right–it’s not just women. I know what you thought. You were wrong. And so was I.

See, I think a lot of us–especially those of us who are women–already realized that men can act in certain ways and women can act in similar ways, but only women will get called bitches or have that behavior labeled as negative. One thing men as a whole–not necessarily all individual men–do is demand their way. I’m almost positive you’ve seen this in public, maybe at a checkout counter in a store where some guy is thoroughly unhappy about something or another related to a purchase. I’ve seen women demand their way, too, but I think being demanding is more accepted in men than in women and the woman doing it is going to be labeled negatively.

Although I will say that whenever I’m with my father and he is speaking loudly about whatever some poor customer service representative has done–or, really, hasn’t done (because, having worked in customer service, I know that customer service reps have very little power to do anything and usually aren’t responsible for whatever a whiner is whining about)–I get embarrassed…because there are generally two types of women–ones who don’t see why they shouldn’t demand their way and ones who still have internalized that it’s rude, embarrassing, semi-childish and/or a sign of entitlement to demand their way. I am among the latter type, although I am not saying people who demand their way are wrong to do so. Sometimes it’s necessary, but sometimes it’s a matter of how you’re speaking to someone (and I also think sometimes it’s a matter of recognizing that you’re not demanding your way to the right person, i.e. when you’re dealing with customer service reps, i.e. you shouldn’t even be demanding your way at the moment). Men, by and large, appear to have very little problem demanding their way, regardless.

Anyway, I think we all kind of have seen what I’m talking about.

What I have never seen, which now has made me see very clearly just how bitchy men can be, is what guys at my job do.

Now, look–I complain a lot on my blog, and I will continue to do so. I love to complain. I think it’s cathartic. I know most people don’t value complaining, but, I assure you, I will not be dying of a heart attack or stroke any time soon because I find ways to let it all out. I also look hella-young for my age, and I think complaining has a lot to do with that. 😉

These dudes? They will complain about any and everything, to the point where I’m sitting around going “Really???” They’ve got the queen of complaining going “really?”

Examples:

1) Do not mention Apple products around these guys. EVER. Please. They make me scared to show up to work with my iPhone for fear that they spend my entire lunch break ripping me to shreds in the office, and I refuse to show up with my iPad because I know they will have something to say. They are snob…city about Apple products. They and Apple fanboys would physically throw down. It’s amazing that they manage to contain their pure Apple hatred when they are assisting our clients who have Apple products. But I promise you, each and every single one of those Apple product owners will be roasted behind his/her back immediately after the assistance is complete. Just substitute crap like another chick’s hair, clothes, makeup and reputation, and you have women.

And this has very little to do with the quality of the products. As I said, I am the hardware person. The best mp3 player I’ve ever used is the iPod Touch, and the best cell phone I’ve ever used is the iPhone. I will not hesitate to say that I think their laptops are garbage, though, and that PCs are superior in several (though not all) ways.

2) Speaking of the roast after the assistance…these dudes could have acting careers. They are that good at being fake with clients. When I spend time thinking about this, it makes me wonder what they really think about me, because they treat me very well. The more I listen to the A+ way they interact with clients and the more I listen to how they talk about the same clients before and after assisting them, the more I hope I never walk into the office at some awkward wrong time. If “smiling in your face, talking behind your back” isn’t good old-fashioned bitchiness, I don’t know what is.

Of course, two of these dudes would remind me of stereotypical gay men if they gave off a little bit more of a gay vibe outside of just their more in-your-face, cuts-like-a-knife style of bitchiness. Yeah, I try not to talk to them. Ironically, the guy who actually is gay is scared to death of people and hides in the area where the servers are all the time.

And then there is, of course, the office gossip. Yep, a [straight] guy.

3) Do not be a customer who calls in needing tech help on a regular basis. Apparently, using the service for which your company pays somehow makes a tech geek’s job a complete nightmare. If you call in or email a couple of times a week with the kinds of questions that they could probably handle in their sleep because they handle them so often, this is cause for these dudes to start talking about how they hate you, hate all people and are so stressed out that they need to go get drunk. Yeah…drama queens kings are bitches, in my book.

Oh, and I have been “warned” that I will become the same way, because this job is soooo horrid, thanks to the clients. No, dears–the job is boring me to tears, but I have seen and experienced horrid. This ain’t it. Try working in a hotel that is a complete dump and having to deal with every other guest rightfully complaining about it but always to you, never to the cheap-ass manager who is responsible for it being a dump. Try working somewhere you have to call the police out several times because random guys are showing you their penis, people’s cars are being broken into, people are getting shot next door, homeless guys keep sneaking into rooms and prostitutes have guys coming and going on a regular basis…oh, and you’re the only one working at the hotel when this stuff is happening. And try that only being #2 on your list of jobs you’ve hated the most.

4) Do not be that person who thinks Internet Explorer is “the internet” or who thinks all you have to do is start up your computer and never have to do anything special to connect to the internet. You can apologize all you want for your lack of basic knowledge, but you will be the butt of office jokes for years to come. Honestly, I can’t even begin to understand how it is that people do not know what version their operating system is or why anyone would want to use Microsoft Outlook to the point of calling me to help them get it working (it’s just so 90s-early 2000s to me, not to mention very blah-looking). But some people are good writers, some people are good builders.

While I think judging people is very necessary in society and I have no shame about the fact that I’m judgmental, I can definitely see how a lot of people can be technologically challenged–especially people over the age of 40 or so, or people who grew up without much tech access. In my opinion, the kinds of people best suited to work in tech support are people who are okay with the fact that a lot of people don’t know schitt that is practically common sense to them and a lot of people have different tech tastes.

This last one might be less of a function of being bitchy and more of a function of being highly intelligent or nerdy, because a lot of very intelligent people are at least a little bit highfalutin’ about their brain cells or a lack of brain cells in others. At the same time, it could go back to how I started this post, i.e. talking about things men do that you could call bitchy but they get away with. I think a lot of men associate intelligence with masculinity and, thus, show off, condescend to or flatout put down other people intellectually or verbally to prove their own intelligence/manhood. They do this to women a lot, and while they might especially do this to women they don’t only do it to women. But a lot of very intelligent women do it, too.

Either way, it’s bitchy bullschitt.

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The Grass Is Always Greener…

Most of us probably have an idea–maybe more than one idea–of what our dream job would be. Most of also don’t work our dream jobs.  I have also realized that our “dream job” changes over time. I have wanted to do a lot of things in my lifetime, but right now there are probably two things that I’d consider my “dream.” Three, if I break one of the two into sub-categories.

Dream Job #1

Just last weekend, I was talking to my parents about how I’d love to be able to go back to the University of Michigan (one of my alma maters) and work there. Sometimes, I just check their job listings and see if they have anything in the one department I’d most likely end up working in. The other department is the athletic department, but I’ll probably never actually work in it. That same night, I checked their job listings…and they had listed the exact position that, at this point in my career, I’d love to have.

Right position, wrong time. I’m not at all ready to move back to Michigan right now. In fact, that’s probably a year away from now. I feel uneasy about letting that opening pass me by without pursuing it and just taking the more passive approach of hoping there will be a similar opening for me when I’m finally ready. But the thought of moving right now makes me feel uneasy, too. And I’d also feel really wrong about spending these weeks at a new job and then just bolting. I also just don’t think I’d get the job right now, and who knows–maybe I’ll try for it next year and won’t get it.

Dream Job #2 (and to the point of the post’s title)

I hated my last job. I repaired laptops and loved what I did, but I hated where I did it. I also knew that I couldn’t do repair for the rest of my life. First of all, it doesn’t pay enough. That, by itself, is not the problem. The reason it doesn’t pay enough is because it’s more of an entry level-type of job. So, to me, not moving on from that meant not progressing in terms of a career. There are people who have worked where I was working for over a decade, just repairing laptops, and I just couldn’t see that for myself. So, that was #2. Third, doing physical work is physically uncomfortable at times. My fingers were developing calluses, and sometimes my back, neck and shoulders would hurt from sitting in the same positions all the time. But I got a huge rush from repairing, and I still love working on computer problems.

What my new job has taught me is, in terms of being a tech geek, I am a hardware person at heart (which is bad because I do no hands-on work at my new job, which means I don’t like what I do the way I did before).

But more importantly…my new job has taught me that I…don’t…like…to…WORK.

I am the type of employee who comes to work early, works hard, tries my best to be the best, doesn’t like down time (detest it, actually), will accept extra work and will do very little complaining to higher-ups. I don’t spend time talking or dilly-dallying, and I won’t treat or talk to supervisors and managers as if we’re on the same level or try to be friends with them (except one time when it was invited). At work, I am focused on two things–doing my job and doing it well.–Yes, I wrote this in my last post.

Let me explain that.

You see, my mother is lazy. She will never admit that, but she is. My father is what my mother refers to as “Type A.” I would say that this dude doesn’t know how to just do nothing. He almost always has to have something to do. He does not seem to understand people who don’t like their jobs or who don’t like to work. My mother spent, what…about 30 years at a job she didn’t like most of the time she worked there, if ever. Even despite this, she is very much the type of person who tells me whenever I have any complaint about any job, “Be happy you have a job.” A lot of unemployed people love this line, as well. More on that in a minute (and we’re getting closer and closer to my explaining the post’s title).

My parents are interesting. They are opposites in most ways, so they have given me some interesting traits. One is what I would refer to as “Type A- Personality.” That is, I do believe I am a lazy person, like my mother. When I’m at work, I turn into a different person. I become a perfectionist, and I want to be better than everyone I work with at my job. At the same time, I absolutely do not want to be at work. I’d rather be at home watching TV, listening to music, out shopping, surfing the internet, traveling to another city. But when I finally get to sit at home, i.e. days off or being unemployed, I have no idea what to do with myself. I go crazy. There’s only so long I can do nothing. I kind of miss work. Honestly, even on work breaks, I don’t know what to do with myself. Work breaks irritate me because I’m spending time doing nothing when I could be working and making it so that I could leave work altogether earlier. There’s some sort of internal struggle between my being lazy and being a workaholic.

I don’t hate my new job or anything. The people with whom I work are okay. It’s a pretty well-run business. I don’t like the idea of answering phones, but when I’m actually doing it it’s not that bad. But I work more hours at this job than I did at my last job, for the most part, and there’s way too much down time at work. I hate down time because every time I look at the clock, only 5 minutes have gone by. I like to look at the clock and say, “Whoa, it’s lunch time already???” or “Whoa, it’s almost time to go home,” i.e. it’s time to get the hell away from this place.

But I hate working what’s, honestly, a relatively normal work day schedule because  I feel that I’m missing life. I have hard time believing that, if you’re a woman, your life is “supposed” to be working 8 or 9 hours a day, coming home to cook for kids and a husband, helping kids with homework, disciplining kids, making sure kids get to sleep at a good hour and then attending to whatever your husband is whining about. The thing is since I don’t have kids and never will, and I’m not married and probably never will be, my life is a little more similar to what the average husband’s life is probably like–work 8-9 hours, flop down in the kitchen and eat and then go flop down in another part of the house and watch TV. Even this is not good enough for me, and I’m sure it’s not good enough for men. As I like to tell my mother, I have about 4-5 hours to fight and stay awake so that, by golly, I can have some semblance of a good time each and every weekday and then, bam…speaking in terms of your consciousness, it’s time to go to work again. Yeah…no.

This is why I say–and this is the point of my post–if you’re in school, enjoy…and if you’re unemployed, enjoy. Trust me, I have done both. My favorite is being in school. In school, you go to some classes for a few hours and then you have the rest of the day. You might have some assignments, but the majority of the day really is yours. This is one of the reasons why I prefer school to working, along with the fact that there is so much you can learn in school. Being that I am interested in almost everything, school is heaven to me. Jobs seem to almost always reach a point where you’re just not learning anything. You do the same things every day, depending on the job. And I have never had a job that actually necessitated being there for as long as a full-time job requires, hence all the dumb down time. It’s a waste of life, in my opinion. No–it’s a robbing of life.

Having been unemployed, I do understand sitting around feeling embarrassed, frustrated, rejected, inadequate, useless…not having anything to do during the day, and not having the money to do what you’d like to do or need to do. You think everyone who has a job–any job–is lucky. If you’re unemployed, I think, in some ways, you’re the lucky one. After all, the majority of Americans hate their jobs. If you were working, you’d probably just be like the rest of us–either hating your job or looking out the window at work envying the people who are moving about freely instead of stuck in some building for 8 hours when they probably could accomplish their jobs in 4 hours. There are still ways for you to enjoy life that’s hard for people who work full time.

So, I say my “dream job” would be not having a job. That’s probably not accurate, though. I think that, based on what I wrote about school, working part time would be ideal. In fact, all Americans should be able to work part time and be able to make a living off of part-time work, regardless of what the field is. But that’s not currently our system in this country. It amazes me the way companies waste money on employees who sit and do nothing half the time they’re at work just because there truly is nothing to do. The crazy thing is jobs like my previous one “lay off” workers because they don’t “need” them but keep tons of workers sitting around getting paid to do nothing half the workday.

 

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Fitting In At Work…NOT

I used to have huge issues with how some employers focus on “fit” or “cultural fit” in the hiring process. And last year, I learned the hard way that how you “fit” plays a role in how you’re treated at work, not only by fellow co-workers but also by managers. Work environments seem to have shifted from focusing on how well someone can do his/her job to how likable they are. While I still have a problem with this, there is also more acceptance that this is how it is. That doesn’t mean I play that game, because I don’t really know how to play that game. One of the reasons why I attended law school and then ended up not practicing law is because I realized I’d have to spend my entire legal career pretending to be someone I’m not just to 1) get a job in the first place, 2) be treated fairly at my job and 3) keep my job. I don’t really know how to do that and don’t want to.

Unfortunately, I’m the type of person who has a personality that makes it hard to fit in culturally at most modern workplaces. I probably would have been fine 20+ years ago. I am the type of employee who comes to work early, works hard, tries my best to be the best, doesn’t like down time (detest it, actually), will accept extra work and will do very little complaining to higher-ups. I don’t spend time talking or dilly-dallying, and I won’t treat or talk to supervisors and managers as if we’re on the same level or try to be friends with them (except one time when it was invited). At work, I am focused on two things–doing my job and doing it well. I am very serious and very no-nonsense. Because of this, my ideal work environment is a very formal work environment.

I am finding that formal work environments are disappearing, though, especially in careers that aren’t super professional. I have worked one post-graduate job where my personality type was valued, and that place was run by non-Americans. I think Americans now believe that having less formal work environments is more employee-friendly, and that’s probably true for most Americans. But I also think it places an undue amount of importance on cultural fit, sometimes to the point of sacrificing having employees who are either really good or really want to be good vs having ones that just…well, fit in.

That’s one issue. There’s another one, two or five, really, though. Let me explain.

My last job and my new job are very nearly night-and-day different from each other, culturally. My last job’s work environment almost entirely consisted of black people. There was good and bad in this, to me, as someone who is black. Think of Detroit, Michigan. Think of the negative stereotypes people have about Detroit and people from Detroit. Okay, where I live is very much like those stereotypes and consists of a lot of people who fit those stereotypes. These are the people with whom I worked. I’m black, but if I had to pick which “type” of black person I more so resembled in personality/behavior–the Detroit stereotype or the Obamas–I’d unhappily have to go with the Obamas (because I think the Obamas are out-of-touch dorks). So, no, I didn’t fit in at work. It wasn’t just personality, but also education and socioeconomic class.

I also couldn’t help but notice that, though almost everyone was black at work and the city my job was in is majority black, almost everyone who had an important position at this place was white and male. I encountered a few people who, upon my telling them that the people who run that place have no idea what they’re doing, automatically assumed these were black people (because, you know, only black people have no idea what they’re doing when they run businesses…sarcasm, for those of you who are slow). No, dears–this business was being run into the ground by white men.

So, I escape to this new job. Everyone is white. Everyone. Aside from the training provided, the business is run very well. People know their jobs in and out, and they do their jobs well. They are not rude. Most of them are very friendly. I was kind of surprised they hired me due to the more shallow side of “cultural fit,” i.e. race and sex. But now that I work there, I am really surprised they hired me and almost actually think maybe they shouldn’t have. At the very least, I wonder what they were thinking about when they discussed my candidacy.

In the previous two posts, I have mentioned a little bit about socializing at my job. One key thing I mentioned is about how my boss appears to me to have some concern over the fact that I am not speaking to others and they are not speaking to me when she is in our area. The guys and I do talk to each other several times throughout the day. We do not communicate as much as they talk to each other. As I wrote, I am fine with this. I also indicated in my last post that I am especially quiet on Fridays, when my boss always wanders into our area several times, because I really don’t want to be at work and can’t wait for the weekend.

But let me be blatantly honest about the main reason why my co-workers and I don’t communicate as much as they do with each other.

I am a black female. They are, for the most part, a bunch of white guys. What are we going to talk about?

I realize that a lot of people out there like to act as if they believe people are people and we’re all the same. But I have predominantly grown up in white environments and…no, no, not really the same. Sorry. There are, for lack of a more accurate word, cultural differences between whites and blacks…especially depending on the race/sex mix of the people involved. I think the guys are great as human beings, and I am grateful that they have been so helpful to me so far and friendly. But–and they have said this about themselves directly to methey…are…DORKS. And I do not know how to say this without being offensive, but…most white guys I’ve encountered just are. Ultimately, it’s a matter of different strokes, different folks. Most white guys just like things most black women don’t, most white guys just like to discuss things most black women don’t, and most white guys think things are funny that most black women don’t. There will definitely be some things in common–I can speak with some of the guys there about football until the cows come home–but there will likely be even more things that aren’t in common between most white men and most black women. Sorry if you don’t agree or understand how this can be.

The funny thing is I think the guys with whom I work get this on some level–particularly as far as my being a woman and their being men. Because even white men and white women differ in terms of what’s funny and types of discussions and such, which is probably why the white female tech geek in my area hardly speaks, too. My boss maybe doesn’t get it, and she’s a white female. But the guys and I have an understanding, basically, that when they start talking about dumb stuff I will just ignore them and tune them out. I told them that I do this. They think that’s a great idea. They talk about dumb stuff, in my opinion, 90% of the time. That means 90% of the time, we’re not going to communicate with each other. I’m new–I’m not going to come in and demand that people who have been working there act differently, especially when I’m pretty fine with everything anyway. But I’m not going to pretend they are interesting or funny to me, either.

People at my new job talk an excessive amount about drinking and getting drunk. I went to predominantly white universities, and white students did this, as well. I can count on one hand the number of blacks I’ve met my entire life who have talked about drinking the way white people seem to. And all of them were black guys, and I think pretty much all of them were black guys who mainly hung around non-blacks. I’m not saying there aren’t “regular” black people who love to drink, just that I don’t know any (except my screwed-up brother-in-law, whom I’d really rather not know). I will drink beer every now and then, and I know blacks who drink every now and then. But good grief, we do not sit and talk every…single…day about drinking. So, I cannot contribute to–or, really, even tolerate too much–these incessant conversations. And I’m not saying all white people talk excessively and incessantly about alcohol–that’s not my point.

So, this brings me back to the issue of whether or not I should have been hired due to a lack of cultural fit. Well, all I have to say about that is, to me, the legal field–and probably usually the information technology field, as well–treats women and minorities as if THEY are the problem by not hiring them as much as they hire white men based on “fit.” As long as cultural fit is a factor, it’s pretty much always going to be used against minorities and oftentimes will also be used against even white women. To me, it should not be a matter of “fit” but a matter of who can do the job the best–every time.

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More Details: New Job, New Problems

So, everything was uneventful between me and that female co-worker today. I remembered, though, one other big thing that happened that she might not have liked. A lot of jobs have a “throw you into the fire” way of training new employees, which I hate. At my new job, I do kind of get the theory, although my personal feeling is tech support types of jobs should maintain troubleshooting databases that tell tech geeks steps to go through when assisting clients with XYZ issue. It would be useful for new employees until they get the hang of the job and don’t need the database as much.

But whatever…I’m not just thrown into the fire–the tech geek who is training me thinks I should be taking pretty much all the client calls during my training period in order to get familiar with how they handle everything. Everyone who works in my area seems to understand that this is how everything goes while I’m training…except for you-know-who. It’s almost as if we have a battle going on for who will get the phone first, even though she has definitely heard my trainer say that I need to answer the calls and not her. This is especially absurd to me, given that I would gladly let her answer the calls because 1) I would prefer not to be trained in this manner and 2) as mentioned in the last post, I have had more than enough of answering calls. It’s not as if I want to get all the phone calls while everyone else just sits and surfs the internet, talks to each other and IMs with friends.

Because she wouldn’t stop answering the phone, though, one day my trainer said something like, “Stop answering the phone! Ren is all like, ‘I need to get better but X won’t stop answering the phone’.” Yeah…I never said that. I actually had said to him that it’s kind of a bad thing that we’re not getting a lot of calls to the business in general and it’d take me over a month at this rate to be able to do my job without someone helping me. Truthfully, even though X answers the phone when she maybe shouldn’t, I still get most of the calls…and even if I got all of them, they’re not enough. The calls we get make me feel as if I’m little more than a glorified receptionist, because more calls than not are just transferring calls to the office workers or another tech geek. Because of this, I help maybe 3 or 4 clients a day resolve technical issues. As I said, my issue is not with X–I am relieved when she gets the phone. My issue is with the way my new job thinks I should be trained.

I have noticed that guys sometimes do things like this, though, i.e. they will put words in your mouth to female 2, not realizing that female 2 doesn’t get it’s a “joke” and will maybe get pissed at female 1 about it. I actually had some idiot do this at a job interview I had one time, i.e. telling the interviewer I said she needs to hurry up. And, of course, when I finally got into the interview, the female interviewer was a huge bitch to me…and, of course, I didn’t get the job. It’s as if men know that women are different from them, especially emotionally…and still, on the other hand, they completely don’t know that women are different from them, especially emotionally. Or maybe they don’t get the extent of it. Or maybe even men would not just laugh the above two situations off.

Today was one of those days that just seemed to go on and on, though. And my boss did it again, i.e. she came into our work area and kept looking at me as if she was waiting on me to say something or as if it’s some sort of problem that I’m not as social as others are. Dude, it’s Friday. I’m quietly counting down the hours and the minutes in my head until the weekend, not trying to force conversations with a room full of tech geeks (I mean real ones, not fake wannabes like me).

Did I mention she mainly does this on Fridays, the day of the week I least want to be at work (with the exception of Mondays)?

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New Job, New Problems

Although I have a few reasons to think that my life sucks and two in particular, my biggest reason is–surprise, surprise–my job. And not necessarily even just my job, but everything in terms of my career. I definitely feel that I’m way behind others at my age and/or education level, I don’t make enough money, I’m not where I’d like to be in my career, I have to work more hours than I’d like and just a lot of the typical reasons people have issues with their careers.

But.

I do have to say that I don’t have as much of a reason to complain about, at least, my job as I did, say, two months ago.

That’s because I have a new job…one better in most ways than the job I had before.

There is at least one thing, though.

You see, I work in the information technology field. Because of this, I actually work with very few women. There are a lot of other women where I work, but they are not “IT Professionals”–they hold other positions and have their own offices. My area, which holds all of us so-called IT geeks, is all guys…and one female. Aside from me.

No, the problem is not the guys (well, you could say they are a problem, but not in this post. More on that some other time). The other female might be the problem, though.

You see, when I first started the job, it didn’t take long for me to notice that the guys talked to me and reached out to me more than the female did. The other women where I work are great, too, for the most part, but they are older women…for whatever that’s worth. That’s not to say I feel they don’t mean anything because they’re older. I love interacting with older men and women.

Anyway, with the guys I interact with the most, there are explanations for that. Two sit near me, and another one is actually training me. The female and I do not sit near each other. There are other tech geeks who come in and out and they don’t interact with me much, but they maybe do so more than the female. I generally do not have an issue with people interacting with me or not, meaning I don’t much care if they do or not. So, that’s not that huge of a deal.

I tend to be pretty good at reading people and sensing things and such. The way I have felt so far about the other female is there’s just a tad of either awkwardness or discomfort or tension…not sure which, but something like that.

To me, today was just a weird day of work all around for me. But I’d probably have to say that the weirdest thing was when I got this email from the female coworker about how she’s entitled to take her full lunch hour. Huh?

So, one of the tech geeks says seemingly every other day when this female comes back from lunch, “You’re back already?” Generally, he just seems to lose track of time and is surprised when she comes back because of it. It’s basically as if he feels she is back earlier than she’s supposed to be. Today, I said, directed at him, “It’s after 12,” referring to how it was after noon. The female takes her lunch typically around 11am, maybe a little bit after. No big deal. She did leave a little after 11 today. We get an hour for lunch, and she wasn’t late or anything. So, coming back around noon is about right for her.

Next thing I know, she is checking her timestamp with the woman who works in payroll and sending me this email. As if I’m really going to have a problem with someone taking their full lunch hour. Hell, I stand right outside of my work building and flatout bullschitt, watching the minutes on my iPhone, trying to drag lunch hour out for the whole hour even though I have absolutely nothing to do on my lunch hour. I just don’t want to go back and answer any goddamn phones, because I’ve already had enough of phones to last me a lifetime, thanks to this job.

Hell, one of the tech geeks came back from lunch hour over an hour & 1/2 late one day due to car trouble, and I couldn’t go to lunch until he came back…and another tech geek comes to work every…single…day averaging more than 20 minutes late. I never say anything about these things. Truth be told, I don’t care about these things. I’m too busy schitting a brick about all the dumb, idiotic mistakes I’m making at work as the newbie there and all the dumb, idiotic questions I’m asking at work as the newbie there, i.e. I’m worried about my damn self. Why would I be keeping track of when this chick gets back from her lunch break and be throwing a fit about it?

Good grief, is this just the dumbest schitt ever, or is it just me?

Should I just sit and completely keep my mouth shut from now on, or what? Which is a totally different story, by the way, given that last week my boss would come to our area and keep looking over at me while she and the guys talked…just kind of as if she had some sort of issue with my not participating in the conversations.

Can’t win for losing?

Really, here’s my thing with this email incident, I guess as someone who is, by education, actually supposed to be a psychologist (or lawyer):

I’ve found that when someone appears to get bent out of shape about something that seems stupid or trivial, there’s more to the story. Usually, other stuff has happened and feelings have built up until something dumb causes the confrontation. In other words, now I’m sitting around wondering what the hell else I did to cause this crap.

I have some ideas, including the fact that I am more talkative with the guys. I am more talkative with the guys, though, because, since they reached out to me and because they talk more in general than she does, they have made me feel more comfortable. I also remember saying on my first day at work to one of the tech geeks that I was pretty sure I’d spoken with him several times before starting there because it seemed he was the only one answering the phones. One of the other tech geeks laughed when I said that. But maybe she didn’t appreciate the indirect insinuation that she doesn’t do her job.

Frankly, though, before I started working there, I did kind of have the impression that maybe just one other person worked as a tech geek there during the daytime hours. Now that I work there, it seems everyone does their job and does their job well. I know I shouldn’t have made that statement, but, as I said, I am constantly doing dumb stuff at this place. New people will just do and say dumb things at work–no way around it. I keep trying to tell myself this.

Still, I don’t want any co-worker problems. So, I told myself that I will start trying to be a little nicer to this female. We’re probably not going to end up friends, but I don’t need to treat her differently than I treat others, if I can help it.

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