Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Going to the Bank=Running the Gauntlet

My company finally got Direct Deposit. 

That's this thing where they automatically put your paycheck into your checking account on payday instead of sending you a check that you have to take to the bank. (Actually, we used to use Chase Bank and then I could just take a picture of it with my phone and it would deposit it for me, but we left Chase and so we had to go back to the bank visits.)

Before I had a driver's license (and we weren't using Chase), Padawan always deposited my checks. Our bank was simply not within walking/biking distance. When he became a full time student, this became even better because he had no time restrictions on Fridays (the day after payday) so he usually could just deposit it at some point during the day. Every now and again, though, he has a test or a study group or a project or something, and then I have to deposit the check.

For normal people, this is not a big deal.

But I am not a normal person. And my bank (which is actually a Federal Credit Union) seems to know that I am not a normal person and makes every possible effort to rake me over the coals as I try to put money in the bank. Therefore, every trip to the bank for me is like running an emotional gauntlet. 

For starters, I leave for work so damn early in the morning (because I have to get to South Austin, preferably before the traffic gets bad) that the lanes of the drive through are not open yet, except the ATM (which is always open). My Credit Union, though, does not have a function where you can deposit your check in the ATM. You have to do it with a real, live person. I believe most banks actually do it the other way around: open the lanes first, and the actual doors open later. Or maybe they all open at the same time at normal places. I can't really be sure, because I've never in my life deposited a check myself until after I got my license. (Please don't judge me. I'm highly anxious, and I've lived in a damn city my whole life. I didn't NEED a license all those years.)

Because the lanes are closed, I have to park my car. This really annoys me because parking for me is hit or miss. It's usually a miss when I have to park in straight parking spaces instead of those nifty angled ones. Sometimes I can park in the straight ones with only two or three reverse, adjust,  and forwards (I have to park DEAD CENTER. I like to minimize the chance of someone dinging my door). More often than not, it takes me four or five tries. (We have straight parking spots at work. My very first day driving myself after I got my license, I made a fourteen point parking job. Unbeknownst to me, I had an audience of seven coworkers who stopped to witness the entire affair. It has been a year, and they still bring it up. To this day, it is the only time I have parked off center because I just gave up.) So not only do I not have a choice of using a lane, but I have to fight the stupid parking spots. 

When I actually go in, they do not have the stupid pieces of paper to fill out like in the drive through. (I think they are call Deposit Slips.) No. They want to engage you in a fucking conversation every time you go in, so they don't let you just hand over the paper with the signed check and get in and out with a "Hi, how are you?" and be on your way. They make me go inside, where I am immediately greeted by three freaking people every time (and yet not one of them can man the stupid drive through lanes!) and so I must look at and greet every single one of them in return. By the time I make it up to the counter, I have had to make eye contact and a little conversation (ugh!) with three different people, none of whom are going to be the actual person helping me. This much human contact and conversation before coffee and breakfast is just torturous. 

Then there is the person who is actually behind the super high bank counter thing. (All marble and gold. Seriously? It's so over the top. Wood wouldn't suffice?) They once again force the whole eye contact thing, smile, and say, "How are you?" I have literally just told the other three people that I am just fine and dandy, thank you, and there is NEVER anyone else in there that early because the bank has literally been open for five minutes by the time I get there, so I know this person always hears my responses to the other people, but still they always ask. I can't be rude, so I have to smile back, answer, and ask them how they are. 

Then this person will ask, "How can I help you?" and I have to say, "I would like to make a deposit, please." By this point, we are already at a ten minute delay because it probably took me six minutes to park plus one minute per employee that I've spoken to since walking in the stupid revolving glass doors. We go through the drill: account number (And do you have any special plans today? Nope. Just work), name on the account (How is traffic this morning? It's about that time isn't it? Awful, as usual), and do you have your bank card with you? (at which point I hand it over and the person makes a comment or five about how cute my dogs are because I have a picture of them in the bluebonnets on my card. Thinking about it, that one actually is my fault. I like looking at my dogs, but when you put a picture on your card, I think people expect that you want them to comment), AND THEN they ask for the check, which I have conveniently already signed but they never look first and always ask, "Can you sign this for me, please?"

Then they start typing information in. I'm not sure what, but it always feels like they're typing way more than just the amount of the check. Maybe they're commenting on my outfit for the day, or whether or not I am friendly. Who knows? And they always make conversation while they're typing. Sometimes it's more about my dogs, sometimes it's about whatever music or art festival happens to be going on in town. But it's always something. The whole process could take a matter of two minutes if they would stop trying to talk to me and just do their damned jobs, but I never say anything and just deal with it.  I just stand there, silently panicking that I will run out of things to say, that maybe I am making too much eye contact and is this weird? Worrying about traffic piling up outside and maybe there's an accident and OH MY GOD what if I am LATE TO WORK????

When they finally get their novel typed into their stupid system, and they give me my receipt, they hit me with the last fucking punch that seriously makes me grit my teeth and clench my jaw. Padawan and I have a joint account, but we are not married. My name, actually, is the primary on the account. We have different last names and on all of my bank paperwork it has "Status: Single" checked. But when I am leaving, they say, "Thank you, and have a great day Mrs. *last name*. 




Different employees, but EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. 

So this whole Direct Deposit thing is like the greatest thing ever in my book. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

And now...The Rest of the Story

Transferring locations was a huge deal for me.

The biggest part of it was the location: we'd just bought a house in Round Rock, which we chose because it was close to my doctor (yay!) and only six miles away from the store. The South location stands 25 miles away from our house. On a good morning, that's a 35 minute drive one way. On a GREAT morning, it's 25 minutes. On an average morning, 45 minutes. And then those terrible, awful days happen...and it's 1 hour and 15 minutes. By car.

By bus? A total commute time of 2 hours each way, so a 4 hour commute daily IF there were no complications.

It only took one month of driving me back and forth for Padawan to put his foot down: he was NOT taking me to work and picking me up five days a week. NO WAY. It only took me a week of taking the bus to decide I was getting my license. A week later, I had a permit. Two weeks later, I bought a car. Six weeks later, I got my driver's license. (Interesting note: car insurance companies do not actually care how long you have had your driver's license when they choose to insure you or charge you a rate. Turns out they only care about your age. I was 26, so I got full coverage auto insurance plus Gap Insurance for a bargain $87 a month from Progressive, while my then 24 year old sister was paying $322 a month for her full coverage insurance.)

It must be noted that I learned to drive on Mopac, one of the most awful and terrifying expressways known to man. Mopac and I have a very deep love/hate relationship. I love that Mopac drops me off practically on the doorstep of my job, but I hate her narrow lanes, construction, and all of the assholes that congest her lanes by driving too close and just completely disregarding the use of blinkers. It must also be noted that I refuse to drive on I-35, which would probably shorten my commute by ten miles. But I am an Austinite, and I grew up with the saying, "Stay alive, stay off 35." One day, that may have to change. But today, in the here and now, I have reached my limit. Mopac or bust.

Fitting into the new location was actually pretty simple. What my title became is anyone's guess: I was not a department manager because there was already a department manager, but I retained all of my authorities and even got a raise, and when the department manager wasn't around I assumed his duties and handled the problems.

About nine months after my arrival, though, there was a snag. As it turned out, I was doing great and the South store was extremely pleased to have me, but my sudden departure from the North store apparently caused something of a decline. I was called into the Vice President's office one day where I was asked, asked not ordered, if I would consider going back.

The Store Manager was asking me to come back.

I'm not going to lie. I wanted to just say "no" immediately and have done with it. I think they knew that was the way the wind would blow, too, which is why they asked me to "take a week, talk to Padawan, and see how you feel about it." It must also be mentioned that they said they knew about my "difficulties with management and some of the staff" and that "management was prepared to make it work" and "if you can't consider it because of a certain employee, you can make that call and we will fire him".  (They were, of course, referring to the Game Show Host. It seems EVERYONE thought that people problems were why I chose to jump ship.)

Wow. I'm not going to lie. That last line super impressed me. And I realized, of course, that the ball was in my court. They needed this. They needed me. And even as I walked back downstairs, I knew that I was going to go home and make a list or pros and cons, and then a list of things that I needed to change if I was going to entertain the idea of going back. In the course of twenty minutes, I found myself wondering if I was going to go back.

I made two lists, of course. One list of pros and cons for each Store. Having worked at both locations, I now knew the good things and bad things about both. In the end, both lists turned out pretty much even. So I made a list of things that would need to be changed, and a week later I met with the VP and told him what I would need. He said I would have to work that out with the Store Manager, and so the Store Manager called me and we arranged to meet for coffee on my day off, outside of the store. (Because nobody could know about this, obviously. We didn't want to upset anyone South or excite anyone North until we knew which way this would go.)

Anyone who knows me will not be surprised by the way the meeting went. First of all, I was ten minutes early. He was six minutes late. (I knew he would be late, he always is, so I ordered myself a coffee and a danish to occupy my time.) And I did not make it easy for him. After he got his coffee and sat down and we went through the obligatory "how are you?" and so on, I started made my first comment. "Well, this is pretty awkward, isn't it?"

Because it was. Let's not mince words here: this man made me feel weird, alienated, and unwanted. It was no secret that I seriously disliked everything about him and that he made me so angry sometimes I wanted to pop him one. And yet here we were, playing nice as if a year ago had never happened.

"Why is it awkward?"

I mean, he really opened himself up for what he got next. "Well, a year ago you called me into your office and you said, and I quote, I'm a bad teammate, I'm unpleasant to be around, I make everyone uncomfortable, and if I was fired I would never be able to find another job. I mean, if you believed all of those things, then why the hell are we here?"

He, of course, said he couldn't remember the conversation. Of course he couldn't. That was exactly what I expected him to say. Except he added that it sounded like something he would say when he was pissed off, and had we been arguing? Well, yes, we had. Two days prior to the conversation, actually. Which brought me to the next point, "You also said, in that same conversation, that if you say 'jump', my only response should ever be 'how high?' and that you expected me to just be quiet and do as I'm told. I can't work in an environment like that."

And that, of course, brought about a response that I was not prepared to hear. "Well, I don't remember saying those things, but they all sound like things I would say, and so I am sorry about that. I say things I don't mean when I get angry, and then I forget them. I didn't mean them."

Well, aren't you just lucky to have the luxury of saying terrible things and then forgetting them entirely. I, unfortunately, do not have the luxury of hearing terrible things and forgetting them. But I do have the common sense to know a genuine apology when I hear one. I accepted his apology and then we moved on to my terms.

He was more than willing to give me every concession I asked for, bar none.

It seemed we were in agreement, and I was not opposed to returning. I wasn't opposed to staying either, which is exactly what I told the VP the next day at work. "I just want to do whatever is best for the company."

But then they talked to my department manager who raised enough of an outcry that they decided to scrap the whole idea and leave the North location to deal with their own problems without me, and I was content with the idea that I was a valuable commodity that was wanted everywhere. It's not a bad feeling to have.

Come April, there was suddenly a new position available. Or rather, created within the company. It came with an impressive title (just in time for my high school reunion), a nifty pay raise, a desk of my very own, upstairs and away from the sales floor, with Monday-Friday hours on my terms, options for vacation at Christmas, Spring Break, and over the summer, and, as silly as this sounds, the best part was that my lunch time became completely independent of everyone else's. I could literally have lunch WHENEVER I WANTED and not have to wait for someone else or ask when everyone else was planning to go. (Yes, the idea of lunch on my own terms was listed prominently in the Pros column of my list.)

Four months later, Artist (who works the counter and was my counterpart in all things creative and fun) is finally coming around and isn't so mad at me for leaving her anymore. (When a rumor got around that I was considering returning to the North store she point blank told me that she felt like the balance of personalities in the department was perfect and I would totally fuck it all up again if I left.) Although, she still laments the fact that Rivers (my replacement) is not a woman. He also doesn't know a lot of movies so he never gets any of her obscure movie references. We are currently trying to teach him the art of punning. As Lumberjack has so succinctly put it, "It's like trying to teach Data from Star Trek how to tell jokes. It's hilarious."

In all honesty, sometimes I miss the camaraderie of working the counter, so I stop in about fifteen minutes a day to tell some jokes and let Artist tease me about whatever personality quirk of mine she finds the most baffling that day. (She loves to tell me I'm bananas. I think that's like a common saying up North. Like someone is bananas rather than saying batshit crazy.)

But I'm very pleased with my new position and all that it brings. (Except the deposit. That wasn't part of my job description. It was dumped on me a month into my promotion, and it is awful.) Turns out I was right (as is often the case), and making the change was a good thing.  

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Making a Comeback

So here it is. I have decided that I really do, at this point, need to come back to Blogger, if only because I need something to save my sanity. This blog was a way to express myself and work out my frustrations. Also, it gave me a chance to embrace my inner crazy that, frankly, is often regarded with horror, irritation, and disbelief in the reality that is my life.

Let's just catch up for a second. 

Last year, just a couple of months after Relly had her baby (who is now eighteen months old and a genuine little terror running around), I made the difficult but long overdue decision to transfer from our North Austin location (where I had worked for 7 1/2 years, climbing the ladder from receptionist to counter staff to management) to our South Austin location.

A lot of people think my decision to move was based on my relationship with the new store manager, who had been appointed to the position about nine months prior. Our working relationship was barely functional at its best, but mostly I left every conversation with him wanting to slap him across the face. Mostly I think I made him feel stupid. I like structure, and I have expectations. One time he literally told me to stop working so hard because I literally made everybody else uncomfortable when there was down time and I insisted on doing the things that needed to be done. 

Yes. I worked so hard that it made people uncomfortable. By uncomfortable, of course, he meant guilty. I made everybody else feel guilty because I actually wanted to do the job I was being paid to do. And, quite frankly, my work ethic never bothered anybody until he became the store manager. Now, his style may work in a "everybody has a good time all day" sort of way, except that when it gets to crunch time, they find themselves annoyed, stressed, and hampered by the fact that things don't run smoothly when everybody plays and nobody works because nothing gets done. 

A lot of other people think I decided to leave because a part time staffer that was hired (with my approval, I admit, but then you never really know how somebody will work until you actually hire them) turned out bad, and our working relationship actually wound up worse than the one with the store manager. This employee was a former barista and car salesman who had the personality of a game show host and the work ethic of a twelve year old princess who never cleaned up after herself in her life. He wanted all of the glory (and commission) of selling products, but wanted nothing to do with actually stocking or maintaining anything. When he became a full time staff member, I nearly died.

I do admit that I was concerned if I stayed any longer I was going to wind up in prison for attempted murder by tuba. Which of those two men would be my victim changed from day to day. Sometimes I thought I would snap and it would just be a double homicide. I started thinking if I just shoved them both into tubas, the world would be a better place. 

When I received the (quiet, under the table) offer to transfer locations, I did not jump at the opportunity. In fact, I took a week to decide. I made my list of pros and cons (I have used this list for every major decision in my life). I didn't tell anybody about the offer, didn't ask for any opinions. What I wanted was to decide if I really wanted a transfer, or if 7 1/2 years at the same job was my limit and maybe I was ready to leave.

I decided after two days I wasn't ready to leave. I love the company. I love being such a great, strong part of the community. I love working for a family company. I love music. I love sharing music and being part of creating the next generation of budding musicians. I love that I feel like I'm changing lives. Leaving was, ultimately, not an option.

The reason I chose to leave, contrary to popular belief, was strictly strategic. I had climbed as high as I was going to at my current job. The new store manager was never going to let me go any higher, he made it very plain to me that he didn't want me there (he threw around words like bad teammate and you'll never be able to get another job if I fire you in our last meeting, not that it worked because he literally has no authority to fire anyone) and I wasn't satisfied as a department manager. I wanted, ultimately, not to be in a sales position at all. I hate working at a counter. At the South location, all of the owners have offices. All of the highest company positions are at that location. Ultimately, I wanted to have opportunity to climb the ladder again, and I knew the best chance for advancement was to be right where they could see me. 

So I decided to transfer. Leaving behind two of the biggest tool bags I've ever had the displeasure of knowing was simply a perk. 

And, as it often turns out, I was right. But that's a story for another day. 

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