Tag Archives: scintilla project

Scintilla – At the End, a Smile

I have been a bit busy, but still working at this entry for a couple days. I want to get it all down and out.

Having actually forgotten what prompt this was for, it might be one of these, or a sum of them all.

MONDAY, 18TH MARCH
B: Write about a chance meeting that has stayed with you ever since.

WEDNESDAY, 20TH MARCH
B: Write about a time when your preconceived notion or opinion (about a place, person, thing, etc.) turned out to be wrong. What did it take to change your mind?

SATURDAY, 16TH MARCH
A: Being trapped in a confined environment can turn an ordinary experience into a powder keg. Write about a thing that happened to you while you were using transportation: from your first school bus ride, to a train or plane, to being in the backseat of a car on a family road trip.

It was probably that last one, and I was going to rant about taking the subway.

You know what, maybe for another time. As hilarious as my eye-rolling throat-punch resistanc-ing experiences with the humans can be, it dwells on the negative.

_____________________________________

When ‘coming up for air’ (my way of saying “leaving the subway station”) it’s the home stretch. Well, “work stretch”, which in no way sounds appealing, unless you’re the lead photographer for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, in which case there is no train or subway station that will leave you off at the beach of a tropical paradise.

Anyway, during the morning at just about every train station you’ll come across the AMNY or Metro newspapers. They are free and have just enough information to digest in a one way trip, and with various puzzles like Ken Ken, Soduku and the Crosswords, can keep you occupied on a round trip, so you don’t have to stand around reading dopey subway ads.

At some stations you will not just have the pile of papers, but a person in a company vest with an armful, handing them out. Like most handouts, people ignore or walk around them. Some vendors are aggressive, holding it out so the paper brushes against your chest or arm as you walk by them, perhaps on the off chance that you are wearing a duck tape tie or scarf (sticky side out). They don’t say a word to you or even look at you.

Some however, put that little something extra. Instead of just handing it out, they will pitch the paper’s headlines, much like the wily little rapscallions in old movies you think did that, but likely didn’t (they usually didn’t sing and dance either).

Then there is Rodney.

Rodney handed out the AMNY at one of the train stops I would sometimes head out from. He stood inside the station, usually during cold or wet weather. He always greeted everyone with a smile and ‘Good Morning!”, almost individually even when there were crowds. And that little effort got reactions. No one pushed past, some people would take it, or say politely, “No, thank you.”

“Ok, well you have a blessed/good day.” (You got that answer in either case).

So I took a paper a couple times. Then one day, he gave a glance of recognition as I approached.

“Hey there he is! How are you my friend?!”

Through the weeks I would stop and talk to him, he was accommodating, but still would have to pause the conversation for other greetings (who would take that as an affront?!). Turns out Rodney is a Veteran, and had been recently applying for his vendor license to get his own food or merchandise cart/stand. He was also looking for Section 8 housing. In other words, Rodney isn’t just a guy who hands out papers; he is a man working hard for a better life. I respect him greatly for that, and followed up with him on what was new and hoping for the best.

He did get the vendor’s license, so the next steps would be soon after. He didn’t get the housing initially, but he didn’t care for the terms they were setting. Good for him – everyone should have a little pride. During the summer 2012, he DID get the next housing offer.

“Oh it’s great! An apartment in the Far Rockaways. When I am done here and everything else in the afternoons, I go home and know that I am just steps from the beach.” Brilliant! I couldn’t be happier for him.

Rodney’s ‘station’ changed to one close by the other one (“they needed someone more dependable for a busier station”, he told me), and though I would go out of my way, I didn’t stop down his way a lot. Still he’d remember me every time, and ask how my weekend was or what not. Every time I walked past, I expected Rodney to give me some good news, that this gig was up and he was moving to something better. Hell, even if he just disappeared, I would have assumed the same thing, on his terms, and maybe he just didn’t tell anyone. It would be good, either way.

Then on October 2012, there was Hurricane Sandy. Locals may know, others might now, that Sandy wiped out Far Rockaway badly, particularly apartment buildings near the beach. Some co-workers of mine were displaced for several months, and even when they returned for short periods to their homes to pick up personal/valuables (which were not looted or destroyed) getting back into their daily routine has been a long, rough road.

Knowing that the AMNY gig is one where workers can be easily replaced, and that his living situation was surely uprooted, I have not seen Rodney since the Thursday before Sandy came upon us. This was not the way I envisioned it, (to say nothing of what HE must still be going through).

Rodney’s stations have since been taken by a rotation of others, sometimes it’s just that metal news tray that gets soggy when it rains or has papers flying around during the windy days.

I’ve re-learned a few things from this.

Don’t take a sincere greeting or the smallest friendship for granted; keep them close. Say “Thank You” and “You’re Welcome”, and mean it. Make it a point that you will stand out to some person as the one who shifted a bad day in a good direction, and let people know they are respected and appreciated for whatever interaction you have.

Thanks, Rodney.

_____________________________________

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Filed under Commuting, Life, Life in NYC, Scintilla Project, Writing, Writing Challenges

Scintilla Project: Heads Up!

<a href=”http://www.scintillaproject.com/”><img title=”scintilla_badge_002″ alt=”” src=”https://braintomahawk.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/scintilla_badge_002.png&#8221; width=”140″ height=”140″ /></a>Well I missed the weekend, but I do have ideas for doing them – so they will be done, even if I have to save them for a rainy day.

Today’s prompts are:

A: Describe a time when the content of your character was tested.

B: Write about a chance meeting that has stayed with you ever since.

As all do, this one happened a while back (geez was I more interesting back then?!) and has stayed with me ever since.

_____________

I was walking down 42nd street towards Times Square, in my suit and tie (which took 20 million tries to get knotted right), staring at the gum-stained sidewalk as I shuffled along aimlessly. It was late morning on a weekday. Most everyone else (who wasn’t a tourist) was in their offices, working. Except me, it seemed. Actually I had gone on a job interview. Those were fewer and far betweener than I would have liked. I was still in that hellish post undergraduate grace period of “can’t get the job without the experience/ can’t get the experience without the job”, and this interview was on par with that. To be fair, the job seemed like a scam; the ad said they were looking for an administrative assistant, but when I got there, the manager led the conversation to phone sales/cold calling. He lauded the commissions that other employees would make during their job, and of course gave me the zinger of “besides your degree, what else make you qualified?” Cue the job/experience revolving door. Right this way, sir.

Where the heck was this walk of shame leading to anyway? The subway home to commiserate?— an afternoon full of talk shows and injury attorney commercials wouldn’t help. How about a coffee shop or somewhere for lunch? – I was almost broke. I looked up, ready to cross the street onto Broadway.

What the – is that Mark? One of my close friends from high school, we also went to the same college and graduated in the same class. He was walking to the corner diagonally from me, in his suit, head down, expression serious. At that moment though, he looked up, we made eye contact and grinned at the same time. I crossed to him and held out my hand for a greeting and high five (or handshake, still trying to play the professional).

He spoke first. “Pete, don’t even talk to me, I just left the worst interview ever!” He stood by puzzled as I proceeded to crack up laughing. After a moment, I explained about my own situation, which gave him a laugh as well. We stood there, still defeated and miserable, but having a friend who understood right when they needed them most. We walked around for a while, got some cheap eats and took the train home, early enough to miss rush hour, but late enough to miss Maury and Jerry.

I guess, no matter what, always keep your head up.

_____________

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Filed under Friends, Job Interviews, Jobs, Life, Scintilla Project, Writing, Writing Challenges

Scintilla Project: A Lesson Not Soon Forgotten

Yes I have signed up for Scintilla ’13! Three days in a row, officially a streak.

A: Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. Write about a time when you taught someone a lesson you didn’t want to teach.
B: Talk about a time when you were driving and you sang in the car, all alone. Why do you remember this song and that stretch of road?

I’ll take on prompt A.

_____________
There are times, education degree or not, when you have to take someone aside for some schoolin’. You don’t get paid extra for it, but they will remember you like a favorite (or hated) teacher.

I got a call from the head of another department. Apparently he was upset that a condition was not being waived for him, and it was based on someone in my area’s decision.

“Well it’s his personal preference. No exceptions. My dept. head feels it is a reasonable one, and many others feel that way.”

“I’ve been here 25 years. He’s…what?” Ah yes, the ol’ seniority rule.

“Like I said, it’s  an individual decision; you have probably been in this situation as well.“

“Well then I am going speak with someone in the (even higher up office).“

And then the click. You know – *click*

That’s the sound of a phone hanging up on me.

Wait, what? Oh no he didn’t! Apparently, he did!

It comes out before I can stop it. I scramble at the buttons and put the phone on the cradle. (I think I was trying to reach through to the phone to strangle him) “You mofo (yes, yes, you know I said the whole thing)! Hanging up on me?!” I am enraged but also mad with glee at this point. I settled myself down for a moment, calmly told my assistant to leave the office, and picked up the phone.

Oh yes, my phone has caller ID on it, and a keyboard. Seeing as he proudly announced his name and department (and quarter century of schmuckery, it was no issue to call him back. “Hello?” He sounded a little wary, unsure as to who was calling. Obviously he’s not a detective.

“Hello this is Peter, we just spoke?! I don’t know how you speak with the people in your department, but where we are, we don’t tolerate hangups. It’s rude, it’s unprofessional and I do not tolerate it. And it’s not something we would expect it from someone who has been here 25 years.” Yes, in one uninterrupted breath.

I could tell his flustering and attempting to interrupt, but when you are dealing with an undiluted arrogance, it bounces back quickly. “Oh! Well I didn’t realize I hung up without saying goodbye.”

“Well that’s what you did.”

“Well, I’m sorry if you were offended by that.” Ah the official half-apology of The Asshole.

“Ok well I trust this will not happen again. If you have anything else to say on the situation, speak with my supervisor. Goodbye.”

I had my finger on the cradle for my own hang-up, we tied.

_____________

Like Socrates said, “You can’t fix stupid.”

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Filed under Creative Writing, Day In the Life, Life, Scintilla Project, Working

Scintilla Project: Drinking and the Job

Yes I have signed up for Scintilla ’13! I will try to get every one of them in, and hey I might even work a little Zombie Bunnies

WEDNESDAY, 13TH MARCH
A: Tell a story about a time you got drunk before you were legally old enough to do so.
B: Tell a story set at your first job.

I’ll do both – well sort of.

____________________

Part A. Growing up, I never liked the smell, much less the taste of beer, or any alcohol whenever I was permitted to take a sip (even champagne toasts during weddings). To this day I don’t understand why tequila still exists, except for the splitting headache enthusiasts among you (find a brick wall, people!). Also you’d be hard pressed to get me to drink 4-5 glasses of anything in one sitting, except water and that’s just during a hot/humid day.

What kind of prompt would this be if it ended there? Thankfully(?!), things change and all these ideas, beliefs and tastes go out the window when you are at a party right after your 18th birthday (not my party) with a camera on you. Of course it was a test of machismo, but I looked at it as a chance to sample drinks, figure out what the hell the fuss was all about, and not have to sneak around it doing it. Plus it was free, which doesn’t hurt (still doesn’t). Of course, with video evidence, it was all but assured I would be caught. I braced myself and took my first Kamikaze shot. Gah!

What cheers and accolades came from the others?

“Oh wait, I missed that – set him up again!”

Oh crap. So yes, a second one went down. Nearly came back up.

“Here, take a swig of this, it’ll ease your stomach.” It was a beer, but since they knew how much I hated the taste, a shot of something was dropped it to make it smoother. Actually, it did the trick. Yay?!

So after a couple more rounds (including ascrewdriver, you know, for the Vitamin C) I didn’t puke (a streak I STILL have; the current standing has food poisoning at 3-0 vs. drunken ralphing), but I did have a hangover, and yes it was a school day, one of the last days of high school actually.

I also didn’t drink again for at least several years. Yes apparently I missed out on an essential part of college life. That ended with my friends’ intervention of “Seriously, we need to get you drunk”. That’s when I met my arch-enemy, Tequila, cleverly disguised in a margarita, but in Superhero context, to counter that Venom was the lovely Mary Jane Watson known as Sangria.

____________________

Seeing as I did prompt B: my first job, take a look back if you haven’t read it, or forgot you read it, etc.
It’s a new year, so I’ll add a little to that story. I mean really, when your job has you dealing with the humans, there’s tons of material to work with.
Among the list of useful skills I gained towards future career choices, would have to be ‘the straight face’. That usually came into use when dealing with:

Birth Control. Among the prescriptions that we filled, BC was obviously part of the ones we handled. Since we were several kids working at the counter, it was ‘who needs help?’ that got us a next customer. Sometimes, people didn’t want you helping them for whatever reasons. However, it was inevitable that we would be short-staffed, or well, no one else was available. One time, a female customer hesitantly and wordlessly gave me a small round plastic disk. “Umm, ok. What is this?” I popped it open, still not figuring out what the calendar was all about. A female co-worker plucked it from my hands, as my mental faculties gave the “ohhh!”; a statement that did little to boost my intellectual reputation. Then there was the woman who needed something, but didn’t want to say a thing. Instead she asked for a paper and pen. She gave it back to me; “Monistat”. To my credit, I had my game face on; however, the fact that (apparently due to the cost of the meds) the product itself was on a shelf, behind me, elevated to a point that I had to step UP onto a lower shelf to reach it, and that every other customer waiting on line would see, pretty much nullified that letter to the point where even Jedi telekinetic powers wouldn’t be subtle (as they usually are).

Another kit that was placed next to it, probably for the simple reason of comparative embarrassment were the pregnancy tests. One fellow (!), decided he wasn’t going to be cowed by this task; coming up to the counter, he gave us all (yes outmatched 3-1)  a gunslinger’s posture and asked for the pregnancy tests (no he didn’t point from the hip). We got him what he needed, rang him up, and as he walked off into the sunset (really, it was near the end of our early evening shifts), one of the girls broke. “Good luck!” she called after him, her well wishes to be used towards whatever outcome he was going for (or not). Without missing a beat, he gave a fist pump in response.

Oh, and no one bought lambskin condoms.

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Filed under Drinks, Jobs, Life, Scintilla Project, Working, Writing, Writing Challenges

Scintilla Project; First Job

So I joined the Scintilla Project, I think. I am pretty sure this is a day late, but hey, it’s done!

My first job. I was 17. It was the local pharmacy/has the same crap as a supermarket but with slightly higher prices store.

I mean really what else should it have, besides–
• Rx
• Lottery
• Cigs
• Candy
?

Nothing, that’s what.

So depending on when you got in for your shift, you either worked in the back area helping fill Rx’es or running the lottery machine, or worked the front where you rang up everything else. Sometimes it didn’t matter; if you didn’t work the front enough, there were grumbles that you were slacking, since it was the busiest part by far.

Each one was a little slice of Hell.

Well first, co-workers were ok, I went to school with half of them anyway- so that was never really an issue. Plus I’m so friggin loveable.

Prescriptions weren’t too bad a racket, except that you didn’t know if there was something wrong with the script, insurance, dosage or availability until after the customer left (well over half the time), and you had given them a time frame, which according to them makes you legally/honor/duty bound. So then they show up and it ain’t ready, and you get chewed out. Awesome!

Lottery was actually fun in a demented pleasure or sociological/anthropological way. You got to see humans at their most desperate and superstitious. People who played sheets of various numbers every day, carefully added up. The guy who would think his lucky numbers up right there, sometimes changing them halfway through, sometimes right after you entered them, in which case you had to void them out and stop “jinxing [his] good luck by entering numbers too fast.” Yep, actual quote. You don’t forget winning phrases like that. You get them tattooed on your forearm, then pass it off as something in Proverbs to anyone who asks, years later. Anyway, there was the lady who brought in the supermarket sale ads, since winning numbers can be hidden within the codes (Dan Brown would later steal this concept). For instance – hmm creamed corn on sale, 2 cans for 99 cents? Gimme 299, 50 straight 50 box. (if you have never played pick 3/pick 4 games, the choices mean that you can bet that it will come out straight, or in some combination). I never recall any of these people coming in with big wins; maybe a box win which paid a whopping $40, which to the lady who bet $30 a day, mean a free day’s picks (which wouldn’t win).

No she never came in to play a ticket. I can say this because she is smiling.

In the front was candy. All kinds. From chips, candy bars, snack cakes and everything in between. There were fish bowls full of small candies, marked 5 or 10 cents. I couldn’t be bothered to remember which was which, so when I was on shift, all that crap was a nickel. I was a bigger hero than Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder version) himself. Most kids grabbed the small bags of chips for a quarter, or the Honey Buns, which were just cheap versions of cinnamon buns or something. Considering that half the frosting was melted to the plastic, I somehow never desired one. This was also around the time Coca-Cola was promoting their vintage type glass bottles, so kids would have those to wash down the candy with. Trouble was, they always asked to have it opened. The bottle opener we had was a twist type and was worn bald. So they asked what they were supposed to use, and I would just shrug in a matter of not giving a rats assy way.

Use your teeth or something. Whatever, just do it on your way out.

Cigarettes. Everyone smoked Marlboro. Seriously we restocked those twice a day, but barely ever the others. Except the old ladies, who smoked Chesterfields*. A cute girl I knew and liked tried to get me to sell her smokes. I refused, which didn’t lessen my chances of actually hooking up with her, since it was about 0% anyway. On the flip side – would it have won her over and I could have gotten 15 minutes in the building staircase with her and her ashtray breath? Wondering what could have been still doesn’t keep me up any nights.

*I should mention that the Lucky numbers guy smoked…no not Lucky’s haha, but Kools. Yes he smoked Kools. He would also steal caramel candies. I guess my markdown wasn’t enough.

So I worked there a whopping 4 months, when I turned 18, graduated high school, dumped my girlfriend and eh, just stopped showing up. By that point they were tired of my dismissive shrugs, and were probably losing thousands of dollars from caramel sales.

College would be a month away, and that’s when I learned to grow up a lot.

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Filed under Creative Writing, Day In the Life, Humor, Life, Retro