Wednesday, July 29, 2009

You Are Fired - Freedom of Speech at Work - 7/29/09

Since I retired from the Air Force seventeen years ago, (is that possible?) I have had several jobs. I am not sure if that is because I am so diversified or because I have no real skills or direction. Regardless of the reason, though I have done lots of different things, I have never been fired from a job. On the contrary, I am often promoted against my will. I have quit several jobs for various reasons. The biggest of which is that I am in a place in my life that I will not work anywhere that causes me to dread going to work. That was my main reason for recent egresses.

I said that I have never been fired from a job. That is no longer true. I was recently terminated from employment as a shuttle bus driver for the American Hospitality Academy. My dismissal had nothing to do with my job performance. Actually, according to my charges, I was the most popular driver. I was sacked because I write this blog. It seems the content of my posts was unacceptable. My violation was considered “Gross Misconduct” and was described:

“On July 9, 2009, AHA Management was notified by concerned students about a blog that was written by Richard Wainright. Due to the nature of the comments made in the blog and for the safety and well being of our students, Richard is (to) be terminated from the American Hospitality Academy.”

I was totally shocked at this as I really enjoyed the job, though it paid absolute crap. There was no reference to job performance at all. I had never missed a pick-up, had an accident, or treated any student with anything but respect. I enjoyed daily contact with intelligent young people from all over the world. Though I was grossly overqualified for this position, I had intended on doing it every summer until my driving skills diminished with age.

Those of you who have read my blog through its life would agree that the contents of my writing, though not profane, are not always for all audiences. But let’s keep in mind that these are college students, often in their final year of school. Most are in their early to mid 20s. In many ways they are more sophisticated than I. One of their recent parties was called an “ABC” party. “ABC” meaning “anything but clothes.” I don’t think that anything I wrote corrupted these young people.

The drivers that they have kept employed include a man that is in the early stages of dementia, often forgets to pick up interns, and is frequently mean and unreasonable to them. Students have confided in me that sometimes they fear for their lives as he drives wildly and carelessly. Another driver tried unsuccessfully to extort money from a student. This was reported to me and I immediately informed AHA management and student leadership. Another driver is a member of some religious cult and uses her position to try to push her unwelcome moral views on students. This was also reported to me. It seems though my writings have made me a bad influence, interns often took me into their confidence. It is also curious that the aforementioned actions by other employees are acceptable behavior and they continue to be employed, but my writing is gross misconduct and cause for termination. Well, there is certainly no danger of any of them writing a blog. That would require coherent thought and stringing sentences together. In retrospect, a company that has that warped of a concept of what is acceptable conduct does not deserve me for an employee. But I will miss the interns. They enriched my life.

Friday, July 24, 2009

55 Flash Fiction Friday - 7/24/09

Each week G-Man of 55 Flash Fiction Friday challenges us to write a story using only 55 words.

Night was falling in rural Maine. “There’s one more property to show you. It's been vacant for a long time though it is grossly underpriced.” Fog sealed the darkness as they passed a tiny cemetery. The eyes of a huge Saint Bernard glowed in the headlights. Buddy Holly blared from an ancient Plymouth Fury's radio.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Discount Spiritual Advice - 7/23/09

Do we really want to bargain shop our Spiritual Advice? You can do that in South Carolina.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hickory North Carolina - 7/16/09

I am visiting Hickory North Carolina for a few days. The very funny comedian, Jon Reep, is from here and much of his act relates to Hickory being a small hick town. By my standards it is far from a small town. This is coming from a guy that grew up in Smelterville, Idaho. The ultimate small, hick town. My measuring stick as to whether I am in a small town or a city is whether or not they have a Hooters. There is one Hooters in the entire state of Idaho.

The metro area of Hickory is roughly the population of Wyoming (which contains no Hooters). It does have a small town atmosphere though. While the bowels of most cities are great places to become a victim of crime, Hickory’s downtown has been developed and is a wonderful place to explore. It gives the impression of a city park. While there, we stumbled upon the Olde Hickory Tap Room and had a great dining experience. Even though it was midweek, this place was happening. I can’t wait to experience it on the weekend.

But hick town it may be. I am staying at the Marriott. I had some things to mail and approached the desk to get direction to the post office. There were three clerks at the desk. They looked at me like I had asked for the coordinates of Vulcan. They came to the consensus that they indeed could not provide me any usable information. Unbelieving, I further inquired. I was told that even though they know how to get to the post office, they could not tell me how they do it. I think Columbus had a better idea how to get to India than these ladies to get across town.

But they were helpful. They said they had stamps and offered to mail the correspondence for me. Relieved, I asked if they had a scale so we could apply the appropriate postage. They did not have a scale but said they just guess the postage. Since I wanted the parcels to actually get to their destination, I declined their offer. One of them then opened a binder and handed me a slip of paper that had directions to the post office typed out. It was older than the photo on a real estate agent’s business card but proved helpful. Instead of street names/numbers it used landmarks: Outback Steak House, ABC store, green house, white church, brown dog. No references to any street names/numbers.

I found the post office with relative ease but did realize the difficulty the clerks were having in offering me assistance. The street numbering system in Hickory is one of the most original and confusing I have ever encountered. For instance, there is a 3rd Ave SE, a 3rd Ave SW, a 3rd Ave NE, and a 3rd Ave NW. None are directly connected. It is easier to get around Baghdad negotiating IEDs.

I was relieved that the post office utilized a scale and did not guess the postage. I think my shipments have a 50/50 chance of arriving at the desired addresses. And that is about all we can hope for.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Baseball on Television - 7/11/09

Today I watched the Fox broadcast of the Yankees and Angels and though my Yankees got drubbed it was one of the most enjoyable games I have ever watched. What made it so pleasant was that for most of the game there were no announcers. I do not know if it was a technical problem or not but it made the game amazing. I often turn off the sound during a televised game to avoid the inane comments of the announcers. What made this broadcast even superior to a muted version is that I could still hear the sounds of the ballpark. It was just like watching it from the stands. I could hear the crowd, the crack of the bat, and the pop of the ball into the catcher’s mitt. I could hear the Angels fans boo Alex Rodriguez as he hit two home runs.
While announcers were essential to a radio broadcast, they are totally unnecessary for television. There is not one announcer that enhances the game for me. They spend most of their time stating the obvious. “That pitch was high and outside.” Really? I could have sworn it was low and away. Then they feel the need to fill any silence with ridiculous statistics and minutia. I don’t care that Jorge Posada bats .400 on Tuesdays following a new moon or that the Yankees are undefeated when leading by 10 runs in the ninth inning.

I can see and interpret all important aspects of the game without assistance, as can anyone who is enough of a fan of baseball to actually watch an entire game.

One of the most absurd aspects of televised broadcasts these days is the interview of managers between innings.

Announcer: “So, what does your team have to do to win this game?”
Joe Girardi: “It is important that we score more runs than the other team.”
Announcer: “What can Joba Chamberlain do to reduce his pitch count and number of walks?”
Joe Girardi: “He needs to throw more strikes.”
Thanks so much for that insight.

I hope Fox plans more of these announcerless games. I don’t usually watch baseball unless the Yankees are playing but I might start. Not really, when the Yankees werer not at bat I went over to CMT and watched my favorite film, Field of Dreams.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

55 Flash Fiction Friday - "I Wish This Was Fiction" - 7/9/09

Each week G-Man of 55 Flash Fiction Friday challenges us to write a story using only 55 words. This week I am writing a true account. I could not make this up.

I needed a late night snack
I grilled a slice of delicious Indian naan flatbread
I reached into my spice cabinet for cinnamon
This is when it all went wrong for me
I scattered a significant amount on the steaming bread

In bad light, Old Bay looks just like cinnamon
It tastes nothing like it

Monday, July 6, 2009

I have met the enemy and I like them - 7/07/09

I consider myself to be open-minded. I have traveled well and have been introduced to many cultures. I am not, by nature, a racist or a bigot. I evaluate each individual I come in contact with by their actions, never on their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, color of their eyes, accent, etc. I am proud to have raised three kids with the same values.

But, as many of my countrymen are, I am guilty of bigotry. In my mind, I lump the Middle East together: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Jordan……….et al. All the Arab nations, to me, have all become one big lump of dirt and sand, indistinguishable. Much like Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and the Dakotas to me. The only difference is that I really don’t hate anyone from those God forsaken states. But, since 9/11, I have a knee-jerk reaction to anyone wearing a ghutra.

I have not had much contact with Arab people. I have been to the Middle East but only as a military member working on logistics and weaponry that would be used to shock and awe them back into the Stone Age. I avoided any but essential contact with the citizenry.

I have recently begun working with the American Hospitality Academy, where I have come in contact with young people from many countries. Three of the current interns are from Lebanon. The only things I knew about Lebanon was the Hezbollah (bad), hashish (good), Tony Shalhoub (a favorite actor), and Khalil Gibran (wonderful wisdom). The sad thing is that I probably knew more about Lebanon than 95% of my countrymen.

I have had the opportunity to talk to these students and as a result have done some research on Lebanon. I have found that Lebanon is 30%-40% Christian, depending upon what account I read. I am not saying that as necessarily a positive thing as Christians certainly have wreaked their share of havoc around the world. I am merely stating that Lebanon is not totally a Muslim nation.

It is also not a pile of drifting sand. Lebanon has ski resorts, rich agricultural regions, and coastal plains. It is a very complex country with diverse cultures coexisting.

I have derived much pleasure from talking to these three people and they are among my favorites of the 100 interns that I work with. Their names are Ghaith Semaan, who goes by Gus (probably because we are too stupid to pronounce his real name), Krystel Ghanem, and Nour Mazraani. None of them have C4 strapped to their body (I have checked) and none of them are carrying hashish (I have asked).

Gus is the first Arab man I have ever spoken with other than from the back seat of a taxicab. He is an absolute gentleman, intelligent, respectful, and likeable, with a great sense of humor. I have become very fond of him and we often seek each other out for discussions. I intend to learn much more from him.

Krystel (left) is the most totally beautiful woman I have ever known, bar none. Her obvious outer loveliness is complemented by a charming persona, and a lovely soul. My day is never complete without seeing her bright smile and captivating eyes. Lucky for me, I see her nearly every day.

I have not gotten to know Nour (right) as well, but she, too, is an exquisite young woman that one cannot help but like. We joke about my early mispronunciation of her name, which is pronounced “Newrrrrrrrrrrr”. I don’t have the ability to roll the “r” enough to satisfy her. Looking back on my relationships with women, a focused rolling of the “r” could have had great benefit. Not everyone will get that.

The mission statement of the American Hospitality Academy includes “fostering international goodwill and friendships.” The intent is that the goodwill and friendship occur between the interns. A collateral benefit of the program is to teach a very old dog, new tricks. I have grown as a member of the human race from my contact with these fine ambassadors of a culture that I would have gone to my grave despising for no good reason.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

South Carolina - I Love Her - Too Bad about the People - 7/2/09

I absolutely love living in Myrtle Beach but it is sometimes awkward admitting to being a resident of South Carolina. Any national publicity always results in us looking like a bunch of booger eating morons. I know you have probably seen this clip but a few years ago our representative to the Miss Teen USA Pageant embarrassed us all by her inability to coherently answer a simple question. Someone please translate her comments for me. I think at one point she said something about Osama. One of our best and brightest?

Our governor, Mark Sanford, has proven to be a complete jackhole on the national stage and we elected this tool to our highest office twice. He is the face of South Carolina.

But today I had the opportunity to experience South Carolina stupidity firsthand. A brand new bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway was opened and the ribbon cutting was yesterday. This is one of the signs for the traffic flow for the new bridge.

How embarrassing is this? Someone made the sign, someone approved the sign, someone hung the sign. One sign could have slipped through the rigid Department of Transportation quality control, but two?

There is an advantage to living in a state where an IQ above the temperature reading qualifies one for MENSA. I enjoy being one of the smartest people in the state. No question why all the best colleges and universities in the Carolinas are in North Carolina.

The really bad thing is that I am certain this stupidity is not limited or indigenous to South Carolina.

It is just where I am able to observe it daily.