Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Return of the Native

18½ months of my life seemingly disappeared this morning as I once again found myself working for The Paper. It was a very normal experience, which was the oddest thing about it. If it weren’t for the fact that The Paper changed locations after I quit in the fall of 2004, I’d honestly wonder if I had ever left. (And when I tried my old email password on a whim and found hundreds of emails spanning my entire 18-month absence, I realized they weren’t too sure I’d left either.)

The day started relatively slowly. I was intimidated by the prospect of what I wouldn’t know or wouldn’t be able to remember. Changes come quickly at The Paper, so a year-and-a-half can do a lot of damage. They started me on email customer service, allowing me time to re-familiarize myself with the system. My greatest challenge was the infinite list of codes—pricing codes, subscription codes, complaint codes, comment codes, log-in codes—many of which had long since been retired. And, of course, being in a new building meant that the various baskets in which various forms were to be put had to be learned anew. But nine hours later, I’m practically a pro.

There are many goods and evils of my new old job. Being comfortable with the job and the people is obviously a great advantage, but the new building itself brings a fair share of perks to the table. The break room is extravagant compared to the old place, for example, with refrigerators, microwaves, toasters, and vending machines galore. When it comes to the work area, employees now have their own designated workstation, which will ultimately provide stability and comfort. And the restrooms are light years ahead of the dungeon pits we used to be stuck with when The Paper was downtown. I’ll take automatic paper towel dispensers over cockroaches any day.

On the downside, we’ve lost any access to free, cold water. There are no water coolers or fancy water fountains to be found. Just regular old drinking fountains that I’ll probably do my best to avoid. And the extravagant lunchroom comes at a cost, as the soda pops that were once only $.75 are now $1.00. I guess that’s still cheaper than a gas station, but it’s a misfortune nonetheless. Then, of course, there’s the new location, sans the improved building that rests thereon. I’ll have to get up by 4:35 a.m. every day to make it on time. But perhaps the most disappointing aspect is my lunch schedule. Because I start at 5:30, I’m forced to take “lunch” at 9:30. This seems rather absurd to me, but if I’m ever jonesin’ for an Egg McMuffin for “lunch,” I guess I’ll be pretty happy. Sadly, I also have to take a full hour for lunch, when I’d much rather start (or leave) work a half-hour later (or earlier) and only have a 30-minute lunch. But that’s workplace politics for you, and I guess I shouldn’t complain.

Probably the best thing about working for The Paper is that I feel no stress regarding job performance. Because they already know I’ll be leaving by the end of July, it’s hard to worry much about making mistakes or maintaining phenomenal stats. Not that I’ll intentionally sabotage the place, but I’ll be fine with mediocrity. My experience, intelligence (compared to my co-workers, anyway), and integrity will collectively insure I’m one of the better employees regardless. But it’s nice not to worry about winning anyone over for the long haul…

Friday, May 12, 2006

It's Called "Temporary" for a Reason

On Monday I reported that I had found a job at American Express (Amex) through a temporary employment agency. Yesterday morning I went and took all the necessary tests (grammar, basic Windows knowledge, drug, and typing—on which I scored 73 wpm with no errors!) and filled out all the necessary forms to make my employment official. I even stopped by the American Express building to have my photo taken for my temporary work badge. I was all set.

Meanwhile, I had contacted my previous employer (let’s call them “The Paper”) earlier in the week and asked if they had any temporary positions available. I had never known them to use temporary employees, but I figured I’d cover all my bases. I didn’t expect anything to come of it, and I was fairly certain that, if something did miraculously arise, the work schedule would not be as ideal as the one offered by Amex. So although I was still waiting to hear back from The Paper, I more or less put them out of my mind.

As it turns out, The Paper is fairly eager to have me back. They have offered me a schedule almost identical to Amex, but I’ll never have to work weekends. And they’ll take me back at the pay rate I had when I originally left the company in October 2004, which is $1.70 more per hour than I’d get at Amex. That’s rather significant. Needless to say I have accepted their offer and will begin working with them on Tuesday or Wednesday.

I’m thrilled by this. I didn’t realize how much I dreaded my return to Amex until I knew I wouldn’t be returning. The relief I feel is surprisingly grand. As I’ve gone to the American Express building a couple of times this week, I’ve been filled with this sad realization that this part of my distant past is being resurrected. Not that I hated Amex, but they feel so removed from my psyche that I really want it to stay that way. It may sound silly, but I feel totally refreshed knowing the memory of it can totally rest in peace. I just don’t want to feel like I’m going back in time—not that far, anyway.

While it’s been a year and a half since I’ve worked for The Paper, it doesn’t seem quite as psychologically archaic. And I know I’ll be doing the exact same job I was doing before, so I’ll adapt very easily and be immediately comfortable with my co-workers, many of whom I’ll already know. I finally feel at ease and ready to enjoy the summer for what it is, something I’ve been struggling with as I’ve prepared for Amex. I’ll still be working, of course, but I won’t have the anxiety of learning a new job or meeting new people. So, once I put in my eight hours and punch out on the time clock, I’m done, physically and mentally. Everyday at 2:30 p.m., it’s summertime. No Greek, no Latin, no deadlines, no 20-page essays. Why, the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades…

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Chased Away

I am now petitioning anyone and everyone to avoid getting a credit card through Chase. Before Melanie and I got married, we both had our own Chase cards. During our engagement Chase suddenly catapulted Melanie’s annual percentage rate (APR) through the roof, even though she’s always had great credit. She closed her account and was unimpressed that the company did not even ask her reasons for doing so. They took no action to potentially save their customer and seemed completely indifferent as to why they were losing her business.

Flash forward a bit, and here I am with an almost identical experience. I opened my Chase account with an outstanding offer of a fixed 7.99% APR. As we all know, “fixed” means absolutely nothing, but I was confident it would last long enough to make it worthwhile. I’ve now had the card for two years, but last month my APR shot up to a staggering 29.99%. I have never been late on a payment and I have never exceeded my credit limit, not with Chase or with anyone else. So I called Chase and asked why my APR had been changed, and they said it was because my credit report shows me carrying too high of balances on other cards. This doesn’t really make sense to me as I’m not anywhere near the credit line on the other cards I have, and my cumulative debt has done nothing but steadily decrease over the years. But what irks me the most is that I was given absolutely zero notice of the change. Sure, there was probably some fine print somewhere in my initial application that said no such notice would necessarily be given, but you’d think they’d give you the courtesy. I’m offended. And we’re not talking a minor increase to my APR. It almost quadrupled!

Needless to say, I closed the account and paid the balance off in full. As was the case with Melanie, Chase did not try to stop me from closing my account whatsoever. It’s their loss—had the APR stayed the same, we would have been paying them interest for several more months, I’m sure. The only pity is that Melanie and I were hoping to put all of our extra money toward our MBNA card, which was, and now is again, our highest APR. I haven’t been overly impressed with them, either, but we’ll see how they react when I try to close my account with them. They had given me an unbelievable 5.9% “fixed” APR, which lasted about three or four months before shooting into the low 20’s as a variable rate. What a scam. And that increase had nothing to do with my payment history, credit report, or anything else. They simply decided to change to a variable rate. But at least they sent me a letter ahead of time…

Monday, May 08, 2006

My Car Won’t Give Me the Cold Shoulder, But it Can’t Stop a Semi-Nude Man From Finding a Job

Mixed feelings about this last week. Being done with school has been great, but I haven’t done half of the stuff I planned on doing. I didn’t write an Orange Theology post, even though I have a couple of ideas for one (keep watching, I swear it’s coming). I didn’t watch a single movie. I didn’t read nearly as much as I thought I would (books, blogs, or otherwise). And little chores and responsibilities keep getting in the way of feeling completely oblivious to discipline, which is what I’ve been craving. Melanie and my car has lost its A/C due to a leak which, according to one mechanic, is almost always a defunct compressor, the replacement of which would cost somewhere between $600 and $1,000. With plans to move to the Deep South, this is a highly frustrating twist of fate. No A/C just as we hope to move to the hottest region of America and live the life of a poor graduate student? Very funny, thanks.

Today I did begin my job hunt, and I think I’m already done. It only took twenty minutes of actual effort, and I was able to do it in my underwear, so that’s not too shabby. Actually, nothing’s guaranteed, but I think it’s as close to certain as it can get without being so. I’m going through the temporary employment agency for which I worked several years ago. They are constantly placing employees at American Express, where I worked for just over three years back at the turn of the century. My sister, who recently got hired on as a temp, informed me that they were looking to hire several more people. Because it’s been several years since I’ve worked for them, they will require me to come in and interview tomorrow, just like a new person (which only makes sense). But aside from that, it sounded like they were ready to hand me the job. If all goes according to plan, I’ll begin work next Monday. I’ll work from 6am – 2pm Monday through Friday during a four-week training period, and then I’ll have a day off during the week and have to work Saturdays from 8am – 430pm. Of course I’ll be quitting not long after that, but that’ll be our little secret.

Potentially good news: while writing this post, the car people called. They can’t find a leak after all. They’ve recharged the A/C and, as far as they can tell, it’s working pretty well. All for $33.57, knock on wood. It cost me over fifty bucks just to have Jiffy Lube tell me I have a leak in the first place. Apparently these guys disagree. Let’s just hope that’s the end of the story…

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

My First Parcel Post

Since posting my email address in the sidebar several months ago, rarely does a day go by that I don’t not receive email. Nevertheless, as a service to my faithful readers, I will now answer several letters that easily could have been written to me had anyone bothered to take the time. Enjoy.

Dear Benny K,
So when do we get to find out what the “K” in “Benny K” stands for? I’ve been dying to know ever since I discovered your high-quality blog! Please let us know soon!

Thanks for writing, JP. I’m glad you enjoy the blog. To answer your question, there are several things the “K” could stand for—“Kwality,” “Karing,” “you’ll Knever Know” (ha ha ha!). But seriously, I guess I am kind of extreme about protecting my anonymity. Not because I’m paranoid about strangers, but more so because I don’t want people from my “real world” to stumble upon my site when they decide to google me out of boredom. I’ve googled most people I know, so I know this can easily happen. As for my obscured profile pictures, that has just been a fun way of adding to the mystique. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday you see an actual picture of me. Someday. But, to show my appreciation for taking the time to write, I’ll let you in on a secret – I’ve never gone by “Benny” in real life. I’m just plain old Ben to most people. “Benny K” was a moniker I made up eight or nine years ago when my friend and I used to entertain thoughts of becoming radio DJs. I thought it had a bit more playful pizzazz than the monosyllabic “Ben.” As such it’s become the name of my public persona.

Benny K,
What the [expletive] is the “don-don plentitude” you aspire to, per your profile? Or do I even want to know???

KH, I can assure you that “don-don plentitude” is nothing to be afraid of. The “don-don” part of that phrase—pronounced with a long “o,” mind you, so that it rhymes with “loan-loan” or “bone-bone”—is actually my own personal nickname for donuts. I’m not exactly sure where it started, but I do believe it captures the happy nature of donuts quite well. Feel free to use the term if you find it appealing. For example, the next time you take donuts to the office with you (assuming you’re a nice enough person to do something like this), come through the door and announce with glee, “Look everyone, I brought don-dons!” This charming phrase will only add to the jubilation in the air, I assure you.

Benny K,
I am writing a report for english [sic] about oranges but keep finding your page instead when I search google [sic]. Why are you so obcessed [sic] with oranges? What are you like a pervert for oragnes [sic] or something? LOL, just kidding ;-) But really why are you so obcessed [sic]? Your [sic] not even from orange county [sic], your [sic] from UTAH! I drove threw [sic] their [sic] once with my family. BOring [sic]!! My aunt and uncle and two cousins live in orange county [sic] so they should have a blog about oranges[,] not you. LOL, just kidding!!! But really I think your [sic] a little too obcessed [sic] with oranges! NEway [sic] I better get back to my homework but i'll [sic] probly [sic] just end up on your blog agAIN [sic]!!! Dont [sic] eat too many oranges!! ROFLMAO!!!

Thanks, AD. (Are you sure it’s not ADD? LOL right back at ya!) Actually, the title Sucking on Oranges was inspired by an epiphany I had several years ago. At that time I decided I wanted to treat life like a big, fat, juicy orange that I would suck all of the juice out of. It became a personal metaphor for living life to the fullest. My other pages were given “orange” titles simply to match the theme of this, the “main” page. For the record, I rarely eat oranges although I do enjoy them. Thanks for writing!

Have a question for Benny K? Write to him by deciphering his email address as listed in the sidebar of this blog. If you’re familiar with email addresses in general, you should have no problem figuring it out.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Goodbye to U

Ladies and gentlemen, my time at the University of Utah—lovingly (lazily?) nicknamed the “U of U”—has come to an end. I am a now a Bachelor of Arts twice over, and, perhaps even more exciting, I have taken the last Greek test of my entire life. No more Greek homework, no more Greek books, and no more Greek teachers’ dirty looks. Believe me, I’ve had my fill of all three of those things. And I did get everything worked out for graduation, so the only question that really remains is just how poor my final Greek grade will be. Given that my teacher had a hardcore vendetta against me and is known for grading students quite subjectively (I’ve even had other teachers in the department admit this to me), this is a genuine concern. I suspect I’ll be less than thrilled, but the fact that I’ve completed my degree will significantly reduce any negative reaction I may otherwise feel. At this point, then, the next time I’ll formally be a student will be in Atlanta, Georgia. That’s a wacky factoid that I just can’t get over, but the shift back to philosophy will be an immensely welcome change.

As for this summer, it’s time to seek employment. Melanie and I need to bulk up on our financial savings, as graduate school will prove an expensive move, both literally and figuratively. Because we have great insurance through Melanie’s work, I’ll probably do just fine going through a temp agency. I may even end up back at American Express, the place where Melanie and I met seven years ago and where I personally worked for just over three years; they’re always bringing on temps. It’ll be interesting to do the work thing again, and it may provide for some interesting posts. You’ll know if it does. For now, I’m taking a week off to relax, maybe watch some movies, and do a tad more writing than I’ve been able to lately. I’m planning on updating all of my blogs this week, so keep your eyes peeled. (I could especially use a bit more participation on In the Key of Orange, which is nothing more than a bunch of one-question musical surveys. How hard can that be? See you ‘round!)