It is morning time!

You know what that means, right? No? Well, I’ll tell you! I get to go to work! Not everyone gets to say they have a secure 9-5, and those of us who do have this option typically feel better off than the next person because their fast food job never treated them with retirement benefits, health benefits, vision care, and hourly wages of that type of magnitude! I mean, who doesn’t want to make more than $10 an hour? That extra bit of money in your hand by the next paycheck is always welcomed!

But, as you grow older, you begin to realize that things change. Your perspective begins to focus its shift away from buying extravagant items, such as an expensive pair of shoes to match your fashionable jeans which were made to look used, or another CD to add to your growing collection.. You begin instead to look forward to putting some away, what little is left after your child support is removed every paycheck. You put some here for retirement, some here for gas and electric bills, some here for diapers, most here for car payment, insurance, food, replacement socks and t-shirts, internet, phones. And then, you have to prepare for dinners, your personal breakfast foods (I like eggs, but once in a while it’s nice to just eat a bowl of oatmeal in the morning).

How is there ever enough time to enjoy life with all these requirements? Well, I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I know there is no way that my life is intended to work for someone else while begging for a higher wage. At the same time, I’m glad I’m not working in fast food or part time anymore because those types of jobs were not exactly within the realm of “desirable” when it came to what began to matter most in my household. I needed something bigger for myself, and for my fiancee and her daughter. (And my dog. He’s a family member too, even if he does poo indoors BAD DOG!)

I’ve been searching for solutions to my particular set of financial problems and this blog is helping just a little bit. It gets my mind off of life for the little bit of time I’m able to come to write or make updates. At this time, I must begin to prepare for work, but if anything changes for financial betterment, then I should let you know here. I know I need to start a website, but that’s a first-of-the-month thing (which approaches rapidly).

If you have something you would like to suggest, I’m an open book! Speaking of which, please check out my book here.

If you just want to say you enjoyed it, that’s cool too. I like feedback, and critique. See you all later!

Life, And Related Stuff

Doesn’t it ever seem that the more work you put into something, the higher the benchmark is set for your achievements? I feel that this is what is happening to me at work. I’ve managed to become one of the most diligent workers at my workplace, and although people who work with me also have the capacity to do what I do, I don’t see anyone else actually doing it– so I don’t know if whether I’m conceited about my work or I just happen to generate a lot of comments from the customer base. Maybe I put way too much passion into what others would consider a terrible job.

I remember one day, my shift supervisor was having a hard day, or a bad day– you never can tell with this person. Anyhow, s/he tells me that if I don’t pick up the pace of my work that I’ll get written up. The next day, I amped my speed up and the shift supervisor took notice about it. Later on, at the next “bread bash” (what used to be a quarterly meeting regarding up-and-coming menu items and recognizing employees for their achievements, et al [which I’ll not go into]) I was presented with a WOW! pin to tack to my hat. The reason for it was “fastest improvement of an employee.” It seems one can get a WOW! pin for just about anything, but perhaps it was more to not let me feel left out because all the coworkers whom had been hired alongside me also got themselves some WOW! pins. From that day, I continually worked my way into a routine which was befitting me, and now I’m really able to enjoy speaking with the customers for a bit regarding their meals and even shoot a breeze or two with some regulars because I’ve mastered my particular position.

Well, it seems that the hard work I was putting in wasn’t going noticed because I was beginning to feel myself in a rut from which there was no escape. Washing hundreds of dishes in a day while cleaning 31 tables (7 of which are dedicated booths, 5 of which are combination booths and free-standing chairs, and the remaining 19 solely tables, arranged meticulously at 45-degree angles with chairs turned at 45 degrees to allow for maximum walking space)(Yes, I’ve been there too long. This is what the post is about, after all), re-stocking condiments and dry goods to include small, medium, and large-sized lids, three sugar substitutes, two different types of packet sugars, salt, pepper, mayonnaise with olive oil, mustard, spicy mustard, Tabasco sauce, butter, honey and lemons for tea, straws, napkins, drink stirring sticks, coffee lids, and coffee sleeves– as well as brewing four different coffees once per hour, two at a time only, three different iced teas and one iced coffee– and topping off with actually filling a sink with the water that you need to wash four different sizes of bowls (two dedicated to soups and two dedicated to salads, one of the salad bowls being used for broth bowls), large trays, small yellow trays dedicated to pastries, knives, forks, spoons, and a plethora of pans provided by the line people, silicone or rubber spatulas, scoops with the little swingy arm thingy, souffle pans, cookie sheets, whisks, and and assortment of non-serrated chef knives and serrated knives– seems like a lot to memorize for a 6-hour shift and can easily lead to burnout, exhaustion, and irritable moods. But hey, $Dollars an hour seems like it’s worth all the while. This last “bread bash” they recognized my achievements with dining room etiquette, customer service, and I suppose a whole host of comments in favor of my working habits by customers. And it does hang on the wall at this moment.

But if it wasn’t making me feel an eternal sense of entrapment in time, where all of the same exact routine-driven drivel seems to always await me every time I clock in, and impending doom every time I see an irate manager or shift supervisor seems to surge from within on a nearly daily basis, then I would not be sitting here talking about it. For you see, I’m what they call a “human being.” We’re a species that has limits! Recently, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to– nay, today I was HIRED. Screw it, it’s out on the plate now. I am going to my orientation this Monday and Tuesday. They called me after an intensive background check (military base jobs for civilians can be very thorough) showed that I am as clean as a whistle and ready to be trained. What I’m going to do is ensure that I balance working between the two places. Anyhow, back to my human comment– I’m always scheduled to do the exact same job. I’ve reached the limits of all that is exciting in that area of expertise. Whenever they do have me work somewhere else, the manager always says, “You did a good job today. Why don’t you do this more often?” Oh, well maybe if you talked to the schedule-writing person I could. They won’t even let me train for cashier even though I always beat everyone at counting change before they have a chance to push their buttons to give me the purchase total for lunches (Hey, 65% discount! Can’t really beat that perk).

I know I may be getting into a bit of exhaustive life changes by sacrificing a weekend, but at least I’ll be doing something with myself– but ultimately, I’m aiming my perspective towards a greater-paying job that is less physically stressful and more mentally stressful. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about how things are turning out for me, and a low-paying job without benefits is not a future. That is not a sustainable way of life. Knowing my skills in typing were at least enough to submit my typing test to a recent job opening as an Office Assistant, I went ahead and applied for that job last week. The day before the position closed, I took my state typing test and scored 50 WPM at 95% accuracy. Their minimum was 35 WPM.

Some of you may be shaming employees in the workforce who are in menial grunt jobs and always feel that they’re not motivated enough to do anything else. This can’t necessarily be true because I have an image to keep up, and although I work in the restaurant business at the lowest pay for my region and have worked these types of jobs in the past for a majority of my life, I’ve always known that I am far too intelligent for such degrading work– but until recently, I never really saw where my greatest potential lie until I started my Morning Pages routine a couple of weeks ago. It’s not a matter of intelligence, it’s about providing a working environment for many different walks of life. I’m not suited for engineering work and somehow my ASVAB scored me strongest in engineering. Years later I would find out that I don’t have knowledge of advanced mathematics (read: algebra), and this would get in the way of my access to even an Associate’s Degree.

I sometimes wonder why we even have schooling when none of it pertains to actual education in financial matters, business, or arts and music, unless it’s an “elective” class or you go out of your way to find educational institutions which specialize in this type of work. Go to school and get a job? It’s far too generalized when we don’t even always know the best way to teach a child because they don’t know the style of learning they know. I blame television, games, and instant gratification practices. That’s just me and my opinion, but those who agree would be on what I feel is the right track towards reforming the education system.

So, wrapping things up here– not everyone in the lowly fast food job sector looks forward to staying there forever. Because our education system is so screwy, I find that many people simply stay put out of sheer fear for difficulty, or wish to remain in their comfort zones for an extended period of time. I’m only waiting until a new, higher-paying job opportunity comes along, and feel that many are also awaiting the same things. Some people are naturally suited for business ownership, teaching, music, writing, video editing, typist work, philosophy– and some people are naturally suited to accepting what’s given to them and stick to it just because it’s a job. I don’t know about you guys, but I feel that my time for food working has come to an end. I need a more meaningful job, and I’m searching around until it comes along. But I’ll also not stop and settle either. I’m needing access to more money to pay for bills and make it easier for me to discover a hobby which I can turn into a specialization. I feel that a handcrafted item for Christmas is better than anything made in China purchased at a chain store, and that I can actually benefit from creativity– not in the financial sense, but in the sense of well-being and goodwill.

Right. Now go out and celebrate Halloween if I don’t see you here before! And as always, until the next time I show up to write here,

Peach cobbler.

Repetitive Work Can be Stressful

I work at a restaurant which flaunts its style as being greater than your average fast food restaurant, all the while actually serving up some great food for the health-conscious. The place to which I refer is called Panera Bread. Yes, everyone — it is a greater job to hold than fast food. This is actually my tenth month working for Panera. Because of its heightened atmosphere in regards to the wall art, the striking yet warm colors, plentiful lighting, booths and tables galore, and all-around balanced music on the radio, many people realize that their average fast food diet seems to be doing them a terrible favor and turning to the few alternatives; juice diets, gluten-free diets, and other fad diets which don’t last much longer than a few weeks (none of which I currently follow, if this is what I may have inadvertently indicated). Outside of the bread, obviously, Panera has some feel-good, guilt-free soups on the menu which will not lead to extra pounds on the scale over time. That being said, nothing seems to have ever made work more difficult in the fast food (or namely, in our example here, fast-casual) than actually being a successful chain for the foodie who wishes to eat sensibly, as well as appealing to a different class of citizens altogether.

Let’s start with what I do. Due in large part to my physical strength, my primary area of expertise is the dining room. This includes all of the following: stocking condiments; brewing four different coffees before their one-hour expiration for the duration of each shift; replacing the creamers (half-and-half and skim milk) as necessary; brewing tea as necessary or before their eight-hour expiration; stocking the quickly-depleted soda lids, straws, napkins in about five areas; replacing about eight sanitizing buckets before their three-hour expiration; resupply the line workers with bowls for half salads, bowls for full salads, soup cups, soup bowls, soup spoons (for our new broth bowl menu items), spoons, knives, forks, and grey trays; resupplying the cashiers with their yellow trays, coffee mugs, and silverware as necessary; cleaning spills, resupplying toilet paper and paper towels to the restrooms; keeping the hand soap filled properly; placing the cushions outside for the patio every morning that I work, wiping down tables in between all of this for patrons who have decided to leave their trays on the table during rush hour; and of course, keeping the supply of hot water for our variety of hot tea options updated every now and then. Not to mention, due to my height, are countless requests by the shorter workers to obtain items from 8 feet up without the use of a ladder. I also failed to note until now that, by far, the greatest demand in what I do lay in the fact that I have to wash every single dish which comes to the bus tubs (these are plastic bins which are designed to hold large amounts of stoneware dishes in the event of a rush hour. And these are utilized very, very frequently).

Sure, that seems to be a lot to remember, and mechanically, I am about as automatically wired to perform this job beyond the capacity for all others as I would be mechanically wired to auto-pilot anything. In the short ten months that I have worked at Panera, I have become an Associate Trainer for the dining room. By default, it seems that everyone has considered me to be capable of performing this job so much so that I exceed the skill of even those who have been here for many years. This is highly unfortunate for me because I also have to greet customers as they are asking me to wipe down tables; some of them like to chat about this-and-that. This takes away from me some capacity for perform my work accurately. But then again, I do it so often that I might even talk to a customer for upwards of 45 seconds before resuming what they call a “travel path” (the purpose of which is to resupply any depleting materials from the condiment stations, as well as busing tables before customers might leave a mess to clean for others who are intentionally waiting for a family to leave so they can get a booth despite all the empty tables to which they have easy access). And this I do five days a week, and have done for just about 7 months now.

In order to become an Associate Trainer, you must certify in three positions and have a level of expertise and knowledge sufficient to performing your job prior to being sent to a trainer class. I have held a certification for sandwiches and dining room (trust me, memorizing 13 or 14 different breads for specific meat combinations which are by default (unless requested otherwise by the customer) is a daunting task, in addition to having to summon these combinations in the blink of an eye, for those cashiers can fill a screen of orders quite rapidly). The tertiary of these which granted me Trainer status was obtaining my certification in salads. In actual despite of these three certifications, my primary area is dining room.

So what gives? Well, it seems that, although I may have certified in all three of the required stations, since I perform so well in the most difficult area of Panera I’m simply a great asset in terms of cleaning dishes and whatnot. Of course, I am not bragging about anything. I do forget from time to time that something runs out while I am busy with washing dishes. The straws run out frequently while I’m there. As do the mustard, olive oil mayonnaise (pretty delicious stuff, if you ask me), napkins, coffee, tea, lids, coffee sleeves — so I don’t perform perfectly. I’m far from it, but I’m so very much assigned my position that everything I need to know comes to me as quickly as simply typing out this post. This makes me the most efficient dining room worker in the eyes of the management whom are in charge of assigning the scheduling, noting my extraordinary height as being an advantage except for where I may actually have minimal use — in either the salad or sandwich station.

Both stations are designed such that each ingredient can be quickly accessed by the person working at that moment. But in my case, being very tall (I was last measured around 6’7” in the Navy, which is around two meters, give or take several thousand nanometers), when standing straight up I cannot see any of the ingredients in the back rows of these little refrigerators. I have to bend down to access them, and even when I can do so, there is a great amount of stress placed on my lower back, exacerbated by the fact that the leverage on the fulcrum which is my lower back is increased each time I extend my arm out to reach those ingredients. This makes me really badly suited for even doing such jobs. I get in the way and it makes me appear clumsy. How I earned my certification in these two stations without much injury is beyond me, but I do know that even though I can be called back to those two stations at any time, the reality is that I hold those positions so infrequently that it always seems to be a challenge to perform those two jobs correctly.

Working at Wendy’s and Sonic proved to have the same effect. I was too tall to reach the furthest sections of the fries without stooping considerably. I actually suffered spinal injuries in the Navy, and although I do get compensated for it, I am certain that these low-paying job are of even minute benefit for my back. Not only that, doing the same thing over and over while being tired of that particular position will lead me to a burnout, an action which I fear looms over the horizon in the future. When, I cannot discern. But when it does happen, I fear that I will have a very definitively difficult time recuperating and feeling motivated enough to look around for another physically-demanding job. Maybe I’ll look to attending college again after some time self-learning some mathematics.

Until the next time I arrive here, adieu.