Till Death Due Us Part

On the wings of the WordPress class awhile back I find myself doing the exact opposite of the class goals: posting infrequently and irregularly. I really respect those of you who commit to regular blogging regardless of what life brings your way. If you’ve read My Two Cats recently, you’ve seen that unemployment has had my number and has been a source of irregular posting. I tried to change it, and right when it was taking a turn for the better, life happened again. Or rather, death.

My stepdad passed away in mid-May, and writing became insignificant in the light of that. Instead, I walked through grief with my mother and reflected on the ‘writing’ of the life I’d known for 22 years; on a marriage that lasted until ‘death due us part.’ It is a rare thing these days – commitment.  Relationships of any kind are under attack by culture. We’re a throw-away society.  We upgrade things and upgrade people. We downgrade people. We remove them from our lives because we’ve succumbed to the rhetoric of positivity.  If they can’t serve the purpose of fluffing our ‘happy place’ pillow, if they make us uncomfortable by expressing the hardness of what they may be going through, then we cut loose the strings.

People miss out on people that way.  People miss out on the richness of life and getting to really know someone. If they only knew  how much they are short-changing themselves because of their premature disconnect. Life is messy and so are people. But I say ‘look longer’.  ‘Dig deeper’.  You don’t stand in a museum and hastily move from picture to picture. You don’t find gold by scratching the surface of the dirt. And you get neither the life transformation nor the treasure if you walk away too early.  Commitment, perseverance, determination … these are what yield the true nature of a thing, the obscured value.

I guess that’s why I love my cats so much.  I’ve taken the time to observe them. I’ve persevered through Timba’s terrible biting phase when most people would’ve tossed him to the shelter. He is my cat ‘soul mate’ now, and I would’ve missed out on the gift of who he is had I reacted the way society shapes us to react. I also could have missed out on the gift of Toby. I thought of getting rid of him due to Timba’s early harassment phase.  I thought Toby was so lovable he’d get a great home, but Timba such a hellion that he’d die in a shelter. I honestly considered keeping the difficult cat to spare him, and painfully parting with the well-behaved cat to likewise spare him. But I stuck that out as well, and for over a year now they have become the best of pals and would grieve the loss of each other probably as much as the loss of me.

Commitment. It doesn’t make me cringe. It makes me smile, because it is worth it. I smile that I’ll have my cats until death do us part. I smile that my mother had her husband until then. I hope you smile at the ones in your life you’ve committed to keeping around for the long haul. And I hope that reading this in some way strengthens your own sense of ’till death due us part’, whatever your connections and relationships may be.

I’m Appawlled

Corporate greed has reared its ugly head again.  I would say greed in general, save for the fact that it is a business to which I am referring.

I went to a job fair a couple days ago and spent 2 hours filling out an application and interviewing for a AAA customer call care center.  I had a nice rundown of the history and services provided.  It was impressive to find out that of all membership organizations that exist, AAA has the most members second to the Catholic church!  Nationwide, and including Canada, AAA has 52 million members.  There are 6 locations in the United States, and each of these have a call center to answer incoming consumer questions and provide support.  I don’t know how many people are in each call center, but I think 100 sounds like a decent estimate.

At the end of the interview, ended by me of course, I found out that the position was only offering $8.50 an hour.  Seriously?  So I decided to venture down the road of a little math, taking some liberties by providing my own estimates, and here is what I’ve discovered.

Let’s say each call center has 100 people.  Six centers would then be 600 call center representatives.  At $8.50 an hour, that is an annual salary of $9,792,000. There are 3 plans of membership, costing $85, $123, or $158 depending upon customer preference.  If all 52 million members had the lowest plan that’s an annual $4,420,000,000; if all members had the middle plan that’s an annual $6,396,000,000; and if all members had the highest plan that’s an annual $8,216,000,000.

So a company/organization/membership/whatever brings in between 4 and 8 billion dollars a year, yet only spends 9 million on its employees who are central to the daily operation and success of the business.  How many 9 millions are in 4 billion? 444 9 millions are in 4 billion.  That’s 444 times the annual expenditure in employee wages.  What a profit, huh? Of course there are other business expenses and other salaries such as travel agents, supervisors, various levels of management and CEO’s.  But still, it gives an idea of how unfair the wages are, not to mention $8.50 an hour is not a living wage.  It is poverty level.

I know this is ‘nothing new under the sun’ as they say.  I do know that even the bible says to give a worker his fair due wages.  I’m glad I’m not one of the people who may someday be accountable for this horrible discrepancy, which exists in spite of my estimates and liberties of calculation.

So yes, I was definitely appalled once I got to thinking about things and doing the math.  There’s probably nothing I nor anyone else can do about it, but I do know one thing.  When I do get a job that pays at least a living wage if not more, and I’ve got the flex room to afford a membership card so that I can have savings benefits for travel or shopping or whatever, I will definitely not be applying for AAA membership.  Out of respect for the grunt workers whose backs are aching and wallets are breaking, I will not get my piddly discounts for a piddly annual fee.  It’s simply unjust, and I can’t  justify partaking in it now that I know that AAA’s wealth is so unevenly distributed among its employees.

Hard Day, Soft Kitty

I could do without days like today. I have a thyroid condition that every now and then demands a medicine adjustment in order to keep me from slipping into a coma. Not literally, of course, but oh how tired I feel. It drags me down in the daytime, and unfortunately that corresponds with my working hours. Turns out a few people would rather not  tap me on the shoulder and find out why I was sawing logs in front of a computer the past two days. Instead they relayed this juicy observation to a supervisor, who then relayed it to my supervisor. Ugh.

Enter a phone call today from my supervisor. Thank God she values me as an employee and figured it was medically related.  Enter signing a “verbal counseling form”, and enter a “p.s.” in an email that the onsite supervisor would like my supervisor to pass on to me that sneakers aren’t allowed during jeans week for the holidays, only jeans. I had no idea any supervisor recognized what shoes I wear. I hardly think anyone recognizes my face. You know, truly recognize. Like acceptance, acknowledgement, not mere visual recognition.

Welcome to the life of an outsourced employee. You are an outsider if you are outsourced. You aren’t part of the workplace culture, despite the “hellos” and “how are yous” that are likely just obligatory as you pass in the hall to the bathroom or break room.  It’s hard being an “unknown” in a place where people seem to know each other to the point of having relationships outside of the workplace.

It makes me think of quotes from the German theologian Jurgen Moltmann, or from Mother Teresa, which basically state that acceptance is the air we breath and without it we wither and fade, that indifference is society’s greatest impoverishment and not poverty itself.

But these difficult things I cannot change. I can’t look pretty, I can’t lose weight fast enough, I can’t afford snazzy, fashionable professional attire to be whatever it is that people are drawn to enough to welcome one into the inner circle.  I can change them no more than I can change the unknown metabolic imbalance tugging like a pit bull at the cords of my consciousness despite a hefty 3-cup-a-day coffee regimen, which by the way would normally have me twitching like an alleyway geeker waiting in line to buy the next fix.

So once I get home, feeling a greater exhaustion born of the stress of having my job placed in a more precarious situation, I sit down at the computer and seek some kind of reprieve from the hardness of not just a day, but a week, a month, a year, three to four years. Hardness all around, rocks and hard places, jagged little edges of piercing circumstances that I have to dance around, without sneakers mind you. Sneakers are a no-no.

Enter soft kitty, who daily has been the barrier between me and a keyboard since living in my temporary apartment. Warm cuddle bug Timba curls up against my chest and rests. His soft fur, warm body, and moderate motor humming away soothe and comfort me. His unconditional affection for me, his desire to be close and near and intimate semi-wash away the hardness and coldness of circumstance and indifference.

It reminds me of quotes from Jesus … “come to me and I will give you rest, all you who are weary and heavy laden.” It reminds me of Jesus himself sleeping through a hurricane strength storm, sawing his own logs on a pillow while his disciple pals are freaking out on the deck above. I wonder if Jesus snored? Was it an imperfection from which he was spared, or was it the mother of all snores being that he was also fully God? I’m thinking the former, but then again, I doubt people would bother recording the magnitude of a Jesus snore seeing as he had so many more worthy things to be recorded. “Cut me some slack, guys, when I’m gone and you’re writing all this down.  Just, uh, tell them that it was the stone rolling away. Remember that, stone rolling away, not snoring to the break of day. K?”

With that little rhetorical question out there, it’s time for me to find my own pillow. It’s not a big storm outside, but the drizzle saps me nonetheless. At least I have my two soft kitties to buffer the day and accept me while I read for a little while.