Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Do It, England! Do It!

Success! I was able to produce the required 75ml on demand. But not on first request, as usual.

I'm sure I've mentioned it before but one of my most pervasive psychological problems (oh yeah, I've got a few) is my intense "pee-shyness". I think I've always had it to some extent but it has only gotten worse over the years. Couple that with some real physical issues like a possible enlarged prostate and it becomes a Herculean effort to try to piss on cue.

The need was, once again, for a pre-employment drug test. The urine samples needed for routine lab work from the doctor are not a problem because I can take the cup home and bring it back to the lab...no Chain of Custody and anti-duping procedures. Who's gonna fake a doctor's order for urine? But the drug test urine sample must be secure. Logical, since you can imagine why some people would want to fake this.

I prepped ahead of time, of course. Got up at 8:00 and didn't pee although the usual morning urge was there. Then I got a large diet cola at Burger King on the way to the lab, to be sure I had a nice, full bladder.

But when I had the little plastic cup in my hand and was staring at a toilet taped up with red "Do Not Remove" tape, I knew it was gonna be a long morning. Though the A/C was cranking in this place, I was sweating, trying to get a dribble going.

Everything was bothering me, distracting me from my goal.

First it was my underwear and shorts...in my mind they were seemingly in the way and I feared leaking onto them which would have made a wet spot all over my crotch. I imagined walking out to the waiting room and all the old people in there laughing at me.

Yes, phobias produce such inane trains of thought.

Next it was my "little guy". He was all "shrinkaged" in the George Costanza sense due to the raging air conditioning. I didn't know which way he'd spew. Again the image of giggling elderly folks.

As my anxiety intensified I started to see black spots and was getting dizzy. Yes, it's that bad that I get close to passing out! My inner voice was screaming at me. "If you can't do this, you won't get the job!" it warned me. "You'll become homeless and you'll be begging for food...all because of an ounce of piss!"

I zipped up and disappointingly shuffled back to the nurse. Thinking I'd finished, she told me to set the cup down on the counter. I told her I needed to try again a little later. She was nice about it but she must have been thinking "Oh brother!"

An hour (and about a quart of water) later, I tried again. My bladder was full to the brim and it was somewhat painful at this point. Surely I'll do it this time, I thought.

Again, now with a fresh cup. Fumble with clothing. Senior citizens mocking me. Micro dick. Guffawing geezers. Sweatin' and swoonin'. Self-thought harassment.

Just as I was about to give up for the second time, I remembered that line in the movie "The Madness of King George". The king had some disease which, amongst all manner of nasty symptoms, made it hard for him to pee. There's a scene where he's over the chamber pot with his "little scepter" in hand and he's struggling to produce. He's self-disgusted and yells out loud "Do it, England! Do it!" And wha la...the royal fountain springs.

So that's what I did. Although I didn't shout it out. The nurse would have really rolled her eyes then.

And, just perhaps, the geriatrics would have LOL'd till the cows came home.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Opening Day Chaos

I get to the park early to see if I can get into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter on Opening Day, June 18, 2010. Let's see if I make it....

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

SIMS CREATION: Peterhof Palace

Yesterday's post comparing my home to a palace got me hankerin' to whip up an opulent mansion in Sims 2.

This is my re-creation of Peterhof Palace, built for Peter the Great, Czar of Russia. Not as imposingly massive as Versailles or as cold and stiff as Buckingham Palace, Peterhof is one of my favorite examples of regal residences from the eighteenth century.

Unfortunately, Mildred is showing her age. The exterior and the grounds are finished, but it is lagging badly. I won't be able to furnish the interior at all, let alone play it with the Romanov family I created for it, until I shell out some bucks for a much overdue upgrade in video and CPU power.

Monday, June 07, 2010

MTV Cribs...NOT!

Here's a fun comparison between my house and the Palace of Versailles:

Floor space in square feet: 551,219
Number of windows: 2,153
Number of rooms: 700
Staircases: 67
Paintings in the museum’s collection: 6,123

My "house" (a converted garage)
Floor space in square feet: 190
Number of windows: 2
Number of rooms: 1
Staircases: 0
Pictures on the walls: 14

Alright, I guess most peoples' homes would pale compared to Versailles, but really, I'm feeling a little claustrophobic lately.

Maybe it's six months out of work. You know what they say, familiarity breeds contempt. And boy am I familiar with this place. It seems I never leave.

Here's pretty much all there is to my very humble abode in just 3 pictures. Only the bathroom is omitted.

Here's the view from the front door. Well, actually, the only door. Though it looks like we're in the kitchen, we're actually standing a whole 6 feet away from the kitchen. We're in the foyer/living room/bedroom. The kitchen consists of the crooked fridge, ill-hung cabinets, hanging microwave, little sink and two burner hotplate stove top (the black rectangle in the counter under the oven mitts hung with thumbtacks). The "home office" is on the right.

Panning to the left, we see the enclosure for the bed...yes, it's a Murphy bed spring-loaded inside that nice beige cabinet on the left. Cool, huh! Right. You try sleeping in it for 3 years. I kid. It's actually comfortable, not like those horrible sleep sofa things. No bar across the back. It's just...like everything else in here...small. BTW, the closet and the bathroom are down the "hall" on the right. Yes, that's right, just beyond the edge of the fridge. Yes, you have to squeeze between the corner of the fridge and the TV. You got a problem with that? I do it everyday and I'm fat! Oh, and don't look at that horrendous tape around the new air conditioner in the wall. It doesn't fit since it's smaller than the one that was there before and it's awaiting a "pretty?" wood frame. Don't hold your breath waiting for that...it took my landlord almost a year to get me the A/C!

Now we're looking back to where we were just standing previously. The edge of the desk is on the left of the love seat there, remember? And yes, there's another air conditioner. And yes I run both most of the time. And yes, there's the door. What? Oh I know you're wanting to exit through that door. You're getting depressed and claustrophobic in here, aren't you. Well, that's fine, 'cause frankly, it's cramped in here with more than one person.

Thanks for visiting, but just like on MTV Cribs...now you gotta go! No, really, there's not enough room in here...go!

Saturday, June 05, 2010


If you saw Alfred on the street, you'd probably think he was just another nameless, forgotten, lonely old homeless guy. Nothing special. Not particularly noteworthy. Easily forgotten. I think that's how he got by for years before becoming a client of the agency.

He was of the generation begun well before the founding of social service agencies for persons with special needs. In his day, folks like Alfred were still known as morons or idiots, and despite the harsh tones of those words today, they were not meant as pejoratives back then. They were the early 20th century medically acceptable terms for people with mental retardation.

By the time I met him, Alfred was a man in his early sixties but due to his shuffling gait, a result of painful foot problems, and a cantankerous omnipresent frown shrouded in a seemingly also-ever-present cloud of cigarette smoke, he looked a lot older. A loner, he had few friends either at the day-program workshop or at the group home. His placement in both, according to him on any given day, was highly tenuous. Over the slightest infraction or irritation, and there were plenty, in his mind, every day, he'd scream loudly to all who would hear that he was going to "get the hell out of here!"

I was probably the least liked staff of Alfred's at his group home, at first. Perhaps it was because I was the manager, and despite Alfred's diagnosis, he was quite perceptive. He knew that meant I was the one that called the shots. I made sure all us staff "hassled" him, as I'm sure he saw it, into being nice, being respectful, keeping himself and his home clean.

According to his record, Alfred had been through it all. And it had been undoubtedly rough on him over the years. A product, as is the case of so many clients, of an alcoholic and impoverished household, his learning difficulties were overlooked and he somehow avoided diagnosis until he was already an adult. His rebellious attitude, constant truancy and eventual drop out from school before puberty was not unusual for kids brought up in this economically depressed city. Especially ones, like him, who had been abandoned by his parents and left to fend for themselves.

Once diagnosed, Alfred traded homelessness for institutionalization. From the frying pan and into the fire, some would say. It was likely during his decades of existence there where he apparently developed his second diagnosis of what was then called schizophrenia.

During the push towards deinstitutionalization in the 80's, Alfred remained one of the last "patients" of Ladd School to enter into a group home residency. And it was here, at Gaskill, one of the few "behavior" homes of the agency, he was placed. But it was far from a good fit.

Gaskill Street group home was still too much like a miniature institution and Alfred's attitude reflected that. He hated having to share a room although, luckily, his roommate was one of the most benign and easy-going gentlemen in the house. He disliked the family-style eating arrangements and waiting his turn for the bathroom shared with 3 other guys.

Many staff, especially the younger girls, were afraid to work with Alfred. He'd yell at the top of his nicotine-coated lungs, red-faced, dentures falling out of his foaming mouth, glazed eyes, enveloped by his wildly-furry white eyebrows bulging from their sockets. He was a fearsome sight to behold. And man, did he know some choice cuss words!

A funny thing developed between Alfred and I as the years went by. He learned he didn't scare me and I learned he wasn't all as crazy and mean as he wanted people to believe. I became his go-to guy if he had problems with other residents or staff and, lo and behold, I listened. But he also knew I wasn't about to take any shit either. He didn't demand things be as he wished just because he could out-scream people. Not with me. I treated him with respect and honesty. He hadn't gotten that end of the stick from many staff over the years.

Before long, I wasn't a staff person to him, I was his friend. We'd get together for bowling and go out to eat. I'd bring him over to my parents house on the lake and he'd fish off the dock for hours and then we'd kick back with non-alcoholic beers as the sun went down beyond the horizon. One summer we even went up to Maine. Why Maine? He'd always heard it was nice up there but had never been.

When Alfred was placed in a semi-independent apartment program, I just happened to be transferred there as well. This home was a much better fit for him. He had his own apartment, less staffing and the other apartments on the first floor of this building housed other clients he knew well, and liked better, from the day-program.

Along with some well-timed medication changes, Alfred seemed to transform, almost overnight, into a much happier and calmer person. He became friendly towards his fellow client neighbors and even nicer to the staff. Even the new ones. Although, with the younger girls, he still complained to me saying they were stupid.

After a while, he and his fellow client, next-door neighbor, Mary struck up a relationship. They dated for about a year or two and then they got married. Alfred moved out of his apartment and into Mary's. He and Mary were so cute together. He never raised his voice to her. And she could be a stubborn lady. If she told him to do something he didn't want to, he made a face, but he did it, mumbling his displeasure. Just like any other married man.

After seven years of working with Alfred, I sat down with him one evening and let him know that I was leaving my position and moving down to Florida. I saw he was hurt. For much of the remaining two weeks of my employment, he seemed to avoid talking to me.

Then, on my last day there, he shuffled slowly up to me while we were alone. His eyes were glassy and red.

"Why don't you take me and Mary with you to Florida?" he asked.

When I was at a loss to come up with an answer for him, he begged, "I want you to be my dad."

In his mind, Alfred was still, and would always be, a child. And over the years, I'd become his father figure.

But little did he realize that for me, he was like the father I never had.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Grind On The Horizon

Well, I had my big face-to-face interview and, like the good ol' days, I had the interviewer eating out of the palm of my hand. Suffice it to say...I got the job.

Barring a major screw up with background checks et al, I'll be starting on the 19th...of July that is! Good thing I'm on unemployment. It'd be rough trying to hold out a month and a half if I had no income, for sure.

I'm a little nervous about the background check. These companies outsource that task nowadays to some idiots who have made mistakes and nitpicked over unverified past employers like Grants in NOLA. This has cost me at least two opportunities with big companies in the past. This time, I think they'll only scan for the last three jobs I indicated on the consent form and they're all quite verifiable so I should be good.

What ever happened to the days when a prospective employer could just make the final decision right on the spot without all these incredibly invasive background, credit and criminal checks? I guess companies have gotten burned too often. Or, because of the economy, they are able to just get away with it. With jobs so scarce, who would dare defy them?

The job seems like a good fit, hopefully, and it's for an excellent company. Pay is better than both Chase and Embarq, closer to Symantec's salary. But like my start at Symantec a few years ago, I'll be going through a temp agency first until, and if, they decide to bring me on as a full-fledged employee. I'm not worried about that. Except for the fact that even though my managers at Symantec loved me, it took 9 months to bring me on, and all during that time I had only dental and vision coverage since the temp agency health insurance cost too much for comfort. With all my health issues now though, I'll probably pay whatever premiums they have since I need the insurance bad.

The other thing is the commute. It's near UCF (University of Central Florida) which is on the east side of Greater Orlando. As the crow flies, it's about 20 miles from Lake Mary, but I'm not riding on the back of no bird, I'm driving.

So that leaves 2 viable routes:

Either the debatably faster and more direct route via SR 417 a multi-lane highway with far less congestion than the similarly-laned I4 running through the downtown area 10 miles to the west. Not a bad route. Each way, even during "rush hours" would take about 30 minutes or so. But it would cost me a pretty penny in tolls. Yup, like so many highways around the Orlando area, it's a freakin' toll road. And not cheap, either. The daily round trip would cost about $5, just in toll costs. That shit adds up fast.

The other route would be to take 17-92 and 436 (Semoran). A bit more in miles since it's a less direct route and even though they're considered "major" roads, they're rife with tons of commercial and residential properties with the accompanying side streets, stop lights and traffic. Gobs and gobs of traffic. Semoran Boulevard is one of the most congested arteries of traffic during rush hours and it's still pretty heavy throughout the day and night. I took it as an alternative coming home from the interview...45 minutes. And that was around 10:30am, probably the lightest traffic time there is other than late night, very early morning.

And, the round trip depreciated Nugget's stock of gasoline by 1/8. That's about $4. In one day. I hate paying a lot for transportation.

So, if the prospects seem good after I start and I feel secure about it, I'll probably move closer to work in either August or September.

Of course that's all contingent on how this, my 6th job since I started this blog, goes.

Wish me luck. History shows...I need it!