Recently, a guy I know passed away. Sure, people die every day and it is the natural end to every living being, but knowing and accepting this natural fact does not make it any easier. Your brain tries to cope with knowing that you will never see that person alive again and it’s enough to make your thought process come to a complete halt. It’s the ultimate example of “cognitive dissonance”.
It’s one thing to grow old together and die from natural causes, like my friends Bob & Char. They had been together for 50 years, then Bob fell ill and passed away. Char lasted another 6 years or so, then she passed away. They were both in their 70s and there was nothing out of the ordinary with their passing.
It’s another thing to be in the prime of your life and then have your life stopped abruptly. A couple who were happily married for a long time now have to deal with the loss of a big chunk of their life. High school sweethearts have an emotional chunk torn from their hearts, from their souls, from their very being. Think about it – your widow has to pack your bags alone, your seat on the airplane is empty, your side of the bed is forever cold. It’s almost enough to make one actually want to remain single, just so that if something terrible were to happen to you, the shock does not affect anyone else. But humans are social animals and life is more enjoyable if you share your experiences with others.
In the end, there are lessons to learn from all of this; and that is that life comes in many forms on this planet and we must treat those life forms with respect. Humans think we are at the top of the food chain but in reality, we are not. Step into another life form’s backyard and the odds are now against you.
This is a copy of the company review I left on http://www.glassdoor.com when I quit working for my longest employer. I wanted to keep a copy of it, since it’s one of those “fueled-by-anger” rants that was one of the main reasons for wanting to leave in the first place.
Jul 28, 2015
“Dilbert is alive & well and works here!”
Former Employee – Anonymous Employee in Elk Grove, CA
Doesn’t Recommend Negative Outlook No opinion of CEO
I worked at ALLDATA for more than 9 years
you’re a “type A” personality and you enjoy being around other “type A”
personalities, then go for it. Unless you want to earn a decent living,
then maybe not.
I worked at ALLDATA twice, for a combined total of over 17 years; and by admitting this, many people will know exactly who I am. I went back to ALLDATA because it was an easy job that I was over-qualified for. After working my way back up to the position that I had left (4+ years earlier), the only real financial gains I saw were realized after filing personal bankruptcy last year. The company offers AZ stock purchase at 85% of retail cost, yet if you don’t have any expendable income, you obviously can’t afford to buy any stock. And let’s not forget the over-inflated stock prices of $600+ per share. They also offer a 401K plan but again, if you have no extra income, how can you afford to buy in? The increases in medical premiums are offset by the annual raise, so I left just as broke as I was 9 years prior when I had gone back. ALLDATA and their parent company AutoZone, claim that their people are their greatest asset, yet the reality is they are no where near a “people company”. Lower staff are expected to be shining stars, yet their best efforts will gain them nothing more than a cheap pin (“flair” for those of you are fans of “Office Space”). Annual raises are a joke, averaging between 2.8 & 3.0%; unless you are able to “redesign the wheel”, which will gain you a whopping 4.0% raise. I know this because I did exactly that not once, but twice over the years. Middle management gets a bonus if (and only IF) their lower employees exceed expectations (which they never will). Upper management re-arranges the EBIT reports so that magically they always get their bonus *every time*. (Funny how that works, right?) Over the years they have tried nearly every “management fad”, usually a decade after every other mainstream company has tried those same ideas. My Dilbert desk calendar was accurate to within 2 days, which is really quite scary when you think about it. How can a company that claims to be the leader in their field be so far behind? If you really care about the people, start by asking them why they are leaving, rather than just giving them an on-line link to a survey (instead of an actual exit interview). Several key people in the department left (myself included) because they were sick and tired of the continued BS, and management’s response was to cut 1/2 of the remaining staff in that department. But hey, thanks to NAFTA they can get programmer level employees to shovel the data even faster than before, assuming of course the “new tools” that had been promised for 15+ years actually stay up and running for more than a week at a time. The automotive knowledge base that built the production department is no longer needed, so don’t expect helpful answers if you’ve got questions. Would I recommend ALLDATA as a place to work? No way.
Advice to Management
own shortcomings are plainly obvious to everyone around you. It’s long
past the time for “trying something new”. Try starting with the basics,
like listening to your employees.
I’m 54 years old and I’ve never had a vacation. Sure, I’ve had time off work, I’ve traveled some, and I’ve seen quite a bit of the countryside by car; but I’ve never had one of those go-visit-someplace-tropical, sit-on-the-beach, and feed-me-fruity-alcoholic-beverages-until-I-roll-face-first-into-the-sand kind of vacations. So when my wife’s youngest son announced he was getting married in Cancun, Mexico, I knew my wife would want to attend and this would be a good opportunity to have a dream vacation.
I must have been daft.
I never thought much about “warm trade winds”, which really means “hot and humid breeze”. Hmmmm, pretty sure I moved away from Virginia because of hot & humid weather.
I’m a light weight when it comes to alcohol, so I was hung over just hours after arriving.
So here I am, fair skinned with enough sun block to stink up the entire neighborhood, and I’m sunburned, of course.
My co-workers warned me to NOT drink the water or put ice cubes in my drinks, but SOMEthing (probably the cold clam salad) has racked my intestines something fierce. 24 hours after arriving, I’m spending “quality time” on the toilet every 45 minutes.
This, of course, meant that we could not go out and do anything. No day adventures in the jungle, no snorkeling boat rides, no any damn thing.
Watching TV was of little consolation because, guess what, I don’t speak Spanish.
We stayed at the Hard Rock hotel, which is rock & roll music themed. The lobby constantly has something playing, as do the restaurants, and even speakers by the beach. My beloved peace & quiet was only found in the hotel room.
So I gotta ask myself, what-the-fuck was I thinking?
I was thinking that I wanted to spend some time with my wife. Apparently I was wrong.
Everyone knows that my day job is being a mechanic and if you look at the number of ASE certificates that I have, I am (at least on paper) one of the best in the nation. Yet I’ve never been invited to one of their gala dinner events where the best mechanics get recognized for their skills and achievements. They know I’m good, my customers know I’m good, but because I live my life mostly in the quiet shadows that define a type-B personality, sometimes it seems that I don’t know that I’m that good.
A good friend of mine needs a full-time mechanic for his business. I actually used to work for him, but my personal situation changed and I left his employment after 2 years. I knew that job would be problematic after only 6 months, but I stuck it out for a total of 2 years because I knew I’d make some money by selling my house and I did not want to get hit with capital gains taxes. And even though I’ve never been savvy to the real estate ‘game’, my hunch was correct and I walked away from that house with $48,000 in my pocket. That money allowed me to work on cars at home for 2.5 years. I was working on cars as a ‘hobby’ then, mostly restoring older cars for myself as well as other people. For them, I charged a nominal labor rate; one that is much lower than any repair shop. Trying to earn a living using hobby techniques taught me one very important lesson – the slower pace that I enjoy working at doesn’t generate enough income to pay the daily bills that our lives seem to create. So every month, my financial windfall would slowly be depleted until such a point as I had to go back to a ‘regular job’.
So now that friend is asking me again – “What would it take to get you back?”, and another friend of mine gave me the answer – a six-figure income and a free house. I have to stop and ask myself “Am I worth that much?” and the fact that I am even asking myself this question only underlines my own self-esteem issues. I am 54 years old, I am one of the best mechanics in the country, but I’ve never been one to ‘aim high’; I’ve only aimed for what I thought my own value was.
So there I was, sitting on a plane, loosing a battle with the Sudoku puzzle, wondering what I should write about next. Seemed like a good time to write about some of the adventures I’ve had over the past 30+ years of being a passenger in a large metal brick.
My first flight was from LAX to JFK (on my way back to Virginia). This was back in 1985, when your friends could walk you right up to the gate, you could have a cocktail with the pilot, and live animals were still OK as long as they fit in the overhead compartment. I had just driven an 18 foot moving van with all of my buddy’s belongings (and towing his Mustang) cross country and I was more than ready to go home. He was putting me on a one-way flight back, and of course, we were running late. In our rush to make the gate, he had forgotten that he was carrying a rather large hunting knife on his belt, a mistake that freaked out the security guard (pre-TSA); but luckily that guard was nice enough to allow him to return it to his truck. By that time I was the *last* person to load onto the plane, thus guaranteeing I was sitting in the middle of the last row. Did I mention I was wearing a coat and carrying a sleeping bag? Nice and comfy…. not. Anywho, the row in front of me was a Mexican family and the grandfather of the group was seated to my left. To my right was a nicely dressed Japanese business man, who downed one drink then slept the entire flight. My 2 years of high school Spanish classes were not enough to carry on a conversation with the grandfather, but I did help him with the reading light, air vent, and headphones (back when airlines provided headphones for free!). I did not know what to expect as far as air travel went, but if you pretend you’re not in a metal tube, moving at 500 miles per hour, with your entire life entrusted to one guy up front, it’s not too bad. Just as we land at JFK, the Japanese guy wakes up, grabs his air sickness bag, and fills it to capacity. I look at him and remark “Dude, you don’t have to do that now, we’ve landed!” I handed him my air sickness bag (another trinket that the airlines used to give out for free) and he ran back to the toilet.
One time when I was flying back to Virginia, we had a rather HARD landing at Dulles International Airport and the stewardess announced “We have landed authoritatively ……” She wasn’t wrong.
On a return flight from visiting one of my sisters in Chicago, someone came on board with a fresh pizza in a delivery box. Instantly the aroma filled the cabin and one guy asked “You brought enough for the whole class, didn’t you?” I think it’s a miracle the pizza (and the guy carrying it) survived unscathed.
Flying with infants is always difficult, especially if they are yours. The first time my (now ex-)wife and I flew with our 8 month old son, he was just as unruly as any other baby, mostly because babies don’t know how to make their ears pop and the pressure changes are painful to them. One trick is to start the baby on a bottle just as the plane starts it’s decent, that way the swallowing pops their ears, making them, and everyone else, happy. He was fussy on take off, so we tried this trick and he nodded off in my lap. But my relief was soon interrupted by the feeling of a warm liquid in my lap. It was then that I realized that his diaper had overflowed.
I think it was on that return flight when he refused to take a bottle and his screams made sure everyone knew he was upset. I ended up taking the top off the bottle and pouring some milk into the cap. My (now ex-)wife asked “What are you doing?” and I replied “I’m going to pour this in his mouth. He’ll swallow or he’ll drown; either way he’ll be quiet“. One big gulp later and his ears were all better, the screaming stopped and a collective sigh of relief swept through the airplane.
It would be another 2 years or so before my son & I flew again. His mother stayed behind and I got to carry him through the airports, trying to make our connections. On the way back, we had a layover in Las Vegas from 3:00 am to 7:30 am. I should have just slept in a chair, but instead I wandered around the airport, carrying my son in my arms, collecting the Smart Carts that you can rent for your bags. Loose carts can be returned for a $0.25 deposit and the spare change I kept generating kept me playing the slot machines for those hours of wait time.
For years I’d actually been wanting to take flying lessons, but in a helicopter, not an airplane. I had told my (new)wife about sneaking away from the science class field trip to the National Air & Space Museum when I was in 8th grade, just so I could ride in one of the Singer flight simulators. So, for a birthday present, she surprised me with an introductory flight in a real helicopter at one of our local airports. The trainer and I were out over a farmer’s field when he asked me “Do you know what an auto-rotate is?” I replied “Isn’t that when you lose engine power and the weight of the machine falling forces the rotor to turn, thus giving you limited control?” He said “Yeah, let’s give it a try” and he switched the ignition key off. Let me tell you, dear readers, that I enjoy a good roller coaster ride as much as the next guy, but this was no ordinary ride. The first 75 feet was *STRAIGHT-THE-FUCK-DOWN*, my stomach was in my throat and the yoke controls were yanked right out of my hand. The instructor took over and he showed me how you could glide it down, all the while the engine sounded like a trucker with the Jake Brake stuck on. About 50 feet from the ground he says “That was fun” and he switches the ignition back on. The engine roars to life once again and we are no longer falling out of the sky.
So let me close with a story that’s funny (but not mine). My parents had only 4 comedy albums when I was growing up and one of them was Bob Newhart. Here is what he has to say about flying….
I’ve often heard people say “Thank God for….”, and I’ve heard just as many people say God doesn’t exist. Those 2 points are at opposite extreme ends and truthfully, neither point is scientifically provable (true or false). Today’s discussion is going to examine a middle ground…. assuming God does exist, exactly how much of our lives is He responsible for? (This is just a thought experiment, I’m not trying to make anyone an Atheist or a believer)
So let’s assume for a moment that God does exist and He has the ability to create life. Did He make your life? No, your parents did. And He did not make their life, their parents made that. We can continue this direction of the discussion as far back as you want to go, with the same results.
The Bible says God made Adam by breathing life into the human form that he had made from dirt, then He made Eve from one of Adam’s ribs. Sounds like magic, unless God has the ability to alter things on the molecular level. Which means He didn’t create life the way your parents did, He simply altered some molecules and life sprung from those otherwise inanimate molecules.
So God has the ability to mix up some ingredients and cause a chain reaction, which (given enough time) becomes you & me. Think about it – our entire world is a giant snow globe that was shaken once, thus starting into motion what we have today. Random combinations that produce some order and LOTS of chaos.
If God existed and he had the ability to actually do this, couldn’t he have done just a little better? Couldn’t he have made a world that doesn’t try to kill us at almost every turn? Couldn’t He have designed empathy into the human experience right from the beginning, instead of forcing some people to learn about it (the hard way) while many others never do? Couldn’t He have put a little time into engineering a world that actually worked well together?
Doesn’t sound very “all-powerful” to me. Sounds more like a school science experiment that an alien life form’s kid turned in and got a “C” grade.