Tales from the Intermission: Chapter the Second

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In which our heroes bum around and eventually find work, eventually missing the former and regretting the latter

Our arrival was followed by a week of takin' it easy. This was something we were grateful for. The cross-country move kind of took it out of us, so having a week to max and relax was lovely. After we were maximized and relaximized, however, we realized it was time to start seeking work.

The job hunt was not a fun one for us. I hate to be one of those guys who just whines about the sorry state of the economy and all that, but let's face facts: it's a bit hard to find a job out here. I applied to several places: Wal-Mart, the movie theater, several bakeries, and, of course, Bath and Body Works.

Now, those of you reading know me. I'm a decently bright guy. I have a good degree from a good school. My resume is pretty nice. I have good references.

You guys, I could not get a job taking tickets at the movie theater. Bath and Body Works wouldn't even call me. IT IS THAT BAD.

Luckily, Wal-Mart's temp program was hiring. I figured that would be a good way to spend my time, since the position itself is based around capriciousness. I like to think I could have gotten a good, serious, "career-type" job if not for the fact that I'm only here for a few months. I like to think I'd be qualified for it. But as I'm only here for a short time, not many folks are willing to hire, train, and mould someone for several months just to have them pack up and head out.

Anyway. Now I'm big tempin'. I spent the first month of my illustrious temp career in Specialty Tax.

It is exactly as much fun as it sounds.

It's basically the element of Wal-Mart/Sam's Club that deals with state tax exemptions for certain vendors and resellers. My basic purposes there were scanning in documents, copying down license numbers, and doing a LOT of cut-copy-pasting. It was not the most engaging work, but the people I worked with were good folks who took a shine to me. They even got me a cake when I left their division.

Now, though, I find myself in the Private Label Marketing team. I'm not sure if I came as a surprise to them or something, but my employer (again, a very nice lady) just can't come up with anything for me to do. I spend my days getting paid for what is, quite honestly, not very much work. It's not something I'm proud of, but then again, it's not something I can exactly control either. I don't really have the power, knowledge, or experience to really start something out of thin air, so I'm reliant upon assignments and instructions. Alas.

Meagan's job hunt started very similar to mine. She also applied for jobs all over the place, and, despite her great overqualification for them, she didn't get any calls either. When Wal-Mart hired me, they told me that they had looked at her resume and would be happy to hire her, but there was some trouble. Meagan is looking for part-time work so that she can still be home most of the time with Lydia, and Wal-Mart's temp program doesn't do a lot of part-time work.

Finally, after weeks of hunting, Meagan got a call from Lowe's, asking her to come and interview. Think about every Lowe's you've ever been to. You don't really expect the workers there to be rocket scientists, do you? I didn't. But Meagan had to go in not for one, not for two, but for THREE SEPARATE INTERVIEWS just to get the job at Lowe's. And this isn't for a management position or anything--she's just looking to be a cashier.

The three interview system wouldn't have been terrible of itself, except for the fact that the people scheduling the multi-interview weren't exactly on the ball. She did the first, then waited a week, then got the other two in the same night, then waited a week to hear back that she needed to have a drug test….and that she would then have to wait another week to get the results of that test (compare this to my job at Wal-Mart, in which I interviewed, drove straight to the drug test, and got a call that afternoon telling me I had the job and that I could start the next day). So, we fully expect that Meagan will at long last be gainfully employed within the next year. She may even get the chance to start work before we leave town in July!

Tales from the Intermission: Chapter the First

Monday, March 8, 2010

In which our heroes drive across the country and get burned by a Taco Bell's poor parking facilities.

We had just finished loading up a far-too-full moving truck. We sat in our empty living room. Lydia was busy having a nervous breakdown. Really, it was one of those parenting moments that is made up of a combination of sadness for the child's suffering, entertainment at the hilarity of the child's suffering, and guilt for enjoying the hilarity of the child's suffering. She was trying to get into her room, pounding frantically at the door, and then freaking out even further when the door was opened for her and she realized that nothing was in there anyway. We ate one last meal in Provo (Beto's burritos…perhaps the only non-human element I will miss about Provo, Utah) and then got in our terrifyingly huge truck and got on the road.

It was worst in the beginning. I drove the behemoth through the hills and winding roads of the highway to get us out of the stinkin' Rocky Mountains. This drive was useful in that it was a final assurance that I would absolutely not miss the West. Mountains, man…you can keep 'em. It was a white-knuckle affair for a few hours, as I had to alternately floor the gas to achieve record speeds of 45 mph on the highway and then press the brake to the floor to keep my hulking vehicle from careening out of control. FUN TIMES WERE HAD BY ALL.

Once I broke out of the Rockies, it was awesomely smooth sailing. Straight roads, no issues at all. Man, it is EASY to drive across the Great Plains states. Just put on the cruise control…

Oh, yeah, wait, I didn't have cruise control. Yeah, THAT was great. By the time we finally arrived, my right leg was shockingly tired from the constant pressure I had to apply to the giant diesel's gas pedal.

Well, even without cruise, it was still pretty awesome to drive through those highways. I'll grant that there's not much in the way of scenery, but hey, I'm not there for the scenery. I'm there simply to get somewhere else. And the highways obliged me that much.

We ended up getting a hotel just a few miles away from the Colorado/Nebraska border around midnight. We had a good sleep (Lydia got a Pack 'n Play in the closet) and got en route early the next morning. Also, the hotel had waffles! Like the kind you make right there in the flippy waffle iron. YES, I KNOW IT IS AWESOME, THANK YOU FOR POINTING OUT THE OBVIOUS. You are surely jealous.

Replete with fresh-made waffles, we hit the road. The road to lunchtime (the temporal lunchtime, not the legendary Lunchtime, Iowa, home of the world's largest Thermos) was uneventful. But lunchtime…oh, lunchtime, you betrayed me so.

All I wanted was a burrito. Taco Bell seemed a fitting place to assuage this desire. And the Taco Bell in Kearney, Nebraska, seemed so spacious. It would be so easy, I thought. We get a burrito and then we leave. The world keeps turning and all is well.

Taco Bell betrayed me.

The parking lot was not nearly as large as it looked from the road, making turning around in my massive vehicle (which I could not put into reverse due to the car tow dolly I was dragging behind us) impossible. As is my usual response to family crisis, I freaked out. I had no idea how to get our stupid vehicle out of the stupid Taco Bell parking lot. Luckily, my car trip utility belt includes a marvelously sane wife who realized that all we really needed to do was detach the car tow dolly. That would allow us to put the U-haul in reverse, do a 17-point turn, and finally get out of this asphalt Alcatraz.

Leaving our screaming baby strapped into her seat alone in the U-haul (there are so many things wrong there), we figured out as best we could how to get our car off the dolly. It was freezing cold and everything was wet and slushy. My hands turned a rather lobstery shade of red (lobstery, a word used to refer to something resembling an attribute of a lobster, is obviously superior to the traditional adjective lobster-like, though inferior to the intellectual and sophisticated lobsteresque, as made famous in Lord Byron's immortal couplet, "Sittin' at my writin' desk/Feelin' pretty lobsteresque," which many of our readers no doubt memorized in grade school). After struggles with pretty much every part of the dolly (I'm not really handy, you know?), I finally got the car off. We then figured out how to detach the dolly. Our baby still screaming, our burritos growing cold in the cab of the U-haul, we finally managed to get the U-haul facing the exit. Excellent! Now…we just have to move the dolly across the parking lot, reattach it, put the car back on it, secure it properly, and pray it doesn't fly off in the middle of our trip. Simple!

We finally ate our burritos about an hour after ordering them, ready to get the dust of Kearney, Nebraska, off our feet, tires, and anything else the dust of that terrible place touched. We pulled into a gas station to fuel up and get going.

The town was not done with me yet.

Those of you who have driven a large U-haul (or U-haul type vehicle) know that they have a massive fuel tank. This is a good thing. It allows you stop at less-frequent intervals. But it can take a while to fill up.

It can especially take a while to fill up if you pull into the only diesel pump in Kearney, Nebraska, which takes about 30 seconds to pump a gallon of gas. The tank held about 55 gallons. Do the math. We were there for a while. As I watched the ticker on the gas pump climb ever so slowly, I could feel my rage and hatred for Kearney, Nebraska, increase with each slow-flowing gallon.

Basically, Kearney, Nebraska, can just burn. When the revolution comes, that town will be the first against the wall. Readers, I entreat you all to pray for the destruction of Kearney, of its Taco Bell and its accursed parking lot, of its horribly slow gas pumps. Perhaps if our faith is combined, a meteor will come down and wipe it from the earth, instantly raising Earth's cool points by a factor of two.

The trip continued without incident until we were about an hour away from our destination. Then the snow hit. Guys, we drove through Colorado, Nebraska, and Iowa, states all famous for horrible snow and ice in the winter. The only trouble we had was in southern Missouri. It was funny to watch our ETA increase even as our distance decreased. When we were 65 miles away, we were an hour away. When we were 55 miles away, we were about an hour-twenty away. When we hit 40 miles, we were looking at nearly two hours of travel. I was worried we would eventually drive straight into an asymptote and just have to eternally get close to our destination without ever actually arriving.

THAT was for all the readers who keep up with us for our legendary math references. Elevated multiple-digit/palmar impacts* for all!

Eventually, though, we broke through the storm and drove into my folks' driveway around 2 am. We all promptly crashed. The deed was done. We were there. We were home, as it were--at least for a few months.

*Known in the lingua franca as a high-five