Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Poop House Chronicles (Part Three): How fun for me!

When last we left off, the poop house ended up on my case sheet under false pretenses. I protested this. I was told to take it up with my supervisor. Luckily for me, I had come to the office to meet with my supervisor in the first place. So I met with my supervisor.

"So, how's your case load?"

"Shitty. Now literally."

"What do you mean?"

"I got conned into taking the poop house, and I don't want to set foot in there... Julie has had that case for two years. TWO YEARS! And JULIE can't get them to do anything, I haven't even been here six months, I sure as hell won't be able to get them to stop living in squalor and screwing up their kid's life if Julie can't get it done!"

"Well, I'm going to tell you to just tough it out for a little while. See what you can do with them. Just give it a shot. I know it's going to be unpleasant. But just tough it out for a little while and see how it goes."

"I don't think you understand just how bad I don't want to try on this case. I've had unpleasant cases all along, and I'm not trying to pretend that any of the cases that come in through those doors are by any means pleasant, but this is beyond me... And saddling me with this... This is just begging for trouble."

"Well, there aren't any trainees to give it to, although, I don't think a new hire should be doing this case..."

"I'm barely out of my 'probationary period,' I'm not that much better off! You're right! Give it to someone who has been here long enough to have health insurance, because they're going to need it!"

"You have health insurance. You can do this. Just try."


"Try it. I bet you get further with them than you think!"

"'Try it,' you say that like a mom trying to get her kid to eat brussels sprouts for the tenth time, when the kid didn't like them the first nine times either. The only thing is that THIS ISN'T EVEN GOOD FOR ME, AND I CAN ALREADY TELL YOU THAT I DON'T LIKE IT."

"If you don't see any results, we'll transfer it in a month."

"A MONTH? That's so cruel!"

"Take it or leave it, that's the offer. It's staying on your sheet, and if you want to keep working here, you'll do the job."

"I hope you don't think I'm going to walk around pretending like I'm ok with this."

"Nope. Do what you have to. Just do the job."

Just do the job they told me. Only a month they told me. I would later find out I'd been lied to again... But that's a month later in the story.

In the meantime I admittedly sulked for a little while, and then I called their state case manager. As it turned out, it was someone who had gone to high school with me. To protect the names of the innocent, we'll continue referring to the case as the poop house, rather than by the family name, and we'll call the state case worker Dave.

"Dave! What's happening?"

"Liz! What can I do for you?"

"Well, I've got a case with you... The poop house."

"OH. I'm sorry."

"Not as sorry as I am."

"Yeah, you will have to be there a hell of a lot more than I will... That'll suck."

"Thanks so much. ...So what do you want me to do here that Julie wasn't able to accomplish in her TWO YEARS on this case?"

"Well, to be honest with you, I don't know... I mean Julie had a chore list for them, and so I guess just make sure they are keeping up with that... Maybe introduce some hygiene into the routine. I don't know, just make sure the kid is alive and fed and do what you can."

"You do know the state of the house don't you? There's no way that that house is an acceptable environment!"

"Yeah, I've seen it. I've smelled it. I've done whatever I can to change things for them... And I know it's awful, but technically speaking it meets minimum standards, so it is what it is... Ideally I'd like to get out of there in a couple of months, provided that nothing major happens between now and then."

(That last little caveat in the speech sealed my fate.)

I hung up with Dave, and went to talk to Julie.

"Julie! Why did you dump the poop house onto my case load?"

"Lizzle, they gave that to you? OH I AM SO SORRY!"

"Well, tell me what I need to do to get anything out of them... I am not thinking anything is going to change, but give me your sage advice here."

"Well, stay on top of their chore list. I had them tape it to a cabinet so they'd see it every day, that never did any good, so basically you have to go in at random times and unfortunately you've got to stand there and go through all the chores listed one by one and make sure that they get done so that you can document that they did them."


"Gross doesn't begin to cover that place!"

"I know, but I lack the vocabulary to really say anything about what it really is."

"Nobody has that vocabulary."

"Thanks for the help... And I hate you for dumping this on me!"

"You're welcome!"

And with that, I went home to do a little more sulking. I sulked for about an hour, finished out my standard work day, and went back home to sulk some more... Little did I know that this would be my last standard work day for quite some time.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Poop House Chronicles (Part Two): SURPRISE!!!

After reading the Poop House Chronicles (Part One) you have the lay of the land. You now have at least a mild mental picture of the squalor with which we are dealing. I assure you that the descriptions contained in the last post were completely 100% tame (this post too, is tame, even tamer than the last post.) When compared with what lies ahead... In terms of nerdy references,** the hobbits haven't even gotten out of the Shire yet. They might have encountered a little bit of poop fertilizing a crop or something, but they have encountered nothing even resembling mortal danger just yet.

** Side note: Don't act like you didn't see that movie. I know you better than that. You might not have gone to the theater on opening weekend, or at all, but it found it's way into your netflix queue, or into your stack at blockbuster at some point. I don't care if you have to rationalize it in the "epic scope movie" way, or in the "impressive digital effects" way, or even the "well, it won all those awards, so I figured what the hell" way... The fact is that you saw it, JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE. As a result of seeing that movie, you understand that things only get uglier and uglier and more complicated up until the VERY END. You are only a nerd if, (like me,) you also read the book... possibly more than once. **

It gets FAR WORSE from there, so if that description bothered you, I encourage you to skip all of the Poop House Chronicles posts to come. I will not be held financially or otherwise responsible or in any way liable for any damage to your person, or possessions, (including, but not limited to, vomit on your keyboard, mental anguish, emotional distress, birth defects, heart palpitations, stroke, nausea, anal leakage, suicidal thoughts, self-inflicted wounds resulting from attempting to cleanse yourself by drinking bleach, or by gouging out your eyes with a pen, etc.)

So when we left off, Julie and I were in her car. I was contemplating the serious questions regarding what I was willing to put myself through in order to earn a paycheck and remain on the right side of the law. These were big questions to be sure.

Through the remainder of my training I encountered nothing worse than one house which was mildly cluttered and smelled like locker full of dirty gym socks. Julie again assured me that there was virtually no chance that I would end up with a case that bad, as that was the worst of the worst, and she was already on it, and she's been doing this job for years, so she isn't going anywhere.

I figured that my financial woes were bad enough that I needed to go ahead and see what I was going to get saddled with when I was handed my own case load and go from there. This, my first red flag, would pass by acknowledged but unheeded. I know that they say that hindsight is 20/20, but if I knew then what I know now, there is no way in hell that I'd have stayed on. Not even if they had offered to triple my salary. In retrospect, it really is amazing how long I stayed once the red flags went back up and I got so used to encountering them on a daily basis that I began to suspect I was part of some secret government relocation plan which landed me in China, Albania, the USSR, or some other unpleasant country with a predominantly red national flag.

So my training wore on, and I did so well with everything that I was actually handed cases after only eight days of training rather than the standard ten. While I was ahead of the game, I was behind the proverbial eight ball. Things only went downhill from here.

In the interest of full disclosure, the standard case load for a person in my position is usually something on the order of five to ten cases. Some case workers have as many as eighteen to twenty-five, but that includes cases which are "on hold," which as you may have guessed, means that nobody is doing anything on them, but you're still assigned the case if it should suddenly become active again. The goal of the person in my position is to bill 30 or more hours per week. (Keep in mind that this is BILLABLE time, not necessarily the actual time you will spend dealing with your ne'er do well clients.) In the simplest terms, when you have 10 cases, you obviously spend an average of 3 hours per week on any given case. When you have five cases you average 6 hours per case. Trust me when I tell you that when dealing with any of these clients, spending 6 hours with them becomes QUITE the chore.

My initial case load was most likely designed as a "trial by fire" because my superiors decided that my case load would consist of TWO, count them, TWO cases. This means that if I was merely working the absolute minimum, I would average FIFTEEN hours a week working with each of the TWO families. And the requests of the state case managers had me working closer to 45 billable hours per week to meet all the standards, (working closer to 60 hours weekly when all was said and done). That is ENTIRELY TOO MUCH time for me to be spending with anyone who I don't like, and with whom I wouldn't hang out with at the bar. I was in hell almost instantly.

So I worked my two cases and carried on about my business, trying my best to tough it out until something changed. Mind you, within a month of my first day of training I got called to court to testify against the mother on one of my cases, and I was expected to continue working with her after that testimony shot all kinds of holes in what little rapport I'd established with her. So I did my time, like a good little prisoner, and was constantly cursed at, berated, and belittled for merely doing my job, and six months later she got her children back and I was rid of her... Of course when you're working so heavily on TWO cases, when one closes, you've got to pick up new cases to make up for those lost hours.

I picked up a couple of relatively easy cases, especially when compared to the mega-bitch with whom I'd just finished. I'd still managed to make my hourly quota by dealing with suicide threats and being constantly on call for a woman who seemed to think that just because she had my direct line (which we are unfortunately required to give them) that she was to use it at all hours to let me know at three AM that she'd gotten new shoes, or that she was feeling hopeless and wanted to start self-mutilating again. So at three in the morning I would either have to explain that new shoe news could wait until our appointment the next day at the more civilized hour of nine AM, or haul my ass out of bed, go downtown, and talk her out of filleting her arm. She always refused to go get a mental health evaluation at a hospital, so it was always on me to take care of this mess. Eventually this nut job calmed the fuck down, and my hours began to stabilize at a reasonable level.

For whatever reason, right about this same time, hiring had slowed to a crawl. (This is highly uncommon, as you might have guessed with a job like this, turnover is ridiculous, and with this firm it was PARTICULARLY obscene.) But there was nobody to take on new cases. And in case you didn't already know, people don't stop abusing their kids just because hiring is down. So it wasn't uncommon to get phone calls from the office staff requesting that people with already-full schedules start taking on additional cases. Julie the magnanimous, often gets these calls before anyone else because she loves what she does and doesn't mind working a 60 hour week. Julie got a phone call begging her to take a case which would significantly add to her already over-full schedule. Julie took it. Julie then called the office a few days later stating that she would keep her new case, but that she would need to dump a few of her other, slightly less time-consuming cases in order to fulfill the requests of the state case worker on her new case.

(Most of you see where this is going.)

Not wanting to upset Julie, a highly valued and diligent worker, her wish was granted, and some of her smaller cases were taken off of her service. Of course, this all happened in a back door, cloak and dagger transaction, and one of the cases she dumped (pun only slightly intended) was THE POOP HOUSE.

A short while later, my phone rings. It's the office.


"LIIIIIIIIIZ! How nice to talk to you!"

"What do you want from me?"

"Well, we see that your hours have dropped off from 45 to around 35, and if you want the extra money, we've got some easy cases!"

"You're selling this a little too much, what's on the table?"

"Oh, nothing too terrible! Just a parent aide which shouldn't take more than a couple hours a week, really easy, in and out really!"

"Is it a new case?"

"No, it's a transfer case, so people have already laid the ground work for you!"

"What's going on with them?"

"Well, let's see... There's a little girl. She's five. She was taken out of the home because her dad molested her from the time she was three, she's been in foster care, and now they have put her back in the home with her mom and step-dad and they just want someone to go in and make sure that things are going ok... You might have to help them with finding some resources like food on occasion, but mom has a job, so nothing too terribly involved."

"Let me think about it and get back to you."

"PLEASE take it! I don't have any trainees to give it to, and everyone else is full at this point!"

"Well if you look at my hours, I'm full too!"

"Yeah, but you're not as full as you were! And this is just extra money in the bank!"

"I'll think about it."


"We'll talk about it when I get to the office."

A short while later I got to the office. Again I got pathetic pleading. And I got the repeat of the "easy case, easy money" line. Under false pretenses, I was suckered into taking the case. At this point I am figuring that it can't be that bad. And then I am handed the case information sheet. I see the address. It looks familiar, but I can't quite place it. I look up the address on mapquest and as my jaw hits the desk I develop a stutter. I know this neighborhood. I KNOW THIS HOUSE!


"You lied to me! You told me this was an EASY case that was not heavily involved at all! It might not be heavily involved if I had a hazmat suit, a gas mask, and a bulldozer! I'm NOT taking this case!"

"It's already on your sheet! Take it up with your supervisor!"

RED FLAG!! I was lied to, and conned into taking THE POOP HOUSE! And THE POOP HOUSE itself raised about 9.3 MILLION RED FLAGS!

I should have quit on the spot.

I still needed the paycheck too desperately.

I didn't quit.

I knew what was out there... I just didn't know how bad it was all about to get.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Is there a problem?

I've checked the stats, there are people still reading this stuff. So my question is this; is it actually possible that you have nothing to say about the description of the poop house?

If that's the case, I am amazed. Because the fact is that I have PLENTY of comments about the poop house, even at this early stage in the story.

Is it too long? Is it too much? Are you all deliberately silent for other reasons? I need some kind of response to figure out how to go about telling the story from here on out! If I need to shorten the posts, fine! TELL ME! If I need to be more graphic, just hold on, it'll get there. If I need to be less graphic to get any kind of response, I will likely have to abandon this line of story telling altogether, but I need to know whether or not you all are willing to read this stuff.

Let a ho know!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Poop House Chronicles (Part One) ...Brace Yourself

Imagine if you will, that you left your hometown to attend college in a major city. Over the course of the next several years you find that you are in love with the city, it's charms, and all it has to offer. Suddenly, 6 years later the city you've come to love beyond reason turns its back on you, and you are forced to return to your hometown.

This alone would be more than enough culture shock for most people. I assure you that despite the tears over the financially forced move, this is merely the tip of the iceberg.

I returned to the hometown and performed a pretty standard job search, not setting expectations too high, knowing that the hometown has limited offerings, being the festering cesspool of mediocrity that it is. I was taken on by a social work firm which you all have heard about before, but just so you understand fully, the concept of the job was to work with families who, for a myriad of reasons, were singled out by the department of child and family services. Our role was essentially to do the leg work and heavy lifting for that agency in order to assist the families with achieving goals set by the state case managers to get the children back into a more stabilized home environment, preferably with their natural parents.

I had done a ride along with a long-term staff member during my initial interviewing period. Based on what I'd seen I wasn't overly enthralled with the job, but I understood the concept was to get involved in a "down in the trenches" kind of way in order to improve the lives of the children involved. It appealed to me on the level that I would be using my degree, and on the level that I really desperately needed to start earning a paycheck. So when they called to say, "Your training begins on Tuesday." I went for it.

I went in on Tuesday, got my handbook, filled out standard paperwork, went to take the standard company drug test, and get fingerprinted by the state so that they could check me out and make sure I wasn't a homicidal, child molesting crack fiend or anything like that. They then sent us home to return on Wednesday to watch parenting videos, talk to a lady about Aflac coverage, and do other in-office training. Thursday rolled around, and it was time to venture out into the field as a trainee. The first couple of days of field training were pretty uneventful, and based on the work I'd seen with my new coworkers, I was starting to think that this wasn't going to be such a bad way to earn a living. Little did I know, the other shoe was about to drop.

A few days into my field training, I went out with Julie. Julie is a wonder woman who does incredible things for her clients every day. She works miracles with clients who can't seem to produce results with anyone else, and she does what she does out of deep love and human compassion. My first day with Julie wasn't at all bad. We did a couple of supervised visits, and pretty basic parent aide cases. The next day was a different story. It started out with a basic supervised visit... After about three hours of work, we got into Julie's car, and she got serious.

"Lizzle, I need to warn you about this next case."

"Uh-oh, that statement and that face are already starting to scare me."

"They should. You've been great so far, but this next case is BAD. In fact, it's probably worse than anything you've ever seen in your entire life, and this is by far one of the worst cases we have on the books. The fact is that you will most likely never have a case this bad in the entire time that you work here."

"Oh, Jesus, what the hell is going on?"

"Well, this is a dirty house... But not just any dirty house... More like THE dirty house."


"Ok, so here's the thing. These folks have a lot of animals. And they aren't really good about keeping up with them. And they have a lot of clutter and garbage in and around the house. And they have a pretty nasty bug problem... But the first thing you're going to notice is the odor."

"Odor? ...Odor first?"

"Yeah... It might be the dead of winter, but you'll smell this place the second you open the car door."


"I'll try to keep this appointment as brief as possible, so hopefully we'll only be in there for a few minutes, but these warnings are to prepare you so that you're not going in expecting anything else... The only other warning is that since this house is as dirty as it is, I'm just going to tell you not to touch anything that you don't absolutely have to touch... Which basically means don't touch anything. You won't be tempted to, but don't sit down, and just try to suppress the natural horrified reaction, and keep a poker face like you've seen this a million times."

We drove to a rundown neighborhood in that area of town on the wrong side of the proverbial tracks, and parked in front of THE POOP HOUSE.

Julie was wrong. Upon pulling up to the curb, looking at the house I saw the mess first. The house itself was decrepit. Putting it simply, the house itself looked as if it was defeated, sagging on it's foundation, long past appearances of being condemned and currently looking as if it was minutes away from being slated for demolition. The trash on the lawn, a "lawn" which was dead not only because it was winter, but (if my suspicions were right) was always dead because of the toxicity of the structure on the property, and the liberal coating of assorted garbage which remained plastered firmly on the ground despite harsh winter winds. I then opened the car door, and knew what Julie had said wasn't nearly enough preparation for what was to come, because despite the warnings about the odor, standing out on the curb, across the expanse of the litter-strewn front lawn, the smell nearly knocked me over. My initial thought was to say something to Julie, but knowing that we were outside the safe bubble of the car, I would do better to hold my tongue, (and my breath,) for the time being. I wanted to tell her that any time I'd been in a neighborhood like this, and smelled a smell like this, I had just always assumed that there was something wrong with the flow in the sewer line. I didn't say a word.

We walked up the front walk, and ascended the broken concrete steps to a front porch which was crammed with garbage piled waist-high, broken and dismantled bicycles, broken toys, a folded up wheelchair, a dirty child's plastic play vanity with few, if any, pieces intact, and the ever-present and intensifying putrifying odor of sewer, rot, and vomit inducing foulness. Behind a beige door which I suspected had at some point been white, I heard the sounds of several small dogs barking. Julie knocked, and the door creaked open a few inches. The resident male (I'm reticent to call him a father by any stretch of the imagination, because any real father would not allow a child to exist in this squalor, and we're not even in the front door,) saw that it was Julie, and let us in. As he opened the door, several small dogs came pouring out barking and growling at us and at each other.

We passed through the front door, into a cramped- bordering- on- claustrophobic, dimly-lit space, where the air was slightly warmer, completely stagnant, and to use the mildest term, instantly nauseating. This space, in an ordinary home would be a front room, or living room area. Instead, to the immediate left was a makeshift bedroom setup. There was a bare, dirty, dumpster-ready full or queen-sized mattress on a box spring and frame (I'm basing the assumption that there was a box spring and frame present solely on the height of the structure, not because I could actually see a box spring or frame, because there were heaps of stained, soiled clothing and garbage piled almost level with the top of the mattress.) There was a closet on the far wall, but it was readily apparent that it had not been opened in years, due to the volume of assorted items piled between the closet doors and the bedside. There was one window which was clearly nailed shut, a desk littered with papers, garbage, empty food containers, and cheap trinkets and keepsakes. On one shelf of the desk, among the papers and other clutter was a pile of animal feces which appeared to have been there for some time. Much of this space was obscured by a makeshift room divider, which consisted of a mismatched pair of sheets hanging on a rope strung from the front door frame to the frame of another door leading into the next room. To the right, there were rusted steel shelves, again littered with papers and cheap trinket items. Around the base of the shelves was a collection of several broken, dismantled, outdated computer towers, monitors, and other non-functional electronic items, as well as trash bags filled with god only knows what, papers, boxes of clothing, and other indistinguishable bric-a-brac. Among the bags and boxes was another pile of animal poo, this one significantly fresher than the last, and perched on one of the rusted out shelves was a large, mean looking tan and white cat, which I suspected was the culprit, and which hissed at us as we passed.

Under foot was old, thin, industrial carpet which was really just a collection of medium sized remnants pieced together, and which showed every indication of being caked, smeared, and stained with animal dung very extensively for quite some time.

We proceeded forward into a narrow room which could, in theory, be described as a den or TV room. To the left was a pieced-together old computer, a particle board entertainment center housing a television, gaudy knicknacks, and enough garbage and papers to fill several 30 gallon trash cans to the brim. The garbage was not only on the shelves, but impacted and heaped around and behind the shelving unit. There was a small kitchen table pushed directly against the entertainment center, making it readily apparent that this was where the family ate meals while watching television. And to the back of the room there was a door to the child's bedroom which remained closed. To the right was a ratty, heavily-soiled lazy boy recliner, a low couch which belonged in a landfill, which sat under another window which showed obvious signs of rot and structural damage, which was also nailed shut. To the rear on the right there was another recliner, this one in even worse shape than the first, and upon which there was another fresh pile of dung on one arm rest, another cat perched on the top of the back cushion, and two of the small dogs which barked furiously as we continued to walk past into the kitchen.

Immediately upon entering the kitchen on the left was a rusted metal rack loaded up with bags of rotted food. A transparent bag of what appeared to be some kind of cereal or possibly kibble which was degraded beyond recognition, and moving, as it became apparent that there were cockroaches milling around, eating and doing what cockroaches do. Further to the left was a pantry door, partially open where it appeared several colonies of cockroaches had taken up residence. This was evidenced by... Well, the moving brown and black mass which covered the interior walls and shelves of the pantry. Another shelf of tacky knicknacks, garbage, and animal waste sat in the corner to the left. There was a door to a small bathroom which remained shut, peeling, dirty wall paper, exposing crumbling plaster, and another small kitchen table which was piled to chest level with soiled laundry, upon which there was another pair of cats and more piles of dung which appeared to have been there for varying amounts of time. Beyond the table was a washer and dryer where more cats congregated. To the right of those was a heap of soiled clothing stacked from the floor to nearly eye level in the far corner. Along the right wall was a refrigerator with nothing on it but dirt and rust stains. I didn't even want to know what was in it when the outside looked so foul. Nearer on the right was a double basin sink full above the brim with dirty dishes, pots and pans. A window over the sink was covered in plastic on the outside, and the inside was open a crack. On the window sill was a child's toothbrush and a putrified tube of toothpaste which looked like it hadn't been used in quite some time. More roaches skittered about among the dishes in the sink and up on the windowsill where the toothbrush lay. To the right of the sink was a stove under a row of ceiling mounted cabinets. The cabinet doors were closed, but it was still readily apparent that the roaches lived in there too, because they crawled in and out through the cracks. Looking down at the stovetop, I noticed that there were more dirty pots and dishes, but nestled among them was another cat.

Nearest to us on the right was a waist-high counter stacked with empty bags which once contained food, non-functional kitchen appliances, roaches both alive and dead, and of course, another cat.

On the floor of the kitchen area were at least four piles of animal crap which had clearly been there for anywhere between a few days and a few minutes.

And there I stood, completely horrified... Horrified and trying to concentrate very hard to control my gag reflex in as low-key a manner as possible.

I don't recall what all was said during the few minutes we were in the house, other than Julie stating that the family needed to do the dishes, and pick up the poop.

After making our way back out the front door, and getting into Julie's car, she soaked both my hands and hers with hand sanitizer. We then both used anti-bacterial baby wipes to make sure we covered and killed everything possible. As she turned the car on, and began to drive away, she looked over at me. I can't even imagine the look on my face. I sat there, trying to figure out what I was going to do from here. Trying to figure out how the hell I was going to tell my mom that I'd quit the job I'd gotten only days earlier. Trying to figure out how I was going to get this smell off of me and out of my nose. Trying to figure out how I was going to be able to work the rest of the day knowing that I was contaminated from having just been in that environment.

It was Julie's case, and Julie is known for working miracles with people... There are no miracles at the earthly doorway to hell.

This is only the beginning of your epic journey into the hell I dealt with...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I can't think of a real title, so I'll just tell you, my toes are cold!

Yeah, welcome back, I've been milling around, applying for jobs, reading books, baking cookies, and waiting for my prodigal roommate who seldom ventures home.

Basically, I try to find any form of cheap or free amusements to occupy my time and usually that consists of reading my collection of books, (that way when I start getting paychecks I have excuses to buy new ones!) and playing word twist on facebook. It's really exciting stuff, I know!

But seeing as I spend all that time on facebook playing word twist, I click over to the (now entirely too cluttered and contrived) home page and get updates on my friends. I get a lot of the run of the mill updates, seeing people's wedding photos, status updates mentioning vacations, and things like that, but what amuses me the most are the updates and wall posts of my former co-workers. (GOD, I LOVE THOSE UPDATES!) So often the fine folks still sweating it out at my old job just write updates about how they are looking forward to the weekend, or dreading the coming week. I remember those feelings very well, though not very fondly!

The field workers mention how they have been subpoenaed to go to court and testify against a client, dreading meeting with infamously bad clients, (infamously bad clients who other people had to take on once I left, because I was notoriously saddled with the worst of the worst for much of the time I was there) and dreading case conferences and "family team meetings." Meanwhile the office staff airs their gripes about scheduling problems, training new people, dealing with the boss' wife, and other general complaints about their place in the company. And I would feel sorry for them, but the fact is that if they keep in touch with any of us who got the hell out of there, (and many of them do,) they'd know that the unbelievable feeling of liberation is not only incredible, but incredibly long-lasting! It's well worth any risk or trepidation they might encounter with regards to making a swift exit!

With all this in mind, I'm going to refer you back to a post from a couple of months ago... I just re-read it, and it's just as vivid, horrific, and accurate as it was the day I composed it. I'm not referring you back there to garner additional sympathy, because as far as that job goes, I'm out like a trout, but because it mentions something I think I'm ready to talk about. Namely, the "poop house."

I won't get into it in this post, but I told you that if you stuck it out with me, that you'd get to hear the worst of the worst as far as my work related horror stories go. This post is merely to remind, and more likely warn, of what's to come. Like characters in all those adventure stories and movies you've grown to love, you must steel yourself for what lies ahead!

Bring your A-game in the days to come, and if you've got a weak gag reflex, you might want to stay away for a bit. Call this fair warning. You now know what's coming... You just have NO IDEA how ugly it will be!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A few more hours...

In case you cared (and you're here, so why wouldn't you care!) and don't already know, on Sunday a ridiculous windstorm plowed through the state of Ohio... It plowed through other states too, but we're talking about me here, so FOCUS!




There you are! So anyway, this huge windstorm blew in, and not a drop of rain fell. The same cannot be said for trees, branches, power lines, roof shingles, and morale. Mostly power lines and morale. Fairly early on, the electricity blinked and then went off altogether. The wind kept howling, and there wasn't a drop of rain, or any thunder or lightning, and so while it might have been stupid of us, but we ventured outside largely because we had no electricity so boredom and curiosity quickly took hold. We don't have any big trees in our yard, and all the power lines are out back, so we scurried out front just to see what this storm was doing. After being slapped in the face with some errant, fast-moving loose leaves, we surveyed the scene

Well, the neighbors across the street were all standing out in front of their home too, their curiosity probably stemmed from the fact that a very large pine tree which once stood in front of their house was now laying across the lawn and the street. Since the wind was still gusting away, we marveled at the uprooted conifer for a few minutes, but went back inside. After about a half an hour the winds continued to blow, and we continued to be curious... Especially when we began to hear a chainsaw. (Keep in mind, we are still MID-WINDSTORM.) The neighbors were cutting on their fallen tree. Because really, what moves better in hurricane force winds? A whole tree, or smaller lighter parts of a tree? If you answered the smaller lighter parts of the tree, congratulations, you also have the intelligence that the neighbors lack.

Several hours later, the winds died down.

While the outdoor furniture had been overturned, and there were a few sticks in the yard, our house was unscathed... But we had no power.

We had no power, and we were starting to get hungry. We didn't have any problems with thirst on the other hand, because we'd had a couple bottles of vodka in the freezer and plenty of mix-ins in my liquor box (formerly a liquor cabinet, but here they are relegated to a box.) Since there was no power running to the fridge and the freezer, we figured that we might as well cook up some wings that we'd frozen about a week ago. We defrosted them and fired up the grill. We cooked them as best we could. We used the open bottle of sauce from the fridge, figuring that it would go bad too if it wasn't used almost immediately. But since there was no electricity, there were no lights, and thus no way to tell if the chicken was done. Well some wings were done, and some weren't. We didn't figure this out until biting into them, but we figured it out just in time to save ourselves from a really long ugly night of alternating turns in the bathroom in the dark.

Monday morning we woke up and the electricity was still off. The Admiral made some calls and found out that the electricity was out at her office too, and when you've got electronic door locks and lots of computers, electricity is kind of something that's needed. So she didn't have to go in. So we sat listening to a battery powered radio for a while surveying the damage. Basically, the gist that we were getting between phone calls and radio information was that pretty much the whole damn state was blacked out, and not just our state, but neighboring states as well. GREAT. And of course, since this windstorm was an inland, midwestern result of Hurricane Ike, we knew about the storm, and so did the power companies, but trying to be helpful to the rest of the country, we'd sent most of our utility crews and equipment to other regions to help them out, figuing they'd be hit harder than we would... Oh, little did we know. SPECTACULAR. We called the automated information center at the power company to try to determine how long our area could anticipate being blacked out. The estimate we got was not at all comforting. SEVEN TO TEN DAYS!

Shortly thereafter, the Admiral's boyfriend called. His car charger for his phone was in her car. So the Admiral prepared to take it over to him. As she left, I reminded her, "Ok, now when you're over there, hanging out with your boyfriend, and his brother, and whomever else comes along, and you might have the possible use of a generator, remember that I'm here alone with the cat... And no power." She laughed and said she'd remember and went on her merry way.

And I didn't see her for the rest of the day. I read a book, played scrabble against myself, cleaned up the back yard, you know, the things you do when you don't have access to electricity, internet, and the like.

So she spent the night over there, and I spent the night reading a book by candle light with the cat. Not too bad. A little lonely, but not too bad. The next day rolls around and I busy myself with cleaning the bathroom, sweeping and mopping the floors, and other menial tasks which occupied the hours. And as the evening wears on, it became clear that she was not coming home tonight either. So, like a caveman, I cooked my dinner over a fire in the back yard, and once again I read a book by candle light with the cat. (Dinner was spectacular by the way, and it was a shame that I was the only one there to appreciate it!) Morning comes and since things are clean already, I read for a little while, I played scrabble against myself again, tried to figure out what I was going to eat now that all the perishables were rotten or questionable at best, and the non-perishables were running dangerously low, I played with the cat, I read some more, and finally got so stir crazy out of a need for human contact and external noises of any sort, that I went to shopping centers which appeared to have power and made ordinary purchases like shampoo, conditioner, and non-perishable food items.

I get a phone call from the Admiral.

"We got power there?"

"Nope. Are you coming home ever? Scrabble solitare sucks... But between that and the newfound time to read, I'm improving my vocabulary, and feeling smarter, which is a nice change... I'm also feeling rather Amish, which I'm not such a fan of since I have no barns to build or cows to milk."

"Yeah, I'll probably be around tonight, but I have to do laundry, and since there's no power, I can't do it there, so who knows."

Obviously, I know she wants to spend time with her boyfriend. I understand and respect that... But I was admittedly a little perturbed at the idea of spending another night and day alone in the dark... I hadn't done anything to deserve being sent to prison, let alone solitary confinement.

(I realize that I just compared my life to prison, which even I see as a gross overstatement of things, but when you've been totally alone for three days with no one but the cat to talk to and you can't so much as cook a meal in a kitchen, watch a movie, get online and read the gossip columns, or turn the lights on while showering, you tend to lose your grip on rationality.)

At 5:30 PM the power came back on. Significantly ahead of the 7-10 day outage anticipated. And I immediately scared the cat by loudly lauding the praises of utility crews in impromptu off-key song. I called the Admiral, getting her voicemail, and let her know that she could do laundry here because we had power... And just in time, because if I didn't see a familiar face soon and have someone who was able to talk back to me when spoken to, I was just a few more hours from going totally feral... You know, like those children raised by wolves in under-developed countries! BAD SCENE!

The Admiral came home, did laundry, ate dinner, and left me for the boyfriend's house, again. I'm not going to complain, I'll take the few hours of human contact and functioning electricity where I can get it!

But in case you were wondering where I'd been, there's your answer.

With that said, it's good to be back!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fueling the fire...

I've been doing whatever I can to get my name where it needs to be in order to obtain work.

I'm not being so obnoxious as to purchase space on a billboard, largely because I can't afford it, but still. I'm trying.

And while I've submitted a ridiculous number of resumes in relation to the number of interviews I've gotten, I think my persistence has bitten me in the ass.

While attempting to contact people who I know, and people who I know by proxy, I think that I've managed to get myself blacklisted at one of my biggest possibilities at employment.

To tell you all the story, I emailed someone who I knew by proxy, (not in a presumptuous way, but merely to put my name into contention,) and that person received my email and noted that he would forward my resume on to someone he knew. Well, the person he sent my resume to sent me an email essentially lecturing me on trying to circumvent standard procedures and the problems of attempting to obtain employment by cronyism. TOTALLY NOT WHAT I WAS SHOOTING FOR!

My problem is that I have no idea how to even respond to this type of reception... I mean of course, I will make every effort to smooth any ruffled feathers by issuing a relatively standard mea culpa, even though I don't think that I am at fault for how things were mistakenly construed. I mean really, how do normal people respond in this situation? Or am I just so awkward that normal people don't get into this kind of mess? HELP!

I mean if we're getting into the real nuts and bolts of impulsive reaction to things, I'm not going to lie, my (less than diplomatic) response to things would have been to basically say "Eff you! DICK!" because his response to me was significantly more asshole-ish than was necessary... But no, I am trying to be nice, so I have to be all ,"Oh, no! I didn't mean to try to get work by any means of cronyism, I am the ass here!" Even though that's totally not the case... I'm sure it doesn't help that I've been drinking profusely. That rarely assists rational thought... (Note I sad RARELY and not NEVER, because there are plenty of examples where drunken ideas have turned out to be totally ingenious. But those times are not relevant in this particular case!

Jesus! I have to wrap this up before I start sounding like a total crazy person... That is, if I haven't crossed that boundary already, which is entirely likely.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Responding largely to Brenda...

To any of you fine folks out there who think I'm totally likable, the fact is that you are somewhat mistaken.

The fact is that I am only really likable about 85% of the time.

I'm not saying that I go out of my way to be mean. In point of fact, I often go out of my way to do what I can to be accommodating. This is especially true when I'm just getting to know people. And while the Admiral's sisters have known me, or at least known of me for roughly 6 years, they are still unfamiliar with the ins and outs of knowing me well. And the same is true for me knowing them well, aside from what I get secondhand via the admiral. However, unlike them, I am not socially retarded, so I know that I need to take careful steps in initiating interaction, and avoid offense whenever possible. Though from what you might have gathered, I am highly disinclined to continue being cordial for the sake of getting to know them before deciding to dislike them, largely because they don't seem to give a damn about offending me.

It's becoming much more of a chore than I am inclined to deal with, even for the sake of overall peace and harmony... In fact, while I'm sure that things will eventually blow over between the Admiral and her sisters, I rather enjoy getting to spend the extra time hanging out with her while they refuse to talk to each other, and well, I hardly see how reunifying them benefits any of us, when all they do is degrade her and make her feel bad about the choices that make her happy, and I operate under the premise that ever person has their own vices and virtues, and to each their own as far as things that make them happy... Of course, the social retardation of the sisters makes this mindset really unfeasible for them, and they continue being hostile... So that's not really an issue.

But what do I know? I'm only genuinely likable 85% of the time.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

It might bore you to tears, but I'm going for it...

So I only composed my most recent entry last night, and it was a brief synopsis of how I am boring, and how I seem to be getting more boring by the day, but in the spirit of rekindling some kind of creativity and positive energy, and in that whole "get back up on the horse" spirit of things, I've decided that I'm going to go ahead and post more crap just so that I can get back into the rhythm of being awesome for you. (I do it all for you guys, really!)

Here goes. (This will almost certainly read in the stream-of-consciousness spectrum of writings, but just roll with me.)

Today I went and officially got my Ohio driver's license. Not really all that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things until you consider one important fact. For the first time EVER, I am genuinely happy with my driver's license picture! The thing is, if any of you as ever seen a current Ohio driver's license or state ID, you've probably noticed that the picture is kind of blurry. On every driver's license I've seen since coming here, that's the case, so it's not like they just blurred things out for me because I was busted or something... I'm not of the low self esteem mindset to call myself busted (I'm kind of reasonably cute, though grossly out of shape) but anyway, everyone is blurry, not just me. But I'm not happy with the picture just because I'm a little blurry, I'm happy because even in the normal resolution photo they showed me before they slapped it on a legal form of identification, it was a really respectable ID photo. I think this might also have something to do with the fact that for the first time in entirely too long, I'm pretty genuinely happy with most of my life... I mean, yes, I'd be happier if I had a job and normal human interaction every day, and an income to boot, but I'm not working a job that makes me miserable. I'm reasonably healthy, (despite the aforementioned and acknowledged need to get to the gym solely for the sake of personal pride and enjoyment of physical activity... Gym memberships, too, cost money, and therefore come with a job that delivers not a pittance but a real paycheck not earned by dealing with threats of bodily harm, lice, scabies, or poop, so that too will be solved with the new job whenever that comes along.) I get to hang out with my best friend at least a couple of nights a week. I still get to talk to my mom on a daily basis. I don't live in the festering cesspool of mediocrity known as my hometown anymore, and ... Well, if that can't make a person happy, then you're beyond help.

I have the added bonus of getting to see one of those family members who ensures a quality outing and lots of laughs this weekend... I'm speaking of course of my Vegas benefactor cousin, who is headed to town for some football/tailgating/ridiculousness. It promises to be a good time.

For those of you who wanted to know more about the indiscriminate bitchery of the Admiral's sisters which spawned my own little schpiel, I'll give you some details... Let's see how you all interpret things. Friday night I'd gone out to happy hour with the Admiral and the sisters. We'd had a pretty good time, and all things considered it was uneventful in that nobody was pissed off at anyone, everyone was on speaking terms, etc. After we left the bar we returned to the house belonging to one of the sisters, and continued our drunken amusements. At one point shortly thereafter, I noticed that the Admiral had gone to bed... Knowing that this was not in keeping with the Admiral's behavior, I went looking for her. I found her in a bedroom in tears. After a bit of talking, I determined that while I was chatting with a guy at the bar, the sisters descended in full force on her and basically said anything and everything that they could to verbally shit on the Admiral, her life goals, her newfound happiness in her relationship, her friendship with me, (despite the fact that they both readily admit to the fact that neither of them has any friends,) and everything else they could think of which made her happy in life. Two words: NOT COOL. Not at all cool. After some genuine kindness and honest talk, I calmed the Admiral down, noting that it was two people being jealous of her happiness, and trying to downgrade her happiness and accomplishments in any way just to make themselves feel better. Despite my initial inclination, I said nothing to them, and let it slide knowing that this was a common occurence in their family dynamic, and so I went to bed. The plan for the rest of the weekend was to watch the football game, send the Admiral off to a concert in Cincinnati where she would spend Saturday night and then Sunday, and on Monday we would go to the Admiral's childhood home for a Labor Day BBQ... This was not to be... Shortly after sending the Admiral off to the concert, my phone rang. It was one of the sisters. I answered cordially, saying hello, and asking what was up, and the reply was somewhat shocking. "Um, I'm just calling to let you know that you're officially uninvited to our parents' house on Monday. That's all. ::CLICK::" I didn't even have an opportunity to ask what had happened, or to respond in any way. Obviously shocked, I waited a few minutes to process what had just happened, and to wait for a second phone call to indicate that the first call had been a joke. (Needless to say, that second call never came.) After a cursory few minutes of waiting, I called the Admiral to make her aware of what had just transpired. She was incensed. She noted that she was ashamed that anyone in her family would behave like that, but noted that they had been fighting via phone since she left with her boyfriend to go to the concert. She advised me that she was pissed off beyond belief, and that despite my own shock, not to dignify the incident with any kind of response, and that she'd deal with it... A week later, and she's still not talking to them, there has been no kind of apology from either of the sisters, and the Admiral and I enjoy our evenings by sitting and talking about any number of things and knowing that her sisters are miserable and alone because of their own indiscriminate bitchiness. That might make us bitchy, but I think we're entitled.

Man, that was an excessively long tale without any paragraph breaks... Sorry.

Anyway, that really brings you up to speed... Have a good weekend, and I'll check you later!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

No news is not good news...

Still here, still unemployed, still applying for jobs every day, still being boring, still hanging out with the cat, still glad I don't work for those assholes in my hometown anymore.

That's really they update.

Oh, and the Admiral's sisters hate me. And I think it's kind of funny, because they are total bitches like 98% of the time anyway. (Brenda, they would both qualify to teach advanced level courses of indiscriminate bitchery... They don't have a reason to be bitchy, and apparently they don't need one, but they are bitches anyway!)

I really wish I had something more to tell you, especially considering it's been more than a week since my last post, and since I feel like I get dumber and less creative by the hour, because all I do is sit and watch forensic files or other stuff on cable when not applying for jobs, but hey, at the end of this I might be able to commit the perfect crime just using information gleaned from copious amounts of crime tv viewing! (I'm sure that sentence has me flagged on those government lists again! DAMMIT.)