July 28, 2013

7 for 7: The Grand Finale

Boy I am glad this is the end of 7 Posts for 7 Days. I'd have to do some serious time reorganizing if I always wanted to write every single day. Fortunately for me, and probably you too, I don't.

Since the city of Detroit has been in the news for its bankruptcy, I've spent the week sharing some amusing stories from when I lived there from mid-1997 to mid-1998. Two wrap up this topic, today I'm going to give you whatever other funny Detroit experiences that I couldn't fit into the previous posts. Let's get started.

The Detroit Rep

People half-jokingly asked "why???" when I said I was moving from Tampa to Detroit. Part of that was because of the dramatic change in weather, but some of it had to do with the reputation Detroit had as being a depressed, crime-ridden city. Well, I'll tell you this based on my year there. It was a much better place than the rest of the country thought. Yes, it was sad to see so many abandoned buildings in the heart of the city. But there were also some very nice areas too. Many of the lifelong Detroiters whom I worked with took a lot of pride in showing that the city was moving in the right direction. But unfortunately, things seem to have declined since then; the population has dropped, and now the city is bankrupt. 

Michiganders

I'm a Florida native, so you can call me a Floridian. I live in Texas, so you can call me a Texan. But what do you call people who live in Michigan? When I was up there, I always thought it sounded odd, but they call themselves Michiganders. Every time I heard that term I wanted to say, "What's good for the Michigoose is good for the Michigander."

Canada Geese

Stand your ground! (Courtesy: Wikipedia)
Speaking of geese (I don't get paid for these brilliant transitions), there were some ferocious fowl known as Canada geese that lived all around my apartment complex in suburban Detroit, and they were considered a big nuisance. My biggest problem with these birds was the grammatically-challenged name. Shouldn't they be called Canadian geese?

Anyway, people warned me that these birds can be very aggressive. So whenever I was walking along the trails in the complex and some geese were in the sidewalk ahead, I'd cross the street and go around them. Talk about standing your ground! The Canada geese also were prolific poopers. The bigger the bird, the bigger the -- well, you know.

Even though these geese were huge and tough, they weren't too bright. I remember sometimes seeing a few them standing around behind my building when it was snowing. I'd go back and look again an hour later, and the geese were standing in the exact same spot, and the snow was starting to accumulate on their backs. Find some shelter you fools!

A Detroit Confession

I just mentioned above that my apartment complex was in suburban Detroit. So I guess I have a little confession to make. After spending all week writing about my experience living and working in Detroit, I should disclose that I neither lived nor worked in the city itself. My home was in Farmington Hills, and my employer was in Southfield.

On the Border

Quick geography question for you. True or false: If you drive south from Detroit, you'll wind up in Canada. True! You can see on the map that the city of Windsor, Ontario is south of Detroit.




I thought it was pretty fun living near the Canadian border. The cities of Detroit and Windsor hosted a really neat joint Independence Day festival on July 4th weekend. As an introvert, festivals usually make me cringe. But this one was cool. Despite the Detroit reputation, I thought the shores of the Detroit River on both sides of the border were very pretty.

Funny thing about the border though: Even though I had nothing to hide, I was always very nervous crossing over. Usually whichever way I was crossing, the border guards would just ask for the purpose of my trip, and it was a very quick encounter. But I was always worried that one day they'd ask something more complicated. It's not like I was smuggling a trunk full of Beanie Babies over the border (which apparently was a big problem back then).

An Introvert's Guide to Surviving Winter

For the year that I was in Detroit, I didn't do too much other than go to work and then come home. Part of that was due to my introverted nature, and some of it had to to with the fact that I was a Florida native going through my first real winter as an adult. The winter weather was definitely a disincentive for doing anything. But I ended up joining a gym and going pretty much every day before work. By the time spring came, some of my coworkers thought I was sick because my pants were so loose.

I had an amusing gym routine during the winter. I'm not a fan of communal showers and locker rooms, so I always showed up at the gym dressed to workout and then came home immediately after working out to shower. But in the coldest, snowiest times of the winter, I didn't bother to wear a winter coat to the gym (but did keep in the car for emergencies). Why bother wearing a winter coat into the gym when I would just end up hanging it up and then not wanting to put it back on when I was all sweaty? So I would park my car, run though the parking lot in the bitter cold weather wearing just shorts and a T-shirt, and then run back to my car after working out.

Newspaper Wars

When I got to Detroit, I immediately noticed that the two daily newspapers, The Detroit Free-Press and The Detroit News, seemed very weak for such a big metropolitan area. I soon learned that there was a bitter and violent  newspaper union strike a couple of years earlier, and things were still ugly. On my daily drive to work, I passed by many houses that had signs in the yard disparaging the names of the two newspapers and urging people not to read them. There were also many incidents where people would destroy newspaper vending machines in the middle of the night. I guess things never got much better because I recall reading a few years ago that both papers only publish print editions a couple of days a week. (Although, I wouldn't mind that. I would rather read the electronic edition of anything rather than a hard copy.)

Don't Spend It All in One Place

Michigan was the only state I lived in that had a state income tax. So I dutifully filed my return in early 1998 and received an amusingly small refund. I don't remember the exact amount, but I was something like $1.53, or maybe 53-cents. I remember laughing when the check came in the mail. It probably cost the state more than the refund amount to print and mail the check. Maybe I should have let them keep it!

Get Out of My Way

There's a street called 8 Mile Road that's on the border between Detroit and its northern suburbs. This street had a horrible reputation as a hate-filled dividing line. While I was up there, some official from one of the suburbs (maybe a police chief or a mayor) took a lot of heat for saying that he wanted to, "Push the criminals south of 8 Mile Road" back intro Detroit. Anyway, one of the newspapers or TV stations had a fun little contest asking for people to suggest a new name for 8 Mile Road, thinking that perhaps changing the name would change the divisiveness. 

Some suggestions were overly happy, such as Unity Way or Prosperity Drive. But I read one funny road rage-induced suggestion that the name of the street should be, Get Out of My Way.

Self Service

Despite what the warning labels say, if you're gassing up your car and it's freezing outside, you'd get back in your car until your tank was full, right? Well, that wasn't possible when I lived in Michigan. There was some sort of law or ordinance that banned the little clips on gas pumps that would allow you to let go of the pump. I don't know if that's still the case up there, but it was weird to have to stand there and hold the lever down the whole time while pumping has. I also remember how exciting it was when the price of gas was 99-cents per gallon for some of the time that I lived there.

Pizza Angel

On one hungry night in Detroit, I had an experience similar to what happened with Larry The Cucumber in the VeggieTales video Pizza Angel:



I had gotten home from work around 11:45 p.m. and was starving. The pizza delivery place nearby closed at midnight. So I quickly called and got my order in. Delivery was always very fast so I figured I'd be chowing down in no time.

But slowly and sadly, the minutes ticked away. By 12:45 a.m., I called to check on my order. Someone answered the phone with a curt, "Sorry we're closed." I asked about my order, and he said the delivery guy was on the way. Around 1:15 a.m., I called again. The manager got on the phone and said the delivery guy was in a car accident (but wasn't injured), so the boss himself was making me a new pizza and would deliver it. Sure enough, the manager rang my doorbell around 1:45 a.m. with my order. He didn't charge me for it, but I felt bad and gave him a good tip.

This concludes 7 Posts for 7 Days. I look forward to not blogging for the next few days.

Finis.

July 27, 2013

7 for 7: Working in a Winter Wonderland

[This is day six of 7 Posts for 7 Days. With Detroit making headlines for its bankruptcy, I'm spending the week sharing my Detroit experience. I lived there from mid-1997 to mid-1998.]

Having spent about the first 26 years of my life in Florida, I decided to shake things up and trade in the sunny, sandy beaches of pleasant places like Palm Beach and Tampa-St. Petersburg for the cold, mean streets of Detroit. (Actually, I kind of hate the beach, but it sounds more dramatic this way.) This wasn't actually my first foray into true wintry weather. But it was the first time experiencing a "real" winter as an adult. And that made a big difference.

One thing that worked in my favor was that I moved in June; so I thought, hey, I don't even have to worry about dealing with the snow for many months. But those cold months came quickly. As is often the case, the first snowfall of the year was very pretty and fun to play in. But then morning came, and I had to drive to work!

It wasn't actually too bad. I lived about 15 miles from the TV station, and I had the option of taking (pothole-riddled) highways or well-traveled city streets. On the snowiest days I usually opted for the city streets and never had too many problems. And since I worked a 2 - 11 p.m. shift, I didn't have to tangle with rush hour traffic in the snow.

I really only remember two terrifying incidents while driving in wintry weather. On one occasion, I was taking a vacation and needed to drive to the Detroit airport early the next morning. There wasn't any snow on the ground when I went to sleep, but it was one of those dreadful times when a big overnight snowstorm was in the forecast. So when I woke up, it was a big snowy mess outside and still snowing.

I got up obscenely early so I could made the 30 mile drive to the airport. I put on my heavy winter parka, scraped the snow off my car and tossed my suitcase in the back. But I made a huge rookie mistake: I left my parka on when I started driving. Sure, it was cold when I first got in the car. But the heater did its thing quickly, so I was stuck wearing a heavy coat for what ended up being about a two hour car ride on snowy highways.

Why didn't I just pull over and take off my coat? No way! The center lane of the highway was the only lane that was slightly drivable, and I was barely crawling along in my car while the winter driving experts were passing me on both sides. There was no chance I was going to risk pulling over into the snowier lanes or shoulder and risk getting stuck or hit.

Why didn't I just take my coat off while I was driving? Obviously you've forgotten about the scene in Planes, Trains & Automobiles where John Candy's character tried to take off his parka while driving. (It's safe to turn up the volume; it's a family friendly clip.)


video

(Right after this he had to steer with his knees, but I'll spare you that part and the profanity that went along with it.)

Nope. It would have been to risky to do anything other than keep both hands tightly gripped onto the wheel. By the time I got to the airport (and I wasn't so sure I'd actually make it), I took off my jacket and my shirt was completely soaked with sweat.

The other scary moment is simpler to explain. I was going somewhere overnight (perhaps the grocery store) after a long day at work and was taking an unfamiliar road. The traffic light ahead of me turned red, so I casually applied the brake, but the car wasn't in the mood to stop. So I skidded right though the icy intersection, kind of like in this clip from the same movie:


video

Or maybe my skidding was more like this scene in National Lampoon's Vacation, also edited down to be family-friendly. (Skip ahead to 1:30 for the skid.)





Well, actually, my skidding wasn't anything like that one either. I basically skidded in a straight line through the intersection and recovered nicely and kept going on the other side. I handled it the same way you would handle it if you accidentally trip while you're walking. You just keep going and hope nobody saw you. The reality is, I was darn lucky there was no cross-traffic.

I thought there were plenty of snowy, icy days during my one winter in Detroit. But apparently, the winter of 1997-1998 was considered extremely light for the region. In fact, we had a wet Christmas rather than a white Christmas.

My favorite part of snow was always the quietness. Rain is loud, but snow is peacefully quiet if there's not much wind. And I also really appreciated the arrival of spring like never before. Those days when the forecast called for a high in the 40s seemed so exciting.

When the temperatures rose even higher and things started turning green, I really enjoyed spring like never before. But soon after that, the career ladder was calling again, and I headed back to Florida for a new job. I haven't had a full-fledged "up north" winter since.
 
Preview: Tomorrow is the high-anticipated last installment of 7 for 7 which will be a random compilation of anything else about my Detroit experience that I couldn't fit into the first six posts.
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July 26, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 31 (7 for 7 Edition)


--- 1 ---
This is (only!) day five of 7 posts for 7 days. Since it also happens to be 7 Quick Takes Friday, this post will serve as your CliffsNotes version of my week-long 7 for 7 extravaganza. Since the city of Detroit has been in the news for its bankruptcy, I've been spending the week sharing a little about my experience living and working in Detroit from mid-1997 to mid-1998.

--- 2 ---
On Monday, I shared some of the interesting things about my job interview in Detroit. The TV station flew me up from Tampa for a daylong interview. Let's face it: A daylong anything is excruciating for an introvert. But I was used to this sort of thing during my news days, so I toughed it out, got the job and moved to Detroit a few weeks later. Just to make that interview day a little more interesting, the TV station forgot to pay for my plane ticket (but reimbursed me later), and on the return flight home, the passenger next to me spilled her drink all over me.

--- 3 ---
Tuesday's post focused on my interesting boss in Detroit. Well, he became my new boss just a few weeks after I started the job when the guy who hired me mysteriously disappeared. Or perhaps you could say he was fired. The new guy had an interesting style. He encouraged the newsroom staff to read The National Enquirer, and right in the middle of a newscast one day, I had a phone conversation with him that would have made Richard Pryor blush.

--- 4 ---
Wednesday's edition was the saddest of the week. Just a few days after I started the new job, something happened that ended up dominating the headlines for the rest of the year that I was there. Not long after the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup championship, a player and trainer were critically injured (and to this day have never fully recovered) when a pot-smoking, unlicensed limousine driver fell asleep at the wheel and ran into a tree head-on.

--- 5 ---
Thursday was union appreciation day, sort of.  When I started the job at the Detroit TV station, as a non-union employee I had to re-train my brain in order to comply with union rules. Simple things that I used to do every day in other TV newsrooms were suddenly off limits because they were union jobs. Even pressing an eject button to remove a videotape from an editing deck was a big no-no.

--- 6 ---
Today's Friday, so there's no need to summarize the post you are reading right now. But on Saturday, I'll write about my experience with winter in Detroit. Keep in mind that I'm a Florida native, and the Sunshine State is the only place I had ever (permanently) lived until I went to Detroit. At the time, the locals said the winter we were having was light by Detroit standards. But it was plenty of winter for me.

--- 7 ---
Sunday's post will be my last chance to cram in anything funny or interesting about my Detroit experience. I haven't written it yet, but a few topics I'm kicking around are: Stupid geese, newspaper wars, Dr. Kevorkian, the Canadian border, pizza angel and more. See ya tomorrow.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.
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July 25, 2013

7 for 7: Solidarity Forever

[This is day four of 7 Posts for 7 Days. With Detroit making headlines for its bankruptcy, I'm spending the week sharing my Detroit experience. I lived there from mid-1997 to mid-1998.]

When I started my new TV news job in Detroit in 1997, all of my prior industry experience was at non-union stations. Boy, did I have a lot to learn when I got there. Some of the skills and tasks that had been a daily part of my professional routine were suddenly off limits.

Before I get it into it, I should point out that I didn't mind any of these changes. (Generally I'm a loyal employee and am happy to follow the rules.) But I definitely had to re-train my brain to this new way of doing things, or not doing things. At this new workplace, as a newscast writer and producer, I was not in a union. Most of the other non-management jobs were unionized.

So here's a sample of the interesting rules I had to learn: 

Editing Equipment

It was commonplace for news writers and producers to review videotapes from national news feeds as well as those shot by local videographers. (Keep in mind this was long before the days of getting video feeds directly on your desktop.) But one of the first things they alerted me to was that non-union employees were not permitted to touch any of the video equipment or editing decks. If I wanted to remove a tape from an editing machine, a union editor had to press the eject button. They had a couple of playback-only decks for us non-union folks to use. But if the tape I wanted to see was still in an editing deck, I was unable to pull it out myself.

As I recall, the station at that time was using he Panasonic MM2 format. Here's what the editing decks looked like:

Do not touch! (Courtesy: Ebay)
 
Don't tell anyone, but there were a couple of times when I was desperate to get my hands on a tape that was in one of these decks, but the editor was nowhere to be found. So I may have looked both ways, pressed the eject button with my sleeve (so as not to leave fingerprints) and removed the tape.

Another funny quirk to the rule was that if the videotape was already sticking out of the deck (after someone else had pressed eject), then it was okay for a non-union employee to remove the tape.

Graphics

Local newscasts are filled with on-screen graphics where you see words on the screen and some sort of graphic design behind it. While newsroom software in that era was capable of allowing producers and writers to write the verbiage of whatever on-screen graphics they wanted, we couldn't do this in Detroit because any words that showed up in graphics had to be typed-in by a union employee, not a non-union producer.

To make things more interesting, the job of creating the graphic element or design that would appear behind the words was a non-union task. So as a producer I had to meet with both the union word person and the non-union graphic person in order to create a simple on-screen graphic.

Video Waivers

Any local video used in our newscasts had to be shot by union videographers. That seems to make sense. But what about those occasions where a viewer or freelance photographer catches something wildly-newsworthy on a camcorder and offers to let the news station have the video? Well, we were not allowed to use it on the air. There were some exceptions, however, which required a waiver from an on-duty union steward.

Fortunately, the union stewards I had to go to for an occasional waiver so I could air something in my newscasts were usually very accommodating. The general rule of thumb was that if the home video showed something that we couldn't possibly have known was going to happen, then it probably would have been eligible for a waiver and we could use it. For example, if you happened to witness a plane crashing, and you shot video with your personal camcorder, it would qualify for a waiver. But if you shot video of a news conference, that would not qualify because we could have assigned a union videographer to cover the event.

Live Shots

Anytime the station assigned a reporter to do a live shot in a newscast, it was a contract requirement that two union photographers had to be present during the live shot. The idea was that one person acted as the photographer to operate the camera while the other was the tech who set up the live truck and tuned in the signal, etc. But in actuality, it didn't really matter who set up the shot. In fact, there were times when only one photographer was on the scene and did everything until it was time for the reporter to go on the air live. But if f that second photographer didn't make it to the scene in time, a union tech back at the station would cut off the signal because we were not permitted to use it. It was frustrating, but rules are rules.

Prompter

One of the least desirable but most important tasks during a TV newscast is running the teleprompter which allows the anchors to read the scripts directly of the lens of the camera.  In my earlier years in TV news, this job was more painstaking because you had to line up hard copy pages of the script page-by-page onto a little conveyor belt with a camera above it and control the speed of the belt in sync with the news anchor's reading pace. Nobody liked this job, and oftentimes people who weren't interested in doing to would get pulled into it at the last minute.

Now that I think about it, I don't recall whether we were still using paper scripts for the teleprompter in Detroit, or if the station had upgraded to electronic scripts. But either way, it was a surprise when I got to this TV station and find out that producers and writers would never get roped into running the teleprompter because it was a union job! Only unionized studio technicians could touch the teleprompter.

However, during my last few months, a waiver was granted to allow non-union employees to operate the teleprompter only on Sunday nights for the last few minutes of the late newscast because the union tech had to go over to a second studio to set up for a sports show.

Conclusion

I should point out again that while it may sound like I didn't like these union rules, that's not the case at all. They were just unusual to me because it was my only experience in a union station. In fact, when I left the job in Detroit to accept a higher position at a TV station back in Florida, I was a little gun-shy about pressing the eject button on editing decks. But then I remembered, Oh yeah, I don't have to worry about that anymore.

Preview: Next up, 7 for 7 and 7 Quick Takes Friday will collide. It could be epic. But I doubt it. Tune in tomorrow for the next installment.
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July 24, 2013

7 for 7: Red Wings Tragedy

[This is day three of 7 Posts for 7 Days. With Detroit making headlines for its bankruptcy, I'm spending the week sharing my Detroit experience. I lived there from mid-1997 to mid-1998.]

Throughout the decade that I worked in TV news, I lived in five different cities; and in each stop along the career ladder, there was always one big news story that stood out. While I was working in Detroit, that one big story happened just a few days after I started my new job, and it stayed in the headlines for pretty much every single day of my year there.

Detroit is Hockeytown. So the city was all abuzz about the Red Wings winning the Stanley Cup championship in 1997. But that that didn't turn out to be the big story. Just a few days after the big win, I was still afflicted with new (introvert) employee syndrome at my new job, working a 2 - 11 p.m. shift. So I wasn't exactly prepared for what was about to happen. 

Somehow or other, the assignment editor working the same shift got a tip that a Red Wings player may have been killed in a car accident. [To spare you the suspense, no one was killed.] You know that sound a record player makes when you accidentally drag the needle?  That's about what it sounded like, figuratively speaking, when the celebration of the Red Wings' 1997 Stanley Cup championship came to a sudden and tragic end.

The rest of that long night at work was a blur of story chasing and fact gathering, along with crazed media circuses at the accident scene, the hospital, Joe Louis Arena and other places. As is often the case in big stories, the facts were slow to emerge, and speculation turned out to be wrong. One player who was believed to have been injured in the accident was not actually involved in the accident.

I'll give you a brief recap of what really happened, to the best of my recollection. Fact errors are quite possible. But I thought it would be more interesting to rely on my fleeting memories. If you want the full story, a simple web search of "Red Wings limo accident" should suffice.

Having just won the finals a few days prior, some of the Red Wings players and staff were attending a private party one night. A few of them hired a limousine to take them home. That sounds like a good idea since the alcohol was probably flowing freely at he party.

As I recall, the passengers in the back of the limo suddenly noticed that the driver had dozed off, and the limo was speeding off the roadway into a wide, landscaped median. I think some of them were even banging on the partition in the limo to try to wake the driver. The vehicle struck a tree head-on.

Courtesy: reocities.com
There were a couple of players and a team trainer in the back of limo. One player was injured less severely and recovered. But the two other men are probably still battling to recover all these years later. Eventually that night or the next morning, the media confirmed who was involved.

The two most seriously injured were defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov and trainer Sergei Mnatsakanov (hereafter referred to as VK and SM to save me from having to type Konstantinov and Mnatsakanov over and over). Both were in a coma for a long time, and many people were expecting and preparing for the death of VK. He was known as a very tough player on ice. His nickname was Vlad the Impaler. So maybe that toughness is what helped him survive.

I had just arrived in town, but helping to cover this story certainly broke me in quickly. For the sake of brevity, I'll skip ahead a little. If my memories are accurate, the man behind the wheel of the limo was driving with a suspended license because of a drunk driving conviction. Or maybe it was multiple drunk driving convictions. And I think the investigators found the remnants of a marijuana joint in the front the limo, but there was not enough of the drug in his system to charge him with driving under the influence. In fact, I think all he was charged with was driving with a suspended license and maybe reckless driving.

Needless to say, there was serious outrage all over Hockeytown that the limo driver was not charged with something more serious while two beloved Red Wings were nearly killed. Maybe the driver was charged with something else later, but I don't remember. Had faith been a part of my life back then, I would have done some serious praying for everyone involved in this tragedy.

I would never endorse this line of thinking, but many people in the community were outraged that the driver only suffered minor injuries. He was wearing a seat belt. VK and SM were not, and they suffered serious head trauma in the crash. 

It was a somber off-season for the Red Wings. They still did some of the usual Stanley Cup winning traditions like traveling with the Cup and showing it off all over the world. Several players were from Russia, so when they took the cup to their home country for a visit, our station sent a crew to follow along. (TV newsrooms had bigger budgets back then!). But at every public event, the team always expressed their support for VK and SM.

When the next season started, the Red Wings dedicated it to their injured colleagues and wore a special patch on their uniforms with their initials and the word "believe" in English and Russian. Sure enough, the team played so well that they won the Stanley Cup for a second year in a row.

The most dramatic moment of this whole story occurred after that winning game in 1998. VK was at the arena for the game and was wheeled onto the ice for the celebration. I still have my souvenir T-shirt with the amazing photo from the cover of the Detroit Free Press showing VK  with the Stanley Cup in his lap giving a thumbs up. Sadly, I remember reading a few years later that VK's wife said that within a day or two, he had absolutely no memory of that second Stanley Cup celebration.


Courtesy: My t-shirt drawer
Courtesy: thehockeyguys.net
Not long after that second hockey championship in 1998, I left the Detroit station for a job back in Florida. I tried to keep up with the VK story for the next few years. I think he still requires daily medical care but over the years was able to walk and talk a little more.

On a happier note, it was really exciting to see the way the city celebrated after winning back-to-back championships. One of my biggest regrets about my year in Detroit is that I never made it to a Red Wings game in person. But I did get to see the Tigers play in the old Tiger Stadium and the Lions play in the dump formerly known as the Pontiac Silverdome. 

Preview: 7 for 7: Solidarity Forever will focus on the interesting experience of working at a unionized television station for the first and only time in my career. What had previously been the simplest of newsroom tasks, like pressing the eject button on a video recorder, suddenly were against the rules. Tune in tomorrow for the next installment.

[For others participating in 7 Posts in 7 Days, visit Conversion Diary.]
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July 23, 2013

7 for 7: The (Bleeping) Boss

[This is day two of 7 Posts for 7 Days. With Detroit making headlines for its bankruptcy, I'm spending the week sharing my Detroit experience. I lived there from mid-1997 to mid-1998.]

As a general rule, I don't bash former employers; it's unprofessional, and why would anyone else want to hire people who speak poorly of their former employers? So what I'm doing in this post is just telling you what my TV news boss was like in Detroit. It's just a sample of his -- ahem -- interesting style of management. To his credit, he definitely helped turn things around, infuse new and good ideas, and boost ratings.

Starting a new job always stinks because of the unknown, especially when you are an introvert. The first few weeks are usually the most painful. But when I arrived at the TV station in Detroit, I figured I was a in a good position because the news director had made a significant investment in me by flying me in for an interview and agreeing to pay me a decent salary and generous relocation expenses. So I'd be safe as long as he stuck around, right?

Not so fast. He disappeared just a few weeks after I started. I was too new to know any exact details (and I'm not a fan of gossip anyway), but it was one of those situations where he was in the office one day and gone the next. Also gone was one of the news director's close associates who was sort of my quasi-supervisor. It's a tough business.

How did I handle it? Well, let's just say it was not terribly comforting to suddenly lose the guy who had just hired me. But this must have been in the works for a while, because a new news director started shortly thereafter. Of course, that left the newsroom with the usual feelings of angst that go along with getting a new boss.

The new guy had a distinctive leadership style. He encouraged all the reporters and producers to read the National Enquirer so we could write in an attention-grabbing style. (I never followed that advice. Shhh - don't tell!) There was a running joke (and I think he was in on the joke) that the nicest thing he would ever say to a producer after a newscast was, "Well, that didn't suck." I think he directed that line to me a couple of times. I appreciated the compliment.

He was kind of a yeller, but most of the time I avoided the line of fire since he was probably less worried about the weekend newscasts I was producing. But there was one day when I was in the control room during my show, and a reporter had just finished a live shot for whatever the lead story was. I guess the news director was watching at home and didn't like the story.

Within just a second or two of the reporter finishing the story, my phone in the control room rang. We didn't have caller ID back then. But I could tell by the sound of the ring that it was from an outside number. Sure enough, it was the news director, and he said something that would probably have made Richard Pryor blush:

"Bleep-bleep it! That story was the worst bleep-bleeping piece of bleep I have ever beeping seen in my entire bleeping life. [Reporter's name] better get [his/her] bleep-bleeping act together before [he/she] does this bleppity-bleeping story again at 10. I'm holding you personally responsible. Bleep!"

I think I just said yessir, and that was the end of the phone call. Fortunately for me and the reporter, some other breaking story happened a few minutes later, so I assigned [him/her] to cover that instead of whatever story the news director hated.

But don't get the impression that my work life was miserable in Detroit. The news news director seemed to appreciate my prior experience, so I ended up getting some additional responsibility. And it was a really good experience to work in a top 10 media  market. I stuck around for one year before I decided to leave for an executive news producer job back in Florida.

Preview: 7 for 7: Red Wings Tragedy will focus on the biggest news story that dominated the headlines for my entire year in Detroit. Yes, the Red Wings won back-to-back Stanley Cups while I was there. But the bigger part the story involved the Red Wings, a limousine driven by an unlicensed pot-smoking driver and a devastating life-threatening crash. Tune in tomorrow for the next installment.

[For others participating in 7 Posts for 7 Days, visit Conversion Diary.]
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July 22, 2013

7 for 7: The Detroit Interview

DAY ONE: I'm participating in Conversion Diary's 7 Posts for 7 Days linkup (Ugh, what have I gotten myself into?). Since the city of Detroit is in the news for its bankruptcy, I'm going to spend the week sharing my Detroit experience. I lived there from mid-1997 to mid-1998.

Whenever Detroit happens to come up in conversation and I feel the desire to speak up (rare for an introvert), I'll usually say, "I served a year in Detroit." Then someone else usually says, "In the military?" And I answer, "No, in TV news!"

So how did I end up Detroit in the first place? Well, it all started with a job interview. During my ten years working in TV news, I jumped from city to city several times which is common in the industry. While living and working in Tampa, I sent a resume tape for an associate producer opening at a Detroit station, and they offered to fly me up for an interview.

An administrative assistant at the prospective employer said everything was booked, and all I needed to do was give my name at the airline check-in counter, and they would print my ticket. Of course, this was before the days of electronic ticketing. I don't remember the exact times, but I probably got to the Tampa airport around 5 a.m. all decked out in the suit that I only wore for weddings, funerals and job interviews.

The ticket agent found my name in the computer and said, "That will be $450 dollars. Would you like to charge that?" Uh oh. I guess the station booked the flight but forgot to pay for it. It was too early to call anyone, so I handed over my credit card and figured we'd work this out during the inerview.

When TV stations fly you in for an interview, it's especially challenging for an introvert because you have to spend an entire day (and sometimes longer) interacting with people you don't know. But I'd been through this routine before, so I sucked in my introvertness and did my best.

The news director (read: hiring manager and future boss) picked me up at the airport, and I think the first thing we did was go out to eat, which basically means eating and answering questions at the same time. After that, we went to the TV station where I was pseudo-interviewed by a few other people. Then there was the most excruciating part of the newsroom interview process where they say, "Sit down here and hang out with our producers for a while." Yeah, we introverts love that part.

Of course, you have to make a good impression on the existing employees because they're gathering intel on you at the same time that you're gathering input on them. But it's also awkward because the people you have to hang out with and converse with are busy trying to put their newscasts together and don't want to have to babysit an interviewee. So they were probably as excited to hang out with me as I was with them.

On a brighter note, at some point in the day, I had the opportunity to mention to the adminitrative assistant that I had to pay for the flight. She apologized profusely and either cut me a check on the spot or maybe mailed one to me the next day. I can't remember.

Whenever I've been in this all-day interview situation, as the hours tick by I start thinking irrationally: I've had enough of this. I don't care whether I get the job. I just want to get my rear end back on the plane (preferably next to a non-talkative passenger) and decompress.

Indeed, I was thrilled when the day ended and I was dumped off at the airport. Incidentally, the passenger next to me on the return flight was not chatty... until the soda incident occurred. She accidentally knocked her Coke off the tray table, and much of it splashed onto my pants. From that point on, she wouldn't stop apologizing and offering to pay for my dry cleaning. I respectfully declined her offer and told her not to worry about it. It's not like I wouldn't be taking my suit to the cleaners after a sweat-inducing interview.

I guess you're wondering if I got the job. Of course I did! How would I be able to stretch by Detroit experience into a week's worth of blog posts if I didn't get the job? After some back-and-forth negotiating on salary and relocation expenses, I accepted the job offer and was off to Detroit a few weeks later.

Preview: 7 for 7: The Detroit Boss will focus on my, uhh, interesting boss in the motor city. Remember the news director who hired me? Well, he didn't last very long. Tune in tomorrow for the next installment.
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July 19, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 30


--- 1 ---
Loosen your belt before you look this this picture. Last Sunday some out-of-town visitors borrowed our daughter after Mass and went to "World Famous" Round Rock Donuts. (Locals know that as the place with the interestingly yellow/orange-colored donuts that people seem to go crazy for.) As an alternative to buying a dozen donuts, you can buy one giant donut for the same price. So our visitors brought one back to our house and snapped this photo before digging in.

I dare you to eat the whole thing
 
--- 2 ---
My prayer has been answered. Well, let me clarify that. My prayer question has been answered. Last Friday I was wondering what's a good prayer to say if you're facing a sudden, tragic death. Via email, the Host of Morning Air on Relevant Radio suggested the Memorare (because it's his boss' favorite prayer!).

--- 3 ---
So, what have you been up to since the 80s? That's the first thing I asked at lunch the other day. I met up with an old buddy of mine whom I had not seen since we went to the same camp in North Carolina for a few summers in the 80s. Thanks to Facebook, we figured out that we now live in the same city. The last time we talked, we were young teenagers. Now, we both have wives and children. It was interesting catching up.

--- 4 ---
We all encounter those annoying but sometimes necessary CAPTCHA questions online where you have to type in the words before submitting something. But I was fearful this week when I spotted this complicated mathematical CAPTCHA:


Even with my limited math skills, I was able to figure that one out. But if they ever do long division, fractions or calculus (whatever that is), I'll be toast.

--- 5 ---
My (almost) seven-year old asked an interesting question during the All-Star Game Tuesday Night. She wanted to know if baseball players have to throw with either their right or left hand. I told her it depends on whether you are right or left handed. But she said she would prefer to throw and catch with her right hand. I told her that isn't how it works since she, as a right hander, would have to put the glove on her left hand. But then I remembered a rare exception and explained to her how Jim Abbott used to play with only one hand.

Courtesy: JimAbbott.net

--- 6 ---
I'm not a Yankees fan, but during the All-Star Game it was hard not to tear up while watching the reception future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera received when he came into the game. It's worth watching the video if you haven't seen it or want to re-live the moment.


--- 7 ---
Now wipe away your tears with a quick laugh. Check out this cartoon I found online this week.

Courtesy: Ragan.com
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.
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July 16, 2013

An Introvert's Guide to Haircuts

The next time I get a haircut, I want to wear a sign around my neck that says, "Please Do Not Disturb." This is one of those situations where I'm a captive audience to small talk. I'll always be polite since that's the right thing to do. But I will usually give very short and succinct answers to convince the hair cutter that I don't want to be chatty. Unfortunately, the person who cut my hair last time just didn't get it.

I walked into one of those quickie haircut places that's near my workplace. An employee was sitting at the front desk reading something and immediately checked me in and showed me to her barber's chair. Since I had been there before, she had a little printout from the computer which listed how my hair was cut last time. This is how the conversation started.

HAIR CUT LADY: Do you still want to do a number two [blade] on the sides and a five on top?

ADAM: Yes, please.

HAIR CUT LADY: Wow, it grew back that fast? [The printout showed that I had been  there about a month ago.]

ADAM: Yep.

HAIR CUT LADY: Do you want try a one-and-a-half on the sides instead? That ought to last a little longer.

ADAM: No, let's stick with the two.

HAIR CUT LADY: Are you sure?

ADAM: [Wondering if she gets paid extra to peddle a certain blade.] Yes.

While I didn't really like that she asked about using a different blade twice, I accepted the fact that this line of questioning was germane to the task at hand. But then as she started cutting my hair, she quickly ventured off topic. Lucky me.

HAIR CUT LADY: You got here just in time to rescue me from reading the yellow pages.

I wasn't sure if she was trying to tell me that it was a slow day or if she really was looking in the yellow pages. But who uses the yellow pages anymore? She was probably waiting for me to ask her about it. But I used my good introvert instincts and responded in a non-inquisitive manner.

ADAM: Great.

HAIR CUT LADY: I'm trying to figure out where to go for lunch.

ADAM: Oh.

HAIR CUT LADY: I guess I'll just have water instead.

ADAM: Well, there's plenty of that outside. [It was a rainy day. But she didn't laugh at my joke.]

By now I suspected that she had figured out I am not much of a conversationalist. Or so I thought. There were some pleasant moments of silence, but she spoke up again.

HAIR CUT LADY: You're not here on your lunch break, are you?

ADAM: Well, some of it.

I didn't expand upon that point. I'm sure that an extrovert in this situation would gladly have explained in detail what he was doing now and where he would be going later. But not me. Remember, I keep my answers to a minimum. Then she asked the dreaded work question.

HAIR CUT LADY: Do you work nearby?

ADAM: Yes, near [redacted].

I rattled off the name of a major highway intersection without revealing anything specific about where I actually work. It's not that I don't like my job. I just like to get my haircut in peace without too much forced conversation. We had a couple of minutes of silence. But then she asked a situational question.

HAIR CUT LADY: Do you use any mousse or gel?

ADAM: No.

HAIR CUT LADY: Really?

ADAM: Nope.

A few more minutes passed quietly, but apparantly she was thinking of other ways to entice me to buy something.

HAIR CUT LADY: So you don't even use any mousse or gel when you're going on a date... [awkward pause] with your wife?

ADAM: Nope.

HAIR CUT LADY: Well, it's not like I'm trying to sell you a bottle or anything. [She laughed; I didn't.] 

We had some more peaceful silence. Then the unexpected happened. As she was finishing up with my hair, she reached onto the shelf, grabbed a bottle of goo and put something in my hair.

HAIR CUT LADY: This is just a little [unintelligible] conditioner.

ADAM: [Speechless]

I suppose telling me it was conditioner justifies her using it on me since it isn't mousse or gel. But it would have been nice if she'd asked first. The bottle was Redeken brand, and I could barely see the small print which said something about "distressed hair." I didn't even know my hair was distressed! Anyway, she was just about done when she said:

HAIR CUT LADY: You know, this hairstyle is really good on you.

I was tempted to crack a joke, such as, "I bet you say that to all your customers." But I was mentally drained from the conversation, so I said, nervously:

ADAM: Uhh, thanks.

She finished up, I paid, and I was on my way. Maybe next time instead of wearing a "Please Do Not Disturb" sign, I'll start off by saying:

ADAM: To save you from having to ask, I want my hair cut the same way as last time; yes, it's nice weather we're having; yes, I'm working today; yes, I work around here; no, I don't have any plans for the weekend; yes, I have kids; no, I haven't seen the latest hit movie; no, I didn't go to the Longhorns game yesterday. Now that we got that out of the way, please don't feel obligated to maintain a conversation while you cut my hair.


Don't interpret this the wrong way. I'm not bitter or angry with the hair cut lady. She did a good job and earned a nice tip (without me having to add any numbers in the cents column). And I tried to be cordial too. It's just that I would prefer to sit there in silence. Maybe she can make a note of that in the computer.
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July 15, 2013

A Midsummer Night's Itch


It's almost time for the midsummer classic. But my fondest memory of the baseball All-Star Game has very little to do with baseball itself. It was the itchiest night of my life.

It happened just three years ago. You see, I'm one of the rare people these days who had the chicken pox as an adult. Before I get into the details, here's a public service announcement: If you are an adult and you've neither had the chicken pox nor the chicken pox vaccine, then GO GET THE VACCINE NOW. Right now. Don't wait. Don't delay. Don't dawdle. Pick up the phone. Call your doctor. Call your pharmacist. Call a second-year med student. I don't care what it costs or where you get it. Just get it now.

Here's how it went down. I was sitting in my office at work on an early Friday afternoon and suddenly started feeling extremely tired. Well, I'm pretty much always tired. But this exhaustion was far worse than usual. I also felt very dehydrated.

I had recently started a new workout regimen. So at first I figured my fatigue and thirst were a result of my body getting used to a more rigorous pattern of exercise. But as the afternoon dragged on, I was so tired that I felt like putting my head down on my desk. I stumbled through the rest of the workday and was happy to go home for the weekend.

I had dinner and drank tons of water to hydrate myself. But strangely enough, I woke up on Saturday morning just as exhausted as I was the day before. I think I spent most of my day on the couch while my wife and daughter did other things. This was turning into a real mystery. And it was about to get much worse.

At some point later in the day on Saturday, I started to get the chills and was shivering. It was the same type of chills you get when your temperature is rising. Uh-oh. How could I possibly have had a fever? I wasn't even sick. I took my temperature and, sure enough, I had a fever. This was odd. It was the only time I could ever recall having a fever without any other cough or cold-related symptoms.

This was extra worrisome because early Monday morning, we were scheduled to take our daughter (who's now a happy, healthy cancer survivor) to the hospital for a follow-up scan. We certainly wouldn't want to infect other kids with whatever mystery illness I had. But at this point I figured the fever may go away by Monday morning.

Now let's move ahead to Sunday morning. The fever was still there, and I was still very tired and thirsty. And the plot thickens: By early afternoon, I started to notice some strange red bumps on the inside of my left forearm. And it was very itchy. It kind of looked like some sort of allergic reaction. (I am allergic to those fabric softener sheets that you throw into the dryer. So Bounce is a four-letter work in our household.)

But as the afternoon progressed, my arm became itchier, and that's when the thought crossed my mind. I've never had chicken pox. Has my luck finally run out?

When I was in elementary school, several classmates had chicken pox since it was much more common back then. But even though I seemed to have been exposed several times, I never actually got it. A few years ago, a coworker was diagnosed with the shingles which can be risky for those who haven't had the chicken pox. But a doctor suggested that I probably did have chicken pox as a kid, but I was one of the lucky ones who had such a mild case that nobody noticed. (Thanks, doc.)

The timing started to get tricky. I had to figure out what was wrong with me. It was getting later on a Sunday afternoon, so the nearby urgent-care clinics were closed. And I didn't want to call our family doctor's after-hours help number, because I assumed the advice would be: Go to the hospital if it's serious; otherwise, tough it out and come in to see the doctor Monday morning.

I looked online and discovered that there was a "retail clinic" at a nearby CVS pharmacy. (Here's another public service announcement: Don't go to a retail clinic at a nearby CVS pharmacy.) The place closed at 5 p.m., so I hurried out the door and arrived around 4:45 p.m.

Photo courtesy: Bioethics.net
At retail clinics like this one, you walk up to a self-service computer, enter your information and then sit and wait for someone with a lesser-rank than doctor to call your name. But since the clinic was about to close, I was the only one there. Great, I thought, I'll get right in. I noticed that the exam room door was open and a very young-looking fellow was in there sweeping the floor. I thought perhaps he was a high school kid working a summer job. But no. This was the medical professional! I didn't catch his name, so I'll refer to him as Doogie Howser.

As I approached the computer, Doogie put down his broom and asked me what I was coming in for; so I showed him my arm and told him I was wondering if I had chicken pox. After a quick glance, he said it looked like some sort of viral rash, and if I officially checked-in for an exam, he'd probably just recommend taking Benadryl. He said I could go through with the exam if I wanted to, but it would probably be a waste paying the co-pay and whatever else my insurance company would pay just to be told to take Benadryl. But one thing was clear: He said it did NOT look like chicken pox.

Excellent, I thought during the drive home. I'll take some Benadryl, the rash will go away and I'll be fine to take my daughter to her appointment in the morning. Boy was I wrong. I woke up in the middle of the night, and reality set in. Whatever I had was rapidly spreading. Everywhere.

So my wife and daughter went off to the appointment without me. There's no way I was going to set foot in the children's hospital and risk spreading my ills. I scheduled an appointment with our family doctor for later that morning.

I was surprised that the doctor's office let me walk in and hang out in the waiting room among the general population. Back in the old days, chicken pox patients were herded away from other patients to prevent spreading. I guess the vaccine does a good job, so that's no longer necessary.

The doctor was a little slow to commit to it, but she did officially diagnose me with chicken pox. I was temped to drive back to the CVS clinic to give Doogie Howser a big infecting hug for his misdiagnosis. But instead, I filled the prescription the doctor gave me and went home to wallow around in misery for the next week.

Even though the doctor said there was very minimal risk of infecting my family (my wife had already had chicken pox as a kid, and my daughter had received her shots), I still tried to keep my distance from them. It was a lonely and isolating feeling spending most of the next several days in bed or, occasionally, in the bathtub. Sure, the oatmeal baths that the doctor recommend provided some temporary itch relief. But that relief lasted about 15-seconds.

I won't give you the daily play-by-play. But let me tell you, I wouldn't wish this kind of discomfort on anyone. I hadn't felt this miserable since the Great Valentine's Day Stomach Virus of 2010.

My 2010 All Star Game watching position - Photo courtesy: goeshealth.com
The worst part of the week was the night of the All-Star Game. I painfully watched it from the couch, although it felt more like I was lying on a bed of needles. As a Braves fan, I appreciated Brian McCann hitting a double to give the National League its first win since 1996. But by the time the game was over, I was a disastrous itchy mess from head to toe. And that's not all. The chicken pox had spread into my throat, so I could barely swallow or eat.

On that particular night, I never went to sleep. The itching was just too much, so I literally rolled around in the bed all night. That pretty much describes my week. I finally recovered and was able to re-join society and go back to work the following Monday. Other than being scarred for life in a few places, the only remnants of my bout with chicken pox are these lovely memories.

So as you enjoy the All-Star Game tomorrow night, or even if it bores you to tears, please take a moment to appreciate that you don't feel like ripping off your skin with your bare hands. Play ball.

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July 12, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 29


--- 1 ---
It's unanimous: I'm an introvert.  This week I had to take the famous Myers-Briggs personality test. I've taken it many times before, so it was certainly no surprise that my first letter is I rather than E (for extrovert). But this time around, the results were crystal clear. There were 26-questions used to determine whether a person is an I or an E. On my answer sheet, "I" scored a perfect 26-0. I guess you could say, "The ayes have it." I'm not overly impressed by personality and self-help tests. But for the record, my full result was ISTJ.

Courtesy: personalityworld.com
 
--- 2 ---
On the same day I took that test, I found this great cartoon on the Introverts Are Awesome Facebook page. A human-sized hamster ball? Yes, please!



--- 3 ---
The plane crash in San Francisco last weekend reminded me of something I've always wondered. If you're ever in a tragic situation where suddenly you feel like you are seconds away from sudden death, is there a particular payer you should say?
 
--- 4 ---
Prayer did not come to mind during my scariest moment on a plane back in the 80s. (This was long before faith became a prominent part of my life.) I was on a flight into La Guardia in New York with a blizzard bearing down. During final approach, it was quite obvious that the weather was severe. I remember that the plane was wildly shifting from side to side. It was like no other landing I had experienced before or since. I found out later that our flight was the last one to land before they shut down the airport. As soon as the plane touched down, the pilot said over the intercom, "Welcome to New York. The winds were fierce out there, and it's lucky we made it." I exchanged glances with the stranger in the seat next to me. Excuse me? Did the pilot just say what I think he said?
 
--- 5 ---
Once on a flight from West Palm Beach to Tampa in the 90s, the plane encountered some clear air turbulence and dropped altitude rather abruptly. The flight attendants who were serving drinks at the time had to lunge to hold on so they wouldn't get thrown to the ground. I appreciated that the pilot had a sense of humor about it (since nobody was hurt). He said on the intercom, "I've ordered the flight attendants to discontinue cabin service for the remainder of the flight. I apologize to those of you who didn't get a drink and to those of you who got a drink and are now wearing it in your lap."

--- 6 ---
Now a public service announcement about flying: Please remember that the crew members on a commercial flight are there for a primary reason: to keep you safe. They aren't there just to get you a bag of peanuts and a pillow. So don't forget to smile and say thank you to the crew on your way off the plane. Even if the flight was late and you're having a bad day, don't forget to say thanks.

--- 7 ---
Baseball's All Star Game is next week, but despite being a lifelong baseball fan, I never get excited about the midsummer classic anymore. If the fans get to vote (as they do), then it should be an exhibition game and have no bearing on home field advantage during the World Series. Interleague play also has diluted the fun of seeing NL and AL players opposing each other. And I especially don't like the Home Run Derby that takes place the night before the All Star Game. It is excruciating the way ESPN drags it out into a three hour event. I haven't watched it in several years. Does Chris Berman still do play-by-play for the derby? His silly nickname routine hasn't been funny since the 90s.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.
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July 8, 2013

Unsung Hero: Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy

Sometimes you see people working really, really hard at a really, really tough job making a really, really low wage (presumably). These are among life's unsung heroes, and they deserve a hand or a tip, or both.

I saw one of these amazing unsung heroes the other day at my daughter's friend's seventh birthday party. I didn't catch his name, so I'll have to refer to him as Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy. He looked to be about 16-years old with a very slight build.

The party was at one of those loud venues that makes an introvert cringe. You know those places where you buy (or in this case, the birthday girl's family bought) game cards and then kids can wander around a huge way-too-noisy parlor playing games and earning virtual "tickets" to claim cheap prizes. And, of course, next to all this "fun" is an all-you-can-eat pizza, pasta and salad bar.  (For the locals, this place was called Austin's Park & Pizza.)

Don't let my dramatic description get you down. All the kids had a great time. And after partying and playing the indoor games, they ventured over to the outdoor attractions. Just our luck, it was 104 degrees outside. Among the outdoor fun events were two different go cart tracks- one for older kids and adults, and a "junior" track for the smaller ones.

Not long after the girls got into the junior go cart line, I identified Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy as an unsung hero. He was the lone employee in charge of this entire track on such a sweltering day. When time was up and the previous group of kids finished, he helped my daughter and about nine other girls and boys in line get into their go carts and strap their seat belts. Then he gave them each a quick lesson on how to drive and the rules of the track. Well, actually, I think the only rule was you were not supposed to crash into other cars.

Honestly, as the cars started, I was hoping my kid would not be the one who couldn't figure out how to work the go cart. Fortunately, she did great and drove flawlessly around the winding track many times. Taking a cue from the cautious nature of her parents, she drove especially carefully. Yes, other kids passed her cart a few times. But in some cases, she passed them later after they hit the safety wall and got stuck.

Okay, back to the hero of our story. While the carts are going around, his job was to run all across the track and help any kids whose cars got stuck. This happened several times. To make his job even harder, one girl out there stopped right in the middle of the track and couldn't figure out to get her cart moving again. So Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy ran out there, careful to avoid oncoming traffic, sat on the edge of her cart holding on for dear life and pressed the pedal for her for a while until she got the hang of it.

After the guy helped a few other kids who wrecked (the carts don't go in reverse, so once you're stuck, he had to help push the carts back in the right direction), the poor little girl who had trouble with her cart stopped again.

Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy ran across the blistering sun-heated track and sat on the edge of her cart again. Suddenly, another kid in an oncoming cart failed to swerve out of the way and rear-ended the stalled car. The safely seat-belted kids were fine. But Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy didn't see the crash coming, so he was quite surprised and, judging by the look on this face, slightly wounded. But that didn't deter him from doing his job.

Several more times he kept having to run around the track and help kids who were stuck. Have you ever had to run around an asphalt go cart track in the direct sunlight when it was 104 degrees? Neither have I, but this guy did it over and over and over without showing any hint of complaint. I wonder how long his shift was and if he ever got a break?

When it was time for this group of kids to return their go carts to the starting area, Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy had to explain to them how to drive slowly and one at a time. I think there were only a few minor collisions at this point.

By now, I really felt bad for Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy. Sure, it's probably just a summer job to raise a little spending money. But I thought he ought to be better compensated for how hard he had to work on the hottest day of the year (so far).

I rarely carry cash, but this must have been my lucky day. As my daughter and other kids were getting out of their carts, I glanced in my wallet and spotted a five-dollar bill. As Mr. Junior Cart Guy came over to let the next group of kids through the gate, I handed him the five and said, "Here, you've got a hard job, man." He looked very surprised and said thanks.

Unortunately, I don't have a picture of him to show you. But if you look closely at the end of this short video clip, you'll see him in the distance on the left side, wearing a red shirt and directing kids on the track. Way to go, Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy

video


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July 5, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 28


--- 1 ---
I'm happy to report that we made it through the night. Every year after watching the legal 4th of July fireworks display, I always go to bed hoping and praying that people's illegal fireworks don't inadvertently start a fire. (And in addition to the fire risk, it really worries me whenever people let their children play with illegal fireworks. So dangerous!) This part of Texas is pretty much always at a high risk of wildfires. And don't even get me started about all the people to toss their cigarettes out of cars and start fires.
--- 2 ---
We accidentally bought our daughter a pair of sinful shorts just a few days after I tweeted about the second commandment. Unknown to us at the time of purchase, the inside of the waistband of the shorts says "OMG" (with a peace symbol as the "O") upside down. Apparently, clothing manufacturers think it's in style for little girls to flip down the waistband of their shorts. To my daughter's credit, she and my wife covered it with markers and fabric paint.

Before: sinful shorts
After: holy shorts


--- 3 ---
It was unusual to see a priest in the front row at daily Mass on Monday. It's wasn't at my home parish but one that's close to work. It turns out that he's the newly-assigned associate pastor and was observing from the pews on his first day. But I always thought a diocesan priest attending Mass at a church in his own diocese would be on the altar concelebrating. 

--- 4 ---
After bursting my bubble, the school district has made restitution. The person who oversees the summer camp programs apologized and graciously issued a refund. Most importantly, she really appreciated the feedback and sounded very interested in improving the camp next year.

--- 5 ---
Every once in a while, I pull up a classic cartoon or skit on the Internet (or on the amazing Roku), and my daughter thinks I'm a genius for finding something so funny. This week she's been wanting me to play Three Little Bops over and over. Though Bugs himself is not in it (and Mel Blanc's voice isn't in it either), this this one of the best cartoons from the original Bugs Bunny era. (Sorry, you may have to endure some advertisements attached to the video clip.)




--- 6 ---
Check out our decoy phone. I hadn't seen it since our older daughter was little and we used to let her play with it instead of our real cell phones; but for some reason it turned up again this week. I think this was the phone I used in the year 2000 or maybe 2001. I was impressed at the time that it was sort of small enough to slip into a pocket.


--- 7 ---
As a Florida native, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share this photo that was in the news this week. Maybe it's a subliminal message of the importance of going to college.

Photo Courtesy: WTLV
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.
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