Saturday, January 25, 2014

Traveling Entertainment

He quit talking to me for some reason.
Before moving to Indianapolis, I had a job as a courier (which is just a fancy word for deliveryman). I mostly delivered office supplies, but I had a few contracts that involved me delivering blood for the Red Cross and the occasional biopsy sample for a medical firm. The office supplies were always delivered around town, but when I had medical deliveries, I was on the road for a while.

I usually had to deliver to St. Louis (90 miles from my house), but I didn't always make the pick-up in my hometown. Sometimes, I had to drive for a few hours to even get the product. These trips varied from 180 to 450 miles round trip. In addition to these trips being long, they were always done in the evenings after I had already gotten off my regular route. For this reason, I was usually tired before I even started the trip and often needed help staying awake.

Apparently, it is illegal to talk on the phone while driving and my Candy Crush scores tend to suffer when I can't give the game my full attention, so I am always looking for ways to pass the time. On road trips, this is not an issue because I can pull over at any time to look at anything that catches my eye. When making deliveries, I was on a schedule. It didn't take me long to learn that texting passed the time fairly quickly.

NOTE: My phone is voice activated and the texts are read to me over my stereo system. So, I am not looking at my phone. My eyes are on the road. Sometimes I drive with my feet to entertain myself, but I am always looking at the road.

Recently, while going through my phone, I found one of those texting conversations. It was getting late and I needed someone to talk to. So, I shot a text to my brother Kyle. It turned out he was on the road also and even had other people in the vehicle with him, but I was not deterred. Despite the fact that he didn't stay in the conversation for very long, I tried to keep it going since I had an audience.

That conversation is included on the right.
I didn't feel bad about it. Kyle has a long history of trying to tie up people's time on the phone. Back in the 80's when answering machines still used miniature cassette tapes, Kyle would talk long enough to use up the entire tape. If the machine had a 30-second cutoff, he would just keep calling back until it was used up. He still does this today, but in today's digital world, there is an almost unlimited amount of time. I have received many voice mail messages from him that lasted longer than the Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended versions).

Now that I don't have that job anymore, I have to find new ways to be annoying. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Evil Urban Empire

This is NOT the view from my house.
For a little over a month now, I've been living in the big city of Indianapolis. This is the biggest city (844,000) I have ever lived in. I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico for a year, but it only had 400,000.

There are some major differences between living in the country and living in a big city, but I'm proud to say I have always made the transition fairly well. It's true that I can't pee in my front yard anymore. In fact, I don't even have a front yard. Or a back yard for that matter. Also, as much as I don't like people, I have found it very easy to ignore the multitude of them I am surrounded by. Actually, this is easier to in the city than it was in the country.

Growing up, I really didn't give big city life much thought, but there was one thing I knew. All country people and small town folk know.

You just aren't as safe in the city.

Before leaving my hometown (pop. 400), the worst actual crime committed against me involved someone stealing my garbage and dumping it on the side of the road a mile away. I still don't know what that was about, but I cleaned it up while the police watched. I never found out who did it and the police didn't believe it wasn't me.

Years later, on my first trip to San Juan, I got mugged.

Now, I was in a bad neighborhood and we had been warned to stay indoors after dark, but Dave and I couldn't bear our first night in the Caribbean locked inside someone's house. We just wanted to take a walk. It didn't end well.

Years later, when I actually moved there, someone broke the window on my SUV and stole my wife's purse, which happened to have her wedding ring in it as well as all her identification. These things didn't happen back home in small-town Southern Illinois.

When I moved to Indianapolis, (less than 5 weeks ago) it took all of eight days for my apartment to be robbed. They didn't just rob me, they took something very personal. My pet.

That is a python named Dr. Finklerstein that
we have had for over three years.

When I first moved in, I was told the entire complex was getting new windows. Management would send me a note the day before so I could prep my apartment by moving everything away from the windows.  They didn't send me that note. I left my apartment one day to discover they were putting in windows downstairs. I asked if they were doing the upstairs as well and discovered that I needed to go move some of my things. I then left for the day.

Get in the POT!!!
When I came home, I had beautiful new windows, but later discovered that Dr. Finklerstein was not in his terrarium. I searched all through the house as Kirsten cried on the couch, "That dirty Mexican took him." 

I don't know how she became so racist.

"He took him home to eat him! Snake is a delicacy in Mexico, you know?"

Um...actually, I don't know if that's true.

I searched through all the dresser drawers, behind the shelves, in the boxes that were only half unpacked and as much behind the water heater as I could see. He was nowhere to be found. And my apartment isn't very big.

I finally relented and did what Kirsten was begging me to do. I called apartment management.

The immediate reaction of the woman on phone was of concern for a loose python in the building. I gently tried to reassure her that this was not the case. I've had this snake for three years and he has never gotten out of his enclosure. I told her that I didn't want to accuse anyone, but it seemed odd that he just happened to disappear on the day someone was in my apartment. I understood they couldn't really do anything about this, but I wanted to make a report in case others reported things missing. I also told her I would not be letting people in my apartment unsupervised anymore. Apartment employees included.
While Kirsten was tweeting her rage, I continued looking. Every day for the next week, I expected to see him stick his head out from behind the water heater. I think I got obsessed with the water heater because it was a heat source. I just expected him to gravitate toward it. I finally gave up. Kirsten must be right. Someone fried him up into python nuggets. Or took him home to give to their kids like I did. We're a strange house.

Almost three weeks later, I discover him sleeping on a pile of clothes in a box I had yet to unpack.

I immediately call management to let them know the snake has been found. She responded, "Great. I'll let your neighbors know."

Wonderful. They notified all my neighbors.

At least we'll have something to talk about in the spring when I actually venture outside.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Moving is Stressful

As I stated in my last post, I have moved to Indianapolis. I've been a Hoosier for almost a month now, but it wasn't easy getting here. In my head, I had a plan, but things don't always work the way you want.

The whole reason behind this move was for my schooling and I planned this move to happen during the winter break so it wouldn't interfere with my classes. My last class in the fall was ending on Saturday, December 14 and I would not start up again until January 13. My plan was to move as quickly as possible once school was out, so I could be completely set up (unpacked, internet installed, etc.) once school started again. I didn't want to have to go to the library to write papers and dig through boxes to find my books.

I scheduled my moving day for Tuesday, December 17. I quit my job and told them my last day would be Friday, December 13.

So, my last day at work would be Friday, I wold have my last day of class the next day and then move the following Tuesday. I would be moved and unpacked by Friday and still have three weeks left before school starts. Sounds great, doesn't it?

All of these dates were met, but it didn't happen the way I wanted it to. A major part that I hadn't considered was all the things that have to be done on the weeks leading up to a move. Now, I have moved several times and am familiar with the process. Cable, phones, utilities, and tons of other things have to be taken care of. Lots of phone calls have to be made to prep the new place being moved to. Preliminary packing is useful instead of doing it all in a couple of days. Like I said, I am more than familiar with how all of this works and how much time and effort it takes in that last week to get it all done. What I hadn't considered was what else I had going on that same week.

School is hard
Since my last class was three days before I was to move, that meant my final project was due that day. Being the final project, it is the big BIG one for the class. And this one was huge. I had to put together a month-long lesson plan for an ESL camp with complete lessons, projects, extra activities, explanation of resources, and rationale accounting for every minute. This was no small project. Plus, it was part of a group project. I was teamed up with another person to get all this done. Since I take online classes, we had to try to figure out how to coordinate (e-mail, Facebook, phone calls) to get everything done. This project took up massive amounts of time.

Next, I was in my very last week at work. I had to train my replacement which really wasn't bad except that the first wave of the winter storm hit us on Friday, December 6 (one week before my last day). I have a delivery job. I deliver office supplies all over town. Bad roads make my job miserable and adds a lot of extra time to my day. And since I do not get paid by the hour, extra time makes me cranky.

That first snow fall was so bad, our delivery truck couldn't even get to us. Not that we could have done anything anyway, but not working one day means having double loads brought to us the next day.

So, now, we are a full day behind and having to try to catch up on roads that were still almost impassable. Plus, my job that normally gets knocked out in four to six hours each day is taking up about sixteen hours of my time…and I'm not even getting caught up. There was just too much product and not enough good roads to make all my deliveries. I really needed to get caught up before the week was over, so I wouldn't be dumping this mess on my replacement. However, I needed to be prepping for my move and had this huge project due on Saturday.

In the middle of the last week, my van decides to completely crap out. The $200 I thought it would take to fix the problem turned out to be $1,500 and once they got inside, they told me I would soon need to spend another $2,500 on another major issue. I paid them $50 to just put the vehicle back together and then ran out to buy another car. I just prayed my van would hold together for the last two days of my job. I use my own vehicle to make the deliveries.

The van made it, but just barely. It quit running the very next day. I survived on two hours sleep for three nights in a row and got my project done. On my very last day of work, I delivered every piece of inventory, so my replacement would not be starting off behind. Then packed like a madman for the next two days so I could still leave on schedule.

Since getting here, I have caught up on sleep, but I've received a moving violation, my new car broke down, and my apartment got robbed. However, I think I will save those stories for my next post. I've griped enough.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Around the World (not quite) in 80 Days

80 DAYS!!!

Eighty days is how long it has been since my last blog post. That's a long time considering that shortly before that post, I vowed to post at least twice a week. Let me try to catch you up on my world a little bit. Some major changes have happened in my life since I last wrote.

I have mentioned many times that I'm working on a graduate degree for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. I am now sixty percent of the way through my degree and should graduate in August. However, there has been some concern over my graduation date for the last several months.

In addition to my classes, I am required to do 100 hours of practicum in this field. In other words, I have to find a place to start teaching English before I graduate and start doing it. I have now been in this program for a year and have yet to acquire a single hour. But this is not for lack of trying.

My problem was due to living in a small town with little cultural integration. My hometown has a small population of Spanish speakers and a Chinese restaurant whose employees who do not seem to have a decent grasp of English. There are virtually no English language classes anywhere in the area. I called the local community college to see if I could assist in their ESL (English as a Second Language) courses. They told me they only offer one ESL class every year and no one ever signs up.

Only one high school in the area had a foreign student. That one student had moved from India with his family and only spoke Kashmiri. In the entire world, less than 6 million people speak this language, so it's not easy to find translators for this language. Especially in Southern Illinois.

When I went to the high school to offer my assistance (my FREE assistance, by the way), it was met with much excitement in the counseling office. They basically had no system in place to help this kid who was months away from having to take his ACT and could not speak a word of English. My daughter said he just sat in class and nodded when anyone spoke to him. There would be some legal hoops to jump through, but they were very excited that someone from this field was offering to help. One of them even said that my walking into the office was an answer to her prayers for this kid. Since I was already certified to substitute teach in the school and had been doing so for over a year, I didn't expect it would take very long. However, after a few months, I still couldn't get into the classroom.

Not again!
I finally gave up and talked to the district office for the elementary schools in the area. They showed the same exuberance as the high school. They had a few students who really needed help and were excited to have me available. They even contacted my college advisor to properly coordinate and be sure I would get my credits. However, they never actually made it happen either. Every time I checked in, they would tell me to come back later or explain that it was taking longer than expected. Once again, I had lost several months and was running out of time.

Not long ago, I was sitting in Red's apartment in Indianapolis when someone knocked on the door. He wanted to know if there were any Spanish speakers in the apartment. They were starting an English language course at the apartment complex and wanted to make sure anyone who might be able to benefit from it was aware.

Unbelievable! I had been unsuccessfully struggling to get into one of the extremely limited courses back home and in Indianapolis the opportunities just come knocking on the door. The only thing keeping me from getting my hours was where I lived. A few weeks earlier, my advisor had jokingly made a comment suggesting the same thing. I had just become convinced that she was right.

It took some effort to pull it off, but two weeks ago, I moved to Indianapolis. Two days later, I found a place to start teaching three blocks away from my apartment. It took almost no effort and there are teaching opportunities all over this city.

Plus, I now live in the same city as my girlfriend! No more 200 miles commutes every other weekend.

For those of you who have been following our story, I guess this is our next big step. We started out 900 miles apart. Almost two years ago, it dropped to two hundred miles. And now, she is a 10 minute drive from my apartment.

Life is pretty good right now. Now, I just need a job.