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300 Seconds Episode #116: “What’s In My Name?”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode! 

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 116, “What’s in My Name?” so let the 300 seconds begin!

It says something that even my name makes my life a little bit trickier than it has to be.  Growing up, I went by “Edward” instead of “Eduardo.”  If you’re wondering why, let’s just say that in my parent’s time, having a Spanish name wasn’t always an asset.  In any event, I went by Edward when I was in grade school and high school and even put it on my first driver’s license.  Once I finished high school and started college I stopped going by Edward.  My thinking was that Eduardo was the name that my parents gave me and so that was going to be the name I used from there on out.  Surprisingly enough, I didn’t get any grief from the folks at the Department of Transportation when I asked to have it changed on my first driver’s license renewal. 

I’ve gone by Eduardo ever since then, so family members and people that knew me in my younger years tend to call me Edward, and everybody that has met me since college and beyond will use “Eduardo.”  And because people are lazy, lots of people will just shorten it to “Ed.”

And that’s okay.  I am perfectly fine with “Ed.”  A funny thing happens when I tell people my name; they tend to ask what I want to go by.  “Should I call you ‘Eduardo’ or ‘Ed?’” they ask.  I usually tell folks that are obviously, shall we say, “ethnically challenged” to use “Ed” because Spanish is sometimes hard.  Also, most folks are eventually going to chop it down to “Ed,” anyway.  I will sometimes make the mistake giving people a choice, I’ll tell them: “Whichever one is easier for you to pronounce.”  That often results in a blank stare.  You know that look that your dog gives you when you throw a ball but instead you really kept it in your hand and they figure it out?  That’s the kind of look that I get.   Just flip a coin or something, people, it’s not that hard.  I had one manager who would completely screw it up when he took attendance at our daily meetings.  I figured that he was either super-ethnically challenged or he was an idiot.  We quickly found out that not only was he an idiot, but he was the living, walking embodiment of the Peter Principle.  Look it up.

When I had a job that involved talking on the phones, I quickly learned that using the proper pronunciation of ‘Eduardo’ would end up turning into a way-too-long discussion about my name.  If I answered the phone like this: “Thank you for calling, my name is Eduardo, how may I help you?” the customer would usually answer with a question like: “What’s your name?  How do you spell that?  Can you repeat that?” and my personal favorite:  “Are you in the United States?” and so on and so on.  I quickly learned that if I wanted to avoid that business, I had to gringo up the pronunciation by saying ‘Ed-whar-doe’ and dying just a little bit on the inside.   

The spelling of “Eduardo” is another fun thing that I have to live with.  Whenever I’m asked to give my name at a restaurant, I always tell them ‘Edward’ because I don’t feel like teaching the cashier how to spell “Eduardo.”  Now, if I don’t give them the spelling of Eduardo and I use it, there’s probably a fifty-fifty chance they’re going to put a w in place of the u.  Which is no biggie, I’ve learned to live with it, and it’s actually really close.  My all-time favorite spelling goof had to be when the people at the San Japan anime convention substituted a ‘y’ in place of the ‘u’ in their schedule.  To this day, “Edyardo” still cracks me up and I do have a few friends who like to rib me about it every so often.

The pronounciation of Eduardo is also a little bit tricky and my Spanish admittedly isn’t the best, I  will occasionally trip over the R.  I had a co-worker once tell me that ‘the R shouldn’t be rolled because it wasn’t proper Spanish.’  I responded by telling him that it was my name and I was gonna pronounce it however I damn well pleased.  I mean come on, we’re all about mangling and messing up languages here in the good ol’ US of A…after all, look at what we did to English!

This has been 300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, the next episode will be posted after I practice rolling my R’s like Ricardo Montalban.   Thank you for listening and visit eduardosoliz.com for more of my wonderfully weird and witty words.  Be good, take care, and God Bless.

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300 Seconds Episode #115: “Fired”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode! 

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 115, “Fired!” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

Technical support is not an easy job to do, and when you work at a place that sucks, it makes it all the more harder.  My last full-time tech support job was at a school and it had been working out well, but I was laid off after my campus was closed thanks to the coronavirus back in episode number 107.  Six months and four episodes later, I would be hired on to a contract job.  It started out well enough for the first three months, but I was then transferred to another department where everything went to crap. 

There, I found myself dealing with some of the worst users that I have ever had to deal with in my ten years of doing technical support.  Now when I say that, I should mention that I spent time working for a company that made terrible software and had a monopoly on it so they never fixed anything, a cable company, federal and state tax departments, and yet somehow, those users managed to be worse.  Management treated them like children, and so they acted like children.  Funny how that works.  My boss in the department was also a lousy person who never once told me that things weren’t going well.  Instead, they let things accumulate so that they could dump a laundry list of complaints onto my boss in the IT department so that he could be the one to read me the riot act. 

On top of that, the administrative staff did this super passive-aggressive thing where they acted like I didn’t exist.  It was not unusual for me to be invited to a meeting fifteen minutes before it started.  Whenever special events happened in or out of the office, I was never invited.  I knew that things were happening because it was a small office and you could hear what everyone was saying, but no, they never invited me.  I don’t know that I would have joined them, but still, an invite would have been appreciated.  Finally, I had been sent to the principal’s office twice for bed behavior.  I was on the cusp of being fired, and so I decided that it was time for me to go.

I had planned on giving them one week’s notice, but a social media post changed my mind.  The morning that I was going to put in that notice, I saw that a guy that I used to work with had died overnight of COVID.  His name was Noah Villanueva.  He was a good tech, but more importantly, he was a good man.  Noah was a big funny guy, always smiling and joking in spite of all the crap that we all had to deal with at that place.  In fact, Noah was so nice that it would give us leads a little bit of grief every so often, but God bless him, we couldn’t be mad at him for very long. 

He left us to work at one of the cool companies in town, and I was happy for him when that happened, because he deserved better.  Noah was a damn good guy.  And now he was gone.  Except for the occasional exchange on Facebook, we hadn’t really kept in touch a whole lot, but I wept at my desk as I read the outpouring of disbelief and sadness from his coworkers and friends.  I tried to get back to work, but I couldn’t.  God help me, I couldn’t stop thinking about him and I couldn’t stop crying.  Hell, I’m sitting in front of a coffee shop crying as I type this.

Meanwhile, everyone else in the office went about their business as usual; I mean who cares about that guy crying at his desk, right?  He’s only a contractor.  Maybe if someone had asked me what was wrong, I would have stuck with my original plan.  Just one kind word might have been enough for me to put up with their crap for one more week.  I instead decided that these jerks didn’t even deserve that.

And so I packed my things.  I wrote an email to The Boss that said: “I am resigning my position effective immediately. Thank you for the opportunity.”  I clicked Send, tossed my badge on to my desk, and left the building, never to return.  This wasn’t the first time I had quit a job, but it would be the first time I would do so with a good plan on what to do next.

And what would that be?  Two words: Career change.  Stay tuned.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I update about a dozen job board statuses to “Not Looking for Work.”  I am Eduardo Soliz, if you’d like to hear or read more of my wonderfully weird words, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening!  Be Good, Take Care, and God Bless.

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300 Seconds Episode #114: “My Coronavirus Story Part 6: 99.9 Degrees”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 114, “My Coronavirus Story Part 6: 99.9 Degrees,” so let the 300 Seconds begin.

Since starting my new job last October, I had settled back into my typical office-job routine.  Get up, go to work, fix things, go home.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  It felt good to be working again, and of course, the money didn’t hurt either.  Of course, there were now a few pandemic-related changes, like making sure to bring a mask to work every day and having my temperature checked once I walked into the door.  Going out for lunch on Friday now involved getting something from a drive-thru and eating in my vehicle, but otherwise it was more or less the same old song and dance. 

Things were going well until I didn’t feel good one Friday.  My stomach felt lousy all day at the office and it still didn’t feel right that evening at home.  Late in the evening, something came to mind:  I hadn’t gone to the bathroom all day.

Well, poop.  Or rather, I couldn’t poop.  Now, I’m not one to reach for medication right off the bat, so I started drinking more water and had some fiber-rich cereal to try and get the plumbing moving.  Unfortunately, things were still on hold when I went to bed, but I held out hope that things would, shall we say, get going in the morning.

I woke up hot and sweating a few hours later.  Naturally, the first thing I did was check my temperature.  It was ninety-nine point nine degrees, so I was running a slight fever.  I took some acetaminophen and went back to bed.  I woke up the next morning feeling slightly less lousy than the night before, but still lousy and I still had a fever.  Even though I didn’t have any other symptoms, the thought of ‘oh crap, maybe I caught the coronavirus’ popped into my head.  I let my roomies know I wasn’t feeling well and stayed in my room all day because one can’t be too careful.  I also started wearing a mask whenever I left my room. 

If there’s one thing that really sucks, it’s being sick over the weekend.  Granted, I didn’t have any big plans for that weekend, but still.  My temperature was almost normal on Sunday morning and I felt better.  I even managed to go to the bathroom again, and let’s just say everything went as planned.  Even though I didn’t have any other symptoms, out of an abundance of caution, I got a quick coronavirus test that afternoon.  Much to my relief, the test came back negative.  I have to say that having to administer the coronavirus test on your own is kind of crappy.

On Monday morning, I let my boss know that I had been sick over the weekend.  I was told to work from home for the day and call HR.  Now, I don’t know if they were busy or just being a typical HR department, but it took quite a few calls before I got in touch with somebody, which was annoying.  Once I finally got through, HR told me to get a lab test and get back to them with the results.  I did a lab test that afternoon, but as they take two days to process, I was going to be working at home for the next few days.  At this point, I was completely over my fever, so I was pretty sure that all was well, but there was still a little nagging thought sitting in the back of my mind, certainly enough for me to keep wearing my mask at home.  Two days later, the test came back negative, and HR told me I could return to the office on Thursday.  I found it just a little odd that they didn’t have me work from home for two weeks or even one, for that matter, but at the same time, I wasn’t going to argue.

I was actually a little sad upon being told to come back to the office; Working from home over those three days had been kind of nice. The experience even got me thinking that maybe working from home full-time might not be a bad idea after all…

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I check my temperature just one last time.  For more wonderfully weird and witty words I’ve written, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening!  Be Good, Take Care, and God Bless.

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300 Seconds Episode #111: “My Coronavirus Story Part 5: Back to Irk”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 111: “My Coronavirus Story Part 5: Back to Irk,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

After being laid off from my job back in April, or a few episodes ago, as the case may be, I started looking for a new job online, and, as many of you Dear Listeners are aware, the pickings in 2020 are pretty slim.  As in-person job fairs are out of the question right now, I attended online virtual job fairs which were just as virtually terrible as the real-life ones, so score one for consistency.

From May to September, I had a total of three interviews including one of those awful virtual ones where you awkwardly record answers to questions into your webcam.  Fortunately, the third time was the charm, and thus, I started a new contract-to-maybe-there’s-possibly-a-chance-you-might-just-could-be-hired gig a few weeks ago.  It would be an understatement to say that I’ve had to make just a few life adjustments in going back to living a nine-to-five life.

The biggest and most immediate adjustment I had to make was to my sleeping habits.  In my effort to lose weight, I had been waking up early in order to go for a walk in the mornings.  But as the Texas summer got hotter and hotter, I shifted to walking in the evenings which of course, meant sleeping in.  According to Google Maps, my new office was about thirty miles away.  That meant that I had to wake up pretty early to make it to work on time.  Funny thing about me:  I don’t have trouble waking up early.  Once I hear my alarm, I’m up.  No problem there.  But as a night owl, going to bed early is something of a challenge.  So while I might be up at five-thirty in the morning, I won’t exactly be “up and at ‘em.”

Thus, a morning commute became a thing again, and of course, with a commute comes traffic.  I had to drive from one side of San Antonio to the other, so my commute was going to be thirty miles of suck regardless of which route I took.  I eventually settled into taking the route that presented the most opportunities to stop for breakfast along the way.  Being stuck in a traffic jam is much easier to deal with when you have a Breakfast on a Bun from Whataburger along for the ride.

My new job has me working in an office, so that means I have to ‘mask up’ every day.  Since my pandemic travels up to this point were limited to the grocery store and the occasional drive-thru window, I had been making do with a few cloth masks, or the occasional shop towel mask whenever those were in the wash.  I now needed enough masks so that I could wear a different one each day.  I also had to get masks with solid colors or patterns that would be office-appropriate.  Of course, in the process of doing so, I ended up buying one or two that fit too tight because I have a big head.  Another fun big head thing that I have to deal with was that some masks would begin to irritate my ears after several hours of wearing.  Fortunately, I improvised an ‘ear saver’ using a rubber band and a pair of paper clips.

If there is one thing that I definitely need at work, it’s coffee.  I rarely drink it outside of the office, but when it’s provided by the company, then I am more than happy to partake.  When working from home, I would enjoy an occasional cup of Nescafe to keep the neurons firing.  I don’t know if this is how the new office works or if this is a virus thing, but there isn’t any coffee available at the office.  There aren’t any vending machines where I can grab a soda, either, and at the risk of being ‘that guy:’ I CAN’T WORK UNDER THESE CONDITIONS. 

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, but Will’s not here so I have to solve my own problems.  I happen to have a mini-fridge that holds six cans of soda.  I’d purchased it during my days as a field technician, but that’s a story for another time.  In any case, problem solved!  Almost.  In the interest of watching my budget, I bought generic diet cola.  I quickly began to notice that I wasn’t feeling the caffeine boost that I was accustomed to getting from a soda in the afternoon; my metaphorical tail was still dragging after chugging one down.  I randomly checked the ingredients on the can one day and discovered, to my horror, that generic soda contained less than half the caffeine of the name brand stuff.  I guess that’s why it costs a buck and a quarter for a six-pack!

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I set my alarm.  For more witty words written by me, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening.  Be good, take care and God Bless.

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300 Seconds Episode #109: “My Coronavirus Story Part 4: The New Sort-of Kind-of Not-Quite Normal”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 109: “My Coronavirus Story Part 4: The New Sort-of Kind-of Not-Quite Normal,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

The week after the office I worked at closed, the city of San Antonio went on lockdown.  Thus, I had to adjust to not only working at home, but also to being at home nearly all of the time.  I am a bit of a homebody, so being stuck at home wasn’t that big of a deal, but it was still annoying to not be able to go anywhere. 

One of the first things I did was to designate the dinner table as my home office in a feeble effort to keep some division between my home and work life.  For the most part, it worked fairly well, since my dining room table had not been getting much use anyway.  The only problem that came up was that I quickly learned how uncomfortable it was to be sitting on my unpadded wooden dining room chairs for several hours.  I eventually abandoned the dining room table for a cubbyhole in the apartment, which, while offering less desk space, did have an office chair that was much more comfortable to sit in.

Like most folks, I didn’t own any masks when the pandemic started hitting home.  I figured that if nothing else, I would have to eventually go to the grocery store, so I thought it would be a good idea to get some masks and be a responsible member of the community.  Additional motivation was provided by the fact that I have a few boxes checked off on my ‘if you catch this, you’re in deep trouble’ bingo card.

After doing some searching, I ordered some masks online from independent makers, but I needed something to tide me over while those got made and shipped.  My first attempt was the ‘cut up an old t-shirt’ method.  That ended up being a spectacular failure because I have a big head topped with a mass of thick curly hair.  Even working with a size double-XL shirt, I was unable to get it completely around my 23 and a half inch melon.  I’m also not the best with scissors, so there’s a pretty strong chance that I cut the pattern the wrong way.  I eventually found a bandana from high school that worked until I bought a roll of shop towels and made my own with staples and rubber bands.  Eventually the masks I ordered did arrive, and yes they did have animal prints on them.

Naturally, I have to mention the toilet paper thing.  Holy cats, if I live to be a hundred years old I will never understand what the hey that business was all about.  Fortunately for me, I live alone and my digestive system is fairly regular, so I don’t use too much, I don’t think.  That said, I didn’t want to be caught off guard, so I started keeping track of how long certain things, like toilet paper, lasted.  Originally, I was concerned with how long a roll of toilet paper, a bottle of hand soap, and a tank full of gasoline would last.  Gasoline wouldn’t have come to mind, but San Antonio flipped its collective lid back in 2017 and caused a shortage after Hurricane Harvey out of self-induced hysteria.  I was pleased to discover that a roll of toilet paper and a twelve-ounce bottle of hand soap each lasted about three weeks.   I was also happy to discover I was getting two months to a tank of gas in my Honda CR-V because I was only driving to the grocery store.  At one point I did have to hunt for toilet paper for a friend who was running low.  Lucky for her, I was fortunate enough to find some and save the day. 

A nice habit that I picked up during this time was walking to the nearby dollar store to pick up things in between my main grocery store trips.  At first, the pleasant weather of late March and April made for some nice afternoon walks, but as the Texas summer started to do its thing, those trips got pushed further and further into the evening until eventually I would wait until after sundown to head out.

Of course, once I was done with work, I had to do something for entertainment, so I’ve been watching movies from my DVD and Blu-ray collection, and even picking up a few new ones to while the evenings away.  I’ve actually been keeping track of what I’ve been watching, and I’m up to about eighty movies so far, not counting repeated viewings of Casino and Goodfellas.  I’ve also gone through all the original cast Star Trek and the first series of Batman movies.  I think I’ll try Star Wars next, but I’m not sure how far I want to go with those.  I recently reactivated my NetFlix account and have enjoyed the new shows that my friends have been talking about, like BNA, Beastars, and Warrior Nun.

Except for going to the grocery store or to restaurants and fast food joints for take-out, I spend all my time at home.  As I’m sure many of you will also attest, the days began to blur together.  Weekends suddenly became meaningless, because there was nothing happening to look forward to.  No comic cons, no camping trips, no local theme park visits, no casino trips, not even a trip to the mall. Instead, Saturdays and Sundays became the days that I didn’t sign into my work laptop…yippee.

And, as fate would have it, not long after I got settled into that new normal, it was thrown out of the window after I got laid off.  If you’d like to hear the gory details, you can go back two episodes.  Suddenly, instead of sitting at my work laptop hunting for trouble tickets to work on, the better part of my day was now filled with absolutely nothing!  

This has been 300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, the next episode will be posted after I mail back my work laptop.  Subscribe via your favorite app, and visit Eduardo Soliz dot com for more wonderfully weird words written by me!  As always, I thank you for listening! 

Be Good, Take Care, and God Bless.

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300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, Episode #107: “My Coronavirus Story Part 3: Laid Off”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode!

If you are looking for a professional voice to represent your business, your organization, or yourself, send me an email at edsoliz@gmail.com.

And now, on with the show:

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 107, “My Coronavirus Story Part 3, Laid Off,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

April the 30th of this miserable year of 2020 was just another day at home in this weird time that is both very interesting and yet uninteresting at the same time.  The company I work at had closed all of its offices back in mid-March as the nation started trying to come to grips with the pandemic.  My job, as a deskside technician, was to be the ‘boots on the ground’ in the San Antonio office, but now that the office had been closed, my workdays consisted of sitting at my dining room table on my work laptop hunting through open incidents for something to do.  Thanks to the lock-down, the number of remote techs working from home had multiplied five-fold, so the pickings were very slim.

A fellow tech had posted a ticket into our group chat asking for help, so I seized the opportunity and raised my virtual hand. I had been hired in December and there was still a lot that I didn’t know.  Thus, I began searching through the knowledge base so I that wouldn’t be flying completely blind when I got in touch with the customer.

I had barely started to read the first article when the message: “Do you have time for a call?” popped up on my screen.  I frowned at my dumb luck.  Of course, the boss has to ping me the one time that I actually had something to do.  But, you know, he’s the boss, so I replied:  “Sure, I have time.” 

“Okay, I’m sending a meeting request.”

I logged onto the video chat to find my boss and two other people that I had never met before on my screen.

My Spidey-sense started tingling.  The first thought that popped in my head was:  This is it, I’m being let go.  In my mind, the two newcomers were the online equivalent of someone bringing a security guard with a cardboard box to your desk.

Once my boss introduced the pair of morose-looking gentlemen as being from Human Resources, my internal estimate of whether I was about to be let go from my job went from ninety-nine percent to one hundred.   The only question now was going to be whether I was going to be laid off or fired. 

The HR guys introduced themselves; one of them said that he was sorry we were meeting for the first time under these circumstances.  I almost cracked a joke about this being the last time we were meeting, too. I kinda wish I had.  Maybe it would have lightened the mood a little.  Then again, it may have also made the unfortunate proceedings about to happen even more awkward.  I chose to be a professional and held my tongue, which was probably the smarter thing to do.

After introducing them, my boss pretty much let the HR guys take over the meeting.  He didn’t even bother looking into the camera, which was off to the side of his PC.  I later found out that I wasn’t the only person to be let go, so perhaps he was setting up those meetings as well.  I can’t say I envied him having that job, but at least he still had one.

Having been fired before as well as having been part of a mass layoff, I knew what was coming.   We’re very sorry it had to come to this.  Business needs.  This wasn’t planned in advance.  Blah blah blah.  The only part I was interested in was whether I was being laid off or fired.  I did a Mr. Spock eyebrow-raise at what I thought were some questionable statements, such as:

This is about business needs, which translates to: This is about saving money.  That statement would have gone over better if I hadn’t had to sit in on an hour-long presentation with our CFO just the day before where he mentioned that the company was doing fairly well in spite of the lockdown.  Yeah, that definitely does not computer.

This wasn’t planned in advance: Yeah, I don’t buy this for a second, especially given that it was a large company.  Large companies never do anything quickly.  It had been a month and a half since the office had closed down, and I wonder if there was some threshold they were waiting to hit before dropping the axe.  If that statement was true, a company that just drops people at the drop of a hat isn’t the kind of company I want to work for.  Granted, that issue seems to have taken care of itself, but still. 

There were also a whole mess of things involving health insurance that I won’t go into here because this is 300 seconds and not 600.  For those interested, the gory details of that mess are posted on my blog at Eduardo Soliz dot com.

Near the end of that whole sad affair, I was told to not mention anything to my coworkers, because others were going to be let go as well.  Sure.  A box would be shipped out so that I could return my work laptop and charger.  I also had an access card for the office and a skeleton key, so I offered to get in touch with my local manager to return those items to her.  I was told: “I know it sounds silly, but put those things in the box and mail them over to Milwaukee.”  In my mind I thought: That doesn’t sound silly. It sounds stupid.  But, I didn’t fight it.

The meeting done with, began to clean up the improvised home workspace that would go back to being my dining room table.  I quickly discovered that my work access had been revoked, so score one for efficiency.

I sighed, logged out of my work laptop for the last time, and then came to an unfortunate realization:

I had forgotten to reassign that ticket.  Oh well.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I visit the job websites.  For more witty words written by me, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening.  Be good, take care and God Bless.

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Laid Off

Person in a bear costume sitting at a dinner table behind a laptop. He is wearing a yellow polo shirt and holding a coffee mug with the words "What's the Rush?" on it.

Working beary hard!

I was spending another day at home in this weird time that is both interesting and yet uninteresting. The company I work at had closed all of its offices back in mid-March as the nation started coming to grips with the pandemic. My job, as a deskside technician, was to be the ‘boots on the ground’ in the San Antonio office. Now that the office had been closed, my workdays consisted of sitting at my dining room table on my work laptop hunting through open incidents for something to do. Thanks to the lock-down, the number of remote techs working from home had multiplied five-fold, so the pickings were very slim.

A fellow tech had posted a ticket into our group chat asking for help, so I raised my virtual hand and seized the opportunity. I had been hired in December, so there was still a lot that I didn’t know. Thus, I began searching through our knowledge base so I wouldn’t be flying completely blind.

I had barely started to read the first article I had found, when the message: “Do you have time for a call?” popped up on my screen. It was from my boss.  I frowned at my dumb luck. Of course, the boss has to ping me the one time that I actually had something to do. But he’s the boss, so I replied: “Sure, I have time.”

“Okay, I’m sending a meeting request.” He replied.

What I call ‘Eduardo’s dumb luck’ kicked in again as my boss’ video chat request kept popping up on my phone instead of on my laptop. We use Microsoft Teams, and as much as I like Microsoft, their software seems to get squirrely as all heck once it’s running on something that isn’t Windows. After five awkward minutes of me sending “No, I can’t connect to the meeting” to my boss while walking around my home looking the cellular sweet spot that I hoped would make it start working on my phone, my laptop suddenly became cooperative. I joined the chat to find my boss and two other people that I had never met before on my screen.

My Spidey-sense started tingling. The first thought that popped in my head was: This is it, I’m being let go. To me, the newcomers were the online equivalent of a security guard carrying a cardboard box showing up at your desk.

Once my boss introduced the pair of morose looking gentlemen as being from Human Resources, my internal estimate of whether I was about to be let go went from ninety-nine percent to one hundred.   The only question now was going to be whether I was going to be laid off or fired.

The HR guys introduced themselves; one of them said that he was sorry we were meeting for the first time under these circumstances. I almost cracked a joke about this being the last time we were meeting, too. I wish I had. Maybe it would have lightened the mood a little. Then again, it may have also made the unfortunate proceedings even more awkward. I chose to be a professional and held my tongue.

After the introduction, my boss pretty much let the HR guys take over the meeting.  He didn’t even bother looking into the camera, which was off to the side of his PC. Whatever was happening on his screen had his full attention; I later found out that I wasn’t the only person to be let go, so perhaps he was setting up those meetings as well. I can’t say I envied him having that job, but at least he still had one.

Having been fired before as well as having been part of a mass layoff, I knew what was coming. We’re very sorry it had to come to this. Business needs. This wasn’t planned in advance. Blah blah blah. The only part I was interested in was whether I was being laid off or fired. I did a Mr. Spock eyebrow-raise at what I thought were some questionable statements, such as:

This is about business needs, which translates to: This is about saving money. That statement would have gone over a lot better if I hadn’t had to sit in on an hour long presentation from our CFO the day before where he mentioned that the company was doing fairly well in spite of the lockdown. Yeah, that does not computer at all.

This wasn’t planned in advance: I don’t buy this for a second, especially given that it was a large company. Large companies never do anything quickly. It had been a month and a half since the office closure, and I wonder if there was some threshold they were waiting to hit. Even if that statement was true, a company that just drops people at the drop of a hat isn’t the kind of company I want to work for. Granted, that issue seems to have taken care of itself, but still.

They then started talking about health insurance, which is super-important for me. I found it interesting that the HR guys bought up COBRA (probably a requirement) but they didn’t bring up signing up for health care though the Affordable Care Act. Granted, I’m already aware of both, but not bringing up the ACA is doing a disservice to people. COBRA premiums are insanely expensive and in my experience, the ACA provided good coverage at a much lower cost. When I needed temporary health insurance last year when in between jobs, the cost of an unsubsidized ACA plan premium and my medications combined were lower than the COBRA premium by itself.  So if you are staring down the barrel of a crazy expensive COBRA payment, do yourself a favor and look into the ACA at healthcare.gov.

Finally, as someone who takes medication regularly for a chronic condition, being let go on the last day of a month was an extremely lousy thing to do, because it meant I had to immediately request refills and pray they were ready before my coverage ran out at the end of the day. Otherwise, I was going on the hook for a few hundred dollars. If this spiel is coming off as a little angry, that’s why.

Near the end of that whole sad affair, I was told to not mention anything to my coworkers, because others were also going to be let go. Sure. A box would be shipped out so that I could return my work laptop and charger. I also had an access card for the office and a skeleton key, so I offered to get in touch with my manager to return those items. I was told that to return those items with the laptop to the home office in Milwaukee, even though ‘we know it sounds redundant.’ In my mind I thought: That doesn’t sound redundant. That sounds stupid. But I didn’t fight it.

My last work meeting over with, I requested refills from my pharmacy (another painful experience that I won’t go into here) and began to clean up the improvised home workspace that would go back to being my dining room table. About an hour later, I heard a message ping come from the laptop. One of my now-former coworkers had also been let go and had sent a good-bye message to the group in chat. I figured that the cat was out of the bag, so I should probably send one too. Later, after cleaning up, I discovered that my access to work chat and email had already been revoked. Score one for efficiency. I sighed, closed my work laptop for the last time and then came to an unfortunate realization:

I had forgotten to reassign the ticket.

Oh well.

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Eduardo Soliz, Podcasting, PODCASTS, RANDOMIZER9.COM, Super-Short Storytime, TECH SUPPORT, WORDS

Super-Short Storytime: “Reassurance”

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In the future, a pair of friends join the Space Force but don’t exactly end up where they want to be.  In light of current events, I should mention that this story was written in 2014.  Of course, lots of other folks have had similar notions for years.

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BUSINESS, TECH, TECH SUPPORT, WORK

Contract-to-Fire

workI recently started a new position; my first-ever contract job.  At the beginning, I was enthusiastic about coming in and doing a good job.  I noticed a few deficiencies off the bat and made some recommendations for improvements in a group e-mail to everyone in the department.  My intention was to avoid some of the large issues that had plagued previous workplaces and improve our processes, because to be frank, there were none.

My recommendations were shrugged off with a big fat ‘MEH’ by everyone.  I don’t know if it was due to my relative inexperience at the workplace, or the arrogance of leadership, but for whatever the reason, the end result was that nothing happened, and the glaring issues remained.

I was miffed (but not completely surprised) by the lack of response.  I imagined that the thought process went something along the lines of:  “Why should we listen to this new guy?  He doesn’t know how we do things here.

My first thought was that I needed to change my approach and need address my manager directly instead of broadcasting to the group in the hope that we could come to a consensus.  My second thought became a lot more compelling the more it bounced around in my head:

“Why should I care?”

I should begin by mentioning that the position I was hired into has a nearly zero chance of becoming permanent.  Folks come here, they work for a year or two, and then they’re gone.  Because of that, I have nearly zero investment in this company.  Indeed, one of the issues that I wanted to address was knowledge management; if you’re going to have a revolving door of people coming in and out of a department, you might want to have a good documentation process in place so that not all of a person’s expertise walks out the door when their time inevitably comes.

Ultimately, I let it go.  I had said my peace, and if the Powers That Be decided to ignore it, then why should I make a fuss?  Obviously they know what they’re doing.  There’s also no sense in wasting my time with people that have no intention of listening to me.

The unfortunate truth is that a contract worker will never be completely engaged in the future of the company they work at, especially if they have no visible road to bigger and better things.

I’ve since kept my mouth shut about any new issues that I’ve noticed and given up any hope of things improving.  It doesn’t make any sense to fight the current, instead I’ll just keep surfing the wave of incompetence until my contract is up.

Besides, why should I be fully invested in the company’s problems when the company isn’t fully invested in me?

 

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BUSINESS, CARS, JUST SAYING, TECH SUPPORT, WORK

The Difference…

workOver the last week, my Honda CR-V (aka The Excelsior) had been starting up just a little more sluggishly with each trip.  Eventually, it got to the point where it just barely started, but as is human nature, I figured that it would last just long enough to get to get the battery looked at.

Of course, I waited one trip too many and eventually it didn’t start at all one night.  Click-click-click-click-click was all I heard.

After getting a jump-start from a neighbor (always have cables in your vehicle, folks) I went to the auto parts store where I had replaced the original battery a few years prior.  I had a strong suspicion that the battery was dead, but when the gentleman asked if I would like to have it tested, it placed just enough doubt in my mind to make me think that might not be the case.  I didn’t want it to be something else, because as far as car repairs go, replacing a battery is on the fairly inexpensive scale, and it can be done by one’s self, assuming the vehicle can be taken to a good battery or vice-versa.

The gentleman grabbed a tester and followed me out to my noble (if not currently unreliable) steed.  I popped the hood and proceeded to let the gentleman do his job.  He attached the clips to the battery terminals and proceeded to push some buttons on the device.  After a few moments he told me the battery was good and asked if I wanted him to test other ‘start the car’ parts.  I said yes, and he asked me to start the vehicle.  I made a crack about ‘I hope it starts,’ but much to my surprise, it started with no hesitation.  A few moments and button presses later, the man told me that the alternator and starter were probably okay, too.  I thanked him for his time and went on my merry (if slightly worried) way to the grocery store, where the car started again without issue.  What the heck was wrong with my car?

As folks are oft to do these days, I went onto social media to share my ambivalence over the situation.  Friends offered advice and their own tales of automotive experiences, both good and bad.  One friend mentioned that a similar problem had been caused by loose terminal connectors.  This idea sounded intriguing to me, as I had recalled my interior lights flashing during the process of having it jumped, and so I resolved to investigate them come the morning.  I didn’t park the Excelsior in the garage because I had a feeling I was going to need another jump-start.

The next morning, I hopped into my trusty steed to go have some breakfast and was greeted by the clicking noise again.  No big deal, it’s the terminals, right?  Wrong.  Nothing was loose and there was no corrosion to be found.  It has to be the battery, I thought, but what the guy last night told me it was good.  I frumped for a while as I searched for nearby mechanics and groused over the pile of money I anticipated I was going to have to spend.

Finally, I decided to get a second opinion.

I got a jump-start from a different neighbor, and observed that both times we had to let my vehicle sit for a while and charge up.  The thought of it has to be the battery kept bouncing in my head as I drove to a different auto parts store.  I walked inside and asked to have my battery checked.  This time around, the tech got a frumpy look on her face when she saw my terminals.  The connectors to the Excelsior’s battery have these plastic covers that were getting in the way of the clips, meaning she could only reliably attach the clips to the screws that kept the connectors attached.  “I don’t like taking a reading from the screws, the reading is sometimes wrong,” She said.  The tech did her best to adjust the tester clip, but was not completely satisfied with the result: “I’m not getting a good reading, can you take the battery out?” She asked.

I said sure, and proceeded to do so, with the tools I keep inside the vehicle.  I also had to borrow a pair of pliers, but eventually dislodged the battery and took it inside the store.  The tech did her thing, and sure enough, the battery was bad.  Fortunately, I had purchased the ‘three-year replacement’ battery the last time and I received a new one free of charge.  I installed it myself, which was only fair since I had taken the old one out, and now my trusty steed is trusty once again.

I figured that it would be a good idea to let the tech know about my experience the night before.  We both agreed that the other guy just didn’t know about the screws providing unreliable readings.

And thus we have the difference between somebody who only knows how to follow instructions, and somebody that actually knows what they are doing because they have learned how things really work.

Whether they are fixing cars or computers, a good tech will have more in-depth knowledge about the things that they repair than someone who is only taught how to fix things or is working off a script.  When the ‘usual steps’ don’t work, a good tech can think things though and improvise to find a solution.  A bad tech only knows how to follow instructions, and when those instructions don’t do the job, they’re stuck, and so are you.

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