Monthly Archives: July 2011
I’m gonna get on my soapbox for a minute.
I just read this article on CNN. It’s about the new 9/11 first responders health care program. To bring you up to speed:
Congress is finally getting around to starting a program to cover the medical expenses of the emergency responders to the World Trade Center. A lot of them got really sick over the years and all signs pretty much point to their exposure to various toxins and pollutants at Ground Zero. Now, I won’t even bother asking why it took ten damn years to get this going. What concerns me is the headline of the article that says that the program won’t include cancer treatments.
Hold up, what?
Apparently a good number of cops, firemen and EMTs have come down with rare forms of cancer and the government says that there is no scientific evidence to prove that they got it from the various things they inhaled while digging through the nine-story tall pile of smoldering steel, concrete and ash that remained from the collapse of two 110-story buildings filled with 3,000 people. Some of the cops are in their 30′s and doctors which makes it even more rare (and kind of common sense) to consider the common denominator that they all were there on that day.
Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11 and everyone remembers some piece of news footage that showed those people not just trying to get people to safety when the first tower collapsed, but running right back toward the second one before the smoke could even clear. The news heralded them for working 24-7, using buckets and moving debris by hand in what looked like a futile attempt to find survivors, becoming deathly quiet at the faintest sound that could be a whimper or a cry from a survivor under the debris. They were modern day Hercules in the weeks following. Ten years later, they can’t even get a claim paid.
What the hell have we become?
Here’s something I wrote two years ago. I found it after Googling myself just now. Apparently I started a blog two years ago and this was the only post. If only I knew what was in store for me two months after I wrote it. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow. For now, enjoy:
“The things we own end up owning us. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”
Do you hate your job? Do you fantasize about turning in your notice every single day? Do you come back down to earth and realize that you really can’t go anywhere right now? If so, then welcome to my post!
I’m writing this because I can’t find anything like it anywhere online. Last year I worked as a manager in a call center in Durham, NC. My wife and I had a combined income of over $100k. All of our needs were met and we had plenty of disposable income. For two kids with humble beginnings, we were doing alright. By humble, I mean poor. Strangely enough, we were miserable!
I thought something was wrong with me. I searched the internet looking for other people who felt that way but Google never brought up anything. Apparently no one fell in my category. I just can’t believe that I’m the only person who had a good job, wasn’t happy because it was a bad job fit and despite all of the money, felt the need to quit and start over.
I watched Fight Club one night and heard that quote (the one that’s the title of the post) and used it as confirmation to get the hell out of dodge. I realized that while I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, I was hurting myself by staying in the same situation. I wanted to move to DC and live in a real city. I wanted to try a different career or go back to college or…ANYTHING!
Growing up broke, you hear a lot of people with money complain that money doesn’t buy happiness. I wanted to slap a lot of those people as a child. Money seems like the key to happiness when you’re poor. To grow up and become the person who would throw all of that away seemed crazy to me, but I had to reconcile within myself one fact: Money has no value but what we give it.
Money is something that we trade in exchange for something else. We all know this, but a lot of times we only consider that fact from the stand point of already having it. Yeah, it’s common sense that you trade your dollar for a peice of candy in the store. What we don’t realize is what we traded in order to get the dollar in the first place.
If you are like me and worked a job that was somewhat brain-dead, then you know what I mean. Now, I don’t mean that being a manager doesn’t require a brain. What I mean is: In lower level management, you are often just a mediator between upper management and the front-line employees. You are not there to make decisions. You are simply there to report back to the front line and then to take their concerns to upper level management. Any decisions you make are probably based on an interpretation of company policy, not your own thoughts on the matter.
With all of that said, my job could have been done by the big magic hat from Harry Potter. So I was trading my time in exchange for money. Some people can operate in a job like that. I couldn’t. I need a job that trades me money for my creativity, my intelligence and my knowledge. If I don’t have the existing skills that someone would pay for, then I need to go out and get them…at least that’s how I felt at the time.
The only reason I stayed at my job as long as I did was because I’d never made that much money before. No one in my family had. Once I made it, I bought a car, rented a nice house and started a lifestyle that cost money to maintain. When I wanted to find a better job that had more intrinsic value, I couldn’t bring myself to leave because I knew I’d have to give up one of those things that I wanted. The things that I owned were starting to own me.
I can’t tell any of you what to do, but I will say this much: If you find yourself in that situation, please take inventory of your life. Every person has a price. Money should never be compensation for unhappiness. Your time is the most valuable resource that you have. Once it is gone, it can never be replaced. In the end, you will miss the things you didn’t do…you probably won’t miss the money.
Blogging has been difficult. I have zero readers except for my wife and the few coworkers whom she bullies into reading my site, and some part of me prefers it that way. It’s hard to write from the heart when everything you say online can be examined under a microscope. I once got in trouble at work because my boss found my Myspace page and thought “phone slave” was an inappropriate job description. In these uncertain times, the last thing I need is for a job to turn me down because of something on my website.
But what’s the point of having a blog if you can’t speak from the heart. The truth is that I’m complicated. I have a million thoughts swirling around in my head at all times and some of it is serious, some is funny and some is just “off.” I get mad, I say things that are mean but that doesn’t mean I’m not a good person. It just makes me human. The whole point of this site was to get my thoughts out there in written form and if someone found it useful, funny or whatever then great. If I keep everything bottled up because I’m afraid of how it’ll be perceived then there is no reason to write in the first place.
So here it is lonely reader, the new, uncensored, untoned-down website of The One and Only, short, dark and handsome and sometimes lonely, Ordale J Allen. The hell anonymity. When it’s all said and done, I want something that’ll say “I was here.”
After watching the last Harry Potter movie I can’t help but wonder…What the hell is the unemployment rate looking like in the wizarding world?
Maybe this is one of those cases where reading the books comes in handy, but the movies never explained exactly what Hogwarts graduates go on to do after school. My thought is that eight years without studying math, foreign language and computers would probably put them at a disadvantage. Magic is cool, but, unless there’s a spell that can turn paper clips into rent money, I don’t see a bright future for most of them.
I’m certain that Harry will land on his feet. At worst, he’ll just do a bunch of lecturing tours and maybe write a book (or seven) about his crazy middle and high school years. But people like “random Black boy #3″ who sat eight or nine yards away from Harry every dinner scene…what will become of him? I guess the sanitation and trash removal sector could use a guy like him. Lord knows they devoted an insane amount of screen time showing how good those Hogwartians are with a broom.
This right here has people pissed. Netflix is splitting the DVD and streaming plans. It’s a sad day in Toon Town folks. At first I was pissed. Netflix is supposed to over salvation from the price gouging that’s common with cable carriers. My one DVD plan is going up 60 percent, unless I pick which part of their service I like most.
They gave an explanation on their blog, but I’ve had enough experience as the “face” of big corporations to know when someone is feeding me bullshit. The truth, which isn’t even mentioned in the blog, is that licensing costs are going up ten-fold. They simply can’t afford to keep their same pricing structure. I understand that, but Netflix isn’t essential enough to my life for me to easily swallow a sixty percent price increase.
What I also find slightly insulting is how they presented this as if it were something done to help me, the consumer. Personally, the DVD option was a supplement to the stale instant streaming selection. I had no problem watching 25 year old episodes of Family Ties while I waited for my sorta new release DVD to arrive. Now, you’re taking that away unless I’m willing to pay double.
Let’s say that I was willing to pay another 8 bucks for one DVD. Netflix still has that waiting period on new movies. Three weeks is a bit excessive don’t you think? Remember “the dollar movie theater?” They were usually crappy theaters where your feet stuck to the floor, the popcorn was stale and the sound system sucked, but it was a dollar. I loved the dollar movie, because I could wait for those “meh” movies to arrive instead of paying full price when they were first released. Redbox is the DVD equivalent of the dollar theater.
Like Netflix, Redbox has to wait three weeks for good movies, but they’re only a dollar. Netflix wants eight times that amount for the same quality. The claim is that you get unlimited movies, but so often I put a movie at number one in my queue only to get the second or third selection. By the time I finally get what I really want, a few days have passed. I’ve never gotten my number one choice eight times in a month. Redbox wins in this case. I can reserve the movie online, and pick it up at the grocery store. If it’s not at that kiosk, then I can check the 7-11, McDonalds, Wal-mart or any of the other 10 kiosks within a one mile radius of my house.
I didn’t plan to give this topic so much attention, but I guess more of me was pissed about the price increase than logic could pacify. I’m canceling my plan. Period. I’ll keep checking instantwatcher to see when they get a large number of “new” movies to stream and maybe two or three months from now I’ll sign up for a month, watch what I want and then cancel. Wait three months and repeat.
I turned 29 this week and a lot of people seem way too eager to remind me that 30 comes after 29. Sesame Street never really went up that high with their numbers so I’m glad someone told me, otherwise I never would have known. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a guy or because I just don’t care but turning thirty doesn’t really phase me.
Growing up in the 90s we had a lot of “Black man to man” talks in elementary school where they’d constantly remind us that our life expectancy was 21. I remember some guy challenging us to live longer. Kinda sad when you think about it, but DC was the murder capital at the time with 400 or so murders a year. Anyway, I’m happy to see another year and hope to live to be 150.
I recognize though that this is the time when people start pulling out their mental 20′s bucket list. Mine is pretty empty. Hell, I got married at 21 when everyone else was still buying girls drinks at the bar. I’ve always lived by the motto of “I’d rather regret than wonder.” I’ve always felt like life was best enjoyed by living and, outside of being totally reckless, you should try to do what you can, when you can.
When I was 27, I found myself applying to be a cop. I had a lot of reasons which are all irrelevant now, but I was so committed to it that I lost 50 lbs in six weeks. No diets, no pills, just hardcore working out. I was 225 on April 1st and 175 on May 15th. I guess it helped that I was unemployed, bills were piling up and savings were running out. Eating is a hell of a motivation to get in shape for a job.
Anyway, I was all but ready to grab a badge and gun when my police physical came back with a heart problem. Thanks to lax healthcare professionals, I went 27 years without anyone noticing that I had an arrhythmia whose sole symptom is spontaneous increases in heart rate to lethal levels. After getting the “you could die at any moment” speech, I had surgery a few days later. Those were the longest three days of my life. You have a lot of time to reflect on just how you’ve lived your life and what you’ll do if you make it through heart surgery.
Obviously I made it, but then something else happened. They run a lot of tests when you apply to be a cop. They called me two days after I had the heart surgery to tell me that something didn’t look right with my liver functions and I should go see someone. The doctor ran a battery of tests and left a voicemail at 4:58PM on a Friday to tell me that it looks like I have a tumor and it “could possibly be cancerous, but let’s not jump to conclusions just yet.” That was probably the worst weekend of my life. It didn’t help that no one would return my calls and they couldn’t find my results for a week so I had to do more tests. It was two weeks before I found out that I was fine, but imagine the conversations I had with myself over the two weeks that I thought I was dying.
I didn’t tell my wife about any of this. I was just coming off the heart surgery and it seemed like too much for her to deal with, so I kept it to myself. Two weeks of listening to my friends and loved ones talk about how shitty life was because of bills, girlfriends, crappy bosses and all I could think about was whether or not I’d die the next year. I don’t think much of anything has bothered me since all of that went down. I’m no monk or anything. I get pissed off at simple stuff like traffic, but nothing is the end of the world for me, and I damn sure don’t get upset at the thought of living to see my 30th birthday.
The Fourth of July used to be my favorite holiday as a kid. In the days leading up to it, I’d make my rounds on the telephone begging each family member for money to buy fireworks. Completely self-assure, I’d try to sweeten the deal with, “If you get me fireworks, you don’t have to give me birthday money next week.” Every year I got a Moonshot Rocket and starting around age eight or nine, I started lighting them by myself.
*Note to self: There may be a correlation between the increased life insurance policy and the new-found freedom to light my own pyrotechnics.
I remember the shittiest “firework” was a tie between those poppers that made noise when you threw them on the ground and those black “snakes” that were little round tablets that you lit and they grew into this ash colored tube that charred your sidewalk. We were always coming up with ways to make the poppers exciting so we’d throw them at each other and pretend they were bullets or (the dumb kids) would bite them. I remember opening them up and trying to mix a bunch together hoping that they’d make a mini bomb or something.
I had a knack for fixing things like tvs and radios, so naturally I tried to carry that over to fixing the duds in the fireworks boxes. I clearly remember taking five or ten fountains apart and pouring the black powder into mailing tubes and tying a bunch of fuses together. They would never ignite and I remember being so disappointed.
*Note to self: God really likes you.
The stupidest thing I did was trying to mimic something I saw in a movie. I snuck in the house, pretending to be thirsty, and poured rubbing alcohol into a cup and went back outside. My plan was to write my name on the sidewalk in alcohol and then use a sparkler to light it.
I was about seven or eight at the time so the stupidity of this next part is almost excusable. Rather than pour the alcohol on the ground first and then light the sparkler, my dumb ass lit the sparkler and then picked up the cup. A random spark ignited the cup in my hand and, panicking, I dropped the cup which basically caused a ring of fire to explode in all directions at my feet. Unfortunately, my feet happened to be underneath me when this happened so the liquid fire fell onto my shoes and socks.
*I invented the MC Hammer typewriter dance that day.
I danced around the yard double-time trying to put the fire on my shoes out while trying not to make any noise to alert my grandmother and ensure an ass-whooping. Although my shoes were melted in several places, the fire didn’t burn my feet or legs, and my grandmother bought my story about why there were patches in the grass. (I told her that a fountain tipped over and burned the yard as it spun in a circle.)
That was one of my last times playing with fire…