Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bloggin' from da Crackberry

Trying out a test post from my little BlackBerry. It's a bit awkward, but doable. I doubt I'll do this often but it's nice to know the option is available.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Random Phone Events

Where I work at (and this is true for almost any airline) we don't freely give out our phone numbers. While it's quite possible to look up a corporate contact phone number online, my department's numbers are not publicly accessible...and I think this is a good thing, since we have enough legitimate work-related calls to deal with. However, we do get the occasional wrong phone number...one of our desks evidently has a number very similar to the county jail, so whoever is working that desk occasionally gets a call asking about a particular inmate. At one of my previous airlines, one of our lines exclusively used for communicating with the cockpit via a radio link system turned out to be one digit off from a local radio station, so we were getting a lot of calls in for a while requesting we play a particular song until my boss got our number changed.

All this being said, sometimes people do give out the phone number where I work to someone that really shouldn't be calling on it...like, someone will put it on a form asking for contact information...and we get repeated calls over a period of days asking for that person. Car dealerships are particularly notorious for this. I wish people would realize when they are filling out an "information form" and not something formal like a loan application to NOT include their work number.

For the last couple of days I've been working a desk dealing with mainly European flights. And, for each of the past two days, I've been interrupted by calls for one of my co-workers...let's just call him James, even though he is not my ex-roomate. The calls all are from people speaking with an Indian accent. "Is James there?" I asked for the last name since we have more than one person who works here named James. They gave it to me, and I told them that he was not at work today after checking to see who was signed in to our computers. Usually that will end the call, but in this case it just seemed to confuse them. I hung up and got another call about an hour later asking for him again. I told them he STILL wasn't here, and they asked me to tell him he was eligible for some kind of rebate (I'm not sure what for.)

Yesterday was the most entertaining call yet. Once again, the representative from India asked for James, and once again, I said he wasn't working. I told him I'd check the schedule and see when he was due back (which is a stretch of the information we're supposed to give out, but I was tired of getting the calls.) He then asked if I was his assistant. I replied no, but that I worked in a big office. I could kind of hear the Indian call center representative light up over the phone when I said that.

"Big office? Really? Do you have any beautiful ladies working there?" I swear, that is what he said next. I started laughing. He explained further: "We are working on an ad campaign and we are looking for beautiful ladies." I told him to hold on for a minute, then put the call on hold for about sixty seconds and hung up. I considered randomly transferring the call over to one department on my floor that does have a lot of "ladies" working in it, but I decided that wouldn't be fair to them.

Looking back, I think I wasted a chance to totally freak out a call center representative. When he called and asked his "beautiful ladies" question, I should have told him, "Nope, sorry! We only hire really ugly people to work here. There's a preliminary test you have to pass, and if you're not In-Living-Color-Wanda ugly, you don't get hired." I think he got the message when I hung up, though, since I got no more calls from him last night. I'm working on a different desk (and phone number) today so hopefully I won't get any more odd calls. I do have to say, though, it made for a memorable shift.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Samurai Cowboy

This story reminded me of a roommate of mine from my Air Force days. Scary as it is for me to realize, I first enlisted over 20 years ago. Yikes. Anyhow, when I was stationed in Okinawa, I was in one of the newer dorms. The positive thing about this was that our rooms were larger than the ones in the older dorms, and each room had its own bathroom. The negative thing was that we had to share the rooms with someone else if you were below a certain rank...and being a newly enlisted E-3, I definitely was below that rank.

The first roommate I had in Okinawa was sort of an odd guy named James. He was a former military brat, and when his father was in the military, he'd lived in Korea for a while. As a result of that, he was really into oriental culture...specifically, samurai culture. He was a sword nut. I know swords are still made in Japan, but they fortunately weren't for sale at any of the shops near base. (An interesting fact: after World War II, during the occupation of Japan, many samurai swords were confiscated to prevent them being used as weapons against the occupying soldiers. So, the United States actually has more antique samurai swords here than Japan does. Something to keep in mind when shopping at pawn shops...that crappy old oriental sword in the corner may actually be quite valuable. Also, there are countries in that part of the world where sharpenable knives and swords are readily available for sale...the Phillipines comes to mind. But I digress.)

Getting back to James...being the samurai aficionado he was, he had bought a replica sword set made of anodized aluminum. Those sets were pretty to look at, and fairly safe as well, since the blades were impossible to sharpen. (Aluminum is a soft metal.) He used to practice swordfighting moves with them in the room sometimes at night. This never really freaked me out or anything because I figured he was basically harmless.

James had several issues going on, as it turned out...there was some kind of trouble with his military job, among other things. I'm not sure exactly what the job trouble was, but I know he'd been counseled more than once about it. I think he also may have had an issue with alcohol abuse, or at least binge drinking, which is sadly all too common in the military. He wasn't 21 yet but in Okinawa, if you had a military ID you could buy liquor. I recall one time a gal I worked with told me he had written her a love letter and ended it saying, "If you decide you want me, I'll be passed out on the hill behind the dorm." I mean, what woman WOULDN'T want him after reading that line?

James was also a slob, which considering he made it through Air Force basic training is kind of amazing, since they are VERY big on cleanliness there (trust me on that.) Post-basic active duty inspections weren't usually hardcore or anything...we were in the Air Force, not the Marines...but they still expected you to have your room in order, dusted, vacuumed, etc. once a month or so. When I first moved in James told me he didn't do that much cleaning since the room basically "cleaned itself." Not sure where he got THAT from, but I got to the point where when I was getting ready for inspection, I'd just tell him to leave, since he was a bigger hindrance than a help in getting things ready.

Anyhow, I finally got fed up when James didn't change his sheets for several weeks (or months, possibly; I'm not really sure and I don't want to know) so I got moved to a different room. My new roommate was a black guy from New York City, and although we had very different personalities and interests, we got along a lot better. (Plus he wasn't a slob, and we worked opposite shifts.) My dorm manager there, an NCO, understood completely my reason for wanting to move, and I think James eventually was moved to a room with another person who had trouble with cleaning. I guess the theory was that if you put two slobs together, they'd be forced to improve. However, it didn't work out that way.

Eventually, James got in an argument with his new roommate (who was in the same job as me) over some issue. I think they may have failed another room inspection, although I'm not sure exactly what the argument was about. I do know that James decided the appropriate response was to attack his new roommate with his aluminum replica sword. This didn't work out too well for James, as his new roommate proceeded to grab the sword and bend it in half over his knee. I think a next-door neighbor called someone from the office at this point and the fight stopped before anyone got hurt. This incident was evidently the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of James's military career, and he was giving his walking papers from the Air Force. In a summary of disciplinary actions within our squadron that was posted a month or two later, we saw "ASSAULT WITH A SWORD" listed as one of the infractions. Everyone I worked with thought that was kind of funny.

I sometimes wonder what happened to James. I hope his dismissal from the military was a wake-up call for him, and that he cleaned up his act and went to college or something and is now doing well. But as we were never very close, I didn't get any contact information for him before he left. Maybe I'll look him up on Facebook sometime, but probably not.

Monday, July 06, 2009

4th of July fun and other excitement

Greetings all. Since my last entry, I took a quick trip up to Chicago in late June to see my sister and my nephews for a couple days. I got delayed by weather in Chicago flying up there, and the flights were packed both ways so I had to ride in the cockpit, but I had a good time. I did manage to catch a cold on the trip back, which is the second time this year that's happened. I think I need to start taking Airborne or something before I travel. Summer colds are no fun (not that winter colds are either) but I'm just about over it now.

Hope everyone had a great Fourth of July. I had a pretty good one myself, since I had the day off from work. I wasn't super productive, but I did get a couple chores done, and I also took my Mom out for dinner. We had Mexican food, which is her favorite. I thought about taking Mom to see the fireworks, but they didn't start until well after she usually goes to bed, and I didn't want to mess up her routine.

I live near a park that was having a big fireworks display, so when it got dark I walked to it. I'm still not completely used to living in a big city, even though I've been here for a few years now, but any time there is an event like this, which included a free concert, it's insanely crowded. People were parking all over the place, and illegally. I was glad I could walk and avoid the post-event traffic nightmare. The fireworks show was great and lasted about 30 minutes...I was close enough that I could see where they were launching from, and they played some synchronized music through the speakers that had been used for the concert.

All the walking was a good test for my knee, which seems to have completely recovered from my twisting it in late May. So, since my knee is better and I'm over my cold, I really need to start hitting the gym again. We will see how I do this month. I'm going to Yosemite at the end of the month on vacation so it would be nice to be able to do some hiking without getting completely exhausted.

Anyhow, nothing too exciting happened on the 4th. Yesterday was a different story, though. I went back to work yesterday afternoon but I was trying to get some minor chores out of the way before I got ready; one of those was taking the trash out. I noticed when I took out the trash that part of the dumpster appeared to be smoking slightly. I thought that was odd but I didn't do anything about it at the time. However, when I went outside a few minutes later, I saw that the dumpster that had been smoking now had started burning. I grabbed an extinguisher next to my apartment and put out the flames and shut the dumpster lid, but there was still a lot of smoke going. I went to the office to let them know, but there was nobody there yet, since they don't open until noon on Sunday.

When I came back outside, the dumpster was smoking even worse, so I called 911 on my cellphone, the first time I've ever had to do that. They transferred me to the local fire department, which took my information down and said a truck would be there right away. One of my neighbors came outside and seemed relieved to hear I'd already called 911. Right after I called 911, my cellphone's battery died, so I was unable to take any pictures, but I'm very glad it lasted until I was finished with the phone call. The dumpster that caught on fire can be seen, pre-fire, in the left of this picture, beside the big crate my furniture from New Mexico was shipped here in.

My neighbor and I were waiting for the fire truck to show up when the lid to the dumpster collapsed in (made of plastic) and flames started shooting up. Having emptied the first extinguisher already, I went running to grab another one, but by the time I had it in hand, the fire department had showed up, along with my apartment manager. The firemen did a very professional job, donning full gear, including oxygen masks, before drowning out the fire with foam and water.

To the fire department, this probably was a very minor fire and a nice training exercise, but I was a bit freaked out. Adrenalin rush, I suppose. Anyhow, they moved the extinguished dumpster out away from the wall, hosed down the adjacent dumpster a little bit with water to make sure no sparks had jumped over to it, and I opened up the exit gate for them so they could leave.

My apartment manager asked around and soon discovered the fire was caused by someone who had been barbecueing outside by the pool...they had decided to dump the charcoal from their barbecue into the dumpster while it was still smoldering. Not a very smart move, but at least I noticed the fire right when it started, so it didn't spread to the other dumpster, or the adjacent wooden wall.

Hope everyone had an enjoyable and SAFE holiday weekend, and remember to be careful when you're grilling.