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David's Saga: a continuing series about work today. Episode 7: For the sake of the marriage

At the end of the previous episode, Susan agreed to let David take a month for "planned serendipity: " exploring what sort of work he might pursue and giving himself the first real break from work in his 19 years of working.

But after a month of Sierra Club hikes, photography classes, dog-walking meetups, and a seven-day juice-fast meditation retreat, David was still clueless as to what to do careerwise.

"Susan, I need another month or two."

'David, our savings are starting to dwindle. It makes me nervous. If you haven't found your calling in all this time, another month won't likely help."

"I'm not looking for my calling. Only clerics and guests on Oprah have callings. I'm just looking for something that doesn't make me feel half-dead. I don't expect to find work that gives me a non-stop orgasm. Why don't you get some more piano students? You're only working 10 hours a week."

"There are a zillion piano teachers. I'm grateful I have 10 hours."

"But you do no marketing. I'll bet if you marketed just a little, you could get more students. Okay, what's your best way to market: schmooze demo classes in public schools, what?"

"I don't know."

"You love to show off your piano playing and you love to throw parties. Why don't you invite all your past and present students and their parents to the house and you play some duets with your students. That'll get you a few referral, I'll bet!"

"It feels like too much work for too little results."

"I think you just like your life just as it is---just enough work so you don't have to tell your friends you're a stay-at-home housewife."

"Fuck you!...Okay, I'll call the parents of my past students, say I was thinking of their kid and so I figured I'd pick up the phone and ask how they're doing. Without having to ask for business, that'll put me into their head and maybe they'll want me to start teaching their kid again or refer some other parent to me."

"Sounds great."

But then, David, you have to promise you'll go get a job now. Stop with the dreaming and find a marketing job. That's the only practical way for you, at age 42, with 19 years in marketing, to bring in enough money to afford the mortgage and pay for the damn private school. God, I wish there was a public school in our area we could send Damien to without feeling like we're throwing him to the wolves."

"Okay. I'll look for a marketing job."

David's Saga: A continuing series on work today. Episode 6: Brainstorm

In the previous episode, David's idea of  selling meatball sandwiches met an early demise upon seeing the thousands of regulations in the California Retail Food Code.

So David and Susan were back in brainstorming mode:

"Maybe I should think big, like start a school?" David offered.

"If starting a meatball cart meant thousands of regulations, what do you think start a school would require?"

 "If I can't beat em, maybe I should join 'em: become a government restaurant inspector. I'm sure there'd be plenty inspecting that was needed...or at least required."

 "How about a less dramatic change, a small pivot from marketing research on t-shirts to something a little more meaningful like market research on drugs?"

"Legal ones?  Don't have the background. I'd have to go back for years of calculus, physics, biology. I don't think so.

"What about pot?" There's a big nationwide legalization push. The media's totally pushing it,".

"I've turned around on that: Legalization increases use, big-time, including kids. And the dangers are far worse than the advocates would have us believe. Plus, the black market wouldn't go away: Because legal pot is heavily taxed, the black market would grow because it sells pot tax-free, cheaper. So legalization merely increases the number of ways for kids to get pot."

"Let's get high," Susan chuckled.

"Maybe I should take a month off, do some new things around some new people, let planned serendipity happen: take a short course in something, like photography or voiceover maybe."

"Oh that will help you make a living.  10 million people pay 10 grand a piece to learn voiceover and 9,999,990 never make enough to even pay for the training let alone make a middle-class living from voiceover. And nine of the ten that do were already successful actors."

"I could get go to MeetUps, join some committee at church..."

"You could  join Sierra Club, go on birdwatching hikes and stuff."

"The only people I'd meet would be retired tree sitters. Not exactly the best source of career leads."

"Hey, we could go on a cruise. You meet lots of rich, well-connected people on a cruise"

"And gain 10 pounds. Just what I need after my heart attack. By the way, those fuckers at Blue Cross still are asking for more documentation before they pay the bills. I think they're trying to give me another heart attack. Seriously, I do hear insurance companies try to keep stalling and asking for more documentation hoping the patient will just give up or die. Fuckers."

"Your father suggested you join Rotary."

"What, and wear a fez?"

That's the Shriners. Rotary is just a bunch of middle-class people, mainly small business owners, who get together to raise money for charity and to network...Actually, the thought of taking a few months to sort things out is sounding pretty good. I've been working non-stop ever since I was a teenager."

How about making it a month? Objects at rest tend to...

Okay, a month. A lot can happen in a month.

I hope to write the next episode today or tomorrow.

David's Saga: A continuing series about life at work today. Episode 5: Regulations

David and Susan were excited about the idea of starting a business selling the world's best meatball sandwiches. They'd call it Balls of Joy.  

But the joy dissipated when they looked at the 105-page California Retail Food Code. Among its thousands of regulations they found this page-worth particularly depressing:

(a) Mechanical exhaust ventilation equipment shall be provided over all cooking equipment as required to effectively remove cooking odors, smoke, steam, grease, heat, and vapors. All mechanical exhaust ventilation equipment shall be installed and maintained in accordance with the California Mechanical Code, except that for units subject to Part 2 (commencing with Section 18000) of Division 13, an alternative code adopted pursuant to Section 18028 shall govern the construction standards

114149.2 (a)

Every hood shall be installed to provide for thorough cleaning of all interior and exterior surfaces, including, but not limited to, the hood, filters, piping, lights, troughs, hangers, flanges, and exhaust ducts


(a) Nonpermanent food facilities that handles unprepackaged food shall be equipped with potable water and wastewater tanks. Water tanks shall be designed with an access port for inspection and cleaning. The access port shall be in the top of the tank and flanged upward at least one-half inch and equipped with a port cover assembly that is provided with a gasket and a device for securing the cover in place and flanged to overlap the opening and sloped to drain.

114311. Mobile food facilities not under a valid permit as of January 1, 1997, from which nonprepackaged food is sold shall provide handwashing facilities. The handwashing facilities shall be separate from the warewashing sink.
(b) The handwashing facility shall be separated from the warewashing sink by a metal splashguard with a height of at least six inches that extends from the back edge of the drainboard to the front edge of the drainboard, the corners of the barrier to be rounded.

(a) Except as specified in subdivisions (b) and (c), a mobile food facility where nonprepackaged food is cooked, blended, or otherwise prepared shall provide a warewashing sink with at least three compartments with two integral metal drainboards.
(1) The dimensions of each compartment shall be large enough to accommodate the cleaning of the largest utensil and either of the following:
(A) At least 12 inches wide, 12 inches long, and 10 inches deep.
(B) At least 10 inches wide, 14 inches long, and 10 inches deep.
(2) Each drainboard shall be at least the size of one of the sink compartments. The drainboards shall be installed with at least one-eighth inch per foot slope toward the sink compartment, and fabricated with a minimum of one-
half inch lip or rim to prevent the draining liquid from spilling onto the floor.
(3) The sink shall be equipped with a mixing faucet and shall be provided with a swivel spigot capable of servicing all sink compartments

14099 (e)
Manual sanitization shall be accomplished in the final sanitizing rinse by one of the following:
(a)Immersion for at least 30 seconds where the water temperature is maintained at 171F or above.
(b) The application of sanitizing chemicals by immersion, manual swabbing, or brushing, using
one of the following solutions:
(1) Contact with a solution of 100 ppm available chlorine solution for at least 30 seconds.
(2) Contact with a solution of 25 ppm available iodine for at least one minute.
(3) Contact with a solution of 200 ppm quaternary ammonium for at least one minute.
(4) Contact with any chemical sanitizer that meets the requirements of
Section 180.940 of Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations when used in accordance with the manufacturer's use directions.
(5)  Other methods approved by the enforcement agency.

(a) Except on a mobile food facility that only utilizes the water for handwashing purposes, a water heater or an instantaneous heater capable of heating water to a minimum of 120F interconnected with a potable water supply, shall be provided and shall operate independently of the vehicle engine.


All mobile food facilities shall operate in conjunction with a commissary, mobile support unit, or other facility approved by the enforcement agency.

Susan said, "To make a profit, we'd have to charge $50 per meatball." 

David added, "And it would take a year of no income to work on getting the cart until where the government would let us charge $50 per meatball. So our hourly wage for those five years would be, let me see, 10 cents an hour. 

Susan said, "Hey, that's below minimum wage. We could sue ourselves for violation of the Wages and Hours Act."
So the food business was out. But now what?

I hope to write the next episode later today.

David's Saga: a continuing series about life at work today: Episode 4: Meatballs

A month after his heart attack, David returned to work. Alas, as articles he had Googled indicated, he found that his cognitive functioning wasn't what it was, nor was his energy level.

So it wasn't a total surprise when The Big Enchilada made him part of the next round of layoffs. For a moment, he considered invoking the Americans with Disabilities Act but doing that would violate one of his core values: that a person should be employed only on the merits not because some law protects him or her. After all, if some law forces the employer to keep an employee when he could find someone better, it means a more qualified person is denied the job, the coworkers are denied a better coworker and instead may need to carry part of the employee's load, and/or the company's products or services end up worse, thereby hurting the customers and shareholders. No, David knew he had to go quietly.

But now what? Despite weeks with plenty of time to think about it, David didn't know.

His wife Susan suggested he consider a lower-level job in his field: "David, big-data analytics is a super-competitive field. How about some easier marketing job?" But that would make his descent too obvious to himself. He needed something completely different.

But who the hell would hire him at any sort of decent salary doing something completely different, in which he had no training or experience, especially with his now-just-average cognitive functioning and energy?

Should he go back to school? He hadn't been in school for 20 years and now, with his memory not so good, it seemed too daunting. Besides, those years in school would not only be years without income but would cost him serious dollars in tuition. And of course, there's degree proliferation: Today, it seems everyone has a college degree and nearly everyone has a graduate degree. Getting a master's in something would not sufficiently differentiate him, let alone be the wisest use of his time and money, even assuming he could get into and complete a decent master's program.

"Well maybe I should start my own business? But what? And most businesses fail, especially those run by people who are starting their first business. Jeez, I haven't even shown any entrepreneurial interest. As a kid, I never even had a lemonade stand."

But Susan said, "Why don't we try a really simple business like selling meatball sandwiches from a cart near a train station. You always said my meatballs were the best in the world."

Figuring there was nothing to lose by writing a one-page mini-business plan, they did. They even came up with a name, an, ahem, ballsy name: Balls of Joy. And for the first time in a long time, David got excited and Susan got excited...until they encountered one pound that threw cold water on their meatballs: The California Food Code.

David's Saga, Episode 3 of a continuing series about life at work today: Heart-to-Heart

Mike had already been told. Big Enchilada acts fast--she was trained that especially women bosses need to be seen as decisive.

Mike had told his wife that she could stay at home. He was confident he'd never get laid off. After all, it was a big, solid company and he could program in Python, Ruby, C, Visual Basic, and Hadoop--among the most in-demand languages. And while no one could ever accuse him of being a ninja programmer or a workaholic, he certainly wasn't a vacant lay-about.

Mike's ending up on The List was pretty much bad luck. If only that up-and-comer hadn't tried to show how cost-conscious he was by suggesting that The Company could find plenty programmers with five-star customer ratings on ODesk for $20 an hour, no benefits.

David was no hugger but this was one of those rare times he actually wanted to hug the person, not as the now-obligatory evidence of being a modern male but because he truly felt for Mike...and maybe to soothe himself. After all, if one comment could put a good employee like Mike on the unemployment line, all it would take is for some coworker to say, "David's relentless snarkiness is hurting morale" and he too would be pounding the pavement. David couldn't bear to be Mr. Mom and collect unemployment checks.

Suddenly, David felt pressure in his chest. "Probably just the stress of thinking my job might not be so secure."  But when the pain shot up into his neck and down his left arm, he knew he was having a heart attack.  "Mike, call 911."

I'll try to write the next episode tonight or tomorrow.

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