Month: October 2013

A Bit Of Bitter With Your Next Meal

Erin Wotherspoon
I guess I would smile like that if I was about to have a nice free meal in an expensive restaurant. That is, if I was the type of person to use people for their money.

Before I begin, if this entry appears somewhat hurried, it’s because my high-speed Internet access goes offline after 13 years on October 31st and I’m not sure how wordpress.com renders on a 56K dialup modem, which is what I will be mostly using until after my move to Kitchener is done.

Despite the fact I have my hands full packing up for my move to Kitchener, this is still a blog about my job search. While I have referenced some parts of my relocation in the context of employment seeking (geographical relocation to find work), I know if I keep writing about my move, I’ll lose the blog’s raison d’etre. So, without further ado, here comes the shift of gears in three, two….

I’ve written a few blog posts  (and recorded a few episodes on my YouTube channel “David Needs A Job”) about how I had to change my worldview parameters in order to find employment. Having said this, that does not mean I’ve tossed the ethical and moral compass that makes me a good person out the window. I won’t commit a crime (kill, steal, defraud) in order to get a job, even if it made me a millionaire.  I also would not do anything that puts anyone else at a disadvantage or harms them emotionally or betrays their trust in me. That line I’ve talked about that keeps moving from time to time will never get over the titanium wall my ethics and morality is represented by. That’s how I was raised by my parents, and how I will roll until my time is up on this mortal world.

Some people don’t follow the same script I do, and will do things to people in order to get something out of it, such as a free meal. Meet Erin Wotherspoon, an actress who dates men in order to get a free meal. Not to find that special someone, but to eat in that special somewhere. Special as in a high-end restaurant. We are not talking McDonald’s or Timmy’s here. In her own words, “My purpose is to eat in really nice restaurants on dates”. To add a bit of salt in the wound (from the perspective of the date who later finds out that it was his wallet she was interested in), she blogs about the date on her Tumblr blog.

I could call her a term that best describes a woman who is interested in a man only for his money so she can have things she normally cannot afford herself. I’m not going to do that. Maybe she is a nice person who is involved in charities and is a good friend to others and someone her family is proud of (aside from what she is doing). Because I don’t know for a fact if she is indeed a nice person as described or true to form per the term I was speaking about. I will instead respond by saying this: despite the worst moments of my unemployment where I was facing the prospect of eviction unless I skipped a few things (including a meal), I never used anyone in order to pay my way. I either did without and drank a lot of water or found a less enjoyable yet affordable dinner to stop the rumbling in my stomach.

There’s another reason why I would no do what Ms. Wotherspoon would do and it has nothing to do with my aforementioned ethical and moral compass. It has something to do with consequences. Sure, I could use someone to pay my dinner for me, and in a nice place no less, but I also know that even if I didn’t care what people thought of what I did,  some things you did in the past can come back to bite you. It’s called karma. What goes around, comes around, in other words. Right now she is blogging about what she is doing, and people are spreading the word on Reddit and Facebook about what she is doing as a warning. I’m not sure she is working right now full time, but she better realize that employers use the Internet to find out information about prospective hires. Would any prospective director or even a talent agent want to deal with someone who has no qualms about taking someone for a ride just to get a free meal? I know I wouldn’t if I were in that person’s place.

In other words, she may not care if people refer to her as a bitch for doing what she is doing, but karma sure as heck can be one if the wrong person, particularly one that can offer Ms. Wotherspoon opportunities that can further her career if not savagely curtail it, reads about what she is doing. A perfect example of why, to quote the landlord I recently tendered my N9 to, we should “govern ourselves accordingly”

Thanks for reading!

David

How’s My Move Going? Don’t ‘Task’!

First Part Of Carpet Removal
So begins the removal of my carpet after 24 years of service. I finally found someone on Craigslist to do this for me. He removed the hallway carpet first since it was the smallest area to clear out first.

Craigslist and Kijiji are two services I use as part of my job search. Even with my move plans underway, I’m still posting “Looking For Work” ads, the only difference now is that I’m using the Kitchener section instead of Toronto.

I didn’t want to use any of the services, however,  to deal with a problem that suddenly sprung up during my moving plans: the removal of my carpet. Hold on, though: I’m getting ahead of myself.

When I moved into the neighbourhood 24 years ago, I wanted wall-to-wall carpeting to protect the floor underneath. Because I added this to my apartment, I am under instructions by my landlord to remove the carpet before I leave.

Since it was the company that I bought the carpeting from that also did the installation, I had no idea how the carpet was put in. This also meant I had no idea how to remove it, and when you are someone like myself who was pathetic at wood-shop class in junior high school, that just adds to my little ignorance problem. Nevertheless, I still had to find out how to remove it or get charged by my landlord if they have to hire someone to remove it.

I asked my brother and brother-in-law for some advice on how to remove the carpeting, since they are both well-skilled at carpentry.  They both assured me it would be very easy to remove, since it’s all about tearing out a series of guide nails holding it in place and cutting the carpet into easy to manage strips that could be bundled and hauled off to the disposal area later. As I was about to find out, it wasn’t as easy as I thought.

I’m not sure if it was because I already voided the warranty my back and shoulders once had before my two-day assault on the wall-paper in the bathroom (something else I had to remove, but a tale for another time!), but I could not tear the carpet free from the piranha’s mouth of wooden nails holding it to a wooden block that was in turn nailed to the floor. The only thing that the crowbar I was using managed to tear was my protective glove and a good gash of skin from my left hand’s ring finger.

Clearly I was not up to the task, but as I said at the beginning, I didn’t want to go to Craigslist or Kijiji to post an ad there. There are stories of people getting scammed for work nor being done properly if at all, and in some cases far worse. I remember reading something in the free newspaper Metro about a web site called AskForTask where you can ask for something to be done with a description and an asking fee, and once you review a few people’s bids, assign the person you want, and once you are satisfied and pay the person, mark the task as complete with a review. I liked what AskForTask had going for it because it was better policed than Craigslist and Kijiji, plus, registration through an existing Facebook account was available. That opinion was going to change over the span of two days.

The task I filled out last Sunday (October 20) described what I wanted was a metred out removal of carpet over a few days, instead of all at once, because my apartment is still full of bins and emptied out drawers and cupboards. I had formatted the ad to show how my apartment was broken down into areas using a tab-delimited grid showing the area name, size in square feet, and cost I was willing to pay for each area. The grand total for four areas in my apartment was $200: a fair cost considering I just needed someone with better shoulders and arms than what I had to remove the carpet. The way AskForTask formatted the text once entered made that difficult since it did not allow blank lines between paragraphs and tab delimited columns, so I had to manually twiddle with the text a bit to at least make my ad understandable.

Once that was done, I went to bed and on Monday morning I found some bids to my task. I ignored those people who did not put up a picture of themselves and did not have a fully verified ad (meaning Facebook verified, PayPal verified, mobile verified and portrait verified). One person, who we will call Rudy, stated n a private message to me that he was interested in doing all four areas for $200. I asked him if he had previous experience with this, and he replied that he had “experience removing/installing carpets, tiles and flooring. 2 years with a private contracter (sic).” Sounds encouraging! Not sure how I can verify his experience but he seems to have an honest face and he was pretty close to fully verified. I told him that I would be interested in meeting with him at a coffee shop to work out a schedule of how to remove the carpet in each area once he put in a bid, since he just private messaged me but not bidded. When he did bid, he put down $225.

Whoa, what? I clearly said, and Rudy stated, the carpet can be removed in all 4 areas for $200, and he now wants $225? I private messaged him back through the open task that the maximum was $200 and I could not change that. A few hours later, I got a call from someone at AskForTask who serves as overseers for the bids. He informed me that Rudy was waiting for my reply. I told that person that I wanted Rudy to change his bid to the originally agreed to $200 or he was not going to be assigned. The response back from one of the overseers was surprising: Rudy has to pay 12.5% back to AskForTask for any money earned completing a task. 12,5% of $200 is $25, so Rudy figured — rather rudely and incorrectly — that it would be okay to pass that charge back to me. one who is currently unemployed and is losing his apartment because he cannot afford to live there.

What unmitigated gall. I explained to the overseer on the phone that $200 is $200 and it will not change. He said he would speak to Rudy to change his bid. When Rudy changed his bid, I assigned him the task, but told Rudy in a private message to contact me at my telephone number supplied to arrange a time on Wednesday to meet at a Tim Horton’s up the street to work out the fine details.

I never heard from him again. He did not answer my repeated private messages, nor called me over the telephone. At 10:00 p.m. Tuesday evening, I told Rudy he was out of the job (probably the closest I ever came to actually firing someone in my life), and would post 4 new bids, one for each area of my apartment that had carpeting I wanted removed. I figured this way by separating my work into smaller subtasks that even if another Rudy came along, there may be others working the other tasks that would at least complete what I wanted. I tried to delete the original task that Rudy was assigned to and found there is no delete option. Terrific. I asked in the customer service form link on the website to have someone delete the original task and let the new 4 tasks do what they needed to do. When I woke up Wednesday morning, someone quickly responded to my request, but it was a shame they deleted the 4 new tasks and left the original assigned task alone.

At this point, I have had enough. I went on both Craigslist and Kijiji to post an ad in the Toronto section for someone to remove my carpeting for $200. I received over 70 replies in under two hours, and was able to whittle it down to one person who actually sent me a résumé, complete with references, of his past experience in this sort of work. I was sold. I asked him to come over, size up my apartment, and we both agreed to the schedule and cost. He’s already removed the hallway carpeting and will work on the dining room carpeting on Thursday. With luck, the carpeting will be gone by the middle of next week if his schedule permits.

I’m not writing this to slam AskForTask for the debacle I went through. There’s some blame there for them, but Rudy deserves the lion’s share of it for not calling me back. When an overseer called me back today — 12 hours after I reported through a customer service form that my four tasks were deleted instead of the original one — he apologized and took ownership. But it just goes to show that what might sound good in a newspaper article in fact needs some time to work out the bugs and mature into something that is both effective for those looking for work and the people who assign tasks to them to make that possible. For now, I do not feel in my personal opinion that it’s the way to go to find steady reliable work based on what I experienced from the web page interface to the professionalism of the community there.

As for whether I will use AskForTask again, my final customer service form entry says it all:

Can you please cancel my account on AskForTask? I do not see an option to remove myself from your service.

Thanks

David

Thanks for reading!

David

Theory of Relativity

Where the sectional used to be
After 24 years, the furniture of my apartment has been removed as one of many steps to be completed before my move on November 9th, 2013. Where the sectional used to be now is a chair with a cleaning towel that I will use to wipe any stains off the wall.

I wince as one of the men from 1-800-GOT-JUNK drops one end of my recliner onto the flatbed, cracking one of the wooden feet in the process. I keep telling myself that it’s old, and there are bite marks on one part from a pesky mouse, that I haven’t the money to store it, and that it’s done it’s job. It’s a struggle watching the rest of my furniture being taken to the flatbed by the two men, who are really great guys and are chatting with me about my plans in Kitchener. No doubt they can see this is a pretty tough moment for me and are trying to lift my spirits. Between their efforts to cheer me up and my own internal will, I keep a pretty good poker face and even crack a few jokes.

The moment I get upstairs though is a different story. I see my living room and dining room for the first time without furniture since my tour of the apartment in November of 1989. The whole apartment looks so big. When I see the pressure marks on the carpet where the sectional, recliner and dining room table used to be, my composure cracked. I sat down on the carpet, back against the wall, and had a good cry.

Nothing unmanly about crying. It’s natural to mourn over loss. Loss of personal space. Loss of independence. Loss of privacy. Loss of friends, familiarity of the neighborhood, knowing a city as well as the back of my hand. All lost because I failed at what I believed to be a simple task: find a job.

So simple, right? 20 years in information technology, 17 years of that in a large multi-national company. I wore the hats of programmer, systems administrator, was a pinch hitter for PC and EDI issues when the pros went on vacation. Not fired from my job, on awesome terms with my employer and former co-workers. Kept saying to myself all that should have translated to a short unemployment spell. That was over 3 and a half years ago.

When you sustain any personal loss — the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage, or in my case, losing my ability to sustain myself as an independent sovereign individual  — you suddenly feel very vulnerable. Doubt starts to creep in. You question those mileposts you passed and once thought as high moments. Was I as good as I thought I was? Were those accomplishments I did that the users and my boss thought were amazing or was I just fooling myself? Maybe it was all one long ego coast over the last 20 years and the lengthy unemployment was Life’s way of saying, “David: you actually sucked”.

I was in no mood to continue with my packing that day my furniture was taken to the heap, or to look for work in Kitchener, or to do anything. I went on YouTube to find a video that would cheer me up. Because I use FireFox, I ended up auto-logged on my “David Needs A Job” channel and saw some recommendations that related to my channel’s content (job searching). I was going to log out when I saw the grinning face in a thumbnail of one woman’s video and decided to watch it.  Her video was her personal commentary about her own job search which she described as having “her soul raped backwards naked over a cactus”. She nailed it: the job market is really that bad and she described the snakes and ladders game that is looking for work for the farce it truly is. A joke.

Came across another video that was truly heartbreaking. I thought I had the market cornered with my 1000 video on YouTube describing my depression, until I saw this woman describing not only what her lack of employment was doing to her, but the domino effect it was having on other parts of her life. I’ve had those days as a result of my job search where I don’t know what to feel any more. For what it was worth, I left my two cents worth to her in support.

Some of you out there might advise I should not watch these videos because it will put the wrong things in my head. Actually, they put a fresh perspective on my own situation. I’m not the only one having this trouble. There are countless others like me who are trying to find a job but are not making it. It’s not my fault. It never was my fault. The fault is with the economy. The fault is with government for not stimulating the economy by offering initiatives like keeping companies — and jobs — in Canada instead of farming them off overseas through taxes. The fault is with companies who refuse to give people a chance through more mentoring and apprenticeship openings, and who believe in working their employees to death through their insane mantra of “do more than less! do more with less!” instead of hiring more staff.

Einstein’s “Theory Of Relativity” postulated that “measurements of various quantities are relative to the velocities of observers”. In short, it’s all about one’s point of view. Things are actually not what they seem when you look at it just from your own emotional vantage point, especially when your perch is in a ditch. The world truly is screwed up,  and it’s unfortunate that mourning over the loss of my furniture made me forget that important fact.

Thanks for reading.

David