gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
Had an annoyance this morning. I'm finally getting back to my writing group. The fall session started in late August, but I would have missed two of four sessions due to Burning Man, so why pay for that? So I was ready and eager to get back to having to explain things to my fellow writers who know nothing about science-fiction.

A ritual I've developed is hitting the McDonald's drive-thru for breakfast. I love their sausage biscuits with egg, and I get a milk to go with it. I do this because making breakfast myself requires spoons that I'll need later. Plus, yummy biscuits.

I should have known there was a problem when the line was at a dead stop. But I had given myself plenty of time, and I wanted my sandwich! So I crept the truck up to the order box. Where I gave my exceedingly simple order in a clearly enunciated voice. "Sausage Biscuit with Egg, and a milk, please."

All I get is an "OK, second window" and nothing on the order screen. This was a little disturbing, but the screen has been out for a while. And my order is dead fucking simple.

Still creeping. I have the window down and I don't care who hears me mangle Turn the Page Finally get to the window, with my formally comfortable time cushion deflating rapidly.

The young lady asks me for an amount way over what I know my order costs, even with tax. When I question this, she reads back my order as "Egg McMuffin meal . . ." I stop her right there. Where the hell does one get "Egg McMuffin" from "Sausage Biscuit with Egg"? She gets the correct order up, and after wandering aimlessly for three minutes hands me my order. Stopping only long enough to check it was my order, and not a BigMac or a half-eaten donut from across the street, I raced (as well as one can race on streets with a 25mph speed limit) to school, devouring my precious food all the way. I figured I'd just slam the milk in the parking lot. I'm an old truck driver, many times I've eaten a meal in stages in three different places.

Find parking, put up my Gimp Placard, and grab my milk. I twist the cap open and get a refreshing mouthful of . . . nothing. That, and my lips are very cold. The milk they handed me was frozen solid. It was a rock. Frustrated, I grabbed a few swallows from a water fountain and headed in for the group.

Which was terrific as ever. Good to see everyone again after the extended summer break, and see what people were working on. This group lasts two hours, 1000-1200 hours, and it was a warm day here in Santa Clara. We even stayed late to allow one more story to be read. The milk jug was still solid.

Back over to McD's, where the manager was appalled. She quickly checked the unit where milk and the like are stored and swore in a language that was both beautiful and venomous. She was pissed. I've seen this woman, always clad in the best hijab that manages to compliment the uniform of the day, running the morning shift like a pro. She takes pride in her work. She quickly refunded my money, and I was on my way.

But seriously, the problem with the frozen milk aside (which is a training issue, someone forgot to reset the temperature controls) my real complaint was with the young lady who took my order. She failed to offer a greeting, failed to confirm my order, failed to tell me my total, and I never got a thank you. This location is hiring a lot of new people, but someone that inexperienced should not be running breakfast rush by herself. I can only imagine how many errors ahead of me were the cause of the glacial movement of the line.

I know I've never worked fast food, but I have worked jobs where getting and relaying accurate information is vital to success. I've been a dispatcher, carried messages from contractors to my warehouse manager and sales staff, and, oh yeah, learned to call in artillery and air strikes! You do not want to say Sausage Biscuit with Egg and have them hear Egg McMuffin in that last one!

And it really isn't like this is my only option. Within a short drive, there is a Jack in the Box, a Burger King, and if I want to go nuts, I can sit down at Denny's. I hate to sound like That Customer, but they are in a fight to keep my money in their tills.

Oh, well. At least I got my biscuit.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
True story: I first heard of Bill Kirchen, and his amazing take on Hot Rod Lincoln while I was still driving for PODS. I had been sent to drop a container in the Santa Cruz Mountains during a raging rainstorm. It would have been a hard drop on a sunny day, and I was doing it in running water up to my ankles.

Driving home, with my shoes on the floor of the passenger side of the cab, and my socks on the dash near the vents, driving my big truck on Highway 9 in a deluge, I was listening to KPIG, and they played this. I was hooked. We've seen him a couple of times, and every time he plays Hot Rod Lincoln it's different.

gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Bosch)
13 hours later, and I still cannot believe it.

Last night, about 2255, five minutes before I close and go home, the phone rings.

Now the night had been insane, mainly due to the massive number of weather-related flight delays. I had six drivers who were going to be out after I left, all with arrivals after midnight. Two had arrivals after 0100! So I had been hopping, updating ETAs, making sure the drivers had passenger phone numbers (when we had them), and generally trying to make sure that things would run smoothly for the answering service.

Then the phone rings )

The second insanity involves the BossLady snarking someone in email.

We charge an extra $10 for international arrivals. The reason is simple: we meet the flight when it lands. International passengers have to clear customs, which means longer waiting times, and a higher parking fee for the driver. People can avoid this fee by calling our 800 number when they clear customs. We send them out to the limo stand, and the driver, who has been waiting off the airport property, swoops up and gets them.

There is a company that has made calling the 800# standard policy. Yesterday, we has a No-Show at SFO for one of their Russian employees. Driver waited nearly 3 hours for the call. An email exchange revealed that Boris had "looked for his limo for 40 minutes and couldn't find him, so he took a taxi."

BossLady replied that these folks aren't supposed to look for their limo, they are supposed to call us. Any deviation from their policy needs to be specified. We're more than happy to send the driver into the terminal to wait, but you gotta pay for it.

What we got back was an epic whine. The company wasn't sure if he had his confirmation, or knew how to find a pay phone, or spoke English, or was competent in any way so it is all our fault.

If this guy is so helpless, why is this company flying him around the world?

I don't get paid enough.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Keep Calm)
And I'm not even on for two hours.

An Asiana 777 crashed on landing at SFO. Luckily, casualties seem to be very light. But the airport is now closed for the foreseeable future, and the Highway Patrol has completely shut all non-emergency access to the port.

Incoming flights are either being canceled or diverted. Which is going to be my headache as we try to track our incoming passengers. We may need to send a driver to Sacramento. Almost a three hour drive each way.

Send beer.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Bosch)
There is too much to explain in detail, too much even for a summary. So I'll be brief.

  • To every stupid, lack-of-prior-planning, moron I dealt with; may a moose become erotically obsessed with your ass.

  • To every single airline I had to deal with tonight: may your trip to paradise involve a flight on your own airline, with a tricky connection in Chicago.

  • To my whiny, piss-ant drivers (not all of them, but a select few): may you be evicted because you didn't make enough money after demanding that every job that inconvenienced you be taken away.

  • and finally, To the webmasters at United and American; may your lives someday depend on machinery that is as stable and dependable as your fucking "track flight" pages.

But I have to give a shout out to the drivers who dealt with all the shit tonight professionally, calmly, and who asked "how can I help?" I'll remember you guys when I get add-ons and juicy trips.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Bosch)
I didn't want to leave work tonight.

We had one of those spectacular meltdowns that can only happen in the transportation industry. One of our regulars, a delightful semi-retired historian/sociologist (she and I have had some lovely chats, and she always quizzes me on whatever history book I'm currently reading), was flying back from $CITYINTEXAS when there was a medical emergency on her plane. Emergency landing in New Mexico. She called to let us know about the delay.

Flight was supposed to arrive at 1738 local, pushed back to 2110. This was due to the need to refuel after the diversion and speed to get a critically ill man out of the sky and into an ambulance. Nothing to be done. I call the driver and advise him of the new ETA and go back to working watching season 9 of Hell's Kitchen on Hulu.

About an hour later I check the flight for an updated ETA. 0115. That's when our passenger calls me. Evidently, while refueling the plane, the ground crew managed to puncture a tire, and since the airport wasn't a major destination for $AIRLINE, they needed to fly one in.

At this juncture, I will point out that the airplane involved is a Boeing 737-800. The 737 series is, by far, is the most numerous in domestic US/Canadian service. I simply cannot believe there wasn't a spare tire lying around somewhere.

Anyway, after suggesting to my passenger that a stagecoach might be faster, I called my driver. We agreed that he was going to take a nap, and I'd set up a wake-up call with our answering service for midnight. If the arrival was going to be significantly earlier, I'd call the driver myself to let him know.

This is where the crazy sets in. To track arrivals, we usually use the airline's own website. As back-ups we use FlightView and FlightAware. In extremis, we check the arriving airport's website.

As you can imagine, I was quite put out when I got three different arrival times covering a two-hour period when checking sites. The the $AIRLINE site decided it was already Tuesday and stopped believing in the flight completely. I had to call them three times to get a clear ETA.

Still, even as I left for the evening (the bosses dislike paying overtime unless an absolute necessity) I was reflexively checking the updates. I honestly wish I could have stayed until my driver reported he had the passenger and was on his way.

Just checked again, 0101 arrival. Guess I'll hear the whole story tomorrow.
gridlore: Doug with Kirsten, both in nice clothes for a wedding. (Me - with Kirsten)
What a week.

Along with the Saturday trip to Ikea, and Sunday assembling Ikea, I had to work a full schedule. Work got interesting at points. But I had one of those backaches that just wandered around from muscle group to muscle group like an irritating tourist.

But the new TV stand is up, and looks good. We have plans to continue the transformation of the place, but that can wait until some more pressing needs are met. Speaking of that, boosting signal for my lovely wife: Give her money. She's awesome. Why should you give her money? Because for the past 18 years she has taken care of me. She literally saved my life the first time I had pneumonia by making me go to the ER, then practically carrying me down three flights of steep stairs and pouring me into the car. Now it's her turn to be taken care of. I'd donate, but she already gets my money.

Anyway, now that you've thrown cash towards my Kiri, back to me. Today I'm taking it easy. Currently watching the Giants beat up on the Rockies (up 10-0, end of 8) and contemplating food. Got a little done today, a few dishes and some tidying. Tomorrow, I need to do recycling, pick up a couple of things at the Auto Parts Store Formally Known As Kragens. After that, since we're having beautiful weather, wash Darby and start sorting out winter clothes for storage.

But for now, sloth. Sloth and baseball.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Penguin - Wobble)
Dear Halford, I am exhausted.

A certain well-known maker of graphics cards (which is headquartered about a quarter mile from where I live) is having its annual Big Thing at the San Jose Convention Center. They have invited just about every geek on the planet. They're using us for ground transportation.

A huge wave of business; good thing, right? We make loads of money, our drivers get lots of work, and everyone is happy. Or so you'd expect. The problem is that the people who were charged with setting everything up couldn't organize an orgy in a whorehouse. We literally had dozens of people reserved, and the "organizers" kept making changes, not giving us contact information, and forgetting little details like what fucking flights people were on so we could meet them!

Tova, the Boss Lady, was already worn to a frazzled nub last week. Then the onslaught began on Saturday. You know it's going to be bad when the very first person on this extensive list of passengers no-shows. It got worse. Along with multiple people who never showed up (Hamed, one of our better drivers and a guy I really like as a person, had four no-shows from this group) we also had several drivers who called in from the airport after encountering several people heading to the conference with no reservations. The planners had specified that our drivers have signs with the conference name instead of the passenger name. My nightmare was having one town car (maximum capacity three passengers) at the airport and 4+ conference guests show up. We also had to accommodate our usual passenger load. We farmed out a butt-load of trips.

Our drivers suffered from going from 3-4 trips a day to 5 or 6, with multiple add-ons, but in the office we've been in a constant state of stress due to the fact that we've been dealing with a huge load of arrivals. We don't control the airlines, and if United 931 is 77 minutes late, we need to make adjustments. Multiply that by 11-12 drivers (Al, one of the owners had to drive a couple of days this weekend) with 5 or so arrivals, and you can see where one plane coming in early or late can cause a nightmare cascade of changes, all of which the dispatcher (yours truly) needs to get out to the drivers.

They're exhausted. The dispatchers are exhausted. The owners are beyond exhausted.

But the wave has passed. We survived.

Until Friday.

When they start going home. En mass.

gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Penguin - Exploding)
No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Tonight at work was like having an intricate, carefully balanced machine explode. Violently. With the A-Team music playing. Then all the parts somehow fall almost exactly back into place. One of my poor drivers had his work for tonight and tomorrow changed at least six times. Thank Halford he has a sense of humor.

Add in a complete fail by the United Airlines site, and is anyone surprised I'm drinking heavily?
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - Glare of Sarcasm)
Saturday and Sunday were utterly insane days at work. Too much to explain here, but suffice to say that I will never cheer for a Stanford sports team again. Then I wake up Monday feeling utterly miserable, and that grows into the dreaded flu-like symptoms. Which caused me to miss both Monday and Tuesday. It was one of those things where you are so sore and drained of energy that just the idea of eating, let alone actually preparing food, makes you sick on its own.

Feeling a bit better today. Took a Vicodin for the remaining muscle soreness early this morning. Feeling good enough to break out my new mop (as yet unnamed) and finally do the kitchen floor. New mop, very hot water, and Pine-Sol really killed the accumulated grime. I may make a second pass later. I am such a Domestic God! I need a new floor mat for in front of the sink.

Anybody want to buy me a one-time visit from a maid service for the Generic Winter Holiday?

I've decided to try playing Madden11 without coach mode being on. Spending a lot of time in practice. Learning the kicking controls was probably the hardest part. I mad some... interesting kicks and punts before figuring things out. The game looks amazing on our new TV. Hell, everything looks amazing on the new TV.

Reading yet another Black Library omnibus. Enforcer is Matt Farrer's collection of tales concerning Shira Calpurnia, one of the Empire's elite Adeptus Arbites, the enforces and judges of Imperial Law. I've finished two of the three books. On the plus side, Farrer has a great grasp of how big and alien the Imperium really is. He also explores areas not normally seen in these books; the Ecclesiarchy, the inner workings of a Rogue Trader flotilla, and the network of powerful telepaths who pass messages through the warp. He writes fascinating characters and places. Where he fails is in good story-telling. The first novel in the collection concerns a huge religious festival and the attempts to disrupt it. Each chapter starts with a description of the day's required rituals and observances. But the actual story reads like a SSI Gold Box adventure. Go to a place, beat the monster, get handed information. The second book should have been brilliant.. a contested succession in rogue trader flotilla sold old that their charter was signed by the God-Emperor Himself nearly ten thousand years ago! The maneuvering of factions and claimants should have been a game of shadow and daggers. Instead, the entire thing falls apart. They just aren't good police stories.

The Giants remain alive. We just need to win two straight on the road to make the NLCS. GO GIANTS!!!
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - Glare of Sarcasm)
I like working opening on the weekends. For the most part, it's quiet. Handle the drivers, a few customer calls, and read my book.

Today, that routine was rudely interrupted. At 0753 our online booking thing goes off. Not overly unusual. Then I look at it.

A pick up at SFO at 0838 this morning. A few seconds alter, the agent calls me. She apologizes for the late warning, but she had just about the same warning.

Note this was a flight from Tokyo that had been in the air for close to seven hours. The customer could have called us before boarding. He could have called us yesterday. But he waits until the plane is making its turn onto the approach pattern to let his travel agent know he needs car service.

To make things even more fun, today was dead. Meaning I had just enough drivers to handle the work we had scheduled. I caught two lucky breaks. First, when I did an ETA on the flight, it was about an hour late. Secondly, I had a driver scheduled to work a bit later in the morning who lives pretty much next to SFO. So I was able to cover the run.

But seriously, I often think that some of our passengers think we have a freaking fleet on-call 24/7.
gridlore: A pile of a dozen hardback books (Books)
I'm at work. Today, we have a grand total of seven trips scheduled. The usual amount is somewhere between 20 and 40. Of those seven trips, four of them took place before I even got to work. The next scheduled trip is at 1335. Roughly six hours from now.

Me and the early Byzantine Empire are going to spend some quality time to while away the hours.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)

  • [profile] madelineusher has moved in with us for lessons in being Poor But Fabulous.

  • She's sleeping on our futon, so I'm certain she will be looking for a more permanent situation soon.

  • Pretty awesome kid. Now we get to corrupt her completely!

  • My work status has changed. I'm now working days Monday, Tuesday and Friday, opening on weekends.

  • This will help me maintain a better sleep schedule.

  • Applied to be a dispatcher with the city of Santa Clara.

  • Always looking for something better, y'know?

  • Life goes on.

gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Baseball - Scream)
Last night, as I was deep into my cups, my cell phone buzzed.

It was one of my coworkers. The Mongolian Death Yuck making the rounds of our small office had felled the morning dispatcher. Could I come in from 0600-1000? Of course, I can always use a few extra hours of pay.

Luckily the morning was really quiet. I did my time, took a couple of reservations, and when Bosslady came in, I decamped. Hit the store for tonight's dinner, and am now home listening to the Giants play the Reds.

Need to do some laundry later, but right now, I'm relaxing after having to get up at 0500.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
Currently blooming right outside our office.

Spring has Sprung

I'm still alive, just haven't had much to talk about recently. It does look like a major change is coming here at Offhand Manor. More details when we nail down how this is going to happen.
gridlore: The word Giants over a baseball (Baseball - SF Giants)
Well, I'm home watching the Giant's home opener.

This is because I got massively sick at work this morning. I was feeling off, and then suddenly my stomach just revolted. Luckily, years of dealing with this has made me good at being violently ill without the bathroom needing to be scrubbed.

So, watching a good game while feeling miserable. This defines mixed emotions, I think
gridlore: The word "Done!" in bold red letters. (Done!)
Because yesterday was an endurance test.

Bosslady had asked me to come in a hour early as she had an appointment. I came in at 1500 to find that our office was without power or phones. Not because of the storm that was raising havoc, but because Pacific Graft and Extortion was doing repairs. Repair that were supposed to have taken a couple of hours, but due to said storm had now reached fours hours of work, with many stops for safety concerns.

No power, no phones, no internet. Which meant that I really couldn't do 90% of my job. I couldn't check flight ETAs, I couldn't take reservations, and I was using my personal cell phone to talk with drivers. Then it started getting dark. The only light I had to work with was a brass desk lamp that was plugged into an emergency battery, and my flashlight. Thankfully, power came back around 2000.. but no phones. Bossman had to come back to deal with that, and he ended up staying until closing. Nice to have somebody else in the building. We finally got out phones and internet back around 2130, and I dived in trying to catch up and a full day's of work. It was a pretty slow day, so that didn't take too long. I was even able to finish up some reservations that had either been written but not entered, or entered into the computer by Bosslady from home but not written up yet.

By the time we left at 2300, I felt like I had been through the wringer. At least I brought a book.

But today I have off, and I finally have my new vacuum cleaner. I also have the Gordon Biersch Spring Collection, more fake Mexican food that you could shake a stick at, and ten picks for Friday night's $500 million dollar jackpot.

Now taking a break, then some cleaning so tomorrow I can vacuum this place! I even bought some of that odor-absorbing powder. I am a domestic GOD!
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
Filling the weekday reservation agent slot is becoming a bit like getting a secretary for Murphy Brown.

Yes, we're looking for a reservation agent again. Here are the basics:

  • Mon-Thur 0930-1800.

  • Most of the day the agent works our reservation desk.

  • Between 1300-1500, covers the dispatch desk.

  • We need someone good with details, computer literate, and great phone manner.

  • Must be able to handle VIPs with kid gloves.

  • Reliable!

Classic Limousine is a very small office, the bosses are great, and most days the work load is tolerable. However, you need to be able to prioritize and communicate with coworkers. The office is in Cupertino across Highway 85 from DeAnza College, just off Stevens Creek Blvd.

If you are interested, or know anyone who might be interested, let me know.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - Thoughtful)
As those of you with access to my locked posts already know that this past weekend at work was hellish. A huge number of last-minute jobs, last second changes, and I work alone in the office. I was flailing about with half-done reservations, handling drivers, and calling the bosses for guidance every half-hour.

Today, I came in for my closing shift, and one of the owners told me I handled things like a pro.

I have suffered from impostor syndrome for years... that fear that suddenly everyone will notice that I am wholly unqualified to do whatever it is I'm doing, and expose my failings to the world. So to be told that I handled a rough patch well really made my night.

Maybe I am good at this after all.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - Glare of Sarcasm)
A question, my dear readers. Say you needed to know the long-term parking rates at an airport. Would you...

  1. ... look up the airport online, check the website, and call the airport if you can't find the rates there? or..

  2. ... randomly call limo services on the theory we go to said airport daily and must know.

If your answer was 2, then know that you got a laugh from our office today. The best part is we pay the carriage fee at the airport, and our cars never get close to long-term parking. We're sort of the alternative to going to the airport and parking your car for a week, y'know? We're in and out as fast as possible to increase revenue.

Best part? When I gently suggested the airport website, the person on the other end sounded amazed at the concept.

Oh, and by the way? $15/day. Took me five seconds to find.


gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)

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