Monthly Archives: January 2012

No job? Then no job!

I haven’t been working for a couple of years. Well, technically I have been working, but not for a salary. I’ve been writing, and while I haven’t been earning a salary, trust me, it’s work. I make some money as a freelance marketer. I have a couple of clients for whom I write white papers, web content, press releases and the like. I also manage events and other marketing projects. I want to keep my skills sharp in case this writing thing doesn’t work out.

Even though I’m not looking for a job-job, once in a while I’ll hear of an interesting opportunity. If that coincides with a day that hasn’t been productive, or a fleeting depression for some other reason, I might submit a resume. I’m committed enough to producing a saleable novel that I don’t invest much emotion in these forays, and I’m not terribly disappointed when their lack of interest matches my own. That being said, I had an experience recently that made my blood boil.

An in-house recruiter for a software company that does mid- to front-office financial services solutions found my profile on LinkedIn. He wrote that the company was looking for a Director of Marketing and would I be interested? I pondered that question for a bit and decided that there was no harm in talking to them.

Shortly after I replied, I got another email from the recruiter saying he had studied my on-line profile further and realized that I was not currently working. He said, and I’m quoting here, “One of our criteria’s [sic] that we have to adhere to is any person we are considering for employment needs to be currently employed.” I had encountered my first real live Catch-22. I was stunned. Not so much that the company had an internal policy, but that they would say it out loud.

I contacted a lawyer friend of mine and asked if it was legal to tell a prospective candidate that they couldn’t be considered if they were unemployed. She assured me that the unemployed were not a protected class and it was legal, albeit stupid. Hot on the heels of my own experience, Adrian Walker, a columnist at The Boston Globe, wrote a piece called Jobless need not apply. He wrote that, “The problem isn’t limited to Massachusetts. … some states, such as New Jersey, have passed or are considering laws that would ban employers from refusing to consider unemployed applicants.”

I know I asked if it was legal, but really, is this something we need a law for? Do these companies not read the papers? There are people who need jobs out there! The people who have jobs, well, they have jobs! How about we get a job for everyone who wants to go back to work, and then worry about the folks who are looking for a different job?

Maybe then companies can hire people based on their applicable skills, instead of their current job status. Perhaps the company that contacted me could hire a recruiter with better communication skills; someone smart enough to reject me in a less inflammatory fashion. I would have said, “I’m sorry, but we are looking for someone with more financial services experience.” If he’d written that, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. But then I wouldn’t have had a blog post for this week.

Inasmuch as I’ve discovered that not having a job may preclude getting a job, this writing thing better work out.


How to stop the beep

How to Stop the Beep

When you’re home, and you hear a sporadic beep, assume the smoke detector’s battery is dead. Poke around the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet where you keep miscellaneous junk for a 9-volt battery (they are square). Take the opportunity to gather the rechargeable batteries that have fallen out of the old margarine tub marked, rechargeable batteries, and put them back in. Snap the cover on securely.

Drag the small stool that your daughter used to use to brush her teeth, but hasn’t needed for years, out of the corner of the hallway where it’s been because you can’t bear to part with it, and put it under the smoke detector. Step up. Slide the indented piece of plastic out until right before you will break it if you keep going. Use your middle finger, the only one that still has a long enough fingernail to do the job, to pry the dead battery out of its socket.

The old battery and the new battery are identical. Do not forget which hand the old battery is in. On second thought, step off the stool and put the old battery on top of the bookcase in the hallway. Step back up on the stool. I neglected to tell you to note the position of the battery before you took it out, my bad, so crane your neck to see how it goes in. Try to force the battery into place.

The battery is not going to go in. You will need to go down to the basement to get an old chair to stand on so you can see how to put it in correctly. While you are standing on the chair, with the new battery in your hand, you will hear the beep again. It is not coming from the smoke detector.

Put the new battery, which is still in your hand, back in the file drawer. Do not stop to rewind the extension cords you find there. Return the chair to the basement. Leave the old battery where it is, retreat to your office, and shut the door.


How to Stop the Beep was written for an assignment to create a “How To” story. I hope you liked it.

Have you seen Downton Abbey?

When I was younger, if I asked someone if they’d seen a particular show on television and they replied, “Oh, we don’t watch much television,” or worse, “We don’t own a television,” I felt the sting. When my daughter was born, my husband and I were determined to set a good example by keeping our television viewing to a minimum. I stopped watching the morning news shows and we didn’t turn on the television until after she had gone to bed. That worked for many years, before the world discovered DVRs and my daughter was old enough to stay up later than me.

These days, I’m not as apologetic about my viewing habits. I look forward to relaxing in front of the television with my tailored list of must see TV, made possible by the miracle of Tivo. My daughter encourages me to turn on the television, a shared experience implicit in her suggestion, but then she opens her laptop and abandons me, emotionally if not physically. If I say, “You’re not watching!” she admits that she doesn’t like the show I’m watching. It turns out that she doesn’t like most of the shows I watch, and while I would be happy enough to watch the ones she likes, I’m rarely invited. Besides, she usually watches them on her computer, on Hulu, while I’m watching programs on Tivo.

My husband used to watch TV with me. Now he may sit in the same room, but he is rarely watching the television. Instead he is glued to his iPhone. If I chafe at the lack of companionship and ask what he’s doing, he’s likely to tell me that he’s “Reading the Times.” He might as well say he doesn’t watch television. Reading The New York Times is what intellectuals do while the rest of us are watching Hell on Wheels, or The Walking Dead (both, I might add, on AMC, the network that brought us Mad Men and Breaking Bad, shows that are darlings of the critics).

Frankly, I don’t care if they watch with me or not. The problem is that if they’re not going to watch with me, then turning on the television becomes an overtly anti-social act. It signals that I don’t feel like having a conversation (hold on, my husband is staring at his iPhone; he doesn’t want to talk to me anyway) and my daughter will have to put in her earbuds (oh, who are we kidding, they were in anyway).

Maybe when I turn on the television I’m actually broadcasting my loneliness.

There are still occasions when we come together as a family in front of the TV. For instance, we all watch Downton Abbey. Sure there is a little texting on my daughter’s part, and my husband glances at his phone once in a while, but by and large we share the experience. And the best part is that it is on PBS, which is the station that people who don’t watch much television watch when they’re watching television.

Have you seen Downton Abbey?

It’s your birthday! Don’t just sit there!

My gift-giving history has some people wondering if I’m trying to kill my husband. For his thirtieth birthday I gave him a ride in a hot air balloon. When he turned forty I arranged for him to go sky-diving. Last year I sent him up in a bi-plane. You know, the kind of old-fashioned plane that has no ceiling and the pilot sits behind you. The kind where, theoretically, the pilot could flip the plane upside down and the only thing between you and disaster would be the worn leather straps crossed over your chest.

There were some sharp intakes of breath when the family heard about the hot air balloon ride, but most thought floating over the countryside sounded romantic. They were much more nervous about the idea of sky diving and one aunt made it very clear that she thought I was being downright irresponsible. Despite her fears, he made it up, and down, in one piece.

In any case, I am most emphatically not trying to kill my husband. He likes to be up in the air, and I like to give experiential gifts, particularly for significant birthdays that end in zero, that leave him with memories. Dementia aside, memories last forever. Tangible things go in and out of vogue; they break, wither or fade; or are too expensive to contemplate in the first place.

(If you read my blog regularly, you may be getting tired of reading about presents, but this is a big year for significant birthdays in my family, and they’ve been on my mind a lot lately. I promise, after this, no more gift posts.)

My sister told me flat out that she wasn’t interested in jumping out of a plane ─ I wasn’t even going to suggest it! ─ and my sister-in-law suggested I curb my Fear Factor urges for her husband’s upcoming birthday. Apparently I’ve developed somewhat of a reputation for giving gifts that leave people feeling that they’re living on the edge. And maybe I do, but isn’t it more memorable if your heart rate goes up a bit?

I can provide earthbound experiences as well; a trip to a day spa; a B&B in Maine. I’m dying to give someone the opportunity to swim with a Beluga whale at the Mystic Aquarium. What an experience that would be! Who wouldn’t love that?

As it happens, one of the upcoming honorees is a homebody who wants nothing more than to let the significant birthday slide by unobserved, no hot air balloons, no field trips, no Beluga whales. I’ve been pondering this problem for a while now and have concluded that in this particular case, the best way to remember a significant birthday might be to pretend it never happened. But there is a helicopter tour of Newport that looks awfully inviting…

This post is dedicated to Paul. Happy Birthday

Why wait for the New Year?

It’s not easy to come up with an idea for a blog post every week so it’s hard to resist the temptation to take advantage of a subject as obvious as the New Year. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions so I can’t ramble on about that, however, I received a phone call at the end of the year that got me thinking. It was from a high school friend who had had a tough year, following a series of tough years. Despite everything he’s been through, his sense of humor was still sharp and acerbic and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. As we were winding down, he told me that he’d gotten his license to sell financial services and would I be interested in some life insurance?

I’m not very good at keeping my thoughts inside my head where they won’t get me into trouble, but this time I prevailed; conflicting emotional responses battled it out and called it a draw. My first reaction was irritation; so, we’re not old friends catching up? The next was sympathetic; I knew how difficult things had been and I appreciated his need to do whatever he could to keep body and soul together. While I kept all that to myself, I did allow as how I did not need insurance.

When we hung up, I thought about how lucky I was compared to my friend, and how tenuous it, writ large, all is. You can live responsibly, take care of yourself and your family, help friends and neighbors, but there are still so many things that are out of our control that even the best laid plans can come to naught in the end.

In the past year, two friends have had to give up their homes due to the recession-driven mortgage crisis (or was it the mortgage crisis that caused the recession?). These were good, responsible people, not ne’er do wells trying to beat the system.

Other friends lost parents and siblings and other loved ones this past year. I often rail against the birth/death system. It seems like such a bad plan to me. And the older I get, the worse a plan it seems. PBS did a two-part documentary on Woody Allen recently. Someone asked him if his relationship with death had gotten any better as he got older. His answer boiled down to no. Why do people think his preoccupation with death is strange? To me, it’s one of his most endearing qualities. I’m a little freer to concentrate on other things knowing that he’s worrying about death enough for the rest of us.

Years ago, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book called, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. I haven’t actually read it, but I’ve always loved the title. He wrote it partly as a response to his son’s death at fourteen from an incurable disease. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that reading it will be a New Year’s Resolution, but I will add it to my list of things to do.

I will, however, resolve to try to remember that even when we don’t know it, bad things are happening to people so we should hold everyone in kind regard. I’m going to try to do that ─ every day ─ because it doesn’t seem like something that should be reserved for the New Year, does it?