My Conundrum

So I find myself in a bit of a pickle.  It’s work-related and difficult for me to sort out.  There was an episode at my workplace that went sideways on me this week.  It wasn’t the work itself, it was the interactions between people.  It involved an unexpected nastiness and a peek at some rather unattractive behaviours.

Things like this have become a challenge for me because I don’t have Kevin to chat them through with.  He had an amazing way of cutting through the garbage and hitting on the truth.  Without him I have to do it myself and, needless to say, I get myself all twisted out of sorts because it’s my perspective and only my perspective that I bring to the situation.

I work for a large organization and change is a constant.  Managers come and go; we have a lot of retirements as the baby-boomers move into retirement.  So there is opportunity and that can be a good thing – but only when it is equal opportunity.  In my home section it really isn’t.

It has been apparent for some time that the section manager had a favourite and that favourite was untouchable.  Training opportunities were directed towards the favourite, and when questioned (which I did on one occasion only) the manager aggressively defended the choice, stating it was management’s choice.  The discussion became so heated as I reacted to being yelled at that I actually thought I was going to be written up.  And it hasn’t only been me in situations like this, my coworkers have experienced this too.

Its more than that though, it’s the blind devotion that is given to the favourite.  Our manager constantly tells all of us, peers of the favourite, what a natural leader, what an incredibly articulate and intelligent individual the favourite is.  They meet every morning for coffee in the manager’s office, of course anyone can join, but not really.  I remember sitting at a table in the cafeteria with them quite innocently one day – I recall the the furtive looks as I sat down, the stalled conversation, the sheer uncomfortableness I brought to the table.  They made it abundantly clear that I was not part of the A-team.  I stayed a few minutes to spite them, and when I got up to leave no one insisted I stay.  If Kevin were alive he would have told me I was on the C-team, “see you later”.

Recently, I applied to a temporary job opportunity elsewhere in the organization and was allowed to go, so off I went – as of last week.  I was pleased to have the permission and support of my manager and the entire management team, as well as the chance to enhance my work skills.  My new job intersects with my old job in some respects, so there is great continuity.  Around the same time as I was informed I got the new job and before I left my old one, we (my work department) was informed that the section manager in my home department was also leaving for a temporary assignment.  We were informed that the favourite would be taking over the section manager’s role.

So here’s the problem – not even the first week into the job and the favourite, acting as the manager, messes up.  Unfortunately it involves the new department I have moved to (remember our work intersects – what luck).  Things escalated way past my pay grade, because of a bonehead email the favourite sent and which I had no part of.  Rather than say, ‘sorry, I messed up’, the favourite engages the former manager to ‘sort’ things out with me – implying I caused the trouble.  They both seek me out and blindside me in a hallway.   Not only does the former manager have a little talk with me, all under the guise of smoothing things over, but as we move out of the ‘sorting out’ conversation, the former manager also tells me that we need to finalize my annual performance appraisal.  This is done in front of the favourite who stands silently by.

I processed things politely but I did recognize the veiled threat.  How disappointing.  How stupid.  Mentioning the performance appraisal as part of that discussion, especially considering we were dealing with a ‘situation’, was completely inappropriate.  It had to be a deliberate statement designed to intimidate me.  The delivery was beautiful too, leaning in towards me, fixing me with an unwavering piercing gaze, hoping that I break the connection, blink or maybe even break out in hives (I don’t know!!!) but sheesh, I get tired of that stuff.  Anyway, how does one go from ‘I’m pissed with you, my favourite looks bad because of you, let’s make this go away,’ to ‘Oh yes, we have this admin piece to finish’, all in one conversation?  It’s not a natural segue, therefore, it was deliberate and with intention.

If Kevin were around he’d likely have a different spin on this: he’d either tell me to take the high road or that you can’t make stupid smart.  He’d have had me laughing at some ridiculous aspect of the whole scenario.  Instead here I am twisting on this.  God I miss him.


About the Cruise

The cruise last month was my third one in the past 12 months.  All three have been with Carnival.  Carnival is considered to be an entry level cruise line or so I am told.  Regardless of where they sit on the spectrum I have to say the food is stellar. Other things not so good.  Communication on board the ship has been an issue.  There’s nothing like travelling with your sister and having a honeymoon cake delivered to your dinner table complete with little chocolate hearts.  Or the towels made into little hearts on the bed.  The cabin steward didn’t believe me when I told her we weren’t a couple, we were sisters.  I got eyebrows raised in disbelief and a sympathetic smile suggesting I wasn’t ready to come out of the closet.

Ah, Carnival.  Lots of fodder to write about there.  The honeymoon mix up was only one of several things, but that’s to be expected I guess when you have 3000 guests in a confined space.  But on the cruise trying to get  cup of hot tea with milk became a personal challenge.  On one occasion a gentleman from an adjacent table, after watching me request the tea multiple times over a period of 20 minutes, finally ordered it for me from the same server. Guess what, it arrived in, oh, three minutes at most.  This wasn’t unique to one trip – I had the same problem for two out of three, hot tea apparently confounds them, as perhaps do women travelling alone.

I really don’t have anything to compare Carnival ‘s service to at this point, but I will by this time next year.  We have already booked a cruise with Norwegian for November of this year.  I think the intent is to always kick off the winter with a cruise (November) which is around the time of my sister’s birthday, and then kick out the winter blues with a cruise in February. Once I have put a little more distance from Kevin’s death in March 2015, I hope to find a way to go away that month too.  Our anniversary was the 24th and he died on the 29th.  It seems like a good idea to run away from reality that week.

Anyway, it will be interesting to compare the two cruise lines.  My understanding is that the staff to guest ratio is slightly better with Norwegian.  They also have a unique offering amongst all the lines – cabins for singles.  In a secure area, some with balconies – but geared to and priced for people travelling alone.  I haven’t booked one of these cabins since I am travelling with the sis, but who knows what the future holds, so it will be good to check it out. A bunch of us are planning on going – the more the merrier.

Invariably though I find I have a little weep when I am travelling.  It was Kevin’s passion to travel.  I doubt he would have had any interest in travelling by cruise ship, they are just too restrictive.  Even the food wouldn’t have been enough.  But it suits me fine, I am not the most adventurous and there’s plenty to do aboard the boat.  And there are lots of cruise lines.  I’ll just keep going as long as I have someone to travel with.

February and March – I need a strategy

I recognize that, quite likely for the rest of my life, I will need a strategy to get through these two months.

Last year, February of 2016, I went off for a cruise with my sister and, despite my reservations, I enjoyed myself.  So we decided to repeat the event again this year, extending the invitation to two more of my sisters to join us (bringing the count to four out of a potential five and a half – yes I have a half sister).  And they did join us. It was the first time in decades that just us sisters did anything together.  My two sisters live in Newfoundland and my other sister and I live in Ontario, so it is not exactly conducive to family outings.  It came together for us though; the weather was great, the sea was calm, the food on the cruise was amazing.  It was a good thing.

We had one small glitch to deal with in Miami Airport.  It could have cast a pall on the vacation but fortunately it just wasn’t important enough to let it.  We had booked rooms for the night at Miami International Airport – paid way too much for inferior accommodations, but the convenience was the deciding factor.  In the morning we went downstairs to eat at Margaritaville, a chain restaurant located immediately beside the hotel lobby in the airport.

Our server was churlish to say the least – she had a chip on her shoulder so big it was a wonder she could lift a tray.  She took her time coming to our table to take our orders.  She forgot a couple of items we ordered.  Refills on the coffee – you’re kidding me right?  Just a gem.  Anyway, the bill came for the meal – it was $60.  We put cash down of $65 and prepared to leave.

The server was quick to grab the bill.  She walked away and opened up the black plastic bill holder and then came steaming, yup, steaming back.  “That’s not enough!” she said and slammed the bill holder on the table.  She flipped the cover open and stabbed her finger at a line on the bill.  It’s a beaut – it says “Recommended gratuity 15% – $8.99.”  She was royally pissed at us and said, “You need to leave more tip.”  And then she stormed off leaving us and the bill at the table!   Are you kidding me?  That’ll do it, give us a yell lovey and then we’ll pay you more.  Needless to say she didn’t get her $8.99, she got her $5.  In hindsight we should have taken the tip away completely, but the reality is that servers in the US typically don’t have a great hourly wage and rely on their tips, but bullying the customers to get it defies comprehension.

That exchange was off-putting until we realized that we were leaving the place behind for a week of sunshine and laughter.  That bitter little server was stuck in a hell of her own making.  She’s not doing much for the reputation of the restaurant though.  I gotta think that if she treats the customers like that she’s probably a nightmare for the manager to deal with too. Regardless,  I’ll never eat at that chain again.




Valentine’s Day

Another heavily promoted day to share with those you love.   Coming out of Christmas and heading into Valentine’s, it just keeps the wound open.

For the three of four years before he got sick, Kevin and I would celebrate Valentine’s Day.  We would do it in style, with another couple we were friends with, actually it was a teacher he taught with.  The males would coordinate the meal, serve us and always there was a ridiculously expensive bottle of wine that went with the meal.  That was Kev’s contribution, anything less than $40 a bottle was ‘swill’, and it wasn’t unusual to have a bottle that cost a whole bunch more.  It was always a fun evening, especially if Kevin had a drink, he was not a drinker at all and so things could get pretty outrageous if he had a glass or two. These are the memories I have of Valentine’s Day.

Fast forward to the present, and all around me people are planning their special evening.  At work there is a fundraiser for the United Way, buy a bouquet and support the Way.  All I can think of is the reality that my husband isn’t here to buy me flowers anymore.  Not that he did often, he had a thing about buying something dead (flowers) and giving it as a gift.  Early on in our marriage he’d tell me that he could hear the flowers scream in pain as they were being picked.  Still, occasionally he would get me some.  He’s the only one I ever wanted them from.  No one else.

That’s what Valentine’s Day does for me, reminds me of sadness.  A dull throbbing sadness now, still just as deep, just not as sharp.  I don’t think I’m the only one.  I see people all around me who are on their own, with no one to make their day ‘special’.  I doubt that they get a warm fuzzy feeling about the day.  I suspect it wouldn’t be so bad if big box store marketing campaigns hadn’t made it into such a pressure to celebrate.  It’s really not fair on a multitude of levels, but I never ever thought about it until I was one of have-nots watching from the outside.

Don’t take advice from just anyone

It fascinates me how many people offer advice on things they know nothing about.  This is just a general observation – it’s not a poke or jab at my family and friends, Lord knows they know me too well when it comes to stuff like this.  This is about people in general. It’s a reflection on that line that everyone hears when they have something monumental happen in their life  —  ‘I know what you are going through.’  It’s a statement that is usually followed by advice of some sort.

I am not averse to advice, it is part of everyday conversation, and in normal circumstances it is taken with a pinch of salt. After something monumental, it’s not normal circumstances, and frankly, in my case, I wanted it all to just go away. All the decisions and problems and the mess I called life. I didn’t want advice – I wanted a miracle.

Truly I don’t think anyone ever really knows what someone else is going through.  So the advice, although well meaning, can be quite frustrating for a variety of reasons – you’re not ready to “move on,” you don’t have the capacity to “get back out there.”  You finding yourself feeling like a failure because you figure the advice was good, and that’s what other people do, so why-can’t-I? sort of thing.

I work in a place where, as of late, a fair number of my co-workers are experiencing  the death of a spouse.  More than once I have been approached by people I know asking if I could meet someone that I don’t know but who works somewhere in the building (and it’s a big building), who like me, is dealing with loss.  I will never say no, of course I will meet them if that’s what they want, but I also am unlikely to offer any advice to those I meet.  How can I?  I have no idea of their circumstances, what sorrows they carry secretly, what was said, or what was left unsaid.

What I will do is just listen, and maybe cry with them, hopefully find something to talk about.  I will give them the type of support I valued throughout my grieving process.  Family and friends carried me for the first while, and I can’t qualify that by saying ‘little while’ because it wasn’t.  They didn’t advise me, they assisted me, and they still do.  And, when I was ready, it was the confidence of that support that helped me make my own decisions based on my own circumstances.

This is my learning:  we have to find our own way, but it’s okay to take a hand to help you on your way.  And if you are really floundering, see a professional.