Saturday, August 27, 2016

Employee of the Month

For a good portion of 2014 and 2015, I was waiting tables at Outback Steakhouse. I was a good-enough server, with the potential to be great if I applied myself. I didn't care about that job, though, so I didn't try hard enough to be great. 

Yes, it is tip-based, so it's fiscally responsible to try hard. But, you learn quickly which people will tip well and which won't, and you base your amount of effort off of that. For the amount of work I put in, I made great money.

One of my biggest issues with jobs like that is the corporate mentality of drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid and being part of the team. I would always roll my eyes when a manager would tell me to do something and I knew that they didn't believe it. They weren't a manager of the restaurant; they were a conduit of the corporate puppet masters above them.

I got a lot of compliments for writing the motivational dry-erase board messages to the employees each day. It was supposed to be done by the manager, but he was Egyptian and English was his second language, and he had trouble articulating the points he wanted to make. I was bored one day and started writing all of the buzz words and jargon and whatnot. He was impressed and that became my unofficial added duty.

Was I a good employee? Not really. As I mentioned, I did enough to get by. I had my vices and bad stuff I did at work, which we'll get into shortly. But, I really think I was allowed to basically be an employee who goofed off, broke several rules, was consistently late and lazy, for three reasons: 

1) I agreed to be the morning opener. Nobody liked coming in early and making less money on the lunch shift. But I did it without complaining.

2) I did little things to show that I was a team player, like the communication board. I knew enough of other jobs to go do them if I needed to. I knew how to make salads and desserts, I knew how to wash dishes, I knew how to do hosting duties. And I would occasionally do all of those.

3) I was personable, fun, and I wasn't a piece of shit. That one is important to get ahead in any aspect of life. For the most part, I think people liked being around me.

We'll get into some of my flaws here in a bit. But, in January of 2015 I realized that Outback was going to start recognizing an "Employee of the Month" award. You got your name on a plaque on the wall, and a gift card of some sort. The January winner was who we expected it to be. "Who's the best employee we've got?" Oh, that guy over there, and he won. 

As the months progressed and he didn't consistently win it each month, I wondered what the criteria was for the award. I'd think to myself, "Really? Is that the best one?"

I began asking around about the July employee of the month. I asked the GM who he voted for. He told me he had been on vacation for two weeks and didn't vote because he wasn't around. I asked two other managers, and they both told me they hadn't voted either. There are only five managers. I came to the conclusion that the whole thing was a charade with one person saying "How about X?" and the others either not caring enough to say anything else, or not even being present.

When July was announced, I jokingly asked the GM why I hadn't been chosen. He thought I was serious and pulled me aside to explain that I was late all the time. It was the first week of August and I hadn't been late once. I told him that and he said "Yes, you're doing very good this month." I told him I was going to be employee of the month for August.

I cut back on my shenanigans and worked hard. I wanted to prove a point. I wanted to see if the voting was legitimate. I paid attention to what other employees were doing, so that way I could judge their performances against mine. I worked more night shifts that month, since they needed an employee to count money and do computer work at the end of the night. A few refused and they didn't trust others. So I was recruited to do it.

At the end of the month, I wrote down everything that I thought warranted one to become employee of the month.

There's the picture. And here's what I wrote:

- Employee of the month focuses on the 31 calendar days in August 2015. Here is what one employee, Chris Slater, did during that month.

- Never once called in.

- After being reprimanded several times in July for tardiness,  was only late twice in August: once to pick up Jamie, once for 2nd shift of a double

- Consistently opens 4-5 days per week.

- Helps bartender open by occasionally getting ice.

- Opener & worker when EcoSure gave us a passing 83% score.

- Opened as host twice.

- Performs ToGo duties a couple days per week.

- Performs management duty of writing communication board 3-5 days per week.

- Performs management duty of assigning running sidework 1-2 days per week.

- Taught a member of management how to open the safe.

- Washes dishes on occasion, whether it is slow or asked by a manager.

- Mentioned in at least two (2) positive SMG survey comments.

- Late-night drinking, which has often hindered morning performance, has decreased significantly. 

- Picked up three head-wait shifts.

- Helped assist a table of 11 when they thought one of them was having a stroke (she was fine).

- Often sent to Walmart for product.

- Worked on birthday without complaint.

And that's what I did in August. Some of it isn't that extraordinary. But, I think the important thing was that the health inspector showed up while I was the opening server. He inspected what I did and determined that we were safe. I was told by the GM that he wanted me there when the health inspector came, because he trusted me to do everything right.

I showed the list to two managers. They both laughed and signed it, thereby giving me their vote. The list was left in the office. I asked another manager about it shortly thereafter. He told me that some of the items were a joke, but that he also voted for me. Three of five managers told me that they voted for me.

One day in early September, we were all called together in the middle of a shift for the announcement. Several employees were looking at me, because they knew about my crusade. Another guy was announced. I jokingly put my middle finger in the air, said "Fuck this shit" and walked off. The August employee of the month was a "no call, no show" less than a week later.

Why didn't I become the August employee of the month? Two reasons:

1) The whole concept is a joke, designed to promote a false sense of pride and internal competition to see who can be the "best."

2) I drank at work. A lot.

Not in a "I can't make it through my shift without a drink" kind of way, but in a "This job is mentally uninspiring and it's so unfulfilling, I'm gonna go sneak out to my car and catch a buzz" kind of way.

The same way that a majority of employees there would smoke pot before or during their shifts. And, also the same way that - depending on the day - a minority or majority of employees would drink before or during their shifts. Yeah, I was the "face" of Outback Boozing, but that was because I didn't care. A lot of people did it.

I did take it too far several times. I'm a line-pusher. If I can get away with drinking one strawberry-flavored malt beverage at work, I want to see if I can get away with drinking two. Then three. Then four. And so on, and then an employee is picking me up off the grass in the parking lot and trying to hide me in the back until I sober up.

Those were the couple of exceptions that a few would never let me forget. And that became my reputation. And I didn't care to fight it or correct them. I've learned now that if you have a job that you enjoy and mentally stimulates you, that you tend to drink less and for the proper reasons.

And that was part of my mentality behind the employee of the month thing. I can do all of those "good" things while having that reputation as a bad employee.

And that's my tale of how I spent August of 2015 testing if there was really system in place for employee of the month at Outback Steakhouse. My conclusion: there wasn't.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

30 Years

I believe it was John Lennon who said "And so this is 30." Not really. I use that joke a lot. I last did it in a Thanksgiving post. Anyway... They call it the Big Three Oh. And that's how old I am. How am I feeling about it? Not as bad as some of my friends. They're going through the "OMG I'm so old now" thing. And I'm going through the "Yeah, I was born in 1986, I'm 30" thing.

I'll recap a conversation I had with a friend via Facebook Messenger Thursday a few minutes after midnight:

"Whoa! You're 30! You seem so much younger."

"Yeah, I'm 30. I was born in 1986, graduated high school in 2004."

"Wow! You don't seem 30."

And it continues like that for a while.

I was thinking about past birthdays and thought it would be fun to see if I can remember what I did for every birthday in my life. Around the time I turned 5 is when most of my memories start, and one of them is my birthday. A few of the early ones may be spotty and hazy. And, then a few of them after 21 might be hazy as well.

Age 05, 1991 ... We lived in an apartment on Flatwoods Road in Ravenswood, West Virginia. I remember I got a bunch of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys.

Age 06, 1992 ... No recollection

Age 07, 1993 ... No recollection

Age 08, 1994 ... No recollection, but I do remember that I had been to a couple birthday parties held at McDonalds. And I wanted one of those, but my mom wouldn't do it.

Age 09, 1995 ... This was when I was in my phase of liking hockey for some reason. I got a pair of Wayne Gretzky shoes and a new hockey stick. Me and my neighbor, Josh, played roller hockey in his driveway.

Age 10, 1996 ... I don't remember my exact birthday, but I remember two moments right before and after. I got my ear pierced when I was 8. Just the left ear. That was the only one you got back then, or people talked about you. I wanted to get another one. Why? I don't know. I already had the earring in the bottom of my ear, so I got one at the top. That was a couple days before my 10th birthday. School started a couple days after my birthday. I remember on the first day, Mrs. Kearns - the teacher - talked about how she had been in Charleston the day before to see a speech from Bill Clinton and got a sunburn.

Age 11, 1997 ... We had the party at my grandpa's. This was around the time I started to fall in love with wrestling, so that was the theme. I wanted my cake to have "nWo" written on it in icing, but for some reason that request was ignored. We watched WrestleMania 13, featuring one of the greatest matches in the history of all wrestling -- Bret Hart vs Steve Austin. My friend Joe and I loved it all. My friends Vince and Tyler, who hated wrestling, sat there for three hours.

Age 12, 1998 ... My mom's friend Paula and her 1-year-old son had been staying with me and my mom for a couple months at this time. Paula had some sort of appointment in Charleston that day and so I needed to go with her to watch her son while she went inside. Her car didn't have A/C, so it was miserable going up. Then I sat in the car with her son for what felt like forever, but was likely just an hour or so. Then the car broke down three times on the 2-hour drive back home. It was a long day. Solid contender for worst birthday ever.

Age 13, 1999 ... When I waited tables for a couple years, my fellow employees always hated the cheesy birthday songs we were supposed to sing when a table requested it. The reason why I never hated it and was known for being one of the most energetic and loud singers was because of my 13th birthday. My mom and her boyfriend got into an argument that evening, so he wasn't joining us for my birthday celebration. It was a negative mood as we sat at Shoney's celebrating me becoming a teenager. Then people came out singing and clapping and bringing me a piece of cake and it made me smile and feel good. And when I had the chance to do the clapping and dessert-giving, I always remembered that I could help have a positive impact on somebody's day.

Age 14, 2000 ... I went back-to-school shopping with my dad and his family. It was the first time I had ever been to an Olive Garden. I apparently lived a very sheltered life as a child. Near the end of the meal, as I got up to walk to the restroom, people started walking toward me and clapping, so I had to sit back down until they were done.

Age 15, 2001 ... I don't recall there being too much of a celebration this year. My mom and I had just moved to Princeton a couple months prior. Since it was the summer, and we didn't live right in town, I hadn't made any friends my own age yet. School started a week or so later. After the 2nd or 3rd day, my cat had kittens. Probably one of my earliest eye rolls in life was after hearing my mom tell me that I should tell everybody about the kittens and it would help me make friends.

Age 16, 2002 ... My girlfriend Kelly came over. We watched "Black Sheep" and held hands.

Age 17, 2003 ... Again, hung out with Kelly. I had been in Ripley with my grandpa for like a week or so before that. My allergies were really bad for some reason. I remember I woke up one day and there was so much gunk and mucus and watery stuff coming out of my eyes that it had dried up in my eyelashes while I was sleeping and I couldn't open my eyes when I woke up.

Age 18, 2004 ... The day I became a man was also the first day of college. I began the day at 9:30 in the remedial math class, taught by the tennis coach who has a mullet. He gave a speech that day basically saying "You're in the class because you're not good at math." He pointed to a coat hook on the wall. He said, "Hang your ego up on that as soon as you walk in the door." It was also my first day of learning that what happens in high school doesn't matter anymore. I was walking through the student center and was stopped by a table of four people I graduated with. I had only been friends with one of them. But I was accepted into the group immediately because we had that common high school bond in this new area.

Age 19, 2005 ... I didn't really do anything, I don't think. I hadn't been intending to grow my hair out, but around the time of my birthday I realized that it had literally been a year since my last trim. It was long and in a ponytail. So I got it cut. That's my main memory from turning 19.

Age 20, 2006 ... I don't think I had a party this year. School always started around my birthday at this point. And I never really cared about a birthday party.

Age 21, 2007 ... The night before, I spent my 21st birthday with a bunch of my friends having a few cocktails. On my actual birthday, I was there for freshman orientation, since I was the Editor-in-Chief of the student newspaper. I had recently gotten my first tattoo, so I showed that off to a bunch of people.

Age 22, 2008 ... I hung out with my friend at his band practice, after we were both done working at Pizza Hut that night. That's about all I remember. I got to play the drums a little bit.

Age 23, 2009 ... Me and my friend Mark had a joint party at the local strip club. We had been going so often that summer that the strippers knew us -- a couple gave us their real names and one even added us on Facebook. It was a fun time. 

Age 24, 2010 ... Candace, the girlfriend at this point, had balloons sent to my apartment, as she lived three hours away. That was sweet. Later that day, I'm on Concord's campus and send a tweet making some sort of joke about their being a lot of attractive 18-year-old girls around. Candace is incensed, using her good deed against me. "I send you balloons and you do something like this!" We had our volatile moments.

Age 25, 2011 ... I think the actual day was spent in a bar with some friends. But the actual "birthday party" was spent in Morgantown with Candace. She tolerated my wrestling love and ordered SummerSlam for me. That was the culmination of the "Summer of Punk" angle.

Age 26, 2012 ... Again, I don't recall doing anything on my actual birthday. The next day was the wedding of one of my friends. I wore a white shirt with a blue tie, without realizing that was the color theme of the entire wedding party. It was a fun time.

Age 27, 2013 ... I had recently started working with a guy named Matt. This was the day we officially became friends, I think. We had known each other casually for a month or so, but he found out it was my birthday and he made a fuss about how we had to go out. We started out at Cheers, the sketchiest of sketchy bars in Princeton. We met a nice lady inside and talked to her. We later walked outside and saw her puking. We then went to Danny's, where against my better judgement I did several shots of Jack Daniels and had several bottles of Bud Light Lime. I had to be at work at 8 a.m. the next day. The employee I'm supposed to let inside at 9:30 finally wakes me up at 10 asking where I'm at.

Age 28, 2014 ... Matt and I again hit the bar. We knew the bartender. We drank for free. And we drank a lot. I remember just being handed tons of random shots. At one point, the bartender comes over with a bottle of Jack Daniels and tells me to open my mouth. And he just starts pouring it in. After a while, I start going behind the bar and getting my own beers. Near the end of the night, I'm double-fisting a Smirnoff Green Apple and a Diet Coke. The bar serves food during the day. I go back and start making sandwiches for people. The bartender comes out, looks at me in shock and asks what I'm doing. "Making sandwiches. Want one?" He thinks for a second before saying yes.

Age 29, 2015 ... Am I getting more responsible as I get older? Probably just more tired. I worked that morning and afternoon, then I went home and didn't go out. 

Age 30, 2016 ... Went to a "Business After Hours" networking thing held by the Chamber of Commerce with some friends from work. The chamber people are tipped off that it's my birthday and get a room of people to sing to me. Afterwards, I hit the Luray bar scene and spend the day after my birthday recovering.

And there's my first 30 years. What's gonna happen in my next 30 years? Then start singing the awful Tim McGraw song to yourself...

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Evolution of Punk

CM Punk's first match in the Ultimate Fighting Championship octagon goes down at UFC 203 on September 10, live on pay-per-view. To lead up to that, a documentary about Punk's nearly two-year path from signing the contract to stepping in the ring will debut on August 15. The trailer is above.

I'm interested in watching the 4-part documentary. I'm not going out of my way to watch the fight, but if it's something I can easily view I'll check it out. I just don't have a huge interested in the UFC.

I do, however, have a huge interest in CM Punk. It's hard to put into words just how important he was for wrestling. He was the guy who didn't look like the typical WWE star, but went in and kicked down every door until the wrestling world was forced to notice and accept that he was a star.

But... the respect wasn't there from the WWE higher-ups, and it all culminated in Punk walking out of WWE in January 2014. He was formally released from WWE that summer. He received the papers on his wedding day. Vince McMahon has stated in an interview that it was an unfortunate coincidence; Punk doesn't believe that.

Punk has been a long-time UFC fan, so it didn't raise any eyebrows when people found out he was at the Nov. 2014 event. Nor did it arouse any suspicion when it was found out he was going to do an interview during the show. He's friends with a lot of UFC higher-ups and he's a good talker - why not get him on television?

He made the announcement and got the world talking. There was a lot of chatter about whether or not he deserved a UFC contract. People dedicate their lives to trying to make it to the UFC and never get there. And Punk was essentially handed one based on his celebrity status.

Punk began training in January 2015. People were eyeing a fight later that year, or maybe early 2016. A shoulder injury took him out for a couple months and the timeline went away. UFC head Dana White began an online reality show to find an opponent for Punk.

Mickey Gall ultimately won the chance to face Punk. They had a spring 2016 date set for the fight, but Punk required back surgery and they went back to the drawing board. After he was fully healed, they added the fight to the September event.

Two years of speculation - if he can do this or if he will fall flat on his face - will all culminate when Punk steps into the octagon in September. In a fitting irony, the building Punk will look to earn his respect in is the same building he walked out of in WWE. The Monday Night Raw in January 2014 and UFC 203 in September 2016 both call Cleveland, Ohio home.

We'll see what happens. I'm curious to watch it all unfold.