ASK Musings

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Work Archive



October 2013



Obligatory Post on the GOP Government Shutdown

Written by , Posted in Politics

I work for the government, and have for seven of my 10 years in the full-time world of work. I don’t always enjoy the day-to-day tasks, but I love the fact that I’m in public service. Sure, some days there is a inexplicably intricate bureaucracy I have to jump through to do something like accurately complete a time sheet, and there are rules that sometimes mean we have to take the lowest bid as opposed to the best for the job, but the reality is that we get to do work with the public, not the profiteers, in mind.

Now, I’m not of the mind that we should go full-scale socialist and eliminate the private sector. I think it’d be pretty challenging for me to argue that the government should be in charge of creating, say, video games. But for the things the government already has a hand in? I think it mostly makes sense, which is one reason why I’ve been so frustrated during this government shutdown when I see pundits or even journalists talking about how so little of what the government does is truly essential. The argument is, if we could furlough 800,000 employees, is what they do *really* that important?

Yes. Good grief, yes. Federal funding and federal employees are essential to so much of the work in this country. And from my perspective, that isn’t an issue of the government being too involved in our lives; it’s an example of all the amazing ways the government does things that no one else can do as well, for myriad reasons. It isn’t just about the people you see, like the disease investigators at the CDC. It’s about all the people who make it possible for those epidemiologists to do their work

For CDC staff to function, we need folks to help with training. We need equipment – HAZMAT suits, microscopes, lab equipment. The government doesn’t make those things, but we do buy them. We keep the private sector churning those things out. And someone needs to enter into contracts with them. Someone needs to make sure that those private sector companies don’t screw over the taxpayers. And the people doing that? Also government employees.

My own position is funded by federal grants, although I have not been furloughed. I spend my days writing plans that I hope we’ll never need to use, and, during winter storms and disease outbreaks, I work even longer hours to respond to issues in the health care sector. You may not know that my job exists, but if you ever lose a loved on in a mass fatality, or live through the next earthquake here, you’ll be glad it does. And while not everyone I work with writes the plans, everyone has a role to play, and those roles are essential to getting the work done.

My point with all of this is that all of these government workers are all essential.* When you eat that burger, you’re already taking a big risk, because inspectors are woefully underfunded and understaffed. Furlough some of those inspectors, or the people who track the data from across the country showing people are getting sick, and you’re putting yourself at even greater risk.

For the purposes of the government shutdown, those who are considered essential are basically doing work that can’t go more than a day without happening. These are often positions that are staffed around the clock, or at least have a duty officer (someone to take calls) 24/7. Think health, medical, safety. People who perform tasks that can mean life or death. The other employees, classified as “non-essential”, aren’t superfluous; that classification simply means that a day might be able to pass without them coming to work. Think building permits. You need one eventually to keep horrible, unsafe, cheap buildings going up all over town, but in the middle of a snowstorm it might be okay for that service to wait for a day or two before you devote resources to starting that office back up. This type of demarcation is really useful when you are facing limited resources or personnel, especially after a disaster. If some areas can wait, you can redirect their personnel to other places for the first few days before more people can return to work.

So, as the GOP continues to hold the government workers, those who receive any sort of government service (i.e. everyone), and our economy hostage because they hate the idea of poor people accessing health care, keep in mind that those government workers that pundits are just fine with furloughing are performing real work that has a real, positive impact on your daily life, even if you can’t see them.

*for the most part; I’m sure like any other sector  there are some incompetent employees; that’s not unique to government work.





October 2013



My Time Counts

Written by , Posted in Random

The only time I’ve ever really raised my voice at work was back when I was in NYC. I was employed by the City, but funded by a federal grant. We had switched time-keeping systems, and were asked to sign off on our time sheets each week. Because I was exempt (didn’t earn overtime), I was supposed to just report the same number of hours a day (seven, usually – we worked a 35-hour week), every day, regardless of how much I really worked. Which meant that if I spent 12 hours at my desk, my time sheet still said seven hours. And we had to sign off saying something to the effect of “I affirm that these are my true hours.” One day I pointed out that every time I signed that when I had worked more than seven hours in a day, or 35 hours in a week, I was lying. The raised voices came when I pointed this out to the person responsible for time keeping and she yelled “What’s the problem? JUST SIGN IT!” to which I responded something along the lines of “WHY IS EVERYONE OKAY WITH LYING?”

In my current position, I face the same thing. Once again I work for local government, and once again I am federally funded. Every week I have to certify online that the hours I have worked, as entered into the system, are accurate. Even, again, if I’ve worked a Saturday, I’m not allowed to enter those hours. If I come in late because of a doctor’s appointment, I’m just supposed to say I worked the full day. And every time I hit the submit button, I have to click that I certify that these are the hours that I truly worked. And this isn’t some sort of ‘shhh’ work around of the system – this is the official county policy.

I don’t get why this is. I understand that we need to track our hours, as we are grant funded, and the funders want to make sure the money is going where we say it is going. What I don’t understand is why no one is interested in finding out exactly how much time we all *really* work. There’s this ridiculous idea that government employees don’t work hard. There are clearly some people who work for government – as in EVERY organization – who are lazy, and who do the bare minimum. But I promise you, there were just as many people doing the bare minimum when I worked in the private sector. So I already cringe at this notion. But the fact there is a way to measure at least the time we put in – why, if we’re already required to track our hours, are we not allowed to track ALL of our hours? If it’s a flaw in the software system (we use a popular one that is made by the private sector, and used in many offices), I have to say build a better system. Build a system that recognizes how many hours we are to work each two-week pay period, and allow us to actually enter it all. It shouldn’t be hard, and it would allow me to not cringe every two weeks when I hit submit on the computer screen knowing that those 80 hours? Not the time I’m putting in. And it would allow us to see that maybe there’s more work to be done than hours to do it in, so we could make arguments for more positions, or changes in work load. Those hours could be classed as ‘unfunded,’ and we could show grantors that not only are they getting their money’s worth, they’re getting a lot more than that. And we could show the public at least one (admittedly small) measure of what we do.



July 2013



Checklist Manifesto

Written by , Posted in Reviews

checklist manifesto

We were standing in a bookshop in Kilkenney, Ireland, which we were visiting on our honeymoon. I had loaded my kindle up with plenty to read, and even bought a paperback (book one of the A Song of Ice and Fire) to read during the no-electronics portion of the flights. But I was in a bookstore, and you all know what that means.

The synopsis of the book struck me as kind of interesting, and I thought it might help me at work. The basic premise is that checklists really can save lives. Not lengthy, twenty-page checklists (i.e., what I prepare before leaving town for two weeks), but five-to-seven item checklists that serve as triggers for the really important things you should do in a given incident. He pulls examples from flight emergencies, financial deals and even surgery.

He was asked to help reduce complication rates in surgeries by the WHO, and prepared a three-part, 19-question checklist to be used in high-tech and low-tech hospitals around the world. During the pilot, even the fanciest hospitals saw a highly significant decrease in infection rates, reducing deaths. He repeatedly points out how simple this seems – and how those with high levels of expertise might find checklists insulting, especially when steps seem so basic. But he backs up his assertions with evidence of their success that is pretty convincing.

It was a quick read. Even at 200 pages, I pretty much flew through it. And given my field, I think there are certainly some areas where checklists would be extremely helpful. If you could see potential for improvement in your field as well, I suggest checking it out.



April 2013



We Do Not All Work the Same Way

Written by , Posted in Politics

Time for me once again to jump into a discussion about a month (or three) late. And before I get into this, I want to point out that I recognize that this discussion comes from a fairly privileged place – one where we’re talking about office workers who generally have (physically, if not mentally) comfortable jobs where they can sit or stand, take a bathroom break when they need it and are paid something more than minimum wage. Concerns related to that type of labor are beyond the scope of this discussion.

You’ve probably heard about the policy change, or even read the memo []. If you’ve managed to miss it, in one of her acts as CEO, Marissa Mayer decided that Yahoo employees will no longer be able to telecommute. Whether the employee had an agreement to work from home one or two days a week, or was permanently operating out of a home office, from now on everyone will need to report daily to one of Yahoo’s offices.

The Arguments

Some are in favor of this decision because they assume that most anyone who works from home is lazy and/or unproductive, or is of the personality type that should not expect to be involved in any innovative or interesting work. For example, there’s this article that showed up in my Facebook feed soon after the memo came out (trigger warning: may cause SEVERE eye-rolling and sadness that this person has a widely-read blog) []. The line that kills me the most is the one where, right after she acknowledges the argument I will make below, she states “But there is also evidence that top firms don’t need to accommodate those people.” Awesome.

Some are in favor of seeing how it goes, because Ms. Mayer needs to do something to save Yahoo, and this might do it. [] I take exception to the idea that’s in the title – that the CEO doesn’t have an obligation to her employees. I’ll get to that below.

Now I do not know anything about being a CEO, except in the U.S. you apparently get to make literally hundreds of times what your employees make []. I do, however, know what I value, and I believe that actions like this – saving a company by treating its employees like children – go against what I value and what I hope others value as well.

A Caveat or Three

1. I will say up front that I am confused as to why Yahoo’s employees can’t just sign into a Google Hangout or a Lync meeting if they want to involve people in a face-to-face discussion. Will that work every time? No. But the people you need in your meeting are rarely all going to be available at the drop of a hat, whether they are in the office or not.

2. I am not going to support Ms. Mayer just because she is a woman. I am also not going withhold support because she is a woman. I will support her or not support her based on how her actions work to improve the lives of others, understanding that she comes from a different perspective and has determined she has certain duties and responsibilities.

3. I do not accept the premise that the purpose of any organization is to make as much money as possible for shareholders. I recognize that this means some people will stop reading now because I ‘don’t understand capitalism’ or the way the ‘real world’ works. But here’s the thing – I’m actually very interested in how the ‘real world’ works. I’m interested in how the actions we all take actively impact the real world. And I refuse to accept that we’re stuck with this broken system simply because we haven’t found anything better. That’s just uninspired thinking. That’s the kind of thinking that leads a feminist to say it isn’t Ms. Mayer’s job to make life easier for working mothers.

What’s the Big Deal?

Ms. Mayer sent out a memo that made it clear that everyone must work from the office because that is the best / only way for innovation. Perhaps this is actually true for Yahoo specifically; it might help explain the company’s poor performance over the past years. Additionally, numerous articles have cited a Harvard Study about workplace productivity and the benefits of working together.

But these articles often don’t seem to touch on the problem of expecting the exact same work environment to work work for everyone, or at least everyone of value to an innovative company. The ‘then don’t work there’ retort to the idea that someone might perform better working remotely demonstrates fear, unjustified defense of the status quo, and a willingness to forsake innovation and increased productivity to help make people who fit the status quo feel better about their own life choices.

Sweeping statement, I know. But stay will me.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Do you know those people who wear their work hours as a badge of pride? They may also be the same people who have ‘never taken a sick day,’ (thus being responsible for most of the colds that spread around your office) or who roll their eyes if you leave at 6:30, since they plan to stay until AT LEAST 8. Interesting fact – working longer than eight hours a day might actually kill you [] and it doesn’t make you more productive []

But Yahoo’s decision isn’t necessarily about longer hours, is it? No, but I shared those articles to point out that the status quo – working long hours and putting in ‘face time’ so your boss knows you are in early and leaving late – not only doesn’t achieve what people claim it does, but can actively hurt both the worker AND the employee. You’d think companies that claim to be so efficient and interested in making money would wise up. But no, instead you have people like Ms. Mayer who seem more interested in regressing so that they can send a message and look like they are doing something productive as opposed to … actually doing something productive.

In addition to removing the ability of some people to work in an environment that works best for them, the implication is that the job is what matters the most.

I disagree.

Because here’s my not-at-all-novel or radical idea: work is not all that matters, and while society should not actively punish people who live to work, it also should not punish people who recognize that work is just one part of who we are as people.

I’m not suggesting that people who are in the midst of a very busy time at work should just get up at 5 p.m. and leave. But these same people shouldn’t expect a cookie if they stay an extra two hours every night during regular operations. If they have too much work to do in the allotted time, then that means the company has more work than employees and needs to hire more people.

What? Hire more people? Please.

I know. But really, it’s only an absurd notion if you accept the premise that we should all just accept that we’re going to have work 10 hour days with an hour-long commute each way. It happens because enough of us allow it to happen. It happens because when Ms. Mayer makes this kind of move, people applaud her for ‘taking decisive action’ instead of encouraging her to look for ways to include diversity in the workplace.

Yup. I said it. Diversity. Not just talking about men and women, or racial, ethnic or economic diversity. I’m talking about diversity of work styles. I’m talking about the people who get energy from being in groups and talking things out AS WELL AS the people who think things through, sit and reason, and get energized when they are able to work alone. The idea that there is more value in the former is preposterous and should be discarded by people as high up as Ms. Mayer.

Why do we value the people who are outspoken over the people who are introspective? In the comments section of the hideous article I linked above, the author says that no innovative company wants an introvert working for it. Um … I call bullshit. They may not be the workers who fit the CEO’s ‘vision’ of how everyone should work just like them, but they are ones doing work just the same. If whole swaths of the population are disregarded because they aren’t as vocal or as in-your-face as others, then as a society we are really missing out on the innovation and creativity those people could bring to the table. Not to mention that the percent of introverts in the population varies from 25%-50%. Can any CEO claim that it makes sense to disregard up to 50% of the potential workforce?

But what about the lazy people taking advantage of telecommuting policies?

Direct them to different work or, if they really can’t be trusted to do work from home or in the office, fire them for performance issues. There are going to be lazy people everywhere and it’s bordering on the absurd to suggest that a lazy person will stop being lazy once they are in the office. Perhaps for the first few days or weeks they will be on their best behavior, but it’s pretty easy to waste time while looking busy. If a specific employee is not performing as expected and directed, the manager should speak with that employee. If there’s any laziness here it seems to be with the CEO, who is trying to do with one memo what management should have been doing with people individually.

But no one has a right to telecommute, so isn’t this kind of a silly discussion?

No. Because while no one has a ‘right’ to telecommute, how companies chose to treat their employees affects us all. I don’t use any Yahoo products, but I know people who do. I might even know people who work for Yahoo, or who have family or friends who work there. And while some jobs do not lend themselves to flexibility in terms of where the person can do their job (hello, bartender), society should embrace the ones that do, because we are not all the same, and we shouldn’t all be expected to work in the same way.

I have a job that allows for some flexibility. I can adjust my hours so that I have a day off every two weeks. It’s pretty amazing, and allows me to focus while at work and get errands, appointments and other tasks done on that day off. Our office also allows for some limited telecommuting. That helps when I have an appointment that can’t be changed that is three blocks from my house at noon on a Wednesday. Instead of wasting an hour going back and forth to the office, I can work at home, maintain nearly regular hours (instead of staying at work until 7 or 8), and still fulfill my obligations as an employee and a member of society. Because I don’t just work for my organization – I also am a member of the community, the partner of an awesome man, a caretaker to my cats and a friend and relative to others. What I do to earn money is part of how I contribute to this world, but it is not the only way I contribute. I think corporations forget that some times.

At my office no one works from home all of the time, but many are able to work from home one day a week. And you know what? We do pretty fantastic work there. Hopefully you won’t ever have to encounter it, but I can say quite honestly that what we do will matter to you if you live where I live and a disaster strikes. And we’re able to do that because we are able to hire great people who do not just live for this job.

That’s right! People who DO NOT live for work are actually making amazing contributions. They are able to see the bigger picture, not just how their one little piece of the puzzle matters. It’s fantastic how someone who has a child to pick up after school or a cat who needs to go to the vet learns over time to cut to the chase. To be efficient with their time while allowing others to work in the way that works best for them. We should value those qualities in not just our colleagues, but in our fellow humans.

But what about the shareholders?

Stop it. I own stock (actually, I own mutual funds, so I guess it is possible I own 1/1000 of a percent of a share of Yahoo). And as much as it is within my control, I try to invest responsibly, with companies and organizations that are interested in more than just money. Companies that are interested in the employees – the people doing the work – as much as the shareholders. It’s not an absurd concept – what should matter is how what a company is doing affects us ALL. Not just the customer, or the employee, or the shareholder. A company can survive and actually THRIVE by treating its employees well, producing a quality product or service, and not fucking up the environment. I don’t tolerate companies pouring sludge into the groundwater – why should we tolerate companies who pour that same metaphorical sludge into their workers?

As I state above – I’m not a CEO, or even a senior manager. I have witnessed the tough decisions that need to be made in the private sector, with senior and executive staff feeling the stress of the desire to GROW MORE FASTER FASTER. I see it with the organizations some friends work at, where what matters is not the quality of the product but the deadline that has to be met so that the people who own the stock can see that percentage point tick up slightly. It’s not cool, and if more of us who can afford to used our wallets to buy from the companies that treat their employees, or (if its possible given our financial situation) turned down jobs at companies that think employees are children to be managed and not contributing adults, maybe we could start to make a dent. Maybe. At the very least, we should stop acting like the only employees who matter are the ones who are able to work in one specific environment.



March 2009




Written by , Posted in Random

The past few weeks have been a bit blue. Just a week after my last entry, our family friend passed away. It was just a few weeks from diagnosis to death, and that’s so not okay. My father spoke at the memorial, and it was hard to watch. They were such good friends. And my mother had known him since they were children (his mother and her mother were in church daycare together as babies in the 20s!). All of our summers involved him and his families, and I know that my parents planned for the rest of their summers to involve them as well. His wife will still be a part of their lives, and hopefully she knows how much we all care for her, and their children (one of whom used to stay with me and my sister when our folks went out of town). It’s one of the hardest passings I’ve experienced. It’s weird and really sad.

The training for the half marathon is going quite well. I’ve not missed a day of training, and feel like my times are good for what I’m looking to accomplish. And I’m getting close to my fundraising goal. However, my nutrition isn’t anywhere close to where it should be. I’m just not eating as well as I should be. I’ve got two weeks to go, and am seeing a sports nutritionist on Monday. Hopefully she can help with these last two weeks, but also for the training for the marathon. A couple of us have signed up for the Philadelphia marathon in November, so training will start in July. 

I’ve been having successes at work – I’m enjoying it, but still find myself distracted. Distracted by the idea of living in the UK, or by finding work back in Seattle. I love NYC, and Seattle, and feel as though I’ll probably spend most of my life missing one place or another, which just won’t due. I think a refocus on trying harder to enjoy where I am is in order.

The best thing (as always) are my friends. Herman and Kathleen are so dear, and I see them most weekends, sometimes multiple times. We just have fun together, and I appreciate that I don’t have to worry about being a third wheel. And throughout this past month, which overall has felt more crappy than good (while acknowledging that even my ‘crappy’ is still pretty darn lucky, as I still have a home, a job, a great family and awesome friends), my friends have put up with more moping and whining than they should have to. Hopefully whether things are getting better or not will be irrelevant; it’s my attitude and perspective that needs the adjustment, and I’m working on it.

To that end, I’ve read a couple of good books on Buddhism – one by the Dali Lama. Very interesting, and a good way to look at the world, and our roles in it.

Unrelated – has anyone seen “The Tudors”? I don’t get Showtime, so I’m only about mid-way through season one (and please don’t tell me how it works out!). I love it. Luckily my understanding of English history is woefully inadequate (yay California public schools and a college major focused on the US), so much of it is new to me. I don’t even remember how the whole Katherine of Aragon thing turns out, so I am enthralled. Good diversion on a Sunday afternoon!



January 2009



So, How Was the Flight?

Written by , Posted in Adventures

I haven’t written in a couple of weeks. I had a birthday (it was great – a LOT of cupcakes), and am gearing up for two weeks of traveling from east to west to east to further east and back. But life is good – I’m running three-four times a week, I’m loving my apartment, and just enjoying winter in NYC.

I also have a job I love, albeit one that requires me to be on-call three out of every nine weeks. This week we thought that just meant a few winter weather conference calls. We were wrong.


I was at the dentist yesterday and saw on my blackberry (right before heading in for the cleaning) an e-mail saying “medium aircraft in Hudson.” Now, my first thought was that it was at most a prop commuter plane – to me, that’s a medium plane. That’s the kind of thing that can usually be managed on the scene, or with a small mobilization at the office. Anything that flies out of a commercial airport? That’s a large plane to me. So I sat down to get my teeth cleaned, knowing that they’d call me in if needed. Then, with the pick in my mouth and the hygienist talking to me, I overheard the women in front shouting in Spanish – agua! En agua! After the cleaning I called work, and they said finish with the dentist and then come back in.


Twenty minutes later I was walking into the office, and it was an image I hadn’t seen since probably the crazy storms of April 2007. Everyone was talking, on the phone, on the Nextel. We were trying to keep all of the information straight, putting it into report. By then the reports were coming in, but hard to process – I’m sorry, NO ONE was killed? NO ONE was critically injured? Wait, huh?


Some staff went to La Guardia, and most of us stayed at work to keep managing things from there (like trying to find a barge crane to life the plane out of the water, for example). It was interesting and a bit chaotic, but at the same time amazing to witness and be part of. I do really love my job, especially when the emergency turns out instead to be a story about how amazing people are.


I got home around 10:30 last night (not bad, considering we though we’d be there until 6 this morning) and called my mom. Funny coincidence – the incredible pilot who saved 155 lives yesterday? He is from my hometown. That’s right. Danville’s most awesome claim to fame is no longer Christie Turlington – It’s Captain Sully!



December 2008



Rock On

Written by , Posted in Adventures

Man, I love Christmas in NYC. The parties, the joy, the decorations, and, as of yesterday, the beautiful blankets of snow covering the muck of the city.

Last week was the third annual cookie party, held this year and Herman and Kathleen’s place. About two dozen people came, including, Ben, a friend from high school! Very cool to see him and meet his girlfriend. Sunday was another friend’s hot chocolate party, followed by band practice Monday. The last jam session before the holiday party.

The party? Was AWESOME. The space – Galapagos in DUMBO – was great. The booths were like little islands floating in water. And the stage – the stage was perfect for the show. We went on at 10, and it went really, REALLY well. It was so fun to just be up on stage, rocking out, and even singing in front of my coworkers. I feel really lucky to be comfortable enough to let loose and rock out in front of my boss, my coworkers, even the Commissioner. I loved it!

Finally, last night a friend and I went out for tapas and then wandered around the city looking at the holiday windows in the snow. Perfect end to Christmas in NYC.

Tomorrow, I head to California. Merry Christmas!!!



November 2008



Huh. It Really Is Who You Know

Written by , Posted in Random

My dear friend Herman came into our staff meeting this morning and didn’t look like he was having a good day. I thought maybe it had a bit to do with preparing to host us orphans tomorrow, but Herman doesn’t really stress out about things like that. I was sort of right, and sort of wrong. He wasn’t so much stressed about having us over; he was stressed about not being able to have us over. Let me share the story (it has a happy ending).

Herman and Kathleen moved into their apartment over a year ago. They each moved from apartments where their respective landlords paid for the natural gas. When they moved into their current apartment, they were told only that they had to turn on the electric, not the gas. And the gas was on, so they didn’t think to double check that they didn’t have to put the gas in their name or anything like that. Given their past experience – and the fact that the landlord made a point to say it was the electric they needed to turn on (but NOT gas) – this makes sense to me.

So National Grid didn’t have their information. They claimed they sent notices over the last year, and maybe that’s true. My guess is the person who lived in the apartment before Herman and Kathleen had his or her mail forwarded, and when he or she saw letters from National Grid threw them out without opening them. National Grid ALSO claimed they sent letters addressed to “occupant.” Doubtful. Herman and Kathleen are two of the most conscientious people I’ve ever met – if they got even one notice, they would have addressed the issue immediately.

Want to know how they found out about the issue? National Grid decided to shut off their gas. 

The day before Thanksgiving. 


Seriously. EVEN IF National Grid sent the notices as often as they claim (which I doubt), how can they shut off someone’s gas without any REAL notice? I hold the landlord and the super mostly responsible – the landlord should have told Herman and Kathleen that they were responsible for setting up the gas, and the super could have been a decent person and called Herman and Kathleen and said hey – National Grid is shutting off your gas. But that didn’t happen.

Why was this such a big deal? Oh, because National Grid said that they wouldn’t come back to turn it on until December 5.

I find this to be an absurdly poor corporate practice. It’s Thanksgiving – it’s not even a religious holiday. It’s one of the three or four holidays damn near EVERYONE in this country celebrates. And, unlike, say New Year’s Eve, it completely and totally involves COOKING. Why would they have a policy of shutting off gas (without giving notice), and of doing it right before a holiday? I just don’t get it. If you must shut it off – do it the day AFTER the holiday.

I spent some time on the phone as Kathleen trying to see what could be done to get the gas back on. Nothing. No movement. It was kind of entertaining – I did keep letting the person know that I knew they weren’t responsible, but I also let them know how amazed I was at how poorly this was handled.

My apartment is too small to house the ten people, and my oven wouldn’t fit the turkey, so for awhile we were trying to figure out where we could celebrate. Ben and Bonnie did say they could open their home – but they are all the way out in Bushwick, which would have been a tough trek with food from Park Slope / Prospect Heights.

But then – someone we know knows someone at National Grid. So Herman called. And that person? Took it on. Was able to talk to someone else who talked to someone else. And guess what? As of 6:30 PM, the gas was back on. Thanksgiving is on.

Most everyone could have handled this better. Herman and Kathleen probably should have double checked on the gas when they moved in – but given their history, why would they? I’ve never had to pay for garbage collection, so it wouldn’t occur to me to make sure I was paying that bill or that it was in my name.

The landlord DEFINITELY should have told Herman and Kathleen that they needed to set up the gas in their name. That’s really the only way they would find that information out. And the Super should have given Herman and Kathleen a heads up that the gas was being turned off – the Super is well aware that people are living in that unit, and he’s even met them. Is it his responsibility legally? No. But as a compassionate person I would say yeah, he should have done something.

And finally, National Grid. You REALLY should re-evaluate your policy about shutting off gas. Waiting OVER A YEAR and THEN turning it off the day before Thanksgiving, and not having anyone available to turn the gas back on in case (as in this situation), it should not have been turned off in the first place? SO NOT COOL.

In the grand scheme of things – tonight as I type this I’m watching the horror going on in Mumbai – this is not a big deal. Not even a small deal. But it was a completely unnecessary stress, and I think we could all do without those this time of year.



August 2007



Auntie Em, Uncle Henry, It’s a Twister

Written by , Posted in Adventures

I got up yesterday and consulted my blackberry as I do every morning, especially when I’m on call. I saw, around 6:30, a tornado warning issued. Crazy, right. There were some major storms that work me up very early, but a tornado? Please.

I left my apartment around 7:15. It was hot and nasty and sticky already, but I only had three avenues to get across, then I could take respite in the over-cooled 6 train. I swiped my Metrocard, and heard the announcement that there was no 4, 5, or 6 train service where I needed to go because of track flooding. Bummer. Luckily, I was only about five blocks from the F train, but when I got there, it, too, was shut down. So I continued on to 59th and Lexington to try to catch the R, which goes kind of near my office. No dice. Everything was shut. At this point, it was raining a bit, and still really, really hot and humid. I started walking. Buses were packed full or missing in action, and there were dozens of people waiting to try to get on. I emailed my boss and her supervisor.  One response was “You should move back to Brooklyn.” Thanks.

I kept walking. Along the 6 line, just in case it would start running again. I contemplated trying to walk across town to get the A or C, which goes right to my office. A well-timed call to Allegra confirmed that those trains were down, too. Damn. I kept walking.  Got to Union Square (about three miles from my home) around 8:45. Still no trains. Got a page to report to the situation room at the office. Emailed back saying I’d be there . . .  eventually. Was told to take a cab. Riiiight. Because me and the other 1.5 million Manhattanites hadn’t thought of that. Not a cab in site that wasn’t full.  

I finally got to Broadway Lafayette, where I was told trains were running to Brooklyn. After 20 minutes on the world’s hottest subway platform, a Q train came. Q doesn’t usually run there, which meant it was going to be stopping a good 20-minute walk from the office. But at least I’d be in the right borough. At this point I’d walked about 4 miles in nasty heat. I was over-tired, dehydrated, sweaty, and just over it. The train went over a bridge, and I got an email from a coworker/friend asking if I was stuck and needed a ride. He picked me up at the train station, which was a saving grace.

I then walked in, washed up, and went straight to work in the sit room, where I stayed until 7:30, when I had to leave for class. Why a sit room for a storm? Because there were TWO TORNADOES. Two. One in Brooklyn and one in Staten Island. Nutty, right?