Tag Archives: Bell System

A Closed Mouth Gathers No Foot


Over the years I’ve developed quite a taste for shoe leather.  I’m the guy that is always saying something when the person I’m saying it about is standing behind me.  You know the type.  I can rarely spread a rumor successfully, without the rumored knowing that I’m the one who broadcast it.  Yeah, it’s all about a closed mouth.  The shoe can’t get in if you just shut the fluffy up.  It’s definitely harder to say something embarrassing if you don’t say anything.

Last week, in a job interview, I was asked what motivated me.  I said without hesitation, “Money.”  The interviewer looked at me like I had potatoes growing out my ears.  I quickly tried to confine the obvious damage by further explaining that I was far more likely to be motivated to do something if I was paid for it, than if I wasn’t.  The interviewer wrote that down as I continued with damage control.

“I’m mostly motivated by challenge,” I lied.  Challenges don’t motivate me that much by themselves.  A challenge with a monetary reward, well now we’re talking.  But the interviewer smiled and wrote that down, hopefully crossing off that awful word, money.

That's me in the middle.

I continued with my interminable need for the taste of shoe leather as the next question asked was, “Why, would you say, that someone won’t hire you?”  Where do they come up with this stuff?  I answered that the only reason I can think of that someone wouldn’t hire me was because of my age.  I got the look again.  The woman who was interviewing me was clearly older than me, or she had suffered a hard life.  Again, at some lame attempt at crowd control, I sputtered that I had recently felt that my age had come into play in an earlier interview I had.  When I was telling that interviewer about my experience with Mountain Bell, the interviewer said that I was “dating myself.”  He went on to say that he remembered the “breakup” of the Bell System, but just barely.  Sounds like he was dating himself too, don’t you think?  I was one of five to be interviewed for the position of factory sales rep, and I got an email two days later stating that they had decided to “go in another direction.”  I’m going to believe that it was because I have no direct outside sales experience, but that conversation about Mountain Bell haunted me.  I sent a reply stating that I hoped their decision to move in another direction had nothing to do with the interviewer’s comments about “dating myself.”  See, even keeping your mouth closed doesn’t help.  Sometimes the foot gets in there anyway.

Back to why someone won’t hire me.  The interviewer said, and this a direct quote, “A lot of people say that, but end up getting the job anyway.”  The interviewer was a third-party, not employed by the company with the opening.  Her job was to screen the candidates, probably in the neighborhood of 200 resumes that had been received from the job placement, to determine who to pass on to the hiring authority for a second interview.  I’m waiting for the email about going in different directions.

Hindsight, having the clarity that it does, I decided on the ride home that the correct answer might have been that I couldn’t think of one damn reason why anyone wouldn’t hire me.  Then I figured out that the question was absolutely designed to get you to put your foot in your mouth.  I wondered how others would answer that in a job interview.  Probably trying to think of some obscure, unimportant thing that would make them un-hire-able.  What would that be?  Let’s go back to that money answer.  Maybe I should have said, “Because I want too much money.”  But, in fact, when asked that question, what was the least amount I would take for the position, I had answered in the mid-thirteens an hour.  She said something to the effect that they were offering in the twenties, so maybe I should say eighteenish.  I quickly agreed and promised not to tell she had suggested that answer.

Every job interview has a set of questions that are asked all the time.  Questions like, “Where do you see yourself in five years.”  My answer used to be, and I emphasize the “used to be,” “I see myself in your job.”  I always thought that answer showed some motivation to succeed and move up within the company.  The shoe leather taste was evident every time I said it.    What I really want to say now, is that I see myself retired in five years with a huge amount of stock options, and a 401K that puts me in a higher tax bracket, but I know how stupid that answer might be.  So I struggle with the question.

Another one of the questions in an interview that I despise is, “Give me an example of a time when you had a difficult customer and what you did to resolve the issue,” or some such “give me an example question.”  I sit there totally lost.  I can’t think of one example in all the years of experience that I have, to offer in answer.  The mouth is clenched tightly shut, afraid that anything I say will invite a foot.  So I make something up.  What are they going to do, check it?  Is it written down somewhere in a history book?  Sometimes I come up with some pretty good stuff, but in truth I have a cheat sheet.

Shorthorn heifer with foot and mouth disease. Does this affect humans?

I’ve done my share of interviewing over the years.  I remember one candidate I interviewed would look at pages in a manila folder she held on her lap every time I asked a question.  She would then read, yes, actually read, the answer she had on the sheet, verbatim.  I asked her how long she had lived here, and she read the answer.  I asked her the example questions, and she read the answer off her sheet.  There was not one question that I asked that she didn’t have the answer written down on the sheet.  That’s where I got the idea for the “cheat sheet.”  She didn’t get the job.

My least favorite question in an interview is, “Why should we hire you over all the other candidates for the position?”  Well, first of all, I don’t have any idea the caliber of the other contestants.  What I want to say is that I NEED a job.  What I usually do is start spouting off all the great skills and experience that I have that makes me highly qualified for the position, more qualified than any other mortal person applying for it, and how dependable I am, and a team player, and, and, and, faster than the interviewer can write the stuff down.

Although a closed mouth gathers no foot, you can’t follow that advice in a job interview.  You have to answer, and sometimes the foot is going to find its way to your mouth, no matter what you say.  


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Unemployment Rate Falls


I overslept this morning.  That isn’t amazing in itself.   I can easily sleep half the day away if I don’t force myself out of the bed.  Once I’m up though, sitting on the edge of the bed at least, I’m good .  But the oversleeping this morning seemed to have a disquieting efffect.  I was incoherent when my wife woke me to tell me she was leaving for work.  Again, a common occurrence for one who has been woken from a deep sleep, dreaming of something better than what they will probably face today.  One of those, “where am I” moments that I truly don’t like.  And a feeling of distress.  Something not being right.

The headline: “Unemployment rate falls, lowest in nearly 3 years,” screamed out as the featured story on my Yahoo page while I checked my email for responses to my recent blast of online job applications. “A burst of hiring in December pushed the U.S. unemployment rate to its lowest level in nearly three years, giving the economy a boost at the end of 2011,” was the lead.  The unemployment rate has dropped to 8.5 percent just in time for the election, or so it seems.  Except, as the article points out, when Barack Obama took office, the unemployment rate was only 7.8.  “Only 7.8” percent was not a good unemployment rate either.

And I can’t get an interview.  I’m not over-educated, or over-experienced in any one field, but I am now “old” in many respects.  Age discrimination aside, even though they can’t ask me how old I am in a job interview, they can eliminate me from consideration by asking when I graduated from high school.  Just like they figure out at the grocery store if I’m old enough to buy the booze they’re too young to ring up.  Do I think they eliminate me from consideration when I say 1971?  Absolutely.  During the one and only interview I’ve had since I moved here, for an outside sales job, the Regional Sales Manager who was clearly in his thirties, said I was “dating” myself when I started talking about the Bell System breakup of the 80’s.  He said he was very young when that happened, but he, unlike many others, remembered it.  I think I “dated” myself when I walked into the interview with gray streaks in my hair and a goatee that has gone mostly white and a double-breasted suit I haven’t worn in 25 years.

The truth is I have little or no outside sales experience, so I was surprised that I even got the interview.  Didn’t really want the job anyway, didn’t think I would get it, but thought I might practice up on my interview skills since it’s been a while.  I can’t really see me selling sandpaper to body shops.  But then it was a job, and I need one of those.

The job application process has changed drastically over the years too.  You can’t really check the newspaper for job openings anymore or “hit the streets” looking for opportunities.  You go instead to the thousands of job board sites and search for job openings in your area, and then you spend an hour or more filling out an online job application and, of course, the now famous personality test.  “Do you think you are good looking?”  Hell yes, thanks for asking.  But then they also want to know if you think you’re handsome, attractive, beautiful or someone that would make a train take a dirt road, in subsequent questions, all designed to “trip” you up.  The instructions say that you should answer the questions truthfully, not how you WANT to think of yourself.  Does anybody do that?  Yep, I’m so ugly, when I was younger, my mother had to tie a pork chop around my neck so the dog would play with me.

What really sets me off when filling out these online job applications is that the first thing they ask you to do is upload your resume or copy and paste it to a box.  Then the next ten pages of the online application asks you to regurgitate the entire resume information into their specific boxes.  It infuriates me.  I have to tab back and forth from the Word document and the online application to give them the information I uploaded ten minutes ago.  And I was already eliminated from consideration when I put 1971 in the box three pages ago when it asked when I graduated from high school.  And what’s this “Degree” or “Significant Course Work” in relation to high school?  Do you choose a course of study in high school now?  Something other than reading, righting and rithmetic?  I put “General”.  I’m probably eliminated then, if I haven’t already been with “1971.”  But the worse thing that happens during the online job application process is the computer will freeze up after you’ve been entering information for 45 minutes and you have to start all over again.

When you’re old like me, shouldn’t you have developed some contacts over the years?  Someone you worked with back in the day that you can call and say, “Hey (insert name), I’ve moved back to town and I’m looking for a job.  Got anything with Xyz Company?”  That’s the company where your good friend is now CEO and knows you would be a perfect fit for that Director of Marketing they’re looking for.  Or how about that night janitor position they haven’t been able to fill.

Time to stop feeling sorry for myself and get back to the process, I guess.  Checking the boxes next to “hard working,” “attractive,” “funny,” “outside-of-the-box thinker,” “dedicated,” “team player,” “good looking,” “leader,” “problem solver,” “handsome,” “smart.”  Here’s one:  “Have you ever thought about stealing more than $5  from your employer?”  WTF.  Is anyone going to answer in the affirmative to that question?  If I only thought about stealing $4.95, is that okay?  Later in the same personality test, they up it to $10 and ask the same questions.

I think that’s why I overslept this morning, woke up disquieted and with that feeling of distress.  I have to fill out more job applications and wonder whether I have ever just thought about embezzling $4.95 from any of my last employers without being caught.

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I Told Her I Was Going To Tell Everyone I Knew!


I’m moving to New Mexico.  Yes it’s in the United States, and yes they speak English.  I’m just pointing that out, because when I worked for Mountain Bell back in the day, I would get those two questions a lot when people called in to the Business Office.  That’s what they called it, the “Mountain Bell Business Office.”  I held the distinction, at the time, of being the only male service representative in the state.  I think I was the only male service rep in the entire company, but it was during the time they were trying to get people into “non-traditional jobs,” like putting girls up poles, and putting guys in desk chairs.  It was a whole different “consent decree” world for the Bell System and a few years short of its breakup as a monopoly.  The Consent Decree was signed with the Federal Government to insure that woman and minorities would be hired in a reverse discrimination method that favored woman and minorities, however it also got me my first job when I dropped out of college in 1973.

So, I’m moving, relocating, whatever you want to call it, and I clearly understand that every expense I incur is tax-deductible.  Especially since I am relocating, technically, to find work.  The unemployment rate up here in Nevada is still running in the double digits.  Not a good place to find a job.  New Mexico is a little better, but not great, but my daughters and their families live there, and I lived there for 12 years back in the late 70’s and 80’s.

The move has been a coordination nightmare.  I’ve had to move out of a house, put stuff in a storage unit, make two runs down to New Mexico with a cargo trailer, and I still have a load left.  It was left in a storage unit at “RR Self Storage” (Double R Self Storage) in Reno, Nevada.  I paid for July, and I paid for August.  Ninety-five dollars a month.  Paid up until the 31st of August, but I needed one extra day.  ONE extra day because I was working until the 31st and wasn’t getting the rental truck until September 1st, Thursday.  I didn’t want to pay another $95 for one day.

So I read on the “Notice of Intent to Vacate” that I could notify them “before the 1st” if I needed an extra day or two into the month and they would pro-rate the rent.  They “would be happy to accommodate” this one time request.  In bold letters it says “Partial Rent Will Not Be Refunded.”  And it also explains that if you are not out by the pre-arranged move out day, you will be charged for the full month.  Seemed fair and it was the 26th of August.  Almost a week before the 1st.

So I go into the office with my “Notice of Intent to Vacate” filled in with September 2, 2011 as my last day of occupancy, after I got off work on Friday.  I will have the U-Haul truck on the 1st, and will load it then, but I figure one more day just to be safe.

I hand the form to the rotund (trying to be nice) girl on the other side of the counter, and I had to reach out pretty good because she’s pretty rotund.  And she just says, “Okay” and puts in on the work surface behind the counter.

I says to her, “You’re going to pro-rate those last two days, right?

“Nope,” she says, if you leave on the 2nd you’ll have to pay for the full month.”

I looked at Her Rotundity in surprise.  “It says here that you will be happy to pro-rate the rent if I let you know before the first.”  I leaned over the counter and pointed to the sheet.  I’m not that rotund.

Her Rotundness turns (not a pretty sight) and starts to walk away.  Turns back to me momentarily and says, “If you leave on the 2nd you owe for the full month?”

“Ninety-five dollars for one day,” I scream.  No… I screamed it.

“Yes,” she says.

“That doesn’t seem fair,” was all I could say.  I scooped up the vacate notice and said that I wasn’t moving until the end of September then.

Her Rotundity’s cheery and helpful response, said in a syrupy attempt at customer service, “Sure, why rush.  Take your time.  You have the whole month.”

That’s when the steam blew out the ears and I turned and got out of there before I hurt someone or something.

I sat in my truck down the street and read, and re-read the clause about being happy to pro-rate the rent.  Then I read it again.  It still said to me that if I let them know before the first, they would pro-rate any extra days, but then it said in bold type again, no day to day rent allowed.  Sounded contradictory.  Then it hit me.  I would need to know a month ahead of time when I would be vacating the space for them to be happy to help me and pro-rate the rent.  In other words, I would have had to tell them before August 1st, that I was not leaving until September 2nd.  The clause is written so as to completely confuse the renter, who will almost always think that they are going to pro-rate the rent for them if they tell them before the first of the month that they will only need it for a few more days.

Then I thought, well the rent may be do on the first, but they don’t lock me out until the third, and don’t charge me a late fee until the 5th.  So I could clean the unit out on the first anyway, and let them try to get the $95 out of me.  By the time all the late fees and penalties were added up, I would owe them more like $200 though.  They might go after that.  Plus they didn’t say they had to wait until the third to lock me out, so they could technically do it on the first when rent was due which would put me in a real bind from a coordination standpoint.  And they now knew that I was moving out on the 2nd.

We moved everything out on Saturday.  I had to re-coordinate the move schedule, the help I’m going to need, and I damn near ripped my arm off moving a refrigerator in the back of a pickup.  Which is scary in itself because a refrigerator sticks up pretty high in the bed of a pickup truck.  And every time I move this $2,400 LG Refrigerator, it gets more dents and more scratches.  It’s been a serious thorn in my side, Jesus reference aside.

Saturday, after the last load was in my truck, I pulled into the office of the “Double R Self Storage” at 880 Maestro Drive, Reno, NV 89511, (775) 853-4466.  I crossed off the date, wrote in August 26th, and walked into the office.  I pitched the vacate notice at the same fat lady in the same black outfit sitting in an itty-bitty  black office chair creaking under the strain, and said, “Here, I’m out.”

I looked right at her and said, “Oh, and I wanted to thank you for your understanding and for helping me out.”

She said, “You’re welcome.” 

I said as I turned and walked away, “..and I’m telling everybody I know.”  So now I have.

I’ve got two questions.  Why do fat people always wear black?  Where the FLUFFY did customer service go?  That place made $190 off of me, and I would have told everyone I knew how great they were about pro-rating the last few days of rent to help me out.  Didn’t go down that way though.

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