Thanksgiving Reflections – 2017

My, what a crazy year this has been.

Thanksgiving is normally a time for introspection and reflection, for remembering everything that you have in your life, and for spending the day – or at least the afternoon – with friends and family.

I will be spending my Thanksgiving alone.

This is probably for the best.

I have seldom felt more dismayed, or less content with my lot in life, than I feel at this moment. Sure, my dad made a full recovery following a total knee replacement surgery this past spring and I “made the cut” at work after the pulling of a major account saw the site all but shutting down completely. Sure, I rang in the new year in Nicaragua, and journeyed to Mexico and Cuba just two months later. Sure, I saw some good summer movies and made a few memorable day trips to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Sure, I bonded with Molly the Dog, who rarely leaves my side when I am home.

But something doesn’t feel right.

I am 42 years old, and I make a fraction of the money than I made 10, even 15 years ago. My back went out on me last night for the third time this year. The landlord is evicting my father and I, even though we have never fallen behind on the rent.

About the first thing:

I live in a factory town. The vast majority of workers here do not have college degrees, and they certainly don’t own passports. Where does that leave me? Overqualified for most jobs to the point that I can’t even get called in for an interview! Rather, my résumé is tossed in the trash, a generic “do not reply” rejection email is sent, and any attempts made by me to contact that company’s HR department meet with dead ends. To combat my over-qualification, I actually removed every trace of the words “manager,” “director,” and “team leader” from my résumé and reapplied for the same jobs, only to find that by then, said job openings were removed from the company websites! Oh, sweet irony.

And this is bullshit. I work at a call center, where I was a team leader until I resigned for a variety of reasons, the biggest one being that I saw the company being mismanaged to eventual shutdown. I won’t tell you how close that came to actually happening. I returned to the job in mid-summer, cash-poor and hoping that the ship had righted itself and that I could be content being an agent, not a manager, until the opportunity came for me to advance once more. Things there had only gotten worse.

We lost our main client for reasons that differed from what upper management actually told us. I was let go and then hired back two days later to help “close out the account.” We picked up an interim account that actually paid a better wage, then lost that, too. For this latter account, call volume was simply too low to justify our existence, so while I won’t blame that loss on call center management, everyone was pretty disenchanted by then. We landed a new, permanent account that pays better and that saw us having to re-interview for our jobs. Everyone was to start over from scratch, agents and managers alike, and to go through training together. New managers were to be chosen, and it really was supposed to be a complete restart…

…except the same core group of managers were chosen as the ones who had driven everyone else to burnout in the first place. I presented myself to the hiring site director as a college graduate (not many of those at the call center) with 15 years of corporate work experience, two years spent working overseas, impeccable metrics (the ones that matter to this particular client, anyway), a positive coaching style, and a 140 I.Q. It didn’t matter. The site director’s mind was already made up, and while there were a few strong candidates out of the seven finalists he decided upon, there were a few less-than-inspiring choices, too. Sorry guys, but it’s true.

Most people would say that I should give the whole thing some time to see how events unfold. And yes, I am aware of the rather sizable chip on my shoulder. Frankly, though, I’m tired of being passed over in favor of less accomplished candidates simply because they are better at kissing ass than I am. Although many people seem to think highly of the new site director, he has already lost my buy-in. I will probably leave there to go someplace that pays even less money because a) I don’t want to stay on this sinking ship, and b) I can’t “bide my time” and hope that my true worth is eventually seen…after eight or nine more waves of new hires are brought on board and assigned to lesser team leaders.

The call center lost me…and it is to their peril.

About the second thing:

Not much to say, really. I have a pinched nerve, or sciatica, in my lower back and it flares up every now and again, usually after several days of standing in one place or sitting on hard chairs. Stress is perhaps the biggest contributing factor. When my lower back decides to be uncooperative, the simple act of getting out of bed sends shooting pain up one side of my body. It is functional in that I can live with the discomfort until it eventually passes, but unpleasant enough that people notice how gingerly I am walking. (I often joke that my pained walking is a result of having long balls, or of holding back a poop, but what can I say, really? I don’t enjoy talking about physical discomfort, and humor is my coping mechanism.)

Upon moving to East Tennessee in 2014 I had made soft plans to “one day” thru-hike the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which passes within 60 miles of where I live. But alas, I don’t have the money, nor sufficient insurance coverage, for corrective lower back surgery. It seems that I must give up my extreme hiking dream.

About the third thing:

I live with my dad…for nine more days. He and my mom had retired to East Tennessee in 2011, and moved into our raised ranch-style home, set in an unincorporated section of town and built on an acre lot, most of which is covered in a glorious carpet of fallen leaves each fall, and a fine layer of white powder after the occasional winter snowfall. Although the place needs work, I have enjoyed living here, and the quiet street is perfect for walking Molly.

The home is actually owned by my mom’s cousin, who inherited it from her own mother after the woman passed away. The inheritance was rife with sibling rivalry and various fallings-out, and while my parents and I remained neutral during the process, the end result was that we didn’t have to move. We were even offered a chance to buy the house at a rate so price that we should have jumped on the opportunity. Hindsight, as is so often the case, is 20/20.

Flash forward to November, 2016. My mom has been gone for two months, and her cousin raises the rent over $200/month even though our net household income is down $1,100/month. Good times. We agree to pay it, but flash forward another eight months and the owner now tells us she is selling the place. We know, based on the repairs needed on the place as well as the asking price – $10,000 more than what it was appraised for but $45,000 more than its true worth, that it will sit on the market well into 2018.

“Fuck it,” my dad says. He is approved for senior housing that costs literally half of what we pay each month in rent, and he starts the moving process. I, meanwhile, have to find a place that will let me keep an overweight (72 pounds at last check-in) golden retriever. Although the dog is well behaved and has never had an accident in the house, it has not been easy finding a place that will let me keep her. Molly is the love of my life, and getting rid of her is a deal-breaker.

I take my sweet time, knowing that it may take awhile to find the right place at the right price. (All signs point to me never getting to enjoy retirement on call center wages unless my income increases substantially.) All of the sudden, my mom’s cousin tells us that we have to be out by the end of the month, even though there aren’t, as yet, any buyers. What can I do? My mom is dead and her cousin is done with us. Gotta love family.

I know that I will find a place; things have a way of working themselves out, even for an oft-pessimistic gringo such as myself. But I hope my mom’s cousin – who also sold me a car that has never worked right since I bought it – realizes that letting the house sit empty until it sells, which may take months in the current housing market, is only hurting herself. Oh well. Once I turn over the keys, I doubt I’ll ever see her again.

Back on Point

It isn’t all doom and gloom. I am thankful (to use holiday-speak) that I was able to visit my friend José in Nicaragua, to catch up with pieces of my old life in Mexico City, and to explore the hell out of Cuba.

I am thankful that I am not a woman, or an immigrant, in Trump’s America.

I am thankful that my sister has found a man who treats her right. (Not an easy thing in Tennessee, where women have notoriously bad taste in men.)

I am thankful that my dad’s surgery went well; knee surgery is no picnic, and is something that I may one day have to face myself. Years of hiking and mountain climbing have taken their toll.

I am thankful for the hours upon hours of entertainment that “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” provided me while I cared for my dad. “Breaking Bad” in particular is, in my opinion, the greatest TV drama ever produced.

I am thankful for being able to make it to Dollywood earlier this year. Lightning Rod, the fastest wooden roller coaster in the world, is a wicked ride. And the company was good. 🙂

I am thankful – believe it or not – for having a job. Well…mostly thankful.

Finally, I am thankful that I didn’t go through with my original plan, earlier this year, to discontinue this blog. I do need more readers, however. Seriously, tell your friends!

Thank you for continuing to follow the bizarre journey that is my life. I hope your Turkey Day is better than mine.

Author: gringopotpourri

Gringo - aka Scott - was born outside of Chicago and has lived most of his life in or around big cities. He spent two years of his adult life in Mexico City (talk about big cities!) and fell in love with Mexican food, history, and women, all while weathering the culture shock. Life's journey has since brought him to rural Tennessee, perhaps the biggest culture shock of them all. Scott also enjoys movies, hiking, and travel in general.

2 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Reflections – 2017”

  1. Wow, Scott, I am sorry to hear about everything that is going on in your life right now. I am sure that you want to remain close to your dad… but someday down the road I think you need to move somewhere where a person with your qualifications will be better appreciated. In the meantime, have you thought about writing a book about your travels? I know that becoming a published author is a long-shot, but with your talent and experiences… who knows? In the meantime, hang in there. Hopefully next year will be better.

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