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Happy happy joy joy

So here's what happened. I'd given up on trying to get a job in my field, because all of the tech layoffs have made it increasingly difficult for a junior programmer with barely a year's experience to get hired. But I type 100 wpm and I've been an executive assistant before, so I bit the bullet and got in touch with some temp agencies, most particularly the one my next-door neighbor's friend is a partner in. I was supposed to revamp my resume and send it to her, but I never got around to it, because after thinking it over for a week or two, I decided that I'd rather starve than become a secretary again. I really did not want to go that far backwards. But then she called me a week and a half ago and told me there was an opening in the MSU Information Technology department, and if I was interested, get her my revamped resume. I thought it over and realized, "Foothold!"

So I sent her my revamped resume within the hour, and two days later was being interviewed by the Vice President of IT. Five minutes into the interview, he was looking at my resume and said, "You know, you'd be perfect for a web position in a different department. Do you mind if I send your resume to my boss?" Of course I didn't mind. Of course I most likely blew the rest of the interview, insisting probably unconvincingly that I could be happy in the short run as an administrative assistant rather than doing what I've been doing the last three years. But it didn't matter, because the next day his boss' executive assistant called me in for an interview, and I had the job five minutes after meeting the Senior VP. I started Wednesday.

So what we have here is an incredibly good thing. I have a twelve minute commute. I'm working at my alma mater, doing the work I love to do, working with people immersed in academia, surrounded by students and faculty, going home for lunch if I want to, picking up lunch at King's and bringing it to Edgemont park if I feel like it. Today I met with the MSU Web Manager to make sure we were on the same page and that I wouldn't be stepping on her toes, and discovered that we have very similar ideas about web site structure, content, and usability, which is another good thing.

I'm looking very much forward to this new job, and I see a lot of good things coming out of it. Timing, as they say, is everything. And so is serendipity.--MAY



Adventures on hold

Today being my last day of unemployment, paperwork and household chores were the order of the day. The household chores, of course, were the easiest. Spending an hour or two on the phone to Sprint, my auto insurance company, and my medical insurance company were another story. And since we're all in the same boat when it comes to trying to talk to a human being when calling the companies we pay every month, I thought you'd all enjoy hearing how my travails went. Especially since you weren't the ones on hold.

First things first. That ubiquitous woman who seems to voice nearly every hold recording in the world was on both Sprint and Horizon Blue Cross. Some stranger was on my auto insurance company. Eww.


Sprint took the longest to get to me. I waited about 40 minutes on hold. I liked that my auto insurance carrier let me leave voice mail, so I left a message and will see if a new insurance card arrives in the mail later this week. Blue Cross had me waiting on hold no more than a minute. They win the No Hold Bars championship, and my deepest respect.


The reason I called Sprint was that I seemed to have gone 31 minutes over my monthly allotment, and I was extremely unhappy with this, seeing as how I keep track of my minutes using the nifty timer feature on my cell phone, and it told me that I was still under by five or so minutes. So when I finally got to talk to a human being who works for Sprint, I discovered that the difference was caused by Sprint's policy of rounding minutes up. My phone keeps exact time. A minute ten seconds is a minute ten seconds to me; two minutes to Sprint. Sigh.

Well. I managed to keep my cool during the 40 minutes on hold and also tried very hard to not memorize the things uberwoman was saying, and also found myself wondering if I should book a flight since she is the same woman who records the hold tapes for most airline companies, but I'm digressing again. Oh. So when I got a human at Sprint, I told her what the deal was, and she didn't seem all that impressed at first. But I was bound and determined to get that extra 31 minutes off my bill, so I pointed out that I've never gone over before, that I didn't realize that my timer and Sprint's rounding-up were incompatible, and when she mentioned the web site and *4, I told her I didn't think it was worth my time to call the web site or *4 when all I had to do was press a button on my phone and get the exact time in seconds. She kept coming back to that *4. I guess a lot of people give up after that. But I told her that it may very well be on the bill, but when I receive a bill in the mail the first thing I do is look at the total, and if it's what it's supposed to be, I write a check and send it off. If it isn't, I call the company. In any case, I rarely read the stuff they put in with the bill, and they know it, and she knew it, and finally, after about five minutes of friendly persuasion, she removed the extra charges from my bill.

Now, some people might think I spent an awful lot of time on hold and arguing for ten bucks, but hey--it's my ten bucks. And the whole rounding up principle sucks. That means you're not truly paying for 180 minutes. Judging by my bill, you're probably paying for 150 minutes. Yet another way the consumer gets screwed.


Oh, speaking of the consumer: In all three companies, the consumer came last in the phone hierarchy. Business customers come first. Doctors always come first on insurance phone hierarchies, which is actually something I don't mind. But auto insurance and phone companies? What, are they trying to tell me that business customers are what makes the marketplace? Yeah? Then how come Wall Street takes a nosedive when consumer confidence goes down?


The upshot: Don't ever call a phone company and an insurance company the day after a holiday. I'm betting I wouldn't have had such a long wait if I'd been able to do this tomorrow.

And I think the fact that AT&T still hasn't gotten my address correct is going to stay that way. The last time I called them I got that "We are experiencing extremely high volume" message. I also got that message the time before that, and the time before that. Each time I was calling to tell them they have my address wrong. But I've decided if they're too stupid to put the apartment number on my bill, and I can't get through their hold time, then they'd better not complain when they get paid late.--MAY



Fat boys and strong women

Some friends and I went to the New York Renaissance Fair today. It was an absolutely perfect day for it, weather-wise: 80 degrees and no humidity, a nice breeze, sunshine with a few puffy clouds. An extra bonus: the crowd was the lightest I've seen it since I first started going (cough! cough!) years ago.

One of the biggest draws, and the most fun to watch, is the "living" chess game, a game in which the actors represent the chess pieces and fight each other instead to decide who gets to take the chess pieces. If you're not familiar with the Renaissance Festivals, they're set in the 1590s and loosely--extremely loosely--based around the Robin Hood legends. So you have the Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy of Guisborne for the villains, and Robin of Locksley and Maid Marian for the good guys, along with their cast of characters.

One of the things that I've always liked about the Renfest is that over the years, they've taken pains to give the women in their story more to do than sit around and be rescued. In fact, they've got women jousting now, and fighting with and even rescuing the men. So today, the first few matches in the living chess game were coeducational, to the crowd's delight.

Except for the 10-year-old boy sitting behind us. He grew increasingly impatient, until when we had our first man-on-man fight, he said loudly, "Finally! A real fight!" at which point my friends and I burst out laughing. "Yeah, it's not a real fight until it's male actors versus male actors," I said, probably loud enough for him to overhear. He proceeded to make comments like that for the rest of the chess game, yelling his disgust loudly whenever a woman beat a man. Except for the time when one of Robin's women beat three of the Sheriff's men. He applauded that loudly. Apparently to him, it's okay to be a woman if you're three times as good as a man.

The thing that struck me the most about this little sexist-in-training was the complete silence of his mother during all of those comments. None of the women I know would let their sons demean women like that. The events of today made me remember that there are a lot of women out there with little or no self-respect, and they allow their husbands to bring up their sons to be disrespectful to and disdainful of women. Which is a shame.

But I've gotta tell you, this little sexist-in-training is going to learn some hard lessons in a few years. Because in order to get yourself a girl who will allow you to disrespect her so, you have to be attractive to her. And our little sexist-in-training wasn't just an aggravating little sexist-in-training, he was a fat little sexist-in-training. And even today, with all of the great strides we've made in self-esteem and trying to be nice to others, I seriously doubt high school has changed much from when I went. I remember the high school hierarchies very well: The thin boys get the girls. And the thin girls aren't very nice to fat boys to begin with, let alone fat boys with a sexist attitude about girls.

Our little sexist-in-training may very well learn that he has to respect women after all. Or at least go on a diet.--MAY