Casual Dining Hell

I read some article/blog/something post recently that said millennials were killing the chain casual dining restaurant. I find this kind of hilarious since it’s the large majority of restaurants available in my town other than fast food and a tiny handful of local joints. It doesn’t really matter which of these chain places you’re in, what their gimmick is, or how the food tastes. They’re all the same. I can tell you exactly why they’re not popular with millennials.

First, TVs. There are literally dozens of screens in these places, all playing something different. It’s never anything worth watching, either. Recently, I was eating lunch in one of the many CDCRs (Casual Dining Chain Restaurants) in my area, and there were no less than 5 huge TV screens pointed at my table from various angles. One was even a huge projection style on the wall and was unavoidable to say the least. It was dark in there, so that you could see the screens, with dimmed lights over the tables. If you have anxiety, panic disorders, epilepsy, ADHD, autism, Asperger’s, or any one of the possibly hundreds of mental or physical conditions that would be deeply affected by this kind of atmosphere it’s extremely overwhelming. Top off these silent flashing screens with loud music playing over hidden speakers, loud conversations from other tables surrounding you, and the walls being absolutely crammed full of thousands of pieces of useless crap, and you’re being bombarded with a million unwanted things at once. This is the stuff of nightmares for a lot of people I know. I was seated in this nightmare after having asked for a quiet table, so before anybody says “why don’t you just ask” I did.

Let’s talk about the food. It’s usually mediocre at best. Mass produced plates of insane amounts of calories and sodium. The only differentiation in flavors is how spicy something is or how much sauce it’s drowned in. Even fresh food looks like it’s been dumped out of a package. The main staples of the menu are what ever meat they’re serving in a world more and more populated with people trying to cut back on meat consumption. Overpriced mediocre mass produced food dripping in sodium laden sauce and covered in meat is not what environmentally and health conscious millennials are interested in eating. It’s just not. Even if they do eat meat, they want to know that it’s ethically sourced or in the very least a healthier option.

Finally, I draw your attention to the service. My most recent visit was pretty ok. The waitress was prompt and friendly. This isn’t always the case, though. More often than not I’m either waiting for what seems like an eternity for a drink refill from non-existent wait staff, or they’re borderline rude. I get it. It’s a shit job where you make nothing an hour, have to split your tips, and the customers are dickheads. As far as jobs go, these are usually the worst. It seems even more horrible at CDCRs, because there’s no reason to treat the staff like they’re people. From corporate on down to the shift manager, there’s an atmosphere of “you’re expendable” and “this is temporary.” And it’s not just the restaurants themselves who are cheap, customers don’t want to tip any more than they have to for a meal they’ve only barely enjoyed in an atmosphere that’s triggered them into a near panic.

If these places want  to draw in more millennial business, take my advice; get rid of the majority of TV screens or just put them in one area, create some quieter spaces with less crap on the walls, have more vegetarian and vegan options, stop covering everything in sodium laden sauces, pay and train your wait staff better, and take some damn pride in your food.

I’m fat

Not the kind of cute cherub fat of children and Greek myths. Not the actually thin but call yourself fat because I’m bigger than a magazine model. Not even Lane Bryant lingerie model fat. I’m squishy and droopy and let’s not sit on old or questionable furniture fat. I’m let’s check the weight limit for that before I get on it fat. I’m ok with this. No, really, I am. Mostly. The problem is not that I’m fat, or not thin, but that I’m not active so my blood pressure frequently sucks. When I was in college I had access to a free gym and plenty of time to work out. I was still fat, but my vitals were healthy. Now, I have desk jobs and no access to a gym or the time to go. I’m also not a huge fan of getting sweaty. All this has added up to high blood pressure, swollen ankles, and a general dissatisfaction with life. 

How do people who hate being sweaty and exercising exercise? 

Wake up! 

I can fall asleep anywhere. I think I’ve even fallen asleep standing up, which isn’t easy. I try to watch movies or tv shows with my partner, and I end up having to rewatch parts of it the next day. I just can’t stay awake. 

The tricky and extra crappy part about this passing out predisposition is that when I do formally go to bed, I usually end up having an anxiety attack that keeps me up half the night. This part is the worst thing about having any kind of anxiety. Here’s a cycle that proves it:

 get drowsy at work

 come home

fall asleep watching tv

go to bed

 have anxiety about being drowsy at work and lowering performance

 stay awake most of the night shaking with crippling anxiety

wake up the next morning exhausted

 go to work and drink coffee

 be extra drowsy anyway. 

Maybe I’ll get a day off where I can sleep, and I can reset the cycle. I even dosed off while writing this. Twice. Before I write some sleep induced insanity, good night. 

Jobs, computers, and Me

When I was younger computers weren’t exactly new, but they didn’t completely control everything just yet, and the current working generation wasn’t completely versed in their growing usefulness. Having any computer skills at all gave you a leg up in job searches. You could still type your résumé up, print out ten copies, and hand deliver them to local businesses with a handshake to get a job. That was using your computer to find a job in the ’90s and early 2000s. Give or take five years after that, and you started seeing kiosks in stores for you to apply, and instead of mailing your printed résumé in to the Human Resource manager, you could possibly email it. I remember working in the Human Resources department at the university I briefly attended in ’99/2000 while they were hiring for a professor position. We received stacks and stacks of printed résumés, some of which were pretty elaborate, to sort and read through. They had color, embossing,  fancy paper, special binders, and other office decorations to try to standout next to plain type black and white. 

The days of stationary store printed résumés is pretty much over. Now, I have to apply for any job, regardless of salary or position, online. Sometimes, it’s better to have plain type documents so their document reader and information extracting software can better autofill my personal information and work history into their pre-determined data points.  I’ve been systematically reduced down to a series of keywords. At any moment I fully expect to have to hashtag my work experience or alma mater. #BachelorsDegree #Accounting #WillWorkForFood. 

Slightly more personal than the autofills and extractors is the recruiter. Before I had a degree, I could apply directly to jobs online or in person, and be hired on by the company I was applying to work for. Now, I apply to job listings and get calls from recruiters who don’t want to hire me for the direct hire position I thought I was applying to, but instead want to offer me unstable temp positions that pay less, have no benefits, offer zero job security, and won’t effect the company’s turnover rate when they decide my sniffling is too annoying and don’t want me around. Instead of being my professional ambassador to a great job opening, they have become the super friendly barrier to entry. 

It’s different when you have a friend, relative, or acquaintance who can politely pass your information, résumé, or phone number on to somebody in the department. This is literally the best way to get hired. It’s also the hardest when you’re new to an area and have zero connections. Connections are everything.  They’re the tether on the boat so you don’t drift too far from the safety of the shoreline and stable ground.  They can line you up on the foundation of a decent job and kickstart your career. If you’re a poor kid who made it through school with decent grades and got a degree, a good conection is the difference between an ok job that doesn’t go anywhere and barely pays your bills to a great job that appreciates you and gives you paid days off and insurance. If you’re a rich kid, you’ve either got built in connections through family or at least a place to live with parents who can afford to feed you while you job search. Unless you’re gay and they hate that. Then, you’re back to hoping for another connection. 

I’m discovering that I need new and better ways to network and make connections. 

$2 Tacos and a little hope

img_20161223_222358_736I met a writer, today.

Well, I met a nice lady in a “2016 Nanowrimo winner” t-shirt.

I was sitting alone in a Mexi-Cali chain taco store huddled up at a table and shaking with anxiety. You know, the usual. As I was taking a bite out of my $2 taco special I saw the logo on her t-shirt and said “hey, you’re a writer!”

She smiled and came over. We chatted for a few mins, exchanged information, and agreed to meet at some point in the future to write together. I don’t know if this will ever actually happen. I don’t know if she actually wrote anything, or if she just bought the t-shirt. She could be any one of a million things, but for a few minutes she was a nice lady interested in something I am interested in.

It probably also means I’m starved for some level of friendship, since making friends at work is completely impossible. Between work and family, I don’t really have time to go to meet-ups and clubs where I might actually have an opportunity to meet new people. Social media is all well and good, and I’m pretty sure it was invented by people my age, but I miss going out and talking to friends face-to-face in a cafe over a cup of coffee. I could also just need a good cup of coffee.

While I contemplate these and other mysteries, I’m going to go have a cup.


The Undiscovered Life

I’ve been wanting to do some writing for a while. Little snippets of stories or poems would float through my head, but it was always at the worst time. Usually, they would appear while I was trying to concentrate at work or cooking dinner.

My job isn’t very interesting. None of my jobs have been, but for the most part, no matter how crap my job was, I could make friends. Some of my best friends have come from meeting at work. We could find common ground with a beloved TV show or movie. Maybe we liked similar books or music. I was even able to find people with similar deeply held beliefs and ideals, which frankly, isn’t always easy. I’ve had pretty low wage jobs most of my adult life, but when you’re single and young $8-$10 an hour will take care of you. It’s not an extravagant life, but it’s sustainable. After I had a kid, I realized the whole living on the cheap wasn’t going to work. I couldn’t make enough to support both of us, and still have a little to play with on occasion. I was barely hanging on, and had to get help. That’s no picnic, but you do what you have to do. I decided to go back to school and get a degree so I could afford a better life for both of us, which I did. 5 years going to school full time, working part time, living off of loans and grants, and letting my mom watch my kid while I did those things. I say let her watch him for a reason, but that’s another story.

After 5 years of struggle and poverty, I finally graduate and go from making minimum wage to doubling that over night. Now, minimum wage is next to nothing, so saying I doubled nothing still doesn’t give me much to live on, but it’s better than the nothing I had before. Except, now I have to pay back all those loans and try to figure out how I can afford to live without the very small amount of assistance I had been receiving, because I no longer qualified. I was doing OK, though. I loved my job and the people there. I had benefits and paid days off for the first time in my life. Two months into this fabulous job, I met somebody. You all know how that goes. After years of being single and bad dates, I finally met someone I actually wanted to be with. Of course, there’s always a catch, right? The catch here; they lived 3 hours away. For the first 10 months we drove back and forth and saw each other every other week or two, and after that 10 months I gave up my job and my benefits and moved the 3 hours away to be with my partner.

I have never regretted that decision.

What I have been struggling with, though, is the fact that it’s been a lot harder to find a job where I comfortably fit in and make friends. All I’ve been able to do is catch a few temp jobs in my field. While that’s nice enough and pays the bills (ish) it doesn’t always come with those nice benefits I had been enjoying, like paid days off and medical insurance. It also means that the places you’re temping can and will treat you like crap. My first temp job was at a medical practice, and the manager liked to treat me as if she owned me, but also as if I was disposable. If I made any keying errors or mistakes on anything, she acted like it was the end of the world. We all make mistakes. Don’t pretend it doesn’t happen. She made plenty, and guess who had to fix most of them. After about 3 months of that hell I got a call that I just wasn’t the right fit. I had never been fired in my life, but they weren’t wrong. It was a horrible fit.  I was miserable there. I never really connected with anybody on any kind of friendly level. It’s like being the lonely one person lunch table for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Let me just say something about being unemployed between temp jobs. While you’re in this limbo state, you’re not really sure if you can pay bills or not, and if this happens a month before Christmas, like it did to me, it is an even bigger blow. Luckily, my partner was understanding, and although we needed both our incomes to make it, we somehow got through.

This brings us up to current. 6 weeks into my current temp job, and I’m getting left out of department meetings, because I’m just a temp. They’re even actively hiring for the position I’m in, the one I’ve asked to be considered for permanent status, and they’re not considering me. The kicker is that I’m even working harder than any other contracted worker they’ve ever hired, and no one can complain about my productivity, output, work ethic, or anything about my professional existence. They think I’m great. You know what they don’t like? I sniffle and clear my throat a lot, because I have allergies all the time. ALL THE TIME. I am irritating, because my poor ears are constantly draining into my throat and causing me to make “unpleasant noises.” Seriously. So, before I lose this job and have to figure out how we’re going to make rent with only one income, again, I’m looking for a permanent position with benefits and people who will actually treat me like a person. Something like the one I had before I chose to move.

While I do that, I’m going to write. Maybe just this blog. Maybe something bigger. I don’t know, but I’m going to just keep going. You can come along for the ride in my undiscovered life.