Some Random Stuff from My Recent Days

I’m still struggling to finish a blog post. I either discover I don’t have a lot to say, or what I am saying is too boring or whiny for me to post. So, I will bore you with some stuff from my life over the last couple of weeks.

I went to a pre-retirement planning seminar. I’m still a little less than 8 years away from being eligible to retire, but I wanted to go just to get an idea of what to be thinking about over those years. Unfortunately, I did not find a loophole that will allow me to retire early, so I guess I need stop thinking about it for a while so I don’t get depressed.

We went to our last back to school night ever this week. It was a nice, short night because my daughter has a partial schedule. While I’m not looking forward to both of my kids being gone, I am looking forward to being done with the public school system. There’s already so much drama from the school about students not being where they are supposed to be during “pride period”(a time to go to clubs or get academic help from teachers). I agree with my kid. If they would just punish the kids not doing the right thing there wouldn’t be such a problem. I have never agreed with punishing the collective due to the actions of a few.

I finally finished the book that ended good reading streak. The next book I read, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, was very good and got me back to where I wanted to read constantly.  Now I’m done and hoping the next book won’t slow me down again. I probably need to take a break between my assigned books. They all seem to have death in them. That can be tough.

Finally, we are one week away from the trip to the Philippines. I’m not looking forward to 24 hours on planes and in airports, but I’m sure the experience will be worth it.

Advertisements

Tater’s Weekly Wrap Up 9/1/17

Dogs – I have a dog. I love my dog, but I don’t need to take my dog everywhere with me. I don’t understand why people want to take their dogs everywhere. There are dogs in bars, dogs at outdoor concerts, dogs on vacation and even a Ravens football practice where bringing your dog was encouraged. Why are we doing this? I barely want to take my kids places with me and I don’t have to pick up their poop with a plastic bag. Why would I want to take my dog? I don’t get it.

FLOTUS’s Shoes – I don’t care what shoes the First Lady chose to wear while walking from the White House to the plane to fly to Texas. I’m not a fan of Trump and think he is a disaster as president, but this need to pick on everything his family does is ridiculous. The shoes she wore on the plane mean absolutely nothing. There was an entire article about it in the Post. That’s really, really stupid. I know horrible people said horrible things about the Obama family when he was in office. That does not make it right to pick on the Trump family at all. Take the high road when it comes to the family.

Customer Service – Two instances this week of really bad customer service. My daughter and her friends went through the drive-thru at McDonald’s. The person at the window was not very friendly and when they got home they discovered that the box for the chicken nuggets was filled with tartar sauce packages instead of food. They had to go back to get the nuggets and apparently got free apple pies in apology. Had I been there, the entire order would have been refunded. I’m also once again dealing with poor delivery service with the Washington Post. I still like to read the print edition, but will likely switch to digital because the carrier does not care if I get my paper on time. Delivery is getting more and more inconsistent lately. This happened last year and no one cared until I tracked down the head of customer care on Twitter. Once he was involved it got better. It looks like I might need to talk to him again. Good customer service can be hard to find.

Mini-Career Rant – I managed a one person branch of a library for 19 years. It was in jail, but I still managed it. I did all of the day today, supervised volunteers(inmates) and purchased the collection. No one seems to consider that real management because I didn’t officially supervise a staff and didn’t write evaluations. Somehow writing evaluation is now equated with management and leadership. You can teach anyone to write a decent evaluation. Real leadership is much harder.

My Life as a Jailbrarian: Getting to Know the County Jail

We have now reached the point in the story where I have started working at the place where I would spend my next 19 years. The stories from here will not necessarily be in chronological order. This is mainly due to the fact that I am old and forgetful and won’t remember when a lot of them took place. Some posts might be a collection of stories from various time periods. I really won’t know until I decide to write them. This post is just some general information about the facility to give you a picture.

The county jail has a variety of inmates. There are people who are sentenced to a short amount of time for less serious charges. There are people who are awaiting trial for various charges. There are both male and female inmates. There are wok release inmates. There are ICE detainees(this was not the case when I started the job).  Basically, you can have inmates with charges as small as petty theft all the way up to first degree murder.

You enter the jail through a lobby with an enclosed officer’s station. To enter the secure part of the facility, you go through two secured doors to another officer’s post and a metal detector. They will check you for contraband and then you are free to move about the facility.  I won’t go into detail about the inside of the facility. I don’t want any of you to use the information to try to facilitate a prison break.  I will just say that it is a very secure facility. I would go through several locked doors, controlled centrally, to get to the library. The library was on the same hallway as several of the housing units. For most of my time there my next door neighbor was the women’s housing unit. They were very loud. Each day was set aside for specific units to visit the library. Some days I had more of the lower level crime/sentenced inmates visit the library. Some days I had the pre-trial/serious crime types visit the library. Many times the petty criminals were more annoying than the ones facing serious charges.

I will try to tell some of the more interesting stories from my time there, but I have to confess that many days were boring and uneventful. When you work in jail, boring and uneventful is what you want.

My Life as a Jailbrarian: Seeking Parole

While my job at the state prison system provided a few interesting stories, there were two good reasons I needed a new job: my boss was a horrible person and the state job was contractual and provided no benefits.  After being rejected when I applied for the job I was already doing, I knew that I had no future with the organization. After working in the office with the person in charge of the organization, I knew I didn’t want a future there. So, it was time to seek parole and/or escape from prison.

I once again hit the job trail. I started actively seeking new employment. My horrible boss was very angry when she found out and called me in to an office to yell at me for looking for a new job without telling her. Apparently, I was being unfair to her by trying to escape the misery of working for her. This just made me look harder for a new job. I sent out a multitude of resumes. I got three interviews.

Interview 1: The memory of this one is very hazy. I think it was the American Psychology Association, but I could be wrong. I can say for sure that it was at a professional association in DC. It was a decent interview where they walked me around and introduced me to people in the office as part of the process. I remember it feeling like it was a place I would fit. They must have felt the same way. I did not get an offer.

Interview 2: My second interview was at a private school north of Baltimore. It was a beautiful campus. It was a very good interview. I really felt like this was the place I would land. When I received the call from them, however, I discovered it would not be the place for me. I had applied to be the assistant librarian and the school felt that I would not be happy as the assistant and would leave the job quickly. I tried to convince them that this was not the case. They didn’t believe me. I wanted to point out that the librarian was old and that I could wait her out, but I felt that was a mistake. I did not get an offer.

Interview 3: My third interview was with a public library system. The position was for the local detention center. It was also the library system that had returned my unsolicited resume back to me stamped rejected. It was not a good sign. At the interview, while shaking hands, I noticed one person had the list of interviewees face up in front of them. I quickly took a sneak peek while shaking their hand and discovered I was competing with someone else from the state prison system. I seemed doomed to fail. The interview went well and I received a call from the library asking me to come to a second interview with the administration from the jail. This one did not go as well. I was 26 years old and looked much younger and am not exactly an imposing figure. The security supervisor at the jail was furious that they had chosen me and said I wouldn’t last. He was not shy about saying that with me in the room. He was completely against me being hired. The rest of the room was not quite as hostile, but they were not friendly. I was sure that I was headed back out on the job hunt again. Instead, as we walked to our cars, the library people told me that it didn’t matter what the jail thought I was their choice and the job was mine if I wanted it.  I was so desperate to get out of my current position that I readily agreed to go work at a place where the people in charge clearly did not want me. Spoiler alert: I outlasted every person in the room who said I wouldn’t last.

I was heading back to jail. I felt comfortable doing this because I was not intimidated my jail and also because I thought for sure I could work my way up and out of the jail before too long. I was so young and stupid.

My Life as a Jailbrarian: Prologue

After talking recently about my time as a jail librarian I have decided to do an occasional post with some stories about my life in jail. This prologue is not a jail story. It is the story of how I ended up in jail in the first place.

I was living in Cincinnati, working at a market research firm and had just finished going to school at night to complete my MLS(Master of Library Science) degree when we got the official word that my wife would be transferred to Washington DC.   We knew it was coming. I didn’t think it would happen that fast.  As the move got closer, I started applying for jobs in the DC area. I had one really good phone interview while still in Cincy that, unfortunately, did not result in a job. A few days before the scheduled move I got a call to schedule an interview with DC Public Library so I headed east a few days ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, this meant being extremely tired and possibly ill from eating bad road food when I arrived at the interview. My boss at my old job said that the DC people broke the rules and asked her about my health. I looked that bad. Needless to say, I did not get that job.

Once we were officially residents of the DC area I started sending resumes to every local library I could find. I hit the road and personally visited the HR departments of both public and academic libraries.  One public library system actually sent my resume back to me stamped rejected and accompanied by a letter saying they do not accept unsolicited resumes. This system will appear again in later posts. That was fun. I rode the Metro around DC to the colleges there. I was on my way to Howard University one day. I got off the Metro and asked a woman who was headed to work at the hospital for directions. Along with the directions, she also gave me advice for walking through the neighborhood: walk quickly, don’t make eye contact and run if you hear gunshots. I never made it to Howard. As soon as we parted company I went right back to the Metro station and went back home.

I eventually signed on with a temp agency that works with librarians. I worked for a week at a fancy law firm near the White House. I enjoyed eating my lunch in the park with a view of the White House. I worked for a week at the World Bank. I have no memory of anything I did there. I remember being bored. I was also still applying for every job opening I saw. I eventually was called in for an interview with the state of Maryland. It was at the Department of Education working with Correctional Education as a technical librarian. I was offered the job. It was only a contract position, but it was better than temping, so I accepted. The same week I received a call from the temp agency. They had a job for me that could turn in to a permanent position.  I turned it down because I felt a guaranteed position was better than a possible permanent position. I have no idea where the other job was. I made the decision to go with the job with the state without details on the possible other job. This decision led to my 20 year jail sentence. Sometimes I regret making that decision.

Next installment:  A Visit to the Big House

Reentry Is Hard

This weekend was the first weekend in a while where I was actually able to relax.  To make it even better, it was a four day weekend. I didn’t do anything exciting. On my birthday leave day on Friday I went out and got some free food from Panera and Dickey’s and watched a movie on DVD. Saturday was so uneventful all I remember is that I took the dog for a walk and watched a basketball game. Sunday I went to church and out to eat with the family for a late birthday celebration. Yesterday I spent hour scanning pictures from 2001. Even so, the four days off makes it really hard to think about heading out in a few minutes to reenter the real world.

I don’t hate my job. I don’t hate working. I’ve just reached the point in my life when I am ready to move on from the career and to the retirement phase of life. I would even take the ability to work from home. Actually, I think I’ve always been at this point. I would have gladly been a stay at home dad if it had been feasible for our family. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve never been a career focused person. I do my job to the best of my ability and I do apply for new jobs/promotions when they come up, but I’ve always been someone who would quit to stay at home if given the opportunity. I think this got more pronounced toward the end of my time at the jail. Corrections has a 20 year retirement, so I spent the last few years of my time at the jail watching people I worked with retire knowing that I still had 10-15 years left. I’m closer now, but not close enough.

So, I head back to work today but I would much rather be one of the people who have the ability to spend their morning with friends at Panera instead of heading off to another day at the job. Reentry is hard.

Moving on

It has been a fall of the improbable. The Cubs won the World Series. Donald Trump won the presidential election. I interviewed for a job and was actually offered the job. You read that correctly. 21 years at my place of work, 14(or so, never can remember the exact date) at my current location and now I am moving on to a new position. It is still with the same organization so it is not a drastic change, but it is my first official move to a new job description and it is a move to a new branch with new people and it is leaving people I have known for a long time.

I remember the day I was told they were moving me to my current branch. At that time I was working 4 days a week in the county jail and one evening a week at a public branch. My branch had been closed for renovation and was just about to reopen. I arrived at work one day and people started asking me about my move. I went to the branch manager’s office to find out what was going on and was told I was being moved to a new branch for my one day out of jail to be a back up in charge person. I was not happy.  I wasn’t given a choice, it was a longer drive and, to be honest, I was worried I wouldn’t like it there. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it was the best thing that could have happened to me and I went to my new manager and asked if there was any way we could make the move permanent. Over the years I slowly transitioned from jail 4 days a week to jail 2 days a week to jail 0 days a week and this branch being my full time work home. If not for the feeling that is was time to move on career-wise, I would have been perfectly happy to stay there until retirement. The good news is that I am not moving far away. I will still work for the same organization. I will have meetings next door to my old branch so I can visit my friends. I will still see some of those friends on a regular basis outside of work. It will be sad, for me at least not to see them every day, but I’m not losing them as friends. I just hope the kids at the new place like me.I would hate to be  the sad boy who sits alone at the lunch table.

Part of me feels like I should be sappy and tell those friends how much I appreciate them and will miss them. Part of me feels like it would be dumb because, as mentioned above, I will still see them regularly. I hope that even if I don’t send them a note(because no way I would do it face to face) they know how important they have been to me.