Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

Labor Day weekend may have been the greatest couple of days in my sad, sorry little life. Of course, then I got the hiccups for nearly five days, had to get a chest x-ray and a blood test, took prescription antacids and finally had the hiccups supplanted by constant, horrible coughing. And the pills made my crap turn black and spherical, like little bowling balls. Not to mention the constant job search, and getting turned down for a crap job AT THE MALL by people who are too stupid to use a PC. If Apple's share of the personal computer market is growing by leaps and bounds, then how come half the online applications for retail stores I tried to fill out wouldn't even let me finish because they weren't Mac-compatible? Congratulations on that five percent of the market, fellas. Keep reaching for the stars! But enough about all that. Back to Labor Day.

The awesomeness started when Brianna got back that Saturday. Oh yeah, I somehow forgot to mention that she's been in South Carolina since July 4th and the house has been heartbreakingly empty without her. Anyway, she'd been gone all summer and finally came back with Michele's sister that Saturday night. To celebrate, we went to Famous Dave's, Brianna's favorite restaurant. She got taller over the summer, and turned nine at the end of September. Man, that's depressing. It seems like just the other day she was wearing playing in my pajama pants. There's got to be a better way of saying that.

The other thing that would have been reported earlier were it not for my habit of long spells of infrequent updates is Nick and Heidi moved into the house next door to my parents. They moved in the weekend before Labor Day, and I asked my mom which day we were going to have a barbecue, because Nick might be having one, too. Somehow, this pure speculation on my part became fact, after Nick called me and said, "Did you tell your mom I was having a barbecue?" No, I said might. I saw a red grill when we were unloading the moving truck and, knowing that traditionally people have barbecues on Labor Day weekend for some reason, I thought there was a possibility that maybe they'd be doing something, and I just thought we'd coordinate. Well, whatever. My "idea" turned into a whole bunch of people coming over to Nick's place Monday, most of whom I'd never seen before or since. One of them was actually the mother of someone who was invited, but couldn't go so she sent her mom instead. Huh. I guess they're Hedie's friends. It's weird to think of her in her own world outside of our sheltered little group, I guess in the same way I can't really picture Lord Loser hanging out with his non-blog buddies, probably sitting around a campfire, eating cow placenta and talking about their beards.

Before the barbecue, I was out in the woods by the river behind my parent's house. Why? Well, you may remember a few years ago my brother found some rusty old gun barrels buried in the hill. We've also found some old bottles, most of which are worthless, but there's actually people out there that collect old bottles, and not just for the five cent deposit. One of the bottles I dug up a few years ago is an amber Warner's Safe Cure bottle which are apparently big collector's items. So I went out by the river to see if I could find any other cool stuff in the ground. Little did I know what I was about to unearth. Not anything I could sell, but something much, much better.

Long periods of no rain coupled with unseasonably warm weather left the already humble river withered down to a mere trickle. Behind my grandmother's house, sand patches that normally made up the riverbed now protruded into islands that baked in the noonday sun.

As I stood on the muddy riverbank, looking across at one such island, the clouds parted and a shimmering ray of sunlight shown down directly on possibly the greatest thing I'd ever seen. There, caked in mud and sitting atop a sand dune in the middle of the river, was what looked, it can't be. Yes, it was! A Rock'em Sock'em Robot!

I knew right then that this was probably going to be the highlight of my life until I have kids. And even then it's a toss-up. I'd never owned a Rock'em Sock'em Robot set, or even had the desire to, but something about seeing that lone robot discarded in the river made my face light up. It was much bigger than I'd always pictured these things. Presumably years in the mud had stained it almost completely black, and at first I figured it was the blue one, but after cleaning it off a bit, faint traces of red were detected in the um, crotch area.

Not far from where I found the robot, I found a pretty cool squirt gun that, like the robot, had been transformed by years of gunk and filth from a goofy neon orange color to a realistic matte black. Subsequent trips further down the river revealed an ominous decapitated doll and a weathered and mangy Abu from Aladdin, both found in the woods on the other side of the river and creeped me out more than a little.


I also saw a snapping turtle chilling out in one of the few spots where the water was still deep enough to completely submerge itself. I saw him the next day sunbathing over by where the robot was. I asked it how to stop The Nothing, but it mostly just ignored me.

So anyway, finding that robot wrapped me in a swaddling cloth of confidence, as if it bestowed mystic Rock'em Sock'em powers unto me as thanks for releasing it from it's watery tomb. Everything from that point on seemed to be going my way. During the barbecue, I showed Nick and Hedie around their new home, since I practically grew up over there. My parents unlocked the upstairs apartment to show them around up there, and in one of the closets I found an abandoned Xbox game. I even uncharacteristically volunteered to go down the bulkhead into the creepy basement that seemed to be literally carved out rock and may have had some corpses down there. And later that night, we played a Madden 08 tournament and, despite a long and glorious history of losing in a spectacular fashion, I easily smoked everyone that stood in my path. It was the greatest weekend ever.

And then everything turned to crap. The robot giveth, the robot taketh away. Maybe I wasn't supposed to disturb him from his eternal slumber, and I've upset the delicate balance of something or other. Maybe it's like that cursed tiki idol from The Brady Bunch. But it's so cool. Maybe it's the ratty old Abu doll that's doing it. Yeah, that makes more sense. Evil monkey doll.

Anyway, everything's been going downhill ever since that weekend. So even the tiniest bit of good luck right now would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ever See An Apple That Could Take A Bite Outta You?

I don't have the hiccups anymore. So I've got that going for me. Which is nice. Unfortunately, I've spent every waking hour the past couple of months filling out applications for part time jobs and not one callback. It's the holiday season. Everyone is hiring, how hard can it be to get a job, right?

I don't know how many of you have every taken that 30-page personality test that accompanies nearly every online application, but if you have, and then went on to actually get the job, I ask you, what kind of crazy magic voodoo did you use to pass that thing? I've taken it for Best Buy, Borders, AMC Movie Theaters, Petco, Staples, Home Depot...always the same stupid questions. After several weeks of not hearing anything, I went into Best Buy and Borders to talk to an actual person and get an interview. The response at both places was that you can only apply on the computer, either at the store or online, and if you didn't score high enough on the personality test, the application isn't even sent to them. What is so important about that idiotic test? Don't those stupid assholes know there's nothing wrong with my personality?

Here's one of the statements, and in case you've never taken one of these before, each question is answered by a response of either "Strongly agree", "Agree," "Disagree," or "Strongly disagree":

You do things carefully so you don't make mistakes.

Does that mean "You do things carefully to avoid mistakes," or "You do things carefully. Therefore, you do not make mistakes"? The first statement means that you're efficient, which is what they're looking for, so you'd agree. But the second interpretation implies infallibility. And since no one is infallible, you are either lying or extremely arrogant--neither traits sought after by employees--so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. I mean, say agree.

What about this one:

You like to be in the center of a large crowd.

Well that depends, which way is the crowd facing? Is it facing in at me, in which case, why didn't they just ask the more straightforward question "Do you like to be the center of attention?" Or are they facing out away from me, as in "Do you like to blend in with the crowd?" And which one would they prefer? Are they looking for someone who's outgoing and proactive about helping customers as opposed to an introvert who scares away children, or are they trying to weed out the prima donnas (quick sidenote, I though it was pre-Madonnas until I was in High School) and loudmouths who spend all day talking to their friends instead of helping customers. It could go either way. Poorly written, ambiguous questions. God, I hate this test.

Then last week, I filled out an application for the Apple store. Guess what?! They don't have that ridiculous test! I was finally starting to feel good about a part time job. Optimistic, even. I just may save Christmas after all!

I got to the store last night, just before it closed. They ushered out all the customers, closed the doors and then me and five other guys sat at the back of the store with two employees, who showed us a couple of video presentations and slide shows. Did you know Apple opens 9 stores a day? Or that they generate over $4,000 per square foot per year? Or that Mac OSX Leopard turns water into wine? By the time the show was over, I couldn't wait to start working for the best company in this or any other time period in the history of mankind.

But first, a little test. The six of us were split into two groups of three, and asked to pick a product, either an iPhone, iPod, or Mac, and talk it up during a two minute drill to try and persuade our Apple employee hosts, who posed as a couple, into buying it.

My group chose the iPod. There was a Nano in a speaker display close to where we were sitting, so I suggested we get up and check it out. Man, those things are tiny. We examined it, one guy pulled out his Mastercard to confirm that the Nano is, in fact, considerably smaller than a credit card. I ran off a string of features, from the variety of colors available to the benefits of both the 4G and 8G models. I was doing pretty good.

Then the actual drill began. The other group went first. They picked the iPhone. The first guy started off explaining the phone itself and it's ease of use. He then passed it on to the next guy to talk about the iPod functions of the phone, and finally handed it off to the third member of the group, who talked about the remaining features and applications. Having three people try to sell you something seems a little impractical, but I've got to admit, they did a good job. The happy couple bought four hypothetical iPhones.

When it was our turn, we hadn't really thought out delegating who says what, and I was the last one to speak, so by the time it got to me, nearly everything that we'd thought of, including all my stuff, had already been said. I literally said something like, "It's'm sorry. I died." All week long I was so excited about going to this thing. It's something I knew I could do, and I was filled with confidence, which never happens. But then, in that moment, I just completely blanked. The only way it could have gone any worse was if I accidentally set them on fire.

When I got outside, I thought to myself, "Questions! I should have asked if they had any questions!" Even if everything had already been said, I still could have answered any questions they might have had. And if I really couldn't think of anything, the saving grace would have been to mention the free personal shopping. If the store is busy or about to close, or if a customer just wants your undivided attention, they can sign up for a personal shopping appointment, which means that on a specific day and time, the customer can come in and speak to you for like an hour and a half. It's a great idea, actually, and a nice cop-out if your drawing a blank during a fake sale. "Actually, we'll be closing in a few minutes, but if you'll come over here, I can set you up for a personal shopping appointment and we can talk more about the Nano in detail tomorrow." Yeah, that's absolutely what I should have said. It would have covered the fact that the other two guys already went over everything and would have shown I was paying attention during the presentation.

But instead, they got, "It's'm sorry. I died." Damn it. I just ruined Christmas.

Then I thought about earlier during the presentation, when the woman asked if anyone noticed that all the Apple stores only have the logo on the front, without any words. She asked if we could think of any other company that could do that and it would still be recognizable to people. I don't know why, but the first thing I thought of was when the Batman movie came out in 1989 and the poster was just the Batman logo. I remember this because at the time I was ten, and wasn't into comic books, so I didn't recognize it as the Batman logo. In fact, I didn't see a bat at all. I was looking at the yellow part, thinking it was teeth, and the black part was a big, open mouth. I wondered what movie was about some guy with big, crooked yellow teeth.

It's not that I'd never heard of Batman. I was well aware of Batman, and even had a few Batman toys, but they all had that 60s Batman logo, where it's his head and cape with the word Batman on it. Anyway, that's the first thing I thought of, and when she asked, I said, "Batman."

"Oh. Well, yes, if Batman had a store, they could use the logo on the front." (polite chuckling ensues)

Crap, that's not what I meant! I was just giving an example of logos being used with identifying text. And it was a good example. How did it end up making me sound like the special ed kid in kindergarten? Can I even show my face in that store again?

Maybe this doesn't mean anything. One of the things they said was that Apple employees don't work on commission, so not making a sale isn't a big deal. They also said customers usually come into the store four times before the make a purchase; first to look it over, second to ask questions, third to find out the price, and finally to buy. So assuming the test couple were in asking questions about the iPod, that'd be there second visit and they'd still have to more times before they make a purchase, right? So I'm good. It's cool. It's totally cool. I did all right. Please, God, let me do all right. I'll find out by Wednesday. I really need this job.

In happier news, congratulations to the Boston Red Sox on winning the World Series. You know what that's PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME! Or something.