Sunday, December 1, 2019

Standing at a Crossroads, Thinking...

So, welcome to December, 2019.

I'm so sorry I haven't written lately. I have been busy preparing for my retirement from my civil service job. One thing after another, after another, after another.

This past Wednesday, I had my farewell party thingy at work. It started at 2. People feted me. Since I was always buying cookies from folks whose kids were selling them, I was referred to as the cookie monster. This meant that rather than purchase and/or make me a cake, they purchased and/or made me cookies. So many cookies I have only ever seen at one time in a bakery. We are still eating them. The home-made shortbreads are divine. They're all good. They also gave me a gift card from Staples, which is my favourite store in the entire world. I used a chunk of it to buy a new solid state hard drive on Black Friday.

I spoke a few words at my farewell party. I mentioned why I went into my field in the first place. I will tell that story here, I think for the first time. In my senior year of high school our guidance councilor played a cassette tape in a class one day that spelled out some up-and-coming fields of endeavour, what those jobs would entail, and what kinds of skills would be required to carry out a job in that field. There was if I recall correctly some written documentation as well. One note said that you wouldn't have to carry anything weighing more than 10 pounds. I was sold!

My father had laboured as a carpenter for decades. I saw how hard he had to work every day, lugging shingles up a ladder, or schlepping wood from one place to another. If I could have a job where I didn't have to carry more than 10 pounds at a time, then I would be made in the shade. So, I went into that field! I am not sure to this day if my father ever thought I put in a day's work in my life.

On Thursday and Friday I left cookies in the kitchen. People descended on them like locusts.

On Thursday, my manager arranged for my immediate team to go to lunch. One member was sick. Another person had surgery. Another person had an appointment. So we were down to six souls, including mine. I was gifted a new watch. I have been wearing my father's watch since he died in 2010. As I told you before, I have replaced nearly everything on that watch over the years: multiple batteries, a new strap, inner workings. It is arguable whether it is my father's watch any more. Perhaps it is time to wear this new watch...

Also on Thursday I said a professional goodbye to my co-worker for the last several years. We got along quite well. I told him I would miss working with him and he said we had had some fun. Which we had. I had so many laughs courtesy of him. I will cherish our time together as long as I live. I hope we can keep in touch.

And, finally, Friday came. I did some actual work, I'll have you know, and continued throwing stuff from my desk all morning. A co-worker took me to coffee around 10. At lunch time I went to Patricia's own farewell party at her work. Afterward, we returned to my work. My manager excused me around 3:15. Patricia and I walked around the second floor of our building where I made my goodbyes and final handshakes and hugs. Then, we left. Our first night of this new freedom? We slept the night away.

My manager and I met a few times in the last days I was there. He gave some good advice, which was to let the negative thoughts I may or may not have harbored toward the place, wash away from me, and look forward to new adventures. If I hold on to these negative feelings, assuming they exist, then that accomplishes nothing.

He was, of course, correct. However, some niggling, errant thoughts ricochet around my brain, though. I can't help it. They just do. I think that part of the process of letting them go is to consider them just a bit longer, and to determine to my satisfaction just why they have resonated with me. Let's do that for a moment.

The common theme with them is trust. Broken. Shattered. Misplaced. Inappropriate. People who have lied to my face about how if I do this, it can yield to a promotion, so I did them, and it had no effect whatsoever. I hate when people lie to me.

The time a family friend, also a manager, lambasted me for my attitude. He told me that my university degree was just a "stepping stone" and no guarantee of success in the civil service, even though he had the very type of degree I did, and made sure everyone knew it. A few years later, he suggested I return to university and... get another degree. I was flummoxed. He led me on for years, with his lies, and false hope, simultaneously pumping me for information about people we both knew who had applied for jobs he would be responsible for filling. I finally grew tired of them, and him, and have not spoken with him in more than 15 years. Peaceful years.

The time a guy threatened to plant marijuana cigarettes in my desk and call the police. He remains one of the few people whose name sparks a visceral response from me, more than 20 years after we stopped working together. I hated that man, just hated him. God, I hated him. I have a list I keep in my head containing names of people I will not work with again, no matter what. His is one of two names on that list. Further, affiant sayeth  naught.

The time I asked a co-worker to inform Patricia about something. An hour later I had a special meeting with my manager. 25 years later, I still don't know what the hell I did wrong to warrant that meeting, and to have to endure the implied threats raised during that meeting. I have never forgiven that woman who did that to me. I saw her earlier this year at a co-worker's retirement party. She hugged me and I did not like it.

The times I took sick days and was raked over the coals for taking sick days, so I reverted to dragging my sick arse in to work on days when I should have stayed home. Which is what an awful lot of civil servants do, by the way.

The time I was told I would get... let's call it a special promotion at work if I agreed to take on a certain task. When I agreed to take on that certain task, the special promotion was snatched away from me, like an ice cream sandwich at the beach, and I had to do that certain task anyway. I stopped trusting the man who made that promise, right then and there. Someone I have known for a very long time. I hope he thinks his broken promise was worth it.

I suffered other indignities over the years, all in pursuit of a pay cheque and this pension I will start collecting in January.

Was it worth it? All this felgercarb? Sigh. I like to think it was. It is what I keep telling myself. It is what keeps me sane. Because if it truly wasn't worth it, then I will have wasted the last 26 years of my life. And that thought terrifies me.

But, you know what? Tomorrow is another day. I look forward to seeing what it will bring.

I really will try harder to keep this here blog up and running more often than I have been lately. I feel badly about that.

See you... tomorrow?

Bevboy



Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Post 3921 - Three Days Later

So, I am off for the rest of the week. Back in the office on the 25th for my final week.

There is a party for me there next Wednesday at... 2pm I think it is. A farewell lunch on Thursday. Then I work through to 4:30 on the 29th and that will be that with that.

Lots of people are congratulating me. I appreciate the kind words. But I have to wonder how much it speaks to how unhappy so many people in the civil service are that they express emotions akin to jealousy or envy. The fact that so many people in the civil service appear to be disaffected should tell those who are in a position to do something about it, to do something about it.

The pension I will start collecting in January of 2020 is neither the most it could be, or the least. Others have larger pensions than I will have, but plenty of people either have a small pension, or none at all. I am well aware of that. I have relatives who have always looked at me with a baleful eye and said dismissively, "You don't work. You have a gummint job!" That is how they say "government". Gummint.

It always bothered me.

First of all, the pension I will be collecting is something that everyone pays into. It is not a gift. It is an earned benefit. If you are a provincial civil servant other than perhaps a casual employee who doesn't merit vacation or sick time or any other benefits, then you pay into the pension, whether you want to or not. I paid into it for more than 26 years. My pension will based upon the years I paid into it, at 2% per year, up to a maximum of 35 years, or 70% of your average of your best five years of salary. So I will get just a hair under 53% pension, or an annual sum which is, well, between me and the Canada Revenue Agency. A tidy sum, but not a bloody fortune. I will have to continue working at something else to make up the difference.

Many other companies used to have pension plans. But more and more of them are finding them too much of a liability and have done away with them. The phone company may yet have a pension. The power corporation. Us. The feds. But by and large, people are expected to take care of their own retirement, so they invest in things like RRSP. Some companies match the contributions of their employees.

If you did not work for a company or an organization that offered what I am about to receive, then I am sorry that you did so. I truly am. But do not blame me, or criticize me for it. I paid into this sucker for more than a quarter century. I have earned it.

Without being specific, you have no idea of the unmitigated... feces... I have had to endure over the years to get to this stage. Speak to any civil servant. He/she will have stories to tell. The problem will be getting them to stop speaking.

Anyway, be happy for me, or don't be happy for me. It is your choice. I know what mine would be if you were the one retiring in a method similar to mine.

I am turning in. I have a lot to do around the house tomorrow.

See you then.

Bevboy


Sunday, November 17, 2019

Post 3920 - All Right, All Right.

Sigh.

I need to backtrack something from my previous post. Some folks got upset.

I used the word "shambling" in my previous post. I was characterizing the folks, almost always men, who "shamble" around the office. They are more than eligible to retire, but hang on, and hang on, and hang on some more.

Reminds me of a story.

A man, who shall remain nameless, retired from the provincial government several years ago. He had about 30 years of service, maybe 31. He left the office at the end of November that year and would use his vacation in December, in anticipation of his actual retirement in January, sort of what I am doing now.

He died during that month of vacation.

I have never forgotten what happened to this man. It was a cautionary tale for me. I can only imagine he held on a few extra years to goose his retirement payment, only to see the results of those commuted payments ultimately go to his estate, where it would be dispensed according to whatever his wishes were. He was a quiet, loner type with no family of his own, so no doubt his nieces and nephews benefited from his many years of labour. All that work. Nothing to show for it. Could not enjoy his retirement for even five minutes.

I do not want that for myself.

At the same time, there are people at work, or anyone else's work,  who have little choice but to hang around work for an extra few years. They still have kids in university or community college. They make too much money for their children to get student loans, so they end up bankrolling much of the cost of their children's higher education.

They anticipate retirement the way a person walking through a desert for three days anticipates water. They can see it. They can hear it. They can smell it. But it is unattainable until the last rugrat finishes school. I get that.

I was not referring to them when I referred to those who shamble around an office. You know which ones I am referring to. They can retire. They have no reason to keep working. But they do not leave. They ultimately are taking up space that could best be filled by someone younger and cheaper and who has fresher ideas. But they do not leave and thereby thwart the professional growth and development of people behind them.

I do not want to be that person. Nobody should be that person

I will go off and do something else, somewhere else, likely in another line of work.

If you are one of the people I just described, a "shambler", why don't you consider doing the same thing?

See you tomorrow.

Bevboy


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Post 3919 - Major Announcement

First of all, I am sorry I haven't written in the last couple of weeks. Time, once again, got away from me. I will try to be more diligent, etc. etc.

The announcement?

Here goes:

I have decided to retire from my job with the provincial government. I will have not quite 26.5 years of service when I walk out the door. Patricia is also retiring. Our last day in the office will be November 29th, a scant two weeks hence.

It was a difficult decision. I agonized over it. Went back and forth. Three weeks ago I found out who my HR rep was. I did not write her for 4 days, when I told her about my decision. She told me what I had to do.

On October 29th, I produced the letter, which announced my intention to retire. It had to be signed, so I printed it off, signed it, and then scanned it in as a PDF. Emailed it to myself at work. On the 30th, before 9am, I produced the email containing this attachment to my manager and my HR rep. And it sat there in my draft folder until 4:25 on the 31st. The very last thing I did before leaving for the day was to send that email along.

Last week, on the... 7th, my manager and I talked about it. Just wanted to make sure I had made a firm decision. I told him I had.

And, yesterday, the 12th, I told my immediate co-workers. They are all happy for me.

I do not know what the future holds for me. I just know I do not want to be that guy you see shambling around the office, any office. The kind of guy who was eligible to retire long ago but continues to hold on for whatever reason. Those folks make me a little sad.

I want to leave now, or rather, in two weeks, and go off and do something else while I am still young enough, vital enough, and perhaps in sufficient demand, to go do that something else.

The decision, as I already told you, was one I considered for a long time. I did not tell you because people at my work read this blog and I did not want to burden them with this information, and the exquisite, intricate aspects that went into my reaching this decision. I tell them indirectly here, and then they go in to work and not tell others, such as management. Puts everyone in an awkward decision. I hope they understand.

As it stands, I have so much vacation time built up that I can be off for the entire month of December for vacation, and continue to be paid. My first pension cheque will be at the end of January.

There. My major announcement. I feel relieved having told you.

If you have any pearls of wisdom regarding surviving on a pension, please let me know.

I have some other tasks to finish up this evening, so I will cut this short. But... let me renew my vow to produce blog posts more frequently. I missed you guys.

I hope you missed me.

See you... tomorrow?

Bevboy



Sunday, October 27, 2019

Post 3918 - Six Days Later...

Hello and welcome to the end of another weekend. Where do these things go, anyway?

I have spent the last several days working and sleeping and doing stuff around the house. Tuesday night was interesting. We got home around 5:30, whereupon I told Patricia that I was going to take a short nap. I didn't really get up again until 5:30 Wednesday morning.  Patricia was quite worried about me, but I felt fine the next morning.

I wish I could say that we did a lot this weekend, but we did not. I ventured out around 4pm to get a couple turkey dinners from a local church that was selling them for a good price. Otherwise, we stayed in all weekend.

We had thought about going to the Valley this weekend. The Devour! festival was in Wolfville again, and we had considered going. The CBC coverage sounded interesting on Friday, but there was something that ticked me off. Here it is.

They were broadcasting from the new Church pub on Main Street. It was a church for 100 years or so before the United Church sold it along with some other churches so they could build a new super church in nearby New Minas. The thinking was that parishioners would just, um, flock to the new church. The woman Jeff Douglas interviewed made it sound like everybody was accepting of the change.

I can tell you that this was not true.

One of the churches sold was the Canard United Church, which I attended for many years. As I understand it, the people at the pastoral charge showed up one week and said that they would be selling the place, that people had "voted" for this to happen and that people would just move over to this new church. The ballots had already been destroyed so there was no going back for a recount or anything like that.

The Canard United Church, along with the cemetery, was sold to a man who was kind enough not to want to turn it into an Air B&B or a brothel or a winery or anything like that. He was amenable to selling it to the people who had attended that very church for decades. I doubt if he made a penny off the sale. He sold it to those parishioners, who had to fight tooth and nail with the United Church just to keep the furniture in the vestry. The pews, I am guessing, would have been fixtures so not something the United Church could have stripped out of the place.

The new United Church in New Minas has been far from being a raging success. More than a few people quietly started going to the new Canard church from Wolfville, from Kentville, whose own church had been sold under them. The United Church folks who sold the churches were none too pleased that Canard had managed to keep their church going, but they no longer own the place and can do nothing about it. But this new church has to use other hymn books, other prayer books, and may not use any trappings from the United Church in their services.

We attended a rummage sale at the church last year. It was nice to see the place again after far too many years. Some things that my father had built for the church were still there, and Glenn Ells was only too happy to show them to me. He and his family have been members of that church for probably 100 years. The "original" Glenn Ells, killed in World War I, is buried in the adjoining cemetery.

Glenn is a Liberal and served as MLA down there for several years. George Archibald was a Tory and later served as MLA down there. They attended the same church! I recall it was in... 1988 I think, when they were running against each other in the provincial election. They were decorous toward one another, but I do remember George standing up and reading some lay scriptures one week. I wonder if Glenn considered doing the same thing?

I had such good times at that church in the 1970's and 1980's. People treated me well. Even the kids my own age treated me well, something in sharp contrast to the kids at the junior high I was attending at the time.

Ha! Funny story time. I will never forget the time the janitor or whoever it was, failed to show up one week and they were worried about being able to conduct the service on time, so I, a little one, was boosted up on the shoulders of a taller man and shimmied the window open. I broke into my own church!

I later became the janitor at that church. I was not very good at it, and nobody reading this would disagree. I would go there after classes were over at Acadia University for the day and I had a bit of time to myself. I would have my radio on while I was vacuuming or mopping the floors or cleaning the collection plates or the bathroom. It gave me time to reflect on my classes and got me away from the halls of academe for a much-needed few hours. I cherish that time to this day. The times were simpler, and much-missed.

I stopped going to church when I moved to the city in 1988. I have never found a place that I was comfy in, but I haven't looked much, either. If I did find one, it would have to be the kind of place that let me form the kind of memories of the Canard United Church of all those years ago.

But one last comment on the United Church, and its pell-mell shedding of properties, with or without the permission or blessing of the people who supported them all along. Shame on them. How dare they conduct these votes and then destroy the ballots? How dare they play hard ball with the people who just want to continue to go to a local church? Where the... hell... is their Christianity?

On that lovely note, I wish you all a pleasant evening. I hope to see you all here tomorrow.

See you then.

Bevboy






Monday, October 21, 2019

Post 3917 - Four Days Later...

Well, there you are!

Welcome to Monday night.

I returned to work on Friday, but then had the weekend, so that felt a little weird. On Saturday we went to the Valley to check out the house. It looked the same. I did bring back with me the cordless drill I was keeping down there because I haven't unearthed the one that I keep here. It is in storage somewhere in the house, likely in the recroom, but don't ask me where. Just... don't.

Sunday we just kinda took things easy. Got caught up on a show called "Emergence". Patricia didn't like the pilot very much, but I did; and I managed to convince her to watch the remaining episodes with me.

And today, being Monday, I returned to work a second time. After work I got the new issues of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine from Atlantic News on Queen Street. Then we went to Bonehead's for dinner. We have to stop eating out so much. Costing too much money. We had dinner in New Minas on Saturday night before we returned to the city. It is fun and everything, but we have other ways for the money to go.

I have been listening to the election results on News 95.7 since 8pm. It is interesting talk. I have barely had the tv on since I came down here at 7:45.

I don't typically discuss politics here on the blog. I have nothing to add to any political discourse. I have friends of all political persuasions and have voted for nearly all parties over my long and event-less life. I figure that there are plenty of blog and Facebook pages and everything else where people who don't know what they're talking about, talk about politics and politicians.

But I follow politics. I follow elections. I take an interest in the process. And I continue to be astonished that there are people who choose to put themselves out there and seek public office. I don't understand why. So many of them take pay cuts when they are elected. And they put up with a level of scrutiny and criticism and general BS that would put off the average, even above average, person.

No matter what you do, people criticize you for it. You cannot have made any mistake in your life, even as a youth, without someone bringing it up, years later, and not letting you forget about it.

And every few years, you have to run for your job, against other people who oftentimes are extraordinary candidates, who would be perfectly good elected representatives if they won and you didn't.

Yet, despite all the above, people continue to put themselves out there. It astonishes me.

My hat is off to them.

I will turn in and now and listen to some of the election results on the radio.

See you tomorrow.

Bevboy



Thursday, October 17, 2019

Post 3916 - Short and Sweet

10pm, Thursday night.

My brief vacation is over. I return to work on Friday. Then, I have two more days off.

I got up early and drove Patricia to work. Filled up the gas tank on the way back home. Got home, and decide to take "a short nap". Then, I proceeded to sleep until nearly 12:30pm. Feeling a little sheepish, I went downstairs and did some chores around the house before preparing a salmon dinner for Patricia and me. There are plenty of leftovers for lunch on Friday.

I purposely did not take my work phone home with me last week. I do not have any idea what tsunami of emails awaits me, but it can wait until 8 o'clock Friday morning.

I am not sure why I am tired this evening. I just am. For that reason I am cutting this short and turning in.

See you tomorrow.

Bevboy