Sunday, January 12, 2020

Post 3295 - Where Have I Been? What Have I Been Up To?

Yeah, pretty much says it all.

32 years ago this month, I got on one of those Van Pools, the overpriced van that transported folks from the Valley to Halifax, and then back home again, and began a short-term work assignment. I had just completed my studies at Acadia University. I could not graduate until May of 1988. I had the Winter term to find a job.

In theory, it was a leg up for me. I could find a gig while my fellow students were still studenting away. By the time I could graduate in May, along with them, I might be working away. That was the theory.

The practice of it was that I was ill-prepared to begin my working... let's go with the word "career". Sounds more professional and pre-thought out.

The job that Acadia lined up for me was at a government department. I barely knew where that building was, so poor was my knowledge of the city of Halifax. I can't even quite remember where the van dropped me off at.

The whole while I was working there I was applying for full time work. I would walk around during my lunch hour and try to figure out where things were, relative to where I was. The buildings all looked so tall, so foreboding, and the apprehension I felt twisted my heart and made me feel sick inside. I had never been so frightened in my life. A hick kid from the Valley moving to the big city. 75 minutes or so from my parents' driveway, but it may as well have been the dark side of the moon.

By my birthday I had signed a contract to work for a company in town. Twenty-three thousand dollars per annum. Not a pile of money, even then, but I could get by on it.

My fears worsened. The knot in my gut got tighter and tighter. And I feared for my future. That fear, that anxiety, that worry, is something I inherited from my father, who was the king of all worry warts.

I did get through it, as you know. It was not easy. But I got through it. And I have always figured that if I could do it, if I could persevere in whatever thing I happened to try, or was allowed to try as in the case of my years in government, then I did not have much patience for those who could not measure up. Call it a prejudice. Call it me being a stinker. It doesn't matter.

Well, I retired from that line of work at the end of December, 2019. I am trying something else now, which is being a writer and reporter for Frank Magazine. After this short a period of time, the apprehension is not what it was for me in 1988, but after trying something so new at this point in my life, then I know that I have a lot to learn. And not to sound too much like Donald Rumsfeld, I know there are things I don't know. The Socratic paradox, that I know that I know nothing, also applies.

All I can do is keep at it. Learn stuff incrementally. I know more now than I did this time last week. I can only expect that by this time next week, I will have learned more. In six months time, I hope to look back on January of 2020 with some degree of embarrassment over all the stuff I did not know about my new job.

As for my old job: I get my final government pay cheque this Thursday. It will contain the pay for the last days of December (seven, I think) plus the pay out for the last of my vacation. And last week Patricia and I both got a letter from the Nova Scotia Pensions Agency, spelling out how much we can expect to receive for our pension payments every month. Between my Frank income and my pension income, I will be on par with what I was making before I retired. I may even be a few dollars ahead of the game.

So, anyway, I am fine. But I do find that at the end of the day, after spending it writing and researching or what have you, there it not much tiger left in the tank to write a blog post. I do hope that this situation changes soon, but I cannot make any guarantees.

How about this, then: I will produce a blog post as often as I can. That may be once a week, or twice, or more often. But I will try harder. I miss you guys. And I hope you miss me.

See you... soon?


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Post 3924 - 2019, goodbye. Well, hello there, 2020! And... a major announcement.

Well, here we are. The last day of 2019. In hours, it will be 2020.

I am in my final hours as a provincial civil servant. Due to the vagaries of pay cheques and how and when I got added to the payroll system back in 1993, I will continue to receive pay cheques until the middle of January. The one I get on the 16th will be for, I believe, seven work days; plus, it will have the pay out amount for my unused vacation days. Then, on the 29th of January, I get my first pension cheque.

(Yes. I had so damn much vacation accrued that it could not be contained in one month. I had taken virtually no vacation since the beginning of the fiscal year in April of 2019, and I already had 70 hours in the bank from the previous fiscal year.)

But that is not all.

I have been sitting on this news for some time now.

Starting in two days I am a full-time employee of Frank Magazine.

This will please some people and displease others. The magazine is polarizing and I know it. I am convinced that most of the people who complain about Frank Magazine have never read it.

I can only tell you that I promise to be fair in everything I write for them. I have always carefully researched my cold case articles. You can rest assured that I will bring the same level of care to anything else I write for them.

So, too, does everybody else who writes for Frank, too. Nobody at the magazine phones it in.

I am lucky, and blessed, to be afforded this opportunity at this stage in my life. My whole life, I dreamed of having a paying writing gig, but assumed it would never happen. It has happened, and I will not squander this opportunity.

I know very well that there have been many layoffs of reporters and news gatherers in recent months, here in Nova Scotia. It must be galling for these hard-working and indefatigable reporters to see someone who has never seen the inside of a J school, become a reporter. I respect their bitterness and disappointment. Just give me a chance to be the best I can at this job. That is all I am asking you for. A chance.

The action begins on January 2nd, 2020. I can hardly wait.

See you tomorrow.


Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Post 3923 - Bevboy's Blog Will Return

Just not tonight.

Dealing with a lot of stuff. Been a busy month. I look forward to telling you about it.

Sorry that I didn't number the previous blog post. And, no, I am not going to name the people I referenced in that post. I know who they are. And I hope they do, too. I no longer care. It is my previous life.

I hope to resume the blog tomorrow.


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?


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.


Sunday, November 17, 2019

Post 3920 - All Right, All Right.


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.


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?