Coffeehouse observation No. 234

Probably a short day at the coffeehouse today. I forgot the power cord to the laptop. Grr!

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Coffeehouse observation No. 233

A guy just walked by the coffeehouse wearing a worn hoodie and a makeshift cape. I’m thinkin’ he’s a down-on-his-luck superhero. … And I have no idea what his superpower might be, so don’t ask.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 232

Attractive new  table umbrella at empresso swaying slightly in the wind.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 231

Hmm, the coffeehouse seems to be playing old police-PI TV show theme songs. “SWAT” was earlier, followed shortly by the theme from “Shaft.” Go figure.

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Man charged with topless coffee shop arson wants trial moved | Bangor Daily News

Man charged with topless coffee shop arson wants trial moved | Bangor Daily News.

Coffeehouse observation No. 230

I’ve been trying to be good by not pointing out all of the oddities at the coffeehouse, but … a guy just walked in wearing a motorcycle helmet, leathers and clogs. Yes, clogs. Is it just me or do clogs sort of fit in the one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others category? Clogs? Really?

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Coffeehouse observation No. 229 – Hope carried on the wobbly legs of toddlers

 Hope is at the very core of what we are as humans, but it can be such a fleeting thing.

One moment a person feels hopeful that strong feelings will blossom into true love. The next moment that all comes crashing down. One moment a person feels hopeful that hard work will be recognized by supervisors. The next moment a co-worker claims the work as his own. One moment a person sees hope in the eyes of another. The next moment that hope is taken away.

It is not always easy to hold onto hope when things are not going as they should. Like so many Americans, I’ve been out of work for much longer than I ever expected I would be. It has been more than 20 months since I was laid off after 22 years in the newspaper business. It has been a demoralizing struggle to find work and so far it has been an unsuccessful search.

I have spent much of the time since being laid off in public libraries, bookstores and coffeehouses drinking coffee or green tea and scouring the Internet for employment opportunities. (OK, let’s face it – I’ve spent most of that time in coffeehouses.) I’ve sent out hundreds of resume packages and filled out countless applications.

And still no luck.

But I have never really lost hope – not even now – that I will find work again. Part of that comes from my belief that if I work as hard at finding a job as I did working at my previous jobs, then I very likely will find something even better than I had before. Persistence and patience – two traits of which I have abundance – will help me ride this stretch of misfortune and help me find work.

Another thing that has helped me cling to hope for myself is the expression of hope others have displayed.

I’m not talking something spectacular. I’m just talking about life, simple, everyday life.

As I sat in those public libraries, bookstores and (mostly) coffeehouses, something struck me – people were living their lives. Auto industry collapse, banking greed and collapse, housing market collapse, joblessness, two protracted wars, threat of terrorism – all of it be damned. People were living their lives despite these problems.

The most striking aspect was that young people – men and women couples, same-sex couples, single adults – seemed to be going ahead with having families. They were having babies. What greater sign that the future will be better is there than to go ahead with plans to have children, children who will live in that future?

No matter how terrible my job search was going on any given day, my mood always improved when I spotted a pregnant woman walked into the coffeehouse, either alone or with her partner. The fact that there were people still on Earth willing to chance it – were hopeful enough to have children – made me more hopeful, made me more willing to carry on with my own life.

Now, of course, part of that message of hope comes of the wobbly legs of toddlers who were born since my job search started. It is difficult to completely lose grip of hope when a young child looks up and beams a smile for no reason whatsoever and then waddle off for some other toddler adventure.

I do not know how long I will be able to hold out hope. The time is nearing when I will be without unemployment insurance. Without that very threadbare safety net, I do not know what happen.

But I know that hope – and persistence and patience – will be part of what gets me my next job. I get that from the message of hope in young parents and on the wobbly legs of toddlers.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 228

Just heard a Christmas commercial. The music was just too freakin’ perky.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 227

Hey! … Hey! Yeah! You, you over there wearing the incredibly asinine hat and with the asinine facial piercings. Don’t you think you could possibly – just out of common consideration for your fellow coffeehouse patrons – use your freakin’ headphones while you watch – at full volume – asinine YouTube videos of the “Jackass” cast performing asinine, potentially testical-threatening stunts?! I mean, really?! For four hours straight?! … Idiot!

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Crossing fingers after phone interview marred by no bars, technical problem

I had a fairly good telephone job interview this morning, despite equipment problems on both ends.

And despite me stumbling over some of the questions.

Some of the problems started this morning when I tumbled out of bed and checked my cellular phone to make sure that it had charged overnight. I was immediately troubled to see no bars, not one.

“OK, don’t panic,” I said to myself, of course, leaving out here the expletives. “I’ll just whip up some congee, grab a shower, and check the bars again. Perhaps a T-Mobile tower is down or something and it will take a bit of time to get it up again. If all else fails, I’ll make a run to Starbucks, troll for a cell signal, and pirate some Wifi. And just sit in my CRV for the interview.”

Yes, I do sometimes have extended conversations with myself.

Congee, check.

Shower and shave, check.

Car keys, check.

Laptop and cell phone, check and check.

Cell phone bars, not so check. Still no bars.

So, off I went for the Starbucks. As I drove closer, I checked the bars and the signal seem to be coming in strong. Great!

I circled the Starbucks in the Miracle Mile in Stockton and head back to my apartment to go over notes before I planned to return to the Starbucks in time for my interview call.

Funny thing, though, as I drove back to the apartment – I started getting more bars. Eureka! A strong signal. Perhaps, just, perhaps, T-Mobile fixed the glitch and I’ll be able to receive the interview in a non-stressful environment sitting at my writing desk in the living room of my apartment.

There I sat for more than an hour going over “20 Most Asked Questions In A Job Interview” – of which, the interviewers would later ask only one of the “20 Most Asked Questions In A Job Interview” – and tried to relax just a bit before my 9:45 a.m. call.

Everything was going well enough when I took another look at my cell phone at 9:30 a.m. and – PANIC! No bars, again! Ugh!

I scooped up my laptop, a notepad, a couple of pens, and my cell phone and headed downstairs to the garage. There I jumped into my CRV, cranked up the engine, and headed – at only slightly excessive speed – to the nearest Starbucks where earlier I had found a strong signal and where I could pirate WiFi. (I say “pirate,” but Starbucks provides free WiFi. Using “pirate” is an attempt at making me more edgy. Did it work?)

I parked in the same spot I had earlier, but the cell signal was at only two bars. I didn’t want an every-other-word experience during the interview. I drove around the block trolling for a stronger signal and found one – very nearly in the same spot I had been before going around the block. Time: 9:44 a.m.

OK, quick drink of water. Pull out the computer for the notes on the “20 Most Asked Questions In A Job Interview.” Pull out the pad of paper to write down the names of the people on the search committee conducting the interview. Go online for a quick check of email.

It was then that the phone rang. I let it ring again, popped open the cell phone, paused – “Hello. … Hello. … Hello!”

Nothing. Great! Well what else can go wrong?

I tried dialing back a couple of times, but all I got was the ear-piercing tone of a fax machine. Great!

OK, don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic … DON’T PANIC!

Oh, wait, the phone’s ringing again.

“Hello. … Hello. … Hello!”

Oh, crap, not again.

One more attempt to call them. More piercing sounds. OK, OK, OK, I’ll shoot an email to the person who arranged the interview. Under the circumstances, maybe – just maybe – we can reschedule the telephone interview.

The email was very nearly set to send when the phone rang one more time. By this time it was five or 10 minutes after the scheduled appointment

OK, don’t panic. Let it ring again.


“Hello, Keith. Sorry for that bit of technical problem …,” said the woman on the other end.

Sheesh, that was close. I’ve been out of work for 20 months now and I cannot afford to miss an interview for any reason.

The half-hour interview went well enough, I think, especially since it took place over the phone as I sat in my CRV with a laptop balanced on my knees.

I stumbled on a few questions. It’s a marketing job and my experience is in straight-up journalism, but several of the interviewers have newspaper experience, so they may have cut me some slack. They gave me verbal feedback and laughed where they should have, so it wasn’t all bad at all.

The job would be with a leader in its field and I think skills I honed as a columnist, opinion page editor, editorialist, and essayist could come in handy. The problem would be in having time to write about all the positive aspects. That’s a bit of a change considering all my work experience is in newspaper where much of the news is not good.

Well, I’m crossing my fingers. It appears it will be about 30 days before I find out if I was selected, so I’ll be patient and continue my search in the meantime.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 226

OK, tell me if there is something wrong with this picture. A guy on a motorcycle drives onto the sidewalk outside the coffeehouse – he’s riding a Harley-Davidson, wearing a Nazi SS helmet, and a skull mask to protect his face from the wind. Here’s the catch: He just walked out of the coffeehouse with an iced drink with drizzled chocolate and wiped cream on top. I’m of the school that the drink tells much about a person, much more than any mode of transportation. And an iced beverage with drizzled chocolate and whipped cream on top simply says sooo much and pretty much blots out the whole biker image. He and his biker pals probably sit around knitting, sipping chardonnay, and listening to Michael Buble. … But don’t tell him I said that.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 225

They put up Christmas decorations in the coffeehouse several days ago. I think it far too early. … And before anyone gets their Christmas stocking in a bind, I am not a Grinch for thinking that Thanksgiving should be the debarkation point for all things Christmas.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 224

You know it is Monday when the line to order coffee is long and stays long. Glad I got here before the latest and greatest rush.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 223

Oh, my freakin’ word! “The First Noel” is playing in the coffeehouse. If you see someone running down Pacific Ave screaming, it just might be me!!

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Coffeehouse observation No. 222

Lesson learned: Don’t sit next to a table at the coffeehouse where an Aflac sales team is discussing sales and presentations and other sales team stuff. They just have too much fun and are just too loud.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 221

I very nearly had to shush three retired guys making far too much noise in the coffeehouse. What is it with today’s seniors, anyway?!

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Coffeehouse observation No. 220

Is it just me or does a woman who is already well over 6 feet tall really need 4-inch heels? I’m just sayin’, she may be worth the climb, but really …

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