It was a beautiful day

My blog reading and commenting will have to take a back seat for a short while. I start a new job tomorrow and I need to devote my undevided attention to acclimating myself to my new environment. I love the honeymoon phase. You’re forgiven for your trespasses and everyone is nice to you. The (presumably ugly) truth will be revealed around mid-July to both me AND my new employer. I no longer work in the same building as Guap, but we’re still dating.

Finding a company willing to hire my old ass was miraculous. I’m in the terrible spot that so many in my generation find themselves in; too young to retire but too old to hire. My current inadequate healthcare policy doesn’t meet the minimum requirements set forth by the Affordable Care Act, so my insurer is cancelling it on June 15th. The market-rate monthly premium would have cost $1,200/month (without dental coverage). My new job is on staff with full benefits, so that’s one less worry I have. I get 15 paid vacation days, to boot. That’s up from ZERO for the past four + years.

The work itself won’t be as eclectic as the job I just left (which I loved, by the way). Also, my new taskmasters seem to be wound a bit tighter than the kind, benevolent souls I left behind. But I am no longer in a position to take into consideration such things as how interesting the work might or might not be, or whether or not it’s a pleasant working environment. Those are luxuries I can’t afford. Those considerations are for the young or people without children. I can’t provide for my two beautiful daughters as a benefits-free consultant, so I had to take it. Good Lord. How many of us end up like this? Thoreau was right.

The competition for the position was fierce. Navigating the multiple interviews was complicated and exhausting. It went on for nearly two months. I think they finally decided on experience over vigor.

As a pseudo-reward to myself, I took Friday off, got in the car and drove down to Atlantic City for a meditative walk on the beach and to prowl the casinos. It’s a repulsive place but I love it. The boardwalk is choked with the flotsam and jetsam of humanity. An unending parade of the broken and destitute. Inside the casinos it’s even worse, especially during the weekdays. My bride never goes with me. It makes her sad. She doesn’t mind if I go once in a while, as long as I don’t make it a lifestyle or insist she go with me. [Although she came down once to attend a Tom Jones concert at Caesars Palace. It was great, cheesy fun. A memorable night.]

photo(3)Yes, there is surfing in New Jersey. Don’t these guys have jobs?

I lost many hours to the craps tables. It’s always like that. I go into a trance and when I snap out of it, I can’t believe how much time has passed. Rolling dice has a warm, narcotic quality to it. I love when it’s my turn.

photo(6)They don’t like it one bit when you take pictures in the casino.

I love the aesthetics of the game. The way the dice feel in my hand. The smoothness of the felt. (I rub it for good luck.) The clickety-clack sound the chips make when you rifle  them in your palm. The calls of the stick man and the sharp proficiency of the box men. It’s a delicious game.

You meet interesting people, too. A community forms. You all live and die by the roll. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. Just look at these two beautiful, old geezers. They’ll clear out by 6:00 Friday evening to make room for the girls in tight, black dresses and New Jersey Guidos with overly-manicured eyebrows and gold chains who’ll come roaring into town in their Camaros. You’ll find these same two dudes back at the same table come Monday morning.

atlantic cityWhy can’t THIS be my new job?

87 thoughts on “It was a beautiful day

  1. Congratulations on the new job! I’m glad you had the AC weekend to unwind before jumping into the new place.

  2. Great way to celebrate your new venture. Keep a positive mind set about your new job; it may be better than the last. As you know I was at mine for 12 years & although the last 3 were horrible the others were good. I did end up with something much better.

  3. Well played, Exile. Sometimes you gotta do what’s necessary to feed the children. Just think how lovely your teeth will look. I’m glad experience won out over vigour. Go show ’em what you’re made of.

    • Thanks, tons. Believe me, they have no idea what they’re in for. They won’t know what hit them until it’s too late.

      Vigor. Who needs vigor? It only ever got me into trouble. Thank god I’ve exhausted my supply.

  4. Congratulations on getting the new job. After such a tough hiring process, you should be patting your back and then some. Well done! Hope your transition goes smoothly.

    • Thank you for your congrats + good wishes. I swear to god it feels like the eve of the first day of school. I thinking about the social aspects more than I am the technical ones. That’s backwards, right?

      • As an introvert, I would be thinking the same thing. “Remember to make eye contact, Carrie. Remember small talk comes first, and yes, you have to do it. Remember to act like you enjoy seeing your co-workers’ vacation photos. Remember…”

      • It’s the game that must be played. I’m mostly afraid of my biting sarcasm. Believe it or not, it rubs some folks the wrong way. I have to me mindful and tamp it down.

  5. A very hearty congratulations! Brilliant you’ll have good benefits. I wouldn’t wish insurance woes on anyone. Hopefully the new overlords aren’t too uptight. I’ve never been in a casino or any gambling venue but I watched a fascinating documentary about card counters once, called Holy Rollers.

    • Casinos aren’t for everybody and thank god for that. Despite my enjoyment of them, I think the proliferation of gambling to generate tax revenues is a terrible mistake. Also, I’ve never placed a bet online and I never will. It’s all about the experience of going into that building and standing next to my fellow train-wrecks. Take that away and it’s an empty, lonely experience.

  6. As a woman of a ‘certain age’… oh, what the hell – I’m 47, I recently felt the pain of being too young to retire and too old to hire. When Microsoft packaged me out 2 years ago, after 10+ years there, I initially looked at my settlement as a ginormous windfall. After I spent my way through every dollar of my payout I realized, oh… I actually need to go back to work. Fuck.

    I started with my new employer (based on NYC) at the end of January. It is very, very, very different from Microsoft – but I can honestly say it’s been a refreshing change. Not least of all because I have been getting to visit NYC every month. 🙂

    Congrats on your new role. Benefits are key – I can totally relate. I hope your first weeks go swimmingly. Cheers!

    • Windfalls are nice, but only if that’s a lifetime. I got a nice severance once when my company moved to Atlanta but I knew it wouldn’t last. I don’t know if I can EVER retire, frankly.

      Upon reread, I sound kind of gloomy about the whole thing but perhaps a refresh is exactly what I need. And having a matching 401(k) program back in my life doesn’t hurt, either. I used to think all that stuff was owed to me. (Benefits, I mean.) now I know how precious they are.

  7. Congrats Mark! I know how hard it is to get a job these days. Well done. Sigh. This may seem cruel to you but when I usd to hire others, I cherished people like yourself who would see the job through regardless of what had to be done (legally) because they knew how imporatnt the job was to their family well being. It meant that any arguments or disagreements could be ultimately solved as the older members of the workforce would not put their jobs on the line to be right. Sad, huh? But in a way important.

    • You were once in a position to hire people? That’s admirable. I’ve always wanted a few people under me so I could crush their spirits. Hasn’t happened yet but I’ve got my fingers crossed.

      Thanks for your congrats. I’ve only got this responsibility-thing sorted out because I’m older. If I had had kids when I was in my 20’s, it would have crashed and burned for sure. My maturity arrived fairly late in life. It’s a good thing I waited.

      • Oh, it’s not nearly the fun it’s cracked up to be, believe me Mark. Hiring priviledges also means discipinary and termination responsibilities. Every time I’ve had to fire someone, it could be traced back to my incompetence in hiring. You learn what to look for to have a successful employee. Also, as a middle manager, the bosses and the customers both hold you personally responsible for all your employees actions. At one point I had 80 direct reports and was responsible 24/7. There is a sense of personal accomplishment when things go well or someone performs beyond the call of duty but that is balanced out by trying to keep the peace daily. At one fuel company where I was responsible for hiring, it was a complex job and it cost in excess of $20,000 in training costs and lost productivity in the first year each time an employee was hired. Choose wrong and $20k was out the window. At that job I instituted extensive testing and training that resulted in only 1 in 100 “qualified” applicants actually making it to full time. Further more if I spent that $20k and then the employee left for a competitor, we just reduced our capabilities and gave our competition a $20k boost to their bottom line. We might as well cut them a cheque.

        Honestly Mark, as much as I enjoyed the challenge, I would go though periods where I would just go back to being an employee responsible only for my own actions, ethics and morals. The cycles were about 3-5 years each. Mature employees like yourself, were a blessing and helped keep me sane. Keep that in mind at your job – as much as companies will often hire younger, the mature emplyees and their opinions and actions are truly the foundation on which the compnay is built.

      • That’s a fascinating take on it. Thanks, Paul. I’ve never seen it from that vantage point, but I’ve always heard that laying off and firing people is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do. A neighbor of mine is an executive at a giant pharmaceutical company and he’s told me he’s had nightmares about the people he’s had to let go. [Although I’ve been both laid off and fired and I can tell you it’s no picnic on that side of the table, either.]

        The problem I have is that the natural progression for what I do for a living–the road to higher wages–is to become management and I don’t think I’d be very good at that. Managing people is a special skill that I think I lack. I like doing the work itself, but there’s a ceiling on how much I’ll make.

      • You’d be surprised Mark at how many great managers/leaders are people who think they have no management skills. Whenever I promoted employees internally, I looked for those people. The reasons are that they have no preconceptions and are easier to train and their default thought process is to treat thier employees as they would want to be treated. I always found that managers cannot be good unless they can do the work of their direct reports. Which you could. Also, in my experience, anyone who pursues power for the sake of power,is generally the wrong person to manage others. (Which says a lot about our governments) My initial suggestion to you is to take advantage of any training programs that your company offers. It shows initiative and increases your personal brand value (and usually involves a free lunch – a favorite topic of mine from as far back as elementary school – Ha!). Annnnd, remember what I said earlier about mature employees being stable? Well, that would be the group that I would naturally turn to when I wanted a pool of employees with manager potential. You already have one step up on the younguns. Good Luck!

  8. Hard call, mate, but noble, well done. Hope it turns out to be enjoyable as well. Those two old geezers have got it sorted, haven’t they, the best we can hope for is to end up like them I reckon. Cheers

    • Ah! I saw what you did. A play on words. At one point I was at +$330 but I left town -$10. I know most people would say that’s insane but if I can play all day with the house money, I’m happy.

  9. Congrats on the new job, Mark! How exciting and scary, too. I think you made the smart move for your family. I hope you love your new job, too, and find some cool people to hang with. If not, you have Guapo! Good luck on your first day!!

    • Thank you, Amy. That means something to me and I appreciate your taking the time to read + comment. Imagine how happy I’ll be if I work next to someone who likes to shoot craps! What are the odds?

  10. Hey congratulations and good luck, I guess today is your first day! It’s a bank holiday day today here in the UK so none of us have to go to work (well, most people anyway), hurrah! Hope you settle in quickly and it all goes well.

    It’s funny how you can take things for granted, in the UK, it’s a legal requirement for all employed people to receive a minimum of 28 days paid leave per year (for those who work 5 days a week; or pro-rata for part time), I think it used to be 20 days but then went up, and additionally of course we have the National Health Service, so those two things you mentioned as being significant deciders to change jobs wouldn’t really be an issue here (although private health cover is offered here by some employers, which is a draw for some, but it’s just an extra perk really because we can get medically treated anyway!). But then salaries are lower in the UK than US, and our cost of living is higher, so it’s swings and roundabouts I guess! Anyway, go get ’em!

    • Yes, this is day 1. About an hour or so away. It’s like the first day in a new school. I hope the kids are nice to me. I have a clean hanky. Thanks for your good wishes, dear.

      It seems that just about every country in the developed part of the planet has proper healthcare except for this shining citadel. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering how such a thing happened. Nobody should be without proper healthcare and you’d think we’re a wealthy enough nation to prevent that from happening but here I am, living proof that you can work full-time and STILL NOT RECEIVE proper coverage. It’s a conundrum.

  11. Congratulations – I hope the honeymoon develops into a solid marriage with an ever-increasing housekeeping budget! Does anyone say “baby needs new shoes” before throwing the dice or is that too much of a cliché?

    • I just hope the sex lasts beyond the honeymoon. Is that too much to hope for?

      That’s my favorite gambling cliché. Just imagine…you have an infant who needs shoes and you’re in the casino playing craps. Pretty typical gambler.

  12. It’s always difficult making changes, especially when so much hangs on it. You obviously have your priorities sorted, with your kids coming first (you didn’t seem to mention SWMBO, Freudian slip???)

    I went through a bad patch 30 years ago and got addicted to one-armed bandits … oh the shame and ignominy. Why couldn’t it have been Blackjack, Roulette or even Chemin de fer, all with some vestige of glamour or romance,, but no, the dreaded Pokies were my vice.

    I hope all goes well with your new career, yet still leaves time for some more erudite and interesting prose.

    • The slots! That’s awful. As you rightfully point out, slots are for old ladies. Old ladies and people too lazy to do the math. I’m glad your off of them. If I’m going to go down the tubes and drag my family with me, it’ll be via something elegant like craps or baccarat. Slots. Please!

      I’ll see what I can do about the erudite and interesting prose, but I’m afraid that even loads of free time won’t help with that. It is what it is, was and always will be.

  13. I am in the same ‘old’ boat. I recently had a phone interview where I revealed almost being 50 as if that was a positive condition because of experience and maturity etc. I later realized that maybe they didn’t need to know I was closer to death than not. Your new job is an inspiration. Go show those kids how it’s done…

    • I’ve never revealed my age. I’m actually kind of embarrassed that I’m as old as I am and my career isn’t further along. I missed the career train.

      btw, it’s against the law for them to not hire you because of your age. Tough to prove, though.

  14. I love the “honeymoon phase”. You’re paid to mess up, and everyone is so nice. Than the job actually starts. But I know you’re going to dominate the new job. Congrats.

    • Thanks, Andrew. The honeymoon phase works in both directions. Someone new will come on board and it’ll be all smiles and pleasantness until two months later when you have to show someone how to do something that you’ve shown them six times before. Then the honeymoon is over and you realize you’ve got a dolt on your hands.

  15. Many, many congratulations Mark. I think it’s grotesque that a position with “health insurance” (such an alien term here) is so rare. I detest, and am hopeless at, the recruitment process. I can make myself sound pretty good on paper, and I always get the first interview; never the second. Well done. You’ll be able to sleep easier at night knowing that you and yours are better provided for. That is definitely the priority now. Thank God someone recognises the value of “older” (I don’t see myself as “older”, but that’s the category into which I’m shoved now) employees. I’m very happy to hear this — I know you’ve had your travails with work over the years.

    I am in the very happy position of really having enjoyed my single visit to a casino — I know all about the trance-like state that (in my case) watching roulette produces. I was there for hours. And thank goodness, I’ve acquired every vice going, apart from smoking and gambling.

    • Let’s not mince words. We’re older. Sometimes that works to your advantage but not always. I’m pretty sure it took me this long to find a permanent position because they looked at my resume, did the math, and realized I’m closer to retirement that they would like. But these guys took a chance on me so I’m grateful.

      I love roulette as well as craps. It’s a quiet, elegant game. Slower than craps, not as much a visceral thrill, but it’s nice to just sit and watch the little ball dance around inside the wheel. Jesus…I wish I was there right now instead of on my way to work.

  16. Congratulations and good luck with the new job! Although I feel sad that you had to give up one you enjoyed… hopefully the new one will be just as enjoyable in different ways.
    Sx

  17. Wooooo NEW JOB ALERT!!!! Congratulations mate. And, for the record, if you get a job trawling the casinos of Atlantic City, PLEASE CAN YOU HIRE ME?????? I find casinos the most fascinating places in the world – the dingier, the crappier the better. I am jealous that you can drive for a bit and ‘pop down’ to Atlantic City and take in the ocean and the casinos. If I drove for a bit from my house, I would be able to take in a funeral directors’ and a Chinese takeaway. Such is life.

    • Thank you, Miss Becky. When I found out, a decade ago, I was to give up Manhttan for New Jersey, the only thing that kept me from jumping out the window was the thought that Atlantic City, with its dozen casinos stretched out along the beach, was a car ride away. Have you been to Las Vegas? It’s like a glorious traffic accident. As though a shipment of paint intended for a Disneyland fresh-up collided with a bus full of transvestites. I kind of wish I was there right now, in fact.

      • Las Vegas is one of my favourite places in the world. I’ve been about 5 times. It’s the most gloriously ridiculous, obscene, wonderful place ever. Anyone who says they don’t like it because it’s vulgar, grotesque, debauched etc – I’m like, ‘IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THAT!!!’ It knows it’s ridiculous, and you’ve just got to go with it. Christ I wish I was there now.

      • We should form a support group.

        Up above, I meant to say, “…with its dozen TACKY casinos…” I love that atmosphere. I’ve never placed a bet online and I never will. Where’s the fun in that?

      • Oh man! Vegas! It’s been far too long since I’ve been there (’07) It IS my favorite place in the World (and I have traveled). Love Craps: Call me a ‘dice degenerate’ That’s a term of endearment for me. Love Roulette and Black Jack too. Almost got thrown out of the El Cortez once for suspected card-counting. I actually was, and used to be half-way decent at that.
        Cheers,
        Lance

      • Hi Lance. The three of us should form a support group. I’m glad you didn’t list slots. Not that I think I’m above it all but slots, in my estimation, are for OLD LADIES. Some of my fondest, warmest, happiest memories involve Vegas and crap tables. More, please. Much more.

  18. Cyber goblins are being a damn’ pest! I seem to be losing comments, too, though mostly at Blogger platforms.I thought I’d popped in earlier to say congrats and good luck.Never mind, you’re worth a double serving! 🙂

      • Ya know, now that I think on it, yeah I did feel bad for them. I have spent countless hours in casinos (mostly in Vegas, but in many all over the globe), and I always did kind of feel sorry for those slot/electronic poker players, etc. They never could understand the camaraderie of a craps table: Always the loudest, most boisterous group in the house.
        And always the ones who were actually enjoying their visit to a casino.

      • All true but you and I both know it can all go to hell in an instant unless you’re careful. Most people are put off by the distinct possibility that they can lose $100 in a matter of minutes (again, if you’re not careful).

      • There is no better, more exciting game. Now, I do love Blackjack, and I do love Roulette, but for sheer fun and excitement and drunken revelry. Well…yes: Craps.
        And yes Mysticism plays a huge roll (pun intended)

      • Ahhh! Huge roll! I see what you did there. Clever.

        Blacjack odds are the bomb but I can’t play it for long. I get bored. I like roulette, though. A quiet, elegant game. Like craps, I like the accouterments of the roulette table. Plus you can actually enjoy a drink at the roulette table, which is something I never do playing craps.

        During this past trip I just wrote about, I saw something I’ve never seen before. Guy threw the dice and they landed stacked. One on top of the other. No roll. Even the stickmen just kind of stood there and stared at them.

      • I have never seen that! Wow! Too funny.
        In Ologapo (Philippines) I visited a casino (now mind you, overseas you rarely see craps, as it is such an American Game), but in Olongapo, the craps table had a little rubber bumper all around the table. So…what would invariably happen, would be one die would get ‘half-cocked’ for lack of a term. So, it was up to the dealer to call it. and of course, he always called for the House.

      • I’d be way too intimidated to play in the Philippines (or any other foreign country, for that matter). I played in London once and it gave me bad nerves, which is exactly what you DON’T want when gambling.

      • Scared money ALWAYS loses.
        Yup.
        I concur. If you are not comfortable…
        Played roulette and blackjack in Mombasa one week (Navy Days) won a bundle.
        Then gave it all back.
        Such were sailor daze…

  19. I have something very important to learn from the regal way you are handling this shitty hand you’ve been dealt. Congratulations on making it through all the hoops, since that’s taking you where you need (if not want) to be. And the future may still hold some good surprises… I sure hope it does.

    • I wouldn’t be so clear-thinking if I was in my 20s. I’m sure I would have handled the whole thing very poorly.

      I have no doubt the future is full of fun surprises. It hasn’t let me down yet.

  20. How are you doing with the new job? Is the honeymoon phase over? Please tell me that it’s okay I’ve never been to Atlantic City. I think I might stick myself there on the sheer notion that I might be able to taste humanity there – on the rocks, if you please. Would make for some good stories, I’m sure.

    Here’s to the Affordable Care Act, sounds like one of the most deeply complicated messes out there.

    • The new job is fine. I’ll be perfectly honest. If I didn’t have to do this stuff for a living, I probably wouldn’t. But I’ve been under terrible pressure for the last four years to find proper healthcare for my family and now that I’ve solved that problem. I’m breathing easier.

      Atlantic City is a shithole. I can’t say your missing all that much. As I said, my wife is brought down by the place. It’s not for everyone. Just like NYC, I suppose.

      • I’m the same, wouldn’t do what I do unless I had to. That’s life, I guess. A series of purposeful adventures sabotaged by real-world needs.

        I’ll avoid Atlantic City. But NYC is where my heart sits.

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