Thursday, October 18, 2007

Blog Action Day, plus Poopyhead virus epidemic

I guess someone decided that it was blog action day, and not just any action but green action. (Not greeeeeeeeeen!?) All I can say is that here in the Pac NW it's better than most places in that awareness is high. Apparently on the east coast, things like water efficiency, sustainable flooring and alternative insulation aren't even on the radar. One article I read in "This Old House Magazine" related that one couple hired a contractor purely for his willingness to learn how to work with green and sustainable materials because not a single contractor in their area had actually worked with the stuff. They wanted it because they'd come from California and they'd been educated to value it. Apparently in Florida, there just isn't a market for green buildings, not enough to attract a single contractor anyway. Such is the gist of the article, anyway.

Despite the constant barrage of eco-friendliness around here, however, at work I still see people ask for a plastic bag for something they could easily stick in their pocket or purse. Examples I had just in the last week:
A pack of gum (she got a dirty look from the person in line behind her but missed it)
Two small packages of cat toys (already in plastic)
A vacuum cleaner belt (which was already in its own bag too)
Two rolls of lifesavers
A lipstick and a small bottle of soap
A bottle of pop (the single serving size)
A single DVD

Then there's the bag for the bagged or luggable items. People want bags for diapers and/or adult protection undergarments despite the fact that they have a handle on them. Also, they want bags for pillows even if they have a plastic cover on them, outdoor rugs and doormats, wine boxes, the 12 packs of pop (the kind with handles,) large bomb-proof packaged toys (the kind where you require power tools to get into,) appliances, camping stuff (you really want a bag for your foldable chair in a bag? Okaaay ...) bedding in plastic carrying cases with a handle, and so forth. Many of these require our gigantic plastic bags of doom to contain. These giant bags have no handles--you end up looking like Santa Claus. BTW, if you want a free plastic bag for something else just ask. I don't have to put an item in it to give it to you, and I try to make that clear. Let's not do the ridiculous packing of the auto floor mats into a 30 gallon bag. I understand that some of these things, like the wine and the undergarments, are something you might want to hide from other customers, but on the other hand, you've just lugged them around in your shopping cart, and now all you have to do is get it to your car.

I remember these because they fill me with little Kami outrage, or at minimum, little Kami eye roll impulses. Of course, being a model employee (but a model of what?) I smile and say thank you for coming in. On the reverse side, I've had people carry an armload of stuff and say they don't need a bag. I also have regular customers who come in either with their own paper or plastic bags or a permanent canvas bag. Yay them!

On to poopyheadedness.

There must be a poopyhead virus going around. This particular strain is making people obstinant with folks that they should be nice to. In a writer's workshop I'm running I set out in the guidelines (okay, they're not laws, I freely admit that--and the workshop is being held at a pirate-themed event) that writers need to include a 500 word or less synopsis with their novel portion. Everyone understood this, except Her. Her didn't submit a synopsis, and I didn't catch it until I started organizing the sessions. So I emailed her. Where is thine synopsis? Her response (paraphrased)? I don't see why I have to submit a synopsis. What are they used for?

I assume she doesn't treat editors that she submits to in this manner, or if she does, she'll never get published. Reading and conforming to submission guidelines is part of the test that publishers and editors use to determine poopyheadedness. If you appear to follow their guidelines in good faith (or at least have your ms in industry standard format) that is a signal to them that you have spent time researching, formatting and making things in all ways easy for them, and that therefore you are unlikely to be a poopyhead to work with. No matter how brilliant your writing is, it's unlikely that a publisher will put up with poopyheadedness in today's market. There's always another writer around the corner, just as promising, who is not a poopyhead.

Even if she felt like she didn't have to follow the submission guidelines because she knows more than me, which I guess is fine (who am I after all? Well, I know a lot of the pro writers and an editor or two and I do talk to them, but never mind that she couldn't guess that) there's the fact that she can safely assume that everyone else has a synopsis and that the pros who are reviewing her work will be expecting a synopsis. When they don't get one, what will be her answer? Um, I forgot? I didn't know? Or I didn't think it was worth my time? The excuse I like best is, I wasn't interested in your opinion on my synopsis.

Also had a request to be grouped with a particular writer, and when I said I couldn't guarantee placement with anyone and promptly went on vacation, the same person asked my good friend who graciously served as stand-in for me the same question. As if we wouldn't talk. Ha! Another writer asked to be in a one-on-one. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to be all nice and PR-y to these people. Out of my workshop, so there! And if you're one of these people and reading this, I hope you're blushing with embarrassment. You should. Grow up a little. You shouldn't expect special treatment. The "I paid good money" argument doesn't fly. So did everyone else, and btw $5 for a workshop with luminaries like Ursula LeGuin is not good money, it's a token fee to barely cover expenses for the workshop.

I thought the virus must be making the rounds in just the workshop, but yesterday I had a woman come in with her completed application. I inspected it and found that one of the job description packets was missing. There are two, and when I (and presumably everyone in the lobby) hand the applications out we let folks know that they need to be read, signed and returned with the application. (There is a small group of people who think we hand out those packets for their own records, which sort of makes sense but if you spend thirty seconds thinking about it you'd realize there's no reason for you to have something like that for your own records when you haven't even been hired yet.)

"Did you get both packets?" I asked, holding up the one for sales clerk.
"Well one is missing. Here, I'll get you an extra copy and you can sign it."
I've just turned aside when she says, "Do I have to have it in there?"
"Yes," I say, opening and disemboweling another application, removing the cashier packet and setting it on the counter. "They're not as likely to accept your application without it."
"But I don't know anything about cashiering." This is not mere protest--she has an edge to her voice that says I don't want to cashier.
I resist the urge to tell her goodbye, but that's not my job. I then resist the urge to go into sarcasm mode and say 'there's this thing called training ... Instead I nicely say, trying not to grit my teeth, "Well, they train you to do the job. Everyone starts out as a cashier here." Even the people who hate it. Yes, poopyhead woman, even you shall be forced to cashier even if you don't want to cashier, assuming you want a job.
She whips open the packet and signs it, giving me a dirty look.

Is she not applying for a job here? Does she not know that I got someone a quicker interview by letting our assistant manager know that the applicant who just handed this to me was dressed very nicely and was very friendly? If she doesn't recognize that we all have to work together and the only folks who have any say as to what duties they'll perform on a given day worked hard for that right, and they still have to have to do things they'd rather not do, she's not going to be a, ahem, good fit for the team, to put it in bureau-speak. So I hand over the application to the asst. manager when she's left and said, "she was very resistant to filling out the cashier packet and was pretty snippy." He didn't round file it right there, but he made the mental note.

Poopyhead virus. I've been around enough people with it, I might catch it, so I'll be sure to take extra vitamin C and get plenty of rest on my day off.

Happy Blog Action Day!

Boy, that sounded dumb. If it takes off I guess I'll just have to learn to appreciate the sincerity and proaction of the green movement.

But couldn't they have come up with a better name?


Ris said...

I'm giggling madly about action days and poopyheaded viruses. And hoping I haven't been a poopyhead, though I have been a bit grumbly lately.

I love reusing my Trader Joe's bags. I bought four of the reusable plastic kind. I'd rather have canvas, but I couldn't afford it at the time (I'll be trading up soon), so I went with what I could afford (at a buck a piece) and I use them everywhere! And they are pretty, so I always get comments on them. Though I get annoyed at some of the cashiers at our local Target, who give me the eye when I pop my bags on the counter. I figured out why, though. Because usually they put like three things into one of their bags, so I walked out with almost as many bags as items. They can't figure out how to fit all my stuff into just two TJ bags, which is more than enough to hold what I get. Because I tend to use them as shopping bags, too, so I've already filled them and know what they will hold.

On those days when I forget my bags, I just carry stuff out in my cart or handbasket. Cheese. And then I don't have three million icky plastic bags to deal with. Unless they have paper bags; those I'll accept because I use them to clean out the biodegrable catlitter I use, which won't be so biodegrable in a non-biodegrable bag, now will it?

And all I can say is, good for you on posting the dealing with the writers workshop folk! I hope they read it and blush. They should. Special treatment in publishing doesn't happen until Stephen King level. Though I probably should say to them, you're doing a great job, keep it up! Because then they'd be less likely to show up as my competition, now wouldn't they? ;-)


Kami said...

You haven't been a poopyhead to me at least! :-)

I have to admit when I got my first reusable bag it yanked me out of my mindless groove, you know the one. How are you today? Did you find everything all right? Would you like paper or plastic bags?

I actually had to wake up.

But I quickly glommed onto the idea. And one of our regulars, a young lady who often comes in with her mom, bags her own stuff. Man, I love her. There are a ton of people who, even if they're in a hurry, can't even be bothered to get their own stuff out of the cart. They just stand there tapping their feet in agitation while I unload when they could be unloading and I can be ringing in.

Grr. I don't mind unloading the cart but you know, it is slower and if there's a long line and/or you're in a hurry, think you could, you know, lift a finger?

Molly said...

Well Florida isn't a complete wasteland. Publix (our largest grocery chain) sells canvas shopping bag, and seems to encourage their use. My favorite local, completely community sponsored radio station, WMNF (you can catch them on the web at just built a sustainable building in Tampa. And, my daughter's school has built the first all green school building in the south. The kids aren't in it yet, my daughter has spent the entire year in a temporary classroom crammed into the cafeteria with 4 other temp classes, but it is going to be very cool. Her school also has an organic garden that they actually use to supplement the school lunches, and all of the classes do garden time every week. We are way behind the times, but we are slowly crawling toward environmental awareness

The Moody Minstrel said...

They're slowly but surely starting to introduce the idea of bringing your own bag here in Japan, too.

Interestingly, it has ALWAYS been the norm for people here to bag their own, even at supermarkets, and my in-laws actually freaked out when they visited Oregon, went to the supermarket, and encountered their first bag boy!

Change is slow, though. Try to tell a baker not to put each individual roll or donut into a separate cellophane bag, and they'll panic!

Kami said...

Change is slow, but I'm glad it's happening. Much of the bagness (and a lot of the other unnecessary waste) is an artifact of customer service provided during times when there were a lot fewer people and purchases were much fewer and farther between. Waaaay back when, often when you bought something the merchant made a big show of handling your stuff with care and some items were practically gift-wrapped. But times have changed. Not only has the population hugely increased, but barter is becoming more and more rare and people are going to stores to buy everything.

So I don't have as much issue with going into, say, a store specializing in expensive perfumes and having a box that's gift wrapped and then put in a fancy bag with ribbon handles. But at the grocery store or housewares store or whatever where you're having your stuff chucked into a bag simply so you can carry your two tons of crud out to the car--what does it matter if the bag is reused or brought in or whatever? It's no longer a symbolic sign of respect. It's utility, and reusable bags are just as utilitarian (actually moreso because they're much sturdier) and the impact of a gizillion people is reduced a little bit.

But I'm preaching to the choir here.

Sometimes it's hard to look at things you've taken for granted, like city water, cheap electricity, bags at the grocery store, and the paint that goes on your house and reassess. It's especially hard if, in the short term, it costs you more to get environmentally friendly paint, or to set up for solar, or buy a permanent canvas bag to take shopping with you. And the impact of one person is basically nothing, honestly speaking. But the impact of one person is never what it's about. It's the step that one person took, a step that others may take because of that person's example. Again, preaching to the choir here but it's really kewl to think about how social change happens, and why, and what that might mean for our future.

Kai Jones said...

I have a collection of canvas tote bags because that's what I always buy as a souvenir on vacation trips. That way when I grocery shop I have a reminder of all my great vacations.