Work Related

Life Update

Oh, hi.

Look at this, I've had time to come up for air.  And it's bright up here.

So, I don't plan to write about work too much here on Sparkwood & 21, as I'd like to keep my job. Sometimes my judgement about what is good to share with the world at large and what isn't is skewed. I'm an oversharer. I love to tell a good story. But lately I'm becoming striving to be more strategic and logical and less reactionary and emotional, while still always trusting my gut. Always. Every time on that last point. Speaking of points, mine is that I've decided it's logical to just omit the work stories and avoid any pitfalls.

That said! Hoo boy, I've been busy. "My plate," as they say in office lingo, is overflowing. 

I am currently running twelve (12) social media accounts for six different CBS Local properties: CBS 5, KCBS, CW Bay Area, Alice Radio, Live 105 and 997 Now. Singlehandedly. I post literally hudreds of times a day, everything from breaking news to "meet Carly Rae Jepsen." Additionally, I am doing social media relations/coaching with on-air staff. 

Socialmediapapers

It's a handful, and I still haven't quite gotten a handle on it yet. I need better time management skills yesterday. Always feeling behind at work is why there hasn't been much activity here.

Which is sad.

But! I read a blog post from my friend's girlfriend about how she uses her blog as a record, a way to remember what has happened, and that's such a wonderful reason to have a blog. My goal is to record more things here starting now.


Current Status

Well.

Things are different now.

I'm entering my fourth week of work at CBS SF in my role as Social Media Coordinator. I'm pretty overwhelmed. 

I'm using spreadsheets for the first time in my life! I work at nights and on the weekends. Next week I begin presentations to "the talent." (Yes, they still call them that.) I can barely keep up. It's become very clear that I need better time management tools and abilities.

That said, I enjoy the challenge. My writing has clearly taken a back seat during these first three weeks at CBS, so I look forward to figuring out how to best manage the hours in a day so I can get back to what I love. I don't feel right if I don't write.

Which leads me to a little hint about something aroung the corner. I have a new reason for writing, a little deal in the works, that started with a short meeting at a publishing company in midtown Manhattan last week.

I'm very excited. And I'm going to ask you to be a part of it.


Goodbye Apron, Hello (Again) HootSuite

You either make time to write or you don't. It's a priority or it's not. Having an excess of time one one's hands does not compel one to write. I still don't have it narrowed down exactly what compels people to write, but I'm highly suspect that an excess of free time is a motivator to sit down and put words down.

Several months ago I gave up my media job in San Jose and began waiting tables. The goal was to spend a couple of years carving out a career as a freelance writer. I was going to go back to my roots to put that magazine journalism degree to good use. I was taking a leap of faith in my own abilities, discipline and drive. I was prepared to be poor. I was asked what I wanted to do, decided, then threw myself into it whole-hog. I was going to write.

I've published nothing since. In 7 months I've earned not a single byline. It's not for lack of writing. There has been lots and lots of writing. But when I began to explore what I wanted out of this endeavor, what I was best at, where my strengths were, I discovered I didn't want to write articles for newspapers, websites and magazines. I didn't want to be a freelance journalist.

I want to tell my own stories.

Whether in raw essay form or barely hidden behind the veil of fabricated characters, the power of my voice exists within the stories I have accumulated. Telling you what happened, secrets and all, is what I'm best at. Telling my tales is where all the impetus lies, the real reason I sit down to write most days. Everything else distracts from this best goal.

Of course, coming to terms with what I am supposed to be writing meant coming to terms with the knowledge that people will be hurt. Telling one's stories means being brave and taking huge interpersonal risks. It means pushing down the voice inside you that demands, "This is off-limits. Stop your story." And that voice is very loud.

Deciding to tell my stories also means finding myself in tears on a regular basis. Or as angry as hot lava as writing a passage reveals more about that incident than I had previously recalled. Or dripping in self-doubt. Telling one's stories is a constant therapy session. It's exhausting.

Much like waiting tables is exhausting. I had forgotten how much it takes out of you.

Waitress

 

I just remembered that I waited tables and tended bar while going to college. Surely, I could do that again and write on the side. Waiting tables would free me up to carve out that freelancer writer life I thought I wanted. Waiting tables would pay the bills while I created a sustainable income for myself doing what I love.

But waiting tables is fucking hard! Even working part-time, the work leaves me both mentally and physically worn out. It's stressful, high-impact and it leaves this nearly 35-year-old beat and with a backache. And it's certainly not as lucrative as I had imagined. You don't get to come back to the restaurant industry after a decade away, now living in one of the most acclaimed dining cities in the world, and get primo shifts at Michelin-star rated restaurants. I have friends who pull 80 grand a year waiting tables, but they have been working their way into these choice positions all along, and they are absolutely phenomenal at their trade.

Truth be told, I'm just a mediocre server. I was told by my dear friend Leo, a friend I made at the restaurant where I work now, "you're not a restaurant person." At the time I was offended. He refused to go into detail; that's how Leos do. But I thought about it for days: "How am I not a restaurant person?"

One beer-soaked evening (for those in the industry there are many), Leo indulged me and expounded further: "You care too much. You let people get to you. I can see you standing at your tables with Pissed Off written all over your face. If you let your tables get under your skin, you are not a great server."

He was right. And putting it that way made me feel less like a failure at serving. I'm decent at it. But I'm never going to get a gig at The French Laundry. Not happening.

And so, because freelance articles were not where I was focusing my writing efforts and because it became apparent that, for me, waitressing was a dead-end enterprise, I began to panic. OH MY GOD, I thought, I'm going to be a 40-year-old waitress barely scraping rent money together. The idea kept me up at night. How was I going to retire someday? Ever take a vacation? Have adequate health insurance, for fuck's sake?

Lucky for me--I am often lucky for reasons beyond my comprehension--a career angel came knocking at my door. A position for CBS Local Digital Media became available: Social Media Coordinator. And the guy who recruited me to come out from Tennessee in 2007 asked if I wanted to come back to the world of Twittering and Facebooking for the media.

It was an offer too good to refuse. It includes a 401K, sick days (!), vacation time and the most precious thing of all: subsidized health insurance. Mr. Dentist, it's been too long, here I come.

I start next Monday. I'll be back at Broadway and Battery where my tenure in San Francisco began. I'm thrilled. It's the smart, responsible path to take, and I'm so much more secure in my well-being knowing something more financially stable is around the corner. At present I fear a bone break or sudden illness like children fear closet monsters. A hospital visit would put me back so far I'd never recover.

And I'll make time for writing. If I want to get it done, I will. I don't need a part-time job to tell my stories, just the wherewithal to get my ass in the chair and put the words down. John Grisham managed to pump out best-sellers while working 100 hours a week as a practicing attorney. I can tell my tale and also work 40. A media career path does not preclude literary accomplishment. I'm going to prove this theory.

October 1st I'm back to an office job. My desk is huge, my co-workers awesome and my bank account is breathing a sigh of relief. I'm excited. I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity.

For now, that's all the life news that is fit to self-publish.


The Little Girl in the Hot Pink Candy Heart Bra

As a server in a busy restaurant, I interact with all kinds of kids and their parents. And in doing so I experience a wide gamut of familial exchanges. I am privvy to everything from unbelievable exercices in parental patience to harsh reprimands for perceived slights, but it wasn't until Wednesday that I witnessed something that made me want to call Child Protective Services.

A family of four sat at my table--a father, a mother, big sister and little sister. I approached to greet them and was shocked at what I found.

Ss

The youngest daughter, 11 years old at most (and I'm being generous here), was wearing a pale pink lacy tank top with spaghetti straps. Underneath was a hot pink push-up bra with candy hearts printed on it. I know the details of her bra because the tank top was worn low, just below the upper edge of the bra cups, to intentionally showcase the lingerie beneath. [Like this.]

I was horrified. I suggested beer for Dad and steered Mom toward a particular pasta, of course, but mostly I stared at that poor little girl.

"Could she be 13, maybe?," I asked myself. But there was no mistaking--this was an 11 or 10 year old child wearing a hot pink bra meant to be seen peeking out from her pale pink lacy tank top.

When she broke open the 4-pack of Crayolas that we hand out with kids menus and began drawing big, fluffy clouds over a house with a big green tree in front, I spun around looking for someone else to confirm that, "Yes! This is wildly disconcerting!"

I wanted to grab her up and take her with me out of there, far, far away. Buy her a proper scoop neck t-shirt and a teddy bear. Assure her that she's beautiful and valuable, even without showing the world her underwear. Perhaps even suggest she wait to wear a bra until she has breasts.

Instead I just silently hoped she'd be okay.


Hey, You Wanna Hear a Good Story?

Eve Batey and Justin Beck were very nice to ask me to talk to them about why I decided to leave social media as a career and go back to waiting tables and writing. The conversation was recorded for their media podcast Punching Down. 

Eve and Justin came all the way to me in the Mission, and Justin even brought beer. And not cheap Miller, neither. 

It only took one Day Beer to get my big mouth moving. 

You can listen to me talk Nashville is Talking, what happened after I flounced out of WKRN in a huff, how my work translated in San Francisco, how taking that job in New York was a mistake and why after a short stint in San Jose I said, "Fuck it. I'll just wait tables and write."

Hear all that stuff here.


That Was Then, and This Is Now

I got on my knees and used my hands to wrestle a giant hairy snake of digusting mass out of a bar drain, and I did it for no pay. Zero dollars an hour. That was when I was breaking my back working at Outback Steakhouse in Murfreesboro, TN.

Outback was the busiest restaurant in town with the highest ticket average per person. You couldn't make better money at any other place within 35 miles, and that included Chili's, Red Lobster and the white table cloth place out by the interstate.

I'd been promoted to bartender after years and years of waiting tables there. Getting bumped up to bartender was a big deal, and so were the tips. I soon learned that part of that promotion included getting up early on a Saturday morning with the other six to seven bartenders and detailing the bar--every nook, every crevice, every cranny--for about four solid hours.

We were paid nothing. We did not clock in. We were told specifically that this was part of being a bartender, and you could do it without complaint or not work behind the bar.

It was grueling work. I balanced on a teetering bar stool hoisting 20 gallons of hot water in a giant bucket overheard to clean the frozen drink machines. Had I slipped and cracked my face on the metal of the machine or worse, I would not have been on record as having worked and would not have been able to receive workers' compensation for medical bills incurred from my fall.

OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE

The place I work now is a corporate restaurant. The people who own it own others in the Bay Area, like One Market, Lark Creek Steakhouse and Fish Story in Napa. But it is not like Outback Steakhouse or The Cooker or large scale chains that I worked in before. Not even a little.

I am treated so much better where I work now. When I think back on how much physical labor some restaurant jobs in Tennessee demanded of employees making $2.13 an hour, I am baffled that it's legal.

Servers in San Francisco make minimum wage plus tips, not $2 an hour plus tips, as I was once paid. (Many, many servers in many, many states still make just above $2 an hour plus tips.) From my experience, when a corporation can get virtually free labor out of individuals at $2 an hour, it makes those in charge devalue not only the work being done, but the worker.

We were treated like shit. On multiple occassions a manager called us all into the kitchen to scream and curse at us until he was red in the face and beads of spit at ours. All because the people who worked there were so overtaxed that busy weekend shifts would often run on the verge of complete meltdown, every synapse on the verge of snapping. 

I am extremely lucky to work in a restaurant that values its people. I am respected where I work. The place is filled with bright, funny people who are a pleasure to be around because they are heard and forgiven and treated with care.

This return to waiting tables is better so far. In part because I am older, wiser, whathaveyou, but also thanks to those above me and my teammates. Seriously awesome people; I want to squeeze them each and every one.