Fetch, old Rover!

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

I don’t necessarily prescribe to that belief.  We’ve somehow taught our 13 year old dog to not climb stairs any more.

She just stands at the top or bottom, depending on the intended direction, and whines.  We will then grab her like a football, and give her a free ride.  Luckily, she only weighs about 15 pounds, so its easy enough to do.  Maybe it’s a trick that she taught us…

Even if you haven’t had any luck with getting a senior pooch to roll over or walk around on it’s hind legs, it doesn’t mean that they can’t learn how. They probably just can’t be bothered.  They’ve wised up to the stupid pet tricks we try to put them through, just to get a treat we’d give them anyway.

At some point, we, like old dogs, figure out what we just won’t put up with any more.

When you’re young, pliable, and more eager than wise, you’re willing to do just about anything asked of you.  This is particularly true in the workplace.

Case in point;  In my earlier working days, I was employed at a printing factory.  The tenured ‘pressmen’, who had been on the job for decades would perform innocent hazing routines on any newbie that wandered into their lair.

They would hand the fresh new meat a plastic pail and tell them to go and get it filled with ‘blue smoke’ for the next press run.  The eager youngster would grab the bucket and scamper away, like it was a quest for the holy grail.

Of course, there is no such thing as ‘blue smoke’, and most of the other workers in the plant knew it, but they’d send the poor kid on a fruitless scavenger hunt for hours.

The bully pressmen would sometimes alternate this trick and ask the rookie to go and get the ‘paper stretcher’ from another pressman.  Again, no such thing as a paper stretcher, and the other workers would play along.

Try that with a 50 year old.  They’d never fall for it, because they’re wise enough to probe before ever lifting a finger:

  • “Sounds unhealthy. It might aggravate my hypertension”
  • “Don’t you have someone else who can do it?”
  • “How heavy is it?  I have a hernia.”
  • “Why don’t you get it, and show me for next time?”

It’s like the old dog.  You hold up a treat and they might sit, but anything more than that, and they’ll probably just go and lay down, with a look that says ‘If this stupid snack is so great, why don’t you eat it?‘.

Well, this old dog is learning a new trick.

I started a new job on Monday, after a 6 month ‘vacation’, and there are a lot of new tricks that I’m expected to execute in short order.

I know that I need that treat, so I’m willing to do what has to be done.  Don’t get me wrong – they’re not asking me to do anything like search for blue smoke or paper stretchers.

During my orientation, there was a sign-up sheet to join the company volley ball team.  20 years ago, I would have run out at lunch and bought knee pads and court shoes.  Now? I’ll just sit in the shade and watch.

On the upside, having seen around a few corners during my life, I’m more likely to offer candid feedback to my new employer.

“Do you mind sitting down?  When you walk around behind me, you make me nervous.”,or “I pretty much know everything in this section.  Can we just do the assessment and move on to the next chapter?  It’ll save the company time and money.”

No freshman would ever say stuff like that!

I have to say that the training has been going well.  My trainer commented on how refreshing it is to work with someone who already knows a few things.  I’ll do the ‘come here’ thing, but I won’t roll over or jump through hoops.  I think he respects that.

I can’t wait for the next training session, though:  Overcoming Objections.  Not a problem for this old dog.  Picture it:

“Hello, this is Troy from XYZ Company.  I’ll be in your area next week and wanted to drop by to show you our new winter catalogue”.

“Oh, we really don’t need anything at this time”.

“I understand – that’s because you haven’t seen the catalogue yet.  How’s 10:00 on Tuesday?”

“No thanks.  That won’t work for me.  Thanks, anyway”.

“Of course.  How about I get there at 9:00? That way you can get on with your busy day once we’re done.  How do you like your coffee?  Regular? Black?”

“I like regular, but…”

“Great!  Regular it is. See you at 9”.

You see, the old dog knows how to get the treat without doing a bunch of humiliating stunts.  They’ll just wander over and help themselves.  No ‘shake a paw’ or ‘lay down’ nonsense.

The trick, I think, is to balance things by providing a solid reason for your existence, otherwise it’s off to that farm in the country that your parents told you about when you were a kid.

If you’re not cute, you better be handy!

You’ll have to show loyalty, intelligence, hard work, great intuition and leadership, or they’ll decide they find the naive young ones more entertaining and valuable, playing dead or chasing their tails for a bland snack.

So, for this aging pooch, it’s off the fuzzy blanket, and out corralling the herd for a few more years.  Maybe I’ll get a scratch behind the ear if I do a good job.

The Deliberate Blog

I’m starting to see a pattern with my blogs.  At least, I see a pattern of viewer feedback, or lack thereof, depending on my topics.  (ROB FORD)

I want to try something a bit different this time, and cover a bunch of topics that I’ve had collecting dust on my thought shelf.  (GUN CONTROL)

You see, I think that some subjects resonate more than others, so even when you think you’ve got a totally awesome blog written, you sometimes come up empty on ‘likes’, comments, and site hits.  (STEROIDS)

This blog will contain very subtle subliminal messages, that you won’t see, but that will trigger a subconscious reaction you will want to act upon.  This has been tried with laboratory rats, but unfortunately they can’t read, so the results were inconclusive.  The good news is only 3 of the 5 rats died – something about a gas leak in the lab.  (DISCRIMINATION)

With that little nugget of information, you can understand why I’m writing a blog that covers a myriad of topics.  I need feedback! (MILEY CYRUS)

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I was watching one of those home video shows, where people submit things like Grandpa blowing out the candles on his birthday cake, and instead, launching his dentures into the now ruined dessert.  There was a brief video of a little kid in a karate Gi, kicking his father where a father shouldn’t be kicked.  (UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE)

That happened to me.  My daughter was about 4 (probably older, but the memory is the first to……..what was I saying?), and we had her in karate lessons.  The Gi was so big on her, that my wife had to hem the pants completely in half just to make them short enough.  She was adorable!  (SYRIA)

We were in the kitchen, and I was helping her to practice breaking out of a hold.  She was to use her wrist to hit mine, getting me to let go of her, then she was to kick me ‘in the nuggets’ to try to knock me down, then run away.  Of course, we were doing this all in pretend, and in slow motion so she could remember what to do.  (ASSISTED SUICIDE)

We were both laughing while she gingerly moved her hand down to break my grip.  I let go of her, then asked her what came next.  She said ‘Oh yeah’, then like some miniature ninja, sprung up, and swung her little foot as high and as hard as she could, connecting with the ‘nuggets’ perfectly. (CHINA)

I hit the ground like a bag of hammers, the wind knocked out of my lungs.  As I hit the floor, she then completed the move by kicking me once more then running away.  Once I came to, I couldn’t decide if I was more proud or in pain.  All I could do was squeak out ‘go get your mother’.  (CRACK COCAINE)

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I read an article once, where a business leader was tasked with opening a new office.  After looking at some best practices, consulting with other professionals, and digging into what new employees want, he came to the conclusion that he wouldn’t open any office at all.  (CREATIONISM)

Instead, he set up the new business completely as a ‘tele-commute’ operation.  Every employee would work from their own homes, and connect through the cloud to conduct their business or hold meetings.  (WORLD HUNGER)

I’m starting to wonder if some schools and other institutions should try to follow the same model.  I live in an area of rapid growth.  The elementary school, which is less than 10 years old, has had to split it’s higher grade students into the local high school because of overcrowding.  Bad planning?  Maybe.  The trouble is, we invest in these static, very expensive structures that can’t mold with the changing demographics.  In other areas of the same school board, classrooms sit empty because the school-aged population has moved away.  (DISTRACTED DRIVING)

We need to take a different approach to urban/suburban development so that we can grow and shrink with the needs of the community.  Perhaps this business leader can be the genesis of a completely new way of blueprinting community development.  (CLIMATE CHANGE)

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Last weekend, our son was home from university to visit my father.  We took him and his girlfriend back right around supper time (how convenient!).  We decided to hit a restaurant near the school.  When we got there, the hostess said we could choose to sit in the restaurant side or the lounge side, where all those giant flat screen TV’s are blasting sporting events. (GAMBLING)

Just as the overly friendly hostess grabbed a stack of menus, a small herd of screaming kids trampled past us at 150 decibels in the restaurant side.  The lounge won.  I can learn to like cricket!  (OBESITY)

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There must be a universal force that overrides peoples brains when they park.  In our neighbourhood, the streets are the perfect size for cars to pass each other, going in opposite directions.  That’s what they were built for.  Sometimes cars will park on the street, making it a bit of a tight squeeze when cars pass at the same time.  (CULTS)

Here’s what I don’t understand.  When there is a car parked on one side of these narrow streets, what cosmic force tells another driver to park EXACTLY across from them on the other side of the street?  It happens all the time, and virtually grinds local traffic to a standstill.  (ABORTION)

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I hope you enjoyed my little ‘kitchen sink’ blog of random topics, and I want to thank you for participating in my subliminal messaging experiment on the responses to blogs.  (GAY MARRIAGE)

As an FYI, I have now found work, so this may be my last blog since I’ll be so busy.  Hope you had as much fun reading them as I’ve had writing them.   (BACON)

The Long Goodbye

I’ve been told that I’m not very good at saying goodbye.  It’s true.

In my younger High School and College years, when I was ready to leave a party, I would tell people that I was going to the bathroom or something, then slip away for the night.  I found this easier than having to deal with the awkwardness of justifying why I was leaving so early, being pressured into staying a bit longer, or feeling like I had to set up the next get together before I left.

Even now, I don’t have the leaving thing figured out.  I tend to linger too long at the door, or talk  too long with people with my jacket in hand.  I can’t just shake hands, say thank-you and goodnight, then leave.

It seems there’s a sense of urgency to cover all the ground you didn’t get to during your visit, and let’s face it, it’s a point in the get together when you have the hosts undivided attention.

I wish I could do it like they do in the movies.  Grab my coat and hat, open the door with a wide wave, and announce to the entire party, “Goodnight everyone!  Until we meet again”.  Then I’d take a deep bow, turn and leave.  That would be a classy thing to do, but it’s not very realistic, and my hosts would probably take away the car keys and call me a cab.

I feel like I have to tie up all the loose ends before I go – to reconcile my relationship, ensuring our next encounter starts on a good footing.

There’s a direct correlation between the length of the exit and the closeness of the people I’m with.  When meeting strangers, a simple ‘nice to meet you’ and a handshake is just fine.

For most other farewells, I stumble over the words, and linger too long.

Saying goodbye to our son when he went off to school last year was excruciating for all of us.  We all went with him and got his new dorm room set up, picked up some last minute things at a store, took him out for lunch, then headed back to ‘tuck him in’.

Standing in the lobby of his residence building, we hugged, and choked down our goodbyes, barely able to speak.  Finally, standing with tears in our eyes, I looked at him one last time and weakly squeaked out ‘Go’, then gestured for him to head back to his room.

It was a very quiet and somber drive home.  I can’t imagine what it will be like next year as we send our daughter away to school – our baby.

I know I’ll be seeing them again, but it still breaks my heart.  How do you say ‘goodbye’ when it will be the last one?

As my father’s health is stolen away from him, we visit him in the hospital, sitting next to his bed.  We talk to him, hopeful that he can hear us and knows we’re there for him.   We hold his hand, and feel the strength in his grip, even though he can’t really open his eyes or talk to us.

Dad is not a huge man, but was every bit a ‘man’s man’ when we were growing up.  He ruled our household as most fathers did back in the ’60’s, with authority and control.

With four sons and no daughters, our home was testosterone soaked, and Mom would do her best to balance things emotionally.  Family hugs were not part of the landscape, but we didn’t lack in connectedness.

Dad was tough on us, but he was also the first one to do almost anything for us.  Any sport we wanted to try, he would do his best to scrape together enough money to buy us the equipment, then stand, often in the freezing cold to watch us play.

Our house was loud and busy.  I was in our old neighbourhood a couple of weeks ago, and drove by the house we grew up in.  It’s still standing proudly, and has weathered the storm of 50 years of life and of us – a testament to the builder.

So many memories, both good and bad, came flooding back to me.  Playing in the yard, or on the street with our friends or getting into trouble with them.  I wonder what became of all of them? We’ve long lost touch.

One of the things that stands out for me, was how Dad was able to instill in us a sense of loyalty, pride and duty to our family.  We tried our best to stand up for each other, and were the first to call each other out when one of us went off the rails.  Nothing was more important than taking care of each other and keeping our good name.  One bad deed reflected on all of us.

We still have that instinct, many years later.

We come together, the ‘Pulchinski Boys’, to check in on him when we can, hoping that Dad will be awake and talking.  Those hopes are fading, and we know it.  I think the reality is that we are now gathering at Dad’s bedside, not so much to visit him, but to be together for him.  To show him that what he instilled in us so many years ago, about the importance of family, has not been lost or forgotten.

When words often fail us, actions speak.  We all probably wish we had that elegant speech or comforting word that you see in the movies, but the reality is, our most admirable, loving thing is to simply be there for him.

The word ‘goodbye’ will have to come soon enough.  For now, simply being present, either in person or keeping in touch with each other is about as noble an act as can be expected.

Until that time comes, I will linger at the door, trying to cover all that ground that I could not say during the party, making it a very long goodbye, indeed.