Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Part XV

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

We have a customer who hasn't bought from us in two years, but called up to request an order.  He's in a location we don't normally ship to--far southern Arizona--so we had to get a freight quote from a freight company, and his freight is coming to almost what the actual product is costing him.  Yikes!  But he's willing to pay it, so we got the shipment loaded up and called him with his exact invoice amount (we had to load the truck first to know exactly how much we were shipping) so he could wire the funds.  I e-mailed his invoice and told him the truck was expected any minute and the delivery should arrive to him in two days.

So, other than the fact that the bank transfer would take a little bit and we were kind of trusting that it would come through after we released the shipment, we were all ready to go on our end.  The truck driver arrived and the boss started giving him his instructions on hooking up and going across the scales.

Right then, the phone rang.  It was the customer in Arizona, telling us that we need to get some sort of FDA inspection forms because HE exports them to Mexico.  How that's our problem, I'm not sure--we're only shipping it within the USA.  But he said it couldn't leave our lot without this certificate.  So we let the driver know to stand by (we have two hours to get him on his way, and since the trailer is already loaded, we had some time to play with), and our sales guy got on the phone with everyone he could think of to ask about this certificate.

He couldn't find out what certificate exactly we needed, and what sort of inspection would need to be done, so he called the customer in Arizona back.  He said yeah, he didn't really know either, all he knew is that he had some sort of official from Mexico telling him he needed a certificate, and the guy was like the ONLY official from Mexico who wouldn't accept a bribe!  The Mexican official won't give him or us an example of a certificate, a blank certificate, or a list of what the certificate needs to say, yet insists the certificate is necessary.  Wow.

Without any help, the customer isn't able to tell us what to do (and meanwhile, he already wired us the funds for the product and the freight), so we had to let the driver go, and we'll hold onto the load until he's able to figure it out. 

What's that saying?  "Lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part"?  Yeah.  That.

Amusingly, for once it was us (sort of) making a trucking company's life difficult.  Ha!

* * * * *

Update:  The guy in Arizona still didn't have a clue what the Mexican officials wanted two weeks later, and we still had his money, so we wired it back to him (eating the cost of sending the wire).  Sheesh.  I hope he gets it figured out eventually so we can make a sale, but we sold the product he was going to get to someone else, so it all works out.  :-)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Solo "Night" Ride

Poor Flash is having a lameness issue.  Right now, the prognosis looks good long-term, but he needs to take it easy for at least a few weeks, possibly longer.  So I'll be riding solo on weeknights, and possibly weekends as well, for the foreseeable future.  Arya deserves a bit of a rest in the immediate lead-up to our planned 25 this weekend, but I wanted to do one training ride with a lot of trotting before we got too close to the ride date, to get my legs in better shape.

So I headed to Shar's after work, and after shooting the breeze with her for a little while, tacked Arya up and hopped on.  And promptly realized my phone was sitting on the fender of the trailer, so hopped off, got it, and hopped back on again.  :-)  Oh, and I put hoof boots on her front feet, as we'll likely need to use them in this weekend's ride, so needed to get another practice session in to be sure she's fine with long trotting sessions with them on.

We headed down the driveway, and she was a little reluctant to leave.  We turned left and walked past the pasture she's kept in and has buddies in.  She kept drifting left and s-l-o-w-i-n-g way down.  I'd nudge her forward and steer her back to the middle of the dirt road again.  She'd take that as an opportunity--"you want me to go to the right?  sure!  I'll just U-turn right and head back home."  Uh, no.  So I'd prod her into a trot.  She trotted, but about two miles an hour.  Seriously.  So it took us a while to make it to the end of the road at that pace, but when we turned the corner, she sped up a LITTLE bit.  Maybe 3 miles an hour in a trot now.  :-)  We passed the creepy dogs and made it to the end of that road, jogged a bit, and hit a nice long straightaway.

Her trot picked up a little speed.  She started to turn left where we usually turn for our solo rides.  Heh.  She knows.  But no, we were doing a different route tonight, though one she was still very familiar with.  It's the route Shar and I would ride on most of our night rides, but this was the first time doing it solo.

We trotted most of the way down that road.  I paid attention when we passed the pastures that have horses in them--Arya's always interested in other horses, especially when riding solo, and if they gallop, she tends to spook and/or want to join them in a little frolic, so I wanted to be ready if she started to "bolt" (for her, this means cantering a few strides, but it still throws me off balance).  But she did great.  Of course, she wasn't truly tested--the horses were on the other sides of the pastures, and well-behaved.  :-)

We passed a spot where someone was building those "fence posts" made by filling a wire cylinder with rocks.  They'd put the cylinders all in a row and were working on filling them up, so there were like six or eight just standing right next to each other.  She gave them the side-eye, but gamely trotted right past them.  However, a little while later, we passed a one standing alone, and she figured if they'd been standing in a "herd" before, a singleton was definitely suspicious and she wanted to get FAR away from it.  :-)

Rock piles and single rocks were also suspicious.  The WHOLE ride.  Seriously, horse.  You may not have seen a lot of rocks when you were a youngun (she was born in the BLM pens and adopted when she was three), but you've seen a few of them by now, and never once has a single one ever risen up from the ground to bite you.  Seriously.

We traipsed along, mostly trotting, until we got to a stretch of singletrack trail.  We walked most of that, because it's a little rocky and she's nothing if not sensible--as soon as she sees rocky trail, she slows to a walk.  This girl definitely has self-preservation in mind.

Then it was time to cross a paved road, and head toward the llamas.  We've done this with Flash to protect us, and she's done fine, especially on the second, third, and subsequent exposures to them.  She always shows curiosity at the weird creatures, and is happiest with Flash between her and them, but doesn't really balk.  Well, today was a whole new experience, because we were alone, without Flash to protect us.

When the first llama came into view, Arya stopped dead in her tracks as if to say, "Whoa!  Did you see that?  There's a weird looking...think over there!  Did you see it?"  I put my legs around her gently (leg hug, as I call it) to reassure her that I did, indeed, see it, and was fine with it.  I verbally reassured her that it was FINE, and we were gonna walk past it.  I sang along to my music and squeezed her to walk.  She took a step or two, turned her head pointedly toward the llama, and said, "No really.  There's a THING over there.  I know you said it's no big deal, but did you SEE it?  It's really weird looking!"  I squeezed her on.  By now, there were a few llamas in view, meandering over toward us.  Arya said, "Now there are MORE of them?  Are you sure you want me to walk?  I think I'd better keep an eye on them."  No, seriously, It's fine.  I squeezed a little harder, jabbing her a bit with my heels.  She took a few more steps.  "No, but really.  There's RIGHT THERE."  So I whapped her a little with my crop.  She actually trotted a couple steps.  I let her slow back down to a walk, since it was a steeper downhill grade than we usually trot.  She took that as a sign that she should stop altogether again.  "Yeah, I KNOW!  There are weird creatures over there!  You saw them too, finally?"  Uh, no, that's not what I meant.  Continue on.  I squeezed.  She walked.  We finally moseyed on past them.

And then trotted and trotted, until we reached a lady walking her small yappy dog.  Arya's met plenty of dogs, but usually of the larger, non-yappy variety.  She didn't like the yappy dog.  The lady picked up the yappy dog, Arya breathed a sigh of relief, and we continued on.

I sent a check-in message to Shar that we were surviving, and had in fact survived the llamas (probably what I would have figured to be the sketchiest part in advance, though you never know what will happen during a ride, of course).  Then we commenced trotting again.  This was about the furthest point from home, so Arya started picking up the speed a bit.  We'd trot along a while, and then she'd slow to a walk.  I'd take a few walk steps as a break, then urge her back into the trot.

Soon we reached an uphill stretch that I'd asked for a canter on the last time (our first on-purpose canter in a long time).  I urged her on faster, but she just trotted faster and then kept it there.  Fine by me.  Cantering still makes me nervous, so cantering while alone, and on a hard surface to boot, wasn't my favorite idea, but I was gonna at least try.  As we got to the top of the hill, her speed slowed, eventually slowing to a walk.  So we took a little walk break.

Then we crossed the paved road, trotted a single-track trail along the road, and got back to a nice wide dirt road again.  We trotted and trotted some more.  There was a scary stump, some scary rocks, and some mildly scary signs, but the worse she did was swerve to varying degrees (barely noticeably for signs, much more severely for rocks, but never enough to really unseat me).

We got to a spot where a resident had apparently watered down the dirt road to avoid dust, so it was a darker color than the road before and after it, and darker in some spots than others, kind of blotchy.  Arya was convinced that this meant there would be the dreaded WATER somewhere nearby.  She lowered her head and kind of cocked it sideways, decided it was dry enough to set feet on, and we proceeded.  But her trot was uneven, and she kept checking that the footing was solid.  Silly girl.

We came to the end of the dirt road, and had to cross a grassy (well, mostly natural, which includes bunches of wild-ish grass, we're not talking lush lawn here or anything) area.  Of course Arya would have really liked me to allow her to eat there, but once I allow her to eat (especially bunch grass, which doesn't work so well when she has a bit in), she gets kind of bratty about it, and it was a short ride without her NEEDING to eat, so I kept a tight hold of the reins.  She grunted and groaned (literally--she is a very grunt-y horse), but moseyed along.  She kind of gave the side-eye to the mailboxes we wait next to until the road is clear, but she survived.

When the road was clear, we started across.  A car started coming upon us rather quickly, so I hurried her across.  She was like "woo hoo!  trotting will get us home faster!" and it took a little bit to slow her.  Plus she was spooking left and right at things like pale concrete driveways, trash cans, and signs (every driveway has a green sign with the house number on it, so we're not talking infrequent road signs like stop signs).  I didn't want to lose my balance when riding on asphalt, so I kept her to a walk for a while.  Good thing, too, as shortly thereafter, a young guy in a sports car ZOOMED past us, faster than one should be driving on that road to begin with, and he didn't slow AT ALL for the horse on the roadway, though he saw us, since he lifted a finger off his steering wheel in greeting (no, not that one--I think he genuinely thought he was being friendly, though slowing down a little would have been a lot friendlier than his little gesture).  I'm glad we were on the opposite side of the road from him--I'm not sure he would have yielded any room, either.

The next stretch of road went by without incident, and we even did a little more trotting.  We passed a couple more yappy dogs being walked, and Arya paid attention to them but didn't really let them slow her down much.

When we hit the last stretch of single track before arriving home, I noticed there were a bunch of bugs.  I don't know if they were moths or flies or what, but they were HUGE.  Seriously, the size and heft of small hummingbirds.  One hit me in the face.  Ugh.  But we survived those and reached the paved road we needed to cross one last time.

But Arya didn't want to stop--she wanted to march on across the road toward home.  However, there were cars coming, so that wasn't a good idea.  I halted her, but she kept prancing.  Really need to work with her on how *I* get to choose the speed (even if it's zero mph) whether we're headed away from home or toward home.  Amazing the difference from one end of the ride to the other.

We did some more trotting, and even though we were nearing home she still seemed controllable, so I went with it.  I'd slow her trot to check in, and pull her back to a walk once in a while, and she was pretty good with it.  She wanted to turn left to take the short way home, though, so I decided we'd take the long way instead.  She didn't like that much, but got over it pretty quickly.  So we trotted some more.  She thought that was pretty great, but soon quit being as rate-able, so I slowed her to a walk, and once she DID slow to a walk, we kept it there the rest of the way home.  Besides, she needed to cool down as it was going to be getting dark soon.

As we passed the neighbor's pasture with two horses, she was pretty interested in them, but when her own pasture and buddies came into sight, she didn't care nearly as much as her buddy did.  Emma called and called to Arya, but Arya pretty much ignored her.  Though she did spook at a [gasp!] rock as we went in the driveway.  Silly girl.

I hopped off and stopped my tacking app.  Unfortunately, it had NOT tracked a large portion of the ride, instead skipping ot the next part it DID track as if we'd traveled a straight line.  But after reviewing the last time we rode that section, and the time it took us, I came up with 6.23 miles in 80 minutes, which equals 4.68 miles per hour on average.  Still not the 5+ mph pace we'll need to complete the 25 mile ride this weekend in the time limit, but considering how SLOW she was going for the first half of the ride, and that even her quicker pace on this ride will probably be her slow-ish pace on the endurance ride, I think we'll be fine.  I hope so.  I'd really hate to ride all those miles and not have it count.  Though of course if it looks impossible to finish the second loop in time, I probably won't start it. stop, Still Memorial Ride, attempting 25 miles in six hours...wish me luck!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Birthday Trip to McMinnville

Nathan turned 14 on Sunday.  This past Christmas, I bought him a few presents to open, but said his "big" present from me would be something to DO together rather than a THING.  I had a few suggestions (skiing, weekend trip, etc.), but said if he had an idea that was reasonable, I'd honor that, too.  Well, winter turned into spring and we still hadn't done anything, so I proposed a trip to McMinnville.  We'd been there when I graduated from Linfield College (I attended online, but marched in the graduation ceremony), but hadn't had time to visit the air museum or the water park they have there, so I'd promised myself then that I'd bring Nathan back sometime.  Nathan liked the idea, so I made a hotel reservation for his birthday weekend.

I get off work at 4:00 on Fridays, filled the car up with gas, went home and unloaded all the horse-related junk from my car (two saddles!) and loaded it up with our suitcases we'd already packed.  We set food and water out for the cats, and were out of the house by a little after 5:00.  I asked Nathan how hungry he was--we could eat dinner in Bend, Sisters, Salem, etc...  He was hungry NOW, so we ate at one of our usual haunts in Bend, so didn't really hit the road until after 6, but that was okay--it's just a three-hour drive, so we'd still have mostly daylight to drive in and get there in plenty of time for bedtime.  :-)

The drive was fine--it rained from the pass onward, including some heavy squalls.  But we were in no hurry, so it was fine.  I'd been threatening Nathan leading up to the trip and during the drive that we'd be staying at McMenamins (yes, in McMinnville!) again--they're a northwest "chain" that buys up historic old properties and remodels them into hotels, restaurants, bars, theaters, spas, etc., often multiples of these types of businesses within one property.  When we stayed at McMenamins at my graduation, I skimped on the room fee by getting a "European-style" room, with the bathroom down the hall.  I think Nathan and I had to share a queen bed, too, but I don't recall.  He was NOT impressed--ambiance is not enough to overcome the funky smell, lack of bathroom in the room, and lack of a pool at the hotel for a kid.  :-)  So this time I'd booked a motel with a pool, but joked with Nathan that we'd be staying at McMenamins again.  So I think he was pleased when we pulled into a chain-looking motel instead.  :-)

We checked in, settled into our room, and just played around on our respective phones/computers until we were ready for lights out.

In the morning, we showered and got dressed, then went to the lobby area to partake of the "free" breakfast.  There was someone ahead of us who had a bunch of kids, so it took him a while to make his family's waffles, but then Nathan and I each made a waffle and settled in for breakfast.  They had real butter, but the syrup left a lot to be desired, as did the rest of the selection, so we decided that the next day, we'd splurge on a restaurant instead.

We went back to the room to gather what we'd need for the day's planned outings, and we were still running a little early (museum didn't open until 9:00), so I asked Nathan whether he'd rather hang out in the room to kill time or head out and do some geocaching before they opened.  He opted for the latter.  So we parked in the still-empty parking lot (though there was a Boy Scout Campout going on on the museum grounds, so there were tents pitched in the grass and people hollering on a PA system) and started wandering.  We passed the planes they had parked outside the museum on our way to the first geocache.

In this shot, the building on our right is the air museum (it houses the Spruce Goose), and straight ahead, with a 747 on top of it, is the building that houses the water park.  There are waterslides coming out the sides of the 747, much as an emergency escape slide would, except that they're fully enclosed.  :-)

It took way longer than it should have (3-4 minutes) to find a geocache of this type, but I'd been looking at the wrong structure at first.  (Phone isn't nearly as accurate as a real GPS unit, so when I finally zoomed in the satellite image map, I saw that the compass arrow was pointing me a few feet off.)  We also hadn't brought a pen with us--it was back in the hotel room, so I took a photo to prove to the cache owner we were there since we couldn't sign the log.  Technically, they can remove our electronic log since we didn't sign the paper one, but hopefully they don't.

There was another cache nearby and we still had time to kill, so we set off down the path between a vineyard and a small forest.  Pretty walk early in the morning, but I'd worn sandals, so my toes were numb after walking through the wet grass!

We found that cache TOO easily (I'd seen a hint in the cache description that let me know what it was when I saw it, though it was well camouflaged).  It had a pen inside the cache, so we were able to sign it.  :-)  We kept wandering around the vineyard back toward the museum.  There was another cache right next to the museum, but it said you needed caching tools (could mean a knife, tweezers, magnet, tool for never know, but we had NO tools, not even a pen).  We headed that direction, figuring we'd at least see whether we could access it, but it ended up being time to just head into the museum by the time we got that far, so we didn't even try to find it.

I think the biggest feature of this museum is the Spruce Goose, which overwhelms the building.  Here's a picture of just part of one wing--that's all that would fit into the picture from that angle!

This plane had a very polished propeller and nose cone, and I was trying to surreptitiously take a photo that included Nathan, but he realized that and hid behind me.  Oh well.  Selfie it is, then.

Ha!  Got him in this one!  He's the skinny black and blue blob toward the right.

Another view of the Spruce Goose, from the very corner of the "hangar."

Had to take a photo of this very graphical view.

The plane on the top left looks EXACTLY like one my dad had part ownership of when I was a kid.  V-tail Bonanza, and even the paint job is very similar, if not the same.  Doubt it's the exact same plane, though...

Rear view of the Spruce Goose.

After we finished in the "air" side of the museum, we headed over to the "space" building.  There's also a building that houses a theater, but Nathan wasn't interested in seeing any of the films they were showing, so even though the movie price was included with the admission, we never went into that building.

The base of this rocket was actually 2+ stories down below.  I tried taking a panorama shot of the whole thing, but either the top would be overexposed or the bottom would be underexposed, so oh well.  You could walk down a stairway to the next level down, where they had a simulated control room with audio from the 3 minutes preceding through the minute or two after the launch.  When the rocket on the video screens launched, the building actually shook, which surprised me!

Then another level down, you could check out the valves and such.  I was surprised they let you get so close.  And of course I'm not sure if it's a real one or a replica, and how true-to-life all that stuff is, but whatever.

Replica space suit, with a memorial to Neil Armstrong at its feet.  Again, there should be a reflection of Nathan and me in the visor.

At the far end of the "space" museum, they had a bunch of non-space related stuff (maybe there wasn't any more room in the air museum?), with a section dedicated to helicopters.  We wandered through, commenting here and there, then spotted this contraption:

Sorry for only being able to take a photo toward the window, but it's got basically a minimalistic chair seat, no seat belt or arms or anything to really hold you in other than gravity, a couple rudder pedals, all of three gauges, a rotor above, and an engine behind.  Apparently it's not actually a helicopter, but an auto-gyro.  The top rotor isn't powered, and only generates lift when there's air flowing upward, causing the rotors to spin, and THEN they generate lift.  There's a propeller behind the pilot that IS powered, and generates forward motion.  I have NO idea how the thing translates forward motion into enough air flowing upward through the rotors to generate lift--seems like it'd work better as a glider after being dropped off/out of someplace high than able to lift off a runway, but whatever.  The sign didn't explain how it accomplished lift at ALL.  Huh.

Then there was this contraption:

In case the seat on the earlier one wasn't minimalist enough for you, this was basically a wide bicycle seat, though at least this one did have safety harnesses.  It was basically a tripod with an engine, seat, and rotor.  It could be collapsed into a small pod, and dropped to stranded soldiers who could fly it out to safety.  This one WAS a powered helicopter, so while it didn't look safe, I could at least understand HOW it could fly.

And finally, one more interesting single-person helicopter-like craft:

You stand, like on a Segway, and it even had similar handlebars.  The rotors are just below the pilot's feet, and it's intended to float on water.  Eh, no thanks.  I'll swim.  Another view:

And of course it's always cool to see the SR-71 Blackbird up close and personal.  I didn't touch it, but totally could have.  The air portion of the museum had stanchions and ropes around most of the aircraft, preventing you from getting too close.  The space side had some, and in fact you can see them in this photo, but not nearly as close to the aircraft as the other building, and in fact, there was a large area in which you could just totally roam around amidst the aircraft, bonking your head on things left and right if you were so inclined.  They had ribbons on some of the lower-hanging things, but yeah, basically unprotected from harming or being harmed by humans.

A drone:

After the air & space museums, we drove a few hundred yards to the nearby water park building.  Boy, that place is NOT cheap.  I sprung for a locker so I could lock up my credit card and phone.  So now I had THREE green wristbands--the one on the right was from the air & space museum--since it's in separate buildings, they give you a wristband when you've paid so you can come and go from any of them.  I kept it on in case Nathan wanted to go back after the water park.  The one on the left was for admission to the water park.  The one in the middle was for access to the locker--how cool is that?  Instead of a physical key (and instead of only being able to access it once per each quarter you have to insert or whatever), there was a chip inside the wristband that gave you access to your locker.  Also, the lockers were in a communal lobby area, so family members of any gender could access the same one (though unless they give out multiple wristbands per locker, they'd need the right family member with them), THEN you go into the segregated restrooms / changing rooms (or one of the family ones off the main locker area), then meet back up at the locker to stow your stuff.  Seems like a good system for a place like that, where multiple people would want to share lockers and access them throughout the day.  But yeah, three wristbands was a little weird.

I didn't take any photos at the water park, but it's about what you'd expect.  It had a wave pool (that alternated between being a wave pool, a non-wave pool, and a non-wave pool with fountains in the middle of it), a kiddie play area that included small slides and a bucket (made to look like a fire-fighting bucket under a helicopter) that dumped a big load of water periodically.  There was also a shallow-ish pool with a whirlpool area that actually got spinning fairly fast, and a hot tub.  But of course the main feature is the water slides.  There were four water slides--one you use without a tube, and three you use with one- or two-person tubes.  Nathan didn't want to share tubes, so we always went in single tubes.  The first slide we did turned out to be the "scariest" one, in retrospect.  It was totally dark and had a few drops early on, then opened up to be lighter and even open at the end.  Then Nathan tried the one without a tube, but I did what turned out to be the tamest slide (with a tube), then our next trip to the top, there was starting to be a bit of a line.  I waited quite a while to ride the last tube-required slide I hadn't tried yet.  I liked that one the best--it also had a dark tube with a drop or two at the top, but it quickly opened up into a "toilet" bowl--about what it sounds like--you're spit out at the top of a bowl-shaped feature with enough momentum to go around and around a few times.  As you slow, you head down toward the bottom, where eventually you're spit out down the "drain"--a last little ride down to the exit area.

Nathan rode the slides a few more times, but I was tired of climbing stairs and waiting in line.  So I sat in the hot tub, "rode" in the whirlpool, and played in the wave pool a bit.  Nathan would join me occasionally, then head off for another water slide or two.  We were both getting hungry, and debated between eating at the cafe there (not a great selection, not cheap, but obviously easy to eat there and get back to swimming) or leaving and getting food elsewhere (and THEN the debate would be whether to come back or not).  Nathan decided he'd play a little more, then be done for the day and we'd eat elsewhere.

After we both changed back into our clothes, we headed downtown, found a parking spot, and wandered around.  I told Nathan to both choose a lunch spot AND keep an eye out for what he'd want for his "birthday" dinner (his birthday wasn't until the next day, but we'd be driving back mid-day to get him back to his dad's house for birthday dinner with them).  We walked down the main street, and about halfway back up it, and what Nathan wanted was to eat at McMenamins.  I pointed out that we could eat from the same menu whenever we wanted in Bend, but that's what he wanted, so that's what we did.  We stuffed ourselves silly.

After that, we wandered back toward the car, with a stop for Nathan's birthday "cake"--specialty chocolates.  We each chose a few pieces to save for after dinner.

The only other thing I'd noted to do in the area (that was family-friendly--there's a LOT of wine tasting in the region!) was a glass blowing shop just out of town.  I'd figured the museum and water park would keep us busy on Saturday and we'd have to save the glass shop until Sunday, but asked Nathan if he wanted to check it out that afternoon, and he agreed, so that's what we did.  The artisan was very friendly, explaining what he was doing.  He stopped for a bit, apparently because he thought he was boring us, but when I asked if he was done for the day or had stopped on our account, he started taking requests.  :-)  It was really interesting to watch, especially with his narration on what he was doing and why, and how he was affecting the glass by what he was doing (color, shape, etc.).  I bought a necklace (after I bought it, he said it was actually something a different artisan had made--oops!) kind of as "payment" for taking up his time, but I like it and will wear it pretty often, I think (I'm wearing it now), so it's all good.

We headed back to the hotel after that, and just sat around a while.  Nathan was craving sushi for dinner, and we hadn't seen a sushi place downtown, so with the help of Yelp and Google Maps, we discovered there is ONE place in McMinnville, in a strip mall area.  When we both got hungry enough, we headed there, skeptical.  It had mostly good reviews, with a couple people saying it wasn't fresh.  But it looked fine and seemed to have some vegetarian selections (for me), so we took a seat.  It's the kind of place with a conveyor belt, so that was a new experience (for me--Nathan had been to a similar place in Bend a bunch of times).  I had to ask the hostess/waitress what was inside a couple of items, but they both turned out to be vegetarian--yay!  Nathan tried sashimi for the first time--he wasn't a fan, but finished both pieces.  But he mostly stuck to rolls with raw fish, or sashimi-style pieces with cooked fish on top of the rice.  They had some dessert items, too, so we stuffed ourselves pretty full, then knowing it was a pretty early dinner and sushi doesn't stick with you long, we also went to the Albertsons next door for some snacks and drinks for later that night (if we needed them) and for the drive the next day.

We went back to our hotel room.  Nathan checked out the hotel pool, but deemed it not worth it (especially after spent so much time at the water park earlier the same day!), so we hung out in the room, played cards, watched TV, and played on our electronic devices.

The next morning (Nathan's actual birthday!), we slept in without any alarm, packed up, and checked out.  We checked out the breakfast options on Yelp again.  Nathan wanted IHOP (what IS it with this kid and chain restaurants?), but the nearest one was a long way away and not on the route I was planning to take, so we chose one of the top-rated places back downtown.  We arrived at a good time--just had to wait behind one other couple for a few minutes, but there was quite a line stacked up when we left.  The menu was limited, but we both found something delicious to eat, then hit the road for real.

I chose a different (slightly longer) route home, to enjoy the view.  I think I've only driven this road one other trip, a long time ago, and I remembered it was beautiful.  It didn't disappoint.  Usually, I drive as fast as conditions allow and end up getting frustrated when someone in front of me is going slower than I would like.  But I was perfectly content to go for a Sunday drive (which it was!) and wind my way down the road slowly, soaking in the views.  There was so much moss it reminded me of the rainforests on the Olympic peninsula.  I asked Nathan if he wanted to actually stop and go for a hike (or geocaching, except I didn't get cell service in the area and hadn't pre-downloaded any caches to use offline), but he didn't want to.  So we just made one stop, at a spot I'm pretty sure I'd stopped at on the last trip, when he was just a little toddler.  Such pretty views!

We got home around 2-ish, unpacked, and his step-mom picked him up for their dinner with him.  I think it was a pretty nice birthday weekend trip for a 13/14-year-old, and hopefully Nathan agrees.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition, Part XIV

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

Trucking companies charge what they call "Detention" charges if the driver has to wait more than two hours at either end.  It's charged in increments of 15 or 20 minutes and can add up fast.  Best we can figure, the driver gets some of the money and the company gets the rest, and since we all know they don't exactly deduct anything from their fees if they're late to their next appointment, it's pure profit for the company, and likely piled on top of the wages for the driver, too.  So the driver has incentive to plug this fee into their tracking system, and the company has incentive to allow it without question.

We mostly pre-load the spare empty trailers we have on the lot, so all the drivers have to do on our end is arrive, park the empty trailer they brought us, hook up to the pre-loaded trailer on our lot, drive over the scale, MAYBE wait while we unload some of the product if the trailer comes in over weight (but we pre-weigh them so this isn't very frequent, just when their truck is drastically different than we expect), and they can be on their way.  Often it's under 30 minutes.

A driver called last night from a ways out of town asking if they could stay on our lot.  This isn't uncommon, and since there aren't any truck stops or rest areas anywhere nearby (nearest is like 70 miles), and since we don't have a fenced/gated lot, we allow it.  I warned her (yes, it was actually a team of women truck drivers, plus we had a third woman truck driver in a different truck this morning--quite a coincidence!) that we lock up the building at 5 and don't open again until 8, so she wouldn't have access to our restrooms between those hours, but that she was welcome to come in and use them and even our break room (and coffee) before or after those times.

Sure enough, they arrived at 4-ish, came in, used the facilities, and asked about their load.  I didn't know if it was loaded yet or would be loaded in the morning, or what their appointment time was, so I just said they could check in with us in the morning to see when we expected their load to be done, and reiterated that the doors would open at 8 and they could come check, use the restroom, etc.

The load was done at 9:30, and our crew let them know that they could hook up to the trailer and take it across the scale.  At about the same time, my boss got an automated e-mail from the trucking company that said that the clock had started ticking at 8:00 a.m., and they would soon be on detention.  The funny thing is, the appointment we set with them for this load was for 10:00 a.m.  So detention time shouldn't even begin until noon (there's an allowance of two hours after the appointment time before detention starts), and their load was ready at 9:30.  Apparently the drivers are pretty sure the clock began at 8:00 and detention begins at 10:00, though, because even though they were told to hook up at 9:30, and given their instructions on how to cross the scale, etc., they're dinking around out there, trying to let the clock go far enough past 10:00 that they get a little extra pay.  Joke will be on them, though, I suppose, as we have the 10:00 appointment time in writing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Part XIV

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

Voicemail left over the weekend:

"Hi, this is Suzanne* calling.  I own a place called Chocolate Teapots and Things.  It's a pretty small company.  We're located in Sacramento California.  I was wondering if you ship here, and what the minimum order would be.  I'm looking for some dark chocolate.  You can leave me a message."

That's the entirety of the message.  No phone number, e-mail address or any other way to contact her.  I googled various combinations of her business name and location, and couldn't come up with anything.  So yeah, small company, indeed, and we can't call back to leave you a message without a number.  

Hope she calls US back!  [Spoiler alert--she didn't, so now she probably thinks we're rude.]

*All specific information changed to protect the dumb

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition, Part XIII

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

So the trucking company mentioned in Part XI, who we hadn't used in a while, couldn't remember why, and now we remember why ('cause they SUCK)?  I noticed another shipment on the schedule that indicated we'd be using them, and asked the boss what was up with that.  He said that (a) he was desperate because none of the other trucking companies could take a load that we needed shipped by a certain day, and (b) anyone can have a bad day so he figured he'd give them one more shot, but if anything went even SLIGHTLY wrong, we wouldn't be using them again.


They were due to pick up a load from us at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday.  11:00, and we hadn't seen them, but lo and behold, there's an e-mail in the boss' inbox from them.  Get this:

The original driver (who'd they'd checked with prior to assigning the load) had her eyes dilated yesterday and can't drive.  Um, I've had my eyes dilated, and while different people could have different reactions, for me it just messed up my close vision (i.e. Excel spreadsheets were very hard to read), but I was fine for driving as long as I used dark sunglasses.  Second of all, that was YESTERDAY, and the worst of the effects are over in a couple hours, let alone 12+.  Lastly, why did you say you'd be fine to drive a big rig if you knew you had an optometrist appointment and would have your eyes dilated? 

The dispatcher said they do have another truck a few hours away from us (actually, they named a town that IS a town in Oregon, but also a town in the midwest--maybe that's the one they were talking about), but the original customer who was going to have a load going onto that trailer rejected it because it has "a couple of holes" in it.  Um, I wonder how bad they are?  The fact that our loads are all well secured on pallets and/or in packaging means small holes wouldn't be a problem for us, but are we possibly talking about a rust bucket that might not even make it to the destination in one piece?  

Luckily, we ended up finding another trucking company that could take the load, and are "firing" this one, for good this time.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Grizzly Mountain Endurance Ride

Finally, our first endurance ride was upon us!  We packed and packed and packed, and then determined we were ready.  I'd asked to get off work at noon, and sometime prior to that, I'd realized that I left my bag full of clothes at home.  Oops.  So I had to run home (opposite direction from Shar's) and do a couple other errands first, but got to Shar's by 1:30-ish.

We loaded up the rest of the gear, gathered up the horses, she trimmed Flash's bridle path, then we loaded the horses and put some hay into the trailer behind them, and we were OFF.  Well, except that Shar called me when we were barely out of her driveway to ask me to grab her purse out of her other car.  Ha!  Glad I wasn't the only one forgetting crucial items.  At first I couldn't find it, and had her rather worried when I called her and she walked me through all the places it could be and it wasn't in any of them, but then I finally found it, basically right where she said it would be in her car but hiding rather well.  So I met her at the grocery store, and we were finally actually on our way to ride camp.

We parked next to the other boarders at Shar's house, Holly and Graham.  They'd already set up their corral/camp, so they actually helped us get the corral panels off the side of Shar's trailer, which was really nice--those suckers are heavy!

Speaking of helpful, Holly also went to register before we were ready to and brought back extra forms, so we were able to fill them out first, saving some time.  We took the horses up and got in the vet line.  It was pretty long, but there were two vets so it was moving pretty quickly.

Shar and I took turns registering for the ride (turn in a form with rider info, horse info, and signed release, get a vet card with our names and assigned rider #) while the other held both horses.  Boy, they're such a handful, what with standing quietly together.

Here's my first official vet card:

My name, Arya's name, and the ride name, right there in official pencil.  :-)  

We were riding the 10-mile ride, which meant we were assigned a letter instead of a number.  Each distance has a different numbering sequence so other riders and the vets, etc., can tell at a glance which distance you're riding.  As 10-mile riders, we are the lowest on the totem pole.  Our ride doesn't "count" (doesn't go in the record books), so it's polite for us to yield to longer-distance riders at the vet checks.  Similarly, it's polite for riders who are done riding and waiting for their final vet check (horses have to be "fit to continue" even when you're actually done) to yield to riders who still have further to go, as the clock keeps ticking even during mandatory hold times, meaning riders want to leave as soon as the hold time is over, yet the hold time begins once the horse is pulsed down, before the vet check, so the time they spend waiting for the vet is time they could be resting/eating/drinking/going potty instead.

Anyway, we each registered and got our vet card, then soon enough, we were at the front of the vet line.  Here's how she did on the vet in:

Pulse was 48.  Lower is better here, and 48 isn't GREAT, but isn't bad, either, considering this was her first experience with ride camp.  I hope to see lower numbers on vet-in in the future, but we'll see.

Mucus membranes, jugular refill, and skin tenting were all As.  This is checking her hydration, and we'd only just come from home, plus we allowed the horses to drink just before vetting in, so this is good but not unexpected.  The capillary refill is measured in seconds it takes for her gums to turn pink again after having a thumb pressed against them to blanch them.  One second is good.

Gut sounds are listened to in four quadrants (upper and lower on each side), and she is a voracious eater, so got all As.  Anal tone, muscle tone, and back/withers are all to check for muscle soreness and/or fatigue, and she's had nearly a week off, so of course got As.

Tack galls and wounds are checking for injuries, rubs, etc., and she had none so got zeros.  This isn't necessarily a disqualification, especially if there are well-healed scars.  Of course, if you have pre-existing injuries, you'd want to point them out to the vet so they aren't counted against you at later vet checks.  If injuries or rubs do happen during the ride, they wouldn't necessarily disqualify you either, depending on where they're located and how severe they were.

Anyway, she got A- for gait and impulsion.  Considering I couldn't even get her to trot beside me on the lead a few months ago, and that we hadn't practiced enough, this was actually pretty good for us.  She doesn't have the peppiest, snappiest trot on a good day, so as long as she's not lame, I'm happy.  She did get an A for attitude, though, so I guess the vet felt she was happy enough to be there.  :-)

We took the horses back to our campsite and settled them in with some sloppy mash for calories, hydration, and electrolytes.  Horses are NOT dainty eaters:

I started to braid Arya's mane (in addition to looking pretty, it helps cool the horse to not have a shaggy mane hanging on one side of the neck, preventing evaporation--braiding opens it up to let the sweat evaporate from that side as well as the other), then Holly and Graham said they were going out for a practice ride.  I'd been wanting to do that so Arya could get some exposure to all the excitement and also see the beginning of the trail, so I jumped at the chance to ride with some buddies she and I knew, and tacked her up.

I was really nervous, but tried not to let Arya know that.  :-)  We stopped by a water tank to let the horses drink (or rather, to show them that they were going to need to drink strange water from various types of tanks throughout the next day).  Around this point, Arya started realizing that Flash wasn't with us, and we ALWAYS ride with Flash.  She whinnied for him--that's always weird, and it was my first time being on her when she whinnied.  She also decided that might be a good time to head back to camp, but when Graham and Holly headed toward the trail on Emma and Ace, Arya decided it wouldn't be so bad to follow them.

We followed the ribbons out of camp, to where they made a hard right turn and crossed a dirt road and a ditch right next to the corner of a pasture with a cow, a dog, and a couple goats in it.  The horses were a bit concerned about these strange creatures, but we made it past them and continued down the trail.  Not too far, though, and we realized it was 6:30, and rumor was that the ride meeting would start around 7:00.  So we turned around, and once Emma realized we were headed home and she was now in the back instead of the lead, she started jigging.  Graham kept her under control fairly well, but Arya was getting a little antsy having an antsy horse behind her, and I was getting VERY antsy since that's what we think led to the two bucking incidents we've had.  So I asked if Holly wouldn't mind being the filling in the sandwich between Emma and Arya, providing a bit of a buffer.  Everything went well and we made it back safely.

In the meantime, the saddle fitter I'd worked with online only up to this point messaged me that she was in camp and I should come find her.  So I messaged back to ask where she was, and it took a while but I finally found her.  Surprisingly, she said the saddle I'm using is actually a pretty good fit.  She recommended removing a little bit of the (admittedly VERY generous) padding from the right side, as that shoulder of Arya's is bigger.  She even did the surgery for me.  How nice!  By this point, the ride meeting had already started, so rather than take Arya back to camp (FAR end from the ride meeting) and back to the meeting, I just headed there with her and stood in the back and let her graze.  Her whinnying for Flash may have been a little bit disrupting, though.  Oops.

At the end of the ride meeting, we announced a little "Green Bean" party at our campsite.  Green Beans are basically anyone new to endurance, with a horse new to endurance, or "new at heart," or experienced and willing to share wisdom with the newbies.  So basically, open to anyone willing to share knowledge and a love of horses.  It was fun to meet people we "knew" from Facebook and put faces to names and hear people's plans for the next day.  But soon it was dark, the party was dwindling, and it was time to head to bed.

The next morning, as we were getting ready for the day, Holly called me outside to see the sunrise.  The cell phone photo doesn't really do it justice, but it was kind of like when a harvest moon is rising, and it looks all huge and red on the horizon, except it was the sun.

I finished braiding Arya's mane and did Flash's, too.  Originally, we thought the 10-mile ride would start at least 30, if not 60, minutes later than the 30-mile ride, but it turns out since the two head in opposite directions on separate trails, they went ahead and had them just 10 minutes apart.  I'd figured that I'd be able to help Shar get ready, then focus on getting myself and Arya ready, but instead all four of us got ready together and mounted up at the same time and headed for the trailhead.  Shar and Holly were running a little late for their start time, but that was okay because they didn't want to start right in the beginning with all the front runners anyway, plus then Graham and I were ready to head on down the trail at the same time.

As we started down the trail, we could see up ahead of us, at the right turn, that there was a large group of horses, probably ten or so, who were all having some excitement at the sight of the cow, dog, and goats.  There was dancing and prancing.  Right about then, a couple riders came up behind us and asked to pass.  Graham and I were in no hurry, especially with the chaos up ahead, so we pulled off the trail and let them pass.  Then the guy's horse started freaking out, either at the cow or the other amped-up horses, or something.  The horse was bucking and spinning.  The guy ended up getting off and hand-walking the horse, so of course we got back ahead of them again.

In the meantime, the large group had made it past the right turn, but then turned left and headed DOWN the road instead of ACROSS it.  I hollered that they were not on the trail, but they couldn't hear or didn't listen or something.  So Graham and I took Emma and Arya toward the cow of death.  They were a little skittish, but we made it past.  By that point, the big group had realized they were going the wrong way and had turned around and come back, and were right behind us.  Plus the guy with the spazzy horse was right with us, on foot.  Great, so now we're all in one big, spazzy group.  We walked out ahead of them for a bit, then let them pass us and get ahead of us.

Graham on Emma ahead of Arya's ears and pretty braided mane.

At first it seemed like the trail might be kind of boring, just winding around the sagebrush, but it eventually got prettier and it turned out to be rather varied around the 10-mile loop.  The majority of the group got out ahead of us enough we weren't following right behind them anymore, and we picked up a couple other riders that wanted to join our slower-paced group.  One was a first-time endurance rider on her mare's third trail ride EVER.  The other gal was also riding a mare, so we realized we had four mares, three women, and Graham.  He was a good sport, surrounded by all those females.

At one point, the woman with the really green mare was riding beside Graham on Emma, and must've gotten a little bit too close, as Emma kicked her.  She got the woman's ankle a little bit, and really scared the horse, as she freaked out a bit and dislodged her rider, who ended up falling off.  Luckily, she wasn't badly hurt and got right back on.  A little while later, the other woman wanted to help her horse learn that she wouldn't die by being in the back and that she couldn't just jig along the trail freaking out the whole time, so she said she'd like us to go on and leave her behind to ride alone.

Overall, it was a really great ride.  We rode through open sagebrush, juniper trees, meadows, and a really pretty forest.  The trail varied from sandy to rocky to nice packed dirt.  The views included mountains and seeing camp intermittently throughout the ride.

The experiences included being passed by faster riders a few times.  Arya didn't love that.  I always knew we were being approached by her ears turning back (they were usually forward if we were in front, or relaxed if we were following a buddy) and her body tensing.  We would pull off the trail and attempt to face the riders passing us as they went by (rather than keeping her but toward them).  Then we'd get back on the trail and have to keep the horses focused while the others rode away from us.  I learned that trotting while the others were still in sight wasn't the best idea--Arya wanted to catch up to them.  Duh.  Doesn't take a rocket scientist.  :-)

What was funny was that the pair with the spazzy horse at the beginning of the ride passed us about halfway through the loop.  Except this time the woman was on the spazzy horse and the man was on the other horse.  We thought it was weird that they were passing us, considering they'd passed us early on in the ride (twice--right at the beginning when the horse was bucking and spazzing, then again shortly later after he mounted back up after walking on foot a while).  Then a couple miles later, they passed us AGAIN.  This time we asked why/how, and they'd taken a wrong turn.  A couple times.  A little bit later, they were still in view, when we had a confusing moment.  The ribbons are ALWAYS supposed to be on your right.  We were following the green loop, but green, blue, and pink were mainly the same loop, with blue and pink each doing some extra mileage by veering away from the green loop for a mile or two then rejoining it a bit later.  So we had to carefully watch the ribbons to make sure there was green included in the colors.  In this pretty meadow-ish area, there was a caution ribbon (warns of a turn or other situation ahead), but we couldn't see a turn.  Ahead, there was a ribbon in a bush, but it was on the left.  That's not right.  (Ha!  I'm so punny!)  The couple with the spazzy horse were directly ahead of us, but by this point we obviously knew that just because they were going that direction didn't mean we should.  :-)  I volunteered to ride in that direction to look for another ribbon to see if it was the right trail, while the others looked around near the caution ribbon.  Sure enough, the ribbons I was seeing were only blue and were only on the left, so it was where the blue trail came back from one of its extra loops to rejoin the green trail, obviously.  The others found the trail--it veered off from the trail we'd been on at nearly a backwards angle, like a switchback.  So we turned around and headed off down the correct trail while the other couple continued on down the wrong trail, backwards no less.

Strangely, they never did pass us a fifth time, but we did see them back at the vet check, and apparently they tired of the spazzy horse (or making wrong turns?) and beelined back to camp instead of following the correct trail.  Heh.

We trotted a few sections, but between all the green horses and not wanting them to think we could just run and run at a ride, the terrain, and the people passing us, we ended up walking a LOT.  It took us nearly three hours to make the loop.  When we got close to camp, Graham got off to walk Emma in, and I did the same, even though clearly their heart rates were going to be fine.  In fact, their heart rates were SO fine that "my" pulser couldn't find Arya's heartbeat at all at first, and it took four pulsers to finally find Emma's heartbeat.  But both were under the 60 beats per minute requirement, so we were officially "pulsed in," and just had the vet check to go.

Here are Arya's scores:

She got As on mucous membrane, jugular refill, and skin tenting, but it took two seconds for her capillaries to refill.  Not sure if the C means she was also graded as a C (on an A to F scale) or what.  As on anal tone, muscle tone, and back/withers, which is great.  No tack galls or wounds.  And she got As on gait, impulsion, and attitude this time.  So even if the capillary refill is a C, she was judged "fit to continue" and officially "completed" the 10-mile ride.  Which doesn't count for anything, so isn't really official, but whatever.  We did it, and she was in good health and attitude.

Graham and I took Emma and Arya back to camp and gave them some mash as their reward while we waited for Shar and Holly to come back.  Arya really enjoys slurping up her mash!

When Holly and Shar got back, Graham and I did we could to help them.  As their time to depart got close, I started tacking up.  My plan has always been to join them on the second loop (if ride management allowed), so I could log 20 miles and see how prepared we were for a 25 in two weeks.  However, I'd been having some digestive issues and had used the outhouse three times since returning from the first loop, plus they were planning to maintain a pretty fast pace, so at the last minute, I ended up deciding not to go.  So I guess we're just going to jump up to 25 miles in one fell swoop.  Oh well.  That's how most people do it, and there's always going to be a first time.

It took us nearly three hours to do the 10-mile loop, but they completed it in under two hours.

Triumphant return!

Flash still had some of his slop left over from "lunch," and he dug right into it.  We'd put Emma into the corral with Arya (since otherwise they were both alone), and Flash was on the outside of the corral so he could have his mash and alfalfa hay all to himself.  Emma was VERY interested in Flash's mash, though.  She kept trying to sneak a bite through the bars of the corral, but flash kept chasing her off:

She started to learn that her opportunity was when flash took a moment to swallow and lick his lips--she'd dive in and lick the edges of the bucket, since she couldn't actually reach the slop inside.  Silly horses.

The humans also got fed and hydrated, then we decided to start packing up and head home.  We got all the stuff loaded up, then the corral panels (again with Graham's help--thanks so much!), then the horses.  We all caravanned back to Shar's place, put the horses away, watched them roll then frolic (clearly not as exhausted as their humans), and unloaded some of the stuff.  Then we ordered pizza, Graham and Holly shared some salad they'd brought, and we all had a nice dinner together to cap off a wonderful ride.  Graham and Holly went back to the ride camp to attend the awards, and learned that they finished 20th and 21st.  Woo hoo!  Four happy riders, four happy and healthy horses among us--can't ask for better than that!

Next step--attempting 25 miles at the Still Memorial Ride, not far from (and even sharing a couple miles of trail with) Grizzly.  I'm so proud of Arya for what we've learned together so far, and ready to achieve another goal with her.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Part XIII

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

We, like many businesses, offer payment terms to our customers.  If they pay within 10 days, they get a small discount (unless they pay by credit card, as adding the discount to the fees we pay to accept credit cards would probably eat our entire profit margin).  If they take longer than 30 days to pay, there is a small finance charge (and in fact, it's only calculated once a month, so they could theoretically take longer than 30 days to pay and still not incur the finance charge, but we don't advertise that fact).

We have a customer who used to pay on time.  Rather quickly, in fact.  Lately, they've been taking 2-3 months to pay each invoice, and had racked up a few dollars worth of finance charges.  Well, more than a few dollars, but still well under $100.

They just wrote us a check (hand-written, as many of our customers' checks are) and on the memo line, wrote, "This Finance Charge is STUPID!"  Ha!  Well, not paying your bills on time is really what's stupid, but whatever.  At least they paid it.  :-)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition, Part XII

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

We've incurred charges from trucking companies for "helping" to unload our trucks before.  Apparently, the drivers get a little extra pay for this, so they can be pushy and/or disingenuous about this service when talking to our customers, and make it sound like since they're standing around anyway, they'd be happy to help unload.  Then we get a surprise fee on our freight bill.

So we added a note to our bills of lading, right above where the driver signs to accept the load, saying that they are NOT to load, unload, or handle our product at all.

Then the other day, we get an invoice that has an unloading fee on it.  I called the freight company, and the billing person said that her supervisor wouldn't let her write off that charge, since the customer signed for it.  Sure enough, on the bill of lading, just above our note about the driver NOT being allowed to unload, someone had hand-written "driver unload" and signed.  

I asked to speak with the billing supervisor, and told her that whether the customer signed off on it or not was moot--their contract is with us, and our "contract" states that they may NOT unload.  Even if our BOL didn't have that note on it, they should be calling us to authorize any action that was going to add a fee to our bill, and especially since we DO have that note on there, they should have called (and, of course, didn't).  She did agree with that, and agreed to remove the charge, but suggested I call our customer anyway to figure out what happened, which I planned to do anyway.  At the very least, I was curious whether it was the driver's idea or the customer's.

So I called the customer and asked her what had happened that day, and she said she honestly couldn't remember.  But she was surprised that they (the customer) were supposed to unload the load themselves.  Now, we do have two types of customers--private customers that can afford to buy an entire truckload of our product at once, and stores that resell it to private customers who can't (or would rather not) buy an entire truckload.  This was a store.  Their entire business model is to buy and take delivery of large shipments and parcel them out to shoppers in smaller increments.  Weird that they feel it's not their job to handle these large loads.

So it's still not entirely clear whether she ASKED the driver for help, or he offered it, but she did take him up on it (though the driver never contacted us or his company, so that's on him).  I let her know that if she wanted the driver's help in the future, she'd need to let us know so we could authorize the freight company to authorize the driver to help, but that we'd be passing the charge along to her if she did request help.  

She said, "Fine, I'll pay the fee this time, but I won't be ordering again.  Your product is too..." now, what's an adjective I can use to stay anonymous?  The chocolate analogy doesn't really work here, but let's just say that she said the product is too brittle.  Softer is better, but of course the product can be TOO soft.  But in general, being too brittle is seen as a bad thing, industry-wide.  We have a few types of products, with varying degrees of brittleness, and at first I assumed she was complaining about the dark chocolate, as it does tend to be the most brittle.  But no, she was complaining about what she called "vanilla."  Now, we do sell white chocolate, but there wasn't any white chocolate in this load, so I was confused, but once I asked her the color of the packaging, I figured out that she was referring to our milk chocolate (not even close to "vanilla," but it (along with the white chocolate) is one of our SOFTEST (in a good way) products!  She said, "that's what your sales guy says, too [um, yeah, because it's a quantifiable thing, and we quantify it in two ways, both of which say it's nice and soft, but apparently you know better], but all I know is what my customers tell me, and I'm constantly having to take the stuff back because the customers say it's too brittle."  I said that's really odd, as our dark chocolate IS known for having that problem occasionally, but the milk chocolate she got (not white chocolate like she keeps saying) NEVER has that problem, and pretty much can't due to our manufacturing process.  She did say that the chocolate doesn't go to the usual type of customer our product goes to, but another type (let's say our typical customer is someone who's going to use it in candy, and she sells this product to ice cream people).  But still, brittle is brittle and soft is soft, and I don't know how they can say our milk chocolate is brittle, but whatever.  

So apparently my call about the unload fee was the straw the broke the camel's back on this unhappy customer, and we probably won't get any more orders from them.  Sounds like it's good riddance anyway, though.  Ugh.