Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Part XXVIII

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.

A walk-in customer came in, towing a rather large flatbed considering he was buying just one pallet of product.  But whatever--maybe he was buying other stuff later.  He backed up to our loading dock area and we loaded his pallet on for him.  Five minutes later or so, the owner of the company, who had been outside, came in and said the poor guy had locked his keys in his truck.  That sucks.  Sucks for us, too, if any other customers come while he's in the way, but mostly I was sympathetic.  :-)  Figured he'd call roadside assistance or whatever, so we went about our business.

Another ten minutes or so, and the guy came in.  He just kind of stood in front of my desk.  Silently.

I asked if I could help him, and he kind of mumbled something.  I obviously looked at him like "Huh?" so he said he'd locked his keys in his truck.  Except he only used about every other word from that sentence.  If my boss hadn't already said as much, I still would have had no clue what he was saying.  Anyway, I said that yeah, I'd heard that, and it sucks.  I asked if there was anything I could to do help.  He just kind of stood there.  I asked if he needed a phone.  He didn't know who he would call.  Um, do you have AAA or roadside assistance?  Something sparked in his brain and he started rummaging through his wallet.  He came up with a AAA card.  Great!  He handed it to me.  Uh, not gonna do me any good.  I again offered him a phone.  He looked at me like I had three heads.  "You know, to call AAA?"  Ah!  Yes, he'd like to call them.  But what number should he call?  I pointed to the 800 number at the bottom of the card.  Oh.  Okay.  He continued staring at me.  I gave him my business card and pointed to our address so he'd know where to tell them to go.  And again offered the phone.  "No, I have a cell phone."  Okay, then.  He wandered back out the door.

Another customer did come, but we manged to get them loaded where they parked, without them having to navigate around the pickup and trailer taking up most of the loading area.  Then next time I looked outside, the guy with the keys locked in was gone.  I don't know if AAA came in record time, or if one of our employees ended up helping him break into his truck or what.  But wow.  That was one of the weirdest encounters I've had in a while.  And I see quite a few truck drivers every week.  :-)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Ridin' on the Ranch

Nathan and I got to ride together again, this time with Shar along too, on Flash.  We just rode out from her house, so we fetched the horses and tacked up pretty leisurely.  Shar had a new saddle she was trying, so she had adjustments to make, and mounted up first so I could help with stirrup adjustments if they were needed, and eventually we set off.  Oddly, Arya acted all weird as we left the driveway, even though there was nothing out of the ordinary that I could sense, and she hadn't batted an eye at the garage sale signs a few weeks okay.

She was a little "up" for her--perky and ready to trot at a moment's notice, and very ears-forward even when she was following other horses, but she didn't do anything naughty or ACTUALLY spooky.  Just had me on high alert along with her, just in case.

For her part, Dalai did GREAT on the stretch riding away from the house.  Shar had Nathan keep the lead rope attached, just in case, and even held it as they rode out the driveway, but soon turned the rope back over to Nathan and he was on his own, and they did great together.  I don't think she even tried to turn back toward home, but if she did, he nipped it in the bud, as she never DID actually turn toward home.

We moseyed on down the road, did a little trotting (and Shar did end up needing to adjust the stirrups on her new saddle after all), and so forth.  There was a big plastic tub along the side of the road, and Flash and Dalai both sniffed it (Arya and I were further away, and she didn't even give it the side-eye), and it was a non-event.  Then we got to the place that has turkeys.  They also have horses and random wooden structures (soon-to-be chicken coops?  they were just frames, though).  Flash didn't bat an eye at any of it.  Arya's been by the place enough not to care about the turkeys, but she was pretty sure some of the wooden structures were new, and kind of craned her neck at them as we walked by.  But Dalai heard the turkeys gobbling away and was like "Oh NO I don't!" and tried to spin around for home.

Nathan was having a hard time getting her to obey him, so Shar grabbed the rope to keep her from being able to spin around, and ponied him past the turkeys.  Once Dalai was calmer, she had Nathan practice a couple tight tuns (rein to hip, horse's head to rider's knee/foot).  We took a little singletrack trail uneventfully, and then back on the next section of gravel road, I was riding alongside Nathan and Dalai, and noticed the slack part of the rope between the saddle and halter was getting pretty long, so was trying to coach Nathan through shortening it and tying it to the horn.  He wasn't understanding what I was saying, so we both halted, and I was reaching over to get the rope, but he still had the reins in his hands as well as the rope, so I had him drop the reins onto her neck so I could grab just the rope, and she put her head down to rub it on her legs, and then the reins were up around her ears.  Oh SH*T.  Shar hopped off, and I tried to snatch the reins as she turned toward home right next to me, but missed, so I cut her off with Arya to block her path toward home, which paused her long enough for Shar to catch her.  She got the rope secured and everything, and we set off again.  Crisis averted, but sheesh!  I was kind of frustrated with Nathan for not grokking what I was trying to tell him about the rope in the first place, and kind of irritated with myself for not having him clip the breastcollar through the reins, at least, to keep them from getting up around her head.  All's well that ends well, though.

We continued on our ride, mostly moseying, occasionally trotting.  When we headed north on a pretty exposed chunk of road/trail (not much windbreak from trees), it was COLD.  There was a slight breeze we hadn't noticed when not headed directly into it and/or with better protection, and the socked-in clouds had never really burned off, and it was just COLD.  I was only wearing a sweatshirt (though with my crash vest over top, it was fine for most of the ride), so my arms were getting pretty chilly and my feet were cold throughout the ride.  I had gloves to keep my hands warm, though.  But Nathan, even WITH gloves and a fairly windproof (though not very insulated) jacket, was FROZEN.  Poor kiddo.  At one point, Shar asked whether we wanted to take the scenic route back home or the more direct route, and Nathan voted very hard for the direct route.  Shar had fingerless gloves, so her hands were cold, but she has a very well-trained horse who DIDN'T try to dart for home, so she would just rest the reins on his neck and put her hands in her pocket.  I'm not that brave!

Once we turned toward home, of course Arya picked up the pace, though she wasn't as sluggish as usual, maybe due to the cold weather.  On all the singletrack we traveled, we practiced the "stop and let the others get ahead of you" thing.  For one thing, it's good to work on leaving plenty of space between us and the horse in front of us.  For another, it's good for Arya to learn that the world doesn't end when the other horses get out ahead of us, even if they're briefly out of sight behind a tree.  And of course it's good for her to learn to stand still even as others are walking away from her.  So I'd halt, maybe ask her to back up a few steps (depending on the terrain), and then we'd stand for a few seconds.  If she stood quietly, I'd ask her to walk and we'd catch back up to the others pretty quickly.  A couple times, she was antsy to go again, NOT standing quietly, so I'd remind her with the reins and my seat that NO, we were standing still now, then release the reins and give her a chance to "make a mistake."  Eventually she stood still.  One time, though, it took a few tries and we got pretty far behind.  She apparently decided to catch up by trotting (which she NEVER does, she just walks fairly fast until we catch up) while we were going downhill and between/under some trees I would have rather not been trotting between/under.  But we survived, and I got her back to a walk without much ado.  Sheesh, though.  The ONE time she decides to trot without me asking her to!

Then we got back to the road and did some more trotting.  Arya wasn't in a huge hurry, so the others got a bit ahead of us, and THEN she decided she'd prefer to close the gap.  Something about her gait told me she wanted to canter, but I wasn't totally comfortable with the idea of her cantering, possibly galloping, etc., to catch up to the others, so I kept reminding her with the reins that we weren't going to canter.  She tossed her head a bit, and kept "asking" to canter, but was pretty good about just trotting quickly.  We got a little closer to the others, plus hit a steeper uphill section, so I went ahead and sat a little deeper and let her canter.  We did 8 or 10 strides or so.  Her gait felt coordinated (the trainer was worried about her potentially cross-firing based on a really amped-up round pen session), but it was very UP.  Her energy went a lot into the upward direction, and not as much into the forward direction as you would expect based on her exuberance.  Our top speed the entire ride was 9.9 mph, so NOT super fast, even though it sounded/felt fast at the time.  Ha!  We caught up to the others and she broke into a trot without me even asking, so that was another successful canter.  Woo!

Arya and I led most of the way back, since she'd got a pretty fast walk when she's headed home.  :-)  And she can use the experience of leading, though of course it's not as beneficial on "home turf."  Or at least you would think it wouldn't be.  On a piece of singletrack, she stopped and stared off to her right.  I have no idea what she thinks she saw, but I didn't see anything, so I let her look for a few seconds, and gathered my courage as well, and squeezed her on.  She wouldn't go, so I whapped her with the whip.  She went, but kept her eyes and ears trained to the right for quite a few strides.  Weird.  But she eventually got over it.  We passed the turkeys without incident (yes, we retraced some of our steps on the exact same stretch of road we'd headed out on), and then Arya spooked somewhat big for her (still pretty much stopping and staring, then proceeding while giving a WIDE berth to the scary thing) at some random farm machinery that had BEEN THERE when we'd passed it 90 minutes earlier.  Silly girl!  We survived passing that equipment, and she was pretty good the rest of the way home.

Our last trot session of the ride, before walking the rest of the way home for both training and sweat (at least for Arya) reasons, Arya was lagging behind the others, and in no hurry to catch up.  Then she tossed her head like I was holding her back (silly girl, I wasn't!).  She's so confused--I don't care about catching up to the others, but you better not be trying to stop me from going faster!

We walked the rest of the way home on a nice loose rein, all three horses, put the ponies away, and headed inside to warm up.  Shar made us hot cocoa and remedied the fact that neither Nathan nor I had seen National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and Richard went and fetched pizza for all of us from town.  Wow, spoiled much?  It was a great day, and a great ride.  Poor Nathan was frozen through and through, but I think he had a good time, and he claims he isn't sore today (the day after), so clearly we need to increase the mileage.  :-)

All photos are courtesy of Shar, with the fingerless gloves.  I was too lazy to take off gloves, take phone out of pouch, take photos, put phone back, put gloves on.  Thanks, Shar!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Riding in a Shooting Range

Shar and I needed to go riding.  Not just wanted, needed.  And needed a good trail ride after riding from home and in lessons the last few rides.  So we trailered to a new spot for us--not far from the Henderson Flats OHV area--a little further north and west from where we park to ride there.  We just drove till we found a dirt road off to the side that had decent trailer parking.  I unloaded the horses before Shar jockeyed the trailer around too much on the bumpy land, so that was a bit of an adventure, handling both horses myself while she stayed in the truck (no good parking brake on it), but it worked out fine.  The two mares get along fine.

So yeah, got the girls unloaded, Shar got parked while I stayed out of the way, and we tacked up.  We had seen what looked like a "cowboy" gate (barbed wire and a post, not an actual gate with a hinge, so you have to be on foot, with the horse well out of the way, to maneuver it) in the fence not far off, so our original plan was to ride through it and explore east of it.  So I mounted up while Shar stayed on foot, since she can mount from the ground better than I can.  However, when we got closer, we realized that while there were posts that strongly resembled a spot where you'd put a gate, they had steps going over the fence instead, and no way to get horses through.  So we decided to ride north along the fenceline instead, and see where that took us.  There was even a deer/cow trail there to follow somewhat.

The view from the trailer as we were tacking up

Same spot, panorama covering the western horizon

As we crested the hill, we saw a vehicle parked on another side road, and soon realized they were there for target shooting.  I hoped they either started shooting while we were still far enough away that it wouldn't make too loud of a bank and startle Arya, or that they wouldn't shoot at all while we were nearby.  Thankfully, it was the latter.  I'm not sure whether they saw us soon after we appeared (we were behind where they were aiming) or if they just coincidentally took a break in shooting, but they didn't shoot.  We went ahead and approached them to talk to them (if they were actively shooting, we just would've given them a wide berth without approaching them), and they were very nice.  It was a few adults and a couple kids.  The kids wanted to pet the horses, so we sat around for a bit to let them.  A dog popped out of the back of their pickup, and it had ear protection on (earmuff style)!  So cute, and safety-conscious, too!  So we communicated with them on which direction they were shooting, where we were heading, and they said they wouldn't start shooting until we were well out of range of it being super loud.  They were so nice, and I really appreciated their consideration for our flighty animals.  Then, as we were riding away, I heard one of the adults tell the kids that since they weren't going to be shooting for a bit, they were going to pick up litter.  Wow--really great folks!

Eventually we came to an L in the fence that sent us headed in the "wrong" direction, but with still plenty of room before the busy highway, so we went ahead and went west.  No biggie--we were just out exploring, and as long as we were with our horses, and safe from shooters and/or highway traffic, we were happy to be out exploring.  We came to a less-busy road (the one we'd driven in on ourselves), and considered riding along it, but decided to cross it and continue bush-whacking and finding sort-of trails to follow rather than deal with potential traffic (I'd seen a couple cattle trucks on that road going rather fast while we were tacking up).  We kept our eyes open for random holes (gopher holes to wells to possibly lava tubes--you never know around here!) and wire strewn about.

We were both kind of dealing with slightly problematic horses--Dalai wanted to go, go, go, and Arya was incredibly frustrated by walking through all this food and me not letting her eat.  She'd try to put her head down, I'd prevent it, and she'd get pissy and toss her head.  She'd give up for a minute, then try again, getting a little bit pissier each time, it seemed.  We were thoroughly bushwhacking at one point, but with pretty clear spaces between lots of bushes that were spaced apart, so I purposefully wound her all around the bushes in random patterns, making general progress following along behind Shar and Dalai, but doing LOTS of turns.  That did distract her from eating, so that was good.

Soon we saw that the fence was retreating away from where we were riding, plus there was a dirt road alongside it we could ride on.  I was happy to be able to relax on a loose rein without having to keep Arya from eating at every step, so we took that option.  We trotted for a bit, and Shar asked if I wanted to try a canter.  Now, if you've been reading this blog for long, you know I have huge fear/nervous nelly issues.  So I tried really hard to think about whether my gut reaction of "no" was justified or just me being scared.  But I think it was justified--it was a rutted dirt road, so I really REALLY didn't want her to trip (and didn't want to have to worry about tripping), so I opted for no.

We came to a fork in the road, and Shar told me to pick which way we went.  I chose left, which took us up a hill.  Good views from the top, though there was quite a bit of litter on the ground.

Cool rock formations to our right

And good views to the left

And a picture of Shar taking a picture, for good measure.  She was leaning back in order to get Dalai's ears in the shot 

We came to another junction, and took the option to the right.  It soon came to the crest of a hill that descended VERY steeply.  Shar actually remembered having been there before, and how steep it was to drive up.  So yeah, we took some pictures there, since you could see Haystack Reservoir in the distance, but didn't attempt to go down the hill.

You can see the water of Haystack Reservoir to the left of Shar's helmet, off in the distance.  Maybe.
We skirted around the top of the hill to another road that descended, which was less steep, but still steep enough.  We dismounted and led the horses down, which also made for an opportune time for a potty break before mounting back up.  At the bottom of the hill, we came to a nice smooth dirt road, which we suspected was the road that came in from the highway to Haystack Reservoir.  The road was nice and smooth, not rutted at all, so we were trotting along, and Dalai trots quite fast.  In, fact, I was nervous at first about going so fast, but then realized, "So what if we're going fast?  What's the worst that will happen?  Arya breaks into a canter?  Fine!  Or we just trot really fast?  What's wrong with that?  Actually, we're going pretty fast right now and this is actually a really nice rhythm, and the posting is practically effortless.  This is actually pretty nice."  Ha!  And at one point, I went ahead and asked for a little more speed and she DID canter.  For all of a stride or so, not long enough to even tell if she was being organized about it or discombobulated or what.  But yeah, she cantered and I didn't freak out.  Yay, us!  Shar was ahead of us, but could hear the footfalls and also congratulated me on cantering.  Woo!

It was mostly downhill, so we did a lot of walking, too.  Eventually we came to a cattle guard, and at first we worried there might not be a way around.  There actually was, but we decided to turn around anyway.  Maybe if it was hotter we would've felt like trying to make it to the reservoir to give the horses a drink, but it looked like we would've had to ride along roads without much shoulder space (though granted, also without any traffic currently), so we just called it and turned around.

Of course the way back was mostly uphill.  We trotted quite a bit.  At one point, I was out in front of Shar and Dalai, and trotting Arya.  She'd slow down more and more, and I'd urge her faster.  I was kind of curious if she'd canter.  She would not, at least not while we were in the lead.  She'd get a pretty fast trot going, then slow down as soon as I quit asking her to speed up.  Dalai and Shar cantered past us, though, and Dalai has a big problem with cross-firing (cantering with one lead in her front pair of legs, but the opposite lead with the back pair), but she was cantering properly.  Yay, Dalai!  Now, with Dalai in the lead, I asked for the canter again, and this time Arya cantered TWO whole strides before slowing back down.  That's fine.  She's young and I'm a scaredy cat, so teeny tiny baby steps are absolutely fine.  We walked and trotted our way back, this time veering off at a road that took us to the bottom of the steepest option from before, but we skirted the hill instead, and ended up at the junction where we'd chosen to go up the hill before.

This whole time, we were hearing gunshots coming from a couple different directions, but always pretty distant.  (We're pretty sure we heard when the family we talked to started up again, but were over the hill and far enough away it wasn't TOO loud.)  As we were walking along this stretch of road, we heard a fairly loud, fairly close gunshot.  Arya got startled, and my heartbeat and breathing rate increased, too, and I'm sure my posture reflected my startled-ness, too.  So she startled for a second, then checked in with me, and since I was startled too, she kind of did a secondary startle/spook.  Luckily in place or without breaking stride or whatever, and we both recovered.  Shar said Dalai didn't even flinch.

We continued back mostly retracing our steps, except instead of the bushwhacking leg that roughly followed the road, we actually rode on the shoulder.  Only a couple of trucks passed us, and they were fairly polite.  As we topped a bit of a grade, it started feeling like Arya was "wobbly."  Not like she'd actually fall over, but like that feeling you get at the end of a long hike, like your legs are jiggly?  We had done a bit of steep downhill, and most of the ride was either uphill or downhill instead of flat, but it wasn't SUPER intense.  I mentioned it to Shar, and she watched her move and didn't notice anything too obvious.  I was worried Shar would think I was just making stuff up, but she believed me.  :-)  At one point it did feel kind of like Arya was thinking of letting her legs buckle and dropping down to the ground (as she did once before while I was riding her!), but she didn't.  I thought of getting off and walking her, but that would have taken longer, but vowed to do so on the downhill part if she still seemed wobbly by then.  But she ended up feeling better, or I just got used to it or something, so I rode her all the way back to the non-gate just before the trailer.  The only other weird incident that happened the rest of the ride back was that she broke into a trot for no reason I could discern, but she slowed down again right away too.  Just unlike my lazy pony, especially given how tired she seemed.

But yeah, it was a nice ride.  When we got back, I made sure Arya drank well before turning her loose to eat her food, and while she was drinking, I did my best to get some pitch/sap out of her mane so it wouldn't become a giant dreadlock.  Then Shar and I soaked in her hot tub for a while (I stashed a swimsuit in her spare bathroom a long time ago for just such an event, or a last-minute decision to swim in her community pool, but hadn't used it until now), and I went home and crashed.  And became VERY sore for the next two days.  The fronts of my thighs, so either from posting (and we didn't trot THAT much more than I'm used to) or the short but steep downhill hike.  I suspect the latter.

Oh, and for mid-November, it was very warm, and not too windy or anything--VERY nice weather for a ride.  I was wearing a long-sleeved but not particularly warm shirt under my safety vest, and actually felt too warm a few times.  Yay for unseasonably awesome weather, as well as good friends and good horses.  :-)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition, Part XXVII

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.

As I've explained before, trucking companies charge "detention" fees when the truck driver waits around (at either the origin or the destination, or both).  I'm sure these charges started for a good reason--if the driver has to wait around, it cuts into the hours he can legally drive, or even before the laws were as restricted as now, there are still only so many hours in the day.  So if you hold him up at the front end, then blame him for delivering late, that's not fair.  So I'm sure they started the fees in an effort to keep their scheduling on time.

Now, I have no idea how it actually works (if someone knows, please enlighten me!).  Maybe the driver codes something in a device he has, or tells dispatch and they're the ones who enter it into a computer or something.  I do know the drivers are in close communication with dispatch as to their whereabouts, PLUS they have on board GPS that tells dispatch exactly where they are (well, within the limits of the device) at any given moment.  But I don't know exactly who pulls the trigger on a detention charge.

But lately we've been getting a ton of them.  First, we got notification of a detention charge for one hour at the origin (our location).  Here's the thing--they allow you two hours "free" and only start charging after that.  So they were claiming that the driver was waiting at our location for THREE hours.  But here's the thing.  That driver was in and out of here the FASTEST I've ever seen.  Seriously, it was about 20 minutes from him pulling onto the lot to pulling out of the lot.  He was an expert parker (some of the drivers take over 20 minutes just to jockey the trailer into a spot on the lot).  He didn't dilly-dally (though we did make small talk while I was photocopying his paperwork), he was in and out of here.  The charge said he arrived here at 10:00 a.m., but he arrived during the lunch hour, and toward the end of it.  So weird.  We told the company, and of course have the driver's log to back it up, so they'll remove the charge.

Then a different driver for the same company was running late to deliver a load.  (And do they let US know?  No.  Do they let the customer they're delivering to know?  No.  They tell dispatch and dispatch apparently sits on the information.)  The customer called at the appointed delivery time, no driver there, so we called and found out they were running late.  By like six hours (supposed to deliver first thing in the morning, now it was going to be late afternoon).  THEN, the next morning, we have a message in our e-mails that they were charging detention.  Now, after all the dealings we've had with trucking companies, we're highly suspicious of whether the driver even WAS at the location long enough to warrant detention charges, but of course in this instance, even if he WAS, it was his own fault for running late so that the customer didn't have the right staffing to get the truck unloaded efficiently.  I'm not even sure we bothered disputing whether the driver was actually there that long, just mentioned the re-scheduled delivery time and got them to remove the charge.

Then over this past weekend, a load was supposed to get picked up while we were closed, by the same company as the other two loads mentioned in this post.  No biggie, we do it all the time.  We leave the trailer on the lot with the bill of lading inside it, and let the company know the trailer number they're to pick up.  We even usually leave the back doors open (our cargo isn't that valuable) so the driver can tell at a glance which trailer of their brand is loaded vs. empty.  Well, Monday morning we get a notification that they're going to charge us detention on a load that the driver literally had to just park his empty trailer, grab paperwork, close doors, and hook onto the full trailer and drive away.  No waiting for the trailer to be loaded, no waiting for us to make copies of paperwork, no driving over the scale and having to adjust the load.  It's all pre-done.  Just drop, pick up, and go.  And yet they claimed they were "detained" on our lot for more than two hours.  Wow.  (And yes, he successfully picked it up, so it's not like the trailer had a flat or some other issue that prevented him leaving at all.)

I really do want to know how these charges get initiated, but it's ridiculous that they are generated in instances where they're clearly not warranted and we have to go to the trouble of disputing them.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Riding with Kiddos!

A couple weeks ago, a co-worker of mine asked me and the other gal in the office about horseback riding lessons.  His daughter loves horses and he wondered where would be a good place to take her.  My co-worker and I named a few places, both for lessons and for just trail riding, and then I asked him how old his daughter is.  She's four.  So I told him not to bother paying for lessons quite yet, until she's a little older and bigger, but she could come out to where I board sometime and sit on my horse for a little while for free.  However, with daylight savings preventing us from doing this after work, and my next couple weekends booked up with other riding-related stuff, it didn't actually happen until this past weekend.  We arranged a day and time and I gave him directions, and we were set.

I showed up a little before he had planned to arrive, and gathered up the three potential horses--my horse, Arya, and Shar's two, Flash and Dalai Lama.  I figured the little girl would fawn over Dalai, as she's a grey (white) horse.  With my son's help, we brushed them all and picked all 12 hooves, with the horses tied up inside the pasture.  My co-worker texted to say he was running late, so Nathan and I headed into the warm house while the horses stood tied like good dude string horses.

Which is when I realized that I no longer had my glasses on me.  I'd been wearing my prescription sunglasses outside, and I was pretty sure my regular glasses were hanging from the neck of my shirt.  (Seriously, when I will LEARN?  If you haven't already read this post, it's long, but worth it.)  Ugh.  Nathan and I scoured the area around the horses first, then widened the search, and I retraced my steps everywhere I'd been, including checking in the house and the car.  No luck.  Finally, I remembered that I'd helped him with tying the knots in the rope halters, and walked out to the part of the pasture we'd caught Arya in, and sure enough, they were lying on the ground.  Unhurt, because luckily the horses had all been tied, and not wandering around.  Whew!  I'd had flashes of having to wear my sunglasses indoors and at night until I could get new glasses made.  Glad not to have that hassle!

When my co-worker arrived, he and his wife and their two kids piled out of the car (I'd invited them all).  The little girl, the horse-crazy one (he told me they plan their driving route to purposefully avoid a certain horse pasture because the daughter gets upset that she can't ride the random horse), was wearing white tights and a floofy skirt.  Ha!  Oh well, it wasn't going to be a serious ride, so if they didn't care about her clothes getting dirty, I wasn't going to insist on any specific clothing other than a helmet.  (Apparently the mom wanted a photo op with the fancy clothes, and then the girl changed for the rest of the riding time.)

First I introduced the family to the three horses, then showed the kids how to pet and brush them, and let them carefully feed a few carrots.  Then I used Flash, who is AWESOME about picking up his feet and actually HOLDING them  up for you (Arya pretends like it's the hardest thing on earth, and you have to prop her up) to show them how to pick feet.  (We'd already done it, so it was just for show and "helping.")

Then it was the moment we'd all (but especially the little girl had) been waiting for!  The kids got to pick which horse they wanted to ride.  The daughter picked Arya, and the son picked Dalai.  Kind of surprising, but whatever.  So I put the bareback pad on Arya and the dad lifted her up onto her back.  The mom got some photos really quickly before she put her helmet on (with the dad on one side and my son on the other to prevent any falling), then both kids donned helmets.

Both kids were SO thrilled to be riding.  We also did a couple brief balancing exercises at a standstill, laying back on the horse, then leaning forward, then sitting with no hands, arms out to the side.  However, it was still a good thing we had people to walk on either side of the kid on the horse, as they got a little "tipsy" a couple times.  Each kid rode Arya alone, then double, just in small circles there in the front part of the pasture.  Arya did surprisingly great.  I'm not sure it would go very well with a newbie actually riding her unassisted, and she had a funny look on her face when these small humanoid creatures were being lifted up onto her back, but when she realized they were very light and her job was very easy, she settled in and moseyed around in circles and halted and backed up exactly as asked.  Good girl, and all that groundwork definitely comes in handy!

The kids got down with some adult help, then I took the bareback pad off Arya to move it to Dalai.  The bareback pad is cheap "fleece" made out of nylon or something synthetic like that, and it created quite a static charge, and shocked Arya when I took it off, then when I tried to pat her nose reassuringly, I shocked her again.  She did NOT enjoy that, and bucked/spooked a little.  Luckily the kids were far away, and in fact didn't even see it.  Oops!

I put the pad on Dalai, and we basically repeated the process--each kid rode alone, then they both rode together.  But this time I led Dalai further into the pasture, and to a little mound on the far side, where the kids got to practice leaning forward and back when going up and down the very small hill.

When they dismounted for the last time, I took the pad off and TRIED to be careful, but it gave poor Dalai a shock, too.  When I've ridden Arya bareback (just a few times so far), I put my saddle pad under the bareback pad to try to disperse my weight a little more, and it has a real wool surface against the horse, so I hadn't had that problem before.  I'll try to keep it in mind, but apparently there's not much to do to prevent it other than using a natural-fiber pad under it.

I gave them the opportunity to say goodbye to the horse, and give her a kiss.  The little girl was (rightly!) a little nervous around such a large animal, and didn't want to give it a kiss, but she did pet her face and say goodbye.  Aww...

After a little small talk and throwing the ball for the dog, the co-worker and his family left, and Nathan and I got to set off on our ride.

Here's the thing.  Nathan is a teenager.  When I told him I'd gotten a horse, and introduced him to her, he was distinctly nonplussed.  Just "eh."  So fine, whatever.  I only have one horse anyway, so I didn't make a big deal out of it.  Well, a few weeks ago, I said something about riding, and he asked why I never take him riding anymore.  Um, well, I TOOK you riding back when I had a membership thing to a dude ranch type place and could do that.  Now that I have just one horse, it's not very possible, but I didn't think you were interested.  He said that he WOULD be interested.  Well, awesome!  And it turns out Shar now has two horses that are both rideable (by her anyway), including one that would likely be rideable for him.  So I told him I'd ask her, she said he could ride with her at the endurance ride, then that didn't work out at all, and now here we are--his first ride in a few years.  Woo hoo!  Shar couldn't go with us since she was womanning a yard sale, so it was just going to be the two of us.  That made me a LITTLE nervous (I've only even ridden with Shar and Dalai a couple times, and didn't know how she'd behave with Nathan, or of course how Arya would behave with her but leaving Flash behind), but I was mostly pretty excited about taking my kiddo out for a ride.  In anticipation of the 10-mile ride at the endurance ride, he'd made a comment about 10 miles not being that far, so I was planning to take him on a route I knew was just a little over 10 miles, to see how he felt AFTER the ride.  :-)

So anyway, we tacked up.  Shar is between saddles (for both horses, actually, which is downright inconvenient!), so we used my old western saddle on Dalai, but I'd taken the cinch and stirrups off it a while back, so had to round up all the parts and pieces to make it useable again, but that didn't take TOO long.  Got Arya tacked up, and Shar helped Nathan mount up and we adjusted the stirrups for him.  Then I mounted up, too, and we were off.

So, you know how I said Shar was having a hard sale?  She had a big neon green sign taped to her trash can at the end of her driveway to direct traffic, and I thought sure the horses would at least balk at it, if not spook.  I was wrong.  They ambled right by it as if nothing was different.

However, as we proceeded down the road in front of the pasture, I realized Nathan was having trouble with Dalai.  She would try to spin around toward home, and Nathan's instinct was to jerk on her face (luckily she's in a mild hackamore and not anything more sever), so I talked him through having wide hands and trying to prevent her turning in the first place rather than having to correct her.  And urging her forward when your first instinct is to freak out that she's moving in the wrong direction.

I realized after the first couple sessions of trying to talk him through dealing with it that this was actually really good for ME.  Reminders for what I'll need to do when Arya pulls that with me on our next solo ride, as well as distracting me and keeping me calm to help him out, and just seeing someone else having similar issues to what I've been having.  All very rewarding.  But not for Nathan (yet!).  :-)

We proceeded on down the road, and a couple times, she even darted off into people's yards, trying to head back home.  He actually did really well controlling her as best he could with his non-recent and limited riding ability.  I was really proud of him!  But he was getting increasingly frustrated.  He asked me to swap horses with him, and I considered it, but given Arya's history, I wasn't sure she'd behave any better for him.  He thought she was behaving perfectly, but she was being a little annoying, and that's with me knowing how to handle her and doing my best to PREVENT antics.  She'd probably have been worse for him, and is a good six inches higher off the ground, so if he was going to end up losing his seat and falling off (he got a little tipsy once when she darted to the left to head home once), I'd rather it be from Dalai.  Plus I've never ridden Dalai and wasn't sure how she'd do with my weight, etc.  So yeah, sorry kiddo, but you gotta stick with the one you're on.

We proceeded down the single-track trail that goes down the hill, and not only did Dalai and Nathan do great, she's much faster at navigating down hills than Arya and they quickly pulled out ahead of us.  I hollered directions ahead to Nathan so he'd know where we were headed, and of course had my eye on him, but figured if she was proceeding down the trail, to let it be.  And then they reached the gravel road and she got all twisty-turny again.  He halded it with relative aplomb, and we sauntered on down the trail.  Eventually she seemed to kind of settle in, especially with me and Arya right alongside, and we did a couple stretches of trotting.

We crossed and paved road without incident, and headed down the next gravel road.  There is a trail that parallels the road, and Nathan and Dalai were doing great on it, but Arya kept trying to eat, so I took her to the road itself.  Dalai was still giving Nathan hassles, though, and when a guy in a Jeep stopped to ask if we'd seen his dog (so therefore we stopped and stood still while talking to him), she got REALLY insistent that if she was going to move in any direction at all, it would only be toward home.  Preferably by going in reverse, but spinning when pointed away would be an option, too.  Ugh.  Eventually, I got my lead rope out of the cantle bag and snapped it onto her halter.  I put my whip away, held my reins in one hand and the rope in the other (you never want to actually tie the rope to yourself or the saddle or anything when ponying, in case the ponied horse freak out or something).  I set off with Arya, and now SHE didn't want to move.  Ugh.  So I pulled the whip out and held it in the same hand as the lead rope and tapped her to get her going.  She tried to turn.  I couldn't steer with the reins in one hand, so grabbed the right side with my right hand, which already had the rope and whip in it.  But then when Dalai resisted at all, it pulled on Arya's rein, so I had to drop that again quickly, and attempt to steer with just one hand.  Arya doesn't neck rein, so that meant "ooching" my hand along the rein to get whichever side I wanted to pull on short enough that I could make contact with just that one side.  It was a disaster.  After watching all of this and realizing we wouldn't be making much progress, Nathan volunteered to just get off and lead Dalai for a little while.  Sounded good to me, and I asked if he minded if I kept riding (hard for me to get back on without something high to get on from).  That was fine, so we set off once again, him on foot leading Dalai, and me on Arya.

We probably went about half a mile that way, including turning the corner at the far corner of our loop.  Oh, yeah, I'd long since decided that we wouldn't bother with the 10-mile trip to the river and back, and we'd just do a smaller loop instead.  So yeah, once we turned the corner, both horses got a pep in their step, and after we'd gone far enough that she probably wouldn't think turning around and bolting for home the way we'd come would be a good idea, I asked Nathan if he wanted to try getting back on again.  He did, so I held the rope while he mounted up, then I think he rode for a few minutes with me holding onto it, just to make sure she wasn't going to pull something, then we unclipped her and rode the rest of the way fairly uneventfully.

We did see a herd of deer, and the horses' ears pricked up, but they see deer all the time around the house, so no antics.  I mildly worried that if we trotted, now that we were headed toward home, Dalai wouldn't want to slow down or stop.  And sure enough, she trots rather fast compared to Arya, so she pulled away from us quickly, but Nathan slowed her, and Arya stepped up the pace a bit when asked, and it was fine.  We trotted up a long-ish hill, and poor Arya was DONE partway up and begged me to stop, but Dalai motored right up it.  Once we'd turned that corner, the worst behavior from Dalai was just some head-shaking.  Not sure how much was due to the contact Nathan was using (with a hackamore, the default should be very slack reins, and he was reluctant to give up contact after the issues he'd been having, and I can't blame him, but was trying to get him to let up just a bit, but still have very little slack to take up if he needed to), and how much was just Dalai--it's just something she does.  Even as we got closer to home (and slowed to walking only, both because it's just a good idea behavior-wise and because it was cold-ish and we didn't need to be bringing the horses home all sweaty), we walked calmly on a loose rein.  Good ponies!  Neither horse cared about the garage sale sign yet again (I totally expected at least an ear flick in that direction!), and we got home safe and sound.  Nathan slung a leg over to dismount (over the front of the saddle--weirdo!), and collapsed in a heap on the ground.  His legs were TIRED.  Even mine were a little sore from having to squeeze Arya to keep her moving when on the out-bound leg, then try to get her to keep up with Dalai on the home-bound leg.  Ha!

All's well that ends well, and Nathan still seems interested in riding.  We talked about other things he could have done/tried, and how just more riding will help Dalai respect Nathan more and not pull that stuff to begin with.  And possibly trailering elsewhere rather than riding from home the next couple times, so Nathan doesn't have to work quite as hard.  Then Shar had a great suggestion--trailer all three horses to Celena's for a group lesson, maybe including a bit of "trail" riding (on the short loop), to help Nathan build a relationship with Dalai and learn good ways to dealing with her, etc.  So yeah, hopefully that'll happen.  I'm just glad my teenage son actually WANTS to spend time with me.  How crazy is that?  :-)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Part XXVII

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 had the same credit card processing system since I started with the company.  I don't know any different, so I neither love nor hate it--it is what it is.  You can swipe cards of people who come in in person, or you can go online to run the card of someone that calls over the phone.  Either way, it e-mails a report at the end of the day, and the money hits our account a couple days later.  At the end of the month, we're charged some fees.  In two separate chunks, oddly, but whatever.  

As many of you may know, someone somewhere decided that the US should join the 21st century and the rest of the world in terms of credit card security, and add chips to the credit cards.  (Of course, the PIN capabilities are coming much later, so for now it'll still be chip-and-sign rather than chip-and-PIN but whatever).  We've been calling our credit card processor every few months to ask when they'll be sending us new hardware to accommodate the new cards, and they said they'd have it ready by the October 1st deadline, and just hold tight.  Well, mid-September I called and they said they didn't have it ready yet, but they would "soon," and no biggie anyway, it's just a suggestion and not a requirement.

I did some googling, and apparently what happens on that date is that the responsibility and liability shift.  Before that deadline, if you as a vendor take a credit card payment that turns out to be fraudulent, the banks have to eat it when the rightful owner ends up disputing it.  After the deadline, if the card was an old non-chip card, that will still be the case.  If the card is a chip card and it was scanned via the chip (and not swiped with the magnetic strip), that will still be the case.  However, if the customer had a chip card but the vendor swiped it the old-fashioned way using the magnetic strip, the vendor will be on the hook for the fraudulent charges.  This scares my boss, the business owner, enough that he wanted the new technology (though we've never had a fraudulent charge in 20+ years in business--the only CC chargeback we've had was a scammy customer who ended up losing and we got the funds back after a fight).

So my boss went down to the bank (yes, WENT not called), and they told us that they partner with a certain credit card processing system, and they DO have the chip readers available, so he made an appointment with the rep.  She came, we chatted, it sounded good.  She promised the pricing would be about the same, and I asked for their pricing structure in writing.  

She didn't send that, but she sent a link to some stuff my boss needed to fill out (based on his personal credit), so I sat him at my computer (his "wouldn't open the link") and he filled it out.  Meanwhile, I still haven't received anything in writing.  A couple days later, she asked if we'd received the equipment yet.  Um, what?  Apparently my boss not only filled out his credit information to qualify, he actually SIGNED US UP without getting anything in writing.  Oops.  He didn't seem too concerned about that, though he'd been all hot and bothered about having the chip-reading equipment.

So the equipment arrived, and I contacted the sales rep, who had said that she'd help us hook it up, etc., but she basically told me to call the 800 number if I needed help.  I ended up figuring it out myself, with one call to them to make sure I didn't need a phone line, just internet.  We were up and running.  Did a $1.00 charge to my boss' company credit card, then voided it, just to verify that it worked.  

It's kind of a pain.  The old system, you had to log into the website first regardless of how you were going to process the card.  Then once logged in, there was a choice to either swipe the card or manually enter it.  For someone standing in front of me, I'd click swipe, swipe their card, then enter a couple of fields for the dollar amount and the invoice number, and boom, done.  Print the receipt for them to sign, easy peasy.

Now, in-person transactions are done entirely on this terminal a little bigger (and a lot thicker) than a cellphone.  You hit a button to wake it up, hit a couple more buttons, swipe or insert the card (depending on whether it has a chip or not), enter the dollar amount, wait a few minutes for it to finally spit out the receipt, and have them sign.  Overall probably doesn't take much longer, but my fingers fumble with the keypad vs. using a real computer keyboard, so I prefer the old method, but whatever.

To process transactions where the person isn't physically here with the card, you log on to a website.  Fine.  Slightly different format, but actually asks for less input (last system required billing address, which was weird), so it's all good.  However, the old system let us save customers' card info securely, which was great both for local customers that wanted to be able to send someone else to pick up their product, but authorize payment ahead of time over the phone so they didn't have to give them their actual card.  And for long-distance customers who just wanted to be able to say "run my card," or even authorize us to just automatically run it after invoicing.  The new system apparently does not do that.  It seems from their materials that if you pay enough, they'll let you set up recurring charges, but ours aren't the same amount every time or on a set schedule, so that doesn't work for me.  I've already had a few customers get kind of irritated that they have to re-provide their CC info every time.  So I'm starting to make use of our accounting system's ability to save the card info, but of course it doesn't "talk" to the CC system, so I have to hand-copy the information (can't copy and paste!) it every time.  Ugh.  Plus the old system would e-mail a receipt to our customer after I charge their card, and it appears the new one doesn't.  

Oh, and the online part costs extra.  Of course.  (Old system is just one set fee per transaction, no matter which way it's done, plus of course the percentage fees we're charged.)

THEN it turns out that the two systems (desktop doohickey for processing actual cards and online module for processing them long distance) don't talk to each other.  So they make separate deposits in the bank, and you have to go both places to print off the reports in order to get the details on the transactions that are being deposited.  Plus neither report provides as many details as the old system did.  WHY does it have me put in the invoice number if it's not going to help me out by including that information on the report?  Ugh.

So already I wasn't thrilled with the new system, but part of that is just hating change, and whatever.  I can deal with it, and the boss is happy that he won't be liable if someone uses a stolen card, so it's all good, right?

Until I'm reconciling our bank account and see a $10,000+ charge I don't know about.  Um, WHAT?  It, of course, has absolutely no helpful information.  In fact, the gobbledygook mess of letters and numbers looks very similar to the deposits we take to the bank in person.  Weird.  I call them, and they tell me it's from our brand spankin' new credit card processing company.  Um, I'm pretty sure they didn't tell us it would cost THIS much.  I tally up the charges we did with them, and they're barely over $11,000, so that would mean an effective rate on the processing fees of well over 90%.  Yeah, no.

Do I have a statement from them?  Of course not.  I e-mail the sales rep that we'd worked with, and she says she signed us up for online statements "to avoid the fee of having them mailed."  What?!?  It costs money for them to send us statements?  Of course it does.  She gives me the website to go to, and I do, but the account ID I use to log in to the processing website (which, of course, is an entirely different website) doesn't work.  I e-mail her back and she gives me the correct one.  Which, of course, I'd never seen before.

I finally get logged in to the website and get my temporary password changed and find where to go to see my statement.  Yup, that's the same dollar amount we had hit our bank account.  It has $10,639.00 in "other fees."  Now, we were expecting a few hundred dollars in fees for the new terminal (of course they charge for that up front), for using the website (yes, they charge for that!).  At the last of five pages, it finally details the "other charges."  Sure enough, a couple fees that do look correct, and then $10,000.00 exactly for "App. Fee."  Um, what?  I'm guessing this is an application fee, but I wasn't even informed of one, let alone for $10,000.00.  Ah, I see what the problem is--someone entered a quantity of 100 plus a price of $100.00, and I'm guessing it should just be one fee of $100.00.  I dig out the electronic documents we got after the boss had filled out all his personal information, and sure enough, it outlines the fees, including the quantity of 100 and price of $100 for an application fee.  So this would appear to be an error done by the sales rep.  Ugh.

I e-mail her, and she says yes, it's an error, and she sees it on her end, too.  She's e-mailed customer service, but recommends I call them and then have them conference her in if necessary.  As of the minute I'm typing this, I've been on hold for 50 minutes.  It's on speakerphone (which probably annoys the boss and co-worker, but I'm NOT holding a phone to my ear for that long!), so at least I'm not getting a neck-ache, but still.  Ugh.  Rep says they have very long hold times due to everyone getting switched over at the same time due to the deadlines, but I think they ought to have a dedicated line for things like this where it's their fault and not just me asking dumb questions.  Ugh.

They picked up at 52 minutes, and then after verifying who I was and explaining the problem, I waited on hold another 5 minutes or so while the rep looked into it, then she came back on the line and told me that the sales rep has to generate the refund and get it approved by their manager.  SERIOUSLY?  I waited on hold for nearly an hour for NO reason?  Ugh!  So I left a voicemail and sent an e-mail to my rep saying that, and we'll see what happens.