Monday, October 4, 2010

Cute Rachel

My silly daughter. I must share a story from just barely.

Charlotte was sitting in the space ship, and Rachel running around. She came up with a game where she would run to Charlotte screaming, push the music button on the spaceship, then run back. I was sitting nearby watching and laughing, and eventually started peeking around the corner at her. This made her add an element to her game: She would tilt her head and try to run like that. She managed to avoid hitting the counters and continued her game for 3 or 4 more rounds before losing her balance and plopping down onto her tummy. It's a good thing she's so chubby, because her face didn't get smacked on the ground, and she just laughed her "that was a close one!" laugh and got up and continued the game. But this time around, after tilting her head and running toward Charlotte, she stopped, got on her knees, then lowered herself to the ground and put her hands to her mouth as though she had fallen, then laughed her "that was a close one!" laugh. What a goon. I love her :D

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Chapter 11: Prince George: The Ghetto of Canada

The drive to Prince George was pretty uneventful. It was very pretty, since we were driving through B.C., but nothing amazing happened. Except that we stopped at a gas station that was advertising "fresh" fruit and I thought that was funny. Oh and there a bee flew in our car and I was scared it would sting Rachel and she would die. Such are the fears of a new mother.

We got to Prince George and found the fanciest hotel there was. We tried to stay in Best Westerns everywhere we went, because the one in Bonnyville was so fantastic. So we pulled in to the Prince George Best Western and let me tell you, it was definitely NOT the Best western. But it was alright.

I had been calling customers trying to set up appointments while we were still in Kelowna, but there were still a few I hadn't gotten a hold of. Oh wait, I need to back up.

When we were still living in Calgary before the whole camping thing, Burt went to Europe for a few weeks. He hired out Jay to be his replacement while he was gone, so Jay was with the Vancouver/Kelowna office. This office ended up moving again, this time to Prince George. They went there because Graham had heard that Gabe was planning to go there next. Which makes sense, because Prince George is closer to Grande Prairie than it is to Kelowna. But I digress. So. The office ended up moving to Prince George the week Jay was there. There was an unfortunate misunderstanding between a rep, a tech, and a customer in their short stint in the city. Here's what happened. A tech was installing a system that one of Graham's guys sold (please see description below of how pushy these reps are). The tech was trying his hardest to get everything to work, but sometimes you just run into sticky problems that don't seem to have a solution. He had called Jay a number of times trying to get help with it, but Jay was unavailable and eventually the tech just gave up. He told the customer he would be back in the morning to get everything figured out. This doesn't happen 100% of the time, but frequently it gets so late that the tech just schedules a time to come back and finish the system another day. It's not unheard of, is what I'm trying to get at. Aaaaanyway the customer freaked out. She called the police and told them a bogus security company had come into her home, disabled her alarm, and left, and now she was scared they would come in the middle of the night to take all her stuff. Here is the news article that was run following this event:

Security Scam Underway in P.G.
Wednesday, 24 June 2009 15:06
RCMP are looking for a pair of men behind a scam that's being run in the city. Police says the two pose as officials with a security company by the name of Vigilon. They're telling elderly residents in the Central Fort George area that their current security provider is going bankrupt and are offering to provide security at a cheaper rate. Once they're in the house, they claim to install a new security panel. However they're only cutting the old lines. They're also asking for void cheques. If you spot the men, you should call police immediately. The first man is described as Caucasian with brown hair and freckles while the second man is darker skinned and could be Asian. They're driving a convertible with Alberta license plates.

Two things. First, RCMP is the mounted police, aka Mounties. The guys who ride around on horses. How cool is that? Second, Vigilon is the name of Graham's branch of Pinnacle. If I haven't mentioned before, Pinnacle gave Graham everything. He came from Apex and didn't want his guys being demotivated that they were now working for their former competition, so Pinnacle gave him one of their old names. Vigilon is from about 8 years ago.

Alright so how cool is that? They ended up selling in Prince George for less than 3 days before they had to move out because of this police issue. Apparently there are a couple other security companies up there who didn't like their business being stolen, and they went around setting up our customers of 2 days with their business instead. One was Chubb, the other was A-Tech. I don't remember exactly what happened, but I think the Chubb guy was really rude about it and spread a lot of nasty stories about us. Bottom line, the entire city hated anyone associated with Vigilon. On his way out of town, Jay drove around trying to fix some things that had been left unfinished or broken while the techs were there. The customers weren't to happy to let him in, since he drove a convertible hahahahaha. He was, needless to say, quite happy to move on to greener pastures after that.

The office moved to Hinton, where Graham had them camping. This is his 3rd camping office. Jay would have none of it. For those of you who don't know, Jay is allergic to cold. And we were in Canada, so that just wasn't going to happen. Josh, the idiot regional tech, made sure Jay had a hotel room, which was more than he did for the guys in Calgary. I feel like I'm leaving out a lot of the emotional issues that came from Graham's camping decision. Richard was on the phone with Josh or someone at corporate nearly every day after Graham "fired" him, trying to make sure his techs were taken care of. At one point he offered his entire backend check to go towards getting the techs hotel rooms. One of his techs was ready to pack up and go home because he just couldn't handle the stress and yuckiness of living in a campsite while doing a heavily labor-intensive job such as this, so Josh had gotten him a hotel room for a couple nights. Josh told Richard he could get one room and the guys could share it for the week: half could sleep on the beds and the other half on the floor, and anyone who wanted to could come in and use the shower. Um, WHAT??? That's the best he could do. Richard was disgusted. Eventually Josh just told Richard he needed to stay out of it, which is when Richard pulled all the family he could grab and we all went to Gabe's office, where EVERYONE gets a hotel room, because that's the HUMANE way to treat your employees. Sheesh.

Ok so back to Prince George and our current predicament.

Like I said, I'd been trying to get a hold of some more customers to have Richard come pull their systems. I don't think there were more than a handful of people in Prince George who kept the system Graham's guys sold them, so we had A LOT to pull. One person I called told me that their new company had taken our equipment back to their warehouse, and if we wanted it we needed to go pick it up there. Well that's a HUGE industry no-no that Pinnacle's been sued for before, but that's water under the bridge. It was really easy to call A-Tech and get their address and find out which systems were there that we needed to pick up, so we didn't make a big fuss about it. Richard went over and got the five I sent him for, and also got 9 others they had that we didn't know about! Talk about an extra $200 for the day, that was a nice surprise.

Turns out that was the only nice part of the day. I had made Richard an appointment with one lady who specifically requested he call her when he was on his way over. I always tried to make sure Richard called the people who requested it, because I've been a customer service person longer than I've been a tech, but he never does :D So he showed up and this lady didn't want to let him in her house because he hadn't called on his way. She told him to wait outside for a few minutes, and she went in and called the cops. That's why she had wanted him to call first, so she could have the cops there waiting to arrest him for trying to steal her alarm system and rape her children and whatnot. She was probably hoping to nail him on immigration issues as well, since we'd had several deportations since many of the reps and techs crossed the border illegally. Luckily Richard is Canadian. Not only is he Canadian, but he was born an hour away from Prince George. So they let him off pretty easily. The lady was retarded.

I may have to edit that story later, because I feel like I'm missing some really good details.

Anyway Richard came home in a really bad mood. He had completed 19 service calls in one day, which I think was a company high, but he was sick of this town. Everyone hated him, everyone wanted to call the cops, everyone had a problem with his Utah license plates. It just sucked. Later in the day, or maybe the next day, the cops were waiting at another of his appointments with an immigration official. He was just sick of it.

At the end of our appointments in Prince George we had a decision to make. We could now go back to Calgary, or we could go on to complete a very large loop around Alberta and hit as many cities as we could, picking up equipment on the way. We checked one more time to see how the Calgary office was doing; see if they'd started working or not. Danny had decided to go install in a different office because there was a lot of work in Saskatoon, so they had already packed up and gone. Jay was getting ready to head back to Utah anyway, so he was okay just chillin' and eating all our food we had bought the day before we decided to go to Kelowna. Tons of fresh veggies, I was so mad we had to leave it all. So The work had not picked up. We decided to go ahead and make the loop. This would be so exciting! We planned to hit about 20 cities in the next two weeks. This did present a problem, however. The car was so full it wouldn't even fit Rachel and me. We found a UPS store, and Richard spent the morning before we checked out carefully packing everything in the car so we could all fit until we got there. We shipped everything off, stopped by a few more service calls, and headed for Vanderhoof. Well, actually, we stopped and did some shopping first. Richard bought me some books :D

Vanderhoof, remember, is the city where Richard was born. It's tiny, and everyone is Mormon. Vanderhoof is the geographical center of B.C., which means it's waaaay north lol. We drove to his Aunt Lily's house on Saturday, which was quite handy since they were having a family reunion that weekend. All of Richard's cousins were there, and many of them had babies. It was fun to meet everyone, but also kind of awkward that we were interrupting their reunion. No one seemed to mind, though. We stayed at a sort of aunt-in-law's house, and it was fabulous. It's a beautiful log cabin, and they'd used the upstairs loft area as a guest room/office area. There was a log bed, beautiful furniture, and even a crib for Rachel to sleep in. In the morning she made us tons of pancakes and eggs and bacon. We'd had to borrow Sunday clothes from some of Richard's cousins, since we'd been planning to be back by Sunday so we didn't bring any. The skirt I borrowed was a little shorter than I'm used to. But church was nice. I spent most of the time in the mother's lounge with all Richard's cousins who have babies haha. We left shortly after church, needing to get on the road towards our next destination: Dawson Creek. Ezra, Richard's cousin, informed us we'd have to pass through a "town" called Windy Point. We HAD to stop there and get a Wimpy Burger. Which we did...Windy Point is one building that acts as a gift shop, gas station, and diner. Richard got the Wimpy Burger, which was bigger than his head, and I had a $7 caeser salad with shrimp on it that would have fed my entire family. And then it was on to Dawson Creek. I was so happy for the books we'd bought...Rachel fell asleep while I read aloud to Richard, and Richard actually finished reading the book (Eggs, by Jerry Spinelli) before I did. I've converted him!

To be Dawson Creek.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Chapter 10: Calgary and the Next Stage - Kelowna

Ah...Calgary. How we missed you.

The reps took about a week to settle in before they were going to start selling hard again. Then they took another week to settle in some more. We were having fun playing together and having some time to relax in an apartment instead of a hotel, but we still needed to work. So Richard made a decision. We had been watching the service report pretty closely, wondering if corporate was ever going to send someone to clean up the messes Graham was leaving behind. I should probably explain.

Graham's reps are probably some of the dirtiest around. Here is how a normal sales pitch usually goes:

Rep talks to customer about "advertising" for Pinnacle by putting a sign in their yard and paying monthly monitoring for a "free" system.
During the talk, rep checks customer's credit to see if they "qualify" for a "free" system.
Customer completes welcome call with corporate, and fully understands what they're getting themselves into.
Tech shows up and installs system. Customer completes QA call just to make sure one more time that they know what they signed up for.

Here's how Graham's operation works:

Rep talks to customer about getting a "free" security system with Vigilon. He asks for some information, and calls to see if the customer "qualifies" without telling the customer that's what he's doing.
Rep somehow gets the customer to go through the welcome call, or he does the welcome call for the customer.
Rep calls for the tech using words like "Hey Jill, can I give you an address?", playing that call off as part of the qualification process. The customer has no idea a tech is on the way.
Tech shows up (within 20 minutes or Graham throws a fit) and starts installing system. Rep stays and chills with the customer and keeps them calm and makes sure they're somewhat okay with what's going on.
Customer completes QA call, coached by the rep.

Most of Graham's reps offer not a 3 day, not a 10 day, but a 30 day trial period. Whatever they scribble onto the contract stands at corporate, so that's what they get. After 30 days most of these customers realize what's going on, now that money has started coming out of their accounts that they didn't think was going to happen, and they cancel.

When a customer cancels, the lead tech is supposed to go out and pick up the system. That's most of the service work Richard was doing in Calgary. I would make his appointments so he would have 2 or 3 days a week pretty much booked with pulls and other fixes. I would then box up all the pulled equipment to be reused. Let me tell you, there were A LOT of pulls in Calgary.

Since Graham had decided to waltz all over Canada and never go back to the cities he'd sold in, there was a problem with getting the old equipment. The Vancouver office was now in Manitoba somewhere, and they had hit up about 6 cities on the way there that none of the other offices were within 20 hours of. So Richard was watching the numbers in one of their cities, Kelowna, and wondering if maybe we should take a road trip out there to pick up a bunch of systems and then come back. He would make $40 for every one he pulled, and he might be able to get paid for gas. We eventually decided it would be a fun roadtrip either way, since we could be in the same car for once, so we packed up and left.

I spent the week prior to our leaving calling all the pulls in Kelowna and the two surrounding cities, Vernon and Penticton, to see what kind of a schedule I could make for Richard. I ended up being able to schedule just about every pull, so we were excited. We left on a Sunday afternoon. It was about a 7 hour drive to Kelowna, which was hard for Rachel, but since there were two of us in the car it was a little easier since one of us could be back there playing with her. We had to pack extremely light, since the car needed to be able to hold all the pulled equipment. We brought one suitcase, one diaper bag, and ourselves. No church clothes, since we were planning to be back the following Sunday.

The drive was really fun. We got to drive through Jasper again, and we got some better pictures this time. Kelowna is a pretty town, but I didn't end up seeing it until a few days after we got there. We stopped in Vernon, which is 30 mins north, since all the hotels were full for the holidays. They have a huge holiday every month in Canada, just an extra long weekend for everyone, and I think there was something big going on in Kelowna for it. Anyway all the hotels were full so we stayed at a Super 8 in Vernon. It was one of the crappiest hotels I'd seen, but it wasn't terribly expensive. All three of us slept in the same bed, and that was not comfortable. But Rachel got to try bananas for the first time, and she sure liked that.

Richard spent the next day doing all the work down in Kelowna, then came and packed us up to move down there for the next night. The following day was scheduled for Penticton and Vernon, so we kind of did things backwards. But it all worked out. We got to eat at some nice restaurants (the hotels gave us coupons) and I had fun being a mommy in a hotel room again :D The second hotel we stayed at was actually run by one of the customers Richard did service for the night before. He brought us a playpen for Rachel, so we didn't all have to share a bed, which was really nice. We also bought a backpack carrier for Rachel so I could take her on walks a little easier.

As we did work in Kelowna, we kept in touch with everyone back in Calgary and found out that the reps were still not selling well. They had sold about 5 since we'd been in Calgary, which is nothing near what we needed for our 6 or so techs. So. We decided to keep going on our little trek. I started making calls up in Prince George, about 8 hours north, and got a few days' worth of appointments lined up for Richard there. This would be fun, because Prince George is an hour away from where Richard was born, and we would be able to go visit his cousins who still lived there.

So off we went :D

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Chapter 9: Jasper, B.C.

I feel the need to give a little geography lesson before explaining this trip much further. For those of you living in Utah, Calgary is pretty much straight north. From there, Lloydminster is 5 hours northeast, right on the border of Alberta and Seskatchewan (sp?). Like driving from Provo to Rexburg. From Lloydminster, Bonnyville is about 2 hours northwest. Then from Bonnyville to Slave lake is about 7 hours west. From Logan to Las Vegas. From Slave Lake we drove to Grande Prairie, which is another 5 hours west. From there to Calgary is 8 hours if you take the direct route, so back to Logan from Las Vegas with a pit stop :D If you wanted to go the more adventurous route, it took closer to 11 hours. BUT you had the chance to drive through one of the prettiest national parks in Canada. Jasper is right on the border of Alberta and B.C., which puts it just below Grande Prairie and just west of Calgary. We decided to make a road trip of our journey back home, so we drove through Jasper instead of desolate western Alberta.

We left around 1 p.m. on Sunday in a mini caravan with Richard's sister's family. We had 3 walkie-talkies, and that made it a lot more fun. We told jokes, sang goofy songs, and played "name that movie from the quote" the whole way home. It also made deciding where to stop for dinner a lot easier. We got to Hinton, which is where Burt's office was the week that Jay was covering for him, and stopped at a Boston Pizza. Boston Pizza is a fancy Pizza Hut that wants to be Chili's. Pretty good pizza, but way too expensive. We stayed there for like two hours, which was a nice break for the kids and Rachel before we got back in the car.

Rachel liked being out of the car far too much to go back to sleep when we got going. She screamed for about 45 minutes before I couldn't take it anymore. I pulled off the road and everyone else went a little further to a turnoff where they said there was a sign for a waterfall. I drove to catch up after feeding Rachel and we went on a little hike. It was so cool! The waterfall was amazing, but I was shocked at how little fencing there was. You could walk around whatever flimsy chain link they put up, and there were some other groups of people that were clear out right next to the water where it dropped down into a gorge. I was about to be sick it was so crazy. But it was beautiful, and we got some great pictures. It was a nice break to keep the babies awake just before bedtime, and the rest of the trip went really well.

Driving through the park was amazing. I really regretted driving, since it didn't allow for many great pictures. I was holding my camera the whole time and trying to snap random good shots without really looking. I managed to get some good views of the mountains and rivers and even some of the wildlife, but you really just had to be there. Every few seconds one of us would say "Woah! Look at that! Hey, look to the left! That's amazing!" It was just such an incredibly beautiful place, and I'm so glad for the circumstances that let us see it, however retarded they were :D

After the waterfall we drove through the glacial area of the park. Wow. I just can't even describe. Entire mountains that were formed by ice, and were still covered. You could see from the shape of the mountains where the huge glaciers had slipped off to form the river below. At one point we just had to stop and turn around. There was a beautiful lake that we could drive almost all the way around to get close to an amazing glacial formation on the other side. Rachel was asleep by now, and luckily she slept the rest of the way home.

As we neared Alberta we drove through a huge construction zone, which added another hour onto our trip. But all was well when we got home to our bed in Calgary. It was so weird and so great to be back. We were all really excited to see how well the reps would end up selling in the area that Graham's guys couldn't sell in.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chapter 8: Living out of Hotels. Yeah, you heard me right.

On July 1st, 2009, we packed up much of our stuff and left for Lloydminster, AB. Lloydminster is northeast of Calgary, and getting there involves a lot of backroads. Well, most of Alberta involves a lot of backroads, and probably most of Canada. I think there are more people in California than Canada. Anyway. We packed up everything we thought we'd need for the next two months, leaving a lot behind that we would come back for on our way home. We weren't worried about the apartment since it was basically the warehouse for equipment. A couple weeks before corporate had decided to shut down the downtown apartments for the Calgary office, since they wouldn't be returning. Remember that Graham said they'd be back after four days? They never did come back. All the reps didn't care, since they didn't have much stuff to begin with, but all the techs had to make trips back to get all their stuff out of the apartments before they were shut down. Ridiculous, no?

It was about a 5 hour drive from Calgary to Lloydminster. Rachel did pretty okay most of the way, but we had to stop a couple times to feed her and try to get her back to sleep. She was getting to the age where she didn't like being in her carseat unless she was asleep, and she was awake more now so that was a bit difficult for her. But we made it without incident. Richard did a job or two in Lloydminster that night, and I hung out with Marilyn and Carol in their hotel room. Oh and it was my birthday, by the way.

Walking into a hotel room-turned-apartment was bizarre. Marilyn and Danny have three kids, and they were in a 2 bed hotel room. There was stuff everywhere. Every drawer was packed, and there were food and dishes and toy boxes stacked to the ceiling. This is not how the summer was supposed to go at all. We found out that night that we'd be moving in the morning, so we didn't bother unpacking our stuff from the truck. We were moving on to the greener pastures of Cold Lake, AB, by way of Bonnyville. It was about a two hour drive, which to us at that point was nothing. We were starting to forget Graham and his stupidity in the wake of our moving and being reunited with old friends in the Grande Prairie-Lloydminster-Bonnyville office.

In the mess I kind of disregarded my birthday, since we had to be moving and there wasn't much to be done. But on one of our first nights in our new hotel, Richard and Danny showed up with a cake and two boxes of ice cream. I have the best husband in the world :D

The Bonnyville hotel was awesome. The staff was super nice, and they let us move into bigger rooms without charging us extra. (They also let us keep my birthday ice cream in their kitchen freezer so it wouldn't melt, and we came down periodically to get it for a late night snack.) Marilyn and Danny, as well as we and Carol, were put in rooms with one king size bed and a smaller room with two twin beds. It was perfect. Carol lived in our smaller room, and the Wilcken kids lived in their smaller room. It was really nice. We had tons more space and ended up shipping some of our stuff back to Utah. It's amazing what you can live without, and that was the biggest thing we learned that month.

The hotel served hot breakfast every morning, and we usually grabbed a couple slices of bread and some fruit for lunch. We were determined not to eat out every single night, and we did pretty well for a while. We learned how to make rice in a microwave, and Marilyn had brought her griddle so we were able to grill chicken and come up with a pretty good chicken 'n' rice meal. The boys were super impressed. There was a grocery store not two blocks away, so we were able to buy fresh food and try a lot of experiments. The first day we decided to cook was pretty gross. We had just gone shopping in Calgary the day before we moved to Lloydminster, so we had a ton of chicken and veggies and juice that we tried to bring in a cooler. The chicken of course leaked and ruined the juice and some of the veggies, but we ate the chicken :D We had also purchased a barbeque in Calgary for some cookouts we were planning with all the techs, and we brought that to Bonnyville. We barbequed at least once a week while we were there. Such. Good. Meat. It was awesome.

The hotel had a hot tub, and that kept the kids pretty entertained. Marilyn got a swimsuit for Rachel so she could try it out, and she seemed to like it. Like a really big bath :D She was only four months old, so I didn't let her soak in it too long. But it was fun. We spent most of our time playing games and watching TV (blech). Some days we went to the park, and the kids loved that. There was a pretty good park not too far from the hotel that we drove to a couple times.

Then we discovered the beach. It was about a half-hour drive to Cold Lake, and let me tell you, it's called that for a reason. All we did there was enjoy the sun, but the kids sure loved the water. We found a restaurant about 2 blocks away that we ate at a couple of times. They had really good food. Some days we were able to meet up with our husbands and eat with them. One day we went to the Cold Lake Mall. What a mall. It closed at 6 pm lol. There was a really nice store there called Ricki's, and I spent way too much money on clothes. Richard had told me once that if I got down to a size 4 he would let me spend $500 on new clothes. I wasn't quite there yet, but I spent over $100! Not bad, but I only bought 6 things! For someone who does most of her shopping at Walmart and DI that was unheard of! But it was a really fun day. After our shopping we ate at the Pizza Hut in the parking lot, enjoying ourselves until the boys got jobs and had to take off.

Living in a hotel loses its novelty after a while. We stopped trying to cook all the time, because washing dishes in a bathroom sink is the pits and microwaving everything just wasn't all it was cracked up to be. We were never opposed to pizza nights. And we got quite sick of our activities consisting entirely of watching TV all day.

Right about the time we were sick of our lives, excitement came in the form of the Winnipeg office. Graham's Winnipeg office. They had been kicked out of Manitoba and had migrated to Alberta. Which was fine, because the Calgary office had migrated to Manitoba. Makes sense, I guess. Anyway they had heard that Cold Lake was a good market, so here they were. Some of the reps had confrontations and it was all stupid, and once they had sold more in a day than we had they were satisfied and left. Which is stupid, because we had 9 reps and they had 25. Whatever. We were done with Cold Lake anyway.

We moved on to Slave Lake towards the end of July. Well, the rest of the office did. Richard stayed behind to take care of some unfinished jobs and tickets that had shown up. We came a day or two later. Which was once again ironic, because we arrived just as they decided to move on again. Turns out Slave Lake wasn't as green a pasture as everyone thought. They had a huge debate over where to go next, and decided to "hit up" Grande Prairie one more time, now that they'd been away for a month. Basically it was a glorified vacation weekend. We stayed in the townhouses they had rented for the office, which were pretty nice, and I think they sold 3 jobs while out there. We had another bbq and it was fabulous. Jake's birthday was coming up, so we decided to have yet another bbq in honor of him. It was really fun. They found a kiddie pool and all the kids had fun swimming while the adults had fun eating grilled pineapple and shishkebobs. All in all it was a nice relaxing weekend.

There was one exciting event in Grande Prairie. One of the techs had an old car that had broken down in Grande Prairie, so he'd bought a new one to move to Lloydminster. He decided it would be fun to trash that car (it was a Lexus...), so they took it out to the sand dunes to run it into stuff. Kids. Anyway one of our techs, Jordan, was driving when they went down a small hill and hit a rock. This caused the airbags to blow, hitting Jordan in the face since he wasn't wearing a seatbelt. He spent many long hours at the hospital that night. Getting medical treatment in Canada when you're American sucks. They charged him through the nose and wouldn't see him until all their other patients were taken care of. Anyway he lost his vision in one eye for a couple days and wore a huge bandage over it for a while. Eventually it came back, but his doctors now tell him he'll go blind in that eye soon. Moral of the story: WEAR YOUR SEATBELTS! Even when you're digging in a beat-up Lexus!

On Sunday everyone packed up the stuff they had left behind to move to Lloydminster and we headed back to Calgary! Somehow we'd managed to convince Gabe that Calgary was still a fresh market. I think he was out of ideas at that point, since Graham had stolen all the cities Gabe had planned to move to. So off we went, back to our own townhouse in Calgary, the home we'd left behind, and hopefully better sales!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chapter 7: Reactions

The rest of the evening of Richard's firing is kind of a blur. After Richard got off the phone he went down to let Carol and Marilyn know what had happened, then came back upstairs to talk to me about it (I was putting Rachel to bed). He said he'd been on the phone with a couple people at corporate, and there were several options for him for the rest of the summer. We just kind of tipped the iceberg of what were we going to do next and hadn't gotten that far into the conversation when Marilyn came running up the stairs to tell us that Graham was yelling at Carol on the phone. We booked it downstairs to make sure everything was okay.

By the time we got there she had hung up, but she let us know he was just making sure she was okay since he fired Richard. I think he was confused and thought she was his wife or something, I don't know. Basically Graham likes to make sure he's still on everyone's good side about everything, so he just wanted to butter Carol up a little. She was pretty diplomatic about the situation and just wanted to hear from Graham what the problem was and why he had to fire Richard. He said something about having already offered Richard another position (ha) and that was about the end of that conversation.

At this point we were all pretty filled with adrenaline about the whole evening. I took it upon myself to start a text war with Graham. Oh I need to back up: Have I mentioned I never got paid for all the scheduling I did in May? Caleb told me that Graham would get me paid the same that Kristy was getting paid, which I assumed to be $1600 or so. He told me I needed to send Graham an email and he would make sure I get paid. I sent the email early in June and never saw a dime. Honestly, I didn't expect to. Graham may promise the world on a silver platter, but he never tells the platter makers that they need to get the platter made, and whoever he did talk to doesn't know who can fit the world on it. I knew he didn't know any details about what he needed to get me paid, but I still wanted the money.

Here is our text war:

me: Can you pay me for scheduling all through May like I was promised? $2050 American. I'm going to have a hard time feeding my baby if my husband is fired.

Graham: $2050!!!!!!????? Did u never switch plans? I was told your phone bill was high for first week. So I said to tyler we would help. But I thought u would be ok (Who is Tyler? He obviously doesn't know who I am)

me: No that's salary for office you even know who I am? I was Caleb's office manager for May since you guys never hired anyone else.

(He didn't say anything for 10 minutes so I thought now was a good
time to start yelling)

me: I don't understand how you can do what you do. Do you have no conscience? No heart? Do you not realize what you're doing to people's lives? You only care about yourself and you're just going to end up empty. Completely heartless and full of lies. I just can't believe you.

(Half an hour later)

Graham: Well why r they not paying u? R u american? Let's not be mean. Let's get u paid. Keep in mind I have 150 people. I'm sorry I forgot I will work on it for u. Is your husband cdn. Can I pay him?

me: I was not hired because Caleb didn't want techs wives scheduling. I only did it because no one else was available. It was a favor that Caleb promised to pay me for. My cell phone bill was $1603. And yes my husband is Canadian, his name is Richard maybe you've heard of him?

Graham: I think your husband is great. But the way he fought me today saying it was a bad idea. We ended up doing 34 most quit early. (Not true. We did 41 and they knocked until 10:30) Then he said no to doing vistas. So now my reps r angry (no they're not). Your husband is great
but stubborn. If he walks away positive he will still have a job. (He has 3, thanks though) He needs to listen to his managers. (Here's a big part of the problem - Graham is NOT his manager, he's his partner. But he treats Richard like a slave, and that's not how it's supposed to be.)

Graham: And again. R region finished first with 4 offices (that's not true either, his region isn't even in the top 5). Next closest has 8 offices. So I'm not happy I got so much attitude (ok I was pretty rude in the meeting, but he was being a jerk). But the future will be better. Your husband is a great hard worker. I actually really like him. Just did not see eye to eye.

me: I don't know if you realize this but I know more about what's going on than you do. I can see through all your lies so you can stop feeding them to me. I just want to know if you're going to follow through on the promise you made to pay me. My cell bill in May was $1603 and in June it was $950. You promised me salary and that would have been $2050. I'll watch for it to come in through Richard's account.

Graham: I never talked to u. How did I promise anything. Good night.

me: Proof right there.

This is a good example of how he always talks to people. Once he gets cornered he just shuts down and runs away, thinking he still has the upper hand. This is also a good example of how I talked to him at the late night meeting. Not the nicest you've ever heard me, eh?

Oh and don't worry, I apologized to him for this whole rant a few weeks later. I really probably shouldn't have ever opened my mouth, but as you can imagine I was a little ticked off.

We spent the rest of the evening getting some ice cream and candy bars at Walmart, then played games with the kids while Richard talked to several people on the phone about what had happened. As it turned out, his tech crew was pretty upset about the whole thing. No wonder, considering how great of a manager Richard had been thus far. They held a meeting where they discussed a boycot/walkout where they'd all strike until Graham was reasonable and some other similarly silly ideas. Richard encouraged them just to do their work and get through this hard time without him. He still helped them out whenever they called throughout the summer and followed up on what happened after the fact, but it kind of all went downhill from there.

Now the original plan was that the crew would be in Slave Lake for the weekend and then come back and tear up Calgary with their renewed vigor for sales. That being the plan, Jesse left his wife and son behind to keep running the office. They found out on Monday, however, that Graham never had any intention of going back to Calgary. Another strike for him: What was he thinking? All the techs only brought 3 changes of clothes because he said that's all they'd need! Danny had left his wife and three kids behind as well, taking their only means of transportation. And they had only brought 5 days worth of equipment anyway! Ridiculous. If he had laid out this plan a little better I think people would have been more anxious to participate in his ludicrous trek across the small country of Canada...oh wait, Canada's kind of big, isn't it? But I'll get to that later.

I actually quite enjoyed having my husband in a jobless position. He had been working 16 hours a day for the past two months, and now we had a few days to spend time together. It was really nice :D We went to a movie with Rachel, which was fun because I wasn't sure it was going to be possible. She actually slept through Transformers II. But she was only 4 months old...

Two weeks ago we signed up to feed the missionaries the last week of June, which was the coming Sunday. I had to go to the Superstore on Friday anyway, so we figured we'd be able to find something. We were also planning to make Tres Leches for them, but I got a weird feeling that I shouldn't buy the stuff for it yet, so I didn't. Funny story...we decided that weekend to go move in with Gabe's office. Gabe was our sales manager in Portland our first summer together, and it was such an awful experience because he made weekend trips to a city 2 hours south all through August. So awful! Such a long drive! We hated it! Well, Gabe's crew is now living out of hotels hitting up any city they can find in northern Alberta, and that situation was far more appealing than staying with Graham. Anyway we got to church that Sunday and they asked us to speak in a couple weeks. We ended up leaving in the middle of the week, so that wasn't really about to happen. The missionaries cancelled our dinner date, though, not us :D

So that brings us to about my birthday and the exact middle of the summer. I think that's where we'll pick up next time :D

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

R-E-S-P-E-C-T ... I told them what it means to ME

I'm sorry to digress once again from the Graham Saga. I felt a renewed urge to finish that earlier today, so the next chapter should be coming soon. I had an experience I really feel like writing about though, so here goes.

As you may know, I've been teaching German at Lehi High school since late August. It's been quite an experience, and I've really enjoyed it. Although I am a first year teacher and I'm quite laid back, my students are really learning the language. It makes me so happy to see their progress. They really are smart kids, and when they apply themselves they do so well.

Each of my classes has its own unique personality, and that makes teaching both challenging and interesting.

My first hour is very quiet and kind of awkward most of the time. There are only 8 students and on any given day at least 2 are missing, plus it's early in the morning so they're all asleep. My class is kind of dynamic, and their sleepiness makes it hard to be so. But we push through and they're doing great. They're kind of like my handicapped class...their teacher last year didn't teach them as well as he was supposed to, so we're trying to catch up from last year and push ahead with this year at the same time, and every day I'm reminded of things they should have learned but haven't yet.

My third hour is by far my best class. They're my first years, and I love them. They're doing so well. They get a little loud sometimes, and most of them are C average students who don't try very hard, but we have fun and they are learning German!

My fourth hour has always been my struggle. They are mostly sophomores, straight from the junior high where they took German 1 and 2. They are all friendly, and they're all friends with each other. This means that no matter where I put them, they will talk to their neighbors. I've given them a seating chart designed around partner work with the person nearest them, because they work really well in partners. There are three students who are actually in German 4, but they're not really at that level so they just work on the German 3 stuff I'm giving everyone else. This class is very noisy. I've worked hard all year getting them to understand my procedures and when I need them to quiet down so we can move on or transition to lecture, and they've gotten much better. I also struggle in this class for two other reasons. The biggest is that I'm not 100% up to snuff on my own German, and when I teach them something I don't know completely I kind of look silly. The second is related, and that is that I have an exchange student who obviously knows more German than me, and sometimes that causes conflict. Most of the time I look at the other side of the room when I'm teaching to pretend he's not there :D

Last week Rachel was sick with a high fever. I felt awful that I went to school on Tuesday with her in that state, so when she woke up still warm on Thursday I decided to stay home. I pulled together last minute plans for all my classes and got a sub very last minute, so it ended up being the school sub. Nothing wrong with that. She left me a nice note about each class, and for the first two it was the same. They were a good class, but some of the boys didn't do the assignment. I will now quote her note from my 4th hour:

"This was not a quiet class. Most of the students were quiet and did what they were assigned to do. However, there were some students that were noisy and loud, and didn't want to settle down when I spoke to them about the loud talking, laughing, and playing. One girl spoke up and said "Mrs. Graham, these students are showing you more respect than what they show their teacher." If this is true, I feel sorry for you. And then the girl said that the only time she was quiet was when she was asleep."


Ouch, right?

I was so mad. I got this note when I came in on Friday for our professional development day, and most of that day was wasted because I was so upset at my class. I had planned to spend the day getting ahead in all my classes and getting organized for the coming lessons, but instead I spent two hours being frustrated and planning my rebuttal to the class. I was annoyed when it was time for me to leave and I'd only gotten one class prepped for and none of my copies made or anything to show for my day except free pizza.

I spent the weekend formulating my coming diatribe. It went from very guilt-laden to very didactic to pretty reasonable and back again several times. What I ended up with was a speech that should have lasted about 5 minutes simply outlining what it was they had done wrong and the way I expect to be treated as their teacher.

I started out by quietly sitting on my desk. This is how I always start the day, and since I didn't say anything some students tried to quiet each other down so I could get class started. I appreciated that, and it made me feel like what I was about to do was probably a little unnecessary, but I had already made my decision.

I let the class know that I had worked incredibly hard to get to where I am as a teacher now, and that for that hard work I deserve to be respected. From the second they walk in the door they owe me respect, and they should give it for no other reason than that I'm an adult, older than them, and I'm in charge in my classroom. I let them know it was upsetting to get a note from a professional who they informed of their lack of respect for me, because now that person knows that I haven't earned the respect I deserve from my students. It was a lot better worded than that, but this was over a week ago so bear with me. Anyway, as some of you may know I have a problem confronting people. The problem of the leaky waterworks variety. It's annoying, but I think it helped get my point across. I ended by letting them know the class would be run very differently. We will be going back to Jr. High where you got your name written on the board for talking out of turn. In addition, there will be no fun activities in the future, and no partner work. No talking. And I won't be putting up with electronics or anything either, so don't even think about it.

I felt this lecture was really good for me as a teacher, and I feel it worked on a lot of levels. As I was talking I made it a point to look at every student in the class, not just the 5 or 6 I was specifically targetting with my remarks. As I looked it became clear that most of the class genuinely listened and cared about what I was saying. The few who knew I was talking to them were looking at the floor the entire time. I felt like I got my message across, and the non-problem students understood that it wasn't their fault.

The rest of the day was awesome. I gave them a worksheet and they worked on it silently for the entire class period. No one said a word. Every few minutes a student would come up and ask a question, and I felt like this exercise provided me with one-on-one opportunities I hadn't had time for before. I felt like everyone understood the concept beautifully that day. It was marvelous.

Since that day I've been more of my laid-back self in class, but I'm still not putting up with anything I don't feel I deserve. I haven't had to ask anyone to leave class, and I haven't had to take any cell phones. Thursday was another marvelous day. I gave everyone a writing assignment, and instead of all shouting out words they wanted me to look up for them, which is what usually happens, they all pulled out dictionaries and I didn't hear a word.

Anyway, just a little insert about my day of teaching. It would have been more dramatic sounding if I'd finished it the day I started when all the emotions were roiling, but you know how life goes.

And now back to The Graham Saga.