Saturday, January 30, 2010


It’s a good thing my job pays as well as it does, because I’ve noticed that my expenses have gone up. For one thing, I’m doing a lot of dry cleaning, because the dress code standards are higher than any place I’ve ever worked. I could actually wash the clothes myself, but at this point in my life, I can’t see spending all that time ironing.

Another unexpected expense is coffee. My company is a bank with trillions of dollars worth of assets under management, but they buy the world’s crappiest coffee for their employees. It comes in pre-measured packets, one packet to brew one pot of coffee. But the coffee is so horrible, the employees have developed an unspoken agreement to use two packets per pot, in a misguided effort to boost the flavor and caffeine content to acceptable levels. The result is a thick, sludge-like concoction that concentrates all the worst aspects of the flavor, without providing any measurable benefits.

Whenever possible, I stop at a convenience store on the way to work and buy my coffee there. Lots of employees do the same thing. I was asking one guy about it, and he confided to me that he had been thinking of opening a Dunkin Donuts franchise near the office. “I’d make a fortune,” he whispered. A Dunkin Donuts franchise license costs $40,000 to $80,000, and that’s if you qualify. To qualify, you need about $1.5 million dollars in liquid assets - about half will be used to purchase equipment and services, and the remainder is to ensure that you can run the business for awhile before sales take off. My company pays well, but not that well.

Finally, my lunch expenses have gone up a bit, mostly because the nearby restaurants are more upscale than those at my last job. I often bring my lunch to work, but on those days when I don’t, I find that it costs me $8 - $10 for lunch instead of $5 - $7. This doesn’t mean there are no deals available. Yesterday, I went out to lunch at a nearby Applebee's with a group of guys from the office.

Applebee’s offers a peculiar lunch deal. If you sit in the bar area, appetizers are half price. For those of you unfamiliar with Applebee’s, the appetizers are huge, the size of a full meal. I think the idea is that a group of diners will order one appetizer, and everyone in the group will share while they wait for their meal order. Our strategy was that each of us would order appetizers as our meal items. The logical part of my brain said, “Lunch will cost half as much.” So I ordered an appetizer, and sure enough, my lunch bill was $4.50.

But my lunch companions used a different logic. Their brains said, “Since appetizers are half price, I can order two.” The table was barely able to hold the platters, groaning under the weight of all the food. When we left, they complained about how full and sleepy they were, and how hard it was going to be for them to stay awake for the rest of the day. No one even considered having a cup of coffee.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Week in Pictures

Not much worth writing about has happened in the past few weeks, so I’ll share some pictures with you. I like to snap pictures of random things that interest me, and there’s usually a story to accompany each one.

In Florida we’ve been suffering, like the rest of the country, through a brutal cold snap. It’s not as brutal as Chicago or Detroit, but for Florida, it’s been really cold. Home heating systems aren’t adequate to deal with it, and most Floridians don’t have proper clothing to cope. But it seems that the people of Florida aren’t the only residents who are suffering. The other day, I was dropping off some dry cleaning, and found the attendant with a bird on her shoulder.


It seems the bird, flying around in search of some warm place to roost, had flown directly into the glass window of the cleaners and fallen, stunned, to the sidewalk. The attendant picked it up, took it inside, and set it on her shoulder. The bird was content to sit there fluffed up, nestled cozily in her hair. In cartoons, people always see tweeting birds when they get hit on the head. I wonder if birds see dancing humans?

My company is very security conscious. Any corporate documents must be disposed of in locked bins. The bins are picked up by a contractor and taken away to shred the contents. The contractor leaves fresh, empty bins behind. Last week, the contractor left these two bins.


Note the absence of a deposit slot on the bin on the right. I find myself wondering if a contractor with this kind of quality-control problem is the best one to handle sensitive corporate documents.

Yesterday a bird shat on my car. It’s an old car, so I wasn’t upset about it. In fact, I’ve been thinking about buying a new car, but I can’t really afford the one I want. But when I saw the stain, I saw Jesus, suspended on the cross, surrounded by a halo of light.


Suddenly, I find myself wondering if the bird shit has miraculously increased the value of my vehicle. Maybe I can list it on eBay and a wealthy Christian will be willing to buy it for the price of a brand-new Buick LaCrosse. Hey, it’s worth a shot.