Thursday, October 10, 2019

Retail Math & Other Career Lowlights Pt 1

     Now that I'm on the back side of my career, it has made me think back to the highlights of my storied career, but the lowlights are way more interesting.

     I was lucky in that I was pretty much sure of what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I remember my inspiration was the movie "The Best Of Everything":  a 1950s soap opera film that featured Hope Lange as a secretary in publishing, in NY City.  Complete with white gloves, high heels, hats and office romances.  Plus Joan could I resist?

     Out of college I landed a sales assistant position with a southern lifestyle magazine.  Back in those dark ages the fax machine occupied its own office and took about 20 minutes per page. 
     And no cellphones...I typed up sales reports on carbon paper, about 5 pages thick.  (All you young uns can Google 'office work 100 years ago').  I loved everything about it.  And talk about working in NYC?  The offices were in the Chrysler glam.

     I'm not sure how it happened but after a few years I landed a new job for a general aviation magazine.  One of my fav responsibilities was working on the "Bachelor" of the month feature.  Young, wealthy pilots.  What wasn't there to enjoy??

    Each summer the magazine produced the daily show newsletter for the EAA show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  I had never traveled for business before so this was some experience.  I would fly to Milwaukee, rent a car and drive to Oshkosh.
  We rented a beautiful home from a nice couple and we all moved in.  The only downside is that the couple were huge Badgers fans.  I think University of Wisconsin?  Badgers were everywhere......but looking at a 'GO Badgers' poster in the bathroom always caused me some performance anxiety.

     The staff would sit in a trailer -- the reporters would head out to the show, gather the stories and then my job was to type up the stories.  We would literally cut and paste the copy on to huge boards.  I would then drive to the printers and the newsletter would appear by magic each morning.  I could never imagine how we existed without technology, this is a lost art.

    The only problem I encountered was when someone asked me to back out my car.  If you know me, parking/backing up is not my strong suit.  A winding, crowded driveway, lined with trees.  The trees won.  Just a little embarrassing......

     On a very sad day for the world, I was at a tradeshow in Anaheim, CA the day the Challenger exploded.  I will never forget watching Neil Armstrong and Chuck Yeager reacting and discussing this tragedy.  It is one of the clearest memories I have.     

     I have no idea as to what possessed me to change industries....I wanted to get into the retail biz.  Shockingly, I was hired to be an assistant handbag buyer at JC Penney.  An office, accessories... what could possibly go wrong?

    Day One....before I even take a sip of coffee my new boss called me into the office.  "Yeah, well, I couldn't really say anything before, but the headquarters are moving to Plano, TX.  Do you want to go?  Well, actually you have to since that's where your job will be."  Nothing against Plano but I didn't even know where the ladies room was yet.  I politely declined and, I think to guard against a lawsuit, they allowed me to use all their equipment and resources to look for a new job.

    Miraculously I actually found another a receptionist at a major American leather goods company.  It was crazy but I adored it.  My boss was very generous in giving me assignments to grow my job.

    However it involved math.  Yikes....but fake it til you make it, right?  In hindsight the project was really basic math (but again before Excel).  But it might have well been quantum physics.  My deer in the headlights look when percentages were involved, clued my boss in to my ignorance.  So he nicely says, "Patti, when you go into a department store and you see 'take 30% off ticketed price' signage how do you figure out the price"?  Ah youth...ignorant child....I reply "well, I figure the cost will be less than the ticketed price so I'll be nicely surprised at the cashier".  Good answer, right? 
     Wrong....but instead of firing my butt, my boss signed me up for retail math courses.  I'm not sure if it stuck with me, I still make my friends figure out tips.

     Then the company developed a new concept of shop-in-shops in Department Stores.  I was promoted to be the manager of this program.  They hired a designer that I would be working with....and all these days later.... is still one of my besties.  He was tutoring me in interpreting floor plans  One memorable afternoon he was showing me what the legends meant, how to measure with a scale ruler, etc.

     I'm usually not stupid but you wouldn't have known it.  I asked "oh, so that is an elevator by the area marked as 'iccug'?  My co-worker was patient yet baffled.  He turned the floor plan around.  GUCCI....oh crap.

     And then the booze'll just have to wait for Part 2.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018


     With all due respect to James Corden, I'm pretty sure I came up with carpool karaoke decades ago.

     I was lucky to go on lots of summer family vacations.  I seem to remember different station wagons, but the Gran Torino was the one I remember the most.  I'm sure you can double check with my brother, but I had two really annoying habits on road trips.

    One clear memory is my obsession with leaning over my father's shoulder and saying "do we have enough gas, is there enough gas, do we need gas?" over and over again.
      My prowess in math is legendary (not at all) and he would try to explain we get 11 miles to the gallon, our tank holds 29 gallons, blah...blah...blah.  My little brain would melt down, my eyes glazed over and I would sink back muttering "I hope we have enough gas".  So you know that one time that there was a problem with the gas tank?

     Yep, ran out of gas.  I am pretty sure I started wailing in the back seat.  And I'm also pretty sure I was like 16.  Not pretty.

     The other extremely annoying habit was being able to identify a song on the radio within the first 3 notes.  My father would exclaim "how the heck do you know all these?"  Just massive skill I guess.

    I would yell out "I Got You Babe" or "King of The Road" and begin to sing along much to the consternation of the rest of the family.   This amazing skill has continued to annoy those around me.  My favorite utilization of this talent was when I would drive my son to school  or on errands when he was younger.  He was allowed to put in a CD (kids Google it)....mostly rap / hip hop stuff.  Now, as we adults know...lots of this music had sampled bits.  So I would love to break into Earth Wind & Fire's "SEPTEMBER" that was mixed into some DJ song.  My son would roll his eyes...."how do you know THIS music too???  You are so annoying!"  Yes, that I am, just ask your Uncle or Dad.

   Now, some clarification.   I knew the songs, would sing (and still do) at full voice.  However, this does not mean I was correct with the lyrics all the time.  Most of the time, but there have been some doozies:

  • Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival:  Correct lyric:  "There's a bad moon on the rise".  My version:  "There's a bathroom on the right".
  • Blinded By The Light by Springsteen:  Correct lyric:  "Blinded by the light.  Revved up like a deuce another runner in the night".  My version:  "Blinded by the light.  Revved up like a DOUCHE another runner in the night".  I always got in trouble for that one.
  • Edge of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks:  Correct lyric:  "White winged dove, sings a song."  For years I was belting out "One winged dove, sings a song."  Makes absolutely no sense.
   And many more.....fortunately, this all happened in the good old days of not having everything filmed showing your ignorance for internet eternity.

   But one classic tune that I thought for years I was singing right, my exposure as being full of s^%$ was captured on a funny episode of my friends' YouTube channel.  Spandex Nation unMasked...check out their channel and here is the funny episode featuring my ignorance in all its glory.  And some other jackasses too:

Wednesday, September 5, 2018


     As Richard Gere says in PRETTY WOMAN, "I miss keys" as he kept shoving his hotel room card into the door over and over.

    I can relate.  I have always had issues with hotel key cards.  So many times they just quit working for me.  And there is nothing quite like this when it happened in Vegas, in particular the MGM Grand.  The hallways are so long you have to pack a lunch to get from the elevator to your room (I also have an uncanny ability of scoring the room furthest away from elevator banks....I'm not kidding every time).  So after a night out, I would finally get to the room only to have the card not work (and I would always get 2 and both would die).  I would do the long walk  back to the lobby to get new cards.

    This is such a predictable situation that my husband won't even allow me to carry them when we go on vacation.  I have tried not putting them in my wallet (the idea that the magnetic strip on credit cards sets them off), rubbing them against clothing to eliminate static cling.  All to no avail.  I started to be known as having toxic hands.

    During a recent brunch with my Vegas buddy Gina we started this conversation over my ability to destroy electronic items with my bare hands. 

     In addition to the hotel key card situation I regaled her with just some recent activities (just this one visit to Vegas in particular):

  • Having my gel manicure removed with power tools.  In the middle, the drill starts heating up and basically deteriorates.  The manicurist said "wow, I've never seen that before".
  • My central AC thermostat is flashing a message while I'm adjusting the temperature.  The message doesn't even register when I google it.  The AC tech said, "jeez, I've never seen that before"
  • My key fob for the pool entry dies.  
  • Day two coffee maker dies.
  • Day two blow dryer dies.
  • Day two and a half, my rental car dashboard lights all start blinking
  •  Day three my Fitbit claims I only walked 432 steps all day (OK well that MIGHT be accurate)
   And I've had ongoing issues with ceiling fans, replacing light bulbs (one started to melt and almost caused a fire), cell phones, desktop computers and on and on.  And I'm afraid electronics may not be the only thing car was crushed 3 TIMES by trees in my driveway.  

   Being a great friend with a brilliant legal mind, Gina went on the Google hunt for more information.

   All this time I thought I was just your basic weirdo and klutz but it appears as if I can be classified as a "Slider".  At last I belong!   Some of Gina's research:

   From Conscious Life News:  "The Sliders phenomena is not limited to street lights only (oooh, that hasn't happened yet).  Often these people can't wear watches as they stop working within a couple of days.  They also affect other appliances such as headlights and alternators in vehicles, light bulbs and computers.  Light bulbs may blow every time a "slider" touches a lamp or a switch.   Computers may freeze, CD players change tracks suddenly whenever a slider is near.  Sliders may be unable to use credit cards as they become unreadable and many times cause an irregular EKG".   Check, check, check!

  There are many different theories on this phenomena...all related to energy.  And no known remedy so I guess I'm going to be a slider for life.  I figure it will be just another way that I'm crazy.  

   But the different articles all agreed that these situations are exacerbated by high emotion -- stress, anger or a near death experience.  So all I can end with is:

        Don't make me mad :)   Any other sliders out there???

Friday, August 31, 2018


    While watching the news coverage of the recent passing of Senator McCain, in particular his time spent as a POW, I kept getting a nagging thought in the back of my mind.  I couldn't place it until it came to me last night.

     I dug through a box in the basement and found an old jewelry box I kept as a young girl.  In a pile of strange memorabilia, I found what had been bugging me.  My POW bracelet from the 1970s.

     My experience with the Vietnam War was watching news coverage and the fact that a friend of my family's lost their son over there.  My recollection is that there was an ad in the back of a magazine and you could order a POW bracelet.

    When I received my bracelet it was engraved with "Capt Ronald Packard, 7-31-67" and it came with the name and address of his wife.  For quite a while we exchanged letters -- there were no computers, etc. -- so snail mail was the way to go.  I remember stationery with daisies, my "I's" had hearts over them.  His wife's name was Shari, she lived in Colorado, and we would write each other about mundane issues.  As I think of it now, how hard must this have been for his wife?  Her husband was MIA, possibly a POW and there she was corresponding to a little kid.

    Here is a link about these bracelets from back in the day.

    Years past and whenever that day came that I put this bracelet in the box, I'm ashamed that it was forgotten for all this time.

    Now that there is Google, I was able to find out more about Capt Packard.  To connect a face and history with my long ago involvement brought tears to my eyes.  As an adult, and the Mother of a USMC veteran, I am devastated that he went missing when he was only 25 years old.  Only one year older than my son is now.

   After finding his history, I learned that his remains were found and he was buried in 1997 at Arlington with full military honors. Captain Ronald L. Packard memorial info.

    Also through Google, I believe I found his widow and I have reached out to her to see if she or anyone in her family might like to have me mail the bracelet to them.  Stay tuned! 

   RIP Captain Packard and know that long ago, a young girl, kept you in her prayers.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


     Now that Summer '18 is heading toward the record books, I have been reminiscing on some past vacations, some as an adult and some with my family when I was a kid.  One vacation spot in particular comes to the lake.

     Every other summer, my family rented a cabin on Long Lake, Maine.  One of my most vivid memories of the cabin was the picture window that looked out over the lake.  It was so large and clean that during the day it almost looked as if there was no window at all.  You could only tell when the sun hit a certain way, letting the rays into the room; and dust particles would look like dancing fairies in the sun.  We would watch the boats and especially the seaplanes which we would find fascinating.

    At night, the silence was so overwhelming you could hear your own heartbeat in your ears.  At night, while reading, we would rest our feet onto the glass and feel the cool night air on the soles of our feet.  If we pressed our feet very hard, the chill seemed to travel up our legs.  There were no lights on the lake.  It was as if someone had shut every light of nature off.  All we could see was our reflection in the glass.

    The bedroom that my brother and I shared faced a screened-in porch.  All throughout the night we could hear the insects buzzing up against the screen.  They sounded so close, like the buzzing of the barber's razor when he is cutting close to your ears.

    A wood dock rocked gently in the water; it was our lullaby. My brother and I would wrap ourselves in our blankets.  They were pure white like new snow and as soft as sleeping wrapped in a cotton ball.

    We would wake when our mother started making breakfast.  We knew when Dad was awake because we could smell fresh coffee brewing.  Dad would take his coffee out on the porch and blow gently on it as if he were blowing the fur off a dandelion.  There was one spot on the floor that would always creak in a soothing rhythm.  We could almost hum along with that sound.  It sounded as if the porch was waking us up too.  Good morning, good morning, it seemed to sing to us.

    Every morning we would put on our bathing suits and head out to the lake.  The suits always felt a little clammy, as if they were not completely dry from the day before.  I would stick one foot in the lake and feel a chill all over.  We were convinced that someone had planted ice cubes in the lake overnight.  The water was as blue as our dungarees and was so thick you could not see your own feet.  Our bodies eventually adapted to the cold, and we would swim out to the raft.  We glided as if were were floating on top of the water.

   I only remember one misadventure (because with me you know there is always going to be one).  My brother was still pretty little and my dad offered to take me out in the canoe to go fishing.
  He paddled out to the middle of the lake, and got my fishing pole ready.  From cartoons I knew there was a hook and worm involved, but kind of freaked me out in real life.  After some time, my dad caught something.

   Unfortunately, the fish had swallowed the hook or something so my father had to try to do some surgery, in the canoe, on the open water.  As every other non-athletic kid would react, I freaked out.  I actually jumped out of the canoe and began to swim back toward the lake's edge.  And I actually took one of the oars with me!

   Needless to father is trying to frantically paddle with one oar and yelling at me to get back!  My mom, in the meantime, on the shore, watching me swimming away while my dad was yelling.  Fortunately I'm a strong swimmer but still!  What the heck was I thinking????  I made it back, and I was very dramatic -- "there was blood everywhere!  It was flopping all over the boat!!!"  My mom was probably thinking: "what????  A leg, a finger?  what???"   "THE FISH" I wailed!!

   I was brought into the cabin for some ginger ale and pretzels (usually reserved only for the stomach flu) while my poor Father struggled back.

   My mom, trying to remain cheerful asked, "so are we having fish for dinner??"

   "Hamburgers", was the only reply.

    In spite of this, I will always remember our Maine vacations as special.  Hopefully my dad would think the same thing!

    Make your own memories.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Story Behind #TodaysSunflower


     Many times I have posted a photo of a sunflower with the #TodaysSunflower hash tag.  Some of you may know the story behind these postings but for those of you who don' is the reason.

     My father HATED sunflowers.

     My son, when little, brought home a little sunflower plant from a sale at school.  There is an adorable photo of him with the baby plant and then a photo of how beautiful it looked when it grew in my garden.  It has hung on my parents' fridge for ever.  "Gosh, I hate sunflowers.  Cute photo but I hate those flowers," my father would explain.

    When we first bought our home, we were so excited to have a garden of our home.  My husband dug and planted and watered and our first garden was so beautiful to us.  And yes, we had planted some sunflowers.  "The garden looks great," said Dad, "but I'm not wild about the sunflowers".

    Again in our new home we were excited to purchase some art for the bare walls.  Nothing fancy, like prints from Michaels, but one print was of  a very large sunflower.  "The room looks great", again Dad said, "but I could do without the sunflower print".

    Finally, I needed to try to find out.  "Dad, what is your deal with sunflowers?  I don't get it."

    At the time my Dad said, "I can't explain it, they just don't sit well with me."

   "But they are just a flower, it just doesn't make sense", I insisted.

    "I honestly don't know, there is a reason I don't like them.  That's it.  No big deal", he explained.

     Time went on and things got messy.  My Dad passed away after battling an illness in the Summer of 2004.  Obviously, it was rough on all of us.  Most of that time is blurry.  But there is one very distinctive memory.

    At the cemetery I noticed that the plot behind my father's was covered in little sunflowers.  Small plants, plastic ones.  I guess his eternal neighbor really liked sunflowers.  I said a little prayer to my father:  "I'm so sorry you have to be around the one flower you hated.  But I promise that whenever I see a sunflower, I will think and you and say hello".

   For the year following my father's passing I wrote in a small journal.  Almost every day I saw a sunflower and I would write it down.  No one really knew about this.  And it wasn't like I would pass by the same deli flower display in NYC -- every sighting was different.  Someone might send me a card, there might have been a display in Macy's windows, a commercial on TV or someone's flower arrangement on their desk.

   My first tattoo was of a sunflower....I choose it to honor my Dad, but in all honesty he would have HATED that I got a tattoo.

   Could it be that he hated them so much because he somehow knew he would stuck by them forever?  Almost 14 years later, the plot still has a sampling of sunflowers.  Did he hate them so much that I would remember that at this tough time and have a touchstone to remember him by?  Who knows.

   So when you see a posting (and now many of my friends know about my sunflower story and add sunflower emojis to texts or send me photos when they see one too) you will know the significance.

   #TodaysSunflower.  Miss you too.  Love, me


Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Summer Of Jaws girlfriend and I went to see JAWS.  It forever changed my summers.  1975 in particular but it's something that I do think about off and on when I'm out swimming in the ocean.  Just yesterday, this same friend and I went to our beautiful Long Island beach to enjoy a day off.  At one point, there were several helicopters flying low and slow.  Now, in our neck of the woods that could mean a lot of things.  Rich folk flying from NYC to their Hampton hideaway, bad traffic issues or missing boaters or swimmers.

     My girlfriend said that, according to her husband, that is how they look for sharks.  I honestly didn't think much about it until I saw the news when we got home.

Shark attacks two children at Long Island beach

     OMFG....everyone was ok, but definitely bitten by a shark.  And the news just kept replaying this one tasty (bad pun) tidbit:  "And a tooth was found in the boy's leg".   Again OMFG.   We were not at the same beach, but at the same ocean for goodness sakes.  I didn't go in past my waist, but neither did one of the victims.

     Suddenly, without warning, the voices in my head dulled and a very striking piece of music started playing in my head and it brought me way back to the summer of '75. 

     Thank you Steven Spielberg for creating what will probably go down in history as one of the best films ever....but you totally f-ed up my summer.

     As I said, my girlfriend and I went to see the film right after opening in June of 75.  I believe there are still marks on my arm from her fingernails.  Now granted movie special effects have really changed the game since then.  However, for that time, this movie was so terrifying.  And if you've seen it at some point in your life, I'm never forget the girl swimming in the opening.

     My grandmother saw the film and remarked, "well you shouldn't be drinking and swimming alone at night."  I guess there was some sort of morality lesson I missed?  That sharks went after 'bad' girls?

     During this summer I was lifeguarding and teaching swimming at a school's summer program INDOOR pool.  Indoor mind you but every day I would have a handful of children saying "No, Miss Patti, I'm not going in the pool today.  There could be sharks."  Or "I am NOT going in the deep end, what is that on the bottom?"  It is just a filter I would try to explain.  These kids needed to get into the pool....honestly I found it the easiest way to learn how to SWIM! 

     The only way I could convince them is if I got in the water with them. I swear, every kid, for two months, looked like this.

     So I would have some kids sitting on the edge while I escorted some of them into the pool.  These poor babies would be shrieking and clinging onto my neck that I think I still have scars.  And I kept thinking these are like 7 year olds, who the hell is taking them to see that movie?  This is what their poor little scared minds saw.

      More lifeguarding life later....but what an awesome job.  I spent 6 days a week waterclogged but loved every minute of it, and my kids were always so precious to me. 

     By the end of the summer my kids all passed their swimming tests but I was exhausted!  My Dad also worked for the school system so we always took our family vacations in August.  That year we were heading down to the west coast of Florida.

    I always loved the ocean....body surfing, diving under the waves before they broke on your head.  And in my tiny mind, I thought that bad sharks are up only in Northeast waters.  Idiot.

     Anyway, my little brother and Mom were either at the pool or in the room and I begged my Dad to take me to the ocean.  I was a very good and strong swimmer but you just didn't go out alone.  And the lifeguards had left for the day.

     Dad, being a good sport, accompanied me down to the water.  I immediately dove into the warm water (Northeast ocean water is freezing) and started bobbing in the waves, swimming pretty far out and having a blast.

     The next part of the story comes from my Mom's recollections.  "Your father was standing at the end of the water watching you when he realized there was not one other person in the water or even near the water.  He asked a man fishing, 'hey where is everyone?'  The guy replied 'oh there was a shark sighting earlier.'  It didn't sink in immediately with your father.  He asked the guy 'oh really, where'?  The fisherman crinkled up his nose, put his hand above his eyes to block out the sun and pointed.  'See where that redhead girl is swimming?  Yeah right around there."

     Back to the story from my vantage point.  I have really bad eyesight.  And out playing in the waves, my hearing is not too good either.  I happen to look up and see my father doing some sort of crazy man dance.  My immediate thought is 'oh my God how embarassing what is doing'?  I finally realized, after what seemed like an eternity to my Dad, that he was telling me I had to come in.    He used the excuse that we needed to get ready for dinner or something.  I asked 'can I go back in tomorrow'?  "We'll see", he said, "but the pool looks really nice".

So yes, the power of the movies....and why that movie will stay with me forever.