Friday, February 3, 2017

More Trouble with Pay

Anyone who has been following me and/or allowing me to complain about my situation with my former employer over pay knows that this issue has been a rather inconveniencing one. This particular problem, thankfully, has been mostly rectified (they still owe me a couple thousand dollars, but "the check is in the mail" so I guess I am all good.

This post is not about that pay problem, however. My present job had a SNAFU with my pay as well. They quickly fixed the problem, so it caused minimal hardship, but it is yet another interesting example of how my life, no matter how mundane, can never seem to be boring.

On Thursday, a number of people received their pay stubs. I didn't get one, so I figured that they may hold back a check like some of my previous positions had done. The actual payday was Friday, but I did not go into work on Friday, so I had to wait until Monday to ask about it. It turned out that I also received a statement, though it came on Friday, the normal day for such a thing to occur.

I was advised to open it to make sure it was correct. I did so, and what I found was quite interesting. Under pay rate it had my correct wage. Under hours worked it had the correct number of hours: 30. Under gross pay: $0.00!

While my math skills are not the best, I was pretty sure something was wrong here. I took it to my supervisor who then sent it to payroll. It took a day or two for them to issue a new check. Now, if my former employer was on the ball this much, it would make me very happy indeed!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Why Can't My Life be Boring?

When people first hear about my travels and experiences, they normally say something along the lines of  "Wow! You have such an exciting life."

I politely smile, nod, and say "it seems pretty normal to me."  All the while I am thinking to myself, "you have no idea!" It seems that even when I do what seem to be the most mundane things, I find a way to make it just a little more exciting.  I can just hear some of you out there begging for an example, so here you go.

Having obtained a job, I found myself back in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, affectionately known as the UP. This was a bit of a surprise for me as I had mostly ruled out coming back up here because of the pervasive cold and snow that I am not too fond of, but find myself up here I did.

One of the first things I needed to take care of was getting my car registered. My plates expired near the end of December, and it was already the second week of January. I was told that they police normally don't catch this sort of thing, but I was weary of it nonetheless. At the first opportunity, I stopped at the Secretary of State office to take care of this issue.

I pulled into the almost empty lot, turned off the car, took a deep breath, and headed into the office. It resembled the parking lot in that it was mostly empty. As I walked through the door, I heard the person at the counter say "You dropped your glove." Sure enough, there it was lying on the floor right behind me. I picked it up, thanked her, and walked up to complete my business.

She looked up my plate information and told me that it had been blocked. I had called a couple weeks earlier and was told that it was blocked, but they also told me that they were releasing that after I provided them with the information they requested. Apparently, that release had not taken effect! She suggested that I just get a different plate as that would be the easier route. As much as I didn't want to have to try and memorize a new plate number, I decided to take her advice. "I guess I can have a fresh start to the New Year," I commented.

I had given her my insurance card when I first arrived at the counter. She had made a copy of it and was in the process of handing it back when she said, "oh, this isn't effective until tomorrow. Do you have proof of insurance for today?"

I rolled my eyes realizing that I was still having a difficult time keeping track of the days. Perhaps a calendar would be a good addition to my life, even though I do have one in my phone! Anyway, I pulled out my phone and attempted to obtain my insurance information online as I thought it would be quicker than going back out to the car. Boy, was I wrong! Apparently, there were issues with my data plan or my signal or something because it just was pulling up my information. Finally, I decided that it was taking too long, and I went back out to the car to get my insurance card from there.

I figured this would be easy because I knew exactly where the insurance card was. I grabbed it, turned around and headed back toward the building. Thud! Down I went. I started getting up only to slip again. I made it to my feet on the third try and slowly worked my way back into the building. I handed the card to the agent; she looked at it and said, "This isn't the right one."

I took the offending piece of paper and scrutinized it. Sure enough, it was for my brother's car! We both have Ford Fusions, though different styles and years. All I could do was sigh. The next step was to call the insurance company. This took a bit of time. The call itself was easy, but it was all computerized, and there were a lot of steps to go through. Eventually, I made it to the end, and the recording stated that they would fax my insurance information in 15-20 minutes. Fortunately, it only took about five.

I left as quickly as possible and wondered how, and when, I would put it on. I had no screwdriver, and I had purposely left snow over the plate to kind of hide the tags that were then expired. I did manage to change the plate, so all is well now, but one should not have such difficulty doing something so "normal" and easy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Travel is Fun, Right?

Have you ever had one of those days where nothing seems to go right? I sort of felt that way yesterday. It was time to say goodbye to Vegas and look back on the seminar I went there to attend. I had learned a lot and attempted to put into action one or two things that I had learned, though I did so with very little in the way of proficiency.

As I did this Monday night, my Tuesday morning came quickly and, as with all my travels, with a bit of trepidation. I had plenty of time to make a cup of coffee, wash the dishes, and watch a little tv in an attempt to relax a bit. I then went to check out about an hour before the shuttle would come to pick me up and take me to LAS, the first airport on my 3 airport day.

I checked in as I normally do, and nothing seemed to suggest the hassles that would come later on. The first flight was uneventful, and I landed in Seattle (SEA) eager for the 4.5 hours to pass, so I could board the next plane. It took a while, but seemed fairly smooth. I even bought some food!

Landing at Chicago's O'Hare airport, however, was not so smooth. The landing itself was a little rough, but it was the lack of luggage that foreshadowed things to come. As I was waiting patiently for my luggage to show itself, I watched the same piece of luggage go around three times before going to ask about my luggage's absence. As I approached the counter, the lady asked me "are you Mr. Rice?" Of course I answered in the affirmative. "Your luggage was routed to Anchorage," she continued.

I filled out the form describing my luggage and stating where I would be. After all of this, it was midnight. I dragged myself out to the shuttle to the Hertz shuttle. We slowly made our way to what turned out to be an almost empty lot. I was told to go to the Gold section and choose any car there that I wanted; the spaces stared back at me laughing! I went into the office, they said they were cleaning a car and were having it brought up for me. It only took about a half an hour or so! Then I was off to my hotel for the night, or so I thought!

I arrived at the hotel about 1:30am. They apologized and sent me to the Best Western down the street. They provided me with a coupon for a free buffet breakfast back at the original hotel as a way of making it up to me! The room I got was a suite, so at least that was good... I then drove the 3ish hours to my next hotel. Hopefully things improve!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Las Vegas Again

It seems that Las Vegas is just the place to start back at my blog again. There has been a lot of things to write for so long, but I have neglected it nonetheless!

My time in Vegas has been educational and intense! I am hoping that I have retained the copious amounts of what I have learned. This week has cost me a ton of money, but I think it will all work out for me in the future.

I had two days where I could do what I wanted to do: My first day here and today. On my first day I went out to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. The tour power plant portion was interesting, and I would highly recommend it. I was supposed to have a couple of extra hours to walk the top of the dam, but I decided to add on the Lake Mead portion because all of the others on the tour had purchased it as part of their package.

The Lake Mead water is extremely blue! It was a relaxing paddle boat ride. I could have purchased meal, but I am cheap and don't do such things. Prior to boarding the boat, they take pictures of those who are participating. I refused to have my picture taken, but they didn't listen to me and actually fought with me about it. I am not so sure I like the policy of forcing people to have their picture taken.

Today was a fun day! I didn't relly do anything this morning other than laundry. This evening, however, I went to the Mirage and spent my time there. I picked up my tickets, went to Starbucks for a tea, and then stopped at Pantry for a burger. The burger was a little on the expensive side, but it was well done and came with potato wedges, so I was happy enough to finish it off with a Banana Fosters Sundae!

I finished off the night by catching a show: Terry Fator. Terry Fator is vantrilequist, impresionist, and singer. I didn't realize eactly what I was getting into, but I really, really enjoyed it. He did a great Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, Donald Trump, among others. I am so glad that my friends suggested him.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Woman Driver!

Normally this would be a sexist statement of frustration, but this time is different ... this is Saudi Arabia! As many people know, women driving in Saudi is not a common occurrence; some think that it is actually against the law. While this belief isn't quite correct, the culture is such that it generally maintains the same result.

It was just after 6:00 am on the first foggy morning in at least a year. We could hardly see 3 meters in front of us, but my boss was not deterred from driving a little faster than I would have felt comfortable doing on my own. We quickly came upon a car that was driving super slow, obviously driven by someone who either was just learning or couldn't see very well. As we passed them, I glanced over to see who was in the car (yes, I am nosy). The contents gave me a bit of a shock.

Woman driver! Behind the wheel was a teenage girl in a white hijab carefully steering the car with, presumably, her father in the seat next to her and two others in the back seat. I don't know if they were taking advantage of the weather which would allow them to not be seen, or if this is something this particular family was used to doing for whatever reason, but I found the dissonance to be quite in line with many of my other experiences here. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Leaving for and Arriving in Ethiopia! (Part 2: BAH - ADD)

There was very little time to wait in Bahrain. I went through the screening area required for transiting passengers and immediately set out to find my gate. It was relatively easy to find, and there was already a number of people sitting there waiting. I took off my backpack and set it in the seat and then sat in front of it. I placed my computer bag between my legs and used my phone to let people know that I was soon going to be on my flight to Addis Ababa (ADD).

In what seemed like almost no time at all (about 40 min at most), the gate attendant asked us to form one line. At the same time, the other gate attendant was doing the same thing on the other side... each of them saying that we only needed one line. The confusion created was short lived as they decided that two- one lines was quite acceptable for the boarding process. I grabbed my computer bag, got into one of the lines anxious to be as close to one of the first passengers as possible. (The sooner I can get on the plane, the better I feel.) In my haste, the most likely thing to happen when one is in a hurry, happened. I forgot my backpack!

I noticed my mistake, got out of line, and quickly retrieved my backpack which was left untouched next to a person calmly slouching and looking at his phone. He noticed me and smiled. I smiled back, nodded, and took my backpack and got at the end of the line. The gate agent saw me and asked "why did you get out of line?" I told him I had forgotten my backpack.

"That reason is good enough for you to get in line up here." So I followed the request to cut in line a bit behind where I would have been originally. I made it to the plane, found my seat, took a couple of deep breaths, and watched the others board the plane. It was like many of them were flying for the first time. They didn't know how to find their seats, and the constant questions to the flight attendants slowed the process down. I was very pleased that they were still very respectful in everything they were doing, which is not what has been my previous experiences in such situations!

Finally everyone was seated, and we were about on our way. They gave us the safety speech, and I decided to look at the safety card during this time. The person sitting in the seat next to me looked at hers as well. I then put mine away, and she did the same. I found out that she was just doing what I was doing. She had never flown before was taking cues on how to behave.

During the flight, we were served a meal. It was not a great meal, but as far as airline food goes, it was pretty good. And when one flies in economy, it is not a certainty that one is going to even get a meal these days. We soon landed at ADD, Terminal 1. I definitely wouldn't mind flying Gulf Air again. 

Leaving for and Arriving in Ethiopia! (Part 1: DMM - BAH)

My excitement was overflowing as I tried to figure out what to pack a mere 6 hours before I was to head to the airport. I figured I should probably take clothes and my computer in case I found time to work. I knew that I wasn't going to be able to meet up with my friend who was supposed to have traveled there a couple of days previously as he had missed his plane and decided not to go. This being the case, I had no idea what to expect or do after I arrived.

Finally I decided that I had more than I probably needed, and that it was time to just attempt to relax (something very difficult for me to do when I am about to travel). My mind was racing, my anxiety up, and my desire to leave growing by the second. Finally, it was time! I went to my coworker's room to both exchange some SAR (Saudi Arabian Riyal) for some USD and prepare to go to the airport. He had generously agreed to take me on the hour long trip to what is basically the middle of nowhere.

This particular trip took over that hour, however. We managed to make to the airport fairly easily, but getting into the terminal took a little more doing. While it shouldn't have been quite as difficult as it was, the signs were not quite as easy to understand as they first appeared to be. It said to take the first right, but the first right did not take us where it was supposed to. We knew exactly which road we were supposed to be on, but couldn't seem to find a road that connected. We even looked into parking lots to see if there was an entrance from that side with no success.

We did finally manage to find a connecting road and make it to the airport. Upon entering, however, there was a LONG line that seemed to be waiting to put their luggage through an x-ray machine. I had already printed my tickets, so I went to find the entrance to the international departure area and hoped they would let me through. Success!

Then it was time to stand in line for the next hour waiting to get through passport control. Then I waited for the gate to open. I lost track of time and was only thinking about when the plane left as opposed to boarded, and it turns out that the plane was continuing on to Delhi after it stopped in Bahrain, so the destination they called out was Delhi. I just ignored it. Fortunately, I decided to go to the gate and see if it was open and found that it was boarding. I quickly got on the plane (they almost didn't let me because they were looking for a visa for India, which of course I didn't have), and while I wasn't the last one, there were only one or two who followed me!

The flight was uneventful, save for a few bumps. We got a little container of water just prior to take off on this 25 minute flight. Hydration is good even on short flights!