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Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Erranding We Shall Go

"Everybody does it," my wife said last night as we were chatting.

And, no, she wasn't talking about licking ecstacy pills out of a 20-year-old girl's innie on the floor of a nightclub. She was talking about erranding at work.

My wife is an intinerant speech-langugage pathologist. She goes traipsing about to children's homes and store-front daycare facilities and, if you think she can resist the temptation to hit up a fabric store in between appointments, well, then you just crazy, girl.

"One of my coworkers came into the office from seeing clients yesterday carrying bags from Pathmark, which she then put in the work refrigerator until she was ready to go home."

I guess we do all do it. Efficiency experts and corporate Hitlers call this practice "Time-Theft." There was a funny "The Office" episode about it, and it involved stopwatches, fornication, immunity, peeing in soda bottles, and Outback Steakhouse gift certificates. Obviously, it was an episode of the American "The Office."

I steal from my company all the time, and I don't feel bad about it, because my company steals from me. What does it steal? My time. Oh, and my soul, my will to live and procreate, my good nature and countenance, and the best years of my life. So, bearing that in mind, would I feel even the slightest bit guilty about, say, blogging from work?



Because I work in an office for eight, sometimes nine-and-a-half hours straight without any proper, prescribed lunch break. Is that legal? I don't think so. But I am expected to work through my lunch, with my boss constantly yammering into my ear until I develop tinnitus or aural herpes, mindlessly shoving forkfuls of salad into my mouth while I manage spreadsheets or attendance lists or compose worthless emails.

So, I blog from work-- and IDGAS.


I can remember, though, the first time I did a personal errand on work time, and I was practically shitting myself.

Greg and I were working the ambulance together on one sunny June day back in 2005. Greg was a huge black man with puffy, scruffy facial hair that looked phony, but wasn't. He spoke in a gruff voice, but he was actually very kind. He taught me how to drive an ambulance, even though I was supposed to have learned, you know, in a class. He really taught me. Greg had two cellphones clipped to his belt-- one for "family" and one for "bi'niss." Sometimes, while I'd be in the back of the truck tending to a patient, Greg would simultaneously conduct family affairs on one phone, bi'niss relations on his other phone, and handle the EMS radio, all at the same time. It was like watching a circus act, or a symphony conductor at work. Amazing. One of Greg's daughters had become Muslim ("I don't get it-- but if she happy, who cares?") and he would gruffly answer the phone when she called, "BAGEERA?! SALAM ALEKEM!"

Anyway, on this warm June day, Greg decided that he needed a new swimsuit, and he drove the ambulance to the parking lot of JOMAR, a huge discount clothing store for peeps in the hood. I needed a new dress shirt, but I was petrified about going in. I mean, after all, I was on the clock.

"Should we tell dispatch where we are?"

"Man! Are you crazy? Naw!" he said to me, his eyes bugging out of his head, "Everybody does this-- this is the way it is."

And then it hit me: this is how they can get away with paying us $11.00-an-hour for busting our asses schlepping 400-pound comatose bastards around Philly-- because they know that, during downtime, we're picking up our laundry or mailing our letters or going food shopping. As long as we're not in another county or time-zone and as long as we can be reached on the radio, I guessed that it was anything goes.

And so I bought two dress shirts and a tie. For $11.00. One hour's work, and thank you very much.

Two of my other partners on the squad, however, had slightly different ideas about on-the-clock errands.

Tom was a paramedic in his early forties. Coming to work to start his shift on time was like a disease to him, and he avoided it in the way that a germaphobe touches doorknobs with Kleenex and sprays Chloraseptic onto cabinet handles. I only worked three shifts with Tom in my time at this company, and, during each of these shifts some sort of errand or personal recreation was included.

Shift 1: On suspicion that his wife was cheating on him, Tom drove me, in our ambulance, 28 miles away to a hospital in Delaware (where his wife worked) to stalk his wife and see if he could get a look at her suspected lover's vehicle. Tom was driven to this action by his son's statement, "Mommy's boyfriend drives a Mazda Tribute." We saw two Mazda Tributes in this hospital's parking lot.

Shift 2: While not really an "errand," Tom hopped into our truck half-an-hour late for the start of his shift and threw a basketball, a towel, and a change-of-clothes into the ambulance. Ever play "P-I-G?" he asked me. It sounded to me like a game Laura Ingalls Wilder would have invented. "No," I said. He drove us to a basketball court. We played. I lost. Pig.

Shift 3: "We've got to go to Camden," Tom said as he put the ambulance into gear. "Why?" I asked. Tom looked at me and his face twitched everso slightly. "Traffic court." Tom parked the ambulance near the municipal building in Camden. This was a place where you not only kept the windows up and the doors locked, but you prayed in several different tongues that you would go home with no unnatural holes in your face.

"Be right back," Tom said to me. He took the keys to the truck, and the radio. He came back an hour-and-a-half later. His hair was all fucked up, he was covered in sweat, and his pupils were the size of pinheads. He smelled like a German Olympic team's locker room.

"We've got a call," he said, hitting the lights and the siren. He must have driven 80 miles an hour the entire way back to Philly-- illegally, I might add. I was sure I was going to die, and was almost disappointed when I didn't.

"I'm not working with that guy anymore," I said to my supervisor the next morning, "ever again."

"Don't worry about it," the supervisor replied. Two days later, Tom was fired for stealing over $8,000 worth of gas on the company Sunoco card.

For all of Tom's peculiar erranding, my partner Mitch, though, takes the cake and pawns it. Mitch was always being threatened with litigation, termination, extermination-- anything that ended in "ation" really. Consequently, he was always in need of a buck. As a medic, he made double what I made, but half his money went to child support, so we took home the same amount each week, which was sad for both of us. One day, in need of some fast cash, Mitch, 300 pounds and resembling a shaven yeti, turned to me and said,

"We gotta go to my place and take care of something."

He always wore mirror-tinted sunglasses and not seeing his eyes scared the bejompers out of me.

He told me to back the ambulance up to his front door, "so no one will see what we're doin'." It was 6:30 in the morning. As I put the ambulance in reverse, the "BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!" warning signal that alerts playing schoolchildren that an ambulance is about to run them over rang out into the chilly morning air.

"TURN THAT MOTHERFUCKIN' COCK OFF!" he roared at me. And I did.

I sat in the driver's seat of the truck for maybe fifteen minutes. I heard his front door shut and I looked in the side mirror and saw him carrying two very long objects, wrapped in blankets. I distinctly saw a muzzle sticking out from one of the blankets. Oh, good, I thought, so this is how my life is going to end. At least I know. It was almost comforting.

"Get out of the driver's seat," he told me. And I gladly did.

"I need some fuckin' money-- the landlord's after me, so I'm selling some of my guns."


"Rifle and a shotgun-- should get me some decent cash."

And he drove us to a pawnshop and he went in through the back door. Mitch was a back-door kind of guy. 10 minutes later, he came out with a wad of cash in his ground-chuck fist. He lunged into the truck and shut the door.

"Three-hunnert," he said to me in his trademark Cro-English, "not fuckin' bad, eh, bitch?"

When it came time for me to get Mitch fired, I read up on Pennsylvania law and EMS statutes. Who would have thought it was a felony to transport firearms inside of an ambulance?

Time-theft, though, ain't even a misdemeanor. Bitch.


  1. i'm at work right now. i would leave a better comment, but i have to go fix my breakfast, pay my bills and schedule a doctor's appointment.



  2. I keep stealing Splenda. I'm so badass.

  3. So clever! This one made me laugh out loud for real. Bitch.

  4. posts like this make me want to work like a real person. just so i can steal crap.

    ground-chuck fist? i can practically smell that man. priceless.

  5. I steal pens. And time. If I have to go on a site inspection, sometimes I stop for my errands on the way back to the office.

    But I have a friend who used to sell weed and Valium from work.

  6. How did you get Mitch fired? Did I miss a blog?

  7. I haven't stolen much from my current job, unless the hearts of my male coworkers counts. But I've taken things from my old jobs, including time. We played cards a lot.

    When I worked at a sandwich shop in college, girl I worked used to go tanning between delivery orders.


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