July 4, 2015

The Many Faces of Barbie [Mutual Obligations ep 17]

Ok, so it's day five of Barbie's School of  Job Readiness Etiquette. And, I'm finding myself becoming addicted to wearing the same fuschia pink lipstick favoured by the Barbster. What does this mean? ...Most likely too much medication ...Or perhaps not enough.

And it's becoming clear that we famous five unemployables (give or take some unemployed freelancers), are developing quite a positive and supportive group dynamic. This was after all, the outcome Mr Darcy had promised when initially placing us in the program.

Barbie enters the classroom (closes the door, so we can't escape), heads for the whiteboard, and announces that the topic for the day is about preparing for job interviews - with particular attention on personal appearance, attire and image. And going around the table, she asks each of us to offer a suggestion.

Jeremy says we should iron our clothes. Bea says we should be hygienic.

"Could you be more specific?" Asks Barbie. "By having a bath," says Bea.

Eileen recommends we wash and comb our hair. It's not rocket science. And Tim (one of the sporadic freelance unemployees) recommends we shave, and aim to look fresh.

I'm the last cab off the rank, and insist that an all-over fake tan wouldn't be a bad move.

And of course Barbie stresses we must be punctual and arrive on time.

With that over, Barbie moves on to the next topic being: How to respond to difficult interview questions, and situations. And predictably, she begins going around the table once again, asking each of us, "What animal would you like to be, if you had the choice?"

Oh damn I thought, never E-V-E-R in my whole 45? (dog) years have I been asked THAT question (and that includes during prep school, assorted therapy sessions, and job interviews). So boy would I be excited if I was asked that one - instead of the predictable ...Now where do you see yourself in five years time? And what would you do if a co-worker, or customer threw a hissy fit?

My NBF Eileen, got top marks from Barbie, when she replied that she'd like to be a meerkat. Apparently according to HR surveys, that's the top ranking answer.

Then Barbie focused her piercing blue eyes on me. But not having had enough coffee, or chocolate that morning, my menopausal mind went blank - and all I could respond with, was that I didn't want to be a rabbit.

After my inept answer, I could see Barbie's eyes start to glaze over. And I feared she might make me stand in the corner, for being such a dimwit. However I was saved by Bea (the Barbara Cartland doppelgänger and enterprising weed vendor), who began telling the group about the time she went into an interview with an umbrella, that refused to fold-up. And she went on to tell us in fascinating detail, how embarrassing it was for her, with the presence of the huge umbrella, dominating the entire interview.

At this point everyone else's eyes glazed over in unison, and Barbie announced that it was time for a rest break.

Eileen and myself remained in the room to have a chat. And it was then that Barbie came across to us, and mentioned that Bea's lengthy monologues were getting to be a bit of a disruptive issue for the class. But WE did not think so. WE LOVED Bea's stories. However, Barbie tells me, just quietly, that she's going to have a word to Bea about it. It was then, that the first chinks began to appear in Barbie's size 6, unblemished demeanour.

When Bea returns to the class, I watch closely to observe Barbie's response. Fortunately she says nothing to Bea, and continues on with the day's topic.

Keeping with the discussion theme, and to lighten the atmosphere, I take the initiative by telling the group a couple of folk tales from my own job interview mishaps. There was the occasion, when midway through an interview - the organization's fire alarms went off ...and the interview panel and I had to make a quick exit, to congregate on a nearby sports oval. And then I told the group about another time, during an interview, when - after expressing myself by gesticulating with my hands (as one does when one has 50% latino blood) - I inadvertently smashed my watch face on the table. Sh*t happens.

At this point, Barbie cut in, flashed her steely gaze at me, and said: "What does THAT! have to do with the topic?" But she doesn't finish there and says, "Can you tell the class where the connection is to what we are talking about?"

I'm lost for words. And I feel there's no point debating the Barbster ...even though I'm twice her age, dress size, and quite possibly IQ level (though one wouldn't be breaking any calculators doing the latter measurement).

In front of the other unemployables, she has made me feel like a stupid, incompetent, irrelevant dork. And I long for the class to be over.


What Barbie Did Next [ep.16]


Bonjour Monsieur [Obligations Mutual ep. 1]

June 6, 2015

What Barbie Did Next [Mutual Obligations Ep.16]

It's day four of Barbie's "School of Job Search Etiquette". Day four of what the Job Network describes as an "intensive course in job seeking", whereby participants must attend, Monday to Friday (9am to 2pm), for one full month ...compliments of Australia's (un)Employment Services.

So as the dawn breaks, I squarely eyeball myself in my bathroom mirror of discontent, and conclude - going forward -  that I have no option but to seize each and every moment of this new job readiness "opportunity". Essential to this is shaking off any preconceptions I have...along with residual stubborn memories of my former task master, Monsieur.  

I walk the line

And regardless of obvious curriculum deficiencies, and the feeling that I was actually required to be there (not for expert job readiness tuition) - but in fact as a kind of punishment for being unemployed -  I resolve to prepare myself to be fully in da zone with the Barbster.  

I arrive on time. I dress for success. And to maintain personal congeniality levels - arm myself daily with a just-in-case arsenal of fuschia pink lipstick, dark chocolate, migraine medication, minties for my classmates, a soothing lavendar bag, a colouring in book, and assorted Derwents.

So it's all going perfectly swimmingly. And we famous five unemployees - give or take one or two occasional unemployable drifters ...were settling in just nicely. 

Like kids in a creche, dogs in a park - or more accurately ...those dames in the TV Series Prisoner - after a few days, it was evident our teething problems, and the pecking order was getting sorted. In fact all that was really needed, were green Wentworth Prison uniforms, Mohican hair cuts, a steam ironing press in the corner of the room, and someone like Pamela Rabe running operations from an adjacent comfy office. 

The group dynamic

In no time, we felt we were getting to know Barbie ...that is, we thought we had her worked out. 

I would sit alongside my class mate Eileen - the ace archer from Monsieur's class - another remedial unemployable. It was a liaison with benefits. For like The White Mouse of World War II (or an unofficial "woman from ASIO") Eileen would periodically disclose to me, juicy nuggets of information about each new unemployee on the block.

For example, who would have known that Bea, the midlife lady unemployable, seated opposite - an exact Barbara Cartland doppelganger! - was in fact, an underground supplier of weed? NO...?!

At first glance, I thought the exquisitely coiffed, engaging woman of a certain age, wouldn't look out of place at a Country Womens' Association meeting. So naturalIy, I was stupendously impressed!! when I found out about her industrious home-based "start-up" enterprise. That is, impressed that she wasn't selling Amway, or Avon, or anything with dangerous pesticides. I mean really ... who needs more makeup or hazardous cleaning products cluttering up their closet?

The networking

And as Barbie droned on, we surreptitiously passed scribbled notes to each other, which expressed what we really thought of our "teacher".  I know, how immature and year ten were we ...?!

But alas during breaks, we couldn't help reminiscing about Monsieur, and his associated nuanced abilities as a job readiness tutor-baguette-provider-extraordinaire ...of the old school.

"Where are her Modules?" We'd mutter in disgust. "And the structure! The worksheets! And ...at least evidence of astute lesson planning (plus hospitality skills) that were the mark of Monsieur". It was all so frustratingly ad hoc, lackadaisical, and devoid of finesse ...in short, unAustralian...and more to the point, boringly unFrench!

Yet, the unemployed Witches of Eastwick we were not.  For, being mature ladies of innate wisdom and know-how, we actually did sympathize with young Barbie - who was after all - only trying to do her job. So we unemployees soldiered on, by outwardly behaving ourselves, and knuckling down to any random task, that the skinny, air-brushed Barbster presented to us. We focused on toein' the line.

When she stood at the whiteboard, flinging her size six arms about, asking us questions - we would enthusiastically provide spontaneous and lucid answers from the school of life. We felt we were becoming role model participants in Barbie's deplorable unemployables tutorials.

However, as the minutes ticked on, it was evident that Barbie had lost patience with us, and her congenial Mattel inspired venere was observed to be slowly pealing away.




Bonjour Monsieur [Obligations Mutual Ep 1]

May 23, 2015

Robots To Replace Fast Food Workers

Could the decrease in McDonald's fast food sales mean that it's the beginning of the end? That is, the end of the convenience of being able to get a drive-through, decaf soya latte  - or a luscious, full-fat 60 cent ice-cream? (between that and a 70 cent postage stamp, it's clear which one I'd prefer to lick). I know ...how disturbingly, and conspicuously - low-brow, high-bogan, and outer suburban!  

But to me McDonalds represents egalitarianism, and the opportunity to run in off the street, and use their facilities (rare as telephone boxes these days) without "spending a penny" so  to speak. And, you skip being served by snooty, po-faced waiters ...who you know have calculated your BMI and hipster-rating, before you even say flat-white, single origin coffee, 5 sugars, and a locally sourced bocconcini on sourdough panini ...please. Hate that.

News Examiner reports that McDonalds is apparently in the middle of a prolonged domestic turnaround attempt amid fierce restaurant competition. CEO Steve Easterbrook has said McDonald's needs to act boldly to revitalize itself as the outside world has changed more quickly outside of McDonald's than inside the chain.

So after seeing a decline in earnings for the first time in nine years, in an effort to trim their budgets – they’ve decided to cut costs by replacing employees with robots, just as many grocery stores across the world have started doing.

In fact,  News Examiner has announced a new McDonalds location is set to open in Phoenix, Arizona (on July 4). The new location will be run entirely by robots, aside from a small crew of humans (no I'm not making this up), who will be hired to help operate and oversee the robots - to insure all of the robots are working correctly, the food and cleaning supplies remain stocked, along with removing the money collected by the robots. They say it'll be a test run to see if a mostly robot staff will work in other McDonalds restaurants. 

Visitors to the restaurant will see the new robots working in harmony at a speed of 50 times faster than the average human employee, with no chance of error. If the test launch for the store is a success, people can expect to see robots located in every store all over the country and across the globe.

Phoenix resident, 52-year-old Tom Downey, who has been unemployed for the last 3 years, was excited about the opening of a nearby McDonald’s until he heard about the robots.  “Now that they hire only robots, I don’t know what I can even do. I don’t have an education, a car, and now I’m not gonna even be able to get a burger job. Just the thought of having to go to the state unemployment office and stand in line with those scumbags!”

42-year-old Irwin Waddams, an unemployed fast food worker, told reporters he is extremely disappointed by the decision to employ only robots instead of humans. Another disheartened [human] applicant said, "McDonald’s had my resume, I already completed two job interviews there and they said I was scheduled to work once the new store opened ....Then I hear of the robots [doing the job] instead of a regular human."

Who knows when we will see MacRobots in Australia? Perhaps my recent experience, is a sample of things to come ....soon. For it was only a second after entering one eastern suburbs McDonalds, that I was approached by an overconfident, customer services wizard/pimply kid, who ushered me - against my will - over to a "self-order kiosk". I tried to stand my ground. I protested...

Me: "No don't make me do that!"
Pimply kid: "Don't be scared, it's really easy."
Me: "But I like the face-to-face stuff. I WANT to go over to the counter. I'm a people person!"
Pimply kid: "Look it won't take long."
Me: "But I DON'T want to push any more buttons today thankYOU!"

Of course, Pimply Kid wouldn't take no for an answer. And before I knew it I'd ordered - who knows what - via a giant instore iPad. And then I gave it my money!

Meantime, back in Arizona, the store’s new manager, Jay Funkhouser, is said to be over the moon, with the robots, "They get their work done in a fast and orderly manner. And they don’t ask for cigarette breaks.” A spokesman for McDonald’s said that because of the demand for a $15/hr wage, the company has been considering the idea of a restaurant run entirely by robots for years, and believes their “McRobots” are the answer.

The Guardian reports that McDonald’s “dinosaur” culture may be to blame for its declining sales and waning stature. Nell Minow, a co-founder of governance advisory firm GMI Ratings, who has been dubbed the “the queen of good corporate governance”, said McDonald’s should immediately move to shake up its “dinosaur” board. She said the company must also bring the board’s average age “down at least a couple of decades”. Now I don't like the sound of that ....Ageist hussy.

And when will reinvention obsessed, greed is good, corporate CEOs learn that making a "customer" interact with a screen to get service, does not always equal forward thinking and innovation. Yes it's possibly true that half of McDonald's customer base are poised for "The Jetsons" family fast-food experience ....however it's likely the other half still expect what they'd get at"The Waltons". That is, food and service, that's provided via "staff" that are unplugged. 

So regarding the overconfident, pimply kids serving us - it's about time they wake-up and smell their coffee - and rethink the assumption that a customer's reluctance to use an iService kiosk, does not instantly mean they're some kind of digitally challenged, iTech refusenik.

Alas .... I’m beginning to have a rethink about re-engaging permanently, with snooty nose cafe waiters, and not minding if they serve me their home-spun lemon curd tart on a manky wooden chopping board. 

Mike Licht


Why Robots?

5 Reasons Coffee is a Job Seeker's Friend

What's Age Got To To With It?

Icecream image via flickr

May 19, 2015

Welfare Word of The Week: Double-Dipping

Word origin

In a Seinfeld episode George Costanza stands in front of a buffet table at a social gathering, snacking on chips and dip. An onlooker spies him dipping a chip, taking a small bite, and then diving in for more dip. 

Tim: "Did you just double-dip that chip?"
George: "Excuse me?"
Tim: "You double-dipped the chip!"
George: "Double-dipped? What are you talking about?"
Tim: "You dipped the chip, you took a bite, and you dipped again."
George: "So?"
Tim: "That's like putting your whole mouth right in the dip. Look, from now on when you take a chip, just take one dip and end it."
George: "Well, I'm sorry Timmy, but I don't dip that way."
Tim: "Oh, you don't, huh?"
George: "No. You dip the way you want to dip, I'll dip the way I want to dip." 

And so Urban Dictionary confirms that the essence of double dipping, is to dip a piece of something - maybe a shrimp, into a tangy communal cocktail sauce - bite it and then dip the bitten part back into the sauce. Ok to do, if you're a cute, free-range toddler - on a mission. But not if you're 45. That's when double dippers are considered to be plain unhygienic mongrels. Alas, it's recommended you only double-dip, with the curtains closed, and when you're home alone with Fido.

Other accepted common usage

Free Dictionary says double dipping is also the practice of receiving compensation, benefits, etc. from two or more sources in a way regarded as unethical, as from a military pension and a government job. Or receiving two incomes from the same source - as by holding a government job and receiving a government pension. Gosh WHO would do that . . .? 

The Guardian reports Australian treasurer Joe Hockey saying, that the wives of government ministers Josh Frydenberg and Mathias Cormann, might have “double-dipped” on paid parental leave and not told their partners.

The government wants to stop parents – predominantly mothers – from accessing both their employers’ and the federal PPL scheme. It has been criticised for accusing parents who “double-dip” of engaging in rorts. 

Shortly after the budget was announced last week, finance minister Mathias Cormann and assistant treasurer Josh Frydenberg admitted that they had benefited from accessing two forms of entitlements

Hockey would not be drawn on whether Cormann and Frydenberg had alerted their colleagues to the fact that their wives had used both concurrent schemes.

“I can’t recall,” Hockey said.

So is this domestic double-dipping,  astute home economics - or just a clever rort ...?

Next week we explore the word "rort", and (a) when is a rort not a rort? ....but a wild, drunken party (according to Dictionary.com), and  (b) does it essentially depend on marriage to an Australian politician? If you ticked both boxes, the law apparently embraces your multi-dipping. So it can't possibly be rorting (...that's something only, riff-raff poor people, and welfare recipients would do!), and you're clearly, justifiably entitled to continue double-dipping that crunchy chip - just like George Costanza! - with bells on ....going forward.