Okay, Now What?

Off the top, a couple of minor adjustments. For longtime readers (if reading from April counts as “longtime”), you’ll remember the original title of this blog was “On the Beach,” representing my jobless status as a recently unemployed professional and the direction of topics, which dealt with unemployment and looking for work. Once I started working again, I celebrated that fact in the name of the blog, “Doug Johnson at Work.”

I’ve been back on the job long enough that I don’t want to give the suggestion that part of me being “at work” is updating my personal blog, ’cause it’s not. Since I speak to a variety of topics, “at large” might be more descriptive (although those of you who followed my recent weight loss know that I’m not personally “large” anymore). Also, new header picture (giving Chaplin a rest, replacing him with the first moving assembly line, as well as a new profile picture). And now, on with the blog!

Two more transfers of power occurred in Memphis this week. Both were quick, simple affairs, and unlike the prophecies of doom offered by the former city mayor, nothing bad happened with either.

Man on a MissionAC Wharton resigned his post as mayor of Shelby County, waited a few minutes, walked across Main Street Mall, and took the oath of office as mayor of the City of Memphis. No muss, no fuss. Myron Lowery goes back to being a member of City Council and the Earth did not fall off its axis.

On the other side of the mall, County Commissioner Joyce Avery took became acting County Mayor, a job she will hold until her fellow commissioners select a permanent replacement to complete Mr. Wharton’s term.

Punched Out?


So, the sturm und drang of the Herenton years in City Hall are finally over. That is, until the various and sundry investigations into business deals, vacation pay and whatever else the local, state or federal investigators have cooking come to a head. For a man who styles himself as the greatest mayor in the history of our city, he’s left a fairly murky wake. And I’m completely flummoxed as to how this helps him position himself as a viable candidate for Congress. Oh well, stranger things have happened. Again, I know Dr. Herenton has a lot of strong support in this community, including people who have voted for him and people who have worked for and with him. Still, the job calls for a uniter, not a divider.

All the talk of a mandate for the new mayor is interesting. Yes, he got 60% of the vote in the special election. But only a tiny portion of eligible voters bothered to go to the polls. So, an incredibly small portion of people who could select the new mayor actually did. Is that really a mandate? Either way, the mayor has a pretty big job on his hands. I’m no longer interested in how he got to the office on the 7th floor, and you probably shouldn’t be either. Now, the question turns to how he’s going to manage the city’s problems now that he’s there.

No Controversy PlannedI know a lot of people think highly of Herman Morris, the new mayor’s choice for City Attorney. The Memphis Flyer seems to be pleased with the choice. The Commercial Appeal acts like they’re okay with it too. Of course, the Flyer’s John Branston had some concerns about Mr. Morris’ openness while head of Memphis Light, Gas & Water. He told WREG today that it’s his intention to make the City Attorney’s office one of those places that does not show up in the limelight. Good. After the heat and noise generated in the last days of Elbert Jefferson, we need the office to go about the business of the city without bringing too much negative attention to its operations. It would also be nice to cut back on some of those high legal fees the city ends up paying by using all those outside legal experts.


I Don’t Understand

With a title like “I don’t understand,” this blog could be about practically anything in my life (especially women). However, that’s a topic I don’t feel particularly safe navigating at this time. Actually, it concerns a story I saw on WMC-TV’s website.  It seems that people are attacking Memphis Light Gas & Water workers. They’re getting beaten, robbed, their trucks are being stolen. And I have to say, I don’t get it.



Let’s look at what we know. They don’t carry cash. They’re instructed not to wear jewelry on the job. There aren’t any fancy electronics in their trucks. There probably isn’t much of an aftermarket for service trucks with an MLGW logo stamped on both door. Even if you’ve got a beef with the utility, there still doesn’t seem to be much reason to threaten individuals who are just doing their jobs. One of the incidents profiled in the Action News 5 story says the MLGW guy was going to a house to turn the power back on… That’s on, not off.

Let them work!

Let them work!

The people you actually see on the street are the ones that come out in the dead of night or during snowstorms to get us all back online when something happens to knock out power out. It would seem like you’d want to cut those kind of people a break. At this point, some MLGW workers are refusing to go to certain places alone. So, the actions of some of the city’s knuckleheads are going to make getting utility service in some neighborhoods as tough as getting Dominos to deliver there. Nice.

His fault

His fault

I’m not going to go on a “Memphis is riddled with crime” rant. I’m also not going to criticize the work the Memphis Police are doing. I’m laying this one at the very large feet of the former mayor. I know he made a point of saying that as mayor, there was very little he could do about crime in the city. To me, that was one more reason he probably should have left the 7th floor of City Hall a few years sooner than he did.

As superintendent of schools, he should have done more to make sure Memphis children had the best education possible. I know how important it is that parents play a role in their children’s education, but it is possible to help kids when their parents don’t want to (or know how). Are there concrete accomplishments to point to (besides the increased layers of bureaucracy) from his time as Top Teacher?

Get a job!

Get a job!

And as mayor, don’t you have a responsibility to bring jobs, jobs and more jobs to the city, to give your less-well-off citizens fewer reasons to turn to crime? And again, it’s not about white collar or tech jobs. Tailor the type of employment you bring to the type of unemployment you have. If you’ve got large, underemployed clusters of people — that’s where the jobs should go! Not to the clusters of devoted functionaries you’re trying to help get a big payday before you leave office… Geez, I thought I was done with this guy.

Moving Forward

Holidays work a lot better when you’re working. Otherwise, what are you getting a day off from? That’s the situation I’m going through right now. I spent the last part of last week splitting the driving with someone going out of town. Got back Saturday, just before the Sunset Symphony, which I somehow remembered as happening on Sunday. So I was more than a little confused when Monday rolled around, since it felt like it was the day before.

And then there’s the blog. I’ve probably become too invested in it, making sure I had posts for Thursday and Friday of last week… forgetting that a lot of folks would be checking out for the 3-day (or 4 for some) weekend. Very few hits Thursday, Friday or Monday, since nearly everyone was out enjoying the holiday, instead of reading my blog at work (it’s okay, I won’t tell).

However, Tuesday means back to work. And even though I’m not officially employed, that includes me. I got another rejection e-mail the other day, which means I should be picking up the pace of looking for my next career step. Or my next it’s-not-great-but-it’ll-help-me-pay-the-bills-job.

Of course, one thing that seems to be a constant in my job search is that there still aren’t a lot of openings in what I do near where I live. I know it’s only going on two months, so I really didn’t expect the economic to have turned around by now… but still, I’d have hoped that there would be some movement, an uptick, something…

News & Notes

As I mentioned earlier, I was out of town last week. I spent a couple of days in Chicago, which added to my time confusion. I was splitting the driving with someone going up for a job interview. Nothing for me to do but get in a little sightseeing. Forgot to take along my good camera, do I had to make do with camera on my cell phone.

I only had the chance to wander around downtown, so I only have a couple of shots on and around Michigan Avenue.

Water TowerOf course, I stopped by the Water Tower. I was also in Water Tower Place, which is a multi-story shopping mall down the street. This was more interesting.

Wrigley BldgThere was also the Wrigley Building. I should have gotten a shot of the Realtors Building immediately to the north of this building. If you’ve ever seen an episode of the Bob Newhart show (the one where he was the psychologist, not the inn keeper), you’d recognize it as where he had his office. I was in front of it several years ago when I actually heard a guy tell the woman he was with “hey, it’s the “Bob Newhart Building…”

LifeguardsI walked under Lakeshore Drive and hung out by Lake Michigan. A couple of lifeguards were hanging out by the edge of the water. Who knew they had lifeguards by a Great Lake?

Anyway, I was wiped when I got home Saturday, so I did not attend the symphony along the Mississippi River, but I was able to get an okay view of the fireworks from my living room window, which was nice, although I really miss WREG broadcasting the event. It would have looked great in HD.

Should I have turned left at Albuquerque?

Remember the scene in “Groundhog Day” when Bill Murray’s character told the groundhog, “don’t drive angry?” I probably shouldn’t post when I’m annoyed, but I really don’t have much choice.

When I first lost my job, I noticed I was having trouble getting to sleep. Anxiety, I guess. That passed, but the last couple of nights, I’ve been having problems staying asleep. It wasn’t too much of a problem Monday; I woke up bright and early at 7:30, which allowed me to get a good start on a project I’ve been working on.

It’s a problem today. Got home at 10, talked on the phone until 11, tried watching WWE Raw on the DVR (yes, I watch professional wrestling – to me, it’s the perfect reflection of the human condition), got tired and went to bed around midnight. I started tossing and turning around 4 and had to get up at 4:30. Which bites. Hard. I hadn’t done a blog post yet, so I figured I’d at least be able to get that done, so here we are… I’m driving a wildly careening car into a junk yard, being goaded by Bill Murray. It’d be much better if I were back in Punxsutawney with Andie MacDowell. Frankly, it’d be better if I were anywhere with Andie MacDowell. I think it’s her soft southern accent.

Anyway, one of the things vexing me during the job search has been trying to find something in my particular field of endeavor, which hasn’t necessarily been easy. It’s makes you think about the stories over the last few years about auto workers and other out-of-work people being retrained in new careers. There are fewer things tougher to watch than a classroom of blue-collar folks in their 50s tapping away at computer keyboards for the first time… I can’t imagine that any of those people will get tapped for an IT job.

One of the helpful (annoying?) features of the Google search bar on my web browser is the auto-complete. Start to type in a word or phrase, and it will offer you a list of popular options. Type in “recession,” and the first thing on its list is “recession-proof jobs,” which just happened to be what I was looking for.

The first article on the search list is from Forbes.com. Number one on its list? Sales Rep. That one seems paradoxical. Sure, you need to increase sales during tough times – but who wants to buy anything when times are tough?

Software design and development is second. I had at least one boss at an old job who seemed convinced that all information will eventually flow through desktop PCs. Next time you pass someone working in the service industry; filling an order, cooking your lunch or washing your car, ask them how much time they have during the workday to access their desktop. Still, I know computers are a tool whose use will only increase.

And of course, nursing is on the list. It’s always been on those lists. We’re living longer, but less healthy lives and fewer people choose that profession in the first place. I remember doing a story years ago about the nursing shortage and how one of the Memphis hospitals was importing nurses from Australia. A few weeks after doing the story, I was at Oak Court Mall and saw the videographer who shot the story out with the tallest, cutest Aussie nurse. Real operator, that guy.

Anyway, those kinds of lists make me wonder whether I should have made a different choice of career earlier in life… whether, like Bugs Bunny in all those Warners cartoons, I should have turned left at Albuquerque to avoid problems later. Even though I have no particular interest in any of those professions. I think I’ve been lucky to have been able to do something that I not only have some ability in doing, but also enjoy. Yes, I’ve had my share of soul-crushing jobs, but there’s always been the saving grace of being in the field I wanted to be in. Where’s Andie MacDowell when you need her?

Mr. Right Now? Right…

Okay. I probably shouldn’t mention this, but when I lost my job, I sent an e-mail to a friend of mine who is now a local business owner and politician of some note. That person said they’d get back to me, but hasn’t in over a month. That’s even with me sending a second e-mail and calling their office and leaving a message.

I completely understand, considering the fact that they’re running a business, performing their public service and planning a run for higher office. But, I was tickled today when I saw that person had sent me an invitation to become a fan of their Facebook page. I was actually telling people this person would be a good choice for higher office before I moved back to the area two years ago. So, I do have confidence in their ability. Still, if you’ve got time to ask me for my support on Facebook, you can return an e-mail or phone call from a guy looking for work… especially if your upcoming campaign is going to need media help. Just saying.

Anyway, my actual topic for the day comes from an article I read on TalentZoo.com. It’s another of many job-related sites I go through now. Anyway, Amy Hoover asks and answers the question “Is it OK to Settle?

Ms. Hoover makes the point that people looking for work in the current economy should not be holding out for something just like they had, saying “I’m here to tell you it’s OK to settle for what I like to call Mr. Right-Now,” pointing out that having any job is the most important thing.

Okay, if you were with me on May 3rd, you know from my post, “How High the Moon,” that I looked at the same issue, noting how difficult it would be, particularly around here, to find something with similar compensation to what I had. Of course, I also brought up the point that my career placement center had pushed having a “walk away” point. That’s when you know exactly how much money you need to get by, and being willing to walk away if an job offer didn’t come up to that level.

Still, when it comes down to it, the situation may be that you can’t afford to walk away from anything, even if it’s not quite enough to get by. My pest control guy does that during the day, works somewhere else overnight and plays gigs as a jazz musician. I wonder whether I’ll find it necessary to become a “job slut” and accept as many of Ms. Hoover’s “Mr. Right Nows” as necessary to make ends meet.

Just don’t lose respect for me if I do, okay?