Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Whereabouts in America

A good friend, Nate Crimmins, began a biking trek across the US last week. Having hiked the Camino de Santiago w/him and Mark in '07, and also hiking the Appalachian Trail w/Mark and Erich in '03, I have a propensity for long-term adventures - only this time I am doing enjoyable work. So, I live vicariously through his blog, and anxiously await his arrival in Danville, KY in early July.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Death of a Car Salesman

After graduating from Centre, I remember toiling over the classifieds in a last ditch effort to find a job in New Jersey. Personal connections didn’t come through, and my interests didn’t match any jobs that were available. I committed myself to life in New Jersey for one year, and became desperate to find a job.

I ended up working for a car dealership for three months. I sold 34 cars.

At the end of the three month training, the company would pay the difference between what an employee on training pay would have made if on straight commission, and the base training pay. My buddy got a check for six grand. I technically owed the company a couple hundred dollars.

I attributed the difference to my inability to be deceiving.

After the three month mark, I received a company car, health benefits, and began working for commission, at 30%. I put my two weeks notice in two days later. The general manager suggested leaving two days later - he wanted people who wanted to be there, which is understandable.

Looking back on it, the 60 hour work weeks, loud rap music playing in the showroom, and working with 14 very, very interesting salespeople was a whole lot of fun.

I’ll probably blog about some of the stories at some point, but will end this entry with some tips about buying a car…

- Wait until the absolute last day of the month. Managers could care less about commission at this point, and would rather meet their quota of ‘vehicles moved.’ I saw some crazy deals go down at the end of the month where the company lost
some money.

- Always talk with manager near the end of negotiations. Half the time, the salesmen know little behind the numbers they show you.

- Never buy a car at a lot the first time you visit. Their goal is to sell a car every time a person walks through the door. Wait until after your first visit, then you will be in the driver seat during negotiations.

- Pay with cash. A lot of dealerships hate this. They rather finance cars, and like to hide things in the numbers and make customers focus on the payment figure.

- If you have a trade-in, don't bring it up until after you have worked out the numbers. Some dealerships try to 'raise the price of the car' and end up giving you less money for your car, even though on the money line, it looks like they are giving you blue-book value.

- Obviously, do your research before hand. Research your car, prices, and info/dirt about a specific dealership.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

4.1 Billion Distractions – Cell Phones Taking Over the World

A UN report revealed that 4.1 billion people in the world have cell phone subscriptions.  That’s 60% of the world.  And since 2004, the number of subscribers has doubled. 

A 2004 report from the U.S Census Bureau showed that 159 million residents were cell phone subscribers.  At the growth rate of worldwide subscribers, every American should have a cell phone, even the 25% who are under the age of 13.

That’s probably not too far-fetched of an idea.  Kids are owning cell phones at younger and younger ages.  I know a 6th grader who just got a cell phone for his birthday (and unrelated - an 11th grader who sent/received over 12,000 texts, and a Sunday School attendee who texts throughout the lesson).

There have been murmurs about the negative effects of cell phones/PDA’s/Smartphones  (and internet use) on the human brain among various news outlets (NY Times, Atlantic, Seed).  Hearty research is usually always cited, and tends to lean toward the conclusion that when used improperly, wireless devices can lead to lack of creativity, increased distraction, and lower work efficiency.

One ‘surface’ article written by Sharon Begley, Will the Blackberry Sink the Presidency? (which really isn’t about Obama), concludes that if used correctly, a Crackberry is a fine piece of technology and the more self confident you are, the less you will have cognitive lapses.

Used correctly?  The user, or the person the user is with?  Maybe said person just needs to be a good multi-tasker with the ability to easily shift focus from one thing to the other.  But, it bothers me when someone pulls out a cell phone to take a call or to text, especially if we are involved in an interesting discussion.   I’ll loose interest, and probably leave.

Maybe this person is a great at multi-focusing, but should they consider the other person, or other people around?  What if the other person isn’t good at multi-tasking?

Is this a personal pride thing for me, personally?  Do I think ‘How dare they interrupt the time that they are spending with ME?’  No, that’s not it.  I just think it’s disrespectful (although, at times warranted).

Now we have the potential for 4.1 billion disrespectful people. 


And that’s just the tip of the ice burg when it comes to this little pet peeve of mine.  I guess I'll have to learn to deal with it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I am ashamed that I missed out on April Fool's Day in the blogosphere.

Gmail's homepage tricked me a few years ago. Never Turn in a Paper in Late Again! was the title of an article. I was definitely suspicious, but my foolery guard was down and I took the bait. They claimed to allow users to manually set the date and time of email messages.

I remember wondering about the feasibility of such a ploy, and being impressed at such a feat. Gmail insisted that users were only allowed a certain number of manual time stamps per month. This was when I realized I was being duped. Good one Google!

Top 4 Favorite April Fool's Day Pranks:

4.) The classic chalk-in-the-eraser trick is worth mentioning - kids love pulling it off and think its some huge deal and teachers are never impressed. I pulled it several times in elementary school. My teachers just shook their heads and politely smirked.

3.) Secure a rubber-band around the hose that is attached to your kitchen sink. I can't count how many times I've used this one. I've given this one up and instead teach the trick to small children.

2.) This year, my foolery guard was at its all time low. Church folk don't seem to get thick into that kind of stuff. At the Wednesday night children's program, a 4-year-old boy came running over to me with a big smile. Then he stopped, and got quiet. "Wob, yoyr shows untied..." At the exact millisecond I started to glance down, my ear felt this excruciating pain of a shouting voice, "APEWIL FOOOLS!"

I smiled, raised both hands in the air, and shrugged, "You got me. You really got me." The rest of the afternoon with the children was a chaotic mix of made-ya-look and there's-something-on-your-shirt moments.

1.) I called my aunt several years ago in distress, explaining to her that I was going to be a father. She didn't freak out as I had hoped she would. She started making plans and organizing things and asking questions.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Undercooked Hot Dogs and St. Baldrick's Day

One of my favorite things to do as a youth director is to support the youth of the church by attending their extra-curricular events/activities. Chomping through sunflower seeds and washing down the salt with a cold soda, all the while cheering at a baseball game, is heaps of fun. Soccer games, dance competitions, wrestling matches, and basketball games are other events I have attended.

There is no personal risk in attending any of these events, other than the whistling foul balls or undercooked hot dogs.

I should have known better than to support Rob, a member of the youth group, at St. Baldrick’s Day the other week. The inherent risk of a shaggy youth director attending an event where 50 people gathered to shave their heads is completely different than the innocent baseball game.

St. Baldrick’s is a fundraising event where people shave their heads to both honor children with cancer and to raise money for research. ‘Shavees’ seek donors, and donors obviously have an interest in raising money for a good cause, but they also pledge so that they can see a friend loose his hair. St. Baldrick’s has raised over $50 million in nine years for the cause.

Rob and his friends were chiding me for not participating, but I responded with, “But I haven’t raised any money!” Then Lydia, a youth leader for the youth group, appeared out of nowhere.

“You’re not doing it?” She was shocked. I gave her my reason, to which she gave a sneaky grin and offered, “I’ll write a check right now if you shave everything…but leave your mustache!”

Oh man. It only took ten minutes for me to cave, but not without amending Lydia’s proposition. I could walk around town without any hair, but I don't think Danville is ready for a bald, mustached Rob Kinzel.

And besides, I needed a haircut anyway.

Females and males alike participated, with a family joining the cause – mom, dad, and boys, ages 4 and 7 lost their hair.

$14,000 and 50 bald heads later, a step forward was made in the name of childhood cancer.

I might have to think twice about supporting the youth at next year’s event...although, it wasn't as bad as an undercooked hot dog.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Meeting Her Prom Date

"I took your mommy to the prom," a gentlemen told me with a wry grin and a thin country accent. Not what you expect to hear at your mother's visitation.

"Boy, do I have some questions for you!" I joked back.

The services for my mom were extremely well done. Meeting my mom's middle school and high school classmates and sitting with her best friend, Brenda, helped me capture a truer image of who she really was - a pretty and shy kind of gal. Pastor Johnny, Brenda's husband, married my parents 36 years earlier. It was fitting that he presided over her funeral.

The first thing he did at the service was order everyone to shout "Yea!" because my mom was now with the Lord.

Where did they get this guy? I was contemptuously wondering who decided to let Johnny have the privilege over the ceremony.

Then he asked everyone to shout out "Booo!" because my mom was taken from us so early.

OK. Not bad. Hilarious, in fact. We all shouted, and felt our emotions validated.

Johnny candidly asserted that we all had be cheated. That was the one word that kept coming to him when he thought about the situation. He told us that it is normal to feel angry and cry out to God - many Psalmists did just that, but in the end they rejoiced.

Most funerals I have attended had pastors who seemed to try and get everyone into a better mood. Johnny allowed us to feel the weight of the day and joined us in our grief. Thank you, Johnny.

The cruise was a cruise. Not exactly my type of vacation, but fitting for a dad and his two kids - we didn't have to think about a thing. The sun warmed our souls, and subtle distractions on the boat helped us to move forward. We shared stories and read old letters. We laughed. We threw pillows at Dad to keep him from snoring. It was a good week.

And it is good to be back in Danville, having one foot already in front of the other.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sunny Places

Visitation is tomorrow. Funeral on Saturday. Fly to Miami on Sunday. Leave with cruise to Mexico on Monday. A very odd mix.

"Dad, what do you think others will think?" I wondered about our family decision to get away.

"I thought about it, and I don't care," he told me. And neither do I.

My sister wanted to go to a sunny place after the ceremonies, and that's where we're going, to a sunny place, like mom.

"What about when you have to go back to the cloudy place?" I asked my sister about her proposal.

"That's when we'll have to take it one step at a time."

It will be good family time to connect, get annoyed, tell stories of our mom, and relax.

But most importantly, it will be a moment to redefine a changed family - by remembering our mom and taking a step forward, together.