Sunday, September 18, 2005

The process is almost over

Well, I have a full-time job, a little bit of money put away and yet I'm still in a shelter. Why, you ask?
Because of a little thing called credit, and deposits.
Stop your whining, you say!
And so do I. This is the last post for this blog. I may open a new blog to put my life's story in, which was started so long ago when I had time. I will post that link here when I'm ready for that.
Until then, thank you for viewing and if you like what you've read here, pass it on, because it's an important story to tell, I believe.

Michael Fox

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Going Full-Time!

Sorry I have not posted for a while, but I found out earlier this week that my job is going full-time! WOOOOHOOO! I really started that this week, but one day was still 5 hours. But I have to get the paperwork done and all that, so that I can get insurance and stuff. I hope I get Labor Day as a paid holiday, because I can't work it, no buses. But with the added income my leaving the shelter is only a matter of time. But I have a dilemma: Part of me really wants to leave as soon as possible, another part wants me to save and stay here while I pay off some bills and put money together for my self-employment project. I have to think about it.

Bad news: I have a cold. I hate colds. It's been surprising, though, that since coming to Raleigh my allergies have not played around much and my cough all but disappeared, until yesterday. I'll fight it off like always.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Good news and bad news

I really have nothing new to report, other than I continue to work and write, though not at the same time. I could report what I've been going through at work, but I've heard of people getting fired for posting on blogs about work, so I will not do that. I did have a somewhat difficult week, though.

I moved into a different dorm this week, one that will allow me to sleep in an extra hour and a half. Wooo! And I have to start saving $200 from each paycheck from now until I move out, which is both good and bad. The bad part is I need clothes. But we'll work on that.

I did figure out why I hadn't been getting food stamps. MY case manager hadn't sent in the verification of homelessness. I took care of that Friday.

Oh, I do have one sad piece of news. I did not get the job I've been talking about. The HR person called this week and said they were looking at other candidates, but she wasn't sure why. Well, it could be one of two things: I either did not have all the requirements (and this is supposed to be an entry level job) in the software they wanted, or it's because I'm homeless. I'd like to believe it's the former, but I tend to think it's the latter.

Next time I will not be that honest. That's one of my problems. I'm honest and volunteer information when I shouldn't. C'est la vie.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Huh?

I don't know if it's a Raleigh thing, a homeless thing or something else, but since I've been down here all I hear is 'huh?'

I hear it when people don't listen and they really mean 'What?', or 'I beg your pardon?' or something more polite than 'Huh?' It's annoying to the nth degree, and I hear it all the time.

I hear it in the dorm. I hear it on the bus. I hear it while waiting at Wake County Human Services.

I want to scream, but then they'll think I'm the strange one. And I'm strange enough as it is.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

First paycheck

Well, friends, I have received my first paycheck in over 7 months. It is almost gone now, only being a week's worth, but it was a good feeling for a while. Things I spent it on:

A cell phone. Necessary if you are homeless, because you can't count on a direct phone line any other way. It's a pay-as-you-go phone, so I won't be using it very often, just for incoming calls from potential full-time employers and maybe calling them back. But it's nice that I'm connected. I can do txt messaegs too, but those don't come cheap.

Another bus pass, because the one I'm using is about to run out.

Food. Because I can't be in the shelter where the food is. I tried to apply for Food stamps, but they only gave me $24 worth, and that went rapidly. I still have to check out why they haven't given me more. Even with the job, my income falls below the poverty line.

Not much else to tell. I start my first full week out of training on Monday. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

I have a job!

Well, amazingly enough, I did manage to find a job, after 8 months of unemployment. It took three things: a bus pass, a visit to the NC Employment and Securities Commission, and a company desperate enough to hire anyone.
It is part-time, maybe 30 hours a week, starts at $7/hr and there will be bonuses and commissions, but I don't know what that will add to the bottom line. I will still be able to make it to the Target interview, though, and I will continue to pursue other opportunities. But the monkey is off my back. I am employable. So stop telling me to get a job you bum!

Another update

Well, I did call that one job back, the one with the long test. I have an interview this afternoon, but the job is part time and only pays $7/hr to start, $8/hr after training, with about 30 hours a week. But there is apparently some commission involved and bonuses, and since it IS a job, if they want me, I'll take it. If I do get it, it will start Monday, so I'll hear quick, maybe by the end of the interview and I'll post if that should happen.
Other than that, nothing new in my life.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Job Update

I was scheduled for an interview with Target today at 11am. I dressed nicely, got there very early, and was told they weren't interviewing today, come back next week. I stood with my mouth open.
I refrained from saying anything negative and walked away. I will have to think about whether I want to work for Target now. Of course, if nothing comes up between now and then, I will go back.
I got several leads from the NC Employment and Securities Commission, one of which required that I fill out an application online. I did so, and it was the longest online application I've ever taken, because they required me to take 2 assessments, one a personality assessment, the other testing math and verbal skills. I passed with flying colors. I've put the assessment they sent me at the end of this blog. I had a message waiting for me when I got home last night, but I have been unable to reach them to schedule an interview.
I am still waiting to hear from the one I interviewed with last Thursday. In that case, I expect my credit report worked against me. I'm not happy about that, but I have no control over it right now.
I am still trying to get in touch with a company in Charleston about an interview. I've been trying for a month. It sounds familiar, but really it's a case of phone tag, and not having a phone where I can be reached direct.
But I'm still working on leads. It has been a long road, and I do see an end to it, hopefully soon.

This is what I received after taking the evaluation:


Behavioral science has proven that the most successful people are those who know themselves, both their strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge is important to them as they develop the strategies necessary to meet the demands and challenges of achieving success.
The purpose of this report is to help you to identify and make full use of your strengths, and to help you develop an awareness of any areas that could be limiting your effectiveness. The goal of this report is to help you to achieve greater success for yourself.

The report gives you a Profile of the Total Person

· Thinking Style – Learning index, Verbal Skill, Verbal Reasoning, Numerical Ability, and Numeric Reasoning.
· Behavioral Traits – Energy Level, Assertiveness, Sociability, Manageability, Attitude, Decisiveness, Accommodating, Independence, and Objective Judgment.
· Interests – Enterprising, Financial/Administrative, People Service, Creative, Technical, and Mechanical.

The information in your report can be useful in planning a self improvement program for your professional development and personal growth.


A Profile of the Total Person
Thinking Style
Learning Index (An index of expected learning, reasoning and problem solving potential.)
· Your understanding and utilization of new information will be better than most individuals in the general population.· You are an effective learner in most situations.· You handle fairly complex tasks with relative efficiency, demonstrating strong problem-solving abilities.· You generally learn by paying attention to detail and determining how the information applies to various relevant areas of your work.

Verbal Skill (A measure of verbal skill through vocabulary.)
· You have a sound understanding of everyday communication processes.· You can build on your foundation as the particular communication skills required in performing the job become familiar.· You show strong potential for developing existing skills with communication.· You should be competent in making analyses involving written and verbal data.

Verbal Reasoning (Using words as a basis in reasoning and problem solving.)
· You assimilate verbal information fairly rapidly when compared to the general population.· You should communicate thoughts and ideas to others effectively.· You are proficient in information gathering and expression of thoughts and ideas.· You probably prefer to work with verbal information.

Numerical Ability (A measure of numeric calculation ability.)
· You show strong potential for developing existing skills with numbers.· You can build on your basic foundation as the particular calculations required in performing the job become familiar.· You have a sound understanding of basic mathematical processes and are able to mentally figure some numeric combinations.· You should be competent in making mental estimations involving numerical data.

Numeric Reasoning (Using numbers as a basis in reasoning and problem solving.)
· You work well with numbers and numerical concepts.· You complete numerical problems with comparable success to the general population.· You grasp numerical concepts readily.· You demonstrate a relatively strong ability to solve problems of a numerical nature.

Behavioral Traits
Energy Level (Tendency to display endurance and capacity for a fast pace.)
· You act with a sense of urgency under routine conditions.· You are moderately energetic; your work pace will show few peaks and valleys.· You are capable of taking action in a timely manner.· In general, you focus on timely results.

Assertiveness (Tendency to take charge of people and situations. Leads more than follows.)
· You tend to prefer solutions that are not risky and that have been proven to be effective in the past.· You are careful in asserting yourself, tending to be more of a follower than a leader.· You sometimes need to be in charge and to be the leader, but not in all situations.· You tend to be a good listener, to be more comfortable as a participant in a group rather than the leader.

Sociability (Tendency to be outgoing, people-oriented and participate with others.)
· You are quick to initiate relationships, to interact easily. You generally fit in with all types of people.· You are highly inclined to promote the benefits of teamwork. You tend to confer with others and to involve the team in the discussion of how things will be done.· You spend a great amount of time interacting with people, engaging them in conversation and being concerned with interpersonal relationships. You would find it extremely challenging to work in isolation from other people.· Your sociability is highly compatible with establishing a network of contacts. You are open to others, approachable and quick to share feelings and ideas.

Manageability (Tendency to follow policies, accept external controls and supervision and work within the rules.)
· You express a positive attitude concerning organizational constraints and restrictions.· Your need for autonomy and independence is superseded by your respect for authority.· You are highly cooperative and agreeable, quite willing to accept supervision and external controls.· You readily accept authority and rules, demonstrating a cooperative and friendly interpersonal style.

Attitude (Tendency to have a positive attitude regarding people and outcomes.)
· You express a positive attitude regarding supervision and external controls.· You have a highly positive attitude concerning risk, change and unexpected challenges.· Your attitude is highly compatible with confronting interpersonal problems and frustrations.· You demonstrate a highly positive attitude regarding changes in policies and procedures.

Decisiveness (Uses available information to make decisions quickly.)
· You stand firm on some decisions and may not be inclined to back down once a decision is made, unless under pressure.· You are capable of responding to an emergency and of solving problems in a timely manner.· You are not inclined to delay important decisions.· You are typically decisive and effective in positions that require timely results.

Accommodating (Tendency to be friendly, cooperative, agreeable. To be a team person.)
· You are quick to accommodate others and to avoid interpersonal conflict.· You are highly motivated by an informal, positive and relaxed work environment.· You share a high commitment to reducing conflict and establishing cooperation. You are comfortable working as part of a team and with sharing ideas and information.· You may tend to minimize serious problems and negative information. You are quick to seek solutions that are acceptable to everyone.

Independence (Tendency to be self-reliant, self-directed, to take independent action and make own decisions.)
· You are comfortable with the normal restraints of organizational life.· You generally prefer to follow established procedures.· You are willing to function in a coordinated, interrelated way, wanting to participate in group decision-making.· You are usually satisfied with the status quo and are comfortable working within the system.

Objective Judgment (The ability to think clearly and be objective in decision-making.)
· You are highly inclined to make considered judgments, applying experience to current problems and situations.· You demonstrate a consistent tendency to take an objective view and to adjust judgment as needed to reach accurate conclusions.· Judgment and decisions on your part should indicate highly consistent usage of your thinking capabilities.· You are likely to show sound judgment under pressure.

Occupational Interests

Your interest results are focused in the Creative, Technical and People Service themes. This is the pattern of an individual who enjoys the creative aspects of dealing with people and technology or theories. One would expect such an individual to be drawn toward technical opportunities, especially as such technical information applies to the service and improvement of people's lives. You are likely to be attracted to the opportunity to use creative thinking toward such endeavors.


Boy was that last part right. That's all for today.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The Pros and Cons of 'taking anything'

I've been told a number of times to just 'take anything,' as far as work goes. Well, I've done that, officially. Here are my opinions:
First, the 'anything' I take is going to be temporary at best. I will not spend my life washing dishes for 6 bucks an hour and for less then 32 hours a week. That's a sure way to either continue being homeless or wind up on welfare. As long as you and I agree on that, we won't have a problem.
Second, despite what some politicians might think, the minumum wage is too low. People DO work for minimum wage and it exacerbates the social problems we're already having.
Third, Some people, like the blind man I do contract work for, know that people like me, homeless, jobless, penniless, will take 'anything' to get work. I am not the only disadvantaged person he has taken on. He has one mentally challenged person, and one person in prison who is working on early release. I haven't delved into the histories of the other two employees, but his wife also works, and a daughter. Yet he complains he can't afford to pay more than $6/hr.
Fourth, this blind person has nothing wrong with his brain. I am too slow for his taste (and always will be), and he has tried others. He told me he can't keep people there (I do not wonder why), but the only reason he gives for keeping me around is I'm there when he wants me to be, and on time. One of the other employees told me I was the first one to get past the second day in months. So that must speak for something.
So while I do appreciate the opportunity to work and get a little spending cash, I do not appreciate being taken advantage of. I worked 4 days, and every one of those days I asked myself 'Is it worth it?'
Is is, for now, until something better comes along.
Speaking of money, let me tell you how I spent what little I earned.
1. A 31 day bus pass. Already put to good use in allowing me to travel to malls and such where the 'better' jobs are. I have an interview Wednesday at a local Target, which I could not walk to.
2. New Jacket, underwear and suspenders. I already used the jacket for another interview.
3. Pens! (YAY!) Something I have put to good use so far.
4. A pillow. Since the SWSC does not provide pillows, and my neck has developed a crick.
5. A lock. So I can lock my pillow away so it does not walk away.
6. Laundry detergent (double yay!). They provide washers, but no detergent. I needn't say more.
That's a sample of where my money went, and yes, it's almost gone. I do plan to make another purchase if he asks me back. That's a cell phone. Frivilous? Not on your life. I have limited access to phones here, and a lot of employers seem to want to talk to me in person. Strange how that works. I will buy a pay-as-you-go phone and use it for incoming calls and outgoing employer-related calls.
That's if I get called back.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A job, sort of

For the last week, I have been working, under 'contract', for a cafe in Raleigh as a dishwasher. I saw under contract, because the guy who runs it is unsure of me, as am I of working for him. He pays $35 a day, which considering I work 6 1/2 hours, come to just over minimum wage. You can see why I'm leery.
He's trying different people from the shelter, but so far I have worked 4 out of the last 6 working days. I will not work tomorrow, as he found another guinea pig. I don't know what will happen, but until I find something better, I will come in when he wants me to.
More later.

Monday, July 11, 2005

I have an interview!

Well, after that posting about getting calls, I have in fact received 2 calls about potential jobs, and one led to an interview this week. I still need to get back in touch with the 2nd one, but I'm hopeful of an interview there as well. I'm waiting to hear back from a friend of mind who may be circulating my resume to his company, so you never know. I do know that I am on a time limit now. In about 2 months I either need to find a job or go back to emergency status where my having a bed from night to night may be in doubt. We'll see how it goes, and I will post any results from the interview here. I had a postal exam scheduled for Sunday, but it was in Fayetteville, and I could not make it there. It would have been a clerical job and temporary, but every little bit helps.
I have begun to write again, not my life story, but what could turn into a science fiction novel. My imagination has run wild and the idea has gelled, and it's starting to be put on paper. I may post bits and pieces of it here.
My autobiography has been partially written, but I choose not to post anymore right now. For one thing, every time I get or find a pen I seem to run out of ink quickly, which can only mean I need to buy new pens and stop borrowing them from others. ;-)
I have been talking to a friend of mine, the same one from the Wilson post, about his experiences on a methodone program. I may write a little about that later. A fascinating, but sad subject for one who has never taken drugs.
I have been retooling my resume, to highlight things in my past that might draw attention from computer companies, rather than highlighting recent work experience. Again, we'll see if that helps.
That's all for now!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

My Standup Routine

I've looked over some of the stuff in here, added to it, and come up with the following standup routine. I'm pretty sure there's no chance in hell I'll ever stand up and do it, but your comments will be appreciated. If I ever did make it on stage, it would be called the 'Homeless but not Heartless tour'. Thanks to Willie Nilly for that line.

Taps mic. "Is this thing on?" (No, I will not say that)

Good evening, my name is Mike, and I'm homeless. "Hi Mike."
I'm here to talk about the funny things that go on in a shelter. For instance, the first night I was in one, they put me on the top bunk of a bunk bed. The way you get into these beds is to grab the top rail (stick out hands), step on the bottom rail (lift foot), and push (straighten). Then lift your leg over the rail, and down. (pretend top rail comes close to crotch). Whoa! Watch that top rail! (Straighten, try again, pretend to climb on bed, standing on top of bed.) Now, I'm 8 feet off the ground here. (tightropewalk, fall flat on floor.) Ah! (roll on side, pat the floor.) Nice comfortable bed, isn't it? You know, the mattresses are so thin you can fold them over. (Pretend to look at tag), and wtf is this? Prison issue? We got rejects from prisons!
But it's a good solid bed. (lift mattress, bang floor) Bong, bong! Real metal.
(get on back) So I settle in for a good night's sleep and listen to the symphony of noises. Snzzzxxzz, Achew! cough/hack, rasberry. And that's just from me!
(Still flat on back.) I'm in a room with 39 other guys and some of them are louder than me. We got airline pilots flying overhead calling down to us. (Cup hands, look down) "Hey! Roll over! We can't hear ourselves think!"
(Pause a beat) Boy my back sure feels good about now. There's one guy in the dorm that snores coming in and going out. You know (loud snore). And he sounds like a cow on the way out. Mooo. Snore-Mooo, Snore-Mooo. I keep expecting a bull to walk in: "Where's the cow? I know I heard one!"
Sigh. Yeah, I'm just starting to get to sleep when the lights come on. (Looks at watch.) 5AM. Some places will let you sleep for a few more minutes, but others have people rolling carts around, banging beds (bang floor, shake). "Get up, it's 5 o'clock." "Get your ass out of bed. No one leaves until everyone is up!"
So I haul myself out of bed. (Tries several methods, trust me this is funny, gets up and on tip toes, as if on edge.) A few more inches. (Slips, falls flat on face. Hat and glasses go flying. Lie there a beat.)
"Hey man, you okay?"
"Man, they outta let a guy know when they wax the beds."
(Get up.) And it's not just the top bunks I have problems with. I've had bottom bunks and in my joy to get in them, (makes move down, hits head, hits floor.) Where did that bunk come from? Isn't that the one I was in the other night? Damn bed has it in for me. (Rubs head, gets up.)
So if you see these guys in the street, wobbling around,(wobbles) it's not the drugs or the alcohol, it's the beds!
And I've seen these guys panhandling out there. (Goes into audience.) Excuse me sir, could you spare a dollar? (Takes bill out of pocket, pretends to get from man.) Thank you sir. (Sneezes into bill, blows nose, coughs, hacks, spits, wipes mouth. Holds bill out to man.) Thank you sir. (Refuses.) No, really, I don't need it. (Refuses again.) Well if you're sure? (Pockets bill, pats pocket.) Hey, bus fare home!
(Goes back to front.) One man told me the secret to successful panhandling is to ask for seven cents. (Goes back into audience.) Excuse me ma'am, can you spare seven cents? I need a tic-tac. For ten cents I can get a certs!
(Goes back to front.) I get people asking me for money all the time. Yes, the homeless bum money from each other. "Excuse me, sir, can you spare 75 cents for bus fare?" But I beat them at their own game. I carry these one ride bus tickets (holds up ticket) with me and when someone says they need money for the bus I just give them one of these and gauge their reaction.
Now if they really need bus fare they're elated and grateful, and I've done a good thing, but if all they want is money, you'll see it in their eyes. They'll get that Gary Coleman look on their face. "What you talkin' about, Willis?"
"Wtf is this?"
"Bus fare."
"Man, I asked you for change!" They'll walk away, muttering.
"Wtf is he doing, (grumble)." And they see someone else. "Hey, wanna buy a bus ticket, fi'ty cents."
Do you know the 3 questions I get asked the most in the shelter? Number 3 is "What time is it." I didn't always have a watch so I'd look at my wrist and say "Half past a freckle." They'd look at me funny, and walk away.
Number 2 is "Can you spare some change," and if I don't have any tickets to give away, I'd answer "Change into what?" That really got looks. (Shudder.)
The number one question I get asked, about ten times a day is (gravelly voice) "Can I bum a cigarette off you?" It got so bad I had this shirt made. "I don't smoke, I got no change and the time is...Now." When they come up to me and I don't know them, I just point at the shirt. They're for sale after the show, Wink, wink, nudge nudge.
So after a long grueling day in the streets, I come 'home' to the shelter. And I'm in such a hurry to get into this palace (snide), that I grab the door. (Opens door, hits head, falls on back.) "Uh, Mr. Fox, are you all right?"
(groans.) "Man you gotta tell a guy when you oil the door."
(Rolls on side.) Thank you, you've been a wonderful audience. Be sure to tip over your waitress.

Friday, July 01, 2005

My Interests

I've posted my skills, now I'd like to post my interests, and what I hope to accomplish over the next few years.
(Twirls hair, oh wait, doesn't have enough hair to twirl)
I like movies, long walks on the beach, holding hands...
Wait, it gets better.
I like to watch people. I can sit in a mall and casually watch how people act and speak. I make mental notes, and it helps make my characters believable. I do the same with children and animals.
For that matter, I like working with kids. Years ago I did a stint with Junior Achievement, and had a blast with it. I'd like to go back to school to get an Education Degree so I can be a teacher.
What I'd really like to do is work with kids just like me, shy, but personable, and smart, to help them overcome their problems and to bring out some hidden talent.
Because I truly believe that every child has some hidden talent, just waiting for the right person to spot it and encourage it.
For me it was creative writing.
On the back of my latest book, the bio part, I put that my current projects include advocacy for the elimination of homelessness, and development of a 'learning station' for elementary-aged children.
This learning station would combine video, audio and the latest learning techniques into a touch-sensitive screen attached to the desk. Each child wears his/her own headphones, and the teacher can talk to individual students or the whole group with the touch from a finger.
There's more to it than that, and I've spent a great deal of time thinking about how I would accomplish this.
I have not made up my mind, for instance, whether to use an existing operating system, like Windows or Linux, or develop the whole thing from scratch. Windows development would be easiest, but I think Microsoft has enough of a stranglehold on our children as it is.
More research is obviously necessary.
Other interests include astronomy, fencing, bowling and flying (if I can overcome a fear of heights). I've imagined myself as an astronaut, but the reality is I'd probably lose my lunch during the training, and want to break out of my suit due to being claustrophobic. I use that to great effect in book IV of my series, which is still being re-written.
I have ideas like crazy, ideas about jobs/careers, inventions (but no mechanical aptitude) and especially the future.
I like to travel, and learn new languages. I'd like to go to Russia, China, Japan, California. I've been to most states, but not there. I'd love to see the Coleseum in Rome, because archeology is another interest, and paleontology.
But I only have so much time on this Earth, and so many resources, and right now I have to concentrate on increasing those resources.

Links to my books

Theater Boy
The Timmons Incident


I just found my second book available on amazon.com. Click on the link to go there.

The Timmons Incident.

And just for the halibut, here's a link to the first one.

Theater Boy.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

My Skills: Part II

Great computer skills, great communication skills, what else?
When I was in Junior High I took Spanish courses. Two years worth of that, plus another year in college.
I also took French in High School (4 years), and another year in college. I sometimes wonder if I made the right choice to go from being a French major to a Computer Science major.
I liked French, for one reason because I was born there, and for another because I was good at it. An 'A' guaranteed in High School, and most of the time at FSU. I could do it now: with a dictionary handy, translate written French and probably Spanish into English. I cannot speak them as well as I used to, and I've been trying to understand some of the Hispanic people who live in the shelter, with no way in hell I'm going to follow them when they go 100 miles per hour. I suppose they feel the same way when I speak English.
I've been tempted to rewrite my novels in French, except that part of novel number 2 is already in French.
So, computer skills, writing skills, language skills, what else?
I have the ability to imagine an idea before it becomes reality. Part of my being INTP is I internalize all my thoughts, and this personality type is nicknamed 'The Thinker,', thanks to Rodin. I consider that a skill, though and not necessarily a personality trait.
I have the skill of seeing both sides to an argument, and use that frequently in my writing. I've been in arguments with myself and lost. ;-)
I can type, reasonably well. If I'm typing what comes into my head I can type much faster than, for instance, if I were reading something to be type. This is why I don't like typing tests, because in reality, you wouldn't need to type something that was already typed. I had a test that was more realistic in Roanoke, where I had earphones on and listened to fake calls, and then typed. I hated typing tests also because they would not let me correct mistakes, and correcting my mistakes is what I'm best at. So I generally tested low, but usually well enough to pass.
I learn new systems very quickly. Sometimes that gets me into trouble, for instance, when I worked for a TV station in Lynchburg, VA, I got talked to by management for not letting the others teach me how to use the audio system - interrupting them and so forth. I learned quicker than they taught.
Speaking of TV, I attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1997-1999, trying to finish a degree. I chose as my major Broadcast Journalism. Why? For two reasons: First it was a new field, something different than anything I'd ever done before, and it involved writing. I had dreams of becoming a producer, until I saw them in action. Such pressure. Second, I was hoping to develop TV production skills, and someday create my own production company, producing my novels in TV form. While that has not worked out yet, it did give my life a new direction. I finished 30 hours there before I left to work in Lynchburg, and I had a 3.7 GPA, something I was very proud of. Seems I could succeed in school after all.
Video Production skills include developing graphics, working a CHYRON, a graphics generator used by most TV stations at one time or another, working a camera in the studio (but alas, not the field), editing video, and working audio and video switchers. I could do it all, but the pressure was too much working the switcher in a live setting.
What else can I do? Clerical work. I've done data entry, and as long as my mind can wander while I'm doing it, it's not so bad. I can work with MS Word, Excel, all the Office products.
Oh, the Internet! I told you about my web design skills, not just being able to design, but to register the domain and get it up and running. I can surf the web like a pro.
Speaking of which, I must leave now in search of other jobs. But hey, if you read this and you have a position where my skills would be of use, e-mail me, and I'll be glad to talk to you.
I want to work, after all.

My Skills

I've already told you more about myself than most people know. I can act like an ass at times, self-righteous and perhaps a bit condescending, but there's a saying: "If you've got it, flaunt it," and that's what I plan to do with today's installment.
So without further ado, I present:
My Skills
First and foremost, I can write. I don't just say that because I can put two or more words together, and I don't say this out of pure ego (well, maybe some ego ;-)).
I've been told I can write, by a number of people. If you are reading this, you might agree, or you might just tell me to get a job you lazy bum. Well, I consider writing to be my job, and certainly my choice of careers.
But there's writing and then there's writing. Some are good at writing stories, some are good at technical writing, some can write scripts that tantalize and others are good journalists. Not many can do it all. I'm not saying I can, much has yet to be proven, but I can sure try. I have technical skills, and I can write. I want to be a Technical Writer when I grow up, or a best-selling novelist, whichever comes first or earns me the most money.
Speaking of technical skills, I am computer literate. This means different things to different people, but if you put me in front of a computer I'm not going to ask what to do next. I've been dealing with micro computers since 1980, when I learned 8080 Assembly Language at Florida State University. I've built my own computers from parts and installed every version of Windows since 3.0, and gotten it to work.
I have installed various flavors of Linux on my computers and gotten that to work too, but I usually wind up taking it off because of the need to send and create Windows compatible files. I like Linux, and hope someday to own 2 computers, one for Windows, one for Linux.
This is sometime in the future.
I could take and pass an A+ Certification test at any time. I just never thought it was necessary until now, and now I don't have the money. I could probably pass an MSCE Exam as well, but I'd need some study time for that.
As mentioned earlier, I attended Florida State University, and majored for most of that time in Computer Science. The thing that held me back was all the advanced math. I hated Discrete Math, and especially the teacher, Dr. Bellenot, who was a stickler for homework at a time when homework for me was a near impossibility. (More on that later). So I have all the hours and courses required to get a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (150 hours+), but I have no degree. When the time came to graduate, I did not have the GPA, and I owed the University money. One end of that has been solved.
I have computer programming skills. When I was finishing up at FSU, I had a contract position with a small company that had an ancient mini-computer that used a language called 'SYBOL'. I have never seen another computer that uses that since, and the experience left a bad taste in my mouth for contract programming, since the guy decided not to pay me.
In 1998 I took a course in COBOL and JCL, and spent a year as a programmer, but that left a bad taste in my mouth too, as office politics got in the way of my career, plus the job was so BORING I often fell asleep.
In 1997 I started teaching myself to program in HTML and JavaScript. Web Design. I even got my own domain to promote my writing (which does not exist anymore), and built my own web sites. I still do, see www.michaelhfox.com.
So, yes, I have computer skills. I just don't have much bankable/verifiable experience.
I have Customer Service skills, phone skills. I've worked in Call Centers so large you couldn't see one end from the other. On the phone I am polite, informative, but as I said earlier, I can be blunt. Some people appreciate that, others don't.
I have troubleshooting skills. I can figure out a problem while the customer is explaining it to me.

More on my skills in a later blog.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A few words on INTP, i.e., my personality

I just found this on the web and it's so accurate of my personality that I had to steal it for my blog.

You may find it at: http://haleonline.com/psychtest/results.php?EI=I&SN=N&TF=T&JP=P

[steal]
You're an INTP
INTP
You're on a quest for logical purity...you're motivated to examine universal truths and principles...always asking "Why?" and "Why not?"...can focus with great intensity on your interests...you appreciate elegance and efficiency in thought processes and demand it in your communication...

You might appear low key in appearance and approach, you're hard as nails when challenging a truth...you don't like to deal with the obvious...at your best when developing unusual or complex ideas...you can be an under- achieving but very capable student...if you don't like a rule, you're quick to challenge it and find flaws in it -- this could make you somewhat of a rebel...if you like the rule, though, you have a respect for it and go along with it...

A relentless learner in areas that hold your interest...you might seem "lost in thought" to others...you tend to connect unrelated thoughts...you would rather be the architect of a plan than the implementer of it...you need a private, quiet workplace that allows for flexible independence... would rather organize ideas than people....

You tend to stay away from traditional leadership roles, and would rather lead with your ideas...you don't get emotionally involved, but rather tend to follow logical reasoning.....leisure has two dimensions to you: first, you like to concentrate and reflect on conceptual matters -- second, you like to take risks in the external world (like skydiving?)...

[me: no, I don't, at least not skydiving.]

You like to read, think, watch TV, play with computers..(and post on the Storm Palace message bases).. sometimes you'd rather do these types of things than hang around other people...you don't necessarily like "best sellers" or "must see" movies because you don't trust people's opinion on what's "popular" and would rather make a value judgment for yourself....

Love, for you, has three distinct phases: falling in, staying in, and getting out. falling in love is a loss of rationality for you, and you fall HARD...an all or nothing phenomenon....

The "staying in love" phase is where you start to evaluate the relation- ship's structure and form. You may withdraw at this point because you're moving toward your most customary inward style and nature. A lot of the open affection stops....the giddy state changes... The "falling out of love" part (which doesn't always happen) results from an analysis of the real expectations of the realationship and needs of the relationship. Often an undefined line is crossed that neither of you knew about in advance. However, if you end it, you'll keep the relationship going as a friend in some capacity if you have a reason....

Pitfalls: don't focus too much on the inconsistencies of others...try being friendly and showing appreciation of others...being competent is very important to you, and you could be too hard on yourself....don't let your emotions take control -- you could have outbursts or appear hypersensitive...

INTP: "It's Not Theoretically Possible" [/steal]

This fits me so well it's scary. But for those of you struggling with why I act the way I do, I hope this will help you to understand me.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A warm welcome

A warm welcome to those who have read this blog thanks to the link from the News and Observer, (newsobserver.com). I hope you are informed and entertained by it. I welcome comments, but please use e-mail.
My goal here is not to bad-mouth any one shelter, but to bring a little reality to the concept of being homeless, and to suggest alternatives. Also to share bits and pieces of my own life that some may find revealing and to share my outlook on the present and future.
Thank you for coming.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Second novel available!

Just a quick note to say that my second novel. "The Timmons Incident", is now available through publishamerica.com. This is the sequel to "Theater Boy", also available through Publish America. If you want me to stop these tirades, the quickest way is to buy my books!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Job Search - Part II

All right, we left off when I had quit EchoStar to go into business for myself. It didn't work out. But I'm talented, so I should find a job fast, right?
Wrong. Well, right and wrong.
After I was evicted I moved to a motel in the Roanoke area, because I thought it would be easier to find a job there. But the car wreck wrecked that idea. I actually had a tentative offer for a job after a week, but because they wanted me to work nights, and because their office was a good mile from the closest bus stop, they were concerned about my lack of transportation, so the offer fell through.
Then I stopped getting calls. I put out hundreds of applications at first, but got no calls. How strange is that?
Well, it got worse. I had run out of money and was forced out of the hotel. I moved into the shelter, but still wanted to continue my job search. But I had no money for transportation. I had no money for food. I had to walk everywhere, and if you think walking is lazy, try walking for an hour and see how you feel. Try it in the dead cold of winter. Try it in the heat of spring and summer. Try walking with a bag that holds all your belongings, about 50 pounds worth.
So I concentrated my search on downtown Roanoke, and found it lacking in real places to go to work. I still put in applications, but I did not have a phone number where they could call me. I had e-mail, but not many companies will use that. I did find one: The Roanoke Times.
I spent a week trying to get hold of the HR person there for a quick phone interview. I got her voice mail every time I called, and had no number where she could call me back.
I did finally reach her, this was in March, and she agreed to set up an interview with the Customer Service Department. I dressed for the occasion in the best clothes I had left, still not very neat, but clean, but then I had to walk a mile to the downtown center. The weather was warm, I sweated. By the time the interview started, I must have looked in bad shape, because the interviewers kept asking if I wanted water.
Well, there was no other choice but to continue the interview, and I thought it went pretty well, but then I heard nothing other than they needed to interview other people. That should have triggered alarms, but I waited. And waited. I applied for other jobs with the Roanoke Times, as well as other places. Then I waited, and followed up. I got the same answer.
You know, I heard back from the HR person on that job just a day ago, over 4 months after applying for it, saying I did not get the job. Of course, I read the writing on the wall well before then, and came to Raleigh last month.
I had come to Raleigh with higher hopes. I had set up a voice mail where they could reach me as directly as possible, through the same Wake County program I was in for the shelter. I sent out my resume with the new address and phone number, to Raleigh businesses. I expected to get calls.
To date I have not received one phone call from all the resumes and applications I have sent out. Over 200 in the Raleigh area.
How strange is that?
But in my job skills class, they say to fill out 40 apps a week and follow up on 5. And maybe you'll get one interview. I've beaten the odds again.
This is what I've been dealing with, and I still haven't a clue as to what the problem really is.
Any suggestions?

The Job Search

I know I haven't posted stories from my life for a while. Much has been written and will return in due time.
I want to make a few comments about my job search.
First, you must realize that I left my last job voluntarily. Yes, I quit. Why? Two reasons.
Note: this blog is filled with opinion and observation. Take it with as little or no salt as you wish.
First, the stress of the job was killing me. Literally. I have high blood pressure and stress only makes it go higher. I've heard it said that Customer Service jobs are among the most stressful there are. Think about it. When you call a company, you're expecting something. To hear about your bill, to make a payment, or, in my case, because you have a problem, and you want it fixed.
As I stated earlier, I worked 2nd tier in a two-tier system. I worked for EchoStar, who owns Dish Network. Dish Network provides satellite TV service. They do it using their satellite to your Dish Network receiver to your TV.
Sometimes things go wrong with them. Then people call me. Or to be more precise, they call tech support, who, if they can't solve the problem, called me. Plus I did quite a bit of tier 1 support before being promoted (I was actually promoted twice, demoted once).
When their TV's stopped working, people got upset. It can be a trivial thing, but people like to watch TV.
Things were rolling along with Echostar until they introduced three new receivers: the 322, 522 and 811.
The thing to note about the 322 and 522 is they are both Dual-Tuner receivers. With me so far? Good. Because not everyone understood how to work a dual-tuner receiver (even installers) and as such, calls to tech support increased - dramatically.
With the increase in calls, came increased wait time, and customers who were more pissed off at Dish Network because of that.
Okay. Imagine your TV has gone out for the 3rd time today, you call, you get transferred to 'Advanced Tech Support', which was me. You're angry about missing Judge Judy, and you want to bitch at someone for a half hour before you let him fix your problem.
This happens on a regular basis.
Stress up.
In the middle of all that your employer makes changes to the rules. Or rather 'Da Rules.' Small changes, that by themselves mean nothing, but the center is a tad more uncomfortable to be in. No more hats in the call center, you have to get your handle time down to a certain point or be demoted. Your Quality Assurance person, who determines raises and promotions, has new rules that make it harder to do your job.
These things (and tons of others) add up. And in my case, the tension was too much.
Now I had spent part of the spring and summer working in the field, as an installer. That lasted about 4 months. It's not that I was incompetent, but my body just didn't have the strength and stamina to do the work. It was bad enough I had to climb ladders when I'm acrophobic. But carrying the ladders and setting them up by myself was too much of a strain. I was not lazy. I was not strong enough. I volunteered to go back to the phones.
But then the stress came back and it built to the point that I wanted out.
But what else to do? I was in a fairly well paying position (for that area). It occurred to me that I could tackle two birds with one idea. Build on my knowledge of satellite technologies and Dish specifically, and the knowledge that people were having problems operating their Dish equipment. I thought I could go into business for myself, giving workshops on how to set up and use the equipment.
I started making plans. I put effort into every aspect of the business. The only thing I lacked was cash for advertising, but I thought with a couple of sessions and word of mouth, I would overcome that.
Well, I was ready to make the jump. I gave Dish two weeks notice, because I could not work for them and do this, conflict of interest, and threw myself into it.
Only it didn't work out the way I planned. I could only afford an ad in the Lynchburg, VA newspaper, and from that ad I got 3 responses. Not enough to even justify the cost of renting a presentation area.
Money ran out. I got evicted. I got into a car wreck that ruined my transportation. And here I am.
So, call me lazy if you must, but the effort was there. I'll add more later on the search since my business went bust.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Addendum to the last post, i.e., I shoulda put that disclaimer up again!

Seriously, though, what I put on here about my life is for my benefit more than anything else. If I entertain, then I've shown myself to be a capable writer.
If not, then at least I can explore why it is that I am homeless.
The last post was done tongue in cheek, and was originally meant to be a release valve. I posted it here because it fit in with the previous post, and I wanted to post a little bit of humor.
My attitude in general is that I will do what work is necessary, and put on a smile (thin though it is) when I have to.
I have never been rude to a customer, though they have been rude to me. I have always been polite, 'yes sir, no sir, three bags full...' (oops, attitude again ;-)), and always end the call with 'thank you for calling.'
I am not bubbly, and do not want to be. I am efficient and to the point, and most people appreciate that.
Which would you rather have, someone who knows what they are doing, and can help you, or someone who reads from a script and hasn't a clue?
In my last job, I was the last line of defense, 2nd tier Tech Support, and I was good at it. I often had people telling me they had talked to 5 different people, got 5 different answers and none of them were right until they talked to me.
Anyone out there need competency? I'm still looking!

Monday, June 20, 2005

A mute by choice

I wrote this article in December 2002, after losing a job. It fits in well with a previous post where I wanted to be deaf. I have no wish to lose any other senses, thank you, I've lost enough of my senses already. ;-)

And so, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, I present:

A Mute By Choice, by Michael H. Fox

Open mouth, insert foot. This describes me to a tee. I’ve known this most of my life; it’s one reason I don’t talk much in the first place. I rub people the wrong way when I talk to them, and it’s more than what I say when I talk, it’s in my body language and the tone of my voice. It has been described as ‘condescending.’

I have an ‘attitude’. I’ve seen people react to it for a number of years. The attitude shows up in the types of questions I ask and how I ask them. Me, in training for a recent job: “Uh, Ms. B., our web site doesn’t mention such and such.” Ms B., trainer: “I know.” Me: “Can’t we fix that?” Ms. B. “No, we can’t.” I was called aside by the supervisor later that day and was told to watch my attitude.

It can show up as a lack of patience for people who ‘don’t get’ whatever I happen to be working on. Customer: “I haven’t received my order yet.” Me: “I’m sorry to hear that.” I find the order and discover the item is out of stock. Me: “We’re out of stock on that item, I’ll have to credit your account.” Customer: “Can’t you find one in the back for me?” Me: “No, sir.” Customer: “Well you’re not helping, can I speak to a manager?”

Some people have described my attitude as ‘negative’, but I rather think of myself as being honest to the point of being blunt, and some people are so unprepared to hear ‘No, you can’t do that,’ as opposed to, ‘I’m sorry, we’ll spend an hour looking through our warehouse just for you while 50 other people wait on the phone and a thousand emails are waiting to be answered.’

I’m sorry, my ‘attitude’ crept through just for a moment.

I’d much rather express myself in writing where I can edit my comments before I let someone else see them, and body language does not exist.

With that in mind, I have decided to become a mute. This is going to make my life considerably more complicated, but if it helps other people to get along with me, I’m willing to give it a try. I will have to make a few adjustments to my lifestyle. No more trips to the drive-thru. “Hello, welcome to McDonald’s, may I take your order?” Silence, while I wave frantically or try to use sign-language. “Hello?”

I plan to create a stack of cards for the things I commonly do, such as ordering at a restaurant, and a few common phrases, such as ‘Thank you!’.

I plan to do a lot of smiling, nodding and shaking my head from now on. I’ll use familiar finger signs, but never the middle finger! My attitude must not show through. When friends ask how I’m doing, I’ll use the ‘okay’ sign, or the thumb’s up or down sign. When I go to a movie I’ll point to the poster of the movie I want to see and hold up the number of fingers to tell the cashier how many tickets.

When the phone rings, I’ll…I’ll…I’ll let it go to voice mail.

The hardest part will be going for job interviews.

“Mr. Fox, welcome to XYZ Company.” I shake the interviewer’s hand and nod. “Have a seat.” I sit and smile. He gives me a funny look. “Please tell me about yourself.” I hand him a card with a stock answer. He reads the card and raises his eyes to look at me over the card. “Is this a joke?” I shake my head and offer him another card, explaining that I am mute by choice. “So you can talk?” I nod. “Oookay.” He shuffles the cards. “So why do want to work for XYZ Company?” I hand him another card. The process continues for a few minutes until he ends the interview with a ‘Thanks for coming, we’ll let you know and we’ll keep your resume on file for six months.’

Okay, so some things will be extremely hard, but since I’m a writer, I can make my living from that and never have to say another word to anyone, right? Am I right? Speak to me!

What's the point?

I had just finished lunch at the SWSC today, and went to the bathroom to relieve myself, when I heard someone talking, with a swear word every other word, to the point where I really couldn't follow the conversation. I was tempted to tell him to stop swearing, because that's one of my pet peeves. I finished my business, turned around and saw a young man talking to himself in the mirror. My first thought was "Taxi Driver."
This particular man was known in the center as "the boy ain't right", to use the vernacular. As thoughts of his other actions crossed my mind, like wetting his pants (or worse), laughing to himself in the middle of the night, etc., I left the bathroom. As I parted, I heard him exclaim "What's the point?!"
I went to the front desk and told them about the situation, and was told to ignore it, as long as he's not dangerous. The boy is large enough to be a danger to himself and everyone else, and my thought is: He doesn't belong here, he needs medication, and how long is it going to take before he goes off the deep in without treatment?
"That ain't right"
And that's the point.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Blogger writing

A friend of mine suggested I link my blog back to Technorati, here's the link. . Here's another tag for .
For those who are unaware, I am a writer, published once last year, and about to be published for the second time no later than August. I have the cover for the 2nd book, 'The Timmons Incident', and can't wait for it to come out.
More of my life as time permits, but not before Monday.

Friday, June 17, 2005

My Life: 1971

When we left off last I was drowning in self-pity because some neighborhood girls teased me. Oh poor lonesome me. I do self-pity pretty well, don't you think? I also do self-depreciation often. It keeps me on solid ground, though some psychologist will disagree, I'm sure.
In late Winter/early Spring of 1971 I became ill. I had no idea what was wrong with me, I hurt in the nether regions so much that I wanted to throw up. My mother threw me into the car (not literally) and headed for the hospital. Not the closest hospital, mind you, the base hospital. We lived a good 30 minute drive or more from MacDill AFB. My mother, mindful of cash flow (i.e. cheap) decided to take me where the cost would be covered by the United States government. i.e. the taxpayer. In some respects I don't blame her, but I wonder what would have happened had I been more sick. Had I died in route would she be charged with being neglectful, or just being cheap?
I did not die (Surprise!). We got to the hospital and just as we entered the emergency room, I let loose the entire contents of my stomach on the floor. I did my best not to ruin the car, I mean, we all had to use that. I'm sure my mother was embarrassed. At least until she found out I needed an operation. I'll spare you the details, let's say something got twisted down there and had to be untwisted. I spent several uncomfortable days in the children's ward and then went home. I missed a couple of days of school, messing up my perfect attendance, and things returned to normal.
"Normal" being a relative term, of course. In a family so large, normal could mean many things. "Normal" for me meant my older brother beating me up almost daily. He would also save his farts for me. In other words, he'd see me sitting in bed, reading, or watching TV, squat in front of my face and let loose. Oh, never in front of anyone else, but I had no control over him at all. He was always bigger and stronger.
Complaining did no good. I was treated like Cindy Brady, as the tattletale. I tried to fight back. We would have boxing matches, and I'd try to get even by hitting his face, but I wasn't strong enough to break through, and he pummelled me mercilessly. The boxing matches ended after a few go-rounds.
But I was faster than he. If I saw him coming I'd use that speed to get out of the way, but it meant leaving the confines of home. I spent time walking around the neighborhood, or riding my bike to a friend's house a mile away. I avoided the situation by being alone.
Spring in my household meant one thing to my stepfather: Mowing the lawn. But he didn't do it himself, not when he had 3 strapping stepsons who wanted allowance. All the more reason to leave, but my brothers beat me to that punch too, and often I had to do their chores. And we had grass that knew how to grow. Weeds too. I got so sick of mowing and bagging grass and pulling weeds that I devised (in my mind) an automatic mower. Take the kind of blades you find in a weed whacker, put them in little tubes, spread them throughout the yard and when you wanted to cut the grass, they'd spring up and go in a circle. Alternate them so they cover the entire lawn, and you have work-free mowing.
But I don't have the mechanical skills or engineering know-how to set this up, but if you're into this kind of thing, please steal this idea, just make sure I get a free setup if I ever get a house with a lawn.

In the next episode: Talkin' baseball.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Earplugs and other musings

Before I delve back into my history, I wanted to share a few thoughts with you.
Yesterday I bought earplugs. Not the permanent kind, that would cost too much money, but the cheap, temporary kind that you squish and roll until it fits into your ear.
I bought them because I haven't had a decent night's sleep since starting on this journey of homelessness. I bought them due to the snores, farts (there, I said it), talking, water-running and razor-tapping that I hear all night and keeps me from sleeping.
I had the best night's sleep in ages last night. The earplugs did their job so well that I kept wearing them during the day, because the noise gets even louder when the lights come on.
Now I don't hear the general bullshit that goes on. I've overheard stories that I do not wish to write about; stories about drug use, alcohol, whores/prostitutes and stealing. This kind of stuff doesn't interest me, and doesn't include me.
So with the earplugs in, I don't hear it. My mind can concentrate on itself. Here are a few of my musings:
I have a character in 'The Timmons Incident' called Amber. She's 8, cute and hyperactive. Her thoughts come in a steady stream, changing subjects in mid-sentence. Some classify that as ADD. Amber's real problem is that she vocalizes all her thoughts. She talks a non-stop flow of words and phrases that parallel her thoughts. She doesn't know how to keep her thoughts to herself. Now, in my story my character Dottie finds a way to probe Amber's mind and "cure" her She still thinks fast, but she doesn't vocalize her thoughts. Problem solved.
Ain't fiction great?
Now I bring this up because I have a similar problem. I don't vocalize my thoughts, quite the opposite, but my mind is turned on, every waking moment, and likely every sleeping one too.
I thank God that my mother didn't drag me to a doctor and let him put me on drugs. Sure, I get distracted easily, but put me on a task and leave me alone and the task will be completed. I cannot imagine myself not being able to use my imagination when I wanted.
My mother warned me not to become another 'Walter Mitty,' but after watching the movie with Danny Kaye (one of my all-time favorite actors), I'd rather be Walter than not. At least he was having fun in an otherwise dull world.
So, my mind jumps, much like Amber's and Walter's, from one topic to another, and I'm happy with that. And for those parents who are tempted to put their children on drugs to control them: DON'T. Give them some space. Let their minds wander. You never know what they might produce.
I must say, I've worn these earplugs all day and it has really opened my eyes, so to speak. It's such an enjoyable experience to not hear all the noise that I'm tempted to keep them in 24/7, learn sign language or to read lips and pretend I'm deaf.
It might open some doors employment-wise, but it would close others. It's hard to be a phone rep when you can't hear. Plus, I'm just not the type to lie like that, and I'd rather not offend those that are truly deaf. This was just another random musing.
I went shopping yesterday, with a little bit of money I received from a friend, and in addition to picking up the earplugs, I bought a new notebook. I had filled the last notebook with my stories and musings, and was desperate for something to write on. I thank my friend for his generosity, but I have now filled 3 pages in this notebook, plus margins, just with this muse, and now is the time to stop.

Friday, June 10, 2005

My Life: 1970 - 'Shy Boy'

DISCLAIMER: If you read this blog and are tempted to shout out 'Wahh! Wahh! Crybaby!" or "Lazy good for nothing a-hole", please move on to another blog, and keep your useless comments to yourself. I'm not posting this for your entertainment (although if you are entertained, so much the better). I'm posting this because I consider it to be good therapy, and I have issues I need to get out in the open. I will be blunt about my feelings and observations, and some of you may not care for how I treat my family. Move on. Lord knows I'm trying to.

First, a few caveats: I'm slowing down here because a lot happened to me over the next 4 years (like a certain President of the same era), and at this point more details are prevalent in my memory, as well as the feelings the events generated.
I haven't named names as yet, and as for my family, I never will. I will in this blog give the names of 3 girls, because they might not remember what they did, but I sure do. If by some miracle they read this blog, they need to know how I felt.
I was blunt about my mother's smoking. I'll be even more blunt over the next few blogs. This was a pivotal time in my life and I need to express myself.
That said, when we last left off my family was living in Tucson Arizona, preparing to move after just one year. I asked why we had to move so much, and didn't understand the answer. I understand it now. I just don't agree with it. The answer is this: While I don't know what prompted my mother to live in Goldsboro, the reason we moved to Arizona was because my step-father was based there while he was away in Vietnam.
By the same token, when he came home from Vietnam, he was stationed at MacDill AFB, in Tampa, Florida. So off we went. Those Air Force Brats out there can sympathize with me, but the move took an already shy kid and made him more so. I was afraid to make friends because I knew I was at the whim of the Air Force and my stepfather's career.
We moved into a fairly large house (4 bedrooms for 8 people) in a fairly nice neighborhood. Lots of grass, a few trees; quite the opposite of Tucson in almost every way. There were also lots of kids.
We had next-door neighbors that had 5 kids. He was a doctor, she a housewife. 3 boys, 2 girls. So we had a lot in common. The two girls were close to my age, one the same, the other a year or so younger. Their names were Susan and Allison, and the whole family had red hair. They had a friend, another girl my age named Diane. She lived a few houses away.
They went around together, and I guess they tried to approach me; there weren't many boys around my age. But being withdrawn, and not really into girls at that age, I must have seemed like a challenge to them.
They started calling me 'Shy Boy', and soon it became a chant. Every time they saw me I'd hear "Shy Boy, Shy Boy." I'd hear it at the bus stop. I'd hear it at school. I'd hear it walking down the street.
I cannot express how maddening it was. I can only say it hurt, deep inside, an already fragile ego. I've heard it said 'kids are cruel.' This was beyond cruel. It made me want to avoid them, giving them new fodder. It made me want to strangle them, and I'm a non-violent person.
In my mind, I did strangle them, and I also talked to them, to make them understand what they were doing; in my mind, but never in person. My stutter was bad enough, and they and others made fun of that as well.
I've tried, over the years, to put my feelings about that into a children's story. I thought (and still do) that kids need to be aware of how much teasing hurts. I've never been able to put it into the right words for kids.
For one thing, most children's books have a happy ending, and this did not. I did not reconcile with them. I never gained confidence to overcome them and the memory has haunted me ever since. I did, however, come up with an alternate ending, a happy one, for the sake of the story.
You see, I didn't realize it at the time, but Allison, the younger one, actually liked me. But I was so withdrawn and hurt at the time that I didn't recognize it. I saw her, years later when I was 15 and she was 13 or 14. She had come with her mother for a visit to our motel room while we were in Tampa for my sister's wedding. I say I saw her, and could see the look in her eyes when she saw me, but that old hurt came back and I said nothing. I've regretted that ever since, because I think she would have made a good friend.
For the sake of the story, though, I came up with this: She came up to me, by herself (which actually happened) and said "Hi, Shy Boy", in a soft voice. Now in reality I couldn't say anything in response to that, being somewhat in shock that she would talk to me like that at all, and also being terribly shy around girls in general, but for the story, I imagined myself saying 'hi' back and then explaining to her how much it hurt to hear that 'Shy Boy' chant. She would immediately apologize and we would become friends. A good ending to an otherwise sad story.
And so completely false that I can't bring myself to write it. I'm in the process of putting it into script form, and may share bits and pieces with you as it progresses.
The story had no happy ending, because it really never had an ending at all. The only time the chanting stopped was when we moved away, 4 years later. Even then, whenever a girl approached me, I'd hear that 'Shy Boy' chant in my head and freeze up. I could never approach a girl (except once, more in a later blog). They always had to approach me, and if they were really interested, they had to break through layers of my self-imposed defense. Most chose not to, probably thinking me a hopeless case.
There were other events in my life that contributed to my being me, and we'll cover those next time. But this story was the defining moment in my life, because I really am the 'Shy Boy', and while I've come to accept that, it has been a difficult road.

My Life: 6-7 (Addendum)

DISCLAIMER: If you read this blog and are tempted to shout out 'Wahh! Wahh! Crybaby!" or "Lazy good for nothing a-hole", please move on to another blog, and keep your useless comments to yourself. I'm not posting this for your entertainment (although if you are entertained, so much the better). I'm posting this because I consider it to be good therapy, and I have issues I need to get out in the open. I will be blunt about my feelings and observations, and some of you may not care for how I treat my family. Move on. Lord knows I'm trying to.

I hate the idea of editing a blog other than correcting spelling or for typos, but I've remembered a few more incidents in my life in Goldsboro that are worthy of note.

First, let's talk about my health. As a baby, I had a long bout with Chronic Bronchitis. I coughed. I hacked. I still do. I have allergies, frequent colds and sinus attacks. I sneeze, my nose runs. I can't control it without medication. There are pictures of me, taken at Christmas, with a red nose and a tissue. I looked like Rudolph. I felt like him too, a misfit.
Speaking of medication, when I was a baby the doctors had me take tetracycline for my Bronchitis. One thing about that medication, when you take it as a baby it stains your teeth, both baby teeth and permanent. My teeth were gray. I never had a 'big toothy grin', because I was ashamed of my teeth. My smile was tight-lipped, and it must have given the impression that I wasn't friendly. It did not help my reputation.
I've analyzed the reasons why I was so sick all the time, and came to a conclusion. I must be blunt here. My mother smoked. She smoked so much she kept cartons (yes, plural) of cigarettes in the freezer. I still haven't figured that one out.
Anyway, her smoking caused all my upper respiratory problems. It ultimately caused her death, as well, but we're a long way from that point in my story.
I coughed. And when I coughed, everyone knew it. The whole house heard it, the whole school heard it. The whole workplace heard it. The whole shelter hears it. I've been given cough drops that I know will do nothing for me, but taken graciously. I wish sometimes they had such a thing as a lung-throat-sinus transplant, because I'd be first in line for it. Once when I was entering my teens I had my sinuses drained. A process that involves running water into my sinuses and out my nose. Not a pleasant experience, and bottle after bottle of phlegm came out of me. The clear feeling I had lasted a few weeks, then it was back to normal. I never had that done again.
That's enough about my health. Let's talk handwriting. It has never been neat, and never will be. It's a variation on my stutter, because like my stutter, I think faster than I write, and I'm in such a hurry to write down my thoughts that the writing becomes illegible. I recently saw a report card my mother kept all these year, from Kindergarten, where the teacher expressed a worry that I was too nervous. A later comment said that she recognized the nervousness as me simply wanting to get things done fast. My handwriting always garnered the worst grades in elementary school. But did it ultimately hurt me? Not really. If I slow down people can read my writing. And in this day and age, I just don't see the need to worry about my handwriting.

Cleo

While we were in Goldsboro, our family got a dog. She was my second pet, a Labrador Retriever, and her name was Cleo, short for, well, you know. I'm not a dog person, but I liked that dog, and she liked me. She liked me so much she followed my brother and me to the bus stop one day. How she got out of the back yard I don't know. We told her to stay, to go home, but the bus was coming and we could not take her there. When we got on the bus and it started on its way, I thought I heard something, like a bump. Someone said a dog had been run over. I could not stop the bus. I spent the entire day worrying. Only after I got home did I learn that our dog had been run over. It happens to thousands of kids every year, and you might say it's part of life, but for a 7-year-old, it can be devastating. We never got another dog.

The last story from this era happened when I was 6 or 7 (I can never remember exactly, those years are blurred in my memory). Our family had gone to a fair or a carnival, not too far from our house, but we had driven there. Somehow I was separated from them. Now a normal kid that age might wait until someone found him, or even talk to a police officer, or even wail and cry and scream until his family found him, but as I think I've established, I was not a normal child.
I walked home.
I knew the way home, why not go there? It must have been 2-3 miles, but I had no concept of distance, or really, of time at that age. So I started walking. It was the beginning of my independence. I let my mind wander while I walked, and it was a wonderful feeling.
Then I got tired. I wondered how much longer it would be. My feet hurt and I was hungry and thirsty.
When I finally made it home, my mother was overjoyed. I don't know if she called the police or not, but she set up a bath for me and let me soak my tired feet, and I slept soundly that night.
But the feeling of independence never left me. Now whenever I walk long distances I let my feet do their job and my mind still wanders in a different direction.
Times, however, have changed, and if I were 7 years old and did that today, my picture would be plastered all over the news and my mother's character would come into question. My mother's character was fine. It was my independent nature that caused it, and I have no regrets about that.
In the next installment, we continue where we left off last time, about to leave Tucson and head for Tampa, Florida.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

My Life: 0-9

Let's start this introspection of my life from before I was born. My father's side of the family came from Germany. His father's family settled in Salem NJ before the Revolutionary War. There's even a house in Salem named after one of my ancestors, The Fox House. My Grandmother also came from Germany, but she was born there, emigrating in the early 1900's.
My father went to school at Dartmouth, and met my mother there. Her family lived in Exeter NH, and I don't know where they came from.
They married in 1953, and had 4 children before me. My father joined the Air Force in the 50's, but never fought in a war. He flew reconaissance on the RF101 'Voodoo.' He and the whole family moved to France in 1959 or '60, and I was born on December 8, 1960, in a town called Laon.
Two days after my first birthday, my father was flying home from Algiers, and flew into a mountainside just short of the runway. Seems the RF101 'Voodoo' had a hitherto unknown characteristic: when you fly at altitude for hours, the altimeter had a tendency to stick, so he thought he was higher up than he was. He must have seen the hillside coming up, because he turned on the afterburners, but it was too late. I'm told he was a very good pilot.
That's one version. The other version has him running into mechanical difficulties and heroicly staying with his craft in order to miss hitting a village. That's the one I grew up on. I heard the former from an air traffic controller who was there. I tend to believe him.
Anyway, the point was he died, and that's probably the biggest turning point of my life. I never knew him, and rarely saw pictures of him. No one talked about it much.
My mother had to raise 5 children (all under 8) all by herself and God Bless her, she did it.
We moved back to the states, stayed a while in Massachussetts and New Hampshire, of which I have only one memory: The date was November 22, 1963, just short of my third birthday, but I was aware enough to know that dark things happened that day. I remember watching TV and hearing the reports, and saying 'Oh no.' That's it. My entire memory of that event.
I'm told that I didn't talk until I was 3 years old. Well, that just got disproved. I did have a speech impediment, though, I stuttered.
My next memories come after we moved to Goldsboro, North Carolina. I remember going to a Christian Kindergarten and dressing up like a snowman during a play. I remember having a best friend, named Clay, who used to wear a cowboy hat (Westerns were big then). I remember us having a maid by the name of Winnie. My mother worked for Head Start during that time.
We moved to a different house in Goldsboro and I started first grade. I went to Williams Street School. I met a girl there by the name of Lorrie and fell in love for the first time. I don't remember how she felt about me. I took speech classes to improve my stutter, but they wound up not helping at all. I can't remember if it was in first or second grade where I had the worst teacher imaginable. Her name was Mrs. Zwerblia (I'm unsure about the spelling), and she was a terror. I'd misbehave (can't remember what I did), and she'd take me into the coat room, pull down my pants and whack my bare bottom with a paddle.
Sometime in that year, after many parent-teacher meetings, my mother got me placed into a different class, and there was no more trouble from me or for me that year.
Before 2nd grade ended, my mother remarried. I only knew that he was in the Air Force and drove a silver Corvette. Right after they married he went to Vietnam, and we moved to Tucson, AZ.
We stayed in Tucson for one year. That was 1969, and the Apollo 11 mission landed safely on the moon. I remember playing with cut-outs of the LEM given away by a gas station, and playing with Major Matt Mason, an astronaut-doll. My mother gave birth to a sixth child, a brother, and our family was complete. I made a few friends in 3rd grade, but since we were only there a year, it was hard on me. I started to withdraw, even more so.
As far as academics went, I was a great reader. Schools back then used the SRA Program, and I excelled at that. I was good with math, and I liked astronomy.
As far as sports went, I was okay. I had an annoying habit of tripping over my own feet. I can remember going to 'Old Tucson', a Western Theme park, standing on the hitch of a wagon, and falling off, spraining my ankle. I can remember being in the Cub Scouts, but not much more than that. I liked Tucson, why did we have to leave? These thoughts ran through my head, and no one had any reasonable answer for a nine-year-old to understand.
It was the constant moving around that led, more than anything else, to my being shy. Shy actually is an understatement. And being that painfully shy would come back to haunt me in our next destination.

More on that tomorrow

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Underachievers Anonymous

Hi, my name is Mike, and I'm an underachiever.
Hi Mike.
I called this first official meeting of UA to discuss Underachievers and the torture they go through. I'll tell my story first.

I've been an underachiever all my life, but didn't realize it until I was about 6 or 7. You see, my family has had high expectations from me since birth. They expected me to excel at everything, to be the life of the party, to even be *gasp* President Fox someday.
Then something happened. Or should I say, nothing happened. Oh, I did okay in school, but I never excelled. I was always the quiet one, the one sitting in the corner, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not. I'd be the one with his nose buried in a book, the one with a dreamy look in his eye, that some might confuse with either sleeping or drugs. It was neither.
My personality type is INTP. If you need to know more about that, look it up. The gist of it is that I'm neither a follower, nor a leader. Some would call it non-conformist, but I'd just call it doing what I want.
People expected me to be like my brothers, outgoing in sports, or help in the kitchen like my sisters, without being asked, or so many things I could fill this blog with them. The fact is, I didn't turn out like anyone planned or hoped.
Why? Certainly I'm smart. I'm not a complete invalid when it comes to doing things. I don't do what they want because it just doesn't interest me. I have spent years trying to overcome what other people want me to be.
My mother was as outgoing as they come, so my introversion didn't make sense to her. She would prod me into doing things I didn't really want to do.
I overheard my mother once, when I was a teen and had just said something funny. 'See, he does have a sense of humor.' She said that to my stepfather. More on him in another blog.
My brothers and sisters, after giving it the old college try, decided I wasn't worth the effort, and have for the most part left me alone. I'm something of a black sheep.
I did, on occasion, try to break out of that mold, out of my own little world. I ran for class president in 4th and 10th grade. Worst - decision - ever.
I didn't win because while I had a few close friends, I had not made friends with the rest of the class. They didn't know me, or care about me.
But that's okay. I decided long ago that I didn't care about them either.
Well, that's not completely true. I find myself thinking about romances that never happened because I was too shy to act on them. More on those in other blogs.
Even in the jobs I've had I've been an underachiever; never quite what people expect. When I do let people see the true me, either through writing or conversation, the one comment I keep hearing is 'What the hell are you doing working here?'
I'm there because I'm an underachiever. I'm not proud of it, but I've grown to accept it. But I have goals in life, and the reason I have not achieved great things is because I've always lived under someone else's expectations. The pressure on me drove me away from where I should have been. But I expect great things of myself, and if I've chosen my own timeline and methods of getting there, well then I've finally achieved at least one thing: independence.
And for those of you who don't understand why someone you know isn't doing as well as you would have thought, here's an idea: Leave them alone. Give them emotional support, financial support if needed, let them know you're there, then just lean back and watch, from a distance. You may be surprised at what they can accomplish.

I'm done. Any other takers? Hello? Anyone out there. Oh, I forgot, no one else showed up. Damn underachievers.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Top 3 Questions

The top 3 questions I get asked, in the reverse order:

#3 What time is it?

#2 Do you have any change? (Yes, the homeless even beg off the homeless)

And the #1 question I get asked (about 10 times a day) ...




Wait for it...






#1 Got a cigarette I can bum off ya?

I'm tempted to get a T-shirt (when I get money) that says "I don't smoke, I got no change and the time is...now."
More on the smoking issue later.

Until then, have a pleasant day.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

"Sow Discord"

A man in the South Wilmington Street Center, in Raleigh, NC, told me a tale that I felt should be passed on. I do not have access to the means to verify his story, and have no confirmation of its veracity other than the look in his eyes and the time spent talking to him. He did not know I was a writer when he began this story.
I met him while on the cleaning crew. He told me he was addicted to pain killers and he was looking for a long-term religious program to give him relief. He had lived in Virginia, much like I did, and had approached his pastor for help finding that long term program. His pastor suggested going to Richmond and using its outreach center, (ROC). He went there, but they had no beds available. They told him, however, that they had a branch of their program in a town outside Wilson, NC, run by a man named Paul. Paul had finished the six-month program in Richmond and had been ordained a minister. Paul brought his 'flock' to Richmond once a week for a large service. My friend was asked of he wanted to go with Paul, since he had beds available, to complete the program. He readily agreed.
His goal was long-term relief, through religion, from his addiction. What he got was completely different. He found that Paul's program was in the basement of a building, that the members had to sleep in close quarters without any heat, had to take cold showers because there was no hot water, and he called it a deathtrap, with numerous fire violations, including no smoke alarms. It's an accident waiting to happen.
Then he discovered that Paul was a crack addict. He estimated that Paul smoked away $150,000 per year. Naturally, Paul shared. I have no experience with crack, but it seems that no one could survive that much. My friend told me that Paul shared with friends in Wilson, and anyone who smoked crack knew Paul.
Where did Paul get that much money? He sent his 'flock' out to work; 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. Back-breaking work, as requested by contractors. They would call Paul, say they needed a 5-guy crew and he'd send them out. They would pay him, he would not pay his flock, except for meals consisting of stale bologna sandwiches. My friend, whose back pain led to his addiction, tried to explain that to Paul, but he would not listen.
Anyone caught complaining about the condition was accused of 'sowing discord', and could well be left on I-95 on the way to or from Richmond. So it's a possibility that the Richmond Outreach Center is unaware of the antics of one of its fledglings.
My friend, after 3 weeks of that torture, fled to Raleigh. I'm still unsure why he stayed so long, except that maybe he felt it was God's will. He's still trying to get the treatment he needs.
My concern, beyond caring for my friend, is that this kind of abuse is not an isolated incident. If it can happen in Wilson, it could happen anywhere.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Why I have not found a job

Let's take a moment to look at my job search problem. The commenter I mentioned in my last post suggested I go to McDonald's and apply there. I actually took his advice the first full day I was in Raleigh. I went to a McDonald's near downtown Raleigh. It was 6:30am, and I asked the girl there for an application. She turned to get one, and while she was gone I noticed that the crew was entirely female and black. I'm not prejudiced, I'm just reporting the facts. She came back and said they didn't have any applications and I should come back the next day. I went back later that afternoon, and while some men had been added, I saw no white faces in the crew. I would have been perfectly at home in that crew, but again, no applications. I went back a day later. Same story.
I turned my attentions to other places.
First, let me tell you, I am overweight. I've actually lost 25 pounds since becoming homeless. Not the kind of diet you recommend, but I'm still not in very good shape. I tried last summer to work in a job where I'd be outside and working with my hands. It took me 3 months to realize I was not cut out for manual labor. I do not have strong arms. I do not have the stamina required. I cannot stand for hours on end over and over again because my feet and ankles cannot tolerate it. Surprisingly, I can walk for miles, even carrying heavy loads. But ask me to stand and I cannot do it. Ask me to climb and I cannot do it. Ask me to lift and I cannot do it.
I've always flourished in jobs that required me to use my brain rather than my body. I can type moderately fast. I am extremely computer literate. I am excellent at customer service. And, I've been told, I can write.
These are my strengths. These are my skills. I canot take 'just any job', because not every job likes me.
So why not stay at the job I was at? As I mentioned in my last post, I tried to go into business for myself. I worked for a satellite TV company and saw a need to train people on how to use the equipment. I had the knowledge, I had the drive, what I lacked was capital. I took a chance that I could get clients quickly, and I failed. That was a calculated risk, and the odds turned against me.
Why go into business for myself? Well, let's just say I have a real problem with authority. My personality type is INTP, and for those who follow that, it means I do things well by myself. I'm not a team player. I am neither a leader nor a follower and this gets me into trouble at most of my jobs.
Is that a bad thing? Depends on your point of view. If I'm left to my own devices, such as answering customer service or help desk calls, I'm perfectly fine. But some companies like to be more controlling, and I'm not one to be controlled like that. I cannot be happy in a job when there are too many rules.
This is why I'm having a problem getting a job.
Have a problem with that? Too bad! I can't be anyone but myself and I have been cut from a very selective mold. On the other hand, if you have money to invest, I'd like to hear from you. I can make my ideas work, with some capital. I'm best suited to be in business for myself and I won't say no to investors who want to take a chance on me. Want to hear more? E-mail me.

A rebuttal

I had one commenter say that he had to put up with the same thing in the army. He told me to get a job.
The difference is in the army you get paid.
The difference is when you go to a community pool, you have a choice.
The homeless have no choice. The homeless do not get paid. They have to endure without the freedoms and benefits that others have.
As to why, sure, there are a lot of drunks. There are a lot of druggies. You might think they have a choice. But the addictions are hard to beat.
I am lucky in that I am not homeless because I'm a drunk. I hate the taste of alcohol. I have never done drugs. The one addiction I've ever had, gambling, I've beaten. I can never go into a casino again, but at least I have control over that. That was not the reason I was homeless. I am homeless because I had no savings. Because I lived paycheck to paycheck. I am homeless because I let my credit rating suffer. I am homeless because I took a chance to go into business for myself without any backup. I am homeless because I wrecked my car (entirely an accident), and have no backup for that either.
Any way you look at it, I am homeless because of choices I made. Some possibly self-destructive, but they were my choices.
Many homeless face similar choices. They can choose to drink alcohol and do drugs, but the addiction will hold them, draw them deeper with each guzzle, with each use.
The faces I see are flush with liquor, or grizzled by too many nights out in the cold.
And what can we - and I'm including myself in this, though I am within the problem - do about it?
I've never believed in 12-step programs. I believe other methods will work better. What they are I don't know, because I'm not that well educated.
I believe in taking responsibility, but get help where you can.
Who can the homeless turn for help? The government? It should be, but it's not.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

In Raleigh

I made it to Raleigh in one piece. I've heard that there are 4 shelters in Raleigh, but I could only find 2 of them. The Rescue Mission would not take new clients on Sunday or Monday, so my only option was the South Wilmington Street Center. It was a long walk - about 2 miles - from the bus station to the center. On Sunday it opened at 9am, and I was happy to get in. It's run by Wake County, which sounds hopeful, and institutes a number of suggestions that I made in my original article. There are different levels depending on how much you are willing to commit. The basic level is the "Emergency Dorm", which holds I believe around 150-200 men. That may sound like a lot, but they are crammed full every night and had to institute a lottery system. If your number is high, you might not get a bed.
Once inside, it's not bad overall. The beds have very thin matresses, and hard metal bottoms, so sleeping in them is very uncomfortable. Also, you're likely to get a top bunk unless you can prove some kind of disability. The first time I tried to get out of the top bunk, I misstepped and fell flat on my face. It was not funny. I hurt both my insteps (I was not wearing shoes), both my palms, and generally had the wind knocked out of me. I'm still limping from it.
They have limited computer access (half hour at a time, and there's always demand for that.)
There is no religious requirement. But if you want to be guaranteed a bed, you have to volunteer to do chores (clean) in the morning and at night. It's the precursor to moving into their program. I'm doing that already.
It's not the best of systems, but it's not the worst, either. I still believe my system would work far better and be a more comfortable transition to permanent housing.
I'll write more on it later.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Adding it all up

I spent some time adding up all the hours that the Salvation Army Shelter requires its residents to spend.

Church: 1-2 hours Thursday 5 hours on Sunday : 7 hours
Chores: 20 minutes a day 3 days a week (or more): 1 hour
12 Step Meetings: 1 1/2 hours, twice a week: 3 hours
Bible Study: 45 minutes, twice a week: 1 1/2 hours
'Volunteering': 24 hours
Total: 36 1/2 hours

Rescue Mission:

Chapel: 7 days a week, 1 hour: 7 hours
Waiting to get your stuff: 20+ minutes a day, 7 days: 2+ hours
There is more waiting time, but most of that is optional. For instance, if you want to get there at 5pm, you wait until 6:30pm for dinner. If you want breakfast, you wait from roughly 5:30am until 6:30am.
Total: 9+ hours

What was I saying about discipline and treating people with kindness? Start with this.

Discipline - or as I call it - Make 'em sweat

I'd like to take a moment to address how various shelters use discipline.
At the Salvation Army Shelter in Roanoke, for instance, the Director has the final word, in everything. You get yelled at if you forget to take off your hat. You get yelled at if you are moment late doing a chore. If you've done chores 3 days in a row, and there are a lot of people who haven't done chores, then you might think you are being punished. You cannot complain, because whoever's in charge will then make your life a living hell. More chores, more yelling. They are like little Hitlers running their own little empires.
It's even worse in the Rescue Mission. When the lights come on at 5am you'd better scramble out of bed. No matter that it takes 20 minutes for them to open the locker room so you can get your belongings, with 50 guys standing in line. They think of it as discipline, and the more the better. This is the only organization, other than the DVM, where waiting is a science.
On the other hand, if they only treated the 'inmates' with a little kindness and understanding, they might be surprised at the results. I'm a firm believer in Karma, and sooner or later, whatever kindness I've shown will come back to me. These guys need to learn the same thing.