Taking Stock

I never thought I would say this but I’m am taking stock. It seemed like only yesterday, I at the tender age of sixteen had to go down the the Bureau of Records at the New York City Health Department to get a copy of my birth certificate. It seems during some sort of kerfuffle at home, the original document was either lost or destroyed. I needed a replacement copy in order to get my “working papers”, which in turn would allow me to hired for my first job.

My first ever job was no biggie. It was a Summer job s through Youth Corps, and working in a day camp. It paid very little, in fact, I think we made below minimum wage. But no one fussed back then because we were grateful to have work and make a little money. I was happy to get off the hot streets of New York City during the Summer, and go on some great trips and have fun with the kids.

Back then the few dollars helped to buy a few Back to School outfits, perhaps a warm coat, some school supplies, and a few trinkets. My late Mom always admonished me to open a savings account and start saving. Which I never did, you know silly, air-headed teens. Yep, I was one of them.
I’ve been working steadily ever since then (which was in 1975) until now. From the summer jobs I went to full time by working at The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. This is a city agency which regulates yellow cabs, their owners, and drivers. This was my first foot through the doors of law enforcement.

This was also a very intense learning experience for me. Me, being a very shy and introverted soul, was inducted, more like shanghaied into Public Service Boot Camp 101. How? I was simply thrown to the wolves……….

It was rough, I tell ya……..

In addition, I had no clue that the yellow cabs on New York City’s streets were so heavily regulated. I’d see them pass me on the busy streets, but didn’t know that everything from fares, pick up sites, drivers keeping records of each trip, to their personal grooming, number of continuous hours behind the wheel, to the paint job was under TLC scrutiny.

Speaking of paint job, did you know that there is a specific shade of yellow every NYC taxi must be painted? If that shade is just a tad off, too bright or too dull, the taxi company or garage can be summonsed and fined. The vehicle must be taken out of service until it is properly painted, inspected, and approved.

The same goes for the lettering which is printed on the side of every New York City cab. If TLC decides to use say “Tahoma” style lettering instead of “New Times Roman”, every single cab must have all of their information painted in that font.

It also used to be that only one specific brand of vehicle was allowed to be part of the yellow cab fleet. It used to be mandatory that the fleet be uniform. Back in the 50’s and 60’s the fleet were solely the Checker cabs.

They were big, wide, boxy cars that were roomy enough for luggage without having to stash it in the trunk. For past twenty years or so, the fleet consisted solely of Chevy Crown Victoria’s. But, recently TLC has allowed the addition of the Ford Escape, the Toyota Corolla, the Ford Highlander, and I can almost wager I saw a Land Rover or two. As long as the vehicle can be “hacked up” (customized with the special equipment used by TLC cabs – partition, GPS, On Duty Light on roof, two way radio, meter, trouble light, the paint job, plus the medallion, rate card, insurance, and drivers who have a Chauffeurs license), it can become a yellow cab.

My dealing with the public came from interacting with the cab drivers themselves. TLC has a taxi court, where drivers attend hearings for their summonses and find out the fate of their licenses. Idiot driver = fine. Bad driver = suspended license. Very bad driver = license revoked.

Many drivers didn’t speak and/or understand English very well, as a result, they were always in trouble with the law. They did not comprehend that there were strict laws which governed what they did in, or with their cabs. Many times I wondered how did they a) pass their driver’s license test, b) pass the “hack” or taxi license test? I was laughingly told by seasoned co-workers that, “They paid an English speaking friend or relative take and pass the test for them.”

Another beachhead I had to surmount was the cultural divide. As I child I grew up in a multi-cultural neighborhood but not quite so multi-cultural. I being Black and West Indian, grew up with Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians, and Chinese. However at work, I met and had dealings with people from all corners of the globe, everyone wanted to argue. And the argument was always the same.

“But, in my country we can do this, that or the other.”

My response was always: “Well, this is the United States and you can not do that here. If you do, you get a summoned, wind up without a license, or wind up in the clink.” Then came the crying and moaning: “How am I going to feed my six kids and two wives with no license?”

“Well, you should’ve considered that before you tossed your passenger out on her noggin, and threw her luggage out after her.” You see what I went through?

Yes, that really did happen, numerous times……….

Needless to say, many drivers were forced to find other means of support because they could not conform to TLC’s standards. To me some were downright too dangerous to drive anything but one of those old fashioned red wagons. However, that was just my opinion.

After fifteen years of working for The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, I was ready for something new. It was both interesting and scary working there. Interesting because I’d met so many people from all over the world.

It was scary when after the first World Trade Center bombing the Three Letter Agencies (CIA, FBI, and ICE) came to our main office to comb through our records. Why? Because those very same bombers had been cab drivers! OMG! I believe this is when they started officially profiling NYC cabbies as part time bombers. Supposedly using the funds they earned to either buy and make bombs themselves, or send it back to their country to purchase weapons.

So in 1995, I took this as a cue to get gone, so I took the opportunity to jump ship to another city agency.

That will be the subject of “Taking Stock – Part 2”


Twitter Tips

It seems like FaceBook is not the only place some funny business is going on. If you have been using Twitter for more than 6 months you’d know what I mean.

First of all, If you don’t know anyone on Twitter it is easy to get lost in the sauce. It would be nice to have Twitter greeters to show you around and introduce you to all of the features that are on there, but they don’t. . . . . . yet. . . . . ..

First of all, when one joins Twitter one should have in mind the following things. One, what is your Twitter Handle or name going to be?

This is where you decide if you want to make up a name for yourself, or use parts of your real name. Are you planning to join a particular group on Twitter? Twitter is broken up along the lines of groups or interests. For example there are those who love dogs, cats, sports, politics, religion, or follow particular types of music or certain celebrities .

I mentioned these groups in conjunction with Twitter Handles because you may want to have a handle to match your interest. Like “IceKitty”, if you like cats, or MasterBowwow if you like dogs, or BballKing because you like basketball, etc. You kinda get the picture, right?

Now, if you are a celebrity, or politician, or into marketing, or author it will be solely up to you to decide if you want to use your real name, or chose a nom de plume. However, if you are into marketing or an author, etc, you should chose wisely, as this particular handle is going to be a marketing tool and thus part of your branding.

Another thing you should consider is what kind of avatar or photo you are going to use to represent your tweets. Again this may depend upon what you are interested in. If it’s dogs, perhaps a cute pup, or if it’s cats, a cute kitten, a flag if you are patriotic, etc. Or, if you are really brave, a photo of your marvelous self. With or without a wide brimmed hat, large Snookie like sunglasses, veils, or gas mask. . . . . . Yes, I’ve see all kinds. . . . . .

What you are going for is to have people connect your name automatically with your photo. This photo should be unique enough that they well say, oh yeah that’s so and so. . . .

Another reason a photo is so important is the fact that if you don’t have a photo Twitter will give you one. An EGG! That’s right, a WHITE EGG on a blue, black, green, yellow, red or orange background!

I’ve been on Twitter for nearly two years now under a different handle which is strictly Christian and Political. So, when I, or my fellow compatriots see an EGG show up on our timeline, according to the content of the tweet, they are considered either a newbie or a SPAMMER!

The concept of a spamming is thus. Register and sign on to Twitter with some half tailed name and no avi (avatar) so you can start bombarding peoples timelines with crap. In their rush to do this, most SPAMMERS forget to post an avi or a BIO on their page.

If you want to know if they are legitimate, all you have to do if you are on the PC to click on their name, which will bring up their page. If they haven’t bothered to post a BIO nor an AVI, they are a SPAMMER! BLOCK! BLOCK! BLOCK! If you are using your SmartPhone all you have to do is long-press or click on the avi which will bring you right to their page.

Also, when you get to the spammers page, another thing to check is how many friends do they have, if they have like 5 friends, 3 followers, but tweeted 900 tweets, that is a SPAMMER for sure!

Twitter also has a provision for reporting spammers. Unlike Facebook, Twitter really does listen to their users and shuts these slime balls down. So, don’t be afraid to report them!

The next tip it to know your followers. If they are writers and authors make sure you keep abreast of who follows and keeps in contact with you. If you get tweets from them which are strange and out of character, DM (direct message) them and let them know their account may have been hacked.

Twitter etiquette: If you retweet someone, they should either thank you (shout outs) for retweeting them in a single or group thank you (shout outs). If someone retweets you, you should show the very same courtesy. Try to do this as soon as possible, because as you gain followers, this can become overwhelming to keep track of.

There is a website named: FollowFriday.com which is very helpful. You must be on a PC (It may be available for I-pad, and tablets too) for it to work. What you do is go on and register your Twitter account, and it analyzes you account for the week and shows you who the most active TWEETERS are on your time line. These are the ones you should give SHOUT OUTS to. Right on the site you can compose your tweets of the names and tweet them out. However, this unfortunately takes time and if you don’t have time, it may be easier to tweet your SHOUT OUTS right back.

Last but not least, Twitter security. Spammers love Twitter, Many of them register because they want to advertise all kinds of crap. I’ve been bombarded with diets, and just plain junk. Then there are ones who just send you a tweet with a link.

If you don’t know the person and they tweet you a link without hashtags (#), and even if you do, don’t click that link!!! Those kinds of links can lead your computer to malicious websites which will plant destructive cookies in your hard drive. This will either destroy your computer or remove personal information that can be used for id theft later. Or they may lead to something pornographic . . . .

Some examples of suspicious messages:

This is a favorite of mine

@WackaWaka @WriteTillDawn  Someone is saying horrible things about U. Click this link 2 C http://bitlybaloneysalmai. . .

My first thought was: Who the heck is WackaWaka? And: Who the heck cares what people are saying about me? That should be your first thought too. The next thoughts are to be

I know, I have not addressed all of the issues on Twitter, and did not intend to. This is just a mere primer for those who are just starting out. It’s sort of a cushion for diving off the deep end of the pool, which Twitter is so oft likened to.

Happy Tweeting!

Family Re-Connections

If it wasn’t for the train delay, I wouldn’t be writing this. I couldn’t imagine in my wildest dreams this could or would happen.

THE BACKSTORY: Before I was forced to place my Mom in a nursing home back in 1999, she had managed to sever connections all of her family members. That meant both here in the United States/New York City and back in the West Indies (Saint Kitts and Nieves). All I can recall is that all the addresses and phone numbers suddenly disappeared and there was no way to regain them. So, for more than thirty years I’ve been out of touch with my cousins.

When Mom died I tired everything in my power to find at least one cousin. Because I knew if I’d contacted one, that one would’ve let everyone else know. But, unfortunately, I was unable to contact anyone. Even after putting up a Facebook page dedicated to my Mom. I did that in the hopes that someone would look us up and find us. At least in time for her funeral. It never happened.

So, yesterday (10/11/2012) I was on my way out to Bible Class but I couldn’t catch a downtown train. The train I needed was stuck between stations and was not pulling into the station. So, I decided to take the train uptown, cross over and take the express back downtown into Brooklyn.

While on the downtown express, I found a seat, pulled out my Galaxy Tablet and began reading. I noticed a woman sitting beside me but didn’t pay her any mind. However, she kept staring at me.

Finally she asked, “Pardon me but are you Nanci?”.

I looked up warily because I didn’t recognize her at all. I said “Yes”.

“You don’t remember me?” she asked.

I looked at her again and I certainly didn’t. After all, it’s been over 30 years.

“I’m your cousin Debby!” she said.

“OMG!” I replied. Fifteen minutes of continuous yakking (trying to make up for lost time) ensued. We both made sure we exchanged phone numbers and email addresses. I also promised to send Debby my Facebook page link and links to my blogs and stuff.   Debby promised to let everyone know that she had found me and give them my information……….

Like Counselor Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation, “I sense a big re-union coming on.” In the end before I disembarked, Debby told me that she’d commuted on that particular train, every weekday at that same time for the past three years and never saw me until today.

The reason this happened? It was God’s appointed time.


What Do You Write When You Feel Blah?

What Do You Write When You Feel Blah?

I‘ve been feeling blah for the past few weeks. It hits me every year about this time. When the seasons change from Summer to Fall, as I watch the days grow shorter, the leaves fall, and feel the temperature drop. All I want to do is curl up in bed and hibernate.

The psychiatrists have a term for this. It’s called Season Affective Disorder (SAD) and apparently many people suffer from it. This condition comes from the light deprivation which comes from shorter days and longer nights.

I’ve worked, the midnight shift for the past going on 19 years now. So I find it rather strange that I would suffer from a condition which affects “day walkers”. But, there is always an exception to the rule. Apparently I am “it” this time around.

You can read all about the symptoms and care here:

The only symptom I don’t have is the increased appetite. In fact I have very little appetite, but, I do suffer from the rest. My personal solution is to get out as much as possible. Even though I have a strong desire to become a hermitess. . . . . Yes, I made up that word.

Another problem I have is I don’t feel like writing much. Last year I was possessed by NaNo, so much so that I spent the entire Winter on what I had written that November. That was one wild and crazy ride and I promised never to do that again, unless of course after I’ve retired……….

I didn’t have plans to enter this year, because I already have enough unfinished projects on my plate. I happen to be obsessive about finishing one before starting another, as I also have a nasty tendency to forget what I don’t finish.

However, I believe NaNo2012 would be good therapy for me, even if I don’t win. It’s something which will keep me focused for the rest of the cold months until Spring.

Plus, it will keep me out of the doctors office. . . . . . .