The pause that doesn’t refresh

14 12 2015

Cycling is a multi-sensory experience.

Riding along busy roads, sharing space with traffic, demands your full engagement.

Your ears pick up the buzz of approaching cars and trucks.

Your hands feel the textures of the road surface, which at this time of year, seems mostly to consist of a whole lot of grit and grime. Your face stings from the cool air, the occasional raindrop. Your leg muscles burn with the off-season effort.

Your eyes linger on the landscape that slips by slowly, noticing things you’d otherwise miss zipping by in a car; the heron hanging out in a muddy puddle in the midst of a barren field, the odd deposit of what looks like refuse from a Mexcian restaurant that appears regularly along a favourite route.

Your tongue tingles with the taste of indulgences allowed because you’re burning calories on the bike; the tart pucker of a lemon square at the coffee shop, the sweet softness that floats in your mouth of a pain au chocolat.

But nothing can prepare you for the olfactory assault of riding alongside rural farm ditches filled with runoff from two days of heavy rain.

The pause that does anything but refresh, alongside a dung-filled ditch in Richmond. P.U. (And yes, that is a fender you see besmirching the lithe figure of the Lapierre; I ported it off my mountain bike to see if it helped keep myself and the bike a little cleaner given the damp, dirty roads. It didn't.)

The pause that does anything but refresh, alongside a dung-filled ditch in Richmond. P.U. (And yes, that is a fender you see besmirching the lithe figure of the Lapierre; I ported it off my mountain bike to see if it helped keep myself and the bike a little cleaner given the damp, dirty roads. It didn’t.)

Motorists whizzing past, cocooned in the environmental pods of their vehicles, likely had no idea of our suffering.

For three or four kilometres on our rainy ride this morning, the acrid smell of an open sewer was our constant companion. The weekend’s rain had washed manure fertilizer from the fallow fields into the roadside sloughs, turning them a sludgy, putrid brown.

The smell certainly quickened our pace; no one wants to hang around that for long. Even the ducks we’d seen sheltering in those ditches last week had moved on to cleaner environs.

It also sparked some nasty mind games; what if a car or truck passed too close and sent one or both of us careening over the grassy shoulder and down into the ditch? Forever unclean…

Stormy weather

10 12 2015

Being Leisure Guy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Two months into my post-employment as a newspaper journalist has settled me into new routines, presented some new challenges and given me the chance to ride my bike at a time of the year that is normally barren for mileage.

A new storm front pushes away a brief break in the December deluge.

A new storm front pushes away a brief break in the December deluge.

I’ve no illusions that I’ll ever work at a newspaper again. The industry is strangling itself into irrelevance on its own greed and mismanagement.

I’m excited to take my talents and skills as a storyteller in a new direction.

It’s getting steered into that direction that can be frustrating and, on some days, dispiriting.

It’s been 25 years since I was last looking for a job.

Then, the recession cast me from my first full-time newspaper gig where I’d been for six years. Then, I felt I still hadn’t made my mark. I desperately wanted to stay in that industry to see where it could take me.

As it turned out, that was clear across the country.

Considering I’ve been here, with the same employer, for 24.5 years, I’d have to say that turned out pretty well.

This time around, I don’t feel that same panic. Yet.

I may not have landed my dream gig at a daily or wire service, but I feel like I accomplished a lot, experienced a lot, and was able to make a bit of an impact at the community papers that have been my venue my whole career.

But it’s hard to ride the downward trajectory of an industry you love and that’s supported you for more than 30 years. Every newspaper closure, or staff cutback, or furlough announcement, no matter how far-flung, stings you a bit because you know that tide will eventually reach you.

Two months ago it did when my newspaper closed.

Everyone says you should always have a Plan B.

Princess of Pavement is enacting her Plan B because she saw the writing on the wall for her newspaper career as well.

But a part of us always wants to live in denial. Perhaps that’s a coping mechanism to stay motivated and committed when all the signs point to the rug getting pulled out from under at some point.

The first few weeks of post-employment were a whirlwind of meetings, information interviews and even a couple of minor freelance gigs thrown into the mix. Mix that in with some long midweek rides on nice days and life was good.

But now, after a week of December rain, the doldrums are kicking in. And so is a bit of fear.

I joined LinkedIn. I upped my social media game. I’ve pushed myself to try some new things like a couple of public speaking engagements and even an appearance on a local TV talk show. My resume has been tweaked and rewritten a dozen times. It’s a constant work in progress. I’ve got a handful of versions of cover letters ready to go. But I’ve no idea if they’re effective.

The job hunting game has changed so much since I last participated.

Now I haven’t any indication whether the I send to jobs that have pique my interest are ever seen by human eyes. Did I include enough key words to trip the algorithm that is the first line of screening? Do my skills, attributes and experience stand up against the dozens and dozens of other post-employment journalists and ambitious communicators, or am I not pitching those skills properly?

There’s no way of finding out, because nobody gets back to you unless you “make the shortlist.”

I’m not bitter about that. It’s the way the game is played these days when so many people are looking for work and every job opportunity goes through a computer before it ever sees subjective human eyes.

A colleague from the paper said, “If I write my cover letter and resume so it will get caught by the computer, it reads like crap.”

So you spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to play the game. Encouragement and optimism comes in tiny increments. Score an endorsement on LinkedIn? Win! Notice that someone other than a fellow journalist also in the throws of post-employment has checked out your profile? Win! Get positive feedback at an information interview? Win!

Unfortunately, none of those wins put food in the fridge or pay the mortgage.

Fortunately, I still have some time.

Severance will help pay the bills through much of the next year. That gives me a bit of wiggle room to await the right opportunity, not just the first opportunity.

But at one point will that equation tip the other way?

Some colleagues who’ve been through the same experience landed on their feet right away, and were able to pocket a nice wad of extra money.

And then there’s stories like this one about a sports columnist in New Jersey, Jeff Bradley, who lost his job three years ago and went from covering the New York Yankees to working as a locker room attendant in a golf club.

His struggle to regain employment is a cold, harsh reality check of what every talented, motivated, hard-working journalist who’s taken a fall faces in the crowded competitive job market.

I’m optimistic my post employment forecast is still good. But there’s always the threat of a storm blowing up from the horizon.