More Trains?

It was only a couple of days ago that I wrote about being a Foamer. It just so happens that we ended up having another unique Diesel engine arrive in our yard.

The paint scheme may not have been as exciting as the one from Central Maine & Quebec. But just for fun, I had one of our crews add the two of them together. Within a couple of days we will be sending the engines on their way. We would interchange them off to CP Rail for their crews to use.

When I first started at CN Rail, I had no idea how often the railroads interchanged engines with one another. Besides the two I most recently wrote about, I’ve been on engines from CN, CP, BNSF and SRY.. as well as a few others that only railroaders would be able to identify as from a foreign railroad.

It’s kind of fun to play with trains. Like being a kid again and just toying around on a much grander scale.

Foamer In Me

I enjoy where I work. Being a railroader is a unique job. You often experience some great moments that are just beautiful. I love taking photos of the world I live in. I’m a bit of a “foamer” but only of the really remarkable aspects. I don’t care for the intricate details about locomotives or cars. If it looks cool- I’ll snap a picture.

Check out: Crossing Tracks for two of my favorite shots of train tracks.

Or take a journey back in time to when I was lucky enough to be a conductor on a Steam Train. My wife still bugs me about how excited I was to get the call that morning.

Recently a rare engine rolled into town. This is only one of three of these locomotives in this paint schemes in all of Canada. I had never seen it before in my almost 13 years at CN Rail. Naturally, I had to take a picture. The grey and blue engine looked right at home with the grey and blue background.

I still find my job fascinating from time to time. It keeps the interest level up. I’ll probably be here for many more years to come. I’m just a bit of a foamer. You kind of have to be to work here for as long as I have.

Mothra!

Over the past few days at my work in North Vancouver, we have seen an influx in moths. And they are everywhere.

At night, they take over the lamps and lights. During the day, the moths just hang out on everything white. My car often has a dozen of the little critters on it.

The smoke and the moths makes it feel like an invasion taking over Vancouver. It’ll be nice once the moths begin to disappear. This year has been the worst so far for the moths.

Even Arthur, our moth mascot, found love after an entire year hanging out and ran off.

Working Stress-Free

Sometimes a night at work can be relaxing. Having a purpose and doing a job can help alleviate the stresses of the world.

All those crazy emotions of home life are put on pause during the hours at my job. I’d like to think that life away from work is calm and peaceful, but it isn’t always. The worries of returning to school during a pandemic are highest in my home. Like many other parents, we are just waiting to see how life plays out.

So I take solace at my job. Where precautions have been taken since the beginning. A job I have done for almost 13 years. A place I know all too well keeps me calm.

End Of Summer Vacation 2020

Well it seems my fun in the sun has come to an end. It’s back to work starting tonight. Two weeks of night shifts means I’ll be missing the last of the summer sunshine while I sleep the days away.

On the bright side, I only have 6 weeks of work until my next week of vacation time. We already have that weekend booked for a trip to Victoria, BC. Our middle daughter has always wanted to go there but never has. So it seemed like a reasonable idea. Last time I was in Victoria was a little over three years ago when I Chaperoned My Son’s School Trip.

Who knows what the world will be like in a month and a half. Everything is changing day to day. I hope this trip doesn’t get cancelled like our Disneyland one did earlier this year. But if the world needs to keep people healthy- so be it.

Even if our travel plans do go on hold, I can still look forward to my time off. In SIX weeks…

Shopify Summit

My wife has been with Shopify going on 3 years now. Every summer they have a “Support Summit” for their region. Last year was held in Whistler. The year prior was in Vancouver. This was supposed to be in Victoria, but COVID had other plans.

Since my wife works for an online e-commerce platform, most of her job is done remotely. Meaning she has already been working from home for ages. And because of restrictions, numerous businesses are setting up shop with Shopify. Work for her has been busy.

This year, their Summit was done remotely. Lots of video conferences and online tutorials to help improve their customer service. Instead of going out and getting a Swag Bag, it was shipped to our home instead. Where she was told to open it on day one of the Summit.

My wife and her coworkers take great pride in their job and the company. So any time my wife gets swag with a Shopify logo on it- she displays it proudly. From hats to shirts to mugs. My wife loves the company she works for and her “Shopifam” as well.

I’m really happy for her that she fell into this job as well. It has been a great opportunity for her to connect with people and assist them in creating a better business for themselves. My wife always has a “feel good” story to share with me after each shift. Sometimes the stories are humorous in nature as well. Even with some negativity that happens on occasion- my wife goes back each shift and is laughing with her coworkers online as they start their day video chatting.

From an outsider looking in- it appears that Shopify has a great business culture in how it is run. So for any small businesses out there looking for an online platform with good customer services- try Shopify. You may even speak with my wife. You can tell it’s her because you can hear her infectious smile through the phone.

And no, Shopify is not paying me to write this. Although it is paying for a bit of our livelihood, but not without some hard work on my wife’s part.

The Highlight of My Work Day

Today was a slow work day. Sunday’s at work are usually like this lately. I had a bit of free time in the afternoon as I waited for a conference call, so it was monthly arts and crafts time.

I received a tin from Lootcrate a few years ago and I had no use for it at home. So off to work it went. Inside it is filled with the perfect stationary.

I filled it with highlighters! The Joker sits beside my keyboard ready for my monthly arts and crafts. I opened him up and colour coded an excel spreadsheet. The one I highlight every month- our work schedule. Then I post it on the wall.

I think my coworkers appreciate the effort. Blue is for night shift, yellow for days. Green is for vacation. Orange is for safety and pink is for the Stat holiday. This has been my regular colour scheme for the past few years now. I do this because we do not have a colour printer at work. And I get to enjoy the calming nature of colouring.

Ending Vacation / Starting Short Work Week

My vacation is over which means back to work for me tonight. I have a “week” of night shifts. But it’s really only three nights. I have a four day weekend coming up starting Wednesday. Which makes it nicer to ease into the workload after vacation.

It’s been nice just doing camping, kayaking, and hanging out. No smell of diesel or grain dust on me. I will need to dig out my work clothes and gear before I return to work this evening.

My wife doesn’t return to work until tomorrow. So she is going to relax for one more day while I nap before my night shift. Pretty sure she is going to play video games. She has an extra day off on Thursday so her work week is shortened as well.

So far summer has been pretty good to us. I hope for it to continue over the next couple months.

Leave Work at Work

When I finish a shift at work, I like to try and leave my thoughts of work behind. Of course it’s not always possible. Now that I have a “Work Phone” I’ll check emails while having a coffee and getting ready to leave my house. But I still avoid thinking about work on my days off.

If I hang out with coworkers outside of my work hours, more often than not we talk about… trains. It’s unavoidable since trains are what we have most in common. Sure, sometimes work gossip is fun, but there’s more to life than just that.

Work is essentially the beast you need in your life to survive. It brings you financial freedom, a meaning to your existence, a sense of identity. If asked, “What do you do for a living?” Your job is usually the first thing you mention.

Is it what you do for a living? Or do you enjoy your hobbies and family time more? Getting out of the habit of having a job or career define you is challenging. Once you get into the right frame of mind however, life becomes fresh and vibrant. Like being a child once more with no cares, but to play.

Remember to play. It’s good for the mind and body.

Somber Day

Today was not a feel good kind of day. I could sense the heaviness in everyone I spoke with. The change in their voice, the look in their eyes, their posture dropping. All of it a reminder of what a tragedy can do to all of those around.

Dealing with the loss of a coworker who is close to you or a person you’ve met periodically can feel brutal. It’s still a loss. It’s still able to affect you. Talking about it changes the atmosphere of a room almost instantly. Seeking emotional help is all that I can suggest to people.

I may not be in the union any more, but I know where my roots stem from in the railroad and respect the difficulty of each and every situation. There’s no happy ending today. No joking or laughing. Rather a sobering reminder that where we work can be devastating and take a good person’s life without warning.

Back To Normal?

My vacation is ending today. I enjoyed my physical distancing of the rest of the world as I stayed home. I kept busy during my time off working around the house/yard. I also enjoyed the cooking and painting I accomplished while in seclusion.

Getting back to work after an extended time away is always challenging. There are changes to adapt to and hundreds of emails to read. Heading back to a “normal routine” during the epidemic feels a tad strange. Moving trains helps keep the goods flowing to the customers and places to keep the public supplied. I’ll still be practicing my physical distancing and extreme cleanliness.

Traveling to work and coming home will be the majority of my venturing into the wild during this COVID-19 crisis. I’m glad that for the next three weeks I’ll be working the night shift as well. It means far less people to interact with. Plus I get to sleep all day long.

Like one giant nap.

Bingo!

19 years ago I needed some extra cash in order to pay for our upcoming wedding. Working part time at Colossus wasn’t making me enough money to start my new life. Since my wife and I didn’t want to do anything extravagant- starting that new life would cost us under $5000. But we still needed a bit of money.

So I got a job as a Bingo Caller. I worked Friday and Saturday nights for three months making some damn good money. And I was really good at the job. Spinning plastic balls every three seconds and calling out the numbers with my modulated tone made me a fan favorite. A favorite to the gamblers that were there every weekend.

I don’t gamble. It wasn’t because of being a bingo caller that I don’t gamble. I just never felt the rush. I’ve bought lotto tickets, tried casinos, and even did bingo on occasion. I’ve had some small winnings. ($50 in slots and $250 in luggage one time.) I don’t look down on anyone who enjoys gambling. It’s just not my thing.

But Bingo Players… they are a strange breed. The “Regulars” has numerous dabbers and rows of good luck troll dolls. 30-50 cards at a time. Their ability to scan these cards as quick as I called numbers- every 3 seconds. A game hardly lasted five minutes before someone yelled “Bingo”.

My job had me sitting on stage. The audience was silent as I spun the balls around to show the camera. After a brief moment, I called out the number shown. At which point, the gentle dabbing on the players’ cards went on. Like working in a library until someone yells “FIRE” “BINGO!” Then the crowds moans and groans. My name gets cursed.

Trust me, at the end of the night- people would literally come up to me and tell me how much they hated me for not calling their numbers. Some would come up and tell me how they loved coming in the nights I worked because of my pleasant demeanor. The place was so bipolar.

I hated that job, but after my wedding I didn’t need the money anymore. So one Friday night, two weeks after my wedding, I quit on the spot before my shift was to start. It was the most satisfying career move I ever did.

Throwing in the towel is sometimes gratifying. Quitting a toxic feeling job made me happy. Money isn’t always the answer. Job satisfaction is more important to me. I also emotionally grew from that job and learned my limitations.

Bad Bacteria

Being sick is not fun. I’m starting to think it’s because of my coworkers. In more ways than one. First- people are always coming in to work sick or with flu-like symptoms. That’s a great way to make everyone sick. Besides the airborne coughing and sneezing- people touch everything!

Sharing a workspace means I touch a lot of the same spots. Keyboard, mouse, phone, desk, chair, doorknobs etc… bacteria and sickness gets spread quickly.

Most of my coworkers come into work and use Clorox Wipes and attempt to disinfect everything around. Normally I just do a quick wipe or wet cloth if I see dirt. Those invisible bacteria seems like it’s more harmful to remove 99.9% of them.

There’s no exact way to prevent becoming sick. Except telling people to stay home when they’re sick. I think it’s a courtesy to your coworkers.

Sharing donuts- Good.

Sharing the flu- Bad.

Invisible Man

Lately I’ve felt as if my existence is inconsequential. I’m floating through life day to day without making a mark. Work treats me like another number that can easily be replaced or removed. I feel as if the company doesn’t value what I bring to the table after a dozen years of service. I keep going because I like getting a paycheck. That’s sort of important I guess.

At home, our kids are busy being teenagers wrapped up in their own lives. With our oldest graduating this year from high school, our youngest working towards his speed skating goals, and our middle trying to figure out where she fits in in this world- daddio here takes the back burner. I’m easily ignored and forgotten about.

I also haven’t interacted with my friends in ages either. Everyone is busy being adults nowadays that it gets tough to get together. I’m not even sure what’s going on in their lives anymore since I don’t follow anyone on Facebook. Almost a year ago I thought the right thing to do for my Mental health was remove everyone. Now it feels lonely and a dreaded feeling of FOMO has crept in.

Perhaps today I just needed to vent and air out what I’m thinking. Feeling small and insignificant is a sensation I know many of you have felt as well. Usually I’m pretty positive and upbeat. Sometimes happy just doesn’t happen. This too shall pass, right?

But, uh, everything’s perfectly all right now. We’ re fine. We’re all fine here, now, thank you. How are you?

Your Job Does Not Define Who You Are

“What do you do for a living?”

So many of us answer this question with our job or career. But is it really “What you do for a living?” Many of us push ourselves on a daily basis at our jobs. Causing unneeded and unnecessary stress in our lives. Your job does not define who you are. Nor should it define the level of respect you should be given.

I’m not going to sit here and lie saying that I don’t work or need money. Of course I need money. How else can I do what I do for a living? What I do is enjoy life. I share experiences with family, friends and followers.

But I also show respect to everyone I meet. My level of respect towards others doesn’t change. The level of respect people demand when they think they are in a “higher power” astounds me. That’s their choice to act how they do. But their job doesn’t define their characteristics.

So be mindful of how you treat others. And remember that what you do for a living should be just that- living.

Arthur

Sometimes my humor is a bit, how should I say this, bizarre.? Worse yet, it rubs off on people and they run with it.

Meet Arthur: The Office Moth.

He became an office mascot by accident. Back in the summer, we had an infestation of moths at my work. Naturally, I killed a few. But one stayed, um, “stuck” to a whiteboard. He remained there for ages and no one cleaned him off. Instead, a coworker made a Tinder profile for him because he seemed lonely squashed there. Shortly before Christmas, the artwork began.

Arthur became a tree topper for our Christmas tree.

And on New Year’s he celebrated with a party hat and balloons.

My coworkers and I have talked about the next stages of Arthur. How we are looking forward to Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and evening Easter. (Maybe Arthur can pull a Jesus moment and come back to life!)

But in all seriousness, it has made for some lighthearted jokes around the office. It helps to ease the stress of how crazy work can get.

Oh yeah, he got his name from “The Tick” which is filled with zany adventures which fit perfectly with our Office Moth artwork.

Dream Work…

I have a coworker who repeatedly says, “Dream work makes the team work.” Or she’ll say “One team, one dream.” Both are very positive mantras even if she is half heartedly saying them. I like to try and instill the second phrase a bit more when I’m at work though.

And that’s tough because of so many variables. Working for a railroad is like being a big part of a machine. There are so many moving pieces- literally. As well, behind the scenes there are pulleys and levers to make those machines move. Some days we are a well oiled machine. Other days it’s organized chaos.

Last night I was dreaming about work. Nothing crazy or nightmarish. Just work. As if I was there. Now I’m awake and heading off to work again. Does that mean I have a Dream Job? Or am I doing what so many people say

Am I living the Dream?

Staff Christmas Party

Last night my wife and I attended my work Christmas Party at my boss’s home. After a long day of watching our son at Speed Skating, it was nice to get out and socialize. And my coworkers enjoy socializing!

I’m the kind of person who generally gets things going at various events- be it a wedding or party. I don’t mean getting out of hand and crazy. I mean I’m usually the first one at the food table gathering nun-nums and starting the conversation of what foods I tried. Last night was no exception. I also tend to place myself down in a good spot that many people “stop by” and strike up conversations.

As the evening progressed, everyone let loose a bit more. A couple coworkers cleared off the dining room table for a beer pong tournament, while others shared some of their more fancier alcohols. Music, jokes and great conversations were happening. I had to cut my evening short about three hours in. It was already a long day, plus I had to be up early for work. My coworkers were getting up to some shenanigans and I’m sure some fun stories will be shared at the water cooler this week.

Working with a hangover is for the young these days. I haven’t wanted to push my limits lately as there are already plenty of stories of my insobriety out there. Even my kids have a few.

As we left, I thanked our hosts for the hospitality. My boss’s wife is quite amazing at cooking and baking it seems. There was a lovely spread of appetizers and treats laid out. As we were leaving, I asked for her recipe on how she made the doughnuts. She mentioned that it’s on her blog in which I follow. Honestly, I didn’t know that I followed her specifically, because I enjoy a variety of blogs. But there she was, and her first blog post- Doughnuts! I may have to try my hand at deep frying something beyond savory goodies one day.

Just a friendly reminder- If you are out at holiday parties please make sure you have a safe ride home. As embarrassing as being a bit tipsy may be the next day, having a “next day” is more important.

Getting My Feet Wet

It’s been about a year since I had to be a switchman last. It’s like riding a bicycle- my legs were a little wobbly at first, but it all came back to me once more. Over the past four nights I have been back at it again doing twelve hour shifts each night. Last night I was soaked because of the rain. I was quite literally “Getting My Feet Wet” once more.

A part of me enjoyed doing this job again at first. Seeing some of my favorite graffiti art that I hadn’t seen in ages has been a real treat. I remember many of the images and it’s odd to see them show up again.

However, I’d like it to be over soon. I’m hoping that things settle down and the conductors return into their regular roles. They are more apt to doing this type of job than I am. I don’t feel that I am as good as I once was that’s for sure. But if I have to, I will do what is required of me until such a time that I won’t be needed.

And here I thought my career was moving away from working nights in the rain. Oh well.

I Want To Create More Art

I was in my woodshed the other day finding some more pieces to paint like I did two weeks ago (Check them out: Painted Wood).

I don’t have any more pieces with knot holes in them, but I did find some that I could see potential in. So I filled a box and brought them into my home.

A bit of cleaning and making sure they are smoothed out is the next step. After that it’s time to get inspired. Perhaps hours of Christmas music? Or watching favorite Christmas Movies (Gremlins anyone?).

Or maybe just a day off from work and get the time to do that. I’ve been at work too much lately. Hopefully that’ll change soon. Its not the worst thing to happen to me. It’s better than bad, it’s good. LOG!

What was I talking about again?

Creepy Santa: The Revenge

I mentioned that we have this little tradition called “Creepy Santa” recently. Our oldest daughter has been finding it amusing to try and “get me” with him. Earlier this week she was trying to psych me out.

“Do you think Creepy Santa knows when you have to work?”

Naturally I expected to find him in my car. Only for two days he wasn’t anywhere to be found. Until the one day I went to feed the dog for our daughter. There was Creepy Santa- waiting by the dog food. Our daughter knew exactly when I’d find it but made it difficult to decipher her scare tactics. Later that night- Creepy Santa was hiding under our en-suite bathroom peering out through a slight crack in the door. He watched me get changed into my pajamas like a peeping tom.

Today I made sure to take photos of Creepy Santa in places that our daughter would be likely to see him. On the stairs, by her laptop, in her bed… I had our other daughter post them to the Creepy Santa Instagram at lunch. I’m hoping that our oldest sees them.

I added a bit of flair today to increase the build up to the reveal. A ransom letter of sorts with the caption inside “I know when you’re at home asleep, or on wifi watching videos and at your fish shop awake.” I arrived early at the school to put the card inside her car.

My favorite part? Creepy Santa made a journey to her place of work today. My daughter’s coworkers were kind enough to take him in and hide him at the back of the store. This should make for an unknown reaction from our daughter. I’m waiting to find out which way this goes when she gets home at dinner. It could be humorous or I could be in big trouble.

Seems like I know the answer.

Successful Staycation

It’s back to work for the night shift this week. I’d have to say though, my staycation with a to-do list was more than successful. Here’s what I had planned:

  1. Finish my costume.
  2. Fix the tile and tap in shower.
  3. Fix the sauna heater.
  4. Get the Honda Element serviced.
  5. Decorate for Halloween.
  6. Do some baking on Saturday.
  7. Make turkey dinner on Sunday
  • Numbers 1,4,5,6 & 7 were completed. Number 2 is almost done- I just need to buy a small amount of grout and seal it and my shower will be useable once more. Number 3 I am still avoiding. Don’t judge me…
  • However I did end up doing a few other projects that weren’t on my initial list.

    1. I installed a new stovetop.
    2. I painted the trim between the sunroom and the living room.
    3. I helped my son build his costume.
    4. I was involved in speed skating more.
  • Overall I think I was fairly productive with my time off. Now to get back into the work routine and utilize my days off as rest days once more. I just hope I remember how to do my job…
  • Going To Work Is The Break From Life

    I know it sounds crazy, but I’m happy to be back at work for the next few days. I need a break from being in my house. No, it’s not because of my family and there’s nothing negative going on. It’s just my costume for Halloween is taking over my life!

    I’ve actually been losing sleep over the logistics of my costume. I have some high aspirations for this year. I’m not really wanting to share any pictures until I have it completed. Just in case I don’t complete it. Being ambitious is one thing. Not finishing is another.

    Next week I am on a staycation. But I have some home improvements and maintenance that needs to be addressed first and foremost. That means what I’ve gotten done on my costume is all that I’ll be doing for the next while. I’m glad I started working on it at least.

    But we are also six days into October and I haven’t decorated for Halloween yet! That’s unlike me. Usually October 1st and it’s spooky time. Maybe after work I can rustle up some decorations and have the kids help set them up.

    Are you ready for Halloween?

    Do you make your own costume?

    Let me know if you are like me and am starting to freak out over nothing.

    September 30th

    I can’t believe that this month is over. There was so much going on that I hardly had time to notice that we entered Autumn.

    There was back to school, I spent a week in Winnipeg for work, speed skating started up, a lightning storm, a couple coworkers quitting, our daughter did her first of many graduation celebrations- a packed month of plenty of memories.

    I’m going to just sleep the last day of the month away. Wake me up when September ends.

    Saying Farewell To A Coworker

    It’s bittersweet when a coworker leaves. You’re happy for them to be making a change, but upset that they are leaving. Especially if you’ve worked side by side for years.

    This week at the railroad is the last for a close friend of mine. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye, so the sarcasm and jokes are already coming out. I wrote a note of “encouragement” on a picture that I had hanging in our office for almost a year.

    KC,

    Good luck @ KM. You’re only gonna last 3 weeks!

    #sixseasonsandamovie

    -Joe

    He and I had very similar tastes in entertainment. We often had discussions about movies and tv shows. My farewell to him is in reference to the show “Community”. A show we both enjoyed.

    In a couple of days, he shall be off to a new adventure. We will still be in contact periodically because our railroad services the company he is moving to. The dynamic will change, but out jokes shall remain the same. I wish him all the best in his new adventure.