Shortly after arriving in California, I found a volunteer opportunity that I figured would keep me from getting TOO bored.  This means that I’ve been helping out at the Santa Clara Senior’s Center for over nine months, thoroughly enjoying it and making lots of casual friends.  My role is in running the gymnasium attendance computer, which allows the organization to track usage of the facilities, as well as enabling a more efficient evacuation should it ever be necessary!  In a world where crises can range from flooding to earthquakes, it helps to know where to find folks when absolutely necessary.  It’s not a perfect system, but I expect that it would certainly be of SOME help.

There are a few too many ‘loopholes’ for this system to work really well.  For example, the early risers among us, that arrive at the gym for early usage at 7am, are the worst offenders in that they don’t take the time to ‘clock out’ when they finish their workouts.  They manage to ‘sign in’, but then, simply disappear through one of the ‘side doors’, thus avoiding the gym attendant who would sign them out!  There are at least two of these exits, installed by well meaning safety guidelines, to enable ease of exit from the building.  However, there is but ONE gym attendant, who runs the single solitary computer in the department!  I’m sure these folks are not deliberately eluding this process, but for expediency’s sake, quick and easy wins every time!

You can tell how bleary eyed I am right now based on how easily I get sidetracked!  My shifts at the gym usually total under 15 hours per week, which is a nice comfortable total.  Since the facility is less than two miles from our house, it is an easy commute.  I have often thought that during nicer weather, I could walk there and back, giving me a bit more exercise, and reducing usage of the car, better known as the ‘air pollution generating tool’.  During the heat, we get periodic “spare the air” days, when folks are asked to voluntarily restrict their usage of these four wheeled polluters, if at all possible.  We are encouraged to use mass transit, which can include busses, trains, streetcars (trolleys) or ride sharing, all of which are easily available for MOST valley residents.  If you are an employee of one of the big tech companies here, you can also get on one of the easily visible “Silver Bullets” (large Greyhound type busses painted a bright metallic silver) that will drop you at the door of your employer!  These are multi passenger limousine’s, with comfy captains’ chairs, flip down desks, WIFI, and tinted windows.  Just make sure that it is one of the busses going to YOUR employer, not one of the competition!  Uh oh, there I go again, wandering down the wavy road of exhaustion…..

SO, having discovered that a mere fifteen hours of commitment per week is not sufficient to keep me out of the malls, I have found yet another role for my philanthropic passions.  I had my first shift yesterday afternoon at the Second Harvest Food Bank, in the Accounts Receivable department.  This is the largest food bank in the valley, or ‘peninsula’ as it is often called.  There are many food banks run by churches as well, but this one is HUGE.  It is a clear demonstration of the impenetrable dividing line between the Have’s and Have NOT’s down here!  There are more of the latter category down here, by FAR.  We are very, VERY fortunate to be one of the former, but most if not all of the high tech population here IS!  Certainly Apple is one of the biggest and best of these employers that delights in indulging their staff, but I have heard that Google even exceeds Apple in compensatory riches!

While I am in the training stage, my shifts are 230-430, Tuesday and Thursday.  After I”m finished with this process, my hours will increase drastically, from 4 hours per week to 15 hours per week!  This winter may also include a move from the current central San Jose office to the South San Jose office, where the rest of the accounting department is located.  My boss, Tina, assured me that I’d probably like THAT location better, as it would be less of a commute.  At this stage, I’m still acclimatizing to this whole driving on spagetti process:  take a handful of string, squash it up in your hand really tight, then drop it straight to the floor.  THAT is what the serpentine tangle of highways is like in central San Jose, population 980,000.  Think Toronto, then put it in a blender.

They also like to call double lane divided roads ‘expressways’ here, and they even have different names for some of them!  Nearby we have San Tomas Expressway, then Laurence Expressway and Central Expressway.  Closer to where we lived when we first got here, and Apple was footing the bill for this $5000/month apartment, there is the Montague Expressway.  As an aside, I was very surprised to learn that my current location for the Food Bank is within walking distance of this original residence!  That doesn’t make sense:  if you can afford to pay $5000 per month rent, do you need to use a food bank?  Or, maybe one causes the need for the other?

Now I’m REALLY getting off track!  I think the reason for my sudden tiredness is the newness of my role at the Food Bank, and the resulting stress.  PLUS, the tension that finding my way to a new destination always causes should take at least SOME of the blame!  Thank goodness for my GPS!  I could not manage driving around here without it!  But now that I have a new iPhone 6, it likes to chirp in with driving instructions too.  So, I have my GPS, with it’s sexy Australian male voice, and my new phone, with its cute and perky female voice, both advising different routes.  What to do?

This chapter is getting HUGE, so I had better save publish and log off!  I suspect that I’ll not be making a lot of sense if I keep going……

Footnote:  the picture I have tacked on to this blog is a shot of the rapidly evolving Apple Campus, lovingly called The Spaceship.  It is SUPPOSED to be ready for 2017…..

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