Seven Short Stories – Daniel Shalik

Assignment #2

Daniel Shalik

Marketing Your Image Mar-106

Instructor- Vicki Befort

Seven Stories

1. Volunteer Fireman

2. Growing a Garden

3. Postal Employee

4. Relocating to Denver

5. Charity Jell-O Splash

6. Union Steward

7. Video Taping Business

Volunteer Fireman

While working for the Post Office on the 3rd shift (midnight to 8:30 a.m.), married with two small children, I was interested in becoming a volunteer fireman. I wanted to be more involved in the community and felt a need to serve and donate my time and to help people at the same time. I was a new homeowner and wanted to learn not only about fire safety but first aid as well. The volunteer Fire Department offered me the opportunity to learn about First Aid which I felt was important especially with two small children.

The obstacles or hurdles that I needed to complete to become a fireman were a long process. The steps that I took to become a Volunteer Fireman were by talking with other members of the volunteer fireman, one of whom was my next door neighbor, and I also knew someone at the Post Office who was a member of the Fire Department. They advised me to call the organizing committee chairman and to arrange an interview. The initial interview took place at my home where my wife was also present. The qualifications were that I lived in the district, was able to attend drill once a month and was able to pass a First Aid Responders Course and a Fireman’s Qualification Training Program which was sanctioned by the State of New York. I also needed to pass a physical. During the interview I was asked to state my reasons why I wanted to become a volunteer fireman .My primary reason was to become more involved in the community where I lived.

Some of the training was more difficult and challenging from what I had thought originally. The processes that were involved included climbing 100 foot ladders on the ladder truck using a safety hook as you climb. A 100 feet high ladder is equivalent to about a 13 story high building. Another part of the training was to learn to wear a SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) mask and O2 (oxygen) tank. Some people even some fireman had a hard time with this because of claustrophobia (fear of being enclosed), which meant that your whole face had to be covered completely and you had to put total faith in the equipment. Breathing had to be measured so that you did not use up all your oxygen too fast. Learning how to operate the equipment was essential.

After volunteering for over 3 years in the department I learned how to drive all the equipment including the big ladder trucks, rescue truck (van), operate the jaws-of-life, and perform CPR and other life saving techniques. I was able to go through the smokehouse and learn crawling techniques with little or no vision because of the smoke using the fire hose as my only guide. The buddy system was essential in the Fire House. You had to rely on your fellow fireman in case of emergencies on every call, especially when you entered a house fire. Being a volunteer there were times when there was a first aid call, you did not need to drive to the fire hall to put your gear on unless it was an automobile accident or fire. I had my first aid kit with me and a blue light for my vehicle. Being first on the scene on more than a few occasions, I felt competent enough with my training to perform first aid including CPR, which I had to do a few times. The training just kicks in and you do not even realize the significance of the actions until later when you have time to reflect on the event.

While looking back at my volunteer fireman experience I would say that it was very fulfilling in the sense that it gave me a sense of pride of fulfillment in knowing that I was able to help my community out and was able to learn from other more experienced fireman. Loyalty to the company and a sense of pride carried over into my children. The fire company also provided a sense of community with many activities that my children participated in with including summer picnics, horseback riding, Christmas parties, and Easter egg hunts. My family benefited from the experiences from the activities that the fire hall offered. I also felt a sense of pride knowing that I was entrusted by my fellow members of the department and even was elected as a Trustee for one term.

Growing a Garden

Soon after the purchase of my first home I wanted to plant a garden. I had envisioned the perfect place for the garden right next to the garage along the pathway that led around to the front of the house. Our home sat on the corner where the front of the house was facing east and the garage was facing north. The back entrance of the house led to the garage and the garden that I had planned.

There was one problem with my original plan which was a cherry tree stump which was probably cut down not long before we moved into the house. That did not deter me from my plan and was determined to carry out my preparations for getting the soil ready to plant .I did not have many tools at the time and started out by chipping away at the stump with an axe. Very little work transpired hence I enlisted the advice of my stepfather .I had also broken a few tools and wedges trying to make some headway to remove this stubborn tree stump. The “tree stump” in the garden was a lengthy discussion which was carried out in the family for quite some time. I sought out advice and consultation from the local hardware store where they had advised me to drill a hole in the middle of the stump and to put chemicals inside the stump where they would eventually destroy the roots. I was concerned that the chemicals would somehow get into the ground and work its way into the vegetables that I would be feeding my family with.

I finally decided to rent a post hole digger and a rototiller after receiving advice and consulting with neighbors, family and hardware store personnel. With determination, persistence and the desire to plant a garden I chopped, and eventually tore through the tree stump. The roots were still alive and growing underneath the ground looking for a water source to live. The rototiller mulched through much of the smaller roots and ground them up which would be good for the soil. I also bought fresh top soil and aerated the soil throughout the garden area by spreading the soil at least 1 foot deep. My next step was to shop for vegetables for the garden. I had decided on tomatoes, and bell peppers with a few hot peppers. I had also learned that you have to plant the hotter peppers further away from the rest of the vegetables otherwise they would also take on a hotter flavor.

Once the vegetables were planted all there was to do was to water them and wait for them to grow. Pesky rabbits had me running to the store for a garden fence to keep them away. Every night I looked forward to seeing how my garden was doing and waited until dusk to give my garden a sprinkle of the hose. Monitoring the growth of my garden brought me great personal satisfaction to watch the results over a period of a few months. I excitedly called family members together to view the first buds that would eventually turn into nice big red juicy tomatoes. I also had planted a few cherry tomato plants. The plants grew very well for the first time planting in a new area and soon we had peppers, tomatoes and cherry tomatoes to eat in late August until September. A few tomatoes had fallen that were not totally ripe but soon learned that by putting them in a paper bag or setting them on the windowsill they would ripen in a few days. Tomatoes sitting on our windowsill soon became a constant fixture in our new home.

I not only learned through this experience of how to prepare soil for planting a successful garden but have also learned that envisioning an idea can come to fruition when there is determination and persistence.

Postal Employee

While attending college early in 1983 I was working 2 part time jobs to supplement my income. During that time one of my part time jobs had hours cut and so I went to the unemployment office to look at jobs on their microfiche. (Job listings were not computerized then). While at the unemployment office I happened to notice that they had a Veteran’s Counselor there and I asked to speak with him. He asked me if I ever considered working for the Post Office, I told him I hadn’t. He gave me the instructions on who to speak to at the personnel office at the main post office. I then set my sights on obtaining a job in the U.S. Postal Service.

While visiting the Personnel office I was given many forms with instructions on filling out applications for taking exams, different ones depending on which job I wanted to apply for. The exams were approximately 2 hours long and were told to study for them with a few practice questions. Some of the exams required memorization, while other exams required typing skills of 40 to 45 words per minute with a minimum of no more than 3 errors. Once the exams were scheduled you could not retake the exam or reschedule them for another 6 months. I had a wedding date planned for November of that year. My examinations were scheduled for August.

The proper procedures that were required to procure a successful examination assignment date had to be made in orderly steps. I had to make copies of my DDForm 214 (military discharge papers), a valid State driver’s license and two forms of photo ID. The only reason the exams were open to me was because I was a recently discharged Veteran. I went to the public library to obtain books on taking the Postal Exams to prepare more thoroughly for the tests. The examinations primarily consisted of a combination of Math, English, Reading comprehension and memorization examination. You had to study names and addresses of about 50 people for about 5 minutes. You were then told to turn in the paper and were given a multiple choice quiz with names or addresses and had to match them up with the results. I used the memorization techniques that were suggested to me in the library books. Memorization by association made it a lot easier. I used football jersey numbers and other sports players’ numbers to help me remember the names. Street names that were President’s names I used to correlate them to dates via the numbers on the street. Other names of streets I associated with people that I knew in my life and gave them a number according to the study sheet. It made the examination a lot easier and I was pretty confident that I had passed the exam. I made sure I was on time and prepared for the exam with a good night’s sleep. I had four exams on 3 different days.

I received a letter in the mail from the Post Office on the day I was getting married. I thought of it as a wedding gift from my recently departed grandmother and carried the letter from the post office requesting to report to work all day long. I was beginning a new life with a job securely and literally in my back pocket. My college education was put on hold until just last fall.

I created my own fortunate circumstances by making myself available because of an unfortunate circumstance of getting my hours cut at one of my part-time jobs. It turned out to be best thing that happened to me. If I ever see the manager again who cut my hours I will go out of my way to thank her. I am thankful I had enough sense to use the public library system to obtain materials to prepare for the examinations otherwise I would have probably failed the exams. The job that I ended up getting at the post office also required me to take a typing exam. I had knowledge of office machinery on the typewriter during high school at a time when most boys did not take typing class. Typing class is now known as “keyboarding class”. I was the only member of the football team who took typing back then and took many jibes and ridicule but as it turned out it was worth it.

Relocating to Denver, Colorado

The first time I was in Denver, Colorado was in the fall of 1978. I was flown here via the United States Air Force to attend Technical School at Lowry Air Force Base to train for the job of Inventory Management Specialist which was in the supply field. While here in Denver for approximately 3 months I fell in love with the State of Colorado and Denver. While atop Lookout Mountain one day I promised myself that someday I will come back here to Denver and make it my home for good.

I kept the promise to myself as the opportunity arose to put in for a transfer to Denver in September of 2001, 2 days before that infamous day. While visiting a long time friend and high school buddy here in Denver he challenged me to put my money where my mouth was. He offered me a lift to the Main post office in Denver and applied for the proper paperwork to put in for a transfer. They advised me to write a letter to the postmaster for a transfer into Denver and that is exactly what I did. To be honest I never expected to hear from the Denver Postal facility because transfers sometimes are hard to get. I had a good attendance record and did not have anything negative in my personnel file so everything looked good as far as my requirements to getting approved. The hurdles that existed was leaving a life that I had known in Buffalo, New York for many years but I wanted to fulfill my dream and eventually retire out here in Denver and have a nice place to live so my children could visit me out here . I had been divorced for about 8 years at the time and I was ready to make a life for myself. My children were over 18 and pretty much on their own. Their mother was with them in Buffalo, and my daughter was out on her own already. All things considered I felt that this was a now or never opportunity for me to put in for a transfer if I were to ever live in a place that I had dreamed about since I was 18 years old.

In July of the following year my supervisor approached me and informed me that my transfer to Colorado was approved and that I was expected to be in Denver, Colorado to report for duty in 2 weeks. I could not believe how swift they wanted me there. I literally had to pack my whole life in a suitcase and fly out here to Denver and start my new life. I could have refused, but this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, it was now or never. My friend in Denver offered me a place to stay with him and his family until I cold find a place of my own. He had a 4 bedroom duplex in Lakewood, Co. and had plenty of room.

Upon arriving in Denver I immediately went to the Motor Vehicles Office to apply for a Colorado State Drivers License. This was a requirement of my job as a Letter Carrier that I had worked since 1989 (Postal Service since 1984). I also would lose my seniority as a letter carrier according to the Union rules in Denver but retained my Postal Seniority. I would also have to start over as a part time flexible letter carrier this could mean that I would lose hours of work, but that never happened. I took a risk and it worked out for me . I was knowledgeable of my job and was not concerned that I would not acclimate myself to a new territory. If you could do the job as a letter carrier on one area of the country you can do it anywhere. The climate was much different, a lot drier which I liked and it was a lot milder in the winter, except for a few occasional snow storms. I was already accustomed to snow in Buffalo. Differences that I encountered that I did not expect were that everyone noticed that I had an “accent”. I was asked numerous times by many people if I was from Minnesota, people from Buffalo have an accent similar to those in the Midwest. I felt like the new kid in town and had to adjust to making new friends that I had for years in Buffalo. These are some of the things that I did not really think about before I made my move.

On the whole all things considered I would have to say that I would never change the experiences that I encountered relocating to a different part of the country. I have adjusted well and considered Colorado my home for the past 7 years. We live in a smaller world and we should not limit our choices to certain localities. All choices have to be considered in making a life time changing decision. My choices are still open to different job opportunities that may present themselves in the future. I believe that everyone should be flexible in their choice of locations which also opens up their opportunities for employment on a wider scale. Situations change, the economic climate is very volatile right now and in the big picture a flexible employee open to different job markets is more employable.

Charity Jell-O Splash

While attending an event at a Union function there was a speaker who talked about the Muscular Dystrophy Association and upcoming events that they had planned. The National Association of Letter Carriers has always been a supporter of this annual even usually held in the beginning of September along with the Jerry Lewis Telethon. I made up my mind that I wanted to participate in this event and volunteered to jump in a swimming pool full of cold sticky jell-o.

I had been committed to raise $200. to enjoy the “honor” of submitted myself to climbing a 30 foot ladder and sliding down a playground slide into a swimming pool full of ice cold jell-o. I actually had no trouble raising the money at work among my fellow co-workers .I worked in a station of almost 100 letter carriers. I made a special speech and announcement during a stand up talk that if each letter carrier donated $2.00 my pledge would be made. A coffee can was passed around and it was full by the time it came back to me. This was an even that was televised and mention was made that I was “jumping” for the United States Postal Service and the National Association of Letter Carriers. I felt honored.

Preparations that had to be made were making sure that I had a change of clothes and a lock for a locker that they had prepared for my splash. My sisters and a few friends had made it to the event at a local beach pub on the lake. It was a spontaneous decision that I made to just do it. One thing that I had not prepared for was that the temperature of the jell-o was below freezing and the shock to the body has a way of temporarily freezing you and could put you into shock. Of course I did not hear about any of this until it was too late to back out. I was a little nervous. I especially became more nervous when I found out that paramedics were on stand by and they had trained “life guards” standing by the edge of the pool. I donned my bathing suit and joked with a few people inside the locker room about the splash and it calmed my nerves a little. I waited in line for the other splashers to get themselves sticky and felt like more of a spectator than a participant until it was time for me to climb the ladder.

Then I felt a tap on my shoulder when someone said “Your turn”. I figured well it will be over in just a little while so here goes nothing. I spoke to the audience and made mention of my sponsors and thanked them and I felt like I was worried over nothing. When I slid off the slide and immersed myself into the jell-o my body went into shock for a few seconds. I couldn’t breathe and it felt like I was under for a long time, but even though it may have been only for a few seconds. I felt the arm of one of the lifeguards grabbing me. I did not know where I was at first when my head popped above the jell-o and only heard my sisters laughing hysterically at me.

I exited the jell-o pool covered in green slime threw my swimming trunks into my gear bag and hit the showers. I spent the rest of the evening talking about the experience with my friends and family. It was one of the best times in my life. Charity events can be fun and lead to happy experiences especially with creative events such as this. I later became involved in bowl-a-thons and Oktoberfest charity auctions with beer, raffles, auctions and most of all fun. Charity events with name sponsorship of the organization that you are involved will lead to goodwill for the community as well.

Union Steward

A Union Steward has always been in my eyes a person who has respect, fellowship of his peers, a mediator, a negotiator, and entrusted responsibility of both its membership and management. I wanted to become a Union Steward.

Since the first days of my initial orientation and training of becoming a Postal Employee the Union Steward who gave our group and orientation a speech about the Union made a distinct impression on me. He seemed knowledgeable, non-threatening, caring, and sincere. He seemed truly to be a friend that I would like to have on my side.

I had the opportunity to become a Union Steward when I was approached by fellow members of our unit and was asked to run. I was told that I would receive the support of the membership not only from my peers in the particular unit where I worked but in the other station as well which also had a right to vote for representation of an elected official. I could not refuse. I was honored at having the opportunity to represent my fellow employees. Of course there had to be an election, and the responsibilities of being a Union Steward had to be taken into consideration. Even though I knew the contract I had to know the contract by heart at a moment’s call when asked otherwise I would lose my credibility. I had to set an example of what is expected of a good employee and at the same time know my rights as a worker as to not abuse the benefits that we all had such as lunch breaks , 2 ten minute breaks a day, rest stop breaks and a 5 minute wash up time. This caused me to not jump at the opportunity to run initially until I had time to reconsider my options as to whether or not I would accept the nomination of running for the union steward position. I would be expected to attend all union meetings, and be called at a moment’s notice even after my regularly scheduled workday if a situation arose where I was needed to represent another worker for any problems that might have happened. This happens frequently more often than not in the Postal Service.

I decided that I would accept the nomination and run for the position of Union Steward and would treat the members as those of my own family and represent them to the best of my ability to protect their jobs. I won the election not once but on 3 different occasions and served in that capacity for a little over 7 years. There were times when I served as Steward that my job and position were also put on the line because I stuck my neck out for employees that were being treated unfairly. I was not going to tolerate mistreatment in the workplace for anyone under my watch as long as I was their elected representative. I dealt fairly with supervisors and listened to their side of the story, and took both sides into consideration of trying to come up with a solution to solve the problem. There were different problems that crept up from time to time and they were not all serious job ending career type problems either. Some humorous situations occurred such as the station manager insisting that everyone wore ties, even the ladies (uniform ties) and supervisors making comments about our rest break areas. There were some days that were better than others but overall the main focus on completing the job and serving the public was met successfully.

As I look back at my Union Steward days I miss the people the most and the friends that I made as being their friend as well. The kinship and bond that you have with your fellow workers when you work with them from day to day is the second best thing to your own family. It is irreplaceable. You are excited when they come to work and they tell you about their children’s triumphs and are saddened when you hear about their losses also. In some working families lives some people spend more time with the people they work with then they do their own families. It comes as no surprise that you think of your fellow workers as your own family. I know I did.

Video Taping Business

In the early 1980’s a video tape machine was a novelty. People who owned these machines or could afford one were television news station employees and the TV networks. As the decade progressed consumer type video machines were appearing on the consumer market. Sony, Panasonic, Sanyo were just a few companies that decided to mass produce video recorders. Video Tape Recorders (VCR’s) took the consumer market by storm and everyone wanted one. Rental companies had started to rent Video Recorders for special occasions such as weddings, bar mitzvahs and reunions. That is when I decided to enter the Video Taping business in 1985.

The price of video camera was pretty steep even by today’s standards. I paid $1200.00 for a Panasonic Video Camera which I still have today and works great from a company called Silo which has long gone out of business. I paid a certain amount of money as down payment and charged the rest by opening an account with the intention of paying that charge off by video taping weddings. I made out business cards, and bought every thing I could get my hands on in regarding reading material to do research on video photography. I owned a computer in 1985, called the Commodore 64 where I was able to produce nice computer graphic titles for my video presentations. The obstacle that presented itself was securing a contract for a weekend wedding and establishing a base price. Most of my first few jobs were through friends and family where the price was $200 for a wedding. It was an all day affair. I even went to the bride’s home before the wedding to take pictures of the bridesmaids and photos of the bride with her mother. The lighting on those cameras required a very bright light also which presented a problem for many people who were bothered by the bright light. . Many religious services were not comfortable with video cameras in 1985 and frowned upon my taking moving photography video inside a church. Much persuasion was used on my part to convince priests to allow me to take video without disrupting the religious sanctity of the service. There were times where I needed to stand on the alter to take a video of the bride and groom to show their faces as they exchanged vows.

I paid off my video camera in less than a year from the work I was getting. I also videotaped my two children who were 1 and few months old at the time. My children now have hundreds of hours of tapes that they could view and save for their children also to preserve family memories. I have since converted the tapes to DVDs’ and am still in the process of converting home video tapes to DVD. I learned about video photography and editing with high quality stereo dubbing effects as well. The techno-language that I obtained is now second language to me such as ; a flying erase head, on the fly editing, macro lens, micro lens, lens filters, and the different speeds that are compatible and non compatible with certain machines. Beta had better quality back then, but the VHS format won the hearts of the consuming public who at the time wanted everything big in the 80’s including their big cell phones. I find it humorous to watch an 80’s made movie and watch the gigantic cell phones that they used to use .They seemed like they were acting so cool with them. The advancement of technology since then made with video cameras has been dazzling especially with the light sensitivity and the quick editing erase head that is standard in all video cameras now. The price for a good video camera today costs less than it did a quarter of a century ago and is 100 times better in quality. Not everything has gone up in price since the “good old days”. The best part of my video taping business in the 1980’s was that it did not interfere with my night job at the post office where I worked the 12-8:30 shifts. I even was hired to do the Postmaster’s retirement ceremony and speeches which turned out fantastic and sent the Postmaster of Buffalo, New York a master copy of the tape that I made for him. The video taping business helped me advance my career at work by gaining credibility and getting to know more people at work. (Networking)

As the 1980’s came to a close more and more people were purchasing video cameras as the price came down and everyone wanted one, much like everyone wanted a moving film camera in the 1960’s. So Uncle Joe and Uncle Harry volunteered to take over as the official photographer but there are many wedding videos out there from the 1980’s that are not professional because Uncle Harry and Uncle Joe had too much to drink at the reception. These videos will make you dizzy and cause you to make an appointment with the eye doctor.

I tried to convince people to hire me , rather than a family member but money is always a consideration when planning a wedding and many brides chose Uncle Lou to take videos since they became more affordable for purchase at the close of the decade, everyone had one. At the same time I also changed my career in the post office and became a letter carrier in 1989. My Saturdays were busy as well and thus ended my career in the Video Taping Business.

Six Favorite Skills

1. Negotiating ,Deciding

2. Advising Consulting (problem solving )

3. Communicating (writing or speaking)

4. Researching (investigating or reporting)

5. Using Intuition (sizing up a person or a situation)

6. Operating Equipment(or machines)


About dfirefox

Arapahoe Community College Graduate of 2010 - Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration - Works full time - United States Government Department of the Treasury - Lives in Buffalo, New York
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