Sunday, February 29, 2004

Well the phones have been fixed. Made for a challenging week though. We currently have a recently alluded to driver on tour with his band for the next month and a biker on vacation to go see his mother. Both very reasonable requests, but scheduling as always is an issue. We're struggling through a bit. I know I complain about it constantly but that is a major challenge: scheduling for both rider benefit and maximum customer service. It's a crazy juggling act that I'm doing. I'm trying to keep about a 20 different plates spinning at any given time. I'm like a one man chinese circus. I've been told that chinese circus' suck, but I've never seen one myself so I'll withhold judgement.

Bball game tonight. Let's see if we can extend the winning streak to 5 games. I love the basketball.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Well, after a long absence it's nice to be home again. Had a good trip back east but it's always nice when you walk in to your own house. We just missed the biggest storm of winter here in No Cal. Cars floating away, flooding, mudslides, tremendous wind and rain. I was sure that I'd come home to find a) A tree on top of my house or b) the business under 3 feet of water. My house was safe, but the storm knocked out the phone service to a 5 block area around the office. It's difficult to run a messenger service without the benefit of phones. SBC/Pac Bell were their usual helpful selves by not telling us what the problem was when they knew what it was. Eventually we got our lead phone line forwarded to a cell phone and have been able to survive since that first day in a gerry rigged kind of way. Pain in the ass. I guess it could be worse. Our ground floor office could have flooded as happened to many residences and businesses. I'll be glad when winter is over. It's so much easier for the bikes when the weather doesn't suck. The drivers aren't impacted so much, but they are alot busier. The thing about courier services is that there's not alot of client loyalty outside of your biggest accounts. The big accounts tend not to leave because they usually owe you money and are wary of another company being prepared to handle their volume. But the smaller accounts will leave you as soon as say hi on the street. That's why the phone situation was so stressful. Client calls, can't get through, calls someone else, starts using them and forgets about you. Fickle bastards but thems the breaks. I think we successfully dodged the bullet for the most part with this outage.

In other news my league basketball team is now 4-2. We've won 4 straight after losing our first 2. There's nothing like the competitive spirit of aging athletes.

It was nice to get back on the bike after being out of town for so long. Everything is so sodden that using some of my sneaky urban trail short cuts to get to work was pretty much out of the question. It was kind of refreshing to take a different route though. Felt pretty strong on the 2 speed despite having limited riding time over the last few months. I must say after a trip away from the bay area the view of San Francisco when riding over the GG Bridge is fairly awesome, especially with the dramatic clouds that the recent storms have left us with. It's the little things that make me happy.

Friday, February 20, 2004

I'm far away from California right now. I'm at the old childhood home in Bethesda, Md. I'm visiting Mom for a few days. It's great to see her with Samantha (my daughter). Samantha's the only girl grandchild and I don't think she gets to see her enough, given that I live on the west coast now. It's always a bit strange returning to the place you grew up. It was odd when I was in college and returning, but I had not yet put down my own roots yet so this was still home. After college I lived in DC for many years and the proximity kept the house that I grew up in fixed with the "home" label. But now that I've been gone for 12 years, on the other side of the country, visiting only occasionally (some years not at all), this isn't "home" anymore. It's "where I grew up". But of course all comparisons are made to the place(s) that you come from. Even back in the bay area I find myself comparing towns to the one I grew up in. I see a tree lined street and think to myself, that looks alot like Chevy Chase or Bethesda. All references are to things that you've already done or places you've already been. That's obvious I guess, because rarely are we making concrete references to things in the future. Those are plans, dreams, hopes and they are not yet concrete. The tricky thing about the suburbs is always needing a car to get around. Here in Bethesda if I need to go and get a gallon of milk i have to get in the car. Nothings close, it's all spread out. Back in Fairfax there's a real feel of a town. I walk to the store or ride my bike to the bar. I could could potentially go weeks and weeks without needing to get in the car (though that never happens due to inherent laziness or inclement weather). It's just different.

Now's the time when i'm glad I have business partners. It's easy to go away from the business and not worry too much about it. i know things are in good hands. That's the drawback to having the pie sliced into larger pieces. There are fewer bodies to mind the shop. That's a completely different issue though, one that can be dealth with at a much later date.

As I think I mentioned in my last post I had to discipline a messenger due to his rudeness towards building security guards. The same guy emails me and asks if he can have an advance so he can get a new work bike. Remember what I said about being taken for granted? sheesh. But I'm not in this business to have my praises sung anyway.

I'll try to post as I can. Like LL Cool J said, "I'm goin' back to Cali, Cali, Cali..." next week.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The thing about owning a small biz is that it's all people management. You don't have enough money to implement some grandiose scheme but yet there's enough size for little problems to snowball into big ones. Making sure that everyone is doing their job and placating clients when that job isn't done properly is the days work. Take today for instance:

I believe that the business of being a courier is a fairly simple one. You have to balance speed with safety/courtesy/intelligence. It's an old story in the messenger industry. The guys who ride their bikes the fastest are rarely the ones that make the best messengers. They're the guys that ride by addresses they're supposed to stop at, forget to pick up packages, drop things in the street. But man they go like a house on fire!! I don't hire these guys. During my long and glorious messenger career I think I struck a fair balance between speed and not getting my ass creamed by a cab. My strong points were attention to detail, an unfailingly polite manner and a good awareness of what's going on around me (both in the sense of my personal space and what my co-workers were doing). Being a messenger is a social occupation. Your office is the city that you work in. Your co-workers are the people you get plowed with on Friday nights after work. It's easy to get distracted at work. But the most important attribute of a Jetset employee is simply to represent the company and out clients well. Treat the dickhead security guards with respect, smile and say "hello" to the rude receptionist, say "excuse me" to the guy on the phone who's expecting the package you're trying to deliver. It's easy.

Today I had to field a complaint from a disgruntled security guard who was none too pleased when a messenger "dissed" him by not signing his little log book when he entered the building. Now, I'm the first to say that the sign in proceedure for messengers into buildings is stupid. It provides no security to the building what so ever but seems to make everyone feel better, so we do it. If I put on my 3 piece suit (fortunately this is hypothetical because it doesn't fit me anymore), grabbed a brief case and strolled into most buildings in the financial district security wouldn't bat an eye. But put on a helmet and a messenger bag and it's like Osama Bin Laden tried to catch an elevator to the 20th floor. None the less as a messenger it's part of your job (as far as I as an employer am concerned) to play the games. Just smile and play the fucking game. It's so easy. It makes you more effective and more profitable.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah. So I've got to discipline this messenger for doing something stupid and I just don't understand what's so difficult about playing within the confines of the "game". The other annoying thing is that he's a chronic offender, a chronic doer of stupid deeds, his time here is limited.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Once again the scheduling bites me in the ass. If it isn't the employees wanting time off, it's the other owners. My first instinct is just to hire another courier. It would solve alot of problems, but utlimately would be a disservice to the employees who are working there asses off. Sooner or later ya gotta put your foot down though. Jetset employees just don't realize how good they have it. But like anything in life, if it's given to you long enough you will take it for granted.

I think I went on and on a bit too much in yesterdays post so I'll keep it short today. Funny thing though, my wife talks in her sleep (always has) and last night after she had fallen asleep she said one word loud and clear "Honkey". Kept me up all night wondering what she was dreaming about.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Been a few days since posting. I've been out of town. It was my father-in-laws 50th birthday party and that, of course, involved drinking an osbscene amount of Budweiser over a short period of time. Fun, but I'm glad someone I know doesn't turn 50 every weekend. It'd be the death of me.

I leave for the East Coast in a few days. Going to see Mom. She doesn't get to see Samantha enough and the stars were well aligned this trip because Tami was going East for a business trip anyway so her ticket is covered. I'll see some old high school friends which should be fun. I hear Joel just had his second kid (Congrats!!) so I don't know if I'll see much of him.

I don't have much Jetset related stuff to discuss. Today was Presidents Day and I stayed home with my daughter (I actually have every Monday off, that's a perk) so I haven't thought much about work for three straight days except to tell people that things were par for the course when one of my Father-in-law's friends asked how business was. That, to a large degree, is the issue with Jetset. Jetset is par for the course. We have a strong customer base, very little debt, little depreciable equipment (couple of computers), lots of experience, and a 5 year office lease. These are all both good and bad things. In considering selling Jetset the value is clearly in the client base. That's where our value is. I'm sure there are companies that would pay top dollar for that alone, but for how long would it work out? A large company would quickly sour Jetset's clientelle which is used to a high end service. A smaller more personable company probably couldn't afford to give us what it's worth. So there we are.

Some info about Jetset that may relevant to people reading. 1) Originally had 3 partners. Now down to 2 as one has sold his share. 2) Another partner has said that she will be selling before too long (within a year that probably means, she's also married to the partner that has already sold. 3) The final partner remaining (besides myself) while being about the nicest, coolest man in the world is not very biz savy. Arguably has some issues with customer service and may not be the most responsible chap in the world. So what this means to me is that i'm the insurance for the 2 that have already committed to selling. I remain and make sure that the whole thing stays afloat while they are paid their monies. Jetset does not hold enough capital to buy out these partners in lump sums, so we pay them off with salary over a specific amount of time. If the company were to go kaput during that time I suppose they would be shit out of luck.

While I bitch about Jetset a good deal the departure of these partners makes the pieces of the pie signifigantly larger (this is good) but ties my future up with Jetset perhaps tighter than I'd like. If Jetset were to sell to another entity (another company, an individaul(s) who wanted to be in this biz) all the negatives (employee and client reaction, community reaction) would fall upon my head because my options would be much more limited than those who would have gone before me. This may be my greatest downfall as a businessman (and I use that term in an almost mocking manner when I apply it to myself). I think far too much about what is fair to my community, my employees, my clients. I hold too much respect for what has been built at Jetset and therefore fear tearing it down. I know how to make Jetset more profitable but I don't like the steps necessary to get there. I'd sooner sell the whole shebang. I guess one option would offering the business to the current employees at a fair price. Selling isn't imminent. It's just something that I think about alot. Diversification (did i spell that right?) is another option. I don't know that I'm biz wiz enough to make that leap. Things will shake out a great deal over the next 18 months and I think that things will come into focus for me. I wish I was an inventor. I'd rather be making and selling widgets.

Hope everyone had a good long weekend.

Friday, February 13, 2004

"Slow Deaf Child"

There are 3 possible permutations of the way this sign can interpreted:
1) As a notice to a driver that there's a deaf child potentially playing nearby. Slow down. Take it easy.
2) Watch out for a kid that's not only deaf but stupid as well.
3) If the deaf child has grown up and returned to his neighborhood as an adult having found his/her way in the world, experiencing success and failure, love and loss, the sign is cautioning him to slow down.

I like thinking about that. It makes my head happy. I lifted this premise from a poem by David Berman called (you guessed it) "Slow Deaf Child".

You know, sometimes I feel like the principal at a local high school. I'm all about dispute resolution having to do with the stupidest shit. The drama about my messenger hitting on the receptionist at my client's client's office has thickened. I spoke with the fellow about the situation and he professed such sincere confusion that I believe we may have a case of mistaken identity. This guy is many things but he's not a liar. In fact if he was hitting on the receptionist I believe he would've admitted it without hesitation. He says that a) he has a girlfriend b) during the delivery in question the usual reception wasn't even there c) he never dilly dallies in that office he's always in and out very quickly d) the last time he remember talking with this receptionist is about 5 months ago when she offered him a beer while he waited for a package to be ready.

So now I'm in the position of trying to figure out who, if any, of my messengers is responsible for the unwanted advances. The challenges with this are manifold: 1) I have no interest in further involving my client in this mess. She's got better things to do. 2) I do need to make sure the right person isn't paying visits to this receptionist. 3) Is it appropriate to go speak with receptionist apologizing on our behalf and figuring out exactly who it is?

I think I'll send my business partner Andy to speak with her. He's very diplomatic and also british. The chicks love the accent.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Letter to the Editor

You can read my views on the iPod in the above letter to the editor that was published today in our local weekly.

Presidents Day is this Monday. That's one of those holidays in the messenger business that few people pay attention to. Banks, PO's, Gov, etc. will be closed but all our customers will be doing biz as usual so we must as well. Service industry makes you beholden to those who pay the dough.

This is a great magazine The Week it condenses tons of media into an easy to handle weekly. The cool thing is that it takes a high profile media issue and tells you what the Right is saying, what the Left is saying, and cites sources for further reading. It's a great way to get a broad basic view of an issue. Broad and basic. That's me these days.

This is the kind of crap I have to deal with. So one of the messengers has been hitting on a receptionist at a client of a client. That means a location that we go to frequently but one that is not our client. Well, I guess the receptionist decided she didn't like his flirting or advances and told him to knock it off. Since then he's been "rude" to her whenever he goes into that office. They receptionist complains to my client who then asks to make sure that he no longer sets foot in that office for a month or so. So I've gotta talk to the messenger, alert him to the situation, reiterate that his advances are no longer welcome in this case and too chill the fuck out. It's so much fun to manage personalities.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Here we are another day at Jetset. Lively conversation about the Supermarket strike in the south land. I wish that I was better informed about the issue, I spent a bunch of time scouring google for info and didn't have a whole lot of luck. My gut reaction is not sympathetic, but part of that is because so many of the folks here at work are knee jerk enough towards any union related cause that they are convinced corporation=bad & evil. As near as I can tell the Stores want employess to pay $5 a week individual and $15 a week for family towards their health benefits. They also want to change the pay tier for new hires to a lower level, not current workers. The unions say this is motivated by greed for profit. The Supermarkets are saying that with increased competition from super centers (Wal-mart, Costco, etc) and specialty stores (Trader Joes, Whole Foods) that current wages and benefits are untenable. I don't think anyone thinks that selling food is a high margin business. I did find a supermarket industry journal that said in 2003 the gross profit margin for the industry was less then %1. Obviously they survive by selling quantity. It doesn't seem to me that the stores are being particulary disingenous here and what they are asking for doesn't seem unreasonable given what I know about the rates that most people pay for health coverage and what Jetset asks our employees to pay. It's also interesting to think of in the context of the dissappearing middle class post from yesterday. These semi-skilled jobs at supermarkets and the like are going to be like gold in a decade. Companies need to be profitable while providing workers with good wages and benefits. We need to be thinking about the balance between the two and not hurl accusations. There must be a middle ground and we need to find it.

Ok completely off the former subject is this line from a Stephen Dunn poem (yeah I'm kinda obsessed about this right now): I'm paraphrasing but it goes something like

"...our farewell hope
that we try with what is left us."

I know I've got it wrong and I can't remember it exactly but I think that I've got the spirit of the line. I was commuting in today (absolutely gorgeous here today by the way) just chewing on the line over and over. It's really a pleasurable sensation, riding in traffic and thinking about poetry. I couldn't decide if Dunn was saying the line with resignation (.i.e. let's make the best of this crap) or more metaphorically we make the best of what other people (parents, mentors, heroes, lovers, husbands, wives, both deceased and living) leave for us in our lives.

Hmmm. Hope everyone is well.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

This article is dense and, at times, complex: cTheory article. The slant of cTheory is definitely of liberal variety (not neo-liberal mind you, a term the article often sites. I had to use this definition to remove the normal associations with the term liberal ( Neo-Liberalism definition ). It talks about the wholesale shipping of tech, service, white collar jobs overseas and the affect it will eventually have on the american middle class, not to mention the world as a whole as corporations pillage other environments and cultures in the pursuit of maximum short term profit. It's an interesting read, though a bit scary. Our world/nation/lives will be very different in 20 years. Maybe I'll just hang on to Jetset for as long as possible because I don't think we're outsourcing courier jobs to India. At least not yet.
One of the nice things about Jetset is the lively conversation on the radio. For once I'm not being sarcastic. During slow periods we have some good debates. The crew is to the person intellignet and witty. Well, there are one or two loose screws who shouldn't speak, but isn't that normal? This AM we were talking about the Cooper death penalty case. The crew is pretty liberal and, predictably, convinced of Coopers innocence and much more willing to believe that the cops would plant or tamper with evidence to get a conviction than that a manipulative killer may try to escape lethal injection in any way possible. I find myself playing more of a devils advocate simply because I feel like so many liberals are willing to swallow the "liberal" line without their own thoughtful input. The irony is that I consider myself a liberal and am stongly anti- death penalty. I just want everyone to think about why they believe what they do.

Speaking of liberals, I really like Al Franken. He's intelligent, witty and combative. I don't think there's a conservative demagogue who can hold his coffee mug. Limbaugh, Savage and that skinny chick who looks likes Celine Dion are idiots. Flat out idiots. They speak loudly and in generalities knowing that the only people that pay attention to them are the masses already brainwashed to their message. This country is one big machine geared to keep people at each others throats because if we, as a people, put aside the minor differences that we have been convinced are major, we may actually realize that we live in a place owned and run by global corporations whose primary motivation is profit at the expense of freedom, equality and good sense.

But I digress. Or rant.

Did you see that the Warriors set an NBA record for lowest points in a quarter? They scored 2 points on 1-13 shooting (0-3 from the line) with 9 turnovers in a loss to the Raptors on Sunday night. Did I mention that they were up by 16 with 9 minutes to go. Unbelievable. Why do I root for these guys? Maybe I should get into Premier League soccer. I like those Manchester United jerseys.

Oh, btw if you don't already watch the Daily Show on Comedy Central. John Stewart is the next David Letterman only funnier. Much funnier.

Read something today.


Monday, February 09, 2004

So this company converts garbage into usable energy sources. Specifically a hyrdogen fuel. Pretty cool. Why isn't our governement funding the R&D for viable projects like this?? Oh wait, that's right we're currently ruled by a president appointed by the courts who has so many ties to the oil industry that he stinks of petroleum 24-7. Our shortsightedness will catch up to us eventually. Unfortunately it will probably be too late to accomplish anything without draconian measures. The oil's gonna run out my friends. It may not be for 75 years but it may be in 25. But it won't last forever. No, it won't.

Here's the top 5 on the iPod right now:
1) Broken Social Scene
2) Silver Jews: American Water
3) songs: Ohia: The Magnolia Effect
4) The Rapture
5) Sun Kil Moon: Ghost of the Great Highway

Good Stuff all.

Jetset Related: I've been thinking lately how cool it would be to buy like 3 of those Scion XB's (you know the weird looking boxy one) pull out the back seats, slap Jetset Courier magnets on the doors and employ hourly drivers to drive them. This, of course, would involve firing the current drivers or offering them positions driving the XB's. Once again I can't imagine doing that to these guys. I figure we could pay drivers like $13 an hour to start and make good money. This is the problem with paying people a commission, especially a high commission. It's hard to figure fixed costs since payroll changes signifigantly month to month. The only way to really increase Jetset's revenues is to increase business signifigantly but that also means having to hire additional workers to cover an increased work load. Right now Jetset does like $50,000 a month in gross billing, it's a very manageable number. To increase monthly billing to $70,000 would take a phenomenal sales/marketing push. Something that the ownership isn't very good at. Also, during the tech boom Jetset was doing almost $100,000 a month in billing and the stress level was through the roof. Every single day of work was a challenge. Just getting all the work done was a daily challenge, much less dealing with hiring, firing, paperwork, and all the day to day. I don't want those times again, though the money was good the trade off was sleepless nights. Basically Jetset needs to change our business model at some point. We need to move away from commission pay to an hourly system. I can hear old messenger folks griping now, "yeah but no one works hard when they're on an hourly." That's always the question, isn't it.

It would also be wise to look at different business areas that would benefit from the infrastructure that's already in place, i.e. phones, dispatch system, 2 way radios. We could probably dispatch just about anything from our office. My brother suggested a business that he saw used in England. He needed to get his car to the mechanic and didn't have time to take it there himself. So he called this service that drove out to his house on a collapsible scooter, folded the thing up, put it in the trunk and drover the car to the mechanic for him. I imagine that the same fellow returned the car, reassembled the scooter and off the went to his next job. It's a good idea. You could target rental car services, garages, Service Centers. I looked into it a little bit and, of course, the largest expense was insurance. Workers Comp on guys riding scooters is predictably high and insuring them to drive other people's cars was also high. You can find these collapsible scooters for about $500 a pop. Not a bad idea. Could pay guys like $12 an hour and charge say $35(?) for each pick up or drop off. The mechanic or rental car agency could tack it onto the bill. It would be well worth it for some busy financial district people to have to deal with such tasks. Something to chew on.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

My thinking is that since it's Saturday I don't necessarily have to write about Jetset. In fact on weekends I try to think as little as possible about work. Let me start on the very mundane end of things. If you're looking for witty and entertaining you may just want to skip directly to something funny like this Red Meat. So Samantha is at a friends for a sleep over tonight. That means I get to go to the movies! Saw Cold Mountain. A bit depressing but ultimately a wondeful movie. Got a little weepy but it was dark so don't tell Tami. I know the movie is fictional (as the book was) but the ability of man to be despicable to man in new and interesting ways always just blows me away. I read in the paper today that the Chechen seperatists blew up a bomb on a subway car during rush hour. Hey guess what guys? I don't have any sympathy for your cause. None. You can eat shit. Killing a bunch of people on the way home from a long day at the vodka factory or vodka bottle assembly line or vodka quality inspection office is no way to garner favor with anyone. You may have the most righteous cause under the sun but the wholesale slaughter of innocents is no longer acceptable in this day and age. This little rant is directed towards Herr Bush, Sharon, Arafat, Bin Laden, Hezbollah, The Unholy Alliance of all that is Jihadist, etc. etc. You've all got your heads screwed on ass backwards. I haven't read the Koran or anything but i've gotta believe that Mohammed didn't really intend to use the "jihad" clause with the same frequency high school students forge "sick yesterday" notes for absences. At last count there were Jihads on Capt. Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers (successful ones as well it would appear), Tony Danza, Hooters Restaurants, and Quentin Tarantino. C'mon guys, it's losing its threatening value.

Hold it. I was talking about movies a second ago. If you haven't seen Lost In Translation, go see it. Just do it. Don't think about it, just go. Say to yourself, "Pete said to see it" and then go.

The Warriors actually won last night! They played great as they often do at home, now if we can get a road win or two perhaps the word respectable can be uttered in the same breath as Warriors.

Speaking of basketball tomorrow is my 4th league game of the season. We're 1-2 right now but we haven't played as well as we can. We should pull to .500 tomorrow. I haven't had a really good game yet this season. Steady but unspectacular. I'm not worried. I've yet to feel that really comfortable rhythm with my shot, that great sensation in which you know the ball is going in before you shoot it. Love that.

I've really been enjoying my commute on the mornings when I'm able to ride my bike at least part way. I've been parking the car on the north end of the Golden Gate bridge and riding to the office. Saves the $5 toll and gets my legs loose and blood flowing. It's the best kind of commute in that it has such a variety of environments. Off the bridge I drop into the Presidio which is usually quiet and peaceful. Alot of the roads I use are empty in the AM but the best part are the shortcuts. There are a couple of short trails that I use to cut off chunks of boring road riding. It's real muddy right now and I'm running road tire on the Surly Cross Check so traction has been an issue. But even that's fun because it's a technical challenge trying to find that balance between momentum, torque and traction. Can't lay hard on the pedal because the wheel will just spin out but must keep the bike moving forward or the whole purpose of riding has been defeated. I kind of end up with this rhythmic weighting and unweighting of the rear wheel by coming out of the saddle and leaning harder over the bars then dropping back to the saddle. It's trying to find the sweet spot that exists at the confluence of trail conditions, bike set up, and rider ability. My bike is set up as a 2 speed with 38x16 and 46x16 (or something like that I don't feel like getting up and counting teeth) thanks to the folks at Paul Components and this handy gadget Melvin. Fun bike but it needs an overhaul and I'm not willing to do it until the majority of the rainy season is over and it's only February.

One last thing. I'm tired of feeling guilty about liking Ryan Adams. First the hipsters love him then they decide he's derivative and uncool. He makes great records whether he's wearing his influences on his sleeve or not. I just think he's pissed too many people off. Much in the way that Howard Dean is now seen as unstable and unpresidential. I'm OK with Kerry but I think the fabled "liberal" media gave Dean the shaft in a big way. Get excited, try to scream, croak instead, lose momentum in national political scene. I've seen a million times.

As the kids like to say: Peace Out.

Friday, February 06, 2004

First off, i love my iPod. Tami got it for me for Xmas. 40gig deal. Way better than the creative labs mp3 player I had before. The most recent issue of our local weekly ran this article about iPods and how the little device is changing our culture as it relates to music. I, of course, have many opinions on this subject as I'm a compulsive purchaser of music. So I wrote a letter to the editor responding to the article and the fools actually published it. I'll link it next week when the paper comes out. I'm on a roll with minor to insignifigant publishing credits.
The end of the week is always a good thing. Not that I hate work, hate would involve too much emotion. The weekend is a nice change of pace. One of the great challenges with Jetset is scheduling. We pay couriers on commission so they have an interest in working hard enough to cover all the work. If we can't cover work for a long enough time we have to hire and that's another rider to compete with. I like to keep the staffing as lean as possible while still providing great service. This means that the guys and girls on the board are making real good money. The problem with lean staffing is that if someone calls in sick or wants to take two weeks off to go hunter grizzlies or fish for koi it can be a challenge. On the driver side of our business (versus bicycles) we seem to hire an inordinate number of musicians. As it stands right now we have:

1) 2 drummers
2) a bassist
3) a guy who does something for a Balinese orchestra. Don't ask I couldn't pronounce the name of the instrument he plays.

A creative group. But what happens when they want to go "tour". For these guys that can involve 3 dates around california or, in the case of one of the drummers, a month and a half away part of which is spent in Japan with this band John Vanderslice. Do I hire someone while they're gone and be overstaffed when they return? Do they lose their job making them choose between being a driver and a musician? One of the reasons we started Jetset was to create a place where the courier (by nature a creative type in the same way that actors always seem to be waiters) can make good money and pursue their true love at the same time. We've successfully created an employee friendly business that's a pain in the arse for management (that's me). Oh, well.

I can tell you right now that one of the hardest things in the world to do is be a Warriors fan. Yes, I root very hard for a perenial loser. God, why do they suck so bad? There's talent on this team. They play tonight against the Denver Nuggets. I'm not hopeful.

Here's my literary link for the day: Verse Daily Trust me that all poetry is not fluffy or confusing or unapplicable to your everyday life. Here's your days research project: find poems by Stephen Dunn, Philip Levine and Jeffrey McDaniel. Good stuff.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

"Praise the odd, serendipitous world."

-Stephen Dunn
The coffee guy pointed out to me this morning that we're in the post-janet boob era. Nice.

This is my Jetset related rant for today: Workers Comp. Our rates were jacked through the roof at the beginning of 2004. From about %12 to %28. The thing that sucks about Worker Comp (a necessary evil) is that business pays %100 of the cost and we are required to carry it. In California our WC costs are twice that of the national average. We are passing some of that expense on to our customers but in the highly fragmented and extremely competitive local courier business you have to be wary of how high you take your pricing. Gov. Arnie has promised to lower rates but even if he's able to do so it's a top down (trickle, trickle) proposition. It'll be awhile before we feel any relief. The profit margin gets narrower. Anybody wanna buy a courier company? You could fire all the couriers and rehire on an hourly wage or as ICs and make damn good money. I can't do that to these guys, they're friends and it would make me feel like a slimeball. I know, I'm a terrible businessman but what the fuck can't you act with a conscience and not be penalized at every turn by government. Oh crap I just sounded like a republican.

The radios have ceased functioning today. We use Fleet Talk a company in New Jersey that manages our transmitter which is currently out. No radio comm with the road. Fleet Talk doesn't call you back or tell you what's wrong, how long it will take to fix or anything. They're also the only game in town so they don't really care, what are we going to do use cups and strings? It's not just us but essentially every company in SF that's affected. Fuckers.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

I often have this arguement at work with Lance. He's a musician. A guitarist. A very good one. Loves Jerry Garcia and Steve Kimok. I can't say we're crazy about the same music. His idea of a really well written song is one that makes the guitar solo longer...and longer...maybe a little longer still. Me, I'm a pop music guy. I like melody and hook. Not pop as in "popular" necessarily, but "pop" as in an Elvis Costello song or Joe Pernice song or something by these guys Best Band in SF. Lance and I don't see eye to eye here. For him good music always = good musicianship. He tells me, "Kurt Cobain is a good lyricist but he can't sing for shit." Can you imagine a Nirvana song sung note perfect by Paul McCartney? It would lose something, like the anguish and the feeling. Will Oldham probably isn't the greatest musician in the world but he's got a way with his material that's original and inimitable. I could name a bunch of other examples but I still think Lance would sneer at me. Fuckin' hippies. This is the kind of guy who thinks punk was a waste of time but would poke his eyes out for a Pantera show.

He can't really get past the fact that it isn't played perfectly (or as well as he can play, I guess). Lance is in this band Grasshoppers he's the guy with the sunglasses.
So the title "Different Hours" comes from the title of a book of poetry by Stephen Dunn. I like this book a great deal. It won the pulitzer in 2000 (I think). I've been a fan of Dunn's for years. He's very human and very approachable but also lyrical. There's a poem in the book called "at the restaurant" in which he catalogs the pleasantries of a dinner out with friends, others sharing their days goings on, he admits to feeling withdrawn, the last two lines go:

"Inexcusable, the slaughter in this world.
Insufficient, the merely decent man."

It's filled with both resignation and anger. Dunn just hits that feeling of powerlessness on the head. It's the struggle, and he deals with it mightily in the book, that much of life is left to others. It's a point that I've dealt with in my writing alot, the idea that there are really no superheroes but instead a million people who who do thousands of small things that are far more essential than the occasional bouts of magnified heroism we tend to hear about because they are so much louder.
The problem with the messenger business is that it's a dinosaur. I'd be really surprised if it's still around in 10 years. It's not the greatly feared but ultimately vastly overestimated arrival of the fax machine. It's electronic file transfers and broadband that will do the industry in. Jetset specializes in serving the advertising industry and all its affiliated parts, print production, photography, video editing, etc. This is good business in SF because there's alot of it and they're willing to pay a premium price for a premium service mostly because they pass the cost on to their client. As it stands now prepress and graphics houses use our service to deliver proofs to their clients because a) we're talking huge files sizes which, even with broadband, take to long to transfer b) monitor resolution and file types prevent people from being able to see exactly what colors they will be getting when they go to print that very important Nike ad in Rolling Stone Magazine. This is good for us because it means we take proofs from place to place so everyone can see their pretty pictures before they go to print. Both these technical issues will surely be resolved in the next decade if not sooner, bike messengers will become extinct and the only thing left will be moving things out of town with small pick ups and moving large loads within the city limits.

There's so much romance in being a bike messenger. I was absolutely passionate about it at one time, and still am to a certain degree, and it's still interesting to see new faces get involved with the community. It's become a very ambitiously political group as well. There's a small but vocal segment of the messenger community that's working very hard to become union. They've had some success and seem to fighting a noble fight. As a business owner I understand both sides of the issue and why many firms are so reluctant to embrace the union position. I try to treat my employees as fairly as my budget will allow. We provide health and dental insurance (50-50 split), the 4 day work week, and a fair commission on each delivery. I'd make a ton of money if I tried to make my guys IC's. But I don't want to do that, it wouldn't be fair. I've worked during my long messenger career at IC shops and it sucks. When my partners and I started Jetset we were essentially creating the messenger company that we would like to ride for. Of course I barely ride anymore but sit in the office and dispatch, do managerial tasks, and try to make sure everything works on a day to day basis. I hate the service industry. It burns your soul from the inside.
The first month of 2004 is behind us and I'm truly surprised to find that it's alarmingly similar to 2003. Already we have: #9 called in drunk, LC moaned about his back all day, Capp spilled Museli all over the floor and then spent a good 10 minutes walking around in it before leaving it right where he spilled it. You get the picture. The mundanity is the struggle. I don't love my work. I guess I'm indifferent to it, but I recognize it's advantages. When I started Jetset almost 6 years ago I never really imagined that it would come this far. I saw a pet project that I would grow out of, instead it's become the monster constantly beating against the closet door. Fuck, it doesn' even wait for me to turn the light out, it's already there tapping its foot and getting cracker crumbs in the bed "where ya been, Pete?" The money sucks, I'm in my prime earning years and I ain't making nearly enough. But the reward is in the time. I work a 4 day week (as does everyone who wished to, this was an important tenet when we started this company), pretty much set my own hours and can take vacation as I please with minimal repercussions. This is all very good because I've got a beautiful 4 year old daughter who just makes me stop dead in my tracks, just the thought of her sometimes makes me stop what i'm doing. I'm 37 and constantly gripped by the dreaded fear of middle age. I know I'm a bit premature (I'm assuming that I'll live past 74 but maybe not). It's the curse of the ex-athlete. Being aware that your body is slowing down, that things don't move as quickly, your first step isn't fooling anyone, more jump shots than drives to the hole. Good days and bad days, sometimes I walk off the court so pleased that I could hang with the 22 year old. Others, heh.

But that's really not what I intended to write about, not directly anyway, but I suppose it's all part of the package. What I really mean to write about is Jetset Couriers and the love/hate relationship I have with it. We'll see how it goes.

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