Tag Archive for 'Tulsa'

Uncle visiting from Poland

This past weekend, my uncle from Poland visited me in Dallas. He is retired and has been in the U.S. for a couple of months now visiting family. He decided to make a short tour of the South and Midwest by taking Greyhound bus from Tulsa to Dallas, and then the Amtrak train to Chicago, and back to Tulsa, his home base while in the U.S., by plane. Being very well traveled, the bus and train were modes of transportation my uncle was experiencing for the first time on this continent, and he enjoyed comparing these modes to their counterparts in our native Poland.*
Google map with numbered markers starting from Tulsa, Dallas, and Chicago

The trip from Tulsa to Dallas

To my surprise, my uncle is quite well versed in navigating the Tulsa Transit system and has been leveraging the system to transverse the city. Luckily, a bus line runs directly in front of the apartment complex where my parents are living while they are migrating back to Poland and where he is staying during most of his visit in the U.S., so he conveniently caught a bus to the Greyhound station in downtown Tulsa (marker A) for the 10:45 bus to Dallas (marker D). At that moment, the trip already got delayed as the Greyhound bus waited 45 minutes for another Greyhound bus that was delayed and carrying a transfer passenger. The route was essentially down Hi-way 75, the typical route I take to Dallas, but the bus first stopped in Muskogee (marker B). He tried to send me an SMS about the delay, but due to a much unfounded miscommunication, he sent the messages to an old cell number of mine. I understood he did not have a cell in the U.S., but in fact, he is roaming on his Polish cell service in America, and each SMS text message costs roughly 60¢; nevertheless, it is a worthwhile cost for such critical communiqué.

Google Map of Oklahoma and Texas region with markers on Tulsa, Muskogee, Richardson, and Texas.

By around 17:00, Friday the 9th, I left my home for the Greyhound bus station in Dallas for my uncle’s planned arrival time of 17:25; however, his bus further encountered a second delay due to lane-closure and traffic congestion before Richardson (yellow marker C) resulting in, to the lack of my knowledge, a total of hour delay, about which he texted me again to the wrong number with an updated time. Naturally, first I pulled over in my car in front of the station hoping he would come out and see me, as he is familiar with my car. I noticed a dozen or so passengers exit the station, shortly after which security shooed away since they just stood in front of the station.

Street view of Greyhound Station in Dallas

Street view of Greyhound Station in Dallas

After ten minutes, I decided to circle the block and eventually parked and went inside. Inside, first I noticed a mucky smell of cheap deodorant in the very crowded terminal and that there was no time table board anywhere, and the only person who could help me, after a short investigation, was the gentleman whose job was to help passengers between the bus and terminal and who updated me about a 26 minute delay, which turned out to be obsolete information but better than nothing. Thirty minutes came and went, and rush-hour traffic got heavier outside the station as I decided return to my car thinking it was wiser to stay with my car. This resulted in me accidentally cutting off a pedestrian as I made a right turn in front of a police car, so I got pulled over but only given a warning. I circled the one way streets to find a parking meter somewhat in front of the station where I ultimately parked.

Finally, around 18:30, I noticed my uncle enter the terminal a little bit disoriented, so I yelled out to him, greeted him, and we walked back to my car. I was happy to learn he had the privilege to ride on one of the new Greyhound buses. First order of business was to acquire dinner to bring home, so we drove straight to Szechuan Chinese Restaurant on Lemmon Avenue where at 18:53, we ordered egg-drop soup to split between him and me, garlic pork for himself, chicken & shrimp fried rice for Monica, and sweet & sour chicken for me. Monica was very hungry by the time we got home after 19:00. We had plans to visit the NorthPark mall that evening to avoid the tax-free weekend rush the next day, but the travel delays postponed that plan. We spent most of what was left of the evening planning the following day.

New Greyhound bus

New Greyhound bus

A Saturday with my Uncle

We all woke up around 7:00. One of my uncle’s quests on this trip was to go native and share our normal routine in a condensed format. At 8:24, we got a couple of good and inexpensive breakfast burritos to go from La Victoria, a nice little restaurant in our neighborhood.

After breakfast, as we were loading my car, Monica noticed some desperate meowing, which turned out to be one of our cats crying on our balcony where we were spraying sunscreen on ourselves earlier. So, Monica ran back upstairs to let the cat back in. Fortunately, a mother always hears her baby’s cry because it was too hot to leave any animal outside, especially once the direct sun would hit.

We parked at my work parking lot downtown about 9:45, and went inside of my office to see the 360-degree view of the city from the 28th floor. Then, we walked over to the new Klyde Warren Park where we admired the surroundings and started a mission to find ice cream for Monica. By 10:45, we were ready to get out of the sun and go inside the Dallas Museum of Art to which admission is now free as of this year, but since the museum opened at 11:00 as did all the food trucks at the park, we waited in the shade of a tree on the west corner of Woodall Rodgers Fwy and St. Paul until opening time.

To our dismay, we had to throw away our water bottles to enter the museum, which was a bitter but fair trade for the nice, cool museum. We viewed the Hotel Texas exhibit of the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy that reunited “works that were installed in the president’s suite at the Hotel Texas during his fateful trip in 1963”.* For Monica to warm up again, we then viewed the sculpture installations in the museum’s garden, and then went back inside to view several more floors and sections of the museum. We saw art from almost every old continent, but we enjoyed the European Art the most.

Finished with the museum, we walked to the Pyramid restaurant at the Fairmont Hotel where at 12:42 my uncle ordered the salmon I recommended, Monica ordered the lobster bisque soup, and I ordered a deli turkey on pita bread. My meal was refreshing, but Monica was quite disappointed of her soup due to comparing it a similar dish from Bodean Seafood Restaurant in Tulsa, so after the fact, the manager gave her a free desert, an apple crumble, to go, which, although good, turned out to be more apple than crumble. The salmon was good, but my uncle was not as thrilled by it as I typically have been, though the dish was different than it used to be.

After lunch, we walked a block and caught the free M-line tram to Uptown at 14:00, and unfortunately, the air-conditioning on it was not working. We rode to West Village in Uptown to get some dessert, gelato from Paciugo at 14:27. The gelato was quite fulfilling. We took the next tram at 14:57 back to the my parked car.

At home, we freshened up and rested a bit to leave for dinner and the mall. We chose to eat at Velvet Taco, which was received very well by everyone mostly due to its originality and freshness. Afterwards, we went to NorthPark mall where we were on a mission to find my uncle a postcard, from Texas Treasures, and a bucket hat for his photographic expeditions. At the store Texas Treasures, he also purchased a personalized keychain which flashed his name on one side and had the Texas flag on the other. I also purchased for him a gift set from the Art of Shaving store. We circled the entire mall observing the art from the Nasher collection, and despite visiting several department stores, we only really found one bucket hat, which was by Lacoste but in a bad color at Macy’s. It was Monica’s keen sense that directed us to stop in the Lacoste boutique on the way back to the car where a white hat in the same style was on sale. The clerk had to pull it out of storage, it was the last one, and it was marked down, a remarkable find. Then, we drove home, drank some blueberry tea and called it a night.

Sunday with my uncle

True to my uncle’s tradition while in America, he and I went for a run Sunday morning, though we walked most of the time during our run due to talking. I let him use my heart rate monitor, and he put me to shame with it because he is in such great shape, for any age, that he barely entered into the aerobic zones. He had a top BPM of 133 with an average of 98 over 35 minutes. I could tell my BMP was hitting 150s sometimes, but he runs every day.

"Breakfast #2" with ham from Allgood Cafe .

“Breakfast #2” with ham

Afterwards, he wrote his post card, I stamped it for Poland, and we dropped it in the mailbox on the way to our favorite breakfast place, Allgood Café in Deep Ellum. There was a thirty minute wait at the diner and was quite warm inside, but we all thoroughly enjoyed the food and each others’ company. Each of us ordered renditions of their “Breakfast #2”, which is scrambled eggs, short stack of pancakes with fruit, and sausage though he ordered the ham. The coffee was excellent too.

On the way home, my uncle summarized his dining experience, as this was his last one with us, to that he enjoyed all by the Pyramid very much because all of the food was original. The Pyramid did not seem worth the money we paid, but it was not bad but nothing special in his opinion, to which Monica concurred. We all agreed the old menu from the previous chef at the Pyramid was better than the new one.

From the moment we got back home, it was a brief time until the train. My uncle finished packing; we had some tea and talked for a while. Soon, 15:00 came, so we all got in the car to drive to Union Station for his 15:40 train. The parking there was less than optimal as there is practically no short-term parking, and I reluctantly paid $5 for parking at 15:33. The train was about 10 minutes late; it was supposed to arrive 15:20 but arrived around 15:40. We waited inside the station for a short while, too short for me to take in the historic element of the place. We moved with the crowd to the platform—in the heat. An attendant scanned my uncle’s ticket and direct him to the last car on the train. There, we listened to another attendant explain a few things about the train. My uncle stepped inside to drop off his luggage, and then came back out to take final photos with us and say good-bye.

We began to miss him immediately. The following day, my uncle sent me an SMS that he arrived to Chicago and went looking for the metro to the airport, and I queried the Amtrak website to learn that his train arrived to Chicago 6 minutes early. Late that evening, I received an SMS from my mother that he was back in Tulsa safe and sound.
* He noted that on Greyhound, the bus driver announces all of the stops, including listing all stops at the top of the trip, and knows exactly how many passengers to expect at each stop. In Poland, the PKS bus drivers do not know how many passengers will board at subsequent stops.
Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy. Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2013. Print.

The Job Interview which landed my job

It was sometime around the last week of February 2012. My recruiter gives me a call about “putting me forward”, or to request permission to submit my resume to Project Management Office at Tenet. I hesitated because I thought that I could ideally hit the ground running at a new job, and the job description sounded intimidating to me considering the high profiles with whom I would supposedly be dealing. It turned out I don’t deal with that many high profile people, but they are always close by. I gave the go ahead to submit my resume. I got a call back a few days later that I am invited to an interview.

During this while, I have been working with my friend Frank Wantland to help him set up his website Compete for People where he offers great personal career building and coaching. I highly recommend him. So, I shared with him the news that I got my job interview, so he actually offered to give me a mock interview, which is why I can recommend him. I think the preparation with him really helped because the interview was nothing like what anyone imagined it would be.

I left for Dallas after work on March 6, 2012. It was a very windy day. It was so windy that there were power outages throughout the city. One outage was at work, where for whatever reason, the backup generators failed to supply backup power, and I became stuck in parking garage at work because the simply boom barriers operated only on electricity and would not let the cars through. I had to wait in a growing line of cars. Fortunately, it was not rush hour yet. There was a doctor in a Corvette who really wanted to leave, so I helped hold up the boom barrier as much as we could given that there was some play in the mechanism, and his low Corvette managed to drive under undamaged. The rest of us had to wait for a maintenance personnel literally to dissemble the boom with a socket wrench.

Once I made it home, I think I actually had one more work call, and then I hit the road. I stopped by my favorite gas station fill up for the trek, but the pumps were not working. So, I drove across the street to another station where the pumps could take my card. By that time, the wind was so bad that I had difficulty operating my trunk lid to do some final checks before I got on the high way. If I believed in divine intervention, I would have surely thought that all signs were pointing for me not to go. Later it would turn out that at best, these were proverbial signs of the storm yet to come once I got the job.

I arrived safely in Dallas a little later than I wanted to. I took some wrong turns as I was trying to avoid constructions, which of course is not marked on my GPS. My plan was to drive down High way 75 through downtown and back up through I-35, but being from the small town of Tulsa, seeing all of these tall buildings down the 75 corridor, I thought I already was downtown; mind you it was nigh time by now. So, I took Loop 12 to shoot across to I-35. It ended up taking about the same of time that the original plan would have.

My interview was at noon, so I took my time to relax in the morning. Did some yoga stretches, got dressed, ate, and drove downtown. Parked my car in an open lot outside of the Fountain Building, and it started raining, and parking cost $5, which is quite a bit for a Tulsan who virtually never pays for parking.

The Fountain Building is beautiful, so I immediately saw myself working there thinking how awesome it would be to work in such an awesome skyscraper. I met my recruiter in the lobby who gave introduced himself and then walked me up to the corporate lobby, which to me looked like something out of a movie when the protagonist steps into the big-bad pharmaceutical corporate lobby. The view was spectacular where I could see a little the DART tram below and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in the distance.

My boss to be was running late but came and got me and took me to another floor to a small conference room for an interview. My other boss to be was on the phone. Wearing my new suite and not being used to wearing suites, I got hot, so I mentioned that I felt warm. The response was to take off my jacket, and this was in a somewhat condescending tone as if I should know when it is appropriate to remove my jacket.

The interview basically consisted of me answering to one request: “Tell me what you have done.” I was already thrown off because I was really only equipped to respond to a different open-ended request of “Tell me about yourself”, to which I prepared a 2 minute summary of my life that lead to project management. Immediately looking back after the meeting, I should have answered it like a politician answer questions by answering question he wished he was asked, not exactly what he actually was asked. This started becoming evident to me once I realized that there were no more questions. I essentially had to fill up the entire hour of just talking about myself. Fortunately, I was warned about this, otherwise, like any normal person, I would have been sweating thinking something is going terribly wrong.

They were impressed that I drove this far for the interview, and I made it clear that I would move for this position. So, at the beginning of the interview they asked whether I was prepared to enter the consulting industry considering that I would be leaving full-time employment to take this. I answered in my typically cautious manner, “I believe so,” to which they replied, “That is not a very confident answer.” So, I corrected myself with, “Yes, I am prepared.”

I talked about my knowledge of Cerner, BMDI and Code Upgrade projects I did with them that spanned several facilities in our (St. John’s) health system, yet they still held the position that I worked for a small organization, and that I may not be able to handle a large organization. I explained the health system has over a thousand beds, but that is just one blip on the radar for an organization that has over fifty hospitals across three time zones and is Cerner’s number one client.

Considering I could appreciate from the roots up what an EMR implementation is like for a hospital, I knew there has to be a catch as to how they can manage so many implementations at once without even knowing the application. This position turned out to be very high level.

I had a few questions for them, but I think one thing that I speculate solidified my entrance was when I stated, quoting Jacque Fresco and his Venus Project , that I believed one should arrive at decisions rather than make decisions. I could see that impressed at least one of them, which was later validated as they impressed upon me that they do “fact-based reporting” where if something is not documented, we do not treat it like fact.

I felt I exhausted my material for after 40 minutes, but they said they allocated a full hour for me, so they will give me a full hour. I just had to start improvising.

After the interview, I felt like it did not go well at all and could not pinpoint why, of course. I drove home later that evening feeling a bit exhausted but happy for the memories and experience.

I am writing this 8 months after the fact, and I many times looked back on this very pivotal moment whether I missed any red flags regarding their personalities. I think I only chose to ignore those as my desire to move on in my career was very strong.

Why I started looking for a new job while working at SJ

Up until this time, I have been working at St. John Medical Center for over four years. I was ready for change. I felt I have outgrown my position of Project Specialist, which I sort of considered to be ‘wanna-be project manager’. There certainly was enough work for me to do, but I starting taking on responsibilities for which I either lacked equivalent authority or was untrained in how to leverage my chain of command. Or perhaps if it was the latter, then maybe my chain of command was vague enough to where it was not evident how to escalate issues. Escalating issues is what I would really learn at my next job.

I like to do things right, so obviously that takes on more work, and that was generally the problem there: Like camels, we took on more and more work, “absorb by existing resources”, yet no significant recognition was portrayed. I had the unfortunate luck of having over six bosses in those several years, which made matters worse when the response for my request for a raise was something to the effect “log some goals in the performance measuring tool, and we’ll track against them.” To that I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. I was basically getting compensated the same way I was when I first started, yet I’ve grown a lot (certainly as much as anyone could reasonably expected to have grown in my position). So, what about all of that progress?

Once I got my last boss, with whom I looked forward to working more than anyone else on my team, I was quickly disappointed by his arrogance and personal agendas. I never really thought St. John’s had stellar management because of “old blood”, slow turnover, but later I would learn to appreciate how kind the employees there were in general, which was something I took somewhat for granted at the time because I thought people were kind like that everywhere.

Aside: Later I learned what managers in large organizations work like, which raised the proverbial bar for my expectation of managers to such heights that now I actually feel a bit sorry for St. John’s and Tulsans who in general follow Tulsa’s leaders. I guess that is the basis of my hypothesis why some communities flourish more than others do.

After a steady stream of disrespectful events, or maybe it was simply my observational selection bias due to my pessimism to where I noticed more unfavorable events, I set out to seek a new career opportunity. I knew I was worth more, but most importantly, I felt I was ready for much more. We also wanted to move out of Tulsa, and Dallas was a feasible and desirable option. I started applying to many jobs. I answered one post on a job board and, to my surprise, later I learned that this post was actually a recruiter, even though the post read more like it was written by the hiring company itself. In short, that started my relationship with TEKsystems.

Little did I know just how much those recruiters want to make their money, so even though I temporarily let go of searching for a new job opportunity shortly after that, the recruiter kept working for me. He found me a string of BMDI technical project management positions; I even had a phone interview on January 26th for which I drove home from work during lunch.

Then, a few weeks later, I got a phone call from my recruiter about a high-level project management position within a Project Management Office at Tenet. The position sounded like more than I could chew at the time, but I thought, “What the hell! It may be good interviewing practice for me. If I can’t handle, surely they wouldn’t hire me.” They did not do phone interviews, so I had to take a day off and drive into Dallas. The rest is history.

Pedestrian Errand to Wal-Mart in 2011 Blizzard Aftermath

We just got back from Wal-Mart to stalk up on some groceries, a two mile trek round-trip. This is fourth day after the onset of the Blizzard of 2011, which hit Tulsa late night of January 31 and broke many records. We decided to walk to the nearest Wal-Mart because we wanted the exercise and the roads were bad enough that all the bad drivers in hurry to get home in rush-hour posed a threat to my car. We left the apartment at 15:56. The weather was 23&#176 F (-3.3&#176 C), 5 mph SSW wind, and light snow.


We dressed a little too warm for the walk there, but on the way back, it was just about right. I wore:

  • Sleeveless wicking running tee
  • Long-sleeved wicking thermal tee
  • Heavy long-sleeved sweater/tee (not really a sweater, not really a tee, somewhere heavy in between)
  • Leather winter coat with inner lining zipped in
  • Balaclava
  • Knit-wool winter cap
  • Underwear
  • Two layers of long underwear
  • Three pairs of socks
  • Boots, which I purchased just last weekend

It was easy to say that we could have drove, but that required removing snow from my car first, after which we could have walked at least half the distance to the store. We saw drivers, some with good traction but impatient of drivers with poor traction, and some with poor traction and poor skills of accelerating in slick conditions. It was obvious that people were in a hurry to get home.

The store was not as bare as I thought it was since I overheard a lady in front of the store complaining, “Everything is gone. Milk. Grapes.” Although many shelves were bare, everything, but eggs, we needed was available. Also, it was interesting to notice that all of the cheapest items were mostly gone while the more expensive items were still available. That is how I acquired some jasmine rice.

The checkout lines were very long, but moved faster than I expected. Very few check-out lanes were open. While in line, we heard the overhead announcement state that the store will close at 6PM, which was in one hour from now. When it was our turn to pay, I thanked the cashier for working. She remarked that probably many people are thankful. Further inquiring exposed that no one received any incentive to drive in to work in the horrible weather, while most of the managers did not even show up for work. Some of the checkers were not real checkers but were put on that post. I feel compelled to write Wal-Mart a letter to express my feelings of injustice for their employees in this remarkable situation.

We carefully packed everything into two backpacks and the rest was held in two plastic sacks. Before the cart was completely empty, some already asked if she could have that cart. I was definitely ready to get out of there, so much so that I was about to walk out without fully dressing.

As we walked across the slightly more than usually busy parking lot, we heard a man yell at his spouse, “Push!” as he pulled the cart over the very bumpy ice. I checked to see how much she was pushing. She barely had on hand on the cart as her other hand held her large ice coffee drink. “Push! Are you pushing?” as the cart started to tip over to one side. “No you’re not pushing.” We kept walking trying to ignore the spectacle, but I secretly wanted to learn from how this domestic dispute play out. As we were almost on the sidewalk, I could hear her yelling back at him, “…yes you were! You talk to me …this way…everyone was ….” was all I could make out.

We carefully treaded home, fortunately, in the light. The snow had stopped falling by the time we went outside, but I did not notice that until we were on the sidewalk. The temperatures dropped noticeably since early, but that was probably wind-chill because records show it was only about one degree colder than during the walk there. We held hands over the rougher parts. We arrived home sound and dry, and hungry.

Trip to the Past

Yesterday, I took my car into a wheel alignment shop on 11th & Utica to get a better wheel alignment on than normal tire shops have been able to provide me. I’ve had a chronic camber problem that could not be corrected by normal aligning methods on my car; and furthermore, I actually required a new part to correct the issue.
I’ve been putting off going there for days although it’s right down the street from where I work with a very convenient bus connection to and from work. I realized there was only one day this week that worked for me to do this and that would work in my schedule between work meetings and personal engagements. The entire experience was nice.

The experience of this shop surprised me. It was like visiting the past. First of all, as I walked into the shop around 7:45, there was an older man with a very long grey beard in a mechanic’s shirt sitting in the waiting lounge smoking a cigarette. He said hello to me, but I was still taken aback by his indoor smoking as I replied hello to him because he was smoking. I thought he is a customer or just someone who likes to hang out at the shop, but no, he was a mechanic. There was no one behind the desk, and he told me that the lady is not in yet but will be shortly. So, I looked around as I waited. Behind me, there was a glass counter with two antique mechanical typewriters. Inside the case were old Coca-cola memorabilia and other relics.

Then, one of the other mechanics, who was just as old, with an even longer beard came into the office to help me. I told him what I wanted, and he said that the young guy will need to come help me. He called him over, and then a clean-shaven 50-something man walked into the office. I guess 50 is younger than 70-something. They took down my name, numbers, and key. I left for the bus and admired the historically decorated sidewalk with route 66 markings.
An few hours later, the lady from the office called me with the quote and told me that they needed to order a part, which would take the rest of the day to fix my car. I agreed to the quote and was later called around 4pm that my car was ready.

There was only one more bus left before the shop closed, which I was going to take regardless whether they called me or not. When I got back to the shop, the lady behind the counter was smoking. I couldn’t believe it. I thought that for these smokers, this must be a paradise job because they can smoke not just during work hours, but while actually working. As I looked for other antiques that complement these old ideas, I noticed there was a “no smoking” sign leaning against the wall behind a large plant. Funny world! I guess it makes sense to some degree because the shop sits on historic route 66. They did have a computer, actually, and my receipt was printed, not handwritten..

The nice mechanic, the “young” guy, told me to keep the PSI higher than what’s recommended on the inside of the door for my particular type of tires to get much longer tread life. On the way home, I was very impressed how straight my car drove. It used to be a challenge to keep it straight, now it’s a challenge to turn it. I didn’t know a car could drive so straight. What an experience because it’s hard for me to imagine how some people continue to live like little has changed over the last few decades.