Sunday, November 08, 2009

8 NOV 09: Shuffling and Dealing With It

"How much money did you make today?" I asked my next-door neighbor when I returned home from church Saturday afternoon. He was sitting outside near the street.

"Fifteen dollars," he told me. "Three people asked me to watch their cars for them. The rest are on their own."

For five dollars a car, my next-door neighbor was selling a "security watch" over cars parked at our complex for the Fountain City Classic. My neighbor proved by this he's not very skilled at entrepreneurship. At my alma mater, the going rate on football game days is simply ten dollars to park -- and I'm not sure you even tip for security.

This is one 15-dollar example of how Saturday's Fountain City Classic football game was supposed to be an economic boost for Columbus. But a potentially more significant booster shot came Friday - the "Fountain City Classic Career Fair" at the Trade Center. So many potentially employers had booths that the outlook may be turning "career fair," after months of clouds.

We joined more than 3,000 people at the Trade Center for this career fair. The crowd was so big that two "holding areas" were set up before people could visit the booths - as if crowds were going to break down the doors, to get to the computers connected to Kia.

Because we arrived a few minutes after the opening time, we sat in Holding Area #2 for several minutes. A giant-screen TV in front of us showed factoids and slogans about modern-day job hunting - such as, "Change is the law of life." So why did longtime Rep. Calvin Smyre give a welcoming speech?

We could hear a series of short speeches by dignitaries in the main holding area, next to ours. Rep. Calvin Smyre ended his welcoming remarks with a 15-second pep rally -- leading workers in a chant of, "Fired Up! Ready to go!" Trouble is, Wal-Mart and Kmart didn't have managers on hand to appreciate such things.

Before entering the career fair, workers had to sit through a ten-minute explanation of how the Trade Center was arranged. People in Holding Area #2 heard it, then walked to the main holding area to hear it again - this time with papers and Powerpoint, but no Calvin Smyre. If we arrived later, didn't we need that speech more?

"Let's see some smiles! You never know who might be watching!" said a woman wearing a white Georgia Department of Labor shirt as we departed the main holding room. Another state employee referred to her as "our motivator." For some of us, she seemed like the boss we hoped did NOT have a booth.

The blue carpet was out for all pathways at the career fair. The one leading to the main hall had booths for "Career Development Services" -- and for some reason, one of those booths promoted the National Cemetery Administration. If you're out of work and desperate for employment, do you really want to be reminded you're going to die?

(We stopped at that booth, and was told it was promoting burial plans for veterans at places such as Fort Mitchell National Cemetery. There are NO present openings for gravediggers.)

At least the National Cemetery Administration was giving away blue cloth bags, for holding everything else you might pick up at the career fair. Handle it with care, and the bag might even earn you that new five-cent discount at Target.

One nice fringe benefit of career fairs is all the consolation prizes free items various employers give away. Ink pens with company logos are commonplace. Free chocolates in candy bowls are becoming rare. And the best deal of the day was at the booth of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission - free giant "chip clips." Yes, in a full rainbow of colors....

A few other things stood out, as we strolled and stopped at booths for dozens of potential employers....

+ The Flowers Foods booth disappointed us. It had several loaves of bread on the table, but was NOT giving them away.

+ The Columbus Police booth stunned us, because the fancy banner placed outside the table had the "Protect Columbus" web site address misspelled. It says "PROCTECT" - and almost tempted me to stop and see if they were hiring proofreaders.

+ The Waggoners Trucking booth had a sign on a table - but nothing more. No papers to pick up. No people to answer questions. Not even a toy truck for jobseekers to try out.

+ The Columbus Times booth seemed to be in a giving mood, with Executive Editor Carol Gertjegerdes handing out free papers. But then I got home, and discovered my copy was from the first week of September. [True!]

(That edition had a column by Carol Gertjegedres which began: "Wedding anniversaries come after the wedding." That's why I like the Columbus Times - it's educational.)

The career fair also offered free critiques and reviews of resumes. The waiting area there consisted of two long tight rows of chairs. I told the men around me it was great practice in sidestepping - assuming country music clubs still do line-dancing.

It was in the resume line that I was reminded of an old Eddy Arnold western song. What the thousands of job-seekers went through at the Trade Center was a "cattle call." And we may never know how many workers were judged "blue ribbon steers," and offered jobs on the spot.

An even bigger crowd showed up for Saturday's Fountain City Classic football game. The Ledger-Enquirer reported more than 25,000 fans filled McClung Memorial Stadium - which explains why cars were parked at my complex, a five-block walk away. Cars also filled the Rotary Park lot. For one day, Bulldog Bait and Tackle should have sold steaks and ribs.

(Fourth Avenue Car Wash hedged its bets - putting a welcome message to Albany State and Fort Valley State on one side of its sign, and a message about the Steeplechase on the other side. But I think something still was wrong. Next year, the Steeplechase message should face the northbound traffic.)

As for the game itself: Fort Valley State stunned Albany State 35-13. It's Fort Valley's first win in the Fountain City Classic in eight years - and I think it means the turned-up car stereos after the game passed through Talbotton instead of Richland.

As I jogged on the Riverwalk in the twilight Saturday night, I asked two groups of walkers who won the game. Both groups knew it was Fort Valley - which beats the guys I saw with drinks a couple of years ago, who didn't know who had one. If they're walking, they probably actually attended the game.

The Fountain City Classic weekend ended back at the Trade Center. It hosted an "after-party" until 2:00 a.m. - which may explain why the special church services celebrating the weekend were held last Sunday.

Now for other highlights from a very active weekend:

+ Our best wishes to Lanny Davis and his family. We're told the father of murdered Fort Benning soldier Richard Davis (whose death inspired the movie "In the Valley of Elah") has terminal lung cancer. May history NOT repeat itself - with Lanny Davis's body sitting in a District Attorney's office for weeks.

+ Richard Hyatt's web site suggested former District Attorney Gray Conger has applied for the open federal magistrate judge position. Maybe this explains those rumors last year about Conger dating Julia Lumpkin - he's being coached in how to do a new job.

+ A new hair salon opened on Broadway, called PHD. Someone needs to tell the manager Columbus State does NOT offer doctorate degrees to the RiverPark arts students.

+ Auburn piled up the points on Furman in college football, winning 63-31. To use TV "score-box" shorthand, AUB-bie scalped some FUR.

(An Alabama agriculture roundup was held on the Auburn campus during the day -- yet for some reason, no one bothered calling the game the "Bowl Weevil.")

+ Georgia Tech won over Wake Forest 30-27 in overtime. This may have marked the first time a Georgia Tech game had a female play-by-play announcer. I'm talking about Pam Ward of ABC/ESPN - not Wes Durham screaming at the top of his lungs.

+ Alabama clinched the Southeastern Conference Western Division by leashing Louisiana State 24-15. Our Eli Gold "cliche of the day" on Alabama radio was, "You can't coach speed." Of course, this explains why Lake Speed was a lousy NASCAR driver - and Scott Speed hasn't won a major race yet.

+ Instant Message to The Landings shopping center: I think you're cheating. You had that big "holiday kickoff" Thursday night - and now you're stopping the special activities until after Thanksgiving?! At least you could replace toy soldiers with real ones for Veterans Day.

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