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COLUMN: Ryn: Job fairs: The great compression

Cattle generally have it better than folks who stampede through a job fair. And the cattle get shot in the head.

My friend Bart used to work in a slaughterhouse, and he told me plenty of grisly tales about the air guns.

No one was shot during Tuesday’s massive fair at the Tucson Convention Center, but I may have volunteered to be put out of my misery.

Something about being in a room stuffed with thousands of people vying for a mere handful of jobs tends to make me weak and weary.

Others weren’t quite as depressed about the job fair, though I tried to make them say they were.

“It doesn’t make me depressed, no,” said Luis Gomez, 53, who was looking for computer-related work. Self-employed for some time, he said business was down and he needed some part-time income. “It’s a source of hope, not depression.”

Kristen Nyboer, 22, who is trained in working with autistic and developmentally disabled kids, also felt pretty positive about the fair. Until she saw that the line was longer than those for the Porta Potty during a beer fest.

“I’m still not depressed,” she said, “but maybe a little less optimistic.”

Even Stephanie Jamison, 37, who has been to every Tucson job fair in the past several years and only once got a job from them, had uplifting things to say.

“No, it doesn’t make me depressed,” she said. “It gives me encouragement to know is doing this to help people.”

No matter who runs them, job fairs have always left a bad taste in my mouth, not unlike drinking coffee while eating tuna fish.

To be fair, I’ve only attended one job fest prior to Tuesday’s packed event. It, too, was a jammed event, but at New York City’s Javits Center, a four-level behemoth of a building large enough to host floor hockey games and international motorcycle shows – complete with the latest lines.

I recall being pushed, shoved, smushed and drenched in sweat, wearing an ill-matching pseudo suit that was much too big for me.

Sure, I’ve come a long way since those pre-college days, and now even have clothes that fit, but I still tend to get morose when I feel like I’m at a cattle call.

Job fair volunteer Tyler Evans, 24, shared my lack of enthusiasm for the event. He was collecting the little registration papers some people actually threw in his general direction.

“Only about 10 percent of these people will get a job,” he said of those hoping for an offer after the fair.

Part of that was because the applicants far outnumbered the available jobs. But another part was due to people’s attitudes.

“They sabotage themselves,” he said. “They go into it like: ‘Hi, my name is so-and-so and I don’t want to work for you.’”

Meanwhile, he continued, the employers are often paying attention to the long lines and the person behind the person they are supposed to be interviewing.

“I wouldn’t go to this,” he said of the fair, “I’d go to a business personally to get a job.”

Yes, Evans is employed. He’s training to be a nurse. It’s not a position he nabbed from a job fair.

I didn’t think my luck would be so great at the fair, either, despite my matching and fitting clothes.

Not necessarily because of my attitude, not because I felt like bursting into tears, but mainly because I didn’t hand out any résumés.

I simply couldn’t.

As much as I wanted to embrace the attitudes held by Gomez, Nyboer and Jamison; as much as I wanted to be grateful for the chance to meet a host of employers under a single roof; as much as I loved my little matching winter suit; I couldn’t bring myself to smile and hand over a single résumé.

My thoughts lingered, instead, on the air gun.

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist and Tucson Citizen reporter who is not expecting any callbacks from the job fair. Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM.

This column originally appeared in the Jan. 30, 2009, issue of the Tucson Citizen.

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COLUMN: Getting a read on bad drivers

Sometimes you just know when a fellow motorist is going to be a real jerk.

Tip-offs can include a bobble-head doll in the rear window giving other drivers the finger, mud flaps featuring naked women or bumper stickers that read: “Hit me and my owner hits back.”

While this stuff may seem like common sense, a Ph.D. student in Colorado took the observations several miles further with an extensive study.

Colorado State University’s William Szlemko found that people with any type of car adornment are more prone to driving aggressively, obnoxiously and induced with road rage.

Even if their bumper stickers say “Peace on Earth” or “Good will to men.” And even if the doll in their rear window is graced with a smiling bobble head.

“Both number of territory markers (e.g. bumper stickers, decals) and attachment to the vehicle were significant predictors of aggressive driving, ” says the abstract of his findings, published in the June issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

It’s all about territory. “The road” becomes “their road.”

A previous study by Szlemko found that those who personify their vehicles exhibit the same type of behavior.

That means we’re in real trouble if a person not only adorns his vehicle with territorial stickers, bobble dolls and decals, but also has named his auto Maude and refers to it as “she.”

To test the theory in Tucson, I wanted to find someone with a smiling bobble doll who named his car Maude, but it just wasn’t happening.

As a backup, I planned to see what kind of reaction I’d get from different folks if I drove around honking, swearing and tailgating, but I kind of do that anyway.

I’m kidding.

But seriously, I was going to engage in annoying driving behavior to see if people with adorned cars reacted differently than those with plain Jane vehicles.

But I like my car. And I like my life.

So instead I simply observed. A drive down East 22nd Street produced:

• A champagne Accord speeding, cutting off at least two cars and ending up at a red light at a very strange angle. The Accord’s bumper was graced with a circular sticker that said “Life is Good” and a yellow sticker that said something about a motorcycle.

A cruise up South Columbus Boulevard resulted in:

• A gray Volkswagen that kept inching up to ram my passenger door when I ended up blocking the side street it was on. The VW finally gunned behind me into the neighboring lane, narrowly missing my back fender. The VW had no stickers.

• A gargantuan white van that kept, for no apparent reason, making sudden stops. This one we should have known had a sticker. We also should have known the sticker would say: “Caution: makes sudden stops.”

Turning onto South Palo Verde Road meant encountering:

• A silver something-or-other car I had watched weave in and out of traffic for about five miles, including a somewhat insane move around a tanker truck full of fuel.

When he tried to cut me off and I beeped, he gave me an honestly bewildered look, as if to question why traffic, or the world, would not stop to let him in. He had no stickers.

These examples, coupled with several others over the past week, have led me to a conclusion about Tucson drivers and their car adornments.

It doesn’t matter if they have bumper stickers or not. Many Tucson motorists are crappy drivers.

Even if the bobble doll is smiling and their bumper sticker is telling us to “Have a nice day.”

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist and Tucson Citizen reporter who has a single bumper sticker but no bobble-head dolls.


This column originally appeared in the June 29, 2008, issue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper.

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COLUMN: Dogs’ tale shows worst, best in us

Tucsonan Lizzie Mead is filled with gratitude this Thanksgiving – even though her dog’s eye popped out.

Even though her other dog had massive internal bleeding and needed his spleen removed.

Even though Mead herself has not fully recovered from the hit-and- run that could have killed all three of them late last month.

“It was totally the best and worst of people all at once, ” said Mead, 35. “The worst of it was that someone could hit me and then run away.”

The best was the way people rushed to assist Mead and her greyhounds, Opal and Rider, through the wreckage.

Mead was heading to a morning dog-park romp when her truck’s camper shell was slammed by a speeding SUV-type vehicle at North Alvernon Way and East Speedway Boulevard.

The crash left Mead bloodied and bruised and her two greyhounds gone with the wind. They ran off in terror when the impact buckled the camper shell open.

“I freaked out,” Mead said. “I became hysterical. I’m a 35-year-old woman with no kids. The dogs are my babies.”

Bystanders promised to look for her dogs as Mead was taken away in an ambulance.

Rider, 5, was found limping around an auto center on the corner while Opal, 4, had scampered more than a mile away.

Folks got them both to Pima Pet Clinic, where they were opened up, stitched back together and Opal’s eye was put back in its socket.

“They lost count,” Mead said when asked how many stitches Rider received. “It was in the range of 800 to 900.”

Mead got X-rays and ankle stitches and still has pain every time she bends one of her elbows.

“Sometimes it hurts just to open a door,” she said. “Lifting something like a jug of milk is not going to happen.”

She makes the jewelry for her Fourth Avenue store Silver Sea, so using her arm is pretty important.

The man who hit her abandoned his vehicle and took off on foot. In a searing coincidence, the vehicle’s owner called to report his truck stolen 20 minutes after the crash.

Rather than focusing on the negative, like the jerk who hit her or the $14,000 vet bill, Mead is playing up the positive.

Like the folks who found her dogs, her vet and Arizona Greyhound Rescue, which helped make sure both dogs ended up at Pima Pet Clinic, and the clinic folks who saved her dogs’ lives.

“The big thing I’m grateful for is that ,after they went through all this, they can go back to being normal, typical greyhounds,” she said. “They will have no residual health issues. But they are a little afraid of cars now.”

Mead said her store’s employee and customers, too, are awesome. The usual part-time employee covered the two weeks Mead couldn’t work. Some customers came in to do Christmas shopping early once they heard about the crash.

Mead’s friends got in on the action by setting up a Greyhound Injury Fund blog that outlines Mead’s story and allows folks to donate online to help with the massive vet bill.

“I am very lucky,” Mead said.

How does she stay so upbeat?

Mead was quick with an answer: “I’m pretty much cheerful all the time. It’s actually something that annoys a lot of people.”

Mead’s story illustrates so many truths.

Happy people are healthier people. Positive folks have been known to recover faster from disaster and stave off ailments and diseases.

Tucsonans have big hearts. This is repeatedly seen when tragedy strikes our two-legged, four-legged and even three-legged friends.

What goes around comes around. Mead has always reached out her own helping hand. She’s volunteered at Arizona Greyhound Rescue, at area schools performing historical re-enactments and has been instrumental in working with kids in her neighborhood.

“I have a lot of street-kid friends,” she says. “I want them to know there is more to life than just being street kids.”

There is. There’s gratitude. There’s love. And there’s always a couple of greyhounds.


Greyhound Injury Fund blog:

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist and Tucson Citizen reporter who is grateful for dogs, rats, family and friends (not necessarily in that order).


This column originally appeared in the Nov. 28, 2008, issue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper.

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COLUMN: Ryn: In a froth over rabies

Pima County is leading the pack in an extremely exciting category.


So far this year, we’re the No. 1 place in the entire state to be infested with this dread disease.

Who says nothing fun ever happens in and around Tucson?

From Jan. 1 through March 21, a total of 59 animals have tested positive for rabies across Arizona, 21 of those in Pima County. Comparatively, Cochise and Coconino counties have amassed a paltry 13 cases each.

Last year’s statewide rabies cases broke all records with 176, beating out the previous record of 169 set in 2005.

Pima’s rabid animal count for 2009 has thus far included 15 skunks and six foxes.

I was relieved my dogs – Phoebe and Sawyer – were not on the list, though one of my co-workers, Brad Poole, and his friend April McMahon nearly were.

They were out on a hiking date at Tanque Verde Falls when a skunk came barreling across a rock bed like, well, a skunk with rabies.

While in the past rabid skunks would turn cute and cuddly, perhaps to lure folks close enough to take a chunk out of a human arm, the skunks now come “charging, growling, snapping,” said county Health Department spokeswoman Patti Woodcock.

Rabid skunks are vying with Cujo for becoming the poster child for chilling rabid encounters.

At least Poole and McMahon did the right thing when confronted with the raving, raging skunk.

Poole got out his video camera, and they both moved closer. They then made their way to the rock crevice where the frenzied skunk had run to hide.

The two stopped short of poking their arms in the crevice, though Poole later told me he had considered poking a stick in the hole.

“The worst thing you can do is get too close to the animal,” said Steve Dell, a dog behaviorist and owner of Bark Busters dog training company.

His advice for folks, especially those out walking their dogs, is to divert the potentially rabid beast and get the heck out of there.

“Don’t bend down. Don’t try to feed it. Don’t try to pet the animal,” Dell warned. Even if the animal you’ve encountered has a collar, he said, it may be a stray that is infected.

“Carry some dog kibble or something in your pocket – obviously keep it away from your own granola mix – and gently toss the kibble a safe distance away from you.”

He noted that rabid animals, especially those that used to be house pets, will be foraging for food.

They should take to the kibble, giving you time to escape.

But make sure your own dogs don’t go for the kibble and end up fighting the rabid thing for it.

“Many dogs have an innate sense that something’s not right and will want to get away from the rabid animal,” he said. “Some are very friendly and will come up to anything.”

Sawyer, I’m sure, would attack a rabid beast. Phoebe would probably pee on it.

In either case, I’m stocking up on kibble.

Dell has yet to run across a rabid animal in Pima County, though a couple out hiking last year were attacked by a rabid bobcat.

Katrina Mangin and husband Rich Thomspon, both University of Arizona scientists, encountered the beastly beast while hiking in the Santa Rita Mountains last April.

That innate sense kicked in for Thompson, who immediately somehow knew the bobcat was rabid – even before it attacked his wife. The bobcat lunged at her, then climbed up her legs and wrapped itself around her, clawing and biting.

The couple got away only after Thompson pinned the raging cat to the ground with a stick and pummeled it to death with a hammer from his backpack.

Ouch. So much for the kibble.

As scary as encounters can be, Dell said it should not deter folks from enjoying the great outdoors.

“People should have no fear of hiking in this area,” he said, “assuming they use some common sense. They shouldn’t be frightened to the point of staying inside.”

Nor should they go without their kibble. And it can’t hurt to put a hammer in your backpack.

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist and Tucson Citizen reporter who saw a rabid bat up close when a homeless man brought one inside the New York City pet store where she used to work. Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX-FM (96.1).

Rabid skunk video?

Watch Citizen Staff Writer Brad Poole’s encounter with a potentially rabid skunk.


This column originally appeared in the March 27, 2009, issue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper.

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COLUMN: Ryn: Let’s straighten out tongue twisters

‘I don’t speak English” is quickly becoming the most popular phrase in America.

It’s already catchier than “Got milk?” and may even be surpassing the once funny and famous “Where’s the beef?”

Never mind the whereabouts of milk and beef. We should ask instead when English will be declared our official language.

Sweden may have a higher percentage of English speakers than does southern Arizona. And we’re not the only area affected.

Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, has an enclave known as Little Odessa where they only speak “the Russian.”

Chinatowns have popped up like button mushrooms, from the long established in San Francisco to the blossoming communities in Queens. Conversing in English means a smile and a nod.

This is not a rant against foreign languages or cultures. Both are essential in making America the rich tapestry it has become while serving to preserve tradition and heritage.

I would be tickled to add more of my own heritage, provided I knew a few more words of Polish than the slang terms shoo shoo and dupa.

The whirl of various tastes, tones and aromas – especially curry – makes the United States an awesome place.

But just as Americans should respect the aspects of other cultures, other cultures, in turn, should respect what’s been established in America.

Like the English language. I wouldn’t move to Moscow, Mexico City or Paris and expect to get around without learning their mother tongue.

France’s language police – made up of L’Académie française and La Commission Générale de Terminologie et de Néologie – long have been protecting its linguistic borders. They especially frown upon words borrowed from English, such as “talk show,” “blog” and “le weekend.”

England’s on a new tear, with some local city councils trying to kick out Latin words and phrases, according to a recent Associated Press story.

That country’s Plain English Campaign has been purging confusing legalese for 30 years, making legal and public documents easier for common folk to read. But now some city councils are taking it ad extremum.

I’m not asking for the same extremes here in America. Eradicating Latin would ruin too many crossword puzzles.

Nor do we need to purge our lingo of other foreign words or phrases. It’s just too much fun to say, “zeitgeist,” “beaux arts” and “chimichanga.”

And all hell would break loose if we tried to change place names derived from foreign roots. That would kill Detroit, Baton Rouge and every third street in Tucson.

La Cañada Drive.

Camino Seco.

Ajo Way.

Let the place names and foreign phrases be preserved, but let’s also preserve jolly old English.

Sweden can blame its glut of English, in part, on its inability to proclaim Swedish an official language.

Having one official language would save thousands – if not millions – of dollars and countless forests each year.

Many utility bills come with duplicates of those crappy little inserts that no one reads anyway.

Here in Tucson, one copy is in English, the other in Spanish. Brooklyn companies regularly sent them in English, Russian and Chinese.

Even some multilingual junk mail arrives. We have to wonder how many trees were chopped down to make two or more linguistic sets of those big, fat election pamphlets.

Banks could save overhead, perhaps raise our interest rates, if they didn’t have to install ATMs that asked for your money in several different tongues.

Cucumbers, cereal and, yes, even chimichangas could be marked down when supermarkets saved bundles with self-checkout stations giving directions in one language instead of two or three.

American teachers would really have it easy. They could teach in English, hand out homework in English and have students answer in English. Wow. What a way to learn.

We could go about daily life, here in these United States, knowing we’d truly understand and be understood.

That’s really what America should be all about.

Ryn Gargulinski is an author, artist and Tucson Citizen reporter who has a master’s in English literature, a minor in French and learned from a cab driver how to swear in Egyptian.


This column originally appeared in the Nov. 14, 2008, issue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper.