Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fun with Queues...

I have to preface this by wondering aloud how queue is even a word. That many vowels next to each other looks and sounds more like a drunken slur than a line where people wait. But I also have to warn everybody, anywhere that you are instructed to wait in a 'queue' instead of simply taking a number, you should be prepared to wait for an inappropriately long amount of time. The best part about this, however, is that it will seem that there are actually several people available to help you, but they're probably just toying with your emotions.

I went to Verizon yesterday to give them a pay stub, because apparently my company earns me a 6% discount on my phone bill. Please understand that 6% off of my monthly cell phone bill is basically the price of a pack of gum. But I love gum, and I'm poor, so I figured it would be worth the effort.

I arrived at the mighty Verizon store to find that there were only 2 other customers inside, both already with salesmen, and there were 4 other Verizon employees seemingly available at the service counter. I immediately figured that this little visit would be cake. Simple. Quick. Easy. Verizon is all about this unnecessary touchscreen sign-in process, so I played along, put my name in the computer, and stood there like a properly good, excited and willing consumer.

Needless to say, 15 minutes later I was still standing there, (not good, not excited, and definitely no longer willing), with a violent sneer on my face, staring at my name on the giant 'queue' while 3 clerks behind the counter were typing away at their little computers and avoiding eye contact.

I am not a patient person. At all. I would probably rather maim myself than wait in a line for just about anything. Except maybe those freshly baked donuts at Krispy Kreme (you know, when the light goes off outside the bakery to alert everyone that sugary-glazed orgasmic donuts are hot and available). To cut a long story short, I did the right thing. I bullied my way over to the service counter and demanded attention. And then I got what I needed. In my opinion, this just proves that being a brat at any age can still manage to find you a temporary solution.

But this is my great idea, Verizon. If you don't have enough employees to handle a whopping 3 customers at the same time, then you should probably think about doing some hiring. And while you're at it, during the hiring process, you might want to avoid whizkids like the salesman at my store, who tried to sell a touch screen phone to an 86-year-old man with arthritis and cataracts. He asked the poor old man how often he texted, and I almost ran face-first into the Blackberry display case.

In conclusion, I know this was titled "Fun with Queues," but I am a liar, queues are absolutely not fun at all. And the word is stupid, yes I said it! Just stupid.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Headless Horseman finds Bodyless Horse..

Undoubtedly, the thing I enjoy most about children is that they are so easily amused. You give a kid a curly fry and he'll be entertained for hours. Or at least 15 minutes. Sometimes I wish it were still so simple to hold my interest, it would save me a lot of money, and probably a lot of brain cells. But that's an entirely different story. Yesterday, I was having an appropriately random conversation about childhood toys. I raved about my Bigbird Bigwheel, which was so perfectly 80s, back before toddlers were driving mini Hummers and off-road SUV's. It was basically a bright yellow chopper, and I was such the rebel on my tricked out tricycle.

After overcoming the sudden sadness that came from realizing I no longer own my B-Bird, and am no longer young enough to ride it without looking insane, I moved on to the Ponystick. Yes, the ponystick.

This toy is pretty much as simple as it gets. There are no mechanical parts, microchips, batteries, or any of those crazy technology whats-its that make everything fun. It seems perfectly innocent. Or at least it did. That is, until I tried to describe said toy to an outside party and could only come up with the following well-articulated description:

"You's like a horse's head on a stick. You put it between your legs and ride it around. It's not a full horse, just the stuffed head. But it has reins and everything."

What is wrong with us? A kid wants to ride a pony so we decapitate it and put it's head on a stick. And these crazy kids ride around like it's all sunshine and rainbows. Your pony doesn't have any legs, kids!

I couldn't have put it better than my lovely Scottish concubine who said that the Ponystick seems less like an interactive toy and more like a death threat the mafia would send children in the mail.

And with this, I will NEVER mention ponies or sticks again.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Spay and neuter your customers...

Common sense...the sense is described as common because the majority of people should have it. And because it is common, the sense is usually pretty reasonable. However, it's becoming increasingly apparent that many consumers are lacking in the entire common sense arena (a.k.a. are morons), and I'm beginning to rethink my terminology.

Life is a process of picking and choosing our battles. I find it a daily struggle not to punch people square in the face, but I just see that as a battle where I wave my white flag of surrender. Because realistically speaking, I need to stay employed, I don't have the time to ice my knuckles, I don't have the money to get sued, and I'm really not too fond of being arrested. I'd much rather hash it out over a cocktail and get on with my life.

That being said, in addition to the constant battling inside our heads, we also have the obligation of picking our careers and the paths we wish to follow. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices along the way and sometimes there are seemingly endless stepping stones you have to take or obstacles that need to be overcome. Sometimes you make mistakes. And let's face it, sometimes you end up pumping gas, selling encyclopedias, telemarketing, maybe setting up a quaint little lemonade stand on the side of the road like the good old days.

At any rate, I've tried to take to heart the fact that as a general rule, people work. There's a job out there for everyone, and unfortunately those jobs are not always pretty. They are also not always fun. Frankly, most of the time, work can be a real kick in the nuts. So when a 1-800 number appears on the caller ID and the guy on the phone tries to interest me in a time share in Saskatchewan, I remember that he probably hates his job more than I hate having wasted 5 minutes of my day, and telling him to fly to Canada and go f**k himself will probably not improve either situation.

I call that compassion. I'm such a giver.

Ultimately, you can't blame a person for trying to make a living. Unfortunately, there isn't high demand for professional pudding tasters, massage testers or gingerbread house builders. Or writers. In order to allow plenty of time to write while not starving or getting evicted, the part-time job opportunities for an aspiring writer with piles of student loans are quite few and very indiscriminate.

Thus, for the time being, I have chosen to don one of these:

Ok, well, more like one of these:

So, yes, I am an all-smiling all-dancing food service employee.
I am the professionally coiffed and iron-pressed white shirt that delivers your glass of wine and your chicken a la whatever.
I make extravagant meals and unnecessarily garnished martini's possible.

You're welcome, diners.




But back to common sense. People seem to have zero common sense when it comes to eating in a restaurant. Being nice to people that are simply doing their jobs is a courtesy. Being nice to people that are doing jobs FOR YOU, is common sense. A combination of the two will make you awesome.

We all really just need to try to be more patient and understanding. Close your eyes. Take a few breaths. Think about the situation.

For example, I hate going to the DMV. Despise it, in fact. I prepare myself for the fact that there will be long lines, the clerks will move at the speed of a snail on sedatives, and most likely, there will be a problem with my information. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a fact of life. However, common sense should tell me that being rude, huffy, or difficult in general, will only make my experience worse. Common sense should tell me, that when someone is doing something FOR ME, I should probably be friendly, whether or not I think they are mentally-capable of performing simple tasks. Regardless, these people do have lives, desires, thoughts and stories outside of their occupation. They should be treated like human beings.

Human beings with thankless jobs.

I am a server. Being a server does not need to be a thankless job.

You get all dolled up, pull some people together, go to a restaurant and sit down at one of my tables. I am here to serve you. Not because I like you, and not because we're friends. But because it is my job. And because it is my job, I'll pretend we're at least quasi-friends for the next 90 minutes, or however long it takes for you to get drunk on food and loosen your belt.

So, we're in this meal together now. We're basically halfway to dating. Accordingly, I have made a list of things you should and shouldn't do or say, especially with someone handling food you are soon to ingest (no, that's not a threat...not at all). As well as my personal favorite pet peeves.

This is my common-restaurant-sense. Bon Apetit!

1. Don't talk to me like I'm retarded, or don't speak English. Opening your eyes really wide, nodding, and saying "Salisbury Steak" very slowly isn't going to register it more clearly, it's just going to piss me off. If I did the same thing while setting down your "D-i-i-i-et C-o-o-o-ke," you'd probably be offended.

2. Please don't stop me with an arm full of plates and a tray full of drinks to ask for honey mustard. Chances are I'm not going on a pilgrimmage to Mecca...I'll be right back.

3. If I am not your server, do not order things from me. We do not have a magical restaurant supercomputer. So asking me for an order of calamari only means I'll have to go find your server and then have him order it for you. Let's cut out the middle man.

4. Speaking of which, don't ask me to please "find" your server. This request doesn't need much explanation. I probably have orders to take, drinks to get, and food to check on. I don't understand why anyone would think running around the busy restaurant to find Tonya on her smoke break is at the top of my priorities. Playing Where's Waldo is only fun when you're 8, and Tonya won't be dressed like a candy cane.

5. I have no problem with a diner sending back food. I didn't cook it, I could really care less if you don't like it. But there is no need to tell me how "repulsive" "inedible" or "disgusting" it is. That's just plain bad etiquette. I'll probably go back and tell the manager that you're a jerk. You'll still get your food, but now everytime you come in, we'll say "hey, it's that jerk, that guy really is a jerk."

6. I know it's a time old tradition to say "give my compliments to the chef." But I'll let you in on a little secret. A "chef" did not prepare your meal. Jose the line cook did. He makes about $7 an hour and he really couldn't give a crap that your spaghetti was "just delicious."

7. Another popular request is, after finishing your meal, to "please let the chef know" that your dish was "too salty" "too bland" "too spicy" or "didn't have enough chicken." Are you serious? I have things to do. Don't order it next time. I'm not trekking back into the kitchen to let the staff know that John Doe at table 9 is watching his salt intake.

8. Recipes are called recipes for a reason. We have a menu that tells you how dishes are prepared and what ingredients are in them. Some modifications are fine, but if you want a personal chef then you should probably hire one. Don't go to a restuarant and slow the entire kitchen down because you feel the pompous need to design your own meal. Hearing sub-this extra-that no-this add-that makes my ears bleed.

9. Don't ask me to get you a fuller glass of wine or an extra shot of vodka in your screwdriver. Unless you want to get charged for it. We aren't old drinking buddies. And don't ask me to try to rush your food. We aren't old eating buddies, either. Basically, please don't ask me for any special favors, we aren't old buddies at all. Capiche? Good. And on that note, don't say "I'll take care of you." To a server that is loosely translated as "I will not take care of you." Good tippers do not have to reassure their server that they are, in fact, good tippers.

10. Speaking of good tippers, if you have the audacity to hand me the American Express Black card (yes, the triple-thick extra heavy one with the ridiculous spending limit and embossed lettering) then you better be a good tipper.

11. If I went to your job and stood in front of your desk yammering on my cell phone, you would probably find me rude. Believe it or not, a server does not enjoy standing at the edge of your table like a goon waiting for you to finish your conversation. I'm not sure when it became acceptable to talk on the phone without excusing yourself from the dinner table, but let's put an end to it, shall we?

12. If you want fast food, go to Burger King. If you don't want your food fully cooked, by all means just order a plate of salmonella with a side of e. coli. But most restaurants tend to serve their food free of violent bacteria, which takes cooking time. So please don't ask me if your food "is coming." What do you really expect me to say? "No sir, actually it isn't coming after all. They decided to give your food to the homeless. The homeless send their thanks."

13. It's nice to say please and thank you. It's nice to remember my name. It's nice to smile or tell me something is good. I am not a monkey. I do eat bananas but I don't sling feces, so it is perfectly okay to interact with me. Some people avoid eye contact like I'm a baboon with an evil streak.

14. Do NOT snap at me. There are plenty of acceptable ways to get my attention, and snapping is not one of them. I'd rather you smack me on the ass or stand on your chair and scream at the top of your lungs.

15. Don't leave coin change. To begin with, it always falls out of the the check presenter. To end with, I really don't need your thirty-seven cents. It is a restaurant, not a drug store. When you leave I don't go and drop your change in a cash register, I put it in my pocket. Jingling around the restaurant with a pocketfull of change is not my idea of a fun night.

16. I know that one of the joys of dining out is not having to clean up after yourself. That doesn't mean it's okay for you to behave like a manic caveman. That also does not mean it's okay to allow your children to "let loose." If your table looks like it was occupied by a pack of rabid squirrels and not humans, my next step is to call animal control and have you captured.

17. Don't hit on me. Not only am I at the unfair disadvantage of being paid to be nice to you, it's just awkward. And not classy. Unless you are irresistably attractive and/or rich, in which case I'm completely game.

18. If you don't know how to tip, don't go out to eat. If you aren't sure, ask someone, before you ruin some poor server's night by giving them the shaft. You might as well write "suck it, loser" on the bill, then take that bill, slap your server across the face, then while they're clutching their throbbing face, kick them in the groin, then while they're keeled over in pain, give them an elbow between the shoulderblades, and while they're writhing on the ground in the fetal position, stomp them in the ribs, and after they begin crying, laugh and point at them, and as you're overwhelmed with laughter, call over all of your friends, then as you're all standing there laughing hysterically, remind the server that you still aren't going to leave a tip, and then stuff the bill in their pants and walk out. Yeah, if you aren't going to tip, you might as well do that.

19. I don't wait tables for the exercise. I have a treadmill for that. If someone at your table asks for another drink, and you want another drink, ask for another freaking drink. If I ask you if you need anything, and you do, then freaking tell me what you need. But please don't have me beating a path back and forth getting one beverage and one condiment at a time. It's cruel. And I'll give you dirty looks.

20. This is the last and most important bit I need to share. Seriously, if your server does a great job, please tip them well. An extra $5 will probably not break your bank, but it can make a world of difference to someone who works for tips. We all have expenses, and bills to pay at the end of the day. Remember that when you're pulling out your calculator to compute the exact 15%, or digging in your pocket for a quarter.

Well, that's my common-restaurant-sense.

Again, diners, you're welcome!

And for good measure, here's a cute baby in Starbucks garb. Yep, I worked there too!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Lifestyles of the rich and ridiculous...

Some days I like to pretend that I'm 14-years-old again (or a skating nun), and tool around the Retirement Mecca (better known as Boca Raton) on my rollerblades. It is relaxing, great exercise, and the weather is gorgeous. But most importantly, you are much better able to catch a lot of those little nuances that are often missed, thanks to the modern convenience of the automobile (these Americans and their fancy, newfangled gadgets!). Basically, you see interesting, disturbing and/or absurd things that would normally fly by the car window too fast to take notice.

I've already mentioned the vast senior citizen population of South Florida, many of whom frequent the early bird specials and matinee movies (which sounds a lot like me...but only because I'm poor). I can't tell for certain due to lack of experience, but the extremely heightened senses indicate to me that most people over 60 are potential superheroes. A person surpasses that landmark age and suddenly they become either allergic, alerted or irritated by previously normal things like sunlight, sound, taste, smell, and temperature. It's always too bright, loud, spicy, cold, hot, or it smells funny. Put a 70-year-old man on a lawn chair next to a stereo, swab him down with coconut-scented suntan lotion, hand him a chimichanga, turn on a cooling fan, and he will probably self-combust from sensory overload. In my opinion, the elderly need to harness these powers, and use them for good...not for sending back food, running me off the road, and being condescending.

But enough about my friends of a far-off generation; a little known fact is that while the greater majority of this city are already collecting social security checks and pensions, there is also a large sector of upper class suburbia. I like to refer to these happy citizens simply as rich people and their spoiled, disillusioned kids. I apologize to any rich people who do not have spoiled kids, but let's face it, the majority of these neglectful, overindulgent, socially clueless debutant wannabe's are breeding a bunch of ungrateful, disrespectful jackasses and future therapy patients.

In the famous words of Peter Griffin from Family Guy, these are some things that 'really grind my gears':

There is absolutely no reason for an 8-year-old to have a Blackberry. A third-grader pulling out a PDA is like slapping me across the face with a tuna. Seriously, is little Jimmy going to a miss a meeting with an important client? Does he need to be notified when his secretary emails the numbers? Or maybe he needs to send a text message about the new G.I. Joe. Please.

I saw a 10-year-old girl order a Diet Coke at dinner with her dad, and I wanted to cry. Mom? Dad? Why oh why is your perfectly healthy child even considering the notion of cutting her calories? I understand that sugary sodas aren't too great either, but give the girl some juice, teach her about drinking water. I'm in my mid-twenties and my dad still gets pissed when I drink diet soda.

Ridalin. Yes, that's the answer, give the kids drugs. This way they can have their addiction run full circle and be in and out of rehab by puberty. Whatever happened to sit down and shut up? Worked for me.

These 3 teenage boys got pulled over in my neighborhood for driving wrecklessly in a golf cart. A golf cart! When did it become acceptable or necessary to drive a golf cart anywhere other than a golf course? Can we literally not walk anywhere, anymore? Not to be all 'I walked 12 miles to school...both the snow...with no shoes...and no socks," but come on, when I was a kid I didn't need a motorized vehicle to go play on the swingset 2 doors down. These same morons will probably get Bentley's on their sixteenth birthdays.

But back to my rollerblading. I saw entirely too many of these:

And not enough of these:

Leash your offspring.

And donate to the hopelessly idealistic working class: me.