Archive for September, 2010

The Pizza Bastard

Posted: September 25, 2010 by S. Trevor Swenson in Observations
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I have recently discovered a terrific pizza place right across the street from my school.  The pizza is really excellent even by NYC’s high standards. Because of its proximity to the school and its fantastic pizza the place has a thriving business selling slices and drinks to the students and whole pies delivered to the school’s faculty and staff across the street.

The place is staffed by hardworking, proficient and pleasant Mexican men making the pizzas and a nice Mexican woman acting as cashier.  Every time I go there the place is full with students lining up to buy slices.  Most pizza parlors dream of doing this high level of business.

There is one person who is not happy with the hordes of customers.  The most unlikely person imaginable. The pizza parlors owner.

I first noticed him last Monday.  First he was angrily wiping down trays and staring at his staff, who were busy and working their asses off.  He stared at them as if they weren’t working hard enough, and that he obviously felt he was paying them entirely too much. Then he went behind the counter and stood amongst them.  I have noticed that Mexican workers in the USA have perfected the blank expression when their employer is being incredibly bothersome and unappreciative.  Many American workers haven’t developed this useful skill.

Having tormented his staff the little old man sits next to the table with the condiments and napkins.  I happened to look up and saw him doing something pretty amazing, in a cheap bastard sort of way.  Instead of leaving the napkins out in a stack for customers to take as many as they wanted or needed, he was carefully placing them in a way where one would feel guilty and selfish about taking more than two.  He puts out about 10-15 napkins at a time, so that taking too many napkins would leave none for the next person.

After the clever napkin distribution he watches every customer to see how much salt, pepper, parmesan cheese or garlic powder they use.  Then he mumbles disagreeably if they go over whatever limit he feel should be imposed on his precious seasonings.

He has a perpetually annoyed and pained facial expression.  He looks as if he desperately needs to go to the bathroom and drop a deuce, but if he were to leave his guard post for even 30 seconds, bedlam would ensue.  The students would start taking three and maybe even (gasp) four napkins.

I have seen this facial expression before.  It is exclusively one that belongs to cheap, miserly and miserable business owners.  I know that he has figured out the cost of every single napkin and every dusting of oregano and he is busy adding these figures up in his head and making himself more and more angry as each hour ticks by.

I understand the business philosophies that “Waste is a thief” and trying to maximize ones output, with the least input.  But there are limits to these things.  Miserable people become accustomed to being miserable, so that if they feel any other way their world feels out of synch.

I have written before that people who hate their jobs are almost always entertaining to watch, and this guy is no exception.  I love to sit and watch him, ever angry at his hardworking staff and his loyal clientele.  Sometimes when he goes behind the counter I take extra napkins and feel rebellious, like I am once again a young punk rocker ‘sticking it to the man’

The bathroom in the pizza parlor has an “Out Of Order” sign on the door. There is also a large plank of wood blocking the door for the less literate students.  My theory is that the bathroom is in perfect working order, but the owner hasn’t figured out a way to hire an illegal alien to hand customers toilet paper, one square at a time for sub minimum wage.

Stay Positive, People Hate That

Posted: September 9, 2010 by S. Trevor Swenson in Advice
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This week my friend Rachel closed an email reply to me with “Stay Positive, People Hate That.” It’s such a great quote that it totally made my day. I went on Google to see where she’d gotten it, but I couldn’t find it there. If she came up with that one; I am in awe. It’s so true and so relevant to my life right now. After a serious tough love lecture to me by a friend regarding my overall attitude last winter I have been trying to stay positive. It’s not something that comes naturally to me, but as much as I hate to admit it, I think it has made me a better person and maybe even a little happier. The beauty of the “Stay Positive, People Hate That” quote is that I also love pissing people off. It is probably my second favorite hobby, right after coin collecting. Now if I can piss people off, without actually being a bastard . . . that’s even better. Not that I ever intend to entirely give up my bad behavior. It’s too big a part of me.

I have been thinking of positive ways to deal with the annoyances that I constantly rant, piss, bitch, moan and rave about. Instead of having fantasies of savage beatings of the people who feel it necessary to walk slowly in front of me and text message, perhaps I should tap them on the shoulder and with a big friendly grin ask, “Hey, who are ya texting, Can I see?” The next time a loud and intrusive beggar gets on my subway with an invasively loud monotone pitch for spare change . . . ” Ladies-And-Gentlemen-I-Am-A-Homeless-Person-Living-On The-Streets-I-Have-Lost-My-Job-Because-Of-My-Eight- Children–I-Am-Sorry-to-Disturb-You-At-This-Time . . .” Maybe I will smile and get in on the act with a loud and intrusive monotone of my own rather than just sitting there and turning up the volume on my iPod in an attempt to drown out their voice. “Ladies-And-Gentlemen-I-Am-A-Poor-Commuter-Who-Is-Trying-To-Get-From-Point-A-To-Point-B-Without-Being-Annoyed-Mugged-Or-Solicited . . .”

After being turned down by another bar that only hires female bartenders, instead of getting angry, I shall dress in really bad drag and re-apply.

When I am on the phone with a customer service rep in India, I shall use it as an opportunity to practice my Hindi.

Where there are screaming and badly behaved children, with oblivious parents, I will just scream along with them. I’m sure I will find it therapeutic in a very primal kind of way.

I will write inappropriate love letters to politicians who once gave me ulcers.

In regards to my daily irritation of the Dunkin’ Donuts shift supervisor with the creepy lazy eye who always gets my coffee order wrong. I won’t correct her as she makes it, I will simply smile and keep sending it back complimenting her every time she has to remake it ” Good try, you almost got it”, “Great . . . you’re getting warmer” ,”Oh I really thought you were going to get it this time . . . so close . . .”

When little old ladies take entirely too long in grocery store and bank lines in front of me, I will politely ask to see pictures of their grandchildren. Then someone in line behind us can assume the role of ‘Negative Nancy’ and yell at us to move along.
I shall become the biggest and most outspoken fan of Paris Hilton, The Kardasians and reality TV. . . maybe if a middle aged dork like me seems to like these things, their popularity will wane.

While waiting 2 hours past my appointment time to see a doctor or dentist, I shall use that time to write down my medical ailments in a clever, yet cryptic haiku for them to puzzle over for hours.
I shall find out the home phone numbers of the financial aid workers at my school and call them at home with my inquiries, rather than subject them to my ill-tempered and impatient questions. People are generally more relaxed at home evenings and weekends anyway.

I will ask the young men who wear their pants tightly belted at the base of their asses to show me how they do it, because it’s such a great look, that I just have to get in on it.

Who’d have thought being positive could alleviate so much stress.

Little Person At The Strand

Posted: September 8, 2010 by S. Trevor Swenson in Observations
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Yesterday after being driven from the park at Union Square by aggressive and noisy Born Again Christians I wandered over to one of my favorite stores in the city; The Strand Bookstore on Broadway. The Strand advertises “8 Miles of Books”, and their prices are amazing. The only problem with my favorite stores is that I can tend to spend too much money in them.


I was looking for some birthday gifts for some friends and family, and maybe a book to treat myself after the rough week I had been having. I went to the back of the store to the film and theater section of the store. I was looking around to see if something would catch my eye, perhaps a book on cult films. This is another problem with my favorite stores, sometimes I am not certain what I want, which leads to impulse buys, which in turn brings us back to spending money I can’t really afford on books I don’t really need. I will state for the record that I showed a rare level of restraint and only picked up two gift books and a biography on Woody Allen for myself that was only $6. (Hardcover…retail price $25)


Anyhoo, I was in the film and theater section, scanning the rows of books on the huge shelves. At the end of the film section was an attractive little person. I really prefer the term “midget”, but I am trying to be a kinder, gentler and more sensitive Scotty these days. I read in an article about a year ago that little people refer to “midget” as “The “M” word” . . . so suffice to say they really don’t care for that word. For the sake of simplicity I shall be using the term “LP”.


As I said this LP was quite pretty. She had a pretty face and really nice natural ash-blond hair. She had a nice outfit on too, and I tend to think that LP’s might have difficulties in finding fashionable clothes. Do they shop in children’s sections or are there special LP clothing catalogs and websites? I have so many questions about LP’s and I don’t have a single LP friend, so there is no one to ask. I have black friends I can ask about black people stuff, and gay friends I can ask prostate, anal sex and decorating hints, but not a single LP friend, so until I make one I am forced to ponder these questions.

The pretty LP or “PLP” if you will was checking out books on Clint Eastwood, which were on the lower shelves or more precisely LP eye level. I finally found a book I wanted on one of the top shelves. I was forced to avail myself of one of the Strands many ladders. I grabbed the nearest ladder and felt awkward about using it right next to the LP. I don’t know why, but I felt like I was somehow mocking her. I was also thinking about how cool it would be to pick up the PLP and hold her up to grab my book. Would that be offensive? I mean if I asked politely, would that be considered bad form? I’ve had little old ladies at the supermarket ask me to get things for them that they couldn’t reach. I never got offended. In fact, it made me feel good, like if my moms was watching me assist some strange little old lady she’d have one of those maternal flashes of pride . . .”That’s my Scotty, he’s such a nice boy” I also make it a general policy to ask mothers with strollers if they need help getting up or down subway stairs. More than half the time they accept my offer. There’s no weirdness or suspiciousness in these exchanges. These mothers don’t act as if I’m going to get to the top of the stairs and sprint away with their baby and stroller, or remove the baby as I don’t like children, run off with the stroller and sell it on craigslist or eBay. So, is it really so wrong to ask for a solid from a strange PLP? “Miss, I’m sorry to ask, but would you mind getting that Woody Allen bio for me? I can’t reach it, but I think I can lift you up there . . . I’d really appreciate it . . . Really? Oh, thank you I really appreciate it . . . it’s that one up there . . . no . . . no to the left of the Hitchcock . . . that’s it, you got it . . . can you check the price for me? How much is the one next to it? OK grab that one . . . got it? Thanks.”

Then I would put the PLP down gently and thank her again. Then I would seize the moment once the ice was broken and talk about film. If she showed interest, I’d invite her to coffee and take things from there. If she wasn’t romantically interested, at least we could be friends and I’d have someone to ask all my LP questions to.

Suffice to say I didn’t ask to pick her up. I got a ladder, grabbed the book I wanted and we went our separate ways.