Archive for November, 2011

Black Friday

Posted: November 27, 2011 by S. Trevor Swenson in General, Life, Observations
Tags: , , , , , ,

Horror Classic indeed

As is my custom, this morning I woke up, made coffee and drained the hog. (I know that’s a tremendously vulgar term, but I like it) The morning pee is always a pleasant ritual for me. Recently Chong the cat has been jumping up on me mornings after hearing me groan and turn the alarm off. He walks on top of me, smiles, purrs and kneads my full bladder, knowing that this is one of the few things that will rouse me. I lay in bed desperately having to urinate, going over the potential excuses I might have for blowing off school or work, and the clever lies I would tell my employers, co-workers or teachers…..  Let’s see, I used ‘food poisoning’ a few months ago at school, but not at work…then there is always ‘I have to let me landlord in to make repairs’….   Many times Gow calls to wake me up. Gow understands that I am essentially a hibernating bear once sleep over takes me. She wants me to get to school and work like a good boy. She gets that sometimes an alarm and Chong are not enough to do the trick and I am a hot mess if I don’t get 12-14 hours of sleep at a stretch. Truth be told if I had rolled over and gone back to sleep, or called in sick I’d feel guilty about it later.

Not quite the same, but still worth a look

 
I go back into the kitchen and prepare my coffee. (a little milk and two Splenda) I turn on the news, then I check my email. Today’s top story…Black Friday.
 
Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving.  It is the biggest retail day of the year. It’s a holiday of consumerism. Every year there are new images of harried shoppers waiting outside for the stores to open and making a mad dash once the gates fly open. Every year it gets a little more disgusting. This morning there was a story about a woman who turned and pepper-sprayed all her fellow shoppers to keep them from getting to the merch that she wanted. Witnesses reported that the woman had been bragging to others in line about having pepper-spray and being prepared to use it. Not only was her behavior socially disgusting, but she felt somewhat virtuous about it. This is obviously the kind of person who sees nothing wrong with their behavior, regardless of how it is presented to them. It’s along the same selfish and fucked up mentality as parents on welfare who keep pumping out units. They don’t get it, they don’t want to get it, and this attitude exacerbates to observers how maddening their unacceptable behavior is.
 
I’m also upset that this is, for the most part, and American phenomena. My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of trashy asshats who bring weapons to shop in case someone else gets too close to the wide-screen TV they had their eyes on. These are my people. These are the countrymen that I defend when my foreign friends make too many remarks about how much we suck. I can’t defend this kind of behavior, even if I wanted to. I’m just embarrassed to be an American when crap like this happens. I’m sure the Germans feel this way in regards to the Nazis and the Holocaust.
 
I swear this is the kind of crap that makes people around the world hate Americans. It’s not hard to hate that kind of behavior. It’s just so loathsome that people in other countries who are starving or dying of thirst would in all likelihood behave better in a food line than this woman did. I don’t even know what sort of punishment would suffice for her hideous actions. Maybe something with a Puritan panache. A scarlet letter on her clothing? (SSB for “Stupid Selfish Bitch”)  Maybe it’s time to bring back the pillory for these winners. Maybe we should do this the American way. Put her on some reality TV show and vote for what we want to have happen to her. “For those who want her sentenced to shovel manure in Mississippi for the next 20 Augusts, call 555-9999,  For those who want her banished to an ice floe call 555-8888, for those who would like her to be a Republican nominee for president call 555-7777.”
 
Pat Metheny and David Bowie once wrote a song for the film The Falcon and The Snowman that was titled “This is not America”  It was about the corrupted ideals of the American people. There are some great people here;  kind, decent, funny, brilliant, generous and charitable. So why do we have the Kardasians, Paris Hilton, and women who pepper spray others in stores?
 
After calling Gow and reading the first draft of this piece to her, she pointed out something equally irritating that will inevitably emerge from this idiocy above and beyond the call. This woman will be found (she fled the scene) and then we will have a new psychological debate about her behavior. It’s not enough in America (and sadly, once again, only America ) to just say “She’s a selfish, stupid bitch, and a horrible human being.”  Nope. Can’t have that. Not in America  We will need all the celebrity “doctors” who use their first names after “Dr” (I’m talking about you Phil, Drew and Laura) to chime in. There will be debates on The View and other shows about this idiocy, with a litany of psychological explanations and new conditions. “Overtly Aggressive Shopping Disorder” or some such crap. I can literally see the “intervention” that Dr. Drew will have with her. It will be spun that she has become aggressive in her shopping because she never got the Holly Hobby Oven she wanted as a little girl because her mother wasn’t assertive enough with her Christmas shopping and now she is emotionally scarred for life.
This woman intentionally brought the pepper spray and was just looking for an excuse to use it. That’s premeditation to a certain degree, which in the eyes of the law is a worse crime. Regardless, she will have options. Some savvy lawyer will see the earning potential and after getting her off, will get her a hosting job on some Shopping Network show, or maybe even as a villain WWF wrestler: fighting under the moniker “Patty Pepper Spray: The New Queen of Mean”.
 
Maybe if I start behaving in an equally disgusting manner, I’ll get some fame and have more than 10 readers. Maybe I should pepper spray the unbelievably annoying woman at Dunkin’ Donuts, who after 8 years still screws up my order. Then at my trial I will cry and talk about my lousy childhood.

I Love New York

Posted: November 22, 2011 by S. Trevor Swenson in General, Life, Me & Mine
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
I live in a crappy, overpriced, under-heated, terribly maintained, 2 bedroom apartment that I share with a roommate, 2 cats and an extended family of cockroaches who refuse to sign the lease despite my repeated requests. My apartment building is in a congested, polluted city full of rapists, muggers, and door-to-door Born Again Christians.
 
My landlord, in terms of basic maintenance and repairs, is more useless that tits on a bull. Once when I asked him to fix the water damaged walls and ceiling in my bathroom he looked at me earnestly after accessing the situation and asked in his patented “Duh-which-way-did-he go” voice…”What are you taking here, hot showers?”  
 
Many would ask “Why would you spend so much money to live in such an armpit?” Well, one reason is that I like to gripe, rant, bitch and complain. This living situation provides ample ammunition in these pursuits.  I also love this city and the crazy people who have chosen to call it home. I have a front row, 50 yard line, court side seat to all kinds of vastly entertaining insanity.

A writer living in NYC should never complain of writer’s block. It is tantamount to a rich kid being tired of playing with all of their incredible toys. They’re just spoiled and oblivious. Anyone calling themselves a writer in NYC who is out of subject matter just needs to pack a lunch and ride the subway or set up a lawn chair at a busy intersection and take notes. It’s all there: perpetually angry people mumbling to themselves. Chic, yet vapid fashion princesses spewing forth utter nonsense on their cell phones. Bemused Mexican/Latin American workers silently keeping everything moving and softly uttering brilliant irony in Spanish (One becomes semi-fluent in Spanish by living here) and then there are my people…the curmudgeons. Ever rolling their eyes, heaving loud, impatient sighs and barking snarky comments as we pass by those who are annoying us at that moment. (With me it’s usually the text messagers walking along in a Mr. Magoo-like fog of obliviousness that is both unbelievably annoying and awe inspiring at the same time.)  My most recent impulse that I have been struggling against acting upon is placing my hand, middle finger extended upon their cell phones, or swatting their phone to the ground and stomping on it angrily for taking up an entire sidewalk or stairway.

As angry, bitter and pissy as I am, I have seen so many over the top, crazy and vastly entertaining things. I’ve even taken part in some of them. I look back with a special, warped pride about the time I super glued a bright orange jelly dildo to one of the plastic seats on the N train at 4 am. It sated my overall anger with the city’s public transportation system momentarily as well as making some rush hour commuters trip to work or school more entertaining. You know, something to discuss at the water cooler at work. It’s important to make the cubicle-veal-suit-and-tie-set’s day a little more interesting.
 
I love the Mariachi bands singing obscene songs in Spanish for clueless tourists in Times Square or in the subway…I love the tourists who wear sandals with socks and stare in awe at the buildings over 3 story’s high (Well I love them when they aren’t walking in front of me slower than a crippled snail on valium)  I get teary eyed with pride as I watch city bus drivers treating red traffic lights as if they are optional and scattering hapless pedestrians like so many pigeons. Speaking of pigeons…every time I am lucky enough to see one of these rats with wings drop a deuce on a well-dressed man or woman, I make a wish.
 
Yes, as it says on the paper coffee cup… “I ♥ NY” 

Concept for a New Class

Posted: November 16, 2011 by S. Trevor Swenson in General
Tags: , , , , ,
"Why don't you call me sometime when you have no class?"

"Why don't you call me sometime when you have no class?"

Last summer I had to take a class called “Fundamentals in Professional Advancement”. I wrote about the class as I felt so very put out by having to take it. The class was at 8am, which to me is an unacceptable hour of operation.  It was also a class designed for youngsters who had never held down a full time job. We were taught about showing up on time for job interviews, not chewing gum during the interview, not putting your feet up on the interviewers desk and any number of painfully obvious career or job hunting pearls of wisdom.
 
I resented having to be there as I had been a member of the work force for 20 plus years. The teacher was a nice woman and I made her Summer a misery with my mumblings and cynically obnoxious commentary about the subject matter. Somehow I managed to get an A- in the class, instead of having school security escort me off campus, which is closer to what my behavior warranted. I am ashamed to say I even made the poor teacher cry once, which is something I hadn’t done since high school.
 
Looking back on the class though, I now see the validity of many of the things being taught. Sure, I knew these things, but many of the 18,19 and 20 year olds did not. One of my classmates was an army veteran and he had much the same “what a waste of time” attitude that I had.  He learned many of these common sense things in the military. So, as annoyed and put out as I was by having to take this mandatory class (did I mention it was at 8am?) I understood why the powers that be insisted it to be a part of the curriculum.
 

Today while waiting in line to buy cigarettes at a 7-Eleven, I saw some youngsters being clueless and annoying as

Don't strain your eyes rolling them too vigorously now

Don't strain your eyes rolling them too vigorously now

youngsters are known to be; holding up the line and being an over all nuisance. They were teenagers holding everyone else up by not having their shit together and were totally oblivious to this. “Yo, let me get a quarter for this slurpee nigga.” said an ever so stupid white boy with his pants hanging down around his ass and belted there. I hate that word. I hate it even more when white, Hispanic or Indian kids say it to each other. Then they moved on to the front door where they stood and chatted, blocking people from coming or going.

It dawned on me that it wouldn’t be a bad idea for this country to institute some kind of mandatory common sense, courtesy and manners class. Why not? We have health and hygiene classes. Years ago we used to have civics classes. California even tried to get “Ebonics” taught in some school systems. (When I think of that I can’t help but picture my fascist English teacher in 4th grade smacking the chalkboard  with her wooden pointer previously used for corporal punishment and making us recite verb conjugations. “We be, They be, and He, She or It be…”)
 
So, again, why not a class that teaches common sense, consideration, manners, etiquette, and acceptable behavior patterns? It would save money (Time is money and stupid, clueless people waste time…don’t even get me started on the therapy bills and medications), and most of us would be happier. I once saw a Twilight Zone episode in which the world was policed by hovering robotic pods, and things like behaving in a “cold” manner were punishable offenses. As a result, people behaved themselves, and all was right with the world. Since we don’t yet have the technology to employ drones to fly around tazering people who urinate on public toilet seats, I think this class idea is pretty strong.
 
Everyone lives in their own little bubble based on their experiences, personality and environment. However, there are many social annoyances that most of us can agree upon. The beauty of this concept is that it is something we all have in common. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, Democrat or Republican, old or young, gay or straight…all of us get annoyed by oblivious text messegers nearly colliding with our person. Personally, I am proud that a miserable curmudgeon such as myself, yes me…The “Dynamic Douchebag” can think of something so beneficial to humanity. Sadly, even when I do inevitably win the Nobel Prize for this concept, my mother will still find many things to disapprove of me for.
 
Here are a few issues that I would like to see addressed in this Social Propriety and Behavioral Arts class.  You have to give it a jazzy title.  Otherwise the kids don’t show up. I know this from blowing off Metal Shop in junior high.  Now they call it “Metalurgy”. I may have shown up occasionally.
 
Restaurant Behavior: How to figure out a tip, not snapping your fingers at waitresses or bartenders.
 
Shortcuts to Waiting in Lines: Use this time to figure out what you want, have your money out, don’t ask inane questions when the information is presented in front of you.
 
Grocery Stores: How to count to 12 items, don’t get into a check out line and then finish your shopping, don’t park your shopping cart vertically across the entire aisle.
 
Public Restrooms: Turn the water off after washing your hands, flush the toilet after using it, unless it is full of 60 pounds of paper and fecal matter, don’t write or draw on the walls unless it is something very clever.
 
Say “Thank You” if someone holds a door open for you, or picks up and hands you something you’ve dropped.
 

Cell Phone and Text Messaging: This is a hot button issue for me as my readers will already know. Being a firm believer in evolution, in a couple thousand years (hopefully sooner) human beings fingers will become longer and thinner and our eyes will gravitate to the sides of our skulls improving our peripheral vision, but until that day comes, how about looking up from the precious iphone once in a awhile, huh?  I have a theory that the aliens who regularly visit earth are just evolved human beings who have been using cell phones for centuries. This is based on the drawings and descriptions from the many campers and rednecks who have stumbled across our gray or green brothers from another galaxy. The reason they always end up on earth is because they were texting in light speed.

We also don’t need to hear you yelling at your kids, fighting with your significant other or speaking at a volume reserved for the legally deaf in close quarters.
 
Dating: Please ladies,  if you order something, eat it huh? Regardless of who is paying for the date, offer to get the tip or reach for your purse or wallet.
 
Movies: Like the theater, people should not be seated who arrive 10 minutes late. Also, a lengthy explanation that the actors in the film can’t hear the helpful suggestions you yell out at the screen.  Want to help?  Write Bruce Willis a letter and tell him that he should “get the hell outta there.”
 
Better late than never? Yeah, not so much really.

Better late than never? Yeah, not so much really.

Lateness:  This is abiggie with me and many people I know.  We all have that friend or those friends who just can’t manage to be on time no matter what the circumstances. It’s maddening and it’s totally unnecessary and selfish. My friend Robert, whom I love dearly is one of these special folks. I have no doubt in my mind if I were to executed by lethal injection and it was up to Robert to deliver the governors pardon, the last thing I would see before dying, would be Robert sauntering through the door of the room containing the witnesses to the execution, 40 minutes late, leisurely hanging up his coat and hat and flirting with a female guard.

 
I think cognitive, aversion or classical conditioning would all be effective therapies in “curing” the chronically late. For Robert I would simply lock him in a stuffy, brightly lit room without his beloved Lucky Strikes (or even better, with his cigarettes but without matches or a lighter.  Any smoker knows that’s worse)  I would tell Robert, “I’ll be back in 10 or 15 minutes to let you out.”  In the room I’d have a clock, a particularly ripe smelling wino, 3 of his ex girlfriends and a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses with Awake magazines.  Essentially a situation that would put any southern chain gang’s sweat box to shame. I’d return 3 or 4 hours later, shrug and say “Sorry I’m Late.”
 
Certainly there is no shortage of topics to visit. I’d love to hear the issues that my readers would like addressed in regards to this class.

Incompatibility

Posted: November 12, 2011 by S. Trevor Swenson in Life, Observations
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I lost so much of my early writing.  I started writing regularly and seriously about 5 or 6 years back. Most of the early stuff was posted on MySpace which dropped my blogs after a certain amount of time. It’s a pity as some of it, in my opinion, was funny and strong stuff. I’d like to think, and I have been told, that I have improved as a writer over the years. One former friend even wrote that I was “really funny, like drag queen funny.”  Anyone who has seen a New York drag queen worth their salt knows that this is very high praise. Still, I’d like to have access to the old stuff so I could revisit the ideas and punch up the pieces.
 
It’s my own fault that I never made copies, and Gow is busy as my editor, fact checker and archivist. Gow got me to sign up for a blogging site, gets me to read other peoples work so I am brought back down to earth, and makes me revise my writing. Gow read the old stuff and liked it. In fact the moniker “Gow” comes from a tale of a visit to the eye doctor that

It's for sceince, damnit!

especially tickled her. My youthful experimentation with ecstasy, LSD and other substances may have been consciousness expanding, but it hasn’t done wonders for my memory. Ah well, these are the exchanges we make in life. I assure everyone that these really were experiments, and that I wore a lab coat, carried a clip board and took notes whenever possible. Unfortunately most of my LSD “lab notes” were done in finger paint and are lacking in a certain scientifically disciplined format.

 
 
I remember years ago writing about dating sites and companies and I wanted to revisit my thoughts and findings. What had originally inspired me was that my mother tried to sign up for e-harmony and after filling out an extensive questionnaire, she was informed that she didn’t match any of the criteria their members were looking for. It was a bittersweet realization. I want my mom to meet someone special and she has a great deal to offer as a mate/partner/wife or girlfriend. She has a big heart, she is well read, educated, smart, cooks well, in addition to nagging and disapproving better than anyone else I know. I also thought it was a slimy move on the part of e-harmony. Sure you can post great rates of success if you’re going to screen and eliminate the especially neurotic people.
 

Google "eharmony rejection" - wow!

 

I can only assume, based on their commercials that e-harmony, Jdate, ChristianSingleMingle and KKK/NaziMeet.com base and make their matches on compatibility. We’ve all seen the success story commercials. 
 
“I was tired of the bar scene and I talk too much. In addition to my annoying voice, I have nothing of interest to say or I am simply offensive and stupid…  Then I met Diane on e-harmony… a deaf woman…  we’ve been inseparable ever since”  Then Diane would “say” in sign language  “Thank you e-Harmony.”
 
To my way of thinking, compatibility is vastly overrated. I think incompatibility is where the best long term relationships can be found. My favorite case in point would be my grandparents; unhappily married for over 50 years. In terms of sticking it out through thick and thin with a level of contempt, disdain and sheer spite they were poetry in motion.  Even at the tender age of 9 I was in awe observing my grandparents watch the same television program on separate TV’s in separate rooms. Perhaps it was a generational thing, as I noticed after my grandfather’s retirement they would take trips to Myrtle Beach and Orlando with other couples who loathed each other and have a grand old time pairing off by gender and complaining about their spouses while looking for embarrassing t-shirts for their grandchildren. Yes, my grandma and grandpa went to Disneyland, and all I got was the lousy t-shirt which my mother made me wear with the Mickey Mouse ears to school to show my appreciation and assure myself a severe beating from other children at recess, whose grandparents bought them stereos and motorbikes.
 
Incompatibility is where it’s at. Love does not conquer all…spite does. Being a creative person with an interest in the sociological aspect of marketing and advertising; I can just picture the commercials for my concept. I’d start off with the clichéd testimonials.
 
Man: “I used to be happy. I went out with friends and enjoyed life.”  His facial expression darkens “Then I met Connie.”
 
Woman: “My mother was right. He’s a bum.”
 
Cut to a shot of the couple side by side scowling with their arms folded.
 
Man: “Oh her mother …what did I do in a past life to deserve being married to the offspring of that woman…was I a concentration camp guard or something…?”
 
Woman: “If it wasn’t for my mother’s support we’d be on the street.”
 
Man: “Yeah, it has been a whopping 20 minutes since you last brought that up”
 
Woman:  “It’s true, he’s always broke…maybe if he’d stop drinking beer and get a decent job we wouldn’t have to depend on my mother to help us make ends meet.”
 
Man: “Look in a mirror, if you were married to that, you’d drink too.”
 
The couple begins to yell at one another as the emblem for “Incompatible USA” comes across the screen. The emblem is the silhouette of a couple fighting. The man’s silhouette is strangling the woman, who in turn is brandishing a rolling pin menacingly.
 
Announcer: “Incompatible USA: Because hatred can keep you warm at night too.” or “You’ll always have something to argue about.”
 
 
I can just imagine the questionnaire involved and the rigorous screening process. Incompatible USA will painstakingly search for someone who is exactly and completely wrong for you. “Success” stories would include a sex pot wife and a closeted homosexual husband, a liberal wife married to an avid Rush Limbaugh conservative. A strict vegan and a McDonalds manager…
 
The matches made on Incompatible.com will have greater rates of success that e-harmony.  Sure, they may have more matches, but we’ll have more in the way of years of misery.

Yeah, that's me . . . surfing the web . . . . . . . . Why? . . . . . . What's so funny?

 
Like many people I spend an inordinate amount of time on-line, checking out sites, blogs, clips and the like.  I am critical of others with poor cell phone and text etiquette, but to be fair, I’m probably just as much of a media junkie in my own way.  I routinely bore others with things I have discovered on YouTube. I describe the clips terribly and tell whomever is politely listening that they just “have to check it out”. Then I give them the obscure subject matter to type into the search bar. Sometimes I even write it down for them, because the random idiocy that I find entertaining and amusing must be shared. Cookie Monster making cookies with Martha Stewart, giggling husbands giving dutch ovens to their poor wives, and Beaker flipping Scrooge the finger in The Muppet Christmas Carol. Check them out, they’re awesome!
 
Another site I frequent is Yelp.com.  When you think about it, it’s a strange name for a website.  A ‘yelp’ is a cry of pain or a noise an animal would make.  Seems an odd name for a site that posts reviews about stores, restaurants and bars. Maybe I should start a public review site called “Ewwwww.com.”  It could be a site for miserable little turnips like myself to rant and rave about whatever is annoying or disturbing them on any given day. Misery does love company.
 
Yelp is designed to be the ideal resource where one can find the right place to grab a perfect pint of Guinness in any particular neighborhood, where the spicy Thai food is, and where the bartenders are “hot but really unfriendly.”  I’m such a major attention and ranting ho, that I have written many a review on Yelp.  I want others to enjoy and frequent the places that I like and to boycott and stink bomb the various bistros and diners where the waitress might have rolled her eyes at me, or where it took 3 minutes and 42 seconds to get me the mayonnaise I had to ask for twice. (Yes, I am embarrassed to admit that I do, on occasion, time these things)
 
Another interesting phenomena are the “Yelp Haters.”  You’ll be browsing Yelp looking for the best eggs benedict in Goat Testes, Oklahoma and you’ll come across a place with 4 and a half stars. You begin to check out the reviews.  “Loved it!”  “Best I’ve even had!” and…then, like a cockroach on a wedding cake, there will be a 1 star review. Yelp doesn’t have a no stars rating (and believe me, many of us wish there was, and far too often preface our Negative Nancy reviews with “I wish Yelp had a zero stars rating”)  You click on the review and it’s entirely too long, but you dive in anyway. There are different varieties of the Yelp Hater Reviews. Some people had their evening ruined by getting a cup of coffee without a saucer, and dammit, someone is going to pay.  Other haters feel the need to preface their diatribe with a 5 page essay on how “I was on my cell phone y’know, and the hostess like totally told me to move in a snotty way, so I like asked to see the manager, and she was like “oh really? and I was like “yeah really”, so the manager came and he was like. “Can I help you” and I was like Um YEAH”…”
 
Yelp is also a source of many interesting contemporary social statements if you read between the lines.  People want their concerns and grievances to be heard and addressed. In the modern age, companies (especially major corporations) don’t give an ounce of monkey puke about the concerns and issues of their customers.  If they did, a human being would answer their phones and resolve things in a timely manner rather than having to press one for English y numero dos para español.  “Your call is very important to us.” is the new “The check’s in the mail”.  The check was never in the mail and our call is of little to no importance to the company or to “Mary” or “Bob” in India, despite what they tell you.
 
Yelp shows us what is important to the modern man.  It also goes to show what is important to nearly everyone and what matters to a select few.  Sure there are plenty of us poor folks out there, but isn’t it just a little petty to take the time to inform John Q. Public that if you walk 6 blocks east and 18 blocks up town to Bar X that you get 10 buffalo wings to an order instead of the life changing insult of 9, and that the Heineken is .25 cents cheaper, plus the bartenders are really hot and friendly.
 
Of course I am something of a pro with various insights into most areas of the service industry.  I can differentiate between the legitimacy of scrambled eggs taking 40 minutes and ripping on some poor wage slave because my water glass wasn’t refilled 67 times.  I’ve cooked, schlepped drinks and waited tables before. I have a love/hate thing with the Yelp Haters.  Part of me recognizes them as “my people”, and I want to look them up, give them a hug and take them out for some decent Pad Thai…another part of me wants to hunt them down and handcuff them to a Starbucks or McDonald’s counter until they develop an appreciation for what service industry workers must contend with 40 or more hours per week.  It has been said many times before that everyone should spend a year working in restaurants so they’d know how to behave in them.  6 months in the kitchen and 6 more months on the floor.  I suppose the same could be said for many jobs. The general public unleashes their frustrations indiscriminately after all, but I simply refuse to spend 6 months being a meter maid.  I’d prefer to assume that it’s a tough job, yet that meter maids regularly eat their young.
 
Many people are simply unaware that the drink they felt was weak or the beer that was warm is very often not the fault of the bartender, but that of an owner going through their monthly “I’m being robbed blind” tirades. As I have mentioned before in another piece, the servers often suffer financially at the hands of a slow or disorganized kitchen staff. I have taken pains to avoid this with elaborate lies about the chef going into labor while placing the parsley garnish on their catch-of-the-day.
 

 

"V for Veal Parmesan! . . . that was slightly over cooked"

In a weird little way, writing reviews on Yelp is wielding power that some of us simply aren’t ready for. It’s like Peter Parker said in regards to being Spiderman “With great power, comes great responsibility”.  People can get fired over these reviews,  Others income can change drastically. In addition to this, one’s reviews say a great deal about the reviewer.  I certainly have no interest in hanging out with someone who 1 stars every pizza parlor in Lower Manhattan. They just don’t strike me as an upbeat kind of person. I once looked back on my reviews on Yelp and saw far too many negative ones. I didn’t want to be that guy. Surely there were places that I liked. I bounced back on Yelp and banged out some 4 and 5 star gushing reviews about my favorite places. They deserved it every bit as much as the falafel joint on Avenue A that never gives me enough tahini and skimps on the napkins. Then, being the mildly obsessive fool that I am, I felt my reviews were too polarizing. Too many 4 and 5 stars on one side and too many one star (I wish they’d let me give zero stars) reviews on the other side. That made things difficult for me, as I had to think of the many places I’d been where things were mediocre. I eventually came to the conclusion that mediocrity shouldn’t be reviewed. It simply isn’t deserving. Mediocre places need to commit to excellence or sucking.

 
I have learned the hard way that people don’t take the incessant bitching of miserable people very seriously. “Beware the fury of a patient man” is a favorite expression of mine. It’s true. I will listen to my positive friends complaints and grievances more seriously than those of the Grouchy Greg variety. Grouchy Greg, never has anything good to say.  If someone is a generally positive person and they felt the need for griping, then there must be some legitimacy there.
 
So my advice to Yelpers all across the land…pay no attention to the single bad review among the many positives. Then write to the grump in question and tell them to use Yelp more responsibly.  I have done my best to wield the Yelp scalpel wisely. Sure, I have made a few digs at people who got my goat.  Last week I noticed that two of the places I have rubbished in scathing reviews came to a bad end. One place burned down (No, I didn’t do it. I will write nasty reviews, but generally draw the line with arson)  One must carefully consider when they are in the hospitality industry when they rip a rival place a new one.  If someone or more accurately some place went above and beyond the call of douchebaggery, I will ask my friends to hop on Yelp and tear into them.  Some owners and managers keep a close eye on their Yelp reviews and even contact negative posters. It’s a good way to do business to my way of thinking. The owner of the place that burned down, to his credit, contacted me almost immediately and asked to meet with me.  It was a nice touch I thought, however he never addressed the issues I took with the restaurant, instead blaming a perfectly pleasant hostess with poor command of the English language. It would be too easy for someone to read a hatchet piece of mine and turn the tables on me at my job.  The anonymous medium of the internet brings out the desk top tough guy, but some people deserve to be ripped on, so on special occasions I will ask a friend to inform the general public about various culinary sewers who have not treated me in a way befitting a customer or more often an applicant.
 
I also have to admit that I have used Yelp in a purely selfish manner. I have reviewed myself as the greatest thing waiting tables since Flo twanged “kiss mah grits” on Alice.  It’s strictly precautionary I assure you. Something to offset the inevitable one star reviews I will get when I inform a customer that they have my restaurant confused with one of those places where the customer is always right.
 
Last weekend was rough. I worked Friday night and Sunday brunch. It was busy at work, but the very worst kind of busy. One of my favorite pearls of wisdom in regards to restaurant/bar work is “It’s never the quantity of the customers, it’s the quality.” So true. To date I have had pretty terrific customers for the most part. I have written of some of the more difficult clientele, but that’s just comedic license. Who wants to read about a nice couple who ordered the scrod and tipped 21%? In all of these pieces I have included that on the whole I’ve been pretty happy with my customers. They have been friendly, generous tippers and pleasant to wait on and converse with.
 
Last weekend was the exact opposite. Friday night started with a party of three who had little to no personality and tremendous difficulty in figuring out a 15% tip.  I got $1.50 on a $23 check. “Gee thanks folks, you really shouldn’t have, oh wait… ha ha,  you didn’t”  I assure you, the crappy tip wasn’t my fault as all they had were some glasses of wine. The rest of the night was full of people who sucked for a variety of reasons. Camping out at a table and running me ragged over an order of buffalo wings and two diet coke’s.  “Can you change the channel, I want to watch the game?”  “Can you change it back now I want to see the news?”  “Is this diet coke?  It tastes sweet.”  “Now it tastes like diet coke but it’s flat.”  Then they stuck change in the guest check book to insure they wouldn’t break the 12% tip barrier. I picked up the book and the change went everywhere.  “Sorry about the change.” said Mr. Diet Coke. You’re not sorry. You’re a douchebag who just got reminded of their douchebaggery by having a poor waiter pick up the nickels and dimes you put in a booklet made for credit cards and bills. You get the picture. Sure, there were some nice people, but they were lost in the mix among the soul sucking cheapskates.
 
Sunday took the lousy weekend’s cake though. The cooks screwed up two of my orders, one in a major way.  One family called me over to point out that the burger I had just served them was raw. Not undercooked, not rare…raw. What was worse was that the man had taken a bite of the all beef patty, special E. coli sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. I felt bad and got the man a fresh beer on the house.  Later he and I talked about the neighborhood and the local restaurants. He was quite pleasant despite having just bitten into a rude shock of a burger. In all likelihood, he and his family wont be back though. My restaurant had one chance to make a first impression and the one we just made with the burger tartar surprise sucked rather mightily. He also had two children with him and his wife. A little boy and an infant daughter. They were well behaved kids and the little girl was as cute as a bug, but like most small kids they made a huge mess. 
 

How could you not think this is cute? Cause I have to pick up the drooled upon biproducts

Some parenting book has decreed every single parent must bring a small baggie full of cheerios for their little ones when they go out. Now, the infants don’t eat the cheerios. They drool and slobber on them and spew them out all over their table, hi-chair and floor for the benefit of their sub minimum wage server or busser to contend with. I have taken pains not to have children, doesn’t that mean that the people who have children and enjoy the tax benefits should be the ones picking up the droolios? Some parents call out “Oh, they made a mess, I’m so sorry.”  They just aren’t sorry enough to pick up after their larvae. I had a couple of “families” that day and many of the kids were whiny, messy little brats. The parents were too busy on their smart phones to actually be bothered with something as mundane as parenting.  I wrote a piece not too long ago about my thoughts on children, families and family restaurants (I’m not a fan), so I’ll spare you revisiting the topic. It’s a bummer when the kitchen screws things up for a server.  It’s a sad fact of the industry, but people take their frustrations out via their tip. A steak they felt was medium when they ordered medium rare, the beer seemed a trifle warm,  the music was too loud, or their meal came before they finished their appetizer…. It’s coming out of your end Mabel. I understand if a server is at fault, and often we are…but I wish people would consider the source.

 
The rest of that Sunday just got worse, climaxing with a table of hipsters. I hate hipsters. I always have. They are cheap, pretentious, snotty, rude, inconsistent in their attitudes and beliefs, and they are generally a pain in the ass. They are the human equivalent of pubic lice in my beloved New York City. It’s not that I don’t get the anti-fashion, anti-subculture stance, it’s that I do get it… and it’s lame, low frequency and weak. Commit to a subculture. Be a punk, a skinhead, a hippie, a leather daddy with handlebar mustache, be a bull dyke or a gangsta rap thug. They are all infinitely more interesting than hipsters who are, in my opinion, just yuppies pretending to be poor for a couple of years with appalling taste in beer and music.
 
Stand for something with anger, vandalism, humor, or wit…not bored, apathetic miles from funny irony.  I’d rather deal with people who are mad at the world, or disgusted with it.  I’ll even take someone who is idealistic over one who is perpetually and snottily bored with everything.  I abhor cheapness. I just hate it, especially cheapness at the expense of the others (in this case, me).  I briefly worked at a bar with $20 cocktails. That’s just foreign and wasteful to me, so I don’t go to, nor can I afford to go to, such places. The difference is I don’t complain to a bartender because they charge .50 cents more for a Heineken than the place down the road. Hipsters are generally full of shit and hypocrites, but this is lost on them.  Hell, everyone is full of shit to some degree, but hipsters roll and wallow in it like little pigs in their faux precious, ironic Yanni “vintage” t-shirts and John Deere hats that cost $50 and look so chic and used. I’ve never met people so thoroughly convinced of how cool (or “deck” as the wee hip children of Williamsburg call it) they are, yet without one sense of the absurd irony that goes into the ever so carefully crafted anti-fashion look. I’m still praying for the skinheads to make another comeback. Working class ideals, a simple working class look, soulful ska and angry oi music, plus they’d generally delight in beating the crap out of hipsters.

Image from stephenmalkmus.com

 

The hipsters arrived in two pairs. The first was a young couple who looked about one promotion away from yuppiedom. They weren’t too annoying. They began with the ultimate hipster cliche of asking me what was the cheapest thing available to them. They had to ask, they couldn’t, you know, read the menu. They wanted me to earn the lousy tip they planned to give me. We had one beer on special and I also informed them that happy hour would begin in thirty minutes. Later they were joined by two guys.  A young black man with dreads and a zitty faced white kid with scraggly hair and one of those mustaches that weaselly guys and 15 year old boys are so fond of. Of course they too wanted to know what was the cheapest thing on the menu. They made me repeat the Happy Hour options several times so that I could stand and wait for them to order while they discussed the merits and pitfalls of Pabst Blue Ribbon vs Bud Light Draft. Such aficionados. Naturally they ordered PBR, that’s just what hipsters drink.
 
Happy hour coincided with the changing of the brunch menu. The early football games were ending and the afternoon games were beginning. The hipsters sipped their beers and ordered buffalo wings. Then they decided that the view of the games they wanted was not ideal near the bar so they got up and moved to the dining room. I cleaned their former table, and apparently the games they wanted to see were not on in the dining room. So, they asked the owner to change the stations just for them. We have over 10 TVs in the establishment with a direct TV sports package. Changing the channels generally requires an advanced degree from MIT and is not as simple as a point and press on a remote control. They asked for menus but couldn’t make up their minds within an hour. This didn’t stop them from calling me over and asking me questions about the cheapest appetizers every 5 minutes. Yes, it was on the menu, but what fun is that when you can make someone hop to and translate for you? After about a half an hour and 5 channel changes, the weaselly one decided he was cold and wanted to leave the dining room and go back to the bar. His friends were comfortable and the girl who was with them said that if she “didn’t have a problem with the cold, then it wasn’t that cold.”  This just made weasel boy sulk and eventually storm off to the front. They asked if I would mind if they moved again. I “joked” that it didn’t really matter if I minded, and that I had serious doubts that this was in any way a factor in their decision. So, they got up and took a new table at the bar. Another table for me to clean up. Thanks guys.
 

Now the dread locked hipster wanted nachos. He asked what they were like and I described them as “busy”; meaning there is a lot going on with our nachos, chili, beans, jalapeno’s, cheese, sour cream guacamole and salsa. Of course he couldn’t just order them or not order them…he had to have me return to their table (their third table) to

Four...no wait...THREE hipster douchebags! AH AH AH

answer more questions about the nachos, all the while bringing them more PBRs. They also committed another common faux pas, not exclusive to hipsters, but an oldie and a goldie with many types of annoying customers. They would order two beers, which I’d bring and then order another when I arrived, then when I brought the third beer, they’dorder one more. “What’s the matter, Sesame Street wasn’t sponsored by the number ‘4’ this week?” Eventually, dreadlocks ordered the nachos with extra cheese which I brought to him with extra plates so they could share. I’d forgotten to bring them napkins, so in all fairness I had hit a sour note as a server that day. Hey, fuck em. They messed up not one, not two but three tables and they were New York Jets fans which to me is unforgivable.

 
My day was coming to an end and I hadn’t made much money. Just then a party of 8 walked in and I had to take them. It was my turn to be seated, and I needed the money. The bummer was it was 20 minutes before the end of my shift, which meant I was staying longer whether I wanted to or not. I had 4 parties to finish with before I could go home and call my editor and best bud Gow with my epic tales of trench warfare on the working class front lines. Gow was a waitress for years and she understands.These things aren’t as easy to discuss with a non-veteran of the restaurant grind. One party was a nice couple who were having a couple of beers and sharing an order of calamari. (Yes, the really fried variety) Not much money for me, but not a ton of work either, and they were a pleasure to serve and talk to. I had another table of two guys who had been there for a couple hours. First they had burgers and bloody marys and now they were nursing beers watching the games on TV. They were pleasant too, and low maitenance. The third party was the party of 8 who had just sat down, but they seemed nice and I joked around with them as they ordered drinks. Rounding out the batting order were the hipsters. The couple and the two guys finished up, paid and left. The new party was running me rather ragged with drink orders. They had been moving into a new apartment all day and were hungry and thirsty.  I didn’t mind. Heavy drinkers generally equal heavy tippers and as I said before they were nice. Plus, they were running up quite a bill that just might salvage a day full of slim pickings.
 
The hipsters, of course, were still being annoying. After changing tables three times and having the owner switch from this game to that, they weren’t even watching the games. Finally they asked for the check…separate checks. God forbid a Hipster would pick up a tab for their friends. I’ve never seen it in all my years in the business. Old ladies never pick up a check either. They all want separate checks that they can scrutinize with the zeal of an IRS auditor with OCD before finally digging into their ancient change purses and calculating an 8% tip.
 
I checked on my big party who were settling in and being nice as could be. They inhaled the appetizers I’d brought and were drinking pretty heavily, which was keeping me busy. I don’t fault a big party for ordering more drinks every time I drop some off.  It just puts fire ants in my boxer briefs when people are ordering another round of the same thing and force me to make 4 trips rather than one.
 
I returned to the Hipsters table and saw dreadlocks peering at his check intently. Any waiter, Maître d’ or bartender knows that look. It’s a patented expression of a trifling cheapskate who is going to argue about this or that. “You charged me $3 for extra cheese.” he said with a tone more fitting for “You set fire to my house after sleeping with my girlfriend and spitting on my grandmother”.  I explained that I didn’t set the prices.

Arguing with the waiter over the bill has been around longer than I have. Doesn't mean I have to like it.

“There wasn’t extra cheese on it either” he continued. I countered that there was extra cheese on it, and I saw it.  He gave up taking that route. He went on to explain that $3 was entirely too much for extra cheese. I reminded him again that I don’t set the prices for the establishment. Anyone who may think he had a point would generally not bat an eye at paying $1 more for cheese on a burger and that’s just one or two slices of cheese. “How about ONE dollar?” He suggested. I told him for the third time that I do not set the prices for the restaurant. “Two dollars.” He tried again. Now he was arguing with me over 100 pennies. A dollar. An amount of money he wouldn’t even get angry about or notice if he had lost. Then he tried to demand that it be taken off his bill and that I should have told him that it was going to be a whopping $3 more. I informed him that I could not take anything off the bill, that one of the owners had to go into the computer system to do that, and at present none of the owners was available. He told me that $3 made the difference between him coming back to our restaurant or not returning. I thought silently to myself that if a measly $3 would keep him and his friends from running me ragged and pestering me, then it was the best bargain I’d heard in ages. Finally I reached in my back pocket, pulled out my wallet and took three singles and placed them on the table. Gow later told me that she thought this was a bit of an “F-You” to Ziggy Marley. After we discussed her theory I could see her point, but I honestly hadn’t meant it as such. Believe me, next to coin collecting and film; f-bombing people is a major hobby of mine. I just wanted the PBR and Nacho auction to end. $3 may have been enough for this trifling Lenny Kravitz wanna-be to take a stand, but after 8 going on 9 hours of being on my feet continually, drooling baby’s, their slobbered on cheerios, apologizing for raw burgers and profusely thanking others for lousy tips, I just wanted them to leave so I could finish up with my big table and go home.

 
He looked at the three singles on the table and said nothing. My mother later said it wasn’t so much of an “F-You” as it was a dismissal. That sounded more accurate in how I meant it to be perceived. I was dismissing him. Sure he got his way, but not though his powers of persuasion, or what he deemed to be a serious financial slap in the face. He took an inordinate amount of time to actually sign his credit card slip and I had to return to his table 3 more times. I’d like to think he was unsatisfied with the outcome of ‘The great $3 extra cheese debate and auction of 2011’, but what could he say? He got his precious $3. I think he wanted an admission from me that the restaurant’s proprietors were indeed price gouging in regards to cheese, and for me to acknowledge that I was on cloud nine at the prospect that we may have avoided his boycotting our establishment. Eventually they left, and good riddance. I kind of do hope they come back. There are lots of ways I can get back at them and make it look unintentional.  My days of tampering with the food and drinks of disagreeable customers are long since gone.  But a savvy waiter has plenty of tricks up their sleeve to ensure a trying and unpleasant dining experience while making it look completely undevised.
 
Things were smoother with the big party although the kitchen botched one of the orders. They had made a swordfish steak prior to the other entrees and it was cold when I served it. An old lady in the party called me over to inform me her granddaughter’s swordfish was “freezing cold.”  I’ve noticed that customers feel the need for vast exaggerations when addressing an issue. “Could you warm this up?” wouldn’t do. Customers often have similar exaggerated complaints with things such as the restaurant’s temperature. If it’s 72 degrees, they will shiver uncontrollably and put their coats on prior to asking if you could turn up the heat, and if it is 73 degrees they will fan themselves dramatically with menus before asking “Is the AC even on?”  The old woman was a bit of a mean drunk and barked “Where’s my wine?” at me a couple of times during my numerous drink runs. But, there were 8 of them and the other 7 were pretty pleasant. 1 bad apple in a basket of 8 isn’t a bad ratio in life to my way of thinking.
 
They paid and left a so-so tip, maybe 17%. It was a fair amount of work, but it could have been worse. They could have stiffed me. They could have been hipsters.