Posts Tagged ‘Work’

Dumb

“Stupid” is an over and misused word. All too often we throw the word ‘stupid’ around when we actually mean things like ‘oblivious’, ‘lacking in common sense’,’or lacking in manners or propriety’. The word ‘stupid’ can even mean funny and silly in a complimentary manner today in an inner-city vernacular. I had to check in with my friend Miriam Webster to see what the most basic definition of this word is.
Ah, here we are. “Not intelligent” “Not sensible or logical”. So, for simplicity’s sake and the exact circumstances of this piece let’s stick with Mimsy Webster’s definition of stupid.

The other night I was coming home from work, and had decided to duck into my local burger and chicken joint for some health food. I was feeling tired, lazy and not up for cooking. I entered Chicken Lickin’ and placed my order. Next to me at the counter was a middle aged woman trying to decide what she wanted. While I was waiting for my order to be prepared I heard this woman ask what was quite possibly the stupidest question ever. Who ever said “There are no stupid questions” had obviously never encountered this woman. She asked ( and I’m not making this up ) “How many come in the 10 piece?” She-asked-how many-come-in-a-10-piece. I shook my head to clear it and then looked more closely at this woman. She had somehow managed to put her shoes on the correct feet. Maybe someone helped her get dressed.

Now, we all say the occasional stupid thing. We all speak without thinking. Luckily I only seem to do this when trying to impress women, or during important job interviews. So, in fairness, maybe the “How many come in a 10 piece” inquiry was a fluke.

Nope. Her next statements and actions confirmed that she was a member of the room temp IQ club. She asked the nice (and patient) man behind the counter how much the 10 piece was. Oh, and in case you’re wondering; Yes the nice (and patient) man behind the counter answered her previous inquiry (“Um, 10. 10…pieces”). He managed to answer without slapping his forehead or making any sarcastic remarks. I was impressed. To be even more helpful, the counterman pointed up to the huge, illuminated menu and price list above him and less than 6 feet from this woman’s eyes. It should also be noted that every chain restaurant, pizzeria etc has this huge, menu and price list in their establishment…and yet we never seem to be at a loss for inane questions from those who don’t want to or possibly can’t read. Since the chances of her being illiterate were fair, he also vocalized the answer. “$6.99”. She slowly looked up at the menu, her mouth agape and said “Oh…you ummm have all the prices up there.” The man behind the counter nodded that, yes-indeedy all goods and their prices were right in front of the widescreen dimensions of her forehead. However, she had to double down on stupid. Not more than 2 seconds after her verbal confirmation that the prices were listed, she asked “So, how much is a 20 piece?”

Wow.

I grabbed my food and bid a hasty retreat from the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Chicken” Palace.

Unlike my fellow chicken consumer, I found my mind racing. How does a person so stupid survive in the world? How does she get dressed, cross the street, pay her bills or hold down a job, if, she was indeed employed? Who had taught her to speak…and perhaps more importantly, how? Was it a scene like something out of “The Miracle Worker” where Helen Keller finally makes a breakthrough and mental connection with water. Did some wonderful teacher with the patience of a saint have some kind of breakthrough with this women where she began shrieking “TEN PIECE…TENNN PIECE” and embracing the saintly teacher?

Although I don’t make these type of determinations, it seems to me that if she is genuinely this slow then she should probably be eligible for some kind of public assistance or disability. Is there some kind of doctors note that can be taken to a public assistance office ( or perhaps safety-pinned to the person in question ) that states their IQ is too low to telemarket or any other kind of employment? Back in my Western Massachusetts hometown the local supermarkets hire the mentally retarded (or cerebrally challenged, or whatever feel-good euphemistic phrase is en vogue) to bag groceries and retrieve shopping carts. I have mentioned it several times because frankly, I have always been in awe of their work ethic and their attitudes while doing their job. They have become my go-to example in regards to the chronically stupid or lazy. Hell, they have a better attitude than I do when it comes to work and dealing with the general public. Interesting to note that my job is to deal with the general public.

I seriously doubt this woman could get a job much less hold on to one. She might fill out an application in finger paint or crayon. Anything requiring a degree or certification is out. Maybe she could move boxes from Point A to Point B, but she’d need regular supervision or she’d get lost, or forget to put the boxes down. People are fond of saying “Go work at McDonald’s” or they make fast food references to denote an overall lack of skills, drive and intelligence. Yes, it would be a lovely poetic irony if this woman were to work in a chicken or rib joint…but let’s be real here for a moment. How long would it take her to reach into the hot oil to grab a wing? I’m sure the DMV might take her if they had an executive position open. Then there is always congress or the senate. But, she might be over-qualified.

It’s sad and scary that so many people don’t want to or simply wont think. It seems to me with regard to people who can‘t think are at least giving it the old (community) college try.

Furthermore, rather than allowing for natural selection to smarten up the species; we as human beings spend time and money to cater to these people, when really the most natural and perhaps merciful thing to do would be to leave them behind to smarten up or die.

It never ceases to amaze me the many different attitudes that people have regarding nature, having a humane mind set in regards to animals and other people. If someone was watching a nature program on Discovery, PBS, Animal Planet or any other educational show, and there was an animal who got killed and eaten because it was incredibly stupid, we wouldn’t bat an eye. If we were watching with a small child, and said child got upset because the cute little antelope or baby hippo got killed and eaten by the hyenas, lions or some other predator, we’d stop and explain the natural process to the child. “I know honey, it is sad that the cute little deer got killed and eaten…but you see, that deer in particular kept walking into a tree over and over again while trying to go to the river for a drink of water, rather than going around the tree…well that’s nature sweety. That’s how nature or God gets rid of the weak and the stupid, so there is enough food and water for everyone else.”

Years ago, the TV show ‘Seinfeld’ made a famous episode called “The Soup Nazi” which was based on Al Yeganeh’s restaurant “The Soup Kitchen” here in NYC. The episode was a big hit and a cult classic which coined the phrase “No soup for you!!” Jerry Seinfeld, writer-producer Larry David, and David’s former next door neighbor ; Kenny Kramer all experienced Al Yeganeh’s unique manner of dealing with customers who routinely lined up for his delicious soups and chili. Mr. Al would simply expedite the out- the- door- and- around -the- corner lines of people who had come for his soup. If you didn’t know what you wanted, or hadn’t figured it out by reading (gasp) the huge menu overhead while in line, Al would tell you to step aside. If you asked questions that could have been answered by reading the clearly printed and centrally posted menu, he’d frown and point. I never went to the Soup Man “back in the day” as it wasn’t in my neighborhood, and the Seinfeld episode apparently made the place a tourist trap nightmare. It even caused Al to close, sell his name and image to another company, and reopen under a different name years later. I remember there was an article about how he (Al) was upset that Seinfeld and the show had ruined his life and business. Many people had the knee-jerk reaction that Seinfeld and the show had helped him in terms of popularity…but I suspect this isn’t what the soup man had in mind. He was already doing a booming business prior to the episode, and hadn’t been branded a “Nazi” except, perhaps by some customers who don’t like to be told to step aside. My friend Herbie used to go to his place for lunch all the time. “Was he really a Nazi?” I once asked Herbie. “No” Herbie exclaimed rather passionately. “He was right. Who wants to wait in line behind someone who can’t be bothered to read the menu? He just kept the line moving and told people to step aside if they didn’t know what they want”.

This raises an interesting issue. Should it be socially acceptable to be dismissive of those who aren’t paying attention. As it stands now in society, we cannot. That person who has been standing in front of you at Starbucks, blabbing away on their cell phone until finally it’s their turn to order…socially speaking they can hem and haw for 10 or 20 minutes and think about what they want. Yet, it’s painfully obvious to me that they are in the wrong here. They damn well should have made up their mind while waiting in line, and then taken care of their cell phone addiction. Now, some people are considerate. They know they don’t know what they want and let others go ahead of them. It’s the right thing to do. I’d venture to say that most people, if on their cell phone, or who simply don’t know what they want, and the counter person bypassed them to attend to the person behind them who is ready to order, pay, pick up and move along…then that person would get angry with the staff member and think they were being rude. I have even experienced this first hand, so I know of what I speak. I’ve worked many a busy weekend night at a bar or restaurant where it’s 3 deep at the bar. You ask “Can I help you?” The person stands directly in front of the taps and asks what you have on draft. Or they simply don’t know what they want…OR the crème- de la crème of busy bar douchebaggery …they wait for the bartender or server to ask how they can help them, only to turn to 5-20 friends scattered throughout the establishment and ask them what they want. This is when they decided to have a little pow wow.


“You guys want shots?”
“Yeah.”
“No.”
“What kinda shots?”
“I just wanna glass a wine.”
“What kinda wine?
“Are we getting shots?”
“Yeah.”
“No.”

And so on and so on… The person conducting this impromptu survey will become angry if the bartender attempts to serve someone else who has been waiting patiently, has their money out and just wants a bottle of beer.

It also dawns on me that people who go into a McDonald’s, chicken shack, Starbucks or what have you, should have a basic idea of what they want to begin with. You don’t go into a Starbucks hoping they might finally have fish tacos do you?

I understand that people don’t like to be told what to do, or to be told that they’re in the way or holding things up. But sometimes it’s necessary. When I have visited London, my friend Ruprecht had to tell me a couple time to step aside on subway escalators so others could get by me if they wanted or needed to. I think he even pulled me to one side once or twice. I didn’t like it, but it GOT it. I understood.

I suppose the 10 piece queen does provide a small service. She makes others feel more secure in their intelligence. So, she’s got that going for her . . . which is nice.

No One Cares

Posted: January 26, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in General, Life, Me & Mine, You & Yours
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Really, no one is listening to The Conversation you're having.

Really, no one is listening to The Conversation you’re having.

We probably wouldn’t worry about what other people think of us if we could know how seldom they do- Olin Miller

A few years ago while I was being tested in college for Attention Deficit Disorder and other learning disabilities, my mother sent me a book with the above quote in it. The book was called The Most Brilliant Thoughts Of All Time ( In two lines or less ) The reason she sent the book was because I think she started to recall my attention level as a child and teen, and the many difficulties it caused she and I. Being a romantic I like to think that she felt a little bad about the years of fights and dramedy that were a result of my inability to focus, pay attention or…Oh there’s my remote control…. Oooooo… a Happy Days marathon…that sounds promising…. That Fonzie is such a card…Now ,where were we?

This quote stuck out as I had been pondering a piece titled “No One Cares”, which coincidentally is remarkably similar to the essay I’m typing up at this very moment. I became inspired to write this as a result of my anger and frustration toward a couple of regulars who drink in the bar where I am employed. When people frustrate us, yet we are unable to confront them for various reasons; (we work with them, we work for them, they are bigger than we are,they’re attractive and might sleep with us, they have a badge and gun, they are elderly, they are small children…the list goes on and on) we often spend a great deal of time thinking about what we’d like to say to them if the dynamic of the situation were somehow different. As a bartender,like anyone who’s job it is to deal with a rude and disrespectful general public, I have to contend with a fair number of assholes regularly. In the interest of building and maintaining customers and keeping my job, I have to find ways to hold my tongue, paste a smile on my face and interact with these people. I must find a way to do so in a reasonably pleasant and professional manner. So, I find myself rehearsing in my mind various cutting remarks that would make them flee from the watering hole in shame, or apologize to me and hand me hundreds or thousands of dollars in retroactive tips, or commit suicide. Keep in mind, I can’t really utter these well rehearsed and justly deserved dressing downs. Chances are it wouldn’t do any good. People don’t change after a stern talking to like in TV shows and movies…regardless of how clever, true and deserving the dressing down might be. Plus, I’d probably get in trouble and possibly lose my job. To put it bluntly and succinctly, we all have to take bites of the shit sandwich that is life.

One of the aforementioned customers is a rather dour man who never tips. Tips are my livelihood, and are therefore extremely important to me. They are yet another reason why I try to refrain from having verbal meltdowns with customers. Adding to the frustration of this customer’s stiffing me daily is his personal and socio-political philosophy, He is a self described Marxist. This is a man who goes on and on ( and on) about the plight of the working man. He obviously fancies himself some kind of working class hero. Now it has been a while since I have read Marx and Engels The Communist Manifesto, but I don’t recall the chapter on gratuities and the running dog capitalist waiters and bartenders who suppress the proletariat and keep them down. Like most tipped workers, I am also taxed on my gratuities…This means if and when I am not tipped, I am essentially paying to serve people drinks.

NoTip

In addition to being stiffed daily by this man as I pour pint after pint of Guinness for him, I resent his slight air of smugness about his never tipping me. It’s almost as if he believes that he is doing something noble and virtuous by screwing me. Furthermore, he probably feels superior to me and more enlightened that I simply can’t grasp his strict policy of not tipping for services rendered. Of course, this is the general attitude of tipped workers whenever they encounter cheap, petty and trifling customers. We have a long memory of who doesn’t tip us.

The particular telling off of this man that I go over and over again in my mind would be to point out that no one, repeat, No one gives a shit about his political theories. No one, repeat No one discusses at great length, or any length for that matter what a working class hero he is. Despite what he may think, No One Cares.

Now these sorts of statements could potentially cut a person to the bone. It also made me realize something . 99% of us have strong perceptions and beliefs that are immensely important..but only to us. Again, No One Cares.

Just like Trotsky-Tipless, I have strong perceptions of myself that are varying degrees of truth, fiction and everything in-between. However, with very few exceptions, No one really gives a damn. Now this is not a pity trip. It’s simple reality. I’m just as guilty of this apathy. Hell, as a former punk rocker, a current New Yorker and lifelong cynic…I’m probably more apathetic than the average bear. If ‘No One Cares” can be said about most people, then I would somehow manage to care less. It’s a warped point of pride with me. Probably similar to the point of pride I imagine Mr Persona- Non- Gratuity has about being a cheap bastard.

Perhaps this inane little observation goes much further than I ever could have imagined. Maybe, just maybe it’s a huge part in the very meaning of life. Is it possible that getting others to care about us or issues is the key to happiness, health, wealth and self actualization? It is also interesting to note that even people who are deemed interesting or important to care about by the media often fall victim to the curse of “No One Cares”. Isn’t it safe to say that many of us roll our eyes at the daily and hourly reportings on Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Professional Athletes, The Kardasians and their ilk? And what is our first and most primal reaction to them? That’s right. “Who Cares?”

Just eat your food. There is no need to Instagram it first.

Just eat your food. There is no need to Instagram it first.

Other people’s favorite hobby seems to involve a shift in focus from “No One Cares” to a “You shouldn’t care about that, but rather focus on this”. Often these people are well meaning and trying to garner interest and awareness in worthy causes…. or perhaps more accurately, causes they feel strongly about. We’ve all met these people. You’ll be cheerfully discussing something or someone, and they will tut tut and inform you of something infinitely more important.

In my refraining from going off on the working class zero who never tips me, I have started to focus on things that are important to or about me that fall securely into the “No One Cares” file. I’m a writer, or at least that’s what I tell women I’m trying to impress. The fact of the matter is that. A: I have never been published. B: I have a blog that approximately 4 people read with any regularity and C: Being a writer isn’t all that impressive, unique or interesting. You can’t swing a dead wino in NYC and not hit someone who thinks they’re a writer. So, just as my never-tipping regular feels that he is somehow a noble and fascinating warrior of the proletariat…nobody gives a shit about my literary observations of cell phone etiquette or how people who try to get 12 items through a 10 items or less line at the supermarket should be tried and executed for crimes against humanity.

“No One Cares” for all it’s apathy can be a very powerful thing. People take medications and go to therapy because of “No One Cares”. People go on shooting rampages, and even commit or attempt suicide because of those three, single syllable words. What is a major cause of suicide? The very perception that no one cares. There are even “Cry for help” suicides which is the tragic, yet desperate attempt to get others to give a flying fuck, if only for a little while.

Technology has been driven by “No One Cares” predating recorded history. I’d be willing to bet that it took all of 30 seconds for some Neanderthal hipster to roll their eyes and say “Whatev’s” after a fellow caveman drew some stick men and stick animals in the Lascaux caves in France. Haters gonna hate.

Twitter. The ultimate (currently) in “Pay Attention To Me” narcissism. But can’t we safely say that 99.7% of tweets fall under that “Who cares” category. I know on a very personal level that I only pay attention to ” I plan to have sex with Scott Swenson” tweets from Dolly Parton. Interestingly, while researching Ms Dolly’s twitter account for this piece I found out thatshe had a fender bender on Oct 21st of last year, she was fine and was resting comfortably at home when she tweeted this. I’m guessing she was spared serious injury by “airbags” Nyuk Nyuk.

The genius or geniuses who created Twitter were very aware of human nature and how so many of us are under the misconception that we have something of note to say that the rest of the world gives a damn about.

nobody-cares

Twitter was invented because so many are think others care about what we’re thinking or doing… unaware of how few really give a damn. I don’t tweet. I’m not part of the Twitterverse ( even that term makes me want to vomit), but I can safely say that if I was, there are very few bits of info from others that I’d stop and pay attention to….alien abduction, Armageddon and the aforementioned Ms Parton wanting a booty call from yours truly.

So, although I am fairly certain that very few people care about what I say, even fewer care about what I write, and no one cares about what I think…I just want to say, that the world would be a much better place if we’d put a little more effort into caring…and we can start by caring more about MY writing, getting my contact info to Dolly Parton and leaving me better tips.

Job Hunt Mach 2

Posted: January 26, 2013 by S. Trevor Swenson in Life, Me & Mine
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
I am the 81st down from the right

I am the 81st down from the right

Like millions of my fellow Americans, I am out of work…again. A few years ago my employer of 17 years and I engaged in an F Bomb exchange which excused me from the ranks of the employed for a couple years. Do I regret our four letter word rock opera? Yes and no, but it is spilled milk now. I felt slightly vindicated when I put an “I Hate Pigs” bumper sticker on his BMW to celebrate my one year anniversary away from the job. I actually ran into him during the holidays this year. We shook hands and were cordial to one another.

I have landed 3 jobs since then. One where the owner took an instant and intense dislike to me. Not much one can do about that. (I once asked my former employer “What the Fuck is your problem with me?’, and we know how that worked out.) The general manager hired me and on my first night of training I was introduced to the owner. I extended my hand to him and he gave me a look of utter and complete disgust. I was actually impressed as I have been working on that look for over 20 years. Well played, Sir! It was a facial expression reserved for finding a hair in your food and it was depressing. I thought I was finally turning the corner, only to have a job dangled in front of me and ripped away after 4 hours. I felt a little better after noticing that this place has a “Help Wanted” sign in their window every week. It seems the owner takes an instant and intense dislike to lots of applicants. Finally! It’s not me, it’s you.

"Oh, darling, I simply must have a Sazerac. Do be a lamb and fetch me one."

“Oh, darling, I simply must have a Sazerac.
Do be a lamb and fetch me one.”

The second job was at a posh and stuffy four star restaurant. I’m not posh or stuffy. (I’m…puffy.) They wear white dinner jackets. I’m more of a leather jacket kind of guy. I lasted 3 whole weeks on the job. It wasn’t for me, and I wasn’t for them. I’m accustomed to fast, turn and burn bar tending. This place demanded that each drink take half an hour to lovingly construct. The drinks were excellent and the man who designed them is world renowned. I just wasn’t the right man for a place that wanted a 28.5 millimeter lemon twist to rim the glass 6 and 1/2 times counter clockwise, while whistling Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers, and precisely measuring 16 ingredients to craft a gin and tonic. I’ve checked the want ads; this place is always looking for staff as well. So, I got that going for me . . . which is useless.

Finally, I landed a job at an Irish pub in my neighborhood. I really liked my job. I liked my co-workers, I liked my bosses, I liked the customers, and those who I didn’t care for so much provided me with some fantastic material for my writing and comedy. It was never extremely busy, but I was working again, making money and going to school… what I like to call “having some semblance of a life” I was doing well and considered myself lucky.

I was at this job for a year…almost exactly a year. I spent the slow summer months anxiously awaiting the lucrative football season in Fall. As luck (or lack thereof) would have it, during the first football game of the season, while traversing three little steps in the pub, I felt a sickening pop above the heel of my left foot. Apparently the warranty on my Achilles tendon had just expired. I would be in a cast for the next 3 months. With the exception of McLimpy’s Tavern on E 14th St, no one was hiring staff members in casts so I spent that time catching up on “PARQUE ALEGRIA” my favorite Spanish language soap opera, applying fat from various comfort foods to my thighs, butt and stomach, and fighting my very own version of the Hundred Years War with the New York State Workers Compensation Board and my employer’s insurance company; Apathy Mutual of Hoboken. “We Truly Pretend to Care”

After I recovered, I discovered that my job was not waiting for my triumphant return. My boss told me to bring a note from a doctor and then promptly stopped returning my phone calls and had always “just stepped out” whenever I stepped in. My (former?) co-workers greeted me with a slightly embarrassed humble-mumble-chumbles. People don’t get fired anymore…they become more of an Orwellian “un-person” or more accurately an unemployed person. New York is an “employment at will” state, meaning a company will fire you if so inclined. And it seemed my boss was SO inclined.

It was back to the job hunt for the boy.

"Hi, my name is...."  "YOU'RE HIRED!!!"

“Hi, my name is….” “YOU’RE HIRED!!!”

Had I learned anything during my first crack at being a man of leisure? Yes. I learned that the job market sucks, that many bar owners prefer breasts to experience, I learned that I had gotten spoiled having the same job for 17 years. However, I am a firm believer that we cultivate a great deal of our own luck. The more I am out there, the better my chances of experiencing some good timing or luck. I am also glad that it is winter. The cold weather has added to my motivation in terms of not having to relocate from my apartment to a refrigerator box with a breakfast nook out by where the buses don’t run. Plus, I don’t show up to open calls and interviews drenched in sweat. It’s a bummer to call and thank someone for an interview and have them say “Oh yeah, you’re that sweaty guy, I remember you, Uh, we’ll let you know” I can just imagine some manager writing “Too sweaty” on my soggy resume. Yuck.

Sometimes I go out and just drop resumes off in various neighborhoods with good street traffic and lots of bars and restaurants. I shower, shave and. dress to resemble a responsible and productive member of society. I zip into places and ask “Hi, is there a manager I could possibly drop my resume off with?” Some people are nice. They take my resume, smile and wish me luck. Others are just overtly unpleasant. Last week a haughty Maître’s D sneered ‘”You can leave it” (meaning my resume),” as if it took every fiber of his being to not follow this with “But really, we shant be calling you back.” Lots of hostesses have an utterly charming, smelling-a-fart facial expression when I swing by to drop off a resume and speak to the (never present) manager. Aren’t these women hired to be the “face” of the venue? When did friendliness and basic politeness leave this job description? Should a hostess act as a deterrent? “Sorry to interrupt your texting Ms. Evangelista, I know it’s a lot to ask, but would you be a dove and take my resume, lie about passing it along to the manager and maybe even smile? Judging by your demeanor, you’d think I shambled in here bleeding profusely from both ears and barking in an inappropriately loud voice “Hey toots, where’s the crapper in this joint?”

"Before you hand me your resume, allow me to fetch my rubber gloves and tongs."

“Before you hand me your resume, allow me to fetch my rubber gloves and tongs.”

This time around I seem to be getting more call backs and interviews, which is encouraging. The first time around I could literally go weeks without hearing back from anyone. Of course, I have been to 3 interviews in 2 weeks where the interviewers were incredibly rude and cold. This makes no sense to me. I can understand seeing someone for the first time and deciding that this isn’t the person you had in mind for the job. As much as we like to deny it, we do judge books by their covers, but it’s a good business strategy to paste a smile on one’s face, shake hands, ask a couple questions and muster a friendly “Thanks, We’ll let you know.” Really, the entire industry is based on acting pleasant and nice to people, and especially being able to fake it. Plus, it would be too easy for someone less well-adjusted than I to take offense and call the Heath Department or leave a review on sites like Yelp or Urban Spoon with fictitious tales of rat droppings in the ceviche, food poisoning or rude staff. Plus, you called me. I am merely showing up to an interview that you requested, Smiley.

I step into some places and immediately realize that I stand no chance whatsoever of working there. Lots of Irish pubs only hire illegal Irish aliens, I’ve tried to fake an accent, but I always blow it by humming “Danny Boy” and making some ridiculous reference to Irish Spring soap or Lucky Charms cereal. Other places have nothing but Charlie’s Angel’s rejects struggling with the intricacies of a vodka and tonic. I’m not young and fabulous, so I don’t even bother with chic lounges or trendy nightclubs. I make it a point not to go to places that wont let me in.

The NYC service industry is a unique microcosm. Many places want head shots, bi-lingual a plus and all kinds of other criteria. “A strong background in Northern Italian wines preferred” (For McGinty’s Pub?) This becomes a slippery slope. I think people expect us to embellish, exaggerate and..OK….OK, lie on our resumes and during interviews, but one can’t go too far with this. We’d be found out day one, embarrassed and fired….and being unemployed is embarrassing enough. There was a coffee shop in Union Square that only hired Brazilian models. Another place designed as a honky-tonk that only hired models with a special cocktail dyslexia. “I’ll have a Red Stripe please.” 25 minutes later she would produce a glass of red wine. If you decided to stay and try for a second round, she’d bring Johnny Walker Red. These are the people who are getting the jobs. Yeah, life’s fair.

Maybe I should apply

Maybe I should apply

Years ago I went into a bar in the Village to use of their bathroom. Since there is an unwritten law that people are not allowed to use restrooms without a purchase, I bought a glass of wine that I really didn’t want. It was officially a gay bar (Something cleverly named The Dude Ranch), but in neighborhoods like the East Village, the lines between gay and straight became blurred. People went were they liked the music or the prices. The bartender that day was a swishy, middle aged gay man who was balding with a pot belly. His appearance was decidedly un-fabulous. Still, as I drank my wine and he held court with the handful of customers who were there, I quickly realized he was really funny, engaging and warm. I ended up staying for two more glasses of wine because I had nowhere to be, and we were all having a good time. It dawned on me that this terrific bartender wouldn’t stand a chance of getting a job at 99% of the gay bars in the city. They’d laugh at him and make bitter, queeny jokes about his weight or appearance the second he walked out the door. Then they’d promptly hire the Chelsoid gym rat with no personality, no experience, but who had stapled a beautifully photo-shopped and shirtless photograph of his fabulous self to his misspelled resume.

My point is that the resume my mommy thinks is “Very nice honey” with legitimate experience and references can matter very little. There are many places that are always hiring. They only want the beautiful people working for them. In this economy, the owner of the corner gin mill gets to act like Steve Rubell from Studio 54. I have worked with some very good looking people, and some of them were crackerjack staff members. Yet, sadly it is all too common to find a pretty, yet aloof bartender busily text messaging while hapless patrons wave $20 bills at them in a futile attempt to get the bartender to actually tend to the bar. Eventually, after updating their Facebook status with “My job sucks”, they glance over at the customer, roll their eyes, slam down a bottle of Budweiser in front of them and fetch their change without a word of thanks. Or, when someone orders a scotch and soda, they tilt their pretty little heads and ask “What’s in that?”

Having a resume; it makes me feel all grown-up. I look over my references and continuity and feel proud of myself. Another thing that gives me minor internal hissy fits is when an interviewer takes my resume and wants me to fill out an application. I had thought that the point of a resume is to save time on things like applications. Of course, we can’t roll our eyes when we are handed an application. We have to be cheerful and act as if we were given one off those huge checks from Publisher’s Clearing House. “Oh, goody-gumdrops! You mean I get to hand write everything that is already typed neatly on the paper I just gave you on to a whole new piece of paper?” I loathe these modern redundancies, like when we punch in our account numbers when calling our cable company, and then being asked for the same number 40 minutes later when we finally reach a human being.

It is an employer’s market. I read ads of what they are seeking and it is an extensive laundry list of sacrifice and dedication for the privilege of working for someone. Under “compensation” there is usually a single euphemistic business-speak word “competitive”. Translation: as little as we are able to get away with. Some companies at least try to be creative “Work with a first rate team who are able to think outside of the box.” Well, I suppose that does sweeten the sub-minimum wage pay. While I was working I would look over resumes other people had dropped off. I was also always nice to perspective applicants. It was not uncommon to come across people with Master’s Degrees and Ph.D.’s looking to wait tables and schlep drinks. This made me feel better, while also scaring me a little. I remember showing up to an open call at a popular hotel years ago. I had shown up 20 minutes early, only to join a line of applicants that looked like one of the black and white photos from The Great Depression. In line were stunningly beautiful and handsome young men and women holding professionally designed resumes in sexy binders. They wore beautifully tailored, designer clothes and seemed so sure of themselves. These are the people I am competing with, and many of them are more educated, younger, better looking and possibly more desperate than I am. Personally, if I was in a position to hire, I’d exploit any and all desperation. “Well, you’re certainly qualified; but would you be willing to give me a foot massage and to address me as ‘Most Exalted Daddy Pants’? And by the way, how are you at ‘thinking outside the box?” Looking eager and upbeat takes energy too, more energy than one might think. This made me understand why people stop looking for work after a year or year and a half. It’s tantamount to being pumped up in the locker room for the big game, yet week after week getting slaughtered on the field. The job hunt can be exceptionally draining and soul sucking. It’s hard to keep from taking rejection and a lack of response personally.

Be it ever so crumbled....There's no place like home.

Be it ever so crumbled….There’s no place like home.

I’ll get another job sooner or later, hopefully sooner as my landlord is a little funny about my bringing in partial rent payments in rolled up pennies and nickels and saying “I’ll try to get the rest of it to you next week.”

It may be futile, but I’m going to keep trying, dammit!

A couple of years ago Steve, a wise co-worker and friend, took me aside and laid down some tough love on yours truly. Said tough love consisted of explaining, in no uncertain terms, that I complain entirely too much and that despite how funny and entertaining I thought my complaints were after I surrounded them with well thought quips and one liners…no one…ab-so-lute-ly NO one wanted to hear them. He went on, mercilessly explaining that perhaps my frustrations at work just might have something to do with my perpetual litany of complaint and griping. Miserable griping begets misery? Who’da thunk it?

“Dude, you call one of our bosses “Darth Vader”, Steve chided. He often prefaced his “You-Need-To-Listen” statements with “Dude”. I listened and said a few “Yeah, but”s. Yet, as far as he was concerned, this was not open to debate. I left our little pow wow angry and muttering, which is ironic as the whole conversation seemed to be about my anger and mutterings.

As I calmed down, despite the “Dude” preface, I began to see the wisdom in his words. I did complain entirely too much. Maybe my complaints weren’t quite as hilarious and entertaining as I thought they were. While discussing my employer’s rather unfair and unfriendly treatment of me, he brought up another point. “You think all that shit you say doesn’t get back to them? Dude, they’re not stupid.” This too was true. There were two bosses. One, a cheap, miserable, black, gay man who had issues with being black, issues with being gay and issues with being a man. He didn’t seem to mind being cheap and miserable, so he had that going for him…which was nice. He was just smart and educated enough to realize how limited his intelligence actually was. Or maybe not. Isn’t it maddening how stupid people never seem to understand how dense they are??? My other boss was a cheap, drug addicted, megalomaniacal, narcissistic prince of a man who actually typed “New York Real Estate Guru” beneath his smug photo on Facebook. Yeah Mr. Trump, last time I checked owning 3 small buildings doesn’t catapult you into the guru gang. You’re Mr. Roper. OK?

But Steve was right, neither of them were entirely stupid….not even the stupid one. In fact, the guy wearing the “I’m

I think mine is the second one down, on the left.

With Stupid” t-shirt should probably be flanking their angry little employee who wasn’t getting ahead and couldn’t figure out why. I realized that other friends and co-workers had tried to tell me to reel it in, and I had been too busy trying to think up clever insults to pay any heed. When I said “Hi” to my boss and he walked by ignoring me, I chalked it up to his being a Supreme Douchebag. What did I expect? One of his employees spent an inordinate amount of time running him down behind his back every chance he got. Sure, he was and is a Supreme Douchebag…but I certainly couldn’t expect a hug and a raise for my behavior. After years of therapy, one of the nuggets I came away with was “You can’t control how others behave, you can only control how YOU behave.” Therapy Wisdom Nuggets are VERY expensive by the way. One doesn’t saunter into Dr Jungenfreud’s office and get a 6 piece.

I turned it around. I even took some of my co-workers aside and apologized to them for my constant griping. They were taken aback, but I think and hope they appreciated it. From then on I shut my trap. My bosses were cheap ingrates, but they were still my bosses and at the end of the day, it was their place and they could do whatever they wanted. I learned to shrug my shoulders and say “Well, what can you do?” and “I don’t agree with it, but it’s their place and they can do what they want.” My bosses never noticed the change, but my co-workers did. About a year later “The Guru” and I had an exchange and I left after an F-bomb or three. I had a tough time finding a new job for the next year and a half. In retrospect it isn’t how I wanted to leave my job of 17 years. However, I’m not so arrogant as to dismiss my role in the demise of our working relationship. So it goes.

Scary combo in a few ways.

I’m now at a new job which I like and am very grateful for. My new employers say things like “Thank You.” and “That’s a good idea.” which was something I never heard at my previous job. It’s not perfect, but once again without the aid of dear old Steve I am taking a look at myself when it comes to my not getting ahead. Now I no longer go on and on with a litany of complaint. I preface my statements with how much I like my job. My newest revelation of self-discovery is that I go through life thinking up and rehearsing clever remarks in regards to the aspects of my job that somehow, all too often emerge from my mouth. Another thing that keeps me from getting ahead is my temper who is the Cisco to my big mouth’s Pancho. I am 42 now and my brain still hasn’t developed much in the way of editing software. Here’s the routine. A customer acts like an asshole. I say something or roll my eyes, I get in trouble and stew over the injustice of it all. Sure I’m not in the wrong…but I’m not winning or getting ahead. Once again, it is time to learn to shut my mouth.

As I biked to work, I started to think of this new philosophy. Now, God has a warped sense of humor. He has made both Sarah Palin and Paris Hilton’s dog best selling authors while I get rejection form letters from MAD and Cracked magazines. He was listening intently to my inner dialogue and decided to have a little fun. He warmed things up by sending 7 high school kids in to be my first customers of the day. I knew they were going to suck. My spidey sense told me so. They all ordered water, which I have a rather unreasonably strong aversion to. The way I see it, fetching water for people is more work, with no money. I tried to have a good attitude and to be friendly with them. It was a no-go. They were horrible teenagers and I was a dorky middle aged guy trying to be cool (God when did this happen to me? I used to be cool.) One of them even made fun of me. I think. He made some remark that I didn’t quite catch and his girlfriend started giggling. Their bill (with the water) came to $90 and they left me a $4 tip. Well, fuck you with a chainsaw, you seven reminders of my poor life choices. It’s funny how we know something is going to happen, and yet we still get angry about it when it does. “I knew you were going to say/do that!” ex-girlfriends have said to me prior to a fight. “Well, if you were expecting it, then why are you surprised and angry?” I’d answer. Is it any wonder I’m single? It’s just a weird nuance of humanity. We know something is going to suck, yet despite our accurate forecast, we still get angry and frustrated. Shouldn’t we bask in satisfaction of our pre-knowledge of the impending suckitude? Nope. That’s not how it works. We’re going to dread going to the DMV, we’re going to wait in line for 3 hours only to be informed by the inevitable, apathetic GED wielding Sheniqua or Mabel that we’ve been in the wrong line…”NEXT!!!”.

“Hey, Ashley. I just tipped the old dude like, less than 5%”
“Oh, Brandon. You rock so hard.”

I think the Teen Torture Power Hour at work was a bit of karmic backlash from my youth. Every pay day my friend Josh and I would cash the paychecks from our dish washing and prep cook jobs when we were 15 and 16 and trot on down to Friendly’s restaurant in our home town to look for trainee waitresses to torment. The hunting was made easier because the poor girls had to wear a tag that read “Trainee” where it would normally say “Alice” or “Flo” We’d order like wise asses “Hey Trainee, can I have a heavy breathing Spanish omelet and hold the side effects” or “I see you have something on your menu called the “Friendly Frank” sounds a bit like a child molester doesn’t it?” Then we’d write something crude and juvenile on the check after paying. “Care to join us after for a warm cheese enema?” or “Ever dip you nipples in the hot fudge for your boyfriend? The difference is we tipped well. We worked in the industry and understood these things.

In addition to their contempt and sub 5% tip (Oh, I forgot to mention prior to the lousy tip, two of them had asked for change of a fifty dollar bill. Injury is just so much more satisfying with a healthy dose of insult heaped upon it) one of the kids had inquired about renting our upstairs function room for a birthday party. I knew my boss would ask me to work that party. An afternoon of fetching sodas for My-Super-Sweet-Sixteen rejects as they ridiculed the middle aged angry man behind the bar. They’d ask for alcoholic drinks and make stupid jokes while I’d have to refuse, pick up after them and hold my tongue. One of my grievances at work is the quality of private parties I end up working. If two parties are scheduled for the week…one is a bachelor party of generous, hard drinking, fun guys with special guest stars the Swedish Olympic Blow Job Team and a one time original line up Guns-N-Roses reunion and the other is an AA meeting for those over the age of 70 who have coupons…I will end up tending bar at the latter.

I know God was messing with me, but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of one of my patented mushroom cloud meltdowns of sarcasm and remarks. I noted that I was already thinking of remarks. This is how I am wired and where I need the most rewiring. I wrote about it to a small degree in another piece awhile back called “The Douchebag Option“. I didn’t say word one. I pasted a smile on my face and shut my yap. I resisted the urge to inform my boss, who had just given the youngsters a grand tour of our function room for the impending birthday on October 3rd, that I won’t be available that day as I’d be doing something infinitely more satisfying like giving myself paper cuts on my tongue and gargling with tobacco sauce.

It’s a small victory…very small…but at least I am trying.

The Wonderful World of Words

Posted: March 1, 2012 by S. Trevor Swenson in General, Me & Mine
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

“Words, Words, Words” – Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’

“I love words. I want to thank you for hearing my words. Words are all we have really. We have thoughts, but thoughts are fluid, so we assign a word to that thought and then we’re stuck with that word for that thought” – George Carlin, ‘The seven words you can’t say on television’

I love words too. I like the sound of many of them, and their power. I use words to make others laugh. I am fascinated at how words evolve. They can become popular, lose popularity and then regain favor. New words are created all the time. I have favorite words, and those that I try to fit in when and wherever possible. We take words for granted. I swear less and less these days, but I still remember the delight of uttering and writing no-no words during my childhood.I asked a friend today to help me think of words I use frequently, but it didn’t work out very well. They came up with a laundry list of words they liked. I suppose I am on my own to think of the words I try to use whenever possible. At the moment I can only think of three off the top of my head, but I’d be willing to bet that I think of a couple more during the various rewrites of this piece. In fact, while typing that sentence I thought of a couple. Here are the original three before I get too far ahead of myself.

Facetious – Here’s the dictionary definition.

fa·ce·tious
     adjective
1. not meant to be taken seriously or literally: a facetious remark.
2. amusing; humorous.
3. lacking serious intent; concerned with something nonessential, amusing, or frivolous: a facetious person.


I first fell in love with facetious when my former employer would misuse it. Perhaps misuse is the incorrect term. He used it correctly, but he was lying as he did so. Let me explain. My former employer is one of those award winning turds who never sees anything wrong with their behavior and sees apologizing as something that only the weak partake in. He would routinely fly off the handle at me or various co-workers. His meltdowns were unnecessarily harsh and cruel and he was smart enough to realize it soon after. However, rather than apologizing, he’d say “I was being facetious.” when he got called on his crap. He was not being facetious. He was being a raging nutbar flying off the handle with an inability to apologize or to admit he was wrong. So, he’d dismiss his uncalled for, and harsh meltdown with a $10 word. Interesting that he had to be just a little smug in addition to denying the offended party the apology they deserved (i.e. me. I seemed to care much less when he flipped out on my co-workers because I’m kind of a selfish prick like that). I liked the sound of facetious and after being screamed at by him for minor infractions a few times, only to be told he was being “facetious” I had to go home and look it up. It is interesting to note that I have had to look up most of my favorite words. When I was young and I’d ask my mother how to spell a word or it’s definition, she’d tell me to “look it up”. I hated that. I especially hated that when I didn’t know the spelling! “OK, how do you spell it?” My 7 year old logic was often lost on my mother…this is OK as my 41 year old’s logic is also often lost on my mother. Now I like looking up words. The classical conditioning of my youth has backfired on my mother. I now run for the big book when she and I are having an argument on semantics, and I read the definition out in obnoxiously pompous voiced dictionary speak. My moms will inevitably point out that her definition was there also. “Yeah, but it’s number two.”  I will say gloating. She will stare at me for a moment with her patented  “I really should have hit you more as a child” expression before moving on to our next argument.

Facetious was a great word for me, as I have found myself on more than a dozen occasions having to explain or defend my comedy to people who have taken issue with it. I am being facetious. I am not to be taken seriously. I thought that I was generally over the top enough that it would be obvious, but apparently I am not all the time. I struggled with this issue.

On one hand I am too hypersensitive myself to justifiably get angry with people who take offense at something harsh I have written. I am perhaps the most easily slighted person in North America. I’ll sulk for months if I don’t get an

Sadly, sometimes it's actually necessary to point out the obvious.

Sadly, sometimes it's actually necessary to point out the obvious.

enthusiastic enough “excuse me” or “good morning” from someone. I am the poster child for being able to dish it out,but not being able to take it. So, I had a long hard inner debate. I finally decided that I am not a mean spirited person. I don’t wish ill on many people. My defense mechanism is humor, and sure, sometimes I take it too far, and when that happens, I feel bad and will apologize. But as far as defense mechanisms go, I’ll take humor over bell tower shooting sprees any time. People I admire and have tried to emulate in style were and are often harsh, while making us laugh. So, I am going to write like the perpetually angry little man that I am, and if a few people take it the wrong way, well…that’s too bad. If they want an explanation, I’ll give it to them. So if you don’t find grumpy observations on how irritating screaming babies in public are, or my poking fun at old people to be chucklicious, then don’t read my writing. I’m here for laughs. I’m not mean spirited. I don’t go to hospital burn wards and had out cigars, I don’t make homeless beggars name the best costume nominees for the 2006 Tony awards with the promise of a quarter, I’m being facetious. I should be taken as seriously as a five year old boy who writes “Ca-Ca” in brown crayon on a wall…I’m probably about as funny too.

Another favorite word…Pedantic. Again here is the definition.

pe·dan·tic
      adjective
1. ostentatious in one’s learning.
2. overly concerned with minute details or formalisms, especially in teaching.

This was another one I had to look up. There is a short story behind this and I have to thank my former professor Louie. It was day one of a new class and I had to go to the bathroom…badly. Come to think of it, I wasn’t having an intestinal rumbling or a bladder red alert; I was having a panic attack. Now, panic attacks hit the “fight or flight” section of the brain like a ton of lead. Since there was no one appropriate nearby to fight, I was choosing the flight option. I suppose I could have punched the little 18 year old girl next to me, and then scream “She started it!” which worked about half the time in first grade. After careful consideration, I decided this wouldn’t go over so well, and who knows…maybe the 96 lb girl next to me was packing pepper spray and had been taking kick boxing lessons. Yes, it had to be flight.

Could have done without the trip back in time, thanks.

Could have done without the trip back in time, thanks.

As I said, it was the first day of class, and the fussy little queen of a teacher was waiting for the rest of the class to arrive. It was now 10 minutes after class had begun. I said to him “Please mark me ‘present’, I just need to dash to the bathroom”. I didn’t add that I’d be in a stall hyperventilating until the panic attack wore off to a manageable level. He actually refused to let me go. I was reconsidering the “fight” option once again, except I have found that kneeing a professor in the crotch followed by a left hook isn’t so conducive to making the Dean’s List. So I sat down fuming. I am 41 years old. I haven’t been asking to go potty for over 6 months now. I was on time for class, and yet being denied because of the people who couldn’t bother being on time on day ONE??? I instantly disliked this man, but I acted like a well adjusted adult, sat back down and spent that first day in class drawing Sherman tanks firing upon Professor Rodriguez’s house instead of taking notes. I showed these artistic expressions to the young girl next to me, and she rolled her eyes. Maybe I should kick her ass.

I went home after class and wrote to a professor I liked; the aforementioned Louie. I wanted him to confirm that I was indeed a stellar student and that this professor was a big meany, and maybe to see if Louie would forge a doctors note explaining that I have severe Generalized Anxiety Disorder coupled with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and that my bathroom forays should not be impeded. (See, I love big fancy words.) Louie just chuckled and explained that “some teachers are just a trifle pedantic”. I agreed wholeheartedly with Lou and then I looked up the word, not wanting to appear stupid. Yes, Louie had hit the nail on the head. Professor Potty-Block was most certainly pedantic. I dropped his class after a week, and now make it a point of honor to visit the bathroom twice during every class I have had since.

Pedantic is slightly similar to another word I love but didn’t have to look up. “Officious”. Officiousness and pedantry are wonderful qualities for ridicule, and ridicule is a major hobby of mine.

Rounding out the big three is Smug

smug
[smuhg]
      adjective, smug=ger, smug-gest.
1. contentedly confident of one’s ability, superiority, or correctness; complacent.
2. trim; spruce; smooth; sleek.

I am not thrilled by these definitions. I also feel it can be used contextually in other manners. One example of this is a bagel shop in my neighborhood that is always hiring. They have a sign out front advertising the available position or positions and it states that they are seeking a hardworking, experienced person with total availability, willing to work weekends, nights, holidays etc. The sign goes on and on about what they expect, and the only thing they offer is a “competitive salary” which is American business slang for minimum wage with rigidly timed 10 minute breaks…in other words, you’re going to hate the company, get screwed front, right and center and you better smile about it. To me, that is smug.

Smug is another favorite word because it is a wonderful quality or condition to ridicule or to gripe about. I might add a third definition to “smug”

3. Possessing testicles that require a forklift to move.

I think it’s a great definition, but Dictionary.com has asked me politely to stop sending them suggestions.

Smug reminds me of the Yiddish word Chutzpah even though they are not interchangeable. Chutzpah has more to do with audacity. Yiddish is a wonderful dialect. It is a rare mixture of Germanic and Hebrew so the words don’t always roll off the tongue. I also feel a little awkward using Yiddish as it makes people think I’m Jewish. I have spoken with many of my Jewish friends and they too feel awkward using Yiddish for the very same reason.

The beauty of Yiddish is that it has very specific expressions for types of people, qualities of the human condition and things that should have a single English word assigned to them, but do not. It’s an incredibly clever language. There are so many English words that originated in Yiddish that I adore.

Drek or Dreck is a wonderful expression that I mean to use, but often forget in lieu of dook, dookie, boom boom, crap, shit, and poo.

A more pleasant blast from the past

A more pleasant blast from the past

Schlemiel and Schlimazel : The polite standard definition of these are “A schlemiel is a person who spills soup at a dinner party, and a schlimazel is the one he spilled it on”. My favorite definition comes from Louie DePalma in the hit TV show Taxi . He was calling Alex Rieger a schlimazel. “You know the difference between a schlemiel and a schlamazel Rieger? A schlemiel comes home early from work to find his wife in bed with his boss…a schlamazel gets fired for leaving work early.”

Compared to Yiddish; English is a decidedly boring language…this is why potty-mouth idiot savant Rain Men like myself make others laugh.

Urban Dictionary has become another favorite website of mine. Whenever I am feeling blue, I just scan through the various words and terms and within 45 seconds I will be rolling with laughter. I’m just not crazy about the term “Urban Dictionary”…somewhere along the way, the Political Correctness Gestapo made “Urban” synonymous with poor black inner city people. Black people have had some amazing contributions to language, but “Urban” is simply inaccurate in pigeon holing black people and the Dictionary. The best part of UD is that after every word there is an advertisement for coffee mugs, t-shirts and other merchandise with that word on it. I love that I live in an age and in a country where with the click of a button I can order 3 dozen t-shirts and coffee mugs of varying colors that say “Feltch” or “Twat” on them. They make great gifts for those difficult to buy for folks on your Christmas list.

More on this subject as it is too broad to be covered in one entry.

Just Thinkin'

Just Thinkin'

Something about the supermarket, bus stations, the subway, doctor’s waiting rooms, the gym and the laundromat gets my creative juices flowing. Perhaps it is taking part in something with the general public. I am back from a stop at the supermarket and lo and behold I am now inspired. I got to thinking about way back when, before cell phones when it was socially acceptable, in the event of a pressing matter or emergency to ask a person on a pay phone politely “Are you going to be long?” It was a way to test the waters, or to nudge someone along, without being rude. I suppose “Are you going to be long” is still used in some social situations. People say it at the gym.  “Can I work through?” they say when someone is resting between sets, yet occupying one of the coveted workout benches. I never ask if I can work through. I just make several dozen impatient glances at the person I am waiting for. How dare they use the bench I wanted to use at that moment? Actually, I am reasonably patient with people working out. It’s the people who sit on the benches and text message, that I fantasize about braining with one of the 25 lb dumbbells and immediately after taking a bow to the thunderous applause of the rest of the room.

I guess it isn’t appropriate to ask someone in or entering a bathroom if they’re going to be long, although I seem to remember people asking if they can go before me when they feel there might be an impending accident. It is leaps and bounds more socially acceptable for a person to ask if they can go first when it’s “#1”, than when it’s “#2”.  Numero Dos is almost always a tricky situation. I am close to and fond of my current roommate, but even I; Mr Potty Humor would feel awkward telling her “You better go first.” if I had to lay some cable. Leaving a bathroom after a particularly noxious boom- boom when someone is waiting to use it after you is never an easy situation and almost always lacking in couth.  It’s interesting to note that my cat Chong often has intestinal callings when I am on the throne reading a book and Lamaze breathing…but Chong and I share a special level of closeness and familiarity. His sandbox is 2 feet in front of my toilet.  Maybe our crapping together is some kind of feline bonding ritual that I have been lucky enough to be invited to. But I digress . . .

Nothing to worry about here, I'm not a patient man.

Nothing to worry about here, I'm not a patient man.

Back to the supermarket and the consistent source of inspiration it is to me…I got the idea while scouting a check out line to join. I must say, I have the world’s worst instincts in these matters. I know better, but I guess I am a hopeless romantic. I always think that this time, the little old lady with the four items won’t take more than 45 minutes in line, and I step in behind her, hopeful, wide eyed and moments away from inevitable disappointment. You’d think I would have learned by now, but apparently I have not.  Wouldn’t things be better if it were socially acceptable to ask the person in line in front of you; “Pardon me, but are you going to be an absolutely oblivious and clueless pain in the ass?” Then the little old woman, mother of 6, or whatever room temp IQ person would turn and say “Oh yes, I’m going to be a tremendous  pain in the ass. I plan to argue with the cashier about the price of every other item. I have coupons here in my purse, but I’m not sure where in my purse and at least half of them have expired. I am going to wait until the cashier has scanned every item prior to snapping out of my stupor and paying for my purchase…via check. I will have to ask the date and who do I make the check out to, because surely it can’t be the same entity I made last weeks check out to. For a finale, I will stand back as the cashier bags my groceries, because God forbid I should help or do it myself. Then I will take another 20 minutes to pick the bags up and move along. Sometimes to keep things fresh I leave the line and go looking for something I forgot, giving you the chance to share looks of disgust with the cashier.”

After that onslaught of painfully refreshing honesty, I’d thank them kindly and find another line to get into. In my careful research over the years, I have determined that a thoughtful, intelligent person with many items to check out takes the same amount of time as a clueless person or annoying old lady with only a few items. Maybe I get in these lines out of some subconscious need to be annoyed which, would speak volumes as to what a poorly adjusted little man I am.

This kind of blunt yet time saving honesty could be used in many different contexts. Of course I instantly thought of my own job, waiting tables. As I do so a smile is creeping across my bitterness lined face and I think of a party of eight coming in to my restaurant…

Me: “Hi folks, are you here for dinner?”

Dad: “Yes.”

Me: (gathering menus) “How many?”

Dad and Mom: (in unison) “Eight.”

Me: “Eight…ok, if you’ll just follow me..”  I lead the large party toward the dining room before I turn and say.  “Oh I’m sorry, I forgot to ask…do you people suck?  I see you’ve brought an infant in with you, so I’m inclined to think that you do, but I just wanted to make sure.”

Dad: “Oh goodness yes. We suck tremendously.”

Mom: (nodding) “Yes,  you will need to get drunk tonight after dealing with us. We’re a nightmare. First the baby is going to scream throughout the meal. We’re used to it, but other good customers will get up and leave.”

Small Child. Age 4: “I’m going to run around and get underfoot, I will also knock things over which neither me nor my parents will pick up.”

Young Teen Girl:  “I’m going to be a spoiled little princess brat with a lousy attitude. I will make disgusted faces at every dish you bring and I will be text messaging throughout the meal, ignoring you when you ask if you can take my plate or if I’d like another soda.”

Grandmother: “I’m going to complain about the temperature.”

Grandfather: “I’m going to complain about the prices.”

Mother: “I’m going to be staring at the menu 5 minutes after everyone else has ordered, I will ask you questions that I could find the answers to by looking at the menu…oh, and I’d like my water refilled 9 times.”

Uncle: “I’m an inappropriate and mean drunk. I will be making bad jokes throughout dinner and repeat them until you’ll have to placate me with your well practiced waiters fake laugh.”Baby: Screeches.  My nose begins to bleed.

Dad: “Oh, and I never leave more than a $5 tip regardless of the cost of the meal.”

Older Teen Daughter: “I’m going to mumble my order and not touch my food.”Baby: Screeches louder just in case someone 10 blocks away might have missed the first screech. Mom smiles. Mothers are the only creatures in the universe who can tolerate the glass shattering screeching of babies.

Grandfather: “My daughter has been known to write lengthy emails of complaint, filled with lies and warped exaggerations to the owner that will get you in trouble.”

Mother: (nodding) “So don’t forget to keep that water glass full sonny boy.”

Grandmother: “It’s cold.”

Uncle: “Can I get a Jack and Coke…easy on the coke…haha…didja hear me? I said easy on the coke…get it, easy on the coke…Regardless I will complain about the amount of alcohol in every drink.”

Grandmother: “Why is it so cold?”

Me: “OK folks, right this way, let me get the new server for you.  They need to be initiated in a trial by fire.

If only…

Bad Writing Habits

Posted: February 1, 2012 by S. Trevor Swenson in General, Me & Mine
Tags: , , , , , ,

I have terrible habits as a writer. Oh, I know all the things I’m supposed to do. I just never do them. It’s a pity, as I seem to excel with bad or self destructive habits. The drinking? Going strong since 1984. Smoking? I took that up for a New Years resolution the very next year. I routinely read what good writers are supposed to do. What I read makes perfect sense, and I intend to do it, I just seldom follow through.

One thing that I keep meaning to do, but I have difficulty remembering is to carry a notepad with me and write down the ideas that pop into my mind. In class this isn’t such a problem as I have paper and pens in front of me and rather than concentrating on what I am paying the teacher to lecture me on, I write cute and clever anecdotes about Irritable Bowel Syndrome or UFO/Alien Abduction. I learned quickly and sadly that classes that involve facts, formulas, procedures, science and math are usually the classes I need to be paying close attention to. I can literally hear my mother’s voice “Maybe if you spent more time paying attention and taking notes and less time writing your little novellas about poop and drinking, you wouldn’t be failing algebra, biology, medical dosages, chemistry.” (Sadly, this list of subjects goes on and on.) Like many mothers, my moms disapproves of a great many things that I do. The truly irritating thing is, that she’s frequently right.

Certain places are conducive to good comedy writing, but I am often too wrapped up in the negativity of the experience to take good notes. I remember what I can and sometimes the pieces come out strong…sometimes not so much. Doctors waiting rooms are generally good, as are buses and trains. Grocery stores and laundromats run a close second. I’ve never taken notes in a bank as I feel “watched”. I don’t need some over zealous cop sticking a gun in my face after suspecting me of writing a lengthy, 250 word stick up note/essay. I had an excited police officers gun in my face just a couple months ago and the experience was surprisingly not the roller coaster of thrills, chills and spills that I’d hoped it would be. An armed robbery suspect had run into my building, and the Blue Meanies burst into my apartment with guns drawn looking for him. I didn’t even have a clever remark to make like they do in the movies. I merely obeyed the officers instructions and after he took the 9mm out of my face and left, I calmly changed my underwear and made some Tension Tamer herbal tea.

Sometimes I think of the same funny concept over and over during specific moments or in specific places, but then I forget to write it down. Recently for example, every time I use the bathroom at work and have to wash my hands afterwards (like the little sign says) I have been thinking about where I read someplace that a person should sing an entire version of “Happy Birthday to You” while washing their hands to insure that you have washed long enough. I got to thinking that perhaps people sing too quickly. Like how we counted for hide-and-go-seek as children before adding the “Mississippi clause” to the rules. One had to count “One Mississippi…Two Mississippi, etc”. Of course the kids who had little regard for fair play quickly turned Mississippi into a one syllable word, so we’d have to hide more quickly. I came up with the Sinatra/Lounge Lizard version of “Happy Birthday to You” to be quite certain that I was killing all the nasty germs after my urinal experience. I don’t just blurt through Happy Birthday, dry my hands and go. I take a few minutes of scrubbing like a surgeon while working the imaginary supper club where I am crooning. “Hey everybody, how are y’all tonight? You’re a great looking crowd….I’m a little late tonight to the Porcelain Lounge because I had some crazy woman wake me up late last night. At 3 in the morning there was a pounding on my hotel room door, pounding, pounding, pounding, and this was at 3am. Finally, I had to let her out . Ha ha! But seriously folks, you are a gorgeous crowd. Anyone celebrating a birthday or anniversary out there tonight? Yes, you sweetheart? How old are ya honey? 67? Oh, God bless ya. Let’s give this young lady a round of applause, huh folks? This first number is just for you, sweety….”Happy Birth-day….to yo-o-o-u doobie doobie doo. Thank you folks, thank you…Happy Birthday tooooo  you-ou-ouou….Happy BIRTH-day dear….what’s your name, honey? Dear Marie-eee…..Happy Birthday…to-o-o-o-o. you…let’s hear it for Marie on her special day. Thanks, folks and don’t forget to take care of your waiters or waitresses tonight…You’re beautiful…no really…Thank You….”

By the time I’m done my hands are quite sterile, and on the rare occasion where I lose myself in the day dream, and sing out loud, some poor fellow waiting to drop a deuce will pound on the bathroom door screaming, “Uh, hey Ole Blue-Eyes,  You coming out this week, or you gonna sing “Summer Winds” next?”

I should probably invest in one of those mini tape recorders and speak into it when oh-so-clever ideas pop into my head.   “Idea for a sitcom….two paralyzed hospital patients have to share a room and one is a black democrat, the other is a white racist republican…hilarity ensues…possible name “Bedpan Alley”.

The problem with that is that I hate the sound of my own voice and it makes me cringe while robbing me of any and all creativity when I hear it played back. The other reason is on the rare occasion I witness people who speak into those little things, I think they should be arrested and sentenced to hard labor for gross and willful pretension.

I really need to find a way to get into some better habits as a writer.

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.
 

No, no, no. Minor, not miner . . . oh, forget it!

I’m trying. I am really trying to be positive, upbeat, productive and to get and keep my life on track. Of course, in life there are roadblocks.  I wish there weren’t.  Scratch that.  I wish there weren’t so many roadblocks on our journey. No roadblocks in life makes for a boring existence. We need the assholes to appreciate the good guys.  Lately I have been encountering more than my fair share of malarkey from people who I have poor chemistry with. There are a couple of  people at work who took an irrational and snotty disliking to me.  I wish I knew why.  Somehow it annoys me more when someone dislikes me for seemingly no reason.  Before you say “You’re being too sensitive”.  Yes, you’re probably right. The co-workers in question routinely come into work, smile, hug and kiss my other co-workers and don’t say a word to me.  if I’d had a heated argument with them I’d understand, but we’ve barely exchanged 10 words.  I haven’t given them nasty looks or attitude. I don’t leave work behind for them. I’m nice. I smile. I say “hi”. I ask how they’re doing. (I don’t care, but I ask.)  Last time I checked it wasn’t socially acceptable to grab people of this sort by the collar and scream “What’s your goddamn problem with me, huh?”  It’s frustrating to say the least.
 
I’m 41 years old and still trying to figure this type of thing out. People sometimes fantasize about going back in time and doing things differently (i.e. better) in life given the wisdom they hopefully possess now.  For me, maybe Jr. High wouldn’t have been the 2 year nightmare it was, filled with all of my insecurities and uncertainties. Sure, I still would have been shorter than most of the girls in my class, but I would have been more well adjusted about it. There are so many things I would have said and done. I’d have gotten better grades. I’d probably still have been a wise ass. I once got slammed into a row of lockers for asking a crusty old science teacher “Hey Mr Conz, how big is Uranus?”  I wasn’t so funny back then, but it was a good warm up for the legendary wit that I eventually grew into.
 

I know, George . . . it's hard to believe, but it's true.

 
Today I got a C in my American Film class. 76% on a paper. Essentially, this is the first grade equivalent of a red or green star sticker on your spelling test instead of the coveted silver or gold. It is taking the bronze in the Special Olympics, Ms Congeniality. The assignment was to write a “critique and review” about a film we had seen in class.  It was a silent film that held about as much interest for me as the latest Fast and Furious atrocity.  I understood why it was an important film.  If the CP signal lit up the skies over Gotham, I would have thrown on my tweed jacket, grabbed my pipe and transformed into one of my many alter egos; Captain Pretentious and dazzled boring people at a film discussion party. I could have held a solid conversation about the film, and had all the correct observations. Suffice to say I got it. I didn’t like it, but I got it. 
 
 
My teacher wrote all over my paper in her illegible scrawl. How is it that a person gets to teach at a college level when their handwriting resembles that of a low IQ 8 year old writing with their feet?  Apparently there was no thesis in my piece. She punctuated this point in the most annoying way possible by underlining various lines throughout the paper and scribbling “Is this your thesis? Yeah, yeah Mrs. Orsen Spielberg. I get it, OK? 
 
To be fair to her, yes a paper requires a thesis.  To be fair to me (who is generally the person I am more interested in being fair to) her assignment said “write a review and critique.”  If I read a review of a CD, movie, book, painting, or restaurant, I don’t generally see a thesis in it. 

"In the cut throat world of corporate death food, KFC stands alone and I intend to prove this with the following criteria...."

No, the reviews I have read and written tend to be composed of a synopsis/overall view, the strengths, the weaknesses, comparisons and a final analysis. I covered all these bases. The assignment called for 5-7 pages. I wrote 9. I explained and pointed out the various innovations of the film and why they were important.  I expounded on the strong and weak points of the film with various examples. I made relevant comparisons to other films both well and lesser known. I turned in a paper every bit as good as the 8 or 9 that I’ve purchased in the past!

 
Being a tremendously well adjusted and mature adult, I am now starting to think that my teacher, Mrs. Cecil B. Douchebag, and I don’t have good chemistry. I think she dislikes me, and I have come to the conclusion that I feel the same way about her.  I think she is accustomed to younger students she can more easily impress with her extensive film knowledge. I am not one of these type of students  I happen to know a fair amount about film myself.  I enjoy reading about films, viewing them, analyzing, writing about and discussing them.

She once stopped me after class to ask that I take a seat near the door so I wont interrupt the films that she shows during class. I had gotten up a whopping 2 times that day during the four and a half hour class to leave the room. The fact of the matter is that the only person disturbed by this was her. I don’t think 2 breaks in that span of time is excessive. I got up quietly and slinked out of the room. To listen to her, you’d have thought I prefaced my exit with noisy and unnecessary laps around the classroom making ‘choo choo’ and other Tourettes like sounds. She also admitted that her son and husband wont go to movies with her anymore as she embarrasses them with her cinema-nazi behavior. (I thought I was bad, hissing at my poor mother to “shut the fuck up” when she asks me questions during movies.)  I’m 41 Professor Loews. I stopped asking to go potty well over 2 years ago.

 
I am, for the most part, an A student.  My GPA is 3.87 which means all A’s save for one B- and two A-‘s.  I have never gotten a C in any of my classes.  At least the ones I didn’t withdraw from in a snit of algebraic frustration. 
 
After getting my paper back, I stuffed it angrily into my back pack and sulked and sneered at her while,   throwing my cough drop wrappers on her desk until she handed out our second “open book test”. I finished the test before anyone else, furiously scribbling the various multiple guess answers on my exam and then tossed it in front of her with an exaggerated ‘choke on this bitch” gesture and stomped out of the room. I was too angry and disgusted to be a good little student today.  Back in Jr. High I used to draw the teachers I disliked being lynched, or buried up to their necks and urinated on by the offensive line of the Denver Broncos. Some of these art therapy pieces were found and I had to go to the school counselor. I was just a misunderstood 14 year old artist with anger issues. Geeeez.
http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Childrens-Drawings-Malchiodi-ATR-BC/dp/1572303727

No one ever pays attention until it's too late. ("The Ring", "The Sixth Sense", "Cocoon")

 
I did not return for the second part of class, so she will mark me absent for that. My school has a kindergartenesque attendance policy and if you have too many absences you can fail or get a lower grade regardless of your academic performance. Dr. Francis Ford Cuntilla will not, under any circumstances excuse any student from any class for any reason. Just so we’re clear, If a student misses more than 4 classes or 16 hours, they fail. Got in a car accident?  Your mother died?  Food Poisoning? Meteor hit your house? Stormed out rather than beating the teacher half to death with a 9 page review and critique? Tough titty friends and neighbors.  You fail.
 
So now what do I do?  I can’t drop the class, so I have to try and salvage what I can out of this woman’s chamber of cinematic torture. Friends with cooler heads have suggested I go back and explain nicely that I misunderstood the assignment and ask if I can do it over, which is a good idea I suppose with the exception of having to speak to Professor Siskel Von Ebert.  Given her truly zen stance on absenteeism I suspect that I will only become more angry and frustrated after the encounter. I’ve noticed that there is a type of teacher who delight in their rigid stances, like it is some virtuous form of academic tough love.
 
Maybe I should just accept the inevitable C from this woman and torment her in and out of class. I once drove a teacher in high school to muscle relaxant addiction. Maybe I should start handing in lengthy extra credit pieces about the cinematic brilliance of Vin Diesel, or the Post-Expressionist motifs in the Clint Eastwood “Any Which Way…” film series and how the orangutan co-star was an analogy for the futility of modern man. I could raise my hand and demand or beg her to read them to the class. The next time she scribbles all over one of my assignments, I will go up to her and ask “Professor, what is this word?”  After she tells me, I will go back to my desk and then return to ask again, “How about this word?”  Repeat until she is visibly flustered.
 
http://www.metro.co.uk/weird/769726-word-meep-banned-from-us-school

Brilliant Story! Click me!

Maybe I will do better as a nuisance than a student in this particular class.  If she hates any type of interruption during the screening of the precious films she shows…I could bring in noisy snack pack bags of potato chips for the whole class. Those new biodegradable bags make a sound like fingernails down a chalkboard. I know it would be blasphemy to my fellow cinephiles, but belching or farting during Citizen Kane would really get her goat.