Sunday, January 26, 2014

Straws and Toothpicks

Recent conversation at a local dining establishment:

Server: Here are your drinks, ladies. And I’ll just leave yous some extra straws.

Diner 1: We don’t want any straws. We are perfectly capable of drinking out of beverage glasses without straws. Additionally, “yous” isn't a word, and one never starts nor ends a sentence with a conjunction!

Server: It’s company policy that we leave more straws every time we fill or refill a beverage order. That was one of the rules I was told when I got hired last week.

Diner 2: How wasteful and environmentally damaging is that! I know of no normal person above the age of 2 or 3 who can’t drink reasonably neatly from a cup or glass without a straw.

Diner 3: Now all restaurants are trying to revert us back to arrested development behavior patterns by mandating we adopt immature or restricted independent life choices when it comes to meals- straws, pre-selecting which side dishes we must consume with an entree, “package” choices from a limited meal-deal menu.

Diner 4: It is a human developmental milestone when children learn how to drink without a sucking aid, including bottles, sippy cups, and the like. Look here-they are even placing those cellophane wrapped toothpicks in shot glasses on every table, too. Shot glasses are barroom impedimenta, and no one should be attending to dental detritus in public.

Server: I recognize yous wimmin now. You’re the Hot Tea with Honey Ladies. No wonder everybody was laughing when they assigned me your table. Just because I’m new here, trying to earn money to pay for college… *Sniff*

Diner 1: Now dear, don’t cry. I believe we can help. I know we are your last table of the day. Why don’t you clock out now instead, and then come join us for a nice cup of tea. Don’t worry- we brought our own honey.

Diner 2: Could you please bring along a plethora of extra straws, and a few thousand more toothpicks, too?

Several months later at a very different local dining establishment:

Ex Server 1: Ladies- The satellite television trucks are awaiting you outside, and the Grand Opening line goes around the block twice. We also just received a call from 60 Minutes.

Ex Server 2 (friend of Ex Server 1): Ladies, all of us again want to thank you for your compassion, understanding and creative plan to allow us to attend college and work. By the way, we had never heard of elocution lessons before we met you.

Ex Server 3 (friend of Ex Server 1 and 2): We still don’t know how you managed to find us all scholarship money to cover our complete education costs, and even those beautiful apartments you call dorms, but…

Hot Tea with Honey Lady 1: That’s neither here nor there, girls, but right now put on your big smiles and let’s go meet the press…

They adjourn to the entrance patio. Servers circulate with finger foods and complimentary beverages.

Reporter 1: How did you come up with the concept for the Green Little Pigs Restaurant? Mmm. These little sandwiches sure are tasty!

Hot Tea with Honey Lady 2: We were so very tired of seeing natural resources used unnaturally in dining establishments. Nobody needs to drink out of a straw while dining out. It cheapens the experience and demeans the dignity of the diners.

Hot Tea with Honey Lady 3: We began collecting unneeded straws every time we dined, along with a few toothpicks. The idea apparently caught on, and before long, donations were arriving from all over.

Hot Tea with Honey Lady 4: Not only are straws and toothpicks unnecessary for a pleasant dining experience, they are contributing to the decline of natural resources, and the packaging is another waste. People can drink from a glass or cup absolutely fine without straws, and we won’t even discuss social appropriateness and toothpicks.

Reporter 4: Can you tell us about the green impact of the restaurant? Hey- these shots are the real thing!

Hot Tea with Honey Lady 1: The entire operation was designed to be certified green, and has won several awards for low environmental impact, resource conservation, and every other green related kudos one can imagine, including Energy Star ratings. It was entirely designed by these young ladies behind us. They are all engineering, design, environmental studies, women‘s studies and other majors at North Punty University, right here in North Punty.

Heating is geothermal and solar, as is power. The building rotates to use sun exposure to the best advantage to conserve energy. In warmer months, extensive greenery shades public portions of the building, reducing artificial cooling needs.  The water comes from an artesian source. Cooling is geothermal, and piggybacks off the huge snow mountain behind the building, collected during the winter.

Hot Tea with Honey Lady 2: All of our foods are certified organic and are sourced from within the country, locally to the extent possible. Meat and poultry comes from free range farms and ranches, dairy and produce from local small, independent farmers. And we do have lots of honey, sourced from local apiaries.

Our culinary staff boasts award winning chefs, and we offer internships to students in the university’s Culinary Arts Degree Program. We are initiating a guest chef appearance project, where world famous food industry icons will design specialty menus, and train, oversee and cook here for limited engagements. 

See our website for a complete list of chefs and dates. Hurry to reserve your spot during these limited engagements. There is also a link to reserve accommodations in one of the areas fine hotels, bed and breakfast establishments, and other recreational or hospitality facilities.

Hot Tea with Honey Lady 3: Our designer tableware is made by local craftspeople; local weavers create the high end linens, and local artisans craft the flatware, glassware and other supplies. Products are available for purchase here at the restaurant, at the newly opened Artisan Shop Pedestrian Mall in town, or online through the Green Little Pigs website, which has links to individual artisan’s sites, too.

We are pleased to partner with so many talented community residents, helping to boost the local economy, while providing employment opportunities to people who wish to learn a craft.  Individually hand made products were the backbone of this nation’s growth, and those skills need to be kept alive. We offer attractive incentives for craftspeople willing to relocate to this area to establish a permanent business. See our website for details.

To enhance your dining experience ambiance, live music is provided by the university’s music studies students. A schedule of performances and selections is on the website and included in the menu.

Reporter 5: Why the name Green Little Pigs? We understand the “green” reference now, but it sounds like a play on The Three Little Pigs story. Can someone please pass me another one of those beverages with a slice of orange on top?

Hot Tea with Honey Lady 4: We have three dining rooms based on the three building materials the three little pigs used in their homes. The first dining room is a play on Pig 1’s house of sticks. All the furniture is made from those socially inappropriate and unneeded toothpicks so grossly offered at restaurants. None are used, of course, and all were donated a few at a time but people supporting our green awareness campaign.

 Unlike Pig 1’s house, our furniture won’t collapse with a huff and a puff. It was ergonomically and sturdily designed by our college student ladies, and made by students for credit under the supervision and tutelage of local professional wood crafts people.

Hot Tea with Honey Lady 1: Our second dining room’s furniture is created from all those environmentally damaging straws, again donated by supporters and designed and sturdily crafted by students and local craftspeople. By the way, one can order any of our furniture offerings for home or office, too. We additionally offer a custom design service to meet individual needs.

Reporter 6: Who is the Big Bad Wolf? These honey tarts are delicious.

Hot Tea with Honey Lady 2: The Big Bad Wolf is the established restaurant industry, especially those chains with inflexible policies and “one size fits all” menus. People are individuals. Individual tastes and needs must be taken into consideration to give diners an experience worth the money they pay for a pleasant meal in a sterling environment.

Reporter 7: So now we are at Pig 3’s house. In the story, his is made of bricks and impermeable to the wolf’s huffing and puffing. How can you beat that? I never was served an aperitif before at a press conference.

Hot Tea with Honey Lady 3: Actually, this was the easiest of all. All the furniture is made from those reprehensible dinner rolls restaurants indiscriminately toss on every diner’s table. Those things are so full of GMO products, chemicals, preservatives, stripped down food stuffs containing little real food ingredients, artificial flavoring, artificial colors, additives and substances linked to a variety of hazardous health conditions, that they will never decompose, and remain as hard as brick for years to come.

Hot Tea with Honey Lady 4: So now we invite you to enjoy a unique dining experience in a unique environment.  Press kits and additional information are available inside. We promise no huffing and puffing. Bon appetit!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Pharmacy Waiting Line- Heal Thyself!

Pharmacy Waiting Line- Heal Thyself!

Dear CVS/Walgreens/Rite Aid/Any Major Drugstore:

I am writing about a growing concern of people “of a certain age” who want to pick up their medications in a timely manner and get on with our waning years. After all, we are the  multi-medication consumption group that is keeping you in business. More of us are buying more pills every day.  Something must be done about the interminable line that is always at the RX pick-up location.

You have 3 or 4 registers available, but only 1 or 2 are ever open. Lines stretch down the nearby aisles. In most cases, it is the Family Planning aisle. At our ages, we aren’t planning any families. We are planning how to get away from our family, and we don’t want, nor are we capable of, producing any more progeny. We may be planning our wills and how to eliminate certain family members from getting their hands on anything we possess, but at this point please stop trying to lure us into purchasing condoms, lubricants, spermicidal agents, morning after pills, lace thongs, massage oil, push up bras, bikini wax kits and the bevy of additional offerings gracing the display cases in this aisle.

We are more in need of, and more apt to make impulse or planned purchases from the aisles offering anti-diarrheal and anti-gas pills and liquids, corn and callus removers, heating pads, Epsom salts, pain relievers, vitamins and supplements, joint pain relief pills, hearing aid batteries, canes, walkers, anti-slip in-shower mats, flatulence relief pills, denture cleaner, magnification glasses, gel insoles, and similar items. Here is a prime advertising opportunity you have missed, especially on Social Security Check Day. And by the way, there are never enough carts.

In fairness, therefore, I offer the following solutions and suggestions to ease the line-waiting burden for your Most Frequent Customers (in random order):

·         We need something to do while waiting in line. Low impact exercise classes, Zumba lessons, sign language instruction (we are becoming more hearing impaired as the time passes and we age while in line), and sing alongs would keep us focused, motivated to wait patiently, and would offer employment to skilled individuals in this struggling economy. We may forget why we are in line, but we will be content.

·   Some people may not wish to participate in the above activities. Alternative entertainment is a great idea. A different type could be offered each day of the week: stand up comics (they could frequently repeat the jokes- we won’t remember them a half hour later), live music- the oldies, country, seasonal (Christmas carols- we won’t remember we’ve sung them a half hour later, and eventually we might get the words right), marches to keep our hearts beating in a synchronous rhythm, and anything by Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, or Tony Bennet would all work. Rejected contestants from America’s Got Talent could make guest appearances. “Appearing Today: Madame Lulu, Mind Reader” would calm the crowd. Since we have forgotten everything before last week, she needn’t be very accurate to keep us engaged.

·  The CVS cafĂ© would be a real hit. The line moves so slowly, and we can’t afford to miss a meal. Set up a few small tables in the waiting areas (remove those Ass Chairs that have been farted on way too often), and serve up some tasty snacks from a roving food and beverage cart. You could offer free samples of Bean-O or Tums, too. The speed the line moves, we have plenty of time for a sit down meal or two.

·   Hire line standers. Customers could pay teens to stand in line for us while we attend to remaining conscious and continent. By the way, customer access rest rooms are getting to be a pretty much mandatory need with these lines. Our bladders aren’t quite as controlled as they used to be. This is a more desirable option than frequent announcements for "Clean- Up in Aisle 12- again." 

·         For customers into more cerebral pursuits, Geriatric Jeopardy could go a long way. Dress an employee up to look like Alex Trebek. “I’ll take ‘Where did I put my car keys’ for $400.” Instead of a monetary prize, winners could be paid off in store credit for Depends, toilet tissue or personal wet wipes (see above).

·   Last but certainly not least, abbreviated versions of Senior Iron Chef (secret ingredient- cough drops) or Wheelchair Chopped (basket ingredients are food items found only in the drug store… um…) bottled water, leftover Halloween candy, Friskies, and an expired box of Triscuits.

I’m sure you will take to heart these excellent suggestions that will cater to your frequent customers. If not, you may wish to consider a display of coffins for advance purchase.

Thank you for your prompt attention to these pressing matters.

Yours truly,

PR @ Most Frequent Customer Union

P.S. Have a nice day. You have more left than we do. :-)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Hot Tea with Honey

Hot Tea with Honey

I eat my peas with Honey.
I’ve done it all my life.
It does taste rather funny,
But it keeps them on my knife.
        -  Nursery Rhyme

I drink coffee in the morning at home or if I go out early for breakfast. Any other hot beverage during the rest of the day that I consume will be Hot Tea with Honey. I am not British. I just like Hot Tea with Honey. I appreciate the hard work of the industrious bee, especially since their numbers seem to be declining due to sunspots, alien invasion, cell phone waves or Zombies, take your pick.  

When purchasing honey for home use, I patronize local producers. Several local people have hives, and a couple have their product in the local natural food store. It is also available at the wowza farmers’ market every Saturday that I visit year round. Yup- in the warm weather vendors overflow a quaint pedestrian mall area in the old part of Troy, about 15 minutes away. In the winter the action moves indoors to the atrium of a building not far from the outdoor site. Free parking in the local parking garage tops it off.

While the outdoor site is fun, a wanderer’s delight, I prefer the indoor venue where the smells are concentrated- fresh baked bread, newly brewed coffee, herbs, Jamacian pasties, pesto, curry, and more. A true feast for the nose. Then there’s the free samples. Come hungry- leave happy, and poor. The live music echoes off the walls, and children whirl and dance while parents sample wine, cheese, exotic jelly, and other culinary delights. 

But back to the honey. It is a staple cooking ingredient in many cultures, but apparently not in modern American cuisine. Witness this recent exchange in a local restaurant:

Server: What can I getcha to drink?

Me: Hot Tea with Honey, please.

Server: I don’t got that.

Me: You don’t have which item- hot water, tea, honey or a passing English grade?

Server: We don’t got honey.

Me: You mean you don’t have honey?

Server: Nuh- uh.

Me: Then I will have Ice Water, No Lemon.

Server: We put lemon in our ice water.

Me: I don’t want lemon in my ice water, just ice and water in a glass, preferably clean, and one you haven’t stuck your fingers in to grab and remove the lemon slice. 

Server: I’ll have to ask the manager. It’s not corporate policy to serve ice water without lemon.

Me: May I speak with your manager, please?

Several minutes later, a whispered conversation is overheard:

Manager: Oh no, it’s her again; Lady Hot Tea.

Server: The hostess tried to lock the door when we saw her coming but she got in anyway, sneaking through in the middle of a large group.

Manager: Yeah, she probably wouldn’t have bought the “Quarantine” ruse anyway.

Server: Now, since we don’t got honey, she’s asking for Ice Water, No Lemon.

Manager: That’s against corporate policy. Our recipe for water is Ice Water with Lemon.

Server: But she doesn’t want lemon. I thought maybe we could put it in a separate dish. 

Manager: That isn’t the corporate recipe. I’ll have to make a phone call to the regional guru.

Me (interrupting the whispering): Excuse me- may I have my beverage? Either Hot Tea with Honey or Ice Water, No Lemon.

Manager: That’s not the corporate recipe, and we don’t have honey.

Me: Here’s $5.00. Send Ms. Elocution over to the grocery store across the road and have her buy a jar of honey. I’ll put my name on it and you can have it here just for me when I come in.

Manager: We can’t do that. Corporate Policy says we have to follow the recipe for all beverages. 

Me: Then I’ll go buy the honey and bring it back. Then Ms. Elocution can serve me hot tea and I will add my own honey.

Manager: You can’t bring food into a restaurant. People come here to eat the food we already have, not bring in their own ingredients. Next you’ll want to go into the kitchen and make your own hot tea and ice water.

Me: An excellent idea. Finally, a restaurant manager with some creative ideas for customer satisfaction. I’ll just fill out this survey on your website and tell corporate how accommodating you are.

Manager: Okay lady- you win. You can have your ice water with no lemon, but please don’t tell anybody. I’m going on my break now. I think I’ll enjoy a glass of fresh squeezed lemonade.

Me: Is that served with or without a spoon?

Next: Straws

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Recipe for Bacon

A Recipe for Bacon

Yesterday I was served another of the worst lunches of my life at a restaurant I have been going to for over 10 years. 

I say “served” because I couldn’t choke down enough of it to say I had eaten it.

First, let me say that I have the extraordinary gift of Restaurant Bad Luck. It has followed me across every state I have lived in, visited, or worked in, and every major city I have eaten in. It doesn’t crop up in the fast food drive thru lane ever, just in sit down chain restaurants, stand-alone specialty places, and even starred establishments in major cities.

I once had a waiter in NYC chase me down the street when I did not leave a tip after he spilled coffee all over my coat. I have had waiters drop knives between my glasses and face while removing dishes from the table, found bugs in beverages, and been served countless inaccurate orders. 

Yesterday I had to ask for “ice water, no lemon” three times before they got it right. Is this difficult, even though Brain Dead Server 1 wrote it down? I had high hopes of order accuracy since it was penned on paper.  If in doubt there is even a "how to" on a website available for reference.

After 15 minutes with no water, I asked Brain Dead Server 2 for “ice water, no lemon” since Brain Dead Server 1 apparently had left the building. BDS2 disappeared and after 10 more minutes BDS1 reappeared with “ice water with lemon.” 

I told BDS1 that I did not want lemon in my ice water, check your order pad, please. “Well, the other girl fixed it,” I was told. Yeah, but 2 brain deads added together do not make one brain alive. She was the one serving me, so in the interest of order accuracy and customer satisfaction one would think checking the glass would be common sense. Um… NO.

Hopes for the remainder of my meal teetered precariously on the fence, but I held on. Finally, my sandwich arrived. “Jack Daniels Chicken Sandwich” sounded like an appealing menu item, but the reality wasn’t. The chicken was still pink in the middle (I have learned to cut sandwiches and inspect the inside before taking a bite), the lettuce was a white chunk of iceberg that was dying an early death, and the bacon was almost raw, apparently having declined the dance with the grill. 

I asked to speak to the manager. 

“Hi there,” said the dissipated version of Pee Wee Herman 20 years later. “Is there a problem?

“No,” I thought in my mind, “I’m desperate for a date.” I actually said, “The bun is stale, the lettuce has less flavor than the napkin and is whiter than cabbage in the 8 inches of new snow, and the bacon is raw. Would YOU eat this?” 

PWH: Corporate policy is iceberg lettuce on sandwiches and we follow the corporate recipe for bacon.

Me: There is a recipe for bacon? Let me guess. Place on grill regardless of temperature, and when allotted time is up, place on sandwich whether it is cooked or not. Is your food cooked by robots or humans? Can’t they look at bacon and see that it is still raw?

PWH: We follow the corporate recipe. 

Me: But there are real people in the kitchen, aren't there?

PWH: We are told to follow the corporate recipe.

Me: How about the corporate recipe for “ice water, no lemon?” 

Note to restaurant servers: TIP means “To insure promptness.” A tip is not an entitlement just because you showed up to work today. If an order is not accurate, and prompt to the customer’s time requirements, then you are at fault. You are the buffer between the kitchen and the table. You write down the order
and are responsible for its terminal condition before it is placed before the customer.  If something is inaccurate, go back to the kitchen or manager and tell them. If they care, they will fix it. If not, get a different job.

Patrons keep a business solvent. Perhaps the majority of patrons in restaurants are satisfied with mediocrity, but expecting and meeting high standards is what keeps businesses thriving. I am eating out much less as time passes, and sadly, I have eliminated another neighborhood establishment from my repertoire. At home I can assure quality control in food freshness, cooking accuracy, healthy eating, and more. My life is worth it.

Next: Hot tea with honey?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year’s Resolutions

The beginning of a new calendar year is here. 

In the great passage of time it is really a meaningless blip on the universe’s radar. To many humans it is a time of again trying to start over from an arbitrary marker on the path to self-improvement. Most New Year’s Resolutions fade away rapidly into oblivion and disappear mercifully. Others go out in a blaze of short lived embarrassment. 

Why resolutions fail

Resolutions fail largely because of their name. A “resolution” is a “formal intention of resolve”. Who are we kidding here? Most people can’t do anything formal, and most human intentions are mired in the miasma of self-servitude. To be “resolute” implies a stiffness, and conjures images of matronly, freeze dried nuns patrolling classroom aisles with rulers poised to thwack indolent fingers. 

Resolute is a resignation to failure. One is resolved, or given over to the Dark Side of failure before one has even started. It is being condemned to sinking before the ship is launched, a Titanic size hole already gashed into the vessel’s hull with no lifeboats or shout outs on board. No Scotty to beam one up :-(

Black is failure, white is success in the world of self-imposed resolutions. We judge ourselves by comparing our inevitable weaknesses to an unachievable standard with the white bar set so high it cannot be reached. In reality the world is grey, a million shades of gray, but none are pure white. The one white soul was born December 25 and His work is in progress. 

Grey is Okay

Instead of resigning oneself to predisposed failure, one should expect at least 365 shades of grey. Latitude for actions attempted daily is a human quality that is normal and inescapable. We need to go easy on ourselves for being what we are- human and flawed. Just as it is in the makeup of a fish to swim or a plant to seek light, humans are going to miss achieving perfection in the human world. But just as inevitably as the fish keeps swimming, and the plant keeps growing upward, humans keep trying even though they will not reach a state of achieved perfection. The trick is to realize where in the grey in okay.


So instead of making resolutions we know we will fail to achieve, for 2014 let’s all create expectations we have a good chance of reaching. Excluded are autonomic functions like breathing and making our heart beat. New Year’s Expectations are small steps along a longer path. Included in achieving each expectation are pats on the back and forgiveness for backsliding. Every day can’t be better than every previous one. Shit happens. We get sick, circumstances descend on us that are out of our control, like a pipe bursts or the car battery dies or we trip over the dog and sprain a wrist.

But we can learn to recognize that we have done something positive we hoped to do that day, or that just appeared unbidden. Like writing a chapter in the novel we are working on, or paying bills that were due today without forgetting. Like looking out the window, seeing the older neighbor struggling to shovel the walk and putting on our coat and helping because it is the right thing to do. 

Deciding to take a positive action is a huge expectation achieved. Some days we may actually take the step and pat ourselves gently on the back because we did it. Some days we may not take the action we want to because we are human. Then we take the action of forgiving ourselves for being human, and that is achieving the expectation from a different perspective. Some days we end up in the light grey, some days in the darker gray, but grey is okay.

Tomorrow is another opportunity to expect a great grey day. And the more we look forward to expecting to achieve something realistic on a gray day the more we are okay. And that is an expectation that is more white than grey. And okay.