The 12 Things Fangette Needs For College


If I were the type of mother who tucked handwritten notes into her kid’s lunch box or if my daughter, the delightful Fangette, was the type of kid who would read such a thing, I’d pack the following list into the suitcase that’s sitting on her bed — the one that’s bound, in just a few short days, for her new digs on a college campus six hours away. I’m not that mother, she’s not that kid. As there is a much better chance that she’ll read the list if I post it here than if I stuff it in with her winter socks, I’ve compiled what I’m calling “The 12 Things Fangette Needs For College”. Feel free to substitute any name for “Fangette” if you find that this list appeals to your “Ashley”, your “Sara” or, horror of horrors and shame on you!, your “Gertrude”. Perhaps, if you have the kind of kid that will appreciate such a thing, stick it in with her mittens, let her run across it as she’s heading to class one cold, snowy morning.

And then, go ahead and have a nice cup of coffee and a good cry. I know that’s what I’m going to do.


1. Big Girl Panties
You may need two pairs of these, they tend to get hole-y when they get in a bunch. And they will get in a bunch, possibly as a result of the roommate who doesn’t understand that you need an open window in order to sleep or who does not share your love of the HBO dramedy “Girls”, or the professors who think theirs is the only damn class you’re taking, or even the realization that dining halls do not stock an endless supply of romaine lettuce. Put them on every day and go out into the world and behave like the adult that we have raised you to be. You’ll be fine. Call me if you’re not. I’m always awake.

2. Common Sense
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are no shortcuts in life. You can shave a few minutes off a task here and there, but life, unlike traffic, is about going through, not skirting around. Don’t get frustrated. Enjoy the ride.

3. Wariness
You are very good at sizing people up. You have surrounded yourself with good friends here at home — friends that love you, friends that look out for you (and vice versa) — continue this practice while you are away. It will serve you well.

4. Time Management Skills
There will always be a party. Conversely, there will also always be a test that you should be studying for or a paper you should have gotten cracking on yesterday. Strike a balance here.

5. Sense of Humor
You’ve got a wicked one. Use it. Don’t take everything so seriously. Again, it’s about balance here, kiddo.

6. Selfishness
This one will be difficult, as it is antithetical to who you are. You are always the first person your friends call when they’re in a bind. I’m not saying NOT to help people, but keep in mind that your time and your energies will be important to your success. Keep your guard up for people who will look to squander those things. They won’t have your best interests at heart.

7. Moral Compass
You have on more than one occasion demonstrated that you know right from wrong. Always choose to do right. If doing so has consequences, so be it. Hopefully you’ll be wearing your big girl panties when and if you find yourself in a moral quandary.

8. Emergency $20
In cash. Always, and I mean, ALWAYS have this with you. You never know when or in what circumstances you may need it. If you use it, replace it. Always have it, though. Always. Tow truck drivers and cabbies always appreciate a nice cash tip.

9. Self-Respect
Do not leave home without this. Do not surrender who you are or forget why you are where you are or, more importantly, what got you there because some cute “love ‘em and leave ‘em” type gives you the old heave-ho or you bomb a big test. Heartbreak happens. Failure is a given. They’re both part of life. Don’t go running after some loser. Study harder next time. Don’t despair. Move along. Someone better will come along. If you work hard, you’ll pass the next exam. Keep your eyes on the prize. Use the Emergency $20 and buy yourself some good quality ice cream.

10. Mental Trampoline
Keep in mind that a chick flick, a good cry, and pint of chocolate chip mint will, in moderation, solve a whole host of problems. Setbacks are bound to occur. You’ll rebound. Your mental trampoline is in good condition. Know that it’s perfectly acceptable, once in a while, to take a couple of hours, retreat from the world, and indulge in this passive, but worthwhile, activity. It may be just what you need to face the world tomorrow. Wild parties, binge drinking, and sexual escapades might sound like a cure for what ails you, but they won’t be. (I’m fairly certain that you know this already.) Stick to the ice cream and the movie. Watch “The Notebook”, I know you love that one. Or, if you’re feeling nostalgic, pop in “The Sound of Music”. We always enjoyed watching that one together. Comfort food and a good movie never left anybody hung over — or worse. You can always run off the ice cream pounds. Pregnancy weight and beer guts are much harder to shed. So, too, is that image you’ll have of yourself standing half-clothed on a frat house table with a lampshade on your head.

11. Fearlessness
You have a tendency toward reticence. This is a time to try new things. Not all of these things need to involve tequila. Although I’m sure there will be a few margaritas in your future, go easy on the tequila. It’s a hallucinogen, not to mention that it is, by far, the nastiest hangover you will ever experience. That being said, I would encourage you to seek out opportunities for fulfillment. Don’t stand on the sidelines making snarky comments — make the snarky comments while participating in the activities — safe activities like Quidditch or syrup-making come to mind. Or quilting. Quilting can be loads of fun. Quilting circles are known far and wide for their riotous banter.

If these things don’t appeal to you, keep in mind that you’ll be in a place where the cows outnumber the people. (Remember that fun fact?) Do something with animals — and not just the animals that live in the frat houses — real animals, the four-legged kind that you enjoy so very much. Just a word of caution on the cows, though — I read yesterday that there are more people (over 100!) killed every year in unfortunate bovine accidents than there are folks who perish as a result of shark attacks. Lake Champlain is probably free of sharks, but do keep your wits about you where the cows are concerned. Stay in front of them if you can.

12. The Knowledge That Your Parents Love You — No Matter What
I would hope that you have always known this, but it bears repeating. Win or lose, succeed or fail, through thick and through thin — we have survived. We’ve done so partly because that’s just what we do. It is who we, as a family, are. Mainly, though, we’ve managed to tackle life’s challenges together because we love each other. We are, all of us, flawed, imperfect creatures. Still, we’ve never given up on each other. I cannot imagine that we ever will.

Nor can I think of a single thing, not one single thing, that you could ever do that would cause either your father or me to stop loving you. Not one single thing. Not ever. While living with you has not always been a picnic, particularly during these last few years of adolescence, you have never failed to make us proud — of your academic success, of your athletic prowess, and of your social graces. As you’ve gone out into the world we’ve always gotten, as Grammy Rose used to say, “good reports” — about the qualities that make you “you” — your kindness, your intelligence, your generosity, and, of course, your quick wit. I have witnessed the joy that your laughter and your radiant smile brings to others. That’s a rare gift that you have there. Keep using it. Keep smiling. Keep laughing. Keep on being you. You’ll be just fine.

If you’re not fine, tell us. We’ll help you through it. Really. We will. You know we will. Remember, I’m always awake.

Projects That Demand Our Scientific Attention!


I saw this headline FART SMELLS HAVE HEALTH BENEFITS and thought, “Great. More money spent on ‘scientific’ research — research that helps no one.” And then I read the article. I was wrong about this research, in that it may actually serve a purpose — a purpose that could benefit humankind.

The article didn’t indicate how these scientists had arrived at the idea to study fart smells. (The ingestion of too much bean salad in the break room, perhaps?) To be fair, they didn’t call them fart smells, either. Instead, they referred to these smells as the byproducts of the hydrogen sulfide our bodies produce which are released during flatulence — but, we all know what that means. If a rose by any other name is still a rose it follows that a fart by any other name is still a fart.

HYDROGEN SULFIDE HAS HEALTH BENEFITS doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, though, as the headline they ultimately went with, does it? I’m assuming the “FART SMELLS” spin was the work of a team of very bright marketing professionals — or one average 9-year-old boy.

I was relieved to discover that their findings may indeed lead to breakthroughs in the way that we treat conditions that adversely affect millions of people — conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and senility, to name but a few. This news came as a relief to me — nothing irritates me more than seeing money being spent and talent being wasted on scientific studies that, ultimately, won’t do anyone a damn bit of good.

Yes. I’m talking about dinosaurs.

While it’s certainly fun to visit The Museum of Natural History and be met, upon your arrival, with the ginormous skeleton of a massive dinosaur and, further, to know that this creature actually walked the Earth some millions of years ago, but that’s about all it is — fun. It’s slightly more interesting to learn of the theories that abound regarding the extinction of the dinosaurs.

These theories are myriad and range from the outrageous (Aliens!) to the more plausible (Asteroids!). My money’s on the asteroid theory.

The Alien Theory, while certainly entertaining, makes little to no sense. It’s more than slightly problematic from a logistical perspective. First, one has to believe that aliens got here in the first place. Then, one has to assume that they came equipped with several very large spaceships in which, after rounding up untold numbers of these giant beasts and their smaller contemporaries, skedaddled back to their home planet. Even if you were to buy into this demented line of thinking, the ultimate question would be “Why?”

Frankly, I just don’t think that extraterrestrials, even IF millions of years ago they had the technology to travel here (and back!), would have wasted their time transporting the entire dinosaur population of Earth back to Planet MX-1283 or wherever it was they hailed from. I’m fairly certain that they would have just taken the few they needed for research and reproductive purposes. One would imagine that this is the method any self-respecting MX-1283ers would have employed.

That a massive asteroid plummeted to Earth and set off an ice age — an ice age that most dinosaurs could not survive — is a far more believable hypothesis, in that we know that there was an ice age and we also know, through the fossil record, that dinosaurs didn’t come out of it alive. I think this is all the research the world needs concerning dinosaurs.

Instead of wasting our time digging up their bones and putting their skeletons together for schoolchildren to gawk at in museums, how about we concentrate our scientific energies on how to avoid being victims ourselves of the asteroid that killed them in the first place? How about that?

To this end, I move that we gather the world’s second greatest science minds together and fund a little project I like to call “The Asteroid Blaster”. The best geeks should, of course, be hard at work developing a broom that doesn’t become separated from its handle while one is sweeping up the coffee grounds which, inevitably, wind up on the floor while being banged loose from the reusable K-cup filter. If, during the course of this important research they should discover why regular K-cups come with such an enormous price tag, well, goody for them!

The less renowned men and women of the scientific community can carry on with things like disease prevention, ecological sustainability, and how to build a bridge to Europe. Those of us who fear flying would be much obliged. After all, we, too, would like the opportunity to see Paris.

None of these science-y types should be allowed to even so much as think about digging up and putting back together anything that was once a dinosaur or is in any way dinosaur or fossil-related until all of this other very important work has been completed. So say I.

Let’s stop wasting valuable time — time that could be better spent in saving this planet and its inhabitants from being obliterated by a giant asteroid — on hypotheses that involve what color a triceratops might have been. Seriously, there’s a guy who has spent his life doing just that. He has dedicated himself AND, let me just add, made a living while doing so, essentially coloring in the lines for a living! And, there is every possibility that he’s gotten it all wrong. That’s fine. Really, it is. Why? Because it does NOT matter what color dinosaurs were.

Can you even imagine if, years ago, we’d put HIM on the broom thing? He seems to be just the kind of imaginative thinker the broom team needs. If we had, it is very possible that we — all of us — may very well be, instead of sitting around reading about it or, in my case, writing about it, doing something far more productive right now — something like sweeping the kitchen. I should add that there is no doubt in my mind that we would be doing so with a chartreuse-colored broom.

At the very least, if this guy doesn’t make it on to the broom team, I’m hoping for an Asteroid Blaster in a lovely shade of puce. These, my friends, are projects that demand our scientific attention. Can I get a second?

Thanks to Mindy Klapper Trotta at Better After 50 for sharing the original story that sparked this post.

Nailing Jell-O To a Tree

weird mojoHow ever she meant them, I take very seriously the pearls of parental wisdom given to us from the late, great Erma Bombeck. My current mantra is “Raising teenagers is like nailing Jell-O to a tree”. That Erma, she sure had a way with words. Even with her tongue planted firmly in her cheek she was spot on. Spot. On. Baby.

Today’s lunacy here at the hovel involves struggling with my 18-year-old, the always delightful Fangette, to get the hell out of bed and keep the appointment that I made for her at the car dealership — an appointment that SHE needs in order to have her electronic key programmed. Why the need for the electronic key? Oh, just because it’s fancier and cost more money than a regular key.

Her used car only came with one key. Anyone wise to the ways of teenagers knows this to be a recipe for disaster. Disaster.

As it turns out, the electronic key may not have been such a bad purchase after all. Very recently, the door handle on the passenger side stopped working from the inside. This requires the passenger to roll down the window and open the door from the outside. And, no, we’re not having it fixed. The car is eleven years old. It’s cost us enough money, thankyouverymuch! I told her father, the long-suffering Fang, that Fangette and members of her posse will just have to deal with it.

I did, however, point out that the deluxe electronic key will, no doubt, come in handier now. It will not, however, do a God-blessed thing, other than look sexy, if it’s not programmed. This must be done at the dealership, which requires an appointment and, of course, a charge for thirty minutes of labor — they get ya coming and going, I tell ya, coming and going.

Under protest (because I want my daughter to do things for herself!), I made the damn appointment. I even agreed to fund the project. Mostly I did these things because I don’t want to hear it when the only key she has goes missing — falls into the black hole with all of the other shit that she loses. I don’t want the key thing to become an emergent situation. I’m big on proactivity. And, by that I mean, I don’t relish the whining, crying, and carrying on that will accompany the lost key. Basically, I don’t want to hear it.

I sucked it up and made the appointment — an appointment that she promised to keep. An appointment that she slept through this morning no matter how much shaking, cajoling, and yelling was being done by yours truly. Why did she sleep through this very important appointment? Because she rolled in at 1:30 AM last night. No, she wasn’t out partying. She was just at the diner with friends. Still, it was late. I reminded her several times throughout the evening via text message — the only form of communication currently available to teenagers and their parents — that she HAD TO get up early and get to the car dealership by 9:00 AM.

Am I pissed that she didn’t? You betcha!

A crazier and far more energetic parent than me would probably have gone into her room and dragged her out of bed by her hair. Believe me, I fantasized about it for a fleeting moment. And then my mind, as it often does, went elsewhere.

I succumbed to a case of the “what ifs”. “What if” I drag her out of bed and she gets into a car accident on the way there or the way home? Maybe, I rationalized, like people who miss planes that later crash, she’s not supposed to be on that highway this morning. Perhaps everything really does happen for a reason. Like it or not, I told myself, Fangette’s innate laziness just may have saved her life. Tragedy averted.

Or, “what if” we engaged in a knock-down, drag-out this morning and she left the house in a tizzy wearing those sandals that she loves, but that have those very slippery bottoms and, let me just add, NO support, and she goes ass over teakettle on the driveway, breaks her leg, can’t start college, and I’m stuck with Limpy, her seventeen cats, and fifteen hedgehogs (I just KNOW there’ll be hedgehogs in this horror story!) until the day I die? How about that for a tragic scenario?

On the other hand, a better, more resourceful parent than I — one with the wherewithal to drag an 18-year-old fully-formed person out of a very high full-size bed — an act that would have required the use of a stepladder and some pretty good wrestling moves — may have fetched the ladder, scrambled onto the bed, put her child into a half-Nelson, and forced the issue. I daresay that the element of surprise alone, the shock and awe of the whole act, may have been all that was necessary to insure a fully awake and functional human being.

Still, I balked at such a thing so early on a Monday morning. Having not yet had a cup of coffee, engaging in measures so extreme was out of the question. Not for a key, for heaven’s sakes. For a million dollars, maybe, but not for a key.

While I think Erma may have enjoyed a story that involved me belly crawling on my daughter’s bedroom floor and launching myself onto her bed, I think that she would have agreed with my final decision to do nothing. Just like you can’t nail Jell-O to a tree, you can’t always make your children do what you want them to do — even if it’s in their best interests.

I hope she enjoys walking, though. Because if she loses her key, that’s exactly what she’ll be doing. I may be resigned to her decision not to keep her appointment, but I am smart enough to allow her to suffer the consequences of her actions.

Justice often being poetic, I can only hope that WHEN she loses her key she has to walk to work — in the pouring rain. I wonder how in love with those sandals she’ll be then? I’m guessing she’ll regret sleeping in this morning when she’s slogging through a deluge without her umbrella — an umbrella that will, no doubt, be in her car — a car that she will not be able to get into without the key!

Making Gandhi Proud

makinggandhiproudI was so happy when my daughter, the always delightful Fangette, graduated from high school last week. Finally. All the bullshit was over. Or, so I thought.

She’s home this summer. She’s working here and there at her movie theater job, but she’s home more than she’s not home. I know that come August 22nd when we deposit her and her belongings in Burlington, Vermont, I’ll miss her terribly. Right now, though? Not so much.

At the moment I’m putting up with lots of demands for egg salad sandwiches and runs to the mall. She cannot seem to ever find a beach towel (or a regular towel) when she needs one. And don’t even get me started on where her favorite sandals are. I hope that her roommates can keep better track of her stuff than I can. I hope that they have mastered boiling an egg. I wonder if there’s a place for these skills on the roommate matching forms?

Probably not. This is likely part of the reason that they go away to college at all. In addition to the academic component of a university education, I’m guessing that keeping track of her own shit and learning to make a sandwich will be among the things, along with organic chemistry, that she will learn to master while she’s away at college.

Knowing Fangette as I do, though, I’ll bet she surrounds herself with people who will do these things for her. She’s a person that just naturally gathers minions. For the last 18 years, I’ve been one of them. I cannot wait until August 22nd.

It feels like a release date — from prison or from the mental institution where I’ve been languishing for years. It really does.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to teach my daughter to do things for herself. I have. And I’ve been successful in some areas. She knows what she has in the bank to the penny. She can shower and dress herself. And she’s timely. She gets her schoolwork done. Tardiness of any kind irritates her. She gets that from me.

Unlike me, but much like her father, she cannot make an appointment — for car service, for the dermatologist — to save her life, although I’ve noticed that she has no trouble scheduling mani-pedis. Luckily she won’t have her car on campus next year. She has to find a dermatologist though — we’ve spent years and buckets of money keeping her acne at bay. I suppose that I could take some comfort in the fact that if she doesn’t attend to her skin, at least her nails will look nice. I’m sure she’s already Yelped the best nail salons in Burlington, VT.

She likes to carry on about becoming an independent woman. I’ve told her that doing her own laundry would be a step in the right direction. As would procuring her immunization records from the pediatrician.

I think she’s done one load of laundry from start to finish in her life. As for the immunization records, I know I’ll have to get them. They’re just as important to me as they are to her, given that they are a necessary component to my release date.

The other night on one of our many trips to the mall to secure this, that, and the other thing, we enjoyed dinner together. She told me that she was bothered by all of the injustice in the world, that she hoped to find a way — during or after college — to use her skills to make a difference in the world. That’s admirable.

I told her that she might want to start by making a difference in my world — picking up after herself, making her own pasta, buying her own strawberries. She rolled her eyes, which was her way of saying, “Mom, you don’t get it. I’m talking about saving the WORLD here!”

I got it. I really did. She’s always on me about being a better housekeeper, a more organized person. I took this opportunity to quote Gandhi. I told her that she should “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. She looked at me like I was crazy. She asked me if I thought that I wasn’t diminishing Gandhi by using his words to get her to do something as pedestrian as laundry.

I can’t be sure, not having known Gandhi myself, but I’ll bet he would be supportive of my efforts. I’m pretty sure he had teenagers. I’ll bet they rolled their eyes at him, too. I told her to go ahead and find me a picture of Gandhi in a dirty and/or wrinkled sari. I’m still awaiting that piece of evidence.

In an effort to be the change I wish to see in my world, I’m going to do a little cleaning and organizing today. After all, I want to make Gandhi proud. (Don’t we all?) I can’t start on it right away though. I have to get on the phone with the pediatrician’s office and the car dealership and straighten some things out for Fangette. Who knows how long that will take?

I can’t be sure, but I think I hear Gandhi “tsking” right now. I absolutely know he’s shaking his head. As for me, I just keep thinking “August 22nd, August 22nd, August 22nd!”

photo credit: Ghandi

This post also appeared on Scary Mommy where it was met with, let’s just call it, a cooler than expected reception. I still love Scary Mommy, though — if you like to read the kinds of things that I write (and, really, outside of a few Patty Perfect Soccer Moms that enjoy posting critical comments about how I’m a lazy mother who has, deservedly, raised a monster, who doesn’t?), I suggest you head on over there. It’s a hoot! (At least for those of who “get” humor.)

Scary Mommy

Weird Mojo

weird mojoWhen I returned home Sunday evening, exhausted and sweaty after a 30-hour weekend, I thought to myself, “Well, that wasn’t too bad.” Outside of the woman who screamed “Miss” so loudly and shrilly that I’m pretty sure she loosened a few roofing tiles in the process, I had had what, in the restaurant business, amounts to a relatively uneventful, but still very long, weekend.

Then it occurred to me that my perception of what is “relatively uneventful” may be slightly skewed. For those of you who have run-of-the-mill jobs, you may find some comic relief in what, for me, passes for normal. For those of you in the industry, I’m sure you can relate. And, let’s admit it, in every walk of life there often exists a little weird mojo.

To the screamer, who surely has a future in horror film voice overs if her career as a prostitute doesn’t work out — I can’t really imagine what other type of work she could be in, dressed as she was on a Saturday afternoon and allowing herself to be pawed at by her much older companion in one of the nastiest displays of public affection I’ve ever had the displeasure of witnessing — I was the “Miss” in question. If I didn’t need my job I would have asked the old geezer why he was bothering to wine and dine this woman. Clearly, she was a “sure thing”.

When Street Corner Sally decided that she needed my attention right that minute she employed the dulcet tones that one normally associates with someone who is making a valid, yet futile, attempt at waking the dead, I was standing not two feet away from her. Trust me, I wasn’t avoiding this pair. In fact, I’d have to say that I was being overly attentive to this table, wanting, as I did, to get them the hell out of there PDQ.

Was she screaming because she needed me to extricate her from the clutches of her overzealous “date”? No. No, she was not. Was her wig, in fact, on fire as a result of being pushed up against the wall lamp by her handsy companion? No. No, it was not. She just wanted to let me know that she needed a box to wrap the morsels and the scraps that were left on her plate. Calling them leftovers would be playing far too fast and loose with the term.

Although these remnants that I can testify were at one time food now looked more like with something one would feed the neighborhood cats than anything a human would ever willingly consume, our lady of the afternoon announced that they were “snacks for later”. When I encounter this type of thing — and I encounter it more often than I’d like to admit — I oh-so-want to say, “Really? Seriously? You’re going to eat that? Later? ” In this case, I would have added, “How about you stop at the 7-11 on your way to wherever it will be that the sex act will take place and have your sugar daddy grab you a bag of chips?” I’m sure he’d have bought her the name brand ones. After all, he encouraged her to order the most expensive margarita. I don’t think he would have cheaped out on the chips.

Who “snacks” on meat gristle and previously masticated potato? Who? Crazy people. That’s who.

While bartending later in the weekend, I began to get the distinct impression that a “crazy person spell” had been cast upon a couple of the barstools. It sometimes happens that throughout the course of a shift all the loonies wind up sitting in the same location. It’s a strange phenomenon. Odder still is that the spell seems to gain momentum and the wacky grow wackier as the shift progresses. Weird mojo.

As this night wore on, several former (or current, what do I know?) mental patients chose the enchanted barstools. I’ll just tell you about a couple of my favorites.

“Thirsty Man” was a real standout. When he and his friend came in and chose those stools I thought that, perhaps, the spell had been broken. They were in their 60’s and didn’t appear crazy. I should, after all these years, have known better than to make assumptions based on appearance. It’s true that sometimes crazy people do, in fact, look crazy. It’s also true that just because someone looks normal doesn’t mean they are.

I saw them sit down and indicated by both body language and actual language that I would be right with them. They seemed to have understood. Thinking that I no longer had to worry about the “crazy person spell”, I breathed a quiet sigh of relief, which, unfortunately, turned out to be premature.

I was stunned when, within seconds, one of these grown men began pounding his fist on the bar while chanting (yes, chanting!), “I’m thirsty! I’m thirsty! I’m thirsty!” Uh-huh. I got them their drinks. When they asked for the check immediately, which indicated that they were going to spend the rest of their time with us at a table and not at the bar, I said a silent “thank you” to the higher power. This wasn’t the last I would see of them, though. Oh, no. Their server wasn’t fast enough for “Thirsty Man” who continued to make appearances and demands for beverages throughout the course of his stay. Yeah.

Fifteen minutes prior to closing time — just when I thought it was safe — two gentlemen shuffled in and occupied the magic stools. They kept asking me questions about our chicken and rib “combos”. I pointed out that while we have a couple of “combos” on our menu, none of them include combinations of chicken and ribs. I pointed out that patrons can make their own combos by adding chicken to their ribs or ribs to their chicken. I showed them where they were on the menu and how much they would pay for these additions. Needless to say, this took some time — time that was, at fifteen minutes prior to closing, of the essence.

Following a number of mathematical calculations that had to be figured by me — you don’t think these guys could do their own arithmetic, do you? — these two time-wasters decided to go up the road and try their luck at another steakhouse, one that apparently has combos and combo pricing listed on their menu — a place where patrons are not required to do their own math. (Or, in their case, enlist the bartender to do it for them!) When they meandered out I looked at the clock. It was 9:58. I sorely doubt they made it to our competitor’s establishment prior to their 10:00 PM closing time. Oh, well. A nicer person, a better person, a less worn-out person would have pointed this out to them. I was not, by this stage of the game, any of these things.

My parting thought for them was not, “Oh, what a shame! They won’t get to have chicken and rib combos tonight.” No, it was not. It was, in fact, “Sayonara, suckers! I hope you enjoy your Whoppers!” Go ahead and judge me if you want to, but keep in mind that it was the end of a long weekend and, really, I’d put up with enough from the magic barstools already!

I felt that a little spell breaking might be in order. Desirous of changing the bad juju, I decided to sit on the affected barstools myself. It was the most fun I’d had all weekend. Hoping to remove the curse, I sassily rubbed my bottom across the stools. I won’t lie, I also engaged in some evil cackling. It wasn’t lost on me that the nuttiness associated with the patrons who sat upon these stools might just be replaced by outright bitchiness.

What can I say? Sometimes you have to cast your own weird mojo.

Don’t Sit There!

A&RphotopolaroidSadly, it is time once again (*sigh*) for another primer on how to dine out in a restaurant. This edition will focus primarily on being seated. This is a concept that seems simple enough and, in theory, it should be. The reality is that being seated in a restaurant is fraught with difficulty. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

My theory is that it stems from that horrid adage “The customer is always right”. Truthfully, they’re not. Would you like to know why? This is simple enough to explain. They do not work in the industry and, as a result, they don’t understand how something as simple as sitting where they’re put can (and often does) adversely affect the rest of their dining experience.

There’s a reason you are being directed to a particular table. Likely it’s where you have the best chance at great service.

If you insist on sitting someplace of your own choosing and are TOLD that you will have to wait a few minutes for your server, please process that information and act accordingly. Do not wave your hands wildly or, worse, stand up when the person that you suspect is your server flies around the corner with a tray full of drinks. This behavior will probably not end well for either of you, nor for the unsuspecting guest behind you who will get a noggin full of Sprite because you HAD to make your presence known.

I know. I know. You’re special. You’re in a hurry. (Guess what? Everyone SAYS they’re in a hurry — EVERYONE!) I understand that folks like you — crazy rule breakers that you are — need the world’s undivided attention. I have an idea. Stay home where you are the King of Your Castle, A Legend In Your Own Mind. It really will be best for everyone.

For those of you who claim to have fifteen minutes for lunch, guess what? We’re on to your bullshit. Not that I think you have much sense, but I assume you can tell time. If, indeed, you only had that much time for lunch, you would have gone to a fast food joint or a deli. If your time is, indeed, limited (and, really, everyone’s time is finite on some level, isn’t it?) it would especially behoove you to pop a squat at the table where you were initially directed to sit.

What’s that? You want to watch some foolish sporting event? A sporting event that can only be seen comfortably from eight tables in the restaurant? Six of which are currently occupied? And the bar is full, too? May I suggest that the next time you go out to watch some meaningless sporting event, instead of insisting on sitting in a section where the server is clearly busy or at a bar that is obviously full and then stressing out the staff, you make it your business to leave a few minutes earlier.

Oh, wait. That’s right. The world revolves around you. You and your needs. You and your fifteen-minute lunch hour. This may come as a shock to you — you who thinks himself so special — but you are not the only American whose lunch hour falls between the hours of noon and two. You are not the only idiot who has the same bright idea to watch some foolish game that, let’s be honest, you couldn’t care less about.

Yes. I’m talking about World Cup Soccer. Every four years you crazy soccer fans come out of the woodwork. Suddenly we’ve got a nation of soccer enthusiasts on our hands. I’ll guarantee you that, by and large, you people don’t even know the damn rules. (I’ve overheard you talking and, in fact, I KNOW that you don’t know the rules!)

Here’s what I love most about you people who refuse to listen to the folks who know a thing or three about what is going on in their dining establishment. Those of you who plop your asses down and sit wherever the hell you want to sit just because you can, because you’re the customer and you’re ALWAYS right — you will spend your time with us disappointed and unhappy. Here’s a news flash for you: It’s all your own fault.

Open your eyes. Clean out your ears. Listen to what you’re being told. This is basic and something that most of you should have learned in pre-school. You probably weren’t paying attention, though.

That’s no surprise. You don’t pay attention to anything. I know. I know. You’re probably distracted by or absorbed in a game that involves a ball of some sort. (It’s not only World Cup Soccer that brings you in — sometimes it’s golf or tennis or the all-important National Ping-Pong Championships.) Even though you have fifteen minutes for lunch, you don’t have the first clue as to what you want to eat. You order things that aren’t even on the menu — clearly this isn’t your usual lunch place. We don’t have Whoppers.

Personally I can’t wait for July 14th to roll around. Not because it’s Bastille Day. Not because it’s my birthday. Because, if my information is correct, this is the date that will bring World Cup Soccer to an end. Sadly, it won’t signal an end to people refusing to sit where we put them, but it’ll help. Right now I need all the help I can get.

I’m Too Old For This Nonsense!



I don’t know how to say this any other way, so I’m just going to go ahead and be blunt about it. I’m too old for this waitressing/bartending shit. I really am. Last night may well have been the final nail in the coffin. As I left the restaurant last night I swore that I heard the metaphorical toll of the death knell, signaling the end of my career in the food service industry. Stick a fork in me. I’m done.

It probably wasn’t helpful that I was scheduled to work two doubles in a row this week — one of them the dreaded “bar double” — for absolutely NO good reason. Turns out it was a scheduling glitch, a memory hiccup on the part of the manager who makes the schedule. Okay. That’s fine. We all make mistakes. These things happen. I was cool with it. I got myself in the correct frame of mind and I sucked it up.

The powers that be have been very understanding of late — I’ve needed quite a bit of time off to help with my mother and to attend all of the graduation functions that my daughter has been involved in. Payback can be a bitch, but when it’s necessary you just do it. You don’t complain about it while you’re doing it. That just makes people feel bad.

There is, however, no rule against complaining about it now, though, is there? I don’t think so.

Let me start off by saying that when I am scheduled to work twenty-four hours out of forty-eight, I expect that I’ll at least come away with a fair bit of money for putting myself through the physical and mental misery that is concomitant with that kind of work schedule. Well, that didn’t happen. It was painfully slow both days.

There were spurts of activity, though. It was during these spurts that I had the pleasure of waiting on a menagerie of morons — some were just plain old drunk or stupid — in one bonus case, they were both. Still others were just downright and deliberately mean. It was a real treat.

Last night on a total of almost $300 in sales, I made absolutely nothing. In fact, it cost ME money to kowtow to these (less than) exemplar creatures. (Yes. It’s true. Yes. It’s perfectly legal. We tip out our support staff based on our sales, not based on what we make.)

After a dreary lunch shift, I was actually looking forward to a more profitable evening. Of course I was. Why wouldn’t I be?

My first table relieved me of that kind of thinking. And, pretty much, it went downhill from there.

These three guys, I’ll call them “The Ganja Triplets” were positively delightful. They chose to slur, grunt, and point their way through our time together. Surprisingly, I didn’t get a contact high from my proximity to them, so thick was the odor of marijuana.

They weren’t happy potheads, either. They were nasty, smelly jerks. And, they were, in my opinion, entirely too old for this kind of behavior. They racked up a $100 check, paid with $90 worth of gift cards, and left crumpled dollars and a mound of change for the rest of the bill. For me? They just left a mess and an overwhelming desire to go out after them and ask them for their mother’s phone numbers. Of course, it’s entirely possible that their mothers are just as bad as they are. What do I know?

Next up was a couple who seemed to be on a blind date. They, too, seemed too old for this sort of thing. Judging from the look on the woman’s face as the guy ordered up his fourth vodka on the rocks, I’ll bet there won’t be a second date. If she has any sense there won’t be.

He thought he was a class act. He wasn’t. He asked me for bleu cheese-stuffed olives. I informed him that we don’t have bleu cheese-stuffed olives. In a condescending and superior tone, he asked me if we had olives. I told him “yes”. He asked me if we had bleu cheese. You can see where this line of questioning was going, right?

I wasn’t stuffing anything into anything for this idiot, except maybe a sock in his big, fat mouth. Maybe if he’d asked me nicely, I would have gotten him his stupid olives. He didn’t. As a result, I wasn’t going to go out of my way for his sorry, alcoholic ass. This inebriated asshole took both copies of his credit card receipt. So, again, no tip for me! (It kind of made me smile, though, when I realized that he was paying with one of those credit cards that you have to load with money. He can go right on thinking how he’s better than me. He’s not.)

Plus, at the moment I was contending with two “gentlemen” who appeared to be homeless and who had, during my fascinating conversation involving bleu cheese and olives, planted themselves at the bar. I feared that if I didn’t get over to them soon we would need to call in a paramedic for the neck injuries they were no doubt sustaining as they were looking around for someone — anyone — to wait on them. Clearly, they were in need of a fix. Or a chiropractor. They had the money to slop a few drinks back and hastily search their pockets for enough humidity or urine-soaked dollars and plenty of change to cover the check. Even on, what I am assuming, was a stellar day in the wonderful world of panhandling, it didn’t produce even so much as a left over penny for yours truly.

The final straw though was the father and son team that arrived fifteen minutes before closing, sat at a dirty table — there were two clean ones flanking the dirty one — and made a “wiping” motion, an “eating” motion, and a “drinking” motion to alert me that they wanted to sit there, that they wanted me to clean the table, and that they wanted to eat and drink. Yeah. Okay.

I, myself, could have made my own hand gestures at this stage of the game. I could have pointed at the two tables that were, indeed, clean and ready to be waited on. I didn’t. I suspected that they, too, were drunkards. I wasn’t wrong. The apple, I soon discovered, didn’t fall far from the tree in their family.

In the midst of readying their table for habitation, they proceeded to bark their orders at me. They were slurring over each other, so it was difficult to process what, exactly, it was that they were ordering/asking me. I, very nicely, asked them to slow it down so that I could hear them properly. It was late. I didn’t want any drunk mistakes. I wanted to insure that I got their order right. I didn’t even have a pen and paper out at this point. I was still wiping the table.

The father then proceeded to speak to me as if I were a total nincompoop. He began talking to me like a tape recorder that’s been put on slow motion — a “gag” which he continued with the entire time he was there. Delightful, right?

I was in that moment very grateful for two things, and so should he have been: 1) That I was too tired to fight and 2) That I don’t have more money in the bank. Because, seriously, I wanted to punch him in the face. He did leave me six bucks, though, so I guess I should have been grateful for that, too. It didn’t feel like a success, though. It felt more like a Pyrrhic victory, to tell you the truth.

I’m feeling more well-rested today. Hopefully today will be a better day — a day when the societal rejects find another restaurant to frequent, another waitress to terrorize. If it’s not, money in the bank or not, if I have to deal with one more cretin, this may be my last shift — ever. I’ll go out with a bang, though. You can bet on that.

photo credit: cannon