Pipe Down!

pipedown


I have become a woman bothered by noise. The irony of this, taking into consideration that I am not what one would call “soft spoken” or “quiet”, is not lost on me. I am nothing if I am not self-aware.

I am the grumpy neighbor who throws open the window and shouts to no one in particular, “Pipe Down Over There, People!”. And then cannot understand why they don’t (or won’t). I could just step outside — like a normal person would — and request that they turn down the hip-hop or the salsa music, but that would require far too much human interaction and, you know, energy. Plus, I have never been accused of being a “normal person”. So there!

I am the irritated co-worker who has to yell to be heard and who, by doing so, adds to the cacophony by screaming at the top of her lungs, “Can You Please Be Quiet? I Can’t Hear Myself Think!”. I behave as if I am in the midst of thinking deep thoughts or solving problems of great magnitude instead of what I am actually doing, which is, more often than not, wondering what the hell I am doing occupying a particular space, puzzling over why I came into the kitchen in the first place. (Oh, yeah, table 12 needs their seventeenth Coke refill!)

I have been known to pick my head up during dinner at home to inquire “What Is All That Racket?” only to realize that “that racket” is the sound of children playing outside. Can’t they play indoors? Don’t they know it’s 6 PM? Where are their parents? What is going on in this neighborhood, anyway? It’s going to hell in a hand basket — a hand basket that is seemingly full of noisemakers — that’s what!

Don’t even get me started on landscapers. They are every suburbanite’s nightmare — the annoying equivalent to the city dweller’s jackhammer-wielding construction worker. What ever happened to raking leaves, anyway? Why must we blow them all over creation with a machine that reaches the same decibel level as a jet engine? And why must this be done at all hours of the day and night? Why? It’s like living in a wind tunnel.

And then there are the weekend warriors, those handy men and women who like to build things on their days off. The folks in my area must ALL have received table saws last Christmas. They’ve broken them out since the weather has warmed up.

What are they building, anyway? Shelves? My money is on shelves. People cannot have too many shelves. All that shrieking of wood against metal — the high-pitched sounds of doing — is enough to drive even the most complacent person up a wall. I am not the most complacent person. Can’t they just go to IKEA and buy their shelves? It’s as if I live amongst a bunch of lumberjacks. I may as well move to a logging camp!

Some days my husband, the much put-upon and beloved, Fang, comes home to discover that I am running every air conditioner in the house. He likes to point out that it is beautiful outside, that we are the only ones for miles around using their air conditioning on a balmy 60 degree humidity-free day.

“I know, ” I tell him, “but it blocks out the noise — the infernal, constant, mind-blowing noise!” Fang, when faced with a crazy woman who is throwing up her hands and carrying on about mowers, shelf builders, and hopscotch players, usually takes this opportunity to point out the flaw in my logic, which is that the air conditioning generates noise, too. “Yes, ” I tell him, “I know that. But it’s MY noise!”

Luckily, Fang is a kind and patient man. Rather than try to talk some sense into me, which would be futile, he just goes ahead and puts on a sweatshirt, turns on the Mets’ game, and joins me for dinner. The only noises we have to worry about are the sounds of each other chewing and the occasional crack of a ball hitting a bat. Those are noises that I can live with!

Defining “Real” Courage and Bravery

definingcourageandbraveryMany people are sharing the Vanity Fair cover of Caitlyn, formerly Bruce, Jenner and using words like “courage” and “bravery” and yes, even “role model” to describe Jenner’s decision to finally embrace the life that she always felt that she was meant to live. Conversely, because there will always be people who must compare and, yes, judge what “courage” and “bravery” are, there have been a good number of “shares” on Facebook and other social media outlets about what “real” courage and/or bravery are. Mostly these posts contain pictures of military personnel who are clearly in harm’s way.

To this I say, “Really?”. No one — including me — would ever dispute the courage and bravery it must take to risk life and limb in a combat situation. Why, though, must people compare acts of courage? Is Caitlyn Jenner’s bravery “fake”? While her breasts surely are manufactured, her struggle has been anything but.

Is there some sliding scale where courage is concerned? Must one hold a gun to be considered brave? Is that the holy grail of bravery, of courage?

How about the single parent who works two minimum wage jobs to keep his or her family safe, clothed, sheltered, and fed? Are they less courageous, less brave than someone who defends a piece of land with a firearm, less worthy of being called a role model than Caitlyn Jenner? Certainly there are no parades when they return home from work every day, no Annie Leibovitz magazine covers in their futures.

What, exactly, is the criteria for bravery that would satisfy Ms. Jenner’s critics? Silencing them would be too much to ask for.

Would it help if a transgender individual came out and said “Caitlyn Jenner saved my life.”? Would that be enough? Because I am certain that she will save the life of at least one person struggling with gender identification. My guess is that it will be more than one, but what do I know?

Because Caitlyn Jenner — and folks like her — are not dropping bombs on our enemies (or their enemies), the service that they might well be performing should not be diminished or dismissed.

I happen to think that what our military personnel do on a daily basis is brave and courageous. I also happen to think that what Caitlyn Jenner has done is also brave and courageous. Are they different? Surely. So different, in fact, that I chafe at the comparison while I scratch my head at why one has to be “better” than the other.

Let’s celebrate both and stop comparing the two. While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and give that single parent a pat on the back, too. He or she is surely just as deserving. In fact, he or she may be raising the next Caitlyn Jenner or the next recipient of The Bronze Star. You never know.

Tales From “The Annoying Bar & Grill”: There Are Rules, People! Rules!

TheABGtherearerules


It is shocking to me how many customers get it into their pea brains that the best way to get an employee’s attention is to wander into the kitchen, throw up their hands, and ask “Is anyone working here?” I am uncertain as to what it is they expect to find us doing in the kitchen. Do they think we are getting up a game of gin rummy? Practicing our dance moves? Napping?

This behavior should not shock me — nothing should, given my thirty-plus years of experience dealing with the dining public. Still, it almost always renders me semi-speechless. The only answer I can usually muster, following playing my meld, taking off my tap shoes, or rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, to the very insulting question, “Is anyone working here?” is “Yes. Someone will be right with you.”

What I would like to say, but don’t — because I need my job — is “Seriously? What the fuck is wrong with you? Get out of the goddamn kitchen and take a seat. Wait your turn.”

A disproportionate number of these types of humans — and I use the term “human” loosely here, as it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to discover that they were raised by wolves — are bar guests. And, they’re in a hurry. Or in need of a fix. Or both.

I had two guests do this to me yesterday. Two. Let me just say this: their behavior during our initial encounter did nothing to endear them to me. If they had been diabetics in need of some juice, I may have been more understanding of their predicament. Neither of these “gentlemen”, as it would turn out, were suffering from low blood sugar. What they both needed were alcoholic beverages at noontime. This cemented my opinion that they were jackasses of the highest order.

One required a couple of straight vodkas to deal with the ex-wife and her attorney; the other had decided that he would need more than half a bottle of wine to fortify himself for his upcoming trip across the George Washington Bridge. Yeah. There’s nothing like a couple of boozy blowhards on a Wednesday afternoon. Nothing like it.

I wish they had been there at the same time. Perhaps they would have found in each other something they did not get from me. That something? A sympathetic ear.

Instead they got me — a woman not known to possess a high threshold for bullshit, a soft  heart, or the wherewithal to suffer fools.

After listening to vodka guy for all of thirty seconds I said, “I’m sure there’s nothing a divorce attorney likes to see more than someone who comes in half in the bag to sign important documents — particularly when it’s the party he or she is NOT representing. You’re every lawyer’s dream! Good luck to you!”

To our wine aficionado I said, “Well, if you have any more wine, it’s likely you’ll get a quick trip over the bridge — either via the railing or in a police car. I cannot imagine that either of those scenarios would be preferable to a little traffic.”

They both took in my retorts, eyed me suspiciously, and paid their checks. I was not sad to see either of them go. I hope they enjoyed a lovely day busting someone else’s chops.

Every situation has rules, written and unwritten. DO NOT ENTER A RESTAURANT KITCHEN UNLESS YOUR ASS IS ON FIRE is rule number one while dining out. DO NOT INSULT THE PEOPLE WHO WORK IN A RESTAURANT AND THEN EXPECT EXEMPLARY SERVICE (OR THAT SYMPATHETIC EAR) is rule number two.

I hold out very little hope that my “liquid lunchers” were catching what I was throwing to them — so absorbed were they in their own little dramas. Still, I had to try. After all, I had a hot game of gin rummy to return to. If only.

Misery Loves Company

miserylovescompany


Some days I realize that it is difficult NOT to be a miserable human being. I know this because I, too, have those days. What I cannot fathom is how it is that I always seem to wind up surrounded by people who have, for whatever reasons, decided that they must lead miserable LIVES. Not only that, but they almost always must, by either accident or by design — my money is on the latter — make attempts to cause misery to all those that they come into contact with.

They never seem content to simply live with their misery. It seems that there is some kind of a rule that they must also foist it upon others. I don’t know, perhaps that’s the one and only pleasure they have in life, the one thing that at which they are truly adept. Misery loving company and all that.

I wish I could play a game of hot potato with their piss-poor attitudes. You know, throw it back to them. I neither want it nor need it.

I wish that I could say that I wake up every morning happy to greet the day. I do not. Coffee helps. As does a yogurt. I don’t arise smiling and cheerful. I have to put that face on. But, put it on I do.

It never lasts long. Why? Because I am constantly forced to contend with the crazy, the ornery, the manipulative. It is difficult enough to have to wait on these types, but I also have to work with them. That’s tougher.

If I ignore them, they just try harder. If I fight back, they become contentious. If I smile, they bark louder. In the face of truth, they lie. When I play by their rules, they change them. I feel like I cannot win. When I do manage a win, it feels like a loss.

Worse than anything, though, is the exhaustion that I feel after dealing with these people day in and day out. It is beginning to affect my out-of-the-workplace attitude. I just come home and go to bed. I retreat. I eat too many donuts. I do not want to socialize. I do not want to converse.

I am certain that I am delightful to live with, to be around. Ha!

I know that I need a vacation. Two days off in a row might be nice, too. Neither one of these things is going to happen anytime soon, though. My kid’s college will not care how stressed out I am. They want their money. The grocery store, the gas station, the landlord? They want their money, too. I don’t blame them. After all, if I were them I would want it, too. I understand.

I know that I am lucky. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. Working the way that I do allows my family to stay financially afloat. I know this. I do not resent it. I am, in fact, grateful. They are, too.

There are days, though, that I just want to walk out of one or both jobs shouting as I go, “Take this job and shove it!”. I cannot do that. I will not do that. It would not make my life better. It would not bring me happiness. It would very likely make me one of those people who would be forced to share her miserable existence with the rest of humanity.

That I would have to do so from a cardboard box by the roadside while living out of a hobo bag, which might sound exciting and adventurous, would probably get very old very quickly. Plus, where would I plug in my blow dryer?

Instead, I will make the better choice, the more adult choice, the more electricity-friendly choice. I will enjoy my coffee and my yogurt. (And my blow dryer!) After that, I will slap a smile on my face and pretend that I do not want to run screaming into the night. Some days that’s the best anyone can do.

Misery may love company, but they won’t be getting mine.

Tales From “The Annoying Bar & Grill”: Have More Fun At Work!

havemorefunatwork


Until I was recently and pleasantly reminded of it, I had forgotten that it is possible to enjoy myself while at work. One of the reasons that I do what I do, why I all those years ago made the decision to continue to wait tables and/or tend bar, rather than opting for a “real job”, was not solely because doing so allowed me the opportunity to schedule my work life around my personal life. Certainly that, combined with the fact that I get to go home with cash on a daily basis, was its biggest selling point. While the hours and the money may have been the primary reason that I continued in this line of work, they were not the only reasons.

Less quantifiable, perhaps, but certainly significant, another reason that I remained slinging hash and mixing up daiquiris is because of the people with whom I get to work. Restaurant workers tend to be a friendly, funny bunch. Some of us, myself included, may even be slightly north of crazy. I would argue however that our individual brands of crazy— and our ability to recognize and to tolerate them in each other — may well be, in addition to our shared experiences, what bonds us to each other. After all, it’s a scientific fact that “like” attracts “like”. By and large, I like the sort of people that are drawn to restaurant work.

I was not working down at “The Annoying Bar & Grill” when I had my “V-8 moment” about enjoying myself in the workplace. I have another job now — one where the camaraderie feels far more organic. It is less about survival, more about creating a comfortable atmosphere — for ourselves and for the customers. I love it.

More often than not, my interactions with my coworkers down at “The Annoying Bar & Grill” have a desperate, edgy quality to them. If you look closely enough, you’ll note a lean, hungry look in our eyes. This is a look that would put one in mind of POWs, prisoners, or folks who are making vain attempts to muddle through severe cases of PTSD — people who are just trying to make the best of a bad situation. Luckily, being in possession of the personality traits that drew us to this business in the first place, we are able to do just that. Still, down there it feels at times as if we are all just trying to stay off the prison guard’s radar, to do our time, to survive until the meds kick in.

Over at the new place the owners and the managers actually seem to want you to be happy. Imagine that? If they see you laughing, their first instinct isn’t to find you something to scrub with a toothbrush, sweep with a broom, or polish with a cloth. Instead, they want “in” on the joke. It really is like a whole other world.

Sadly, I was only able to get a few shifts a week at the new place. It is not possible for me to fully resign my position at “The Annoying Bar & Grill” quite yet. I have been able to cut back on some of my hours there, though. While I am hopeful that reducing my shifts will make working there more palatable, I fear that the opposite will be true.

What I’ve realized, though, is that I don’t have to play into that fear. I have had an epiphany of sorts — one which has led me to believe that I may, in fact, be able to steer the ship — or at least my ship —in another direction. To that end, I have decided that I am going to do my best to take some of the lessons that I have learned from the other place and apply them to “The Annoying Bar & Grill”. Having been recently reminded that laughter truly is the best medicine, I am going to give enjoying myself — everywhere that I work — the old college try.

You’re welcome, co-workers! You’re welcome, customers! You’re welcome, America!


This piece is dedicated to my friend, John, who never fails to make me smile. His gift to me — and to the world — is his ability not only to recognize, but to put into perspective the folly that exists in our daily lives. He has the uncanny ability to point out, in the funniest ways possible, that there are only a few things that truly matter. Friendship, love, and laughter top his list. His renewed  presence in my life has reminded me that I, too, once had this same ability. He has inspired me to find it again. For this I am truly grateful. I love you, dude!

 


© Jacqueline Tierney DeMuro and Ambling & Rambling (javaj240.wordpress.com), 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jacqueline Tierney DeMuro and Ambling & Rambling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Let Me Grab My Robe!

letmegrabmyrobeIf anyone is looking for me around suppertime on any given Friday evening, I’ll be at the local Friendly’s. The reason for this has less (but certainly not nothing) to do with the fact that I can officially begin my weekend by ingesting some kind of crazy fabulous chocolate-peanut butter dessert concoction; more to do with the fact that, as I discovered on a recent excursion to this joint, the place seems to be “shoes-optional”.

One cannot enjoy a buffalo chicken salad (and, yes, a giant dessert) barefooted — that’s against the law here in New Jersey. There is, however, no law (written or, apparently, unwritten) against donning one’s bedroom slippers and heading out to enjoy a meal (and dessert!) at Friendly’s. Finally, a place where I can be comfortable.

Normally, frequenting a restaurant where pants are “button-optional” would be enough for me — especially one where ordering dessert is more of a given than it is a choice. Knowing that I don’t even have to change into shoes? Yeah. I’m all in, folks. All in!

When I first noticed a woman leaving the premises in her fuzzy mules, I will admit that I was somewhat taken aback. She had a gaggle of kids in tow, though, and I figured that she may have simply been overwhelmed by the mere act of wrangling them to concern herself with something as esoteric as proper footwear.

It was when I got inside and spied several other slipper-wearers that it occurred to me that this might be some sort of tradition or, at the very least, a trend down at the Friendly’s. Who knew?

Not me, that’s for sure. At some point I began to wonder if I had missed the memo that Fridays were “Pajama Days” at Friendly’s because, I swear, there was a woman who appeared to be wearing, in addition to her house shoes, a bathrobe. It may have been a sweater, but it surely could have passed for a robe.

I have, in my lifetime, witnessed the relaxation of the dress code here in America. It is no longer de rigeur to wear black to a funeral, for example. Shockingly — at least to me — one may also wear booty shorts and a midriff-baring shirt to a Broadway play without garnering any undue “tsking”. Feel the need to wear white before Memorial Day and after Labor Day? Go right ahead. No one will notice.

I see young people sporting pajama pants in all sorts of places. School, for example. I have long chalked this practice up to the rebellious nature of your average adolescent. Good for them. Whatever.

I know how I feel about “hooker casual” at a show. I’m against it. But sleepwear at the Friendly’s? This is a practice that I may be able to work into my routine. Those desserts, after all, can make a person mighty sleepy.

Let’s Bring Back the Hat!

Greta Garbo... need I say more?

Greta Garbo… need I say more?


I am not much of a trendsetter in any area of my life — unless, of course, you count “cooking with soup”. Some would argue — and rightly so — that opening a can of cream of mushroom soup to whip up a delicious gravy has more to do with sheer laziness and an inability to turn drippings and corn starch into something edible, than it is some sort of a trailblazing effort to change the way America cooks.

Not only am I not a trendsetter, I am also not a fashion maven. I am still on “orange is the new pink”, for crying out loud! (I can just see my teenage daughter rolling her eyes and mumbling, “Mom, that was sooooo ten years ago!”)

Having established that I am no fashion expert, I will go out on a very small limb here and admit that I am well aware that a woman who is still substituting orange for pink should not, in all likelihood, be making suggestions for starting a movement like the one I am about to make. Having little expertise in a subject matter never stopped me from forming (or expressing) an opinion before, though.

Let’s bring back the hat!

I am not talking about baseball hats. I would guess that most women own at least one of those. The problem with caps of this variety is that they are not generally worn to make a fashion statement. Generally, they are thrown on NOT to enhance one’s appearance, but to hide the fact that one has chosen not to shower or to attend to one’s hair on a given day

I, myself, have engaged in baseball hat subterfuge now and again. I understand. Still, I say, let’s save the logo caps for the ballpark, Ladies! (You’re not fooling anyone at the grocery store anyway.)

Being a bit of a hat-wearer myself, I have learned that the minute I put one on my attitude is instantly transformed. Depending on the style of hat that I have chosen to don, I often feel more fun-loving or more sophisticated. I feel more stylish — even at the supermarket — when I top off my look with a tweed cap. I always feel more confident, jauntier, while sporting a beret. (Who wouldn’t?)

Hats do not have to be something we throw on to shovel snow, hide our unkempt tresses, or put the finishing touch on our Halloween costumes.  In other words, hats do not have to be an afterthought.  Rather, they should make a statement about who we are. They should complete our ensembles; complement our personalities.

My dream is to see a resurgence of hat boxes filled with fedoras, bowlers, berets, cloches, and, yes, even pillboxes, in the closets of all American women. If you require more inspiration than just little old me, you need only to look to women like Lucille Ball, Greta Garbo, and Mary Pickford. Those gals could rock a hat!

As if looking sexy like Faye Dunaway in “Bonnie and Clyde” or quirky like Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall” were not good enough reasons to embrace hat-wearing, how about the fact that, combined with a good sunscreen, hats protect our faces from sun damage. Say “Hello!” to hats, “Good Riddance” to premature wrinkling, age spots, and skin cancer!

Let’s do it. Let’s start a movement. Let’s find a good milliner. Let’s bring back the hat!