The Sophomore Drop-Off: What a Difference a Year Makes

sophomoredropoffIn one week we will, once again, be leaving our daughter—the always delightful Fangette— in the wilds of Vermont where she will attempt, no doubt successfully, to complete her second  year of college. I am not looking forward to it.

What a difference the year has made—for all of us. A  year ago I could hardly wait to be rid of her. In the weeks and months that preceded her departure for college she had become, to put it bluntly (and mildly), a royal pain in the ass. We were both ready, or so I thought, to put four-hundred miles between us.

That I became borderline clinically depressed in the weeks that followed her departure came as a surprise to me. I knew I would miss her. After all, pain in the ass or not, I love my kid. Still, I was wholly unprepared for the level of separation anxiety that I would experience.

I could not go into her room without bursting into tears. The cereal aisle in the grocery store prompted the same response. While I could avoid the aisle, I could not help but spy her favorite cereal in someone else’s cart. Blurry-eyed, I would march down the aisle, pick up the cereal, and include it in one of the many care packages that I would send over the course of those first few harrowing weeks that she was away.

These packages included her favorite foods (butter cookies in the blue tin!), items of clothing that I decided that she should not be without (snazzy socks!), and, of course, blank cards that I would inscribe with heartfelt sentiments (“We love you!”; “We miss you!”; “We’re so proud of you!”). To insure that she at least opened the cards, I resorted to sticking money in them—and notifying her via text that the cards “just might contain a ‘surprise’, LOL!”.

I have no idea if she read them. She never mentioned their contents. Had she not texted a cursory “Thanks for the $20, Mom!” message, I would never have known that they had been opened.

In hindsight I can admit that the packages were not for her. They were for me. They—the cookies, the socks, the cards—were my way of maintaining our connection, a connection which suddenly felt in danger of slipping away.

We visited in October. She came home for short periods in November, December, and March. With each visit I noted a change in my daughter. While I spent our time apart floundering, she used that time more wisely. She flourished.

She did not return for the summer, as I had feared she might, a stranger. Instead, she arrived happy and much more fully formed than I could ever have imagined. Being away certainly softened some of her sharper edges.

I can honestly report that I like her now, just as much as I have loved her always. That being said, I have no idea how I will feel next week when she returns to school. Absent the worries about how she will fare, knowing that she will be fine, will I fare better? Will I be fine?

Time will tell. In the spirit of preparedness I have laid in a supply of sappy cards and put away a few crisp twenties just in case I feel the need to unnecessarily remind her that we love her, that we miss her, and that we are proud of her.

No Translation Required

no circleI am currently working on ways to say “I do not care” in languages other than my own native tongue (which, for those of you who may be wondering, is, in fact, English). Learning this phrase in as many languages as possible is not just my attempt to mix it up a bit, but is something that is actually integral to my job. That it may come in handy in other aspects of my life is just a bonus.

It would be far easier if it were only necessary to have “No me importa” roll trippingly off of my tongue, as almost all the kitchen help here in North America “hablan la lengua Espanola” — they speak the Spanish — but, that just doesn’t seem to be enough to convey to them how much I actually do not care.

So, I am going to try it in several other languages, to make a point. Whether or not they will get the point that I am trying to make — that I do not care — well, we will have to wait and see about that. That is, as they say, en el aire (up in the air), which is appropriate, as this is frequently where I would like to send them — up into the stratosphere — courtesy of my big old size nine.

Tussling with the cooks, actually putting my foot up their asses, is not my preferred method — nor should it be anyone’s — of conveying information. That it may one day come to that is in the realm of possibility, but I would like to at least try to exhaust all other possibilities before resorting to something so caveman-like.

What, you may be wondering, is it that I do not care about? Truthfully, in my work life, just about everything. Mainly, though, “no me importa” that the cooks have to chop onions and parsley so that some loser can enjoy them — on the side, of course — with his broiled trout. I imagine that this is the way his mother used to serve it.

I get it, cooks of the world, this is more work for you. The way I look at it though is that you only have to listen to me explain it to you. Trust me, you are getting the condensed version. You did not have to stand there looking interested as the customer described in painstaking detail what he wanted, which amounted to raw diced white onion and minced parsley in a monkey dish. I broke it down for you in as few words as possible. You’re welcome!

While you should be grateful for the fact that you did not have to listen to five minutes of a guy describing what raw diced white onions and parsley is and how he wanted it served on the side, not ON his trout, I get the distinct impression that you were something less than grateful. Your response should have been “Gracias! No Problemo!”. You should have been thanking me. You should have been telling me that it will not be a problem. Of course that is not how this works, that is not how any of this ever works.

The fact that you behaved as if I were going to be the one snacking on raw diced white onions and parsley and, as such, you felt as if you could ignore my request by behaving as if you did not understand (“no comprendo”). Well, that was just not going to fly — with me or with the Mama’s boy in the dining room. As tempting and delicious as that side dish sounded and, regardless of what you told yourself, I did not suggest it nor was I the one who wanted to consume it. Further, you did understand.

You fully understood. You just did not want to do it. Well, guess what? I didn’t want to spend five minutes of my life that I will never get back listening to the whack job with a penchant for root vegetables and herbs tell me that he couldn’t eat his trout any other way. Unfortunately, it is my job to do so. And, unlike you, I couldn’t snarl and adopt an attitude of disdain while I pretended to listen intently. No! I had to smile and nod my head while I listened to his riveting description of onions and parsley. I did so knowing full well that I would be spending the next five minutes of my life (also time that I will never get back) arguing with you about doing something as simple as dicing a white onion and throwing some parsley on top of it — and, of course, putting it into the all-important side dish.

The fact that you put it ON the trout? I know that you did it to be a pain in the ass. I hope that you understood me when I said, “Gracias! No me importa!” as I scraped it into a side dish. I can only hope that I communicated to you in a language that you understood how grateful I was, in that moment and the many others we have enjoyed together as a team, for all of the pains in the asses that I must deal with on a daily basis. The fact that you, my co-worker, falls into that category is, by the way, a crying shame.

I also hope that you understood that bit of sign language I used as I left the kitchen with the ramekin of raw diced white onion and parsley that you worked so hard to screw up in order that I might have to expend minutes that I did not have as I dealt with a full section of needy guests. That particular sign, I think, is universally understood. Thankfully, there is no translation required for the middle finger in the air. After all, nothing says, “No me importa”, “Je ne suis pas de soins”, or even “Interesseert Me niet” like the high sign!

Every Woman Is Entitled To A Fantasy!

everywomanisentitledtoafantasyI have been forced to put some of the CITIES OF THE WORLD on notice. (Truthfully, most of them are just THE CITIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES, but CITIES OF THE WORLD sounds much more dramatic, doesn’t it?) They have been judged and many have been found wanting.

For the record, I do not think that I am a harsh critic. I don’t require much in the way of creature comforts. In order for my stay to be comfortable, I do need some things. Who doesn’t need some things?

The first thing, the most obvious thing, is to procure a decent hotel room at a rate that does not require the hocking of my right arm. Most of the time this is not a Herculean task. After all, like most denizens of the western world I, too, have access to the internet and I am fully capable of using it.

I can almost always find a safe, clean place to lay my head at a reasonable price. What I have discovered — through the process of trial and error — is that all lodging is not created equal. You have to read the fine print and plan accordingly if you want to be happy with your choice of hotel room.

At the very least I require clean sheets. I would also like to feel safe from the odd drive-by shooting. Once that criteria has been met, there are other things that will encourage me to make a return visit to your facility and/or your city.

Wi-Fi access comes to mind. I want it IN my room, not just in the LOBBY, for heaven’s sakes! And I want it for FREE. Seriously, don’t your hotels have tablets, CITY? Don’t your citizens play games, check email, or just wander the World Wide Web before dropping off to sleep at night? And, really, who wants to see me traipsing about the lobby in my pajamas? No one, that’s who.

Let’s move on to coffee now because the availability of large quantities of this beverage (made just the way I like it!) is, after knowing that I won’t bring home bed bugs or be shot in my sleep, a very important factor in how much (or how little) I enjoy my stay. I like scenery as much as the next gal but, frankly, the only scenery I want to see dotting the landscape first thing in the morning is something familiar and just the right shade of green — a building with the Starbuck’s logo.

Don’t hand me this crap that there is Starbucks coffee in my room. If I wanted to make my own damn coffee I would have stayed home where the cleanliness of the sheets might be questionable, but where the coffee is always fresh and readily available.

In other words, CITY, I want a barista (or baristo, I don’t discriminate) to make me my coffee. I am a good guest. I don’t litter, keep my fellow visitors awake all hours of the night, or stiff the maid. I think I deserve, while I am gracing you with my presence (and giving you my hard-earned money), to have my coffee made for me.

It’s the little things, CITY. The big things don’t faze me. I can read a map or download an app for whatever sightseeing things your location has to offer. I can — and I have — figured out the New York City transportation system all on my own. If I can get to the outer boroughs from New Jersey using the subway it would stand to reason that your little burg won’t stymie me.

I am fully aware that I am biased. When the city by which you judge all other cities is Manhattan, it is difficult not to be biased.

It feels weird when visiting other cities —- cities that seemingly have never heard of capitalism — and there is no one trying to sell you water a street corner. A shish kebob or a knish would be far too much to hope for.

At the base of the Empire State Building there is not one, but two, Starbucks Coffee shops. This insures that no one need go to the top half-caffeinated or, God forbid, latte-less. Take note, OTHER CITIES. Please.

While I do not expect that sort of forward thinking to exist everywhere, it is nice to know that it exists somewhere. It has spoiled me, though, I will admit that. Other cities just don’t seem to fully grasp how those of us who are used to Manhattan are gobsmacked by what we view as poor planning and, I’m sorry to say, the complete and utter lack of initiative that passes for “business as usual” in other metropolitan areas.

I was once on The National Mall in Washington, D.C. It was 100 degrees and humid on the beautiful shores of the Potomac. I could see the Jefferson Memorial in the distance. What I couldn’t see was anyone selling a bottle of water. I couldn’t buy one for love or money. I was directed to a water fountain. A water fountain! If I’d had a cooler and a couple of cases of Poland Spring I could have made a mint that day. A mint!

Recently we found ourselves in Philadelphia. There was acceptable lodging with easy access to both Wi-Fi and a decent cup of coffee. (I made sure of that — thank you Google maps!) What there seemed to be a dearth of, though, was an adequate supply of ice cream. The availability of ice cream ranks high on the city judging scale.

I live in a small town and there are not one, but two, decent ice cream shops in walking distance from my house. I don’t think it’s a stretch to expect that one should be able to easily come by something as simple as a scoop of vanilla in a cone after dinner while strolling through a city.

We couldn’t, though. Even after consulting our smartphones, the best we were able to come up with was one of those “fill your own cup fro-yo” places. Let’s not even get into the fact that frozen yogurt is NOT ice cream. I don’t even find it to be an acceptable substitute, but when it’s the only port in the storm, I’ll take it. I don’t have to be happy about it, though.

A city loses big points when it cannot provide me with ice cream. Sorry, Philadelphia, but you lost major points there. Major points!

Honestly, I can’t wait to take my daughter back to school in Burlington, Vermont. For a small city they get it right. Not only can one easily find affordable accommodations, but these people love their coffee and their ice cream. I haven’t done the math, but I’ll bet that, per capita, they have as many Starbucks as Manhattan. As for ice cream, have you every heard of a little company called Ben & Jerry’s. Yup. They have those, too.

I may be visiting Montreal soon. I have this fantasy that involves crepes and room service. I have a dream that some enterprising French-Canadian hotelier will blow me away by offering me a luscious crepe filled with rich vanilla ice cream accompanied by a velvety latte delivered to my Wi-Fi enabled room. If they do, I promise not to spill any of it — not a drop — on their clean sheets. And, this should go without saying, they will be awarded a very high number of points. A very high number, indeed.

What can I say? Every woman is entitled to a fantasy.


photo credits: coffee, ice cream

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.