I Have Evolved. Really. I Have.

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I do not have a short fuse. I have evolved. Really. I have.

I am aware that I complain a lot, but that does not mean I am angry. Frankly, the complaining is what keeps whatever anger I may be feeling from being bottled up and, subsequently, exploding.

Think of me, if you will, as a carbonated beverage. A guilty pleasure. Effervescent and sweet when stable. Put the contents under extreme pressure, shake me up, and I, like that bottle of Diet Coke, will likely exhibit what scientists call “volatility”. (I think that’s what they call it. What do I know? Do I look like a scientist?)

Sometimes working the bubbles into a frenzy is accidental. Like when you’re moving things around in the fridge to make room for the potato salad, and you inadvertently knock the bottle of soda to the floor. It happens. It is best, under these circumstances, if you want to avoid an all-out disaster, to release the pressure slowly, to let the bubbles out carefully. Cleaning up a  heap of sticky goo from between the tiles is time consuming and, let’s be honest, not a whole lot of fun.

Once in a while I find myself in a situation where my buttons are being pushed by someone (or, you know, a bunch of someones; a gaggle of someones). I feel shaken to the point of volatility.

Just the other day I was out shopping. In the course of my trip I began to wonder if some sort of strange magic dust had been sprinkled upon me as I entered the mall, dust that rendered me invisible to other consumers.

Why? Because several of my fellow shoppers, in a number of different retail establishments, either walked directly in front of me — like the woman in the shoe store who was eyeing the same pair of shoes as was I — or, in the case of one clearly deranged J. Crew shopper, actually pushed me aside in front of the chino display. (Pushed me aside! In front of the chinos!)

It is when I find myself in these situations that I must stop and make an assessment, that I must ask myself, as I feel the bubbles rising, as I sense the pressure building, is this behavior deliberately directed at me, personally? Or, is this woman in dire need of a pair of boyfriend-cut cropped chinos?

After checking to make sure that my fellow chino enthusiast was not pantsless, or that the other woman was not shoeless, I took a deep breath, unscrewed the bottle cap just a bit, and allowed the pressure to escape. I took charge of how I released the bubbles, slowly and deliberately, so as not to create a mess.

I decided that their behavior, rude and insensitive as it was, while aimed at me, was not, in fact, personal in any way. It was not sinister. Alas, I just happened to be the woman standing between them and what they wanted.

Reaching this conclusion calmed me. So did slipping the shoes into an empty slot on the Men’s Size 13 rack. If I decided to come back for them, I would know where they were; ill-mannered step-in-front-of-me-without-an-excuse-me-lady would have to commit herself to a long search to find them again. There was no need for petty subterfuge over at the J.Crew; there were plenty of chinos.

What then does a person such as myself, one given to volatility when mishandled, do when her bubbles are deliberately shaken? When there is no mistaking that the bottle of soda did not simply fall, but was pushed?

If  such a situation had presented itself a few years ago I would be telling you how the bottle erupted and I had to clean soda from every last nook and cranny in my kitchen, likely down on my hands and knees, which would have put me in an excellent, but unenviable, position to pray for forgiveness or beg for mercy, whichever was appropriate. In short, it — I —  would have been a mess.

Now? I just wait. For the bubbles to redistribute. For stasis to return.

Sure, sometimes I have to loosen the cap. I have to vent a little. Let some air out, allow some air in. It beats being down on your hands and knees, though. That’s for damn sure.

It can often be a delicate and, yes, uneasy process, but I have discovered that when I am successful at navigating the minefield of my emotions I feel at peace. I rest more easily. Realizing that nestling the soda behind the jug of milk, where it is less apt to topple over or go careening off the edge of the shelf, took me a shockingly long time to figure out.

Sometimes, though, I forget and I stick the damn bottle where it doesn’t belong. And I pay the price.

I am not suggesting that I have become a doormat, nor would I suggest anyone else should be (or become) one. Passivity is just as bad as overreaction. Sometimes you have to take a swig from the soda, say what needs to be said. It is simply that I have learned that not everything needs to be said; that it is perfectly fine to leave a little soda in the bottle, put the cap back on, and toss it in the trash.

Move along.

It is fairly easy to predict, and to control, how a bottle of soda will react in almost every set of circumstances. (It’s science, kids!) The science behind human behavior being far less exact than the science behind carbonation, it would follow that it is not so easy to predict or to understand how humans will react on any given day to any given thing.

We can change. We can throw a curve. We can also learn from our mistakes. We can be shaken, but choose not to explode. The carbonated beverage does not have any say in the matter. It behaves the same way every time. We do not have to.

What it took me far too many years to learn is that people have their own best interests at heart, their own motivations for their behaviors, which may directly or indirectly affect me, but which are hardly ever ABOUT me.

Most days I try to act like the sane grown-up person that I believe myself to be. If I find myself getting angry or frustrated by a stranger I can always do something a little loopy, like hiding those shoes. Because, you know, that was FUN!

If I find that I am getting fired up by someone close to me, I remind myself that there is a 99.9% chance that it is not about me. Because it hardly ever is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shuddering At the Thought

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Joe’s Crab Shack announced yesterday that it is instituting a “no tipping” policy in its restaurants. Instead, they announced, they will be paying their wait staff a wage of $14/hour. One might think that I, a lifelong server, would applaud this move. I am going to reserve my ovation for the moment.

While this may well be a step in the right direction, I am concerned about the hourly rate. How, I would like to know, did the folks at Joe’s Crab Shack arrive at this figure? (To be fair, they did indicate that some servers — based on merit — would be paid more.)

I think a pre-tax hourly rate of $14/hour is low. I think that the majority of the staff at Joe’s Crab Shack will be taking a pay cut. Actually, at least here in the northeast, I know that they will be. I took a look at my most recent pay stub and discovered that, for me, and I would guarantee for most of my co-workers, this would be true. The pay cut that we would be taking if our company were to go in this same direction? Approximately 50%.

Does anyone think we do this because we LOVE our jobs? We do this for the money — and for the flexible hours. I would hazard a guess that servers at Joe’s Crab Shack are going to lose both money and flexibility, particularly in terms of the number of hours they will be allowed to work on a given day. Many States have laws on the books that require a person be paid time-and-a-half for any time worked over 8 hours/day. Typically, tipped employees are exempt from these rules.

Generally, I work an 11-hour shift at least one day/week, sometimes more often than that. It allows me to maximize my hourly wage and to work fewer days.

I would also like to monitor the prices at Joe’s Crab Shack — for the past year and for the coming year — for increases. I am willing to bet that the consumer will still be paying the service staff, only in a different way; in a way that will now be controlled by Joe’s Crab Shack, rather than by its patrons.

It will also be interesting to see whether or not the level of service will decline once the service staff is no longer incentivized. Think about it. If a server has three tables in an hour and their sales in that time period add up to $300, they have a built in incentive to service these guests well. Why? $45/hour, that’s why.

While I understand that a person will not net $45 in that hour (one must take out taxes and tip-outs). Still, 15% of this $300 in sales would, at a minimum, translate, after taxes and tip-outs, to about $30 in the server’s pocket, which is still more than double the $14/hour that Joe’s Crab Shack has decided is a fair wage for its service staff. (No, we do not make $30/hour ALL the time, but during peak dinner hours we can earn that.)

I watch servers now — servers who have every reason to provide excellent service — who do not do their jobs. These are people who, in my opinion, will be content with a flat rate wage. Will their customers be content without a water refill? Will their tables be full of dirty dishes? Will they have ketchup? Time, I suppose, will tell.

If this trend takes hold, I would not be surprised if most good servers, professional servers, leave the industry altogether. If people think servers are stupid (or lazy, or lack menu knowledge, or…. insert your own preconceived, but likely wrong, notion here) now, just wait until they see what they get when the person waiting on them is only taking home about eleven bucks an hour. Trying to find your server will be like trying to find the person wearing the orange apron at the home improvement store. Good luck with that!

I understand that there are restaurants where tipping is not allowed. I understand that it works for them. Frankly, I don’t know how — not when these same workers can go down the road and make twice what they are making in an establishment where tipping is the norm.

Where a “no tipping” policy works may have something to do with workers who are comfortable with this custom. For example, there is a Japanese restaurant in NYC where tipping is not allowed — because tipping is not allowed in Japan. I am not sure how this translates to the US economy, but it seems to work for them. (So they say.)

There may be isolated cases where a worker simply can not go “down the road” to another establishment and make more money. I would imagine that a restaurant located in a lightly populated area — an area where the hourly wage vs. being tipped evens out. This sort of establishment might draw a decent pool of workers who are happy to work for a flat rate. This is not the case in my corner of the world.

Do not even get me started on what the expectation from employers — once they are paying their front-of-house staff $14 an hour — will be. I guarantee you that cleaning bathrooms, removing garbage, and spit-shining fixtures will be in the future of service staff members nationwide. That will not be a good thing, not for servers, but especially not for the folks who currently do these jobs. I would bet that quite a few of these workers will find themselves out of jobs — jobs that they sorely need.

Currently our “side work” can be back-breaking. There are considerations, though, about how much of it we can have and how long we can reasonably be expected to complete our tasks. The law says that we must be able to finish this work while we still have tables — while we still have the opportunity to make at least minimum wage. Once we are being paid $14/hour, all bets, where “side work” is concerned, will be off.

Where I live, bringing home $11/hour will not cut it. Working for $440 a week would bankrupt me. (This is assuming that a restaurant is willing to give me — or anyone else — a full 40-hour a week schedule.) I would have to have two jobs — two full-time jobs — to earn what I currently take home working one. I am, quite literally, shuddering at the thought.

As consumers, you should be shuddering at the thought, too.

#shutupaboutthecupsalreadyandbegrateful

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Like many other people in the country — so many that there is a trending Twitter hashtag (#starbuckschristmas) devoted to this extremely important issue — I feel the need to weigh in on the whole “Starbuck’s changed its Christmas cup to appeal to the complainers in the world who want to take Christ out of Christmas!” brouhaha. Like many other people in the country, I honestly cannot remember what the old Christmas cup looked like, but not knowing about a thing ever stopped me from expressing my opinion about it before. Unlike the folks up at Starbuck’s, I will just go ahead and stick with tradition, dammit!

I am assuming that there was some nod to Christmas on the Starbuck’s holiday cup. I seriously doubt that there was a nativity scene emblazoned on the old cups. But, what do I know? Maybe there was. I never noticed.

Frankly, I don’t notice much when I am in Starbuck’s. Except maybe how many people are standing between me and my ability to get my French vanilla latte, made breve, with an extra shot of espresso. Depending on the season, I may replace French vanilla with Pumpkin Spice or Crème Brulee. Yeah. I’m flexible like that.

I am also flexible about a company changing the design of its cup. Actually, I don’t really care about the design of the cup, so long as they don’t screw with what they put inside of it. I love Starbuck’s coffee. I am not ashamed to admit it. Some people have gone so far as to suggest that I may need a 12-step meeting to deal with my addiction. To this I say, mainly to my husband and daughter, “Stop talking to me. I am trying to decide between the French vanilla and the Pumpkin spice.” , as I wonder if there is a 12-step program for nagging that I could direct them towards.

To the people complaining about the cup design I say, “Be grateful you have a cup to put your $6 coffee into; be grateful you have the six bucks for the coffee at all.” I have a suggestion for them, those who are so offended by the audacity of a corporation to change the design on their cups: stop drinking it.

They won’t though. They won’t suddenly become Dunkin’ Donuts customers. Would you like to know why? Because, if they did, then they would have to drink Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. No Starbuck’s coffee drinker in their right mind is going to voluntarily switch to DD. No way. No how.

In a world where there is much to be grateful for (truly, there is), the existence of Dunkin’ Donuts is not something a Starbuck’s coffee drinker could ever be grateful for. It will serve in a pinch, but as an every day substitute? No way. No how.

This idea of what we should be grateful for reminded me of many scenes from my childhood, most of them involving my father. My father began a lot of sentences (from the front porch, with coffee cup in hand) with  “You’re lucky….” . And, we were.

We were “lucky”, to his way of thinking, to have arms with which to rake leaves for hours, fingers with which to pull weeds from between the sidewalk cracks all day (likely a punishment for saying we were “bored”!), and legs with which to get our asses to the store for a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk. Before you get the idea that my father was the 1970s version of Simon Legre, let me just paint a picture for you.

In that picture you will see a man that worked all night and stayed up with us during the day. (Hence the porch sitting and the coffee drinking.) You will see a man that often helped us with the leaf raking (he wasn’t a big fan of the weed pulling) and always (and I mean “always”, as in every single time) joined us as we jumped (or, very often were thrown — by him) into the giant piles of leaves that wound up in the cement pond that had long ago ceased to contain fish or frogs, but made an excellent place for growing mint in the summertime and for depositing leaves in the Fall. He didn’t really work us, no matter what we told our mother, all that hard.

Depending on the season, there was always cocoa or lemonade at the end of whichever mindless task we had been assigned. If we had to run down to the store to fetch milk or bread, the change was always ours to spend — on whatever struck our fancy. I, usually, spent mine on magazines or comic books, my sister spent hers on snacks. Unless it was Summer; it was nearly impossible to resist the lure of the “bomb pop” on a hot day — even if Donny Osmond or David Cassidy were gracing the cover of the latest “Tiger Beat”.

I can remember walking home covered in “bomb pop” remnants. The stickiness of the red and blue dye that were the hallmarks of having eaten a bomb pop made me, I am sure, look like an urchin. Still, I was a happy urchin. On a sugar high. Now, I am a happy adult. On a caffeine high. Thank you, Starbuck’s. Thank you, Dad.

I was lucky. I know that now. I knew it then, too. I think it is high time that other people recognize how lucky they are. And, they are very lucky indeed, lucky enough to have the time to fret over coffee cup designs. To that end, I would like to suggest a new Twitter hashtag, #shutupaboutthecupsalreadyandbegrateful.

Tales From “The Annoying Bar & Grill”: If You See Something, Say Something!

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Last night I overheard a customer who was sitting at the bar ask my bar partner what my name was. I had no idea why this guy wanted this information; I had had absolutely no interaction with this customer at all. “Great!”, I thought to myself, “What the hell did I do NOW?” Because, yeah, I always think the worst. I’m Irish: it is, alas, in my nature to be a pessimist. Also, it has been my experience that the sole reason someone wants to know your name is so that they can complain about you.

I went over to him and introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Jackie. How are you tonight?” This was a tactical move on my part. I figured that maybe I could “make my case”, nip the whole complaining about me thing in the bud by being straightforward with, by ingratiating myself to, “the guy”. I was wracking my brain, trying to think what the hell I could have done wrong.

I quickly scrolled through the possibilities. Did “the guy” witness me committing some heinous error related to personal hygiene? Did I touch my hair? My mouth? Did I pick up a glass by the rim? I didn’t think so. I am careful about those things. Still, anyone can make a mistake.

Did we ignore him in favor of someone who walked in .05 seconds after him? That happens sometimes. It is not intentional. It is, more often than not, a result of someone standing in a more convenient spot than another person. Eventually we get to everyone. We try to be fair. People don’t always see it that way. I have been at this long enough to know that.

“The guy” had nearly finished his meal. From what I could tell my bar partner had adequately attended to this man’s needs. Or had he? Did this gentleman think me “in charge” because I was the elder stateswoman behind the bar? Was he going to lodge a complaint about my young co-worker? That happens sometimes, too. Actually, that happens a lot.

I am, by the way, not “in charge” of anything or anybody. People don’t know that, though. They often grab me, thinking that I, by virtue, I suppose, of my gray hair and conscientious manner, also possess the magical ability to solve their problems, which, of course, I do not.

Did I bash into his barstool, causing his knife to slip? Did a morsel of food go sailing off of his plate as a result of my clumsiness? Perhaps. I am not known far and wide for my gracefulness.

I do not see well in the dark, either. The manager on duty last night likes to keep the lights low. I can barely see a thing. I have no time to fool with lighting. Sure, I’ve bitched about it. The manager’s answer? He likes it that way. Okay. I am a woman who has learned to pick her battles. I am not going to engage in lighting warfare with a manager who, outside of his penchant for striking a romantic atmosphere, does his job well. Life is too short for that kind of nonsense.

He, the manager, finds it hysterical when I bring up the flashlight on my phone to find things in the dark — and by “things” I mean the cash register. Yeah. I would love to get one of those miner’s helmets and strap it on the next time we work together. That, too, would amuse him. He and I have a few laughs, mostly at my expense. Because he is a good egg, I am willing to move past our lighting issues. In the spirit of congeniality, he is willing to overlook some of my more idiosyncratic behaviors. (Like my trademark eye-rolling, for example.) It is what it is.

Did “the guy” think he knew me from somewhere? That happens. I know a lot of people. I have worked locally in bars and restaurants for the past thirty years. A lot of people know me. It is slightly embarrassing when I don’t remember them, but what are you going to do? I can’t be expected to remember every person I have ever come into contact with in my life, can I?

I was hoping our conversation was not going to be a trip down Memory Lane. I was busy. Far too busy to take a jaunt back in time with a guy that I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that I had never seen before.

All of this was rolling around my head as I was standing in front of “the guy”. He politely explained that he wanted to know my name because he wanted to commend me. When he wants to compliment a person, he said, he likes to know their name. What?!?!?!

This hardly ever happens. This was not a scenario that had played out in my head as I approached “the guy”, particularly because, like I said, I had had no interaction with him whatsoever.

I did not see this coming. I did not even know he was aware of my existence before he asked my bar partner for my name. He told me that I was the hardest worker he had ever seen, compared me to the “Energizer Bunny”, and told me that he was exhausted just watching me. I apologized for tuckering him out, explained that my bar partner made my success possible (“couldn’t do it without him!” “we make a great team!”), and thanked the customer for noticing.

As I was speaking with him, I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, that I was being summoned by a woman who was seated at one of the bar top tables. I excused myself, but was planning to make my way back to “the guy”, to get HIS name, to thank him again. (To beg him to return!) Once I had attended to the woman’s demand for, I kid you not, “a dozen” lemons, (yes, that’s what she wanted, a “dozen” lemons — for her steak!) I looked for him, but he was gone.

I wanted him to know that he made my week! It had been a bit of a rough week, to tell you the truth. Many of us worker bees had wondered, aloud and with head-shaking seriousness, what had gotten into people this week? Seriously. Every shift was chock full of the nasty and the weird. We all felt slightly outnumbered.

This guy, “the guy”, softened the edges of what had been an angst-filled week. The lesson here, my friends, is this: if you see something, say something, especially if that something is nice. It may just mean the world to someone. I am lucky that last night that “someone” was me.

Exceeding Expectations

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I was listening to Jackson Browne’s seminal album, Late for the Sky (1974), today. One of my favorite songs from that album is entitled “Farther On”. It felt appropriate today to listen to this particular song. The New York Mets players and their fans — of which I am one — awakened this morning to the sad reality that this season is over. Like this song says, our “dreams have come up torn and empty”.

Last year, following a below .500 season, I published some musings on my team in a post entitled “Here’s To Hoping!”. The Mets gave us more than hope this year; they brought us to The World Series. They gave us October baseball. Hell, they gave us a little bit of November baseball. We went to The World Series. The World Series!

I have decided that rather than be saddened by the loss we experienced last night, that I am going to be grateful for the season we, the fans, were given. And, of course, I will remain hopeful for next year. (Hopefulness and a certain amount of cock-eyed optimism regarding “next year” are hallmarks of all New York Mets’ fans; it is in our DNA.)

So, they did not win this year. So, what? They got there, which is far more than any of us, individually or collectively, could have reasonably expected from this team only one short year ago! Actually, never mind a year ago, things looked bleak as late as this past July! And then, BOOM!

It happened. The unthinkable happened. Some trades were made at the deadline which shored up both our offense and our defense. The Washington Nationals imploded. We began to hit.

The long ball became our deadliest weapon. Yoenis Cespedes, who was acquired just minutes before the trade deadline, came to New York on what looked like a mission — a mission to tear the leather off of every baseball that was thrown his way. Boy, oh boy, was that exciting!

Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed added depth to the bullpen — depth we sorely needed. They formed the bridge from our young, but stellar, starting pitchers to our closer, Jeurys Familia — himself a young man with little experience who, stunningly and, yes, surprisingly, emerged as one of the most reliable closers in baseball. Yeah. Hell, yeah!

We battled the Dodgers and the Cubs, teams with the most effective starting pitchers in all of baseball. Nearly unhittable, these guys are. Tell that to Daniel Murphy, our second baseman. He got hot in the playoffs — so hot that he tied a record for post-season home runs, a record which was set by — wait for it — some guy named Babe Ruth. And he hit them off of the most unhittable pitchers in the game. Yeah. Pretty impressive.

Alas, The Kansas City Royals were impressive, too. They played their game, capitalized on our weaknesses, waited out our starting pitching, got to the bullpen. This year was their year. That’s okay. Our journey took us farther than we or anyone else expected us to travel this year. It was a long and often strange trip. It was a great time to be a Mets’ fan throughout this pleasantly surprising season.

At the end of the day this should be everyone’s goal, shouldn’t it? To exceed expectations? To achieve the unthinkable? To be pleasantly surprised? Yeah. Who wouldn’t be happy with that? I would be happy with that.

I have set my own goals for this month. I would like to take a page out of the Mets’ book and exceed my own expectations. I decided to take part in National Novel Writing Month. I have no idea if I have a novel in me, but I am going to start writing one — or something else — every day in the month of November. I have set a goal of 1,500 words a day. Who knows? Perhaps, like my Mets, I will surprise not only myself, but everyone else, too. Maybe, just maybe, I will look like this at the end of November:

Sep 7, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets third baseman David Wright (5) reacts after scoring a run in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 7, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets third baseman David Wright (5) reacts after scoring a run in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

When I think of this season, this is the image that will stick with me. If I become discouraged by my own arduous task, I will close my eyes, summon that moment right there, and remember that obstacles can be overcome. That guy? That’s David Wright. He’s our third baseman, our captain. He missed most of the season because he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which could have ended his career. (Its onset has ended many a promising baseball career.) That it will likely shorten his career, that it has already stolen much of his power and agility, saddens me beyond measure. Undoubtedly he, too, is disappointed in the cards he has been dealt.

You wouldn’t know it, though. Not only did he NOT give up, he continued to be a credit to the game. AND he went to The World Series. The damn World Series. Yeah. So, what am I worried about? Typing? Thinking? Pshaw!


Here, for your listening pleasure (and mine), I give you the song that inspired this post, Jackson Browne’s “Farther On” (from the album Late for the Sky, 1974).

I have a sneaking suspicion that if you asked him, Jackson would admit that he, too, exceeded his own expectations. I wonder if he wakes up some days thinking, “Wow, I can’t believe I wrote THAT!”


She Won’t Be Needing Hair Mousse For a While!

A fiend and alert reader posted this to my Facebook page today. The photo, taken in a hospital waiting area, depicts a woman who, supposedly, confused a can of builder’s foam with a can of hair mousse.

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My first thought was, “What an idiot!” (The victim of the incident, not my friend!) My second thought was, “Oh, wait a minute. I once did something like that myself! (“What an idiot!”) Of course my friend remembered this, which is why she posted the photo and accompanying article to my Facebook page with the comment, “Does this bring back memories, JD?”

Yeah. It did. Ha-ha. Good times!

Still, what I did wasn’t AS idiotic as what this woman did. (In the interests of full disclosure I should mention that I have rated this example of idiocy using the underappreciated “Jackie Scale of Idiocy”.) To begin with, my run-in with builder’s foam occurred as a result of my having occasion to USE builder’s foam; I didn’t mistake it for hair mousse, for heaven’s sakes. (Even I am not that much of an idiot!) I got covered it in AFTER I took the gloves off—the ones that I knew enough to use while working with this sticky substance.

What happened to me was this: After removing the gloves I realized that the goo was coming loose from the hole that it was intended to fill. (I think that my husband, who was standing behind me while I was jammed into a very tiny space, said “Jack, it looks like that stuff is coming OUT of the hole!” Thank God he was there!)

The goo was, in fact, oozing out of the damn hole, effectively rendering all of the time I had just spent wedged underneath my kitchen sink both wasteful and useless. I could not allow THAT to happen, now could I?

No. I could not. In what was, in hindsight, an idiotic and not well thought out maneuver, I used my bare hands (and a sizeable portion of my forearms) to push the foam back into the hole. I may have proudly and, as it would turn out, prematurely looked at the husband and said, “Problem solved!” (It is highly likely that I uttered these words with the same attitude and in the same tone that one would imagine a kid on the schoolyard would shout “So there!”)

Seconds later I realized (possibly because the husband was smirking and pointing at my hands) that while I had solved one problem I had developed another. I was now covered in builder’s foam.

I immediately made valiant and unsuccessful attempts to remove this crap from my skin. Following much fruitless washing with soap and water, I tried a sugar scrub and other exfoliating agents, and, finally, even nail polish remover. The results of these treatments were neither pretty nor successful. The builder’s foam was still stuck to my now very swollen and inflamed skin.

I then did what any idiot in my position should have done in the first place: I got my husband to conduct a Google search. While it did not turn up any miracle cure for my stupidity, we did uncover any number of stories where folks related their own experiences with removing this stuff from some very odd places. Very odd places indeed. Mostly these stories involved how not one, but quite a large percentage of the builder’s foam-using population (a far higher percentage than one would expect), have managed to cover their genitalia in this caustic chemical. (And lived to tell the tale!)

As I was poring over these very pathetic, yet highly amusing, stories, I realized that I had the sudden urge to urinate. Not one of the reports that I had read through my tears of laughter had any advice for how to avoid such a thing, which would have been helpful advice for those of us who had found ourselves in a similar and unenviable position.

I cannot tell a lie. I decided to “air-dry”. It seemed the best solution to the sticky situation that I had found myself in.

While my own unfortunate run-in with builder’s foam was the result of a silly mistake, I still contend that at least I was in the act of using builder’s foam when it happened. What was going on with this woman, the woman in the article, the woman who mistook a can of builder’s foam for a can of hair mousse?

The whole sorry incident begs a few questions, doesn’t it? The first one that springs to mind is how, given the fact that containers of builders foam are large and have a thin straw attached to their nozzles (for “ease of use” and “pinpoint accuracy”, LOL!), mousse cans are much thinner and, at least the brands that are available at my grocery store, do not have straw-like protuberances dangling from their nozzles.

Even if, say, I couldn’t make out the writing on the can, even without my glasses on, I would think that I would question whether or not I was holding a can of hair mousse in my hand. Also, why would a can of builder’s foam be stored anywhere near a can of hair mousse? Even if one were sealing up holes in the bathroom, why would they then decide to store a used jar of builder’s foam (which would be of little use, as it dries up in the opened can rather quickly) in the same area with the hair products? This happened in Eastern Europe. Perhaps they have different organizing principles than we do here.

Still, regardless of where it happened, the whole thing just defies logic. Something is not adding up here. I am more than a little suspicious of the leaves and the twigs that can be seen stuck to the builder’s foam.

My guess is that she was under the influence of something (my guess is that that “something” was not fumes from the builder’s foam) or that someone else sprayed her with it. As to the foliage? Perhaps the builder’s foam-wielding miscreants found her “sleeping it off” under a tree.

How ever this woman managed to wind up with a head full of builder’s foam, one thing is for sure: she won’t have much use for hair mousse for a while.


Thanks to my friend and alert reader, Vina, for sending me the story that prompted this post!

Small Town News: I Am Not Surprised

smalltownnewsiamnotsurprisedI was at my local market yesterday, which is not unusual. I am a frequent flyer there, so much so that I am often surprised not to be greeted enthusiastically and in the same fashion as was “Norm”  in the 80’s television series, Cheers.  (A chorus of “JACKIE!”  would not, in other words, be out of place.) It is just that kind of local place. They may not serve beer or have my barstool waiting, but everyone knows me just the same.

That being the case, it is often surprising that whilst grabbing a carton of eggs, a handful of leeks, or a bottle of soda, I have borne witness to my fair share of “yokels behaving badly”. These people never seem to care that everyone, figuratively and, at times, even literally, knows their name.

It is sort of funny to have a front row seat when some of the townsfolk — many of whom seem relatively normal as they dive into a bag of zeppoles at the annual church carnival  or peruse a fashion magazine at the municipal pool — have highly emotional and, yes, outsized, reactions to the absence of things like kumquats or candied orange peel at the local market.

I have been downright shocked to observe certain people, when they think no one is watching, getting handsy with the cheese samples. The forward thinking and generous folks at the market conveniently place toothpicks next to the complimentary cheeses to avoid just such unsanitary behavior. (Use them, Mrs. W., use them!)

The powers-that-be have done their due diligence on the toothpick front. I don’t hold them responsible for the Mrs. W.’s of the world. You can lead a horse to water and all that.

The expectation that the toothpick stockers can foresee and avert a run on niche produce or citrus confections, well, that is just ludicrous. More ludicrous, though, are the reactions of those who pop into the market to purchase such exotica only to find the shelves bare.

To say these kumquat seekers feel thwarted is to put it mildly. Judging from the exchange that I was privy to recently, one would think that the market managers wake up in the morning and hatch an evil plan to remove certain products from the shelves just, you know, because they can. Just because “that guy” will be in later seeking them.

“That guy”, a guy that I do not actually know, but whose act I am all too familiar with, was carrying on — to a powerless cashier, mind you — about the availability or, to be more precise, the lack of availability of fresh squeezed juice.

I didn’t even know the market carried fresh squeezed juice! In the interests of full disclosure, I am not much of a juice drinker. Still, I think I would have noted its presence. It really must be tucked away in some dark corner. Maybe it is nestled amongst other healthy items that hold no interest for me — the quinoa, the granola, the wheat germ — if it were housed near the chocolate chip cookies, I surely would know of its existence.

While there are many things that I do not know, there are a few things that I do. For example, I know “that guy” — not by name, but certainly by face. His act and his expectations were no different on his recent visit to the market than it frequently had been when I was forced to wait on him at the small local restaurant where I was, recently and briefly, employed.

He liked to create the impression that he was a very important person by barking at whoever he was on the phone with — and he was always on the phone with someone. That he “dressed for success” in basketball shorts, two-dollar flip-flops, and a stained t-shirt was, I always thought, part of another statement that he was making — that he was too busy to care about his appearance when it didn’t matter, when the only people he was going to come into contact with were the peons that would be doing his bidding, peons like me. Peons like the market cashier.

When he came in with other people — people who I assume he was selling something to (I think he may be a realtor) — he presented an altogether different appearance: a suit and tie, shoes with laces, and, of course, the requisite pinkie ring. Yeah. He is a real operator, a bona fide mover and shaker. He is also a world-class boob.

I wouldn’t buy a penny candy from him, but I know for sure that his clients are not privy to who he really is. When he was wining and dining someone, he would deign to speak to me — like one human to another; when he was alone, with no one to impress, he would, if I was lucky, grunt his order at me.

When I was unlucky, which was most of the time, our entire discourse would be conducted through the use of hand motions. He would wave away the menu I was presenting, indicate that he wanted a drink refill by holding his glass aloft, and order soup by miming a spoon-to-mouth gesture. If he wanted another bowl of soup, which he almost always did, he would charmingly tap his empty bowl on the table and then tilt it to demonstrate its emptiness.

While Mrs. W.’s attitude toward food safety may have come as a shock to me, “that guy” berating a cashier didn’t surprise me at all. Not one little bit.

Had I not been getting “the eye” from my husband, who sensed that I was about to spring to the cashier’s defense, and had the cashier not handled herself with aplomb — had she looked upset or been younger, for example — I would not have hesitated to open my mouth. On some level I would have loved an excuse to call “that guy” out, but I am happy that it didn’t come to that. (I daresay my husband was also very pleased at my rare show of restraint!) The seasoned cashier, to her credit, did not need my “help”; she was perfectly capable of handling “that guy”.

I did manage to catch “that guy’s” eye, though. He knew exactly who I was. More importantly, he understood that I knew exactly who he was. I took some satisfaction in the fact that I did not have to behave badly myself, that by simply making my presence known “that guy” scurried away — as quickly, let me just add, as his skanky flip-flops could carry him.

For my next passive-aggressive act, I would love to catch Mrs. W.’s eye when she gets busy fondling the cheese.