Small Town News: A Christmas Eve To Remember


I have been feeling a little “down in the dumps” lately. To illustrate that I have not completely lost my sense of humor, to restore your faith in me as a “humor blogger”, and to reward those of you who have stuck with me, I will tell you one of my most favorite “ripped from the headlines” stories. It’s a knee-slapper. I promise. It has gotten me through one or two dark moments.

I do not always read our little local newspaper, but when I do I always go straight for the “police blotter”. Not much happens here in our little piece of the Earth, certainly not much that is worth a headline. I discovered long ago that the most interesting things that do happen here are reported in the “police blotter”.

Sometimes, when I am in desperate need of a hearty laugh — which I have been lately — I think back to a tidbit that was featured in the “police blotter” several years ago. The events transpired on the 24th of December in the year 2011. I remember this because that date represented a milestone for me; I had been alcohol-free for a whole year.

Oddly enough I was not in a celebratory mood that year. I was anxious and feeling more than a little sorry for myself. Yes, I had gotten through the year and my first holiday season without booze. That was a good thing. A very good thing. Still, I worried about whether or not I would, could, or even wanted to get through the rest of my life (or the rest of that day) without it.

While my resolve is still strong and I fret less about relapse, there will always be that little part of me that wonders if someday I will fall off the wagon. And lose everything. It keeps me on my toes, but it is not an altogether comfortable feeling.

I was having a conversation with a friend a few days after Christmas about how I was dealing with life without my security blanket, how uncomfortable I was feeling. I was maybe even having a little pity party for myself.

She responded by telling me that my life could be a whole lot worse, that I could, for example, be in that week’s “police blotter”; that I should count myself lucky, not just for making it through the year without alcohol, but also, and possibly more importantly, for not having been one of the “roast beef people”.

She assumed that I was familiar with the story. She knows that I go straight to the “police blotter” when the paper arrives. I guess I was busy, you know, with my pity party in full swing and all. I hadn’t read it. And, so, she read it to me.

It took her about ten minutes to read me the seven-line piece. She had to keep stopping. To laugh. To catch her breath. To blow her nose. It was, in short, a great story.

I wish I had kept it, but I didn’t. It went something like this, though:

On December 24, 2011 officers responded to a call of a disturbance in the parking lot of The Local Market. Upon arrival, the officers witnessed the female beating the male about the head with a package of roast beef. A strong smell of alcohol was detected on the female assailant. The officers ascertained that the couple was known to each other and had, in fact, arrived in the same vehicle, a late-model BMW. Counsel was given and it was determined that the male, the driver, had not been drinking. The parties were discharged with a warning. The whereabouts of the roast beef in question are unknown.

I loved that she related to me this cautionary tale about the dangers of drinking, when I needed it most. Further, she made mention that she was confident that even had I been drinking, I would never have been caught in the parking lot of The Local Market beating dear, old Fang about the head with a roast beef. Green cabbage, perhaps, but never a roast beef!

I have always wished that I had been there. How often in life does one get to witness a meat fight in the middle of a grocery store parking lot? Alas, I have to satisfy myself with the visual of the scene that plays itself out in my head.

While this story is laugh out loud funny as written, it has always left me with a few lingering questions. Questions that, over the years, I have felt compelled to answer in a speculative and creative fashion. Like the Swiss cheese that often accompanies a fine roast beef product, I think we can agree that the story has more than a few holes.

First of all, I have always wondered what kind of roast beef the guy was being hit upside the head with? Was it a package of cold cuts? Or a whole roast of beef? It is unclear. I think that it makes a difference. Being slapped with a package of sliced roast beef could hardly kill a fly, let alone do any serious damage to a grown man. A slab of beef, on the other hand, could make a dent, not only to his pride, but to his noggin.

My money is on the cold cuts. Why? Because I think, it being Christmas Eve, she sent him in to purchase a roast beef — a whole roast beef — and he came out with deli-sliced roast beef. Also, I have to wonder if the police might not have taken the whole thing a lot more seriously, charged her with assault, even, if her “weapon” had been a five-pound roast of beef.

I have to say that in this scenario, the one that I long ago decided made the most sense,  my sympathies lie with her. Who hasn’t sent their husband the store to buy, say, a head of lettuce only to have him return with a head of cabbage. Who hasn’t wanted to beat him over the head with said green cabbage? Who hasn’t been forced, as a result of his inability to discern the difference between lettuce and cabbage, to eat a BCT, rather than the delicious BLT that one’s heart was set on? Who hasn’t been in this or a similar situation.Be honest, now.

Even drunk, I drew the line at battering anyone — with anything. I was never a violent drunk, though. No. I was a happy until I fell down and then couldn’t remember a thing in the morning kind of drunk. I was even, at times, a maudlin drunk; never was I a violent drunk. Still, drunk or sober, we all have our lines in the sand. This woman drew hers over roast beef. I can understand.

I am happy to report that “The Great Green Cabbage Debacle” did not result in Fang and I engaging in fisticuffs. I would hope that some of you might sympathize with me if it had, though.

I have always been intrigued by the part of the narrative where we are given the information that the parties were “known to each other”. Of course they were known to each other. I am willing to bet that they were married to each other — for thirty years!

While I would like to think that a trip to The Local Market taking on an air of danger might be fun, I don’t know that I would want to be mindful of strangers, armed with roast beef (of any variety), lurking in the shadows, poised to pounce upon the next person that they deemed worthy of a good meat-filled bitch slapping. It wouldn’t keep me away, though.

On the contrary, the idea of possibly being in a position to witness (or, better yet, to be the victim) of such a crime might have me camped out there. For eternity.

And what do you make of the “late-model BMW” detail? I have always found its presence intriguing. Was this meant to indicate that money was not an issue? That the argument had  nothing to do with the cost of the roast beef? (Which is high, let me just tell you!) Are we supposed to assume that they were, perhaps, German? If so, is this something that Germans engage in regularly, food fights in parking lots? Is this something the reader is supposed to know?

It is a mystery, the BMW detail. It is, indeed, far more mysterious to me than the fact that the whereabouts of the roast beef, the weapon in question, “remain unknown”. I am assuming, unless the attack shredded the packaging, that they took it  home with them. I would have taken it home with me.

I have always hoped that their relationship survived this incident. If it did, I also hope that he was never sent in to the store for cold cut turkey and came out, instead, with a frozen bird. Being knocked around with a frozen turkey would definitely smart a little.

I owe them, whatever their current relationship status, a debt of gratitude. Their story, which I like to think of as “A Christmas Eve To Remember”, has long been one of those stories that I harken back to when I need a laugh, when one drink seems like a good idea, when I send my husband out for lettuce, and, most importantly, when I need a reminder about how incredibly fortunate I am that my life is peppered with people who not only love me, but always know exactly what story I need to hear at exactly the moment I need to hear it.

Do you live in a small town? Do you have a favorite small town story? If so, I would love to hear it!


















So, You Want To Be A Bad Manager?


Don’t say it!

Under no circumstances should you respond to a staff member’s “Good Morning, how are you today?” with actual words. A grunt and a dismissive hand wave will send the message that you would rather not waste  your precious time with the likes of them!

Pick one, anyone.

Each day be sure to choose one lucky employee to single out for inefficiency. That this woman’s biggest mistake may have only been that she selected a shade of eyeshadow that was a little too close to yours and that, unbeknownst to her, she is wearing better, is irrelevant. Single her out anyway. She, too, is irrelevant. After all, it is your world and she is just living in it.

Talk amongst your friends.

Be sure to discuss either this employee — or another, why not? — with your manager pals. Do it just out of earshot, but be certain, through pointing or other gestures, that whoever it is your are discussing is aware that he or she is being discussed AND, this is of utmost important, that the message is clear that nothing good is being said.


If you discover that someone has done something wrong make sure that you behave as if he or she has just killed your beloved cat. On purpose. With their car.

Passively be aggressive.

Ask your staff silly questions while they are busy. When they indicate that they have no time to answer you in that moment, be sure that they understand that you have taken note of their inability to add a sixth thing to the five other things they were, as always, effectively juggling.

Wonder aloud.

In full view of clients and/or other employees (bonus points for both!), wonder aloud why this person or that person did not do this, that, or the other thing. Throwing your hands in the air and rolling your eyes always enhances this situation. For added flair, might I suggest a heavy sigh?

If you have nothing nice to say…

Regardless of what your mother told  you about saying nice things, choose, instead, to be harsh, mean, or downright cruel. Adopting an attitude of superiority while you sneer and snap at your staff is a step in the right direction. That promotion you so desire is, no doubt, right around the corner for a motivator such as yourself!

Do it better!

Everyone knows that you can do everything better than they can. Show them anyway. Do this as often as possible. This endearing behavior, while it may not win you fans, is sure to  get you noticed!

Step it up a notch.

Daily and consistently take your demanding behavior up at least a few notches. Everyone loves a challenge. Luckily, your staff exists purely to make you look exceptional.

Gratitude is overrated.

While stepping on the little people to achieve your goals, be mindful that thanking them is a weakness.











Why I CANNOT Vote For Donald Trump


I cannot vote for Donald Trump. My reasons are not high-brow or intellectual. Still, I have put a great deal of thought into them. I hope my tribe of liberals can forgive me.

Putting Trump’s message and his demagoguery aside, my reasons have more to do with his hair and his love of self-tanner, than they do with his political beliefs. On the face of it, a person’s appearance may seem like a shallow reason not to vote for him. Stay with me, though, it will all make sense in the end.

His absolute insistence on maintaining a bad haircut says a great deal about him, both as a person and as a leader. His commitment to embracing something that is so clearly wrong, something that he could very easily change, does not scream “I like my hair and I am leaving it as it is!”. Rather it says, “I’m not taking suggestions from the crowd.”

This is a fine attitude for a rock band who does not want to play “Freebird” to adopt, but not the attitude that a person who wants to lead a country should embrace. Leading is as much about recognizing situations where compromise may be in order as it is about being in charge.

It has not gone unnoticed that plenty of dictators throughout the course of history were also in possession of bad haircuts. Hitler. Stalin. Kim Jong-Il.

We all have a bad haircut story. Bad haircuts are part of life. Most of us, though, have the sense that God gave a cow and we do something about it OR we, when we can, wear a hat. At the very least we explain our bad haircut. “I had a groupon” pretty much says it all.

Even though he is a billionaire, I would still accept the groupon explanation. Frugality is not a bad thing.

The very fact that he has failed to demonstrate any common sense where his hair is concerned has always troubled me. In fact, he is pretty resolute on the hair thing. Even prior to listening to his rhetoric this political season, I could not get behind anything he said or did because I could not get past the message his hair puts out.

I do not believe for a minute that his children, a couple of whom seem like sensible people, have never looked him in the eye and said, “Your hair is crazy, Dad!” I know mine would. I wouldn’t get away with sporting that look for a minute!

Are we supposed to believe that his daughter, Ivanka, a woman with a successful fashion line has failed to have any conversation with her father about his hair? The more likely scenario is that he has just refused to listen.

It is hard to fathom that a woman who puts her name on some very fine products—have you seen her shoes?—has not taken the opportunity in a quiet moment to have a frank discussion with her father about his hair. I would never expect her to go public with this information, though. I feel certain that she feels awful about her inability to convince him to make a change.

I know that I would. I also know that I would be shaking my head and telling my father that “it’s not a trademark, Da, it’s a hot mess!”

The Donald has fancied this bad comb-over with a mind of its own style for years. The self-tanner, though, that is more recent. I can understand a person who wants to have a healthy glow without subjecting themselves to harmful UV rays. I can understand a person on a budget who ducks into the local CVS and plops down the ten bucks for the self-tanner that she can afford. What I cannot understand is how Donald Trump, a billionaire who is running for President of The United States, thinks that the best place to cut corners, financially-speaking, is in the self-tanning aisle.

It is not. It is just not. His orange face in combination with that awful hair does not project self-confidence; it projects his inability to recognize bad decisions.

He has managed to be in out of a several marriages, though. He does not seem to have the same level of commitment to the women in his life as he has to the misguided belief that he looks fantastic.

He looks orange. He looks weird.

He looks very much like the crazy person that he has turned out to be.

Still, even had he not proved himself to be an authoritarian, hate-spewing, violent reactionary with no real qualification for public office, I still would not be voting for him. Because of the hair. Because of the self-tanner.

Shallow though my reasons may be, I think I have a point, don’t you?


Photo Credits:

Trump Looking Orange










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.


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!

Tales From “The Annoying Bar & Grill”: Finding a Therapist


I went to a chain burger joint last night where I witnessed another bartender living MY nightmare. He, too, had to contend with the takeout bullshit at the bar.

I watched and listened as a woman held him hostage for ten minutes while she ordered her food to go. Several times throughout the proceedings he attempted to give her the menu that she insisted that she did not need. Trust me, she needed it.

If she asked one question, she asked a hundred. The answers to her questions could very easily have been found in the menu. Rather than doing anything as pesky as reading, though, she insisted on getting her information by auditory means.

As he was attending to our non-reader, his bar began to fill up. I also noticed that the service bar was getting a little busy, too. He was also aware of these things.

Still, he could not, no matter how hard he tried (and he was giving it his all), get this woman to complete her takeout order. I could, quite literally, feel his pain.

When she finally arrived at what I can only guess were life-changing decisions regarding onion rings vs. fries (the choices between these two foodstuffs seemed most troublesome to her) and had finished with the beleaguered bartender, she decided to move on to the host stand; to chat up the busy staff over there. Where, I wondered, did she think she was? Her own kitchen? She seemed to have zero understanding of how things work in a restaurant.

Many, many people behave this way on a daily basis in restaurants across America. They wander around, sit wherever they please, suck the life out of the staff, and then go on their merry way — leaving a slew of people “in the weeds” in the wake of tending to some egotistical twit with a $15 check who thinks that he or she is the center of everyone’s universe.

This woman, in fact, reminded me of one of my regular takeout customers, one who is also a regular pain in the ass. Among the various and sundry things that make him a pain in the ass, his largest defect by far, is that he is cheap. How cheap is he? Let’s just say that I would not be surprised to see moths flying out of his coupon-filled wallet.

He is not poor, by the way. He is just cheap. He purchases large quantities of gift cards — at a significant cost AND a significant discount — so that he can save a few bucks every time he comes in to torture us. This savings, though, is not enough for him.

He has been told time and time again that he cannot use multiple coupons and yet he produces multiple coupons each and every time he comes in to pick up his order. By “multiple”, I mean at least three, sometimes four. He orders two entrees and wants to use three coupons, coupons that clearly state they are meant to be used for two adult meals. He then drags out, and insists upon using, a years old and long expired free dessert or appetizer coupon that he somehow found on the internet.

And, he always finds something to complain about. Always. The other night it was the bags that I used to pack up his order. For a time we had better bags, but the company went back to the old ones. He told me that I needed to go in the back and make sure there were none left — because he wanted those bags, the “good” bags. Instead of assuring him that there were no “good” bags left, I wandered in the back, took a little breather, and returned to report to him the bad news about the bags. They were gone.

Prior to the appearance of “cheap ass coupon guy”, a nice couple had sat at one of my bar tables. I had taken and delivered their drink order. They were, at that time, not ready to order their dinner.

I got rid of “cheap ass coupon guy”, or so I thought, and made my way over to the bar table to take the couple’s order. I thanked them for their patience. The woman looked at me and said, “Our patience? I was just saying to my husband that you are the one with the patience. I could never do what you do, not in a million years! What was he going on about? Bags? That’s just craziness.” Yes, I agreed, it was.

As I looked heavenward, placed my hand over my heart, and told her — in a very dramatic way — that at least it was all behind me now, who do you think appeared out of the corner of my eye? “Cheap ass coupon guy”, that’s who. He was baaaaack!

Before he could tap me on the shoulder or otherwise make his presence known, I turned to him and said, “Yes, sir, is there something else that I can do for you tonight?” (Like wipe your ass, for example?) He told me that he was going to need his order double-bagged.

As I was about to ask the nice couple if they could indulge me the thirty seconds that I would need to double bag his damn order, which did NOT, let me assure you, need to be double-bagged, the woman whose order I was taking turned to him and said, very politely and in an even tone, “Okay. Enough is enough with you. You need another bag, my ass. We sat here and watched your act, suffered through your request for a different sort of bag, watched as this woman laboriously and, probably not for the first time, explained the coupon policy to you. We then listened to you as you sent her back to the kitchen for more free bread. Your turn is over. It’s our turn now.”

She then produced a business card from her wallet, her business card, handed it to him and said, “If it spills in your car, I’ll take care of it.” She then took a beat and said, “You may want to hold on to that card, I help people like you all the time.”

He made for the door. I burst out laughing, thanked her, and then asked her what exactly it was that she did for a living. Was she a car detailer?

It turns out that she is a therapist. I laughed even harder. I asked her if she subscribed to the “tough love” theory of behavior modification.

She looked at me, arched her eyebrows, and said, “You may think that I was harsh with him, but the reality is that people who behave like that, people like him, need to have boundaries set for them. You may have noticed that I did not raise my voice or speak to him in an angry tone. That’s the important piece. Still, I let him know that his behavior was unacceptable.”

I then asked her about the “my ass” comment. She kind of chuckled while she admitted that she has her own style — a style that works for her. I could certainly appreciate her flair. I told her that and added that she was a rock star. At the end of the meal I asked her for her card. I let her know that if I ever decided to seek the therapy that some people are convinced that I desperately need, I would be giving her a call.

This method for finding a therapist may not be for everyone, but I like to think that I, too, bring my own personal flair to certain situations. And, you have to love a therapist who peppers her conversations with “my ass”. Yeah. She’s my kind of therapist.

I Know Who Will Catch Me If I Fall

iknowwhowillcatchmeI was out to dinner with a friend the other night. She was recounting a story that had to do with vomit in the workplace — her vomit, her workplace. It was hysterical. It was also unexpectedly heartwarming.

It is not too often that a story involving a close friend vomiting in her office all over her boss (yeah, there was that, too) would simultaneously make me laugh until I cried (and, yes, I may have peed a little bit, too) and then cry actual tears, but it did. Trust me, it did.

Of course she was embarrassed, so embarrassed that she wondered if she could ever go back to work. Who could blame her? She worried that her boss, who had not only caught her vomit, but also caught her as she passed out, might not see her in the same light ever again.

Would she still be the competent assistant? Or was she now and forever more the woman who had thrown her guts up — and then proceeded to pass out — all over the place? Those “places”, by the way, included this dapper gentleman’s custom-made suit and expensive Italian shoes. Later on, because covering him in her vomit and then losing consciousness was not enough, she would also spray what was left of the contents of her stomach all over his luxury car. Oh. My. God.

The story took some humorous twists and turns, as a story involving vomit in the workplace and a luxury car often will. The finale, though, and this is where the tale took a heartwarming turn, is that my friend woke up in the hospital to find this kind gentleman, still wearing parts of the suit that had remnants of her breakfast (Greek yoghurt) and of her lunch (turkey on rye with coleslaw and Russian dressing, of all things!) stuck to it. Oh. My. God.

He stayed by her side not only because he was concerned for her health but also to assure her that she need not be embarrassed by the events of the late afternoon. He was there to let her know that he expected to see her, once she received a clean bill of health, back at her desk. He paid her for the day and for the days that she subsequently missed as a result of what was, luckily for her, a simple stomach virus — even though she had already used up her sick days for the year.

I quit my part-time job the very next morning. I had been thinking about doing it for several weeks. It was not a rash decision, but one made far easier after having heard my friend’s story.

After receiving word from the restaurant owner that my schedule was changing for the third time in as many months, I gave some hard thought as to whether or not I wanted to work for this person anymore — whether he was the type of person who would catch me (or, God forbid!, my vomit) should I be stricken and pass out on the job. I decided that he would not; that he did not value me like my friend’s boss valued her.

I am not saying that he would step over me on the way to the cash drawer, although I wouldn’t put it past him, but I could not picture him (or, outside of one person, anyone else there) waiting by my hospital bed to make sure that I was out of danger. The people at my other job, though, they would be there for me in my time of need — frankly, they have been there for me in many times of need. Fortunately none of those times involved vomit or losses of consciousness. Still, they have been supportive. There I am made to feel that I have value.

While I am not looking forward to the grueling physicality of the 40-hour work week that I must return to, which is the reality of life in a corporate restaurant, I know that I will be happier to be home. Workplaces that house the people that care about you are like home. Regardless of the hours, it is going to be awfully nice to, once again, be among people who care about me, among people who will catch me if I fall. I know who they are.

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


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 (, 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.

Flat Jackie

flatjackieAt some point last night, as I tried valiantly to meet the demands of my customers — an act which feels, more and more, like a Sisyphean endeavor — I took a few precious seconds to observe my co-workers. Thankfully, they appeared to be as frantic as I was. It is always nice to know, in the throes of madness, that one is not alone.  If even one of them had been, say, leaning up against the coffee station enjoying a snack, it is quite possible that I would have lay down and let that big rock that I was, metaphorically, pushing just roll right over me. Flat Jackie.

I will admit to taking a few precious seconds and flirting with the idea, as I rounded the service bar to replace the third dropped steak knife for one of my clumsier guests, that instead of heading toward where we keep the cutlery, I could take a hard right and walk straight out the front door. It is a lucky thing that my belongings were in the back storeroom and that the temperature outside was a balmy -2°F — a temperature no doubt colder than the proverbial witch’s tit. (Those poor little witchlets!)

Having no desire to become a human popsicle, I remained indoors. Life is full of tough choices. Better, I thought, to be ornery and warm than light-hearted and frozen.

In the midst of attempting to access, from the dark recesses of my brain, recipes for the Bahama Mama, Planter’s Punch, and something called a Jack Honey Tea, I noticed that other thoughts were hovering around the edges of my consciousness. I pushed the most obvious ones away. (Who orders this shit in February? What kind of an idiot drinks this nonsense at any time of the year? What in God’s holy name is a Jack Honey Tea? Who ever heard of such a thing?) Using what felt like the last shred of mental acuity that I had left, I did what any decent bartender in my position does, I made them up. I have a theory, borne of experience, that if it’s the right color, they’ll drink it. They almost always do.

Having, at least to my satisfaction, successfully navigated the drink recipe dilemma, I remained troubled by a much larger question, “What”, I found myself asking (possibly aloud) “the fuck am I doing here?”

Fortunately, my job being what it is, there is very little time to engage in deep, philosophical conversations with oneself (or anyone else). If things were different, if time was not of the essence in my line of work, I fear that I would spend most of my shifts pondering such questions and, as a result, that I would find myself, on an all too frequent basis, awash in a puddle of my own tears.

It is probably a good thing that bartenders cannot expend energy on things as esoteric as philosophy; that we must, instead, use our time to concoct dumb drinks, recite the beers on tap to the latest in a long line of literacy-challenged cretins (the flavors are on the handles, you beer connoisseur, you!), or to muddle mojitos for the groups who want to fool themselves into believing that the mere act of consuming this silliness will magically transport them to South Beach. It will not. Get on a plane.

Such is the life of the lowly restaurant worker. Such is my life.

I fear that one day soon I will be flattened by my own rock. Flat Jackie.

And “The Idiot of the Night” Award goes to…


It was busy last night down at “The Annoying Bar & Grill” — and about to become even busier — Friday night busy for a Wednesday night staff; that kind of busy. I was keeping pace, though, and taking no small amount of pride in myself for doing so. I knew it wouldn’t last long, my ability to keep up with all of my duties.

I had just about reached the physical and mental limits of what one bartender can handle — a nearly full bar, high-top tables clamoring for my attention, and service bar tickets spewing out of the printer more rapidly than one woman could possibly clear them, filled as they were with orders for umpteen frozen drinks and specialty margaritas (and don’t even get me started on the number of foolish mojitos that were in the mix) when “The Idiot of the Night” plopped his ass at the far end of the bar.

“The Idiot of the Night”, the guest who requires the most maintenance, ALWAYS, geographically-speaking, chooses to “live” in the worst possible location — the most difficult seat for me to attend to. It’s just what they do. Sitting there is how they meet the first requirement for “The Idiot of the Night” award.

Seat choice is merely Level One. It takes a few more annoying behaviors over the course of his or her visit for a person to reach the point where the confetti falls and the music plays, signaling that we have a winner in “The Idiot of the Night” contest. Some nights the competition is fierce. Not last night, though. Even the judges — my embattled co-workers, who all had idiots of their own to contend with — had to agree that although we were in the early stages of the balloting, my guy was going to emerge victorious.

Barring a naked meltdown later in the evening over a tartar sauce shortage — or some other such nonsense — it was clear to everyone involved that the clear winner last night would be, “Storytime Guy”, a name I had assigned to him for very good reason. I think that, like my co-workers, you’ll agree.

Me: Hi! Can I get you something to drink?

Him: I don’t drink.

Me: Anything? Water, soda, iced tea?

Him: Yeah. I drink those.

Me: Would you like to choose one of those?

Him: Yeah. Sure.

Precious time elapsing as I spy a table squatting at one of the high-tops

Me: Shall I bring you a menu while you think about that drink?

Him: I don’t drink.

… Back to square one…

Me: Okay. [… Really, what do I care? …]

Him (holding menu as if he has never seen one before): Miss?!?

Me: Yes, sir? Have you made a drink selection?

Him: Yeah. Bring me a diet something or other. With cherries!

Me (making moves toward the beverage area to fetch his “diet something or other… with cherries (!)”): Okey-Dokey!

Him (loud enough to wake the dead): Miss?!?

Me: Yes, sir?

Him (motioning toward the menu): I can’t read this!

Me (stunned that a grown man would admit to this in a stage whisper at a crowded bar): [ …speechless …]

Him: I forgot my glasses. Can I borrow yours?

Me (dumbfounded): I suppose so, but they’re progressives. I don’t know if they’ll work for you. (I hand him my $500 prescription glasses, which he proceeds to bend to fit his big, fat head.)

Him: Miss?!?

Me (depositing his “diet something or other” with cherries (!) in front of him): Yes, sir?

Him (as he is removing — and throwing — the cherries (!) that he had so desperately wanted, on the bar in front of him): These aren’t working.

Me: The cherries?

Him: No. The glasses.

Me: Ah, yes. They do take some getting used to, sir.

Him (pulling my expensive glasses off of his massive head and depositing them, lenses down (!), on the cherry juice-laden bar top): You’re just going to have to read the menu to me.

Me (wondering how such a large head could hold such a small brain): Let me just clean up my lenses first, okay? They’re a little sticky, you know, from all that cherry juice. In the meantime, why don’t you decide on which portion of the menu you would like me to read to you this evening. Because I don’t have time to read the entire thing to you. Perhaps we can just hit the highlights, okay? Like I used to tell my kid, “Mommy only has time for the one story tonight, dear.”

I left him, alone with his thoughts, as I scurried to attend to the various other guests who, presumably, could read and were now ready to order. And, yeah, there were also plenty of servers, awaiting their drinks, who were bordering on becoming an unruly mob.

It had now become rather busy down at “The Annoying Bar & Grill”. Still, I needed to deal with “Storytime Guy”. With a heavy heart and all the patience I could muster, I made the long journey to the far end of the bar. It felt a little like the last walk of the doomed death row inmate. I knew I was headed for disaster.

Me: How ya doin’, sir? Have you nailed down a category of food that you’d like me to help you with yet?

Him: How am I doing? I’m hungry, that’s how I’m doing. What the hell took you so long?

Me: Oh, I don’t know, just the usual stuff. Coffee with a few of the gals, the tossing of several double entendres with some of the waiters, and, of course, I had to wait for my nail polish to dry.

Him: Very funny. You’re a very funny person, aren’t you?

Me: I suppose that all depends upon how you define “funny”.

Him: Do you have onion soup?

Me: We do, indeed.

Him: Does it have cheese melted on the top?

Me: It does.

Him: Well, I want one of those, but I want the cheese burned. Like black. Really burnt. You know what I mean?

Me: I do.

Him: Can they do that?

Me: I can say with some fair amount of certainty that I have borne witness to burnt cheese atop of our onion soup, so the answer to your question would, in short, be “Yes. Yes, they can do it.”

Him: I want it really burned, charred, black.

Me: Yes, sir. I think we all know the definition of burnt.

Him: Well, we’ll just see about that.

It is in this moment that I know, for an absolute fact, that no matter how black, how charred, how burnt his cheese is, it will not be burnt enough for him. He will be returning the soup.

Him: I want a steak. What kind of steak do you have?

Me: We have all sorts of varieties of steaks at different price points and degrees of tenderness. Were you looking for something very tender, very juicy, very flavorful? Something on the bone, off the bone?

Him: I want a steak that’s good.

Me: Well, don’t we all?

Him: Do you have a porterhouse?

Me: We do.

Him: How much is it?

Me (consulting the menu, as I don’t have the prices memorized): It’s…..dollars.

Him: Is it tender?

Me: The filet portion is tender, the strip side not as much. It’s kind of one of those combination steaks, know what I mean?

Him: Well, I want something really juicy.

Me: I would recommend the bone-in ribeye. I think that steak will meet all of your criteria.

Him: How much is that one?

Me: It’s … dollars.

Him: What does it come with?

Me: All of our steaks come with a side dish and a salad, or you can substitute the French onion soup — with the burnt cheese — for a couple of dollars more if you don’t want the salad.

Him: Fine. Give me that.

After what felt like an eternity, we came to an agreement on a side dish and a degree of doneness for his steak. At long last, the ordering portion of the festivities had, gratefully, come to an end. I would estimate that “Storytime Guy” had now been in the building for about twenty-five minutes. I fetch him — and a few of my other more self-sufficient guests — some bread. While in the kitchen I speak to the psycho cook working the salad window and explain to him about “Storytime Guy” and his need for very, very, very well done cheese on his French onion soup. I look this cook — our resident psychopath — right in his Manson lamps, an act that requires no small amount of chutzpah, and iterate that there is very little chance that the soup won’t come back one way or another, but request that we do our darndest to please “Storytime Guy”. I practically beg. I get the distinct impression that Norman Bates does not give a rat’s ass about my needs or the needs of “Storytime Guy”, but am satisfied that I have done my due diligence. The chips will fall where they may.

I then return to “Storytime Guy” with bread and assurances that I have communicated his cheese needs to the kitchen. I don’t mention how little faith I have that the lunatic in charge of soup was even listening to me, so preoccupied had I become with the attitude “Storytime Guy” exhibited toward the bread that I had placed in front of him — bread that took me time and energy to procure — time that I did not have, energy that could have been better spent doing more important things for other guests. “Storytime Guy”, upon receiving his bread, shoved it back at me, declaring that “I don’t eat bread”. This revelation concerned me and forced me to remind him that French onion soup, by definition, contains bread. My fear was that I was going to have to head back to the kitchen and tell Boy Wonder that the croutons would have to be removed from the soup that was currently being charred beneath the broiler. Luckily, “Storytime Guy” said that the bread in his soup would be “fine”. Okay.

A few minutes elapse, as it takes time to char cheese, and he asks me where his soup is. I explain that it is being burnt, as he requested. He asks me for a loaf of bread. And this, my friends, is how one becomes “The Idiot of the Day”.

I go into the kitchen to get the damn bread. While there, I ask Looney Tunes if my burnt soup is ready. He moves his eyes and points, very dramatically — his gesture would put one in mind of “The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come” in the beloved Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” — at a bowl of soup that is now occupying the service window — a bowl of soup that in no way, shape, or form is topped with cheese that even a rookie restaurant worker would consider to be “well done”. I am not a rookie restaurant worker. It was at this point that I toyed with the idea of breaking into tears.

I put the idea of hysterics on the back burner, as it was still early yet and, judging by the way the night was going, I might have to save such an unprecedented lack of character for later. Who knew what might happen later? I may have been faced with something that would require actual hysteria. I hoped not, but I wasn’t going to bank on it.

My manager, having been clued in to the goings-on with “Storytime Guy”, delivered the charred soup. Guess what? It wasn’t charred enough! Who saw that one coming?

Finally, a soup that met with his approval was placed in front of “Storytime Guy”. I breathed a sigh of relief.

It was, as it turned out, a short-lived sigh of relief.

Him (loudly and in an exasperated tone): Miss?!?

Me: Yes, sir. Oh, I see you got your soup. How is it?

Him: The cheese is fine now, but you know I had to send it back the first time, right?

Me: Yes, sir. I got that memo.

Him: Well, now the cheese is fine, but there’s no broth left in my soup. It’s not like soup at all now, is it? It’s just basically cheese and bread. I wanted soup.

Me: Well, that’s just kind of how science works, isn’t it?

Him: What?

Me: I’m not sure if it would be considered chemistry or thermodynamics, I’ll have to think on that. Is thermodynamics part of chemistry? I can’t recall. The way I remember it is that when you heat up a liquid, as it reaches a certain temperature and given enough time, said liquid evaporates or, to use the vernacular, “disappears”. (I helpfully make ‘air quotes’ with my fingers here!) Maybe “dissipates” (again with the ‘air quotes’ — I just love a good ‘air quote’, don’t you?) would be the more correct term. Well, whatever you call it, the science behind it is the same.

Him: What?

Me (speaking very slowly now): When you heat up a liquid….

Him (understandably interrupting me): I understood you. I just want to know what you’re going to do about it?

Me: What would you like me to do?

Him: Bring me some broth.

Me: Okay

Another trip to the kitchen is required. Another conversation with Psycho Killer ensues. It turns out we have run out of onion soup. Oh, happy day!

Me: Sir, I have some good news and some bad news. I’ll give you the bad news first: we’ve run out of onion soup.

Him: Well, what’s the good news?

Me: The soup is free.

Him: Fine.

It is at this point in our journey that “Storytime Guy” receives his bone-in ribeye.

Me: Would you like some steak sauce?

Him: I thought you said the steak was good?

Me: It is good.

Him: Then it shouldn’t need steak sauce.

Me: Agreed. Still, some folks like steak sauce.

Him: I hope I don’t need it.

Me: Me, too. Enjoy!

… An unsuspecting patron takes the seat next to “Storytime Guy”. He orders a Heineken, thus he will be referred to, where necessary, as “Heineken Guy”…

Him (about thirty seconds after digging into his steak): Miss?!?

Me: Yes, sir, I was just about to check on you. I just wanted to get this gentleman his Heineken. How is your steak?

Him: It’s fine, but I’m full. Can you wrap it up for me?

Me (handing him a box and a bag, as is our policy): Here you go. Will the one box be enough or would you like another?

Him: I’d like for you to wrap it up for me. If I wanted to wrap up food I’d do your job.

Me: Oh, sir, I don’t think you could do my job. Ha-ha-ha!

Him: I don’t want to wrap my own food.

Me: I don’t particularly want to engage in this conversation and, yet, here we are. Our policy and the Board of Health rules in this city require us to give customers what they need to take their food home with them.

Him: That’s stupid.

Me: There seems to be a great deal of that going around tonight. I hope it’s not catchy. (I give “Heineken Guy” the eye, just in case he’s considering getting up to any shenanigans.)

Him: You’re very funny, you know that?

Me: I’ve been told that on more than one occasion.

Him: What kind of dessert do I get with my meal?

Me (taking his steak off the plate and wrapping it for him because, really, I want him out of my life already): Excuse me?

Him: You said I got dessert with my meal.

Me: No, sir, I never mentioned dessert. Dessert is not included in your meal.

Him: I’m sure that you said that it was.

Me: Well, we could roll back the videotape, but I assure you that of the several categories covered in our many verbal exchanges this evening, the subject of dessert never came up. It’s not included. Do you want to see a dessert menu?

Him: No. I don’t have my glasses, remember? You’ll just have to tell me what’s on it.

Me: Guess what?

Him: What?

Me: It’s a picture menu!

Him: Are the pictures big enough?

Me (handing him the dessert menu): I don’t know. Here. Take a look.

Him: You know what would be a good thing here?

Me: What?

Him: An audio menu.

Me: Yeah. I wonder if we could get Sam Jackson to narrate it.

Him (eyeing me suspiciously): Umm, I guess. Why him?

Me: Because I think it would be amusing if it started out like this: “Listen up, motherfucker, cuz I’m only gonna say this once….” BA-HA-HA-HA-HA!

Him: You’re a funny woman.

Me: I know.

Heineken Guy: She sure is. I think I chose the right restaurant tonight.

Me (turning to “Heineken Guy”): Thank you, sir. Would you like to see a menu?

… And the cycle begins again …

Thankfully, “Heineken Guy” turned out to be a lovely man. He was literate, too. He was playing expert-level Scrabble on his iPad against the computer and, get this, he was winning! “Heineken Guy” can come back any time. As for “The Idiot of the Night”, I hope to never see him again. Given my luck, though, he’ll probably be back tomorrow.