The Amish: a shady bunch.

J writes via e-mail today:
In the final analysis, blogging is very much about personal growth. The irony that this personal growth is on display for everyone to read, and thus ultimately leads to even greater narcissism from someone who honestly thinks the world is a better place when it knows what he ate for lunch or cares what someone who spends an awful lot of time in a suburban basement has to say about world events, notwithstanding, blogging is very much about personal growth.

So I’ve been growing, that’s where I’ve been. And I’ve learned a couple of things since last we spoke.

First, I owe Checkers an apology. Some of you may remember a previous rant where I said, “F@$K YOU CHECKERS!!! F%&K YOU AND EVERYTHING YOU STAND FOR!!!!!!” This was uncalled for, and not because I was directing my anger at a faceless corporation operated by minimum wage slaves in the same manner that a man who is clearly compensating for the lack of control he has over his own life yells at the waitress for failing to put enough ice in his water.

No, it turns out that my mishap with Checkers was my own fault. See, fast food has made life a bit too easy for us. You used to have to read the McDonald’s menu; now it’s all pictures, and that’s just one example of the dumbing down of a restaurant experience designed to appeal to dumb people in the first place. Checkers, you see, makes you work for it. And when you do, the result is truly remarkable.

Most fast food places make it too easy. It’s a pretty safe bet that if you get the value meal, that’s the best deal. With Checkers, that’s not always the case. See, Checkers on some nights even has sales. Those spicy chicken sandwiches? They are two for $3 every other night but Wednesday, where they are two for $2. Maybe someone should mention this to the Occupy Wall Street crowd. Checkers is trying to help, but they won’t help all the time. Only Wednesdays, and you gotta remember that because it’s not clearly marked with a picture like McDonalds.

So that’s the first thing I learned—you can get a cheap chicken sandwich even cheaper if you go on a Wednesday. It’s not much, but I’ve already learned things like how to walk, how to use the toilet, how to practice a good work ethic, how to be a good husband and father and the fact that most network television is a total waste of time. In terms of my ability to learn new things, we’re clearly reaching a law of diminishing returns. So I consider the whole chicken sandwich thing to be a big step.

The second thing I learned is that you really shouldn’t trust the Amish as much as you do. And I’m using the second person “you” intentionally because my guess is when you walk down the street in the middle of the night and see an Amish man coming the other way, you don’t cross to the other side of the street. You probably breathe a sigh of relief when you turn around and see that the footsteps behind you belonged to someone wearing a single-color shirt with no buttons.

I’m suggesting maybe you should rethink that.

See, while I was gone I’ve developed a strong affection for Miller’s Twist in the Reading Terminal Market. After years, well OK maybe only months, of getting ripped off at the Auntie Anne’s Pretzel stand with their $3.59 pretzel cheese dogs, I discovered the $2.50 version at Miller’s. The pretzels are better, the cheese is real and the hot dog doesn’t taste like it was from the discard bin.

They even have milkshakes, for $3.95 (remember when Pulp Fiction had the scene about the $5 shake and everyone was like, $5 for a shake, what the heck?) and with that milkshake you get, I kid you not, A FREE PRETZEL!!!!!!

I know, I was excited too.

But the Amish can’t do everything, and there’s probably a reason why they all dress alike. Trying new things just leads to trouble, especially when your whole culture is built around the idea that we were all just fine before electricity was invented.

The other day I was there and I tried their buffalo chicken sausage pretzel. Pretty good. As exciting as the name implies.

So today I went back for another one, they were only $3.50 after all.

And they didn’t sell them.

I know what you’re thinking. The Amish are a bunch of closet crack dealers who know how to keep addicts coming back for more, and if I go back the next day there will be a buffalo chicken sausage pretzel with my name on it. Maybe. But I’m not sure I’m going back.

Because in place of the buffalo chicken sausage pretzels there was…a broccoli rabe sausage pretzel. Ugh.

The Amish, they got cocky. I guess we all did. We let the success of combining chocolate and peanut butter go to our heads. When we decided to drink the liquid that was coming out of that big bulging flesh in the cow’s crotch and we didn’t die of it, we thought we could do anything.

But there are still things that shouldn’t be done, and a broccoli rabe sausage is one of them.

So I’m not sure I’ll be going back.

What did I learn from this? That everything in the movies is true.

What?

No, seriously. Remember that movie from the 1980s where Harrison Ford goes to live with the Amish family and we get to see Kelly Preston’s boobs? This was before the Internet so that was kind of a big deal, or at least it was for a teenage boy whose only previous experience was National Geographic and the breast exam article in World Book Encyclopedia. Those were simpler times.

Anyway, the message of that movie was that the Amish were not to be trusted. Or maybe it was the cops who were dirty? I honestly don’t remember, but I’ll bet you Kelly Preston never tried to give Harrison Ford a broccoli rabe sausage.

I’m just saying.

Now who wants pie?

Pretzels and Amish Babes

J writes:
If the Amish ever make a cell phone I am going to be the first in line because having experienced their soft pretzels just now I can tell you that they do everything better, not just houses and furniture.

I’ve passed by the Miller’s Pretzel Stand in Reading Terminal Market on numerous occasions but never stopped. Today I made a special trip to try their jalapeno cheese pretzel dog because I wanted to compare it to the Auntie Anne’s version.

I am adding Auntie Anne’s to the list of stores that shouldn’t be in business anymore because not only is their version more than a dollar more expensive ($3.87 vs. $2.75), it is much much smaller. If you control for size, which does matter, the Auntie Anne’s version is almost twice as expensive.

Couple of observations from Miller’s:

First, Amish women don’t react to being called babe. I didn’t call her babe, the guy in front of me did. I suspect he was testing her the way crass American tourists yell at those British palace guards in the funny hats to see if they’ll react, but he must have been disappointed. She just rang up his order and said, “have a nice day.”

Second, the cheese and the jalapeno are in the hot dog, not in the pretzel. It’s a matter of preference, I suppose, but you should be aware going in.

Finally, the hot dogs are enormous. This is not a snack, this is lunch. In a moment of juvenile humor while waiting in line I pondered the idea of being served a giant phallic symbol by a sexually repressed minority who, while I would not have been crass enough to say so, was a babe.

Babes in action.

Maybe I’ll be back again during her rumspringa, although my guess is she won’t be working a pretzel stand in Philadelphia.
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I write:
AREN’T THEY AMAZING?

My sister’s sister (who is pregnant and was at the time) ate a whoopee pie from an Amish farmer’s stand at Cowtown Rodeo and cried because it was so good.

It was one of the most endearing things I’ve ever seen.
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Then I accidentally send this to myself instead of J:
If you were going to make this a post on Cake in the Conference Room…what would you title it?
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I realize my mistake and forward him the above with this note:
I accidentally sent that to myself.

Embarrassing. (also, ever notice how the word “embarrassing” sounds a lot like “bare assing”…I don’t think it’s a coincidence.)
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He ends the conversation thusly:
Pretzels and Amish Babes.

Yes, in a simpler time baring your ass to the world would have put you in a position you’d rather not be in. Then Jennifer Lopez got famous and all of a sudden everyone thought the world would be better off if they had a better look at the fat deposits at the bottom of our backs that shoot out shit on a daily basis. The language hasn’t yet caught up to this dubious development.
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And there you have it.

Tuna Salad…? Really Dunkin Donuts? WTF.

I come back from a conference to this email from J:

I believe it was the tuna fish sandwich that finally sent me over the edge.

Tuna fish isn’t supposed to have that effect on people. With the exception of the brief mental interlude of the mid-90s where we all pretended we cared about dolphins enough to abstain from canned fish, tuna fish is known for its lack of ability to provoke. I reckon I could get the phrase, “bland as a can of tuna fish” to catch on or trend on Twitter if it wasn’t so damn many characters, because, well, how many times have you even thought about tuna fish?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and I blame Dunkin Donuts.

Dunkin Donuts, which for as long as I can remember has dominated the breakfast market with its donuts, despite the recent shrinkage of variety and size but not price, has apparently decided that they want to start serving lunch too. One of their officers announced as much to the financial paper of record when he said that the challenge would be to develop a slate of menu items that would attract a lunch crowd without turning off their primary breakfast market.

So the Dunkin Donuts brain trust got together and decided first they’d try tuna fish.

I’ve only seen the pictures and it looks like it has a lot of celery. I don’t want to try it, because it’s possible that my one purchase could skew their data enough to think that the whole idea is a raging success and if my life is to have any meaning it is to not encourage stupidity. I’ve given up on trying to make people smarter. As I watch our civilization decline a good part of me finds myself not caring as long as I can still watch reruns of my favorite shows on Netflix, but when I see the signage outside of Dunkin Donuts for a tuna fish sandwich it makes me want to stand astride the wave of civilization’s progress and shout STOP!!!

Ew.

The tuna fish sandwich is the last straw, but I’ve been watching this trend for a long time.

McDonalds started serving salads a couple of years ago. The chain that had made qui-billions (by the way, when did they stop counting how many billions served on the signs?) selling fast burgers and delicious french fries that Morgan Spurlock taught us never go bad, had come under a wave of bad publicity because Americans were getting fatter and it must have been happening because they were eating more McDonalds.

Interestingly, these stories started pouring out right around the time McDonalds was seeing real sales declines, but no matter. McDonalds decided to change its image by starting to offer salads, which, truth be told, are higher in calories than the average cheeseburger, and their spokesmen said that in a few years they would become for salads what they had been for hamburgers.

I hope not. I don’t go to McDonalds as often as I used to, but when I do go I get a burger or a chicken sandwich and I do not subject my children to those sliced apples masquerading as fries.

Taco Bell, which I practically lived off of during college because everything was either 59, 79 or 99 cents, recently started trying to pretend it was a high end Mexican restaurant by offering shrimp tacos. I am pleased to see that the marvelous science of aquaculture has brought the price of shrimp down to where it can be stuffed into a fast food taco, but if a restaurant can’t verify its meat is real I’m not trusting it with seafood.

Mercifully, the shrimp tacos didn’t seem to catch on, but that hasn’t stopped other stupidity from rearing its ugly head.

When I open a restaurant, it will have five items, including one vegetarian option for the self-important snot head who thinks they are better than everyone else because they eat grass. If you don’t like those five items, you can eat somewhere else.

I am not serving donuts and tuna on the same plate.

Now who wants pie?

Meat in Shapes, 7-11 Style

J writes:

In its continuing quest to see how many things it can make into a hot dog shape, 7-11 has nailed it. We all know about the failed attempt to put a bacon cheeseburger into a hot dog roll (they really just need to stop selling the big cheeseburger bite), but the new buffalo chicken rollers are a marvel of food engineering.

I discovered them last night on my way to class as I was looking for a quick convenient dinner. I’m told by my recent reading that 7-11 specifically caters to my demographic, that is men age 17 to 35 whose digestive systems can handle not only convenience store junk food but in a pinch could process the plastic wrapper it comes in.

That ain't a hot dog.

Here’s something else I didn’t know: 7-11 got its name because when it first opened it was open from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., which were then unheard of hours. Everyone was impressed at the time. Now if you are a convenience store whose primary product is coffee and you don’t open until 7:00 a.m. people think you cater to rich, lazy, limo driving public school teachers on summer vacation.

I stopped at 7-11 and went immediately to those roller grills that spin the hot dogs and sausages all day long. You know what I’m talking about. The convenience store wizards had created a hot dog shaped buffalo chicken tender. I ordered one from my friendly Middle Eastern cashier, who mistakenly thought I had ordered the buffalo chicken taquitos. It was an honest mistake, I suppose, especially from someone who was new to the country. He apologized and got me the rollers I had ordered.

The rollers are in a class by themselves. Unlike taquitos, which are overpowered by the bread wrapping, the rollers are pure unfettered buffalo goodness. At $2.29 for two ($1.39 for one, so yes it’s worth it to get two) they are a bargain at three times the price.

I don’t want to get into how they got it to be that shape any more than I want to discuss whether square fish can swim with some old fart shilling for Wendy’s. They were the perfect hand-held snack.

And here’s the key. They were even better the second day, when I visited one of the local 7-11s in Philadelphia. This one was also operated by a friendly young man from the Middle East (does the chain have some kind of recruiting program in Yemen?) but my efforts were hampered considerably by some woman who couldn’t quite figure out how to order a hot dog with mustard (it’s on the condiment stand, lady. He shouldn’t have to tell you twice, this ain’t the Ritz).

But when I got my rollers (no mistaken taquitos this time, thank you Apu) I had the perfect snack for the rest of my walk.

Congratulations, 7-11, on a job well done.

(written to me by J via e-mail on 5/3/11, posted by me entirely too late and after one particularly expert guilt-trip by J)

Easter Candy

After much nagging from me, J sends me an email yesterday with this:

Easter is behind us now, and as a wise man once said sometimes you have to put your behind in your past.

Unfortunately, as another wise man once said—a different one, I swear—my fellow Americans, we are some kind of fat. Putting our behinds anywhere is going to be a challenge.

Easter is probably one of the most confused holidays of the year as people who are not religious suddenly feel compelled to take the seats and parking spaces of regular attendees at churches, families come together for a Sunday dinner that is not eclectic so much as confused and kids try once again to pretend for the sake of their parents that they are idiotic enough to believe that somewhere in the world there is a giant rabbit who defecates chocolate eggs.

In the run up to Easter this year, I read a fascinating story from the Associated Press about why Easter has not become as commercialized as Christmas. The major premise being that both Christmas and Easter are religious holidays, but whereas Santa Clause has firmly pushed baby Jesus out of the manger, the Easter Bunny can’t seem to move the adult version off the cross.

The author ultimately concluded that Americans must feel a certain reverence and respect for the Easter season, since it is the bulk of foundational Christian theology, that they maybe do not have for Christmas  because…well, the article started to fall apart.

As an analysis of the culture wars, I found it interesting. I suppose the next time a Jerry Falwell type gets worked up into a lather over abortion, gay marriage, Hollywood smut or pornography, we can fire back with, “Hey look pal, at least you’ve been able to keep the Easter Bunny from being culturally relevant, so smoke on your pipe and put that in or whatever.

I actually think the reason the Easter Bunny is not as culturally relevant as Santa Clause is because, if you’ll pardon my diversion into crass literality, the Easter Bunny just plain doesn’t make any sense.

As a story, Santa Clause holds together nicely. He lives up in the North Pole with a group of elves who make toys for good little girls and boys. Once a year, on Christmas Eve, which is conveniently ALWAYS DECEMBER 24, he loads everything into a sleigh and leaves it under a Christmas tree and children all over America wake up on December 25 to a bunch of cheap plastic crap from China that will be mostly broken or forgotten about by December 26.

Like any mythology, there are holes in the story, but these have been nicely filled in over the years by an increasing body of Santa Clause literature in either books or television specials with stop-motion puppets voiced by Fred Astaire.

The Easter Bunny doesn’t have this kind of operation and it shows. Somewhere, someone needs to take the whole concept back to the drawing board and address the following areas of believability.

The Bunny.

Santa Clause is always male, always about six feet tall, always old, always morbidly obese, and always speaks in a tone of voice that suggests he’s had a little too much egg nog as he asks you what you want for Christmas. It’s comforting that whether you are watching a movie on AMC or in a shopping mall in Ashland, Ohio, Santa Clause will always be a certain way.

No such standards exist for the Easter Bunny.

Sometimes the Easter bunny looks like a bear.

In real life, bunnies never get too big to hold in your arms if you are into that sort of thing. In some of the movies, they maintain this size, while in other movies the bunny is larger than the children but smaller than the adults or larger than everyone.

Growing up, my mother always taught me that the Easter Bunny was huge and he might break the steps on the front porch on his way up. Given the state of our front porch, I believed her, but in my defense I was five.

In shopping malls and other venues, the bunny is always big but the gender of the rabbit is open to question as I have seen some shopping mall bunnies with curves that suggest they moonlight in that other career opportunity for our fleet footed brethren.

Sometimes bunnies talk and sometimes they don’t. This causes a lot of confusion since, unlike Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny does not have a back story or an approved script. What’s the Easter Bunny version of “ho ho ho!” It’s not there.

Other places go for realism and show kids an actual bunny that they claim is the Easter Bunny, but if I’m a child in America watching this animal with a clear case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, I am likely going to feel cheated.

Easter gifts

At Christmas, it’s simple. Gifts are always toys (unless you count Uncle John’s box of socks and underwear he sends every year) and they always come wrapped and either under or around the tree.

Easter is confused. Sometimes there is a basket, sometimes there isn’t. Some people give candy, some people give toys. And the baskets go…well I guess it depends on your house or apartment.

But if you got your kid as far as believing there was an Easter Bunny in the first place, the gifts are where the whole thing falls apart, because whereas the idea of an old man producing toys in a factory in the North Pole populated by elves that you can’t see is somewhat believable, only the most gullible of children are going to believe the connection between bunnies and eggs.

I do not know why we are surprised that kids in America fail at science when we spend the early years of their childhood convincing them that somehow a rabbit produces not only eggs, but chocolate eggs at that.

And yet every spring we fill baskets with chocolate eggs and that god awful green plastic grass that gets caught in the wrappers and in our rugs in such a way that no vacuum cleaner can extract it, and we bemoan the rising levels of obesity and diabetes in this country while scratching our heads as to the cause.

At the end of the day, perhaps that’s what will make Easter as culturally relevant as Christmas, because whatever the differences, whatever the faults, whatever the holes in the mythology, the two holidays have a common purpose in filling and expanding our physical presence and make us, in the words of the aforementioned wise man, some kind of fat.

Now who wants pie?

Checkers

J emails me on Monday with this:

F— you Checkers. F— you and everything you stand for. OK, honestly I’m not sure what Checker’s restaurant stands for. I don’t see many signs that say “Eat Checkers and Free Tibet,” or “Eat Checkers–It’s What Nelson Mandela Does,” so admittedly there’s no moral equivalent to eating at Checkers. Maybe that’s why I went there.

Checkers is one of those places I keep meaning to go to. Unlike Sonic, which has brilliant advertising but no locations anywhere near me when I’m hungry, Checkers is conveniently located about a mile from both my jobs, so, theoretically, I could eat dinner there every night on the way home.

But having a Checkers so close by is a lot like living in a town with a major tourist attraction or knowing a hot girl who is terminally single. You could always see the Liberty Bell, or go out with her, so while you keep meaning to you never really do and then one day they either board up the museum due to budget cuts or she gets married and suddenly you’re left with the friggin pancakes and no syrup–don’t try to find the analogy, pervert, it’s not there.

So tonight, I went to Checkers.

Checkers has this unique system where there is no place to sit down. It’s just a drive-in. I guess some consultant in New York City told them, “You want to get an edge on all the other restaurant chains? The most profitable part of any fast food business is the drive-thru. If you want to make serious bank, have JUST A DRIVE-THRU!!!.”

“That’s brilliant,” said all the suits around the table.

“So what should we name this place?”

“Hey how about Checkers?”

It wasn’t a great idea, but the guy who brought it up had been dating the hot, terminally single girl from accounting thus taking her out of the pool and everyone hated him for it. They figured the boss would smoke him out for the weinie he was, but he didn’t.

No one knew why, but they suspect it was because the boss was already calculating what he could buy with the $7.10 an hour he could save by not having to hire someone to mop the floors of a restaurant so he said, “Sure, what the hell, Checkers it is.”

What the hell indeed.

So tonight, I went to Checkers.

Doesn't the neon glow just make want to go in, sit down, and grab a burger? Well, you can't.

The first thing that should have tipped me off is their menu variety. Checkers has a lot of stuff on their menu. An overwhelming amount of stuff in fact.

Here’s a rule of fast food. Fast food is for burgers, and maybe chicken sandwiches. I know a lot of them serve fish sandwiches, but the less said about that the better, especially with the Lenten season almost upon us. Out of respect for my Catholic brethren who necessitated the Filet-O-Fish in the first place, I’ll defer.

Checkers sells buffalo wings, both boned and boneless variety, and they sell them in five different flavors. I love boneless wings. I love the fact that someone came up with the idea of boneless wings, because what they are really saying is, “Look pal, we know you’re too lazy to throw the bones away or put in the extra effort to get the meat off the bone, so we’ll go ahead and make some illegal immigrant in Lake Titicaca do it for you and, just to keep the joke between us, we’ll still let you call it a wing? OK pal?” Lazy bastards.

Needless to say I ordered the boneless buffalo wings. I got them in garlic parmeasan flavor, which I shouldn’t have done, but I did. I’m not proud of it, but I did.

Here’s the thing. I’m just putting this out there as an unpaid consultant. If I am going to make a restaurant where people can’t sit down, I’m only going to sell things that you can eat in your car. So I got the box of boneless wings out and the sauce starting dripping out of the box and onto my jacket.

WTF?

Oh well, I thought. I’ll wait until I get to work. If the sauce is dripping out of the box, they must really lather it on, this must be good.

I think you probably know where this story goes. The wing sauce, that managed to drip all over my coat, did not manage to coat a single boness wing. And they were dry.

Moreover, I had been talked into upsizing to “large,” so the whole experience cost me $9.39. What did I get for “large?” No extra boneless wings. Maybe I’ve been conditioned by the tub of fries you get at most fast food places, but the french fries hardly seemed abundant either. What I got was a giant soda that made me want to pee so bad by vision started to blur.

So what have we learned today?

Don’t eat at Checkers.

Go see the Liberty Bell.

And for the love of God man, just ask her out, she’s not going to wait for you forever.

Now who wants pie?

Reading Terminal Market, The Gallery, and Specialization

On 1/18/11 at 2:29 p.m. J writes:
It’s not like I really want to stick my finger in the eyes of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, but eating at the Reading Terminal Market is an exercise in disappointment.

I want to like it. I mean it is, after all, the READING TERMINAL MARKET!!! A holy place of eating in a city famous for being fat because, well, we know how to eat and, for the most part, how to cook.

But I’ve eaten at the Reading Terminal Market four times now, and each time I’ve said, “That’s it, I’m never going back!” and yet I keep going back like a dog to his own vomit or a battered spouse because, well, I keep thinking this will be the time. But it never is.

Today I had lunch at the Cajun place, the name of which I cannot recall. I love Cajun food. Of all the places I have visited in my business travels, the place I have loved the most is New Orleans. Even the Food Court at the mall by the Convention Center in New Orleans is an exercise in deliciousness. When Katrina hit, and I did my requisite feeling bad for the people trapped in flooded houses and hating President Bush for his non-response, my first real cognitive thought was, “I wonder what happened to Mulate’s. They had awesome Po Boys.” Call me insensitive, but I really didn’t know anyone from the Ninth Ward; I did know Mulate’s sandwiches.

Where was I? Oh yes, Philadelphia.

Reading Terminal Market can be overwhelming in its choices, but a couple of days ago I walked by the Cajun place and they offered me a free sample of their chicken and sausage gumbo. The cup was a typical sample size, but somehow the lovely young lady filling my sample cup managed to get both a piece of chicken and a piece of sausage in it, and it was delicious. I decided right then and there that I would head back someday and get lunch.

Too many options, IJS.

Today in Philadelphia it’s cold and miserable. I had packed a bologna sandwich with some fruit, chips and cookies, but the weather really called for hot soup, and my preference is hot spicy soup, and gumbo fits that bill. So I set out on a quest for the one true lunch. I took no companions because I didn’t want them cramping my style. I have no real evidence of this but I suspect that people who have first dates at Reading Terminal Market don’t make it to second dates.

“So where do you want to eat, dear?”

“Oh I don’t know, where do you want to eat?”

“How about here.”

“Do you want to eat there?”

“I don’t know, do you?”

“How about here?”

“Do you like that food?”

“Do you?”

And assuming the guy hasn’t gone all Kensington Strangler on his date by this point, the couple likely winds up eating at Chili’s which, whatever its demerits, is at least predictable.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the gumbo.

So I order the chicken and sausage gumbo, and here’s the part they don’t tell you when they sample—IT’S SERVED OVER RICE!!!!!! The sample was not served over rice; the sample came in a small free cup. Basically, the gumbo at the Cajun place is an exercise in selling rice for $7 because by the time the little twit filled my bowl with heaping spoonfuls of rice there wasn’t much room for the gumbo, and despite my best efforts the rice managed to absorb most of the gumbo sauce so I was left eating a flavorless bowl of rice with a couple of pieces of sausage.

And the whole exercise came to $9.40 because I wanted something to drink (next time I’m bringing my own bottled water) and Philadelphia sales tax is 8 percent.

From now on, I’m sticking to the free samples.
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I remind him what he ripped off from me and his love of the free sample guy in The Gallery:
“So I set out on a quest for the one true lunch. I took no companions because I didn’t want them cramping my style.”

You’re welcome.

“From now on, I’m sticking to the free samples.”

…and retarded people.
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J retorts:

Hey man, if we’re going to share a brain I’m going to use your material sometimes.

My little retarded friend was at Chic Fil A today, but he was back wiping the counter, which is a degrading waste of his time because he’s actually really good at passing out free chicken, not that it’s hard, but you know, when someone does something right you want to acknowledge it in a world where all we do is criticize people, so what I’m saying is, HERE’S TO YOU RETARDED YOUNG MAN AT CHIC FIL A! THANK YOU FOR YOUR EXCELLENCE!!

You know what else I learned about free samples today in the Gallery?

First, the samples at Charley’s Cheese steaks are way better than the actual sandwiches you pay for. Even controlling for the fact that the samples are free, they never get the sandwiches right. But if you hit the free sample lady at just the right time it’s the perfect taste.

Second, if you’re getting sick of Bourbon Chicken, walk by one of the stands and wait for them to ask if you want a free sample. You can ask for whatever you want. Today I asked to sample their General Tso’s chicken knowing full well what it tastes like. I suppose when you have an interaction with the person behind the counter, as opposed to a sad, silent type standing in the crossway with a piece of chicken on a toothpick, you might feel more of a sense to buy lunch there. I didn’t. I took my sample and walked away, but a person with social graces might.
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I remind him:

I’m pretty sure you already did several posts about free samples in the Gallery…specifically Charley’s Cheese and how their samples are more delicious than their actual product.

Some might call it a repeat…more genius staff assistants would say you’ve gone into syndication.

And, as a generalist, I too applaud the retarded young man at Chic Fil-he has become a master of a specific craft and he needs to be recognized. He has succeeded in specificity in a way I have not…bravo!
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J:
Or perhaps that I’m resting on my laurels. The Gallery is a gift that keeps on giving when it comes to material. Today I noticed four uniformed and well armed security agents leaning on a post talking to each other, interested in nothing so much as their own engaging conversation. You could have held someone up at gun point and they might not have noticed. Made me feel a lot safer.

When you find yourself being a bit jealous of a man who’s main job function is passing out chicken on a toothpick you perhaps need to reevaluate your choices. I’m just saying.
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Me:
Remember that article Nancy sent us about that strangling that happened at 11 a.m. last week in the Gallery? Yeah-made me feel great about unknowingly spending my lunch break there at Five Below on the same day.

Reevaluate my choices I am. Maybe instead of working in an office, I could work in an ice cream shop. I’d really love scooping ice cream all day and handing out cones to people. I mean, you get to give people ICE CREAM all day.

Hey-maybe I’ll see if Ben & Jerry’s is hiring…
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J, for the last time:
Yeah I remember. I walk through the Gallery regularly. I know exactly where it happened and exactly where he was found. I see people screaming at each other there all the time.

I was at the library this afternoon over my lunch break. I saw that some janitorial services was hiring. Third shift, cleaning office buildings. For a moment, I considered it. I loved being a janitor. I actually considered applying to my campus department after graduating. I found the work satisfying, I liked the people (and not just the other students, the full time folks who have made custodial services at a small Christian liberal arts college their career) but then my friend Jeannine’s mom said I was nuts and she was right, so I took the path I’m currently on. But there are moments when I’m being figuratively shit on that I think to myself, it would be better to just literally clean up people’s shit because at least then I wouldn’t be fooling anyone about what my job is or my station in life.

Ben & Jerry’s is awesome. They have a policy that the top executives cannot make more than seven times what the people on the lowest rung make. In practice, this means they have a hard time finding executive talent, but it probably also means you can make quite a lot selling ice cream and no one yells at the ice cream man.

Possible Felony: Eating an Old Lady’s Cookie Mail

I write to my entire department on Jan. 26, 2011 at 12:21 p.m.

So I’m a terrible person.

I received a package in the mail at my apartment and it was addressed to the person who used to live there.

I had good intentions. I brought the package to work to give to the USPS people so they could forward it on to where it needed to go. But then a bunch of time went by and I decided to forget it.

The package has been on my desk for about two weeks and in my purging spree, I decided I would open it and see if it was important. If it was, I would make sure that Rosalie Delgado received her package.

So I opened it and it’s a bunch of stale holiday cookies. But there’s some biscotti in there and some truffles that are pretty good.

It’s all in the food cube if you’re so inclined.
_____________________________________________
R replies all:

Thanks for sharing… I think.  Though stale cookies are still better than no cookies (right, J?)
________________________________________________
The other N.P. plugs her Girl Scout Cookies:

Well, if you want FRESH cookies . . .
________________________________________________
I tease:

Well isn’t someone just a Nancy Pants…
__________________________________________________
Then, J unleashes this:

This whole thing sounds crumby to me. I mean the cascade of illegality committed by one Ms. P. rises to the level of a federal crime—why don’t you just put a penny on the rail road tracks or burn a dollar bill while you’re at it you hoodlum?

As for poor Ms. Rosalie, I mean, who knows what this woman’s story is. Alone on Christmas, waiting for a pathetic box of cookies to arrive from her children, who send her sweets every three months to stay in the old lady’s will. But the cookies didn’t come this Christmas, so Rosalie probably went to her lawyer the next day and wrote them all out. The kids, who had been living the life of the prodigal son in anticipation of a trust fund transfer on the day the estate tax expires now must go out and get jobs in this economy and they can only HOPE to be as successful as the fine young man who passed out free chicken at the Gallery mall, but what is more likely is they will decide that the answer is a life of crime and debauchery.

Yeah, the whole thing sounds crumby. It’s not going to keep me from going over and getting a cookie though. I’m not that concerned.

There weren't NEARLY as fresh as these babies.

__________________________________________________
I reply:

Wow. Just Wow.
_____________________________________________________
J retorts:

You, my dear, are a family wrecking federal felon.
_____________________________________________________

Maybe. But at least someone got to eat them before the last cookie crumbled.

Yankee Candles: the bane of the holiday season.

As injustices go, it doesn’t quite rank up there with starvation in Ethiopia, child prostitution in Thailand, Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment for resisting apartheid in South Africa, or the Holocaust, but I for one am sick of going to my office refrigerator and finding ice cube trays with one lonely ice cube. Come on people, what am I supposed to do with this? Couldn’t you have put that ice cube in your cup and refilled the tray? Who does that?

Spare me the lecture about how this just shows that Americans in general, and me in particular, have truly run out of things to worry about. Yes, we probably have. But that hasn’t stopped us from worrying and complaining.

Perhaps it’s the holidays. I think they make everyone depressed.

Those of us lucky enough to have families dread the thought of having to spend time with them, while lonely people wish anyone would be there to open presents with on Christmas Eve. True story–I once read a post on craigslist.com from a woman called, “Spend Christmas Eve with me.” She was alone, she didn’t want to be and she would welcome anyone to her house who wanted to spend Christmas Eve decorating her tree and listening to Christmas Carols. She ended the post by saying that men who were looking for something sexual should look elsewhere. My guess is she either spent the night with a lot of lonely women and their cats or is dead in a ditch somewhere; there really isn’t much in between on this one.

Those of us lucky enough to have money wind up spending it on a lot of meaningless garbage and running up debt, while those who do not have money have to answer some poor little kids question about why Santa couldn’t make it to his house. Nothing depresses me more than the thought of a kid with nothing to open Christmas morning, and I blame Yankee Candle for the whole mess. Seriously, Yankee Candle has become the new paperweight. Ever thought about how meaningless a paperweight is as a gift? Do you know of many offices that have a lot of windstorms that require us to have a special item to keep our papers from blowing away? My office doesn’t even have a window, and even if it did I’m not opening it in January. I might open it in April, but by then I would have forgotten about your damn paperweight.

Yankee Candles though are a travesty on the American economy. In my house we buy them in bulk and give them to people we feel obligated to give gifts to but don’t care enough about to actually think about what they would truly want. My guess is I’m not the only one who does this, and because we give them out before Christmas I also suspect that many of them get re-gifted at office parties and large family gatherings where people do not notice.

Oi vey.

Office Christmas parties are now in full swing depriving the American economy of much needed productivity. Seriously, if you are out of work and looking for a job you may as well stop until after new year’s because the decision makers are all on vacation and HR is busy planning the office party. Beyond the office party there are a lot of departmental parties and a lot of unnecessary gift swapping.

Whoever thought office gift swapping was a good idea ought to be taken out in the street and pelted with Yankee Candles. Most of these are “Yankee Swap” (Damn Yankees ruined everything, let’s hope the South rises again—Lee surrendered I didn’t!—Where was I? Oh yeah, office gift giving) where people have between $10 and $15 to come up with a gift that everyone might like. All these gifts go in a pile and people pick from the pile. Then the next person has the option of stealing your gift or picking from the pile.

I did this for three years at one of my old jobs. Every year I did the same thing. I would go to the local convenience store, buy a gift card for the exact amount of the Yankee Swap and put it in the pile. When my turn came, I would pick it and act surprised. Curiously, no one ever wanted my convenience store gift card and I would just fill up my gas tank and buy a Slim Jim on the way home. All things considered, a very Merry Christmas.

Gift Cards are great though because while they used to require thought they really don’t anymore. Used to be you had to at least be aware of where the person likes to shop, but now you can buy gift cards at your bank. And this is different than cash, how? Maybe it’s better if I don’t ask.

It will all be over soon, and then we’ll be in to gift returning season because, honestly, even if you are a conscientious person trying to do right by everyone on your gift list you are going to screw it up somewhere and that Yankee Candle is going right back to the store.

The tradition of returns is as old as Christmas itself. When Jesus was born away in a manger some well meaning kings, or wise men depending on your translation, brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to a screaming child (I don’t buy the “little lord Jesus no crying he make” line for a minute—I’ve raised two babies). After Mary graciously accepted these gifts, she likely ran out to the first century equivalent of Wal Mart and promptly exchanged them for some Yankee Candles.

Now who wants pie?

On the road…YET AGAIN

J writes last night (12/7/10) at 7:05 p.m.

The irony of airplane travel is that it is an amazing feat of technical genius, but most of those who fly agree it sucks.

Less than 100 years ago, if you wanted to go from Philadelphia to California you might get there before you died of old age. Kind of gives a whole new perspective to going to visit grandma.

“Alright kids, let’s rustle it up and go visit grandma.”

“But, Dad, she’s 15.”

“Yeah, but I’m pretty sure she’ll be a grandmother by the time we get there.”

Now, with the time zones, you can leave Philadelphia at 8:00 a.m. and be in San Diego before lunch, yet all of us will universally agree that the experience sucks.

We all cheered when that guy from Jet Blue jumped out the emergency chute because while we may disagree on tax policy, welfare reform, abortion, school prayer, whatever, we all felt a certain kinship with a man who had just had it with the whole flying experience.

I fly about 15 times a year and I have for years. Yet until today, I had never flown Southwest. I was always a little skeptical. I mean, all other things being equal, when you pay less for something the quality is less. I may save money by shopping at Wal Mart, but I am under no illusions that I’m getting high quality anything by shopping there.

But Southwest was my option, and so, as they say, “DING” I was now free to move about the country.

Southwest was so pleasant it was almost surreal. When I checked it at 4:45 in the morning the ticket clerks were smiling and it didn’t end there.

Much has been made of Southwest’s cattle call no assigned seat system, and I was expecting the worst. But it was surprisingly orderly, and the Southwest employees actually made it fun, if only because their pleasant demeanors seemed that much more against the surly dispositions of the TSA workers who were waiting to feel me up.

Actually the cattle call where you stand by a pole made about as much sense as the systems on other airlines. I never understood why everyone stands in line for the privilege of sitting in an assigned seat for an extra 20 minutes. But we do. And we complain about it.

The airline was equally pleasant. The flight attendants (who were named, I am not making this up, Vicki and Vic) offered to hold my coffee while I sat down, they held the door open when I went to the bathroom (OK, that one was a little creepy) and Vicky engaged me in conversation that didn’t seem forced and even offered to snuggle with me when I complained I was cold (OK, that one creeped me out too, but I almost took her up on it because I was disappointed that none of the TSA agents wanted to grope me).

So Southwest has actually found a way to do things differently.

Congratulations.

Now who wants pie?