Friday, February 25, 2011

On Listening

I am the world’s nosiest bitch worst eavesdropper. I know it’s wrong to listen to other people’s conversations, read things that weren’t meant for my eyes, and inquire about things that aren’t any of my business, but I can’t help it.

Okay, I can help it, but I don’t want to.

Contrary to appearances, I do respect people’s privacy; I don’t get information just to turn around and blab to other people. That’s not to say I’m above gossiping, but anything said in confidence will remain in confidence, at least to those whom we mutually know. Also, if you are discussing a private matter in public and not even making an effort to lower your voice, you should expect the story to be overheard (and possibly evaluated) by others. (This is how I explain listening to other people's dinner conversations.)

Also contrary to appearances, I like people. They’re interesting. I may hate working with them all some of the time, but I like watching and listening to them. They’re funny, sad, exuberant, irritating, ironic, redundant, pathetic, resilient, and extraordinary—oh, and no two are alike. Like I said: interesting.

Anyone who browses PostSecret, listens to This American Life, or reads memoirs understands that such curiosity transcends petty gossip. That whatever is happening on the surface contains layer upon complex layer of stories and memories to explain it. That gestures and facial expressions are as significant as the words, and at times more so. People-watching is how I learn how the world works. It’s what compels me to read, to learn about culture and history, and to try to figure out why things are the way they are.

This is all basically an über-pretentious way justifying my habit, but I suppose I could entertain worse ones, like cocaine. Or watching The O'Reilly Factor.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Big Brother is Watching the Bagel Fairy Pick Her Wedgie

Remember Il Duce?

Apparently, changing two dozen procedures and policies was not enough. Now that the dust has settled and he can't have his minions in the store at all times, Il Duce has installed cameras all around the store - in the dining room, by the registers, in the back of house, over the food line, and of course in the office, where the safe is. There is a monitor in the manager's office which displays all the aforementioned screens, and evidently an employee somewhere in East Bumblefuck gets paid to sit and watch all these screens, as well as those of all the other stores in the franchise.

Oh, and Il Duce's son, the one working as a shift supervisor and receiving an "allowance" by the big cheese in lieu of an hourly wage by the company, showed up drunk to work last night. I guess that didn't get caught on camera.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

RRRAAAWWWWWRRRRRRRRR

This is a re-post from last summer, because my computer at home blew up and I'm off in 10 minutes. Deal with it.

After I discovered the existence of Cougar Life, a dating site on which Women of A Certain Age can search for young male playthings (referred to as "cubs"), I made a fake profile immediately. I had to know what kinds of men went on there, and what kinds of women they were after. I also hoped to stumble across a profile of someone I actually knew, just because I'm a nosy asshole.

I am a cougar of sorts in real life. I am 23, but my boyfriend is still too young to drink. Plus, my sister, who is nearly four years older than I, is married to a guy who is a week younger than I am. And finally, my mom is married to a man six years her junior. We often joke that we're a family, or a "pack" of cougs, if you will.

I put on my profile that I was blond, 36, and single - none of which is true. I had thought about creating a full profile, complete with a real persona, but I had neither the time nor energy to do that.I felt kind of guilty about lying, but at least I did not respond to any of the messages I got and, of course, had no intention of pursuing any members on the site. I browsed the profiles of those who messaged me as well as a few other local dudes, and found only a couple of interesting things (unless faceless 20-year-olds revealing their midsections counts as "interesting"):

1. Several of the men who messaged "me" - the 36-year-old blond me, that is - were nearly "my" age or older. (If the whole point is young men and older women, shouldn't these guys be going for the 50+ crowd?)

2. I got a high volume of responses in spite of my having only a basic (read: free) profile, no picture, and virtually no information - but the cubs were still all over "me" (umm...can we say DESPERATE?).

Due to those two facts I had a sampling of men I would automatically weed out if I were actually taking the site seriously, all of whom came off as "spread myself super thin so that I send everyone a really general message and hopefully get more responses back" types of guys.

So, after reading the occasional messages I got (at times with much amusement), I decided to delete my profile permanently.

When I got to the final stage, Cougar Life asked me for a reason for junking the account. I wrote the following:

My husband found out I had a profile on here, and he was like, MEGA PISSED. Kept saying something about me "cuckolding" him. Really, I think he is just self-conscious about the size about his manhood, but it seems that most of the site's members are as well anyway.

Oh well, back to the cougar den. Guess it was fun to dream. Maybe I'll go for the neighbor's lawn boy.


Given that this 36-year-old blond (heretofore referred as "Statutory Stacey") is my creation and therefore part of my fictional tale to render as I see fit, I have decided that she did in fact go for the lawn boy, and the cub was all over it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

You're More of an Idiot Than You Think: Rants from A Different Counter

My good friend from college--we'll call her the Towel Fairy--was a music major, like me. Also like me, she was unable to find a "real" job after graduation and wound up in the service industry, working at a hotel desk. Many evenings have been spent loudly ranting about customers together over alcohol, comfort food, and Mario Kart.


The Towel Fairy has plenty of amusing and anger-inducing stories about her guests, but would first like me to impart some wisdom onto my readers about how to behave (and not behave) upon arrival at a hotel. Enjoy.

1. I will never understand why people continue to show up to check in to their hotel room without a single form of payment on them. No credit card, no company check, and no cash, not even a measly photocopy of a purchase order dating from weeks before. Even that I could work with. But no, guest after guest continues to come to the front desk with one thing to say: “My company was supposed to pay for it”. While that may be the case, your company should have done one of three things: 1) They should have faxed over a credit card authorization form. This form does exactly what you think it does. It authorizes the hotel to charge the card that was used to hold the room when the reservation was made for the cost of this guest’s stay. 2) They could have given you a company check, made out to the hotel that would have covered your costs. 3) They could have called the hotel directly before your arrival and transferred a deposit to your reservation through our accountant. They didn’t do any of these things? I’m not letting you into a room without a method of payment to authorize for your entire stay. Give me your personal credit card, get in touch with your contact at your company, or sleep outside, bitch.

2. We really don’t recommend booking your hotel room through a third party company. Always call the hotel directly. Sites like Expedia, Priceline, and Hotwire purchase rooms from us at a discounted rate, which yes, helps us fill rooms. What they don't tell you is that your room is guaranteed for only two people (unless otherwise specified), that your smoking preference is not necessarily guaranteed and that you will be the FIRST person to be moved out of your chosen room type if we are overbooked. We also will move people WHO PAY THE MOST to the suites if we are overbooked on standard room types, not you. Honestly, using third party sites are a great way to save money if you’re making a quick trip or you’re short on cash. But seriously, don’t expect us to pull out all the stops for you. We want your business, yes. But your business is only worth about fifty bucks. Don’t expect complimentary up grades, free internet, or free breakfast. 

We’d much rather give those things to someone who is paying $179 per night.

3. Always research the area to which you are traveling. If you do not like noise, DO NOT stay at an airport hotel. If you start complaining about the noise from the airport, the hotel staff will assume you are a moron. YOU booked this hotel, no one forced you to book it. If you want a lower rate, do not book in the middle of the city. Yes, it is convenient, but you will have to pay a hefty parking fee. There is never free overnight parking in any downtown area. You will also have to deal with more noise. All hotels post their information on the internet, on a printable page that outlines the features of the hotel. 
Use this information to your advantage.

4. Do not complain about the quality of the towels, bedding, soap, shampoo, etc. We do not have a choice as to which of these things we purchase and use. Our brands have standards that we have to follow, or we pay fines. You will not get a discount if you complain about these things. We are not going to knock off fifty bucks because you didn’t think the towels were fluffy enough to soothe your sensitive skin as you dried off after your shower. We will simply come out and tell you that we are forced to purchase these things through our brand supplier. 

And besides, how DARE you complain about the quality of things like shampoo and soap? They’re FREE, douche bag. Have you been to the grocery store lately? Sundries are incredibly expensive. Remember when the pioneers made soap? They used LYE, jackass. Be glad we don’t give you soap made from lye. And even if we did, I would still hate you for complaining about it. If you don’t like ours, bring your own. …Jackass.

5. If your room is not cleaned to your standards, please simply ask the front desk to have a housekeeper come by again. At this point, the management are usually the ones who will come and clean your room because they want to see for themselves where their staff is lacking. The management really does care what the rest of the staff does during their workday. Mistakes are made. You are not perfect in your job either. 



6. If, during your stay, the housekeepers did not clean your room, or did not make your bed, it is nearly 90% of the time, the guests’ fault. If you leave your Do Not Disturb tag on the door, the only person who can go in your room is a manager. If your bed is not made, please look to see if you left personal items on the bed. The housekeeping staff is not allowed to touch your belongings.

7. If you have children, ask to be placed on a lower floor or in the rooms directly over the front desk or other non-room space. Then the kids can run around all they want and you wont get a phone call from the staff asking you to knock it off. We really do want you to enjoy your vacation, but not at the expense of the comfort of other guests.

8. If you EVER get violent with any staff member you will be forcibly removed from the premises, charges will be pressed, and you will be blacklisted from our hotel and the other hotels in the area. Neighboring hotels are our competition, but they are also our neighbors. And we love warning them about violent jerks like you. We don’t deserve your abuse, and neither do they.

9. If you are worried about leaving your valuables in the hotel room, don’t do it. There are safe deposit boxes available at the front desk for all guests, free of charge. All medication, jewelry, money, electronics, passports, important papers, can be locked away at the desk at your discretion. We trust our housekeepers, but we understand why people worry when it comes to items like passports and travelers checks. If you’re truly worried, lock the important items up at the front desk.

10. When we tell you that there is nothing we can do, it’s because of one of two things: 1. There really is nothing we can do because we are full, there are special circumstances regarding your reservation, etc. OR 2.You have been a complete jerk, we have lost our patience with you, and we don’t care if you have a nice day or not.

11. Do not take things from the rooms. Not the towels, blankets, pillows, ashtrays, NOTHING. The housekeepers do pay attention to inventory and we will charge your credit card. On the registration paper that you signed, it clearly states that any damages to the room or theft of items will result in charges to your card. And yes, you will find that reimbursing the hotel for a stolen item will cost about two times as much as buying that item in a store. Don’t steal.

12. We will post an extra cleaning fee to your room if you leave the hotel and it takes the housekeepers hours to clean up your disaster. They have the managers come upstairs and take pictures to prove that you’re a slob, and no fighting with your credit card company will help you. The hotel’s account with the card company is bigger than yours as a corporate business. Deal with it.

13. If you want a quiet floor, ask for the floor where the corporate travelers are kept. We put them on the highest floor of the hotel so that they won't be bothered. They spend 50 times what you spend in our hotel and are treated the best. We know all of their names, their wives’ names, even the names of their kids. We will pick up their dry-cleaning; have flowers sent to their wife for them or anything else. Corporate travelers are our favorite guests because they usually only have housekeeping come in every few days, don’t make any noise, are out early and back late and they don’t complain. Even when they do complain, it is in a polite way, and we are always more than happy to accommodate their request. These people are walking dollar signs. We want them to be happy.

14. If you are not traveling on government business, do not try to book the federal discounted rate. If you cannot produce a government ID upon check in, your rate will be changed to the normal rack rate for the day. We’re not stupid.

15. Don't try to cram 15 people in one room. You are breaking the fire code and you can absolutely be fined for this. We charge an extra person fee in the room because it costs us more in wear and tear, linen usage, water, electricity, etc. Sometimes, we will waive the extra person fee if you are nice. We’re flexible. But don’t bitch at us when your reservation stated that there would only be one person in the room (so you could get a cheaper rate), you booked a generic room type (also so you could get a cheaper rate), and we saw that information in the computer and put you in a room with one king bed. I don’t care that you showed up with 6 people. Unless you all like to cuddle, things are going to get awkward and you have no one to blame but yourself.

16. If you do not know the difference between a debit and a credit card, do not use your debit card. “But my debit card also functions as a credit card,” you say. False. Our credit card system cannot tell the difference and will deduct the money from your bank account electronically until well after you have checked out. We release the money back to you the day you check out. But it can take your bank up to 10 days to put it back in your account. If you cannot afford to have that money held up, hit the ATM and just pay in cash when you check in. It saves a lot of grief for both you and the hotel. This is why we ask for a credit card at check in, not a debit card. We will not send a fax to your bank telling them to release the funds immediately, ESPECIALLY if you have just accused us of stealing your money. We just assume you are an idiot. …. Which you are…. Jackass.

17. If you book an advanced purchase room, you will save a lot of money. TRUE! You receive this courtesy discount because you are guaranteeing you will be in the hotel on that date. By booking this rate you have agreed to pay for the room the second the reservation is made and you have agreed that this reservation is non-cancelable and non-refundable. We honestly don't care if Great Aunt Ruth jumped off a bridge, that Mittens was hit by a car, or that you’re in jail and can’t make bail. These things are not our fault. Sorry dude. But let’s be honest. You never really liked Great Aunt Ruth because she always gave you homemade socks for Christmas. You always liked Sparky way better than you liked Mittens and the vet bills were getting really expensive, what with Mittens’ kitty diabetes. And you wouldn’t be in jail if your idiot friends hadn’t egged you on in that bar fight last night, which you totally would have won except that guy was like wicked strong and had a definite advantage because he was only drinking light beer. It turns out carbs really weigh you down. So you lost $150 on a hotel room. Big deal. You have bigger problems. At least Sparky is still alive.

18. ALWAYS become a member of that hotels loyalty program when you sign in. Gold Crown Club, Choice Privileges, Wyndham Rewards, Priority Club Rewards, Hilton Honors, etc. Ask at the desk for them to sign you up. We get a bonus for signing people up, and sometimes we will up grade your room for free. A lot of times you will get free drinks, coupons, free bottled water or a snack, a pass to a manager’s reception, etc. Not to mention the fact that you earn points which add up to free nights or free stuff in the future.

19. If your secretary books your room incorrectly, don’t yell at the hotel staff. Your problem did not occur because of a mistake within our company, the mistake occurred within yours.

20. Don't smoke in a non-smoking room. We can tell if you did. We take pictures of the cigarette butts you leave behind. We really do charge that $300 smoking fee. And you won't get that money back.

In the e-mail the Towel Fairy sent to me she mused, "I just remembered I haven’t told you the one about the dead guy and the naked hooker. Perhaps another time."

Yes, another time. Definitely need to hear about that one.

Friday, February 4, 2011

No Friday For You!

Friday is not a cause for celebration when you're in food service.

Most of our customers work in offices or are affiliated with the nearby university, meaning that they run on a M-F schedule, even if they don't necessarily keep 9-5 hours. So, on Fridays, well-meaning people comment on the oncoming weekend and say things like, "Happy Friday!" on their way out.

I remember working in the cafe five days a week, when I would typically have one weekend day and one random weekday off. I almost never got two days off in a row, but the scheduling manager would try to at least give me a Saturday or Sunday. Even then, I had an enviably regular schedule compared to the other full-timers because I was an opener and kept similar hours each day.

So when those regulars celebrated the imminent weekend that I myself would not always enjoy, I would wish the same to them while quietly envying their jobs which allowed them to sit down, have hour-long lunches, and two-day weekends. Even though I now have finally found one of those jobs, I still work Saturday mornings, thereby continuing to rob me of the joy of Friday. When people at my job get excited about the weekend, I pretend I feel the same, though I know I still have one more day of getting up before dawn to get through. And I know I can no longer be bitter about it, as it is now my choice to give up a portion of my weekend.

So, happy Friday to you. But not me.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Shit That's Really Starting to Get on My Nerves, Part IV: Winter

Can I be totally lame for a moment and talk about the weather?

I’m getting damn sick of these winters every year. Winter is annoying, time-consuming and expensive. The bills go up, sweaters take up way too much of my closet space, and the whole world is cranky because no one’s getting any sunlight. The house is unbearably drafty, and creepy crawly creatures seem especially eager to take up residence in my bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen.

Waking up in the morning is more difficult than any other time of the year, not just because I’m uncomfortable, but also because I know it’s going to take an eternity and a half just to get out the damn door (especially if I get a nosebleed as soon as I get out of bed due to the dryness). I don my normal work clothes, plus an extra sweater or jacket. Then I have to put on special socks and lace up my snow boots, or if not that than at least wear sneakers to work and change into my other shoes later. I then get out my scarf, hat, and gloves, and just when I think I’m ready to walk out the door I’ve almost inevitably forgotten something. But I’m so bundled up and stiff that it takes titanic effort just to climb up the stairs and reach for whatever I’ve forgotten. And now, I’m almost certainly running late.

After nearly falling on my ass fifteen times on the walk from the door and down the uneven steps to the car, which is parked on the street and is often flanked on one side by a mountain of snow from the plow, I set forth beating the snow and ice off the windshield. Then, after rocking the car over the snow drift while narrowly missing the nearby cars, I drive to work in a two-wheel-drive vehicle that’s very low to the ground and nearly two decades old.

Once on the road, I have to check my GPS and make sure I’m still in the Midwest, because the other drivers appear never to have seen snow or ice before. Or, at least, they’ve never driven in it. They’re either flipping their shit because they saw one flake and are now driving five miles an hour, or they’ve decided that even though the roads are packed and it’s a level two emergency, they can speed because they drive an SUV. On my commute, I listen to how many schools are closed and contemplate how long it would take to earn my Master’s Degree and become a teacher.

At work, everyone tries to outdo one another with the number of times they almost died, as well as itemize the number of accidents and spin-outs they saw on their way in. They compare this year’s winter to that of last year, the year before that, and 1988. They then talk about moving to Florida—(that is, Middle America's Mecca). But none of them ever moves there, or at least not until they turn 75. Throughout the day they complain, pull up Weather.com on their computers, peer out the window, discuss whether it’s getting worse or better, call their kids, and complain some more.

The drive home involves most of the same bullshit from the morning commute. I get home an hour later than I normally would, and by the time enter my house I can’t feel my face and the ankles of my pants are dirty and soaked. I don’t feel like cooking or going anywhere so I call for a pizza delivery, but feel so guilty about making the poor driver go out that I feel like a lazy asshole.

I take a hot shower—by far the most pleasant part of the day—using special shampoo for the seborrheic dermatitis on my scalp. I leave my hair wet because blow-drying it will make my scalp flaky, even though I have taken care to wear a hat every time I step outside. I then apply lotion over every inch of my body so my skin won’t crack, even though I wear about two or three layers.

I change into sweats and climb into bed. There are dishes to wash, laundry to be done, and things to pick up, but it’s too cold for any of that. The last thing I want is to be constantly reminded of how cold it is, considering I spent my work day answering the question, “Cold enough for ya?”

Fuck winter.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sometimes the Bagel Fairy Fucks Up Too

On Saturday, at the café, I was taking an order from a guy when his cell phone rang. I had reached the pay screen by the time he excused himself, opened up the phone, and answered. I waited for a moment, during which time two other customers walked up. I decided that if he was going to be a rude asshole and answer his phone, he could wait while I canceled his order and took care of the two people behind him. But, sensing I was waiting, he walked up—still talking—and handed me $20.

I probably don’t need to tell most of you that cell phones are my absolute, number one pet-peeve, which explains why my response was to snatch the $20 from his hand and give him his change without another word. Then I heard him say,

“I recommend you go to the emergency room,” which gave me pause.

After the transaction was over and I began to ring the customers behind him, the guy finished his phone call. He lingered by the counter, so I stopped in the middle of taking the next order and directed him to the counter where he could pick up his food.

“I just wanted to let you know I took that call because I’m a doctor on call. I wouldn’t have otherwise,” he said.

I nodded, trying to keep my face neutral.

“I didn’t like the way you snatched the money from me,” he said. “What’s your name?”

I told him, and he repeated that he wouldn’t have taken the call otherwise.

I didn’t say anything because I never think of the right thing to say in these situations. I should have apologized, but I was too busy bracing myself to get yelled at. I was so preoccupied with preparing to go on the defensive. But he didn’t yell at me. He didn’t get the manager. He got his food and sat down.

After I helped the next customers and watched the guy eat his sandwich, I considered going to his table, apologizing, and offering to get him a pastry. But I was afraid he would say no, that he would tell me it was too late. I felt that I’d had an opportunity to acknowledge that I’d been wrong and missed it, so I didn’t do it.

The next time I looked toward the dining room, the doctor was gone.

Once again, a nasty glance and brusque demeanor did absolutely nothing to help a situation. Lesson learned.