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Friday, March 25, 2011

Two Hour Breakfast

This is an abbreviated transcript of events. Times other than arrival and departure have been estimated for the point of story continuity. All names have been changed to protect the innocent and unaware...

9:15am - Denver and I arrive at The Restaurant. Let's call this place TR's for short.

The moment we arrive some strange woman waves at Denver from across the room. She looks vaguely familiar to him, completely unfamiliar to me. "I have no idea who that is," he says to me out of the corner of his mouth as he awkwardly waves back at her.

"Have a seat wherever you'd like," says a woman waiting tables. Let's call her, Bea. Bea is plump with long blond hair pulled back into a ponytail.

We take a window seat, as usual. And then we wait. We know before we arrive that the service isn't great, but the food tastes good and it's inexpensive. TR's is an independent, upscale fast food restaurant. When you order inside, they cook it fresh and bring it out to you. Breakfast they do a little different... and it just doesn't quite work. But then... that's half the fun.

9:20am - A second woman waiting tables, lets call her Flo, tells us she's going to go get us some menus. Flo is plump with long blond hair pulled back into a ponytail.

Not yet having had our morning fix, we ask if we could get some coffee as well. She asks us if we would like both creamers as well as sweeteners, We respond with "yes, please and thank you," and she's on her way.

9:25am - A couple take the booth in the corner behind Denver. Flo follows behind them, gives them menus and on her return gives us our menus. "Sorry about the wait," she says. "I'll get those coffees right out."

9:30am - A couple with three kids take the seat across from us. 

We're ready to walk out order and Flo is making the rounds with the coffee. She's carrying a tray with roughly ten full-ish cups of coffee, the route she's taking takes her to the couple in the corner before us. She's in a hurry when she arrives at our table. "Oh no!" she exclaims as she sets down the tray that's covered in coffee overspill and unloads two cups of coffee and a box of sweeteners. "Did I pour too many coffees? Oh, no. It's fine," she says picking up the tray with two cups of coffee and a bowl full of creamers on it. "Creamer?" Denver and I call after her. She doesn't hear us. "Sorry about the wait," she says to a table somewhere behind me."

"It seems like it would have been a better idea to bring the mugs, and pour the coffee at the table," Denver remarks. "Safer too," I add.

Denver decides he can do without creamer. I decide I can't. I'll wait. 

9:35am - Flo delivers drinks to the couple in the corner. I think about how odd it is to me to drink Soda Pop with breakfast. Flo stops to ask if we're ready to order, apologizes about the wait, and asks Denver if he'd like some more coffee. "Creamer too," Denver says. Flo leaves to go get creamer, without taking our order.

9:40am - Ace, another waiter, takes the order of the couple with three children. Bea, who is circling the outside of the restaurant, takes the order of the couple in the corner. She stops at our table, apologizes for the wait, and asks if Flo, whom she refers to as "the other girl," has taken our order. We give Bea our order, which she writes down in long hand on a pad of purple paper. Bea was our waitress last time we ate breakfast here and I wonder if this will improve the service any. We also ask her for creamer. "Half and half, or flavored?" she asks. "Both," we reply. Bea looks confused. "Plain for him, flavored for me," I explain. "I'll bring you a whole little sampler pack then, how's that?" Bea replies. I honestly can't tell if she's being helpful or rude. "Great." Denver and I reply.

9:50am - the couple in the corner receive their food and their check. 

10:00am - the couple with the children receive their food, and the check. The husband looks at the bill and immediately begins complaining to his wife about the high price of hot chocolate with whipped cream on top. The wife looks sad. She turns away and kisses her youngest on the head then helps him cut up his pancakes while the eldest, their daughter grabs the bill to investigate the high price of hot chocolate.

I inwardly lament at how stupid men can be. I'm sure the wife is doing the same.

10:05am - the couple with children receive their drinks. Two waters, and three hot chocolates with whipped cream on top. 

Denver, who has been holding on to the last swallow in his mug decides to finish it off. He's distressed to find that it's full of coffee grinds. As he wipes the grinds from his lips and tongue, we both wish he had a napkin. 

10:10am - the restaurant is practically packed to capacity at this point. The wait staff is hurriedly and aimlessly rushing around the restaurant, sweat gracing their brows as they repeatedly apologize for the wait. 

10:15am - Fred, a new guy, possibly the manager, brings us our food and the check. "I didn't realize you didn't have silverware or napkins," Fred remarks. "S'pose I should go get you some," he says. "You look like you could use another cup of coffee too," he says to Denver. "And some creamer," Denver and I say in unison. 

10:16am - Fred returns with silverware, a bowl of creamer and a pot of coffee to refill Denver's mug. 

There is much rejoicing and Denver and I eat. My coffee is slightly warmer than room temperature. 

Denver puts his Credit Card in the padded vinyl book the check came in and slides it toward the edge of the table.

10:20am - Denver gets a work call. I tell him to take it. He does. We discuss weekend filmmakers.

10:25am - the couple in the corner have finished eating and leave. 

10:30am - the woman who waved at Denver when we arrived is leaving. Denver still can't place her... maybe someone he went to school with? She still looks completely unfamiliar to me and she's avoiding even looking in our direction, so I can't help but wonder if it wasn't just a case of mistaken identity. Especially considering "You look so familiar to me," is one of the most common things Denver says to people when he first meets them. 

10:35am - the couple with the kids leave. They've parked next to us, and I notice the husband spit a huge wad of spit behind our car as he makes his way. I feel worse for his wife than I did before and grateful that Denver isn't a spitter, but I don't tell him this.

10:40am - Flo comes by, apologizes for the wait and refills our coffees. She doesn't take the check so Denver repositions it closer to the edge of the table.

10:45am - Bea comes by, apologizes for the wait "Here's your creamer, finally." she says as she sets a bowl of creamer and a second box of sweetener next to the bowl of creamer and box of sweeteners brought by Fred and Flo, respectively. As she hurries away I notice Denver's open-mouthed stare and I notice my own mouth is also agape. When Denver regains full faculty he realizes she's neglected to take the check so he repositions it again, this time opting to stand it upright.

At this point we've decided that there is an overall lack of observational skills among the staff at TR's. As we discuss this, Denver is surprised to learn that we've had two waitresses, other than Fred, not one.

A busser begins clearing nearby tables.

10:50am - Denver spots the comment card nestled next to the salt and pepper shakers and contemplates filling it out. He has it in hand when Bea stops by with a pen. "Good or bad, be honest," she says. Her tone makes her sound as if she's scolding. Denver hands her the check.

It's obvious to both of us how just a few small changes could make their jobs easier, but seeing as how examples of this exist in every other restaurant we can think of, we can't imagine how they aren't already aware of these techniques. 

10:55am - Bea comes by to apologize for the wait and to offer more coffee. We tell her we understand and both decline the coffee. She takes the pen that Bea had left for us to fill out the comment card. She calls it an "ink pen." Denver finds this weird and keeps bringing it up every few minutes. "Ink pen." ... "Ink pen." We discuss pens and inks.

11:00am - Bea returns with our check. Denver asks me for a pen. I dig through my purse, retrieve a pen, he tips, (amazing I know) signs the receipt and returns my pen. "Ink pen," he says.

11:05am - Flo returns and offers more coffee. We both politely decline. "I took the ink pen when you still needed it to sign the receipt," Flo observes. "I can go get it if you still need it." "Not necessary," Denver explains. "She had one in her purse," he points to me, "The receipt is all signed." 

Flo sets the coffee pot down on a nearby table and begins profusely apologizing for the wait, and the confusion and the fact that she's new. 

At first, I stick to my self imposed rule about not eating/drinking while people are talking to me but eventually I pick up my coffee and begin drinking it again. 

I also begin to stack our dishes and begin to centralize our used napkins and empty creamer cups. 

11:10am - Flo picks up the coffee pot from the nearby table and leaves. "Isn't she the waitress we had last time we ate here?" Denver asks. "No, that's the other girl," I tell him. I'm thinking about the interrelationship of stress, excessive apologizing and incompetence but I don't bring it up. 

"Ink pen," Denver says and shakes his head.

I wish I weren't such a slow coffee drinker and announce to Denver that I am finally ready to leave. 

11:15am - We leave TR's, which is now almost completely empty from the "brunch" rush.

There are some experiences that are so ridiculous they border on hilarious. This one qualifies for me. Will I eat at TR's again? Yes. Will I expect better service? No. This may seem ridiculous in it's own right, but my reasons are sound. 

Until next time.




Friday, March 18, 2011

The Horror!!!

This blog started as a list of things I hate in a horror movies. But as it has evolved I can't escape the feeling that what I've written may in fact be a list of things that define a horror movie. I began with the question: what makes a good horror flick? I suppose the answer to this is different for everyone. For me a horror film should be just as the genre suggests: horrifying, scary, suspenseful even. Or... have I just crossed over into the genre of a thriller and am I actually answering the question: what makes a horror flick? I'll let you decide.

Things I hate in horror movies in the order they are most likely to appear on screen:

Paranoia as a way to build or create suspense. 
     Because it doesn't. Whether it's a slow creep towards a door usually with an object shaking in hand or the quick turn to look at ---- nothing. All this has ever accomplished for me is to make the pacing feel slow and monotonous. 

Quick Starts or Jumpy Scares
     Most often created with the sudden crescendo and dramatic stop of sound. String instruments being the worst of these, artificial wind sounds the best though I hate them all. I'll readily admit that I jump and my heart leaps to a race... but I'm not scared! I'm pissed off. I don't like being startled. I find it annoying, manipulative and cheap more than anything else. Being startled is a reflexive action that, no matter how closely related it may to fear be, is in fact not fear. 

Boobies as a marketing tool. 
     I'm not anti-boobs. In fact, I love boobies.  If it makes sense for the boobies to be there, then that's fine but boobies that are there because they are boobies and boobies are awesome just isn't a good enough reason for me. Mostly because boobs aren't scary, but also because I find the idea of males aged 13 - 34 finding both fodder and time to yank one out during a horror film highly disturbing.    

Screaming monsters.
    While technically these are rare in horror films, and tend to occur almost exclusively in action adventure movies, I hate them so much I feel they are worth mentioning here. This is any monster or creature that roars/screams, typically while breaking the forth wall, typically with the camera pointed directly into their mouth, typically making the exact same fucking noise as every single other creature that does this... 

Gore. Or more specifically, pointless bloody gore.
     I'll concede that some people find blood and gore to be truly terrifying. I am not one of these people. For me, there is a fine line between scary blood and gore and stupid blood and gore, which is only lacking in intentional exaggeration to make it comedic blood and gore. For me, once you've past scary you might as well go all the way to comedic, because stupid is just... well... stupid. 
    This section could also be titled, Effects Failures: The worst of the worst. 
    Naturally this includes any prosthetic appliances that looks and moves like a prosthetic appliances. Realism is always better, more exciting and more frightening than plastic imitation, especially in the realms of the fantastical. Included in prosthetics, but worthy of it's own category because I hate them that much: Big "scary" smiles. With lots of teeth. Usually pointy and when appearing on a creature they are often dripping with goo. Not because it makes sense for them to be dripping with goo, but because goo is gross.
    This brings us around to Fangoria Fanatics. Really, pointless bloody gore, "scary" smiles, goo for the sake of goo and Fangoria fanatics go hand in hand in skeleton hand. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not dissing Fangoria - it is after all the premiere horror and special effects make-up magazine. My complaint is directed to the special effects make-up artists impassioned with scary sculptures. Big "scary" smile addicts typically, who just don't get that less can be more. I'm convinced these sad saps have drained vein more than a few times with that mag as their porn. They often find the need to pay homage to their paper girlfriends by slipping a copy of Fangoria into a scene of their film, as if to announce that bad special effects are just around the corner.... and they're about to cum.  
     This being a horror movie rather than a porn, cum will be played by blood that makes no sense. Typically this is just blood overkill but can also include a general lack of understanding of blood. For starters, blood behaves more like whole milk than it does corn syrup or juice. Also, exsanguination does not entail loosing every drop of blood in a person's body. And lastly, blood isn't sticky, it doesn't stain skin, it doesn't dry shiny and it never climbs up nonporous surfaces. 

WTF endings.  
     I'm not talking about the cliche'd horror movie endings, however anything so poorly executed that I knew exactly what was coming five minutes after the film started gets an honorable mention here. The ones I really hate, are the overly abrupt endings. The worst are the everyone dies abrupt endings, but every thing is now fixed runs a close second. It's like the entire creative force behind the story prematurely gave up and blew it's....

Roll credits....



Friday, March 11, 2011

Realizations about.... cookies?

I was trying to explain to my miserable panting dog, Dante, that if he would simply move out of the direct sunlight he wouldn't be so hot.

He just stared up at me, lethargic and panting, his eyes hopeful that I might say some of his favorite words: treat, walk, car ride.

"Just move out of the sun," I kept saying.

He responded by opening his mouth and breathing hot dog breath all over me.

"You really are an idiot aren't you?" I said both to the dog as well as myself.

To the dog for being too stupid to move, or understand what I was saying, but then again I did have my phone in my hand, he might have just assumed I was talking to my oldest son, who since turning eighteen has graduated from the parental phrase: "Because I said so," to the phrase: "Well, just move out then." (They grow up so fast.)

To myself for being so close to the dogs face while he's panting.

"Dog," I put my hand on my hip letting him know I mean business. "Scootch!"

"Fine,*" he grumbled as he moved.

-- *Dante doesn't actually speak English. I took the liberty of translating as animal language with all it's physical nuances can be a real bitch to communicate via the written word...

As he found a cooler spot to finish his mid-morning nap, continuing to stare up at me while I talked I realized: for his limited vocabulary, not to mention his utter disinterest in most things human, that with all my previous talking I might as well have been trying to explain string theory to him.

-- Not that I'm trying to brag about how smart I am or anything, but yeah, I think I possess enough knowledge of string theory to explain it to a dog. (They don't judge when I say things like: "M-Theory, is pronounced Mmmm-Theory because it's better understood if you eat a cookie before hearing about each of the 11 dimensions.")

   (-- If you don't believe me, try it. I believe this mostly because I think the sugar high helps one understand and accept the "far-out" nature of subjects that while being sugar sober seem to require much more thought. Zero-dimensional objects for example... I don't know about you, but that is at least a 3 cookie concept for me...)

At about that time, the littlest dog, Toby came zipping into the room to see what all the hub-bub was about, I picked him up and placed him in the recently vacated warm spot. Toby loves the sun, and getting his hair all over clean laundry, so he promptly plopped down on my hoodie that was lying at the far corner of the sun's cast and rolled over for a belly scratch.

As I scratched his belly and had a decidedly one-sided conversation about it being warm on one side and cold on the other from lying in the sun on the tile floor, I realized, why some people think talking to animals is crazy. Or maybe... they just need another cookie.

Love to my peeps and their pups.

-Laur