Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Just call me "A Regular"

Rachel and I have had a routine for the last year or so where we go to our nearby walkable diner to eat Sunday brunch. Brunch has become lunch, because it was really crowded at Brunch time, and then Lunch became 2:30/3P because that was when it was not crowded. So this is the routine now, we go every Sunday at 2:30/3P after I walk Max at 1:30/2P, the usual Max walking time, and Rachel walks Chloe (our older dog) at around that same time, and then off we go. The place is ours.

We have the usual!

It took a long time to establish the usual. When we first started going, the waiter would ask us what we wanted. I would gesture to Rachel in a sort of showman, you go first way, and say “why don’t you go first”. Rachel on cue would say, “I’ll have the hash and eggs sunny side up please, with French Fries, not the home fries, and rye toast, and a unsweetened ice tea. Thank you”. Then it was my turn. I would say “And I’ll also have the eggs, only instead I’ll have mine over easy with the hash and the home fries, and if you could make it only one egg instead of two please, no toast, and I’ll also have a unsweetened ice tea. Thank you”. Seems easy enough, you would think, right? It would come, and it would be a delicious, while of course a cholesterol laden eating fest, it’s tasty. Then the bill would arrive, and I would be charged for two orders of eggs and hash. Not one order of Eggs and Hash, and one order with one egg. This is where the diner entertainment starts.

I could not let this one egg thing go. I did not have two eggs. How much could one egg be? But why should the customer be charged for two eggs if they are only eating one? The egg I wasn’t eating, someone else was eating, only I was being charged for it, this seemed like a built in bonus…to the diner, not to me, not to the waiter, not to the cook, but to the owner.

Next step. I would mention the over-charge to the waiter, and they would tell me that there was no difference in the charge between a one-egg order and a two-egg order, but I was welcome to take it up with the owner. Perhaps, many customers would prefer not to take it up with the owner, perhaps the owner was counting on the fact that most customers would not be taking this up with him. Perhaps the owner thought that most people like two eggs instead of one, or didn’t mind wasting an egg. Perhaps the owner thought that most customers didn’t mind paying an extra amount for an egg they didn’t eat. Well, that could be. How much extra was I paying? There was no one-egg option on the menu.

I decided to go to the register to discuss the overcharge with the owner. I say to him “there seems to be a problem with my bill, I’ve ordered one egg, and I’ve been billed for two”. He said, “Oh sorry” and he deducts 75 cents. This may not seem like a lot to some, but to me, this was worth asking for, because once tax is added, we’re talking 81 cents for that egg. I don’t need to pay 81 cents for an egg I’m not eating.

Next week we go again, the same routine, the same meal, the same charge, the same conversation, and the same deduction. This goes on for about two months, and it begins to wear on both of us…it’s not as fun or as easy as it was back two months previous. But I continue to go up to the counter, and I’m not wearing out, maybe they were counting on the fact that I would, maybe they were thinking I wouldn’t be coming on a weekly basis, or maybe they didn’t think we would be eating the same thing.

Finally the bubble bursts…was it the meal, the bill, or the talk? The owner tells me that they really don’t have a one-egg meal and that they can’t continue to make this adjustment. I respond by saying that I can’t be the only one that wishes that there was a one-egg choice on the menu, and that perhaps they should offer it. He volleys the proverbial menu point over the net, and responds by telling me that they just had the menus redone and that they’re not planning on redoing them again for a while. This I acknowledge, because I noticed that my usual Final Bill had gone up about 5%, which is probably why we’re even having this conversation. Perhaps the cost of my egg is more, perhaps they can’t take 81 cents off the bill, it’s not as cost-efficient, or perhaps they are concerned that now that the bill is higher, I may (because I’m just that kind of a customer), be asking for more money off the bill for the egg.

This conversation is becoming tiresome. I like the restaurant, I’m sure he likes the business. I get to the crux of the matter. I say “Sir, I like it here, I just don’t want to pay for what I don’t eat, suppose I eat one egg here, and take one egg home with me? Suppose I eat one eat over easy, and take a hard-boiled egg to go?” He says, “I can do that, no problem, good plan!”

The following week Rachel and I dine, we order with the new plan. The waiter is confused, and says, I’m not sure we can do that. I say “the owner said it wouldn’t be a problem”. He says “hold on, let me check.” He comes back in a minute and tells us he can do it. It took many weeks, and many waiters, many times we heard “let me check”, and Rachel and I would laugh. We finally got everyone trained. We would order our meals, and the waiter would bring my hard boiled egg, in a paper cup with a plastic cover in a small white paper bag before the end of the meal and I would bring it home and eat it somewhere within the next day or so. It’s a good plan-it works for both sides.


So about two weeks ago, Rachel and I got to the diner around 2:30P/3P our usual time. I saw one of our usual waiters, and on that day I was contemplating saying “I’ll have the usual”. I don’t know why, but I even kidded with Rachel that that’s what I was going to say. She kind of rolled her eyes “like oh Mom, don’t do that, that’s going to be embarrassing…it’s one thing to embarrass yourself, but do you have to embarrass me?” So the waiter comes to the table and says “And what will you be having today?” And following those words…from behind his back with the finesse of a magician he materializes a small white paper bag, which is holding the usual paper cup with the usual hard-boiled egg. Can you believe it? Rachel couldn’t believe it. I said to him, you’re timing is amazing, I was just going to say, “I’ll have the usual”. We laughed, I gave him the high five, he wrote down on his pad the rest of what I wanted, and what he knew Rachel would want. I said to Rachel after he left to get the kitchen preparing our Sunday 3P lunch, this is what it’s like “to be a regular-we’ve sure come a long way in a year”. We gave our waiter a very good tip for being such a great magician. It only goes to show you what you can do if you stick to it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

25 Years

I haven’t written in a few weeks, so many things…so little time in which to do them. I’ve been preparing for the walk for Brain Matters-this means many phone calls, paperwork, meetings, and exercising-all great, but definitely time consuming. Thank you BTW to all of you who have been working with me; I couldn’t be doing it without you. I can’t help thinking how it certainly beats last year when I was deep in the middle of moving from one house to another…so glad I’m not doing that this year. Also, on November 16th, Jon and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary, in some ways this went by quickly. What am I nuts? No way did this go by quickly. In some ways 25 years feels like many more years than that-not sure how many more…but more. I was going through some old files a few days ago, and came across something I had written a couple years back. I had written it because so much has happened over the years, that I didn’t want to forget it, I also think of one day writing a book about my experiences and want to make sure I’m able to have these things written down so I don’t forget them. Given this last year and my most recent medical problem and how it effected my memory, I’m glad that I did that. I thought it would be interesting considering the 25th Anniversary Triumph, that I would share a few of the other events that have happened to Jon and I in the last 25 years besides of course the ones that I’ve written about here on the blog, and the birth of our two fantastic kids. It hasn’t been easy to be married this 25 years, some amazing times, some not so amazing, some times I know we both could have done without for obvious reasons, some for not as obvious reasons, but we’re still standing, and we’re still here. I offer these quotes in celebration:

"The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret"
-Henny Youngman

"A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person."
-Mignon McLaughlin

"A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year."
-Paul Sweeney

And now for some of those other events that have taken place in the last 25 years. You could probably make this stuff up, but knowing that I didn’t is what makes it all that more unbelievable. Does that make sense?

After our apartment was demolished in 1989 because of the steam-pipe explosion, a crew of workers came into the apartment to clean up the asbestos that littered it. We could not stay in the apartment for 6 months during this cleaning. These workers subsequently stole most of what we were forced to leave. My wedding and engagement ring were left in the apartment (in those days I didn’t wear them when I worked and the apartment was closed off without warning). Six months later after the asbestos clean up was finished and we could re-enter our apartment, we couldn’t find the rings anywhere, we assumed like so many other things, that they too had been stolen. Five years later I was unpacking some things and found a box I hadn’t seen before…my rings were inside. Some honest person must have hidden them there for safekeeping. Amazing!

When I was about 8 months pregnant with Rachel; my credit card company called to tell me that there had been $8000 worth of charges on my card. Did I make them? No! Two weeks later a woman from a local Coach store called to thank me for my $500 purchase. Only one problem, I didn’t make the purchase. Suspecting it may have been our babysitter who made the purchase (not many people had access to my things), I brought a picture of her to the store. Busted! We filed a police report. The police arrested her. At this same time I realized that my wedding ring and engagement ring (the ones that I found in the previous paragraph) were missing; my fingers were swollen and the rings didn’t fit, so I kept them in a drawer. When I couldn’t find them I assumed I had misplaced them. I mentioned it to the police. When they asked our babysitter about the rings, she admitted she had pawned them. The shop still had the rings, and I got them back…again. Magical rings!

When Rachel was 5 and Jamie was 12, our live-in babysitter for five years, named Judith, but Rachel called her Judah, started to feel sick. Two weeks later and still feeling ill, she went to the hospital Emergency Room. She was diagnosed with 4th Stage stomach cancer and died four weeks later. Afterward we discovered a diary that showed that she had paid thousands of dollars of her salary over the preceding year to a woman in Las Vegas who claimed to have a “special” relationship with God and could free her of her ills. I really wish she had said something to us sooner.

A babysitter that Jon and I hired before we hired Judah, worked for us for a month, asked to borrow on her future salary and then afterward said she had a tragedy at home in Barbados; she needed to leave, but she would be back in a month. A month later she hadn’t yet returned, but said she still intended to do so. Around that same time we received a phone bill with $800 worth of charges to 1-800-Psychic. We wondered what sort of psychic advice she was getting before she left us? She never returned. We’ll never not have a 1-800 block on our phone line. Later I found out that this kind of storytelling is not so rare.

And that’s just some of the stories in 25 years…so many more. That’s Life. Here’s to Living!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Don’t Put Off To Tomorrow, What You Can Do Today!

I almost can’t help myself, I’ve been living this way for so long; funny thing is that until only recently I thought everyone lived this way. I was talking to a friend of mine about all the things I’ve been doing…this is a long list of things, partially because of habit (I’ve always been a person who feels best when I’m doing a lot of things), and partially because I’m a person who has NOT always been able to do the things I want to do when I want to do them…not everyone gets to know that experience. I admit it’s overwhelming at times, even brings me to tears, because I don’t know at what point I may not have the energy I need to do what I want to do, and that can be exhausting. It’s not that I don’t think if I were to put things off until tomorrow I wouldn’t be here to do them, it’s just that I do know that it’s certainly a possibility.

My friend said to me, as any friend would say to their friend in tears “why don’t you relax, take it easy, you can do it later, tomorrow, the next day?” This is something that someone like myself doesn’t ever really think of because my rest(s) have come when I’m not the one choosing them-to me they seem to come when my doctors have chosen them- they have come out of necessity. I feel this want-this need even, to take supreme advantage of the time that I CAN be a doer, even if it can sometimes be a bit of struggle to do what I can physically do-because I know all too well what it feels like not to be able to do what you’d like to do when you’d like to do it. This knowledge is…what do they say “both a blessing and a curse”. However, it’s my feeling that this bit of knowledge isn’t such a bad thing for everyone to keep in mind.

So as you’re thinking of that, think of some of these things, think about the people you haven’t reached out to, that you want to-but haven’t, the art class you may want to take, but don’t think you have time to take, the old storage container that needs to be cleared out because you’re sure that the something you’ve needed or wanted to have is inside it, but you haven’t had the time to look in it…for 3 years, the promises you’ve made, but haven’t kept, the calls you need to make. The cavity you need to fill before it becomes a root canal, the doctor’s appointment you’ve been meaning to make. Think about who you’ve been meaning to thank. Who do you want to say I love you to? There are always going to be things that I don’t get to, but I try. I have a list…and of course there are priorities, there are only so many hours in a day, I know that, but I remember the things I can’t get to because I write them down on the list. If you have to put off to tomorrow, what you can’t do today…write it down on your list so you can remember those things tomorrow. Today is a good day to start.