Wednesday, April 22, 2009

They Say You Shouldn't Judge a Book By Its Cover...

But sometimes, it's really hard not to judge a person by their bumper stickers.
Recently, I was in a parking lot and walked past a car bearing two bumper stickers.  The first one proclaimed, "It's not about whether you pick your nose, it's where you put the boogers".  The second one was a political bumper sticker apparently featuring a 2008 Presidential candidate that I'd never heard of (and I followed political coverage enough to know about early candidates like Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, and Mitt Romney).  Alongside this unknown politician, were the faces of Obama and McCain.  The unknown politician's face smiled out from the bumper sticker, while McCain and Obama's faces had been decorated with marker moustaches, glasses, and whatever else.  If you were ever in second grade, you know the juvenile nonsense that I'm talking about.  There was some dumb saying on that bumper sticker, too, which went in one eye and out the other.
I had an immediate mental image of the kind of person who put those stickers on their car.  Not even a physical image (although I'm guessing either a teenager or early-20-something type person) but more of a personality image.  I have to admit, I hoped I'd see the car's owner but it didn't happen.
When I was in high school, my first car was a 1987 Dodge Aries.  There was something special in the paint used on that car model.  Something special that made the paint fleck off in huge chips.  I could spot a fellow Dodge Arian from a mile away simply by noting the paint job (or lack thereof).
In a misguided attempt to hide the ugliness of the exterior, I decorated the back bumper with some bumper stickers.  A big, colorful flower.  "Peace" or "Love" or some other hippie-ish saying, written in colorful, glittery, bubbly font.  I think those stickers drew even more attention to the car.  I know for a fact it drew more attention from the police, because I got pulled over twice in that car for "speeding".  There was no speeding involved either time, and I was let go with a "warning".  I know now the police were simply looking for an excuse to pull me over, because...come on.  If you see a car like that, don't you assume the driver probably does a little wacky tobaccy sometimes?  (And for the record, I've never smoked any kind of a cigarette.) 
Like it or not, a car's bumper stickers say a lot about the driver - but not always what the driver is intending.  These days, I go au naturel.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Scenes from a Midwest Restaurant

The recent news story about the disgustingness that took place at a North Carolina Domino's Pizza made me think of my own experiences in a restaurant kitchen.  If you eat out regularly and are squeamish, you may not want to read the rest of this.  Just saying.
There seems to be a particular type of person who works in the kitchen at certain restaurants.  I'm not talking chefs, here - I'm talking minimum-wage burger flippers or greasy spoon cooks.  In the town in which I grew up, there were two middle-of-the-road restaurants, and one pricier, more upscale place.  I worked at one of the middle-of-the-road restaurants, and knew a lot of people who worked at the other joint.  In fact, a lot of the cooks would quit (or more likely, get fired) from one place and go to work at the other.  So I feel pretty confident in saying that the same types of "pranks" went on at both places.
One memorable incident happened when the waitress reported to the cook that "so-and-so" had come in.  I didn't recognize the customer's name, but apparently the cook did and he looked extremely pissed off.  He asked the waitress, "Is this his order?" holding up the customer's ticket - a BLT - and the waitress confirmed it.  After she left the kitchen, the cook (I'll him Bob) took the bacon off the grill, threw it on the floor, and stomped on it.  He commented while he was doing it that those were the same shoes that he wore out in the yard where his dog sh!t.  He wouldn't listen to me when I told him to stop it, and just started laughing.  So I intercepted the waitress and told her not to serve that sandwich to the customer, and why.  It got back to the manager (I can't remember if I told him or if the waitress did - it doesn't really matter anymore) and Bob got in huge trouble.  Didn't get fired, though why he didn't is beyond me.  If I was the manager, he'd have been gone that second.  And then Bob had the balls to ream me out for "telling on him". 
Bob did eventually get fired, after many further offenses, and his replacement came in the form of "Arthur".  Arthur was an old buddy of the restaurant's owner.  And by old, I do mean old.  He was easily 70, 75 years old, and wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed anymore.  He was a nice guy, but extremely slow and was very aggravating to work with on a busy Friday or Saturday night.  I was a fry cook on those busy nights, and my job was to time my stuff to be done along with his stuff.  It was excruciating to see the tickets piling up while I was standing around unable to do anything, because Arthur was puttering around in back instead of tending to the grill.  One night, Arthur left the hash browns sitting out all night and I caught hell from the owner the next morning because they were all rotten.  Of course, nothing was ever Arthur's fault, because the owner and him went waaay back. 
Friday nights were fish fry night.  One night, I witnessed Arthur absentmindedly dump a whole fryer of freshly-fried fish into the garbage can.  When he realized what he'd done, he simply picked them back out of the garbage and put them on the customer's plates.  One of the other cooks there, when something like that would happen, he'd throw them in the fryer for a couple of seconds and state that the oil was so hot, it would kill any of the germs picked up from the garbage.  Uh, yeah, maybe - but what about all the rotten food in the garbage that is now fried onto the fish?  Ewww.
Oh, and just a tip - most cooks take it personally if you send food back and there's a good chance they'll do something disgusting to your food.  I witnessed Bob, more than one time, spit on someone's food because he was angry that the customer had complained.  (And yes, I intercepted that food and reported it as well.  And no, he didn't get fired for that either.)  I have never sent anything back to the kitchen, and don't ever plan on doing so.  I'd rather just eat it (or not eat it) in silence and not come back to the restaurant.
Surprisingly, I still eat out in spite of knowing what goes on behind the scenes at many, if not most, restaurants.  But I do have to work hard at not thinking about what went into making the food.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Attack

The mighty hunter carefully chose his weapon.  "Baby Betsy Wetsy will do just fine," he decides with satisfaction.  He goes to the kitchen sink and loads his weapon, a pink plastic bottle.  Then he sneaks out to the living room where his unsuspecting victim is quietly reading books.  

The hunter carefully aims Betsy Wetsy's nether regions at his victim and squeezes the trigger of the bottle with all his might, aiming a mighty stream of water down Betsy-Wetsy's throat and out her bottom.

The victim doesn't even notice until a few minutes later when her back starts to feel damp and cold.  "Wet," she mutters with dissatisfaction.  "Wet," she repeats as she strips off her clothes.  The mighty hunter, while disappointed that his efforts went largely unnoticed, doesn't let it bother him for long and he goes off in pursuit of bigger game(s).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bunny Tales

You know how there are lots and lots of stories about Santa, and the North Pole, and his reindeer?  Not so much with the Easter Bunny, which I never realized until recently when Sammy started pelting me with questions.  "How does the Easter Bunny get in our house?" he wanted to know.  "Where does the Easter Bunny live?" 
I really didn't know what to say, because there isn't a lot of lore associated with the Easter Bunny.  I've found a good way to deal with these questions is to throw them back at Sammy.  "Well, I don't know," I might say.  "I wonder if he comes in the window?"  Then Sammy will usually say something like, "No, I don't think he comes in the window.  I think he comes in the door."  "But our doors are locked; I wonder how he gets in?" I'll say.  "I think he has a key," Sammy says.  I love these little conversations because it gives me a glimpse into the mind of a 3-year-old.  He's at a really imaginative stage right now and he'll tell elaborate stories - with no point whatsoever, but I can't fault him that because he probably learned it from me.
During one of our Easter Bunny discussions, I told him a story about a few springs ago when I was cleaning out one of my flowerbeds and uncovered a whole nest of tiny, blind, sleeping baby bunnies.  I carefully covered them back up and left them undisturbed, in spite of knowing that in a few months I'd be battling with them over my newly sprouted peas and beans.  Sammy found the story fascinating and asked me to repeat it no less than 7 times.  Later, I heard him earnestly telling the story to Natalie. 
The part that I left out was that the mother abandoned her babies shortly after that.  I found them dead and smelly a few weeks later, and had to bury them in a corner of the yard.  I didn't want to scar Sammy for life by telling him the unhappy ending to the sweet baby bunny story.