A Restaurant Rant

I just read this excellent article by Amanda Cohen, chef and owner of the NYC restaurant Dirt Candy (get it? It’s a vegetarian restaurant? Dirt Candy? I like it! And after reading her menu, I’m dying to try celeriac ice cream, but I digress…), and I’m with her. She discusses how most restaurant employees honestly do want their patrons to leave happy. It’s true. I did my time in the restaurant biz. For the most part, my objective was to try and make sure customers had a good time. That they liked their food. That the service and overall restaurant experience was positive. That they’d want to come back.

I’d try and hold the perspective that my job in a restaurant wasn’t centered around a battle between Us and Them but rather, it needed to be seen as a healthy and productive working relationship. It didn’t always work, and I wasn’t always perfect at it, but I tried. It’s hard to maintain because you’re basically part dirty grunt/part performance artist, and the surly, tired, my feet hurt, I’m exhausted, I’ve already had to clean vomit, make $2.13 an hour and I’ve still got five hours left on my shift, I’ve got a ton of homework/bills/housework/family concerns that are distracting me, human, non-performer side of a restaurant worker can break through the veneer of pleasantries pretty easily. However. Generally, in response to a customer’s special requests, my answer (and the answers of most of my fellow restaurant peeps, who were often well-intentioned waitstaff and bartenders and hosts and managers who don’t go into that biz because of a relentless desire to stoke the fires of inner rage) was yes. Yes, we can deviate from the menu, yes we can accommodate your allergy, yes we can seat you as soon as possible, yes we can get you that extra whatever on the side.

Image from crayonsglueandtyingshoes.blogspot.com

Image from crayonsglueandtyingshoes.blogspot.com

Because that’s how it works.

Because that’s the nature of the job.

I get insanely offended when restaurants aren’t managed, at the very least, decently.

Recently, I was told something wouldn’t be done by a kitchen, for all the wrong reasons. I’m still shocked.

George and I called a local restaurant (for the moment, staying nameless) to order some take-out food. George did the talking. Hi, he said. We’d like dinner A and dinner B, and we’d also like an order of your extra-spicy sauce on the side. The woman taking the order was new, writing everything down with someone watching her to make sure she got all the information she needed for the order. She conferred with the trainer in the background then got back on the line. “I’m sorry.” she said. “I can’t give you that sauce.”

What? We just want an order of it on the side.

Sorry, she said. The chef says it will make the dish you ordered a different dish. He won’t do it.

Fine. Whatever. We were hungry, we’d already mentally committed to dinner from this place. Don’t sell us the sauce. Be that way. We’ll be by to pick it up in 10 minutes.

Twenty minutes later, George came home, full order and extra sauce in hand.

Here’s what happened: when George gave his name, the new waitress wrote it down, and the owner recognized it. Oh, him!, the owner said. He’s a nice guy! And so, they did make George’s order as he requested, which is bad enough. Because for real, just do it in the first place, no?  But then, when George got there, the owner/manager ACTUALLY SAID, “Yeah, when you first called, I thought you were one of these entitled jerks in town so I didn’t want to make it for you. But you know. It’s you. So that’s different.”

Image from imgflip.com

Image from imgflip.com

He didn’t say, “We misunderstood your initial order and said duh when we realized our mistake, here you go.” He didn’t say, “I was having an aneurysm during your phone call. Of course we’ll make this for you.” He didn’t say, “I was temporarily possessed by Satan. Sorry ’bout that.” Instead, he justified his change of heart by winking and nudging, because we’re special. Awwww. Shouldn’t I feel all warm and fuzzy now?

What? No! Hey, manager dude, let me get this straight: you didn’t want to sell us an item that’s on your menu, because you thought we might be dicks? Not because we were being unreasonable or making insane demands, but because you had a bug up your ass? And when you found out who was doing the ordering, you decided to let us in your petty fiefdom of a club? And you’re training new employees to behave this way? Holy. Moly.

Here’s the thing: I don’t want to learn the secret handshake, I don’t want to know the password, and now? I don’t want your food. We ate the food that night and I felt dirty. I just want to be able to order off a menu, without a hassle. You’re in the restaurant biz, you’re going to deal with people EVERY DAY. Some of them will be total pains, some of them will be awesome, but all of them deserve a fair shake at the start of your interactions.  This manager is someone who’s recently talked about being dedicated to growing his business. He’s sure got a funny way of showing it. It’s too bad, really, because I’d prefer to support local businesses, and the food was pretty good. But we haven’t been back since.

I’m still not going to say which restaurant it was, but feel free to circulate this among local folks and restaurant friends. Maybe the owner/manager will see it and recognize himself. Maybe he’s been wondering why we haven’t been in for the last two months. This is why. View this as a huge learning opportunity, and you’re welcome. Other restaurant folks, if you see your own behavior reflected in my story, then take my advice and get over yourselves. If you don’t, then I recommend a job in an accounting office, or perhaps filing books at a library, where human interaction will be kept to a minimum.

T2 disapproves.  Image from tvtropes.org

T2 disapproves.
Image from tvtropes.org

And please, everybody (that includes you, you difficult customers) stop perpetuating the Us vs. Them mentality. It hurts all my brothers and sisters in the service industry. We’re all in this together, folks. Start acting like it.

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The Tucson Weekly Gets The Angries Over Internet Satire

While poking around the Facebooks this morning, I clicked on a link a friend posted to the satire website The National Report, and I’m intentionally not linking to them. Because I don’t enjoy them. It’s not that I don’t enjoy good satire or comedy, it’s…that…I don’t think they’re very good at it. Like the Daily Currant, the National Report.comes up with absurd premises, but they don’t take their articles to the point where they’re both thought-provoking enough to be relevant and outrageous enough to be clearly satirical (unless you’re completely myopic). For an outstanding example of brilliant, relevant, outrageous, thought-provoking satire, see The Onion’s article about 9/11 hijackers and their surprise to find themselves in Hell.

So I was mentally pretty open to the headline on the Tucson Weekly claiming that not everyone on the internet can write satire. Failed satire does become clutter. These articles are noise. I often find myself in the position of having to point out that something posted as an “OMG CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE THIS???” article is, in fact, failed satire, false, and not part of the legitimate conversation. I really wanted to like the Tucson Weekly article, I did.

Only…dude…you sound like the nerdy kid in school who’s pissed that the smart-ass gets all the attention, so you’re taking your pen and showing ‘em all. ALL! Let ‘em have it, Holden Caulfield.

Somebody needs a nap.  CLICK THE PICTURE to see it bigger...oooooh...magic...

Somebody needs a nap. CLICK THE PICTURE to see it bigger…oooooh…magic…

♦ IF you or anyone you know has gone anywhere within the internet in the last 10 years and hasn’t figured out that Andy Borowitz and his eponymous report are satirical, then you need to get out more often. He writes like a dream come true and is always over-the-top funny.

♦ IF you’re going to talk about all the clutter and distraction on the internet, then for pity’s sake, you (or your editor) ought to have the sense not to run a link to an article (and in fact, your news organ’s own article) about the newest video featuring Keyboard Cat.

♦ IF you’re going to argue that satire that fails to launch muddies the waters of journalistic integrity, and you sniffingly look down your nose at misfired satire while you define yourself as a capital-J Journalist, then really, you ought not to end your op-ed piece by calling the writers you don’t like “dicks”. Because adolescent name-calling is the earmark of professionalism (only, opposite).

I actually checked to make sure that I wasn’t stuck in some meta-satire spiral and that this article wasn’t the culmination of some perfect storm of failed satire the likes of which the world has never before seen. But no, to the best of my ability to understand, this article is real, and the Tucson Weekly is not a wannabe-Onion-style news outlet. Students, take note: this entire article is an exercise in how to undermine your own point. What this guy does? Don’t do.

Now, here’s Keyboard Cat to play us out with his brilliant new “96 Tears“.

Life Hack: How to Gym

As 2013 winds down (thank GOD) and New Year’s resolutions come into focus, there will be plenty of people venturing into previously uncharted self-improvement territory.  They’ll sign up for that French class, swear to read books more and Facebook less, scrupulously count calories, chew countless wads of Nicorette.  They will also swell the ranks of gym memberships.  For the first three weeks of the year, my Zumba class is going to be packed, and time on the treadmill or arc trainer will be at a premium.  And then?  Newbies will start to fade away, because gymming it hasn’t worked out as they expected.  I’ve seen it happen the last two years.  I’ve done it myself.

This is all true.

This is all true.
Image from loldamn.com

Working a lifestyle change into a daily schedule is hard enough in the best of times, never mind a change that thrusts you into a new environment where your vulnerability is at its peak. You’re publicly declaring that you’re flawed and want a change, and you don’t know the people around you/how to Zumba (or lift, or Step, or what the hell is an arc trainer?)/your own limits.  And you’re around a bunch of people who seem like they have it together within this strange new world.  What’s not to be scared of?  What’s not to find intimidating?

I get it, I do.  I’ve got a lifetime of avoided workouts under my belt and a bunch of unhealthy living I’ve had to undo.  Thus, I am here to help the intimidated, the uninitiated, the lost-at-sea-in-the-weight-room.  Here are five tips to help you gym it like a veteran and approach this sweaty domain with a more positive, less “I am an athletic freak show”  perspective.

1) You aren’t going to be able to do everything the instructors (and gym/class regulars) do, perfectly, from the start, every time.  And THAT IS OKAY.  It’s more than okay; it’s expected.  That’s why they have instructors, see?  We weren’t born downloading Zumba routines into our brains from the Matrix, and we didn’t spring fully-formed to life in the gym with the innate knowledge of a clean-and-press.  These things take time and practice.  I’ve been doing Zumba for two years so I can rock it with the best of them, but in Step class?  I am the low impact derp.  But I’m getting better every time, and that’s what matters.

Fact.

I know this all too well.
Image taken from pinterest.com

And speaking of Step class…

2) Try everything.  You may think you just want a place with weight machines and a treadmill, and then find you love kickboxing.  Mixing up your workouts prevents boredom, which is an attendance killer.  Plus, different workouts push you in different ways.  I thought I would just want Zumba and for the longest time gave the hand to Step classes.  I broke my ankle a few years ago, I’m a little bit clumsy on the best of days, I was afraid of stepping and jumping and falling and re-injuring.  Then I got talked into Step classes.  Now I look forward to them, and regularly test my limits.  That doesn’t happen all the time; Body Attack still makes me want to stab myself in the face.  But I feel that way about it because I don’t like it, not because I’m afraid of it and haven’t tried it.

p.s. I did fall once, in Step.  And I survived.  I do Body Attack if it’s the workout that fits into my schedule.  And I survive.  Lesson = learned.

3) DO. NOT. ROLL. YOUR. EYES. AT. ME.  Don’t roll your eyes at me, don’t roll your eyes at the instructor, don’t roll your eyes when staring down a difficult exercise.  The instructor’s job is to challenge you.  Your job is to work toward that challenge.  If you don’t like it, go home.  Do NOT try to make me your eyeball-rolling ally, because it will not happen, newbie.  I’m there to work my ass off, not be your sister in snark and give you tacit permission to opt out.  Now go squat.  SQUAAAAAAAAAAT.

Also, don’t talk over the instructor when they’re trying to tell the class something.  They usually have information you’ll want, so listen to their tips on correct form or how to adapt an exercise for skill level, and really?  Do you have to text while you’re on the bike in Spin class?  Really?

If you feel like you’re not getting anything out of going to the gym, ask yourself how much you’re putting in, in the first place.

But you've got to take part to get there.

You’ve got to do your part to get there.
Image from wineandbutter.com

4) Joining a gym with a friend is good.  Making that friend the only thing that gets you to the gym?  Not so much.

Here’s the story: I joined my gym because my friend Amy goes there, and yes, it’s easier to walk into a gym with a buddy at your side than without. But if you walk through those doors solo, nobody’s going to hit you with a stick, I promise.  As life goes, Amy and I have wildly different priorities.  Example: she has kids.  I don’t.  Sometimes, she’s got to go to tae kwon do or Girl Scouts or a birthday party and can’t make it to the gym.  So…if she can’t go, does that mean I shouldn’t go?

The answer, for those playing at home, is no.  Of course not.  When our workouts can coincide, that’s great and we have fun, but when they don’t, I still want to feel great and have fun.  Zumba is ON!  Amy doesn’t have to walk around in my skin, feel my sluggishness when I’ve not gotten exercise, deal with my couch potato bloat.  I do.  And as much as I like having a gym buddy, it’s still my responsibility to myself that should matter most.  Have I relied on friends to get me to the gym when I’m feeling unmotivated?  Absolutely.  But the person that’s gotten me to the gym on a regular basis?  Is me.  It’s what happens when you make yourself a priority instead of a dependent variable.

5) Stop.  Worrying.  About what other people think of you.  About what you think other people think of you.  You know what the other people in your gym think about?  They’re thinking about their own workout, about how their lungs are in their throats or how their arms are reaching that fatigue point.  They’re thinking about their next water break or their form.  What they’re not thinking about?  Is you.  Unless they’re the people who are worrying about what you think of them.  More often than not, we get in our own way.  Stop looking around.  Don’t look at me, don’t look at the guy next to you, and for the love of all that is holy don’t look at the clock.  Look at the person in the front of the room, whose job is to help you.  Let your ego go and be in the moment.  You’ll be fine.

The Oatmeal can explain it all for you.  (Click here for the full comic (this is just the first panel), and you should because it’s worth it.)

the oatmeal gym

Notice, it’s all what we imagine, then impose upon ourselves.
Image from theoatmeal.com

Happy gymming!  See you ’round the arc trainer!

Bad Fashion Ideas, Fall 2013: This Isn’t Funny Anymore, OK?

Omigod.

OK, so, I just went to the mall to check out what was happening in the anchor stores, what’s being marketed to women, what is determined by corporate buyers as completely appropriate and (at least on some level, I would hope this was a goal) aesthetically pleasing for the American woman buying clothing today.  And usually the clothes kind of suck but they’re also often a little funny and you know, even though you wouldn’t want to put this stuff on your body, maybe, at least you could kind of chuckle about it.

Today?  Not chuckling. Not even a little.

It’s rare that I leave the mall pissed off…I mean, really, really pissed about what I’ve seen in shopping land, but this trip was like a blight unto mine eyes.  For reals. I thought…whaaaaat…the fuuuuuuuuuck…are some of these midrange price point designers/buyers thinking?  If you ever need convincing there’s a secret war on women then come see me ’cause baby, I got the proof.

Usual rules apply: no clearance, all multi-state and/or national (U.S.) chain stores, so the distribution for these beauties is wide-ranging and a recipe for despair.

Let’s just start with this.  How did the conversation with the buyers go?  “Well, you know, that simple red sheath dress is so…sane, and practical.  Have you got any spare material laying around?  Because I’d really like to see this with enormously expansive side panels that add girth to the wearer, make no sense, and look like colorblocked bat wings.  Hail Satan.”

Done and done!

What. Is. This. About.

What. Is. This. About.

Though I’ll grant this: at the very least, this dress is trying.  It’s nightmarish in its efforts and the only message it would convey is that the wearer is either insane or on a mirror fast but, on some sad level, this dress attempts to define a person’s style.  Sadly, this was not the case with much of the clothing I saw in the stores this season.  There was an uncomfortable amount of pre-layered clothes, which are bad because you can never change the look of a shirt (ummmm…it’s better to let some faceless designer at a drafting table express yourself for you?) and the layers wear differently, so if one shitty, poorly constructed layer gets pilled/stained/stretched out of shape, the whole shirt becomes useless.

Though I would argue these shirts are pretty useless already.

Not even copious amounts of rum could ease the pain this shirt brings.

Not even copious amounts of rum could ease the pain this shirt brings.

For those fancy days at the office...

For those fancy days at the office…

100_7952-001

Ladies, repeat after me: NOBODY looks (or smells) good in unstructured 100% polyester.

And if a two-layered look isn’t good enough for you, then let me present you with a triple-layered shirt.  Because WTF.

Come on, seriously?

Three layers?  Seriously?

Worse: there are stacks and stacks of this crap.

Grim.

They suck your life and energy right out from under you.

Grim.  Please, buy separate pieces, people.  Because freedom, that’s why.

There was also a trend in “I Give Up” wear.  A phrase I totally stole from a beloved TV show, I Give Up wear is clothing for people who know they must adorn their bodies with fabrics in order to not get arrested, but don’t care/don’t know how to dress themselves/don’t have faith in their appearance/think for some reason they don’t deserve to look good.  Sad?  Certainly.

Nobody feels great wearing any one of these tops. Not really.

Because nobody feels great wearing any one of these tops. Not really.

And yet, I Give Up wear is alarmingly prevalent. There’s a study out there supporting the theory that zombie stories gain popularity during times of economic downturn.  It speculates about the nature of mindless consumption.  Is this a similar trend?  The economy is bad, the news is grim, we seem to be mired in endless war…just gimme a frigging shirt and STFU or I will eat your entrails off a spike.

I know I’ve talked about this before, but I have a deep and abiding hatred for seasonal applique, which is total “I’ve Given Up” wear because people misguidedly think seasonal applique allows them to opt out of thinking about their clothes.  Of course you’re appropriately dressed, right?  It’s the end of August and your boxy, shape-free T-shirt has school buses and apples stitched onto it, so that must be right, right?  Wrong.  It’s not good or whimsical or fun; it’s a hollow bill of sale that makes the buyer think they’re “having fun” without actually…you know.  Having any.  If you see anything that looks like this (or jingle cows or halloween cats or soda-drinking polar bears)…

...RUN...

…RUN…

Try and avoid anything that makes you look like the prison matron from the movie Chicago, no matter how fierce Queen Latifah is in real life. Or anything that makes you look like you’re wearing one of those decidedly un-sexy retro gym suits that were mandatory in US high schools until the 1970s.  Or something that is a combination thereof, as the poorly designed item in the center of the photo below demonstrates. Unless, of course, you have a prison-drab fetish and if so? Then you can pair this blight with the shapeless blue-grey cardigan on the right for a full-out visual declaration that you don’t like yourself even a little.

It's a pity the actual prison matron costume has the most style.

It’s a pity the actual prison matron costume has the most zazz.

Here’s some quick rules by which you should abide when shopping this season. Or any season.

When buying skin-colored leggings (and this applies not just to the Caucasian variety, as the leggings depict but rather, any woman who buys leggings that are fairly close to her skin tone), be careful about the texture.

Because ew, that's why.

Because ew, that’s why.

Exercise extreme prejudice when facing down a short-sleeved sweatshirt with a pearl-embellished closed placket.

Kill if you must.

Kill if you must.

I don’t mind plaid shirts. I don’t mind crocheted lace insets. I DO, however, mind when these elements are all part of one confused shirt, which tries and fails to be cowgirl-sexy.

Poor confused shirt.

Plaid tie front and lace epaulets = a sad and lonely shirt.

Let’s not forget…

ruffles-001

*sigh*

And then there’s…

OH COME ON.

OH COME ON.

I give up.

I mean, I really give up.

There’s no coming back from this.  I’d like to present you with a few more things, just to drive the nail in the ol’ coffin of widely available women’s clothing this season.  First, here is the ultimate “I give up” ensemble.  Oatmeal-colored pants, washed out wallpaper-print pattern.  I even found shoes to match.  Please note: the shirt and pants were merchandised BY PROFESSIONALS as a potential outfit. SOMEONE THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA, AND PUT IT ON PROMINENT DISPLAY.

This is the newest uniform for greeters in Hell.

This is the newest uniform for greeters in Hell.

Seriously. I give up.

But it does make me wonder…these clothes are so, SO bad.  How could this be?  How could one season be so horrifically, pathetically ugly?  I’d even say the clothes this season actively work to undermine women’s confidence and sense of well-being, they are that bad.  How does that happen..?

Wait…

I think it’s coming clear to me…

Do you see it?

It's right there...looking at me...

It’s right there…looking at me…

It’s not…no…it couldn’t be, could it?

As a matter of fact…

...I think it could be...

…I think it could be…

That would explain so much.  I understand now!  Dark Lord Designs for the Fall 2013 win!

Soapbox Sunday: You Do Know You’re Speaking Out Loud, Right?

I just need to vent a little spleen about a weird scene that happened when we were out to dinner last night.  George and I went to a local restaurant, and it’s a fairly small one, so bear in mind that all diners are in a roughly 25×20 foot space.  As happens in restaurants, after splitting a bottle of wine and supplementing that with a few glasses of water…ummm…nature called.  It’s not uncommon, I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been there.  So.  George got up to make use of the men’s room.  He was gone no more than five seconds when he earned the ire of a popped-collar douche at a neighboring table, who stood up at about the same time George did, but was busy being all aggro-bro at his table and so did not move in any direction–towards the men’s room, towards the exit, whatever–because he had to get in a couple of manly fist-bumps.

Popped collars. Don’t let this happen to you. Image from intothisworldgame.blogspot.com

Suffice to say he did NOT call firsties and make his way to the men’s room (who knew it was a footrace?) and, once he realized George the Usurper had gone in before him, started to complain about his audacity to use the men’s room.  And he started to do so, quite loudly.

“Oh, man.  I can’t believe it.  Someone else is in the men’s room.  Hahahaha…that means I get to use the ladies’ room, right?  Isn’t that right?  I get to use the ladies’ room, since I can’t believe some other guy went into the men’s room before I got there.”

Hahaha.  OMG CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE THAT THE REST OF THE WORLD DIDN’T FALL TO ONE SIDE AND LET YOU IN YOUR INFINITE GLORY PASS BY?  Clearly, by standing, he telegraphed his intentions to the universe.  WTF, George?  How could you?

Seriously, though.  These are the things I want to know:

1) Are you an infant?  Do you lack the capacity to control your bladder and need immediate access to lavatories at all times?  Have you consulted your doctor about this?  Because it should be well under your control by the time you enter school, or learn how to drive, or go out drinking with bros in public.

2) Did you eat lead paint chips as a child?

3) Do you realize that the whole world does not, in fact, revolve around you?

4) Do you realize that the term “Manifest Destiny” does not, in fact, in any way relate to your access to a public rest room?

5) You do realize it’s possible to have an internal dialogue without vocalizing the thoughts in your head, right?

6) You do realize that sometimes–oftentimes–it’s preferable for you to NOT make your internal dialogue known, right?

7) Should you choose to vocalize your inner thoughts, you do realize you are under no obligation to make sure everyone in the bar, restaurant, clothing store, or whatever establishment you are patronizing at that moment knows what thoughts have lumbered through your brain, right?

8) You’re not funny enough for comedy. Leave it to the professionals, who are way more insightful, bitter, and relevant than you.

Sad. True. All of it.

Sad. True. All of it.

9) One last thing: do you realize that every time you opened your mouth, the entire restaurant (including your friends) hoped you choked on a bag of dicks?  Next time, bro, STFU.

That is all.

Zamboni Lady Commiserates with an Advice Seeker

DISCLAIMER: The Zamboni Lady is not a doctor, nor does she play one on TV.  She is, simply, a busybody who wants to know everyone else’s business.  The advice, while well-meant, is not meant to substitute for legal advice or protection, indicate a definitive way to live one’s life, or in any way imply that you should take her advice any more seriously than you would the advice of the bestie of your bestie, given out over a long and tear-soaked evening of nachos and margaritas.

***

Bad advice.  It’s everywhere.

Though the following isn’t bad advice so much as it is advice not to make waves and cause a potentially embarrassing family problem, which all things considered isn’t all that terrible (who needs a rift?), but then again…the family in question seems like they need a verbal kick in the ass.

I really felt like the lady who wrote this letter was looking for someone to commiserate with her.  And I?  Am just that gal.  :)

So.

Here is the letter as it appeared in an advice column:

Dear Advice People: My husband is a high-ranking officer in the military. He has worked hard to achieve his current position and is highly respected.

The problem is, his family treats him like a child. In a few months, there will be a formal ceremony to mark his change of command. My in-laws will be in attendance, and they are certain to embarrass him. They insist on calling him by his unusual childhood nickname (he cringes every time). They talk down to him and give him gifts meant for children, such as books for teen boys (last Christmas), a small child’s backpack (last birthday) and now a child’s piggy bank, which they intend to present to him in front of his unit at the ceremony. These gifts are not intended as jokes. My husband is always gracious on the outside but horrified on the inside.

Is there some way to remind his family that he is indeed an adult and has certainly earned the right to be treated like one? — Proud Military Spouse

***

And Zamboni Lady says:

Seriously???

I’ve italicized the advice this woman was given, with my responses in regular, rant-friendly font.

Dear Spouse: It is difficult to change ingrained behavior without the cooperation of all the people involved.

No kidding, it’s difficult!  Especially when the people involved are infantilizing control freaks.  Part of the process of being a relative (aunt, parent, older cousin, sibling, similarly aged cousin, childhood friend, whatever) is accepting that your relationship is going to change with taste and propriety as you both get older.  Stevie McPoopypants might gain control of his bladder and probably won’t always love dinosaurs.  Unless Tooter goes into the world of fashion design she’ll probably lose interest in Barbies.  ShellyBelly won’t want to be ShellyBelly any longer, dig?  Look…I have a niece with an embarrassing childhood nickname.  Should we slip and call her that hated name (which I think is adorable but hey, it’s her call)…even when there’s wine involved, and it’s late at night, the doors are locked and the windows shuttered…we still have to face her wrath.  And that’s OK, because her decision to not want to be called an embarrassing childhood nickname in no way reflects on me.  Unless I’m the asshole who keeps calling her a name she can’t stand.

Your husband apparently has determined that the best way to handle his parents is to leave things as they are. That is his choice.

His parents have apparently decided the best way to handle their son is to pretend he’s never grown up.  Books for teen boys?  Child-sized backpacks?  I get your anger, sister.  There’s some serious neural misfirings there.  Assuming they’re not mean, terrible people whose only joy in life is derived from humiliating their son, I have to ask: do they realize he’s an adult?  Do they know he doesn’t have the same taste in things he had twenty years ago?  Is his room still decorated in the Lone Ranger wallpaper of his youth?  Did nobody read The Dead Zone?  Don’t you people know what happened to the infantilized Frank Dodd?

While we appreciate your desire to be supportive and protective, you might also be adding to his stress because your reaction is one of anger and embarrassment.

Yeah, advice people, you’re right.  It’s not the toy piggy bank they want to give him in front of a room full of the soldiers he commands that stresses him out.  It’s the wife who wants to see his parents give him the respect they would any other adult that causes him anguish.  Yup.  You troublemaker.

Ask your husband whether he wants you to talk to his parents.

OMG, advice people!  You’re infantilizing him all over again!  This is like saying your mom should call the mean kid’s mom to talk about that unfortunate incident on the playground.  (Nuh-uh, Mom!  Don’t call!)  Honestly?  My guess is “talking” to his parents will be equally as effective as talking to the cat about learning how to drive.  I don’t think it will result in anything good.  Here’s how I picture it:

Wife: Hi, inlaws?  Yes, this is your DIL. I’m fine, thanks.  Listen, you know how you always get “Bob” gifts more suited for a nine-year-old?  And he hasn’t actually been nine in a really long time?

Inlaws: What are you talking about?

Wife: Well, you know how you get him age-inappropriate books and toys and things, right?

Inlaws: No, dear.  He’s always liked those things.

Wife: Well, actually, that’s where you’re mistaken.

Inlaws: I’m afraid I don’t understand, dear.

Wife: Some of those things are a little young for him, see?  And it’s embarrassing.  And you call him “Snoodgiepants” in public.  That’s embarrassing.

Inlaws: Do you PRESUME to tell me how to behave with my own son?

(this is where the trouble starts, because what do you say?  “Yes” = WW3 territory, and “No” = defeating the entire point of opening this dialogue)

Annnnd so on, until you’re so frustrated you hang up on them and drink gin straight from the cat’s bowl, while they call your husband behind your back to tell you what a busybody you are.  If they’re the arrested-development, controlling weirdos they seem to be, then take care that you don’t get painted as the interloper trying to ruin their happy family.  The last thing you need is for them to try and tear at your marriage, too.

If he says no, we urge you to separate their behavior from your husband’s reputation.  His patient tolerance of their inappropriateness says many positive things about the strength of his character.

I’ll give them this.  Everyone has flaky relatives they have to deal with.  Unfortunately for him, his happen to be his parents, but he seems to have grown up well despite them.  The problem is, the person who really needs to say something to his parents, is him.  It is ultimately his decision as to how he conducts his relationship with his parents.  No matter how much you may hate it (and I hear you) and no matter how much they piss you off (and I’m with you), it’s his call.  Let him be the adult in this situation, and decide how his parents are to be dealt with, without your stepping in.

Advice grade: C-.  Ultimately reasonable advice (let him conduct his own relationship with his parents), but doled out in a really dumb way

Meanwhile, At the Restaurant: How to Get the Bartender’s Attention

Having spent an unreasonable amount of time in food service, in several different states in the US, I generally think that I’ve seen most of what can be seen (though I do realize that claiming I’ve seen it all does a grave disservice to “it all”.  But really, people.  I don’t need to know).  Despite the quasi-iconic public concept of the surly bartender who hides in the corner and has to be coaxed out like they’re a mouse and you’ve got a pocket full of cheese, most bartenders do want to offer their customers timely and friendly service in a welcoming atmosphere.  In a tips-based economy, it’s the smartest way to make money.  And in my time in restaurants and bars, I’ve encountered a vast and often confusing array of ways customers deem acceptable to get a bartender’s attention.  In the interest of public service and to help out my bar brethren across this great land, I give you the do’s and don’ts of:

Ta da!

Ta da!

THE DON’TS

The Tapper

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The Tapper thinks the most effective way to get his drink refilled is to tap his empty glass repeatedly on the bar as though he’s tapping out distress signals in Morse code.  Unless you’re warning me about icebergs dead ahead, this is an inappropriate way to communicate.  I can let you tap all day.  Plus, if you’re that anxious that you need to bang your glass on the bar until you get another drink, then you don’t need another drink, and I would recommend trying some yoga, or perhaps taking up meditation.

The Barker

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The Barker thinks that raising his voice above the din of a bar is a surefire way to entice a bartender over.  The Barker doesn’t seem to realize that he is the human equivalent of WRITING IN ALL CAPS and as quickly as I will delete the email written in that manner, so will I dismiss the person who behaves in this manner.  He may express himself in a way that seems callous (Hey, you!) or try to sound charming and/or endearing (Hey, honey, sugarplum, dollface!).  But no matter how you phrase it, he’s still the obnoxious drunk yelling at you from across the bar.  Avoid whenever possible.

The Whistler

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Very closely related to The Barker, The Whistler shares the sentiment that making loud noises to attract the bartender is effective.  The problem is, The Whistler chooses the same manner in which he calls his dog in for dinner.  The Whistler doesn’t always necessarily whistle, per se, but he will clear his throat repeatedly or make “Pssst!” sounds.  One memorable time, the owner of the bar I worked in was on duty when a customer tried to attract his attention by making that repeated “psst psst psst” sound you make while trying to convince a cat to come near you.  The owner turned around and, without missing a beat said, “You’d better have some Friskies in your pocket if you’re calling to me that way.”  At least that once, the errant customer grew momentarily embarrassed enough to stammer out an apology before asking for a refill.

The Grabber

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If I’m ever back behind the bar, do not–and I mean DO NOT–ever reach all the way across the bar and touch me.  I will wreck you.

And so we come to the end of my general guidelines for DON’T bar behavior.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start.  Do note that the “DON’T” behaviors are generally demeaning and/or hostile and/or aggressive.  Use that as your measuring stick for what not to do, and you should be off to a good start.

THE DO’S

The Cash Presenter

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Most bartenders, you see, are fairly bright, and understand that being attentive to the people standing or sitting at the bar impacts their tips.  If someone stands at the bar with money in their hands, bartenders will generally investigate such an event because people don’t randomly walk around holding money.  In a bar, it’s a specific signal that means, “I want something and I’m ready to pay.”  Yes, it’s true.  Money talks.

The Discreet Signaler

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You can gesture to your bartender, so long as you’re chill about it.  If your bartender looks like he’s in the middle of a conversation and isn’t likely to end it any time soon, you can gesture.  If you want to get drinks ASAP for yourself and that fine individual you’re successfully chatting up, you can gesture.  Or if you realize you need to leave, you can do the universal “I’m pretending to sign my name” gesture.  Gesturing does, for the most part, imply necessity so don’t go overboard pointing and waving at will!  Then you become the barfly who cried wolf, and your gesturing just becomes a silent extension of The Tapper and nobody needs to cross into hybrid signals because then everyone is unhappy.

The Empty Glass Bearer

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The Empty Glass Bearer is the mellowest of all patrons and has an inherent understanding that a bartender intends to do his job to the best of his abilities.  A bartender who’s even half-paying attention knows that an empty glass requires some sort of attention.  Empty Glass Bearers tend to be easy customers for bartenders to deal with–they’re not overly demanding, they don’t need babysitting, and their lack of aggressive behavior towards the bartender generally means the bartender will like them.  Bars are a great place to have a high-fivin’, belly-bumpin’ good time, but not necessarily with the bartender, who has five or fifteen or sixty other people to manage simultaneously.  Have faith that the bartender will get to you.  While people may think the squeaky wheel gets the grease, when you’re in a bar it’s the quiet glass bearer who gets the best consistent service.

It’s true.

I’d love to hear about other bartender-approach behaviors that I might have forgotten or have blocked from my memory.  Feel free to comment!

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