Now Serving YOU!

So out to dinner we go on a snowy, cold Saturday in January.   I’d have been happy with a McDonald’s drive thru, but apparently I only vocalized that in my head or I was blatantly ignored.

So we get to the restaurant and there is a line almost out the door.  This is not a line to be seated, this is the line to sign-up to get seated.  Right away I know I’m in for a long afternoon.  I quickly scan over to the bar area to see how much of hassle it’s going to be to soothe the wait.

I guess I can’t afford or I’m too cheap to find a restaurant that actually takes reservations.  We always end up at the semi-upscale chains that don’t take reservations, along with 250 people who had the same idea.

I finally get to the front of the line and give the hostess my name and she hands me the flashing buzzer thing that will alert me when my table is ready.  She tells me it’s going to be an hour and I nonchalantly say, “Oh, okay. Thanks,” like it’s no big deal that for the next 60 minutes I’ll be crowding around a bar or bench waiting to sit down to have dinner.  The hostess also reminds me that the ‘buzzer’ will only work within the confines of the restaurant.  So in case I thought I’d like to meander the parking lot in a -5 degrees wind chill, I’d better reconsider.  Had my drive thru suggestion been heeded, I’d be stealing some greasy, steamy fries from the top of the McDonald’s bag by now.

I wade over to the bar area and finally get the lady bartender’s attention and ask for a glass of Cabernet. She asks if the ‘house wine’ will be OK and I quip, “is that my house or your house?” She laughs what appears to be a sincere chuckle – and I, of course, think I’m the funniest guy in the place.  My teenage daughter who wandered over with me, rolls her eyes, but I sense a bit of a snicker in there somewhere.

No kidding, there has to be 50 – 60 people waiting.  It is a mass of humanity pressed within the confines of this restaurant to partake in what must be some of the finest cuisine on this side of town.  All of us, in groups of 2 or 4  or 10 have been given these hand-held, light flashing, vibrating indicators to let us know when we can again wade through the crowd to present it to the same hostess that handed to us in the first place.  We could have been spared this nonsense if she would have just hit the ‘on’ switch when she handed it to me.

Over the course of that hour, I checked my indicator a couple of times, wondering if mine was actually charged and whether or not the vibrator worked or lights would flash.  I placed it in my back packet, ensuring the device was close enough to my body so I would feel the vibration.  I’m not going down any weird roads, but as much as I anticipate that vibrator going off, it always surprises me a bit. Internally, I let out a little, “Whoah, what’s that!?”  Quickly coming to my senses and realizing it’s dinner time.

As I proceed toward the hostess counter I proudly display my flashing, vibrating indicator to the weary souls that just arrived to begin their penance and time in purgatory waiting for their’s to turn on.  As I wade through the crowd, it dawns on me that this is a golden opportunity.  I turn to an obviously hungry couple and pointing to my indicator I inquire, “Ten bucks?”  There eyes light up as they consider this investment.  Is $10 worth their one hour wait?  With apparent success or at least interest, I move on to another group and inquire again, but now I’ve upped the ante, “Twenty?”  I get a few chuckles and a , “Yeah!”   I’m having way too much fun with this, so as I approach the hostess station, I again throw the tease out to a group of four (two couples). The one gentleman in the group is a huge man.  He’s gotta be 6′ 4″ and weigh 300 pounds, obviously hungry and a great target of opportunity.   He chuckles at my offer and then says, “What the hell, I’ll just knock you out and take it!”

Touche’.

So with some  indication of possible  success and a slightly refined sales pitch, I’m considering taking on ‘Now Serving You’ (look for it in the Yellow Pages) as a profession or at least side job on the weekends.

I show up at a crowded, overpriced, overrated restaurant and sign-up for a seat as a party of four.  When my light starts to flashin, and vibration starts to buzzin, that’s when the bidding begins.   These hungry patrons will start to dig deep to impress the girlfriend or just to get at that appetizer.  No less than $20 and the sky is the limit for the desperate and hungry.   After a couple of rounds of ‘vibrator bidding’, I pocket a few bucks and head to the drive thru.

So the next time you’re wanting to go to a restaurant with a little more to offer than Applebee’s but  not quite New York City’s Delmonico’s – Look for a shady character sippin a glass of Cabernet near the bar with his vibrating, light flashing indicator in plain view.  When you see that indicator go off, slip’m a 20 or so.  In no time, you’ll be appetizing with some calamari and oysters on the half shell, under the envious eyes of those ‘it’ll be an hour’ new arrivals.

Brand New Shoes!

Just got me a brand new pair of running shoes!

Can’t wait to see how much time they shave off my miles! 

I mean, you know that happens don’t you? Don’t you remember when you were a kid and you got a new pair of tennis shoes?  Oh, how quickly you forget!

You just couldn’t wait to get out there and test them out and put them through the paces.  You knew you were going to be soooooo much faster than you were before!  It was magical!   Your friends didn’t stand a chance.    By simply placing a brand new pair of shoes on your feet, you were suddenly – better, stronger and faster –  just like Steve Austin – The Six Million Dollar Man!

I mean why do you think professional athletes are always putting on new shoes?   When you are playing at that level, you need all the edge you can get and ‘New Shoe Magic’ is a commodity that cannot be ignored.   The Payton Mannings, Derek Jeters and Dwayne Wades of this world are amazing athletes, no doubt, but let’s not kid ourselves.  There is no discounting the contributions of  New Shoe Magic for the Super Bowls, World Series’ and NBA Championships they’ve won!  

(You may be asking, “Well, what of Lebron James and all his new shoe deals combined with his talent?  Why hasn’t he won a championship?”  Well, I’m sorry to report that there is also something known as ‘New Shoe Magic Abuse’ and Lebron is ‘The King’ of that as well.  You won’t hear about that on ESPN.  It’s complicated and I don’t have time to explain it in this blog, but it has a lot to do with loyalty and baby powder)

A new pair of tennis shoes changes the game!   I mean everything is better.  You can hit a ball farther, you can catch better, you can jump higher, and of course, you can run faster.  There is no other explanation for the explosive impact of a new pair of shoes.  

But you know it can’t  last forever. You know the day will come, and it always comes too soon.

I mean you’ve been as careful as you could be.  Sure, you got them dirty, maybe even a little muddy, but then it happens!

You wipeout!  It’s a fall, a trip or maybe you just got knocked down!   

For a moment you’re not really sure what happened.  It could be a dream, but suddenly you feel a loss that is all too real.   Like Superman in a closet full of kryptonite, your energy has been sapped.  Maybe it’s the three-inch gash on your right knee, but this is a different sort of loss.

You look down at your shoes.   The left one is completely intact,  hardly a mark.  This brings you momentary relief as your eyes move to your right shoe…and there it is! 

The fall has caused a major scuff  over the Nike swoosh on your right shoe!  You’re gonna need some stitches on that knee, but that’s not important right now.  

Almost at the moment of impact, you felt… strange.  Something inside had changed. 

You quickly try to rub off the scuff, but it’s deep and permanent.  That indelible gash is the end of your ‘new’ shoes and all the magic that goes with it. You’re stunned, of course, and there’s not much comfort in knowing that this day would come. 

The immortal, became mortal.  The new, suddenly became used.  Steve Austin became a meer man. You’ll never talk about it and no one will ever notice the change, but the glow, the sheen is gone. 

So you sigh that heavy sigh and you relent. 

But all is not lost.

All that you gained in the time of the New Shoe Magic remains with you!  It merely means that now you have to go back to improving your game the old-fashioned way.   You and your ‘sorta new’ shoes are putting in the miles, hitting the court and taking the field.    Those shoes are going to see you through some tough training manifested through some long miles and hard work.  And after a time, those shoes will take on a new image and a new role –  They’ll become ‘the ole’ reliables’.

Those shoes that were magical as new, ‘used’ after the scuffs and tears, have become trustworthy, reliable and the steady comfort you want them to be.   They get thrown in the corner, tossed in the gym bag and if your wife gets hold of them, tossed in the washer (ahhh!).   But still, they endure.  Through the sweat and the ache, maybe even a change of laces, those shoes have carried you. 

And inevitably, the day will come when no amount of duct tape, Shoe Goo or fancy laces can save them.   They’ve run the good race, carried you through the trials and triumphs and now it’s time to let them go.   So you lace them up one more time as you set out on your journey to the mecca of  New Shoe Magic- the sporting goods store!.  

Yes, it’s that time again!  The styles may have changed slightly but the magic is still there!  You can feel in the aisles, you can smell it the soles!  

“Excuse me ma’am, but do you have these in a nine and a half?”

“Yes, sir, I believe we do,” the clerk replies. 

So you smile a knowing grin, your heart picks up the pace, and you lace them up.  

Yes! 

Let the magic begin!

Before 911 we had 0

 

There was a time when you dialed ‘0’ for an emergency.  There was none of this 911 stuff.  Just pick up the phone and dial ‘0’.  

The nice lady on the other end would say, “Operator” and you would  say something like, “Get me the police!” Just like in the movies. 

Now, when you dial 911 they say, “911 what is your emergency?” 

Isn’t that an odd thing to say?  I mean I don’t recite my phone number when somebody calls, “312-471-8390, hello?”   (don’t dial that number, it’s not mine.  Really, I made it up).   How did 911 become not only the number, but the identity of the person on the other end? 

Jim Croce called the operator and had an entire conversation with her http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RA4MykPm4s (I’m assuming it was a her – yes, a bit of a sexist.  Besides, it was the 70’s).  It’s a great song about him trying to find his ‘X’ to let her know he’s alright – even though she ran off with his friend.  Jim is really not alright, and I guess that’s the point of the song.   But my point is that the operator was not only serving as ‘the finder of lost loves’  she also took on the role of counselor and someone to share a thought with.  Just go ahead and try that with one of 911 operators! 

Did I tell you about the time my daughter accidentally dialed 911 on her phone?  There was no chatting or counseling.  I’m not quite sure what happen, but she woke me up to let me know the police were coming.   Four cars showed up at 1 am.  Thankfully I knew the cop that come to the door.  He said it was a slow night so everybody showed up.  Yeah.  That worked out well for me. 

Before caller ID became universal, you really weren’t sure what you were in for.  I mean can you imagine answering your home phone or cell phone and not knowing who is on the other end?  How many times a day do you decide who and when you’ll talk to whom?  You look at the number or the name and think, ‘not now’ or ‘Oh yes!.’   

Not so many years ago we actually answered the phone with some fear and trepidation, not knowing who was on the other end.  OK, fear is a stretch, but certainly there was a bit of anticipation and suspense as you said ‘hello’ and waited for the caller to identify themselves.

Of course when I was a kid, it was a tradition when you were bored and with your buddies, you would make a few prank phone calls.   Occasionally we called someone we knew, but a lot of times we just picked up the phone book and dialed it up.   Nothing original here, we did the classic, ‘is your refrigerator running’ pretty frequently.  And of course we snickered madly, thinking of course that we were comedic geniuses.  

And how ’bout that rotary phone?  Are you old enough to have had one? I can remember trying to dial into the radio station to win some fabulous prize and having to dial a ‘9’ somewhere in the number.  I mean by the time the dial rotated back to the set position, all those push button kids were dialing in for the third time!  I didn’t stand a chance. 

And the phone cord, it was 2 feet when new and hanging from the phone on the wall, but in a couple of weeks that baby was stretched to the max, with the ability to walk to the basement, living room or bathroom with it.  It had to go 30 feet.  Of course my dad would always have a fit, “Don’t stretch the cord! Where you going with that thing!?  Can’t you stand there and talk!?”  OK, come on, you’re 13 years old and Denise gave you her phone number, you’re not going to stand in the kitchen with God and everybody listening in while you call. 

Thank goodness we had a phone in the basement.  I spent a lot of time down there,  hiding out to talk to the girls!  I have no idea what we talked and giggled  and snickered about for all those hours, but I know my ears and jaw were tired after those sessions.  Of course, I relate this exciting stories of my youth to my daughter and she calls me ‘a creeper.’ “Dad, if you are calling people on the phone, you’re like a ‘stalker.’ ”  

Yeah, I’m the ‘creepy stalker.’  Meanwhile, she’s talking to seven people on-line and texting four others.  I guess once you start using your voice, you’ve crossed the line. 

Actually, things really aren’t that much different.   Talk, text, Facebook, Twitter, etc., we all just want to connect.   And that’s what we do – I did it, my daughter does it and her kids will do the same.  They’ll probably communicate through holograms, but either way…we connect.

Remember when we assumed area codes?  There was never a need to tell someone your area code.  your phone number was seven digits – now it’s ten.  you have to dial 10 numbers.  Remember when you only dialed seven?  And what would Tommy Tutone have done with his mega 80’s hit, “867-5309/Jenny”?  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrHQRgWXJK4  It certainly wouldn’t be the same if he sang, “330-8675-309”

Speaking of phone songs, got one more for you- ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) “Telephone Line”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aix03KSesoE.  In this song, Jeff Lynn (lead singer) is hoping she’ll pick up the phone, so he can provide some comforting words.   Love this tune!

Not sure what Clark Kent is doing these days, but he’s not using a phone booth and probably couldn’t find a pay phone.   Checking the pay phone for some change was a requirement of walking down the street.  I never found a dime in one of them.  But when you were a kid and you had to call home from the roller rink, the mall or Pizza Hut, you were looking for a pay phone and a quarter.

Ah, the telephone.  What would we do without it?  The technology has come a long way, but it’s use is still the same.  We’re getting together, breaking up, sharing a laugh and a thought – making a connection.  

Call somebody today- get connected and make their day!

Tomorrow is not Today

 

I’m dealing with Today the best I can.  Not looking forward to Tomorrow, but Tomorrow is not Today.

Today, life has me down. Today the burden is heavy, but Tomorrow is not Today.

Some days my mind goes weary and tired, and I dread Tomorrow, but Tomorrow is not Today.

Can’t seem to find the joy I seek Today and I’m afraid I won’t find it Tomorrow, but Tomorrow is not Today.

Today, Today, Today and only Today I have to deal with Today.

Between Today and Tomorrow I’ll find rest and hope to deal with Tomorrow.   Hope for joy and the rest I’ll need to deal with it all.

Today I’m not content.  I’m just not happy, but it’s just for Today.

Oh just for Today it’ll be OK.  I can bear it.  I can make it.

Tomorrow may be better or worse.  No matter, because all I can deal with is the here and now -Today.

I’ll figure out Tomorrow…Tomorrow, and not Today.

Wipe Down The Machine After Use

I go to the gym.  I’m not exactly a ‘gym rat’ but I go pretty often and I hope I spend more time actually doing something physically constructive than I do watching others or looking in the mirror. 

I spend a lot of time running, so that really doesn’t lend itself to standing around (duh!), looking in the mirror, or watching others (unless I’m passing them, which is my goal.  Getting passed – sucks the life right out of ya – a separate blog).  But on the days I’m not running, I’m probably using a few dumbbells, doing non weight exercises, a mirror glance (to ensure proper technique, of course),  and using an occassional workout machine.  And if you’re using a machine, please remember to, ‘wipe down the machine after use.’ 

I’m all about cleanliness and proper hygiene but can we please show a little restraint?  Is it reasonable to expend half a bottle of the chemical solution on a machine you sat on for 60 seconds and gripped two handles?  I’m pretty sure you could do surgery on a few of these machines the way some of these folks get to cleaning. 

So I’m watching this 50 something lady getting ready to get on the elliptical  (for the record, I don’t use ellipticals.  Nothin personal, but to me it’s a ‘chick machine’.   Don’t ask me why, I’m kinda of a chauvinist, but it looks way too smooth gliding to be a guy thing.  There has to be some clanging of metal for me to use it.  It’s like driving a Volkswagon Bug – it’s a chick car;  same thing here,  elliptical – it’s a chick machine.)

Back to the nice lady about to mount the elliptical.  She starts by spraying the handles with about five squirts per side.  Of course the spray is going everywhere and there’s a fine mist of chemical solution hovering above the machine, as she starts to wipe every square inch of the handles with a chemical soaked rag.  OK – I get it, you gotta put your hands there and it’s nice to be sure it’s clean.  Then she starts on the electronic controls – I’m sure they won’t work very long with the amount of liquid she’s expended.  There’s got to be a, ‘do not submerge in water’ sign on there somewhere. She’s wiping off the display with the timer, distance, difficulty level (I’m not real clear what’s on the display panel since I don’t ‘ellipt’ – see above), Anyway, from what I can tell, there’s not  much to touch on the display panel, but apparently she plans on making lunch there.  OK – good enough, let’s get ‘ellipting’ – Nope.  Not clean enough yet.  Now she’s wiping down the back side of the control panel.  The part no one sees or touches.   The rag is soaked with solution, the bottle is half empty, and there’s a fine mist around the machine resembling a rain forest on a sweltering  jungle afternoon (except it’s not hot and there’s no plants or trees, but I think you know what I’m getting at).  

So, she finally gets to exercising – but when she’s done, yep, you got it.  The sterilization begins anew. 

Is there something wrong with her hands?  Do her sweat glands excrete some toxic chemical that could be harmful or fatal to the touch?  I mean, we don’t lick the machines, do we?  Does anybody’s sweat require that much cleansing?  I mean it’s salt and water, right?  I don’t think I want to use a machine after someone who believes their sweat is that contaminated. 

Me, I squirt a little solution on the rag, wipe the seat and handles and move on.  That’s it.  I don’t wipe down the machine before I use it either.  I figure the last guy/gal  followed the rules.   Besides the rule is ‘wipe down the machine AFTER use’.

I’m gonna tell you a really gross story about a football coach from high school – OK, I didn’t actually witness this, my brother told me.  I didn’t play football in high school and didn’t spend much time in the weight room.  I weighed ‘a buck o’ five’  and didn’t really have the killer instinct.  Now my brother, he was a beast, a middle linebacker – (that’s a blog all by itself.)

Anyway, he told me there was a football coach/teacher that did incline sit-ups in the weight room, in nothing but a jock strap and a tee-shirt!  I’m not sure you want to let your mind ‘go there,’  and that’s kinda gross, but it gets worse.   My brother also said that when Mr. M was done,  he left a salt stained butt print on the incline sit-up bench.    Alright, I’m gaggin a bit just thinking about it.   I’m  guessing not too many football players were interested in incline sit-ups after that!  No wonder the football team had flabby abs.

Slight topic change – Commentary:  Now what the ‘hek’ is some 30 – 40 somethin dude, doing parading around in a  jock strap and t-shirt!?  What possible thrill was he getting out of that!? Did he think the students were impressed!?  Maybe he just didn’t want anybody using the incline bench.  Maybe I don’t really want to ask any more questions about Mr. M, because frankly, I’m not getting a favorable impression.  But I digress…

What does Mr. M have to do with excessive cleaning…  Nothing.  Just wanted to find a context to relate that story.  However, I think we can agree there has been a ‘cleanliness-in-the-gym’ revolution over the last few years. 

Staph infections are a bit scary, but I still think some folks are WAY over reacting.  I’m also wondering how Elliptical Lady might react to a Mr. M’s salty, cheek stain.  I’m thinkin rubber gloves and full chemical suit!  Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to follow Mr. M on the incline bench after that salty display, but I’m not planning to have dinner on the bench either.

So next time you’re in the gym, follow the rules and don’t be afraid to follow me on a machine – I assure you, I’m a pretty clean guy and I ‘wipe down the machine after use’.  Just be thankful I keep my shorts on when I’m on the incline bench. 

Speaking of ‘keeping your shorts on’  can we talk about locker room etiquette?  That, indeed, is another blog!

Stolen Moments

…as I walked away, I realized we just shared a moment.  An interaction so intimate it caused my face to flush, my pulse to rush, yet so public that surely everyone noticed.  I quickly scanned for witnesses and realized no one was paying me any mind.  Couldn’t they feel it!?  I mean, I know it was just a look, but in that moment, we shared a part of ourselves that spoke volumes.  

Was that a year ago or ten?  Was it last month or last night?  No matter, the moment is etched in my mind for all time and the review is just as fresh as the moment it happened. 

It’s a stolen moment.  A brief exchange between two people that is captured immediately and deeply.  

It’s a look.  It’s a touch.  It’s the knowledge that you’ve recognized each other’s thought at that very moment.  Translated through the eyes, the window flashes open for just a moment and it is captured.   In a touch, it’s a spark of energy translated through the skin.  Your heart may stutter, it just may stop or burst – making your finger tips hum and your senses tingle.

A frozen moment in time for two and only two. There was an exchange; a give, a take.

You’ve stolen a moment.  A split second of passion, desire, empathy or horror.  Perhaps a moment of realization, clarity or understanding.  Stolen from the commotion of the day.  Shared with a stranger or friend. Captured as a memory for eternity.

It’s fleeting, so you replay it in your mind’s eye over and over and over… 

It could never be spoken of.  What words could capture it? What thought could modify it?  What person could truly appreciate it?

I looked back over my shoulder to review the scene of the shared moment and found no trace.  It was swallowed by the tumult and rhythm of life.  

“Here’s to stolen moments,” someone said recently.  A rush of life plundered from the chaos and captured in a breath or blink of an eye.

Tenderly nurse them in your mind and guard them against decay and corruption.  For tomorrow you’ll need their comfort and assurance to get you through, and give you hope for a new day.

“Thank you!” “No, Thank you!”

Thank you.  Have you said it lately?

With our very existence depending on our interaction with one another, and as often as we must interact, this phrase should be a part of your vernacular, your lexicon, your speech. 

OK, this is not a soapbox moment and I’m not trying to convert the world to becoming ‘thankful’ for all that they(we) have, although I think we should be…thankful.   

I’m talking about extending a common courtesy to your fellow human beings and trying to make the world a little better place.

Frankly, I don’t care if you’re actually thankful or not, but either way, I’m trying to get you to vibrate your vocal cords and produce a sound  (T-h-a-n-k-y-o-u) as a response to your fellow human beings when they’ve given you something or extended some other courtesy.

This isn’t a stretch, is it?  I mean it’s what we do. We interact.  We verbalize (for the most part) our responses to one another.  OK, I’ll give you the nonverbals – a head nod,  a wink, a hand wave, even the trigger finger (you know what I mean, that lame act of forming your thumb and index finger in the shape of a pistol and point it at some one?  By the way, next time you are tempted to do that one,  just roll that baby right up to your forehead and form that ‘L’)   It’s what we do.  Say, ‘thank-you’ once in a while.  You don’t have to bow, this isn’t Japan, (no offense to my Japanese readers) just say the words.                         

So I’m standing in Starbucks waiting for my Caramel Macchioto.  OK, I know it’s not a manly drink.  I love coffee.  Drink it all day.  Everyday.  However, I hate Starbucks coffee.  They actually burn the coffee beans.  That’s how they created that gut wrenching brew.  I do enjoy the swanky atmosphere, and a foo-foo drink now and then, but their straight-up coffee is nauseating.  Anyway, I’m waiting for my beverage when the kid behind the counter announces the next prepared concoction, “One grande, low-fat, Caffe’ Latte.”  The recipient of this foam topped, caffeine laced, steaming drink is a 30 something, slightly overweight, blue shirt wearin,’ greasy haired dude who walks to the counter, takes his cup and leaves.  No ‘thanks.’  No head nod.  No trigger. No nothin.  Just picks up his cup and walks out.    

Now I’m not saying he ‘owed’ them a thank-you.  I mean he’s a paying customer.  Rightly, the Starbucks boys (there were three behind the counter) owed him a ‘thank-you’ for patronizing the establishment and I’m assuming that happened when the money changed hands.  But now that the interaction (you know, the stuff that makes the world go round) is complete, the Latte’ drinker needs to say, ‘thank you.’ Can we agree that’s a good idea?  A common courtesy? Am I right?  I mean, this is what we do. 

So now, I must make the world right.  So when Starbucks boy announces, “One grande’, Caramel Macchioto,” I have to make a bigger fuss than normal to make up for ‘greasy hair’s’ lack of enthusiasm. “Thank you!,” I said with a wink, a wave and a trigger; thus maintaining the precarious balance of common courtesy in the world.

So the next time you get handed your change at the restaurant,  some kid bags your groceries, somebody holds a door for you or that guy let’s you cross the street in front of his car, let’s give thanks, as in – say ‘thank-you’.  Otherwise, I’ll be walking around with my finger and thumb in the shape of a pistol to make up for your lack courtesy.  Help me, help you.  Thank you.