Friday, January 30, 2009

::are you being served?

I don't necessarily make a habit of watching Oprah, as I have many conflicting feelings about her. But I saw one show in the past few months about rudeness, and was alarmed at some of the behaviors exhibited (by hidden-camera footage) of restaurant diners and gas station patrons.

One convenience store clerk was interviewed, and she wept as she admitted that so many of her customers don't even make eye contact with her, don't even bother to respond to "Hello" or "How are you?" She said she feels as though she is less than human.

Approximately ten years ago, I worked in a video store.
One night after work, as I gave a ride home to a co-worker, she talked about how one man had treated her that evening, berated her in front of other customers and humiliated her, all because of something that turned out to be his mistake. (He'd placed the wrong movie in the wrong case.)

My co-worker, exasperated by the whole situation, asked me, "I know this is a peon job, but I still deserve respect, right?"

Unable to find a job in my field after graduating from college, I took a job at Panera Bread, and as a new trainee, I was sometimes treated very poorly by impatient, annoyed customers who made snide, none-too-subtle comments about my job performance (or lack thereof).

I had a college psychology professor, Dr. Mark Cosgrove, who talked about sometimes seeing a student sleeping through his lectures, and how sometimes it's very tempting to single out or embarrass that student, or judge them. But, he said, "I have to remember that there is a person and a world behind that sleeping student, and I need to be sensitive to that."

I have held on to that sentiment, and have attempted to carry it through my life as a guide to interacting with people.
Naturally, I do not follow it perfectly, and I still have many moments of insensitivity and carelessness.
But if a server takes an extra few minutes to refill my water, I remember to think, maybe they're having a rough night. Maybe her boss yelled at her, maybe he's covering for someone else who's sick, maybe s/he's not feeling well.
Or maybe serving in a restaurant is not his/her strongest skill, but s/he had to take this job to support their family.
And could I do their job any better?
I seriously doubt it.
I'm absent-minded and forgetful, not to mention very clumsy and accident-prone.
I try to be patient with those who serve me; bank tellers, restaurant workers, mechanics, movie theatre ushers, convenience store and grocery clerks, etc., because I have been in their position, and I know that when one spends all day dealing with the general public, a little tenderness and sensitivity will go a long, long way.

There were other customers I met while working at Panera, too.

One day when the computer system kept failing, making it nearly impossible to take and fill orders in a prompt and correct manner, one young couple with a cute little baby came through my line. I was very honest with them about the circumstances, noticeably flustered, and must have looked as though I might crumble before their eyes.
I offered to deliver their coffee drinks to their table, and when I did, they regarded me with warm, compassionate smiles, and as I walked back to the counter, the man followed me, grabbed my shoulder, and slipped a five-dollar bill into my palm.
"Hang in there," he said, "I know you're doing your best."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


John Updike passed away.
Such a substantial loss.

It was my friend Christopher who informed me of this, and also he who introduced me to Updike's work several years ago. I read the novel A Month of Sundays at his insistence, and it became one of my all-time favorites.

His poem Dog's Death is also a favorite, irrefutably poignant and moving; something I wish I could have written to honor a beloved canine companion.

This poem, quoted on his fan page as well, is clearly the ideal memorial:

Perfection Wasted

And another regrettable thing about death

is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,

which took a whole life to develop and market-

the quips, the witticisms, the slant

adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest

the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched

in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,

their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,

their response and your performance twinned.

The jokes over the phone. The memories packed

in the rapid-access file. The whole act.

Who will do it again? That's it: no one;

imitators and descendants aren't the same.

~John Updike

Monday, January 26, 2009

::Everybody's doin' it

Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you.
If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

1 -- I check my email at least five times a day.

2 -- I really want a pair of Buddy Holly glasses.

3 -- I would love to move out west, but I'm afraid that I would miss my family too much.

4 -- I'm very absent-minded; it can sometimes take me a while to return phone calls and/or emails.

5 -- I can only eat yogurt with crunchy stuff mixed into it, like granola or Golden Grahams.

6 -- For a long time now, I've secretly harbored a desire to dye my hair (at least part of it) pink or candy apple red.

7 -- I would rather see my baby niece Emma than just about any other person on Earth.

8 -- I'm very "touchy" and affectionate, and hugs are one of my favorite things in the world.

9 -- I'm slightly obsessed with photography, especially candid shots; my friends and family get annoyed with me sometimes.

10 -- My parents and I have eaten at Red Devil (a restaurant in downtown Holly) so much that all the servers know us, and we no longer need menus.

11 -- My two most identifiable characteristics - "trademarks," if you will - seem to be my hair and my laugh.

12 -- I wish I had a larger extended family; my mom was an only child and my dad had only one sibling.

13 -- All of my grandparents have passed away - the last one in 2004 - and I still miss them terribly.

14 -- I rarely like pictures of myself that are not self-portraits.

15 -- Flying does not scare me; I would actually like it if I didn't get airsick.

16 -- I find the Saturday morning shows on NPR to be HIGHLY entertaining. (Yep, I'm a Nerd.)

17 -- My current celebrity crushes are Neil Patrick Harris, Simon Baker, Joel McHale, and Zach Braff.

18 -- I often find myself watching French films on Independent Film Channel.

19 -- My ideal job would include lots of writing, editing, photography, and travel.

20 -- I dread and detest conflicts and confrontations.

21 -- Intelligence and eloquence are qualities I find very attractive.

22 -- Someday I hope to own and adore a purebred Newfoundland.

23 -- I think Johnny Depp is a supremely talented actor who disappears into every role he tackles.

24 -- I was "hit on" at a gas station once, and I laughed about it for a long time afterward.

25 -- My least favorite holiday is New Year's Eve.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


A few online locales where I've lurked lately:

Diablo Cody's blog -- She wrote Juno, and more recently, The United States of Tara on Showtime. She and I have a similar love of/obsession with pop culture. Sometimes I find her writing too kitschy, too esoteric. But I relate to her, she intrigues me, and she makes me laugh.

Everyday Loopholes -- I have learned, among other things, how to get cheaper drinks at Starbucks and how to make Firefox browse at lightning-fast speeds. Nice.

Trashy Eats -- I've had a livejournal account for about five years, and just recently found this community. As a lifelong chubby kid, I'm intrigued by some of the wacky recipes and trashy treats these folks are cookin' up.

Mo Rocca -- Oh my, this dude makes me laugh. It seems every time I see or hear him, hilarity ensues.

Quote stumbler
-- Just refresh the page for a new quote. My favorite one so far:

You can judge the character of others by how they treat those
who can do nothing to them or for them.

~Malcolm Forbes

Saturday, January 17, 2009

::soup of the day

Since November, I have known that my dear friend Christopher had a big surprise present in store for me.
As a combination birthday/Christmas gift, he was taking me somewhere, exact destination and featured event undisclosed.

I knew we were headed to Detroit and that "the show" started at 7:30.

I could not have imagined something as glorious as this...


If you're asking "Who?" right now, I am SO sad for you.

Host of E!'s The Soup, tormentor of Ryan Seacrest, comic genius?
Yep, that's him.

What a magnificent, exquisite gift.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

::teen dreams

Inspired by Erin's post about revisiting movies she loved as a child, I would like to report that, after a shopping tip from Annie, I went to Target and purchased a 2-pack of Teen Wolf and Teen Wolf Too that cost me a mere five dollars.

Teen Wolf is just one example of movies about teenagers that I loved as a "tween"; one of many I'd beg my mom to rent at Starlight Video in beautiful downtown Holly.
Watching it today, I still have a grand affinity for it, much of which is probably comprised of its nostalgic value, but nevertheless, it "still holds up," as they say.
However, were I to watch it as a first-time viewer?
I doubt it would spark anything but snarky comments, a truckload of questions, and a semi-tremendous disgust.

Can't Buy Me Love.
I remember having recorded it from a tv broadcast and watching it on days when I was sick at home from school.
Before Patrick Dempsey was McDreamy, he was Ronald Miller, and I had a serious crush on him.
He was the sweet, sensitive nerd who just wanted to get noticed.
Having already felt ostracized by "the cool kids" at my tender age, I related to him.
I remember hoping I'd meet a guy like him in high school, and maybe he'd want to be my boyfriend.
Also, sadly, I remember being very moved by what is now a sentimental, vomit-inducing cliche: the "slow clap" for Ronald's cafeteria speech.
A young Seth Green as Chuckie Miller? Comedy gold. Still.

I had a hopeless crush on Corey Haim, having ripped several centerfolds of him from the pages of BOP and Big Bopper magazines for display on my bedroom walls.
And he is the undisputed star of this movie.
(Well, unless you count Charlie Sheen.)
Lucas was another sweet, sensitive nerd who captured my sympathies and my admiration.
I remember hoping the movie was exaggerating the cruelty of the high school bullies it portrayed.
Naturally, as is common in the teen-movie-o-sphere, all the meanies grow hearts and decide that the freakishly smart little nerdy kid is a jolly good fellow after all, and I bought it, and cried.
Watching it several months ago on cable, I admit, I was still teary.

The Breakfast Club.
I felt shocked by much of what I saw in this story, but it was always intermingled with appreciation for what I understood then as raw honesty and a refusal to sugarcoat.
I didn't see the characters as overwrought archetypes but as real kids, ones I might encounter in high school, ones I would have liked to have spent a Saturday with in the library.
I'm told that this story still resonates with people, and I can definitely understand why.
John Bender was the quintessential "burnout" (I'm thinking of reviving that term...who's with me?) who stirred up drama and treated people with cruelty, yet managed to remain somehow lovable, even to younger viewers like me, who probably should have found him scary.

When I watch these movies today, they still captivate me.
I am still thoroughly entertained, although my cinematic tastes have naturally evolved.
I now cringe at the cheesy heartfelt speeches I once found so poignant, the dopey dialogue, the absurd attempts at creating the "authentic" high school microcosm.
These stories, though, for better or worse, are etched into my brain.
I've chosen to believe that's not such a bad thing.


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