Friday, August 29

An Open Letter To Milio's Sandwiches.



I walked into your establishment and bought a Veggie Sub; the same thing I've been buying there for years now.

The sandwich was made, the cash was exchanged and the transaction was completed. I said 'thank you,' and made my way to the door.

As I got halfway back out into the street, I could hear the voice of the kid behind the counter scoffing under his breath:

"Hey man, thanks for not tipping."

I wanted to go back in and explain to him that it's not customary to tip at an over-the-counter establishment, like a sub sandwich shop.

I wanted to go back in and explain to him that I never carry cash on me.

I wanted to go back in and explain to him that I used to tip at Milio's like crazy, until I noticed that I was being incorrectly and retroactively charged each time I put a tip on my debit card, eventually determining that it wasn't worth the hassle.

I wanted to go back in and explain to him that, for all intents and purposes, you don't deserve a tip for doing your job. You don't make a waiter or waitresses' wage, you don't have to wait, bus or monitor tables, and there's nothing ordered that cannot be made in less than 90 seconds.

I wanted to go back in and punch this douchebag in the face for being a classless moron that will probably be making my sandwiches for the next 25 years. I also wanted to tell him that he kind of hurt my feelings.

Instead, I walked back to my car, and never bought another sandwich from there again. This was about two years ago.

Considering that I used to buy six lunches a month from Milio's, and each lunch cost me anywhere from $11 to $21 (delivery charges are a bitch and those guys deserve to be tipped), I'd say that I've successfully managed to keep around $2500 in my pocket and away from the asshole that insisted I leave him an extra dollar for a job well done.

Well, job well done.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend. Post #800 arrives Monday.

Wednesday, August 27

Look At Me, World! I Can Use A Computer!



I've never fully understood why people venture to public places for the sole purpose of using their laptop computers. For about a decade now, and in virtually every coffee house, bookstore, food court and wi-fi compatible strip club, people are meandering out of their houses and surfing the web. "Why aren't these people at home?" I would always wordlessly mumble as I looked for a seat. After I was assured by the Missus that these people were all business travelers and were doing extremely important and potentially life-saving work on the fly, her argument was almost instantly shot down when I noticed that damn near everyone using the Internet in public was on Facebook. To me, it seemed completely unnecessary in every way; a mere status symbol, and an excuse to hang around a Barnes & Noble without actually having to purchase anything. Silly, really.

If you remember from way back in the CDP archives, I was a bartender for about a year in 1997. Some quick math will also remind you that I was 15 years old at the time, but that story has already been told. Regardless, as a bartender, I was trained to know that non-paying customers were poison, and simply got in the way of the natural flow of business and commerce you'd want in an establishment that exchanges goods for money. If someone had been sitting on a barstool for more than a half hour without buying something, they were asked to move. It's simple economics, really. If you walked into a gas station and wandered around the aisles for two hours, you'd either raise suspicion or get arrested, and your weird ass would deserve it, too. Why were the public Internet-surfing trolls exempt?

Nowadays, most atriums and Wi-Fi ready locations are loaded with freeloaders; jackasses that buy a small vanilla Latte and camp out for a length of time rivaling that of the entire Korean Conflict. If I were the manager in a place like this, what would be the point in letting these people hang around? Ambiance? Hipster status? Fear of lawsuit? This is one of those seemingly insignificant things that really bothers me when I go out; "What are you doing here? Got sick of playing Scrabulous at home? Needed to feel like you were actually interacting with a non-virtual environment?"

The Missus told me I was being an asshole (I am, and an unreasonable one at that), and reminded me that for a lot of people, they don't have Internet access at their homes, and if they had to walk down the street to the coffee shop to check their mail and research an important term paper or report, then they should do so. My response to that is Internet access can be obtained in your home for about $10 a month now. Make the phone call, and stop making me wait for a seat at Gloria Jeans so I can enjoy my hot chocolate like a nice, paying customer should. In 2008, a home without Internet access is like a home without a toilet. You're in my way.

In an attempt to clear my head, I stepped away from my unnecessary rage that consumes me on a minute-by-minute basis and considered the weight of the situation. I wanted to see both sides of the "public web surfing" argument, so I decided to join the unwashed masses and try it out for myself. The Missus was throwing a dinner party one day (the ruthless cult known as Pampered Chef has sunk their potpourri-scented claws in), and I took it upon myself to get as far away from CDP Headquarters as I possibly could for the next five hours. In doing so, I threw my laptop into the Wild Stallion v4.0 and headed off to Borders, where I was to become everything that I've ever hated.

I ordered a Latte and a chocolate chip cookie that was about the size of a personal-pan pizza, and took a seat next to four other computer-pecking guys that had clearly been here for awhile. Maybe since the place opened; I don't know for sure. One guy had ordered nothing, it appeared; a nerdy looking fellow that was probably about 30 years old (nerdier-looking than even I). The guy next to him meant business; a chubby hick sporting a trucker hat with important newspapers and documents strewn across his table. He was sucking on an energy drink that they didn't sell within the confines of Borders, which meant that he brought it in himself. Christ.

The third guy was tucked in the corner, looking very shifty and strung out. Clearly, he was looking at something that he didn't want anyone else to see. Corpse Porn*, probably. The fourth guy packed up and left before I even had a chance to set up my computer. Again, he was certainly up to no good.

(*I've heard about people that are into the idea of Necrophilia, and to accommodate their curiosities, they have their significant others soak in near-freezing water for a length of time, and remain corpse-like and limp back in the bedroom, essentially simulating a dead person during the intimate act of their choosing. While I've never participated in this, no doubt interesting, activity, I will say that if you're fortunate enough to have a mate that will do that for you, hang onto them for all they're worth. That's a man or woman that will go through hell for you later down the road.)

Anyway, I set up my equipment in the last open table and got down to business, beginning to write the essay that you're reading right now. Almost instantly, I realized how distracting it was to be creative in public. I'm typically so focused on not tripping over things, spilling my drink into my lap and getting robbed that I have no time to worry about writing something worth reading (this essay is potentially Exhibit A). I was constantly looking over my shoulder, people-watching and gently nibbling on my embarrassingly-large pizza cookie; my laptop was an afterthought.

I'm used to my own private room, mood lighting and ambiance; this was like an exercise in futility. The constant screeching of the barista's blender, the hopeless, brittle, Tupperware party-throwing bitches at the table next to me rambling on about how much better the planet would be if they were the President ("No more Olympics cutting into my Soap Operas; Haw-haw!") and the lingering thought that a bunch of my Wife's friends were simultaneously touring my home and pawing my breakables with Mojito-sticky hands was almost too much for me to handle. I figured that if everything around me was succeeding in hindering my creativity, I'd do the same thing for the sake of my own entertainment. I almost instantly started talking to the fellow web-surfers around me.

"Hey, what'cha working on?" I asked to the weiner-looking guy to the left of me.

"Resume." He replied kindly, kneading his forehead with his fingertips in a feeble attempt to calm the hell down after digesting approximately eighteen gallons of coffee. It appeared that he really was working on something important, although I still wondered why he would work on something so important in a place so capable of breaking concentration. I didn't ask a follow-up.

On my right, I got the attention of the large, trucker-hat guy with all the papers and documents.

"Hey man, what'cha working on?"

"Online exam." As fate would have it, he was working on one of the many State Examinations that I worked with the Wisconsin Board to help create. Poor guy; those things suck. He then surprised me when he turned the tables and asked me what I was working on.

"Well...um, I'm writing an essay."

"Cool. What about?"

I stammered and thought of anything besides the truth. "I'm writing about how much I think I hate guys like you" seemed to be a little counterproductive and practically begging for a boot to the sack.

"I...am working on...um...book. A book, I mean. I'm working on a book." Technically, I was sort of telling the truth.

"Wow, a book, huh? Good for you, man."

"Hey, thanks. The answer to Number 23 is 'Connective Tissue,' by the way."

"Awesome, thanks, buddy."

This research conflicted me, as these guys were legitimately there for business. Regardless of how I felt about it, they had every right to do so. Hey, maybe the annoying buzz of the downtown Borders was still a more tranquil and peaceful location than their home. This is almost certainly true of a household containing any more than zero children.

(NOTE: Borders charged $6.95 for a Wi-Fi subscription, so the argument that people go to these places for free Internet is not always true. That, to me, almost completely negated the purpose altogether.)

After nearly an hour had passed and my coffee and pizza cookie were gone (both delicious, if you were wondering), I was entering uncharted territory I had forced myself to venture towards. Just how guilty was I going to feel sitting here without buying anything else? I mean, how much longer did a seat in a coffee house belong to me once I was done enjoying their delicious, sugary products? In any case, I had at least another hour to kill before the dinner party started to wind down, so I dug in and went for it.

Suddenly, an unexpected thing happened. The latte, a caffeinated drink that I seldom suck back except for cases of extreme loneliness (much like brandy Manhattans), began to take its toll on my colon in a dangerous and, quite frankly, unpredictable way. I had to use the bathroom, and fast. But what was I going to do about my computer? My saved seat? This was something that I never thought of. What if someone takes my notebook? What if someone takes my spot? Do I take all of my stuff into the stall with me? Should I just stake my claim and mess my pants? What was I going to do?

I deliberated for a few minutes until I reached critical mass in my small intestine. A decision had to be made, and quickly. In lieu of asking the guy next to me what he happens to do in these situations, I decided to leave everything where it was and make a beeline for the can. I didn't want to, and I can assure you that I took the fastest poop of my life, but it was something that needed to be experienced for the good of my vital research. And so far, the theory of using a computer in public wasn't worth the trouble; resume, exam or otherwise. I missed my office, I missed my bathroom and I couldn't ignore the fact that, for a place that's supposed to be hip and ambient, these places tend to destroy your will to concentrate. It felt like I was trying to recite a Shakespeare play from memory while running through the 'Slopsticle Course' on Double Dare.

"Good," I thought to myself; "This is telling me exactly what I need to know. Public web surfing is bad for your brain."

About a minute later, the Missus called me up and told me that the dinner party was over. Like a shot, I gathered my things and made a beeline for the door. On the car ride home, I tried to come to some sort of finality or official word on how I felt about public web surfing, but surprisingly, couldn't. While I still stand firm that owners of these places have no reason to let web surfers hang around without making regular purchases, I have no question that a coffee shop or bookstore can sometimes offer something that your home cannot (coffee and books, for one). In one way, it made me happy to know I have such a tranquil home life, but in another way, made me feel like my research still isn't over.

That night, as I was soaking in freezing cold water while the Missus blared the Funeral March from the master bedroom and put on her favorite black dress, I still couldn't understand why people are so damn weird.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.

Monday, August 25

I Still Do Weddings.


(Sorry about the photo quality; the wedding was held at 'Pixelated Gardens.')

If you're a longtime CDP fan, you may remember that I am an ordained Reverend that has previously presided over a wedding ceremony and a baptism. I'm also available for Last Rites, Exorcisms and probably Bris's, if I could only find what I did with my utility knife.

I got into this side hobby as a joke, honestly, but it has since turned into something that has provided me with some truly happy and unforgettable moments. Oh, and I guess that the wedding party likes it, too. Whatever; I'm only there for the free veggie platter at the reception. I fill my plastic bag-lined pants with celery and ranch dressing and hit those exits in a hurry.

Quick backstory. Two years ago, when my nephew was born, my sister was getting hassled as to when she planned on baptizing him. She was indifferent on the matter, but certain religious family members (read: all of 'em) insisted that Evan get water splashed on his head so his soul wasn't doomed for all eternity. She obliged, but did not want to do the deed at a church. She needed some advice, so she called about a hundred different ceremonial experts for their take.

And when none of them answered, she called me and I told her I'd take care of everything.

Once I found out that baptisms meant absolutely nothing from a legal standpoint (being raised Catholic, I assumed no baptism meant instant death if discovered by the torch-wielding masses), I also found out that weddings can be officiated in the state of Wisconsin by any ordained witness. Of course, to be 'ordained,' you need to do nothing more but have a name and hands by which to sign a marriage license, and even then, I suppose you could sign it with your feet if you were really careful.

Minutes later, I was legally allowed to officiate weddings in the Dairy State. I never planned on actually doing them, of course, I just thought it was a funny little tidbit I could add to the list and share with people, much like my CPR certification. If an actual wedding or actual drowning victim showed up on my porch one morning, I'd assuredly get someone else to take care of them, proper credentials or not.

But in August of 2006, my uncle and future aunt asked me to officiate their nuptials (see the above link; it's in my book, too), and there was no way I could possibly say no to them. It was an unforgettable experience, and I felt very proud and humbled to be a part of it. Since then, people ask me to do weddings because they know what they're going to get from me: a professional, non-denominational, casual ceremony that's unbelievably cheap (I never ask for money) and a tight ten minutes in length. This keeps me in high demand, it would appear.

Which brings me to a few weeks ago. A co-worker had asked me to officiate her upcoming wedding, and she left me in no position to back out. This woman was one of the first friends I made when I joined my current place of employment back in 2004; she was teaching me how to handle phone calls at a reception desk (we were both peons at the time), and we spent a good three months tethered together by a headset with about three inches of cord between the two of us. That was how we lived at work for the entire Summer of 2004, our cheeks essentially pressed against each others, instructing licensed professionals as to what they needed to do to remained licensed.

We've both since been promoted, and life is a lot better. Although I'll go on record in saying that I never minded the whole secretarial bondage thing. Our safe word was 'wasps.'

I knew we were going to get along with this wedding right away, as after she read my proposed script for the first time, replied with "I don't want any prayers or God stuff in there, okay?"

Sometimes I wonder why I get myself into situations like this. My social anxiety feels that willingly speaking in front of hundreds of people is sort of counterproductive to my overall well-being, and I'm prone to agree. In the end, I'm a pushover who craves attention, and besides, I get more respect as a Reverend than as any other moniker I've adopted in the past 26 years. You know that you carry some power when people start watching their language around you and hiding their alcohol. That's the sort of intimidation that you can only get by posing as an impostor clergyman, and it never ceases to make me laugh my ass off.

So, the wedding day arrived, and quite frankly, it went perfect. The bride and groom looked wonderful, the guests loved the ceremony and a certain ordained officiate didn't puke his pants in the courtyard of the Olbrich Botanical Garden. Another job well done, it would seem. Little did I know, I was less than five hours away from ruining a marriage. Sort of.

Feeling pretty good about myself for a job well done, I took it upon myself to partake in a tradition as old as marriage itself: getting drunk at the reception.

All bets are off at a Midwestern wedding reception. The wedding party is drunk. The guests are drunk. Hell, even the kids are drunk. Rules simply don't apply; adults always allow kids to drink at receptions, in fact, I'd argue that most people get their first taste of beer in a crammed VFW hall while 'Shout' blares over the soundsystem. It's just the way it is; everyone drinks at a wedding reception.

Everyone, that is, except for the Missus. That grrrl is so Straight Edge, CM Punk just asked for her autograph. All the better, for she was my ride home.

I thought that I was off the clock. I thought that my work for the night was through. I thought I was in a position to loosen my tie, fraternize with guests and stumble out after my third piece of cake. Unfortunately, this assumption caused me to put my guard down and get a little sloppy.

At around 10:30pm, one of the bridesmaids picked my sweaty husk up off of my chair, thrust a ballpoint pen in my hand and led me to a table near the back of the hall. "Time to make this official," she said, presenting me with the marriage license that I needed to fill out to make sure that all of this was legally binding and...you know...actually existing in the eyes of the state.

The lights were bright. The form had very small writing on it. 'I'm Too Sexy' was blaring. Someone kept grabbing my ass. I was confused, things were blurry and I was in absolutely no shape or position to fill out a document as important and potentially life-altering as a freaking marriage license. Nonetheless, I trudged forth with the grace and dignity of a chimpanzee flinging a wet turd at a group of stunned tourists.

I would later find out that I made several glaring errors, including writing down my street address incorrectly two times and crossing them out (a huge no-no with the Registrar of Deeds), putting 'Officiant' in the box marked 'Gender,' and misspelling the word 'Reverend.'

"Can we go now?" Asked the Missus.

"Not until they play the Humpty Dance!" I slurred back. "I requested it nine times!"

"I'm getting my keys."

We finally exited at 11pm, and she was more than happy to call it a night. As I laid in bed that evening, room swirling over me, I felt pretty proud of myself. "Another job well done, Tiger...another job well done. That's how you're gonna beat 'em, Butch. They just keep underestimating ya'…"

When I walked into work the following Monday, the Bride was waiting for me. I assumed that she wanted to once again praise me for a job well done, and give me a thousand dollars or something. "We have to talk," she said.

In the storied history of Mankind, there has never been a conversation that started with "We have to talk" and ended on a positive note. It's never something like, "We have to talk...there's free muffins in the conference room; plenty for everyone!" Nope, this was important.

"The State isn't recognizing the Marriage License."

"Whaa? What happened? Did they change the laws or something?"

"Nope, but it helps if you fill it out correctly, nimrod." She snarked, and I knew that she found it just as funny as I did when she handed me the garbled-beyond-recognition parchment I boozily emoted over just 48 hours prior. I can assure you that the drunken Marriage License was hilarious; it looked like Michael J. Fox filled it out while riding the Tilt-A-Whirl. After some black ink and about a dozen apologies, I was out of the doghouse and the happy couple were legally married.

That night, as I was recalling all of the events of the wedding with the Missus (along with my subsequent mangling of the legal portion of it), I told her that I thought it was a good time to retire from the Ordained Reverend game. It has gotten too commercial, I remarked, and it was probably a good time to step aside and let a new generation of up-and-comers take the helm.

The Missus cocked her head to the side, either not getting my joke or refusing to acknowledge it. "You've only done two weddings, dork."

"I know. And I'm totally spent."

She smiled. "Love you."

"Love you, too."