Is it a House or a “Home”?

It feels like some sort of conspiracy. This may sound crazy, but I’ve been seeing the same house over and over again. Okay, it’s not really a house. I just think everyone concerned would rather I call it a house than a “home”.

In my last post, I talked about my father-in-law and his “desperate”, half-assed attempt at finding someone to help him with his daily tasks and household chores. I don’t know the exact details of his interviewing technique. I’ve never seen it first-hand.  I don’t know if he weighs them and tosses out anyone over 130 pounds or automatically disqualifies people who come from countries that don’t have diplomatic relations with Sweden or is looking for someone with a PHD in botany, but nobody is ever suitable by whatever fkd up yardstick he’s supposedly employing.

Notice I’m a horrible daughter-in-law. I’ve never once suggested he come live with us. In fact, when my husband brings it up in jest (I hope) every few months, the conversation usually goes thusly:

Husband: “My father could always come live with us.”

Me: “Are you watching “Big Bang Theory” or could I put on “Project Runway”?

We visit my father-in-law often and will do whatever we can for him to be happy and healthy… over there. And, the best part is: He doesn’t want to come here to live with us any more than we want him to.  And, as awful as it sounds and probably is: The main reason I don’t want him to live with us is: If you don’t believe in the power of negative energy. Fine… I challenge you to a little experiment. Have my father-in-law stay in your house for a week and watch all of the electronics within a 2 mile radius die a slow death. The neighborhood will suddenly, mysteriously, have no wifi or cell phone service, cable service…. Sure, call your carriers… Let them tell you there are no current outages in your area.

So my sister-in-law, the good child, not like the rotten one I married, arranged for him to move from Florida to New York–not in with her– but into an assisted living place near her. (She may be a good daughter but she still wants to keep peace with her neighbors and her electronic devices.)  Shocking to no one, he didn’t want to go. (Can’t really blame him on that one) He did reluctantly agree, likely just to shut up my sister-in-law, with clearly no intention of giving it a real shot or staying a minute past the one month trial. Now, back to the home I alluded to at the beginning of this post.

We went up to NY to visit him during his brief stay. It was a pretty place. When you walked in, there was a desk of friendly people on the left. They told us he was finishing lunch, indicating a long hallway. We found him there, on the left at a sitting area complete with a couch and paintings to match, set outside of the dining room where residents could meet with visitors. There was also a door leading to an outside area. My father-in-law took us down another hallway to the bank of elevators and led us up to his room. Okay, this is why I’m going into anally boring, detail: A few months after that, my cousin moved my uncle into an assisted living place near her in New Jersey. My sister went to visit and took pictures.  She is notorious for posting pictures of ridiculous things. This time, I was glad she did. The place had a desk on the left at the entrance, a long hallway which led to the dining room on the right and, the sitting room on the left, and outdoor area… etc etc. The color scheme was the same, the couch/artwork combo was the same. The residents were the same. Is that Mrs. Becker in the photo? Then it gets weirder.

One evening, I turned on “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and the fabulous Lisa Rinna was going back to Oregon to help her parents move to what seemed like possibly an assisted living place. I could be wrong… I might be hallucinating at this point but I could swear, in the background, I caught a glimpse of the same entrance, same desk, same hallway, same dining area, same couches, same Mrs. Becker. I thought: “Oh Gd. The place is contagious.” I thought at least it had been contained to the Northeast but it’s spread all the way to Oregon. What are the chances the entire Midwest hasn’t sprouted desks, hallways, couches/paintings and Mrs. Beckers also?

The important question is: Is every one of these buildings freakishly identical in hopes that horrendous children and children-in-law like us can easily shuffle our relatives between us without them realizing they’ve been shuffled? “Okay, Dad… You’re back home. What do you mean you don’t live here? Look, there’s the desk and the hallway, and the couch. There’s the painting that’s always been there. There’s your friend, Mrs. Becker”. So either this is all an elaborate scheme to screw with our elders… or Stephen King  has started dabbling in real estate. Red-rum. Red-rum. Red rum.


Hiring Help for the Unhelpable

It all started several months ago. My father-in-law lives alone in Florida. He needed someone to help him do his daily tasks. If you’re a fan of the Big Bang Theory and you can picture when they were looking for someone to help take care of Howard’s mother, it was like that: Every day, a different woman of various ages, sizes and ethnicities, representing twelve countries on three continents came flying through the front door looking disheveled. If you didn’t know better, you’d think my father-in-law had turned his bonus room into a den of iniquity and was supplementing his social security by running either an escort service or a specialty crack house that catered only to females. …Not that they’d allow that in his over 55 community. You can’t even have a pet. (Where my father lived, you could move in with a dog but once the dog died you couldn’t get a new one. So everyone just kept buying the same breed over and over in an effort to convince management they had the same dog for thirty years.)

Some of my father-in-law’s prospective -I don’t know what you want to call them- assistants, helpers, foster parents…just couldn’t take his constant kvetching. While I sympathize, because I can’t take it either, I’m also thinking they’re in the wrong line of work. You’d think that would be a major part of the job description. “Enjoys cooking, cleaning and working in a suffocatingly negative environment.”

But, get this: In most cases, it was he who did not find them suitable. In one instance he told us: “She didn’t get me breakfast”. We asked: “Have you ever, by chance, mentioned to her that one of the things you’d like her to do each day is to get your breakfast?” To which he responded: “Of course not. She should know. Why should I have to tell her anything?”

One woman, he didn’t like the way she looked. She was ugly. I told him: “This isn’t The Bachelor and who are you, Matt Damon?” (I had to pick a cutie he’d heard of.) Anyway he was embarrassed to be seen in public with her. What? Embarrassed in front of whom? Wal-Mart shoppers? Or the other 85 years olds around the pool and the women who take care of them?

I hate to say, but even at his age, embarrassment is still a driving force in his life. He won’t eat anything with his hands in public: No ribs, no fried chicken, no chips and dip. I can’t relate to this. My father was the polar opposite: We would order spinach artichoke dip for all of us to share. He would dip, double dip, triple dip… Dive wristwatch-deep to rescue his sinking taco chip if necessary. And the magic by no means ended with dips. He would not only eat an ice cream cone in public, he would catch the dripping ice cream with his tongue as it headed down his arm. So if you’re an Odd Couple aficionado, I grew up with Oscar Madison and married into Felix Unger.

As for my father-in-laws roomie situation-  He still retains the final rose as he continues to “interview/abuse” his prospective, caretaker, groundskeeper, soul-mate- whatever you want to call her.  Stay tuned..

Bill Collectors Expect So Much

When people sue their deadbeat friends, Judge Judy always says to the plaintiff: “I know she promised to pay you back but you’ve known her for 20 years. She’s never had a job in 20 years. She has a drug problem. She’s been in and out of jail 6 times. She’s sleeping on someone’s sofa. Where’d you think the money was going to come from?”

I can relate– to couch girl. Maybe I should have Judge Judy talk to Time Warner Cable (and Verizon, and the electric company, and the bank, and MasterCard) for me. I mean, except for the drugs, the jail and that I’ve always had a job and a bed… That’s me in a nutshell…really.

Time Warner and Verizon et al are all old friends of mine. We go way back. Are you kidding? I’ve been getting their final notices since the eighties. They know me. Every month like clockwork, I call them pleading for an extension on my cut-off date. I start the negotiating high with an offer of “2018”. They start low with an offer of “Tuesday”. Ten minutes later, when the haggling is over, we’ve settled on “Tuesday”. Well, I try. They always reject my suggestion that they take a play from the furniture chain’s marketing playbook: “No payments until 2018″.

The cable company and I are so close, it calls me more than my sister and sister-in-law combined. Of course I never pick up the phone so they just leave a polite message: “There’s been a change in your status.” I might actually react more swiftly to an impolite message: “Yo Bitch, we’re about to cut your ass off. Think about THAT when you got NO housewives from NO-where!” And anyway… That polite message is a lie. What change in my status? I owed them two months ago. I owed last month. I owe this month. Where’s the change? They call non-stop from the morning until 8 O’clock at night. Last night when the phone rang and the caller ID came up on the cable TV (nice feature they have) my husband was really irritated: “Why are they calling us now? It’s the cable company. They can see we’re watching football. They couldn’t wait for us to ignore them at halftime?”

I don’t know why they stress out anyway. I pay them every month. It may not be exactly the day or amount they’re hoping for. Maybe they need to lower their expectations.

MasterCard checks in on me pretty often too. We had a love affair for 10 years. Then one month, I misread the minimum payment due as $50 instead of $58 dollars. They lovingly told me to pay the entire $8000 balance or pack up my shit and get out. I chose the latter. So now their collections people call me too. My husband and I have made their calls into a game. See, there’s always a beat in the automated message where somebody inserts your name. When we see it’s them calling, we turn up the speaker volume, crowd around the answering machine, and take turns pointing to my face every time they say my name: This message is for: “Lori—Shandle—Fox”. If you are not “Lori—Shandle—Fox” please hang up. By not hanging up you are confirming that you are “Lori—Shandle—Fox”. We’d turn it into a drinking game but they call pretty often. We’d both be face down on the kitchen floor by day’s end.

So if anyone reading this is one of my debtors and considering taking some sort of action, all I can say is: I look forward to hearing from your collection agency. One of our representatives will get to them shortly. They are currently number 26 on the queue.

Cooking: Well, It Looks Fun on TV

When I cook a meal, I only need three things: The box out of the freezer, the microwave, and maybe a pair of scissors. I watch cooking shows where people proclaim their passion for cooking. That’s me. My passion is watching cooking shows featuring people who have a passion for cooking. Cooking for me is like professional football: It’s great entertainment but I have no intention of ever actually participating.

They have this show: Worst Cooks in America. I wouldn’t qualify for that. You’d have to, at some point, attempt to cook something to determine you were one of the worst. If they ever audition for: “America’s Most Apathetic Cooks”, I’m in.

I do watch Chopped, Master Chef, Master Chef Jr. and The Taste, though. My eight year old niece also watches these shows and they’ve created a monster. She’ll sit in a restaurant and declare that she’s not eating her broccoli because there’s not enough seasoning or they’re not properly salted or the meat should have been seared.

But to tell you the truth, she’s not the only one who’s been made skeptical by these shows. Yeah, great, now I have this trained, discerning eye and palate but can’t afford to eat in places where those things could possibly matter. The places we go to eat don’t in anyway resemble anything on these programs.

When they show you where the Chef-testants work: Where are the people standing outside in the cold for forty minutes waiting for their UFO paperweights to glow and vibrate? Where are the guys unintentionally touching a woman inappropriately with their pool cues while they’re making a shot and she’s making her way to the bathroom?

We don’t get to go to real restaurants. We go to chains aka glorified fast food joints posing as real restaurants. I mean, yeah, there’s no drive-thru, they hand you menus instead of them being displayed over the cashier’s head, they carry the tray to the table for you instead of you carrying it yourself, and the meal costs forty dollars for two instead of sixteen, but it’s a fast-food restaurant none-the-less.

There are no Michelin stars on the wall where we frequent. There’s only the “89.0” rating from the health inspector and the sign that indicates that there are probably seventy more people currently on the premises than is allowed by law.

There are no James Beard award winning chefs at our restaurants. I doubt there are any chefs at our restaurants. If I ever “accidentally” go into the kitchen instead of the ladies’ room, I expect to find a couple of fourteen year olds making minimum wage and “cooking” between mopping the floor, doing the dishes, and playing cards. There probably aren’t even appliances in there, just a grill for making eggs and burgers and a microwave for everything else. The judges on my shows are always kvetching about food being overcooked or undercooked or bland. Nobody worries about such minor details where we eat. They just take stuff out of the freezer, toss it in the microwave and press the “start” button. If someone else will run the grill, I could start a new career as executive chef.

“Chef, table 6 wants to know: How long for the Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese?”

Gifts: The Invisible & The Insane

My husband and I usually don’t exchange gifts during the holidays. Maybe because we’re always broke. Maybe because we’re always ungrateful. This year I got him the brand new phone he wanted. He has already reminded me several times that after the rebate, it cost me a total of a dollar. He forgets to bring up that I had to renew my contract with the devil for another two years so that he might have his new phone.

For my gift, my husband bought me a mezuzah, a Torah scroll put on the doorways to bless new Jewish homes. Forget the fact that we’ve lived here for seven years. I asked him how this was a gift for me when he too lives in the house. He replied, in the spirit of all religions: “Yeah, but you care more about that shit than I do.”

So typically we skip buying each other presents and look for the love elsewhere. It usually comes from our sisters. Their gifts fit into two categories: “The Invisible” and “The Insane”.

Every year my sister-in-law starts planning her charade before Thanksgiving. She asks me to send her our shirt sizes, pants sizes, shoe sizes. I play along. I even throw in my “car size” just to see if she’s paying attention. A few weeks into this, she starts sharing her hallucinations with me. And she hallucinates in detail: “I saw the nicest sweater for you yesterday at Bloomingdales at the mall on Highway 67 but I was in a rush. I’m going back today to get it.” This is typically followed in the coming weeks by explicit details on her finding boxes to wrap the presents in, heading to the post office in traffic on a Tuesday afternoon when there was a roadblock in the left lane due to road repairs, culminating in how we should have the gifts by Friday. Of course my husband and I have been down this road before so neither of us takes off from work to be sure someone’s home to receive the delivery. Friday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday… They all come and go and nothing arrives and nobody mentions anything. Then a couple of weeks will go by and my sister-in-law will say out of the blue: “Oh, I didn’t get a chance to go back to the mall to get that sweater, but I saw something else I think you’ll like even better.” I’m too apathetic to even bother to say: “What the fk are you talking about? You told me you bought everything, packed it up and shipped it two weeks ago?!” The thing is: She’s not nuts or even mean-spirited. I think when she says she’s going to send us stuff, she fully intends to but just can’t get her act together. But I mention “nuts” as a way to segue to my sister.

You know how they say: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”? No, I’m pretty sure both men would agree the stuff she sends us is trash. She either sends us stuff from yard sales- nothing wrong with that in itself- or stuff that she’s picked out of people’s garbage piles in front of their house before the truck pulled up in the wee hours to cart it away to its final resting place. She’ll send it along with a note: “I can’t believe somebody would throw this out!” And as I turn over the item, my respect and admiration grow for the previous owner for having used such good judgment. My sister’s so proud of her find and I can’t stop wondering if some kid vomited on it in 1986 or a wild animal gnawed at it while hunting for a midnight snack in the trash pile. I’ve also come to the conclusion by seeing my sister’s gifts over the years that she has no idea how old I am. We may have grown up in the same house with the same parents and no other siblings but she continues to send me things like Nancy Drew books. “I thought you loved Nancy Drew.” “I do, but I already have all the books and read the whole series… in 1974.”

My sister rescues items from garbage heaps in front of people’s houses, packs them up, goes to UPS, pays $16 postage, and ships them to me, so I can throw them out in front of my house. One day I saw the brown truck coming down my block. “It’s okay” I yelled over to him. “You can just toss it out the door at the end of the driveway there… right next to that big green receptacle.”

So while it’s upsetting that my sister-in-law’s gifts don’t arrive. It’s even more upsetting that my sister’s gifts do.

When You Teach Old Morons New Tricks

You know, I refuse to think of myself as old. I still watch cartoons and all the holiday specials and I still wave to all the blow-up things on people’s lawns at this time of year- usually while yelling: “Hi Mr. Snowman!” as I drive by. (Typically followed by my husband mumbling: “Oh, Gd. We’ve been by that same snowman twice already today. Do you have to do that every single time?”)

So now that we’ve started this new computer system at work, I don’t want to say that it’s freaking me out because I’m too old to learn something totally different. I’ve been using all kinds of computers over the past several years, so I refuse to be put in the same category as my father-in-law who soils himself every time you tell him to plug his in.

See, this is what happened. We trained a long, grueling week on this computer system without interruption. We went to a facility and experts showed us how to use it… In July. So there were issues with the system and the rest of the summer came and went and then the fall came and went and this week with a full work schedule and hundreds of clients clamoring to be served, we finally began using the system that we hadn’t seen or touched in like, five months.

I’m a pretty quick learner but I’m not trainable. I’ve always been a rebel and that’s not likely ever going to change. (Not that I’ve ever tried to change it.)

So first I was given a big juicy manual for the new system and told to consider it my new Bible. My goal is to read even less of it than I’ve read of the real Bible. In fact, as disorganized as I always am, I knew exactly where to find the manual they gave me at the end of July. It was in the trunk of my car where I’d dumped it at the end of July. If I’d gotten a new car in the interim, they would’ve been out of luck. I’m sure I would’ve sold the old one with the manual in the trunk thrown in as a bonus.

I also can’t have people hover over me as I learn. I can’t look at a computer screen and think out what to do next if I feel eyes piercing through the back of my head and breath on the back of my neck (especially since all the trainers were middle-aged woman.)

That brings me to the dilemma: How to politely get my point across to them. On the one hand, they’re there to help me. On the other hand, it’s pissing me off that they’re chiming in every second: “No, not that screen! You really don’t want to do that!” or even worse, just draping themselves over my shoulder like a sari and grabbing hold of the mouse: “Click, click, up, down, across this one… There!” They’re happy and I’m thinking: Great… Now what the fuck did she just do?

I tried to let my trainer down easy. The part about “pissing me off” and “draping yourself over my shoulder” somehow didn’t sound professional when I practiced saying it out loud to myself. I thought about saying: “You need to go somewhere” or “I think Stacy is having an issue. She’s way on the other side over there.” I finally settled on: “If it’s okay, I do better figuring stuff out by myself. I’ll call you over if I get stuck. But I really appreciate your help. I do. I really, really, really do. Gd Bless you and yours.” I don’t know if that was the right thing to say but I achieved my goal: She left.

The first day of this fiasco was my long work day, my 12 1/2 hour day. Imagine having no clue what you’re doing for 12 1/2 hours. (Then again, some people have no clue their entire working life.)

At noon, they sent me out for a lunch break. I told them: “If I were you, I’d make me eat in the employee lunch room and block the entrance while I’m eating. You might want to keep someone posted at the window too… especially the one that faces the parking lot.”

By 3 o’clock, my brain was like the first parking lot at the state fair. I told the woman who was helping me: “You can keep talking, but there’s not another inch of space available in my head.”

By 6 o’clock I said to her: “You know what? It would just be easier if you set me on fire.”

So finally around Thursday, I realized that really there were two things at play here that we needed to conquer: 1) Knowing how to use this new system and, what actually was the much bigger hurdle: 2) The Trauma. We all spent so much time running around and freaking out like a bunch of morons: “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, we’re lost! We don’t know what we’re doing. We’ll never know what to do! This is all different! We’ve never done it like this before! There are dozens of people waiting and I’m taking lunch later than usual, and where’s the printer now and what if I never get this and what if there’s nobody to help me?!”… It took us a good four days to realize the new system is so easy even morons like us could use it.

It’s Infertility Charlie Brown!

Okay, now I’ve done it. I’ve never hidden the fact that I love the autumn and every corny thing associated with it: Football (not the least bit corny), Macy’s parade (cool with many corny parts), fall foliage.

So in the past, I’ve written about going through infertility later in life (“The Autumn of My Fertility”) and spooky infertility stories for Halloween.

I can’t see what could possibly be left to write about that’s autumn-related except, of course the obvious: Charlie Brown.

This long lost Charles Schulz classic, “It’s Infertility Charlie Brown!” was shown on TV for years in between the Halloween and Thanksgiving specials.

I’m not ridiculous enough to suggest that Lucy Van Pelt grew up and battled infertility. With her stank attitude, likely the only men who would even talk to her would be a chiropractor or an orthopedist treating Charlie Brown for ailments caused by decades of her pulling away that damn football. (Then again there are lots of men who seem to adore crabby women: Have you seen “Bridezillas?”).

Here’s the episode in its entirety. It takes place in the classroom. Hope I don’t give anybody a Peanuts allergy. (ar ar ar):

I present to you: “It’s Infertility Charlie Brown!” (more…)

‘Tis the Season of the Aggressive Sales Person

I do believe that there are a lot of people out there who truly enjoy the holiday season. But not one of them is a sales person.

I find that every year as the cool breezes of early fall turn into the cold temps of late fall, instead of the crisp smell of autumn leaves in the air, there’s the stench of panic and frenzy in every store. And while businesses must love the moneymaking hoopla, the people who have to work there probably want to hang themselves.

The other night my husband and I went to an open house at our local supermarket. They sell prepared Thanksgiving meals so they invite everyone to come and let you try the turkey and all of the fixin’s. The employees ask you what you want on your plate, toss it on there and hand it over. They’re polite enough but somewhere behind their smiles I feel, lies an employee who reeeeally doesn’t want to be serving me. They all had this air like they were performing court-ordered community service. I know the idea is just to taste, not have dinner there, but the amount some of them were giving looked like what’s left on your plate as you’re lowering it into the dishwasher.

I felt like Oliver standing there with my pathetic look and little Styrofoam plate: “More please”. Just like him, I was hoping I’d get more food and nobody would strike me for having the chudspa to make my daring request.

Then my husband proceeded over to a table where a woman had been handing out meatballs to highlight a sauce she was peddling. She explained to him that she’d run out of the meatballs, so she had nothing for him to taste, but here was a coupon for the sauce, as she turned to a taller employee: “Tom, get him down a bottle, would ya?” My husband had no basket or cart, was already at his juggling capacity, had no interest in schlepping this bottle under his arm while he finished shopping and told her so. To which she replied: “Well, you have to take it now. I’m closing up and I get commission.” To which he replied: “That’s your problem.”

I’ve always been against jobs that pay only commission or the vast majority of your income is made by commission. I don’t know. There’s something about it that turns decent hard working sales people into… what’s a good word for it? Scumbags. Meatball lady probably didn’t work for the store. It’s usually easy to tell which stores’ employees live and die by commission: They’re the stores that the second you enter, the entire sales team flocks to you like they’re buzzards and you’re fresh road kill. There are those stores in the mall where your feet are technically still in the mall part, but if they look like they’re even possibly approaching the store, you can see the brigade of sales associates moving towards you. I always want to say: “No no. You can’t offer to help me yet. See? My feet are still on mall property. One step closer and I’ll call mall security.”

When I was searching for my bridal undergarments, I went into a famous lingerie joint in the mall. The sales girl accosted me immediately and then kept forcing bras on me. I can’t wear anything that’s strapless or that closes in the front. So of course that’s all she tossed at me even though I was 39 years old, had been wearing bras for a good 27 years and was pretty sure of what I couldn’t wear. What started as a friendly friendship with this woman, my new BFF, turned into a very unhealthy relationship. She was very controlling. I felt trapped in my 2 x 2 dressing room. She was suffocating me. She wouldn’t let me voice my opinion. She wanted everything to be her way. I had lost my individuality and my self-esteem. After ten minutes of this, I couldn’t take anymore. When she looked away for a moment to put the rejected bras back on the hangers, I turned around to face the mirror and frantically mouthed the words “Help me!” to the lady on the other side. When no help came, I planned my escape. I told the sales associate to continue her search for my perfect bra on the sales floor, way… over there… and I would continue to try on the amazing bras she’d brought me. As soon as she turned her back, I hastily threw on my shirt, waved to the lady on the other side of the two-way mirror and, with my own ratty bra in hand, made my escape. I didn’t stop running until I was hidden in the safety of the swarm of thousands at the food court.

All things considered, I think I liked it better when I was a teenager and sales people used to follow me around because they assumed I was stealing.

I’ve Become a Very Positive, Negative Person

I’ve evolved into a world of positive energy. Even now, I’m typing this post from an ashram in the Himalayas. (Well it feels like the Himalayas, though I suppose the frigid temperatures can be attributed to my husband having the a/c on inside when the temperature is 40 degrees outside.)

Truly I am fascinated with all I’m learning about quieting your mind and a positive mind-set: Yoga, meditation with Oprah and Deepak Chopra… All of this will be just dandy for me as a humor writer. For a humor writer, lots of positive thought leads to lots of blank pages. “A rabbi and a nun walked into a bar… and they became the best of friends and brought peace and harmony to all those around them.”… See what I mean?

So in the interest of my art only, you understand, I’m what you’d call a positive, negative person. Just like I’ve worked with some people my friend Hannah refers to as “angry Christians”.

They go to church religiously (b’dum bum), talk about Gd’s will and Gd’s grace and quote scripture and carry around a Bible and are grateful for everything and everything’s a blessing until you cross them, then they hate you, never want to talk to you again, and Gd will punish you because “what goes around comes around” and “karma’s a bitch.” They’ll also sit next to you all day long at work reading Bible quotes on the Internet while everybody else does their share of the work.

So I’m a little like that. I believe in employing every fiber of my being as a force of positive energy in the universe unless you’re driving in front of me at 30 m.p.h. Then I believe in tailgating you and using my will, and if necessary, my front bumper to make you go faster. The same goes if you’re sitting calmly at a yellow light and just let it go red with me sitting behind you. So, I’m a big proponent of positive thinking, positive living, positive energy, and an occasional healthy bout with road rage. Call it “spiritual bingeing” if you like.  It’s like having kale smoothie cleanses for lunch all week and then on Thursday: “Today, I think I’d rather have a pound bag of M & Ms instead…. But not the green ones. I’ve had enough greens for the week.”

And now that I’ve become such a positive person, I’ve evolved in my relationships as well.  I dislike being around negative people. I mean I hate them. I mean I wish them harm. I mean if my husband is talking to my father-in-law on his cell phone, I make him take the call outside just to make sure the negative energy escaping through the phone seeps into the neighborhood instead of the walls of our house.

This new way of thinking positively has saved me from that dead end road I was headed down of being a kind and compassionate friend.  I’d have people come to me and say: “I’m so tired. I feel sick. My kids are driving me crazy. My husband doesn’t do anything he’s supposed to.”

Although I’m sometimes about to respond as I had for years: “Come, let’s talk about it.” My new-found attitude and way of thinking take over and out comes my glorious new enlightened mantra:

“Go away you depressing fk before you pollute my tranquil universe with your bullshit!”

Dinner at the Misteak House

I feel like I’m running a scam. But it’s perfectly legal I guess. My husband and I occasionally go to the local steakhouse chain where we never bring a coupon and never pay full price.

This steakhouse chain could create a whole new marketing strategy to promote it: “When we screw-up, your dinner’s on us… And we always screw up. Come in for a free meal Sunday thru Saturday, opening til closing!”

Typically we go out to dinner on a Friday or Saturday night. That place gets pretty crowded. We take our little spaceship beeper they give you when you check in at the door, go outside and wait for it to blink and vibrate while I strategically position my husband between my thick head of hair and the smokers.

My husband and I are not the pickiest of restaurant-goers. We’ve learned what not to do from the best: My father and my father-in-law: Opposite sides of the same passive-aggressive coin. The host at the front door of the restaurant would say: “Follow me”. My father would let him/her get a few paces ahead so he could see what table they were under the impression they were going to seat us at. The rest of the family was standing behind Dad saying our silent family chant: “Please let this table not be too dark or too small or near the bathroom or near the kitchen or blocked by someone who’s sitting half at their table and half in the aisle, or too close to another table or where the entire wait staff is going to have to brush past us” because we knew if any of the above was true, Jerry was going to throw his arms in the direction of the table and exclaim to the host/hostess a full ten feet away: “I’m not sitting there! You’re out of your mind.”

Then you have my father-in-law: The anti-Jerry. He will never send any food back under any circumstances whatsoever. He could find a human elbow in the middle of his spaghetti, his plate could be illuminated by the red ambulance lights streaming through the window, EMS workers could be storming through the restaurant, diners could be staring at the kitchen as they hear: “Keep looking, Edgar. It’s gotta be here somewhere”, and he still wouldn’t summon the server or let anyone else do it for him. “Don’t you dare say anything! It’s okay. I can eat around it.”

So my husband and I, like I said, have learned from the best and, mercifully, are like neither of them. But somehow, at this one steakhouse, things are always amiss. Three times ago we waited 40 minutes to get any food at all except for our nice lump of bread that’s always accompanied by a dish of butter in a restaurant that doesn’t seem to own any butter knives. You always have to debate whether to use the meat cleaverish knife they provide to spread on the butter or dip the bread right into the little butter dish. On a first date, the latter could be awkward but we’ve been married for a while so I don’t mind him publicly dipping his bread into my butter dish. (Where was I?) Apparently, at that visit, our little pumpernickel loaf was meant to sustain us for 40 minutes. I felt like we were hiding in a foxhole and had to ration our last bit of food because we had no idea if or when anybody would come to rescue us.

A slew of people came over to apologize: “Oh, I’m so sorry. We’re very busy tonight.” And who could have predicted it would have been busy at 7:30 on a Friday night? The worst part of the apologies was that they were all delivered by empty-handed people. “I see someone coming toward us but he’s not carrying anything. Oh crap, it’s probably just another apology.” At this point, we were determined to ignore anyone who approached without a tray in one hand and a portable luggage stand to set it down on in the other. We were just not having a g’day.

For our pain and suffering we left with a pass for a free appetizer at the next visit which came about three months later. This time we got our entrées in 20 minutes which were followed shortly thereafter by our appetizer. We said it was okay, we no longer wanted the appetizer at which time the manager graciously offered to take our free appetizer off the bill. So now it was free twice. Bloomin’ great.

After a few months, we decided to take another shot just for the thrill of the adventure and to see what we might score this time without trying. This time it was the steak itself. My husband and I both ordered our steaks medium-rare. His was medium-rare. I estimate that mine was medium-rare around the time I was brushing my teeth that morning.

Oddly enough (or not) lots of other people have told us eerily similar stories about their experiences with this chain in different parts of the Country. So maybe it is us. Maybe we’re all just picky pains-in-the-ass. Or maybe someone needs to get all the managers of this chain together and take them out back.

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