Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pope Rockefeller the First

In recent news, an Arizona state legislator has come up with the novel idea that the federal government should force people to attend the church of each person's choice once a week. Alert readers would think that I would object to this jack-booted federal overreach seeing as how I tried to avoid church whenever possible as a kid. But these dear readers would be wrong. No, I don't want to be forced to go to church every Sunday, but I would like to own and operate churches in a country where citizens are forced to attend church.

What is almost as much fun as going to church on Sundays? Watching sports of course, especially football. Welcome to my new church: The Church Of the NFL or CON for short. As the first Pope of this church, I have taken the name Pope Rockefeller.

Allow me to sermonize:

"In the name of Lombardi, Shula, and Halas, let's huddle up. Amen. A preacher once said, 'If Jesus played football, he'd play it hard-nosed but within the rules. He wouldn't hesitate to run over you, but then he'd shake your hand after the game win or lose.'

"You know what else Jesus would have wanted if he played football? He'd want you to watch. On a 75 inch high-def big screen. Welcome to our CON sanctuary featuring 60 big screen televisions and a plush leather recliner for each worshiper. Our altar has 17 taps featuring the finest Abbey Ales, Trappist Ales and of course every flavor from St. Arnold Brewery.

"Start the day in our confessional where you can confess your sins or discuss the upcoming games and point spreads with Father Bookie. (Wink, wink.) What's better than professional cheerleaders on a big screen tv? Live cheerleaders Altar Girls. They'll come around with the collection plate and for a special price will take you back to the VIP room confessional where you can negotiate an even bigger donation.

"At halftime and between games, you'll be invited to take part in the holy sacrament of Buffalo Wings and Nachos. Wash it down with some holy water from our own Bishop Jack Daniels. And then we'll pray, 'May the coin toss be with you.'

(Response: 'And also with you.')

'You may now fist bump your neighbor.'

"The only singing in our sanctuary is that old 'Houston Oilers, Houston Oilers...' song. Chanting and foul language are allowed - when you feel the holy spirit of Curly Lambeau coursing through your veins, you can ask to be saved and baptized under a shower of Natural Lite.

"All of this can be yours for the small tithe of $39.95 per week plus a 2-drink minimum of our sacramental wine or beer."

As Pope of this new style of Sunday morning worship, I would offer other franchises denominations as well:

First Baseball Church

Major Church of the NCAA (Major CON )

NASCAR Witnesses

National Cathedral of Hockey (Canadian licensing available)

First United Basketball Church

Anglican Church of Lesser Sports

So now hiring, Bishops, Rooks, Arch-Bishops and altar girls.

For more info, contact me at pope.rockefeller@con.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Another Love Letter to Las Vegas

Long time readers will remember our affinity for Las Vegas, if not, you can find it here, here and here or just go here for all of them. Anyway, we spent another spring break in the adult Disney World and came away with these observations/incidents:

Early Winners
On the plane, we treated ourselves to cocktails with some complimentary drink coupons. Since it was vacation, we ordered a second round without the coupons. We offered the credit card to the airline hostess who just looked away. Free drinks! Winners already!

In pretty much every major city these days I believe, you can find people dressed in superhero costumes that will pose for pictures with tourists (which begs the question, "shouldn't you be out fighting crime?"). Downtown Las Vegas (Fremont Street) takes this to another level. You can pose with showgirls, strippers, beefcake guys, women in catsuits, guys in thongs and some guy that operates a dancing wooden Indian puppet. I'm pretty sure you could lay down in the street, put out a tip jar and a sign that says, "This is what Elvis looked like when he died", and you could make a small fortune.

To top it all off, we saw a 60 year old woman wearing angel wings, jean shorts, and exposing her large, long, pendulous breasts with only duct tape covering the nipples. I'm not sure if you could pose for pictures with her, but one could argue the duct tape resembled a Captain America shield. We just moved out of the way because I'm pretty sure she could have kicked my ass even if she wasn't Captain America.

One night while playing blackjack in a casino, an old hippy-ish gentleman with a long beard came rolling by in a wheelchair with a sound system blasting "Jackson" by Johnny Cash.

The Chinese blackjack dealer sighed, "Only in America."

"Only in Vegas," I corrected her.

That Guy
We went to brunch at Bouchon which is a nice restaurant at the Venetian. We were seated next to a large man in a track suit with a Donald Trump knockoff toupee and bare feet. Now, yes, this restaurant is near the pool, but really, he couldn't slip on some sandals at least? Then we overheard this conversation on his phone:

"So yeah, we can get your wife on the board. I mean with your help and mine, we can do it. And then we have zero liability."

Yeah, that doesn't sound fishy coming from a barefoot guy in a track suit in Las Vegas.

Bring Your Own Broads
One night we finally ventured into "Oscar's Beef, Booze and Broads" which is a steakhouse owned by the ex-mayor.  Apparently, the broads part of the name referred to the fact female hostesses would sit at your table and engage you in conversation.  Kind of like if Disney World had a "Hooker Experience" ride.

Anyway, we finally asked our server where the broads were. 

"Oh she only comes in on weekends," she replied.

She?  There's only one?  The sign promised us broads damn it!  I guess we'll bring our own next time.
Reason #3879 Why I Love Las Vegas
So I'm sitting at a bar next to a couple of local guys boozing it up on St. Patrick's Day. Their conversation went something like this:
"You want a shot, bro?"
"You know it, bro."
"Man, that was a good shot."
"You know it, bro."
"You want another one, bro?"
"You know it, bro."

Later one of them said to the bartender, "Hey did you see that protest on the news? What was it, anti, anti, what do you call it? Anti-seminism."

"Uh-oh," I thought. "He means anti-Semitism which means he's probably about so say something disturbing or at least grossly inappropriate."

Then he started talking about pregnant women, and I realized he actually meant, "artificial insemination." Or maybe "anti-semenism."

Friday, March 13, 2015

Jessie's Friend

Today we have another episode of: Songs I Find Perplexing.

If you grew up in the eighties, you are quite familiar with soap opera star turned pop star Rick Springfield's hit song "Jessie's Girl." Or maybe you just currently listen to an oldies station, and you are now familiar with that song. The song was a massive hit because to be honest it had a good beat, and I guess you could dance to it. But I'm not sure anyone ever paid much attention to the lyrics.

Quick synopsis (full lyrics or song): Rick is jealous of his friend Jessie's new girlfriend. And being the good friend that he is, Rick kind of would like to make that girl his girlfriend. Or just talk dirty to her, I'm not sure.

It's one thing to be envious or even a little jealous of a friend's lover, but when you start fantasizing and scheming, you're crossing the line into creepy stalker territory. Because of that, I felt I needed to write the rebuttal song from Jessie's point of view (to the tune of the original song):

Jessie's Friend

Rick is an old friend
Yeah more like some guy I know than friend
But something changed when I dated Chiffon
Now he follows us around like a lost puppy

And he's watching us with that telescope
And he's doing something with his hand, I just know it
He even knocks on our door, late late at night

You know I wish that Rick would go away
We never have time to ourselves
Where can we find a hiding place?

Chiffon told me 'bout the calls
Some guy breathing heavy then hanging up
I did some CSI, found the payphone booth
Saw Rick coming out, said "you seem out of breath"

He said hey I was looking to have a beer with you
I said Rick I think the beer is kind of moot
And he said, no you mean Moosehead

Why am I having a beer with Rick?
Why's he asking 'bout Chiffon's underwear?
Where can I find a hobby for Rick?

And we look in the mirror all the time
Wondering if he's coming up behind us
He brings Chiffon perfume and wine
Winks and tells her she needs a napkin
cus she seems dirty

You know I wish that Rick would go away
He's creepy and gettin' pretty scary
Why must I be Chiffon's bodyguard?

So we went to the police
Told them about Rick the stalker
They laughed and said that's impossible
Rick's a big soap star and makes so much bank

He's banging every Hollywood starlet
They just know it
He's still on the radio 30 years later

You know he'll never go away
Rick could have had any girl
Chiffon's asking 'bout his riches
Where can she find net worth like that?

Friday, March 6, 2015

How Can I Help?

Almost everyone has had a memorable/horrible experience dealing with technical support on the phone. But you might be surprised at how awful some of those technical calls go on behind the scenes for the technical people.

For example, let's pretend I work for a large company that runs the gas pumps at 70,000 gas stations across the U.S.A., Canada and Australia. One day, you swipe your credit card at the pump and start pumping gas. Suddenly, the pump just stops after about a gallon. You look at the station attendant who just shrugs his shoulders. You can't decide if you should just wait or leave and hope the next customer doesn't get to use the credit card you swiped.

Meanwhile, far, far away, my phone rings:

Operations: Hey Dexter, we got a problem. Your gas program is sending alerts that it can't connect to the gas station server. Can you look at it?

Dexter: Sure. (after a few minutes of looking on the computer) Well, looks like we got a networking issue. The program keeps trying to connect but gets refused. Can we get someone from networking on the call?

(Suddenly we hear haunting religious music and a Gregorian chant on the phone)

Network Manager: Yeah, what can I do for you?

Dexter: What's that music?

Network Manager: Sorry, that's my theme music. I'll turn it down.

Dexter: Yeah, well we can't connect to the gas station server. Can you take a look at the network?

Network Manager: Hold on. (a few minutes later) Looks good here. I don't see any errors in the log files.

Dexter: Still can't connect. Can you get a sniffer on there to see what's happening?

Network Manager: Hooh boy. That would take some work. I can't do it without a work order. And since there's no errors in the log file, I don't feel much like putting out a work order.

Dexter: Fine, I'll do a work order.

Network Manager: Well you can, but I won't respond until next week since there's no errors.

CEO (joining the call): Hello. What the hell is going on? Who's got this? Who's got this? Who's on this?

Dexter: We're all working on it sir. Seems like a networking issue.

Network Manager: Woah, woah, woah. That's downright sacrilegious! Or slanderous or libelous or at least really mean. (in the background, "There, there. He didn't really mean it." and the sound of purring) There's no errors in our log files!

Dexter: Well we got a network error in our log files.

Network Manager: Sounds like your program is broken.

CEO: Okay, can everyone hold on for a minute. My boat is about to go under a bridge, and I'm going to lose reception.

(While CEO is gone)

Operations: Should we hang up and say it's good?

Dexter: Well it's not. Aren't you getting a lot of customer calls about this?

Operations: Yeah so I just put on a recorded message that says we're all out on a team building exercise.

Dexter: You can't do that. Just leave a message that we're having trouble and we'll get it fixed as soon as possible.

Operations: That would just make people madder, and they'd keep calling back.

CEO: Alright, I'm back. Let's get the database folks in on this.

Operations: Roger.

Dexter: We don't need them. This has nothing to do with the database. They can't help. It's a network issue. Look I can't even connect to the server from my laptop. Can we at least run a trace to figure out where it's dying.

Network Intern: Sure, I can do that.

Network Manager: What? Who said that? Asok is that you? Get down on your knees and bow down to the mighty T1 line. Then say ten Hail Mary's, and we'll pretend this never happened.

Network Intern: Sorry.

Network Manager: Yeah, we could run a trace. And you know what it would say? It would say your program sucks!

Database Administrator: Hello? I'm here. Do you want me to restart the database?

CEO: Yeah, let's do that.

Dexter: That's not going to do anything! It's going to drag out the process.

Operations: Well at least she's trying something.

Network Manager: Yeah, Dexter.

Dexter: Fine. Operations, restart my program and see if that changes anything.

CEO: Alright, sounds like we're making progress. In the meantime, let's get the hardware vendor on the call.

Database Administrator: Okay, I bounced the database. It will be back up in an hour.

Operations: Program restarted. Still can't connect. Must be broken.

Hardware Vendor: Hi, how can I help you?

CEO: Yeah, we're having some problems with our system and thought maybe you could help.

Hardware Vendor: Oooh, looks like we never got your last payment for support.

CEO: Is that important?

Hardware Vendor: Critical. When you pay for support, I'm like your co-pilot, mechanic, architect, and gardener all rolled into one. I'm with you every step of the way to solve your problems.

CEO: Alright, we'll send a check next week.

Hardware Vendor: Great. I'll go ahead and give you a freebie. How can I help?

Network Manager: Well knucklehead's program stopped connecting to the network.

Hardware Vendor: Oh, your software?

Dexter: Yeah, but that's not...

Hardware Vendor: See, we guarantee our hardware as long as you don't do anything to it. You know how when you drive a new car off the lot and it depreciates by 50% when you cross the curb? Hardware is the same way. As soon as you put your crappy programs on it, I can no longer be responsible for it. Look if you hadn't done that, I'd put a new server in my car and drive out there right now to replace it. But you poisoned my baby, so I can't help you. But hey, look forward to your check next week. Bye!

CEO: So where are we on this? Wind is picking up, and I gotta drop the jib.

Dexter: Network is still down.

Network Manager: I've about had enough of you! I can't remember the last time I've seen an error in my log files. You know I got a sign on my door that says, "No Network Errors in 747,520 days!"

Dexter: What? That's gotta be like 1000 years!

Network Manager: Over 2000 actually. You know where the network comes from don't you? It was a gift from Jesus. Yep, he built the first router out of some fish, bread and wine. And since then he has passed down his infallibility to his networking disciples of which I am one.

Dexter: I thought it was the Pope who was infallible?

Network Manager: He was until he sold his soul to Novell.

CEO: Look Dexter, he's right. The network and all network engineers are infallible.

Dexter: What? Wait, didn't you start your career in networking?

CEO: Well yeah, but then I went into marketing. Look can you please fix your program?

Operations: Hey everyone, we're connected and running again! Gas is flowing!

Everyone: Woohoo! Alright! Good job everyone!

CEO: Great! So what'd you do to fix it Dexter?

Dexter: Nothing!

CEO: Alright, I don't want to keep everyone, but we're going to need someone to write an After Action Report. Who's got it?

Network Manager: Ooh, I just remembered another meeting I gotta get to. Bye.

(Silence for a minute)

Dexter: Since it was a network issue...

CEO: Great, thanks for volunteering Dexter. Remember as per our operating procedures, you need to have that done in four hours. Of course, I'll be fishing until Monday, but shoot me an email anyway.

Database Administrator: Database is back up!

Friday, February 27, 2015

HGTV: Eat Your Heart Out!

We hereby nominate ourselves for the award of Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Reclamation or Salvage or Something. Essentially we're very proud of what we did with our old billiard table.

We purchased this table back in 2001 (from Craigslist no less). We loved the woodwork and although the manufacturer had long gone out of business, we were able to estimate the table was probably made in about 1917.

Alas, in 2009, we packed the table in crates as we made the first of several moves. Unfortunately, previous homes did not have the space or we did not have the inclination to unpack and set it up. (Plus it costs money to have it done right.) But finally, when we arrived at our current house last September, we picked out a room and decided to set it up.

The day before the installers arrived, I went around gathering up the miscellaneous pieces and parts and brought them to the new game room. I picked up the four rails and unwrapped them from their protective cloth. I tried to figure out how they pieced together and that's when I realized there should have been six rails. Uh-oh.

We looked all over the house and garage but could not find the missing rails. I figured we must have left them at our last house in the huge detached garage.

The next day, the billiard guy stopped by, and I told him our tale of woe. I figured somehow we could get replacement rails.

"Your best bet would be to contact the manufacturer," he said. "They could probably make replacements."

"Yeah they've been out of business for forty years."

"Hmmm, well, when you find them give me a call back," he said as he left.

We knew we would never find them or get them back. Now we were stuck with a good looking antique empty shell of a table. Then it hit me, with the walls and the sunken middle, it sure looks a lot like a ...

craps table!  That's right, we now have live Las Vegas action gaming in our game room!  We just put some plywood down, ordered the felt and St. Pauli Girl worked her magic to add padding on the walls of the table.

We used the slate as the bartop for our new bar.
At this point I would like to point out that this table is strictly used for entertainment purposes and all chips used are worth exactly zero dollars and cents.  The owners of this house and craps table neither approve or disapprove of gambling.  If you feel like gambling has devoured your soul, we urge you to seek help from problem gambling resources.

I can assure you that this house runs a very honest, fair game.
So Property Brothers, Rehab Addict, Waco Fixer Uppers, Hilary and David, you can all stick that in your peace pipe and smoke it ... Or wait, you can all get wheelbarrows of cash, I mean, worthless chips, come on over and let's throw some dice!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Should Have Sold It

My father-in-law once told the story of someone trying to dispose of some old furniture. The gentleman put the furniture in the front yard with a sign that said "free." After a week, no one had bothered to grab it so the man replaced the "free" sign with a "$20" sign instead. The furniture disappeared later that night.

Luckily in these modern times, hordes of people are constantly scanning Craigslist ads for free stuff. I am quite certain that I could post an ad for "free case of empty motor oil cans and a box full of used diapers. Act now, and I'll throw in a broken rake." And I would be contacted within the hour. Then I would get email messages for another week asking, "you still got those empty motor oil cans?"

Our most recent house had an old wooden free-standing swing in the front yard:

We didn't much care for it and would probably never use it. We put it on Craigslist, free to anyone who wanted to come haul it away. Sure enough, within an hour, a gentleman by the name of Enos said he would come get it.

A little while later, Enos sent a text asking for directions to our house. This didn't look promising as most people who are familiar with the internet and Craigslist are usually pretty familiar with how to find maps to addresses. An hour later, Enos still hadn't shown up while another dozen responses rolled in hoping to claim the swing. We texted Enos who said he would come the next day.

Since I work from home, I kept an eye out for Enos. At about 10:00, I saw a pickup truck in the driveway and a couple of people messing with the swing. I texted St. Pauli Girl that the swing had been removed so she could take the Craigslist ad down. A little while later, I glanced back outside. The truck and the bench seat from the swing were gone, but the swing frame still stood in the front yard.

"No big deal," I thought. "Probably didn't have enough room in the pickup. They're probably coming back for a second load or getting some tools to disassemble the frame."

But Enos never came back. A flurry of texts went back and forth between St. Pauli Girl and Enos:

St. Pauli Girl: Are you coming back for the rest of the swing?

Enos: No, it wouldn't fit in the truck.

St. Pauli Girl: But I was offering you a swing. You just took a seat.

Enos: We can just put some hooks in the ceiling and hang the seat from there."

St. Pauli Gir: Or... or... or you can take the frame, and you won't have to bother with hooks.

Enos: Oh, well we already sold it.

So I guess we get to test my theory that you really can get rid of anything on Craigslist with our new ad: "Free wooden frame. Would make a great swing. Just needs a seat."

And if that doesn't work, I'll take my father-in-law's advice and put a "$20 for sale" sign on it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Tip for Great Service

I've recently noticed a lot of articles arguing that the U.S. should eliminate tipping in restaurants and replace it with service charges or higher prices. While I mostly agree with the premise, I think most of the arguments against tipping are wrong. For instance, one common argument is that tipping does not result in better service because you tip after the meal/service. Well if you really want good service:

Many years ago, an uncle told me about his trips to Las Vegas and how to live like a big shot. He would go sit at the hotel pool and order a drink. When the server brought the drink, he would hand her/him an extra $20 and say, "Make sure that glass is never empty." You know who got great service? My uncle.

In my youth, I spent one summer working at a convention center setting up rooms/stages/banquet halls/dance floors for various meetings, receptions and conventions. Despite the manual labor, most of the time we sat around in the big easy executive chairs while smoking and running away to hide when the bosses came around. One week, a large appliance convention rolled into town. We met the head guy for the convention, and he pointed out how he wanted the room set-up.

Just as I started to pretend we had another room to go set up, he pulled a wad of cash from his pocket and handed $20 each to my co-worker and myself. "I trust you'll be around," he said.

You know who got great service? That appliance convention.

We pretty much stayed by that guy's side all week and even helped unload two trucks full of dishwashers, washers and dryers, and stoves. By the end of the convention, we had pulled in an extra $100 each in tips which was $100 more in tips than I made all summer. (At this time I'd like to apologize to the family reunion that didn't have enough chairs that week. Seems like we were too busy with the appliance convention to help you out.)

As many long-time readers may recall, St. Pauli Girl and I owned a restaurant for six years. One day I studied our liquor invoices and wondered why we had ordered a bottle of Glenlivet 18 year old Scotch as we already had plenty including the 12 year old Glenlivet. I asked our bartender who said, "Oh yeah, someone called and requested it. Said he would come here more often if we had it. Don't worry, you're going to love this guy."

Later that night, this man (we'll call him Felix), came in with a rather loud, rowdy party of six. When they got to the table, he handed the hostess $20 then went to the bar, ordered a Glenlivet (18 year old) and tipped the bartender $20. You know who got great service? Felix and everyone he ever came in with.

Felix came in almost weekly always with four to eight people. When he walked in the door, the entire front of house staff would practically mob him to say hello, hug him and hopefully get a little cash. Felix knew everyone's name and anyone new on the staff made it a point to stop by his table and introduce himself/herself.

Felix happened to be a very picky eater. In fact, Felix didn't really order from the menu. He ordered one of our pasta dishes with sauce we used on another dish and "absolutely no cheese! If cheese is anywhere on the table, I'll go crazy and never come in here again."

You know who gets to special order their own entrees that aren't on the menu? Felix and anyone else who throws out cash like rice at a wedding.

I never really came to love Felix as our bartender had suggested I would. Probably because he didn't tip me although one of his friends did buy my Guinness necktie from me for $50. But he always made the place more lively, and the staff loved him.

So even if the U.S. does totally get rid of tipping someday, we'll never truly really get rid of tipping because some people just like living large. And it's no different than politics. You know who gets great service from an elected official? The people that gave the politician a lot of money before the politician won the election.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Of Mice and Cats

If you have never lived in a drought area, you might be surprised that one of the side effects is the attractiveness of your home to mice and other rodents. Yes, we live in a drought area.

We first became suspicious when our cats would sit very still in front of the refrigerator for 15 minutes at a time as if waiting for something to come out from underneath. But of course they could have also just been hoping we'd pull something out of the refrigerator to feed them.

St. Pauli Girl first noticed the mouse droppings in our pet food cabinet right before Christmas. We immediately went into the first stage of denial and assumed they had been there since before we moved in or the mice had gotten their fill of pet food and moved on.

A few days later, we were having happy hour at the kitchen table when I noticed a blur out of the corner of my eye. I looked around and chalked it up to an illusion. But then I saw the mouse scurrying across the kitchen floor and underneath the cabinets.

"I see the mouse," I whispered as I remained as still as possible. "It's under the cabinets and looking right at me."

St. Pauli Girl wanted to get closer to see, but I urged her to remain still as well. The mouse moved a few steps closer and looked at me again. I'm not sure why I waited for it to get closer. I doubted that I could dive on the floor and catch it.

The pet food cabinet had originally been the location of the kitchen sink when the house was built 50 years ago. So it had ventilation holes in the bottom of the cabinet that hung out over the floor. The mouse looked at me one last time then ran to the cabinet and climbed up inside through the ventilation hole.

"Ha! He's trapped," I shouted as I jumped up. "We've got him now!" I ran to the other room and grabbed one of our cats. "Dinner time," I told her.

I carried her to the kitchen and set her in front of the cabinet. I pulled the cabinet door open. "Go on, get the mouse!"

The cat just looked up at me as if to say, "why did you wake me from my deep sleep?"

She stood still, and if she smelled the mouse, she really didn't care. But then my plan backfired as our dogs, old Bo and puppy Bonny, saw the cat on the floor and immediately charged. They all took off running, screeching and barking to other parts of the house. We were on our own.

We pulled the various pet food containers out only to find an empty cabinet. There were more ventilation holes in back through which the mouse had probably gone back into the wall.

Now that we had an actual mouse sighting, we went from the denial stage to the hunting stage. We bought several mouse traps and placed them in strategic spots throughout the house. But three days later, the traps remained empty.

A few nights later, we sat at the kitchen table again when I once again saw the mouse creeping along the floor beneath the cabinets. This mouse was huge; he made Gus from the Cinderella movie look like Dolph Lundgren. Apparently he enjoyed our generous servings of pet food. He tried to climb up into the pet food cabinet and got stuck. But this time, the dogs were on it; I didn't even bother to wake up the cats.

Bonny immediately latched onto the mouse's tail and tried to pull it out, but the mouse put up a fierce resistance. After several minutes, the mouse finally came out of the hole in a desperate attempt to escape. But the resilient Bonny kept at it, grabbed the mouse in her mouth and appropriately carried it to the dining room.

We didn't want Bonny to dismember the mouse in the dining room so we encouraged her to take it outside. Big mistake. She lost her grip, and the mouse scurried away.

A few nights later, we were relaxing in front of the fire in our living room with Bo and Bonny sleeping at our feet. Our cats were sleeping somewhere far away, probably in the lushest chairs they could find.

Suddenly St. Pauli Girl yelled, "The mouse!" as it scurried out from behind a curtain.

Bo and Bonny jumped into action chasing the mouse back behind the curtain. But this time they would not be denied. The mouse darted about, but they kept after it. Finally, Bo, who is about 98 in human years, managed to grab the mouse in his mouth. Sensible Bo headed straight for the door where we let him outside to finish up the grisly business.

Later we hailed Bo the conquering hero while making sure we didn't make enough noise to wake up the cats. So apparently you don't have to teach an old dog new tricks which is great because you can't teach cats anything.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Flying on the Ground

We continue from the previous post with more "Great Moments in Customer Service."

Several years ago, I made it a personal policy that a trip must be more than 1000 miles before I will consider flying. It's not that I am afraid of flying; it's just that I have found a 1000 mile trip in a tiny car with no air conditioning, screaming kids, bald tires and tornado warnings is just as pleasant as a 1000 mile flight. Usually we even drive the 1200 miles to visit my family, but I found some cheap airfare for the holidays, and we decided to fly instead.

The travel experience went pretty well even though we could only fly within 120 miles of our destination and had to drive the rest of the way. The final leg of the journey home involved a short flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to our small paradise here in the Great Republic. As we sat on the plane and neared our departure time, the captain came on the intercom and said, "Well folks, we're all set to go. We're just waiting to get fueled up. I keep calling for the fuel truck, but no one is answering the phone."

Although ensuring planes get the necessary fuel would be considered the primary part of the job of the fuel truck operator, I decided I would shrug off this inconvenience. Everyone has a bad day now and then. Plus, we're already on the plane for the last leg of the journey, not much else could go wrong.

The fuel truck eventually showed up, and we departed maybe twenty minutes late. After a short flight, we touched down an hour later at our home airport.

"Isn't it nice we live so close to the airport now?" St. Pauli Girl asked. "We'll probably be home in ten minutes."

The plane taxied from the runway then stopped just short of the gate area. The captain's voice came over the intercom, "Well folks, there's another plane currently at our gate. He should be on his way shortly. We'll have to wait here a few more minutes."

Let's review our time dictionary:

If you say:                               I hear:
Just a second                          1 to 5 seconds
In a moment                           5 to 30 seconds
In a minute                             30 to 90 seconds
In a couple of minutes            1.5 to 2.5 minutes
In a few minutes                    2.5 to 3.5 minutes
In five minutes                       4.5 to 5.5 minutes
15 minutes                            Oh no
A long time                           I'll never hear from you again

Even if you don't totally agree with my chart, I think we can all agree that "a few minutes" is a lot less than "30 minutes" which is how long we waited for that plane to move. And this is a small airport. There are only eight gates of which only five are actually used. How hard could it be to go to another gate?

Finally, the plane started moving to the gate area. You could hear the entire cabin sigh in relief. The plane maneuvered toward an empty gate 8. Then suddenly, the plane did a complete 180 degree turn back to where we came from then stopped again. The captain's voice came on again, "Well folks, we're not quite there yet, we just had to move out of the way for another plane that just landed."

I watched in awe as the other plane pulled up to an empty gate. I could see passengers standing up, ready to disembark. About five minutes later, our plane started moving again. This time I could see a crew set up to guide our plane to a gate. We finally managed to get off the plane 45 minutes after having landed.

I went to retrieve the car while St. Pauli Girl waited in baggage claim for our lone bag. I pulled up to the baggage claim area only to find a long line of cars ahead of me. They were all idle and no one seemed to be exiting the terminal. Another twenty minutes passed with no sign of action. I tried to call St. Pauli Girl but she didn't answer. I noticed a few people with baggage come out of the terminal. I pulled out of the line of cars and decided to double park by the door. When I got there I saw St. Pauli Girl with no luggage. She reported our luggage hadn't come off the plane yet.

Turned out that our wonderful airline had only two people working that night. They had to load up the plane that we had been waiting to clear the gate and handle our plane after we parked. At the same time. I'm pretty sure those flights had been on the schedule for a few months. I'm pretty sure a smart cookie supervisor could have scheduled enough people or called in someone on fear of losing his/her job or death.

We eventually got our bag and made it home two hours after having landed. (Did I mention we live five minutes from the airport?) But to top it all off, we paid $25 for the expert handling of our luggage! I'm pretty sure I could have offered anyone in the terminal $20 to go retrieve our bag from the plane, and we'd have gotten it within five minutes.

So I've decided to update my policy: 1500 miles or less, we drive.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Carjacking Versus Valet Parking

Like a lot of people, we did some traveling over the holidays. That can only mean one thing: another episode of Great Moments in Customer Service!

One night, my brother and his wife treated the entire immediate family to dinner at an upscale steak house which we shall refer to as Ruth's Chris because that was the name of it. After a fantastic evening of great food, drink and cheer, we ambled to the parking lot where the alert valet had already brought our cars up. Except for one.

My brother and sister-in-law were the last to leave. As they looked around for their car, the valet mumbled something like, "I'm sorry. I can't find your keys."

Now I'm not an expert, but I would think that the most important thing they teach you in valet training is to always secure the keys. Sure, parking and retrieving the car are important, but really, the whole enterprise falls apart if you don't secure the keys. Instead, his training apparently consisted of:

A. How to burn rubber
B. How to fishtail the car in reverse into a parking space
C. How to jump curbs and do wheelies in SUVs.
D. Always remember to change the radio station to something awful and crank up the volume
E. Scour for loose change in the seats
F. If we have time, we'll teach you how to store the keys

You might think, "Yes, that was an unfortunate incident, but you just get the spare keys, and it's just a minor headache."

But it was much worse.

Imagine Monty Hall came into the parking lot during dinner to play "Let's Make a Deal" with the valet. Monty tells the valet, "I will let you pick any car on the lot, and you will give me the keys to that car. If by the end of the night, that car owner is still able to leave in a timely manner, I will give you what's behind door number three. If not, you get the goat behind door number two, and you're fired."

A smart valet would probably pick an older vehicle which perhaps he could get into with a coat hanger and then hotwire so the owner could eventually leave. Unfortunately, this valet picked my brother's car which was probably the worst possible choice because:

A. The car was very expensive
B. It had one of those new fangled computer programmed locks where you can't even insert the key in the door (much less a coat hanger)
C. The spare key was 400 miles away
D. My brother had to leave town the next morning (preferably in his own car)
E. My brother and sister-in-law are lawyers

After awhile, there wasn't much more the apologetic valet could do other than grovel. My brother approached the manager of the steak house to notify him of the incident. Having just spent a few grand on dinner, he thought maybe the manager of an upscale joint would send out some cooks and servers to search the parking lot for the missing key. But apparently upscale does not translate to this steak house's service. The manager responded more like the manner of service you could expect from an airline, the DMV, Leavenworth prison, or maybe North Korea.

The manager simply noted that the valet service was a contractor, and the restaurant had nothing to do with it. Sure that's all nice and legal, but you're pretty much admitting that one night you might have valet parking and the next night it just might be carjackers. You just never know.

My brother ended up with a rental car to drive home. They towed his car to the nearest dealership where it had to wait three days to get a new key properly programmed. Then the car had to be transported 400 miles to his home where it now happily resides once again.

On the bright side, I learned that you are not necessarily being cheap by avoiding valet parking, because apparently what goes on in a Ruth's Chris parking lot, stays in the parking lot. Unless it's your keys.