March 25, 2010

Would You Like Fries With That?

This post seems more relevant today than when it was first written over 5 years ago.  This is for a couple of reasons: 1) I now live back in Cambridge where part of this took place, and 2) something happened at Tim Horton's that made my jaw drop and laugh out loud at the same time.  I'll explain at the end of the rant.
I don't want to sound condescending or elitist, but really, what does it take to be an employee at a fast food drive through? College diploma? University degree? Heartbeat? Tom Vu seminar attendance receipt?

"A lot of your friends will tell you, 'Don't come to the seminar. It's a get-rich-quick plan.' Well, tell them, It is a get-rich-quick plan because life is too short to get rich slow." 
- Tom Vu, 1990

I can understand that they may not be able to hear through the state-of-the-art sound system provided, but what's wrong with clarifying an order if they are having trouble hearing? Would that not be a better idea than just throwing anything in a bag then waving good bye and smiling.

I mention this only because for about 40th time I had a Tim Horton's drive-through screw up my order. I used to think it was just this one store I went to all the time in Cambridge
(seriously, people would go out of their way to come to this place just so they could get a first hand glimpse of how inept they were - one employee actually asked me how to make TEA!!!)
but as it turns out, it's not limited to that one place and it's not limited to Tim Horton's either. McDonald's and Wendy's do a pretty nice job of pooching the order quite regularly. Don't even get me started on Taco Bell.

OK, you got me started on Taco Bell...

Recently I picked up some food for the kids and the babysitter. I asked for an extra order of fries, was asked if I wanted more fries, confirmed I wanted more fries, asked if it was just one fries, confirmed it was just one fries, asked if I wanted anything else, declined anything else, was asked at the pay window if I was the guy who ordered the extra fries, confirmed I was the guy who ordered the extra fries, was asked if the pop was in fact a Sprite, confirmed that I did request a Sprite, had my pop spilled on me as it was passed from the window, drove away with a wet crotch and a bag full of food, got home, and then dished out everything to the hungry hoard.

No extra fries.

Even though Taco Bell couldn't have done anything worse in this instance, I'd have to say that the good 'ole drop-outs at Timmy's have got the World's Worst Drive-Through Service Championship Belt hanging proudly in the back room. Black 1 sugar does not mean double double. Tea with nothing in it does not mean hot chocolate. When I get to the window, an apple freaking fritter is not, "What kind of doughnut was that again? Oh sorry, we're out of apple fritters".

If eating all this fast food crap isn't killing you (which it most definitely is), try going to the drive-through. At the very least you're guaranteed higher blood pressure and a Boston creme instead of a honey glazed.


After a moment of reflection...

Two words: Minimum wage teenagers.

It's either the minimum wage teenager or the recent immigrant who has 3 PhD's that for some reason the stupid Canadian Government refuses to recognize. Either way I'm getting a coffee for a buck fifty and a doughnut for a buck and a quarter served to me in my car by someone making next to nothing who's probably been shagging this crap all morning for jerks like me.

Without the minimum wage doughnut slingers I'd have to drink the crap they have at work and there would be more punk-ass kids crowding up the streets and higher taxes. OK, I'm not sure about those last two points, but for sure I'd be drinking crappier coffee.

So, check the order before you leave the window. Check it again, and then politely thank the fine people behind the window when after the third try they finally get the order right. If they nail it on the first go, then thank them extra nicely. If it happens that way a few times in a row, then go in for a change and tell their manager how much you appreciate it.
So what happened today?

I was in line at the Timmy's and when I get called up to the counter I am served by a lady who has been working at Tim's for something like 10 years.  He's the happiest, energetic, optimistic, most polite Tim Horton's employee I have ever met.  She can't remember my name yet (I moved out of town for 5 years) but she clearly recognizes me as I've been in the store a lot lately.  It's "Roll Up the Rim to Win" time!

As I pass her my free donut cup from the coffee I had a few days ago says something to the extent of, "Can someone please get this gentleman his free donut?"

To which I replied, "Sure beats giving these guys [Tim Horton's] any more money.  They have enough already."

And then very subtly under her breath in a deeper tone than she normally speaks - and instantaneously after I made my comment - she says, "You fucking got that right".  And then she looks up at me, eyes wide and jaw open, as if she could not believe what just happened.  Well I'll tell you what happened: Her inside voice finally got out.  After 10 years of slogging crappy coffee and sugary pastries my comment finally hit the right nerve and she (sort of) snapped.

It was awesome.

Homage to the Movie "High Fidelity"

Best 5 Albums of All Time:

(please feel free to disagree, though take note that you're probably wrong)
  1. "Joshua Tree" - U2
  2. "Shakespeare My Butt" - Lowest of the Low
  3. "McLaren Furnace Room" - The Watchmen
  4. "4" - Led Zeppelin
  5. "Moving Pictures" - Rush
...and if they had genitalia they'd have frozen their nuts off

March 24, 2010

So You're Going to Have an Enema...

This is something that actually happened to me. I'm not making any of this up, but I might be making it a tad funnier that it actually was at the time. It's 100% true.

It's a story in three parts - best told in person - but if I don't write this down now I may forget all the details that make it so wonderfully entertaining. It should be read quickly as that's how it's supposed to be told. Imagine lots of funny faces and arm waiving.

This is also the longest post in the history of Blogger. You have been warned.

Part I - Preparation

I had been having stomach troubles for a while and my doctor decided it was time to go in. My options were this. 1) Camera tube down throat. 2) Camera tube up ass. 3) Enema & X-Rays with Barium milk shake & X-Rays. After much deliberation we decided the least invasive route would be option 3.

"So", I said to my doctor, "I've heard the term before, but what exactly is involved with all this anyway?". Now my doctor being not the best with bedside manner responded rather coldly, "Well, first you drink this barium - a lot of it - and then they rock you around, and take some x-rays. Then once that's all settled, about a month later, you go in and they stick a 1/4" surgical tube up your ass and pump you full of more barium, rock you around a bit, pump air into your lower intestine and take some more x-rays. Then you shit cement for a few days."

At least he was honest.

Well, the barium milk shake was a piece of cake. That is, if you can muscle down the sickest drink ever imagined. It was like something out of Fear Factor, only my life might actually depend on this so you have to do it. It sucked big time, but it didn't even suck a fraction of the amount that the rest did.

So after a month of waiting they finally tell me that the "Upper GI" turned up nothing and now it was time for IT. They sent me one of those little pamphlets labeled "Enemas" and it had lovely little pictures in it and very detailed medical text on what to expect and what it was all about and what they could find. Very educational and also a complete and total piece of shit lie.

Before you go in for this procedure you have to be um.... clean. Not clean in the porn star sort of way with the boys as slick as marbles, but clean as in a digestive track that's void of anything - including liquid, and especially food. So I go to the pharmacy to get "the kit". It's a lovely 3-step program designed to cleanse your inner self. In retrospect, this was nothing at all like the Yoga I had originally hoped it would be.

Step 0: The Fasting
Yes, there's a step zero. Any of you who've taken Thermodynamics would know that. Anyway, step zero is to eat nothing for a day, drink only clear chicken broth and water. The next morning it's only water, lunch more water, then before bed on that day nothing until after the procedure. Seeing as I was 6' 2" and only 140 lbs at the time, I was actually worried about not eating for that long. More on the weight loss later.

Step 1: The Pills
These are little pills - white - that you swallow in the morning. They did essentially nothing. To this day I wonder if they just had them so that the kit could contain three steps instead of just two.

Step 2: The Drink
So I'm at work on the 2nd day and I'm hungry as hell. All I've had to eat for more than a day is water and chicken broth and those three stupid pills that did nothing. At lunch time I read the box for "the drink". It says that I should drink it all down as quickly as I can and that I should "expect a strong reaction in 3 or 4 hours." What the hell does that mean? I mean I know what it means, but they can't pin it down any better than that?

So I drink this vile stuff. Granted, it was way better than drinking barium, but it still was really shitty. It was the most concentrated, carbonated, lemon juice I've ever had. About 2 hours later my friend happens by my cube and reads the box. He says to me, "If their margin of error is 1 hour, what if the reaction time happens in 2 to 3 hours instead of 3 to 4?"

Oh shit. I hate it when people other than me make so much sense. I packed up my stuff immediately and headed home, in what had to the the worst rain storm I've ever seen in my life. I start my 1986 Cutlass and it gives me a really hard time. It does not like rain very much at all. I wasn't even out of the parking lot when it happened. The strong reaction was upon me, and it was pissed!

Wanting home field advantage, I put the pedal to the ground. It's normally a 10 minute drive to home from work - I planned to do it in 4. I took the most direct route home and basically broke every motor law there is for the province of Ontario with the exception of not stopping for a school bus (thankfully it was mid-day and kids were still in school). Now I get to my street, or rather the one right before mine and I see a huge puddle in the road from the rain. Not wanting to get stuck in it I floored it. I'm doing 90 in a 40 now and am not even thinking about losing my license, killing someone, or killing myself. I just need to get home. Now.

I hit the puddle and my car almost comes to a screeching halt as a wall of water 20 feet high sprays on either side of me. I felt like Moses. Then, my car sputtered. Oh no. It coughed and slowed down. Oh no. The tachometer plummeted to zero rpm. Oh no!!!!! I instantly invented a new swear word (something like jesusfuckingchristholyshitfuckgoddamnasslickinghellbitch). I put the pedal to the floor, turned the ignition and punched my dashboard with my other hand and the damn thing started and took off like a rocket. I now believe in God.

I park in the handicap spot in front of my building. I didn't have a permit, but if any situation warranted this violation I'm guessing it was this one. Plus, that was pretty much the only law I hadn't broken in the last 6 minutes and I didn't want to ruin a perfect streak. I run up the stairs three at a time and I get to my floor and I run. Like. Hell. I round the corner and there's someone in the hallway standing right in front of my door. With a giant roll of carpet for the hallway.

You have got to be freaking kidding me! I start screaming bloody murder at this poor immigrant-looking fellow. "Fucking move asshole! Get out of the way! Away from my fucking door you carpet laying piece of shit! Move!!!". I've never seen such a small man move such a big roll of carpet so fast in my life.

I open my door and leave it wide open (no time to close it) and get to the bathroom and have a seat. My pants hit the floor at the exact time my body decided to imitate a fucking space shuttle launch. And it was loud. And my doors were open. And there was a little Indian man out in my hallway with a big roll of carpet crushing him to death. I did not care. Not one bit.

It ended quickly.

I got up, washed up and weighed myself. I had just lost 5 pounds. I'm not joking in the least. Five pounds in 1/10th of a second. That has to be some sort of record. I go to close my door (to the hallway outside) and there's the little Indian man. He's looking at me like I just jumped off the coroners table and shook his hand. I apologized profusely but he just kept staring at me with these huge, brown, terrified eyes.

So, moving along with the story, I managed to get a few glasses of water into me to calm down and then I moved my car (no ticket!). My wife gets home around 6:00 and says to me, "Why did the carpet guy practically run away from me just now?". Had I not been so dehydrated I would have certainly peed myself.

Which brings us to...

Step 3: The Pill
This is just one pill. It's about the size of a small torpedo for a submarine. It's wrapped in foil with big letters on it "DO NOT SWALLOW". Fuck.

My wife reads out the instructions and, the trooper that she is, asks if I need any help. Seriously, I'm now in love with her more than I ever have been because I can guarantee you I would not have been offering to help her. Maybe I'm just funny like that.

The package said I had to "sit tight" for 15 minutes! As if I could sit down. I managed to do a dance around the apartment until the clock struck the appropriate hour. Then it began. I hadn't eaten anything in over a day. Hadn't drank in hours, and yet I've never needed a seat belt for my toilet more than I did right now. At least the worst part was over. Or so I thought...

OK, well that pretty much sums up PART I. Stay tuned for PART II ("The Procedure") and PART III ("The Aftermath").

Do the Math

Wandering through the grocery store I felt this overwhelming desire to buy potato chips. Sea salt and malt vinegar to be precise.  There's one particular brand of these particular chips that I quite enjoy, and as I passed them in the aisle I tossed two bags into my basket not taking into consideration the impulsiveness of the future purchase let alone the cost.  A few more steps down the unusually shiny sort-of-white grocery store floor, and on the left, was a collection of little yellow signs obnoxiously proclaiming "4 for $5" right below a whole shelf of blue chip bags of the usual variety of flavours: Regular, BBQ, and Salt & Vinegar.  Sea salt and malt vinegar!

I stopped dead in my tracks, which seems kind of dramatic now that I've written it down but it's also exactly what happened.  I looked down at my basket.  Confused.  Not that I had any real reason to be confused, they were just chips, and the particular brand I had come to enjoy had always been a fine choice in the past.  But at this moment I looked back to my right and checked the price of these well-known salt and vinegary crunchy treats.  Just to keep the math simple, let's round down by $0.09 and say they were $3.50 a bag.  In a split second (or two) the calculations were complete.  The chips in my possession at this moment were almost 3 times the cost of these mysterious blue discount chips.  Three times!

It was right then that I had a revelation.  Minimally, it was a nifty bit of insight (considering I was standing in a grocery store somewhere between the chips and pretzels).  I was ready to spend almost 3 times as much for chips, that in all likelihood, were not 3 times as satisfying as the competing brand.   For a potato chip to be 3 times better than another potato chip it would have to be a really freaking awesome potato chip.  It's a potato chip for heaven's sake, we're not talking about HD TV or the Mars Rover.

In of itself this revelation is not that startling, but what occurred to me was that there was likely a whole host of things out there, bigger things, important things, for which I was unnecessarily paying considerably more (either in monetary costs or other less tangible forms).  Further to this, I was certain that I was not alone in this regard.  People EVERYWHERE were (figuratively, and in some cases literally) buying chips 3 times as expensive as they needed to be ALL THE TIME.

For some reason this seemed utterly unacceptable.  Something had to be done.  But what?  Well for starters I put back my usual brand of chips and bought 4 bags of the discount chips.  Two bags of the salt & vinegar and one bag each of "regular" and BBQ.  Before I left the parking lot I had already cracked open a bag of the bargain S&V and you know what?

They sucked.

In the chip makers defense, they were definitely more than 1/3 as good as the other brand, but not quite half.  My regular brand was priced at $3.59 and I was convinced that this was an inflated number.  This was just an arbitrarily assigned cost the chip company came up with (actually, it was probably based on millions of dollars in market research in an attempt to find out just how much they could charge and still have loads of people buy the damn chips).  So, I just as arbitrarily assigned a bag value of $1.74 to the chips I just purchased for $1.25 each.

By my math I thought I had just received a deal.  Not much of one, but a deal nonetheless.  I paid 49 cents less for my chips than I thought they were worth.  The only problem was they still sucked.  So really, I didn't get a deal at all.  I just paid $5.00 for 2 bags of chips that I didn't really like and 2 bags of chips I didn't really want when I could have spend only $2.18 more for 2 bags of chips I would have really enjoyed.  I drove home very disappointed with my trip to the grocery store and was mildly depressed that I would now have to eat all these shitty/unwanted chips (crappy or not, it would seem wasteful).

The moral of the story? Something about getting what you pay for, or at the very least appreciating the value in the things you already know you enjoy.  That, or I just proved bus stop advertising works.

Wanna buy some chips? Three bags for 5 bucks.