Category Archives: Rant

Are you kidding me?

I called my daughter tonight for an informal chit-chat and she informed me that while she’s working in the Pacific Northwest this summer/fall she will have no cell phone and very little Internet access. Also that there will be one pay phone she can use but will need a phone card. This pay phone does not take incoming calls.  Oh, and plus she may be staying in the area after her work gig just to hang out.

So basically, for all intents and purposes, she will be cut off from me for four months except for the U.S. Postal Mail. Does that even work anymore?

That call ended over two hours ago. What have I been doing in the meantime?

You guessed it.

Crying.

This feels worse than dropping her off at college. I thought that after four years apart we’d get to spend some time together before she went on her way to being a grownup.

During my bout of self-pity (which it was because I am not worried about Clare in the least — she is going to have a blast) I recalled that in December of 1978 I flew to England to student teach for about 4 months. Did I think about those I was leaving behind? Nope. Did I worry that my Mom couldn’t contact me easily? Not a chance.

I am so proud of Clare for what she’s doing this summer/fall — flying across the country to work  in an area she loves (or thinks she loves) with no one she’s ever met before. But I am also so sad that this is the end of our extended periods of time together. Unless she moves back home (which I doubt she will) at some point, we won’t have leisurely weeks to just hang out — to go to the mall or to the tea shop or out to lunch. We won’t be able to sit and watch movies together at night for nights on end.

When someone starts a family she doesn’t think about the letting go. She thinks about the baby and toddler and child for whom she will care for years to come. She rarely thinks about the time her child says “Bye Mom, thanks for all the love.” Tonight when I was crying I thought I wanted to run out and shout at the first pregnant woman I saw and tell her that her  child would leave her someday. But of course I wouldn’t do that. And of course she’d think I was a crazy woman.

I know that there are mothers that say goodbye to their children forever and I know I am being silly and shortsighted about Clare’s 4-month stint in no-cell-or-internet-land. I am allowed to feel sad and wish I could Grey Garden it up as Dean so eloquently put it tonight when he heard me boo-hooing.

On this side of it, 4 months seems like forever. And who knows what is on the other side of that 4 months.

Nouveau Fast Food Restaurants — not for me

Photo courtesy Flickr User SpecialKRB
Photo courtesy Flickr User SpecialKRB

Are cafeteria-type restaurants a trend? Are they going to be around to stay? I ask because in the past couple of months my husband and I have gone to three cafeteria-type restaurants. These were highly recommended and relatively new restaurants in Bethesda and Washington DC and we did not expect them to be serve-yourself restaurants.

Let me make it clear — when I go out for dinner, I don’t like to serve myself. I like to sit down and be served. I like a waiter to come to my table and ask what I’d like to drink, bring me a drink and then take my order and then bring it to me. I don’t like to walk into a restaurant, grab a tray and stand in line to pay for my meal before I eat it. I don’t like to have to go back to the line for a second glass of wine.

The first restaurant we went to recently that was cafeteria-type was a place whose opening in Bethesda I’d been looking forward to for months: Nando’s Peri-Peri. Nando’s Peri-Peri claims to be “the home of Portuguese flame-grilled PERi-PERi Chicken” on its Web site. I love chicken and hoped it would be comparable to Peruvian chicken — one of my favorite foods. I bought a Groupon for Nando’s Peri-Peri and was excited when my husband (who doesn’t like chicken all that much) agreed to go with me. We left home expecting a nice sit-down meal and were unpleasantly surprised when we were greeted at the door by someone who, instead of asking us how many were in our party,  asked us if we’d been there before. We said no and asked why she asked. She then explained that we needed to go to the counter, order our meal and drinks, then sit down and wait for the food to be brought to us. Okay, we could do that, we figured. We also had a choice of sauces that we were told we could bring to the table. The young man who took our order had a hard time hearing us and we had a hard time hearing him. Every time he talked to us he turned his head to the side (looking at whatever he was talking about). I think the order was screwed up a little, plus there was a problem with getting the Groupon to work. The line kept on getting longer and longer behind us.

The chicken was okay, but not wonderful. The sauces were also okay. If the food were spectacular and the service was better I think I’d want to go back. I may try it again as a takeout, but not to go in and sit down.

The second cafeteria-type restaurant, Vapiano, we went to was with (and on recommendation from) our daughter who went there over Thanksgiving weekend with her roommate. She couldn’t say enough about the restaurant and I was looking forward to going along having heard about it elsewhere as well. When we got to the door we were given instruction on how to order.

As with Nando’s Peri-Peri,  I’d expected to be seated and waited on, but again, this was not the case. We stood around looking foolish and confused, but the “wait” staff didn’t seem to notice our confusion. They just chit-chatted around the register.

The restaurant is set up not unlike a college cafeteria. There is a pasta counter, a drink counter, a salad and pizza counter and a bar. You need to go to each one of these separately in order to get your entire meal. After wandering around aimlessly for a few minutes, our daughter said we needed menus and went to the register to ask for one. She had to wait until the staff finished their conversation before she came back with menus.

My husband decided on a pizza and salad. I thought I’d get a salad and pasta. Our daughter planned on getting pasta. My husband’s order was easiest — he only had to go to one food counter and the bar. I should have gone to the bar first, then the salad counter then the pasta counter, but I went with my daughter to the pasta counter and then realized that my pasta would get cold by the time I ordered my salad, so decided to not get the salad. I did go to the bar and get a glass of wine. It took forever for someone to see I was there, but finally I got my glass of “happy hour” wine. Everything tasted fine — my husband’s pizza was very good.  When I went back to the bar for a second glass of wine it took nearly 10 minutes for anyone to show up to serve me. The chit-chatting folks at the register looked away whenever I tried to catch their eyes.

The most recent cafeteria-type restaurant we went to was just over the line on Wisconsin in DC: Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza which was recommended by our son. He’d mentioned how he had pizza with clam at a friend’s house and that it was very good. I was not so keen on having pizza with clam, even though I like clams, so thought I’d have pasta instead. When we got to the restaurant my heart fell when my husband said, as we approached, “it looks like it is cafeteria-style”. He was right. We decided on what food to order by looking at a menu, then stood in line to order our food, were given a number and told to find a seat and the food would be brought to us, but we needed to pick up our drinks at the end of the counter. We did all that and noticed that there were many young families in the restaurant. Of course it was early in the evening, and it was a pizza joint after all. When the food came, we were happy with the pizza, clams and all, but the pasta was a disappointment. I’d settled on the fettucini carbonara but it was far too salty and it had chunks of what looked like sausage when I was expecting thin slivers of pancetta.

I don’t mind going to a cafeteria-type restaurant for lunch. In fact I quite like to eat at Le Madeleine for lunch and do so often. I also don’t mind ordering food at the counter (although they take orders tableside now)  at Lilit Café because I like the restaurant so much (it’s my “Cheers Bar”). I just don’t like being surprised when I am expecting a sit-down experience only to have to stand in line to get my food.

In addition, the prices were about the same as sit-down restaurants we go to. Our meal of a large pizza, salty pasta, two beers and two wines came to $65. That’s a lot of money to pay for a cafeteria-type restaurant, in my opinion.

Finally, we did a little research before we went to two of the restaurants and neither mentioned having to stand in line to order food. The one I didn’t research does mention a “chip card”. If I’d known beforehand that the restaurants were not sit-down-and-we-serve you I may have had lighter expectations. It is not that I’ve not been to those kinds of places before, I have. Previously mentioned Le Madeline and Lilit, plus Cici’s Pizza, Fudruckers, and Urban Burger/barbecue are a few that come to mind. But I expected those to be more like fast-food places.

When we were at Vapiano I wondered if perhaps the people that like to eat there are homesick for their college cafeterias because that is what it felt like to me — with the exception of the bar. The very slow and rarely manned bar.

Have you been to this kind of restaurant? What do you think about this trend, if, in fact, it is a trend?

Parking Space Wars

Many of the homes on my quiet, narrow, suburban street have no driveway or garage (including ours) which means that cars are always parked along both sides of the street. Some of the homes have several drivers and often each driver has his or her own car and understandably everyone wants to park as close to their front door as possible.

Our across the street neighbor, when we first moved in, once knocked on our door in the middle of a party we were having to complain that someone had parked in front of her house. We had the offending car moved and made sure to never park in front of her house again.

A few years ago, after a teenager on the street got his license and a car to go with it, a parking space battle broke out. Sometimes one of the three cars from the home with the teenager would park a little over the next door neighbor’s property line and the neighbor would complain to whomever would listen about their parking spaces being infringed upon. The teenager or one of his parents would then park elsewhere on the street and another neighbor would complain. Finally they began parking on a side street and walked the half block to their own house in order to make peace with the neighborhood.

Because we live on a corner, our parking space is even more limited than other neighbors’ because one is not supposed to park within 16 feet of an intersection (which we discovered when we got a ticket for parking too close to the stop sign). We have three cars, but park at least one of them on a side street in order to not annoy our neighbors (although Andrew parks in front of a neighbors house all the time — they have a large parking area and have said they don’t mind him parking there).

The latest of the parking space battles is the silliest, I think, but then I’ve never been one for appearances. A neighbor who moved into a McMansion about a year ago apparently doesn’t appreciate another neighbor parking her old Cadillac in front of their house. About a month ago a large pile of branches found its way into the street in front of the new neighbor’s house. It is possible that the neighbors, being new, didn’t know that the county didn’t pick up branches over 4 feet long. it has been speculated that the neighbor put them there to prevent the old Cadillac from being parked in front of their home. I walked by the other day and was somewhat amused to see that the Cadillac was there, but behind the pile of branches.

Today I saw the branches were gone but the Cadillac has not been moved. The new neighbors do have a driveway and a garage, so their parking is taken care of. I doubt the Cadillac owner is parking in front of the McMansion out of spite — I just think it is easy for her do do so. I’m not well acquainted with either of these neighbors, but hope their battle, if indeed it is a battle, works itself out.

We’re not the only street with this problem in the area. My son once parked in another Bethesda neighborhood to help a friend’s family move furniture from a flooded basement to higher ground. When he returned to his car he found a nastily worded note on his windshield complaining about his parking in front of someone’s house.

My advice? Chill people. Life is too short for such pettiness.

Stewing Away on the Back Burner

I know I should let it go. There’s nothing to be gained except a small satisfaction for me and perhaps my brother. My mom wants to just forget about it.

But I don’t want to let it go. I want an apology. A real apology, not an offhanded remark about “getting off on the wrong feet”.

And then there is the fact that perhaps there is nothing to apologize for. That we were hyper-sensitive and that any rational person would have let it slide. Perhaps we should have not gone to the funeral home the day Dad died, but waited until the next day. But we were ready for it to be over. We’d already spent 4 and a half days knowing that this was how it would probably turn out.

Here’s what happened. (I know I’ve mentioned this on Facebook and have told many friends about it — so feel free to ignore this post if you already are sick of hearing me talk about it).

In a nutshell, we believe that the young man who helped us plan my father’s funeral was rude to us in the initial moments of the planning process. I called him on it and he changed his attitude. Perhaps that is all that needed to be done. However this was not someone selling us a wrench at Ace Hardware. This was someone who was supposed to help us deal with the grief of losing a loved-one.

I stewed about this for about a month, then wrote a letter to the director (who was out of town when we used the services of his funeral home). I’ll post the letter (names removed) after the break.

When another month passed and I’d not heard back from the funeral home director, I sent him an email. I never got a response to the email.

I sort of figured that if he got the letter and the email and didn’t respond, it was not worth dealing with anymore. I’d gotten it off my chest and that is all that mattered. I nearly forgot about it until my mom callled me a few days ago and said that the funeral home director left a message on her answering machine. I asked her what he said and she said he wanted her to call him back but she was reluctant to do so. She thought she’d ramble on and make no sense. I said I’d send her a copy of the letter I’d sent him and then she’d know what was in it.

That evening I accessed Mom’s voice-mail account — we had it set up for that when she was here and I was curious to know what he said). Here is, verbatim, what the funeral director said:

Yes, [Mom’s Name],  this is [funeral home director’s name] of [name of funeral home]. I’ve been meaning to get ahold of you but I’ve…I’ve…it’s just been on my back burner and I really wanted to talk to you regarding a letter that Dona had sent me regarding the funeral services for your husband. I just wanted to kinda touch base with you and I had a couple of questions for you. So if you could, at your convenience, give me a call back [phone number] I’d appreciate it and I’d like to speak to you. Thank you.

The next evening I called my mom to see if she’d called the funeral home back. She hadn’t and pretty much said she didn’t want to and didn’t know what the big deal was. Maybe the person who helped us was young and inexperienced. She said it was part of the past and didn’t want to deal with it any more.

I can completely understand her point. After all, I was already done with it before she called to say they had called. But now I’m upset again. Upset that it took him 70 days to call. Just another, in my opinion, insult to us.

I may call him myself to tell him that Mom’s done with it and doesn’t want to reopen old wounds. I may tell him that I’m disappointed that it took so long for him to contact us. I may write a review on Yelp. Or I may just sweep it under the carpet and move on.

There are not too many other options for funeral homes in my home town. This family owns the two main ones and as Pastor Keith said on Facebook the other day, they’re the “biggest game in town”. I don’t know what we’ll do when we need funeral home services again — many many years from now of course.

Letter I wrote after the break.

Continue reading Stewing Away on the Back Burner

Suburban Parking

One of the many things that surprised me when we moved into our house in 1993 was the fact that we had to buy a parking permit to park on the streets of our neighborhood — including in front of our house. Residential parking permits (as well as visitor permits) cost $35 per vehicle and are good for two years. Cars without parking permits can be ticketed, and often are.

I understand the reason — we live near a hospital with limited parking areas as well near NIH — which also has limited parking spots. People working at or visiting these locations would park in our neighborhood, taking our parking spots if parking restrictions were not enforced.

That knowledge does not make it any easier to take though, especially when the parking permit office is not very conveniently located and has short hours. And then there is the red tape.

This summer I noticed that our car’s parking permit had expired in March. In addition we’d not yet gotten a sticker for the car we inherited from Dean’s mom. We were using the visitor pass for the third car which was a bit of an issue when we had visitors, or when the neighbors wanted to borrow the pass because they were having more than one visitor.

So I made plans to visit the parking permit office and get a permit for the car. I knew I needed the license of the car and the registration and needed to fill out a form. I got a little lost going to the parking permit office, but eventually found it. If you’ve ever been to a DMV you’ll get an idea of what this office was like on the inside. Also a Greyhound bus station. Two surly women sat behind windows in a cluttered, florescent bulb-lit office.

When I approached one window the woman at that window was about to go on break, so I had to use the other. I handed over the paperwork and after some typing, writing, looking up things on her computer, the woman behind the window asked for my driver’s license. I handed it over and the woman looked at the paperwork and back at my license and said. “You don’t own the vehicles.” I explained that they were in my husband’s name and she replied, “But you don’t have the same last name.” I agreed, but showed her that our checks had both of our names on them. She said that the owner of the car would have to obtain the permits. Or I could bring a copy of his driver’s license. She did sell me a visitor’s pass though.

Several weeks later, after our vacation, my first fall trip to Illinois, and a healthy dose of procrastination I went back to the ugly office with the surly workers. This time I was prepared with a copy of Dean’s driver’s license. It went smoothly this time — the woman behind the window was not surly in the least. It may or may not have been the same woman.

I got home, put the stickers in the cars, and announced my success to Dean.

“But what about the truck?” he asked, “its permit has expired too.”

Crap.

An open letter to email newsletter subscribers

Dear Subscribers to Email Newsletters:

I am not speaking for the spammers of the world. I am not a spammer and think spammers are quite horrible and deserve to be banned on ISPs. I am speaking for people who send legitimate email newsletters to people who asked to be placed on email newsletter lists, either by signing up on the Internet or adding their name to a list in a shop or at an event.

Please do not mark legitimate newsletters as spam when you get tired of receiving them. A legitimate newsletter will have a link to unsubscribe your email address (usually near the bottom of the email). Please use that link instead. If you mark legitimate newsletters as spam you are hurting the reputation of the address of the sender and if too many people mark the newsletters as spam, the person sending the emails will be banned from sending emails. Many newsletter programs will also ban newsletter authors if too many list members mark their newsletters as spam.

Yes, clicking “Spam” in your email program is easier than scrolling to the bottom of an email newsletter and clicking unsubscribe, but please take that extra couple of seconds and unsubscribe that way. It really is the right thing to do. Many people who send legitimate email newsletters take great pains to make it easy to identify who the email is from and how to unsubscribe.

Thank you very much.

Love,

A legitimate newsletter list sender

Noise

I must be getting older. Things that never bothered me before are really bothering me and one of those things is [most] man-made noise.

I’ve already mentioned here and elsewhere that I don’t like background noise — apart from my year-long experiment with audio-books, that is.  I rarely listen to music or radio unless I’m in the car, and then only sometimes. I like the sound of my thoughts in my head.

In the spring, summer and autumn when it is not cooler than 70 or hotter than 90 or raining sideways we have our windows open. I love hearing the bird sounds in the spring. I love hearing the wind rattle the autumn leaves. I even like hearing the sound of children playing at the local park. And at night? My favorite sound is the sound of a train in the distance.

Right now, though, at possibly ear drum damaging decibels, the neighbor’s lawn-care folks are mowing and weed-whacking their lawn. They’re mowing the lawn with a huge riding lawn mower. The lawn is not huge. It is so small that I don’t know how the lawn mower can fit through the gate in the hedge. And it is loud.

This morning when I awoke at 7:30, I heard a loud noise. At first I thought it was Dean washing the floor with the floor washing machine he loves so much, but then realized it came from outside. It sounded like an airplane. I looked in the sky and did see two large (and low) vapor trails, so perhaps a couple of military airplanes flew over the house.

Have you seen the movie Noise? I saw part of it, but it made me too uncomfortable so I quit watching it.  I could sympathize with the Tim Robbins character so much it was scary.

Recently I read about a study suggesting that song sparrows were beginning to sing louder in places that had loud manufactured noise. I’m glad for the song sparrows — that they can adapt, but sad for them too. They should be able to adapt in fun ways, not to sing louder than a weed-whacker.

At night, in Bethesda, with the windows open, not only can I hear train whistles, but I also hear the sound of the beltway. I didn’t realize it was the beltway until I heard Susan Coll read from her book, Beach Week, where a woman hears a sound she thinks is the surf of the ocean but is the beltway instead. Sometimes I also hear Suburban Hospital’s heating and air conditioning unit. I might even be able to hear noise from NIH at night.

Next life I hope to live in the country where all I hear are owls and coyotes at night and birdsong during the day.