Saturday, August 31, 2019

When you are a fan, you are a fan

The husband and I have a Saturday ritual to remind us that we are still Ohioans at heart.  Once or even twice a month, if we lie carefully to our cardiologists, we go to McDonald's for junk food.

We never patronize the one north of Towson because it has a vibe that we don't like.  Same for the one in Govans, which always seems to have mourners from the Funeral Home across the street ducking in for a snack. 

"Did you see how they made up Auntie?  The veil on that hat needs to bee down.  What's the point of having a net vail on that hat if they ain't gonna bury her with it up?"

So we go to another nearby one.  Unlike Columbus where you have fast food on any block on any main drag, in Baltimore it can be a hike.  So today we hiked east.

We were seated and waiting for the food and starting to people watch - because its great people watching this McDonald's - when I needed something from the counter.  When I got there, there was a wait, of course.  And I turn and to my left is Mink Stole. 

I looked and smiled and played it cool.  I see Mink at the market.  But I also see Maryland's legendary Senator Barbara Mikulski.  I see lots of people around here.  So I get what I need, go back to the table and tell the husband.

His response?  He arches his eyebrow.   "Really?"

He looked between the legs of a clown made of helium-filled balloons and says "Her hair is a bit different.  But yup, that's her."

So I do what any person would do.  I post about the sighting on Facebook.

"Mink Stole is at McDonald's.  She took her seat.  And now she is enjoying a cheeseburger.  And no, I am not taking her picture." 

And the comments start rolling in. 

"Really?  Please take a picture," comments DB, a woman that the Husband and I went to college with at Muskingum back in the 1980s.

The Husband says "Really?  DB knows who Mink is?  That's odd.  I mean, odd.

There are a couple more posts from people who want a picture.  Which I am not taking in McDonald's because we all get to enjoy our cheeseburgers in peace.

Someone else says "I would never think of a Mink Stole at a McDonald's.  But that's Baltimore for you."

I updated, "Finished with the cheeseburger.  Now enjoying an icy cold Coca Cola."

I updated again, "Finished, now she's throwing out her trash."  That I took a picture of.

Yes, that is the Mink Stole

Finally my friend Patrick posts in and says "Cookie, I don't think a lot of your friends know Who Mink Stole is, and that it's a person, not apparel."

I posted a couple YouTube videos - Dottie Hinkle amongst them.

That, right there stopped the fashion comments.

I really wanted to stand up and scream "PUSSY WILLOW" but it would have been rude. 

There were some followup comments.  We got up to leave as well.

One was from a childhood friend in Shaker Heights who wrote: "What are you doing in a McDonald's?"

My response?  "What do you think? Going through the trash looking for that cheeseburger wrapper."

When you are a fan, you are a fan.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Dual Poopage

Seriously, what the hey

When you have a dog, you have responsibilities.  Different from cats, dogs crave interaction and interaction.  They want to be loved and part of the pack, unless you have a dog with a personality issue, and they growl and nip and cow you into being afraid in your own house.  Our neighbor has a dog like that - one that they chose from a breeder, but as is the case, something went wrong and now the dog is more feared than loved.   We have two dogs, and they do very well together or with us, but they are happier with us both at home, because we're all together.

In any event, a cat you can leave in the house overnight and it will look up when you get home and give you a look that says "You're back. Feed me."

A dog, who is attached to you will go berserk with joy because "OH MY GOD, YOU'RE BACK! LOVE ME!" 

We used to say take your dog for a walk, but now we say "exercise your pet" because it implies something being done to keep one's dog, and one's self fit as a fiddle.  What you are really doing is maybe getting some exercise, but mostly take the dog to take a crap someplace other than the inside of your house.

Because we have two dogs, and neither of us is Ceasar Milan, walking them both can be a headache.  Rocky, the Pom-American Eskimo mix is well behaved, but Kevin the terrier hound mix is a terrier at heart which means he forgets corrections and can't hear you.   We tried the whole "walkies!" bit but, Kevin has the attention span of a gnat.

The boys are best friends, and Rocky - because he was here first - is the leader with Kevin playing second fiddle.  We let them choose those roles.

But increasingly, on walks, they commit the act of dual poopage. 

Yes, you heard that right.  They both poop at the same time.

It always wasn't like this.  One would assume the position and the other dog wanted to carry on with the walk.  There was the yanking on leashes, the yapping, the sense of urgency that something really cool could be on that wet leaf and that it needed to smelled and then marked.

Not anymore.

They both take turns choosing just the right spot, but when one goes, they both go.

A neighbor who was walking her dog saw it and called out "How did you train them to do this?"

We can't claim this victory.

"If I knew I could train two dogs to do that, I would get two dogs," said another neighbor. 

But it doesn't work like that.  Like musical children in a family, they have to want to form a band or you get resentment and tell-all books.  With dogs, they have to be motivated by some benefit that only they know.

Maybe its because they are both approaching ten years old, but they are in sync on the pooping. 

There are advantages.  Now one poop bag does the jobbie of two.  Walks are now more walking and less sniffing for the exact perfect place to put down that puppy tootsie roll.

Of course, this doesn't merit their own YouTube Channel.  It is not like they are being very cute - nay - make that excessively cute.  NBC News will never do a closing segment on two aging pups who "poop together," either. 

But it is something that is theirs.  And helped us coin a phrase.

The other thing is when you are a parent, you always think your child is better than most.  We don't have any such delusions.  We love dogs and I sense that they know it.   And who knows, this behavior could stop tomorrow.  Dogs are like that.  You know, they take a shine to one place to lie down for weeks, or months or even years and then one day, nope - I am moving it over here.

And while we'll never have Paris, we'll always have dual poopage.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Taking the stairs, one at a time

This past summer, Cookie looked at the aging clock and I will be 57 in November.  In homosexual years, I will be 97.   But I also looked at the world around me and realized that because I am at the tail end of the baby boom era, I have a lot of stuff and memorabilia that has nowhere to go when I cease to be.  Face it, I am not on the upside of the bell curve of life.

So I am sorting, and giving away a little here, and a little there.

One of the piles I gave away contained the pictures from my nursery school on Fairmount Boulevard.  These were taken in my final days at the place before I started kindergarten.   My parents had remanded their divorce in the summer of 1968 - because the first nine years weren't miserable enough, they decided to see if they could make us even more emotionally damaged than we were - and that meant my father and his Polaroid were back in the picture. The nursery school was my respite from the hate and violence that awaited me at home.  Anyway, on those final days, the old man came and took some pictures of Cookie and his friends on the final days of carefree pre-school.

The pictures are adorable, and they feature lots of students who were going different directions, but too clueless to know that meant that our friendships would cease to exist.   We all had friends in our own neighborhoods, so playdates not only hadn't been invented but were decades away from being needed.  We would go our own ways, in life and scatter to the winds.  Now, fifty-one years later, for the life of me, I can't remember any of their names.  There is a certain sadness to that piece of childhood lost.

Also lost to time is my ability to recall the name of the kind woman who oversaw the place.  She was grandmotherly, I can see her face as clear as I can look at the screen, and her shoes!  How do you forget the orthopedic oxfords that laced on the side!   God! Those caused me no amount of tsuris.  Why, why, why, these?  They were so ugly, unnatural, and had crepe soles.  Why dear God?  Like brown Earth Shoes that laced on the port on the left foot and the starboard on the right.  They were not elegant, that's for sure, but day in and out, she had those hooves on.  Besides the shoes, I remember her car.  She drove a new 1967 Plymouth Valiant two-door sedan, blue, but with redwall tires - which were a thing back then.   Even at four, I was a gearhead.

That's right, Cookie can't remember her name, but I sure as Hell remember those brown clod hopping shoes and that snazzy royal blue car of hers. Both are burned into my brain.

I can see the women who cooked our meals - they all looked like Alf from Green Acres.  And they all looked down at us with their mouths in a snarl. They didn't want us in that kitchen and we had no business even being there, but we looked, and ran off, because that's what a four-year-old does. I am sure they were lovely women, but when they did to fish patties every Friday were criminal.

The teacher's names, however: that is a different matter.

I remember Mrs. Swartz, who smiled and was wore blue dresses and had red lipstick.  And Mrs. Washington who was gentle and also kind, and exceptionally patient with us in that 3-4 age range.

Miss Frances

But most of all I remember Miss Frances.

Miss Frances, who was very young, had the job of overseeing the children who were in their final year at the school.  She was very kind and very patient and she knew which children really needed a nap, and which one or two children were well behaved enough to go to the quiet room and play with amazing toys that never left that room.  To be chosen for that quiet room was a huge honor.  I think I went once.  Most of the time I needed that nap.

For the most part, I did everything she wanted without a fuss.  For example, the before mentioned fishbricks that were black as burnt toast?  Miss Frances knew that I was never going to eat those fried fish patties, but I also knew I was never getting the chocolate pudding dessert if I didn't eat it.  She was wise enough to know that forcing me to eat that burnt fish brick was a pyrrhic victory at best, and I loved her enough that a truce was declared and weekly we negotiated, maybe one bite of the charred-black fish patty for a pudding, maybe two bites the next.  I never ate the whole thing because it was nasty.  But I did finish that pudding.   And she taught us all how to ask permission to "scrape" the food residue off the plate and into the trash when we were done.

Once, they took us downtown to the top of Cleveland's Terminal Tower - a risky endeavor, even though we were all inside a room at the top.  We rode the Rapid downtown.  The Rapid meant the Rapid Transit.  They looked just like streetcars, but Shaker Heights back then had its own private system and they were never called trolly cars: it was the Rapid.

Anyhow, to get to the rapid we had to climb down the stairs from the street level to the grade level at Green Road.  Going down the stairs I was fine.  But back then, going up the stairs at four was a challenge because I hadn't learned how to take one stair with the left foot and the next with the right.  I could do that going down the stairs, but my mind had a had time wrapping itself around that concept coming back up.

Well, Miss Frances had my hand and she was going up those stairs.  Me?  Left foot up, then the right foot onto the same stair and stop. Left foot up, then the right foot up and stop.  I was really doing my best to take the stairs as quickly as she was, but the tune I was marching too was not the same tune she was climbing to.  She stopped, watched me, and very gently encouraged me to do what she was doing.  It took a little time but I got the gist of it.  So Miss Frances taught me how to climb the stairs.  And believe me, its come in handy.

She did other things for us.  She taught us how to say "hello" and "goodbye" in French, she taught us how to keep on sharing toys and crayons when our developing minds were moving into that older childhood "MINE-set" mentality.  We knew our limits with her and we never crossed that line.  But she got us ready to move out of nursery school and ready for kindergarten, which was her job.  All in the most loving way possible.

For graduation, she dressed us each up in costume, each representing a different country.  My friend got Korea, and that honked me off because there was something about his silk costume that called my name.  But no.  I was to be a waiter from France!  Complete with a cumberbund!  How unfair, alas, but such is life, no?

On that final day, I never once thought that hug from her would be the last, or that I would never see her again.  But that was the way it went.  And today I learned that the last hug was the final hug at that.  After years of trying to spell her last name - Frances was her first name, and he last name was very eastern European and very long, so we just called Miss Frances - today I found her.  The dear woman passed away in 2004, way too young. 

The nursery school will celebrate its 100th anniversary in a couple years  - it is still going strong.  I am hoping my pictures get displayed.  I have been invited back for the event, and I will have to go.   Of course, I will be 60 that year, and the chance of any of the teachers from my era being alive is slim to none. 

But to you, Miss Frances, I say "Merci."  One day, in that place where we all go when we cease to be, we will meet up.  And I may be old, and unsure, but I will take your hand and let you lead me upward, one foot on one stair, and the other on the next, just as you taught me so long ago.  Until we meet again.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

We all hate Karen...

Yes, Karen.  You.  Even when your name is Carol.  Or Suzette.  God, I hate Suzette.

This is the woman who doesn't bring up her "e-coupon" in advance of ordering or ringing through her transaction at Barnes and Noble.

This is the woman, who could by the name "Lynn" or "Char" (short for Charmaine) who holds up the entire fucking line because hs wants her $1 off her sugar laden mocha frapachino, or bitches up a STORM because "It's too early for pumpkin spice?  I want to talk to a manager."

And tell me Karen, Carol, Lynn, Char, or 'Nita, just what is the fucking manager going to do because the food truck hasn't brought the syrup or flavoring for that half-espresso half-decaf, low-foam extra milk FUCKING PUMPKIN SPICE that we can't serve because nothing has changed in the last 100 words of that whining what-wha pie hole of yours.

FINE!  Never come in here again, see who the fuck cares at the multi-billion dollar company that pays their meager wage.  See who the fuck cares.  Trust me, when that regional manager gets that angry message from you not feeling "valued" she is going to roll her eyes and say "Really, Karen, Carol, Suzette, Lynn, Char, Nita of Debi?  Again?"

Because we all know that e-coupon you can't find on your God Damned iPhone, filled with pro-Trump bullshittery from your friends doesn't exist because the company never issues those mother-fuckers BEFORE the ingredients hit the fucking store. 


WHY would they send you a God Damned coupon for an item THEY DON'T STOCK THE STORES WITH UNTIL SEPTEMBER FUCKING FIRST.

So just go the fuck home to your five-bedroom cluster-fucking house with the three-car garage and flip on fucking Dr. Phil, light up that Parliament and look at the fucking sign on the wall that even your ex-husband didn't want in the divorce and wonder why everyone cringes when they see you park that fucking Cadillac and waddle up the walkway.

(Disclosure, Cookie doesn't work in a coffee shop or retailer of any kind.  I am the guy in line behind Karen, and today she held up the whole fucking line.  Fuck you Karen.  Fuck you.)

Friday, August 9, 2019

Hi tech and low touch bullshitery

Cookie goes to the doctor every 3 to four months.  My chronic gut issues and my blood pressure make it so.  I love my doctor and his practice.  I gladly pay for the visit - they treat us like humans, not billable and co-pays.

That love affair was put to the test last winter, in the height of flu season, when the practice put in a "self-service kiosk" for patients to sign in and pay their deductibles.

I was greeted by a woman who wouldn't let me speak with the receptionist.  "They only work with new patients from now on.  As an established patient, you will use this kiosk to sign in, and then you will pay your deductible."  I was asked, I was directed.

I found it dehumanizing.  There I was in a germ-ridden waiting room full of people hacking and coughing and all of us were to use the same touch screen?  Yes, the gave us a bottle of hand sanitizer for when we were done, but this was not a hand sanitizer moment* - after using that Petrie dish surface, you should have been able to wash your hands. 

The worst part was that after paying with the keypad, the machine asked me if I wanted cash back from my transaction.  "No, but a couple lottery cards a diet Pepsi would be nice," I thought.  The whole experience made me feel like I was at a Sunoco for a lube job.

The second time it happened, a young woman working at a newly installed stand up desk greeted me not with a "Hello" or a "How can I help you," but with "If you have an appointment, use the kiosk to sign in and pay for your visit."

Can't I go to the receptionist? 

"No, the receptionist is for new patients only."

I was so sour on the exchange that when the doctors assistant came at me with a needle to check my A1C, I refused.

"But my Buttercup, why," she asked.

If I can't deal with a real, live person when I check-in, I said, then you can't jab me with that needle.

When Marty, my doctor came in, he asked what was up.  "Concepcion is really vexed."

She was vexed, what about me?

He explained that it was the hospital that was doing this and that I would get a survey and to lay it out in the survey.  "They don't listen to the doctors - they do listen to the surveys."

So when the survey came, I lowered the boom.  I said I was tired of being treated like a second class citizen because I wasn't a "new patient", and that in my last two visits I had not been asked, but ordered to use the machines.  I explained that I found it a contradiction to the practice's mission statement.

"Efficiency is no excuse to forget that your patients are human beings, not trained seals.  If I wanted to use an ATM, I would go to a bank." 

Fast forward a few weeks and yesterday I got a call from the practice administrator.

"Hi Mr. Cookie, this is Rayleen from Dr. Doctor's office and I am calling about your survey responses..."


"...and I wanted to let you know that we have heard from our patients about the self-pay kiosk in the waiting area..."


"...and I am calling to tell you that we have taken several steps that we hope will make your next visit more relaxing..."


"...And you no longer will have to use the kiosks..."


The upshot was that the front office staff, despite the training got the kiosk thing wrong. 

"We installed these to see if patients would decide to use them or prefer working with our staff and the staff misunderstood the message that they were supposed to share.  We asked them to walk you through a transaction, not force you to use them if you didn't want to."

Rayleen went on to tell me that patients either liked the machine, or hated it, but when they hated it "we heard that very clear.  You are not alone.  Even my mother read me the riot act."

So I received assurances that the staff was trained again to offer, but not insist. "They should ask you if you want to use the kiosk or wait for the next receptionist after greeting you."

This made things better.  Even my husband, a manly man afraid of nothing, said he disliked the machine.

As Rayleen spoke, I could feel my high blood pressure coming down.

"Going to the doctor is stressful - and we don't want to add to that stress.  And we have shared your opinions to the hospital management group.  The check-in kiosks across the board are being rethought.  You are certainly not alone."

When the call ended, I relaxed a bit.  I figured I had won, one small pyrrhic victory.  We'll see when the next visit comes up.

Now if we can only get them to ditch that fucking robocall confirmation system that calls at the worst possible moment, and the ChartHeart system that demands a second confirmation, because just one doesn't seem good enough.

One fucking automated system at a time, sweet Jesus.

*Even in hospitals, employees are warned that hand sanitizers are only good for three uses in-between hand washings - after that, even the most caustic of them do little to no good.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Words from Cookie

"Bitch, please. Your catharsis is not my epiphany." ~ Cookie

There: memorize it, live it, share it.

Be fabulous today.

Friday, August 2, 2019

If I ever see this woman at a another conference....

I would love to get my hands on that hair.

...I am leaving.

Cookie was at a huge conference this past week, and everywhere I went, this was the person I had to deal with.  The problem was that she was rude, loud, obnoxious, dismissive, passive-aggressive, negative, and uncouth.

She thought she was "all that".

But she wasn't.

She was the worst of human beings.

Take this picture.  It was not our first encounter.  I got to my session room for the ed session I selected for that hour and sat down on the seat in the back of the room, last row.  There was probably another fifty behind me to the ballroom doors.  I sat there for five minutes before Miss Charming showed up.  She stops, looks at me and says "Great, I was going to sit in that seat because I am only staying for twenty minutes, and you are there taking up two spaces."

In truth, I was taking up two spaces.

My backpack was on the seat next to me.  Why was I taking up two spaces, well, the backpack has a tendency to fall over, and the rest of the room, with chairs for 400 people, only had about 50 in it.  There were rows of empty seats.

Cookie was dumbstruck.  There were 350 seats in that room that were empty, but I had to go an upset her applecart by taking those two seats that didn't have her name on them.  Silly me.

As I said, this was not my first encounter with this Hellkite.  So I just looked at her and just smiled.  She was expecting something to create drama over and from me she just got crickets.   Drove her insane, so she sat in front of me.

The day after this encounter, she plopped herself down at a luncheon table I was seated at.  I was guest and had been given the seat by a Board member who was courting my future participation.  No sooner than she shoved a roll in her pie hole, my host returned to the table and said: "Muriel, this table is for Board members and guests."  Muriel picked up the salt and loaded up her salad and said "well they can sit someplace else."

That afternoon was my last at the conference and the next two sessions, there was Muriel.

In one session, the speaker instructed Muriel to put her phone down and not take pictures of the slides.  In another - technical writing - Muriel argued with the speaker that footnotes and citations were the same things.  They are not.

When I was checking out the hotel, there is Muriel again.  This time she looked at me and said "Oh, leaving so soon," in a voice dripping with passive-aggressiveness.

I smiled and walked by to waiting car.  I was not charmed by Muriel, and I wasn't going to engage her.

Look, I understand that it takes all kinds, but the woman was vile.  From my first interaction to my last.  My friend Katy said that Muriel was top of her game in her career. 

"Is she a Leona Helmsley impersonator?  Keeper of the Hellhounds for Gozor?"

I told the husband that if I ever encounter her again, all bets are off, I am leaving.

A little Muriel goes a long, long way.