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Do This In Remembrance of Me June 27, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Individualism, Who Am I?.
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If there’s one creepy common denominator among Christian religions, it’s the seriousness with which they regard that cannibalistic grape-juice-and-saltine ritual called Communion.  In the Fundamentalist Evangelical church I grew up in, if a person did not confess all the sin in his or her heart prior to partaking in Communion, sanguinary punishments lurked in the participant’s near future like Donkey Kong shooting up steroids behind a barrel, ready to decimate the physical body of the otherwise devout believer neatly and completely.  I found Communion terrifying as a child, and I was torn between the disappointment of my parents and everyone else in the church watching me refuse Communion because there might have been a moment that I thought my sister was a jerk that I forgot to confess, and braving the wiles of a hopped up Jesus, ready to destroy me with maggots in my muscles for daring to eat of his body and drink of his blood with a fleeting yet unconfessed moment of sibling derision still lingering in my heart.

The ritual was always the same.  The round double-decker silver plate, with the handle that doubled as a decorative cross, was passed around, filled with dry matzoh wafers.  It was explained that yeast, or leaven, represented sin (How?  Does sin eat the sugar in your soul and fart CO2 bubbles to make you rise until you’re light and fluffy?  I never got that part.) and so therefore the body of Jesus had to be broken from a big flat cracker.  I remember for a time, we attended a Southern Baptist Church that forbade the women from wearing pants, but used Wonder Bread for Communion.  I, and many others from my original church, refused to take Communion, Wonderous though the Bread may have been.  As the last parishoners took their crumb of the Savior, the pastor would recite I Corinthians 11:24:  This is my body, which is broken for you.  Take, eat, and do this in remembrance of me.

Consumer Christianity.  Literally.  But what if Communion was productive?  Wouldn’t that make it better?

I was thinking about this ritual earlier this week.  I took a short trip back to my hometown to visit my friend Ryan.  We stayed at his mother’s house, which is in the same neighborhood where I went to junior high school.   I once asked him where he went when he was feeling reflective, and he mentioned that he walked to the school, which was around the corner from his mom’s house.

I had my own memories of my junior high years, but most of those involved not so much the building or my friends, but my walk to and from school.  I lived in a different neighborhood, about a mile and a half away from the school, and it was the decision I made one day when I was twelve to stop taking the bus that was the crux in my life Robert Frost wrote about.

I was about halfway through the eighth grade.  I had just moved to this middle class neighborhood from a lower class neighborhood where my next door neighbor’s dad had shot someone in the middle of the day, where perpetually knocked-up Navy wives sat in lawn chairs, mesmerised by despair, watching their Aryan brood spill chaos, like the toxic substances oozing over rashes from their unchanged diapers, across the neighbors’ lawns, where boys in wifebeaters stuck gappers in carburetors while their teenage Puerto Rican girlfriends danced pantiless on the roofs of their cars to strains of Madonna.

The girls I grew up with in Rosemont Forest wasted afternoons with their brothers watching mommy dogs devour half their new litters of wormy puppies if their families were good, and fought their horny brothers off with lots of determination but not much success if their families were not so good.  This was the neighborhood where I smoked my first cigarette, had my heart broken for the first time, and sat, enthralled, in my neighbor’s stepdad’s spare room devoted entirely to his collection of Playboys, surrounded by airbrushed centerfolds displaying their curvily scribbled turn-ons.  Our Barbies didn’t go to prom; they went straight to where Ken and Skipper were parked and popped the cheating bitch’s head clean off with one violent tug to the ponytail.

But my dad finally got promoted to Chief Petty Officer, and with that promotion came the decision to move the family to a bigger house in a better neighborhood.  The home they chose was zoned in the same school zone, but it might as well have been another country.

The girls in my new neighborhood wouldn’t have known how to handle themselves in a fistfight, but they could insult each other into little puddles of tears with casual ease.  Their clothes bore no hint of iron-ons, their mothers actually drew the hearts in their Skippy sandwiches, and their musical tastes were, in a word, banal.  On my new block (no longer a block, mind you, but a cul-de-sac), the band of choice, the unwavering standard of Cooooool, was The New Kids on the Block.

I could have given a shit about the New Kids on the Block.  This branded me, more than any other aspect of my personality, as Weird.   However, I was not tough like the girls I grew up with, the girls who could kick ass.  I was a reader, not a fighter.  So I had no idea what to do when the girls in my new neighborhood started choosing up sides in their New Kids Pubescent Sexual Fantasy League, and tried to coerce me into participating.  It was completely foreign to me.

“Mark would never love you,” they’d spit at each other, their words like Atomic Fireballs of Truth and Passion.  “And how can you think Jordan is the cutest?  Joey is so much cuter.  And he loves me, not you, you slimy cuntfinger.”

It would amaze me how hurtful those words could be to these girls–not the slimy cuntfinger part, but the “he loves me, not you” part.  They’d hate each other in the morning, write a blizzard of notes folded into factory-building shaped origami establishing allegiances,  go to war in the cafeteria in the afternoon,  then choose up sides again and do it again on the bus ride home.   It was like watching expensive cars crash, over and over and over again.  However, I was not amused by disposable dignity.

One morning, as I was approaching the bus stop, dreading the inevitable pull to choose sides in a battle I cared nothing for, something about the nasty chatter just kicked at my heart.  I decided to keep walking. I ignored the calls advising me that I was an idiot, that I missed the bus stop, Hell-looooo?  I walked a mile and a half to school, and it was the most peaceful morning ever.

That afternoon, I decided to walk home.  A few weeks later, I got a brand new Walkman, and that was it.  I never rode the bus again.  Every day I’d walk to school to the strains of music I liked.  Better the exuberance of Bette Midler singing “Miss Otis Regrets” than the intellectually toxic and pheromonally manipulated New Kids shit.

I loved that walk.  Aside from learning to ride my ten-speed, it was probably the most liberating thing in the world for me.  I felt like I flipped a great silent bird to convention and walked on in freedom.  I loved that walk so much, I either walked or rode my bike to school all the way through the eleventh grade, where the trip was about a mile longer.

It didn’t take much convincing, but last Sunday I talked my friend into walking from the junior high back to my old house with me.  I have never walked all the way home with anyone, so it was a little weird for me to have conversation where I once had They Might Be Giants’ Flood album.  As we walked, the streets took on an animated quality, with those things that had not changed taking on the quiet background peace of an Impressionist painting while the new features of the landscape stood out in sharp Fauvist relief, begging to be touched, noticed, appreciated…

We stopped at my parents’ old house and chatted for a while with a new neighbor, but it wasn’t the house that I retook the walk for.  It was for the physical memory of the walk, the memory of the roots of my individualism; it was out of respect for those things that I wanted to repeat the after-school ritual.  It is eighteen years later, and I want to feel a communion with the girl I was and maybe find something of the strength it took her to say Fuck You to those things she could not live with, to find her own beautiful way of dealing with what Tom Robbins calls “the tyranny of the dull mind.”

I found a flower bulb in the middle of the street on the way back and put it in my pocket.  I think I can make it grow here in the desert.  Grow, bloom, and flourish, in remembrance of me.


Servittude, Part II: Restaurant Slang June 18, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Servittude.

Here’s one I’ll ask your help with, with a bonus True Story at the end as a Thank You Gift.

I tried Googling “Restaurant Slang” the other day and couldn’t find a decent site listing phrases that those of us in the industry bark and bandy about all the time. All I could find were sites listing cutesy old-time diner speak (like “Adam and Eve on a raft, wrecked” for two eggs over easy on toast…no one in the modern biz talks like that unless they’re in a theme restaurant.)

Here are a few that I can think of off the top of my head from my fourteen years (!!!) as a short order cook, pizza cook, prep cook, restaurant owner, and, of course, waitron. If you’d like to comment with some contributions of your own, let me know under what name you’d like to be credited and I’ll add your suggestion to the list. It’s my list, so I reserve the right to omit suggestions I’ve never heard of or that I don’t think qualify as slang (like a Black and Blue steak, which is an actual cooking style for meat).

(insert number here)-top: Party of (x) number of people, table of (x) number of people. Table capable of seating up to (x) number of people.
All-day:  total number of a specific menu item hanging on the ticket rail (“I got five french toasts workin’ all-day” means that, as of right now, there need to be five orders of french toast in the window fast.)
Clusterfuck: traffic jam created by restaurant staff
Comp: Giving food away to the customer for promotional/retention purposes (see Spill, see Void)
Deuce: table capable of seating up to two people, more if your hostess is creative. Party of two.
Dupe: Duplicate ticket/carbon copy of an order. Also, the pad of paper used by servers to write down orders.
Dyin’ in the window: refers to food that has been sitting under heat lamps waiting for some item to complete the order
Eighty-six: to be or to run out of
Grat: Gratuity, mandatory tip added to a check
Hi-top: tall tables that require barstools/barchairs to seat. Cocktail tables.
In the weeds: So busy you can’t stop or critical mass will be reached and shit will start seriously hitting the fan.
Kill it: Overcook food almost to a cinder.
Meez: your mise-en-place, or set up
Open kitchen: A working kitchen area visible to guests in the restaurant.
Sidework: seemingly neverending list of preparatory tasks performed by waitstaff, like slicing lemons, folding napkins, polishing silverware, etc.
Slinger: server. Often preceded by hash, egg, snail…
SOS: Sauce on side
Spill: taking food that has been prepared and/or served off a bill (see Void, see Comp)
Stiff: to have been left no tip; the person who left no tip
Throw a pie: to make a pizza (see Toss a pie)
Toss a pie: to make a pizza (see Throw a pie)
Two-top: table capable of seating up to two people, more if your hostess is creative. Party of two.
Void: taking food that has not been prepared and/or served off a bill (see Spill, see Comp)
Waitron: Server
Window: heat-lamp area where food transitions from the kitchen to the dining room


This actually isn’t so much about slang as it is about shorthand. I used to work as a short-order cook in a dingy diner on the oceanfront in Virginia Beach. This was in the days before the ubiquity of computers, when waitstaff had to write their orders down on dupes and hang them on the ticket wheel for the cooks to read and fill. We had a typical breakfast menu item: your choice of eggs done your way, one of four breakfast meats, your choice of toasts, etc.

There are universal codes that every server/cook who has worked breakfasts knows: OL, OE, OM, OW, OH for egg styles (over light, over easy, over medium, over well, over hard), WHI, WHE, RYE for toast choices (white, wheat, or rye). Then there are things that servers abbreviate with a little more latitude and a little less consistency, usually the meats: B or BAC for bacon, SAU or SSG for sausage.

Let’s say the menu item number for the standard eggs-meat-toast breakfast is #3. If someone orders over easy eggs, white toast, and bacon, the server would write a dupe that looks like this:


Well, I had only been working as a short order cook for a few days when one day, the waitress hung this dupe on my wheel:


And I stood there, completely puzzled. Count? What the heck did she want me to count? The dupes were starting to pile up on the wheel, the waitress was nowhere to be found, and I could not for the life of me figure out why she wrote COUNT on the dupe.

I should mention that I was working in an open kitchen, so I was only about five feet from an entire counterful of guests.

After turning this over in my head for a while, the light bulb eventually flicked ON. She did not mean “count” like 1-2-3-4 etc. She was making up her own abbreviation for Country Ham!

I was so excited that I figured out the riddle that I said the obvious answer out loud phonetically, and without thinking, and quite loudly, and for the entire counter of guests to hear:


Ever hear an entire breakfast restaurant go silent?

Nerdcore Games Junkie June 15, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Academia, Servittude, Who Am I?.
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Wednesday was another day in the life of an eggslinger.  It was the lunch shift, and I had a dull station on a slow day.  The customers were dull and unwilling to engage with me, and so the minutes ticked by like time slogging through syrup.

The hostess sat a single woman at the center deuce in my station.  (I can’t find a decent Restaurant Slang page on Google, so I’ll let those of you outside the biz know that a deuce is a table that seats only two people.)  I noticed the woman was doing a magazine with Sudoku puzzles.  I am a big fan of mathematical puzzles, but Sudoku seems so trendy right now that I tend to shun those in favor of more classic challenge puzzles.   This doesn’t mean I won’t solve Sudokus, just that I’d pick up a Variety Puzzles magazine over Super Sudoku! any day.

This led me to think about a quote in a book I read by Anne Tyler called Ladder of Years.  The main character leaves her comfortable, predictible life one day and, on the spur of the moment, hitches a ride to an unfamiliar town where she sets up a new life for herself without informing her family.  It is an incredibly well-told story, where feminist ideas just ARE:  not pushy, not a betrayal, not bitchy or political; just the idea of a woman not having to answer to a husband and grown children she no longer feels a responsibility for and following her own whims for the first time.

Anyhow, in the book a big deal is made over the observation that a woman is rarely, if ever, seen eating alone in a restaurant without a book or a magazine.  As a woman who has done a lot of eating alone in restaurants, and a woman who has worked in many restaurants, and a woman who loves to read, I have found this hypothesis fascinating.  I have eaten out alone with and without books, and I have watched women eating alone in restaurants, and I have to say that Tyler’s observation is for the most part accurate…except for the past few years, when cell phones have replaced books as the single woman’s distraction.

Anyhow, I greeted the woman and took her order.  Ironically, she ordered almost exactly what I would have ordered had I found myself lunching at my restaurant for the first time:  an order of crab cakes and a glass of La Crema chardonnay.  I commented on this and smiled, partly out of standard waitress banter but mostly out of a sort of happy self-recognition.

A good server will walk by a table three or four times during the course of a customer’s meal.  S/he won’t necessarily say anything and may not even be noticed, but the server’s presence on the floor is vital to reading and anticipating customer needs and upping sales.  As I was walking past my customer’s table, I noticed she had moved on to a different page in her magazine.  The typeface on the page was cheerfully familiar, and it stunned me for a second.  I had to make an unscheduled stop at her table.

“Excuse me,” I asked.  “Is that….Games Magazine you’re reading?”

She smiled and showed me the magazine cover.  It was Games.

Games Magazine has been my favorite periodical ever since I was about eight years old.  As a child, I attended the Old Donation School for the Gifted and Talented in my hometown, and it was that school that taught me to love clever puzzles.  Word puzzles, number puzzles, logic puzzles, pop culture puzzles, picture puzzles…all were fair game, as long as they were challenging and threw in an egregious amount of bad puns for good measure.

Games went out of print for a few years, and I remember being happily surprised when I saw it again on a magazine stand in my mid teens.  I buy it whenever I see it, but I have realized that in the past few years, my trips to the bookstore have gotten further and farther between and I have not picked up an issue of Games probably since my early twenties.

As if my question about the magazine she was reading didn’t have the dork-identifying tone of voice that most people reserve for impossibly valuable art, cars, or cocaine, I had to let her know how I identified her choice of reading material.

“You know how I knew that was Games?”  I crowed idiotically.  (wait for it…..wait for it….)  “I recognized the typeface.”

Yeah, I actually said it.  I am about as groooovy as they come.

Luckily for me, she was as enthusiastic as I was about the magazine, and invited me to help her finish a puzzle she had been working on.  Ah, bliss.  I solved the one that had snagged her, then attempted to finish the puzzle while standing at the table.  I got all but two right away.  What a bonus!

We only chatted for a minute, but I was thrilled to talk with a fellow woman (how’s that for an oxymoron?) interested in puzzle solving.  I told her I’d blog about the experience.

Oh, yeah.  Nerd-core.

But guess who gets to wake up every morning, excitedly anticipating the arrival of her first subscription issue of Games Magazine in the mail?…

Why I Want To Be A Teacher June 14, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Academia, Who Am I?.

Here’s an essay I wrote today for admission to the College of Education at Nevada State College.

Why I Want to Be A Teacher, by Kristina Raisinbran

There is a real and contagious condition that a child must be infected with in order to understand what it is to be a success in life.  This condition is called a Love of Learning, and I am a firm believer in its communicability.  I am also afflicted with this condition, and I want to become a teacher in order to expose as many children as possible to its life-changing side-effects, including a passion for asking questions and finding answers, an awareness of the underlying beauty in the world, a zest for the written and spoken word, and a desire to be a contributing member of a progressive society aimed at cultivating the greater good.

There is a tremendous need to reach a community of children who face tough challenges in almost every aspect of their public lives.  These are the children of our immigrant community.  Many of these children are uprooted without warning from their comfortable home countries, where they were surrounded by the friends and family who have been constant figures in their lives since birth, and taken on frightening journeys into the United States, where they live lives of social isolation.  They do not speak the language and are shunned by their American peers, and because of the risks of deportation are not allowed far from the home.  Their poverty and differentness are brought into sharp contrast with their schoolmates’ new wardrobes and fancy Lunchables.

I received my Associate’s degree in Florida, where I saw firsthand the challenges the immigrant child faces, especially in regards to standardized testing.  These students were taught just enough English to get a job at McDonalds, since passing a state-level English proficiency test meant they qualified to take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.  Teachers did not want these students taking the FCAT, since their lower scores would bring down the school’s grade and therefore cut the school’s funding.  I watched these children in academic limbo, being babysat in computer labs but not being taught English at a level where they would be competitive in any but the lowest of service industry jobs.

These are bright children, with interests like any other child’s.  These are children who are reachable, but they must be approached by someone whom they can trust, who doesn’t bore them, and who has clear rules and expectations.  I am multilingual.  I play guitar and draw passably.  I have a deep interest in science, theatre, and the arts. I am not afraid of classroom discipline.  And I know I can make learning fun.  My students and I would all walk out of my classroom better people.

I had the great fortune of being taught by three incredible langauge teachers.  John Mueller, my first German teacher, taught me the difference between speaking a language and communicating in one.  Leonid Kobyljanec, my Russian teacher,  taught me to value cultural differences and to have a tremendous amount of fun with incredibly difficult subject matter.  Antonio Spezia di Montespina, my Italian professor, taught me to immerse myself in language body and soul through exposure to his analysis of how Italians think based on their Roman history.  I’d use all the tools these teachers have graciously equipped me with and more in order to give these children a lesson in a subject they’ll never be formally taught: the value of intellectual freedom.

Baseball and Paris June 9, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Space.
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I love it when I have something cool to look forward to on television. There is precious little I ever really want to watch and I don’t have TIVO or a DVR, so when something is scheduled that I want to see, it’s like a little Event. And today was the scheduled launch date for the space shuttle Atlantis to head out to the International Space Station.

I love shuttle launches. I remember falling in love with them when I was in Mrs. Beck’s fifth grade class. Space was on my mind; I was preoccupied with the return of Halley’s Comet, since there was a good chance that I’d get to see it again before I died. My favorite field trip was to the planetarium, and I was fascinated with learning to identify constellations to the point where I fell asleep outside in my backyard one winter night, to my mother’s horror, trying to chart and memorize the portraits in the clear night sky.

Nineteen eighty-six was a tremendous year for space news, and the schools were abuzz because Christa McAuliffe, a teacher, was scheduled to go into outer space with the astronaut team. I remember very clearly the day of the Challenger launch. It was six days after my ninth birthday. There weren’t enough televisions to let every classroom watch by itself, so two other fifth-grade classes filed into our classroom and sat down in the rows between our desks. I remember being glad I had a desk.

Mrs. Beck turned off the fluorescent lights and we sat and watched the pre-launch while our teachers chatted with us. As the T-minus count numbers ticked downward, we chanted along with the announcer like it was the dawning of New Year’s Day. We’ve all seen video of what happened. The rockets flared, the shuttle launched…and then came the horrible branches of smoke, the panic chatter from the television, and the horrified gasps of our teachers.

This was 1986. There was no instant replay. One of the teachers turned off the television. There was no more to see. No one tried to deconstruct the tragedy; it was before the age of 24 hour analysis and commentary. We were overwhelmed just trying to process the image and the loss. I remember how quickly the conversation turned into our teachers’ recollections of the Kennedy assassination, which most of them had seen on television when they were about our ages. And I remember very clearly Mrs. Beck, the first teacher I ever loved, saying to us somberly, “You will never forget this day.”

She was right. It was my first national tragedy, the first time my heart joined the rest of America in the solidarity of suffering. It was my first experience with heroism, and it inspired a love for those astronauts which later developed into a love for space exploration. I wouldn’t discover science fiction for another five years, but when I did, I was hooked.

As an adult, I had the good fortune of living just a few miles south of Cape Canaveral for about a year, with the added bonus of being a stay-at-home mom. I had the incredibly good fortune, not only of getting to pick up the NASA channel on basic cable, but also to be able to watch the shuttle launches on television, then run into my front yard and look to the northeast and actually see the shuttle burn a bright point past its smoky trail into space. Our area code there was 321. How cool is that! I’ve witnessed three space shuttles physically take off and leave; two from my front yard in Indian Harbour Beach, and one, incredibly enough, from the campus of Manatee Community College on the WEST COAST of Florida.

So I was psyched today to watch the launch. I know from watching previous launches that if the shuttle misses its window, it can take days for conditions to be optimal enough to permit a launch. However, I still wanted to see it. There is a television behind the bar where I work, and I asked the bartender if he’d change the channel from the baseball game to a news channel.

He agreed. The countdown was at three minutes. Three lousy minutes. After one minute, the complaining started. No one wanted to watch the launch.

Have you ever seen a baseball game? I mean, really watched one? Baseball is the most boring game on earth to watch. It takes forever for anything to happen. Pitch. Swing. Did he hit it? No. Pitch. Swing. Did he hit it? No. You’d think I could take five minutes out of the game just to watch the launch, just to hold my breath with the rest of the Americans who care about space…

It took one more minute for the conversation to turn to Paris Hilton’s return to jail, and all the speculative crap that went along with it.

Oh, well. It’s not the first time I’ve felt like Diane Chambers. I remember watching the speed of the shuttle increase steadily in miles per hour, and I wondered why the rate was not given in kilometers per hour. Was it to make the numbers more meaningful to the American audience? Now, I’m the first person to step up and say that I hate the idea of the US converting to metric as its everyday standard. U.S. Customary units are MUCH more practical for everyday use and conversion, but that’s another rant all on its own. But for science, only metric will do for its capability of addressing the microtiny to the macrohuge in meaningful relationships. So why not KPH?

But I can’t complain. I may not have liked the celebrity train wreck noises my co-workers were making, but at least I got to see the launch up until the first booster dropped. Then, it was back to baseball. I mean, consider the ramifications if something were to go terribly wrong with the game, and the fans were not there to root, root, root for the home team.

If they don’t win, it’s a shame.

My life, defined: Part I June 9, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Who Am I?.
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A catalog of self-defining moments:

MY FIRST MEMORY: It’s late 1978, the beginning of the hot season in the Philippines and the end of the rainy season. I’m about a year and a half old and suffering from prickly heat. I’m lying on my stomach, wearing a cloth diaper. My dad is rubbing cool talcum powder into my back, attempting to ease the itching, and singing the song “Dixie.” This is the first thing I remember, and it makes me wonder if this was my first memory of love: comforting touch and cheerful music.

MY FIRST HEAD TRAUMA: It’s spring of 1980 and I live in a rented house on base in Guam. My mother has never cut my hair, and it is very long and shiny black. My mother has warned me about jumping on her bed, but I love the forbidden adventure. She has a seventies-green faux velvet bedspread with tassles fringing the edges. Bouncing on this fuzzy bedspread is a tactile pleasure. I flop onto my back and crack my head against the corner of my mother’s hardwood nightstand. I scream and cry and run for my mother. I find her, and she asks me if I’ve been jumping on the bed. I confess. She scolds me for a few minutes, then sends me to my room. I turn to take my punishment, and remember hearing my mother scream. My back is soaked in blood.

I am rushed to the military hospital. The doctors decide that, instead of shaving my head, examining the injury, and giving me stitches, that they are going to appeal to vanity and instead simply tie my hair in a knot over the wound and send me home with an inflated latex glove to play with. I actually suffered a skull fracture which was never subsequently examined, and I have a two inch dent in my head for the rest of my life. I entertain the idea of visiting a phrenologist occasionally, but in seriousness I wonder if this injury changed me or my perceptive ability in any way. I have an irrational fear of jumping on trampolines that has lasted into my thirties.

MY FIRST YEAR OF SCHOOL: It’s fall of 1981 and my dad has been stationed in Virginia. We live within walking distance of the elementary school, and as my mother walks me to the school I remember being impressed by the crossing guard. After a few weeks of kindergarten, my mother gets a phone call from Mrs. Dorey, my kindergarten teacher. Yes, I remember her name. Mrs. Dorey tells my mother that she doesn’t think I belong in kindergarten. My mother asks if I need to be held back. Mrs. Dorey says no, she means that she thinks I would be more suited to the first grade. My father is out to sea and so my mother writes him a letter and waits for him to make a call through the ham radio operator to discuss moving me up. They decide it would be a good idea, and so I am moved into the first grade classroom.

A week or so of first grade, and my mother gets another phone call. It is Mrs. Sears, my first grade teacher. Yes, I remember her name, too. Mrs. Sears tells my mother she doesn’t think I belong in the first grade. My mother is worried that I am suffering in the first grade, and lets Mrs. Sears know it won’t be a problem to move me back to kindergarten. “No, Mrs. Brown,” says Mrs. Sears. “I think she belongs in second grade.”

So my mother writes another letter and waits a few weeks for my father to call. This time, they decide to keep me in the first grade. They fear the social struggles I will have as a five year old in a class of seven year olds and beyond.

At my high school graduation, I joke that I’m the only senior who should have been a junior AND should have graduated already. I never felt socially awkward about being the youngest female in my class, but all my friends post high school have been, on average, a decade or more older than I and I married a man eighteen years older than I am. I wonder how significant age is to me subconsciously.

Jump on my FM June 6, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Music, Who Am I?.
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Click LAUNCH STANDALONE PLAYER to hear some of my favorite music in the background!


Right now, there is not a good code for WordPress, so I’m using the MySpace code, which is why this looks a little weird. As soon as the Project Playlist people update their codes, I’ll plug in the right one.

Servittude, Part One June 3, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Servittude.
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In case you haven’t figured it out yet, restaurant servers are an illusion. We are. We are paid a commission by the customer for the privilege of making the customer feel wealthy enough to own another human being to do the work of entertaining for them. We are, in a very limited capacity, Rent-a-Slaves. But if we are smart waitstaff and pick working environments more for their high menu prices than any other reason, we can be well-compensated Rent-a-Slaves.

In exchange for being an illusion, we tend to harbor highly frangible fantasies about our customers…or, I should say, Temporary Masters. We want to think our Temporary Masters are kind, intelligent, sympathetic to common human failings, and, most importantly, have the ability to think for themselves and communicate their wants and needs clearly and politely.

Ha ha ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha. Ha.

Waiting tables is the only profession I know of where the customer is allowed to punish the employee monetarily for any reason whatsoever, or no reason at all. You don’t go to the grocery store and ask to get free groceries because you waited longer than you’d liked to get checked out. And you certainly don’t demand that your grocery checker’s wages get docked simply because s/he couldn’t wait on you AND wait on the customer with the ten wagonloads of food in front of you at the same time. And you would NEVER suggest that your grocery checker’s pay be withheld because you bought something that, for whatever reason, you didn’t like. But people do that to waitstaff all the time.

A tip is a whip, and most people would be surprised at their capacity for mercilessness when it comes to how they treat their waiter or waitress.

What surprises me most about waiting tables is the fact that customers (and many servers themselves) don’t realize that the server is a SALESPERSON and makes more money the higher the SALES are. People tip more for the privilege of being sold more food and beverage, and more expensive food and beverage, than they do for good service.  It’s the truth.

Don’t believe me?

A server’s lousy tips are more indicative of their sales inablility than of their ineptitude as a Rent-A-Slave.

Let’s say you sit at my table and I’m your server. I’m not slovenly, or rude, or slow; just the opposite.  I’m friendly, polite, and efficient.  However, I’m a terrible salesperson. Here’s how a Lousy Server handles this breakfast. Watch the dollar signs:

SERVER: Hi, welcome to The Restaurant. What can I bring for you today?
CUSTOMER: I’ll have a cheese omelet ($8) and a glass of water ($0).
SERVER: Very good. I’ll have those out for you in just a moment.

Total Bill: $8

Tip: 10% = .80, 15% = $1.20, 20% = 1.60

Here’s a better server:

SERVER: Hi, welcome to The Restaurant. What can I bring you today?
CUSTOMER: I’ll have a cheese omelet ($8) and a glass of water ($0).
SERVER: Very good. Now, our omelets don’t come with any toast. Would you like some toast with your omelet?
CUSTOMER: Yes, I’d like some wheat toast, please. ($2)
SERVER: Wheat toast. Any juice, milk, or coffee with your omelet?
CUSTOMER: How about some orange juice?
SERVER: Would you like a large ($7) or a small ($4)?
CUSTOMER: Small’s fine.
SERVER: Very good. I’ll have those out for you in just a moment.

Total Bill: $14 (with a potential for a $17 bill if the customer had opted for a large orange juice)

Tip on $14: 10% = $1.40, 15% = $2.10, 20% = $2.80
Potential Tip on $17:  10% = $1.70, 15% = $2.55, 20% = $3.40!!!

And if it were me, I’d have offered a side of bacon, ham, or sausage at $3 to $4 a shot.  Other servers I know would have mentioned a cappucino or coffee, or even a mimosa or bloody mary.  It’s all a matter of how much you’re comfortable pushing.  You judge each table indivudually, but they’re all potential upsells.  Every last one.

See how it works? The better server, the one who makes more money at the end of the day, can offer absolutely LOUSY service, but still do better on a 10% tip than your first server, who makes only .20 more on a 20% tip!

A successful server can manipulate the whip.

Now that you understand the fundamentals of how a successful waiter’s brain works, I feel I can talk with you more intimately about Servittude…but please, let me not bombard you with 100 Reasons Why You’re An Idiot When You Sit Down At My Table. Let’s have a coffee together. It’s on the house. Read a few more blogs, then we’ll discuss your myriad shortcomings. 🙂 Thanks, and Come Back and See Us Again, Soon!