I’m the Manager of this Olive Garden, so Please Listen to Me

Hey everybody, gather ‘round. Rough day today, guys. Rough day. You all really stepped up during the dinner rush, and we got through it. Go us! I think I can speak for all of us when I say “No more minestrone soup!” am I right? It’s fun sharing a joke with you guys. We’re all in this together.

Alright, it’s time for evening announcements. First off, I continue to get complaints that when you guys are offering a table our delicious and complimentary breadsticks, it sounds like you’re saying “bread dicks”. The first few times, I chalked it up to a pronunciation mistake or a hearing error on the customers’ parts, but I am positively up to my ears in “bread dick” problems.

Oh, I get the joke, Brad. I get jokes. I love to bust a good chuckle! I’m the “No More Minestrone” guy! Personally, I think “bread dicks” is hilarious. Super funny, guys. It’s just that I’m the guy who has to explain to all the cheesed off customers why their six year old keeps asking for more bread penises! It’s a family restaurant, guys. It’s in the slogan.

That segues nicely into the next item on my agenda; just a quick reminder to please stop giving out my personal cell phone number when people ask how to make a complaint. This is not the first time I’ve asked. Olive Garden has a toll-free Customer Complaint line set up for that very purpose. Speaking of which, and I don’t know how you tech wiz’s did this, but somehow all customer complaint calls to the toll free number have been forwarded to my cell phone. Nationwide. Turns out this chain has a lot of unhappy customers, and they call at all hours of the night. There’s very little I can do about the number of sundried tomatoes on the Pizzaiola Flatbread at 2 in the morning. I can’t confirm that there were only four cheeses in the Five Cheese Ziti al Forno at the Dearborn, Michigan Olive Garden when I’m at the movies with my mom in Palmdale, California. I’ve tried contacting corporate about this little snafu, and apparently that number has been forwarded to my cell phone, too, so I’m right back at the beginning. Please change it back, guys. I’ve got a job to do.

How am I being a baby about this, Karen? I’m just asking you guys to change it back. No harm, no foul, just flip the switch. I can too take a joke! I laughed it off when you guys called Child Protective Services and said I was whipping my kid with those ninetails things from “The Passion of the Christ”. That was like 6 hours of my day wasted in interviews and psychological evaluations. I laughed. My kid doesn’t even live with me! Hopefully someday, maybe if I make regional manager, it’ll show the judge I’ve got it together. It’s weird how they can just tell you you can’t be a family, right? It’s ok, though. You guys are kind of like my family. When we’re here, anyway. Get it? Oh, don’t look so sad for me, Mallory. I’m fine.

Alright, next, I definitely need to address the elephant in the room. Yesterday. Nobody showed up. 14 servers, bussers, and hosts. I did, however, receive 14 different phone calls from your “Mom”s, who gave me the same excuse to a “t”: you’d been “raptured”. The Biblical end times, guys? C’mon. Not to mention that your “Mom”s all sounded like thinly disguised variations on your own voices. And besides, Danica, I know that your mom Is dead? Sorry, it’s just I know that to be a fact. The only person who actually came was Diego, and I had to send him home because he had a staph infection. I had to close the place down. During “Tour de Italia” week! We just weren’t open. And I had to answer for it.

Do you guys even like me? Don’t answer that. Just know that I like you. I like you guys a lot.

Let’s just get real for a second. I feel like you think there’s some sort of barrier between you and me. I’m the manager, sure, but I’m also a person. I know you’ve all gotten pretty close and you meet up after work at Darren’s house to party and all that. Oh yes you do, Sean, don’t lie to me. Don’t lie to my face. I hear you talking about it literally every shift. But every time I ask what everyone is up to after work, it’s like, “Oh, just going home,” or, “Oh, just gonna watch some Netflix.” Why don’t you want me to come? You think I’m some kind of narc? I can hang. I’m down for whatever, and I can get just as weird as the rest of you. What happens at Darren’s house stays at Darren’s house, am I right? I mean, as long as what you guys are doing doesn’t violate Olive Garden‘s drug and alcohol policy, we’re cool.

Oh, c’mon. I’m a mandated reporter, guys. I have to report it! I could lose my job for not reporting it! Believe me, if it were up to me, I’d be cool with everything. I mean, I am cool with everything! It’s just, there’s a manager-subordinate relationship there, and those boundaries have to be respected. I know I said there weren’t any barriers.

Look, just stop saying “Welcome to Olive Farten” when greeting customers. Also, our customers do not have to step on a scale before ordering the Never Ending Pasta Bowl. And please, for the love of Pete, stop telling our customers that my name is Jon Benet Ramsey, but with an “h”. You need to listen to me. I’m the manager!

Honestly, I wish to God I wasn’t the manager. Today, when we were just crushed with customers, and I had to jump out there and get my elbows dirty in the trenches with you all, I’m telling you I felt alive, truly alive for the first time. You’re all very, very lucky to be servers here.

No, Nick, I will not go fuck myself. That’s a pretty hurtful thing to say.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition™ – A Novelization

Extreme-MakeoverHome-Edition1__111215213324.jpg

The Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM bus is shown ambling down the highway towards its generic Midwestern destination. Four sleek black limos follow outside the camera’s vision, waiting to escort the Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM team after they’ve fulfilled their contractual obligations to appear on camera together and no longer have to keep up the pretense that they travel together by bus. Ty Pennington exchanges his comically exasperated tone for one of mock seriousness, which communicates to the viewer that he has made a connection with the target family’s story. His hedgehog hair seems slightly less lively than usual, a small touch the Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM hair and makeup team thought would communicate emotional distress. He holds a VHS tape as he speaks to the Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM team.

“Hey guys, I want to introduce you to the Taylor family,” Ty Pennington says, trying desperately to contain the Tazmanian devil within, “I think you’re going to find them pretty incredible.” He slides the VHS tape into the VHS player, which has generously been provided to the Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM team by Sears®.

“Hey, Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM, we’re the Taylor family!!!!!!!” the Taylor family shouts into the camera before engaging in a group hug, laughing uproariously into the camera. Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM is drawn to families like this because it looks like even though they’ve been through so much, they always look on the bright side of things. Despite not yet learning anything specific about the family or their experiences, that lady who always wears pink already has tears streaming down her cheeks, which have been expertly placed by the Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM hair and makeup team.

“Something told me that the Taylor family was going to be pretty incredible,” that lady who always wears pink says to the camera, wiping her eye and pretending to compose herself. Ty Pennington narrates the Taylors’ story.

“The Taylors are just your typical, everyday American family,” he begins. Every family that has ever appeared on Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM is just your typical, everyday American family. “But they’ve been through so much.”

“Wow,” that British guy says. He almost sounds sincere.

“Jim Taylor worked at the local steel mill until it closed down two years ago. He’s been out of work ever since, but he stays busy running a Bible study out of the family’s living room.” The American public is drawn to people with religious convictions, a fact that has not escaped the producers of Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM. “The only problem is, the living room has a gaping hole in the wall where Dorothy Taylor, the grandmother, drove her car through it. Worst part is, Dorothy was killed in the accident.” The Taylors show a picture of Dorothy Taylor that adorns the family mantle. Ty Pennington is shown holding a hat to his chest, a new prop.

“We felt the Bible study was real important to the community,” Jim Taylor says on the recorded tape. He has included footage of the Bible study, in which typical, everyday Americans shift uncomfortably in their seats and try not to look at the camera. “It just gets so dang cold in here with that hole in the wall.”

“The Bible study is obviously real important to the community,” Ty Pennington says, trying his best to sound concerned, “but it looks like it would get really cold in there with that hole in the wall. That’s no good for anyone.” The Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM team nods in agreement. That lady in pink now appears to be sobbing.

“Pam Taylor, Jim’s wife, home-schooled their four children out of the family garage until one devastating day last August: a category three tornado tore through the Taylors’ neighborhood, destroying the garage in the process.”

“Oh my God,” that one gay guy says.

“I kept thinking, ‘What if me and the kids were in there?'” Pam Taylor says, surveying the ruins of the family garage. Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM knows that natural disasters/acts of God hit close to home.

“Oh my God, I didn’t even think of that. What if she and the kids were in there?” that one gay guy says, looking at the Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM team for acknowledgement. That lady who always wears pink nods and wipes more superimposed tears from her eyes.

“Alright guys, now I’m going to introduce you to the Taylor children,” Ty Pennington says, surprisingly holding it together. “The Taylor kids lost all of their school materials in the tornado. Just sucked right up into the sky like the hand of God himself. The family doesn’t feel that the local public schools match with their particular set of values, and they just don’t have the financial resources to put the kids in private school. The Taylors are concerned that the kids are going to fall behind.”

“Wow, mate. Yeah, I can imagine,” the British guy says. The producers of Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM feel that his accent and his use of regional slang make him appear charming and approachable.

Little Jim Jr. is shown riding his bike in circles in front of the camera. The front tire is obviously flat. “I popped it jumping off a rock,” Jim Jr. says, looking away from the camera. He is then shown riding his bike over a small ramp made with a brick and a plank of plywood. It’s a pretty unremarkable bit of b-roll, but it’d be hard to spice that one up. His family cheers him on. Small-town families encouraging each other is what Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM is all about. “We haven’t been able to afford to replace the tire.”

“Oh my God,” that one gay guy says. He is affected.

“Christmas is kind of a hard time for us,” Jim Taylor says as he videotapes Sara Taylor playing house with a roll of duct tape and prescription pill bottles. “With all of little Kimmy’s health problems, we really can’t afford to give the kids the toys they want.”

“I….love…..my….family,” 4-year-old Sara says into the camera, her eyes continually darting to the side. She is obviously looking to her mother for coaching. The producers of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition TM find this adorable. So does America.

“This family has been through so much,” Ty Pennington says, sighing heavily to communicate sympathy, “but the centerpiece of this family is really 2-year-old Kimmy.”

The camera shows 2-year-old Kimmy Taylor, who is permanently attached to a respirator. She may never breathe comfortably without it. The producers of Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM saved her for last for all those people who thought this family’s story wouldn’t be as depressing as all the others. Those people were wrong. The producers of Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM know that sick kids are a gold mine. The sicker the better.

“Kimmy was born 12 weeks premature,” Pam Taylor says into the camera, choking up. She wipes her eyes. Jim Taylor places his hand on her back. He’s a supportive husband. “We couldn’t bring her home for two months. With all the appointments and specialists and whatnot, this has really taken over our lives.” Despite her debilitating condition, Kimmy is shown smiling, laughing, and playing with her family. They seem to really love each other.

“God, that’s so inspiring,” that one gay guy says.

“God, I know,” that lady who always wear pink says. She puts her hand on that gay guy’s knee. The producers of Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM scripted this moment to exploit the perceived intrinsic relationship between cosmopolitan women and  gay men. The producers of Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM have sometimes been called condescending.

“So that’s the Taylors,” Ty Pennington says, switching off the VHS player and breathing heavily, a sign that this has been one emotional bus ride. “It’s been one emotional bus ride. What d’ya say, team, can we do something for them?”

“I doubt you would have shown us that if we weren’t going to do something for them.” that British guy says, breaking character.

“I don’t appreciate your tone,” Ty Pennington says.

The Extreme Makeover: Home EditionTM team agrees to re-shoot that last part.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving: Everything is Terrible!

thumbsdownIf you’re like me, you woke up this morning wondering just what in the heck there was to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Well, I’ll answer that for you: not much! The world is changing every day for the worse, and it’s all we can do to get out of bed and drag ourselves to the proverbial turkey trough (or tofu trough, you veg heads!) . Here are a list of things I am NOT thankful for this year.

  1. The price of the no blackout days Disneyland Annual Pass is through the roof! I’ve never bought one before, but if I ever decide to, I know it’ll cost me an arm and a leg. No thank you!
  2. It seems like Trader Joes stores keep getting bigger, but the parking lots keep getting smaller! Maybe split the difference, dingbats! No thank you!
  3. The AMC iPhone app has a heck of a time streaming The Walking Dead to my AppleTV. I have to keep closing it out and starting the episode over and scrobbling to where I left off. Now one forty-two minute episode takes me over FIFTY minutes to watch! I’ve got stuff to do! FIX IT! No thank you!
  4. Red cups at Starbucks? Too bright for my eyes! No thank you!
  5. Why don’t they make the whole plane out of the black box? No thank you!
  6. My iPhone can do just about everything but cook my breakfast. BUT WHAT IF THAT’S WHAT I BOUGHT IT FOR? No thank you!
  7. It’s 2015 and the street dog vendors STILL don’t take credit cards? No thank you!
  8. It’s 2015 and the fruit in a bag vendors STILL don’t take credit cards? No thank you!
  9. Everyone’s giving me a hard time for taking hour long showers while you’re all stuffing your face with fists full of almonds and beef bits at every football game? No thank you!
  10. Charter internet? More like Farter internet! No bueno, and no thank you!

Ugh!

419: A Scam Email Confession

81267271

At the time I considered myself a pretty generous guy. I’d flip a coin to the occasional homeless man who had the good fortune to extend his hand in my direction; When asked at a cash register if I wanted to donate one dollar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, I usually said yes (unless, of course, I’d already donated at that Ralphs). I even, from time to time, took a carload of my broken/obsolete/both electronics to the Goodwill, which I’m sure made some poor family very happy. I imagined they’d make a fort out of my hollowed out TV, or they’d let their kids use my defunct microwave as a pretend Easy Bake Oven. These thoughts made my heart smile. I had a soft spot for the needy, and I made it my mission to help out whenever it was convenient.

There is one encounter, however, that stands out in my mind above all. Something I’ve been needing to get off my chest. This shall serve as my confession.

I’d arrived home from the grocery store in a foul mood. Not only did I wait in a much-longer-than-necessary line, but the checker gave me a dirty look when I said I would not like to donate one dollar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation (I tried to explain to her that I had already donated at that particular Ralphs location, but then I realized she probably didn’t go to college and it might be insensitive of me to think she was capable of processing that information). To make matters worse, the Salvation Army Santa Claus diligently ringing his bell near the entrance gave me a splitting headache. That kind of “in your face” solicitation really gets to me. It had not, thus far, been a good day.

As I prepared myself a cocktail of bottled water (it just tastes better) and ibuprofen, I thumbed through my mail. As I skimmed past the standard assortment of bills and credit card offers, I came across some delightful address labels that had been prepared and personalized just for me. If I liked the address labels, I was free to keep them, but in return they requested a small donation be made to the American Cancer Society. I’d heard of these kinds of scams before, and there was really no way to guarantee the money would ever make its way to any Americans with cancer. You’d have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool me. I decided, however, that it would be a shame to waste the truly charming address labels, so I kept them and considered it a victory for victims of scam artists everywhere.

Next, I fired up my laptop, cruised over to freerice.com, a website where you can play basic word games and for each right answer, the organization in question will donate 10 grains of rice to a village in need. As I’ve stated before, I’m very generous. By the end of my session, I’d donated 60 grains of rice. Some of the questions were harder than you’d expect. When I got bored of increasing my vocabulary, I loaded up my Hotmail, eager to peruse my various social networking notifications and check the status of the Energy Star rebate I’d sent in like three months ago (sometimes it’s like, “That’s what I get for trying to help the environment!”). Sandwiched between the series of emails inviting me to join a sustainable food initiative (what, so you can send me more emails?) and the emails reminding me that my Peace Corps application from two years ago was still 25% complete, I saw this:

Dear Mr. Sir,

It is with good fortunes that my message reaches you. My name is President Yusef Saraki of Nigeria. The Nigerian government has been overturned. I am presently under house arrest and my assets have been frozen by the new regime. I fear they will soon kill me, and I cannot bear the thought of my childrens’ future being taken by these wicked dogs. I need to transfer a total sum of US $60M to an offshore non-resident bank account.

In order for me to do so, I need you to sign a document as “next to kin” and pay $200 a day to ensure my safety until the funds can be wire-transferred to your account. To avoid any interruption, dear Sir, I must require a small advancement fee (approximately 30 days worth) until the wire transfer is completed.

Upon completion of the wire transfer to you, I will find a way to escape Nigeria and move to Korea with my family, at which time you will be entitled to 10%, or $6 million, for your troubles. As this is a life or death matter the entire transaction must be completed within two weeks. You must never tell anyone of this transaction, as it is a matter of national security. I have attached a copy of the Bilateral Agreement between myself and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation in Johannesburg, South Africa.

It is with great distress that I ask for your salvation! May God guide us in our transaction.

Your faithful friend,
Yusef Saraki
President of Nigeria

My heart sank. How and why was I being drawn into an international crisis, and why was I responsible for the life of a man far important than I, whom I’ve never met? Was Yusef Saraki really the President of Nigeria? How would I even begin to verify that? His word would have to be good enough for me. That said, I did initially approach the email with skepticism, but once I was sure that the attachment was definitely not a computer virus (that was the LAST thing I needed), I looked over his document. It checked out. And by checked out, I mean he said it was a Bilateral Agreement, and there at the top of the document, plain as day, were the words “Bilateral Agreement”. Who was I to doubt the legitimacy of international protocol!

My mind began to race. He’d promised me six million dollars! I imagined myself six million dollars richer, attending fancy parties and never again needing to reuse the plastic bottles that housed my Crystal Light. But at what cost?! For weeks I would be responsible for the life of a man whom I might never meet, and my only contribution to his survival would be in monetary form. Was I ready for that kind of responsibility?

I thought about a lot of things, but mostly I just thought about the six million dollars. That was a lot of money. With that kind of money, I wouldn’t have a reason to say no to the Make-A-Wish Foundation (though I could imagine burning through my dollars pretty quickly, so maybe it was best to stick to the original plan; one donation per Ralphs location). I thought of the Nigerian president, furiously typing a message on his iPhone 6S (maybe a 6S+?), beaming it out into cyberspace and hoping desperately that someone found his proverbial message in a bottle. Why me? I had so many questions. The six million dollars would be in one lump sum, right? Would it be taxed? To distract myself, I began looking at 4K TVs on BestBuy.com (oh man, I’d probably even be able to pop for the extended warranty) and imagined how my apartment would look with a wall-sized fish tank in the area that once divided the kitchen and living room.

As my mind danced around the various scenarios for spending my six million dollars, I thought about the process that would lead to my eventual windfall. Honestly, it all sounded like a lot of work. Assuming Saraki was still alive (the email was a couple days old), would he be able to get to a bank and deposit the check into my account without a hitch? And he was asking for a good deal of money up front. $200 a day. Steep! Would he also reimburse that $200 a day in addition to the six million dollars? Was I supposed to write him a thank you note? Also, was I getting a good deal? I mean a 90/10 split didn’t exactly seem like a fair trade when I could technically keep all of it (once it was in my account, it was MY money). I wouldn’t do that, because I’m a pretty generous guy (I crushed it on freerice.com), but something along the lines of 60/40 would definitely sweeten the deal. Would I have to make any international phone calls? Those can get pretty expensive. Once I had the six million dollars (or twenty-four million, depending on whether or not Saraki was a cheapskate) I guess it really wouldn’t matter, but my head began to swirl when I thought about how inconvenient several steps in this process would probably be.

I began to resent Saraki for his imposition. Wasn’t the UN supposed to handle things like this? Though I’d always heard they were pretty corrupt, I figured there were professionals who were far more equipped to deal with international crises than I. But then they’d get their greedy paws on my six million dollars, and that didn’t sit well with me at all. Besides, I’d already added the flat screen (with that sweet extended warranty) to my cart, so it was as good as a done deal. Or did I want TWO flat screens? I couldn’t wait to talk about those at all my fancy parties.

But was it worth the trouble? If Saraki decided to low-ball me and stick with the six million dollar figure, and if that six million dollars were to be taxed, we’d probably be talking more like five million dollars. I couldn’t imagine myself feeling financially secure with only five million dollars. Saraki and his ungrateful kids would be living it up in Korea  while I’d be sitting at home watching my ONE flat screen TV (without the extended warranty, thanks to the deposed miser). In a sense he’d also be doing a disservice to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, because I certainly wouldn’t be willing to part with too many dollar bills with only five million dollars to my name. What made him pick Korea anyway? If I had 54 million buckaroos I’d go to Hawaii or something. Space, maybe.

I decided to sleep on it.

The next morning I awoke and my decision was made. I deleted the President of Nigeria’s email. “God speed, Yusef Saraki,” I thought to myself. Still wanting to feel as though I’d done something worthwhile, I headed back to freerice.com (I even have it bookmarked) and played until I got bored.

For the next several days, I checked my email often, hoping to receive word from Yusef that he’d found a suitable intermediary with which to secure his escape, and I wondered if maybe he’d attach some pictures of his trip to Korea. I’d never been to Asia, but I assumed it would be nice.

That email never came.

I can only assume that Saraki and his entire family were killed by the rebels, and that the new government of Nigeria had sixty million dollars with which to re-establish the rule of law in the war torn country. I thought about looking him up to see if there was some word regarding his status, or if he had gotten out, a forwarding address. Maybe I’d send him a letter. After all, I did have a bunch of fancy new address labels! I never found one, and never sent him anything. I often thought of him with regret and a little twinge of sadness, however anytime those thoughts crept into my brain, I loaded up freerice.com and immediately felt better. Those villages must just be lousy with rice.

I still think of the Sarakis from time to time. If they’d made it Korea, I hoped they’d found a new life there. I also wondered whether or not Korean BBQ was better in Korea than it was here, but I knew that was a ridiculous question. Of course it was. Mostly, as I stared at the blank, flat-screen-less walls and my nonexistent giant fish tank, I thought about how much I would have liked to have had six million dollars. I’ll always regret passing that up.

The Yogurt Palace: My Years as a King

vanilla-yogurt-candy-ir-sq

I was at a point in my life where daytime television fulfilled a void left by years of ambivalence, apathy, and inaction. High school was a distant memory and college was a breeding ground of yuppies and the kind of people whose smug satisfaction would only carry them as far as some corporate shill felt their name on a piece of paper was worth. I gleaned some satisfaction from knowing I’d gone against the grain, and while my contemporaries slaved away at their nine to five rat race hamster wheels, I was my own boss.

Well, kind of my own boss. I worked a different nine to five. PM to AM, to be exact. I was the night maintenance technician at the Yogurt Palace, one of those serve your own yogurt places where you pay by the ounce. It was a pretty sweet gig. After the store closed, I would go in, clean the machines,  change out the yogurt mixes, and mop the relentlessly sticky floor. I sometimes liked to pretend it was an adult movie theater, which was gross, but let me believe I had transferable skills.

I had the whole Palace (my palace) to myself, and for those 8 hours, I was the king. I made myself bottomless yogurt sundaes with whatever mountain of toppings I fancied (no 36 cents an ounce for me!) and sometimes I even held contests with myself to see just how many sundaes I could eat. Actually, I only held this contest once. The magic number is 3. It’s probably more if you don’t count vomiting as disqualification, but since I was both the officiator and the clean up crew, I found it best not to test my limits more than once.

I enjoyed my nights at the Palace, and I was never far away from my next dessert, but there was clearly something missing in my life that no amount of No-Guilt-New-York-Cheesecake-WowCow yogurt could replace.

When you don’t start work until nine o’clock at night, it doesn’t leave you open for much of a nightlife. And really, in order to have much of a nightlife, you need to have friends, but it was a little tough to pull that off when your work schedule is the exact opposite of the rest of the world. Though I couldn’t really argue with my salary, which was slightly above what we in the industry call the “graveyard minimum”, my and benefits package, which was your typical BOGOHO (Buy One Get One Half Off on Wednesdays before 4pm), I longed for a schedule that afforded me the ability to attend a myriad of engagements with my myriad of friends.

My nights were filled with yogurt (sweet, delicious yogurt) and my days were filled with television. Daytime television. As my longing for the world beyond swelled into a dramatic crescendo of desperation, I mined the smorgasbord of informative daytime advertisements sandwiched between my small claims court cases and paternity test results. I called Mr. Larry H. Parker to ask how I might go about getting a piece of that $2.2 million settlement money. Mr. H. Parker proved pretty tough to get ahold of, and apparently the $2.2 million guy lost his legs in a car accident, and I wasn’t quite ready to part with those. I called several car insurance companies to find out how I could reap the enormous savings they advertised so convincingly, and was told that without a car I was already saving the maximum amount.

I began to sink into despair. This was the life of a king, rich in yogurt but trapped in what society deemed my place: far above the common man but unable to partake in their worldly social gatherings.

One day, in my dimly lit studio apartment, bathed only in the warming glow of my 19-inch Daewoo television, as though it were sent from heaven, a sign appeared in the form of a commercial for Bryman Dental College. Two young, attractive women were engaged in a financial transaction, which went a little something like this: “Hi, two concert tickets please!” “Concert tickets? How can you afford to go to a concert?! “Hahaha, with my degree from Bryman College, of course! I enrolled in their Dental Assistant program, and after just 9 months I’m working in a dental office and I can do the things I’ve always wanted to do!'” My first question, obviously, was why the woman on the selling end of the transaction was questioning the financial veracity of the client, something I don’t believe I’ve ever seen an actual human being do before? Why wasn’t the buyer offended? And why didn’t she ask to speak to the seller’s manager? Alas, this wasn’t the time to question the logic of the script, because something else entirely had perked my ears.

Concert tickets? Don’t most concerts happen at night? I’d never been to one before. And don’t you usually attend concerts with friends? I’d never had one of those, either. But, if this commercial was to be believed, I could have it all: money, time, and friends. Hot dog! I immediately called the number on my screen and was connected with an admissions specialist. She seemed very eager to get my application rolling, and she said I’d be a shoe in for the Dental Assistant program (even though I had no experience that would qualify me for “a career in the competitive field of dental assisting,” I think she recognized my enormous amount of potential). Maybe she’d be my first friend. The possibilities were endless. I headed to the local library to use the internet, set up an email address, and within a few short hours received all the paperwork I’d need to bring myself one step closer to a Ticketmaster shopping spree.

Days later all the pieces were in place, and I was poised to enter the ranks of the elite. Dental Assisting is more expensive than I thought it would be, but they set me up with a pretty hefty – I should say generous – loan that I wouldn’t need to start paying back until three months after I graduate, so I was living large. I couldn’t wait to see the looks on my old high school classmates’ faces when they saw me attending college, like some yuppie communist I swore I’d never be! I also imagined the look on the box office worker’s face when I approached, triumphantly declaring, “One ticket to the Three Days Grace/Staind Tour, please!” She’d stand, mouth open, wondering how on Earth I could afford or had time to attend a concert! Instead of asking to speak to her manager, I’d smile, give a wink, and tell her about Bryman, my 9 short months of training and my amazing career working in a dental office! Oh how we’d laugh. Everyone would be my friend!

I realized, with great sadness, that I would have to bid adieu to the Yogurt Palace. The Palace molded me into the man I was, inspired me to achieve, and taught me that I have what it takes to make the world a better place, even if just for myself. I used the library computer to type out my two weeks notice, thanked them for their years of kindness and BOGOHOs, and scrawled my signature onto the freshly printed letter (I believe a tear drop or two may have found their way onto the paper, as well).

As I entered the Yogurt Palace through the front door (I had only done this once before, the day I submitted my application), the manager looked up curiously, furled his brow, and went back to his math homework (he was a senior at Mills High this year, so I could imagine how busy he was). I approached the counter and said, “Braiden, sir, I won’t waste much of your time. I just want to say that it has been an honor and a pleasure.” I bowed my head, extended my right hand, and handed him the letter. Then I gave a quick salute, turned heel, and walked out the door. That was the last time I ever saw him.

I carried out my last two weeks of service diligently, and I do believe that they were the best two weeks of work I’ve ever given. During my last shift at the Palace, I revived the sundae challenge. I beat my old record that night, and as I mopped the dried yogurt and fresh vomit from the floor, I knew that I would always remember my years as a king.

No Kids, We’re Not Going to Round Table Pizza After the Game

IMG_2933

Okay, kids, gather round. Big day today. I’m going to be straight with you: The Sabre Toothed Tigers are the most feared team in the league. If we were in the business of keeping score or tracking win-loss records or doing any fucking thing – sorry for the language, kids. Let’s keep that little slip between us, eh? –  to determine who is a natural-born athlete and who should probably just be inside reading books, the STTs would be numero uno, but until such time as I am in charge of the Magnolia Center Little League, this is purely WOM. That’s “Word of Mouth,” amigos.

What’s the WOM on us, you ask? Well, kids, I hate to break it to you, but it ain’t good. Not good. No, the Padres have developed a bit of a reputation as the “loser squad,” and I wish I could say it’s not deserved. But I’m not here to bullshit you – again, sorry – or blow smoke up your patoots. I’m your coach, and it’s only right that you know what people are saying about you. In the talent pool that is under-7 Saturday morning tee ball, we’ve apparently only taken a dip in the shallow end.

Let’s start with Dawson, Salsberg, and MacIntyre, our star outfielders. Dawson and Salsberg spent the entire 3rd inning last week pulling up handfuls of grass and tossing them in the air. I don’t care that the ball never came to you, the important thing is it could have come to you, boys. It could have. You embarrassed me, you embarrassed your parents, and you embarrassed yourselves. And MacIntyre…Jake MacIntyre. Sitting down in the middle of right field and pulling out a bunch of Pokemon toys to play wi— what’s that? Bakugan? What the hell’s a Bakugan? Oh, they were Bakugan toys? What’d I say? Well, whatever. Thank you for the clarification, Jake, but I think you know that’s not the fucking point – boys, I’m truly sorry for using that word. Force of habit.

At first base, we’ve got Sean Davis. Big Sean Davis. Hey Sean, when a ground ball is hit to you, what’s your job? What’s your only job? Is it to throw to second? I’m seriously asking you if you think your job is throwing the ball to second base, because I’m starting to think that’s how you think baseball is played. God, I seriously wish we kept track of these things, because there’d be a whole lot of “E”s next to your name in the stats book. Tag the base, Sean. That’s it. Tag the goddamn base! Sorry, boys. Coach said a bad word. I just love baseball so much. I love it so much, and it breaks my heart that you won’t just tag the gee darn base! Am I crazy for thinking that’s not so hard? Seriously, am I crazy? What. What are you doing? Are you crying? There’s no crying in baseball, Sean! Anyone? Come on, A League of Their Own? Great movie. No? No one’s seen it? Your parents are failing you.

Next, Timmy Sotello. Timmy “The Pistol” Sotello. Pitcher extraordinaire. Most important position on the team. Or it would be, if we weren’t hitting off a tee. As it stands, all I ask of you is that you face the batter. Just look at him. If the ball is hit to you, get it and throw it to first base. Even if Sean throws the ball into the fucking stands – really, that was the last one – you’ve fulfilled your end of the bargain. But I look out there and you’re waving to mommy and daddy, looking at clouds, kicking up dirt, doing absolutely anything but looking forward, which is literally the easiest thing in the world to do. I would demote you if there was any position on the team less consequential.

Look, I’m not mad. I’m disappointed. Just very, very disappointed. Was it my dream to coach the worst team in the league? It was not. But we don’t always get what we want. Like, I’m sure you’d all love to crush the Sabre Toothed Tigers today, but I just don’t see it in the cards. Actually, doing a quick scan of your faces, it doesn’t really look like you care. The Tigers care. Those boys care. That’s why they win. I would kill to coach the Sabre Toothed Tigers. Those boys are winners, plain and simple.

Life isn’t like the movies, boys. You’re not lovable underdogs who rise up by learning to take advantage of your unique skills and nontraditional contributions to the sport, culminating in a bottom-of-the-ninth victory over the feared perennial champions. You’re underdogs, sure, but no one could ever love you. Loveable underdogs don’t piss their pants while attempting to steal third. You knew I was going to bring that up, Michael. Don’t act like you didn’t know I was going to bring that up.

We don’t have a ringer. Not even close. Nope, you’re going to lose this game. Not officially, of course. Officially, it’s all for fun. But you’ll know. I’ll know. I’ll lay awake at night knowing. But it will be worse for you. I hope it will be worse for you.

I suppose this is as good a time as any to inform you that the team pizza party has been cancelled. No, kids, we’re not going to go to Round Table Pizza after the game. Round Table Pizza is for champions. You are not champions, in case you needed a reminder.

Any questions? Put your fucking hands down. I’m not sorry for that one. I’m all “sorry”d out, boys.

Me Deciding Not to Add Chips to My Chipotle Order

chipotle

Alright, nothing wrong with getting Chipotle, as long as I observe the principles of moderation. I’ve seen the ads: a Chipotle burrito can have upwards of 1600 calories. That’s insane. That tortilla alone adds a few hundred extra cals. No way. I’m going for a bowl. You can’t dip chips in a burrito, anyway. I’ll do half and half rice (healthier) and black beans, for sure. I’m trying to go vegetarian, so maybe I’ll go with the sofritas. Wait. If I skip the sofritas and forego any meat altogether, I’ll get guac on the side. You get it for free if you skip the meat. All the better to dip those chips in. Wait. I’m skipping the burrito (healthier), but I’m adding chips? Which are…fried tortillas? Nope. I’ll skip ’em. Who says you can’t have a healthy Chipotle meal? I feel pretty good about myself. Alright. Mild salsa. Little bit of medium. Perfect combo. Perfect for those tasty, hint-of-lime infused chi…no, wait, I’m not getting chips. Well, it’ll taste pretty good coming off my fork. My plastic fork. My plastic, tasteless fork. Hmm. How would they feel if I cancelled midway through my order? I’m sure they’d understand if I told them I forgot I wouldn’t enjoy the bowl because I wouldn’t be adding any chips (healthier)? Would we laugh about it? Probably. I’d laugh, at least. Being healthy is easy. But no, I’ve come too far at this point. Yes, sir, go ahead and throw some corn and cheese on there. Sour cream? Sure. I’ve got calories to spare! Anything else? Why yes, a healthy lifestyle and a sense of self accomplishment, for one! Yes, that’s right, a veggie bowl for here. Would I like chips or a drink? Sir, I’m not sure if you’ve witnessed to my internal monologue throughout this transaction, but I’ve actually turned over a new leaf as of a few minutes ago. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I understand that sometimes making simple, sensible decisions can be the difference between being a tub tub and being slim, trim, and inspiring. So, for today, I’ll just use my fork. My plastic fork. My plastic, tasteless fork. My plastic, tasteless, unsalted fork. Right. You know what? Give me the chips. I just won’t eat the whole bowl (healthier).
*********** 20 minutes later*************
I am a monster. Tomorrow is another day.

 

Our Wasted Potential: What Are We?

Our Wasted Potential is me. Our Wasted Potential is a collection of my writing, my thoughts, my inner dialogue, me, me, me, me. Me. Why is Our Wasted Potential called “Our” Wasted Potential? Because I believe “My” Wasted Potential is also “Your” Wasted Potential. It’s the reason I’m thirty and using a free WordPress blog. It’s probably the reason you are using a free WordPress blog. It’s about the fear of creation, the fear of failure, the fear of success, the fear of legitimacy, the fear of illegitimacy, the fear of jumping off a cliff and not knowing for certain there’s something at the bottom to break your fall or a parachute on your back (or if there is a parachute, will it open? Did you open it too late?). It’ll mostly just be comedy writing, but keep all that other stuff in mind while you read. Here we go!