I was at Panera the other day. I’m there a bit. More than I’d like considering I don’t especially like Panera. But, they crank out food quickly and I can do my whole, “Hey it’s a salad routine.” For caloric supplement, I sometimes get a chocolate chip cookie. Again, the cookies aren’t great, but if they undercook them the right amount–they hit the spot in a pinch. So, I go through my usual order and add the cookie on and the cashier says to me, “The chocolate chip cookies are really good for some reason.” It’s one of the most confusing things I’ve ever heard from a cashier. Did he mean that particular day? Did he not understand why cookies are usually good (butter/sugar/chocolate)? Did he have some type of anxiety disorder where he spits out a non sequitor? I feared he was just making small talk, like his manager probably implored him to do. TALK ABOUT THE PURCHASE. It makes the customer feel welcome, or some such horse bleep. So, here’s this poor kid trying to think of 100 different things to say to people ordering soup and salads. For me, he spun the wheel and landed on, “the chocolate chip cookies are good for some reason.” I said, “Let me know if you figure it out.” The mailbag….
Q: Are Chinese restaurants the easiest restaurants to name? Seems like just about any combination of words will do. Peter Franklin Chang, Humble, TX
A: I imagine pizza places are up there as well. Just throw someone’s name on the board. Maybe they’re Italian, maybe they’re Greek–I DON’T KNOW. I can tell you I drove by a place the other day and it was called A1 CHINA. The sign was all caps, that’s not my emphasis. Was this the Chinese headquarters for the steak sauce? I’m pretty sure that if you called a place, A1 America–not a soul would go there. You’d get less business than Babu Bhatt. So, I think in that sense, it probably is easy for Chinese restaurant owners to name their places. There is less pressure. You don’t have to be fancy, or cute, or ironic, you can just throw a couple of words together and let the profits roll in. Han Dynasty? Sure. China King? Absolutely. The other thing at work here is that Chinese food is also like pizza in the sense that people would buy it out of the trunk of a Dodge if they thought it was the best Chinese food around. The constant pursuit for the best pizza, or best Chinese has people trying any place–regardless of the name. And then if you find a good place, it’s all word of mouth. If someone told me that the best pizza they’ve ever had was from Ecoli Brothers, you can bet your sweet ass I would try it. The more working class the cuisine, the less people will be concerned about name dropping your restaurant. So, Chinese, Diners, Pizza–just call it whatever.
Q: When is it OK to turn down a request to share food or drink? You know that anyone who asks for something has already assumed you’re going to say yes. Doesn’t this put you in a tight spot? World B. Free Sample, Chester, PA
A: I’m not much of a food sharer. If I have some beers or drink around, you are always welcome, but my general rule on food is: “I’m going to order what I want to eat. You should do the same.” The only exception is, if the person asks before hand. If they say, “Can I have a wing if you get an order?” Something like that at least shows the courtesy of allowing you to change and/or adjust your order. Other brains work differently. Some people just don’t value food as such a personal commodity. They want to sample off everyone’s plate. Other people are just mooches. They’ll grub a free snack any time they can get one. They’re the kid in college who magically appeared every time you had something delivered. I knew a classic mooch in college. Our room was always fairly well stocked and all 10 of this kid’s favorite sentences started with, “Can I get a…” Well, once I had ventured to Wawa to get some soft pretzels. This was when Wawa’s soft pretzels were still good and you had to drive about 15 minutes to get to one in Lancaster. So–big commitment. We get back, I’m eating the pretzels, and this kid asks for a piece. I don’t want to give it to him, but I fold. He then proceeds to eat the knot out of my pretzel. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? It’d be like someone coming over and cutting the center out of a tray of brownies. I was livid. He thought I was joking around, and I wasn’t. AT ALL. The audacity. Anyway, that incident led to us posting a list of all his “mooches,” and assigning a dollar value to them. A tab, if you will. It may have slightly curbed his impulse to “share.”
Q: Do you think it’s uncomfortable for men to get a lesson from a woman in an athletic pursuit? A woman giving a golf lesson for example? Dolores “Butch” Harman, Tampa, FL.
A: I’m sure it would be for a lot of men. The instructor/student relationship is almost like doctor/patient, and I think in that case a lot of people like to gravitate toward a doctor of the same sex. And, when it comes to sport instruction, I think it’d almost be like a guy going to a female about, I don’t know…potency issues? It’s hard enough to admit you need help, but even harder to admit what would be perceived as a lack of masculinity to a woman. I’ve taken the comparison a BIT far there, but there is certainly a stigma to women golf instructors. They have it tough. Your average male hacker would probably willingly take instruction from a handful on women on the LPGA Tour, and that’s about it. And at the same time the man you are taking lessons from might struggle to break 85. I’m afraid that most men who take golf or tennis lessons from a woman at this point, probably are attracted to the teacher on some level. They think, she’ll be teaching the me the backhand, and one thing will lead to another and then IT’S ON. More men should probably be open to female instruction on the golf course, because what teaching golf really requires is an eye for spotting people’s mistakes–not a great game in your own right. But, even on that level, a lot of women players have great tempo, are crazy accurate, and have good short games–there is plenty to learn.
Q: Is being a photographer the new being funny? What I mean is, pretty much everyone thinks they’re funny. But now with camera phone and all these sweet apps, everyone is thinking they need to share it with the world every time they snap a shot of a cloud. Sepia Tohnes, Media, PA.
A: Yes, I think most people would at least say they have a good sense of humor. Even if they don’t consider themselves funny, they certainly KNOW what is funny and how to laugh. You can really derail someone’s self-esteem if you tell them they aren’t funny. Typical reaction, “ME? I’m not funny?” Then they’ll say that you aren’t funny. Then they’ll attack something that you think is funny. “Oh, and by the way, Caddyshack is STUPID.” It can get very ugly. The photography thing is an interesting comparison. It’s gotten a lot easier to take a picture over the last few years, and it’s been getting progressively easier since the camera was invented. So, I actually think there are more people out there taking better pictures, because you don’t have to worry about lighting or…that’s the only real photography term I’m aware of. MIND THE LIGHTING. What I do agree with is that people want way too much credit for their photos. They go to some beautiful beach, whip out the iPhone, apply some horsebleep “filter,” to the shot and then they post it online and expect to be lauded for their crazy skills. I think I’d be most concerned if I was a real photographer. It’s got to be getting competitive out there. I think a good dozen people I went to high school with are now photographers. I’m serious. That seems like a lot. I’d get into this more, but I’ve got to run down to the old railroad tracks and take some sweet black and whites.
Q: If all your friends suddenly started wearing white jeans, would you jump on board? Denny Blanco, Athens, GA.
A: Are my friends pop stars? Am I eleven years old? Because if they aren’t and I’m at my current adult age, I don’t really see it happening. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m no longer going to let denim run my life. I think I was in college the last time I was self-conscious of my jean style. This was in the era of bleached thighs? I’m not sure what else to call it. I got this pair of jeans and they were fine, but when I got them home and was thinking about wearing them in public I was like, “OH MY GOD, are they too dark?” That’s really no way to live. So, after battling tight rolling, fake rips, various washes, etc–I’m done. I don’t care if someone at GQ says I will look thinner if my jeans fit like leg socks. I don’t care if the entire world starts wearing white jeans. I’m washing my hands of it. And, could there be a worse color for pants, honestly? I’ve witnessed the white pant trend in golf first hand. It’s great until you get to the fourth hole and you’ve got stains on the bottoms, your pockets are all marked up from tees, etc. If I have to start washing my pants after each wear–things are going to get ugly.