Sunday
Nov062011

You don't know, man!

I feel everyone should work for at least several months in a service position. It certainly gives you a good perspective on life.

In my time between college and my first steady job as a filmmaker, I have so far worked at two movie theaters. First, was that one place I mentioned before that had the one-drink-minimum, and I consider that training for having a difficult client, as my boss was constantly drunk and, inevitably, hard to work with on anything.

Presently, I'm at the theater that puts Job A to shame, since it has a real restaurant menu and full bar. Here, I work as a manager and a bartender. Bartending is great here, because it's just a service bar and I don't deal with customers directly. Managing is a different story, since I'm the first person that a difficult customer wants to see, usually because they think I will comp their tab if they cause enough of a stink.

And its been my time as a manager that has opened my eyes to this fact: The customer is NOT always right. Usually, he's just an asshole.

Case in point: I had a pair of customers demand to see me after a film. The first thing they said was "We want to explain why I didn't leave a tip."

For those of you unaware why this is a terrible thing to do, let me enlighten you.

First off, not leaving a tip is a mean thing to do. Servers only make $2.00/hour in salary, and most of that goes to taxes on the tips they earn, leaving them entirely dependent on the mere handful of coins you WERE going to leave for them as you left. And depending on the establishment, the server may have to tip out the bartender or food runner, meaning they LOSE money when you don't tip. It's an unfortunate reality of the restaurant business that business owners have become accustomed to tips coming by default that they realize they can save money by reducing the hourly rate of their servers while keeping their food affordable. I wish it wasn't the case, but there it is.

Now, not leaving a tip is one thing. Usually we just call you a jerk after you leave and go about the rest of our day having already vented our frustration, and by the time you come back we will have forgotten about it.

However, going to the manager and saying "This is why I didn't leave a tip," that's what elevates you to "Asshole Status."  You're just rubbing your rudeness in our faces at that point.

Lesson of the day: Don't be an asshole.

Thursday
Oct062011

Life in the minority

I'm not talking about an ethnic minority, even though that would get me more hits because folks are always looking for some controversy.

No, I'm talking about my choice in a mobile operating system.

Now that you're no longer interested, let me tell you about the ups and downs of Windows Phone 7.

First off, let me say that the OS has been awesome. It's zippy, polished and well thought out. The problem I have has to do with Microsoft taking so long to release this.

I won't deny that Android and iOS have significant market share, and that installed user base makes them very attractive to developers. This results in lots of third-party software for those two platforms, and that becomes even more appealing to end-users, thus increasing the install base and drawing more developers, and so on and so forth. Its a self-sustaining vicious cycle that results in the larger platforms getting bigger and the smaller ones getting smaller in proportion to the rest of the market. And Windows Phone 7 is one of the smaller ones.

Big companies that are interested in making mobile applications, like banks and online retailers, don't see the existence of additional platforms as a problem. They usually have the resources to fire off an app just like the one for iPhone, only properly adjusted for the different programming language. The problem arises with the smaller companies.

Take, for instance, Squarespace. Its my blogging platform of choice here at Hold Your Shoe, and if I had an iPhone or Android device, I'd be able to use their critically acclaimed mobile app to manage the site. Trouble is that I'm on Windows Phone, and they don't have an app for me. This leaves me writing my posts via email, and publishing them when I get to a computer. Not exactly fluid.

But that's what I get for choosing a platform that's fighting for third place. Gotta wait for the good stuff, even if the basic OS features are miles ahead of the competition.

Monday
Sep262011

Oh, the Bureaucracy

Have you ever been on a restricted driver's license? It sucks.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning:

Months ago, back in April, I was partying with some friends. We were having a grand old time, as we had just returned from a roller derby in DC, and were kicking back at their place, shooting darts, playing cards and beer pong and having a few (ok, lets say a lot of) drinks.

Now these are good people. Anyone who comes to their place is welcome to stay the night if they drove there. Of course, being responsible, I wholly intended to stay.

But circumstances changed as midnight neared. A few of them (not all, but enough) decided to smoke a few blunts.

Now I'm no narc, but I don't partake. I also don't judge people when they decide to rebel against the establishment. After all, a little rebellion keeps the establishment in check and helps it evolve over time. But all the same, I don't participate in the consumption of a substance that is still deemed illegal in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Also, I can't stand the smell.

So, Cheech and Chong lit up and I bolted.

Now, when I tell people I got a DUI, their first question is usually "What did you hit?" Gee, thanks for the confidence in my driving, assholes. That aside, what got me caught was speeding.

I was less than a quarter mile from my house when I was pulled over. I was on a street that I have driven almost every day since getting my license. I know every crest, dip and turn of that stretch. As a result, I tend to take it quite a bit faster than most would.

And of course I was just a hair over the legal limit of .08.

Now, when they bring you in, they make you blow into the breathalyzer they have at the station house since it's more accurate than the one police are given in the field. I did it twice and both times it malfunctioned. The procedure then is to drive the arrestee over to the nearby hospital, where a blood sample is drawn. Then the Magistrate determines if you can be released and gives you a court date,

Weeks go by and I'm in court with my newfound lawyer. I've been told that the bloodwork is not in yet and the prosecution is going to ask for a continuance. The judge grants it, because they always get delayed, and sets a new court date. Two months later, I'm back in court and it's still not in. This time, the judge is wavering between a dismissal and another continuance, but she went with the continuance. FML, right?

So at the third court date, the results are finally in, and it's exactly at .08. Double FML.

But since it was so close, it got pled down to a reckless driving with a six month restricted license. That means I can only drive to and from work, which I have to tell the court where it is ahead of time.

Anyone living in the city would say, "what's the problem?" Well, I live in a suburb 15 minutes outside the DC Capital Beltway, and public transit system out here is, well, actually there's no polite way of accurately describing how horrible the bus system is down in these parts.

But the worst part is that I'm actively searching for a second job, and when they ask when I'd be able start I'm gonna have to explain that I'll need at least two days to ask the court's permission to drive to my new job.

That might be a turn-off to potential employers...

So, to sum up, for the next six months I am screwed by a bureaucratic system simply because I wanted to avoid a potentially bad situation. What kind of message is that going to send to my future children when I tell the tale of my restricted license? Sigh...

Monday
Sep122011

It should have been a day of rememberance.

Yesterday marked the ten-year anniversary of a tragic day that nobody will be forgetting for a very long time.

Many of us probably attended memorial services or prayer vigils, or remembered the nation's loss in some other way.

There was, however, a part of the American people that was tasked with preventing another such disaster.  Local police, Homeland Security, FBI, emergency responders; they were all on high alert yesterday just in case the bad guys had a repeat performance in mind.

But for those of us who had no choice but to go about our day normally, these precautions turned into obstacles, at least in the D.C. area.

I'll give a personal example: Yesterday I had to go to work in Arlington.  Normally not a problem, I just hop on I-95 north, ride it past Springfield to I-395, and get off at any of 3 different exits: 7B, 8A and 8B.  On this day, however, I elected to take the HOV lanes, which are less of a hassle on weekends and move faster than the main lanes, and were especially empty that day.  The trouble with the HOV lanes is there's only 2 exits north of Springfield: Eads St., which goes to the Pentagon, and Rt. 27, which is the same as exit 8B in the main lanes. I take that exit, follow 27 to Rt. 50, hang a left onto Fillmore and finish at Columbia Pike.  Easy as cake, and a route that only has 3 traffic lights.

Not today, apparently.

For whatever reason on God's green earth, VDOT and the police decided to close the only two exits HOV has on I-395.  Eads St, I could understand, since the Pentagon is a sore spot for a lot of people on this day, but closing Washington Blvd?  Really?  And no message board to tell me ahead of time?

So I'm stuck going over the 14th Street Bridge into a city so bizarre I've actually gotten lost with a GPS.  At first I'm thinking "No problem, I'll just turn back around and be on the right track again."

Then I look to my left, where there are some police cars, and behind them not a single southbound lane is moving.  All kinds of expletives were uttered by yours truly.

Then I calm down and think "Wait, Memorial Bridge might be clear, and I know how to get to work from there.  Lemme just pull up a map on my phone..."

But no.  The cellular data connection on my phone has stopped working.  I don't know if the Feds have blocked traffic or what, but it has turned an annoyance into a serious problem.  More expletives.

I try calling everyone I know is working to tell them I'll be late, but the manager I'm taking over for is a hardass about cell phone use during work hours and none of them is answering.  Worse yet, I can't get online to look up the office number.

The next half an hour consisted of me stabbing around DC, looking for any hint of how to get to the Memorial Bridge.  Have I ever mentioned that DC was designed by a schizoid?

Finally, blind luck has gotten me near the waterfront, and with a vague sense of direction I continue to drive to what I believe is my way out.  Slowing me down is the fact that DC doesn't believe in road signs.  I only remember ever seeing one sign for the bridge.  At last I am able to visually identify the bridge I need.  But of course, this is our nation's capital, where being able to see your objective rarely means you are able to get to it as easily.  Much like how the government works, actually.

At last, after having to pass the bridge twice before actually getting on it, I finally returned to the Commonwealth of Virginia, only to find slower traffic on the only stretch of Washington Blvd that seemed to be open.  Weirdly, they also closed the exit on Rt. 27 that takes motorists back to 395.  From what I can guess, all these security measures seemed to be less about stopping terrorists and more about making it nearly impossible to go from downtown to southbound I-395.

So I finally arrived at work 20 minutes late.  Doesn't sound so bad at first, but I left my house in time to be half an hour early under normal conditions.

I'm sorry to bring my baggage to bear on a day of solace, but this is apparently the price of security that our enemies have set.

So thank-you's should go around:  Thank you VDOT for closing arbitrary roads.  Thank you to the various police departments involved for creating a roadblock on one of the major arteries OUT of the nation's capital (which is a potential target for an enemy's attack).  Thank you tourists for getting in my way on a day that makes getting into an already difficult city even harder. And thank you to the DC Planning Commission for saving money by not posting signs telling people what street they're on.

But most of all, I must thank the terrorists.  Those hate-filled, dillusional, radicalist, suicidal goat-fuckers have made an otherwise ordinary day into a nightmare for all Americans, and in more ways than one.

Thursday
Aug252011

Then how did you get here?

I work in a movie theater that has a liquor license. To all you suburbanites that have only ever been to one of the major chains, this is a strange concept, I know. The thing about liquor licenses in the proud Commonwealth of Virginia is that they're hard to acquire and even harder to get back once it's been revoked.

As such, my bosses are very protective of their ABC license, and the policy is that everyone coming in must show an ID. There are, of course, cases when we could let it slide now and then. 85-year old grandmothers, for instance, or if they're with a parent. But when it's someone who looks like they could be underage and doesn't have their ID, my policy is that they're not getting in at all. Even if someone's obviously of drinking age, I stress that they will not be consuming alcohol while they're here, and then tell their server that they can't get booze.

But what baffles me is that anyone would come to an establishment that serves alcohol without an ID. I try to give them a chance, by asking if they can run and get it, but they'll usually even harder to get in. My favorite is when they tell me "Um, I came from Maryland..."

Really? You crossed the state line without identification? Are you an idiot? Did you think I would break the state law to let you in? Or maybe you think I have access to some huge government database and all I need is your name and address? SURPRISE!! I have no such access and you're not special! Now go home, because you're not getting in here!

Idiots.