Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Customer Service Series I

Dedicated to all those who do take pride in their work. Thank you!

We are in a recession, no newsflash. It's been hanging around for a while now. And that means less jobs, and more jobless. So I have a bone to pick with management, particularly in the service industries, but this bone goes much deeper.

The service industry, the people who serve, waitstaff, check-out liners, baggers, cleaning staff, babysitters, au pairs, nannies, hairdressers, well you get it. Due to unions and tips, they generally make a pretty good dollar per hour ratio. And I believe usually they are worth every penny. But there have been those few, that seem to hate their job, or have a chip on their shoulder. I used to be in the service industry, well maybe I still am, and I got irritated every once in a while with my job or my duties too. But lately I've noticed more and more of this "I hate my job and I'm taking out on the customer" phenomenon. This should not be happening in a recession!

A recession is a time to cleanse. Managers should be looking at their staff and cutting the unhappy ones, the ones who feel this job is above them, or if they are affecting others in a negative way, whatever their issue is with work. With so many out-of-workers looking for jobs, the ones who have them, no matter what they are, should be thanking the customer, not rolling their eyes at him.

Case in point One: I was shopping at Toys-R-Us a few weeks back and I could not find the dvd's I was searching for. I looked up, down, and all around and missed them somehow. A check out "dude" was sitting in his seat, yes, they give them seats now, doing nothing productive for the store. He was texting his friends and smiling to himself when I, the customer, interrupted him. "Excuse me," I said. "I can't seem to find the leapster dvd's." Without looking up at me, and pointing in the direction of the DVD racks, he said, "They're over there."

I waited a minute to see if that was all I was going to get out of this apathetic teenager and when nothing more came I said, "Excuse me. Would you mind not being such an asshole. Get up out of your chair and find them for me, please? You are on the clock, right?"

His young head snapped up at me then, out of his texting world. "Um, yes, Ma'am," He stuttered. "Sorry. I mean, they're right over here." He walked me over to the dvd's, picked up a leapster dvd and handed it to me.

"Thanks," I said.
"Sorry again." He walked away, heading back to his seat.
I took a few moments to look over the dvd's, smiling to myself.

Yes, I was once a teen, and of course I hated sitting around, waiting for customers or waiting on them, but I was respectful. Or at least I remember it that way. No matter what the job, whether I was scooping up elephant dung, or checking out customers in the grocery line, I was on good behavior when the customer or patron stood in front of me. I made small talk. I smiled. I payed attention. I told them to have a nice day.

After I chose my dvd's I stood in his line to check out in. I did feel a little bit guilty about calling him an asshole, so I decided to apologize, but give some advice.

"Hi again," I said.
"Hi Ma'am." He scanned my items.
"Just wanted to say sorry for the asshole remark, but I am the customer."
"That's all right." His face blotched red. "I should have helped you out."
I signed the receipt. "Thanks," I said.
"Have a good day." He smiled.
I smiled back.

Case in Point number Two:
I stood in Target's check out line a few weeks back, with a friend of mine and our two three-year-olds in tow. The little guys were playing with their new toys, and very happy about them. The check out man was not a happy guy. He did not greet us. He did not smile at our kids. He did not ask if we needed help to the car (my friend was 8 1/2 months pregnant). Instead, he scanned our items, lazily dropping them behind him or into bags without a care to whether he damaged them or not. He seemed irritated that we had bought many things or had chose his line. So irritated in fact, that my girlfriend and I exchanged glances a few times about his unfriendliness.

After our items were haphazardly packaged, this unhappy check out man proceeded to hurry around his counter, pushing our two boys out of his way. I caught him doing this out of the corner of my eye and asked, "Did you just push my kids?"

He said, "Yes, but I only moved them. I'm in a hurry."
I said, "Um, you may be in a hurry but you do not put your hands on my kids."
At this point people were staring, including other check out people, yet no one had called a manager. So I asked the next check out person to please call a manager.

A manager showed up and asked us what had happened. When I said he pushed our kids out of his way because he was in a hurry, he got really upset and said, "She's acting like I'm a child molester, I am not a child molester!"

At this, the manager put his head in his hand and I said, "That's kind of weird him saying that, right?" I mean, who says that to anyone, especially a mother with kids.

The manager assured me that he would talk with him in the back. And I said that I think that having this man work around kids was not a good idea. I even wrote a note to corporate Target about the incident.

But I was just at Target and he is still working there, checking out. I avoided his line!

Why would Target keep him on? And why does Toys-r-Us have workers ignoring customers?
There are so many people out of work, these two could be easily replaced with people who appreciate an income.

I believe that during a recession, customer service should go up, way up. There should be more smiles, more how can I help yous. There should be happier check out people, more thorough cleaning people, more attentive wait staff.

It's time to cut the fat people! Customers, especially now, deserve respect from the businesses they buy from. There are many places I can go to buy the toys Toys-r-us sells and to purchase the products Target stocks their shelves with, heck the Internet makes it all too easy for them to lose my business. If you have been ignored, wronged, or treated badly by a service individual, I say it's time to shop elsewhere.

Maybe it's the managers. Maybe a lack of caring about the customer mirrors the managers lack of caring. Could this go all the way to the top? Sure seems like it with all the money borrowing of our tax dollars and still the over paying of their staff. So if you or your significant other is a manager, if you have the power to fire the unhappy, do it. Prove to the customer that you care about us. Show you care about how we are treated. Hire positive people. They're out there searching for a job. You'll be doing us all a favor if you hire them and lose the losers.

You and I have the power to be treated with respect. Demand it!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Finding Your YOUth Series II

This blog dedicated to everyone who has wondered - what am I going to be when I grow up?

I think I may have had more jobs than anyone I know. I have changed my mind so many times as a teenager then young adult and now even as I am on the hump of my thirties. I don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

But I'm getting closer, narrowing it down to a few careers that I am excited about, in love with and even dream about. I am a writer. I have always been a writer. I know this now looking back at all the jobs I have had and realizing that I had the most fun at them when I was either writing something about them, for them or editing the writing already produced on them.

My first published article was about being a junior firefighter. I loved doing that job, but writing about it gave me a greater thrill. I wrote an article in college about the elephants at the Pittsburgh zoo. I enjoyed working with them, but writing about my experience brought me greater joy. So yes, I am a writer.

Knowing this, I went back to school, when my first child was six months old, to earn a degree in creative writing. Still trudging away at that degree six years later, but it's worth it and it keeps me writing.

I write because I love to write. The question to you is what do you love to do? And if it's not what you are doing right now, how can you rectify that? Or do you even want to?

Change is scary. Although I love change, it makes me nervous too. But I look at it this way. I have this one life and I want to experience things, many things, as many things as I can. And I will write about them, share them with my family, my friends, anyone who will read. And I don't know why. Isn't that funny. I know I'm supposed to be a writer and I don't know why. But I do know it was there when I was very young.

I loved to read. And as soon as I could write, I wrote stories. I made up tales and shared them with my younger siblings. I excelled in English classes, Speech classes and Writing classes along with loving Art classes. Any class that allowed me to be creative, I devoured. But alas I did not follow my young dreams. Peer pressure, uninterested parents, lack of a school counselor and my own doubts led me down many paths that never did I truly enjoy.

It wasn't until I had my first child that my old dreams came back to me. As I read to him so many boring picture books I started to believe that I could write better stories than they. I pulled out my year books, searching through them for character ideas and found much more. I saw myself in speech club, and art club. Memories flashed in my mind of creating, of writing, of stories. It came back to me, my dream. I knew, well remembered, what I was supposed to be when I grew up.

So what are you supposed to be? Have you even thought about it in the past ten years? Once our YOUth slips past us many of us forget our dreams. Or we forget how to dream. But what did you dream about when you were a child? Or what did you love to do? If you can't remember, ask your Mom, Dad, Siblings, cousins, or old friends. Someone is bound to say something like, "Wow, you really loved to draw back then." Or "I remember you arguing everything, you always had to be right."

If you really loved to draw, or you argued every point, or if you were fascinated with building things, what does that say about you? Are you in those fields or as far away from them as you could possibly get? Do you still have an interest there?

In any case, you might find a new hobby in that old dream. Take a drawing class, a speech class or a class in creating with clay. Finding that old you, that young you, the you excited about what you could do, will in fact energize yourself and help you recapture your YOUth.

So what do I want to be when I grow up? Well, I will be a writer. I will write books, stories, articles. I will send my thoughts and ideas out into the world in the hopes that they reach someone. I hope they inspire someone. I hope to inspire you.

I say if there is a tickle. Something pops into your head. A dream. An idea that won't go away, chase after it. Catch it if you can. Play with it. Learn more about it. And then share it with the world. Experience something new for yourself and for all of us.

Ask yourself - What do you want to be when you grow up? And I hope for you, and for us all, you answer it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Find Your YOUth Series

Finding Your YOUth Part I

Dedicated to all the moms who have forgotten who they truly are...

Ruts, you know what I'm talking about. You've been married for a while, have kids and you get into these cycles. Everyone's up for school in the morning, eat a rushed breakfast, out the door with minutes to spare, drop offs, exercise/clean/errands, back for pick up, lunch, pick up number two, snack, husband returns, dinner, homework, kids to bed, watch TV. That's it.
That's my rut.

I looked in the mirror one morning as I was mindlessly performing my rut, and wondered, WHAT happened to my YOUTH? Well not so much my age, but me, what happened to the me who had dreams? What happened to the me who felt excited about something, anything? What happened to the me who felt sexy, alive? My me got in a rut....a big one.

I continued my rut, breakfast, kids to school, seperate drop offs, but then I stopped and had a me moment with myself. I wrote down things I used to do BEFORE. Before what you ask? Well, before I had a husband and kids but AFTER my parents had let me go. That time in between when I answered to me alone. It wasn't long, I was married at 23, but there was a time when I was just me.

I was a firefighter, an elephant handler, a lifeguard and an actor. I was an adrenalin junky of sorts. That was me. No fear. I did what I dreamed and I dreamed big. So what happened? I don't know. I guess I stopped dreaming. I didn't think I did, but I'm in a rut. We all get in them. I've talked about this with many of my friends, and no matter their circumstances, they are either in a rut or emerging from one.

So how could I get out of my rut? I know I needed some excitement, something that would give me a rush, pump blood through my wilting veins. I searched my mind, but couldn't come up with anything. That's what a rut is, something you can't seem to break away from... but thankfully I was invited by a friend to do something a bit out of the ordinary. She wouldn't tell me what it was, but she did ask me if I was afraid of heights. "No!" I said.

She gave me an address 370 Santa Monica Pier. I showed up, still not knowing what I was in for, but hoping it would make me scream. I wasn't disappointed. The Trapeze loomed above me, metal beams shooting into the blue sky. The net, was not as wide as I thought it should be. Blood pumped faster.

As I climbed the ladder, my knees shook so hard I banged one of them off of a rung. It hurt. I kept going. At the top, my hands trembled and my stomach lurched. I crept my ten toes over the edge. The HOT, yes HOTTIE, trapeze guide grabbed my harness and told me to let go. He promised he wouldn't let me fall. That was the scariest part, letting go. But I had to. I had to let go to get out of my rut, to follow a dream, to try something new, to get over a fear, and to prove to myself that I was still in me somewhere.

I took a leap and swung free. Staring out over the ocean I screamed. It felt wonderful to scream again, to feel adrenalin, to not play it safe. And as I let go of the bar, falling toward that small net, I screamed again.

Rolling off onto the pad below, my knees buckled. My hands shook wildly. My breathing was rapid. I hugged my girlfriend and thanked her. We played on the trapeze for over two hours. I tried a backflip and a catch and accompished both of them. And as I rolled off the net for the last time that day I knew my rut was over.

So to you I say get out of your rut! Find your YOUth. Make your AFTER/BEFORE list. Remember who you were and follow her dreams again.

loved escaping under bridges
rode my bike everywhere
played with the elephants at the Pittsburgh Zoo
Lifeguared at a Lake/Pools
Firefighter at 14
Acted in Pittsburgh Theatre/Independent Film/Commercials
Played release with my friends in college
Pitcher for Fast Pitch Softball Team
Strong Swimmer
Taught Exercise
Love to Read/Write
Threw Parties
Paint with Oils
Loved to Dance

Go make your own!
The next rut stopper - swimming with Sharks!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Looking Forward - Looking Back Series IV

Blog dedicated to Friendships.

Case II in the long line of me not understanding women.

My second best girlfriend after Julie was Mindy. A wild child. She yanked me up from my depression and showed me life was good. And I still love her for that today, but she did break my heart in the end and here's how.

Mindy and I were like cat and mouse. She the cat and me the mouse. She loved life. She was full of excitement, wanting to party, wanting to run, wanting to break free. I felt energized around her. Her eyes lit up with the joy of being young. When Mindy was in the room, energy radiated.

I followed her. I wanted to be her. Especially after my last girlfriend/boyfriend melt down, I wanted to be free. Free of rules, free of attachments, free of love. And Mindy brought that to me. We sneaked out of her house at night to go to parties and not just any parties, these were major older guy, cop parties. And they knew we were seventeen. But when Mindy wanted to party, it was allowed even by authority.

I mean this chick once got a motorcycle as a gift. Who else from a small farm town gets transportation, a Harley in fact, as a gift. And not it wasn't for sex. She got into people, especially men. They loved her. As did I.

We spent our days in school, skipping, smoking, hanging out in the boys bathrooms. Teachers allowed us to do whatever we wanted. We hung out in study halls, the art room and gym. Mindy was infectious. We spent our nights at bars, she knew all the bouncers, at barns, yes riding other peoples horses and at parties with the local cops.

She was a dream to me after my wholesome friendship with Julie. Mindy rocked. She rocked hard. We stayed up all night drinking homemade wine, talking about our f-d up lives, our screwed up parents and our future we would make our own. We could do anything and would do anything, nothing and no one could stop us....especially since her mother was a nurse and worked the night shift. When I stayed at Mindy's house, we were on our own.

And we hated men! We used them to get into bars, for rides, free drinks, dinners and party passes. We knew what they wanted, and we flashed but never fully. We dangled our young hard bodies but never gave in totally. And it worked. Until...

One night we were partying with the cops. We had grown to trust them, but this night was different. Something in their eyes. They weren't just drunk, they were high. They offered pot to us, but I declined. I was and still am afraid of drugs. But Mindy indulged. She headed into the back room with a few of the others and I was left alone in the front room with one of the cops.

He was a cutie. And in that uniform a hottie. I really like him and I really liked kissing him. We kissed for a while on the couch, when he took out his cuffs and handcuffed me behind my back. At first I thought it was fun, a game, even sexy. But then when I asked him to take them off he laughed at me and pushed me down. I laughed back, but demanded more seriously that he remove the cuffs. He laid on top of me. I screamed for Mindy.

She came running out of the back, high as a cloud, but still had the peace of mind to kick the cop off of me. But as she did that the others got more serious. I knew it was time to go, but we had to do this delicately. I still had the cuffs on. So I sauntered over to one of the other cops, flirting with him to take them off. He was high and drunk and smiling he demanded the key from his buddy.

My heart was pounding so hard, but my face gave nothing away. And Mindy sobered up pretty quickly, was helping our escape. We giggled and teased, inching toward the front door. More people were showing up to the party and as they came in we dashed to the car. I drove.

When we got to her house I felt sick. We were close, too close to disaster. Our flirting games had almost cost us. And who would have believed us? We two high teens vs. a group of young cops.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Looking Forward - Looking Back Series III

Boy vs. Girl

Blog dedicated to boyfriends and girlfriends.

Okay I admit it I don't get women. I know I am one, and you'd think that would give me a hands up but I haven't had the best of luck with female relationships. Starting with my mother, (I was allergic to her breast milk) sister, (me cheerleader, her burnout) female cousins, (them shopping and phone conversations, me hating both) aunts, (them crying when I got my period, me seething alone in my room) girlfriends, (well, read on you'll get it) I never really got them and they never really got me.

There are two instances (well more than that but these are big) that I look back on in my female relationship history as outstanding, ground shaking, life altering, core changing times in my life. The moment where in one second everything works, life makes sense, you belong and know who you are, the next second there is no ground, no up or down, and nothing makes sense.

Case Study 1: Julie - she knows who she is. She was my best friend and I mean in my heart and soul - this is big for a girl who does not have girlfriends. She made me laugh, cry (which is a rarity), we hugged, slept over, indulged in home pedicures, cake making, and even burping contests. We played in the rain together, jumped in mud puddles, and revealed our growing buds to each other. I trusted her completely like I've trusted no other since. A deep love, a deep admiration, we even had nicknames for each other, me Ilse, her Emily. No matter what happened in my life I knew Emily was there, she had my back. That is until she stuck a knife in it and twisted until every last fond memory of her spilled onto the bloodied floor and dried there turning cold and dark.

It was 9th grade and we were taking over the high school one club at a time... We were like gasoline and the match. We ignited all we touched. Then she burned me.

Todd was my very best guy friend. We had known each other since 3rd grade, played kick ball together....built worm forts together, laughed, joked and plain hung out together. I introduced him to Julie in middle school. And the three of us became a coveted threesome. We were the cools ones. The three who started the places to be. Everyone was welcome, we included, no exclusions here...until that fateful weekend where everything changed - never to be the same again.

There was a dance and Julie couldn't go. So Todd asked if I wanted to go with him. Sure, as friends of course. But the night was long, we danced, even slow danced then the atmosphere between us changed. It became charged like never before. He kissed me. I felt dazed, overwhelmed, excited, confused. I felt happy. My body tingled, gooosebumps rose. He was my best friend and now to be my boyfriend. Perfect.

Sunday I was meeting Julie at the mall. I had tried to call her Saturday, but got no answer, no return call.

I waited near the waterfall, searching the many mall patrons for her happy face. There she was, coming toward me, brown curls bobbing, big smile wearing, my best girlfriend, Julie. As she approached she gushed that she had something unbelievable to tell me. And I returned the same excitement and statement too. She said you first. I smiled wide.

"Todd kissed me!" I exclaimed. Her face drooped. "What?" I asked.

"He kissed me too," she said.
I couldn't believe it. My heart cried out in pain. How could he do this? My best friend? What the hell?

Julie explained that he had called her Saturday morning and asked her out on an official date to a movie. She was so excited but afraid to call me. They sat in the last dark row, where he kissed her during the credits.

My eyes welled up with hot tears. Angry tears burned, but did not fall. I blinked them away. What a jerk.

I devised a plan. A perfect way of getting back at this boy who thought he could come between two very best friends. We agreed that tomorrow morning, Monday AM, we would tell him that he was an asshole. That we were done with him as a friend. And to never call us again. We'd oust him. He would no longer be cool. He'd be dead to the school.

Monday morning came fast. My stomach ached. He was my best friend and I had fallen for him during our kiss. But there was no way a boy was going to come between me and my long time friendship I had with Julie. No way!

First period was when I would see him, the jerk, the snake. There he stood, handsome as ever. Blond hair, aqua eyes, smiling at me with that stupid dimpled grin. I sauntered over to him, my eyes narrowed and his got wider. "What's up?" he said.

"What's up? What's up? I'll tell you what's up." I practically screamed. The room stopped chattering. "You think you can kiss me and then kiss Julie? You think you will come between us? You're an asshole!" Then I stormed out. I skipped first period, hiding out, crying in the bathroom.

Third period was when Julie would lower her bombshell too. Third period came and went. We were supposed to meet in the bathroom on the second floor. She didn't show. My stomach worsened.

Come lunch the rumor had spread through the entire school. Julie and Todd were the hot new item. I didn't believe it, until I saw it. There she was sitting on his lap at our lunch table. I stared. My heart shattered in unrecognizable pieces. My two best friends backstabbed me. I cried.

I understood his idiocy, but not hers. We were blood sisters, played in the rain together, held burping contests, cried about guys and about our nonexistent boobs, laughed at movies, had nicknames for each other. How how how how how could she do this to me? I left school. I couldn't face our table while the king and queen held their false court.

The next few weeks felt like years to me. I was the one ousted, not him. They were the coolest couple and I was the loser. The one not chosen by either of them.

I moved on, slowly, painfully. I found new friends and swore off men forever. But I got through it. Although it did leave a scar, a big one. To this day I do find it difficult to trust women. I also find it difficult to believe men. Thanks Emily and Todd for that. But in the end I have become a stronger person. And I know that this story will make a hell of a Young Adult novel someday. Planning the chapters as I write...

I wonder....did Todd ever find out what happened at the mall that day? Did he ever know that I was willing to stop my feelings for him for my friend? Does he realize what a snake he ended up with? I am guessing yes since they did not last long after high school. I wonder if she ever thinks of me? Does she feel sorry for the friendship she stomped on for a guy? Or was this an early pattern emerging in her ice heart?

Well I do thank them now, for I learned a lesson in love and friendship. Love yourself above girlfriends, above boyfriends. Love yourself and follow your gut, even if you get ousted! I am glad I chose her over him. I found out how strong our friendship was or wasn't. I found out that I am a good friend, a great friend actually, a trustworthy friend. I am proud of myself.

Oh, also, I have them fueling my writing fire...a reality show coming soon in regards to this- but that's another post another day.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Looking Forward - Looking Back Series II

Dedicated to Crystal - I was strong but should have been stronger.

Okay, women are nuts, well, become nuts as we grow, read magazines, see actors/models on TV with those perfect bodies, perfect teeth, perfect highlights, perfect boyfriends/husbands, perfect lives. Everyone has issues. Everyone! Some of us try to hide them, but no one is perfect.

So looking back - my senior year in high school, my friend Crystal - did not have the "perfect" body. She was a normal girl, not fat, not skinny, just in the middle -- perfect. But she didn't think so. 

One day, waiting for her in her car, I opened the glove compartment and boxes - now I mean maybe ten, maybe twenty boxes of diet pills fell to the floor. I hurried, stuffing them back in before she knew I knew.

Crystal, all smiles, got into the car and off we went to the pizza hut. Scarfing down four pieces, she abruptly left our table, hurrying to the bathroom. Now I've always had a sort of sixth sense when it came to people - well I can read the writing on the wall. So I followed her - tiptoeing behind her.

And yes, my suspicions were confirmed - she was barfing in the bathroom. I hurried back to the table, acting as if I knew nothing. I watched my friend, poised, smiling, skipping back to the table, laughing with friends like she didn't just puke her guts out two seconds ago. She was nuts. We all get nuts sometime in our lives and that's when girlfriends are needed the most.

So - I let it be known - we were driving home, alone, and I opened the glove box. The pills tumbled out. Crystal freaked. She screamed at me, my friend. I shoved them all back in, but then I demanded to know what was up. She lied. Which infuriated me. We were friends! Why lie. But she was nuts.

So I confronted her. I told her I heard her puking the pizza. I knew what she was doing. I knew why she was thinning. She told me to F-off. To get out of her life. To mind my own business. I was crushed. 

She dropped me off at my house. Days passed without a phone call, without an apology. She owed me. But she was nuts! She needed me. 

I thought about what to do. Who could I tell? Her mother. Yes, I knew when Crystal worked - I knew her schedule well. I waited until she left, then I knocked on the door. Her mother answered. I went in. We sat at the kitchen table where I spilled the beans. As she listened. She started to cry. She said she knew something was wrong, but Crystal had denied it, even got angry with her.

I made her promise not to tell, but to help her without her knowing. That didn't work. Soon I got a phone call - the meanest from Crystal. She called me a fake friend, a liar, a bitch. She said I hated her. She said I was never there for her. I started to hate her back. This was my friend? But she was nuts! 

A year passed and Crystal balanced out. But I was still grumbling inside. My so called friend got the help she needed because of me, but nothing, not a I'm sorry, or you were right. I was owed that, right?!

Then three years passed by and the call came. I answered never guessing it would be her. I didn't even recognize her voice. She said she was just calling to see how I was, that she had ran into my mother and she had given her my number. Anger boiled. The things I had wanted to say years before came out. Crystal never did apologize. Now I was nuts.

A few more months passed, where I questioned myself. Then she called again. We agreed to meet for lunch. She apologized. I sat there amazed, happy, confused and sad. I wish this would have happened years ago. I wish she would have stepped up. I wish I would have been stronger. I wish I would have stepped up. 

We hugged. That was that. I wouldn't say we are friends now, but I would say we respect our past. That when we see each other we are friendly. And that's wonderful.

Lesson: Looking back I was right in getting help for my friend, but I was wrong in letting her anger anger me. I should have been stronger. She was nuts and I should have been able to see past that. 

 Today after struggling with relationships with women, I have many female friends. And some of them are nuts. They need a friend. But I am timid. Crystal's strong reaction to my help has scared me from helping others. But I can't be weak. When my friends are nuts, I need to be strong. I need to help them, even if that means they will hate me for a time - maybe for forever. Hopefully not. 

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Looking forward - Looking Back

This blog is dedicated to the life lessons I have learned thus far in my 34, oops, just had a birthday, 35 years on the planet (in this lifetime).

The first lesson: Getting Rid of a Downer Customer (insert Friend here if you like).

In my years, BK (before kids), I have been a Babysitter, Lifeguard, Firefighter, Shoe Salesperson, Grocery Cashier, Waitress/Hostess, Fruit Basket Maker, Actor, Hospital Records Keeper/Organizer, YMCA Swim Instructor, Wave Pool Assistant Manager, Aerobics Instructor, A Notary Public, Architectural Drafter/Office Manager, Team Member, Manager of a Team, Bank Teller, Loan Officer, Mary Kay Sales Rep, Day Care Teacher, and Writer (which I still am). 

During these diverse, fun, awful, never ending, exciting and sometimes scary jobs I learned skills for survival. One of those lessons learned, losing the downer customer, came from my time as an Eat-N-Park waitress in the small town of Beaver Falls, PA. 

How old was I? A teenager, maybe fifteen, sixteen...old enough to know better, but young enough to not care. And they, a family group, consisting of a grandmother, grandfather, son, daughter and grandkids. Now before you think "aww" this is not your fairy-tale family. They stunk. And I mean the entire restaurant smelled like a garbage can. They never washed, dirt embedded under each fingernail. They never talked, to each other, and barely to me, their unlucky  waitress. Oh, and they NEVER NEVER NEVER tipped. 

This poor family group came in each night, ordered on bowl of soup, which came with free bread, took up a six person booth for five hours, then left without a penny for me. 

I know, I know, now....they needed a place to warm up, and some food to share, yes they were vagrants, living on the street and yes, I feel awful....NOW. But back then, a teen, I was pissed. Angry that they sat in my section, irritated that I had to wait on them, sickened that I had to smell them, and tired of working for nothing.

So I devised a plan to get rid of the group. Their one bowl of soup, I would add one ingredient, red hot pepper. Not too much at first, but little by little, just enough to make it uncomfortable. And as they came back, I would add more, and more, until the soup was unbearable. 

I figured it wasn't really harmful, it wasn't gross and it might get them out of my section or maybe, hopefully, the restaurant for good -- a win win.

The first hot pepper laced soup I placed in front of them, the grandmother sipped as I watched, waiting for her reaction. She slurped. Then a chill. She sipped again and again. They shared. I failed.

The next bowl I doubled the red flakes. Placing it, well dropping it, in front of them, they sipped. Grandfather blinked up at me. "This soup is hot." 

"Yes," I said. "It's soup." (oh how awful I was.) I left them. They finished their bowl. I failed again.

The third bowl, I tripled the spice, and slammed the bowl in front of the six dirt covered customers. By this time the rest of the wait staff knew what I was up to. In fact they wanted to add more ingredients to the soup. But I knew the red pepper would work, eventually. 

Everyone waited. Grandmother sipped, shivered, stopped. She glared up at me, knowing eyes. Pushed the soup away. With one nod the six scooted from my table and out of the restaurant onto the cold streets. And that was that. 

Never again did I see them. And I often wonder about that poor family. Where did the go? What restaurant did they pick? Which waitress did they annoy next? 

I didn't fail, I won. Right? Yes to the winner go the spoils. The waitstaff celebrated my victory with cookies. I had many other customers, tipping customers, great smelling customers, clean customers....but none of them do I remember. None of them do I think about. None of them haunt me with that look, the knowledge of betrayal. 

If I could, I would apologize to this family. I would buy them dinner. Sit with them and talk with them, let them warm up from the frost. 

Lesson: Yes, you can rid yourself of downer customers, downer friends, downer family members. But who is the winner? I am all for getting rid of those drainers - the ones who take and never give. But before I add hot pepper to one more of my relationships, I'm going to try some salt first. I'm going to be honest, try to help, and change the dynamic. Of course I'll keep some pepper flakes in my purse, just in case. :-)