Leaving Early


I’ve noticed a trend of people leaving early at punk rock shows and at hockey games.  I’m sure it’s happening other places too. It’s glaringly obvious that as a society our attention spans are shortening while our focus hones in on our own satisfaction.  I guess I’ll have to give into the trend.

Here’s my list of more suggested places to leave early…

  1. When Dining Out – Order something you don’t like for dessert, then leave before it gets there because you don’t want it anyway.  Brave diners can also skip paying the bill.
  2. The Doctor’s Office – No clocks in the waiting room?  Making you routinely wait for an hour later than your scheduled appointment time, yet whining if you’re 10 minutes late?  Leave before the doctor gets there, you probably don’t want to hear the results anyway.
  3. The Movies – They’re all remakes any more anyway.  Haven’t you already seen this?  You know how it’s going to end.  Chances are you’re texting or even talking on your phone the whole time anyway.
  4. Church – Just getting in the door counts, right?  Leave before all that pesky sermon about morals and other nonsense… and get to the local diner/brunch buffet before everyone else!
  5. WorkEight hours?  That’s just crazy.

Have any more suggestions?

Dine & Dash!

What the hell is this?

I hate public bathrooms.


Abandonded, dirty bathroom - Seattle

Image by StartTheDay via Flickr

Well, I’m sure everyone does to a certain extent.  I hate them for the obvious reasons of comfort/germs/privacy just like (I’d imagine) everyone else.  I mean, everyone would rather do business on their own throne & all alone, am I right?

I hate public facilities for other reasons that are somehow more annoying than the obvious…

  • They’re never stocked properly.  Okay, I guess this one’s obvious.  Sorry.  Perhaps I should also say “rarely” instead of “never”, but I’m ranting here.  If something’s not out completely, the dispenser is jammed which is worse because it’s there but you can’t get to it.  Soap? Toilet paper? Hand towels?  Who needs ’em, right?
  • TP Quality.  If I can see through it and  have to go bad enough that I’m actually pooping in a public bathroom, you can guarantee that I’m going to wad it so much that you should have just bought the better stuff anyway.
  • The “hey we cleaned it 10 min. ago” sign-in sheets.  Yeah, “cleaned”.
  • Sink design.  There seem to be a lot of sink designers out there that have never actually washed their hands.  When the faucet hangs about 2 inches over a sink basin with a large slope… my knuckles are hitting porcelain and my palms remain dry until I pull some contortionist-like moves that should probably get me into the Olympics.  Did no one think about that when the bathrooms were being built or remodeled?  No one has tried the sink out, regardless of the inevitable “Employees Must Wash Hands” sign?  Perhaps I am doing it wrong.  Is there a secret?  If there is a better way, I am but your humble student.
  • Water.  It’s never quite right, is it?  Scalding, freezing… a minor inconvenience I guess.  Most public sinks that I encounter have the all-on-splash-my-shirt setting and the just-above-a-drip setting with not much in between.  I’ll also mention the “oh no I leaned on the counter and it looks like I peed my pants” moment here.  The auto-sinks at Walmart stores feel like there’s a tiny elf with an eyedropper in there just waiting to wash your hands.
  • Foam soap is just terrible.  Quit it already.  I’m over it, and you should be too.  It dissipates so quickly & leaves my hands feeling either not clean at all at best or almost sticky at worst.  The watered-down liquid soap that was used regularly well into the late 90’s and early 00’s is just fine.
  • Technology isn’t your friend.   I’m the last person to run a tirade against technology.  But sometimes, the more there is to it, the more there is to go wrong.
    • The auto-flush toilet was probably the first to appear.  While noble, I have perfected my boot-flush and elbow-flush techniques… so I don’t need it, even if it does work.  Everyone’s heard the tale of someone who was auto-flushed upon amid doing business on the john.  No one wants to be the victim there, right?  Especially of the ones that look like a mini hurricane in a bowl.
    • The Hand Dryer.  I believe the correct ratio is 1 out of every 3 hand dryers (hot or cool) actually functions.  I haven’t done any studies, and I’m not sure if this is the factory QC acceptance level, but it seems about right.  I’m saying 1 out of 5 for the no-button auto kind.  You can quote me on this.
    • The hands-free paper towel dispenser.  Jammed, not working, empty, gives a 3″ square or enough to dry 1 finger… then takes 10 minutes to give you enough for the next finger.  So much here to go wrong.
    • The hands-free soap dispenser.  There’s no soap in it, because it’s all on the floor.  Or, if it’s an in-sink unit, there’s always a bottle of Softsoap or Dial there because the in sink unit is always empty or broken.
    • The hands-free sink.  See my previous comment about elves & eye droppers.  It also helps if the elf isn’t sleeping.
    • Pfft.  The auto your-ass-stinks dispensers make it smell like poop and flowers.  That helps.
    • What’s next?  Someday there will be butt-wiping robots or poo-burning laser beams.  I’d like to go on record now as voting against this.
  • The pee trough.  These are rare nowadays, thank goodness.
  • The Surprise.  Unfortunately you know what I’m talking about.  Stop it, people.
  • The trash can.  Full or overflowing?  Yes.  The in-sink or in-wall ones are a joke.
  • The multi-tasker.  I don’t want to hear you on your phone while you’re pooping.  The person on the other end doesn’t want to talk to you while you’re pooping.  I don’t want to talk to you while I’m pooping.  Phones and pooping do not mix.
  • The dweller.  What’s with people that just hang out in restrooms?  What are you doing besides making me nervous?  If you’re not using the facilities or freshening up… get out.

What did I miss?  I’m sure something in public restrooms annoys you too.  What is it?  Am I wrong with any of the above statements?  Have any horror stories?  Hit me with comments…

Score! Free movie passes…


If you read my recent rant about going to the movies, and then read my email to & the response from the theater, they you knew this was coming.  But, it’s cool that they’re actually here.  After the last response, I did reply via email to Mr. Wilson:

From: Eric Carroll <me@my.email.address>
To: Shawn Wilson <swilson@cinemark.com>
Sent: Thu, August 12, 2010
Subject: Re: Contact Us: Quality of service at a theatre

Hello Shawn,

Thank you for the reply.  I understand that you must also be frustrated with the behavior of your patrons.  My wife & I would very much appreciate two movie passes, thank you for the offer!  My mailing address is…

Eric Carroll
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Pittsburgh, PA  XXXXX

You do have a great new beautiful theater… hopefully over time, you’ll be able to have the staff available to spot & weed-out the troublemakers.  Ha… too bad that texting is one of the bans… I’d certainly have no trouble texting the theater to point out moviegoers causing a distraction for others!

Have a good day,
-Eric
.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

And, then today, this was in my mailbox when I got home:

Cinemark Letter & Rain Check Passes

Cinemark Letter & Rain Check Passes

It’s cool that it can be used for any movie any time.  I had wondered if there would be any odd restrictions. I am serious abut the texting to report troublemakers though.  If there was a “text complaints to this # to alert managers of a disturbance/error during the film” kind of thing… it would work out pretty well… except that texting during to movie is one of those things that’s already frowned upon.  They need those buttons like they have at the bowling alley… ha ha.

At any rate, we’ll have to get back out there soon to catch a free show!

We can’t change the way people act.


So, did you read the one about our last trip to the movies?  I know it garnered more comments than most of my posts.  Comments are always appreciated!  At any rate, we have somewhat of a conclusion.  I let the theater know about our evening via webform:

From: me@my.email.address [mailto:me@my.email.address]
Sent: Monday, August 09, 2010 10:08 PM
To: SiteTheatre
Subject: Contact Us: Quality of service at a theatre

Hello,

I my wife & I recently went to the new Cinemark in Robinson on a whim, and we had an “interesting” evening.  I posted a review of the night online, and it was brought to my attention that I ought to tell you guys about the problem directly.

More and more, a night at the movies plays out like this:  https://aixelsyd13.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/movie-night-for-schmucks/

It’s a shame to have a new beautiful theater with helpful friendly employees go downhill so fast thanks to the rudeness of the patrons, and refusal of management to enforce the theater’s policies.

Should I have gone to management right away?  I would have most certainly missed the beginning of the film.

Would the other patrons have been removed form the theater?  I’m guessing no as they were also paying customers… albeit incredibly rude paying customers.

I hope that you are able to read about my experience and share your thoughts on how I should have conducted myself in that situation.

Thank you for your time, I really look forward to hearing from you!

And, I eventually got a reply:

From: Shawn Wilson <swilson@cinemark.com>
To: me@my.email.address
Sent: Thu, August 12, 2010 1:41:14 PM
Subject: FW: Contact Us: Quality of service at a theatre

Good afternoon,

Thank you for visiting our theatre and for contacting us concerning your recent visit.  I sincerely apologize that your visit was less than enjoyable.

It is certainly our goal to provide the best overall movie-going experience.  We strive to make personal contact with each one of our guests.  It may be saying hello as our guests walk in, holding open a door, carrying concession items, or greeting guests as they exit the auditoriums.  I am extremely pleased that our staff was able to have contact with you and your wife on several occasions.

I can fully understand that the positives associated with a nice theatre and a friendly staff can soon be replaced with frustration when the movie is made less than enjoyable because of the actions of fellow guests in the auditorium.  Unfortunately, it seems now-a-days, some of the public has become very inconsiderate of others.  We can’t change the way people act, but we can have our staff continue to do regular checks of each auditorium and we will correct any problem or disturbance noticed.  I apologize that we were not able to identify and correct the disturbances that you experienced.  I will review this instance with my team.

Thank you, again, for contacting us.  I am disappointed that your visit to our theatre was not perfect.  It would be my pleasure to invite you and your wife back, as our guest, for a much better experience.  If you would be so kind as to provide me with your mailing address, I will place two passes in the mail.

If I can be of any additional assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Best regards,

Shawn Wilson
General Manager
Cinemark Robinson Twp.  #1034
2100 Settlers Ridge Center Dr.
Pittsburgh, PA  15205
Phone: 412-787-1368  Fax: 412-787-1948

Well, at least I got some free movie passes!  It’ll be interesting to see if there are any restrictions on them as far as times or anything.  But hey… a free movie isn’t a bad deal.  Maybe I’ll avoid a weekend night so we don’t get a repeat of being surrounded by idiots.

It is cool that he acknowledged the problem and apologized for the situation, even if he had to concede that there’s really nothing that he can do about it.  Hopefully the staff for that evening gets commended for being personable.

Taco Bell has purchased my gratitude!


I got a letter in the mail today from Taco Bell.  You may be familiar with my emails to them concerning the death-filled tacos that they were recently peddling.  This is perhaps the best reply I’ve ever received to any of my either serious or goofy letters to any company.

I’ll dispense with the usual long-winded introduction and get right to it…

Letter form Taco Bell about Shrimp Tacos and Taco Bell Bucks!

You can see that along with the letter, I received five $5 Taco Bell Bucks certificates. That’s $25 in death-free Taco Bell food. That’s got to be the coolest thing I’ve ever received besides my T-shirt from Turner’s.  I’m not sure if they’re buying me off, rewarding me, if they make so much profit per item that it really doesn’t matter if they give this much away for free, or what.  This almost makes me want to write back to Pillsbury/Totino’s and make them feel ashamed for sending me three 35¢ coupons.  In fact, I may add that to the list.

The best, and I mean absolute best thing about this letter is that they’re forwarding my request to Pizza Hut.  Wow.  I trust you’ve seen my unanswered letters?  I can’t even express how hilarious and ridiculous and absolutely gratifying that is.


Death Taco


Death Taco. No, that’s not the coolest new metal or grindcore band, although maybe it should be.  It’s what I’m (of course) calling the newest Taco Bell menu item.  I have had some inquires as to why I hadn’t mentioned it yet.

Well, I did make a faint mention via Facebook or Twitter a while ago, but had declined to rant here as I’ve been relentlessly trying to contact Taco Bell.  You know how successful webforms are, so of course I got no answer from that, then I fished around for email addresses to send a full email, bugged them via Twitter for an address, and even posted an Ask Yahoo! question.  Out of nowhere, I finally received a reply, and I have no idea if it was in reply to the webform, my emails to random Yum! Brands and Taco Bell email addresses, or some other forum.

I’d like to share my original messages with you.  First the one via webform:

Hola, mis amigos de Titan Taco! Firstly, this isn’t about an incident at a specific Taco Bell, but the form didn’t allow room for general inquiries. I’d like to express my disappointment with a commercial that I saw advertising new shrimp tacos. Well, I guess my disappointment is not with the commercial, but with the product… and the main ingredient.  I don’t think I can express my thoughts in a box with a mere 500-character limit. Do you have an actual email address where I can contact someone?

…And this was to some email addresses that I found after some Googling.

From: ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 4:11 PM
Subject: Taco Fail
To: webmaster@tacobell.com (and a bunch of other addresses)

Hola, mis amigos de Titan Taco!

I’d like to express my disappointment with a commercial that I saw advertising new shrimp tacos. Well, I guess my disappointment is not with the commercial, but with the product… and the main ingredient.

I have a severe shellfish allergy, and Taco Bell has been a shellfish-free dining safe haven for me for years.  It’s one of the few places where I never had to worry about shrimp, crab, lobster, oysters, etc. ending up in my food, or worse yet… crossing paths in the kitchen somewhere.

I will sadly have to cross Taco Bell off of my list of places to dine… but I’d like you to know that there are many of us out here with severe shellfish allergies who have an increasingly difficult time finding safe places to dine out.  Fast food joints have long been a safe-haven for those of us with a shellfish allergy… as most fine dining and now even chain family style restaurants have several shellfish dishes prepared on multiple kitchen surfaces.  Formerly, as long as I stayed away from Long John Silver’s, I was OK.  Taco Bell, KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, …were all safe places.

I guess I’ll now have to get my quick Mexican fix at Qdoba or Chipotle.

If you’d like to know what it’s like to dine out with a shellfish allergy, please read this blog post.

Here’s an excerpt…

If you know me in person, have dined out with me, or have ready any of my lunacy online… you most likely know what I have a severe shellfish allergy.  What does that mean exactly?  Well, it means that I can’t eat any shellfish, or I go into anaphylactic shock.  Not only can I not eat the shellfish (that’s crustaceans & molluscs including but not limited to ,shrimp, prawns, lobster, crab, crayfish, oysters, mussels, clams, scallops, octopi, squid, snails, and probably even scorpions and pill bugs), but I can’t eat any food that comes into contact with it.  That means, if you cook shrimp on the grill, take it off, and put my steak on  without washing the surface, it’s the same as me eating the shrimp.

I certainly can’t expect the restaurant to clean the grill in between every meal, as that’s certainly not productive on their end… I just usually try to see where the shellfish is prepared, and eat from another cooking surface.  That seems easy enough, right?

I get that it’s my responsibility.  Yes, I’ve had an epi pen.  But I’d really love to not ever have the need to use one.  I’ve even considered getting Allergy Cards, but they seem a little pretentious or something… like my verbal reminder isn’t enough.

Well, getting me in to a place with shellfish is an issue in itself.  Why?  Well in with the aforementioned cooking surface issue…

I hope that this helps explain what people like me go through, and I hope that you re-consider selling death-filled tacos!

Running from the border,

-Eric

And, this is the reply, although I’m not sure if it’s the reply to one of the above messages, or in poking around on Twitter:

From: Poetsch, Rob (Public Relations) <Rob.Poetsch@yum.com>
Date: Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 7:30 PM
Subject: Pacific Shrimp Taco Inquiry
To: “world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com” <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Cc: “Hunsaker, Brittany (Contractor)” <Brittany.Hunsaker@yum.com>

Dear Eric,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us about Shellfish allergens concerning our new Pacific Shrimp Tacos.  We want you to know that we take these matters very seriously and that the business of our customers is our top priority.  We value loyal customers such as yourself and would like to take the opportunity to win your business back.

To ,  to our customers who might have Shellfish allergens, we have displayed information at multiple locations in our fish.  These include Shrimp allergen signs that are placed on our window and door clings as well as in our ads where orders are taken.  While the Pacific Shrimp Tacos are offered for a limited time only, all Taco Bell employees have been trained and certified to not have any food products come in contact with Fish and Shellfish during cooking and/or serving.

We would like to send you some Taco Bell Bucks as a token of our thanks, so please email me back with your mailing address.  We hope you will continue to “Think Outside the Bun” at Taco Bell, and appreciate you taking the time to write to us.

Sincerely,
Rob Poetsch
Taco Bell Public Relations

Rob Poetsch
Taco Bell Corp.
One Glen Bell Way
Irvine, CA 92618
O: 949-863-3915
F: 949-863-2252
rob.poetsch@tacobell.com

Of course, I needed to reply:

From: ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, Apr 1, 2010 at 5:15 PM
Subject: Re: Pacific Shrimp Taco Inquiry
To: “Poetsch, Rob (Public Relations)” <Rob.Poetsch@yum.com>
Cc: “Hunsaker, Brittany (Contractor)” <Brittany.Hunsaker@yum.com>

Hello Rob,

Thank you for the reply!  I was beginning to wonder if Taco Bell has a stand on the issue.  While I am pleased to hear about the allergen warning signs along with the employee training and certification, I must say that I still have some reservations about safety.  I am relieved to hear that the shrimp tacos are available for a limited time only.

It is great that you take responsibility in posting signs about allergy warnings.  Your fellow Yum! Brands organization, Pizza Hut, ought to take note.  They display allergen information on their website, noting that the pizza sauce may come into contact with shellfish… but there’s no shellfish on the menu.  When I asked where the contamination may occur (e.g. in the processing/canning facility?) they were unable (or I sadly suspect unwilling) to provide a detailed response.

Back to the subject of Taco Bell… the giant window-clings showing what I’m sure to many is a succulent appetizing piece of shrimp spilling out of a lovely soft taco shell looks to me like a giant Mr. Yuck sticker or the old-time skull & cross-bones “poison” logo that you’d see in cartoons.  They serve as an effective if not spine-chilling reminder as to the presence of shellfish allergens on the premises.  They would also kick my survival instincts into gear, not even letting me enter the presence.  Seriously.  I would wager that right now, it would be pretty difficult to physically get me into a Taco Bell restaurant. My Eustachian tubes are starting to itch just thinking about it.  I realize that this is also a highly personal mental health issue, but one that ought not be taken lightly, as it’s grounded in a very real fear.

Recently I read the blog of a man who almost died when he ordered a vegetarian Indian potato curry dish that he was assured was safe.  Apparently the dish was flavored with a shrimp brine… which ought to be disturbing to vegetarians, vegans, kosher folks, and people with shellfish allergies.  This is alarming to say the least.  I realize that simple cross-contamination may not seem as serious as flavoring an entire dish with shrimp-juice, but I can assure you that it is indeed just as deadly.  Our friends with wheat/gluten and peanut allergies seem to get a lot of attention lately, hopefully it will spill over to the rest of us with the “big 8” and those who aren’t even covered by that umbrella.

Have you taken the allergen training, or do you know what’s involved?  I am finding it hard to tactfully express my concerns about the way that the message was conveyed to Taco Bell employees and the actual willingness of the employees to understand and comply.  We’ve all watched training videos on various subjects and rolled our eyes, promptly taken pamphlets and placed them in the trash, or been angered when someone who doesn’t do our job gives us a new or added process that we must adhere to when we’re sure that the person suggesting the changes has never been in our shoes.

While I mean no disrespect to Taco Bell or any fast food restaurant, have you been to a Taco Bell lately?  Sometimes I am concerned about the personal hygiene and motivation of the employees let alone the cleanliness and efficiency of the kitchen.  Sadly, the low quality and poor service of fast food establishments has become a passively accepted facet of 21st Century life in the United States.  For evidence, I give you the term “McJob“.

I have a theory that for so long now, it has been expressed to kids everywhere to get higher education so you don’t end up as a laborer, janitor, or fast food employee… that fast food jobs have garnered such a negative connotation, the only people left willing to take the jobs are the highly unmotivated individuals, people with no other options, or people using the part time jobs for extra cash with no real pride in their work since there’s no real fear of losing the job or striving to move up the chain of command.

I would invite you to imagine that in the Taco Bell kitchen where you are about to dine there are the standard (and innovative!) sour cream and cheese caulking-gun looking dispensers all loaded on the food preparation area… along side a caulking-gun-looking dispenser filled with a highly toxic pest-control chemical that looks interestingly enough like cheese or sour cream.  Would you still feel safe in eating there?  Sure.  The employees can read.  Sure, they know the difference.  Are they ever rushed in a fast food kitchen?  Do mistakes ever happen?  Of course.  I’m guessing you would at least think twice or watch closely before you dine.

I understand that this scenario is preposterous because I would hope that some sort of federal regulations would forbid any toxic chemicals from being stored in a food preparation area.  No such federal regulations exist for people like me, although Massachusetts is moving forward with this type of thing.

While I trust that your training an certification was put forth with the best of intentions, you must understand that I question its implementation, practicality, and how it’s received and practiced by what amounts to be the first line of contact with your customers… the Taco Bell team member.  What exactly does the certification say?  Does each employee have it, or does a certification apply to an entire restaurant or shift?

I challenge you to quiz the workers at Taco Bells in various locations… inner city, suburbs, malls, and the combo units, and see how much the workers really know about cross-contamination and allergy issues and how they’re observed in a Taco Bell kitchen.  (Hopefully, they fare better than Subway employees.)

All that said, I appreciate and applaud the considerable thought and effort that has already gone into allergen awareness.  Spreading knowledge is the first step.  Did you know that May 9th-15th 2002 is the thirteenth annual Food Allergy Awareness Week?  Now is the time to act and inform, my friend!

I would certainly appreciate some Taco Bell Bucks, if you’ll understand that I may hold on to them until well after the current Pacific Shrimp Taco promotion is over. (Pending reviews, it may not last all that long, eh?) Taco Bell had previously been a shellfish-free Mexican-ish fast food haven for me for many many years.  I can’t tell you how many tacos I ate at the mall nearby to where I grew up when I was a teenager.  A dollar went much further at Taco Bell than it did at McDonald’s, Burger King or anywhere else in the food court.

My address is…

Eric Aixelsyd
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Pittsburgh, PA  XXXXX-XXXX

I would like to thank you once again for your time and the thoughtful informative reply.  I look forward to perhaps what may be a continued dialog about allergy awareness issues in the fast food industry, and more specifically relating to Taco Bell and other Yum! Brands.

-Eric

Wow, do I hope they write back.