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Friday, September 28, 2007

Dangling the Cookie

On my first night in L.A. I saw a sign in the lobby (next to the free coffee, oddly enough) that said “The Cookie of the Day is Chocolate Chip. Enjoy your Stay!” Under the sign was a basket so I eagerly went over to get myself a cookie. No cookie. The basket was empty. That was okay, I figured. They were probably all gone for the day.

Next day: Same sign, no cookies. Later that evening, same story.

The following day I decided to check first thing in the morning. And I didn’t stop. Every time I left or returned to the hotel I would stop by the cookie basket. Mind you, this wasn’t on my way. I could have taken the elevator directly to the parking garage. Instead, I would get off at the lobby, step out, check the basket, get angry and then get back in the elevator.

On the third day I continued my quest. But when I checked the first time, the sign was still there but the basket was gone. Maybe that was just an old sign, I thought, and they never intended to give us free cookies.

But later that day, a breakthrough. The sign had changed! No longer was the cookie of the day “Chocolate Chip” it was “Chocolate with Reese's Pieces!” It sounded like the most awesome cookie ever! But of course, there were no cookies.

I even spent some time in the lobby working. I never saw anyone bring cookies. I never even smelled any baking.

On my last night as I got in the elevator I decided to ask a couple who I think were from Sweden or Norway or something so give them accents if you’re acting this out with your friends or co-workers:

WG: Excuse me, how long have y’all been staying here?

Swedish/Norwegian Man: Sorry?

WG: Have you stayed here long? The reason I ask is because I’m curious if you’ve ever seen the free cookies in the lobby.

S/NM: Yes. In fact, not only have we seen them, we’ve actually had them!

WG: Nuh-uh!

S/N Woman: Yes, we have! And we even were there when the chef brought them out. They were delicious!

WG: Well I check three or four times a day and I’ve never seen them!

S/N Man: We also check all day and we’ve just seen them that one time.

WG: I’m stopping in the lobby right now to see if they’re there. I bet they’re not.

(We arrive in the lobby and all get out.)

S/N Man: Nope. No cookies. Perhaps we could ask the front desk to call us when they put them out.

Ha. Those Swede/Norwegians. Easier for him to joke about it when he actually got his free cookie.

On my final day I checked two more times. No cookies. And the cookie of the day was still Chocolate with Reese's Pieces. I mean, maybe if they had a crappy cookie like oatmeal raisin or something with nuts, I could handle it. But Choc with Reeses? It just might be the best cookie flavor of all (after Mandy’s Rolo cookies, of course).

When I checked out and there still weren’t cookies I decided that, instead of just asking someone at the front desk about it, I would put up my own sign:

Then I left and bought my own damn cookies.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Occupational Hazard

I just got a laptop which means I have the freedom to work outdoors. Last week I wrote in my backyard and my only complaint was the glare on my screen. I didn’t care so much that I couldn’t see the words I was typing; I didn’t like to see my reflection.

“But you’re so lovely, Elsa. Why would you not like to look at your reflection?” you (or more likely, my mom) might argue. It’s the face I make when I’m writing. Have you ever seen John Mayer’s expression when he sings? Well, it’s not as bad as that but it’s close.

I keep catching a glimpse of it now as I sit on the balcony of my hotel in L.A. It kinda looks like I’m saying, “Huh? What’s going on? Does anybody have another doobie?” My mouth is slightly open, like I’m sleeping on a plane, and the rest of my face is all crinkled up, looking half confused, half disgusted.

It can’t be good for preventing wrinkles. But then again, neither can all this outdoor time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Coffee Talk

Not only do I not drink coffee, I can’t make it. In fact, I’ve never been so perplexed by the making of something as I am by coffee. You’ll hear people say, “Oh, all she does is get coffee…” as if that’s the easiest task any professional could ever do. I’m so bad at it, I couldn’t even add it to my resume if I wanted to.

I have a coffee maker at home just for when my mom and mother-in-law come to town. I never buy the right stuff. I’ll buy instant coffee and they have to explain to me that this doesn’t go in the coffee maker. Or one time, before I bought the coffee maker, I bought a big old tin of the ground kind. That’s when they told me I needed a coffee maker. And then there’s all the stuff that goes in it! Sugar, Splenda, Sweet and Low, Equal, Creamer, Half and Half, little cubes, little lumps…I just put it all out there by the tiny coffee maker and let the moms do their thing. While I’m sure I haven’t provided all the right tools, they still partake of it. They seem to have a little secret sisterhood of coffee lovers.

This morning I’m in a hotel and I wanted to use the coffee maker—not for its intended use but for oatmeal. I figured it could make hot water, right? It had some visual directions on the top but that didn’t really help me. I tried filling up the pot with water and then just putting it back in the coffee maker. Nothing happened. When I poured the water in the top, things seem to happen though. Steam came out. It made bubbly noises. It even sort of smelled like coffee. But when I checked several minutes later my water was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t where I poured it nor was it in the pot. I then pulled out this little tray and the boiling water came splashing out everywhere. I managed to get some of it into a mug. But then I realized there was no spoon for my oatmeal so I drank it.

I actually wished I liked coffee. It’s a good habit to get into because it seems that people are always giving it away for free. Take this hotel, for instance. It’s the only free thing in the room that I can consume. There’s all this fancy coffee and tea plus all the add-ins! And on the plane yesterday they were running around with trays of it: “Coffee? Are you sure you don’t want coffee?” You can get the stuff at car dealerships, grocery stores, even the YMCA pushes it every morning.

Now I’m not saying I’ve never had a job where I was expected to make coffee. I have. But just like faxing, it always eluded me. I always had to find someone to help me. They would patiently show me how to use the filters, the coffee grounds (or grinds?), the water, the pot but I just couldn’t grasp it. I think I’m more likely to fly a space shuttle than ever make a pot of joe.

This means I have to give up on several career paths:

Assistant to anybody
Clerk (at a place that serves free coffee like the car dealership)
Waitress (specifically at a diner or breakfast establishment)

I guess I’ll have to settle for astronaut. And when I’m flying the shuttle its “free oatmeal in a mug for everyone!”

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Destructive Criticism

When you watch a movie trailer, do you always whisper your final judgment to the person sitting next to you? Me too. Sometimes I’ll say, “That looks cute” to Frank while at the same time he says, “Rental.” If he says, “That looks good,” then I say, “You only like it because Hilary Duff is in it!” to which we get a big “ssshhh” from the people around us (even though they were playing Ebert & Roper too).

Just like I have no faith in ideas that turned out to work and become the core of our whole infrastructure, I have terrible taste in movies—specifically, what’s gonna work and what’s not. When I suggest a movie Frank says, “That sounds like Sack Lunch.”

For instance, when I saw the trailer for The Matrix I whispered to the person next to me (can’t remember who it was because it was circa 1998), “I bet not ONE person will go see that movie.” I seriously felt bad for Keanu.

And it’s not just movies, it’s TV shows too:

Beverly Hills, 90210: “Why do they even bother adding that zip code? Nobody’s gonna remember that.” Little did I know we would ONLY remember that (except my dad who still refers to it as “that zip code show.”)

Friends: “What a dumb name for a show! Friends. Why don’t they just call it “People?” Couldn’t they think of something better? Nobody’s gonna watch it with such a lame title!”

Lost: “Who wants to watch a bunch of stranded people? Hello? I’ve seen Gilligan’s Island.”

Dancing with the Stars: “Ballroom dancing on television? Boring. Minor celebrities ballroom dancing on television? Boring and pathetic.”

Bottom line, don’t listen to me—especially if you’re in the movie, TV or any sort of entertainment industry. Or you can listen to me and do the opposite. That’s what Ian Ziering and Jennie Garth did (“that zip code show” and DWTS). But I still stand firm behind one thing: Sack Lunch is a good movie.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fake FAQ’s

Posting a list of Frequently Asked Questions to your website is a great idea. That way people won’t constantly be asking you the same query and you won’t waste time answering them. If I had a list of FAQs on, it would look like this:

“Hey, I want to be a writer too. How can I do that?”
“I have a product/person/puppet that is so awesome. Will you write about that?”
“I’m an expert on fitness/food/field trips. Do you want to interview me?”
“Do you get paid?”

Of course, that’s what my list would look like if I wrote REAL FAQs but often companies write FAKE FAQs. For instance, I’ll go to a web site to some festival we want to attend and all I want to know is 1). How much it costs and 2). If we can bring our own alcohol.

I’ll go to the FAQs and find things like:
“What charities are supported by this event?”
“How can I volunteer at the event?”
“How can I buy an ad on the back of the event t-shirt?”
“How can I sponsor the whole event?”
“Are there opportunities to help clean up afterwards?”
“What is the history of this event?”
“Who are the talented people behind this event and how can I thank them personally with a monetary donation?”

I start to wonder if my question is actually a weird question rather than a frequently asked question. I mean, according to this list, no one has ever wondered how much it costs. No one wants to know the BYOB policy except me.

It seems like it would be easy to simply compile a list of the most commonly asked questions but instead it’s like companies want to plant questions in your head, questions that serve their own agendas.

Can’t tell the lies from the legits? Here are some more Fake FAQs to watch out for:

“What does your brand stand for?”
“Am I able to buy more warranties?”
“Can I purchase extra insurance?”
“How can I make a donation?”
“How can I sign up to receive mail from you?”
“Can I give you my email address so that I can get your newsletter and special offers?”
“Who should I give my phone number to so you can call me and ask for contributions?”
“Can I set up a meeting with you so I can learn more about timeshare investing?”
“How can I start a campaign fundraiser in my hometown?”
“I seem to have been skipped for jury duty this year. Who can I talk to about that?”

If I have a question and I can’t find the answer on the FAQs, I just call the place. They hate that. They’ll inevitably say, “Do you have internet access? You can look online to find all the answers you need.”

“No, I can’t,” I told the people who make the generic brand of Swiffers when I called to ask if I could use them on hardwood floors. “You don’t say anything about my question on your site; you just answer phony questions like, ‘Why is your product so amazing?’ and ‘How can I buy stock in these fabulous cleaning pads?’ I want real answers! And first I need REAL questions!”

I’ve decided that if everyone else can do it, WG can do it too. Here are my fake FAQs that I plan to add to my site:

“How can I pay you lots of money to write whatever topic you want to write about?”
“Can I book you for a special appearance?”
“When will your book be coming out?”
“Could you send me an autographed picture?”
“Who do I write to at the newspaper to say I want to see more of your columns?”
“How do I become an officer in your fan club?”
“Where do I send money to pay you for the joy your writing brings me?”

I’ll come up with eloquent answers for all of these questions you didn’t even know you had. Oh, and if you were wondering, it’s $39.99 to join my fan club and the meetings are BYOB.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Champagne Wishes and Chalupa Dreams

In college we went to Taco Bell. A lot. I would always get a bean and cheese burrito for like, $.79. (Pause. Can I tell you how bad I want a b&c burrito right now? Are you with me on this? Jessi, I know you are.)

Sometimes I would gaze up at the drive-thru menu and wonder what it would be like to get a Seven-layer Burrito or Nachos Bell Grande or a Mexican pizza. But I had barely scrounged up the change to get my burrito. I know; you’re totally crying for this impoverished sorority girl.

One day I made an announcement to the other Taco Bell patrons in the car with me: “One day, when I’m really rich, I’m gonna get anything I want from Taco Bell! Even the stuff that’s over $2.00!”

Now that’s the dream. And it still hasn’t come true. I’m not rich yet so I still don’t know what it’s like to splurge at the Bell. Okay, a couple of times I’ve gotten the Nachos Bell Grande but I also got my burrito. Hey, I’m still Jenny from the Block.

The longer it takes for me to become rich, the longer my list of "what I would buy if I were rich" becomes:

--Really fluffy bath towels. And really big ones that can’t be mistaken for hand towels.
--In that same genre, super high thread count pillows.
--A gridge, natch.
--Shoes other than flip flops
--Someone to pull weeds in the yard
--A Sonicare toothbrush
--Another magazine subscription like Real Simple (I can’t make my US Weekly last more than two days!)
--A good set of knives
--A CostCo and a Sam's membership (not just one or the other)

But no matter how rich I get there are some things that I would still buy at poor-people prices:

--tank tops
--movies (gotta do the matinee)
--a watch
--hair dye
--gas (would still get the low-end unleaded. See next item on list.)
--a car

But when that rich day comes I won’t leave you out. You’ll totally be invited to my party which will have cheap wine and fluffy towels! Hey, does Taco Bell cater?