Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Keeping Columbus Safe

I walked down High Street in Columbus, Ohio today.

It’s nice.

There are plenty of galleries, boutiques and trendy restaurants. You can guess the name of several of these establishments. Spirits on High. Yoga on High. Art on High. I passed by a shop or a club or some type of storefront with a pair of human legs sticking out from behind a curtain. They were resting on some kind of little stage. I looked twice. They were real. They weren’t moving, but I could tell they were attached to someone.

A little further down the street there was a fetish shop. The Measure of a Man shop had two leather clad mannequins. One had a cod piece. I’ve never seen one close up. They’re really big or at least this one was. It was huge.

I almost bought it.

I ate dinner at an organic food cafĂ©. I had the Dragon Bowl (dragon = spicy hoisin sauce on chicken) with plenty of steamed cruciferous vegetables. I washed it down with a carrot and orange juice cocktail they squeezed right in front of me. My system isn’t used to this kind of abuse. If the gastrointestinal gas doesn’t kill me, the lack of preservatives will.

They had a magazine rack in the place. I was going to buy something to read with my meal but I found myself trying to choose something I wanted to not only read, but be seen reading. I was too disgusted of myself to buy anything so I just watched people get their drinks from the soda machine (I know, soda doesn’t jibe with the whole organic thing but there it was).

Good thing I was stuck watching the soda machine. It helped me pay a little karmic debt by picking up an ice cube someone had dropped. I watched people walk by the cube. I tried to stop myself from picking up the cube. This wasn’t some sort of philosophical experiment. I wanted to see someone hit the deck. Finally an older lady kicked the cube and I knew Jesus was watching so I went ahead and cleared away the threat (I know, Jesus doesn’t jibe with whole karma thing but there it was).

Thursday, March 24, 2005

What's in Your Wallet?

I left my wallet at work yesterday.

I made the commute home running on fumes thinking I'd pick up the girls then scoot over to the Food & Fuel to drop $30 at the pump and fill up the tan sedan.

Long sentence. Simple plan.

It all fell apart when I got out of the car and reached for my credit card. There was a moment of panic. I had a full three seconds of worst-case scenarios that escalated from pushing the car home while Allie steered to me having a desk sergeant watch the kids while I was booked for driving without a license and assaulting a police officer.

Poof. The doom fantasies disappeared. I got back in the car and drove home. Allie asked, "What's wrong, Daddy. Why are we leaving?" I explained to Allie I had left my wallet on my desk.

"You forgot your wallet! What're we gonna do?!"

I didn't expect Allie to freak-out over this. I was surprised at her tone when, sounding as if she had been tied to a railroad track, she asked, "Are we going to your office to get your wallet?"


"What're we gonna do, Daddy?"

"Sweetie, don't worry. We have some money in the house and if worse comes to worse we can go see Mom at work and get her ATM card."

Allie didn't say anything after that. If you know how much my daughter talks you'd know that her silence was a clear sign she still thought we were in some sort of peril. I had no idea that a 4" x 3" piece of brown, bi-fold leather could mean that much to her. I was thinking she may have seen an old American Express commercial. Remember the ones where the vacationing couple would get their wallet stolen? They were always stranded in some exotic location with an infrastructure that looked like it could barely manage yak control let alone the needs of pampered, not-so-smart American tourists. I used to hope and pray my parents had an American Express card because I knew it came with a really attractive woman who knew her away around Yak City and would always be there to save your ass.

Truth is I’m not sure why Allie got so worked up. The thing that bothers me is, judging from her reaction, she didn't think I would be able to handle a problem without the help of my wallet. I'm thinking in her mind, a dad (her dad) is only as good as his billfold.

Unfortunately, in many cases, I tend to agree.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Newest Campbell Soup Flavor: Mercy

Allie can't wait for it to be Easter.

I'm not sure why.

Don't get me wrong. I like Easter. I'm all for celebrating the resurrection. Plus, I think the whole pagan, Eostre, Goddess of Spring stuff is interesting. Bunnies and eggs are fine representatives of fertility. They were a good decision. After all we were probably a single ancient edict away from watching a huge phallus go by on a parade float rather than Peter Cottontail (suddenly I'm thinking about a photo of Allie sitting on the Easter Bunny's lap and I'm very grateful). But I don't know why Allie is so excited.

Well, actually I do understand. She's five. Where she's concerned a UPS box left on the front porch can sometimes be cause enough for full scale revelry. Plus Allie's excited about going to see her grandparents and aunties this weekend. Then there's the candy and potentially a gift or two. On second thought this holiday is chock full of high octane anticipation fuel.

As for me, I'm looking forward to brandy old-fashions, garage ham . . . and spending time with my family, of course. That goes without saying.

Garage ham? I'll let you figure that one out for yourself.

Easter isn't the real reason for this post. I wanted to let you know how things were going with the Campbell Soup Company. I decided to contact them, via their Web site, after all. The automated response claimed that I would receive an actual response within three business days. I think it's been three business days. I'll wait a few more days before I write them again concerning the alarming lack of dumplings in their Chicken & Dumplings soup.

The key to an effective customer complaint is to let the company know what it is you want. If you have a legitimate beef, don't just whine and hope they'll send you some coupons. You should have a reasonable, viable plan for resolution. It helps you and the poor person who has to deal with you and your dissatisfaction. In this case, I've asked for more dumplings. Eight to twelve dumplings will do the trick. This seems reasonable and certainly viable for a company accustomed to delivering millions of pounds of foodstuff throughout the globe on a daily basis. Figuring out the logistics for twelve dumplings shouldn't be a problem.

Why should they bother?

Because. We're representative of the millions of loyal customers the Campbell Soup company has earned over the years. We consume gallons of their soup and vegetable drinks (they make V8, you know) each year; year-after-year. If at some point during this life-long relationship we, the loyal customer, feel it's necessary to address a problem then our cumulative soup dollars should provide us with recourse. After all, they expect us to pay attention when their marketing machine rolls out another campaign.

I could say it's just good business to respond but that doesn't really mean much. Deb and I switching to Progresso isn't going to matter a hill of beans with bacon to the Campbell Soup company. It's actually a case for compassion we're making. Campbell soup knows we're at their mercy when it comes to condensed soup. We're merely asking for a demonstration of corporate benevolence and a sense of fair play.

We are seeking dumpling justice.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Soup Wounds

It's time for another consumer rant. This time it's not mine. It's Debbie who has a problem.

Take a look at this picture:

You should know Debbie is not a broth person. She's a noodle, or in this case, a dumpling person. I'm not sure you can tell from the photo, but the Campbell Soup Company felt Debbie was getting her money's worth by providing just 4.2 dumplings in her lunch.

According to their 2004 annual report, Campbell Soup eliminated approximately 400 positions to improve our agility and streamline our decision-making process. Apparently while streamlining they got rid of the person who runs the machine that counts the number of dumplings they put into their soup.

I know every can of soup can't be perfect. And, like most of the U.S., we'll more than likely continue to be solid Campbell Soup customers. After all, Cream of Mushroom is often employed to make our pork chops more interesting. And what would a cheese-toasty be without a bowl of their Tomato Soup (prepared with milk, not water)? The homoplastic, over processed, corporate flavor of Campbell Soup has been a part of most of our lives since we were able to hold a spoon. Therefore I don't see many cans of Progresso in our future.

It's just that we're disappointed . . . let down by a can of soup.

I'll forward this post to the Campell Soup company and let you know what kind of response I get. I'm hoping they'll send us at least eight to twelve more dumplings via express mail. We'll use them in our next can of Chicken & Dumplings soup making Debbie's next bowl absolutely dumpilicious.

On second thought, I don't think I will contact Campbell Soup Company. I think we should just move on with our lives.

Then the healing can begin.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Mad Max Wears Chuck Taylors

I should have taken a closer look at the new mattress Deb and I bought yesterday. I’m fairly sure when they deliver the thing on Thursday they’re going to try to pull a fast one. Instead of the nice Sealy we thought we were getting they’re going to leave us with some piece of crap stuffed with rat pelts. It would be easy to do.

We did a lot of spending this weekend (electronic tax refunds are fast). I had no idea all new mattresses are about seven feet deep. We don’t have sheets that’ll cover something like that.

I’d like to know the precise moment in my life when I became concerned with thread count.

The buying frenzy actually started on Friday afternoon. I took the afternoon off to run some errands. I wound up replacing all of our dishes, glassware and silverware. It wasn’t as expensive a proposition as it sounds. I got some bargains and spent far less than I expected. Plus, it was time. Our flatware was getting rust spots and our dinnerware was chipped and mismatched.

I’d like to know the precise moment in my life when I became concerned with whether or not our dinnerware was chipped or mismatched.

That Friday I stopped at a shoe store near the university. I wanted to find a pair of canvas shoes I could drop in the washing machine once they started to smell. This store always seems to have a wide selection of PF Flyers and Chuck Taylors so I thought I’d find something there.

I was trying on shoes when I paused to look at a scary guy who decided to shop for shoes that same day in the same store. He was tall and wore a stocking cap with a big horn that stuck out the top. At first I thought the horn was part of the cap but when I saw the tattoos and metal adornments he had on and in his face I wasn’t sure. The huge studded boots with matching pants kind of sealed the deal on me being more than a little uncomfortable with his presence.

Look, I’m no prude. I think people should express themselves anyway they like (as long as they’re not hurting anyone else). But I’ve seen Mad Max, I know people who look like this drive nitrous enhance dune buggies, favor shotguns as their weapon of choice and list vengeance and mayhem as hobbies on dating service applications.

I was walking around in a pair of low-rise Chuck Taylors when the guy with the tattoos on his face spoke. In a voice that sounded as practiced and smooth as a Christie’s auctioneer he said, “You know, you really should consider insoles for those. They can be hard on your feet.”

The sales guy and I looked at each other long enough for it to be noticeable. Then the sales guys said that was a good idea and fetched a set of insoles. I put them in the shoes. It made a huge difference. The sneakers became much more comfortable.

“Thanks for the tip,” I said to the tattoo-faced guy. “You’re welcome,” he said. From his tone and delivery I half-expected to hear, enjoy your stay, as if I’d just checked into a suite at the Four Seasons.

I went up to pay for the shoes and as the sales guy rang me up he said, “I should give that guy a job.” Once again we looked at each other long enough for it to be noticeable, then simultaneously we made a snorting sound with our noses.

Not a very nice reaction, but I think we deserve a little wiggle room when there is a horn and facial tattoos involved. Plus we were well away from the tattoo-faced guy and I’m sure there was no chance that we would have hurt his feelings. After all, there’s no way in hell I’d want that guy upset with me. In fact, I probably would have bought the insoles even if they were making my feet bleed just to make sure tattoo-faced guy and I were simpatico.

By the way, I think tattoo-faced guy bought a pair of hi-top Chuck Taylors.

Crazy. Like two peas in a pod, almost . . .

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Check Your Kibble

No posts from the road.

It was a busy trip to Orlando and most evenings were spent grabbing a meal, calling Deb an the girls then falling asleep to whatever was on HBO. The three books I brought with me sat on the night stand untouched.

It's a full flight but there's still an empty seat between Brad and me. Brad is the man sitting next to the window. Nice guy. He shared his USA Today with me. We were both shocked and amazed the seat between us didn't get filled. As I write we're all spread out with our coats and reading materials in the spot NWA would prefer to have held a paying passenger.

My Dad and his girlfriend came to see me in Orlando. We had dinner then lunch the next day. I wish we would have had more time to talk. Two meals provide just enough time to become reacquainted and not much else. Still, I was grateful they made time to see me. Four hours on the road can't be much fun.

The flight attendant just sold me a “Snack Box”. For $3 I have dried fruit, a granola bar, Oreos, Goldfish Crackers, beef summer sausage, crackers and some kind of soft cheese. It sounds like a lot. Once I downed the crackers and tiny smear of cheese it didn’t look like a lunch. Better than just a little bag of pretzels, though.

I’ve spent a lot of time, this past week, speaking to analytical chemists. One conversation I had involved dog food. Most dog food formulas change from week-to-week. The kibble you’re feeding Sparky on Monday may not be the same kibble he’s getting on Friday once you open that new bag.

It’s all a matter of commodities. If the price of corn goes down the dog food company will reformulate their product to take advantage of the savings. It was the chemist I spoke with who made sure the nutritional value of a certain company’s dog food remained consistent from batch-to-batch. The chemist told me to look for the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) symbol on whatever pet food you buy. This symbol tells people the food you’re giving your pet meets standards that will allow Sparky or Fluffy to remain nourished and healthy regardless of how cheaply the manufacturer produces the food.

Okay. Probably not as interesting an anecdote to you as I thought it was. But I could be telling you about how I suspect a flight attendant just turned her butt towards me and farted. In fact, I’m sure she just let go right in my face.


Dear Lord. . .

See, this is the type of stuff I write to Debbie in the journal I keep for her whenever I travel. I'll spare you all the stuff about how much I miss my wife and kids when I'm gone. I can't wait to see them. Particularly when I’m reminded of them by seeing all of these families on the plane. This is a flight from Orlando, after all. The interesting thing is I’ve got Thomas the Tank Engine in front of me and Ice Age to my right. These parents have brought their laptops and created a multiplex of little drive-in screens only I’m not in a car and there’s not much chance I’ll be able to get any popcorn.

The kid to my right isn’t paying attention to the movie. She’s staring at me. She’s watching me write this post. I keep glancing over at her and each time I see her watching me. I wish she’d close her mouth. Maybe she’s got a sinus thing or something.

I just smiled at her.

She smiled back.

She’s back to watching Ice Age.

Her mouth is still open.