6/28/2009

Quandary of the Week Club

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 3:22 pm

But first I’d like to start off with a non sequitur:

zombie-walk

This Friday, July 3, all those who are available should come gather at the Fremont Outdoor Cinema for an attempt at breaking the Guinness World Record for most zombies at a Zombie Walk. Come in costume. Margaret and I will be there in the company of Seattle Geekly. This is also a canned food drive for Solid Ground Seattle, so bring something for the drive; no canned brains please. We’ll try to post images the next day, but that being the day of our July 4th ‘cue, chances are good we’ll be too busy until Sunday.

And now on with our regularly scheduled blog post….

I was early for a meeting downtown near the Market last week so I decided to get a coffee and hang out a while. My favorite coffee shop in the area was not yet open, so I took a stroll around the block to see what else might be available. I ended up around a couple of corners at a Cafe D’Arte, which offers pretty good coffee as well. What they do not offer, at least at this particular shop, is good service. When I arrived, the relatively-diminutive shop was staffed by two people. Manning the machine was a twenty-something with spiky hair and an expression on his face like he was carved from a block of wood….and not particularly clever wood at that. Employee #2 was as silent as the grave, and seemed to have a case of the thousand-yard stare, though it was hard to be sure since she never once looked up from the patterned Formica in front of her. Neither said a word to me as I sidled up to the counter. I waited a few beats for Spike to say something; a greeting, a “what can I get for you?”, anything. He just stared at me, taking time out to occasionally look down and twiddle his knobs. His partner just kept polishing the same piece of counter space over and over again.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” said Spike.

Well, that wasn’t much help. “Um, is this where I order?”

“Yeah,” he said.

One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand….

“Hooo-kay, can I get a large mocha for here?”

Spike bent to the task. Or at least, I assume he was working on my order. No confirmation of any type was in the offing, and since there was a line forming behind me I stepped to the left so that his partner Lady Traumaton could take orders from the other customers.

A few minutes later Spike set my coffee down on the counter “That’s four eighty-three,”  he said. I handed him a ten, and got back my change. As I picked up my mocha, I dropped my 17 cents’ change into the tip jar. After an instant’s hesitation, I pulled another dollar from my wallet and dropped it in as well.

Then I walked over to a table, sat down, and wondered to myself just what the fuck I had tipped these people for.

To be sure, the very concept of tipping has undergone a major transformation over the last twenty years or so. I can still remember when tipping was reserved for major service-oriented exchanges like restaurants and taxis. Before I had reached my twentieth birthday, I don’t think I had ever seen a tip jar at, say, a sandwich shop or a hot dog stand.

The assumption as I think I understood it was that these types of positions were so low on the pay scale that they could be done by anyone with a body temperature of at least ninety-eight degrees, and therefore were bereft of the opportunities for excellence and attention to detail that qualified them for consideration of tipworthiness. Tipping the person who put meat on a bun for you would be like tipping the person who took your driver’s license photo at the DMV.

Now the function behind tipping has seemed to have shifted to a basic comment on the unfairness of life near the bottom of the economic ladder. My food-service job sucks: therefore, you should give me a little extra money for the trouble of performing it.

I have to say up front that I don’t really have a problem with this notion in theory. Food service jobs do suck: the pay is awful, there are usually no benefits (some noteworthy exceptions such as Dick’s Drive-In and In-N-Out Burger notwithstanding) and you are often looked down upon by your customers as one of the lowest forms of life on earth. I am very fortunate that I no longer have to work in such a field, having done my time in college and during Margaret’s pursuit of her graduate degree. Now I make decent enough money that I can blow nearly five bucks on twelve ounces of liquid refreshment and not even blink; this is a good thing. And given my relatively prosperity and good fortune, it seems only meet that I make at least these small token gestures of support towards my less pecunious fellow travelers.

My general guidelines for evaluating the size of a tip run thusly: about 40% of the tip is based on the actual performance of the service professional in question. The other 60%—the bulk of the tip—is based on my interpretation of the general suckiness of the position itself. This is the justification for giving slightly over a 20% tip to our waiter for quality service at Ivar’s Acres of Clams this past Friday (we’re good tippers), while proffering a 24% tip to the dull-eyed coffee drudge for his indifference earlier that week.

Of course, one might also argue that a 15 dollar tip is light-years ahead of a dollar-thirteen tip no matter what the circumstances surrounding it.

Despite the fact that my general policies regarding tipping were upheld during this recent experience, I still felt like a bit of a tool for following them. I was so annoyed with myself that I decided I would go back to the counter and tell the two employees that, while I was not in fact going to do so, I feel like their lackluster service—their fundamental lack of enthusiasm or even regard for my business—made me want to take my dollar back. Before I could do so, however, eight or ten people walked through the door and queued up for coffee, so I decided to let it go and just never come back. And in retrospect, that seems like the best and most internally consistent way of handling it. But I’m curious about you, Gentle Reader: how do you handle tipping in your day-to-day experience? Do you tip on impulse, or do you evaluate every exchange before voting with your gratuity? Do you, like me, factor in your comparative fortune at not having to resort to such means for earning your daily bread into your contributions? Or do you take the tack that, if you were to tip everyone whose job is less satisfactory than your own, you will have to carry around a sack of dollar bills, handing them out to nearly everyone you come in contact with—from the checker at the grocery store to the parking attendant in your office building—just to make it through the day? Chime in; I’m curious.

6/21/2009

Happy 50th

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 3:39 pm

Yesterday we hosted a party in celebration of my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary, which actually took place a bit earlier this month.

Quite a few people had a hand in putting this together. One of Ron and Barbara’s most amazing traits is their enhanced sense of community and family, which spreads out to encompass just about everyone they interact with. They have acted as surrogate parents for a host of castaways, strays, waifs and wanderers of all ages over the years, opening their home and their hearts to them. I’ve long hoped to imitate at least a pale shadow of this kind of behavior in my own life, to varying degrees of success.

Anyway, there was no shortage of enthusiastic volunteers to help with the festivities. It was a tremendous success, and a grand time was had by all. Pictures can be viewed here, and I’ll be adding to this collection as more folks contribute.

Other than helping schlepp stuff around, my primary job was to put together a slide show commemorating the guests of honor. Being who I am, I naturally waited for the night before the party to really sink my teeth into it. By about two the next morning, with my bicuspids worn down to cabochon nubs, I finally got it finished. I think it’s really quite a nice tribute, so I made it available here as a QuickTime movie. You can also download the original full-size movie here, but it’s a biggie: 150 megabytes or so. Oh, and don’t fret about the white space in the lower third of the screen: that’s an artifact of the resizing that I don’t feel like tracking down right now, and it goes away after the intro from my parents.

Here’s to you, Hammonds; many, many happy returns.

http://www.uncle-andrew.net/blog/movies/randb50slideshow480.mov

6/7/2009

Microwave Vacation (Microwavacation?)

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 11:08 am

Very deep inhale….

We played in the pool as much as we needed to to keep ourselves from melting into little sweaty puddles during the later part of last week. I’m not kidding, temperatures in the high eighties with humidity in the high eighties to mid nineties and absolutely DEAD still air. Sweltering. The Kona winds started picking up a little bit early this week, but were only hitting the leeward side of the island. It was still stinking hot in Kailua, but Honolulu was quite pleasant.
So Andrew and I packed up and went with Joan to Foster Botanical Gardens of which I will publish pictures as soon as I can pull them off the camera.
Lovely gardens (not that I’m prejudiced or anything) with some really remarkable trees and a WONDERFUL breeze.
One quiet Monday evening later, and Andrew and I were up and about on Tuesday doing a bit of house cleaning. What with the lack of windows, the constant (so to speak) breeze, Joan’s front garden, two children and a dog, the house gets a little grimy. Joan and Tony have a cleaning lady that comes in regularly, but she’d spent all her previous visit cleaning up the lanai so Meg & Rad could sleep there so Andrew and I took on the main house. All. Freakin’. Day.
Sweeping, dusting, mopping, laundering, vacuuming… House looks lovely, but Andrew and I spent the day cleaning for a while then overheating and falling into the pool, then sitting pool side to dry out for a while, going back in, changing clothes, and going back to cleaning again. We each had two pairs of shorts that we would switch in and out of. By the time we got overheated and had to fall into the pool the trade out pair of shorts would be dry so we’d swim, change into the dry pair, then go and clean and get hot again. Worked out very nicely.
Best teriyaki ever for dinner at a local place , Tokoname Sushi Bar and Restaurant. It was quite busy when we got there, so we sat at the sushi bar which provided some really decent entertainment. The sushi chef was good company which was fortunate because while Andrew’s sushi was prompt, due to a computer glitch my order for teriyaki didn’t get sent into the kitchen so I sat and watched Andrew eat and the production of additional sushi while I was waiting. Best teriyaki EVER! Marinated in a wonderful tart sauce that was just sweet enough but wasn’t sticky, great sticky rice…. Really a remarkable meal, and they comped us our drinks as well as purchasing us the green tea ice cream for dessert in compensation for the delay. All around a class act.

I got Kona winds for my birthday. Wednesday morning was cool and breezy. Andrew had been fussing for about the last week about whether or not I’d like my birthday present, whether it was my style or not. Andrew purchased me a new wallet, something I’d desperately been needing. The wallet is lovely, it’s very much my style and as an added bonus when I opened it up to start putting my wallet gunk in their new places, the following card was in the translucent driver’s license pocket. I have a photo, but, again, I’m not sure how to suck it off the camera. It’s business card size, cream colored with rust brown script reading “Fossil”.

If I were a different sort of person I’d be offended to have received such for any birthday after my 40th, but as it is I find the whole thing absolutely damn funny.

We took a circle island tour for my birthday. We love going out to the North Shore, and Haleiwa is always fun. We ate at the best burger joint on the island, Kua’aina, which doesn’t have its own website. Always way crowded, but we discovered that the best time to get there is about 15 minutes after they open. This was the only time we’ve been there that we haven’t had to wait for a table.
We didn’t plan on taking the whole circle island tour, but we ran across a least four separate places along the Kamehameha highway where there was roadwork and the highway was squished down to one lane. It was much easier, though absolutely less scenic, to drive through Wahiawa and Honolulu.
Quiet family dinner at home with chocolate cake from Agnes’ in Kailua. I am not, repeat NOT going to post the photo that Andrew took of me blowing out my birthday candles. Lucy very kindly read us The Story of Ping, did you have that book when you were a kid? Raise your hand. I thought so.
Anyway Lucy read Ping to us accompanied by Caitlin’s interpretive dance which wasn’t really supposed to be for our entertainment, but was mostly designed to make her sister laugh and stop reading. It didn’t work, but it was entertaining.

Thursday the onslaught began. Andrew and I went to pick up David and his new lady Dawn. Dawn is a charming woman who drives an elementary school bus in Kingman Arizona which seems to have prepared her well for dealing with a house full of SEVEN THOUSAND LENZERS. I’ll say it again. I love Andrew’s side of the family, but they’re all large, opinionated, and not shy about expressing same. A little overwhelming all at once.
Since this is Dawn’s first trip to Hawaii we puttered around the island a bit on our way home, got here, unloaded, then immediately went back out to get some stuffs for dinner. Astonishingly, except for the bags of (ergh) poi, the Safeway in Kailua is exactly like every single other Safeway that Dawn has ever visited. Joan was absolutely certain that the Safeway would be a new and exotic experience for Dawn.
Meg & Rad showed up later that evening, punchy and hungry since they’d been on an airplane or in an airport for nearly twelve hours. I’m REALLY happy we live right on a coast.
Yesterday we did some more island puttering with David, Dawn, and Caitlin, who has grown up into a charming young woman and is currently Andrew’s favorite toy. There’s just something about her that brings out the tease in her uncle and the pair of them together are just flat out funny. We went to Ala Moana, the major tourist mall in Honolulu, so David & Dawn could visit Crazy Shirts and so Andrew could make a pilgrimage to Shirokiya with which he has been enamored since we went there in 1992 and he found a massaging recliner that he’s waxed poetic about ever since. We went to Manoa so David could introduce Dawn to manapua and other esoteric okazu at Island Manapua Factory. We ended the tour driving up to the Pali lookout, getting damn near blown off the mountain, and wandering a short way down the Old Pali Highway. Absolutely stunning gorgeous, fascinating to see how the jungle is reclaiming this roadway along the side of the mountain that’s really only about 60 years old, and winds literally that we had to struggle against.
Sara came in yesterday evening bringing the total to nine people in the main house (three bedrooms, two baths) and four in the attached apartment (three bedrooms two baths). We had a very late, raucous, and thoroughly overdue dinner of Peppino’s pizza (Peppino’s also doesn’t have its own website, it’s barely got it’s own phone line). The pizza was superb, but it took TWO FREAKIN’ HOURS to make five pizzas. Andrew is absolutely enamored of the place, I’m a little lukewarm but mostly because I was quite hungry by the time we ate.
I’ll encourage Andrew to post the Peppino’s photo since it is very artistic.
We’ve mostly just been hanging today. I scored a trio of nice sparkly bracelets at an estate sale this morning and we amused the heck out of the people at most of the sales we went to this morning by having an entire van full of people. We really did look like a clown car.
The theory is that there are more people and more fish coming for dinner this evening. It’s a lovely pleasant mid-seventies with only about forty percent humidity and Andrew has been asleep for the entire two hours that I’ve been writing this. After the moon rises we’re probably going to go out to Lanikai and watch the moon over the Mokuluas.
Y’all really gotta try this sometime.


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