Thursday, August 28, 2008

Final Draft

Dear Mr. Shaich,

Allow me to preface this letter with this sentiment: I love your food! The soups are terrific, and the bread! The fruit is always fresh and sweet, and the veggies in the salad never mushy or brown. The pastries are delightful, never burnt or dry, and always fresh. I just love it. That being said, let me move on to the reason for this letter.

The tastiness of your food is completely offset by the inability of people who work in your restaurants to get an order right. I can honestly say that seven visits out of ten, there's something wrong with my order. I was given the wrong soup on one occasion. Not a huge deal, as I like all of the soups, but it is annoying to ask for one thing and receive something else. On another occasion I asked for an apple instead of a baguette. I received a baguette anyhow. Again, not the biggest of issues as I enjoy the bread. On yet another occasion, I ordered the Pick Two combo, but did not receive my sandwich. The incidents go on from there.

Back in June of this year, I ordered a strawberry poppyseed salad with chicken. I love this salad. I had been looking forward to this salad being in season. When I got back to the office, I noticed two things awry: 1. I didn't receive any chicken in my salad and 2. I ordered a full sized salad, but received a half portion. I checked my receipt, and sure enough, I paid for a full sized salad with chicken. This was absolutely the last straw.

I normally don't complain about minor mistakes, as the lunch crowd can cause a lot of confusion and I understand that the servers have their hands full. This time I did call the restaurant because over the last month or so (my office used to order Panera about once a week), the mistakes had come to include missing items. When I am ordering for myself only, I always check to be sure everything is there, but when I am ordering for the whole office, I don't have the time to dig through eight bags of food and determine who ordered what and whether or not it's all there; not to mention the people in line behind me wouldn't appreciate being held up in this manner.

When I called, the person who answered the phone was polite and apologetic. He took down my information and assured me that I would be taken care of. I didn't give it another thought until I received my 'care' in the mail. When I opened the envelope, there was a brief letter of apology and a gift certificate in the amount of six dollars. My total for the salad I only partially received was eight dollars sixty five cents. Now, while I realize there's only a two dollar and sixty five cent difference between my compensation and what I paid for the salad initially, I was still quite put out by it. In order to receive a replacement salad, I would have to actually contribute about 30% of the price myself, which seems a bit unfair seeing as how the mistake was wholly on the part of the restaurant.

Is a full refund too much to ask for? I really don't think so. I came to the conclusion that this company clearly needs the money more than I do, so I will not be redeeming this gift certificate. I very much enjoy your food, but the hassles I experience at the hands of the people that work at Panera restaurants far outweigh the enjoyment I get from eating there. I will not be returning to your restaurants for a good long time, if at all. An excerpt from the gift certificate itself sums up my experience nicely:

"Although we pride ourselves in this commitment to customer satisfaction, we sometimes fall short of our expectations."

Once again, you've fallen short. Two dollars and sixty five cents short.


Christie Holland

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chicago White Socks

I woke up several times yesterday, shivering like i didn't have any blankets on in the middle of Winter. Odd. I was using the quilt my mom made me for my birthday a few years ago; the same quilt i'd been using all summer long without feeling too hot or too cold. I crawled out of bed and went to examine the thermostat, vowing pain and dismemberment to the person who DARED turn it down that cold under my breath. . .only to discover no one had touched it. Huh. I trudged back to bed and tried to go back to sleep, but i was just too cold. Annoyed, i took stock of my situation. I didn't feel sick, so that was out. The thermostat hadn't changed from the 76 degrees i always leave it on, so that couldn't be it. It's still summertime. . . It made no sense for me to be this cold! But there i was, shivering under my quilt in the middle of summer.

I tried to roll over and ignore it. My feet touched my husband who was nice and warm. I snuggled up to him, only to realize that he was only registering as warm to my feet. Bingo! I got up and put some socks on. It took me a few minutes, but i warmed up nicely and went back to sleep. Funny how cold feet can make you feel like you're living in the Arctic circle, huh?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Stephanie Got Me Thinkin. . .

about the whole censorship thing. While i agree that there are things that kids need to be protected from, i don't think that protection should come in the form of censorship. Think about it:

Would you want someone else deciding what doctor your family sees?

Would you want someone else deciding what religion you're going to start practising?

Would you want someone else to decide what you're going to be eating from now on? How about what you're NOT going to be eating?

How about what you're going to start wearing?

Or what opinions you are no longer allowed to have?

Why anyone would want someone else to limit their choices for them simply for the sake of making things imaccessible to their children is very much beyond me. The right to think and decide for ourselves is a right we should guard most jealously. Censorship is a poor substitute, indeed, for vigilant parenting.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Is That Really Necessary?!

Toilet paper. Tampons. Maxipads. "Feminine itch" remedies. Herpes medication. Laxatives. Hemorrhoidal ointments. Incontinence protection.

What do all these things have in common? True, they're all plumbing products, but that isn't really what i was getting at. They're all necessary items. Anyone suffering from these ailments or requiring these items will seek them out when their specific troubles arise. So i have to ask:

Why do the purveyors of these products feel the need to advertise?! If i've got flaming case of hemmorhoids, chances are i'm not gonna just grin and bear it. . . i'm going to the store to find some relief. And i guaranfuckingtee you, as i'm perusing the ass aisle, i'm looking at the active ingredients and drug facts on the box, not struggling to remember if i liked the Tucks or the Preparation H commercial better!

There're few things more irritating than sitting at lunch, enjoying some cottage cheese and peaches when out of nowhere, i'm assulted by a commercial about a yeast infection cure. Fantastic timing, folks.

But the icing on the cake. . . the absolute crown jewel of all the unnecessary ads: The Valtrex commercial. Have you ever seen a more assinine commercial in all your life?! The guy's sitting there, smiling serenely as he says, "I have genital herpes" while his doting girlfriend says, "And i don't" as she clings lovingly to his side. She actually looks glad! PLEASE! If your girlfriend loves you enough to stick around through your incurable genital virus, then you've found a rare girl. Congratulations. But that doesn't mean she's gonna be thrilled about it. T
he thing that REALLY takes the biscuit about this commercial is, you're not going to walk into a Walgreens and try to decide amongst the plethora of OTC herpes remedies. It's a prescription medication. So when you're sitting at the doctor's office, and your doctor's telling you that open wound on your penis is genital herpes, his next move is probably to prescribe you some Valtrex. This isn't something you're going to have to suggest or ask for. Doesn't this make the commercial kind of, i don't know, obselete?

There's only one other prescription med for genital herpes. Don't know what it is
? That's because they've had the good taste to not take out a bunch of bullshit commercial space. If i ever contract genital herpes, i'm going with the OTHER prescription.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Rule Number Seven

Good Health Guideline 7: Limit your sugar intake.

Hmm. "Limit". Not much guidance in that guideline. How much qualifies as "limited"? 10 grams a day? 25 grams a day? 100? Is it a before-and-after type thing? Am i supposed to try to eliminate sugar altogether? It just seems way too subjective to qualify as a real guideline.

So let's consider a typical sugar-intake day for me pre-Weightwatchers:

Cereal (let's say the Kashi shredded wheat, that's one of my favourites) for breakfast: 18g
Milk to go with the cereal: 26g
Banana to go into the cereal: 14g
Apple juice: 27g
Yogurt at lunch: 11g
Strawberries to go into the yogurt: 7g
Cookies (let's say 3 chocolate chip): 30g
M&M's from the community jar at work: 132g (conservatively assuming a few handfuls result in a serving approximating one cup)
Ice cream when i get home from work (let's say Ben & Jerry's Cinnamonbuns, one of my favourites): 28g (conservatively assuming i ate only a half cup)
Peanutbutter Twix after dinner (king size): 46g

Total: 339g Remember, this is a conservative estimate.

Now, let's consider a high-sugar-intake day for me now. We'll use yesterday as the example, since i ate something sweet at every meal:

Cinnamon oatmeal: 7g
Apple: 13g
Strawberries: 7g
Yogurt: 11g
Bread on my sammich: 3g
Cheese on my sammich: 1g
Pluot: 15g
Sweet potato: 6g
Green beans: 2g
Skinny Cow ice cream sammich: 4g

Total: 69g That's a significant reduction in sugar from my previous eating habits, plus most of that sugar came from fruit (ultimately, i'm not sure that makes a difference, but i've heard that fruit sugar is better for you than refined sugar).

In comparison, i would say that is DEFINITELY limiting my sugar intake. But could i be doing better? I eat some kind of whole-grain cereal for breakfast every morning (usually oat meal or oat bran or the non-sweetened shredded wheat) with some kind of fruit. I could opt to eat eggs or a bagel with cream cheese instead, thus reducing my sugar. I could switch my yogurt to a different brand; I found a Dannon one that only has 5g, but i don't like it as much as the 11g Yoplait. I could choose to eat more vegetables than fruits, seeing as how out of my five servings a day, three or four of them are usually fruits. I could opt to only eat one dessert a day instead of something sweet at lunch AND after dinner. Or cut dessert out altogether.

But one of the things i really like about Weightwatchers is that you can have normal food, including normal sweets, and still lose weight. This is one of their bragging points, as a matter of fact, so i think that eliminating sugar completely goes against the spirit of still eating "normally".

I'm still no closer to deciding what qualifies as "limited" sugar intake.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Would I?

Someone asked me an interesting question at work today:

Would you still vote for John Edwards?

Now, this person happens to know exactly what i think of cheating on one's partner. . . So to cheat on your partner who has incurable cancer? That significantly lowered the bar for scumbaggery, and Edwards slid right on underneath it. And to cheat on your partner who has incurable cancer, who was not only selfless enough to not ask you to stay at her side during her remaining time in this world, but to go out and campaign on behalf of your worthless cheating ass? I think that pretty much makes him the toxic black mold that grows on the bottom of the scumbag. . . you know, the kind of mold that causes all those health problems.

This person also happens to know how upset i was when Edwards had dropped from the race before the election made its way to Indiana. So it was a fair question, and it was a couple of hours before i was able to answer it.

The answer is yes, i would. Now, before you vent your outraged morality on me (like the author of the question did), let me explain; and to make my point, i'm going to borrow everyone's favourite philanderer: Bill Clinton.

I thought Bill was a terrific president. If i could've elected him to a third term, i would have without hesitation. Yes, he cheated on Hillary, and i thought that was a dickheaded move on his part (seriously, if she made him that unhappy, he should've left her ass). But i don't elect my officials based on their personal lives. Bill could've double-penetrated Monica with three cigars in each hole and chain smoked em all while ejaculating on every blue piece of clothing she owned and watching his wedding video, and it wouldn't have made an ounce of difference to me. I liked what he did with the economy, i liked his foreign policy, and i liked that he didn't try to legislate his own brand of morality. I don't need a moral compass, and if i did, i wouldn't elect it to public office.

For those who still can't understand what i'm trying to say, imagine this: You make a mistake in life. Let's say it's a traffic ticket, maybe for intentionally gunning it to make a red light. Then you go and apply for a job. Your interview seems to be going well, and then your prospective boss informs you that his company doesn't employ scofflaws. You've just been denied a job because of a moving violation. Or maybe you married someone who wasn't right for you and got a divorce. How would you like it if your would-be future boss was Catholic, and told you that he doesn't hire morally corrupt people who participate in the abomination of divorce?

The point i'm trying to make is, Clinton was guilty of being a bad husband. If you took a poll of every elected official in this country, i'm sure you'd find that over half of them are guilty of being bad husbands in one way or another. Does Bad Husband mean he can't perform his job effectively? I don't personally think so. And that's basically how i feel about John Edwards. While i find his behaviour reprehensible, i don't think that has anything to do with his ability to be a good president. Yes, i would still vote for that asshole.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Too Soon?

It finally happened a couple of weeks ago. "Jane" broke it off with "John". It really was about time, because it seemed like everyone knew she didn't like John except for John. Dating someone one doesn't like isn't good for anyone involved. What prompted the breakup after two years of mutual misery, you ask?

You probably already answered your own question: another guy. One of the many things that bothers me about this break-up is the fact that her excuse for not breaking it off with him a year and a half ago (when she first suspected she didn't like him) was "My heart is too big to hurt him." It sounded like a chickenshit excuse to me, but it was her decision. It did annoy me when she would complain about him constantly though, but i digress. Her heart was too big to hurt him. . . until "Jeff" came along. Apparently her heart was only large while there were no better prospects on the horizon.

So Jeff comes into the picture and she drops John like bad habit (which, in a way i suppose he was). Well, not right way. Again, her large heart prevented her from breaking up with John before she started sleeping with Jeff. Somewhere in this convoluted logic of hers, it would seem that being cheated on is much less hurtful than being broken up with. This is something i simply don't understand at all.

The timeline here is this:


1: John and Jane meet and begin dating.
2: Six months later, Jane decides she doesn't like dating John, but neglects to mention that to him (but doesn't hesitate to mention to anyone else who'll listen).
3: Two years later, Jane meets Jeff.
4: Two weeks later, Jane begins fucking Jeff.
5: Two weeks later, Jane dumps John.
6: Three weeks later, Jane and Jeff decide to get married.

WOAH, say what?!

That's right. After not quite knowing each other for two months, Jane decides she's met the acid-dropping, motorcycle-riding, no-income, tattooed and pierced man of her dreams. It's a good thing she dumped John the non-drugdoing pharmacist for this gem. But hey, i'm sure he's a nice guy.

So we finally come to the point of this rambling. How soon is too soon? Even if Jeff were a gainfully employed, non-substance-abusing, productive citizen, is knowing someone less than two months too soon to consider marriage? I mean, if you've met The One and you know it's The One, does it matter if you've known them two months or two years before making a life-long commitment to that person? It just seems too fast to me. In spite of my irritation with and disapproval of Jane's behaviour, she is my friend and i do ultimately care about what happens to her. I'm at a loss for what to say to her. I think she's making a huge mistake, but it's her life and she's entitled to her mistakes. This really isn't one of those things i'd be able to talk her out of anyhow. . . she's so madly in love right now she isn't listening to any of her friends or family. So i suppose for now i'll go along with it and try to hide my feelings about what she's doing, and hope she opens her eyes and sees the cliff before she walks over it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Another Angry John Dream

This kinda came out of left field. . . I haven't seen John in a couple of weeks, so he's had no opportunity to get mad at me.

Sweat was pouring down my face and back. It had to be eight hundred degrees outside and I smelled like the line outside an old Greek bath house on a particularly crowded day, i just knew it. And yet, i spared no effort as i shoved the lawn mower across the yard in intricate patterns. As my sense of dread grew, so did the complexity of the patterns i made with the mower. . . hordes of MLB groundskeepers should have been clamoring at my door to hire me! I'd been mowing for days, and the end was no where in sight.

But it wasn't good enough. I could hear the beast roaring in the distance, closing fast. I didn't think it was possible to push the mower any faster, but i found a reserve of energy in me somewhere and began mowing at a dead run. I hazarded a glance over my shoulder, and there it was. It was a white Ford F-250, but somehow this one seemed to be as tall as a building. The chrome grill flashed like the mouth of a great beast, blinding me for just a moment. The truck stood up on tractor-sized wheels. It occurred to me that if he wanted to run me over, all i had to do was stand still and duck a little bit, and he'd pass right over me. Somehow that brought no comfort. I knew John was in that truck, but i couldn't see him through the glare coming off the windshield. No matter, he made his presence known. He hung out of his window and began shouting into a bullhorn:


Frantically i ran, trying to finish up the lawn, but it seemed to be growing faster than i could cut it. I knew if the grass got much higher, i wouldn't be able to see to complete the pattern i'd started, and then i'd REALLY be in a world of pain. I could feel the heat from the grill singing the hair on my neck. Sweat was no longer pouring off of me, the heat from the truck evaporated it as soon as it peeked out of my pores. Soon i'd be out of sweat, and the greedy truck would start sucking out my life force. All the while, the bullhorn was blaring. I ceased being able to make out individual words, it was just a loud blare reverberating off the insides of my skull, gaining volume as they travelled. Soon, all i could feel was my hands aching from the vibrations of the mower, the heat and the sound vibrations, trying to dig themselves out of my head via pickaxe.

Suddenly, i was out of the grass. The mowing was finished, but the yard was a mess from where John had been driving on it. He jumped down out of the truck and surveyed my work. He seemed not to notice the mess he'd made of his lawn. He looked at his watch and then at me. I was standing there, propping myself up on the lawn mower and sucking in air. "You're sweating on my mower," he said to me. I flinched. I knew that was going to cost me too.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


It became increasingly obvious that the rain would not abate anytime soon. Georgia and i looked at each other and came to a silent mutual agreement that the house must be abandoned lest we die with it. I looked around the house sadly, and i felt it give its silent understanding. This did not make the decision to leave it here to drown any easier, but it made no sense to sacrifice ourselves with it. I looked at the rest of the group when the first wave of mental pushes came at me. By the uncomfortable looks on everyones' faces, i could tell they were experiencing the same uncomfortable battle with the house: the compulsion to leave when we wanted to stay with it. Jim said, "It wants us to go. We should go". Silently, we filed out to the van and piled in, barely noticing the water pouring off our now-soaked clothing and hair.

Georgia took the wheel and eased us onto the dirt-turned-mud road. I hoped we wouldn't get mired and have to walk. The air was so saturated with water that breathing was nearly impossible, and i didn't think we would survive. Thinking of the house drowning by itself while we drowned elsewhere made me feel numb with futility. Jim took my hand and i looked at him. He was having the same feelings. I pushed them to the side and focused on the road. We were approaching a section that had been washed out. I waited for Georgia to veer off in another direction, but she was driving straight for it. I looked at her in alarm, and discovered she'd passed out or fallen asleep. It didn't matter which, because we plunged right into the water a heartbeat later.

I got out to see if backing up would be a possiblilty. As soon as i shut the door, i saw the water suddenly pull the van all the way under. Horrorstricken, i dove in behind it without thinking. I hoped i would be too small for the water to notice as i tried in vain to jerk the doors open. The water started to crawl through the vents, and soon fountains were gushing into the interior of the van in the water's frenzied attempts to drown us. There was nothing i could do. I could feel the water's smirking malice as it watched my friends and family throwing themselves at the ceiling, trying to stay above the surface. The water lazily pulled them back under, just below the surface, and then released them again, so that they could gasp and sputter, only to be jerked back under as they inhaled, missing the air and giving the water access to their insides. I shut my eyes. There was just no telling what kind of damage the water could do once it got inside you.

Almost simultaneously, all struggling ceased. Crowing triumphantly, the water slammed itself back into the vent, exiting the way it had come in. How horrid that all they air they could have needed was now all around them if they were alive to breathe it! I wondered if i would be able to open the doors if all the water left. Gradually, the water began to seep back in. Apparently, leaving this vacancy was too much effort for the water to sustain.

Once the van had refilled, the door came open easily. I jerked Georgia out first and pulled her to the surface. Once we reached solid ground, i turned her on her side, hoping i could coax the water out now that it was cut off from itself. She shuddered a bit and then sand began to pour from her mouth. I picked up her feet and tipped her upside down to make sure it all came out. The sand liquefied back into water, and the pile-turned-puddle ran back down to the lake. I gently began to massage her temple until her menu came up. I selected 'revive' from my short list of options, and she opened her eyes.

"The water is getting closer, we'd better hurry, " i told her.

We both dived back under and returned with my mother and my sister. Following my lead, she turned my sister upside down and let the sand pour from her mouth. As before, the sand liquified and rushed back to itself. Georgia returned to the water to bring Jim and Ryan while i massaged my mother's temple. It took a little longer, but her menu came up and 'revive' was an option. I heaved a sigh of relief and moved on to my sister. I was able to revive her too.

When Georgia broke the surface, i took Jim from her and she brought Ryan out of the water. Quickly, we began emptying them of their sand. It didn't seem as though the sand was pouring as quickly from their mouths, and a growing realization that the previous puddles had communicated our doings to the larger body of itself slowly dawned on me. The sand was doing its best to stay in side.

Panic-stricken, i began to shake him violently, desperately trying to dislodge the sand. All at once it came out, but when it liquefied, it did not return to itself as it had previously. We were to be spied upon. No matter. I began to massage Jim's temple. Nothing happened. Fighting my growing despair, i tried the other temple. No menu. It was too late, the water had killed him. I turned to Georgia, and saw that she had no luck either. I felt the weight of grief crush me like the pressure of an ocean. Though the water had not entered me, it had killed me all the same. My body just hadn't realized it yet.

The living group of us decided to return to the house while the road remained. I took the dead group of us and slowly began trudging toward the waiting water. It opened its arms to us like a murderous lover, and pulled us gently in.