Friday, March 23, 2012

My Response to "Had Any Offers Lately?"

As you probably know, Travis and I are in the process of attempting to sell our house.  This is a process that's been ongoing for almost 2 years now.  We've done everything "right," in that it's staged so well we almost want to continue living there, half of our belongings are in storage to complete the "we don't have clutter" look, and since we replaced the carpet in the living room, it no longer looks like the scene of a homicide involving several ounces of Miller Lite and what may have been badger urine.  Anyway, we've had a lot of (completely well-meaning) questions about the progress of our house and I've now taken the route of at least trying to make myself, and the asker of the question, laugh at my response because if I don't laugh at the situation, I *might* have to start compulsively hoarding badgers again.  And no one wants that.  So, here is my e-mail in response to another, still well-meaning question of, "Had any offers lately?"  

Not a one - haha!  We had one guy who was considering our place but then chose one on a golf course down the road.  This lead me to wish golf balls to rain down on his head when he's just trying to scramble some eggs in his kitchen.  No one likes a Titleist in their eggs, right?  As for this round of selling the house, we've only had the two showings from the one, golf-loving dude and not a lot else.  Not sure what the problem is, seeing as how we are offering it at the lowest price so far (this is the third time we've put it on the market, making it around 20-some-odd months that we've been living in what is essentially a Pottery Barn catalog while simultaneously getting nervous hives when we go out of town lest we get a showing and aren't around to remove all evidence of our beloved cats from the house.)  I even wrote a letter to our metro government office when I got an erroneous bill for our property taxes, espousing the greatness of our house and how badly I want to not live in said house anymore (the kitchen's been on the Rachael Ray show - true story) because, at this point, I will tell anyone I can about it in the off chance that someone, somewhere, will be willing to buy a perfectly good house (for one person.  For a newly-married couple, one of whom is a compulsive collector of all things musical kitsch and the other being a collector of shoes, sundresses, and kitchen gadgets, one becoming-tinier-by-the-minute condo isn't cutting the already-room-temperature butter.) On that note, I'm sure you really didn't want that kind of in-depth answer and you may be thinking, "This girl is freakin' psychotic."  You'd be right on that count, as the next person who asks, "Have you tried staging your home?" will receive a punch in the face and an unapologetic look of aforementioned psychosis from yours truly.  At least I don't have to stage my cell in maximum security, although I have a feeling I'd probably be used by my cellmate as a pawn in an auction for cigarettes during rec time. 
And on that note, I hope I've at least brightened your day because I'm still on a "I'm never going to sell my house and I'm going to be forced to spend my evenings creating elaborate, yet more than likely completely false, backstories for our neighbors involving prostitution rings for the Mexican embassy and what we're guessing is a possible brothel while trying not to strangle the one lady who tries to get me to go to the HOA meetings all.the.time. " frenetic warpath. 
So, that being said, pardon the hideously long e-mail.  I just read it and decided that I do, indeed, sound like a crazy person.  Feel free to post this on the bulletin board at work, because I totally would.  To bring joy to others through my pain is the least I can ask for from this hideously dehumanizing process known as selling your house.

I would also like to note that I do not direct any of the hatred towards yourself or your company.  I rather like to place blame on the government, a very vindictive turnip farmer in South Dakota, and possibly Canada. 

- Jamie 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Living A Rich Life on the Cheap

It’s that time again, and by “that time” I mean, “let me wax poetic about meaningless propaganda that you ceased to care about sometime around the Reagan administration.”  The recession is still licking its chops from consuming one too many overpaid bankers while simultaneously picking its teeth with the dreams of the American people.  This all-too-realistic fact smacks me over the head so much I’ve taken to calling it Chris Brown.  Dancing around financial pitfalls is difficult since I’m not a good dancer, but that extra weight I was carrying around in my bank account is now gone and so I’ve become pretty dang good at creative ways to be thrifty.  Seeing it a crime to keep these nuggets of wisdom contained in my own, recession-smacked brain I’ve decided to share this knowledge.
1.  One way I’ve kept up appearances of affluence in the home is refilling the containers of name brand items I bought (when I had disposable income) with their generic counterparts.  People are much more likely to believe your “I’m not broke” façade when your fabric softener says “Downey” and not “Kroger Blue Stuff.”  Likewise, my hand soap may SAY Dove, but inside I know lies “Industrial Strength Tire Cleaner I Liberated from a Poorly-Maintained Car Wash on Nolensville Road.”
2.  Another great trick to save money is to make your own money.  Printing presses can be found on Craigslist with relative ease and if that doesn’t pan out, Magic Markers are probably on sale at Walgreens.  Simply grab a Trace and Learn (if you don’t have kids, offer to pick up your sister’s children one day – and then steal theirs) to brush up on your dead presidents, and you’ll be rolling around, a la Scrooge Duck on Duck Tales, in a silo filled with almost perfectly legal tender.
3.  Alcohol consumption can definitely take its toll on your wallet, but let’s face it – the anesthetic quality of some good hooch is unparalleled and nothing takes the edge off a day like a big glass of liquid intoxication.  With this is mind, take a look at your bathroom.  I’ll wait.
Good.  Now – do you have a tub?  If the answer is “yes,” then you, my friend, will soon be filthy, yet incredibly drunk, for just pennies on the dollar!  Turning your bathtub into a distillery is easy.  A few modifications to your counterfeit entrepreneurial operation turns that printing press into a spirits press that will have you kissing-a-random-street-musician wasted by the end of CMA Fest.
4.  One way to save both the planet AND your wallet is to recycle.  This is useful because you can (greenly) dispose of those pesky generic containers you no longer need thanks to putting their contents in their labeled counterparts.  But did you know that you can find all KINDS of stuff that other people are throwing away?  I have hauled home a beer-can chicken stand, several only-sort-of-out-of-date People magazines, and four mannequin heads from the Paul Mitchell Hair School.  I sense you’re snickering right about now, but I would like to assure you that I have actually hauled all of the above out of the recycling receptacles around our fair city and four of these beauty school heads items may or may not be in the trunk of my car currently.
5.  Kidnapping is a fantastic money-saver on several levels as well.  First off, you have the ransom money, which is a no-brainer.  Make sure you’re not overstepping your bounds, as several factors need to be addressed before you arrive at a set figure.  Take into consideration the annual income of the people you’re extorting, what you’ve stolen from them, and exactly how long you’re willing to keep in your possession the very thing you’ve stolen.  For instance, you’re not going to be able to get as much money by stealing the dog of a middle-class family of 7 as you would by taking, say, one of Jennifer Lopez’s children.  I’ve devised a formula to help you decide the level of kidnapping risk you’re willing to take for the financial outcome:
(Street Value of Stolen Item x Length of Captivity) – Length of Possible Prison Term (in months) = Return on Investment.  You’ll want to factor in the cost of night vision goggles plus a magazine subscription so you can write out your ransom notes, but those are really just costs of doing business with the Lindberghs.
Now, I mentioned the “many levels” of money saving possibilities with the enterprise of kidnapping, and these aren’t just the ransoms you can collect.  If you decide to actual steal a human, you can use this person to do all kinds of things normally relegated to a rather expensive personal assistant.  Have the person wash your dishes, or, if you steal someone with a particular skill set (think: Mario Batali) he can demonstrate that talent in a valiant hope that you won’t kill him.
So, kids, it’s fairly simple.  Decide exactly what you’re hoping to gain from this scenario and then consider your possibilities.  The great thing about this industry?  Plenty of options.  Go ahead – play the market a bit.  Just make sure you sort of like whatever/whomever you steal, just in case no one wants it/him back.
Whew!  I don’t know about y’all, but my mind is pretty tired from all the money saving I’m doing!  I’m going to go take a nap while Mario Batali whips up some of his homemade ravioli for me.  And he better not put butternut squash in this batch.  As Martha Stewart can testify, no one puts squash in my ravioli without a higher ransom notice.  No one.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Life in the Service Industry

One of my first jobs was waiting tables.  Actually, my first job included chasing after cows and attempting not to run a tractor in to the mailbox (I succeeded in this task *almost* every time…) but my first place of employment besides a farm was waiting tables.  I waited tables through high school, then decided to do it throughout college for two reasons:  1.  They were flexible with my class schedule.  2.  It was more than perfectly acceptable to show up for your Wednesday night dinner shift with a massive hangover incurred from “Tequila Tuesdays.”  After graduating and moving back to start working in an office (with suits that wouldn’t get splattered with grenadine!  And actual paychecks!  And high HEELS!) I realized that I missed restaurants.  I missed the high-paced chaos of Friday night, I missed the raucous after-shift parties, and I really, really missed the huge chunk of cash in my pocket after a long night.  Like, REALLY missed that cash.  As I somehow always seem to do, I picked up yet another waitressing gig, this time after my 9-to-5 one.  Eventually that restaurant closed and, looking on to new career paths, I decided to put my restaurant career on an ice floe out to sea.  Regardless, I’ve got a lot of experience with restaurants, dive bars, watering holes, pizza joints - you name it - and you come to realize it teaches you a few things (okay, a LOT of things, but only a few I’m willing to admit to the entire Internet.  I’ll just leave you to what are probably-true assumptions.)  And so I write, “Life Lessons from a Restaurant: A Narrative.” 
1.  People can just be plain dicks.  I’ve heard people make fun of my answers to their questions while I was STILL AT THEIR TABLE.  I’ve been mocked for my accent.  I’ve been left pennies (and on at least one occasion, thrown the pennies back at the “tipper.”) Of course, I always had my regulars, no matter where I was working.  I had friends leave me fun notes, along with my tips, in high school.  I had a couple who would come in every week for all-you-can-eat wing night and leave me $20, no matter how much attention I didn’t have time to pay to their table.  And then I had the couple who thought I was “cute” and “wanted to take me home with them.”  But I digress – being a server taught me a valuable lesson.  And that lesson?  Most people suck, so don’t be surprised when you bend over backwards to get change for their $100 bill and they don’t leave any of that hard-sought change for your tip.  Just remember their face and then talk about how ugly their children were when you are drinking that first beer after your shift.  
2.  Never judge someone on appearances.   I like to think of this as the “don’t judge a table by their labels” rule of restaurants.   I’ve often found the richer-looking the table, the lower the tip.  Sometimes I think it’s because they think they’re better than the server (hence the “get a real job” picture floating around the Internet.)  Sometimes I think it’s just sheer ignorance (see also: foreign diners who actually pay their servers more than $2.15 an hour in their home country) and sometimes I think it’s because they’ve spent so much money on their asinine outfit and the what I’m guessing is “compensating for something” car that they genuinely have nothing left to give to their server.  Whatever the reason, I learned to never judge a customer by their appearance.  Because that crazy lady that just walked in looking a bit…um…insane?  That was Alison Krauss (and yes, she’s a good tipper.) 
3.  Be nice to everyone.  Because everyone can screw you royally.  This little platitude doesn’t exist just for the customers.  It applies to everyone from the busboy to the poor guy stuck in the dish pit.  Here’s the thing:  if you forget to put in a very important appetizer for a very important table and you tell your very important cook to “put a rush on it” after you refused his request of running some quickly-dying-in-the-window food?  It’s not going to happen.  Being nice to everyone yields certain things, and in a restaurant these things can mean a bussed table so the hostess can seat you again.  It can mean a free meal when the cooks are feeling generous, and it can mean that you will be able to go home feeling better about yourself than the prick who just left you $4 on that $82 ticket.  Same thing goes in life – just be nice to people. 
4.  Restaurants are like tiny, alcoholic, dysfunctional families.  The problem with working in restaurants comes when you realize that you can only hang out with other restaurant employees due to the fact that you’re the only ones working when everyone else is out having fun.  Getting off work at 4am while still (somewhat) sober limits you to your choice of hangout buddies.  Plus, why go out to try to find some place to get a drink when you’re looking at a bar right in front of you?  Here’s what happens:  everyone gets off work, except for the poor sap stuck closing.  Everyone starts drinking, including the poor sap stuck closing.  The music gets turned up to cover the sound of the vacuum, and then the stories begin…the “Was that his daughter or a hooker?” and the “The guy actually handed me a business card that said ‘Everyday Hero!’  Here it is!!” conversations.  Slowly everyone gets more and more buzzed, you start playing the Would You Rather? game, the poor sap stuck closing finally gets off, and general rowdiness ensues.  Said rowdiness may involve increasingly-risqué answers to the “Would You Rather?” game, it may involve taking questionable pictures with the cell phone someone left on the patio, and sometimes it just involves someone passing out on the salad line.  Regardless, I would say that I’m better friends with the folks I worked with in college than my actual classmates and I’m okay with that, because…
5.  Some of the smartest, most creative, and most interesting people work in the service industry.  It’s a field that attracts a myriad of people for a myriad of reasons but they will a) probably curse like sailors (myself included,) b) find infinite pleasure in a good dirty joke,  and c) know how to make a mean cocktail.  They may yell at you for not ringing in a side of bleu cheese, but will stop an ambulance carrying a fight-wounded customer of yours to get him to sign your credit card receipt (true story.)  They will get belligerently drunk with you, help you expand that running list of “Movie Titles You Turned into Porn Titles” someone hung over the ovens, and possibly convince you to do increasingly-disgusting dares for a little cash.  And you’ll love it.  And you’ll remember it.  And someday?  You might just write a blog about it.