Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I Bought Into the Hype . . .

. . . and now I want my $40 back

Sometimes it sucks being right; there are times I take very little pleasure in it.

Last Saturday, I met Darcy at the mall; she was dress shopping, something I know we'd both be happier if I wasn't with her. So I met up with her by the Cheescake Factory, where she said she'd put us on the waiting list for a table.

Now, I've never been to the Cheescake Factory, and to be honest, I've never been too keen on going. I simply wasn't interested in the place; all I knew was that if I never set foot inside, my life wouldn't be any worse off than it was before.

But we were there, Darcy suggested it, and I said sure. So I arrived at the mall, freshly scrubbed and all worked out from my trip to the gym, only to discover that we had a 25-minute wait ahead of us.

Darcy had put our names on the list 30 minutes earlier.

So we joined the masses waiting to get into the place. So we wandered for a few minutes, and returned with ten minutes to spare. And we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

About 20 minutes later, we learned we got to wait another 10 minutes - at least.

I understand a restaurant gets busy at lunchtime. I understand that people act with all the predictability of the Midwest weather. But I also know that you should take that into account, so people aren't waiting much longer than you say.

So we head off to our seats after our pager signals us. Our table? One small table along a long bench, where roughly 12 other tables had been placed. It looked like a cafeteria, and funny, with the overly-loud muzak and cheap plastic cups for water, it sure seemed like one.

Thumbing through our menu, I was overjoyed to see that I had to get through the bar and appetizer section before hitting the entres. Oh yeah --- there was also all the advertisements on every other page. Every. Other. Page.

Judging by the crowds I've generally seen at these restaurants, I can't imagine their hurting for cash. If they were a small mom-and-pop restaurant in Anytown, USA, I'd buy the need for ads in the menu, but not full-page color ads on glossy paper. And not for places that were NO LONGER IN BUSINESS!!! WTF? Honestly!

Our food arrived. A lunch salad was large enough to feed a family of sixteen. It was an okay salad; nothing to make me want to shake the chef's hand, but certainly not worth the $10 it cost.

However, the carrot cake I had for desert was quite tasty. I'll give them that.

We left, having two salads and two deserts - $40 poorer. I wanted to ask the hostess or manager for a kiss, since I generally enjoy kisses while being screwed.

In short, I have never, never seen a restaurant with less respect for the people shelling out the money to eat there. You wait for an insane length of time, only to sit and wait some more in an uncomfortable seat with all the privacy of a barracks while drinking in the painted on decor and thumbing through the ads in the menu.

As near as I can tell, their basic message is "Screw you; we're going to make you wait and you're going to like it." They bribe you with insane portions of food, but for me, that's not enough.

I'm dying to know how many people regularly go there -- and not under some form of obligation or duress (they have friends or family in from out of town who want to go; they need to use a gift card, etc.). I'm willing to bet the number isn't all that high.

Perhaps I'm out of touch, but I'd prefer going to a small, more quiet restaurant, with reasonable waits and less-than-indifferent service. I don't mind dropping money on a meal; I do mind if I feel as if I'm not getting my money's worth for the experience, and to me, a mountain of salad and an admittedly good desert for a nearly one-hour wait to sit in a crappy atmosphere isn't worth it one little bit.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Fitness Tips

After a nearly two-year hiatus, I decided it was time to take my tubby ass back to the gym. Something about running out of breath while climbing the stairs, feeling slow and the vision of me being buried in a piano box with two cranes as pallbearers didn’t seem like a good life choice. Besides, kickball’s around the corner, and I need to be ready.

And it’s good to see things haven’t changed much. I like consistency; it makes me feel safe and secure, so when I walk into the gym only to see the Beautiful people congregating, it feels like a sort of homecoming. Sadly, the only thing missing is the two guys standing in the corner, straddling each other while screaming “CMON!!! IT’S ALL YOU!!! YOU GOT IT!!!! GO GO GO!!!!” I’m pretty sure one of them was holding weights, but I was afraid to look too closely.

However, things have changed; maybe it’s the time of year – there’s a few new years’ resolution holdovers, younger people and new folks there. And these young’ns? They don’t know crap. So as the old salt, I figured I would take the liberty to give a little gym etiquette guide:

  1. Stripping the weights is for pussies. The next guy’s there to work out, right? So why the fuck would you want to take your old weights off? He needs the exercise, so let him take his tubby ass up and remove all the plates you just slapped on the machine. He’ll thank you for it eventually.
  2. Accessorize. Ladies, be sure to cake on an extra layer of makeup to go with the jewelry. That way, when you stand around in the humid room, it might not run as badly. Keep your purse with you too; you never know when it might come in handy, or you need to write down a phone number.
  3. Attire. It’s all about the look. That’s why it’s important to wear a t-shirt saying something to the effect of “Macho”, “Pride”, or “Big Gunz”. Or, if you’re a real man and want to show it, go simple and find the Superman logo t-shirt. Your admirers will appreciate you that much more.
  4. Socialize. The gym is fun. You should have fun, so feel free to sit on one of those handy seats and benches randomly set around the room and have yourself a good talk. Maybe while you’re discussing real estate, 401Ks, getting ripped the night before. The guy wanting to use your seat? Fuck him. You were there first.
  5. Say it loud, say it proud. 100 lbs is a really good bench; especially if you’re doing reps. So be sure to let fly the soul-clearing scream while putting it up. You want people looking at you; the ladies will be coming over for a chat or maybe to pat your pecs. The guys, well, they’ll be hiding their heads in shame, sorry they ever set foot on YOUR gym floor.
  6. Do I look like the maid? You’re in the zone. Sweat’s flying, you’re moving. If you were sweating any more, you’d have ducks swimming around you and people would be tossing coins at your feet. But you can’t stop. Even if you just used that dumbbell. Even though it just slid out of your hand due to the layer of sweat. Sweat dries eventually, especially if the next person comes along to pick up the weight. Gotta keep moving, get back into the zone . . .
  7. I did it MY way, Byeeotch. America was founded by individualists; men and women who were bound and determined to make their own ways in life without some crusty old monarch in London telling them what to do. So you’re simply honoring America when you ignore the arrow telling you to walk clockwise. If it’s Tuesday it’s counter-clockwise day dammit!
  8. Now that's what I call high quality H2O. A good workout means a big sweat. You want to replace that lost water, so you keep a gallon jug with you at all times. Good thing there’s all those drinking fountains around to refill the jug when you empty it. Those people in line behind you? Morons. They should’ve brought their own jugs.
  9. I look good – real good. When you’re pumped up, you look like a god amongst men. That’s why you should stand in front of the mirror, blocking off all the free weights staring longingly at yourself. Because really, what can look better than you?
  10. Patience is a virtue. You learned how to wait your turn when you were two (ideally), so when someone’s on the machine you want, stand right over him and stare until he gives it up. It’s your turn, dammit! Screw his slow old ass on the equipment. Asking to work in is for pussies, and that’s something you’re not.

So there you have it; a little help for you gym beginners. Working together, we can make the gym experience one that everyone can enjoy.