The President And The Pool Cue

Tuesday night President Obama was in Denver and decided to stop in at a brew pub, have a beer, and shoot pool with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.  Photos of the President brandishing a pool cue and lining up a shot are all over the internet.

The President’s pool hall visit has received a lot of criticism.  Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC and a Democratic Representative from Texas, Henry Cuellar, whose district is on the Mexican border, questioned why the President was shooting pool and drinking beer rather than going down to visit the border and address the flood of unaccompanied minors who are crossing into the U.S.  The Congressman called the President’s actions bizarre and said that if he had time to shoot pool and drink beer, he should have made time to visit the border when he came to Texas for fundraisers.

This incident captures why it would suck to be the President in the modern media world.  You can criticize the President for his administration’s handling of the immigration issue, and you can question, as I have, why his proposal to deal with the influx of minors doesn’t address securing the porous border that allowed the kids to cross in the first place.  But are we really to the point where we’re arguing about the imagery of the President shooting pool as opposed to the substance of his approach?  If, instead of shooting pool and drinking a beer, the President was photographed reading a book, or visiting a museum, would we hear the same hue and cry?  I doubt it.

We see so much of the airbrushed, sanitized, carefully crafted politicians who are afraid to say and do anything real because they might be criticized.  This incident shows why.  I might disagree with President Obama’s policies on many things, including immigration, but I’ll defend his right to pick up a cue, line up a shot on the eight ball, and channel his inner Minnesota Fats now and then.  Our fixation on photo ops is cheapening our politics.

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To The Bloodmobile!

This afternoon I gave blood at the American Red Cross bloodmobile at the New Albany Farmer’s Market.  It was one of eight different mobile units that were out for blood in the central Ohio area today.

IMG_2400It’s the first time I’ve donated at a bloodmobile, as opposed to the set-up when the Red Cross comes to visit our law firm — and the whole time the voice in my head was saying, in its best Adam-West-as-Batman tones:  “To the bloodmobile!”

The principal difference between the bloodmobile and the standard set-up is the number of machines that are available.  Other than that, the process was the same.  There are four comfortable padded couches — two to a side — on which donors can recline while doing their civic duty, and the staff was friendly and professional.  All told, it took me about 40 minutes to verify my identity, answer the health questions, give blood, and then grab a water bottle and snack and head out the door to buy some cheese, preserves, and apple butter at the Farmer’s Market.

There’s always a need for blood., and giving is a good way to help your community and people in need.  If you’re at a place where the bloodmobile is visiting and you’ve got a few minutes to spare, your donation would be much appreciated!

How To Treat The Surly Waitress?

Recently we were out for breakfast at one of those diner-type places with an extensive, descriptive menu and lots of choices.  We’d been there before, scrutinized the menu, consumed the food, and enjoyed the experience.

This time, though, we had a waitress whom I’ll call Madge — because she looked like a Madge.  You know the type:  probably in her 50s, raspy cigarette voice, dyed hair, has worked at the place for years, hates her job but can’t change her life, will do what is necessary to keep that paycheck but radiates a surly, “don’t cross me” attitude.  No friendly banter.  Just place your order promptly and let me serve the food and move on.

Normally this kind of server wouldn’t bother me.  I much prefer the brisk, no-nonsense old pro, for example, to the fake-friendly chatterbox who won’t shut up, the incompetent who botches your order, or the lurker who repeatedly intrudes on your conversation.

In this case, though, one member of our party wasn’t brought an English muffin on the side, and when we asked about it the waitress reacted with barely controlled hostility.  She curtly responded that it wasn’t part of the order, because the egg dish already was served on an English muffin.  We knew that wasn’t true because we’d been there before, ordered the same kind of dish, and gotten an English muffin on the side.  “Are you sure?”  “Could you bring one now?” we asked.  “I think I know the menu, honey,” she replied dismissively.  “It’s not part of the order.”  You’d think she would simply bring an English muffin as part of good customer relations, but that simply wasn’t part of Madge’s worldview.

Who wants to have a semi-angry encounter with a waitress over breakfast?  The incident was off-putting — but then Madge unforgivably compounded things.  During a stop to fill up our coffee cups, she made some brusque remark about knowing the orders after working there for years and then barked out a laugh.  Why bring up the unpleasant incident again?  Her asinine comment just made us stew about it even more.

Finally the meal ended, and we had to make the tip decision.  Normally I’m a generous tipper; I remember being a waiter and how tough the job is.  Sure, Madge was an unhappy jerk, but I don’t think I would completely stiff a server unless they served me food with glass in it.  I rationalized that Madge wasn’t going to change, and leaving her no tip, or only a penny, was just going to make her treat the next group of customers even worse.  Madge had brought our food and kept our coffee and water glasses filled, even if she was an ass with a vulcanized soul.  So, I left her a tip, but one that was below normal.

As we walked out, one member of our party scanned the menu again, confirmed that an English muffin was part of the order, and went back in to confront Madge.  That probably had more of an impact on her day than leaving no tip, but the whole incident still bothers me, and I wonder:  for the good of humanity, should I have left no tip?