I’m getting ready for a morning presentation and asked that an assortment of doughnuts be provided. Doughnuts both help to assure decent attendance — who doesn’t want a doughnut in the morning? — but also an engaged and alert audience that is dealing with the initial doughnut sugar rush.

It’s important to get to the conference room early, to open the doughnut boxes and let that unique doughnut fragrance fill the room. Once a doughnut is sensed, it’s impossible to resist.

There’s a good assortment here, including my favorite — a cake doughnut with dark chocolate icing. Also a few new doughnut options, like one with crumbled Oreos and another with pretzel sticks.

Bad Waiting

Yesterday Kish and I went out for lunch.  When we were getting ready to place our order, the waitress pulled out an order pad — and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Why?  Because lately I’ve been bedeviled by wait staff who don’t write down what I’ve requested, and my orders have inevitably been screwed up as a result.

It’s kind of maddening, really.  The waiters stand there, listen as I tell them, for example, that I want only a slice of onion on my cheeseburger and specifically say that I don’t want lettuce or tomato or pickles.  They nod reassuringly and then march off to the kitchen, and I groan inwardly, knowing that there is a better than a 50-50 chance that, when the order comes back, I’ll be scraping tomato and lettuce and pickle debris from my cheeseburger bun.  But what’s a patron supposed to do?  Hand the waiter a pen and piece of paper and plead with them to please, please, write down the order so there’s hope it will be correctly prepared and delivered . . . and thereby look like a jerk?  Or wait until the order comes back and pleasantly point out that it’s wrong, so that the waiter has to trot back to the kitchen and bring out a new, correct order — and thereby further delay the meal?  Or just accept that the order is wrong, eat it anyway so you’re not waiting even longer, and grumble at the injustice of it all?

Why, exactly, has it the no-write-down approach swept through the waiting world like a cold winter wind?  Do waiters think that not writing down the order reflects their professionalism, or that we’ll be impressed at their memory capabilities and give them a bigger tip?  Don’t they realize that, when most patrons see that the waiter or waitress isn’t writing down the order, their hopes for a pleasant meal take a tumble?

The waiting world works for tips, so here’s one:  write it down, already!


Old Bag, New Bag

We’ve got a retirement to commemorate in the Webner household today. Last night Kish surprised me with a bright, shiny, brand-new TUMI satchel. As a result, my old shoulder bag will be heading off to the glorious land of work bag retirement.

I’m sorry to see the old bag go. It’s been my trusted travel companion, work or play, for at least 25 years — and probably more like 30 years. It came to our household as part of a luggage set we got long ago. All of the other components of the set are long gone, but the little black satchel has steadfastly continued to provide faithful service. It’s been overfilled to the point of bursting, hurled onto passenger side car seats, thrust into the carry-on spaces of airplanes large and small, irradiated at countless TSA checkpoints, dropped fully loaded onto floors and tables, and lugged through rain, sleet, smog and snow, without problem or complaint. In short, it’s never let me down. You can’t say that about many people or things.

And yet . . . it’s time. All of the zippers are broken, the handles are frayed, I’ve had to replaced the shoulder strap multiple times, and the bag itself has holes. This reliable black satchel is breaking down and deserves some rest.

Moving to a new bag will be an adjustment. With the old black satchel, I knew where everything would go. Boarding passes in the side pocket, pen and chargers and power cords in the small storage pocket, laptop and papers and notebooks and folders in the big middle space, and books slipped into the side sleeve. With the new bag, I’ll have to do some experimentation to figure out where everything should go.

Farewell, black satchel! The office won’t be quite the same without you!

The Value Of Work

Yesterday I went to the Columbus Goodwill Industries Extraordinary People Lunch.  It’s an event at which Goodwill recognizes three extraordinary people who have used Goodwill programs to improve their lives — and, through their spirit and positive attitude and effort, have also improved the lives of everyone around them.  From the songs sung by a choir of individuals who participate in Goodwill programs at the outset of the program to the video in which the stories of the three individuals who were being recognized was told, it was an inspiring, uplifting event.

aab2657f-63f4-4314-8f7e-648677570456As I watched the program, I was struck by the consistency of focus of Columbus Goodwill Industries, which has been a part of our community for 80 years.  Based on the message “a hand up, not a hand-out,” it’s all about the value of work and a job and giving people a chance to contribute.  For each of the three people who were celebrated as Extraordinary People, having a job and the opportunities created by Goodwill and its programs has been a key part of their lives and the pride they feel.

A focus on the value of work may strike some people as old-fashioned, but I think it’s a refreshing and affirming message in a world where our approach too often seems oriented to a hand-out rather than a hand-up.  Hand-outs are easy, but developing and implementing training and other programs to actually equip people for the working world, and then find them opportunities to use their personal skills and capabilities, are hard.  Credit should go to Goodwill Industries for providing programs and opportunities that literally can be life-changing — and for sending an important message about work that we should always remember.

Ditch Niche

Our place in Stonington features a small stream that runs along the border between our property and our neighbor’s place to the north.  Actually, “stream” is probably not an accurate description.  I think of it as a creek, but some people might view it as more of a rivulet, or even a glorified drainage ditch.  The water tumbles down the hillside to the harbor, rushing by in the winter and wet spring months and when it rains, but otherwise moving sluggishly — if at all — after a few dry days at the end of summer.

Humble thought it may be, it’s still the only watercourse I’ve ever had on a property, and I think it is pretty cool.  The neighbor’s side of the creek is littered with big, picturesque boulders, but our side was definitely lacking in the stone category.  As a result, the second part of my stone-digging project has involved rolling, flipping, or carrying the stones I’ve excavated over to the creekside, to better frame the stream.  I’ve also been working at clearing out the accumulated branches and other debris that has clogged the creek and interfered with the flow of the water.  It’s pretty clear that nobody has paid much attention to it for years.

The goal is to make the creek look more like a waterway and less like a damp spot in the yard.  It’s still a work in progress.

Dig It

My project this week is focused on digging.  Our “down yard” — the part of the yard that spills down a steep slope in the direction of Stonington’s harbor — is choked with granite rocks.  Some are enormous looming crags, big enough that you can lean your shovel against them, some are man-sized boulders, and some are just barely peeking out of the ground.

The problem with all of the rocks is that they make the down yard impossible to mow.  As a result, it has become choked with weeds.  Our yard guy told me that if we can mow the area down low enough, it will kill the broad-leaf weeds, which he says aren’t hardy enough to withstand two or three successive very short clippings.  Grass, on the other hand, is more robust, he says; it will survive the repeated chopping and will quickly move into the void left by the killed-off weeds.  The result will be a nice grassy area among the jutting boulders.

I have no idea whether this is true or not, but his comment produced this project.  The goal is to dig out the smaller, movable rocks so that a lawnmower can navigate between the remaining big boys and do its weed-killing job.

Digging out stones is happily mindless work.  You don your work gloves to avoid blisters, take your shovel, and start chopping away at the soil around the exposed rock, trying to find an edge.  When you do, you use the shovel like a lever, to see if the rock is even movable.  Some are obviously too huge to move.  But if the rock looks to be reasonably movable, you keep at it, digging away and working the rock loose, until you can wedge it out of its resting place and roll or carry it away, clearing a path for next year’s mowing.  Sometimes you need to use additional ersatz tools, like two-by-fours, to brace up a big rock until you can lever it out of the hole — so the work also appeals to the keen tool-making interests of homo sapiens.

So far, I’ve dug and moved out dozens of rocks, large and small, causing Kish to question my sanity and rocky obsessiveness.  What am I doing with them, you ask?  I’ll address that in a future post.