Monday, March 29, 2010

What I Bought On eBay.

This is probably old news if you live in my household, but I bought a piece of art last month on eBay. As you might know already, I'm a big comic book/cartoon collector and any time I have a chance to purchase something new and possibly unique, I'll do it, within my budget...of course.

This is an original editorial cartoon from the Omaha World Herald in 1994, by Jeff Koterba. I actually won the bidding back in early February so I thought the timing was good because it was a few days before the start of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Earlier that week, the local paper ran a piece on the "Worst scandals in Winter Olympic history. The #1 scandal was the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident when Kerrigan was attacked and injured by a baton-wielding man. It turned out the assailant was hired by Harding's ex-husband and current body guard of Harding, who was one of Kerrigan's teammates on the U.S. figure skating team. The upcoming Winter Olympics and this (event-appropriate) cartoon, I had to have it!

The art work is a pen and ink piece complete with some white-out and pencil marks, that make it all the more authentic. It seemed funny at the time and my kids still don't get the humour in this strip, so I guess you had to be there. Anyways, check out Jeff's site for more great strips and I'll be on the look out for his memoir, Inklings.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hey Burt, This Is Unacceptable!

Sometimes I feel invisible, maybe I am? There are so many instances that make me wonder, waiting in line at stores being ignored for people behind me that have been there a lot less time than I have. At the old Long & McQuade location, many times I would standing at the front counter for 10-20 minutes waiting to pay for a set of strings or to get any kind of customer service (rentals etc.), usually to be ignored for one of their "buddies" or some older long-haired wanna-be musician that was louder and demanded more attention than myself. I always swore that when I became famous or at least a well-known musician, I would strut back to L & M and fuck- 'em up somehow, maybe snub them if they tried to suck up to me only because I was a "celeb" or I would let loose on the employees for being such rude still pisses me off!

Another time at another pseudo-macho store, McDermot Lumber, I was waiting behind several people at the customer service line, I waited like any other normal line-waiting person and when it was my turn to ask for help, some jerk barges in front of me from nowhere to place an order. Of course, the gutless store employee ignores me and carries on business with, "Mr. aggressive, dressed better and speaks louder than me" all because for some frick'in reason he thinks he has some unspoken privilege and right to be served before me. Am I invisible? What the f***! I admit I was kind of a jerk myself, when he walked past me I may have stuck out a leg, I guess it's just a relax or something, and when he stumbled he gave me this look and asked, "what's your problem?". If I had any guts (I really am trying to control my anger management), I would have explained it to him how rude it is to cut in line (or punched him in the face), but instead I just mumbled and turned away.

I can't count the amount of times I've been to a restaurant when they've forgotten or gave me the wrong order, not anyone else at the table, just me. The times my order at Burger King excluded the fries I ordered or when Subway mysteriously has forgotten the bacon on my Turkey and Bacon sub, I'm paying an extra two bucks for a couple of shriveled up pieces of bacon. Is it because I don't speak up and cause a fuss and I easily let people treat me like shit?

The latest episode was at the local Salisbury House last Friday night. After playing Friday night hockey, me and 3 friends regularly go to Sal's for a late night burger and fries, usually after midnight. We've become such regulars, the waitresses knows our order, a Mr. Big Nip platter (burger, lettuce, fried onions, tomato, Cole slaw and fries) and a drink. This time I had to pick up someone before meeting the guys there, so I asked if they could order me "the usual". When I arrived it was about 12:30 am, they had ordered and I asked for a root beer to go with my burger platter. About 5 minutes later the other 3 guys got their food and they started to eat. Maybe 10 minutes later the waitress came around to give drink refills, I reminded her about my order and she said my order was coming up and that mine was delayed because she had to serve some other tables (whatever that means?). It was probably another 25 minutes later when she brings me a regular burger (patty and onions) with fries, clearly not what I ordered. I overheard the waitress asking the cook when her regular burger and fries order was ready for some teenage guy sitting at the counter with a group of friends (that had arrived at the restaurant much later than I had). I walked over with the plate I was just served and handed it to the waitress and said, "this must be his order", she took it to me and dropped it in front of the confused kid. Somehow my order got missed, that happens. I reminder her what I ordered, sat down and waited. By this time the other guys were almost finished their meals, leaving most of their fries because they had clearly been over deep fried, hard, burnt, dry, hollow, lacking any potato content at all. Eventually a different waiter comes by our table and says our waitress is on break and "what did you order again?", this was really becoming a joke. I told him I have to "take it to go" because I didn't want to sit alone and eat because the other guys were anxious to leave. The food finally came, now it was 1:30am (a full hour since I arrived), and I took my Styrofoam container to the cash counter and we waited to pay. I paid my bill (11 bucks and change and obviously no tip), not even a hint of an apology or a discount for wasting an hour sitting in their restaurant just to take home my food. One of the guys commented, there's no way I should have to pay, but then added that the young people working there don't have a clue about customer service or how to make things right. I'm betting if I loudly expressed my displeasure and screamed at the staff, I might have gotten their attention, but maybe not. I didn't once raise my voice, I never said anything in a sarcastic tone, nor did I question why I never got served. To top things off when I brought the food home, the burger meat was under-cooked and pink and the fries were barely cooked, yellow soggy and raw potato tasting...yuck!
The point is, you won't get anything in this world if you don't speak up for yourself. If that means bitching, whining, complaining, embarrassing, humiliating, harassing and degrading the employees to get their attention, is this what it's come to? As an employee at a retail store, I personally hate when customers employ the above tactics to complain or to get a bigger discount, it's effective to get attention (especially to your boss and other customers in the store), but the lack of respect and arrogance is inexcusable. Some customers do this to try to goat you into a reaction that will put the situation in their corner. Generally common courtesy and respect should be enough to get your point across and you shouldn't have to resort to being a jerk. I don't want to be a jerk to the employees at Sal's, but this is unacceptable, are you listening Burt!!
...but maybe I really am invisible?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Refreshing My Batteries

I used to hate winter, it was cold, harsh and gloomy. Sludging through knee deep snow, sliding on the ice and feeling the Summer will never come. I've never gone away in the winter to a warmer place, instead opting to tolerate the quarter season of deep freeze.

For the past four winter's my wife and I have embraced the season and enjoyed the sunny, clear skies of the deep freeze by taking a mini-holiday during February for some rest and relaxation. The first year we went to Elkhorn, a luxury resort (hotel) out near Riding Mountain Provincial Park. It was extremely cold that year, but we tackled the cold weather by renting snowshoes and trudged through the ski trails and explored the park. The lodge itself was pretty much a hotel complete with typical hotel trimmings like a pool/day spa, restaurant, and all the rooms in one complex. The room was equipped with a large flat screen TV, fireplace and in-room whirlpool. It was nice, luxurious, but expensive! (just under $200 a night).

For the last three years we tried something different, Bear Country Cottages. Only an hour drive north of the city (compared to 3 hours north-west to Elkhorn) situated between Grand and Victoria Beaches in Belair, MB. They have individual wood cabins that are either two or three bedrooms and they all feature a stocked kitchen (minus the food), a cozy living room with fireplace and satellite surround-sound TV. The master bedroom has a beautiful spacious whirlpool hot tub that has a large picture window overlooking the treed lot (with an outdoor to view deer...or them viewing you). These cabins are built within the forest, but the outgoing road leads to homes and cottages, which in turn lead to Lake Winnipeg. The past two years when we trekked over to the lake, we discovered there was open water near the shore, despite the freezing cold temperatures (it must be at least 10 degrees colder on the lake!). We managed to gaze out into the white horizon with endless white all around us, except for a couple of ice fishing shacks.
Overall a nice way to spend a couple of days in the middle of the coldest time of the year, did I mention the hot tub? The rates at the Bear are very reasonable, $125 Sun-Thurs and $140 on the weekend/per night. This year was great, sitting in the tub watching the Olympics over the sound of bubbling jets sipping on our favourite beverages and enjoying a few days away from the big city, computers and the reality of winter. If only it could be this good every year!