America’s Big Time Problem

I spent my first full day in Berlin today and one thing struck me big time: things are smaller here than they are in America. The portion sizes are smaller, the living quarters are smaller, the coffee and tea cups are smaller, the plates are smaller, the cars are smaller. Everything here seems smaller. This somehow strikes me as better than what we have in America, where bigger is still not enough.

I’m reminded of Peter Gabriel’s 1986 hit “Big Time”, with the lyrics:

Hi there

I’m on my way, I’m making it
I’ve got to make it show, yeah
So much larger than life
I’m going to watch it growing

The place where I come from is a small town
They think so small
They use small words
But not me
I’m smarter than that
I worked it out
I’ve been stretching my mouth
To let those big words come right out

I’ve had enough, I’m getting out
To the city, the big big city
I’ll be a big noise with all the big boys
There’s so much stuff I will own
And I will pray to a big god
As I kneel in the big church

Big time
I’m on my way-I’m making it
Big time big time
I’ve got to make it show yeah
Big time big time
So much larger than life
Big time
I’m going to watch it growing
Big time

My parties all have big names
And I greet them with the widest smile
Tell them how my life is one big adventure
And always they’re amazed
When I show them round my house, to my bed
I had it made like a mountain range
With a snow-white pillow for my big fat head
And my heaven will be a big heaven
And I will walk through the front door

Big time
I’m on my way-I’m making it
Big time big time
I’ve got to make it show-yeah
Big time big time
So much larger than life
I’m going to watch it growing
Big time big time
My car is getting bigger
Big time
My house is getting bigger
Big time
My eyes are getting bigger
Big time
And my mouth
Big time
My belly is getting bigger
Big time
And my bank account
Big time
Look at my circumstance
Big time
And the bulge in my big big big big big big big

You can see the video and hear the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBAl9cchQac

Big houses. Big cars. Big heads. Big everything. Yes, America is the land of the big everything. Oddly enough, I actually performed this song at a talent show in college:

That’s me performing “Big Time” with Jennifer Dickinson Skaggs. Her face cracks me up!

I don’t recall why I picked that particular song at the time; I guess it was easier to bring to the stage than “Sledgehammer”, off the same Peter Gabriel “So” album.

In America, we have everything we want. Here, it seems they have everything they need. Life seems a lot simpler. Granted, I’ve only been here one day, but at first glance it seems that Europeans seem to focus on the quality of life vs the quantity of life. There is less stuff but more things of substance. There seems to be less technology as well. I went on a long walk just after lunch and observed hundreds of people walking, talking, and biking. Hardly anyone was on their phone. And I certainly didn’t see tons of people walking down the street glaring at their phones and ignoring everyone and everything else. Quite the opposite. People were polite and engaged.

I stopped in a grocery store and the sizes of the boxes of items was all smaller as well. The only things that seemed a bit larger than at home was the beer, pop and water bottles. All of them were 1 liter to 1.5 liter in size, which is larger than at home. Everything else was smaller. There was no music playing, and people were engaged in conversation. The lady at the checkout counter even attempted some small talk with me. She said something in German and I just nodded my head yes. I’m not sure what I agreed to. Perhaps she asked if I had skipped showing for the past month. “Yes”. Not sure what it was she said, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t complaining about something.

Last night after dinner, Konstantin and Lena (my hosts) were talking about their jobs. They work 32-hour weeks and get 6 weeks off a year. I asked Kon if he was happy with his job and he said he’s not planning on ever leaving it. Why would he? With good benefits, ample time off, flexible hours and work weeks capped at 32 hours, what reason would he have for looking elsewhere? Perhaps if he simply didn’t like his job or what he was doing… that’s one thing – but he certainly wouldn’t be leaving for being overworked, underpaid or not having enough time off. This seems right to me. Perhaps job retention in America would be better if we didn’t work people too much and be so demanding?

My favorite band Crowded House also paid homage to America’s excessive lifestyle in their 1987 hit Chocolate Cake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M699TqhO06k. The lyrics go like this:

Not everyone in New York would pay to see Andrew Lloyd Webber
May his trousers fall down as he bows to the queen and the crown
I don’t know what tune that the orchestra played
But it went by me sickly and sentimental

Can I have another piece of chocolate cake
Tammy Baker’s got a lot on her plate
Can I buy another cheap Picasso fake
Andy Warhol must be laughing in his grave

The band of the night take you to ethereal heights over dinner
And you wander the streets never reaching the heights that you seek
And the sugar that dripped from the violins bow
Made the children go crazy, put a hole in the tooth of a hag

Can I have another piece of chocolate cake
Tammy Baker must be losing her faith
Can I buy another cheap Picasso fake
Andy Warhol must be laughing in his grave

And the dogs are on the road
They’re all tempting fate
Cars are shooting by
With no number plates
And here comes Mrs. Hairy Legs

I saw Elvis Presley walk out of a Seven Eleven
And a woman gave birth to a baby and then bowled .257
The excess of fat on your American bones
Will cushion the impact as you sink like a stone

Can I have another piece of chocolate cake
Tammy Baker, Tammy Baker
Can I buy another cheap Picasso fake
Cheap Picasso, cheap Picasso fake
Can I have another piece of chocolate cake
Kathy Straker, boy could she lose some weight
Can I buy another slice of real estate
Liberace must be laughing in his grave

Can I have another piece of chocolate cake 
Can I have another piece of chocolate cake 
Can I have another piece of chocolate cake 
(Piece of that thing on the plate)

Last year, I watched a documentary called “Minimalism”, which was very interesting. People are realizing that bigger doesn’t mean better; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Stripping away clutter and all the things we don’t need tends to have very positive effects like lowering our anxiety and increasing our happiness. Could it be that less is more? Based on my experience, I’d have to say yes.

I struggled with this many years ago. There was a time in my life that I had an insatiable appetite for bigger and better things. I wanted a bigger house. A better car. A new, higher-paying job. Everything I had was not enough. If I bought something, it was only a stepping stone to the next best thing. Instead of appreciating what I had, I was always chasing the next best thing. It was as if I had a carrot attached to a stick which was attached to my forehead. I kept chasing the carrot but would never get there. I am glad I “woke up” before ruining my life and trading everything in. I learned a powerful lesson back then: contentment is something to be accepted, not achieved. The longer I chased it, the more frustrated I got that I wasn’t content.

As I mentioned in a blog post a few months ago (“Fooling Yourself”), I recently downsized my career. Instead of climbing the corporate ladder, I went the other way. I’m so happy I did. My anxiety and blood pressure are way down, which is good. So, what about you? Are you still pursing bigger and better things? Or do you find yourself thinking that you’re still not happy, even though you have bigger and better things? Some questions:

  • Do you really need the 400-channel cable package? What would happen if you cut the cable and started having conversations with those around you?
  • Do you really need a bigger house? Could you find a way to make what you have work? We still live in the same 1700 square-foot house that we bought in 1995. I’m glad we do. We recently renovated it and made what we have better, not bigger. In fact, we opened up the main floor so everyone could see and converse with each other whether they were in the kitchen area or outside of that area.
  • Do you really need a bigger / better car, or will the one you have suffice? I remember upgrading at one point from a Chevy Lumina to an Olds Aurora. While the Aurora was nice, I remember thinking: the Lumina had all that I wanted. Why did I not see that at the time? I eventually sold the Aurora and went back to the Lumina.
  • Do you really need that job promotion where you’ll be spending more time at the office and away from family?
  • Do you really think that new (insert thing here) is going to bring you happiness?
  • Are you chasing contentment or accepting it?

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts! For now, I’m going to close the laptop and have some conversation with real people! 🙂

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A Little German

“I know a little German; he’s sitting over there” – Hillary Flammond, “Top Secret!”

The quote above is from one of my favorite movies – “Top Secret!” – which has become a cult classic. This was the 2nd full-length feature film that the comedy team of Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker did after “Airplaine!”. Note that I don’t count their first film – Kentucky Fried Movie – as a full feature film because it doesn’t really have a plot and is really just a bunch of shorts spliced together into a movie. IMDB describes the movie this way: “Parody of WWII spy movies in which an American rock and roll singer becomes involved in a Resistance plot to rescue a scientist imprisoned in East Germany.”

The quote can be seen in this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P22gPwGuLa0. If you haven’t seen Top Secret!, you have to. It’s hilarious and full of one-liners… the kind you would expect to hear in Airplane! or Naked Gun! movies. Here is a list of places where you can stream the movie: https://decider.com/movie/top-secret/. Go ahead and watch it. I’ll wait 🙂

The reason I’m bringing this up today is because in a few minutes I’ll be flying to Germany and I don’t really know any German – not even a little one. That’s ok; I’m sure I can survive on my few little cheat sheets I have and say something German-ish. Then again, I might mean to ask where the restroom is and accidentally ask for an emergency vasectomy. It could happen.

Many years ago, when I went to Mexico for the first time, I was in the same predicament. Not having enough time to learn Spanish from that Rosetta Stoner lady, I found myself needing to learn Spanglish – and quick! I remember the following three phrases from those Spanglish days:

  • Me hasa go wee-wee: “I have to go to the bathroom”
  • Me hasa go wee-wee pronto: “I have to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW”
  • Uh-oh, pasghetti-o: “Never mind, it’s too late”

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I did learn some German cuss words when our exchange student was here 20 years ago, but I’m not sure they’d come in handy during this trip. They especially won’t help when I need to find the bathroom. In the opening scene from Top Secret, Nick Rivers (aka Val Kilmer) is learning German. He learns such helpful phrases as “There is sauerkraut in my lederhosen”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2w_mBnzyVTg

When our German exchange student Konstantin came to America 20 years ago, he came after having five years of formal English training and education. That poor kid. He was great in English, but they taught those poor kids NOTHING about American slang. I remember one of the first days he went to school, and I was there when he walked in the door. It went a bit like this:

Lloyd: What’s up?
Konstantin: Something is up?
Lloyd: No, I mean… how’s it going?
Konstantin: How’s what going?
Lloyd: How are you?
Konstantin: Oh, I’m fine! Thanks very much for asking!

That was Kon’s first exposure to slang. He spent the next ten months learning every slang term known to ‘Merica-ind, and then went back to Germany, where his fellow English-speaking friends didn’t know what the crap he was talking about. I can only imagine what that looked like:

Friend: Kon! How was America!
Kon: Dude! It was the bomb!
Friend: They had bombs?
Kon: Fer shizzle, yo! It was happenin!
Friend: What was happening?
Kon: It was amped! Everyone was so chill! I had a blast!
Friend: Was the blast due to all the bombs they had? I’m so confused.

When Kon came over, he flew from Berlin to Munich and then over the states. He said he had a hard time understanding the people in the airport in Munich because they spoke “Southern German”. Huh? This was the first time I had ever heard of such a thing. Up until now, I was unaware that other countries also had extremely different versions of the same language. So, let me guess… is it a bit like this?

Northern Germany: Guten Tag (Good Day)
Southern Germany: Gooo-taaan Taaag
Northern Germany: Guten Morgen (Good Morning)
Southern Germany: Gooo-taaan Merrr-gin
Northern Germany: Fass mein Bier nicht an (Don’t touch my beer)
Southern Germany: Y’all fixin tah lose a finger bruh

In any case, I’m sure whatever German language phrases I utter over the next few weeks will be butchered at best. Perhaps I will learn a little German while I’m over there. Or at least see one 🙂

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

American Fast Food – What A Stupid Way To Die

A few of my favorite things.

Most of you have probably not heard of Randy Stonehill, but he’s one of my favorite singer/songwriters. In 1983, he released a song called “American Fast Food”. Here are the lyrics:

American fast food, what a stupid way to die
American fast food, order me the jumbo fries
Oh, oh, it’s easy
It’s so easy and it’s trouble free
It’s quick and disposable, just like me
If I don’t stop eating this greasy American fast food

Well, we’re undernourished, but we’re overfed
And we’re munching on the burger with the white bread
And we’re sucking up the sugar in a milkshake
Till we slip into depression with a big headache
And our arteries are crying out, “give us a break”

American fast food, what a stupid way to die
American fast food, you kiss your old age goodbye
Oh, oh, it’s easy
It’s so easy and it’s trouble free
It’s quick and disposable, just like me
If I don’t stop eating this greasy American fast food

You won’t have to embalm me when my life is through
There are so many preservatives in what I eat
The job’s being done right now for you

“Can I take you order, please?”
“A cheeseburger, fries, and a big chocolate malted”

It’s prefab junk at an exorbitant price
And it’s bound to make you nauseous if you look at it twice
But they’re selling you by telling you it’s food that’s fun
When it tastes like cardboard It chews like sponge
’cause it’s really only garbage on a sesame bun

American fast food, what a stupid way to die
American fast food, order me the chili-size
Oh, oh, it’s easy
It’s so easy and it’s trouble free
It’s quick and disposable, just like me
If I don’t stop eating this greasy American
I don’t stop eating this greasy American fast food

And here is a link to a video of the song (lyrics included!) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hliIoqO9CY

My girlfriend in college quickly realized my love for fast food and she was quick to dedicate this song to me on our local campus radio station. What an honor!

My previous blog post touched on fast food and well, let’s just stick with this theme for now. I remember as a kid falling in love with McDonalds cheeseburgers. In fact, I remember constantly asking my grandmother (who lived in Canada) if we could go to McDonalds. She’d say “I’m making you grandma’s McDonalds” and I’d be like… ok! Over time, I tried a lot of different restaurants, and then I discovered the holy – or perhaps unholy – grail: White Castle.

Image result for white castle funny

I don’t quite recall my first experience with “sliders” at White Castle, but I do recall my worst experience. A group of us had grabbed a ton of burgers at the South Street location in downtown Indy one day for lunch. At the time, I worked on the top floor of the First Indiana building. We went back to work afterward and about mid-afternoon, the shockwaves started to hit.

For those of you who have not had the privilege of experiencing these “shockwaves”, they are very painful, very unpredictable, and very dangerous if you don’t have a facility nearby. I went to the men’s room – the one and only men’s room on the top floor – and saw that the stall was occupied. Yes, there was only one stall to share between what was perhaps 50-60 guys on the floor. No problem, I thought. I’d just go down the stairwell to the 21st floor and use the men’s room on that floor. So, I walked down the one flight of stairs and went to open the door to the 21st floor.

It was locked.

Ok, don’t panic, right? I went up to the 22nd floor again, thinking… it’s been at least 3-4 minutes. Surely the guy must be done by now. I grabbed the doorknob to the 22nd floor.

It was locked.

I was now locked in the stairwell on the 22nd floor. There was a ladder to the roof and for a split second I considered my options. I thought perhaps I could just find a nice quiet spot up there somewhere and hide in my moment of shame, then subtly get in my car and go home, telling my boss that I had gotten sick. Then I remembered that the buildings around my building were all taller than the building I was in. The American United Life building was 48 stories tall, and it was next door. Could you imagine looking out the window and seeing… ummm… THAT? Nope. That won’t work. I had to face the fact that I had to walk down 22 flights of stairs to go to the bathroom.

Twenty-two. Flights. Of. Stairs.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could make it down one. But there I went, slowly, painfully, step-by-step walking down the stairs. The railings were solid iron but I swear I bent a few along the way. A few times I thought – oh no – forget it – I’ll just let er rip in a corner and then pretend like it never happened. But, alas, via sheer determination or some bizarre divine intervention, I made it down to the first floor. And then it hit me.

The first floor of my building has no restrooms on it.

Crap. Literally. I was in sheer panic now. They didn’t have restrooms on that level because they didn’t want the general public using them. And, as it turns out, people who have what is known as a Level Two Biological Emergency. I knew there were restrooms on the 2nd floor and I was pretty sure they had TWO stalls in that restroom. Not sure how the tenants of that floor got the upgraded porcelain suite treatment, but that was my new destination. So, I calmly got in the elevator with about 10 other people and pressed 2. My face probably looked like I had been holding my breath for a few minutes because I could tell people were looking at me funny. I got off on the 2nd floor, did the fastest penguin-style waddle I’ve ever done towards the men’s restroom and, well, I’ll spare you the details. Well… the rest of them at least.

Let’s just say that White Castle sliders are weapons of ass destruction.

You’d think with all this drama that I’d never touch those things again. Nope. I continued to – and still continue to – eat sliders occasionally. I don’t, however, have them for lunch anymore. I can’t take that chance again.

In fact, the time came one day to introduce my eldest son Isaac to White Castles. He and I were home one night and mom was gone, leaving us with nothing but leftovers to eat. I wasn’t excited about what was in the fridge so I thought hey, Isaac’s a little man (he was 18 months old at the time), so he’d probably like little burgers, right? Seemed like a good idea at the time. So, I took him to White Castle to experience his first slider. Wouldn’t you know it, he loved them. In fact, I originally had bought 4 for me and 2 for him and wound up getting a half dozen more. He must have had four or five sliders. “That’s my boy!” I thought. I was so proud of his big boy appetite! What could go wrong?

A lot went wrong.

Allow me to interject here that this night had been the first night in a year that I was allowed to keep Isaac alone. A year earlier, Amy (my wife, Isaac’s mom) had left Isaac alone with me for the first time. She was gone for a whole 30 seconds and drove by the front window to wave bye-bye. I lifted Isaac’s hand up and it was full of blood. He had cut his finger on a coke can I had on the floor. Mom had been gone for less than a minute and I was already a daddy day care failure. That was in early 1996. It took her a year to get over that. Forgive me, I digress. Let’s go back to what has become known as the White Castle Blowout ’97.

Image may contain: 1 person
Here’s Isaac, looking so cute and innocent before the White Castle Blowout of 1997 changed his life forever.

Isaac and I got home from White Castle and we were both tired, so I put him to bed and then I too went to sleep. I got up early the next morning and went to work. It wasn’t until I got home that night that the sliders hit the fan. I walked in the door and the first thing I noticed was the overwhelming smell of death. It was as if death had visited, laid some silent but deadlies all over the house, then left. It was horrible. Then I saw Amy holding Isaac up, kind of like Simba was held up in The Lion King. Isaac was white. Pure white. He was groaning. Then I became aware of my surroundings and saw diapers everywhere. I thought – oh no – the slider dinner must have backfired – literally. Then, I heard Amy say:

What did you feed my son?

That’s it, guys. Game over. If your wife ever refers to your joint child as “hers”, you have crossed a line and I hope for Pete’s sake your doghouse has heating or air conditioning in it, because you’re going to be living there for quite a while. I tried my best to backtrack my steps and logic – I’m sure there was some, right? – for my decision from the previous evening. I said “Well, we weren’t excited about the leftovers you left us, so I thought – he’s a little man – he would probably like little burgers, right? So we went to White Castle”. “YOU DID NOT”, Amy said. “We did”, I said.

For the record, the dog house isn’t too bad. In the years that have followed, I have added a few windows, some nice curtains, and even indoor plumbing. I’m slowly getting used to it!

My youngest son David arrived a year later and he already had a lot of digestive issues, so I never introduced him to the wonderful world of sliders. However, in 1999, we had an exchange student from Germany stay with us for 10 months. His name was Konstantin. He was 16 years old – almost 17 – and apparently had never had fast food before. I guess Germany doesn’t have fast food; or, at least they didn’t back then. Don’t worry, I eased him into it. First McDonalds, then Burger King, then Taco Bell – oh boy did he love Taco Bell! Then came the moment. He had to experience White Castle for the first time. So, we went in the car – just he and I – and went to White Castle. He asked what he should have and I said he should get what I get:

4 double cheese, 1 order of fries, 1 order of onion rings and a large chocolate shake.

L-R: Konstantin (pre-blowout), David, Lloyd, Isaac (post-blowout) on Kon’s 17th b-day in 1999.

So that’s what he and I got. He loved them. Well, he loved eating them. That is, until the next day. I got home from work and the upstairs bathroom was locked. I knew Kon (as we called him) was in there. I knocked and asked how it was going.

“NEVER AGAIN!” was his reply.

I laughed and laughed and laughed. I learned so many German cuss words that day. I wondered if he’d ever trust me again and he did, much to his dismay. I introduced him to Long John Silvers a few weeks later. More cuss words. More never again-ing. I’m surprised he has anything to do with me at all.

In any case, I’m leaving to go to Berlin tomorrow (May 21st) to visit Kon. I can only imagine what he has in store for me. My bet is I’ll be spending at least 1 of the next 10 days on the crapper, and he’ll be learning some new American cuss words.

So – now it’s your turn. What American Fast Food nightmare stories do you have. Let’s hear them!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

They Done Messed Up My 50 Cent Taco

I live in Carmel, Indiana where we’re known for being a bit upper class in our thoughts and actions. We’re known for being pretentious, haughty, snobby and rich. Let’s just say we have a reputation and are almost universally despised for our nice town and it’s good schools, standard of living, low crime rates and overall good quality of life. I purposefully try not to flaunt anything nor carry that kind of attitude. I live in a modest 55 year-old house in a modest neighborhood and drive a 7 year-old car. I try my best to treat others with respect and have as much patience/grace with people as possible.

That’s why I think it’s so funny that I’ve seen no shortage of posts on social media lately from people in Carmel complaining about their fast food quality, speed of delivery, etc. It cracks me up. I see posts like this all the time:

“I went to the Carmel Taco Bell and they messed up my taco! Just look at this picture! Nothing is spread out as it should be, and I waited 20 minutes for this! Is this really fast food?”

Seriously – what did you expect? You’re paying a low price for low quality food made by a bunch of people who applied to other places but didn’t get the job. So here they are, working at a local fast food joint. Go again next week and you’ll see a whole new set of faces and have a whole new set of problems with your order. I went to this particular Taco Bell today and didn’t order food, but did order a drink. I filled my drink and then watched quietly for 20 minutes. Here’s what I observed:

  • The gal who took my order was wearing something on her apron. I couldn’t quite make it out, but it looked like a flock of seagulls dipped in flour had run into her head-on.
  • She asked for my name. This is a common thing these days – trying to make it personal. Of course, people ask 2-3x for me to repeat my name because “Lloyd” is not a common name. I get all kinds of spellings on it like Loyd or Lyod or even my favorite from a few months ago – “Bloid” – which sounds like a disease of some sort. “OMG, you’ve got BLOID? NO!”
  • I got my cup and filled it immediately. Fastest delivery ever. Maybe that’s the key to having a great fast food experience – skip the food and just order a drink?
  • I noticed there were quite a few filthy tables. I also noticed three teens just sitting around talking and ignoring everything else. It looked like one poor sap in the back was handling all the orders.
  • After some period of slowness, the manager told 2 of the teens they could go home. Then about 5 minutes later, as they were leaving, about 10-15 people came in the door. Does Murphy’s Law apply to fast food joints?

After about 20 minutes, I left. Note that I’m not just picking on this particular restaurant – although in my experience it has consistently been one of the worst in the area for as long as I’ve lived there. This kind of things happens all the time at fast food restaurants. The Steak n Shake next door was so bad that I always went to the next town over to their Steak n Shake because I knew the Carmel SnS had a 100% chance of messing things up. It’s now closed, not surprisingly.

I encountered the following sign at the Carmel Taco Bell one time:

I believe this sign was made by a representative of the Lollipop Guild.

This got me thinking: perhaps the root of the problem is that they need step stools? I don’t know. All I know is that I find it humorous that people have such high standards for such low quality, low cost, almost always short-staffed fast food joints. It seriously cracks me up  to see people so upset over such things.

Look, I get it. I worked at Wendy’s in high school and college. My coworkers and I weren’t exactly Mensa material, nor were we extra motivated to go above and beyond to earn our $3.35 an hour. In fact, I used my years at Wendy’s to build a lot of comedy material. I remember when Wendy’s came out with this new greeting method and there was a sign on the wall that read:

Welcome to Wendy’s; my name is ________; may I take your order please?

I found this very helpful, because I would often forget that I wasn’t working at McDonalds or Taco Bell or Burger King. I also found it helpful that they would remind me to ask for an order, because often I’d just sit there listening to the old squawky speaker for a while, wondering who or what was on the other side. And, for the record, how many times do you think I actually said my REAL name when filling in that blank? Uhhh… never. Most of the time it was something like this:

  • Welcome to Wendy’s, my name is Guido the Killer Pimp. May I take your order please?
  • Welcome to Wendy’s, my name is Larry Holmes, Heavyweight Champion of the World. Now gimme your damn order.
  • Welcome to Wendy’s, my name is Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute. What can I do you for today?

I worked the late shift. We got a lot of drunk folks in the drive through. Otherwise, I think I would have been fired. As it was, I lasted 3 years there. The later into the evening it got, the worse my greetings got. Most of the time, people would ignore them. Sometimes people would crack up and be like “what???” – those were my favorites. Then I knew the audience was listening.

The quality of the order, or the timeliness of the order, wasn’t really top priority for us. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t want to mess anyone up, but we’d have as much fun as possible with stuff, mostly without getting into trouble. In fact, the one time we did get in trouble, we had the best of intentions. Our manager had told us that we were having an inspection the next day from our regional supervisor in Ohio (I lived in Michigan at the time). So, we had to make sure our bricks on the floor were as clean as possible, and the black grout between the bricks was clean. So my coworkers Justin and Mark and I poured every bottle of every cleaner we could find into a bucket. The bucket was smoking.

Mark and I started scrubbing the bricks while Justin followed behind us and mopped up. It was working. We could tell because smoke was rising from the bricks and the bricks were turning white. So was the black grout between the bricks. All white. The manager looked at it and wondered if it was a bit too much – after all I’m sure the regional supervisor in Ohio wanted the red bricks to still be red and the black grout to still be black – just clean. Oh well, we couldn’t stop now, right? Well, we had to.

Justin’s shoes had started to burn through the bottoms and some of the solution had gotten on his feet. He took his shoes and socks off but they were still burning. He was sent to the hospital with first and second degree burns on his feet. Our manager told us to dump the solution and just use soap and water on the rest of the bricks. It looked horrible. To make things worse, I was mopping and I let the squeegee mop handle fling backwards and it came loose and went flying through the air. Right through the front window. Nice. So, when the regional supervisor showed up, we had half white, half red/black bricks and a big wooden plank in the front window. We meant well, but what can you say – we were stupid teenagers.

And this is my point. You’re not dealing with the crème of the crop here. You’re dealing with mostly kids or young people who are working part time at a job they dislike. They’re not motivated, they’re not particularly skilled (having been on the job a whole month or so most of the time), and they’re not particularly interested in the quality or timeliness of your order. Now, if they have a manager who is a good manager, the manager can sometimes provide incentives to perform better, but if left to their own devices, most fast food workers don’t give a hoot about you and your precious 50 cent taco. Complaining about your bad quality of food or service is like bringing home the plastic bagged goldfish you got at your school fair that died the next day. What did you expect?

Given this, I do actually have some suggestions for you:

  1. If you want your fast food done right, you should stay home. Make a quick sandwich. Heat up something in the microwave. I’m pretty sure you’ll be happier with the results and if it’s messed up, you’ll have nobody else to blame but yourself.
  2. If you care about yourself and what you eat, avoid fast food altogether!
  3. If you find yourself unable to avoid fast food, don’t go through the drive thru! In my experience, this can result in bad things happening almost every time. They’ll either get your order wrong, or you’ll be missing stuff, or you’ll ask for 27 packets of hot sauce and you’ll wind up with two packets of fire sauce.
  4. If you have a bad experience, show some grace. This could be a learning opportunity for someone there. They’re not making much doing this, so don’t expect much. Just be nice.
  5. If you have a good experience, count yourself lucky! Maybe even say THANK YOU for getting their order right! Maybe it will cheer them on to do it again and again. Or maybe they’ll think – dude what’s that guy on? 🙂

I’m curious to hear from you. What fast food nightmares have you had happen to you? Have you worked in fast food? What stories do you have? Let’s hear them!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

We Need To Laugh. I’m Serious.

“Laughter is like a windshield wiper. It doesn’t stop the rain, but it allows us to keep going” – Anonymous

Last week was one of the hardest weeks I’ve ever had. On Monday morning, I found out that Tim, one of my best friends, passed away suddenly. It was a shock to those of us who knew him. Judging from all those at his funeral on Saturday, he was loved by many hundreds more that felt the same way I did. There were many stories shared and a lot of laughs. The funeral director even commented that he was sad he never knew him. Tim always had a smile on his face. When he walked in a room, he brightened it. He certainly did for me and our close friends. We would spend almost every Friday afternoon together at a local watering hole and I so looked forward to those times. I will miss him dearly and the many laughs we shared together.

On Wednesday, we had our first reading of “Another Mulligan”, a comedic play I’ve been working on. There was a vast dichotomy between the tears and anguish of Monday and Tuesday and the laughter that ensued on Wednesday night. If laughter is truly the best medicine, then what happened Wednesday night was quite the cathartic experience. We laughed until we cried. One person mispronounced “voila” as the musical instrument “viola” instead of saying “wah-lah” (as it was intended) and you’d think the greatest joke of all time had been told. I was timing each scene and I had to pause a minute or two so we could all laugh it off. I so needed that 90 minutes of an emotional break mid-week and I’m so thankful to be surrounded by such great friends who can make me laugh when I need it the most.

On Thursday, I went out with a few friends and we talked about Tim and recounted some very funny stories and quotes. Again, this was healing in a way as it relieved the pain we were feeling. As the quote above says, the laughter didn’t stop the rain – or pain, as it may be, but it allowed us to keep going. Friday was hard and Saturday was horrible until, once again, laughter came to the rescue. I will never forget the funny stories shared at the funeral. One of them was this: Tim was a scout leader, and apparently one time in the middle of a week at scout camp, Tim got back to his tent and said something like “I don’t ever want to listen to another f*ckin campfire song again” and proceeded to take a swig out of his “adult canteen”. LOL. It’s strange to say, but I’ve been to several funerals in the past six months (unfortunately) and the things I’ll remember most are the great stories and laughter that came out of those.

Many years ago, I helped spearhead a new ministry in town named Lamplighter. This is a 48-hour very intense spiritual weekend. My job was to provide the dramatic and comedic elements for the weekend. When we first started, I played several different parts. Most of them were funny in nature and of course I really enjoyed making everyone laugh. I remember after a few years of doing this, the guy who helped start it (Gene) thanked me for everything I was doing on the weekend. I just downplayed it and said that it was nothing – I was just acting like a goofball to get some laughs. And then he said something very profound – he said no, it was much more than that. He said the men and women going through that weekend retreat were experiencing some major gut-wrenching things in their lives and a lot of those things would bring out a lot of serious emotions. Pain, regret, heartache, denial, and much more. It was all there. So Gene said the laughter was very important and he said I shouldn’t downplay the importance of that element in the weekend.

Gene was right. Laughter is important. In fact, life throws curveballs at us that make us feel all kinds of emotions. Many of them are hard emotions to deal with. But, laughter seems to make things better. It doesn’t heal the wounds – and we shouldn’t use laughter as an excuse not to deal with serious issues – but it certainly helps us get through things. We need to feel emotions and not deny them, but most importantly…

We need to laugh.

A fine example of the ridiculous stuff I find to be funny.

Many studies such as this one by the University of Oxford show the physiological side of laughter. Laughter releases endorphins, which are the brains “feel good” chemicals. These are the same chemicals released during other activities such as exercising, eating good food, being in love and having sexual intercourse. Put simply, laughing physically makes us feel good. We like to laugh. We like to be around people who make us laugh. For me, I like to see and hear when people laugh and I like the feeling I get knowing that I just threw something out there that got a laugh. In a way, it feeds me and makes me want to do more.

Laughter is a good thing. Scientists tell us that laughter, humor and joy are an important part of life. Laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, and increases muscle flexion. It increases the circulation of antibodies in the blood stream and makes us more resistant to infection.” – from The Five Most Important Reasons to Laugh.

I don’t know about you, but I surround myself with sources of laughter. I listen to comedy podcasts, watch comedy programs, subscribe/follow countless sources of comedy on social media, etc. Whenever I need a pick-me-up, I go to one of these sources and suddenly the real world disappears for a minute or two or an hour or more. And – for those that follow me on social media – I often re-share things that I find funny in the hopes that these things might pick you up as well. We certainly are surrounded by enough pain/grief/political crap in this world to make us want to puke. Humor helps unite, not divide. Again, humor is not to be used to avoid our problems – by all means we should address them – but it does help us cope with our everyday lives. I know what you’re probably thinking… “surely you can’t be serious”.

Related image

Side note: my mom’s name is Shirley. I am serious!

Let’s face it. Sometimes life really sucks. Things happen. Our days don’t go as planned. Our jobs can be stressful, so can our schoolwork and home lives. Relationships can come and go, and some can go really bad. We can have a bad commute to or from somewhere, or be in the middle of a really bad weather day, or just be down in the dumps for no apparent reason. Before you go thinking you need to medicate yourself more via whatever your drug – or drink – of choice, you might consider laughing a bit. Sometimes it really is the best medicine.

Some questions for you:

  • How often do you laugh?
  • Do you need to laugh more?
  • What sources of humor do you have in your life?
  • If you have the gift of humor, do you use it to brighten the lives of those around you?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to doing some serious reading.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Fooling Yourself

You’re fooling yourself if you don’t believe it
You’re killing yourself if you don’t believe it
Get up, get back on your feet
You’re the one they can’t beat and you know it
Come on, let’s see what you’ve got
Just take your best shot and don’t blow it


– from the song “Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)” by Tommy Shaw (Styx)

It’s April 1st, 2019 and rather than doing yet another April Fool’s joke, I thought I’d share something with you. A lot of you have been asking about what I’ve been doing and the time has come to share what’s next for me and my life. And no, I’m not becoming a long-haul trucker (which was one of the rumors started in the past month, LOL).

Three weeks ago today, I started a new journey. For those of you that don’t know me, I’ve been in the computer industry for 30 years. I’ve spent the last 10 years in IT management; prior to that, I was doing full-time programming for 20 years. I was at a great company (Blackboard) for 10 years through the beginning of 2018, and found myself wanting a change. So, I accepted a similar position at another great company (NextGear Capital) in early 2018, thinking that if I had the same job in a different place, that would make me happy.

I was wrong.

After several months at NextGear, it became apparent to me that something else was wrong with me. The people were great and overall the job was great, but I was still unhappy with where I was in life. In August of 2018, my company sent me to Atlanta to perform some comedy at their Agile Open conference. It was a huge success. So much so, in fact, that one person recorded that video and shared it on LinkedIn and it became somewhat of a viral video in a very short time. It was shared and re-shared over a quarter of a million times. My LinkedIn inbox was flooded with show requests and I found myself thinking… “what am I doing?”

I remember struggling with going to work after that. I guess it became something that bugged me a lot. Why was I continuing to do this management job when I’ve always wanted to do so much else? After all, I turned 53 in December and I’m not getting younger. It’s not like I have another half of my career left. And, time has not traditionally been on my side. My father passed away at 54. His father – my grandfather – also passed away at 54. Recently I went to the funeral of someone who passed away at the tender young age of 55. I found myself wondering – do I really want to do this for the rest of my life?

No.

A friend of mine suggested I take a test that recruiters often use. This was called a Predictive Index test and while I’ve done other personality tests before, I had never seen anything like this. The first page of the test asked me to put a check mark next to each word that described what I do in my daily activities in my vocation. The second page asked me to put a check mark next to each word that described me as a person and what I like to do. The results were amazing – they were polar opposites. It hit me – perhaps the reason I am unhappy is because I go to work every day doing something that I don’t really enjoy. Yes, I was successful at it for a long time but it wasn’t really me. Or, at least, it didn’t fulfill me the way I wanted to be fulfilled. Then it hit me:

I have to change.

Yuck. Change. I don’t like change. I’m a creature of habit. I get the same clothes, the same shoes, the same food etc all the time. For me, change doesn’t come naturally. I have to have a reason. I have to have someone pushing me. I have to have accountability. And, much to my surprise, that’s where the next major development happened in this journey. A person who is a life coach (Stefanie Krievins) saw my LinkedIn video and she asked if I did that full-time. I said no. She said we should talk. So we had breakfast the next week and I agreed to sign up for a six-month engagement whereby I would learn what I really wanted to do with my life. I needed to dig deep. I needed a plan.

We started meeting on December 12th – the day before my 53rd birthday – and talked about my goals. My health and weight have long been an issue for me, so that was goal number one – to get my health back on track. I’ve been yo-yo dieting for most of my adult life and let’s face it – it’s hard to have a new set of goals if you’re not alive to pursue them. My second goal was to spend more time writing. I’ve been a writer most of my life and have written 4 technical books, 2 plays and countless other short dramas, skits, stories and poems… but I have never taken it seriously enough to make a career of it. I believed that I could somehow become a full-time writer while being involved in a half dozen things and being very socially active and writing once in a while.

I am a fool.

It became apparent to me very quickly that I was my own worst enemy. Stefanie asked me how many writing projects I had started but not finished. I came up with 15. Since our first meeting, I’ve realized the problem is much worse – I’ve got at least 15 more that I didn’t realize I had until I started digging into all the notes I’ve written over the years. Yes, I had managed to write a lot in my spare time, but the one thing I’ve wanted to be for so long – a writer – was getting put on the back burner time and time again. It became a “if time permits” activity, and time never permitted. Well, rather, I never allocated the time for writing. After all, I am the one who is in control of my schedule, right? Right.

Originally, I thought I could keep my job at NextGear indefinitely and continue to do the 30 or so comedy shows that had shown up in my inbox since the Agile Open show in August. Reality check. Duh. That was impossible. These are shows all over the country. How could I keep doing a good job as a manager if I was travelling all over doing shows? I could possibly just quit and do the shows, but that would be sporadic. There’s also the fact that I would need health insurance. Then, out of the blue, a former coworker called me and told me about a work-from-home opportunity. It would be programming – which is fine, as I’ve done that for 2/3 of my career – but more importantly it would mean that I would have steady income, health insurance, and not have such as high-profile job.

Bingo.

After talking with some other friends who work with the company (Valley Ag Software), it became apparent to me that this was a perfect opportunity. The hours are flexible, the insurance/benefits are great, and I could work from home – or anywhere for that matter. And, it would be far less hours/pressure than my previous positions. This, plus cutting out some of my other commitments, would free up more time for me to write. The hard part would be dedicating hours of my days/weeks/months to writing instead of doing other things. This meant that not only would I have to change my schedule, but I would have to back away from some things. I’d have to say – gasp…

No.

That’s a hard word for me to say. I’m a people-pleaser. I don’t like to let people down. I don’t like to say no. I like to have my cake and eat it too. However, I have come to realize that whenever I say yes to something – I’m saying no to something else. The things I’ve said no to are things that are too important to me, and I need to start saying no to other things and saying yes to the things I really want to do. Long story short, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

In the three weeks since beginning this new venture, I’ve been able to finish – yes, finish – four short stories that I’ve been wanting to finish for the past decade or so. I feel like I’ve renewed my creativity and I feel more alive and productive than I have felt in over a decade. I feel like I’m on the verge of something great, and it’s only just begun. I’ve got a play that I co-wrote called Another Mulligan, and it’s going to be produced for the Indy Fringe Festival from August 15th – 25th. I’m putting the short stories I’m writing into a book that I’m tentatively calling Bedtime Stories Volume 1. And, I’m finally getting back to a novel I started a few years ago called The Steeplewood Chase. And now, let me ask you a question.

Are you fooling yourself?

Let me put it this way: if you could quit your job today and be anything, what would that be? If you could do anything, what would you do? What have you always wanted to do but never devoted the time to in order to see it come to pass? What gifts / dreams do you have that are on your back burner that should be put on the front burner? For me, my health, writing, and comedy goals always have taken a back seat to everything else. It’s time for that to change. Let me ask you another question.

Are you killing yourself?

I was. I truly believe I would die a quicker death if I stayed on the same path I was on. My blood pressure was astronomically high until my job change 3 weeks ago. It is still slightly elevated but nowhere near what it was. Is your job killing you? Do you dread going into work, or does your job not fulfill you? If so…

Get up, get back on your feet
You’re the one they can’t beat and you know it
Come on, let’s see what you’ve got
Just take your best shot and don’t blow it

Seriously. Don’t be a fool. If there is something you’d like to do with your life and you’re not doing it now, what are you waiting for? A goal without a plan is just a dream. What goals do you have? What’s your plan? Four months ago, I had no goals and no plan. I was just a dreamer. Now I’m a doer. And it feels good. When I was getting ready to resign my job, I ran across this great quote from Mark Twain:

For me, the last thing I want at the end of my life is to look back with regret. I don’t want to always wonder what would have happened if only I had ___________ (fill in the blank). As Mark Twain said, I would have been more disappointed by the things I didn’t do than by the things I did do. I am looking forward to writing a lot more in the coming months/years, including more blog posts like these. After you’re done reading this, check out my new site at http://lloydwork.com. And, while you’re at it, drop me a line at lloydwork@lloydwork.com. I’d love to hear from you.

So – what’s next for me? Well, I’ve got some final edits to do on Another Mulligan. I’m doing a read-through of it with my drama group on April 10th. I’ve got some classes, conferences and writing-related events on my calendar. I’ve got some short stories to finish up and a novel to finish before the end of this year. So, I’m going to be busy doing that. Don’t expect to see me as much, as I’ve got to say “no” to a lot more things if I’m saying “yes” to the things I really love to do. And, by the way… since I can work anywhere – and write anywhere – let me know if you’re up for a visit. I may just hunker down somewhere near you so we can catch up. That is, of course, when I’m not writing.

How about you? What dreams do you have that need goals and plans to achieve them? Send me a note and let me know!

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments