Seattle shivers

When I first visited Arizona, I remember my dismay at having forgotten my swim suit back in Chicago. I rushed over to the local Target to pick up a new one and was stunned to learn that, although it was a balmy 80 degrees outside, it was March and out of season so no swim suits were available. I found that to be odd. After all, coming from 30 below zero weather in the Windy City, 80 degrees was not only swim suit temperature to me, it was “sit out by the pool with a virgin strawberry daiquiri reading Cosmo and bathing myself in Bain de Soleil” weather.

I’d nearly forgotten the episode. Until this afternoon, when my shivering son, Levi, and I wandered into store after store here in Seattle looking for anything resembling a coat to protect him from the icy rain and frigid winds we were facing. I found it beyond baffling that in a city where summer temperatures routinely range anywhere from 60 to 75 degrees, not a single store sold jackets. We couldn’t even find a heavy sweatshirt at all of the big-box stores. By the time we wandered into K-Mart, which shows you how utterly desperate I’d become, I was fit to be tied.

“Excuse me,” I waved down a sales associate. “Where are the men’s jackets?”

“We don’t have jackets,” the surly young woman snipped. “It’s summer.”

“Thank you for that clarification,” I amiably replied. “But it’s freezing outside and practically hailing. Is there nowhere in Seattle to purchase a coat in June?”

“No.” she answered with an almost lilting rise of her voice that felt eerily similar to the tone my son uses when he rolls his eyes towards the ceiling to indicate that I am, without doubt, the biggest goon in the universe.

But I persisted. “I’m just curious, what do people from here do when the weather is this chilly in June?”

“They wear coats they bought in the winter,” she curtly snapped. Then she turned on her heel and strode off towards the patio umbrellas and outdoor chez cushions.

We did finally locate a rather large wind-breaker on a clearance rack near the sporting goods aisle and decided to count our blessings and buy it immediately. On our next day’s boating expedition, we would simply layer up our son in every item he’d packed, stuff him into the over-sized wind-breaker, and hope for the best.

But isn’t this a little odd? I mean, who makes these kinds of decisions? If it’s cold, chances are someone is going to need a jacket. Who cares if it’s May or December? Likewise, if you live in the Dessert and it’s hot, the strong possibility exists that tourists are going to plan on sunning themselves next to various bodies of chlorine-coated H20. So why wouldn’t you have a few swim suits on hand?

There are undoubtedly people getting paid a great deal of money to make these types of inane decisions. I found myself deeply disturbed by this and stepped into one of the 80,000 Starbucks that surrounded me like an army of java zombies.

“I’ll just have a decaf coffee,” I pled, knowing that the barrista would get it and hurry to accommodate my stressed-out state.

But lo and behold, I was mistaken. Instead, the young man behind the counter smiled a vacuous smile and said, “Sorry, we don’t sell decaf after 4pm. It’s a company wide policy.”

I shall leave you to puzzle that out on your own, dear reader. For somehow, in some fictitious universe somewhere, it is thoughtful, prudent and a good business decision for the largest coffee house in the world to refuse to sell caffein-free coffee after 4pm in the afternoon.

I give up. Guess I’ll keep pondering that one tonight when I can’t sleep after my unintentional afternoon caffein injection.

Random acts of Starbucks

So we ran out of coffee beans this morning. This is a bad thing. My children stayed conspicuously absent during our usually chaotic morning routine. They knew that a mommy void of caffeine was not to be trifled with.

We all marched into the car at the ridiculously early hour of 7am so we’d have time to stop at Starbucks, get to the eye doctor to pick up Levi’s new specks, and still get to school by 8. The drive-thru was packed so I decided to run inside for my fix. But alas, the number of customers in line so far outweighed the number of baristas, I made the call that waiting was not an option.

I got back in the car, sans java, my children were horrified. But then a ray of sunshine emerged. The drive thru lane was nearly empty. I revved the engine and high-tailed it into the line, nearly running over a crossing patron and a family of quail. But it was all an illusion. By the time I turned the corner and got sandwiched into the line, I saw that there were still four cars ahead of me. I calmly ordered my double tall non-fat cap and a bagel for Eli, who had once again forgotten to eat breakfast. I tried to breathe deeply and still my anxiousness. The boys remained silent in the back seat.

I nearly lost it when the woman in front of me seemed to be carrying on a deep and thoughtful conversation at the pick-up window. “Come on,” I thought. “Are you never going to drive away?”

Finally she did and it was my turn to secure my caffeinated drug of choice. I held out a $5 bill, knowing that my total was $4.18. The window lady just smiled at me. We were late and getting more behind as she vapidly flashed her pearly whites. Why wouldn’t she just take my money and free us from this eternal hell?

“The lady before you paid for your stuff,” she happily announced. I was dumbfounded. “She did?” I stammered. “Why that’s…unbelievable.” My kids started giggling gleefully. My fin waved freely in the soft windy breeze. “Well, take this and pay for the guy behind me,” I asserted rather joyfully in spite of my previous grumpiness.

Some random stranger had miraculously altered my entire morning by surprising me with coffee and a bagel. The Starbucks lady told me it happens all the time. My eldest son insisted that he hears stories about this very occurrence frequently. I guess I must be out of touch. I couldn’t actually remember the last time a stranger even smiled at me.

As we buoyantly pulled away, my son reminded me that in the Jewish religion, anonymous giving was way up there on the mitzvah scale. I wondered if the chain we’d started would go on indefinitely. Maybe the guy I popped for did the same for the gal behind him. Maybe the cycle of giving had been going on long before we ever arrived, and maybe it would continue forever.

I fantasized about that for a few seconds. But then reality came crashing back. No, someone somewhere was going to break the chain. But that’s okay. Because I’ll remember this day, and so will my kids. And we will most definitely be the ones who start the chain next time. It will be we who remind some poor soul in line behind us that today has the potential to be outstanding, if only we choose to make it that way.

With a grain of salt

Taking life with a grain of salt, might humor and surprise you.

I try hard to do things right. I realize that’s a subjective term. But I can’t help feeling that in every task I undertake, there is a right and a wrong method of action. As a parent, I consistently and heartily aim for “right.” However, more often than not, I land smack dab in the center of “Wow, you really blew it. This is so utterly, completely and totally wrong.”

But I’ve realized that my children, no matter how “right” I may be in my parenting decisions, will remember only the silly, foolish, unmistakably “wrong” choices I seem to make. I have thus determined to stop lamenting my “wrongness,” and to instead live an unexamined life in which I do not dwell in the deep caverns of guilt, remorse and debilitating self awareness.

I came to this rather startling conclusion yesterday when I picked up my boys from school and cheerfully announced that we were having a picnic for snack today. Of course their immediate focus was on the lack of appealing beverage options and my forgetfulness for leaving the outdoor blanket behind in our garage. We instead headed to Starbucks.

But, since I’d gone to Trader Joes specifically to indulge my children with favorites like fresh mango, pineapple and decadent chocolate brownies, I insisted we snack on our picnic items while sipping our apple juice and iced passion fruit teas (unsweetened). My disgruntled imps argued about seating locale, size of beverage, and state of boredom. But I remained calm and upbeat, determined to enjoy a pleasant afternoon.

The mango was too hard. The pineapple, too sweet. I saved the brownies for last, knowing that they were my ace in the hole. I might be horribly disposed to doing everything wrong, but at least I knew my chocolate delights were going to land me in good stead. When I could wait no longer, I pulled them out. They were met with gleeful cheers and expressions of maternal adoration. Finally, I was doing parenting “right.”

My youngest, Eli, bit into his first. His reaction was abnormally neutral. Brownies were his favorite sweet. Yet he seemed oddly displeased by these. But it was Levi’s horrific face and gag reflex that pushed me over the edge.

“Ach! Mom, these are DISGUSTING!” He cried shrilly.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I asserted impatiently, decidedly done with accepting my role as maternal doormat. “You love Trader Joe’s brownies. You’re just being impossible.”

“No, mom,” he was still spitting out brownie, “They’re like…salty…and gross!”

“Levi,” I announced, “I am through trying to do nice things for you. It is simply not worth it.” And without my consent, my bottom lip charged into pouting position, my arms crossed and my body turned as far away from the table as was possible.

Then Eli piped up tactfully, “Mom, They really aren’t so good. I mean, I’ll eat it. But it’s not my favorite.”
Frustrated and defeated, I grabbed the lid with the label to read the ingredients. It was then that I saw the truth. I started to giggle in spite of myself. I couldn’t stop. The boys watched me as if I were a straight-jacketed patient in a padded cell. Perhaps they thought I had finally snapped.

“Mom,” they cautiously inquired, “What’s so funny?”

It took me a few moments to regain my composure. Then I showed them the label. “Sea salt brownies,” it claimed. “A savory twist on a traditional favorite.”

Suddenly, we were all chortling. The more we tried to hold back the peels of laughter, the bigger they became. And it was then, for a brief unadulterated moment, without even a hint of self consciousness, that I realized I had finally done something “right.”

Decaf dilemma

Just say "no" to corporate idiocy!

I drink a lot of coffee. I like coffee. I’ve tried giving it up. But that usually lasts from about 9p.m. to 6:30a.m. the following morning. Then I decide that it’s just not worth the head-ache (literally).

But it gives me a serious buzz. I’m like wired to the max on two shots of espresso. By the time I hit three, I’m shaking so badly I can’t tie my shoes, clasp my necklace or type anything that even remotely resembles meaningful communiqué.

Since I’ve been doing a show, I’ve been working late nights. So a hit or two of java mid afternoon doesn’t do anything to disturb my all too erratic sleeping patterns. But as things are winding down, I decided to cut out the afternoon caffeine infusions and stick to decaf after 3p.m.

Around 4:00 yesterday afternoon I strode into Starbucks and ordered an ordinary cup of decaffeinated coffee.

“Sorry,” said the insincere barrista, “But we don’t brew decaf coffee after 3p.m.”

“What?” I said, sure that I had fallen asleep for a nanosecond and dreamt the previous statement.

“I said,” continued the arrogant employee in a tone that suggested I was either partially deaf or suffering from some advanced form of mental derangement, “We don’t brew decaf after 3. You can order a decaf latte or espresso if you want.”

I quickly did the calculations in my head. A fru fru coffee drink would cost me upwards of three dollars, while a plain cup of joe would’ve run about a buck and a half. But it wasn’t the money that irked me so much. I really didn’t want an expensive, milk-frothed masterpiece. I wanted a simple, ordinary cup of decaf, like my grandmother would’ve enjoyed along with her late afternoon mandelbread snack.

But beyond my personal irritation, this is one of the most inane corporate policies I’ve ever heard. I mean, when do people most drink decaf? I’m guessing it’s not during morning drive time. Why would you refuse to serve decaffeinated coffee in the late afternoon when anyone with even a hint of common sense would be contemplating a good night’s sleep in less than four hours?

This line of reasoning ranks up there with my other caffeine related fave; the “we don’t serve decaffeinated iced tea here.” “Oh, do you have defaffeinated hot tea,” I’ll often inquire. At that I’ll usually get an affirmative response and a listing of five or so flavors of herbal tea that’s available hot.

OK, I’m no rocket scientist, but isn’t that what ice is for? Make the damn tea, then pour it over a glass of ice and voila, herbal iced tea. That doesn’t seem all that difficult to me.

There seems to be a certain inalienable idiocy surrounding decaffeinated drinks in this country, and one that needs to be addressed.

So here’s the bottom line, if you work in a restaurant and want to get good tips, think outside the box. If someone wants a hot drink served over ice, you can handle that. And if you’re a mega-corporate-coffee conglomerate, add a few pots of decaf to your afternoon repertoire. It’ll make people happy and allow them to sleep so that they can race thru your drive thru the next morning at 7a.m. and order those all too addictive venti, half caf, triple mocha, vanilla lattes that keep the establishment in the black.