Pigeons

I am sitting outside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, having a quick Polish Sausage for lunch in a nice treed Park area. In front of me, walking around observing me in one lone scruffy pigeon. He’s not a pretty one at all, multi coloured in no set pattern, and with feathers ruffled like he’s just list a fight.

He is a scout. He knows I am eating, and he’s here to get the first drop and alert his team, sitting nearby in the shade.

I toss a bun scrap, and before I can say rumpkestilskin, 21 other pigeons have decended. They know, nobody throws one bun scrap. Feeding pigeons is too much fun to do just once.

I notice none of them are very pretty, unlike some if the ones I feed more up town, which makes me chuckle a bit. Downtown is lower class for bird and man alike.

Each one grabs a piece of bun, and flings it wildly to rip his bit off, throwing the remaining bun 4 feet one direction or another, and then another repeats the process. Pigeons without food try desperately to guess where the next piece will be flying, but with little success. It’s a luck game, and some are faster than others.

When the last of the bun is thrown, I clap my hands and say; “all done”, which is a phrase I trained my dog to understand. They seemed content too, and surprising quickly all retreated to their shade resting places.

One lone scruffy pigeon remains, scouting, but with less interest now, because I’m writing this on my phone, not eating. He is still watching, but with less glaring eyes.

I am tempted to see if they return if I merely gestures a fake food throw, but I decide not to be mean.

image

Waiting vs Selling

I’ve worked in the support industry and the retail sales industry, but never did food service and I’ve never been a waiter.

I have a great respect for the people who work the counter at fast food places. It’s a hectic stressful job that I don’t think I’d do well at. It’s fast and furious and you’re often dealing with angry people who believe they’re in a hurry.

In my stint as a retail sales person, we had busy days, but for the most part, I got to take my time and spend a good amount of attention to each customer. This was good when the customer was nice, and horrid when the customer wasn’t. I had no escape.

Today I was lunching at a restaurant and discovered a mark advantage the waiter has in his job. He gets to just walk away. He can stay and talk if he chooses, but he also has the non guilt option to just leave. He can do it anytime. It is the waiters job description to walk away.

I noticed this in practice today as I made a poor pun based joke that didn’t go over. He got to nod, and then turn his back to me and walk away. It was a glorious out.

When I worked retail, if somebody made a joke, I had to stay there, facing them and fake a response.  I had to be polite.  Likewise, if I was the one making the comment, there was no escape. We just kept talking to each other.

My waiter didn’t have to return to me for 7 or 8 minutes, or longer if my beverage didn’t approach refill levels.

It made me remember some of my greatest irritating customers from years gone by. The smelly customers, the loud talkers, the whiners and all the angry ones. How wonderful it would have been to abandon them and pivot on my leg to walk away from them.

I understand it’s not total avoidance, and my waiter can’t run away and ignore the irritation forever, but time heals all, and even 2 minutes can change an irate or crazy person into a new mindset.

Maybe I could be a waiter.

Parking Lots are not Book Covers

I arrived at 11:45 for lunch, just a little before the lunch rush shows up. The parking lot was empty, and that is usually a bad sign. When there are no people inside, the Pizza Hut buffet doesn’t change.

Surprise. A kids party with 20+ kids, and lots of pizza selection.

Good stuff.

Never judge a the busyness by it’s Parking Lot.

 

My First Perkins

wpid-IMAG0094

This weekend, I find myself living the life of a traveling salesman, right here in my own city. I am living out of a hotel room, and eating Sunday breakfast in the hotel family restaurant.

It’s a Perkins chain, although this in the only one I know of in this area. It seems more an American chain.

Just sitting here, taking in the atmosphere of the loud Sunday morning family crowd, memories of America and driving trips with my parents and grandparents flow back to me.

Everything about it cries American to me. The front cash counter, with a glass display cabinet filled with pies reminds me of the old Howard Johnson, without the orange.  The coffee cups on my table are identical to every family restaurant I’ve ever been in, and the noise they make as patrons stir their packets of non dairy cream onto them can be heard from almost every table in the place.

A quick look around the place, and I see a wide variety of families, each making their own unique memories.The menu arrives, and is exactly as expected. A multi-page, stapled, plastic laminated glossy, photo filled picture menu starting with breakfast dishes that look so amazing on the page.

wpid-1339940995118

I order what I always order in places like this. Denny’s calls it the grand slam, and at Perkins, it is – for unknown reasons, known as the fantastic 12, or something similar.  The value for food ratio is high. I choose scrambled eggs, sausages, square potato cubes and pancakes, and four of each arrive… Oh.  12.It is far more than I should eat, and a lite more than I can eat, and at the end, more than I should have eaten, but the quality and taste was amazing, especially for $10.99I understand why it is so busy, and begin to realize the crowds are probably equal parts tourist and locals. As pretty and “Jeff friendly” as the easily viewable desert options are, I can’t indulge further. I left 2 full pancakes behind already. I will come again.

a a a

I tried Green Olvies

I ate green olives today, probably for the first time ever. I say probably, because the event was so un-memorable, it is conceivable, I have done it before, and just forgot. The taste had a slight familiar feel to it, almost as if I thought was green olives ‘should’  taste like, from their smell and texture.

It was on a pizza, at a buffet, so I only had to try a few on one slice.  I didn’t like it much, but I didn’t hate it enough to spit it out, like I do when an onion finds its way into my mouth by accident. If I was at a dinner party, and olives were served to me, I could politely down a few without a fuss or a face.

That is how I rate new tastes now. If I was forced to, there are still some foods I would have trouble with. Others I can eat, but olives won’t be added to my acceptable toppings list today.

I do try new foods now and then although my friends would still call me picky. I have a philosophy I battle with. If I know I enjoy something why risk trying things I don’t. Bad tastes can stay with me far too long. A single bit of onion can cause me grief for hours.

Of course, I have found new tastes I enjoy and add them into my routine. When I was young, my acceptable food list was very tiny. Everyone had to pick the restaurants that could suit my limited list. Back in the 70s of course, we had burgers and Chinese food restaurants and not much else. Italian was the special place, and I could always have a pizza.

Today is Friday, and more people show up for the Pizza Hut buffet, so the variety is good. I didn’t need to try olives. I could have waited 3 minutes and something else would have arrived.  I’m enough of a regular at this location that they know I don’t like onions or mushrooms. It just felt like a day to test.

Green Olives. Check.

No need to try again.

Bloggin’ The Hut

Second weekday at my new lunch spit and I’m already the Four Square mayor. My last visit was on a Friday, and today is a less busy Wednesday at noon, do we will see what difference a crowd makes to the variety and quality of an all you can eat buffet.

The guests this week are seated far away, just outside of my optimal overhearing distance.

One man, wearing white socks and black plastic sandals re-asks about the buffet and the drinks bring free refill, but priced separate. He needs a second confirmation to understand.  Do how much will it be? With taxes?  I believe his tip will be small.

Two other men arrive with a child and sit behind me. It is clear which one is with the young boy, because he is over the top happy and condescending in his joy if everything. “Chocolate milk?” he says with such excitement, you’d think he was winning some money.

Sandal man and I catch each other’s eyes and smile. It’s funny how gleeful he is pretending to be. I’m not sure the young boy gets it.

I eat 5 slices of the same pizza, which is now gone. The other 4 pizzas on display either have mushrooms, onions, or both. Almost everyone who goes up, seems as disappointed as I am. Some go for the salad or pasta, and some go back to their table. One man starts a whole story of what happens to him when he eats red hot peppers.

The happy man goes for the desert slices and explains to the boy how cool it is to have desert before you’re done.  “I can eat in any order from a buffet”  he declare in his extra happy,  extra loud voice.

Next up, cheese only,  so I take one that looks like it has only one or two mushrooms. Maybe I can pick them off.  It’s easy to be fooled by a deep dish, but at least I don’t have mushrooms as much as surprise onions, which can upset me for 3 hours if I don’t see it before its in my mouth.

The next three patrons to enter, are a priest, a rabbi and a cowboy.  This is of course untrue, but the rest of my blog today is so uneventful that I contemplated turning to fiction in order to hold an audience. The truth is that few blogs are worthy of reading. We write them more for ourselves.

Some days, I am inspired. Today, I am more observational, and little is happening around me.

In conclusion, I end off with some Hawaiian, my less favourite pizza flavor, pay and leave less satisfied than before, but still happy and full. No pasta or dessert pizza today.

I’ll try again soon.

Story Gifting

I have written many times about the power of stories,  but today I will give an example of how they can be used to change embarrassing situations into joy.

I am seated in a lunch restaurant a fair distance from my home, with my back to the dining room. As I was eating,  I dropped some crumbs on my shirt, and when I looked down, I happened to notice the collar buttons were on the inside.  I had my shirt on inside out. I felt for the label at the back,  and it is on the outside.

Embarrassing.

My first instinct was to rush to the rest room and change it, but then I started to imagine the situation from the other side. Not from my perspective of embarrassment, but from the story I was creating for the other diners who may have noticed it.  I had created a story.

arbysA lunch trip to Arby’s isn’t usually a spectacular memory event.  If it’s your first time, then maybe you’ll remember it, or a reunion with an old friend might make it special, but 9 times out if 10,it’s just lunch.

Today however, a few observant divers will have noticed a man in the corner, alone, typing on his phone, has his shirt on backwards.

They’ll point it out to their friends, and perhaps start a conversation about whether I know. I’m not saying it is life changing, or that they’ll remember me for years, or even days, but for a moment, I was a story.

Perhaps a smile.

That’s not embarrassing. That’s a good thing.

Spontaneous conversation observations

I was having an early breakfast at a McDonalds this morning. I often enjoy the breakfast crowd, because the conversations I overhear are often quite different than other times during the day.

Today I got a treat. A women seated next to me was enjoying a big breakfast platter alone and content, when another woman walked by and recognized her.  They sparked up a full conversation of social chit chat, all the while, the second lady stood in the middle prime travel area of the dining room.

It started with; “Do you come here on your day off,  or are you on break?”

It quickly became obvious that the seated lady worked here, and was happily enjoying her previously quiet break time.  Now she was thrust into a forced polite conversation with someone I assume was not a close acquaintance but rather, just a McDonalds customer that recognized her.

Eventually, the second lady took her seat reasonably distant from the first lady, but continued to chat away at a higher than usual volume voice level, almost yelling across the distance between the two tables.

I noticed the woman on break was giving off social cues and clear body language of being trapped.  The poor woman was on break from this,  and yet still forced to smile and be friendly and social.

As a hobby over-listener,  I too got to hear it all and watch the scene unfold.  Not just me of course. Half the restaurant could hear the conversation. We all got to learn all about this McDonalds staff member’s life.

Eventually she’d had enough. She needed an out. She finished chewing and stood up quickly.  “Well, enjoy your day.” she spoke,  and then dumped her trash and shot outside to smoke.  Whoosh. She was out the door enjoying the rest of her break in peace in the shade of a nearby tree.

The moral of this story, is that smoking has hidden benefits.

Pizza Hut Bloggin

May the fourth be with you.

It’s funny how memories of past traditions can almost force you to carry them on. I am sitting on a Pizza Hut in Toronto. It’s the first time I’ve had a buffet in a very long time, since do few of their restaurant locations still have dining rooms, and even fewer have the lunch buffet. I moved back to the city in March, and the two locations nearest me don’t. Today I used Google maps and found a location I knew nothing about.

As I sit here, dipping on a Pepsi between plates, but I am compelled to blog, because my memory of pizza hut buffet includes writing about it. I the process rekindles memories of all the other pizza hut buffets I frequent, but or once did.

I remember the main one I still visit, although far less frequently since it is in Waterloo, where I had e not lived for over two years. It was on University Ave, but so it stayed busy, and was always filled with good looking students. The overhearing hobby I enjoy was most fun there. Conversations were often entertaining.

I remember the battle I had with a waitress there who would refuse to recognize me, even though I was a regular at here table once a week for months. Later, two other wait staff were friend and always greeted me with recognition.

I remember the Finch location, before it turned express. They always had a perfect orange Macaroni and cheese pasta on the buffet. The buffet at Black Creek also had awesome lunch pasta, but I only got to try it twice before they killed the buffet. Today I start a new tradition and new set of memories. All I can eat, and and blog. $8.49

Eating Alone at McDonalds

Eating alone is something you get used to after a while.  You find ways to amuse yourself, or feel less self conscious. I used to only ever eat alone at counter-pay places, but never at restaurant where I sit and order from wait staff.

Today, I was eating breakfast at McDonalds.

One of my favourite things to do us just sit,  watch and listen. This is especially fun at breakfast time.  McDonalds in the morning is dominated by old people. Seniors sitting around eating their McDonalds breakfast are entertaining.

Today,  on my way to a business meeting,  I stopped off at a McDonalds. I feel no shame in admitting I enjoy their breakfasts, both in taste, and environment.

Today was a Saturday, and the place packed to capacity. I actually had to wait for a table,  but sadly the location was in a Chinese neighborhood and the restaurant was fully packed with people,  both young and old, all speaking Chinese.

That’s no fun. Overhearing people speaking a different language is not entertaining at all. To an English speaker, people speaking Chinese sound exactly like another English speaker mocking it.  Gibberish words and lots of ahhh sounds.

Zeppelin: I have lived almost 50 years and today is the first day ever,  that I discovered gibberish is spelled with a g, not a j. To me, the Chinese language seems a little louder than English, and so from my table,  I could overhear conversations from no less than four tables. Sadly,  I could not understand a word.

Sometimes when you listen to foreigners talking in their language, you can still pick out newer words, or technology words they may not know the translations for.  Your ears trigger on terms like APPLE or iPHONE or MICROSOFT WINDOWS in between the other words.  Todays restaurant cliental were all these were seniors, so they were probably not discussing much modern technology. No random English words crept in.  Nothing. Just Chinese.

I felt alone in a crowd.

I suppose I am supposed to understand what it might feel like to be a foreigner in a regular English speaking McDonalds.