Service please! Pretty please?

Here’s an unfiltered picture of where we’ve been for a couple of days. Peaceful. Beautiful. Wide open beaches with no fighting for the best view…everyone gets a good view. We try and come to this little piece of heaven every year. It’s a fancy place but we come all unfancy. We stay with family. We avoid all the crazy crowded restaurants. We try to vacation like a local.

Except we’re not local. We know it. They know it.

A couple of years ago, my husband’s godmother took us to the most delicious little pizzeria in town. It was so unassuming and relaxed – but the food was no joke. The lines out the door proved it.

We began going every time we visited. It was always a sure thing.

You sit. You order a $20 dollar bottle of wine. If you’re my husband you order the seafood fra diavolo, and If you’re me, you get linguini with garlic and oil… because cheese is no longer my friend. And without fail… the food is good. Really good.

Is it slow? Sure. Is it the best service? No. It’s a pizzeria, we get it. I’m not looking for a concierge level experience. I’m looking for bare bones. I’m looking for some water. I’m looking to get the stuff we ordered getting to us. Maybe a quick, brief check-in to see if we need anything. Basic.

Tonight we got none of it. Nothing.

Let me back up.

Admittedly I’m a tough critic of restaurants – food and service. It’s my job. It’s what I worry about all the time. Service. Food. Experience. My husband is the opposite. By the burly looks of him you’d think he’d be the harder judge. But he’s a softie. His mom waitressed to make ends meet when he and his sister were little. He heard all the stories of crabby customers. It’s a hard job. Thankless. Under appreciated. He’s very very sensitive to that.

His idea of a tip for bad service is 18%. It’s his ultimate “gotcha”. If that man leaves you less than 20% you basically didn’t serve him at all. I’ve seen him overtip at every level. I’ve seen him go back to a restaurant where someone else has paid for our meal just to confirm the tip was good. He’s nuts! In a good way. I am mostly in agreement with this. Except when it’s bad service.

We’ve lived with this dichotomy for our entire relationship. I know he can’t take it if I ask the person waiting on us for more than 2 things,” excuse me, can I get some salt?”, “can we get some water?”. That’s it. That’s all I get. And I’m fine with that. Do I mentally make note of all the things that could have gone better? Ofcourse! Do I say anything? Almost never. Like practically never. Between my husband and my kids, the goal is always the same. Don’t make trouble. Just let it go. And I usually do. But not tonight.

Tonight was the worst service we’ve ever had. Worse than the time our waiter left his shift and never told anyone he still had a table. Worse than the time the woman waiting on us was having a full blown fight with the kitchen staff. This was… epic bad. I’m not going to go into detail. You can guess. I’m sure it’s happened to you too.

To clarify how bad it was, when I said to my husband at the end of our dinner,” wow, she’s getting zero tip. None.” I waited to hear what I thought he’d say, which is,”no freaking way”, instead he said,”yep”. I couldn’t believe it. No talk about how harsh I am. No talk about her having a bad day. Nothing. Just full agreement. She was worse than I thought.

So. For the very first time since I’ve known him – about 25 years – we left no tip. By the way, even though this was a very casual pizzeria type place, our bill was over a $100. That’s how this town rolls. And guess what? The food was worth every penny.

Even now, hours later, we are both guilt ridden. Justifying to ourselves why we left her no tip. Trying to validate our actions so we can sleep tonight. It’s no bueno.
We weren’t rude. We weren’t mean. But it still feels rotten. Have you ever done this? Please lie and tell me you have. Going to bed now. Full of regret, guilt and antacids.

Sh&t that drives me crazy – Event Planning Edition

Guest post! RD is back and I’m here for it….

– Overly scented florals (in general) but especially at food and wine events.  If I see hyacinths at Le Bernardin, I will smack you with them.

– A panel event that has no stage.  Why?  Are we in your living room?  Will Uncle Ed be treating us to his Richard Nixon impersonation?  Just because people are in the back of the room, doesn’t mean they don’t want to see.

– A podium with no podium sign, or a podium that is branded with the hotel logo.  Unless your speaker is actually from The Ritz-Carlton, you need to cover that mess up.

– Rude staff.  I’m giving you money.  Act like you work here.  Better yet, act like you work for me!  Because at least for the next few hours, you do.

– Columns.  No one wants to “work around” you.  We’re not in Greece.  This isn’t The Parthenon.  Time to find a new venue.

– Uninformed folks who refer to an event as “a party.”  If it was a party, I’d be having fun… Not running around like a crazy person trying to make sure nothing goes wrong.

– Wired microphones.  Bob Barker called.   He told me to tell you that this is the 21st century.  

And finally….It costs what it costs.  I don’t work on commission.  

Good Time Charlie’s

Do you know what I mean when I say that? Do you know these people? Are you these people?

This past weekend I went on our annual girls weekend – my 7th trip with this group of ladies. On each trip, the number of people joining fluctuates depending on time of year and location. This trip was one of the biggest – with 9 of us. We are married, divorced, and single. We are all different backgrounds and lives. There are city mice and country mice. There are mothers of children and mothers of dogs and cats…and both! Some of us are lactose intolerant and others not (sorry….), you get the idea. Not the same. Except for one thing; we are all good time Charlie’s.

We’re up for it. We’re into it. Mudslides in the rain on Block Island? Sure. Ghost tour in Mystic? Let’s do it. Dueling pianos in Philly? Why not. For one weekend we all go-with-the-flow. Does the flow usually include wine and tequila? Why yes it does. But it’s really not about what we do. We’ve had fun sitting on a NYC stoop at midnight. It doesn’t take much. And trust me, it’s not that all of us agree on everything. We most certainly don’t. But the one thing that no one disagrees with is that we just want to be with each other. Doing whatever. As proof I went to a dog themed restaurant for brunch… willingly. Dogs. Everywhere. Ok they weren’t real but still.

Need more proof? One of these gals took a bad fall which landed her in the ER with two stitches and a chipped tooth. Did she miss the Margarita March the next morning? No way. She rallied. That’s a good time Charlie.

Do yourself a favor and find one or two of your own, or even better – be one 🙂

Yes that’s a Loft bag… part of being a good time Charlie is stopping the bar hopping for a good sale!
Which one of these ladies is a teacher? A therapist? A project manager? Answer? Who cares! They were just good time Charlie’s this weekend.

Ch Ch Changes

It’s October 3rd. September has been quite a month – full of surprises and change. Nothing new for us. The end of last year was full of changes for our family too. I quit my job after 8 years and started with a new company right before Christmas. My husband was offered a work-from-home gig and jumped on the chance to not commute after decades of trains, planes and automobiles.

Then January through July were a haze. I was traveling a lot for work, which was perfect because my husband and kids were getting into their new “being home together all the time routine”. I was all, “good luck with that, I’ll be in Newport Coast for the week. It’s you, the kids and Common Core. Bye!” It all worked out – no one died. We made it through the winter and spring and then summer was a lot of fun.

We were just hitting our stride and then boom. This is how our life works. For as long as I’ve known my husband, and well before we had our kids, this is our life works. We like to shake it up – or things get shaken up for us. Every change we’ve ever made has come from a small seed of an idea that we can’t let go of. Wanna get hitched and then have a baby in our 20s? Sure. Wanna move out of the city to a town we’ve never heard of? Why not! Wanna have another baby even though I’ll have to quit my job? Let’s do it!

Some changes were our whacked out decisions, and some changes were out of our control. We just had to roll with it.

For the past decade or so (this is not an exaggeration) – I’ve heard my husband say that he’d love to get out of his profession. That the world of finance isn’t making him happy. But because he’s a workhorse, and because it’s been good for our family, he would never walk away. He went from one stressful job to another and made the best of it. But then September started. And slowly a get-away plan emerged. His group was being shuffled and his position would now be based out of NYC. But the kids and i had gotten used to him being home. And he was loving the freedom of not being in an office. Not spending his life on a train. He was going to karate practices, doing pick-up after band rehearsal – getting to know his kids (and they got to know him) in a completely different way. Good, bad and ugly.

It was very much like my childhood. My parents had actual 9-5 jobs for a very short time, then my dad started his own business and never looked back. My mom was either helping him or home with us – actually they were both home with us. I don’t remember a time when my dad was out of the house for more than a few hours a day. It was unusual and wonderful. They were also risk takers. My dad was a pharmacist who could have made a very safe living his whole life, but he tried something different. He took a chance. The irony is that my entire childhood I thought of them as the most boring, risk-averse people – they drive their cars slow and live their lives quietly. Now I think they were absolutely bohemian (I feel my sister rolling her eyes). But really, they marched by the beat of their own drum. And it wasn’t all good – there were failures along with the successes – but they tried. They moved us around. They uprooted our schooling. Money went up and down – but it wasn’t boring. That’s for sure.

Maybe that’s why I’m not afraid of change. It doesn’t really rock my world. Not because I was unhappy before, or looking for the change – but because I know it’s not always bad. Or maybe I’m just dead inside. Just kiddin’.

Because I am my parent’s daughter, I’m constantly thinking of businesses that we can run. After my son was born and I decided to stay at home, I even started one of those businesses. A wedding planning company that did pretty well for three years. I loved it. I only stopped doing it because of another change that came out of nowhere. A phone call from an old colleague who had a job for me. A good job. The only caveat – it was two states away. A job that would force my husband to quit his well paying job if we took the move. Normal people would have laughed and said,”no way”.  But my husband and I,who wouldn’t know what to do in a casino if we tried, took another gamble. We said yes. And it worked out really really well. We loved our new town. The kids loved their new schools. My husband found another job right away, and I was happy with my new job. For a little while. But in the back of my mind, I was always thinking of what “we could start”. Even though my husband is the total opposite of my wandering nature, he got into it too. We would look at empty store fronts and imagine what we could do. We would have hour long discussions about the kinds of things that would work there. Then, like the lunatics we are, we’d even call the renters and ask how much the space cost. You know, normal stuff you do on a Friday night. While you and your husband are out at fancy restaurants and enjoying life, we’re researching franchise options and coming up with company names.

So last month when his job location shifted, we jumped on our chance. Well, I jumped and dragged him along. It was Friday night, we were doing our usual “this is a business that could work” routine – and he left the room to order pizza for the kids. That’s when I pulled the trigger for him and applied for all the legal paperwork for his new company. No joke. He came back into the living room and I said,” it’s done. You just started a company”. Instead of divorcing me like a normal person would do – he sat down and started a business plan. The only thing that saves my crazy is his crazy.

A month later, he’s ready to launch the website and dive in. And I would tell you what it is, but it’s not my gig. It’s his. I’m pretty sure he’ll go postal that I’ve even talked about it at all. But as always, I’ll take the gamble.

Pit Stop

I was in midtown NYC at the beginning of this week for meetings and ended up right across the street from this spot.

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This is 345 Park Avenue. I can’t tell you how much happenstance is tied to this place. Or maybe kismet is a better word for it.
I stopped only for a minute to take this shot but a thousand things went through my head.
This is where my college boyfriend got a job during my Junior year, and during the summer, because I didn’t have anything better to do and was completely obsessed with him – I would take a train from our campus in the Bronx, walk through the park (couldn’t afford the crosstown bus) and sit in front of this building while he worked. For hours. Reading. Having bodega coffee. Staring out.
He’d come downstairs and find me there for lunch. We’d have a dirty cart pretzel and then he’d go back to work.
I didn’t do this everyday, but I did it often enough.
This was pre iPhone days. Pre 9/11 days. Pre 2008 melt down days. During lunch hours the entire front of this building would be full of people, they’d have bands come in, dancers I think too. There may have even been a fountain but I can’t remember.
I think about those days now and I just can’t imagine what I was thinking. Or what he was thinking! Ofcourse today I’d be called a stalker and dismissed. Thank goodness he didn’t know any better.
But that wasn’t the end of my time in this building.
When I graduated, I went from job to job. I tried my hand at alumi relations, and PR, and like all good Gen Xers I spent some days in advertising. All of this at big universities and companies (pre-job market hell days). I hated it. All of it.
By this time, my boyfriend had been out of school of over a year and was still working at the same building, same company – better job. He moved us out of the Bronx and into the city. He told me to quit my crap gigs and focus on something different.
I did.
I found a job at a non-profit focused on business eduction for students that raised money through fundraising.
I discovered a career that I had no idea existed – events.
I got engaged. Those were happy days.
Eventually the engagement led to marriage and marriage led to baby.
I had the baby and took some time off.
When I wanted to go back to work, my first interview led to a job. Luck? Kismet? Who knows. This job was with a company (and team) that would help define what my career in events would be – take a guess where the job was located?
It was also a happy chance that my now husband, father to our little girl, still worked there too.
It was where we met friends that we will know for life. It was where we went through 9/11 together. It was where we got pregnant again. It was a really important place that seemed like a lifetime ago.
Eventually my husband and I both left that building. Bigger and better. That’s what we always say.
This was the first shot of the building I took. I had an app open and didn’t realize I took the picture using a filter. But it seems appropriate.
A haze. A blur.

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Poor me

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My conference ended today. I have a few more hours of work and then I’m on the red-eye home. But I did get to sleep in and enjoy my room for the first time all week. And I ordered room service. Look at the size of this French toast. And the size of the butter on top. Toasted coconut and a caramelized banana? Check. Although I miss my family a ton – this isn’t all that bad. Just sayin’ (the newspaper came with the breakfast. Bless their hearts)

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One more pic. Just to show off.

 

Ernie Banks Moment

Next week is the first big conference at my new job. And since we are the event and conference group, it’s my team that runs it all. We get the credit or the blame – whichever way it goes. Most of the team is seasoned and has done multi day events before, but it’s the first time at the event for the new CEO. So everyone is nervous. We had our first big walk through yesterday and it went amazingly well. The team is buttoned up and ready – but they are still panicked that they’ll miss something. So I shared my favorite “I think I missed something” story (have I already shared this? If yes, sorry, go surf the internet and come back tomorrow).
Years ago I was doing my first big event in a new job, for two very – ahem – challenging bosses. The event was an interview with Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer, Ernie Banks. The event was in mid-February in downtown Chicago. Already fun right? For months I stressed about the venue, the weather, the staging, and whether anyone would actually show up to this thing. Did I mention it was crazy expensive? It was. I found the right interviewer for Ernie. I made sure we were taping it so we could use it again for something – look at me being cost effective! No stone was left uncovered!
Cut to the morning of the event.
I had flown in with one of my bosses the night before and had a nice, passive aggressive dinner where she reminded me how important it was that I don’t mess up.
Gulp. Yummy.
The next day, I woke up at 5am – even though we weren’t setting up until 1pm – in a cold, hard sweat with one thought:
I never invited Ernie Banks to the Ernie Banks event!!!!!!!!! Omg!!! WTF??!!
I had visions of how it would go down.
Instead of facing the humiliation, I would just head to the airport and go home.
There were other jobs, I thought.
How could I have forgotten to invite him?
But of course I did.
Ernie was all set to go.
But I was so freaked that I actually called his house at 6:30…I forced myself not to call at 5:30. His housekeeper picked up and I pretended to be his car service and asked,” is a 6pm pick-up ok for Ernie tonight?” She said he was all set and hung up.
Real story.
Please note that this didn’t happen in my first few years as a planner. I was a so-called professional at that point.
Every planner has an Ernie Banks story, it’s part of the job.
Moral of the story – you invited Ernie Banks. Everything is ok.

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