Saturday, January 14, 2017

Home with the Navs

First. Remember last year, I thought adding elbow holes in sweaters could be the next fashion trend. I'm seeing sweaters with shoulder holes all over the place this winter. I should be fashion blogger. Until that transition...

Coming home for the holidays after living alone is always a bit of an adjustment. For instance: I can't do my own laundry, my meals are cooked for me, I have to continually be ready when Mom asks what I want from the grocery store, delicious treats are constantly calling, the 86'' TV sometimes hurts my eyes. It's difficult, but I press through. I do always forget to bring home my lufa which throws a major wrench in my shower routine.*

Everyone knows I love my family. We all have our idiosyncrasies, that I believe each has embraced, so no one will mind if I share them. It's a difficult task to provide a window for outsiders into a week with the Navatsyks, but that's not going to keep me from trying.

I stop by Gail and Mitch's first. Colt, the three year old tornado, is extremely excited to see me, and I savor the moment, because soon enough, he will be asking when it's time for me to go home. Or our friendship will end because he trips over a pillow while playing tag. Ahh, the volatility of toddler affections. Briella, who's 8 going on 28, runs into my arms and within a minute asks if I have started dating the quarterback yet. I tell her I'm going to wait until he's legal to make my move.

Gail and Mitch are taking their kids to Miami in a few weeks. Gail is considering recording their vacation, putting it on Youtube and monetizing it. After all, it's about time they make money off their good looks. I agree, and if I didn't have school, I would definitely manage the production. Of course, Mitch would make me delete half of what he says, so maybe a reality show won't work. Gail could make videos coaching Moms to have their children sleep through the night. Or Mitch could tour the country giving motivational speeches. If not Mitch, Briella could. She is reenacting her inspirational speech: "You go hard. You better have nothing left at the end of the swim!" she had spurred her teammate to a relay victory.

Gail and I discuss her most recent nail salon drama - anyone who has entered the world of nail allegiance knows that switching between salons is a difficult line to cross without consequence. She had a procedure recently and is recovering very swiftly, as I anticipated she would. By procedure, I mean boob job. Mitch's gift to both of them. Yes, for everyone scrolling through pictures on Facebook and wondering: they're not real, and they're spectacular. I had to cop a feel, obviously. And don't worry, I know you're scrolling, because we do, too. And Mitch rolls his eyes but secretly enjoys our commentary. For anyone scrolling through my profile page, here's the synopsis: I have big thighs and this blog where I ramble about my life as if people care. Don't try to make fun of my forehead. We all know it's glorious.

Personally, I plan on botoxing my forehead to preserve the beauty of the dome selfie, so I'm in no position to judge another taking advantage of the medical advances at one's fingertips. Plus, I think after you have four kids, you have the right to do whatever you want to your body, and as our President-elect once proclaimed, "It's impossible to be flat chested and a 10." If there was doubt, Gail's now a ten. The addition to the Hewitt household does offer a multitude of material, and if Mitch were not in a position of civic service, this blog post would be a running recording of commentary. I will simply say: he's not demanding his money back.*

Phil and Courtny are in for a brief 24 hours during which we watch the 45 minute compilation Philip made of our time roadtripping through Eastern Europe together. And Courtney watches the whole video and laughs, which is why he married her, because most people would probably leave after five minutes, though I don't know why, because we're hilarious. The opening scene is the two of us belting out T-Swift. There is a lot of made up history on our self guided tours, that's what she said moments, complaining about the speed limit, and one scene where I molest a gummy bear. Pure gold.

Philip's trying a new method to wake up Courtny - bacon. She seems a little startled and even annoyed the first time bacon slides under her nostril as she slept, but the second time, she is much more amenable, and even seems to enjoy the bacon. They're prepping for their 45-day honeymoonth. Forty-five days seems like a totally appropriate amount of time. Any more may be unreasonable.

We manage to squeeze in a Christmas tree sleepover with Caleb and Bri, and while Courtny and Phil opted for a bed, I lay under the tree and talk with the kiddos about school, their little brothers, and sports. I hope they skip that stage when they are too cool for their aunts.

Christmas comes and goes, and the Cavs beat the Warriors.

The day after, I join Mom and Dad for dinner. They seem to go out more since no one lives with them, and they may be my favorite couple to join as a third wheel, because as of now, they are the only ones who pay.* I had forgotten to get Dad a present, and I saw this as the perfect opportunity.

"Excellent. I'll cover some of the meal, and that will be your Christmas present, Dad."
"So let me understand. We go out to dinner. You pay for yourself. That's my Christmas present?"
"How is that my Christmas present?"
"Because, Dad. You get to spend time with me. And you love me." Merry Christmas.

I do go out with a few friends one night. Mom informs me the following morning that according to the track your iPhone app, I was at Pub Frato then a Hibachi restaurant and somewhere else in between. Good thing I nixed the strip club idea; that would have been an awkward conversation over coffee.

The Christmas tree down, her latest mission is to get rid of my Playmobile Victorian house from childhood. I'm not totally ready to part with it. I'm not sure when or why I will have any use for it, but there's so many pieces, it seems wrong to say goodbye. Incidentally, that's exactly why she wants it gone. I hold my ground, though, by simply not responding to her pleas for me to give her permission to throw it away*, and she's giving me until age 30 to remove it from the premises, lest it be removed for me. It was in two boxes, but if stacked properly, it can be condensed to one, which is a minor relief for her. Win, win.

The Amish woman Mom befriended is cleaning our house, which brings the cleaning lady tally to two. I'm not sure what they do, though mother did say that when my dad's car lights hit the ground just right, you could see bits of dust. She would later find a bit more dust when the sun shone directly on the living room table at 5:07 PM. I contemplate how I can get these ladies to my apartment and really show them some dust, when Dad comes down with big news.

"Jim Lyons called the other day and said he met a shortstop that was better than me. I went on a diatribe on how that simply wasn't the case. Today someone posted a picture on Facebook of the 1973 All Star team. I was the shortstop. I sent Jim the picture and said, 'I rest my case.'" Additionally, Dad has tweeted at Kimberly Gildoyle of Fox's Five at Five, telling her to part her hair on one side or the other because the part down the middle is no bueno. It's been bugging him for a long time, so the household's glad that's off his mind.

Before heading back to Ann Arbor, I have communion with Mom and Dad, something they have started doing daily. Dad prays for me as he always does: that I would be a leader, not a follower, that I would find favor in the eyes of those I work with, that the right doors would open and every other door close. I give both a big hug, grab one final treat and hop on the road, grateful as always for such strong roots. And sad that I have to do my own laundry.

* Simple solution: spend two dollars on a lufa to keep there.
* I ran this section by Gail and Mitch and have interpreted their silence as tacit compliance.
* Every other couple, please feel free to step up your game to compete.
* Thanks for teaching me negotiating skills, MO 503.

Friday, January 6, 2017

2016 Winners and Losers. 2017 Goals. World Domination, Always.

Alright, guys, the countdown to world takeover by age 30 is ticking.

I'm supposed to be writing an essay for an application. The theme: resilience. You know what I'm going to use? A tennis analogy. Surprising, I know. In order to get my creative juices flowing, I thought it wise to partake in my annual reflection and goal setting ritual. In addition to a brief assessment of 2016 goal accomplishment - I found the sweet spot and got very close to getting a drink named after me - this year's reflection takes the form of post-weekend football analysis, with winners and losers. Appropriately, we will begin with fantasy.

Winner. Steel the Win and Sugga Momma Bears. In a demonstration of dominance, Steel the Win took the victory in league one. Thank you, Le'Veon Bell and David Johnson. Unfortunately, the cardiac kids, Sugga Momma Bears, fell in the championship, a defeat that would have been more palatable if the winning lineup had not been sitting on my bench. Still, considering I had the 11th lowest number of overall points in the regular season, second place is a victory.

Loser. Fantasy football team names. My pun game is weak. I plan on spending the offseason considering alternative names, which will inevitably lead to me figuring out how I can cleverly combine Ezekiel and some obscure part of the male anatomy.

Winner. My laugh. I was nominated for best laugh in high school, but alas, I lost to Alison Piccioni. I don't think I laughed to the extent I do now in high school, as much of my time was spent sleeping during class. This year, however, I received my section superlative award for best laugh. Is this the greatest accomplishment of my MBA career thus far? I'm not saying it's not.

Loser. There are no losers when I laugh, unless you're a dog that detects high pitch frequency. Then, it might hurt your ears.

Winner. My ability to differentiate between Coors Light, Miller Light, and Bud Light. I think it's improved.

Loser. My self-respect. Why am I 28 and drinking light beer? Apparently, when in grad school, ones' tastes revert to age 21. Sometimes, so do one's dance moves.

Winner. My funeral. I recently listened to a podcast about "the town that talks about death." The gist of it was: an end of life caregiver started broaching the subject of death with patients long before the threat was imminent so when the time did come, families knew what the individual wanted, subsequently lowering healthcare costs and improving end of life quality. The town took a sensitive subject and made it commonplace. Very interesting. Anyways, it got me thinking about my funeral, and I have a few requests: a slideshow of dome selfies, which I imagine at that time will be plentiful; no need to wear black, people should wear color, but by no means does this excuse anyone from crying. Brownie sundae bar at the post-lunch. Also, if people would like to have a competition of who can share the most embarrassing Anna story at the post-lunch, the winner could receive an Anna bobblehead.

Loser. My wedding. Haven't made much progress on that front, although I have started answering creatively when old family friends ask if I'm married yet. "No, but I'm getting my business degree so I can get rich and buy myself a husband..." Awkward pause.

Winner. My apartment. Possibly my best decision of 2016 was getting an apartment fifty feet from the business school. Was I a bit skeptical when I awoke the first Saturday at 6 am to undergrads pre-gaming? Yes. However, now that it is a balmy 5 degrees outside, I am grateful for the proximity.

Loser. My mail. I've had this issue with my mail where nothing that is sent to me arrives. You have one job, postal service. Wedding invitations, birthday cards, Christmas cards, checks. Not receiving them. The obvious answer is that I am giving the wrong address, but I am receiving packages, so that's not the case. I asked my landlord about this, and he told me, yes, it's an ongoing problem, and I need to talk to the postal service, which I have yet to do, because I fear they will be of little help. A possible thought is that I need to start telling people the end of my zip code, because all the junk mail I receive has 48104-3554 on it. Are those last four digits important?

Winner. The Cavs. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but they are the reigning NBA champions.

Loser. The Browns. It's a building year. Also... Golden State. Since I called out Golden State, I feel obligated to acknowledge that the Indians gave up a 3-1 lead to the Cubbies, although they did so without their best player and best pitchers, so the loss was not quite as humiliating.

Winner. My driving record. I received zero moving violations and zero parking tickets in 2016. I believe this is a first. It's likely because I was out of the country for about five months.

Loser. My sense of direction. Technology is great, but I had to enter Trader Joe's into my phone the first three months in Ann Arbor, and I still am not sure how to get from the east side to the west side of the city. Or if there even is an East side.

Winner. My thighs. I say this because twice in the last week I have been asked what sport I played that made my legs so strong. I responded, "I was born with these beauties."* The Navatsyk thighs, finally getting the recognition they deserve.

Loser. Errands. While I have no problem prioritizing working out, it took me three months to register my car in Michigan, two months to return text books, and four months to return some WiFi device to Comcast. When I finally focused on each of these tasks, I completed each in thirty minutes. Why are errands so hard? And why do I still not have a life secretary? And why hasn't Amazon created a drone secretary to run these errands for me?

Winner. Ann Arbor. I moved here.

Loser. Charlottesville. I left there.

Alright - to resolutions. I was listening to Tim Ferriss the other day, an inspirational Podcaster whose yoga obsession I take with a grain of salt, as I do all yoga obsessions, and he suggested looking at what you could 10x. A very obvious answer to this is my blog readership, so if everyone reading this could simply click on the links to my posts 10 times instead of 1 (or 100 times instead of 10 if you're creepily already reading my posts 10 times to memorize them), I can hit that goal. Thank you in advance. Momentary shoutout for this blog: I hit a record number of posts last year with 27. Also, someone told me it was hilarious and inspirational which was in the running for the greatest compliment received in 2016.* I should have a Podcast.

Speaking of which, while my goal is not to have a Podcast, I am breaking tradition by stating a real, tangible goal: to build a business plan. I'm not going to pressure myself to start said business, but I will do the work prior to launching. Or at least read a book about building a business. I may start a blog segment called Anna Builds a Business. And not to give away any spoilers, but the sole product may be an Anna bobblehead with an obviously huge dome that laughs when you walk past it. Coming to your office workspace, 2018.

* Also, I played tennis.
* Next to, of course, the comparison between Elle Woods and me

For inquiring minds:

2015 Goals
2014 Goals

Monday, December 26, 2016

My Favorite Christmas Traditions

Being an only child would have sucked. It's Christmas morning, and I'm the only one at my parents' house. It's eerily quiet. And my dad didn't build a fire, because it's not worth it for an audience of two, so there's no crackle. And I can't find the Bose speaker, so it's even more quiet.

Christmas as a child was magical. We spent Christmas Eve with Mom's side of the family. When we got home, we read the Christmas story, which I half listened to, but mostly wanted to go to bed so Christmas could come faster. I woke up around eight o'clock and walked down to see the glorious tree adorned with gifts. It was pointless to wake up early, because Julie and Gail were too-cool-teenagers, and we had to drag them out of bed at ten o'clock. Do you know how many seven year olds wait until ten o'clock to open presents? Not many. My mom made Christmas rolls, so Lydia, Philip, and I ate those as we waited. One year, she couldn't find the recipe and it was a near tragedy. Traditions were not meant to be broken.

We lined up for a picture - one normal, and one posing at the beginning of a race. Mom took the photo, and we were off to open our stockings. Stockings ended at age 25 or after your first year of marriage, whichever came first, much to the dismay of my eldest sister, Julie. Really, though, the stockings were great, full of essentials - socks, bras, underwear, makeup. I realized this year I may have to actually buy adult socks for myself, something I have never done. I don't even know where to begin. Where are socks sold?

Mom stalked us as we opened our gifts, collecting the wrapping paper and throwing it away before we were finished opening the present. She was not about to let the morning make her house a mess. Secretly, she was also itching to take down the Christmas tree as it was starting to shed needles at this point, but she allowed it to stay up through Christmas day. We thanked her then threw in a thank you to Dad, though he had no idea what we were getting. He asked to see our gifts, though, and at least feigned enthusiasm as we showed him our new sweater. I can't imagine he was very excited, but he certainly liked seeing us happy. Mom usually had one present tucked away - a little something extra she just couldn't resist in the generous spirit of the season. We gave Mom and Dad a gift, but it never compared to everything they gave us.

Before Grandpa got sick, he and Grandma came each year and spent some of the morning with us. They smiled and laughed as we showed them our favorite presents. We went to their house to have lunch (at one o'clock sharp - hurry up Julie and Gail) with the rest of the Navatsyk clan and get one last Christmas present from Grandma and Grandpa. They always gave us a card with a little bit of extra cash in it, too, which I thought was very generous because there were so many of us and their house was so small. Hearts and tummies full, we went home, and from a young age, I knew I was lucky to be able to enjoy the day with gifts and a family that was so loving.

We've broken many traditions this year in the absence of other siblings - thanks for getting married, everyone. No Christmas rolls. No picture. I didn't even open presents at my house. We went to Gail and Mitch's and enjoyed the mayhem that is four children on Christmas morning. The clan now has a small arsenal of Nerf guns, and their home is a veritable war zone waiting to happen which makes for endless entertainment as long as you stay out of the line of fire as Mitch learned.

But not every tradition was broken. Mother was still extremely generous, Father still feigned interest in my boots, and Grandma still hosted Christmas lunch. I still love seeing my family. And Christmas Eve, as we finished an episode of some Netflix original series about a sheriff in the Pacific Northwest, I requested Dad read the Christmas story, even if it was only to an audience of two.

We read from both Matthew and Luke 2, and this remains my favorite verse: "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord."* Now is the point where I add a small insightful comment that really humbles you. I don't have one. But I do love that verse, and I love that it hits me the same way every year. Simply, how blessed am I that in spite of all my faults, or because of them, God thought I was worth saving? And that my mom is such a good buyer of gifts.

Total side note, but as I was looking for a Christmas morning picture, my mom showed me this:

I mean, come on, that face screams conqueror of the world.

Merry Christmas, all!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

909 Packard and My Favorite Funky Friday

It was the first day of Kindergarten. I was huddled by the big tree on the playground, scared to talk to anyone. Stephen came up to me and introduced himself. "Hi, I'm Stephen." I looked up. "Hi, I'm Anna." "You want to be friends?" he asked. We've been friends for 23 years and counting.

Many times since, I've lamented it's not always that easy to make friends. Especially with guys, and especially as a single chica. Sure, it's easy at the beginning, but there's often underlying emotions, expectations. You ask how his day is, and he hears, "I want to jump on you." Or he asks how your day is, and you hear, "I want to take you to dinner. And buy you roses. And chocolates. And tell you you're beautiful.*" More or less. Point is - it can get complicated. But every once in awhile, people come along and remind me it can still be that easy.

It was the first Friday of school. Our section just finished last in the MBA games, but we dominated flag football, which I’m pretty sure is the lead indicator of athleticism. My personal fave of the highlight reel was Joe catching a pass, thinking he had scored, and celebrating as if he had just caught the winning TD against the Buckeyes. We all yelled at him to get to the line of scrimmage, as his flag had been yanked at the two yard line, and we had five seconds to score before halftime. But I also smiled, because his eyes had lit up like a boy at Christmas.

As I was leaving, I stopped to say goodbye to my teammates. Ryan told me they would be playing beer pong later, and while I’m terrible at the game, I thought that was nice and told myself I would go. I was determined to make friends at school, and tapping into my twenty-one year old self seemed an excellent avenue to do so.

Nine o'clock rolled around, and I walked over to 909 Packard for the second time. The first had been a welcome barbecue for our section, and I credit the house's extreme hospitality as one of the reasons our group of classmates is so close. I peeked in the front door, and it was not nearly as crowded as the barbecue. In fact, there were just five housemates eating dinner. I was nervous. What if they didn't want me there? I could just go back to my couch and binge watch Netflix. I told the butterflies in my stomach to fly away and knocked on the door, because I was going to make friends, darn it.*

They graciously invited me to pull up a chair and join their meal. No one else ever came, but we spent the evening reliving the nineties, belting out everything from Kelly Clarkson to Everclear. And leading the sing-a-longs was Joe.

Joe is captivating. He will regale an entire room with his opinions of Matthew McConaughey's unparalleled greatness, all the reasons the Dayton Flyers are a team worth rooting for, or a humiliating story from his past.* He's persuasive. He can convince a room of grown men to chug milk for good luck. And he's contagious. He loves life to the last drop and brings a smile to those around him, whether it's the hockey team he helped coach or a group of MBA students reliving their youth on a Saturday night at Circus. Like many at Ross, he's smart, driven, and humble. And he's an inspiring fantasy football coach who pushed his team to a victory against Sugga Momma Bears, a bet on which was the catalyst for this post.

But I would have written it, anyways, because most of all, he and his housemates made my transition to a new stage of life so very simple and entertaining. For that, I am extremely thankful. And I think we will still friends in 23 years.*

* Playing gender stereotypes, I know.
* Little did I know I would be spending many a funky Friday night there, and they continue to tolerate me - even when I request my favorite song fifteen times in a row.
* I think he may have a wider range of embarrassing stories than I, which is an impressive feat.
* Even if it's only him rubbing a Cleveland loss in my face.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Thank you, God. Love, a Cleveland Fan.

We were all exhausted, and we were too nervous to acknowledge it. Fourth quarter. Under two minutes remaining. In the back of our minds, there were two competing thoughts - "We're gonna win!" and "We're gonna blow it!" My mom took a sip of my beer. My mom never sips beer, especially Coors Light.

Game tied.

Shoot. It's a breakaway. Curry passes to Iguadola. Easy layup - Unless! James out of nowhere - like a radiant, massive gazelle. You gotta be kidding me! That's definitely going to be on sports science. No time to consider - we're still sick to our stomachs.

Kyrie at the top of the key. Him and Curry - mono a mono. He pulls up for the three. Swish!!! Holy cheese. Holy cheese. We're up by 3. Less than a minute. Okay. Keep it together. A lot could go wrong. Ball's in Curry's hands. Wow! Kevin Love playing D! Better late than never.

Curry with a ridiculous jump shot that has a miraculous 87% hit rate. Not this time!! Deep breath.

Twenty seconds and we're taking it up the floor. They have to foul James to get into the bonus. Cavs inbound. Kyrie dishes to James for the decisive dunk and - bahh no dice! But a foul. James lays on the floor with 10 seconds left. I think he was just soaking in the moment.

I double high five my sister. "Gail, I think we're gonna do this! This could really happen!" James misses the first. Makes the second. That's all we need. But four with 10 seconds isn't comfortable. They could hit a three, and we could foul. They could hit a layup, steal the inbound and score a tres for the win. Continue breathing.

Waariors inbound. Curry throws up a prayer. No foul! It misses!

BAHHHHHHH!!!! My niece and nephew jumped. Everyone hugged, high-fived, and said the words that none of us had been able to shout - "We're champions!"

This week, I sat on the couch watching game seven, extra innings. We were ahead in the series 3 - 1, and I ignored the pessimism. The map that showed every state but Ohio cheering for the Cubs; those who reminded me of irony and Cleveland's 1-3 comeback; those who touted the random statistic that the last time there were two NFL ties, the Indians lost the World Series in Game 7.* This was our year. Down two pitchers, down our best player, we were the real Cinderella story.

The runs on a passed ball, the two run homer, Lindor's third out in the ninth. It was destiny. Tying run is on second. Series ending run is at bat. Walk off homer. Right now.

And then, a groundout to third. Game over. Cubs win. Another game seven heartbreaker. People will tell me, "At least you lost to the Cubs,"* but that's not what brings me solace.

Twenty-eight-year-old was nearly as devastated as 9-year-old Anna, with one small exception. In the back of my mind, I remembered, "We are a city of champions."

I wrote you this prayer after the Cavs lost game four. I'm not sure how much of a role you played in the historic comeback, but for whatever role you did serve, thank you.

I'm currently taking a Management Organization course (the first class I missed because I was attending game six of the World Series), and a recent article discussed misaligned incentives. It provided many examples of areas in business and life where we ask for one thing and reward another, and As it relates to sports, the article claimed that while we promote team performance, we ultimately reward individual performance with scholarships, MVP accolades and the like.

I disagree. And I get it. There's are selfish, arrogant athletes who are only focused on themselves. But those exceptions aside, the ultimate reward, the prize that every athlete desires, more than individual prowess, is a championship. I imagine Lindor would give up his gold glove prospects for one more shot at the Cubbies.

My brother-in-law and dad coach the local high school football team that recently capped an undefeated season. They had the number one scoring offense in the state of Ohio, led by quarterback Benanati. When interviewed after the game, the quarterback did not speak to his individual performance, but humbly deferred credit. “If you saw the gaps, the holes that were open. I think they were 10 feet wide. It was just the blocking. Anyone could have done what I did tonight.” More than that, he's not satisfied with his stats - he, and everyone on the team - wants more.

Maybe that's what is so impressive - sports have figured out what businesses grapple with every day: how to award individual behavior while truly uniting everyone under the goal of a championship.

When the Cavs won, James didn't say, "This one's for me." He said, "This is for Cleveland." So thank you. For the excitement, the spirit, and the one thing that has eluded the Cleveland faithful for decades - a championship.*

* Seriously random statistic.
* How is that supposed to be comforting? We lost to a fan base from a city with three Stanley Cups and six NBA championships within the past 25 years that insists on crying about their one sports team suffering from title depravation.
* And then for reminding us we're still Cleveland with a game 7 loss.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

That Time I Got Picked up in NYC

Don’t worry. He didn’t actually pick me up.

I spent the last few days in New York, the concrete jungle where dreams are made, inspired by the lights. Last night, I met a friend of a friend with some potential career connections at the Honky Tonk.* Networking and such – you know, being a professional. Our time had come to an end, but Game 2* was live and my AirBnB did not have cable, so I opted to stay at our high top to watch.

I noticed a couple men eying the table, so being the generous person I am, I offered to switch places with them. They were standing by a single bar stool. “Well, actually, we were just going to come sit with you,” they laughed, and I allowed it. They would ask me later if that was the response I secretly wanted to elicit. I told them, no, I was perfectly content watching the game in silence. You're men in suits, and this is the World Series.

They both worked in the fintech world. While I have a limited concept of finance, I actually grasp fintech, so I managed to sound reasonably intelligent. I was my usual charming, witty self, oozing class, yelling at the TV.

Politics was mentioned once. Ughhh. I can’t wait until the elections are over. One was an avid supporter of Hilary and one was a hesitant supporter of Trump. I took a neutral, silent stance to avoid arguments, as I find them quite unproductive.* When one insisted that any Trump supporter was crazy, I was compelled to say, “I understand why reasonable people are voting for him,” mostly because I don’t like sweeping generalizations. He kept going; I let him speak his mind. My energies were focused on the game.

The better looking one was married, but, of course, he still managed to get in a few light arm touches and leg grazes to boost his ego while he acted as wingman. Eventually, though, his role played, his time had come, and he bid the two of us farewell.

Ahh the game as old as time. There we were, talking about the butt loads of money he had made, Indians still stinking up the joint, and me planning my escape. I don’t mean to sell the man short. He seemed very intelligent and quite kind to this point. Nor am I getting on a moral high ground. If he had looked a little more like Ryan Reynolds or Kyrie Irving, this story may have ended quite differently, with me planning my life in New York instead of regaling you with this riveting tale.

As it was, he didn’t, but unfortunately, the game compelled me to stay a bit longer. There’s no clock in baseball, and I wasn’t about to miss a rally. His phone rang and he ignored it. It was Lydia, a broad of interest* I imagine, a quality backup. I wanted to tell him he was wasting his time and should probably answer it, but I was distracted by the plate of nachos that were placed before me. They looked super tasty.

I decided my move was to text a friend to join our conversation, effectively relaying the hint while still being able to indulge and watch the game. I took a nacho, tickled with my genius.

Then my suitor called me a racist. I was pretty focused on the food, so I’m not positive the context, but I believe he was alluding to my previous comment regarding reasonable people supporting Trump. Slightly taken aback, I calmly told him I was not a racist.

He repeated himself. I went into more detail, elaborating on the various reasons I am not a racist.

Then he insisted. And then, fist deep in nachos, I went white girl crazy. If you were wondering, my white girl crazy includes words like: “extrapolated, non-sequitur, presumptuous, ignorant, disgusting,” with a couple more forceful ones for emphasis. Three minutes and ten nachos later, it’s safe to say he will be very hesitant before casually tossing around the word racist like it’s a term of endearment.

Shortly thereafter, Lydia called again.* This time, he answered. I texted my friend. His services were no longer required. The Indians lost. The nachos were gone – incidentally, my aggressive consumption of said nachos may have been another catalyst for his departure.

I stopped by 7/11, grabbed a Snickers, hopped in an Uber and went home.

I’m still mad at myself for the nachos and Snickers and my fingers are puffy, so I hope the story brought you entertainment, and perhaps solace to all those people in relationships that you are no longer operating in this world. But I promise, as long as I mingle, I will continue to share. Though gentlemen, please don’t let the promise of endlessly entertaining stories keep you from trying to remove me from that world. It’s a jungle out there.

*I realized writing this sentence that the Honky Tonk could be the place where he has connections rather than the place where we met, but I didn’t want to change it.

*If you don’t know to which game 2 I’m referring, we should reevaluate our friendship.

*Unless it’s an argument about how overrated Steph Curry is or the validity of the NCAA. Then I’ll argue for hours.

* (or BOI, as I like to call us)

* come on woman, the guy didn’t return your first call, play it cool.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

My Love Affair with Restaurants

I was fourteen, and my dad's close friend opened the Hilltopper, a local sports bar and restaurant. My older sisters had worked at the Hilltopper Cafe on the town square, so of course, I wanted to follow in their footsteps. I always wanted to follow in their footsteps, but just like when I started playing tennis so I could hit with Julie and Gail, my foray in the restaurant industry would be last much longer than theirs.

I don't remember much about my first day - I think it was a Sunday brunch shift. I remember a lot, though. The twenty-five hour weeks while going to school and tennis practices. Sweet talking the cooks for scraps and mistakes from the kitchen. The owner's wife's perfume. The slow nights when servers wished they could tip me more and the nights when I made a whopping $15/hour. Wing nights frequented by the high school sports teams - those were my favorite nights. So many cute boys. The quiet after the storm of a whirlwind weekend.

I remember my first experience confronting authority. The quarterback of the football team joined me as a host, and during one of our casual conversations, it came to my attention that he was making $6.75, whereas I, who had worked there a year and a half, was making $6.25. My indignant teenage stomach churned as I walked into my boss's office and requested a raise based on the merits of my performance. What did I want? Seven dollars an hour. What did I get? $6.75.

I remember Matthew. He was your quintessential server, loved by every patron. He wore crazy socks and talked with flamboyant flair, and he occasionally made the comment that made you do a double take: nude sun bathing, elicit details on foreplay between him and his girlfriend that would compromise the integrity of this blog if quoted. When you went to a Christian middle school and the most scandalous thing you did was write notes on the back of the bus, these lines stick with you. There are others, too: when everyone told their most public sex story, talked about the hardest drugs they had done: most stuck with weed, but a couple dabbled with the hard stuff on occasion. The many times I sat with them on their smoke breaks as they cussed out an idiot customer. My virgin ears lost their innocence.

Right about now, my mother deeply regrets allowing me to work in a restaurant. I don't, though. Because they were my friends, my outlet from my high school bubble. When a woman called me incompetent and I had my first and last breakdown in the back of the building, they hugged me and told me where she could stick it. And they were real.

That's what I love about restaurants - no pretenses, no facade. And if you didn't like it, they couldn't care less.

I was 18 and a freshmen in college. At the end of my second semester, I became bored with the monotony of school so I applied to the Cheesecake Factory. I worked in the bakery for the next year, pulling the typical back to back 30 hour weekend double, sustaining myself on espresso shots and cheesecake - my record was five slices in a shift, and if you know the nutrition facts - which I did - it's easy to understand how I got to a point where my button popped off my pants.

Working in the bakery was much more difficult than serving on a busy night, because while you have a finite number of tables as a server, behind the counter, you have an endless number of tickets to fill. Janelle was my lady. She was the most seasoned baker, a feisty woman who no one would dare confront. And Darnell. He was beautiful, quiet, and probably thought we were crazy. We half-jokingly encouraged him to take one for the team when our manager wasn't in a relationship. She was always in a much better mood with a man in her life.

I became a server after a year, and the Cheesecake Factory remained my escape from the collegiate bubble, a relatively homogeneous world where everyone is enjoying their safe space. When I passed through those doors in my all white and tie - what a terrible uniform - there were all kinds. There was the server with the attitude, never quite happy with how many young people or foreigners were sat in the section. The one who was always in the weeds, no matter how slow the restaurant. The jaded bartender who could tell you story after story of his exploits and the exploits of those across the bar. The sleezeball who inevitably hit on every new hostess.

There was the charmer, who could convince a table to buy a turd flavored cocktail. The one who talks about leaving - moving west and starting over. I always hoped they follow that dream, and sometimes they did. There was the immigrant cook and the one who may or may not have done a line of cocaine before coming into work. And those who saw their work as a fine craft. There were the lifers. Then there was me.

I was 22 and had decided that my 9 to 5 simply wasn't fulfilling. I submitted applications over the weekend, got a job at Commonwealth, went into my six month review and quit. They understood - some people couldn't handle the competitive atmosphere of the company, one told me. What are you going to do? they asked. I said I was going to take my college degree and work at a restaurant. My first night I followed Adrienne, an eccentric woman who knew who she was and embraced every inch of it. I spent the next three months working full time through the summer hours, building relationships with the most honest - sometimes shamelessly so - people I had met since moving to Charlottesville. After being in an atmosphere with young professionals trying to prove themselves, it was beyond refreshing. I continued to work part time for the next four years, because I needed that escape from my professional bubble.

Because when you serve people, you have to leave everything at the door. Guests don't care about your massive amounts of school work, your annoying boss or terrible day, the idiot who didn't call. They came to be entertained, to have an experience, and it's your job to forget yourself and give it to them.

When I wasn't with the customers, I was able to spend time with these amazing people from all different walks of life. They were immigrants, students, professionals, retirees. Some saw their work as an art, some as a means to end, and some were just trying to pay monthly bills or get to the next beer.

It's a rare breed, the restaurant crowd. We're flawed, like everyone else, but there lies an unequivocal authenticity among us.

I may not ever work at a restaurant again, although I've said that before and been wrong. Regardless, what I learned from my passionate foray - working in a fast paced environment, dealing with difficult personalities and embracing my own, reading people, and learning from people who are very different than you - I will carry that with me forever.