Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Laff of the Day #6

I share an office phone with Joe the Banker. It's a pretty ghetto setup. One office, two phone lines, five people.

Also, our phones are just phones. They don't have speaker phone, mute, hold, voicemail or volume control. They look like this:

Technically if you turn the phone upside down there is a knob that you can slide to adjust the receiver volume. Or maybe it's the ringer volume.

Either way, the knob doesn't work.

Why don't we have modern day phone technology? It has something to do with the grinding bureaucracy we work for at NYU, and how it's also woven into the grinding bureaucracy of Bellevue Hospital.

Today someone called for me, and Joe the Banker picked up.

"Hello, Peds I.D.," he said. We work in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, or peds I.D. for short. And it's pronounced "peeds I.D."

"Sure, one moment," J-the-B said, and motioned for me to pick up the line on my phone. Yes, the old-fashioned one-phone, two-lines setup.

"This is Justina," I said. It was the other project coordinator, the Noob. She was giggling.

"Just...wanted...to...let...you...know," she gasped between giggles, "...you...forgot...to...include...an...attachment...with...your...last...email."

"I know, I'm sending it out again," I said. "And stop laughing at me. It's not funny."

"I'm...not...laughing...at...you," the Noob said, still giggling.

"Whatever. I'm resending the attachment," I said. I was sort of annoyed that she thought it was so funny that I had forgotten to attach a file to my email.

A few minutes later she emailed me the following note:

Sorry, I wasn't laughing about the attachment; I've done that a million times. I was laughing because the person who answered the phone said, 'Hello, this is P. Diddy.' 

Don't you have your own phone line?

And that's how Joe the Banker became P. Diddy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Midwestern Hospitality

Spent the weekend in St Paul, MN for a Peace Corps friend’s wedding, mostly marveling at how nice all the people working in the service industry were. I expected everyone to be rude and abusive to me, and no one was, except this one lady at the open bar who growled, “NEXT ORDER!” without looking at me.

“Can I get another glass of the zin?” I said, pushing through the nasty the way I always do in New York.

She looked at me, startled, and said, “Oh, I’m sorry, honey. I was talking to my assistant back there. But here, let me go ahead and get that wine for you.”

Brad was standing next to me and said, “Well, in New York she would have been talking to you.”

I was also amazed at how many trees and other green things were growing all over the place, and how all the empty spaces in front of houses were real parking spots that no one needed because they had already found a parking spot.

And, I was amazed at how many fake blonde women there were, mainly middle-aged, using the same honey blonde shade of hair dye.

“I even noticed it on my flight into St. Paul,” I said. “All the flight attendants had the same color hair.”

“The fake blonde is not a Minnesota thing,” Tim said. “It’s a most of the rest of the country thing, except for New York and certain parts of California.”

“Really? Where have I been all this time?” I said.

“In New York and certain parts of California,” he said.

“I do remember bleached blonde hair being all the rage in Chicago back in the 90s,” I said. “But now it seems like the thing to do is be a dyed brunette with long straight hair.”

“Well, you’ll probably start seeing the brunette thing in the rest of the country in another 15 years, because that’s how long it takes for everyone else to catch on,” he said.

Fashion predictions from a water and sanitation engineer from Phoenix, ladies and gentlemen.

Having every single service industry person be totally nice, helpful and competent towards me, and every other person I met be friendly, made me realize that many New Yorkers are just not nice people. I mean, there’s really no excuse for that level of nasty, hateful abuse towards everyone around you when you don’t even know them. In fact, there’s no excuse for it when you do know someone. It doesn’t take any more brain cells or calories to be courteous, although most people who are distasteful are also able to spare a few thousand calories and not need a snack afterwards.

It is true, according to my Minnesotan friends, that Minnesotans and Midwesterners in general tend to be non-confrontational and polite, which I’m told leads to passive aggressiveness since it’s not natural to be that nice all the time.

It was my first trip to Minnesota and I definitely arrived with certain expectations of back-woodsiness. I’m not even sure why I came toting such strong biases. It might be because I’ve befriended quite a few Minnesotans and adopted-Minnesotans in the last five years or so. I felt a bit impatient with the lack of fresh vegetables and non-fried options on the menus, and assumed that the only beer on tap anywhere would be American mass-distributed brands like Bud and Coors. And well, those were on tap, but there were a few local microbrews as well.

I also noticed that so far Minneapolis has been spared the scourge of the skinny jeans fashion craze that is tragically sweeping New York City and traumatizing me and my disturbingly flat ass these days. And I’m referring to the women’s fashion. I doubt skinny jeans for men will ever make it to the Twin Cities, since the entire weekend I didn’t see a single gay man, which is only to say that I didn’t get out that much while I was there. But if I had traveled the same social trajectory in New York, more than half of them would have been gay and/or wearing skinny jeans.

So, thank you, Minnesota, for a wholesome Midwestern weekend full of reminders that the entire world is not New York, for good (mostly) and for bad (a teeny tiny bit).

Friday, May 7, 2010

New York Moments and Laff of the Day #5

Jetting over the amber waves of grain on my way to St Paul, MN.

Today has been a constant stream of examples of why New Yorkers should be banned from working in the service industry: They possess the evolutionarily impossible combination of incompetence and a nasty attitude, which you’d expect to eradicate itself from the gene pool by virtue of having no social or biological value. And yet, here we decent people are, putting up with this crap while Nature laughs in our face and spends eons trying to get it right.

I went to check in for my flight and there was no line at all. In fact, all of Terminal 4 at JFK was eerily empty except for rent-a-cops and a few people traveling to a Carribean destination. I had my choice of two equally bored-looking check-in counter staff, and chose the woman because she was young and pretty. Or maybe because the dude was young and ugly. How’s that for successful marketing by Sun Country Airlines?

Any evidence of prudent hiring ended there because the woman rolled her eyes at me when I approached, presumably because it meant she had to do her job. No smile, no fake greeting or fake wishes for a nice flight.

“How many bags are you checking today?” was the only thing she said to me, in the same voice that someone would use to say, “My brain seeped out of my ears years ago, and then I used it to make muffins for my neighbors so I’m incapable of feeling anything but entitlement and disdain.”

Peet’s Coffee in Terminal 4: I ordered a regular Earl Grey from two reasonably friendly baristas. My tea came in a paper cup placed inside another cup placed inside a third cup, which seemed like overkill protection against my burning my hands. She had also put one of those paper rings around the last cup, which sent the burn-fearing buffalo over the cliff's edge.

Then I realized that she had given me two teabags, which made me happy until I started sipping the bitter, tannic, acidic hot drink that would never burn my hands.

For a company that prides itself on being green, Peet's Coffee sure knows how to hire employees who mindlessly ignore their corporate values.

I passed a second Peet’s Coffee on the way to the gate, and stopped to ask for more hot water in my tea because it was too strong.

“Can I get a little more hot water in here?” I asked the barista, pointing to my cup. She stared at me with no smile, no reply, and no firing synapses. Then she dragged her inexplicably heavy yet empty soul to the pastry case, heaved her 1 lb arm with all her spiritual might, and pulled out a pastry for another customer.

After ringing up the other customer as fast as a snail might, she stared at me with the same slack-jawed, mouth-breathing look of hatred, which I had earlier mistaken for low IQ. I still didn’t know whether the answer to my question was yes or no, even after she took my cup from me.

“I’m too lazy and entitled to muster the brain cells to answer your question,” she pantomimed with her lack of a will to live.

After all this, I was left thinking, “Aren’t there health codes that say you’re not supposed to refill a customer’s already-used cup?”

Who knows. I could start an entire blog of stories of dismal customer service in New York. I could call it New York Moments.

There was the one time I was at that sock store on St. Marks Place. They have a huge variety of socks and other apparel for your feet, but everything is overpriced.

I asked the cashier if there were any discounts for buying several pairs at once.

The answer choices are:
a. Yes, or
b. No.

The cashier was a big, ugly, hairy bridge-and-tunnel-type, which is odd considering he works at a sock store on St. Marks, a block packed with touristy tattoo parlors, head shops and Japanese restaurants.

Anyway, the ugly cashier’s butt crack said, “GRUNT HSSSSSSSS.”

Then his ugly face got uglier as he scowled at me and said, “There are people who come in here and buy ten pairs of socks and never ask for a discount.”

So now a customer doesn’t even have the right to ask if a store policy exists that might encourage her to develop a favorable opinion of the business and perhaps come back and spend more money.

Instead, she gets grunted at by an ugly guy’s ass crack and then told to shut the hell up for trying to be a savvy customer in a store whose existence depends on people who are willing to shamelessly consume unnecessary products like overpriced socks.

Apparently this moronic business model works in New York.

Wow, I just came across this story:


Based on the article, this could be the same guy. But I'm not sure because I swear the one I talked to was older, fatter and even uglier than Marty Rosen. You'd have to show me a picture of his ugly grunting butt crack, then I could tell you.

Imagine, two nasty people working at one sock shop.

Laff of the Day #5, from Cindy with an S. "I was flying with a friend once and she fell asleep. They came by with snacks and left hers on her tray table. The cookies were so good that I decided to try to eat hers while she was sleeping. She’d never know the difference. But when I started reaching for her cookies she woke up.

Darn it! I wanted those cookies!”

Gypsy Cab Charm. “Where you come from, honey?” he asked.

“Texas,” I said. “You?”

“Bangladesh,” he said.

“Oh, where everyone got arsenic poisoning from contaminated wells all over the country thanks to the worst public health disaster in history,” I almost said, calling up the only thing I know about Bangladesh.

Instead I said, “Oh, nice.”

“I want move to Texas, start good business. My friend have gas station in Texas, make so much money,” he said.

“You don’t make good money driving cabs?”

“Ha! No, no money from this. I work so long, then go home and sleep, then go back to work,” he said. “No good money. You married?”

“No,” I said.

“Let’s go to Texas, you and me, start a business,” he said. ‘I’m not married, no girlfriend, no wife. Let’s go to Texas.”

“Oh, no that’s okay,” I said. I had better things to do, like slit my wrists.

“Think about it, honey,” he said.

I already had.