Friday, September 28, 2007

A Field Guide to Not Being Skeevy

Today's Tell Me About It chat is discussing how appropriate it is to approach women, and how to do so without being a total creep.

I think it all comes down to one thing: women are not public property. Men are in no way entitled to a woman's attention, conversation, or phone number.

I generally don't mind being approached. I just say a pleasant thank you and that I'm off the market, and go about my way. There are two situations that absolutely creep me out, though. The first is when a guy just ogles me without ever saying a word to me, and the second is when the guy won't take no for an answer. No matter how many times it works in the movies, persistence is not cute in real life.

So, skeevy guys, let's say you want to reform your woman-repelling, restraining order-attracting ways. Start by taking my advice on how not to be a creep.

First, don't stare at women. Do you like to be stared at? Especially don't stare at women in an enclosed space, such as the Metro. Don't stare at a woman who is traveling by herself at night. It's creepy, and the poor woman is forced to worry about whether you are going to follow her off the train.

If the woman is reading, listening to music, or otherwise engaged, don't talk to her. Assume she would rather be left alone. If she responds to your scintillating words in "uh-huhs" and avoids eye contact with you, she wants you to go away. If she explicitly asks you to leave her alone, leave her alone. Moreover, move. On the Metro, switch cars. Having a guy hang around after you have asked him to go away is really skeevy.

And, OK, rejection sucks. Nobody enjoys being rejected, and I agree that it's unfair that men do most of the approaching in our society. I imagine it's really tiring and deflates the ego. But if you're getting rejected over and over, it's probably because you're creepy.

But see it from her side. Maybe she just doesn't think you're all that cute. Or she finds her book more interesting. Or, maybe, she just feels like having some quiet time to herself. (Again, women aren't public property, and we have the right to be left in peace.) Or, you've done something to offend her.

And what are those offensive things? Directing all conversation toward the boobs. Commenting on chest, behind, or really any body part. Asking really intrusive personal questions. Examining her stomach at length, then asking repeatedly if she works out (this one really happened to me). Next time, try a simple, "Hi. How are you?" Polite, restrained, gives her a way out ("Fine, thanks, but I don't feel like chatting.")

And, last, but definitely not least, NEVER tell a woman to smile. We hate the Smile Guys. Women aren't public property. Men have no right to intrude on our personal space by commanding us to smile. We have no obligation to be smiley or ornamental or pretty. Women are just as entitled to bad moods and bad days as men are.

In fact, at last summer's National Convention of Non-Hideous Women, we passed a unanimous resolution to find all Smile Guys and stab them in the eyeballs with our eyebrow tweezers. So don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Should I Be A Mite More Anonymous?

Most, if not all, of the blogosphere is anonymous. I have decidedly mixed feelings about this.

My web address is my name, and most people who know me realize I have a blog. I work on the assumption that opinions don't count if you lack the nerve to put your name on them. Anonymity is a refuge for those who lack the courage of their convictions. It's graffiti on the wall.

But the potential drawbacks are tremendous. And I can totally understand and sympahtize with why other people have anonymous blogs. I am at risk for all sorts of unpleasant things. The risk that concerns me most is stalking or other harassment. But, since my traffic is pretty low, I haven't had to worry about that so far.

The second drawback of stamping my name on this thing is that I occasionally tick people off. Aside from the Great State Department Shutdown of '06, my blogging has offended fans of the German Ambassador's wife, 7th Heaven, and insecure men everywhere.

The final drawback concerns me the least. In this Age of the Interweb, potential employers can turn up absurd amounts of personal information in a single swoop. I find this unsettling. I also find it unsettling that I could lose out on a job because of this fairly innocuous blog. So many bloggers feel they have to stay anonymous to protect their livelihoods. Provided the blogger keeps mum about his or her job, who really cares? Why should the employer even care?

But this last drawback is fine by me. I figure if an employer is stodgy or intrusive enough to deny me for a job simply because I have a blog, then I probably don't want to work there anyway. I like my life as it is, and am disinclined to change myself to appease the suits.

So why am I all alone out here? Why are there so many anonymous blogs out there? I'd especially like to hear from people with anonymous blogs. Is it fear of stalking? Fear of retribution from employers? Or, and this one scares me, so you can say whatever you want without consequences?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Ancient Chinese Art of All That's Wrong With Me

This month's domino included an article about feng shui (as in, the Chinese art of rearranging your furniture to achieve bliss). The article included a chart of the corners of the home, and what each one represents. I made the mistake of matching the chart to a floor plan of my apartment. So now I have ancient Chinese reasons for all that's wrong with my life. In list form, here we go:

1. Knowledge: The kitchen. OK, I know how to cook. That's knowledge. This is working out well so far.
2. Friendship: Right about where the TV is. Mainly I use the TV to play Grand Theft Auto and Karaoke Revolution with friends, so far so good. Until we get to...
3. Money: the bar, which has a fairly extensive liquor collection. OK, so the Chinese have told me why I'm always broke and a bit of a lush. I have booze in my money corner! I can deal.
4. Reputation: The balcony. My friend Jason was over for dinner last night, and we tried to figure out how a balcony corresponds to reputation. His ideas centered around flashing people, mine, well, I didn't have any ideas. So reputation was kind of a wash.
5. Marriage: This corner features a whole lot of clutter (see Corner of Conundrum post), including the box of stuff my ex dropped off. Spooky. My views on marriage are a bit cluttered and complicated, so I guess that works.
6. Children and Creativity: The bed. That's really scary. I feel like I ought to invest in some quadruple-strength industrial birth control and shoot my ovaries full of radiation.
7. Career: The bathroom. I am seriously not kidding. Insert your own "career in the toilet" joke here. Though the added perk is that visitors to my home, instead of going to the restroom, can visit the "career corner."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

In Praise of...Praise?

The Gen Y invasion of the workplace has been written about until even I'm sick of it. Apparently, kids today love iPods, won't pay their dues, and sass their managers.

At some point in the last couple of years, an important axis tilt occurred. I used to be one of the youngest people in any given office, now, I am usually one of the oldest. My town has surrendered to the twentysomethings. The average D.C. office looks like Logan's Run, minus the shiny futuristic jumpsuits. Everyone my own age has apparently given up and moved elsewhere.

So what does this mean in my day-to-day life? Mostly, that I receive fawning praise for the smallest of accomplishments. A colleague my own age or older will respond to a completed task with, "well done," "good work," or the always-appropriate "thank you." However, younger colleagues will respond to a completed task with something akin to unbridled joy. No matter how menial the task, I will be treated as if I rescued a tiny furry little kitten out of a burning tree, falling and breaking all four limbs in the process. I have had to forcibly block people from patting me on the head.

I'm all for praise and appreciation, but too much of it is overkill. It's also demeaning. Bouncing with joy because someone typed a letter without major mishap implies that the person who did so is incapable of doing anything more than typing letters.

Is this a generational divide? Do these endlessly studied, coddled, and indulged young professionals respond to everything with the same inflated levels of praise to which they've become accustomed? Or is excessive praise a byproduct of professional inexperience? Or, most likely, am I just a bitter old crank?

Friday, September 21, 2007


I was in the presence of greatness last night. And greatness is ornery and crazy. I saw Little Richard perform live at a free concert near my office.

He talked a good deal more than he sang, but that was okay. Among the subjects about which he shared his wisdom: leg pains, an offer of speedy reimbursement for anyone who would destroy the camera of the guy who kept trying to film him, and that it's better for ladies to be big than small, because, "The dog buries bones, y'know." This comment punctuated an effort to have the "biggest, fattest black lady, the biggest, fattest white lady, and the biggest, fattest Mexi lady," to join him on stage and dance to "Old Time Rock n' Roll." He requested that they dance so much they "break the stage." Requests were punctuated with a lightning-fast "shut up!" to hecklers and would-be comedians.

Aw. I cannot wait until I am 75 years old and can say whatever I want, whenever I want. I want to be old and ornery and crazy.

As for the music, he's still got it. He put on a great show, opening with "Good Golly, Miss Molly." It was loud, intense, and almost terrifying. He even threw in a country song, just to keep us on our toes.

The opening act, The Jewels, was a whole lot of fun. The Jewels are a local girl group who have been performing together for more than 40 years. They even came out in girl group-style matching outfits (though, as a nod to their age, the outfits were tasteful jackets and slacks, rather than sparkly little minidresses). The Jewels shared a series of classics, and even got the audience to jump in on "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" These ladies were having the time of their lives.

I only wish the crowd had been as cool as the performers. A few folks were really into it, danced, sang along, and were there to have the best Thursday night they'd had in years. But they were outweighed by the people with no sense of show etiquette. Late arrivals muscled and elbowed their way to the front and blocked the views of others with self-entitled impunity. One clearly drunk man shouted that he was there to "see the little f----t play piano." Because using that word worked out great for Isaiah, y'know. Also, Little Richard isn't gay. He just likes his jackets extra sparkly. Also, he isn't little, he's 5'10". (Thank you, IMDB!)

Worst and weirdest of all was the older guy standing behind me. He was really very white, yet wearing a giant Afro wig (I've seen fauxhawks before, but never a faux-fro). Man, that guy did not stop talking for over two hours. And, really, when someone talks that much they rarely have anything to say.

Another guy shoved his way up next to me, and repeatedly held up his cell phone camera to take a photo of Little Richard. Once is fine, it's nice to have a photo of an event. But you do not need to wave your arm in my face a dozen times. I eventually got ornery and told him to back off and please stop blocking my view, and...he did. He vanished completely. It was awesome.

So, Little Richard, thank you. I'm not old just yet, but thanks for showing me how effective it is to be ornery. Also, for all you bitchy little would-be bad boys of rock'n'roll (looking at you, Pete Doherty and Ryan Adams), take a good hard look at Little Richard. You'll never be as bad as he is or half as stylish, so kindly stop trying.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Do I Own My Stuff, or Does My Stuff Own Me?

I live in a cute little studio apartment. Mostly, my place is homey, welcoming, organized and adorable (I'm bragging, yes, but people really love my apartment).

However, I have this little region I call the Corner of Conundrum. This is a small glass table, filled up with stuff. There is also stuff below, in front of, and to the left of the table. The "conundrum" is this: I have no idea why I own any of it.

Here are the usual contents of the Corner of Conundrum:
  1. Two ancient computer monitors (I don't even own a computer).
  2. Computer games (I don't own a computer).
  3. TV/VCR combo I borrowed from friends ages ago and have unsuccessfully attempted to sell on Craigslist on their behalf.
  4. Timesheets from every temp job I have held, ever, except for the two weeks I have not actually been paid for yet.
  5. Various paperwork related to all of the people I need to send money to.
  6. South of the Border memorabilia. Up to and including fireworks.
  7. Just about every issue, ever, of all of the decorating magazines I subscribe to.

And it gets worse. Last week my ex kindly dropped off a box of stuff Mama State had sent to him by mistake. So I now have the following extra items:

  1. Big neon blue painting of a creepy blue Cherokee dude's head. (Since I know my dad reads this blog: Dad, I know the painting is a family heirloom and valuable. That doesn't mean I want some creepy blue guy staring at me while I sleep. If I did, I'd date a member of the Blue Man Group.)
  2. A downright amazing assortment of low-thread-count full size sheets. I still have a full size bed, yes, but I have lovely delicate skin that can no longer abide low thread counts. Plus, all of those sheets coordinate with my former bedspread, which was bright pink. Bright pink velour. So it's not like these are tasteful sheets.
  3. A CB radio, which was a gift from my uncle (who also reads this blog). I don't have a car, so I don't need a CB, but I kind of like the fact that I own one. In case any of you were wondering, my call sign is Vixen. Skye's is Princess.
  4. A humidifier. I don't even recall ever purchasing one.
  5. Loads of college paperwork. I graduated more than nine years ago.
  6. A small sign which says, "If You've Got It, It Got There By Truck."

I think I may have reached a point where my stuff owns me, rather than the reverse. If I could just clear out the Corner, I could potentially have one or more of the following:

  1. A home office
  2. A dining nook
  3. A minor shred of sanity

I do like my comforting cocoon of clutter. I'm a nester. I can't live out of a suitcase for longer than a week, because it makes me very depressed. I like stuff.

I use every inch of my closet space, including a section called "The Archives." The Archives include clothes I get sick of and put away, and pull out every couple of years. It also includes items I will never ever wear again, like my wedding gown (which I have also unsuccessfully tried to hock on Craigslist).

I think it's soothing to have stuff that reminds you of other stuff, or to know that my high school Doc Martens are still around. But I really, really want to reclaim the Corner of Conundrum. So, readers, how do I get rid of all that stuff? Is any of it worth any money? And, if it is, should I use the cash to have a dining nook or a home office?

Fun With Tourists

I come across as friendly and approachable. This means that I spend a lot of time dealing with people who approach me and want to be my friend.

Last night's case was especially fun.

The Scene: E and 13th Northwest, near Pennsylvania Avenue
The Characters: Dressed up fancyish young tourist couple, and me

Wife: So 15th Street is this way? (Pointing towards...uh, most assuredly not 15th Street)
Me: No, ma'am, you're headed the wrong direction.
Husband: How do we get to 950 15th Street?
Me: What's the ninth letter of the alphabet?
Husband: I Street (I was sort of impressed he answered so quickly)
Me: So the restaurant is at 15th and I.
Wife: (showing me a list of recommended restaurants from their hotel) How about this place, at 701 Pennsylvania?
Me: That's six blocks down Pennsylvania. About a ten to fifteen minute walk.
Wife: That's too far. We've already walked from the White House! (Looks at me as if I'm supposed to be impressed. They've walked three blocks! Amazing!)
Me: That's only three blocks from here.
Wife (apologetically): We drive everywhere.
Husband: Anywhere around here we can get a good steak? It seems like all the places around here are sandwich shops.
Me: (starting to lose patience) I don't really eat steak. Locals can't afford steak. It's mostly sandwich shops here because this is an office area.
Husband: But the place on Pennsylvania is too far.
Me: I'll carry you both on my back. It's not that far. Really.
Husband: How about this place at 15th and I? (Georgia Brown's, incidentally) It's closer.
Me: Over that way two blocks, then up four blocks. (The reality of what I just said hits me at this precise moment.)
Couple: Thank you!

OK, let's for a moment ignore that the two restaurants were equidistant. We were six blocks from each. And let's ignore the fact that these are probably two very lovely people who pay their taxes, remember birthdays, and treat each other with love and respect.

It bugs me when visitors are so mulish about walking. DC is not a suburb, it is not a place where you can just get in your car, pull right up, and walk in. The point of travelling is to experience something new and different. Is it too much to ask that tourists stop wingeing about having to take an easy six-block stroll? I have not once given directions to tourists without hearing somebody complain about how they've had to put one foot in front of the other for a few blocks.

I guess I don't get it, because one of my favorite things to do when travelling is to just walk around. I pull on some comfortable shoes, grab a bottled water and a map, and head out. It's fun, it's healthy, and it's a way cheaper form of exercise than a gym membership.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Radical Redefinition of the Word "Need"

This gem turned up on a job chat today on

Are you kidding me?: Of course you need six-figures. I would like to know how anyone manages to make ends meet in the D.C. area on LESS THAN six-figures. I have no debt, except a small mortgage. I can hardly get by on what I make and I am DESPERATELY trying to get a higher-paying job. With gas prices, Metro prices (about to go up probably), housing costs, and even the price of a good tomato all skyrocketing in this area, a household income of six figures in this area seems average to me, not outrageous. The truth is, people here usually MAKE A LOT MORE than the low six-figures ...

What sort of alternate reality Washington does this person live in? I've been around here a long time, and I have no clue why people would need a six-figure salary for survival. Well, OK, I can think of a few:

1. This person is supporting a dozen children by three separate exes.
2. This person has misplaced a decimal point somewhere.
3. This person needs to radically redefine their notion of the word "need."

All you "need" is food and shelter. I make considerably less than six figures (uh, CONSIDERABLY less) and I have everything I need, and a little bit of what I want. I don't need "a good tomato", because the Safeway ones are just as good as the ones from Whole Paycheck. I need transportation, so I take Metro or walk. Not everyone lives near Metro, sure, but you can buy the cheapest car that suits your needs. I understand that it's expensive to support a family, but the earlier kids learn the difference between "want" and "need," the better off they'll be.

Nobody needs a big house or a nice car. Nobody needs fancy tomatoes, new clothes, or to eat out more than once a week. Nobody needs a six-figure salary. If I ever reach a state in which I all-capital-letters DESPERATELY need a new job, because a six-figure salary isn't enough, then I've lost track of what matters. Or I've gotten hold of some really gnarly hallucinogenics.

The Stupidity of Public Discourse

Saturday Bob and I walked up to Penn Quarter for brunch and to check out a street festival. Lest you think this blog has become brunch- and Bob-centric, I’m not going to mention either again in this entry.

Getting to Penn Quarter meant wading through the pro and anti war festivities. I hear a lot about the loss of civility in public discourse, the increasingly partisan nature of politics, and inflammatory rhetoric. But nobody talks about the stupidity of public discourse.

Stupidity was out in force on Saturday. The pro-war folks were lining up along Pennsylvania Avenue, waving flags and chanting. OK, fine. But this was the dumb part: many were wearing badges that said, “Fighting the insurgency at home.” Say what? Fighting the what and where? Are these people complete and total morons?

I read the newspaper every day, and I have not seen a single report of anti-war folks bombing recruiting stations, attacking military installations, or plotting a revolution. Those things can rightfully be called insurgency. The antiwar folks are exercising their First Amendment rights of free speech and peaceable assembly. Same thing as, incidentally, the “fighting the insurgency” folks were doing. Calling them insurgents is inflammatory, hypocritical, pointless, and really stupid. (Let’s not even get into the pro-war dumbasses holding “Remember 9/11” banners, because, as we all know, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Using 9/11 for absolutely anything political is tacky and a cheap shot. Plus, see above, dumb.)

I don’t think patriotism equates to blind obedience. I think it’s fine to protest and lodge your opinion, both of which are protected by the Bill of Rights. If you want a brand of patriotism consisting of lockstep hero worship in which you are required to agree with everything your President does or says, move to a totalitarian state like North Korea or Turkmenistan. See how you like it. (Hint: you won’t. Those people are broke, peculiar and crazy.)

Lest you think I’m biased, I was equally unimpressed by the anti-war folks. It’s a fine cause, and it’s nice to know that people care enough to come into Washington just to wave signs. But the goofiness of their tactics fills me with more pity than admiration. First off, kids, take a shower. Wear shoes. Brush your hair. Don’t be a dirty hippie, because that makes it way too easy for the rest of us to dismiss you as a pack of dirty hippies.

Second, message discipline. Look it up, kids. In one brief glance across the crowd, I saw signs telling us to end the war now, bring the troops home…and then there were signs telling us to impeach Bush and Cheney, stop global warming, and so on. Pick one thing, just one, and beat the message home. Be a message and a cause, not a conglomeration of petty grievances.

Last, actions have consequences. Later in the day, I walked past a young antiwar woman who was screeching into her cell phone. Apparently several of her friends had jumped a barricade and gotten themselves arrested as an act of civil disobedience. This girl was stunned, yes, stunned, that her friends needed to be bailed out and may have to pay a trespassing fine. Well, of course. Actions (jumping a barricade) have consequences (going to jail and paying a fine). If you want to get arrested to prove a point, then you have to go through with all of the drawbacks of being arrested. Princess, that’s life in reality-land.

Finally, antiwar kids, can we stop with all the “die-ins”? That’s when a bunch of protesters stop in their tracks, drop to the ground, and play dead. Die-ins are just…goofy. I don’t know what the point is. Are you symbolizing our dead troops? I don’t think our troops have dreadlocks and reek of patchouli. It looks dumb in person, and it looks even more ridiculous in print. I suppose it’s a photo op, but, again, it looks goofy.

To be fair, both sides looked pretty dorky. The pro-war folks all looked like Leather Guy from the Village People, and the anti-war folks looked like an explosion in a flannel factory. A dirty flannel factory.

Saturday didn’t affect my view of the war, one way or the other. All it did was make me feel sorry for folks who value opinions over intelligence, obedience over free speech, actions over consequences, and anyone who can’t dress worth a damn.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Dreary Fridays and the Nature of Work

This is just a random corraling of my thoughts on a dreary Friday.

I am absolutely, drag-myself-across-the-floor and smear-on-my-makeup-with-the-heel-of-my hand tired today. Yesterday, I worked my usual day job, then picked up some extra cash in the evening by taking care of some billing for a former employer. Then I went home and read a little bit of this month's Glamour. I tried to crash out, but just couldn't sleep. It's been a stressful and uncertain week, as I am most likely changing jobs yet again. Too much uncertainty and not enough control can make me headachy and weepy. Neither of those things are conducive to a good night's rest.

What kept me up last night was thoughts about work. (Note: this is far healthier than the time I stayed up all night ruminating on the nature of barn-raisings.) I don't know if it's because I'm in Washington, the nexus of unholy ambition, but it seems like this town has a bizarre relationship with work. The point of having a job is to provide yourself and your loved ones with food and shelter. If you can find something you enjoy, that pays you well, that's terrific. But in the end you're just putting food on the table like everyone else. Lions hunt, beavers fish, I code invoices.

I don't know when the notions of work and survival became so disparate. Is it because my personal version of Washington has gotten too cushy? Never once have I heard a friend describe a job as an avenue to paying rent. Instead it's usually about personal fulfillment, the jerk boss, and the meaning of life. And in job searches over the years, I have never once heard a potential employer show concern about paying a living wage. Instead the invisible hand of the market is supposed to ascertain my relationship comparative to the price of milk.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm weird for not caring about a career. I stay on task, I turn out good work, I'm smart and capable and very easy to get along with. I'm just not ambitious. I have no urge to be President (I can't be, anyway) or a CEO. I have virtually no use for money beyond buying the basics. If I could settle into a nice administrative job with good benefits, sane hours and a decent wage, I would cheerfully stay for years. Is that so horrible?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Dear Washington Post, My Love for You Is Waning

I'm one of those old-schoolers that gets the Washington Post delivered. I think the Express is for Ritalin-tweaked Gen Yers with helicopter parents and surgically implanted iPod earbuds. I don't watch television, ever, because it's a goofy idiot box. I don't like getting my news from the Internet because the Internet is a skanky pathological liar with grandiose notions of itself. I like my news to be old school, served up with a side of gooey gray stains and a parade of Macy's ads. If that makes me a curmudgeon, so be it.

So, for the most part, I've been immune to the dumbing down of the news. But now my beloved Post has fallen headlong into the Keanu Reeves territory of cute and dumb.

I'm talking specifically about Page 3 of the Metro section. Page 3, back in the day, was the score sheet on shootings, stabbings, government corruption, and deer crashing through McDonald's windows. Now the Post has gifted us with a Page 3 of reader-submitted stories. Most fall under categories like "random acts of kindness," "kids say the darndest things," or "really long boring story about some lady's garden."

Each one of these stories offers a nauseating editorial introduction, like, "Many people have had experiences with rogue elephants returning their missing wallets. We think you'll enjoy Ms. Hortense Himmelpickle's take on this issue, with her heartwarming tale of a rogue elephant seeking redemption, a clown in search of a circus, and a cookie with an attitude problem." Then Hortense holds forth about some life-altering experience she had at the 7-11 in Ashburn.

The only article that irritated me more was Gene Weingarten's take on Joshua Bell playing his violin on the Metro. For those of you that missed it, world-famous violinist Joshua Bell played a Stradivarius during rush hour, and commuters walked on by. That stunt was a hoot, albeit a well-written hoot. Weingarten pulled together pages and pages about people passing by Bell, scurrying to their jobs. Somehow that makes Washingtonians bad, soulless, artless people, and the few who stopped to listen got labels like "cultural hero."

Here's the real story: never has a journalist gotten so much ink out of the simple fact that people on their way to work are usually in a hurry. We knew that already. They're running late, they haven't had their coffee, they've come a very long way to work at difficult jobs that barely sustain them in a very crowded, expensive city. Somehow Weingarten turned that into a moral failing on the part of Washingtonians. On my typical morning commute, I am so oblivious that a chartreuse space alien could be playing the spoons in his underwear and I would walk on by. That doesn't make me a bad person.

The thing is, I read the paper for the news. Call me an elitist, but I don't want to read about the Hortenses of the world with my morning coffee. I don't want a humor columnist to tell me I'm a bad person for having to get to work on time. I get that newspapers are crashing and burning and going broke all over America, but I don't think the answer is to coddle people or to write endless pages about the things we already know.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Hateful Buffets and the D.C. Dining Scene

I specialize in peculiar and frustrating restaurant experiences. There was the “shrimp embryo” incident of ’99. That time Eggroll found a staple in his food (we pointed this out to a manager, who simply shrugged and walked away). The waitress that added our neighbor’s bill to ours, then was surprised when we objected at being overcharged by $40.

Until Sunday, I believed the Worst Establishment in D.C. was CafĂ© Saint-Ex. There appears to be a snootiness arms race going on between the staff and the patrons. Each and every night, it’s a war to see who can be the biggest jerk. The last time I went there (and the last time I will ever go there), Sean and I got trampled everywhere we went. In tiny little corners, upstairs, downstairs, near the bar, away from the bar, it didn’t matter. We must have tried ten different locations. Every little hiding space we found was disrupted five seconds later either by a waiter jostling us or a patron stomping our feet. We call it “Saint-Ex: Where You’re Always in the Way.”

But we have a new contender for Worst Establishment in D.C. And I’m sad to say it’s one of those divey places that I usually adore.

Over the weekend, Bob and I decided to go for brunch in Capitol Hill. I’d been to Mr. Henry’s for burgers and beer before, so brunch seemed like a fine idea. Strike one against Mr. Henry’s is that they don’t have a brunch menu, just the buffet.

Most people who know me know I don’t really care for buffets. There are two reasons for this. The major reason is that I’m a small person who can only ingest so much food before I get a stomachache (a “Shannon Portion” is about half the size of a normal portion). So I never eat enough to justify the expense of a buffet. The other is that I go to restaurants to have food brought to me. If I wanted to get up and serve myself I'd stay home and cook.

Strike two was when we ordered coffee. We were served our (very weak) coffee in Styrofoam cups with plastic stirrers. As Bob noted, it was like getting coffee from a gas station. Is it too much to ask to receive actual mugs at a sit-down restaurant?

Then we went up to the buffet, and wow, what a ripoff. For $13 a head, the restaurant specifically chose to serve $4.36 of the absolute cheapest and most mediocre food it could find - the least expensive kinds of fruit (canteloupe and grapes), plenty of starches, chewy cuts of meat, just cheap cheap cheap all the way down the line. Also, there was only one set of tongs shared among several buffet items, which doesn't strike me as up to code.

The third strike, though, wasn’t the food. At this point my expectations had sunk so low that cheapness and mediocrity were far better than I had dared to dream. The third strike was negotiating a flight of narrow stairs to get back from the buffet. The servers were hanging around gabbing in the doorway, which struck me as a bit dangerous (not to mention rude, as they wouldn't budge and we had to clamber around them).

I'm not a picky lady. There are plenty of great places to eat around here, upscale to downscale and all points in between. I'm polite to servers, I tip well and always say please and thank you. I just want to have a nice time and get my money's worth. But, wow, it'll be Armageddon before I set foot in Mr. Henry’s again.

Anybody got any fun restaurant horror stories? If so, please share them in the comments section.