Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wait! Was that guy hitting on me?

Quote of the blog:

Joe to me about relationships: Brook, you’re not hopeless; you’re just going through a twenty-something-year rough patch.

My friends have a lot of opportunity to mock my obliviousness when it comes to men flirting with me. A few mock/note-worthy incidents to illustrate:

About four years ago I lived in Mesquite, NV for almost a year. I was working at my brother-in-law’s mortgage company when I got a call from someone I didn’t know. The call went like this:

"Hi, this is Kagen and I'm with the Mesquite Social Advisory Board and I was wondering if you were going to Institute class tonight."

My thoughts: Oh, he's on some Institute committee and is calling a list of people about institute tonight.

Me: "I'm already planning on going. Thanks though."

Kagen: quiet pause, "Oh, ok."

Then I said, "Thanks for the call. Good luck calling people and I guess I'll see you tonight. Bye!"

Kagen: "Um, ok. Bye."

A minute later my co-worker Kevin came in and asked how the conversation with Kagen went. I was confused for a moment and then felt panic. “Omygosh! "Kevin! He was calling a list of people to go to institute, right??" I told him about our conversation. He couldn't stop laughing. “No, honey, he was calling for you. I told him he should meet you! Talk about shooting the poor kid down.”

Luckily, Kagen and I got it sorted and did go out. He admitted that pretending to call from a social committee would have been confusing, but wow, it was still embarrassing.

Just before I moved to New York I was walking through UVU parking lot with my car keys in hand. A car stopped to let me cross in front of him and the driver leaned out the window. He was square-jawed, blue-eyed, tanned, with sun-kissed blonde hair. He said, “Can I offer you a ride?” I felt a bit flattered but also confused – after all, I was in the parking lot on the way to my car with my keys in hand. I smiled and said, “No, I’m alright. Thanks though.” He looked surprised and a bit disappointed. As he drove past me I noticed he was driving a green Dodge Viper ! Wait a minute! That guy was picking up on me! Granted, I’m sure it had a lot more to do with the car than with me –but still!

Flirting wouldn’t be as bad if I only struggled realizing when men flirt with me – but I've definitely struggled on the flipside as well:

I had been in Mesquite for just a month when I learned the unfortunate equation: Freeway + hurtling piece of blown tire + the hood of my car = car in the shop. I used a rental while they fixed my car. The day I needed to pick it up a man from Enterprise offered to drive me to the garage.

It was a 25-minute drive and we hit it off, and were chat, chat, chatting. His name was Cody and he was just a couple of years older than me. He got lots of checks. Congenial. Check. Good looking. Check. Single. Check. I had only been in Mesquite for a couple of weeks and didn’t know anyone so I decide to get my flirt on. I tossed my hair, "So, what do you do for fun around here? I just moved here and don't really know anyone or what there is to do." I made a "poor-me" pouty face and lowered my lashes. Blink. Blink.

As we pull up to the garage he tells me how nice it is to meet me and asks for my number and gives me his as well. He says for sure he'll give me a call sometime. I flash a smile and tell him that would be great, toss my hair, blink blink, get out of the car and...WHACK my head on the doorframe!!!

Oh man, I wish I could have seen that...from a distance...happening to someone else. He looked concerned and wanted to make sure I was ok. I assured him I was – it was just not one of my more graceful exits.

I have so many more similar stories - more than I want to admit. I do think that I’m better at flirting and realizing when men are flirting with me now than I was then (fingers crossed). You know what they say about practice, practice, practice. Now I just need some volunteers…

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Those Sleeves Make Me Want to Throw Up

Quote of the blog:

My friend Trish bought an adorable vintage style dress from Urban Outfitters and as the cashier rang it up she looked at the dress and said: “Those sleeves make me want to throw up.”


New York is known for a lot of things, but customer service is not one of them.

When my brother Ty was on his internship he went into a deli and asked the woman at the counter if they had any specials. She looked at him and then looked over her shoulder and then back at him. He waited, hesitated a second and asked again, “Sorry, do you have any specials?” She pursed her lips and gave him what I call “the slow blink”. You know the one – the slow, irritated, patronizing blink where it the lids look so heavy they can only be opened slowly. She looked over her shoulder at the printed menus on the wall and said, “Can’t you read?”

I think you'll agree with me that fast-food chains aren’t known for good customer service (it really does seem like an industry joke to put a person you can’t understand at the drive-through window). Our friend Chris has a huge weakness for Popeyes fried chicken and he has a NY customer service story that is one of my favorites:

A tall girl with long curved acrylic nails and a mass of thin braids in an up-do stood behind the counter looking bored. She glanced at Chris as he ordered his Popeyes fried chicken and then began tapping one long plastic nail on the counter top. Tap. Tap. He tried again. She looked at him briefly and tapped her nail again. Tap. Tap. Tap. He decided another approach and worded his order a bit differently adding a pleading “please?” to the end. She rolled her eyes, looked at him pointedly, then stared at finger and began the deliberate tapping. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. He looked down to see that under her brightly decorated acrylic nail was a paper sign that read “ON BREAK, BACK IN 15 MIN.”

Customer service is pretty much the same throughout New York City. After living here for a while you begin to think that bad customer service is how customer service is everywhere. My friend Julie, Jason, and I took a trip to Chicago last year and Julie and I went shopping at H&M. The last time I had gone to H&M in New York I arrived a bit late. As I reached to open the door the security guard barked “CLOSED!!” so loud I actually jumped.

The store in Chicago was big and clean and as Julie and I handed a few items back to the fitting room attendant he smiled broadly and said, “Thanks so much, I hope you found some things you liked.” My instant reaction was suspicion. I suppressed the urge to narrow my eyes, pull my purse in closer, and back away slowly. Instead I managed a cautious, “Thanks”. Later, we realized that he, like everyone else in Chicago (and most other places in the states) was just being friendly. Honestly, for the first bit it gave me the creeps: like all of those nice mid-western smiles were a sign of a Stepford Wives conspiracy or some Mid-Western inside-joke.

Despite the lack of customer service living in New York is great. You can find just about anything you could ever want in The City. Just sometimes it makes it easier if you expect that instead of customer “service with a smile” you might get customer “disservice with a scowl, a shrug, a scoff, or perhaps a Tap. Tap.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Y as in Europe

Quote of the blog-

My coworkers on the phone:

Doug: Mario, you sound distant.
Mario: Emotionally?
Doug: Uh, no. You sound far away from your phone.


I am on the phone a lot at work. When I take people’s names I like to use a phonetic alphabet to confirm the spelling: c as in cat, b as in boy, n as in nancy, etc.

Recently, my friend and I discussed whether people use F as in Frank more than F as in Foxtrot or some other F word (not that one!). My experience said Frank was the most popular term. He disagreed so we decided to do an experiment.

We performed a rigorous and extensive triple-blind experiment with a large study population and an expected p-value of less than 0.05. Ok, not really. I just kept track of the “F as in…” for the day and he polled people at a hamburger joint on his lunch break.

Frank won out, but just barely. I discovered that while the military phonetic alphabet may use a set list of words (including F as in Foxtrot) just about anything will do for your average civilian. People used F as in…Frank, Foxtrot, Frog, Flower, Freedom, and I even got one F as in Frankenstein. Classic.

One of the more interesting phonetic telephone convos I've had was with a woman who spelled her name as:

v as in victor
a as in apple
y as in europe
y as in europe
e as in eagle
r as in ralph

Y as in Europe? I was a little thrown and wanted to double-check the spelling-

“Ok, that’s:

v as in victor
a as in apple
y as in yellow
y as in yellow
e as in eagle
r as in ralph

Without hesitating she said, “Correct.”

I overheard my friend venting some serious frustrations at the office after he had been on the phone for almost an hour with three different customer service reps. He had to repeat his information over and over again. Finally, I heard him say, “No. The booking code is I as in Incompetent, F as in Frustrating, M as in Moron…”

That made me think: What if I started using a personalized version of a phonetic alphabet? What about a silent spelling alphabet? “Yes, that’s g as in gnat, a as in astigmatism, k as in knee, and p as in psychology.

Or, what if people used an alphabet specific to their line of work? Since I work with study abroad kids so I could say something like u as in unaccompanied minor, e as in England, p as in passport, but It wouldn’t be as exciting as someone in the mafia: l as in launder, t as in trunk, c as in cement shoes, h as in horse head in your bed

You could potentially reveal a lot about yourself with a personalized spelling alphabet so, for now, I think I’ll stick with the basic phonetic alphabet. Thanks for reading; I’m off to research vacation spots in Yurope.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Blinditicus Daticus

Quote of the blog:

Brook: I'm going to start a blog this week!
Julie: Oh great, another blog for me not to keep up on.


I once read the definition of Blind Date as “something I wouldn’t recommend you go on,” but blind dates can be so interesting and funny: ingredients that make for a good story...and I’m a sucker for a good story.

I don’t get set in New York as often as I did when I lived in Utah. When I lived in Utah people offered to set me up all the time. I think some considered it a part-time job. Now it wasn’t like I solicited these offers. I wasn’t standing in the mall food court passing out brightly colored “Free Practice Date” coupons while wearing an equally bright “I would date your son” t-shirt.

No, no.

It started after I turned the Utah spinster-worthy age of 23. I would casually be in conversation with people at church, work, or other social settings when someone would strike like a viper. Sometimes I could sense the impending question, like a deer that freezes when they sense danger. The person would ask, “Why isn’t a sweet girl like you married?” or observe, “You are so cute! I just don’t understand why you aren’t married!” By the time they’ve struck I’m paralyzed, frozen in place and it’s too late to hide behind foliage or drop to the ground and play dead (not to mention the social implications of diving behind a planter without any warning).

About this time they say, “You know, I have a son/nephew/coworker that I should set you up with…”

A few different comments may follow and there are a few that, if heard, should make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. The top three I’ve heard (and yes, I’ve heard every one of these):

1. You’re single, he’s single…You’re Mormon, he’s Mormon.

You can insert just about any commonality there: You like cooking, he likes cooking. You’re in New York, he’s in New York. You have acne, he has acne. Some people feel like you should be dating someone. Anyone. If this describes your matchmaker watch out!

2. He just needs to meet some nice girls…

This phrase conjures up images of hard-core tattooed, sullen types avoiding their parole officer. Either that or the pasty, sun-deprived lanky kid who just emerged from his parent’s basement after a five-month self-induced seclusion of playing Halo and Warcraft with online buddies he’s never met. Either way, it makes me wonder, “Just who(m) has this kid been hanging out with?”

3. You would be doing me a favor.

If someone plays the “personal favor” card when setting you up on a blind date its time to start asking questions. Have you ever seen the TV drama 24? When Jack Bauer asks for a favor it’s usually dangerous and illegal – and usually more beneficial to the person asking than the person doing the favor. Proceed with caution.

It’s also a good thing to consider who is setting you up. Is there a chance you’ll get set up with someone who has a case of the crazies?

One of my favorite best/worst dates happened to my dear friend and then college roommate Amy. She was set up by an acquaintance of ours named Les. His business cards read, “Les is More.”

The night of the date, Amy and her Blind Date (B.D) stopped by a party at our friend Stephanie’s house. Amy walked in and gave me a look that said she already had stories to tell. B.D. was tall, dark haired, seemingly confident and was sporting above-the-ankle black pants, white socks, and – I kid you not – a pocket protector They left after twenty minutes or so but not before he had asked for everyone’s attention by tapping on his pocket protector with a pen like a man taps his champagne glass with a spoon to give a toast. Ok, he didn’t really tap his pocket protector, but he did ask for everyone’s attention. We gathered around and he announced conspiratorially that his “watch [dramatic pause] was exactly three seconds ahead, or three seconds behind, the clock at the Provo police department.”

He didn’t have a car so Amy drove. The rest of the date included him lecturing her for honking her horn in a “non-emergency situation” (which is apparently “not only inconsiderate but illegal”) as well as him asking her if she played an instrument, only to inform her that he played the diaphragm.

Excuse me? The what? The diaphragm?

Then he sat up straight and started jabbing his abdomen with his fingertips and singing different notes. Amy dropped him home right after. Side Note: Whenever we retell this story, which tends to be often, his impersonation always sounds like the 1950’s cartoon dog Mr. Peabody. Imagine Mr. Peabody saying “I play the diaphragm” in his haughtiest voice.

Not all blind dates turn out to be so odd. The can also be great. In fact, one of my top five favorite dates was a blind date. I was set up by my friend and trusted matchmaker, Kimmie. The date was a fun double date, perfectly planned and included a trip to Park City, the Alpine Slide, and dinner on Old Main Street. The conversation was engaging, we laughed A LOT and he was generous and attentive.

BDs can be a lot of fun and meeting new people is usually a treat, but it’s a good idea to pay attention to warning signs when you get set up to save you from a potential evening of agony. If you hear one of the comments listed above you may want to suddenly develop narcolepsy or remember your goldfish needs a bath - or you could always hide behind a shrub or play dead.