Tuesday, March 27, 2007

English! Do you speak it?!

The other day I picked up my wife to go have lunch at a restaurant called Fudruckers. They are known for having great burgers and shakes! It's kind of a combination fast food and sit down restaurant. You order your food at the counter, get your own drinks, but they give you one of those light up buzzers for when your food is ready.

After we ordered, we got our drinks and headed outside to sit on the patio. We were sitting and talking when our buzzer went off indicating our food was ready. I was going to go inside to get the food so I told Erin, "I'll get your burger if you stay here and watch our drinks." She said she wanted to come inside because she wanted to put condiments on her burger and apparently I can't do that. I said, "Well, I don't want to loose our table or our drinks." She said, "Nobody is going to take our drinks." I looked around at the other tables that had been sitting there with empty cups and baskets for several minutes and decided that it would probably be okay. We left our drinks on the table and both went inside to get our food.

After we picked up our burgers we we're walking back outside when I saw a young worker taking our drinks from our table and putting them in the bus boy tray thing. I wasn't upset or anything but I went up to ask him if I could get some more cups because he had taken ours. He was a young Hispanic man, maybe 19-20 years old and didn't speak English very well.

Our conversation went something like this:

Me: "Execuse me sir, we were sitting at that table over there and I think you took our drinks."

Him: "No."

Me: "Ummm, well, we went inside to get our food and left our drinks there, I was just wondering if we could get some new cups."

Him: "No."

Me: "We can't get new cups."

Him: "No."

Me: "Why not, we were sitting there and you took our drinks."

Him: "No."

Me: "But you took our drinks."

Him: "No."

Me: "Yeah, you did, I just want to get some new cups."

Him: "No."

Me: "Okay, I'm going to go inside and ask somebody else."

Him: "No."

At this point, I just walked inside because I don't think he spoke anything but Spanish and obviously our conversation wasn't getting anywhere. He looked at me kind of funny when I walked past him and went inside to the front counter. I didn't want him to get in trouble because it really wasn't a big deal, I just wanted to have something to drink with my meal.

I told the person working at the front counter, "We were sitting outside and came inside to get our food and the guy..." Before I even finished what I was going to say he turned around and got me two cups. It seemed as if he's seen this problem before. Once we got back outside with our food and our new drinks, the bus boy kept looking at us trying to figure out how we got past his sneaky plan of depriving us of drinks.

I guess it bothered me a little bit that this kid working at the restaurant didn't speak any English. I think if you live in this country, you need to speak at least basic english and "No" doesn't count.

After we finished our lunch, we got up to leave and he asked if he was getting a tip.

Me: "No."

Swimsuits and Ice Cold Water

This past Monday was a record breaking day for Minneapolis/St Paul! We reached a high temperature of 81 degrees F. Considering we had gotten two feet of snow about three weeks earlier, it was a nice change. I was out and about running errands Monday afternoon and thought I'd swing by one of my favorite lakes to see how many people were out enjoying the nice weather.

When I drove up to the lake I saw some families BBQ'ing and even a few people laying on the beach wearing swimsuits. Now, there's nothing odd about people laying on the beach on a beautiful 81 degree afternoon. What IS odd was, THERE WAS STILL ICE ON THE LAKE!!

It had warmed up so quickly that the ice hadn't had time to melt before the bathing suits came out! Only in Minnesota will you see people hanging out at the lake enjoying the nice weather and still be able to walk on top of the water....although I don't encourage walking on the ice, I think it's getting pretty thin.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Homeless for a Night

Last Friday I flew out to Los Angeles, CA to meet up with some friends! I knew it was going to be a long day but it turned into an even longer one. I was just finishing up my reserve days in Newark so my plan was to leave early Friday morning, hang out in California until about midnight and then catch a red-eye flight back home to Minneapolis.

I left Newark at 6:45 AM and enjoyed a movie, breakfast, and a couple naps during the six hour flight out to Los Angeles. I wasn't meeting my friends until about 5:00 PM so when I landed at 10:30 AM, I had a few hours to hang out. After I arrived, I picked up my rental car and headed up the Pacific Coast Highway. I found a few popular canyon roads and figured I should probably test out the performance on my rental car, so I headed into the hills and enjoyed the curvy roads that southern California seems to be covered with.

After a beautiful 2 hour drive up the coast I made it to where I was going to be meeting my friends and still had a couple hours, so I took a nap in my car (knowing that I would be up late and taking a red eye-flight home) and then went for a short walk by a marina. I met up with my friends and we eventually headed to dinner.

I'm normally a "meat and potatoes" kind of guy so when we ended up at a Persian restaurant, I was a little nervous. What I thought was funny is that my friend Meghan is the one who suggested the Persian restaurant.....and she told me she is a "meat and potatoes" kind of girl.....yeah right. Not wanting to be the party pooper (and because I didn't really have a choice) I went to the Persian restaurant with an open mind of trying something new and enjoying the time with my friends.

As I was looking through the menu I was having a hard time understanding what everything was. I finally saw something that I recognized.....Shish Kabobs! I was so excited because I've actually had those before! Meat and vegetables on a stick, for a guy from Minnesota where everything comes on a stick, what could be more perfect?

Well, I apparently wasn't the only person who wanted shish kabobs because when we started to order the waitress said to everybody, "I don't know how many shish kabobs we have left, I'll have to go check." I was thinking, "Great, the one thing I found that looks good to me and they're short on it." When the waitress came back she said, "I'm sorry but we only have one order of shish kabobs left." Now the question was, who's getting the shish kabob?

I didn't want to take the shish kabobs from anybody else so I started looking for something else. I was asking what other people were going to get and they all had found something else that appealed to them and everyone started telling me, "It's okay Paul, you can take the shish kabobs....but you better like them and we don't want to see any leftovers on your plate!" Just what I need, pressure to finish my dinner.

After the food came I started looking around at the other meals and noticed something interesting, it appeared that regardless of what you ordered, you got some sort of meat and rice. What could be more perfect for a meat and potatoes guy! I thoroughly enjoyed the shish kabobs but what I enjoyed more was the time I got to spend out there with great friends, it was truly a wonderful evening!

It was creeping closer to the end of the night and knowing that I was trying to catch a 1:00 AM flight, I knew that I would soon need to leave or I would miss my flight. I didn't want to leave the restaurant, but I'm pretty sure my wife wanted me to come home as soon as I could. After the others learned that I was catching a flight home they encouraged me to go so I wouldn't miss it. I apologized for having to leave and left for the airport.

It was a mad dash to the airport! I returned my rental car (without putting gas in it knowing that I was going to pay $6/gallon so they could fill it for me) and then hopped on the shuttle to the airport. I had just missed the Northwest Airlines flight so I headed to the Sun Country flight. The gate agent said it was full but maybe someone wouldn't show up. Eventually he closed the door to the jet way and said to me, "You don't have a seat." Great, Sun Country doesn't allow other airlines pilots to sit in the cockpit so I was out of luck. I would have to wait until the 6:30 AM Northwest flight.

Since it was only going to be 5 hours until the next flight I decided to just stay at the airport versus getting a hotel. I had never slept at an airport before so this was going to be another new experience for me. I found a nice wooden bench to lay down on. Let me just say that again, I found a nice WOODEN BENCH TO SLEEP ON! I have to say, that's not the most comfortable thing I've ever slept on.

As I was trying to fall asleep I was reading a magazine called "Best Life". In it they had all sorts of great places to live, great foods to eat, places to visit, etc. Somehow, I think sleeping on a wooden bench at LAX is not what they had in mind.

After about 1 1/2 hours of sleep, I awoke to a very large Hispanic woman sitting on my bench down by my feet. I don't know why she didn't sit on the EMPTY bench next to mine but there was a ticketing line forming near my bench so I thought I should get up and leave. It gave me an appreciation of having a place to sleep every night. You notice how I say "MY bench". I think when you don't have very much, you become very protective of what little you do have.

I headed to the bathroom to clean up and eventually headed through security and to the Northwest gate. It didn't look like I was going to get on the first flight back to Minneapolis and I was about to loose my cool. If I had to spend another two hours in the airport I was going to go NUTS!! I was very thankful when the gate agent said she could get me into the cockpit for the ride home!

The crew on the way home was awesome, although I think I was starting to become a little delirious. After we landed, we waited about 30 minutes for our gate to open up and then I ran off the airplane! I was pretty excited to be home! My wife greeted me with the loving words, "WOW, YOU STINK!" Yeah, I guess after being up for 31 hours, I probably do stink. I got home around 1:00 PM and stayed up until about 8:00 PM, then I was dead to the world for about 13 hours!

I have to say, despite all the traveling, lack of sleep, eating new foods, and spending the night on a wooden bench, feeling the LUV from great friends made it all worthwhile!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

My trip to the Big Apple!

Today I decided to make a trip into the big city! Ever since I've been based in Newark, I've been wanting to make a trip over to New York City but have never found the time. Today was my last day of reserve (for the week) and the odds of me being used for a trip were slim, so I went on my own little adventure.

First I had to make a 25 minute walk through Newark to get to Newark Penn Station. It wasn't quite as bad as I thought it was going to be. Once I noticed 8 year old girls running around by themselves, I figured I would be okay. I found Penn Station and figured out how to buy a day pass and what train to take. Once I got on the train it was a 25 minute ride into New York City.

The train I took stops at the World Trade Center so I decided to get off there. I've always wanted to see where the two towers once stood. What I saw when I got to the WTC Station was not quite what I was expecting. What I was expecting was a big hole and a bunch of memorial spots to overlook the site. What I SAW was what looked like any other construction site. I was a little disappointed at how little they had honoring the people that were lost on 9/11. They did have some photos of firefighters and police officers but for the most part, it was very minimal. After I walked around the WTC I found Broadway Ave and walked down to the south side of the island.

I thought about going to the Statue of Liberty but by the time I got there, they had sold out for the rest of the day. I stood and watched some street performers for a few minutes and then walked north up Broadway Ave. At one point, a girl came up to me and asked how to get the Canal St Subway. Being a kid from a small town and living in a city where there is basically no train system, I honestly thought she was talking about Subway the restaurant. I almost said to her, "I just saw a Subway around the corner, but I don't think it's the Canal St Subway. It looks like there's a Quiznos up the street." I'm glad I stuck with, "Uhhhhhh, I'm not from here."

I was trying to keep my mind open to eating at a restaurant that I had never been to before but in my two hours of walking up and down Broadway, I couldn't find anything that appealed to me.....except TGI Fridays. So yes, I'll admit, I made a trip to the Big Apple and had dinner at Fridays. I think I was trying to stick to something I knew.

I had big goals of walking to Times Square and Central Park but the sun was going down and I was a little worried about walking back to my crash pad at night. I made my way back to the WTC train station and rode back to Newark Penn Station. Next time I head to New York City, I think I'll buy a subway pass so I don't have to walk three hours just to see a park or building. Maybe I'll take a subway......to a Subway!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sifting through the nuts and bolts of life

A few weeks ago, I got a friendly reminder from the people at the Minnesota Department of Safety. It said, "We notice you've been driving around on our roads for the past year and we think that you're probably going to keep doing so over the next 12 months so we'd like to charge you $114 for that privilege."

Since the roads we're clean in the summer, plowed in the winter, construction was minimal last year, and the other people from the Minnesota Department of Safety (the state troopers) have always treated me well, I decided that I would give them my hard earned $114 for another year of Minnesota driving.

I paid for this privilege on-line, which for some reason cost another $1.50. I would think that since I was not taking time away from someone at the city office, they would charge me less. I think next time, I'll spend $2.00 in gas driving to the city office in order to save the $1.50 on-line fee.

A few days later, I received a package in the mail. Like a little kid at Christmas, I opened it with anticipation, like I was actually receiving a present from somebody. I soon learned that I wasn't only getting some stickers for my cars license plates, but I was also getting brand new license plates! No longer will I have to drive around having license plates with rock chips or covered in bugs that can't be removed. What a relief!

Today I went out to my car to put my new license plates on. I think the State of Minnesota likes to put salt all over the road in the winter so the bolts on your license plate rust, then once your car has been through about 5-6 Minnesota winters, they like to send you new license plates and then laugh knowing how you'll struggle while you remove your old license plates and install the new ones.

As I started to strip the bolt that holds the rear license plate on my car, I was thinking, "These nuts and bolts are going to be worthless by the time I get them off, maybe I should buy new ones to start fresh." It'd be like new ear rings for my license plate. Before I took both bolts out of the car, I realized that if I'm going to buy new nuts and bolts, I'm going to have to go to the hardware store. Of course I can't go to the hardware store in my car if the license plate isn't firmly attached to the back, otherwise I may get to chat with one of Minnesota's finest. So, I left it attached by one bolt and made the drive to my local hardware store.

As I was sifting through the nuts and bolts of life, I found some nuts and bolts for my license plate. I brought them home and with some brute force was able to detach my license plates and install the new ones in a way that Honda probably never intended. Nonetheless, my car got a new identity today, and with it's new identity, got some new jewelry to go with it.

They say that Minnesota has two seasons; winter and road construction. We are about to enter into the season of road construction which I think is really just half-time between winters.