Lyrical Laughs

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Behold the power of online reviews

Last week I got an unexpected email from a website that allows the average person to rate local businesses and tell about their own personal experience. “We miss you,” the email claimed. They missed me? That must mean they value my very humble (ahem) opinion. Since I couldn’t recall what I had reviewed, I decided to sign on to my account and view my history. Well, first I had to request a password reset because seriously - who saves passwords to stuff like this?

It turns out I had written four reviews. The most recent one was about a hair stylist who rescued me from a bad perm. My review made her sound like a miracle worker, and the day I walked in whimpering about my hair, she was. Another review was about a pleasant experience at a local pizza place it had taken us 15 years to discover (it was a mile from our house). Spouse and I were so taken with this place that I volunteered to post their menu on their social media page, and that was without even trying to get a free pizza out of the deal.

Another detailed a scary situation that I wasn’t directly involved with, except as a panicky parent waiting to hear that her kid was safe. First Born and The Groom experienced had car problems in a remote area, and I wanted to give credit to the wonderful mechanic and his caring wife who helped get them back on the road.

Finally, there was my lengthy review of a new Portland restaurant with good food and bad customer service. Maybe they were going through growing pains - it was from a couple of years ago and I’ve been back to the place a couple of times with no issue, proving that I probably should have given them a second shot before reviewing them. Of course, this meant I had to update it with a kinder tone.

That’s the thing with these websites that encourage you to voice your opinion about a local business. You have the opportunity to tell others how great your experience was, or possibly skewer someone with negative feedback. It’s not my job to give these websites free advertising, so I won’t mention their names. I’ll just refer to them in some indirect way. For instance, I’ve used a site that will advise you about trips. Seriously, that could be any website.

Some reviews can be confusing, especially if you read several of them regarding the same business. The stars that are used to rate these places can also be deceiving. What if nine people stayed at a hotel that had great service, excellent food and was in a perfect location, but one person stayed when the front desk was short-handed, or someone didn’t fill the decaf coffee urn quickly enough, or there was road construction on the same side as their room? Suddenly the stars plummet and make you question whether you’re willing to pay for a five-star hotel that only got four stars according to its clientele. Not that Spouse and I make a habit of staying in five-star hotels… we’re more like a step up from the places that forget to leave the light on for us.

I don’t like to rate hotels on these websites. I have this fear that if I say anything negative, my name will somehow be noted – maybe my photo posted above the front desk - leaving me open to the scorn of the establishment I’ve rated... and I've gotten used to hot water and clean towels, so...

But since this particular website asked, I guess I’ll go rate something that I was happy with. I wouldn’t want to make anyone yelp over a negative review.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

An open letter to Netflix about the 25th of November

Dear Netflix,

I am not yet a subscriber but I will be shortly, based on the fact that, in a little over a month, you will be releasing a series I only dreamed about since 2007 - the much talked about, already revered, four-episode Gilmore Girls revival series, A Year in the Life. Recently I was faced with the realization of my reliance on your ability to perform, and now I have questions.

Last week you somehow managed to hit us with what was practically a last-minute announcement of Luke's Diner Day in honor of our beloved Gilmore Girls. Every state in the country offered at least one "Luke's" that would serve free coffee, coffee, coffee all morning. In my attempt to be as close to the GG phenomenon as I could get even for a brief moment, I left my house early and took a detour to Coffee By Design, the only place in the whole state of Maine that represented Luke's for the day.

Three cars followed right behind me as I turned onto the street, all with drivers impatient to get their Gilmore on. Because parking was nil, I had to pull over and wave them on and they were not amused. The line of potential coffee drinkers standing outside shivering from the morning chill was out the door, down the street and heading around the corner. I snapped a picture of the line, my only proof that I was this close to getting my coffee fix with those who would truly understand. Sadly, I had to continue on my way to my pesky day job where my coworkers would barely blink over an “Oy with the poodles already” reference.

My daughters, who grew up on GG and aspire to talk half as fast as Lorelai and Rory, are poised to tune in. My husband is also a fan (though not of fanatic level) and already knows to sit silently and to only ask questions during breaks that I will allow. We are oh, so ready. Are you? Have you prepared for the barrage of subscribers that will be knocking on your virtual door in the next month?

By the photos and videos on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, I believe you could safely say there were hundreds of fans at every coffee shop representing Luke’s for a day. The overwhelming enthusiasm for the simplicity of this event has made me even more aware of the implications. If this many GG devotees made it to their local coffee shops at “early – must kill early” in the morning just for coffee in a paper cup, what's going to happen on November 25 when the revival series is released? Are we going to break you, Netflix?

I already know others who plan to latch on to your service for the sole purpose of drinking in every moment of the four-episode GG revival series set to release the day after Thanksgiving. Will you be able to handle it? Will thousands of us be screaming at our electronic devices because we can't connect?

Understand something about the GG society of fans, fanatics, whatever you endeavor to label us (we don’t care). We don’t want to watch the revival series the next day or a week later because something – anything - froze. We want to watch it the very moment it is available, then the next day, then a week, a month, and likely a year later.

So Netlflix, I hope you’re ready for the Gilmore Girls tsunami of subscribers. I would advise you to make damn sure you've got your act together before November 25 because, believe me, you don't want to rile the multitude of viewers who are ready to hunker down for this marathon of epic emotions. We are all in. We are In Omnia Paratus - ready for anything (Life and Death Brigade… you shouldn’t have to look it up). As long as that “anything” doesn’t include being shut out on the 25th of November.

The kind of man

In the early 80s my then boyfriend and I would occasionally get together with a couple of his college buddies. They could be a bit rowdy together but there were certain lines they knew not to cross, and being vulgar and disrespectful toward me or any female around was one of them.

One time when the four of us had been out for an afternoon I came down with a massive sinus headache. While we were in the car I slumped down in the front seat as my boyfriend drove. From the back came a joke that, while not directly saying the words, insinuated there was a lot more going on than my resting. Both of his friends were giggling like they were in middle school.

“That’s enough, guys.”

 There was not a hint of humor in his tone. He was not smiling. He was not trying to pacify me while going along with the joke. He was making it clear they had gone too far.

The laughing stopped immediately.

“We’re sorry, Chuck,” one friend immediately offered, while the other one – the instigator – mumbled, “Sorry.”

If I hadn’t already been completely enamored with him, that very well might have sealed the deal. I recently asked that boyfriend – now my husband of more than 32 years – if he recalled that incident. He had no memory of it. But almost 35 years later I still clearly recall that day. It stays with me because it’s an example of the kind of man he was becoming. 

If he had chosen to go along with his buddies and let the innuendo continue, I can’t say for sure that it would have been the end for us as a couple. I do know our relationship would have been cheapened, and once we were alone I would have had a lot of questions. But because of who he was back then and still is, laughing along with the comments or even ignoring them was never an option.

See, this... this very personal story isn't about the 'first person' agenda. This is about the followers.

I know back in the younger years some conversations weren't quite G-rated between these guys, but not in the way we’ve heard this past week or so, and never, ever to insinuate power and aggression over a woman. If he had been in on the dialogue we’ve all been privy to lately courtesy of the media, I believe that no matter what his age, my husband would not have been going along with it. He also would not have thought to ride on the coattails of a braggart by pushing a woman into ‘hugging’ him or anyone else, and if he ever heard a guy make even the slightest slimy reference about either of our daughters, that person would be receiving a serious lesson in respect, not to mention seeing how fast he could run.

Our daughters were raised to know that a man who talks about women like they’re bait on a hook just waiting to be 'handled' is not the kind of man that deserves them. We raised them to be valued as people rather than assessed like a piece of property.

That day stays with me because what I felt and heard mattered to someone who didn’t have to defend me, but chose to. My husband knew in his early 20s, when the pressure is high to fit in, that showing respect for a woman is far more important than being in on the joke.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Spouse the Spider Hero

I want everyone to understand that I know I'm a lucky woman. Spouse would do almost anything for me. He stands up for me, cheers me on, takes care of me if I'm sick (I get temporary control of the remote and the sofa), and he recognizes that anything he says or does could become fodder for my weekly column.

Notice I said “almost”. There is one area I cannot get him to take seriously and there are days when I doubt that whole "I'd take a bullet for you" thing because of this important subject.

Spouse will not kill a spider for me.

I hate spiders. I know humans are much bigger than most spiders and there is seldom a good reason to be afraid of them. You can point out that they are almost always harmless, but after two recent spider encounters I did some research.

I was carrying laundry to the washing machine in our basement when from the steps I spotted a huge spider - I mean seriously huge - inside an empty laundry basket six feet away. I bellowed for Spouse to hurry downstairs with an empty jar of some kind so he could catch and release it. I would have preferred to squish it with a five-pound weight (if I wasn't too scared to get that close) but that’s not his style.

He took the laundry basket, spider and all, and walked up the steps and outside where he deposited the fang-toothed beast somewhere far away from the house, I hope. After peering around every corner as I started the laundry, I went on an Internet search and found at least three varieties of spider that our visitor could have been. I was convinced it was a brown recluse and immediately started debating about how important it really was to do laundry or use the extra freezer or clean the cat boxes - anything that entails going into the basement. But it also could have been a nursery web spider or a grass spider or even a dark fishing spider. I’m trying to be positive. I’m positive I hate spiders.

These are the times when I wish Spouse would take a swing at things that freak me out like spiders, but he is an animal lover to the extreme. Besides, he thinks I’m a wimp who makes too big of a deal out of my arachnophobia. It isn’t just big scary looking spiders that bug me. Even the small ones remind me of scorpions or tarantulas.

The other morning I was cooking breakfast and one of those fast moving little spiders appeared out of nowhere, defying death by sidling along the edge of the stove. I know he was snickering at me when I cowered and yelped for the one person I should be able to count on to help.

Half crumpled paper towel in hand, I was ready to squash the little sucker and toss his eight-legged tiny carcass into the trash, but "Someone" had to come along and catch him, except he didn't catch him (or her - whatever it was, it didn't belong on my stove). He picked the spider up and let it crawl on his hand... until it jumped off and disappeared into the silverware drawer.

There I was standing at the stove trying not to burn my eggs while keeping a distance from the drawer, and Spider Hero was digging through the forks, knives and measuring spoons trying to spot my mini adversary.

I was way past not happy at this point. In an attempt to not apologize, Spouse said, "I wanted to take him out." "So did I," I growled.

He never found the spider. Now every time I open the top drawer I stand back just in case. That thing may be little but it had some serious spring.

I was just reading last week that spiders appear most often in early September, so I guess I can’t do much about avoiding them. I did, however, put Spouse in charge of supper that night, just in case his beady-eyed buddy decided to make an appearance.

I guess I shouldn’t complain. I do still believe Spouse would take a bullet for me – as long as no spiders were harmed in the process.

P.S. By the time I got around to posting this, October rolled around. I just hope the spiders have calendars.