Monthly Archives: August 2011

WHY call it a starter?

It drives me nuts when you are in a restaurant and you order an appetizer and a meal, and they come out together.

More often than not this happens when you are seated at a really small table.

Then the server has to do the dance moving salt and pepper shakers and waters and wine glasses to get everything situated.

If I wanted buffet style, I would have gone to a buffet.

WHY Wednesday.


Wear you down Weather

With all the excitement about Irene, I didn’t even mention the earthquake that rattled the Northeast last week. Probably because I never even felt it.

I was at work on the 6th floor in an iconic building in New York City and didn’t feel anything. People all around me did. Truth be told, I was a little bummed I didn’t feel it.

One of the women I sit near actually thought she was getting dizzy and had taken a sip of water. She didn’t say anything until after it was announced that there was, in fact, an earthquake. If she had said something sooner, maybe I would have felt something!

And since hurricane season lasts a few more months, this Gawker article on prepping for the next hurricane is definitely worth a read. And for you naysayers, who are you kidding, there’s definitely going to be another – another something anyway. We just had a hurricane, an earthquake and a tornado warning in one week.

Number one: I couldn’t stop eating

Hurricane / Tropical Storm Irene caused significant flooding and damage on the Eastern Seaboard this weekend but hopefully everyone is safe.

My post-hurricane/tropical storm observations from my own home.

1 – During ‘lock down’ I COULDN’T STOP EATING. We had bought some food (read: unhealthy crap) that we don’t normally purchase so it was a bit of overload. But not everything was unhealthy. Bananas, granola bars, popsicles, bread. It didn’t matter. I couldn’t stop eating. Besides small leaks in my apartment, the biggest personal problem I have with Irene is the weight she put on me. Anyone else have the same problem?!

2 – The boyfriend and I prepare for emergencies very differently. I heeded the advice of elected officials, I taped the windows, I moved my irreplaceable (after human life) items into the closets, I filled the tub with water, I made sure we had wine and beer and canned goods and snacks (okay, so they said canned goods and food…I interpreted it my way), I slept on an aero bed in our foyer away from glass windows. I was under the assumption that our windows were going to blow out. The boyfriend, not so much. He made sure we had bottled water, he filled up used water bottles with tap water in case we needed more water to flush the toilets (because he drained the tub I filled), he made sure we had flashlights (even though the batteries were supposed to be used by 2003), he slept in the bed – next to said glass windows. Maybe we make a good team.

3 – I feel bad for the newscasters. I know that I once wanted to be one of them, but boy is it tedious, not to mention dangerous. And I got sucked in with the best of them. On Sunday evening, yes Sunday, when I asked the boyfriend, ‘Where did Saturday and Sunday go?’ he replied, ‘We watched the news, a lot of news.’ And just like that my weekend was gone.

4 – While I give New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg much credit for speaking Spanish during his press conferences, he might want to have a translator to speak on his behalf. I do hope it is sincerely appreciated by Spanish-speaking New Yorkers because he does give it a valiant effort.

5 – Whatever your political affiliation, you have to love New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s ‘get the hell off the beach’ speech. If you haven’t seen it, click the link I provided right this second. HILARIOUS. PS – he is right, although I admit that I may have waited a little bit longer just to avoid  the traffic.

6 – Social media is here to stay. I have believed this for a long time but for you naysayers…news was out there relaying information as well as local governments. I admit, I followed a few more relevant Facebook pages and Twitter feeds that would give me the information I desired. And some with not so relevant information…but hey, with 10K followers in just a few days, that’s impressive.

7 – Note to self: when stores are restocked, create an emergency kit – including D batteries and duct tape. No where could D batteries be found. Duct tape — I eventually found a few more rolls, but they weren’t at the hardware store. Now I realize the importance…I don’t want to be THOSE people at the store again. I want to have that stuff at the ready.

8 – We should be thankful it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Prepare for the worst, expect the best is a good mantra.

9 – I prepared for the windows to blow out and I also prepared to lose electricity. I had games, a deck of cards and candles ready to go into the bathroom. I also made the boyfriend and I pack a little emergency bag in case we had to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Laugh now, but I don’t think it was a bad idea.

10 – I am a little annoyed by the MTA and the PATH trains. You shut them down for the first time in history and you get them back and running in less than 48 hours? Why? Why? WHY? The storm happened over the weekend. You couldn’t just make a public plea for people to stay home on Monday?

While there are many people who think this was too much preparation for something so little, I do think the public officials did right by their constituents. Mother Nature is unpredictable and while there is significant damage up and down the Eastern Seaboard, you never know what could have been.

Irene Is On Her Way

The hurricane is en route and with a vengeance. Now I’m just waiting for the power to go out.

Yesterday, the town I live in issued a voluntary evacuation and a directive to get your car off the street (in another town or in a multi-level garage). Today, the town issued mandatory evacuations if you live on a garden or first floor apartment.

The boyfriend and I don’t have a car and we live on the top floor of a 13 floor building. We decided to stay.

We face the Hudson River. Thoughts of a tidal wave have passed through my mind.

It remains to be seen if we made the right choice. All of our furniture is off the balcony. With multiple trips to buy tape (hot seller!) we have taped our windows.

We’ve got a wall of windows in the bedroom and a sliding glass door in the living room. I made the boyfriend put this plastic tarp over the windows in the bedroom.

I filled a plastic crate with photo albums and other irreplaceable items. All of my possessions are in this apartment, so after human life, I have chosen items precious and after human life, irreplaceable, to me. This crate is in another hall closet. I moved out the less important vacuum and suitcases to make room.

I also took my important paperwork and stored it on high shelves in the closet. I made the boyfriend take down a gorgeous framed picture off the wall. That, too, is in the closet.

Clearly I have no idea what Mother Nature wants to do but if I have ample time to prepare I am going to ‘hide’ some stuff.

Because our apartment is high and we get wind on a normal day, I am assuming the absolute worst. I am going into this thinking that our windows will blow out and we will be spending a good portion of time hanging out in the bathroom (the only place in our one bedroom apartment with no windows) until we can move to safety.

Oh and yes, I already have an evacuation bag packed. It just has my toiletries and medicine and pajamas. I would just have to grab my glasses or contacts (whichever I am not currently wearing).

Call me crazy. I like to call myself prepared. With the rearranging of furniture thanks to the addition of balcony furniture now in the living room, my floors got cleaned. So did the bathroom since I expect that we will be spending time camping out in there in the next few hours.

I will leave you with these thoughts from my observations earlier today.

1 – If there are calls for evacuations, why do the news people show up? For our entertainment? If said power goes out, no one is watching and they are right in harm’s way!

2 – Why does the news ‘reward’ idiots with getting them on camera? Example (this is not verbatim but pretty close).

Newscaster: ‘Hey you know there’s an evacuation of all of the beaches in New Jersey?’
Idiot: ‘Yes.’
Newscaster: ‘Ten why are you here? WITH your small children?’
Idiot: ‘To watch.
Newscaster: ‘When are you going to leave?’
Idiot: ‘When I get hit with a wave’
??? They really aired this on television today. I wanted to smack this idiot.

3 – If there are mandatory evacuations and people choose to stay, they should also choose to rescue themselves. This especially annoys me with the people at the beach. Why should a first responder be put in harm’s way, the unpredictable and unforgiving ocean, because someone failed to acknowledge a MANDATORY evacuation?

That’s it for now. Am sure to have more hurricane observations once Irene makes her way to my area. I will post again when I get the electricity, that I am banking on losing, back.

In the meantime, wherever in the world you may be, stay safe.

Can I Get An Update?

Delays are a normal part of my airline travel. Running late sometimes is too. I’m a little nervous about missing my flight when I have some spare time at the airport and I decide to grab a drink at the bar or food at a restaurant.

It amazes me that restaurants and bars in an airport terminal don’t have their own little flight board announcing departures and flight status?

Having those little screens inside an airport bar or restaurant would benefit everyone involved, especially when a flight is delayed and can board at a moment’s notice.

  • Restaurants and bars would make additional revenue
  • Airlines would have fewer people asking questions at the gate and hopefully have fewer people stuck at the bar while the flight is completely boarded and ready to go
  • Passengers would have a welcome distraction

It seems like a no brainer. With all the airports I have been in, I don’t recall ever seeing one of these inside the bar or restaurant. I have to  keep leaving to double-check since the announcement systems may not be that reliable.

Now Boarding All Rows

I love traveling. I especially love traveling when everything aligns just right. No delays getting to the airport, a short and speedy security line, succinct boarding, pulling out from the gate and up in the air in a timely fashion.

Obviously there’s many a time when the plane pulls out from the gate and you are to sit and wait as you are number 20 in line for take off. Classic case of hurry up and wait.

I also love racing against time at an airport. I am realistic enough to know the plane won’t wait for me but I know I’ll make it because I don’t cut it THAT close. I leave enough time to get to the airport, get through a normal line at check-in, grab a magazine and a snack and then board. This ‘habit’ of mine makes the boyfriend crazy so I can only cut it ‘this close’ when I travel alone.

Three times I may have cut it a little too close for comfort, even by my standards, come to mind:

1 – Denver (DEN) to JFK via Atlanta (ATL); and then rerouted from ATL to Newark (EWR) – At check-in.

With a friend, taking the red-eye home after vacationing in Colorado. The agent who had to manually check us in informed us that had we arrived a minute later, the system would have automatically blocked us out, rendering us unable to get our boarding passes, and ultimately, our flight, home. It was never-ending fun, especially when we arrived in Atlanta in the wee hours of the morning only to find out our JFK flight was cancelled. We rerouted ourselves to Newark. Our luggage (yes, I checked luggage back then!) took a few extra days to make it home.

2 – LaGuardia (LGA) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) – In the security line. Alone.

Once I got on the security line, I heard an announcement that my flight was boarding. I found someone who worked there and let her know that my flight was boarding. She escorted me to the front of the security line. A few days later I received a letter from the airline telling me that in the future, I should allow for additional time at the airport.

3 – Newark (EWR) to Burbank (BUR)- In the ridiculously long security line (yes, only one line), for a ridiculously early flight. Alone – but a colleague who was on the plane texted me for updates on my place in the security line, wondering if she needed to ask them to hold the flight for me.

My experience at LGA was not duplicated at EWR. I waited with everyone else (except their flights were later than mine). Once past security, I raced through the terminal to my gate. I was forced to check my bag (GRR) because the gate agents said that overhead bins were full (they weren’t). To date, this flight is the only one where I was the last passenger to board. The plus was that almost as soon as I buckled my seat belt, we pulled out from the gate.

All Aboard. Like Now.

Catching a New Jersey Transit train from New York Penn Station is a breeze…IF you are already in Manhattan.

Catching that same train when it arrives in Newark Penn Station is another story. It really is quite easy. But because there are several transfers from where I live, it can induce stress, even in a frequent traveler (like me!), to ensure you catch that train!

Knowing what time the train leaves Newark Penn and working backwards takes some mathematical doing to avoid spending as much time in the station as possible.

Here’s the transportation process from my home:

I live about a fifteen minute walk (okay, it’s probably more like twenty and because I go with fifteen, is probably the reason I cut it too close) from the PATH train, that will ultimately get me to the train station. This train on the weekends is a little iffy. They run on a schedule, but you never know if there will be signal problems, delays or construction.

This train takes you right to Newark … almost. You need to switch at Journal Square, a transportation hub in Jersey City, which is no problem since you are literally just crossing the platform. It takes about five seconds. Seriously. But you have to allot time to wait for that train because of said issues: signal problems, delays or construction.

Accounting for these delays is important because it could mean the difference between getting your train in Newark, or waiting thirty minutes to an hour for the next one. Newark Penn Station is not a place you want to spend extra time if you don’t have to.

When getting on the PATH train in Journal Square, I make sure I am waiting on the platform for the car that will align me with the exit in Newark so I can just head directly to my train, and not waste any time getting myself off the platform.

Pulling into Newark…

Now I’m not usually cutting it THAT close because I don’t want to miss my train. I typically try to ensure I arrive into the station about ten to fifteen minutes before my train, which is more than enough time to get to the right track and buy a ticket. Again, because I rely on public transportation and I am forced to abide by their schedules, I’m just rushing for the train, plane, bus or ferry that I need…of course on the other end, when I disembark I’m perfectly on time, or pretty damn close to it!

As the train doors open, my heart beating ramps up. As anyone who takes public transportation can tell you, you never want to ‘just miss’ the train. Let me miss it by ten minutes, not ten seconds.

So the doors open and I jog, even though I know I don’t have to. My first glance, as I am speedily cruising through the train station to purchase my ticket, is to check the train status.

So long as it says ‘on time’ and not ‘all aboard’ I am all good. The ‘all aboard’ status usually goes up about five minutes before the train arrives. Those five minutes are important because they mean I am more than good and I don’t have to sprint up the stairs to my track.

Even with that said, I always get nervous I am going to miss my New Jersey Transit train.

I know you may be scratching your head saying, why don’t you just get the PATH train before the one you really need? I do. But without fail, it still causes me stress to make sure I am getting to the platform in time. I can’t breathe a sigh of relief until I am holding my ticket and waiting on the platform.

If I am traveling with someone who is worried (see: boyfriend), I have to act cool and collected because I know we’re good. If I let him know we weren’t good, well that would just add unnecessary stress, because he would have liked to give himself double the amount of time he would need.

If you have ever spent any time in that train station…you know why I don’t want to be there any longer than absolutely necessary. I think that is the cause of why getting to Newark Penn Station stresses me out.

Newark Penn Station contains a mix of some interesting characters. It’s a great place to people watch. I’ve seen degenerates peeing on the station floor and I have seen people getting taken out in handcuffs. If you’ve ever spent any time there, I am certain that you have a story.

Do tell!

Late for a Very Important Date

WHY can’t I consistently be early, or on-time?

Professionally, I am always on-time, if not early. I get frustrated when meetings start late and run over.

Personally speaking, I’m not early. I’m usually on-time. Or, more often than not, a few minutes late. This is when I am banking on walking, or taking a subway or a city bus to my destination.

Because I rely heavily on public transportation, I am bound by specific schedules. I have to do the backwards math to get me to the transportation. I figure out which time is the ‘ideal’ train, bus or boat time in my head and then the second best. It’s getting to that ‘ideal’ train, bus or boat that being late kicks in.

Once I am en route on one of the ‘ideal’ timed transport, I’m going to arrive when I say I will.

If I’m not running for transportation, I just feel like I am running late.

Many years ago, I had to sprint from the parking lot to catch a train that was already at the platform. Once on the train, the train conductor told me that “People wait for trains, trains don’t wait for people.” I try to avoid repeating that situation as best I can.

In college, I was in a sorority – Phi Sigma Sigma – and everyone was always at least five minutes late, so consistently that we coined it ‘Phi Sig time.’

The boyfriend is very much an ‘early to on-time’ kind of guy and he was abruptly introduced to ‘Phi Sig’ time when we arrived somewhere to meet friends about ten minutes early. Which meant we were waiting for my friends for nearly twenty minutes. So many years out of college, and some of us are still on Phi Sig time…but it makes it easier to plan accordingly knowing it’s kind of okay, and pretty much expected (those of you reading this, know who you are).

I am taking an official stand and making a mid-year New Year’s resolution to heed Vince Lombardi’s words in my life: “If you’re not 5 minutes early, you’re late.” I will be realistic about it though. Two to three minutes early, or even exactly on time would suffice for me.

Hate being late? Check out these proven tips. I know I will.

Are you a Flake?

“While you may not consciously be trying to tick off people, the problem is that you aren’t consciously making an effort not to either. This thoughtlessness can derail your professional and personal relationships.” — Susan Kim

Take a read.

Well, are YOU a flake?

As for me, where I do really well…I’m the queen of follow-up both professionally and personally. So those that don’t follow through with what they say they will do happens to drive me crazy.

And my other peeve is not saying thank you after someone went out of their way for you. I’m not from the South but you would think I was. I love thank you notes. I don’t care how it’s sent – whether it’s a handwritten note, an email or a call. It doesn’t need to be on fancy stationery or contain long-winded paragraphs or be a long phone call but there should always be an acknowledgement of thanks.

And since I am absolutely not perfect, check out tomorrow’s post when I point out where I don’t do so well.

A Warm Welcome…Or Is It?

I always get a little skittish going through Customs, even though I have nothing to hide. When the customs officers flip through my passport, and ask a few questions about my travels, I always get a little bit nervous. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because the fear of not getting ‘let back’ in is a little bit nerve-racking.

Did I go over my allotted money to spend abroad? Am I going to get asked what I was doing (traveling!)? When I lived in London, it was during the foot and mouth disease outbreak, was the chocolate I brought back going to get confiscated? Milk products were iffy and I made the call to bring it in the country. There was no major outbreak from my decision if I recall correctly and I believe I did tell customs about my purchase.

Then there are the things you want to bring in but are not certain they will make it. Like the British man I sat next to on a flight from London to New York. He had a cheese wheel. A serious cheese wheel in the overhead compartment. It was his entire carry-on. We parted ways as I entered through the US citizen line and he did not so I have no idea if that cheese wheel made it in, but I imagine if it did not, the customs agent had a field day eating it.

And then there are those items that you are absolutely certain you can take home, but don’t make it farther than the gate at the starting airport.

Wandering Earl, a permanent nomad, has had some amazing travel experiences, and some ‘not-so-great returning to the States’ experiences, like when US Customs found a bullet in his pocket.

But when he was recently welcomed home, with open arms, it makes you wonder, why does this agent stick out? Shouldn’t there be a lot more of these agents, than not?