Breakfast with my Wife: Mediocrity at McDonald’s

IMG_4315The best way to start the day is with breakfast, and when I was younger, McDonald’s was the place to get it, which I think had more to do with the sentimentality of that being the place my dad and I would always go when he would come visit rather than the quality of the food, which we can all agree is complete crap, amazing, delicious crap. I remember one time when I had spent the night over at my great grandmother’s house, and in the morning she asked me what I wanted for breakfast, going over all of the many options that she had to make, biscuits, eggs, sausage, fried potatoes, toast, or cereal, all perfectly good options, most of which I would prefer now over going out for breakfast, but my young mind was centered and solely focused on McDonald’s, so that is where we went. I got the sausage biscuit with a hash brown, the only thing I ever got back then. Once I had branched out and tried the breakfast burrito before going to a water park for the day, and that didn’t turn out good for anyone, so the sausage biscuit and hash brown was it from then on. Breakfast was great, the guilt trip I got later in the day from my granddad was not. He told me when offered something, you either take it or you don’t, but you shouldn’t suggest something else that you want more, because that’s rude, a valuable lesson learned at a young age. What made it worse was the fact that my great grandmother had everything at home to make what I got to eat at McDonald’s which I didn’t realize because I was so focused on what I wanted and wasn’t really paying attention to the less desirable homemade options.

Close to twenty years have passed since I snubbed my great grandmother’s home cooking for McDonald’s, and while my love for their breakfast has certainly wavered and fallen off quite a bit, it hasn’t completely disappeared. This past weekend, my wife and I were both up pretty early, before she had to go to work, and lying in bed, as if she had read my mind, suggested we go get breakfast. This may seem like a normal thing for couples to do on the weekend, but it’s actually a very rare occasion for us, not only because she has to work basically every weekend morning, but because my wife actually kind of hates breakfast. It’s crazy, because breakfast is by far the greatest meal of the day, but my wife and I are basically polar opposites when it comes to our feelings on the matter, but for some reason, she suggested it, and of course I was one hundred percent on board. There are several places here in town that I love to go for a good breakfast consisting of either biscuits and gravy, or sausage and eggs with hash browns, but since we were in a little bit of a time crunch and my wife had to leave for work before too long, we wouldn’t have had time to eat at any of those places, so we did the next best thing, and went to McDonald’s.

It was an overcast and dreary morning, and a slight drizzle was descending down on the city, which didn’t seem to deter anyone from getting their breakfast as the parking lot was so full we had to circle fully around the building and found a parking spot on our second loop. Although it was crowded, this McDonald’s was the picture of efficiency, with multiple register opened, taking orders and getting through the line quickly, and then stepping to the side of the counter for maybe two minutes at the most until your food was ready and your number was called. My wife and I both got the hotcakes and sausage with a hash brown, which I added to my order first and my wife decided to piggy back on my gluttony, and coffees for the both of us, vanilla iced for her and a hot pumpkin spice latte for myself, which would probably be embarrassing to admit ordering if it weren’t so freaking good. We found a booth near the window and watched the rain fall from the dark sky on a mild October morning. I “buttered” the pancakes, which I put in quotation marks and say with skepticism because I don’t know what I was spreading on the pancakes but there’s no way it was butter. It would have been nice to equally portion out the syrup between the three flap jacks, but not wanting to risk getting sticky syrup on my hands and ruining the rest of my day, I just dumped it all out on the top pancake, figuring I would just use the excess syrup that ran off and pooled near the sides of the plate as a dipping sauce for the others.

The hot cakes were not so hot, and in fact weren’t even warm, but were actually kind of cold, which did nothing to enhance the flavors that weren’t all that great to begin with. The sausage I actually enjoyed, and the best bites of pancake were the ones that were skewered on the same fork as a bite of sausage and dipped in the syrup. The hash brown was heavenly and just the way I remembered, and the pumpkin spice latte was really good as well, although I must say that it isn’t anywhere near as good as the one from Starbucks that started this whole trend, plus, I got a medium and the cup was only filled up about three quarters of the way which seemed like a bit of a rip off, but the warm taste of fall worked wonders in not allowing me to be bothered by that fact. Overall the breakfast was good but not great, and would have been so much better if the hotcakes had actually been hot, but I realize it’s probably a lot to expect of a McDonald’s product to live up to its name. I probably should have gotten a sausage biscuit and hash brown, because to this day, that meal has never let me down.

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The Problem With Vacations

Vacations are great, and one of my favorite things in life, but with only two weeks allotted for vacation time each year, tough decisions have to be made, and I for one, am tired of it. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the time that I do get, and appreciate the fact that there are people who aren’t so lucky and aren’t given any paid vacation time, I know because that used to be me, but it can get really overwhelming having to choose how to spend those two weeks of vacation. First world problems, am I right? Just give me a couple of minutes to explain, and you will understand why this is so difficult for me. I’m completely out of vacation time for the rest of the year, but I find myself already feeling the pressure of what I’m going to do with my two weeks next year, and am not sure what I’m going to do. Here’s my dilemma.
 
Just about every summer in my childhood I would go with my dad and his side of the family to my grandparents beachside condo in Orange Beach, Alabama, and aside from holding a special place in my heart because of all the good memories, it is one of my favorite places in the world. I wasn’t able to go this past summer, because somebody at my work had already requested off for the same week that the whole family was going to the beach, and although everyone was understanding about me not being able to make it, I could tell my grandmother in particular was upset by the fact that I wouldn’t be able to go. I hated that I was going to miss Orange Beach, but I assured them that I would put my vacation request in really early for next summer so that nothing would stand in my way of getting to take the weeklong trip, or so I thought.
 
While the tradition on my dad’s side of the family is to go to Orange Beach every year, with my mom we usually go somewhere that we’ve never been before, so it’s always tough when I have to miss those vacations, because I never know if I’ll ever have another opportunity to go to those places. Recently my mom started talking about vacation next summer and decided that she wanted to go on a weeklong Alaskan Cruise, so with the cruise plus the travel days, the whole trip would take the better part of a week and a half, which would mean that I wouldn’t be able to go on the trip to the beach, which I’d already said that I would go on. It’s not like I don’t want to go to the beach, I love Orange Beach, but I’ve never been on a cruise or to Alaska before, and this is my opportunity to do both, a dilemma that could maybe be solved if only I were given more vacation time, but guess what, even if I could go both to the beach and to Alaska, there would still be problems, because one of those vacations would be with my mom, and the other with my dad, and none of that time off would be spent with either of my wife’s parents, which we obviously would like to do, but even if we cast aside the Alaskan cruise, we still wouldn’t be able to go to Orange beach with my dad, and go visit both of my wife’s parents, because one lives in California and the other lives in Florida, which would need to be two separate trips, so really we’re in a lose-lose situation in terms of coming up with a fair way to split vacations with our families, because that seems to be practically impossible when only given two weeks to do so. I often hear that divorce is toughest on the kids, but if we’re being completely honest, I think divorce is way tougher on the adult children who have to make tough life choices about who to go with on vacation.
 
Even if all of that gets resolved and we find a way to spend meaningful time with all four of our parents, there question still lingers of when my wife and I could take a vacation on our own, to go somewhere we’ve always wanted to go and spend some quality alone time together. There’s just not enough vacation time for all of these different trips that I want and need to take, but after much deliberation, I’ve finally come up with what I think is an adequate solution. I’m going to quit my job and spend the rest of my days on the road, traveling around and experiencing all that life has to offer. That was a lie, which is really unfortunate because so badly I want for it to be true, but it’s just not in the cards for me right now. I guess I’ll just keep hoping that something changes in terms of my vacation time, like Donald Trump declares a federal law that everyone gets a full month off work every year. I mean he’s bound to do something good while he’s in office, right?

Orange Beach to Orlando

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My wife and I left Orange Beach at five in the morning, eager to get our day of travel out of the way so we could relax at our next honeymoon destination for the next week. The first week of our honeymoon on the gulf coast of Alabama was fantastic, but when the day comes for us to leave, neither my new bride or myself like to stick around and waste the day, which is why we found ourselves on the road so early. It was a good plan, but unfortunately we didn’t plan as well the night before and didn’t end up going to bed until well after midnight, so needless to say, we were both pretty tired when we got up, bleary eyed, to hit the road a few hours later. Luckily for my wife, at that time in our relationship I didn’t really trust her to drive since my mom sent me to a defensive driving class when I was fifteen where I was shown pictures and videos of why other drivers cannot be trusted, images that still haunt me to this day, so she could sleep peacefully in the passenger seat while I manned the wheel and tried to figure out where in the world I was going. I finally found the interstate about the time it started to get light outside which meant it took me a lot longer to find than it should have, almost two hours of wasted time mindlessly circling Pensacola as the directions on my iPhone sent me contradicting directions as I got sleepier and sleepier.

By the time I merged onto the interstate I felt rejuvenated, excited to be on the road to Orlando, but a few miles later my eyelids started to droop and no matter what I did to try and wake myself up, munching sunflower seeds, cranking up the music, rolling down the windows, nothing was working and I knew I needed a break or I was one hundred percent going to fall asleep at the wheel. I woke my wife up and told her of the upcoming disaster of me crashing the car and both of us dying if I didn’t get some rest soon, so she convinced me to pull over and she would drive for a little bit while I napped in the passenger seat, a plan I didn’t trust, but not wanting to lose time by stopping at a rest stop for a nap, I eventually agreed and I pulled off at the next exit. We switched seats, and I closed my eyes, ready to get that much needed sleep. I kept my eyes closed as my wife pulled the car out onto the road, but as she increased her speed, merging back onto the interstate, there was no way that I could relax. My eyes flew open, expecting to see us careening directly into the side of an eighteen wheeler that would fall over onto our car and crush me, staining the interstate crimson with my blood for years to come, but to my surprise we were okay, at least for the moment.

I tried to trust my wife as she drove, but my feet wouldn’t cooperate, stomping down on the floorboard to no avail each time I felt she was going too fast or getting too close to another car. I was driving both my wife and myself crazy with my constant flinching and wincing, thinking about every single thing that could go wrong for every car that we passed; it was obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to relax long enough to fall asleep, so a few exits after my wife took over the driving duties, she pulled off of the interstate and into a rest area. As it turns out, it wasn’t that easy to fall asleep in the rest area either, primarily because my mind was racing, thinking about the likelihood of getting murdered while I slept in the car in a strange town. A sign stated that there was armed security at night, which did absolutely nothing for me given it was a few minutes after eight in the morning. I locked the doors and cracked the windows just a crack, because in the big scheme of things, suffocating would be just as impactful on my life as getting murdered. Somehow I fell asleep, but before an hour had passed I had already woken back up. The nap had tricked my mind into thinking that it was well rested, so before it could discover the truth I got back out on the road.

About twenty miles before we arrived in Orlando, the skies opened up and the rain started pouring down onto us so rapidly and hard that the highest setting on the windshield wipers did little in the way of helping me see the road. It’s true that I didn’t trust my wife’s driving and that I had thoughts in the back of my mind about getting murdered at the rest stop, but when I couldn’t see anything around me on that Florida interstate, I really thought there was a good chance that we were going to die. It took us more than an hour to arrive at our destination as we crawled along the interstate, bracing ourselves for impact with cars that we could not see. Miraculously we arrived unharmed and got checked in to our hotel a few hours after our original estimated time of arrival, but at least we had made it and could finally relax. At the time it was not a fun day, but now, looking back four and a half years later I can honestly say that I wouldn’t want to repeat that experience again. It was terrible.

Winning a Marital Disagreement

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For all of the people out there in relationships that are full of disagreements and conflicting opinions, who believe that no matter what, your significant other will never come around to feeling the way you do on certain issues, there is hope. Until today I never would have believed it and have given up on even trying to sway my wife’s opinion, but rejoice my friends because today it actually happened. Over the course of our relationship, my wife and I have had many disagreements over things, some small, like where to go for dinner or how to load the dishwasher, and some big, like whether Lord of the Rings is the greatest movie trilogy of all time, or if we should get dogs or not. Well we’ve never sat down and watched Lord of the Rings together and we now have two chihuahuas so it’s safe to say that I lose a lot more than I win, but today I won, and it feels fantastic.

The biggest fundamental difference of opinion that we have is far bigger than dogs or movies or how to load a dishwasher to make sure that everything gets clean (Seriously why does it matter how you put a spoon in? They’re not that expensive we could just buy more spoons), but rather where the ideal place to live is based on the weather. My wife was born in California and lived there for nine years before moving to Florida where she lived the rest of her life before we moved to Memphis last year, so her opinion was completely biased based on the surroundings she grew up with. She loves hot weather, so between Florida and Southern California that are two of the consistently warm climates in the country, she didn’t think it could get any better. I on the other hand like the cold. I absolutely loved living in Minnesota during the winter of my freshman year of college where snow stayed on the ground for the better part of three months, whereas the four years spent in Florida were some of the most miserable of my life, so we had to come up with a compromise, find a place where we could both get what we wanted, so we moved to Memphis.

We moved here in July, which was perfect for her so she could go from one hellishly hot place to another, but then fall rolled around and the heat relented and I was suddenly a much happier man, my first taste of cool fall air in four years. Last winter was a pretty mild one save for the week where it was consistently in the upper 20’s, but it was nice to have the cold for at least a little while, and to my wife’s surprise, she survived it. Now that it’s miserably hot again she was really enjoying it for a little while, but lately hasn’t been as happy about it, and today she texted me from work telling me that she can’t wait for winter and said she actually appreciates the changing seasons now, so take that Florida and California, Memphis wins (at least in that respect)! That just goes to show you that changes of opinions or preferences can change over the course of a relationship, so don’t give up hope and maybe, just maybe, you will be as happy as I am today.

A Trip to the Mall on a Tuesday Afternoon

IMG_4082I have to work this Saturday which means that today I only had to go into work for a few hours, so when I got home I took my wife to her chiropractor, not because I love going to the dimly lit building where my wife’s spine gets shoved back into place, but because it’s rare that we are ever off work at the same time and I wanted to hang out with her today. After the appointment that took maybe ten minutes, and cost roughly two dollars per minute, which in all sincerity is money well spent since my wife could hardly even walk before, we decided it might be fun to go to the mall since we were already over in the area, and since school started here yesterday, we figured it wouldn’t be obnoxiously crowded like the rest of the summer. Sadly, we were wrong.

I’m not kidding when I say that the parking lot was as crowded as I can ever remember and I had to park pretty far from the entrance, not that I minded that aspect all that much since it turned out to be a pretty pleasant summer day. We walked into the food court, the place where any good trip to the mall starts, and got a snack of bacon cheese fries and a soda. You really haven’t lived until you try walking around the mall on a miserably full stomach. The cheese fries were overly salty, but they were devoured nonetheless, and with no particular destination in mind, we began to wander around the Wolfchase Galleria. There were quite a few stores that have opened up since we’d last been in there, so we ventured inside, were hassled by salespeople wanting to help us find something that we ourselves didn’t know we were looking for, and subsequently left, moving on to the next one.

The process repeated in this fashion with each store we went into, which left me remembering why I don’t like the mall that much in the first place, because browsing just isn’t as much fun without unlimited funds in the bank account, and it’s uncomfortable the way the shop owner’s eyes will follow you around the store, waiting expectantly to make a purchase that never actually happens. We went into Bath and Body Works, a store that I both loathe and love, because nothing is offensive as the combination of odors that you might smell, but there are few things as satisfying as walking away with the perfect scented candle that brings back some unknown memory that translates to happiness. We walked around taking the tops off of various candles and smelling them to see if that is what we wanted our apartment to smell like for the next month or so, but more often than not we shook our heads in disgust as candles with names like “Flannel” or “Pomegranate” gave off overwhelming scents that were altogether unpleasant. We did however find one that we love, an old favorite of ours, “Pumpkin Apple”, but agreed that was a scent better suited for a nice and cool fall evening than a warm and muggy summer afternoon that is currently our reality, so we left the store empty handed, vowing to come back for that candle once the leaves begin to change and life seems much more optimistic. Although we didn’t end up buying anything, I wouldn’t consider the afternoon a bust, because it was just nice getting to spend some quality time in the mall with my wife on a Tuesday, which in itself is a pretty rare occurrence.

Why I Won’t be Going Back to Pizza Hut

Last year I wrote a blog about how after constant disappointment I was severing my ties with Pizza Hut, and for the most part I have stuck with that, despite that being the most conveniently located pizza place to where I live, but last night I found myself there and all of my previous hatred for the pizza chain was reaffirmed. Pull up a chair, this may take a while. So my wife and I were going over to my dad’s house last night and he asked if we would pick up the pizza that he’d ordered on the way, which shouldn’t have been a problem which is exactly what I told him. He told me that it would be ready at seven o’clock, so I timed my leaving the house perfectly and pulled up in front of the restaurant at precisely that time, for I’m nothing if not punctual. I went in and paid for the two medium pizzas, eighteen dollars exactly and signed the receipt, waiting for my pizza. The cashier looked in the warming bag behind her, pulling out two medium pizzas, before deciding that something was wrong and pushing them back into the bag, completely out of sight. I knew there was a problem, because typically that’s how things work at pizza hut; you order pizza, and you get a problem, although she didn’t tell me this right away.

The cashier disappeared to the back, and shortly after returned to the counter with a one toothed woman who appeared, all appearances aside, to be the manager. They whispered back in forth, the two previously mentioned pizzas making another appearance as one explained to the other what was going on, and still all of this was happening without anyone saying a word to me. Finally, after a few minutes, the singularly toothed thorn in my heel stepped forward to the counter and addressed me for the first time, informing me that guess what, there was a problem. Apparently the two pizzas that I was supposed to be picking up were given away to another customer, and this other customer’s pizzas were the ones that kept being pulled in and out of the hot bag. She said it would take no more than ten minutes to remake the pizzas, but my old bias against Pizza Hut had been building up as soon as I knew there was a problem, so I told her I just wanted my money back and if I decided to reorder the pizza I would come back in and do so, my thinking being that I would call my dad and we could nix this whole plan altogether and find a pizza place that wasn’t so prone to constant screw ups.

The manager turned and asked the cashier how I paid, because apparently for some reason asking the person standing right in front of her who had actually made the payment didn’t occur to her. The cashier told her I paid with my card, and that is when the manager informed me, saying that it wasn’t possible to give cash back on a card purchase. I found it absurd that I could not get my money back; my online banking app already showed the money taken from my account, so why couldn’t she just give me eighteen dollars in cash and let me be on my way? “That’s not possible.” That was the phrase she kept hissing at me from behind the tooth, as if I were asking her to suddenly sprout wings and fly away. Stubbornly, I once again asked for my money back, and then the genie gave me three options; I could get a credit for the amount I spent, redeemable at any area pizza hut, she could tell her manager tomorrow, who in turn would contact the corporate headquarters and would make a decision on whether or not to return my money in five to seven business days, or I could wait ten minutes for them to remake the pizzas. I slightly raised my hands in an act of show, asked what choice did I have, and told her I would be waiting outside until the pizzas were remade.

Ten minutes later on the nose I walked back into the Pizza Hut, ready to claim my prize. In the time I sat waiting in the car, I watched a guy walk in, not be helped at the counter for five minutes, and angrily leave, so at least I can take solace in knowing I’m not the only person afflicted by the terrible service that seems to be a requirement of all their franchises. I did have to wait a few minutes for my pizzas to be finished, given that the people who actually make the pizzas aren’t that great at estimating how long it will take to make them, but finally I got them and was about to leave, when suddenly a thought occurred to me. These people were very unhelpful and were basically holding my eighteen dollars hostage. In all the jobs I’ve worked at, including a few months at a pizza place, we bent over backwards to make our customers happy, going above and beyond especially when someone was unhappy, giving out free cheesy bread or giving the products to them free of charge, but none of these conciliatory offerings were tossed in my direction, so I asked the manager if I could have a two liter drink for my troubles. She rolled her eyes and said yes; victory was mine, the big winner of a two liter Pepsi for thirty minutes of my time. Suffice it to say, I will not be returning to Pizza Hut anytime soon.