I’m not used to having an agenda when I’m dining with my friends. I like to keep things loose. Not on this day though. I was having lunch with Monica and I had an agenda. Monica is my matting expert. We were meeting to discuss the plans for Rebecca’s graduation “present”.
Rebecca is somebody that does not like to have her picture taken. It is not a family trait, but Nate also is afflicted by this condition. This is Rebecca’s senior year. When she needed somebody to take her Senior Pictures she asked me. I agreed to take her pictures, but I had to tell her I am not a portrait photographer. We may have to attempt this on a few different occasions due to my lack of skill. She accepted this deal because she was more comfortable with me taking her picture rather than a stranger.
It turned out that there was enough useful material from one photo shoot for her to pick a few different pictures out for gifts and to use as wallet sized pictures to hand out to her friends. What I wanted to do was make a giant picture out of one of those pictures. Then mat the picture with a black mat board. Then place everything in a silver frame. Then have people at her graduation party sign the mat board with a silver sharpie.
I had run this idea by Rebecca a few weeks ago and she thought the idea was fair to excellent. I told her I didn’t really know what she would be able to do with this picture after her graduation party.
She thought for a second and then said, “Maybe I’ll get into having really big pictures of myself.”
We picked out a suitable black and white photo and I thought about ordering it. I didn’t order it though. I waited.
At the same time I was also working on putting together a “photo book” for Kelly’s Salon. I also needed to order 20 5×7 pictures for June and Dean to give out to celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary.
I normally order all of my enlargements from Adorama. They are a company that is based out of New York City and they do an incredible job. They are fast on the turnaround and even with paying shipping I always save a tidy sum thanks to their low prices.
However, Adorama does not have very much to offer when it comes to gimmicky photo gifts, like a photo book. Instead, I decided to design and order my photo book through Sony Image Station. I figured that I might as well order everything through them. I knew this was a risk because I didn’t have any history with them. So I ordered everything a couple of weeks in advance and hoped that they would come through.
By the end of the first week, my photo book had arrived. The photos did not. It was now the Wednesday before Rebecca’s graduation. The photos still hadn’t arrived.
Monica met me at work for lunch. She gave me total control over where we ate because she said that she was “tired of making decisions”. This was fine with me, I hated the awkward moments of negotiating an eating place that we both didn’t hate, but that usually meant that neither of us loved it either.
I was having a hankering for the club sandwich from the West Street Deli. While my search for the best tenderloin in the state continues, my search for the world’s best club sandwich was completed earlier this year when I took my first bite into the pure goodness that is the West Street Deli club.
There is just one problem with the West Street Deli. There is never any parking. At least not during the day. So I brewed up a back up plan. If there was no parking at the West Street Deli, we would go to Chinese Homestyle Cooking, home of the 2nd best crab rangoons in existence and the best restaurant owners in existence.
There wasn’t a parking spot to be had anywhere near the West Street Deli, so I drove the two blocks to Chinese Homestyle Cooking. It was a compromise that I was willing to make because in the back of my mind I knew that I was going to get that club sandwich eventually.
As I turned into the small parking lot that is shared by Flying Burrito, CHC and some gas station, I realized that there wasn’t a parking spot to be had. I drove across the street and parked in the Taco Bell parking lot.
We got out of the car and I stared at a sign that said, “Taco Bell Customer Parking Only”. I thought about the time when I was running Campus and the store manager at Duff parked in our parking lot to go to a nearby bar. I had her car towed. When I think back at all the time I wasted with that organization that might be the best thing I ever did.
The Store Manager at Duff was the Owner and the Son-in-Law’s favorite, so they were pretty angry when they found out what I had done. It was still worth it. They hated me either way. It was better that they hated me for a reason.
They told me that I wasn’t allowed to tow cars any longer. Like everything else they told me, I ignored it. I continued to tow cars. It was my public service. I was keeping drunks from being behind the wheel. Plus, you can’t beat the entertainment of somebody coming in on Saturday or Sunday morning after they have sobered up and asking if I might tell them where they could find their car. It was the only thing that made working on weekends worthwhile to me.
I hoped karma wouldn’t come back and get me as we crossed the street. I hoped that my car was still there when we crossed this street again.
Once inside CHC I ordered pepper beef and an order of crab rangoons. Monica ordered mongolian beef. We sat down and waited for our food.
As we waited Monica began telling me some of the burdens of management. Although Monica loves her job it reminded me that I don’t really miss management. I don’t really miss “responsibility”. I have responsibility in my job, but at the end of the day I’m only responsible for myself. I don’t miss being responsible for other people. I don’t miss it at all. Every day when I leave my job, I don’t think about it again until the next time I show up for work. In actuality, so much of my job is clicking and waiting and busy work, I can go large chunks of my workday without thinking about my job. This is a tremendous luxury.
I listened to her stresses and gave her what comforting words I could muster, but I was really still thinking, I’m glad I’m not responsible for “Co-Worker X”. Explaining that person’s actions to my superior would sure be a painful process.
It was then that the food came. Monica asked the foolish question of whether or not she could have one of the crab rangoons.
“No, but you must have two.”
She laughed at this display of wit. Or it was the uneasy laughter of somebody who was just relieved that they weren’t going to have to watch me eat all four of these fantastic appetizers.
After she ate one she did agree with me that only the crab rangoons at New China in Boone are superior. Then we had an awkward interaction where we agreed that the flat rangoon is superior to the bunched up rangoon. Although we decided we knew what we were trying to say, we really weren’t very good at describing the physical appearance of the two known types of rangoons.
Monica then began picking at the white flaky things that were in her food.
“What are these?”
“I don’t know.”
“I’m not crazy about them.” She said and then began about the serious business of picking them all out of her meal.
I wondered how she could not enjoy every single aspect of CHC. I wondered what Mike (the man that turned me onto CHC) would think if he saw her do such a thing. I averted my eyes. I pretended I didn’t see what was going on. I concentrated on my plate of pepper beef and its inherent goodness. I hoped to just get out of here without any attention being drawn to what was going down on her side of the booth.
I decided to calm my nerves. I would just start the agenda.
“This is what I got planned. The picture is black and white. The picture is 20×30. The mat will be black. The frame will be 24×36. The frame will be silver. People will write on the mat with a silver sharpie. How do you think that will look?”
“I think that will look awesome.”
I knew Monica would like it. From the style of her paintings I know that she preferred a dark palette. I knew from experience that she hates pastels. HATES PASTELS!! Even though I always tried to convince her that it was silly to hate pastels because every color has its purpose, she has yet to admit to the validity of my point. She still hates pastels.
“Do you think this is something that we can pull off?”
“The picture is 20×30?”
“The mat board will by 24×36?”
“You need this done by when?”
“Graduation is Sunday, but I don’t know when I would be able to work on this because the picture has not arrived yet.”
“You want me to cut this?”
“I didn’t buy a mat board cutter for you not to cut mat boards for me.” This statement wasn’t actually true, I was hoping I would become skilled in the art of mat cutting and not need to rely so heavily on Monica or the area craft stores.
Monica thought for a second and said, “I have a better idea. How about I go pick out a mat board and we’ll have Hobby Lobby cut it for us.”
I was about to agree to this suggestion, with one caveat, but then the wife of the husband-wife team that owns CHC stopped by our table.
“How is everything?” She asked.
“Excellent.” I said.
Then she looked down at Monica’s plate. We were busted. Although I had no implicit guilt in the crime that had been committed, I felt like I was certainly an accessory to the crime.
“You don’t like the rice noodles?” She asked Monica.
“No not really, they’re kind of weird.”
This caused the Wife of the husband wife team launched into a long diatribe about how the rice noodles were made. She went into great detail about how when you started cooking them they were very small and they rapidly expanded while they were being cooked.
She was very passionate about the food. I felt bad that Monica didn’t like the rice noodles. Monica assured her that she loved everything but the rice noodles. The rice noodles were just too weird.
The Wife accepted this answer and gave Monica some suggestion about things she could order next time she came. Menu items that didn’t have weird stuff in it. Then she moved on to the next table.
“Where were we?” I started up the conversation again.
“I think this is a really big mat to cut. It would be really expensive to make a mistake on it. So I think we should take the mat to Hobby Lobby and have them cut it.”
“I can agree to that. Except I have one caveat.”
“And that is?”
“That you go to Hobby Lobby and do all of the talking.”
“Why is that?”
“I don’t like Hobby Lobby employees.”
“I don’t like Hobby Lobby employees.” I reiterated.
“They aren’t interested in helping you and they are mean.”
Monica wanted me to provide examples and so I told her stories about one Hobby Lobby employee yelling at another Hobby Lobby employee just because the first Hobby Lobby employee was actually assisting Jesse. It got so heated that the manager had to step in and he sided with the second employee. When Jesse asked if he could get some help from any Hobby Lobby employee, the manager told him, “No. This department closes in half an hour and we have lots of work to do.”
I was not interested in experiencing this situation on my own. In my own experience I had found Hobby Lobby employees not interested in being helpful and not knowledgeable about nearly anything.
In addition to those facts, it seems that Hobby Lobby hates men. That would seem to be a facetious statement about a store that is clearly aimed towards women, but if you ever look at the types of things that they stock that are male specific you will see that they think that men are Neanderthals. Everything is the ugliest fishing, sports, or golf memorabilia. It is all hideous.
The men’s restroom is filled with terribly ugly golf course pictures. Everything is just so ugly.
When I do go to Hobby Lobby I try to get my stuff and get out as quickly as possible. This never turns out well for me because no matter how busy Hobby Lobby seems to be, they refuse to open up a second register and I always get in line behind the lady that is buying 100 glass objects that the cashier has to individually wrap.
Monica soaked in my points and agreed that after I dropped her off at her car she would go to Hobby Lobby and try to negotiate the mat board that I needed out of those people.
We finished up our meal and walked back across the street to Taco Bell. My car was still there. I had won this round.
About one hour after I dropped Monica off at her car, she returned with my mat board. It was cut perfectly. It was exactly what I wanted. It was a thing of beauty.
“How much do I owe you?”
“It was fourteen dollars.”
“I don’t carry cash; can I bring you money to your work tomorrow night?”
The Monica turned and was gone. Now all I needed was for the picture to show up.