Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Let's Talk About Frites, Baby.

Traumatizing summer employment? Check.

Wonderful new employment as a teaching artist around the city? Double check.

Ready to start blogging about food again? Born ready.

Let's begin:
First of all, if you've ever met me, even for five minutes, then you know I have an affinity for french fries. Ok, so it's not so much an affinity as it is an extreme obsession/borderline addiction, pretty much 24-hour constant craving and all-around bad habit that I have absolutely no intention of kicking. I have been known on more than one occasion to order a spinach salad as an entree (healthy, right? So proud.), only to request that the waitress also bring a giant side of french fries to accompany said salad. Impressed? You should be. Because I can put away more french fries in a single sitting than that guy who wins that disgusting Coney Island hot dog contest every year can put away hot dogs, and I manage to do it without broadcasting my gluttony all over national television. I just brag about it on a blog that nobody reads. NBD.

When it comes to french fries, there is Pommes Frites and then there is everybody else. You have to respect places that offer only one menu item. It's like they're saying, "We don't need to sell you anything else because once you eat our frites, you won't WANT anything else. Ever." They don't simply specialize in french fries; they ARE french fries. That's it people. Don't go here if you're looking for soup or salad, cause it ain't happening. It's all frites all the time, and I like it that way. They're a Jack-of-one-trade, a mono-culinary institution of greasy goodness. And they serve their frites in gigantic paper cones, which is just classy. People walk out of the tiny Belgian frites stand flying their "frites" flag, carrying their Statue of Liberty torch o' frites proudly through the streets of the East Village, proclaiming freedom to eat obscene amounts of frites at all hours of the night. Cue the patriotic background music!

As if the frites weren't good enough, they have the audacity to offer a veritable Baskin-Robbins of dipping sauces. Options like Sweet Mango Chutney, Pomegranate Teriyaki, Smoked Eggplant Mayo, Parmesan Peppercorn and Peanut Satay are offered at the budget-friendly price of three for $2.50, which means you can set yourself up with a flavor buffet, and even trade with your friends. It's like POGS or Pokemon or baseball cards or whatever the generational playground gambling equivalent is for you, except creamier. Send those little frites to the hot tub of organic black truffle mayo, love 'em, leave 'em, and they'll definitely call you in the morning.

The only thing on the menu that concerns me is Poutine. The latest in a string a food trends, in many places Poutine is the new cupcake. It's a French-Canadian comfort food of french fries and cheese curds covered in gravy, and people are obsessed with it. But to me, it sounds like the noise that happens when a cowboy spits a giant wad of tobacco into a spittoon. "Poutine!" And it looks like a sick baby sneezed all over some french fries, then they sold it to you for $6 and called it gourmet. I just can't get on board, but if sick baby snot is your thing, go ahead.

I highly recommend Pommes Frites as a late night snack, a mid-day snack, a pre-dinner snack, or just...lunch. The actual establishment is quite literally a hole in the wall, very narrow with maybe seating for 10 if you're lucky. I recommend a maximum group size of 2. Or better yet, just go alone. Revel in your shame as you dip your way to Belgian bliss.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

3 more days...

Sometimes we use the term "train wreck" to describe a person who is a complete mess in life. Well, I think it's safe to say that with the DWW, the train has derailed, plummeted into the ocean and killed a dolphin on the way down.
Only 3 days left with this nonsense, but plenty of wonderful things have happened since I wrote last...and by wonderful, of course I mean extremely disturbing, unnecessary, insulting and ridiculous. Let's review!

1. The DWW has made at least 8 children cry during this particular leg of the workshop. These are children, ages 8-12, who barely speak English, are away from their parents in a big city and were supposed to come here to learn how to sing and dance. Fun right? WRONG! Granted, these children seem kind of unmotivated, spoiled and a little lazy. I mean, their parents had enough money to send them halfway across the globe for three weeks to do a Broadway camp, so they're probably not too strapped for cash. These kids, though adorable, are also pretty whiny. But more than that, they seem like they didn't know they were supposed to come here to learn a show. So of course, rather than adapting to the situation and figuring out how to deal with this specific group of children, the DWW constantly complains that they aren't like kids from previous years. Yeah, that's gonna help. Just keep whining and maybe they'll get better. The DWW also tries such approved educational methods as intimidation, threats, public humiliation and insults. Yes, the DWW made an 8 year old girl stand up by herself to sing a song, and when she wouldn't do it, she was publicly berated for a good ten minutes at a high volume of voice, then sent into the hall. The girl is 8! And she doesn't speak English! So yelling at her does absolutely nothing but scare the crap out of her.
The best part is that afterwards, the DWW attempted to justify her actions to everyone (which she does pretty much every time she does something crazy). Somehow, I do not believe that the little girl "deserved it" because she didn't do her homework. No one deserves to be viciously yelled at in front of their peers. The DWW also yells at them every time they won't "act" full out. Well, news flash, that's what they're here to learn. How to act! And the DWW gets mad that they don't have any instincts and won't show feeling. So do an acting exercise with them! Take some time and really work on the fundamentals! Obviously yelling at them hasn't worked for three weeks, what makes you think it will work now? UGH!!!!!!! There is absolutely no excuse for the way this woman speaks to human beings.

2. The head of the school where these students are from was crying in the hallway because of how horrible the DWW was being to her students, but when she tried to tell that to the DWW, the DWW spun it around and basically told her "No, you're crying because these students aren't as good as past students." Really? The DWW loves to tell people what they think, as if she knows better than me what I think, or better than you what you think. Well, I know what I think. And I think the day I delete your contact info from my phone is the day I dance a jig down 42nd street.

3. Phone etiquette: The DWW's new favorite thing is to come out into the hallway while I'm on the phone with someone she has just told me to call not 2 minutes before and start yelling "Who are you talking to? Hang up. Bye! Bye! Bye! Hang up now! Bye!" This has happened twice now while I'm on the phone with coworkers trying to figure out a problem that she has asked me to fix. She's like a needy five year old that wants attention and a snack. If it happens again, she might be snacking on my hand slapping her across the mouth. So. RUDE.

4. The DWW is the most entitled person I have ever met. She behaves as is being the boss means she can say, act and get whatever she wants regardless of how it affects other people. The other day our intern was reviewing a dance with some students and our stage manager was messing with bags of costumes. I was returning from the restroom and the DWW snaps at me that we need to move a table of accessories into the room from the hall. It's definitely a two person job, and seeing as we were the only two people in the hallway, I figured we would just pick it up and move it the 2 feet around the corner and through the door. But as soon as I grab one side of the table, the DWW WALKS AWAY! I stand there for a second confused, then I peek my head through the door, she's standing against the wall drinking coffee. She looks at me and says, "Rachel, that table needs to be moved now!" Right, I thought that's what we were doing until you decided to take a coffee break. So basically she refused to help me move the table even though she wasn't doing anything and all of the other assistants were doing other tasks. So I had to go get the intern and take her away from reviewing with students so we could move the table. This also happened with a piano bench a few weeks ago, except that time she just stood in front of it, pointed at it and said, "Rachel!" I'm sorry, are you some sort of princess that can't be bothered to move a 2 pound piano bench because you might break a nail?

This position has been the worst experience of my life, which is unfortunate because I did like working with the students, the guest artists and my coworkers. Everyone involved with the project was lovely, except the person "in charge" of the project. And that person felt the need to micro-manage everything and everyone so much that she made what could have been the best summer gig ever into the summer from hell. Luckily I will take with me several lessons on how NOT to treat people, how NOT to run a company, how NOT to be a teacher and how NOT to deal with stressful situations. I'm wondering when's the last time this woman took a professional development course for herself, because her education "methods", if you can call them that, are appalling.

I think the best way to see someone's true character is to see how they treat the lowest man on the totem pole, or the person with the least status in the company. I think this blog has successfully revealed this woman's true character, and trust me, you don't want none of that.
3 more days until FREEDOM!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

And all I got was this stupid t-shirt

The students are coming! The students are coming!

Alright, so they're already here. In fact, the Brazilians have come, left and bought the t-shirt. And speaking of t-shirts...have I mentioned that I'm required to wear one for the entirety of the 5 1/2 weeks I work here? Would that normally be an issue? Of course not. Is it ridiculous because I was given an XL that was dug out of the bottom of a filing cabinet, has paint on it and looks like I'm wearing a nightgown to work? Yes. Plus, it's kind of difficult to use my arms when the shoulder seams are down at my elbows. Oy! Just another example of the DWW on a power trip. She, the music director and the choreographer can wear whatever they want and whatever they feel comfortable in for working. Me? A tent.

Working with the students was actually wonderful...when I was actually allowed to work with them. Early in the process I was told that my only job was to sing the songs once through as a demonstration and then to remain silent while the music director did the actual teaching (and, of course, to do any mundane task the DWW asked for. that's a given). As a certified theater and music educator, this was painful. Especially since the music director repeatedly ASKED for my help, but the DWW said no.

That is, until she was in a bind with no other options.

Here I come to save the DAY!!!!!!!

For our morning workshops, we had a separate piano player to assist the teachers. That music director was very talented and highly qualified, lots of great credentials in that bio and perfect to be accompanying Broadway performers as they taught dances from their shows. Week 1: great. No problems at all.
Week 2: Monday morning. Started out like any other morning. I arrive to set up the room for the day, the Broadway guest artist arrives, I text the DWW every time I take a step or blink an eye, etc.
Well, the piano player's call time comes and goes, and still no piano player. I call him. The DWW calls him. The DWW calls me:
Apparently, the piano player forgot to look at the schedule and went out of town. Out of town! I've got a cast member from a Broadway show and 20 Brazilians waiting to dance, and no piano player. Oh wait...I'M a piano player.

Rewind to the past week: there had been a need for another piano player for an audition portion of the workshop. The music director suggested to the DWW that I would be the best person for the job because I can read music well and can sight read. The only three people in the room when this happened were me, the music director and the DWW. After the music director says, "Get Rachel to do it. She'd be perfect." The DWW looks me in the eye and says, "Oh no, I need someone really good."

Mind you this person has never even seen me play, while the music director HAS. But the DWW assumes that since I'm, I don't know, young...from the Midwest...not a Broadway star...that I must be mediocre.

Cut back to the day of the MIA accompanist. The DWW is frantically putting in calls to other piano players, but of course none are available at 8:00 a.m., so she very reluctantly asks me if I think I'm capable of doing the workshop. I say sure, no problem, especially because I make sure it involves an extra paycheck.

So I talk to the guest artist about the cuts, sit down at the piano and begin teaching the song to the Brazilians. Because, after all, I taught choir for three years. No big deal.

Then, the guest artist begins teaching the dance, and I begin sight reading the score. Because, after all, I took piano for 18 years and it was my minor in college. No big deal.

So the workshop went great. The guest artist was complimentary, which made me feel good, and the DWW hired me to accompany the next two workshops as well.

But here's the best part. Even after I saved her ass 3 days in a row, I was still chewed out for not wearing the stupid ginormous t-shirt at one point during the day. REALLY???!?!?! You don't think I earned enough respect to choose my own wardrobe after completely bailing you out of a crazy problem? REALLY!!?? Well I've got a t-shirt I want you to wear, and it's a graphic t with my middle finger on it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It IS a problem!

Since my conversation with the DWW where I pointed out that the condescending tone used to address the employees might be part of the reason we react the way we do, the DWW has actually been semi-pleasant to me. Not nice, mind you, and CERTAINLY not normal, but a kind of quasi-decent where its just enough to make my work experience not horrible.

However, there have still been a few gems I thought the readers might enjoy.

1. I was asked to research a few video companies for a potential project,and I was told to go get the names of the companies from my coworker. So I go over there, and my coworker is already looking at them. We look at them together for a little bit, watch a promo video for one company, and then I go back to my desk and do a little of my own research on the companies. *ring ring* My coworker gets a call. It's HER! dun dun dun. My coworker begins discussing opinions and observations about the companies, and just in passing mentions that we had looked at the websites together briefly...AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Horror of all horrors! Two coworkers collaborating on a project!!! The world is going to self-destruct!!!

Oh, what do you mean that's not a normal reaction to two coworkers collaborating? Well, according to the DWW it's the only appropriate reaction.

Shortly after my coworker hangs up, clearly defeated, my phone rings. Again, dun dun dun. The DWW, with all the pleasantness one can muster, begins to tell me that I should not discuss assignments with coworkers because they are assigned for a specific reason. My work is none of my coworkers' business and vice versa. If I am told to get information from a coworker, I should get NOTHING but the SPECIFIED information and then move on. No discussion, no sharing of ideas and certainly no chit chat. I was pretty much instructed not to speak to my fellow employees unless the DWW said I could. So apparently it's marshal law/Nazi Germany in the office now...even though the DWW doesn't work out of the office, but from home.

2. The second event was minor, but just makes me laugh because it's so uncalled for. The DWW was out of town for a personal emergency. So yes, apparently the DWW is human and has friends. So I can appreciate that the DWW was emotionally distraught because of personal situations, but still... I was trying to be a good employee and keep my employer informed about our progress. I said we were missing some of the materials we were supposed to find from a previous project, but we were searching. I was immediately snapped at that I shouldn't tell the DWW that until I have some sort of solution. Wait, didn't you yell at me a few weeks ago for not checking in with you enough? And now you say I'm giving you TMI? Which is it friend?

So anyway, we all go looking for the materials in the office. We can't find them, but they are audio cd's which we can easily remake. No big deal right? WRONG!
I call the DWW back and say, "So we didn't find them, but we're just going to burn them again and it shouldn't be a problem." Just trying to be pleasant and positive.
The response? The DWW snaps, "Well it IS a problem. It IS a problem because it's MY property and its missing."
You know what? You're right. A few missing CD's burned from files on the computer is definitely a problem, like world hunger or homelessness, right? Totally worth getting upset about, right? This person really needs lessons in priorities, and probably some deep breathing exercises.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Today could only be described as...strange. Not good, not bad, just strange.

All was going well on the island of the Devil Wears Wal-Mart. We were getting work done, no one was insulting anyone's intelligence or making outrageous demands. It was a nice change. Then 1:00 rolled around and the tides turned. Out of nowhere the DWW started aggressively demanding that I change my format for rehearsal...the same format that had been perfectly fine for the entire 3 hour rehearsal prior. I asked for some clarification about what exactly the expectations were for this rehearsal, but didn't get a straight answer. So I went over to the piano to sing, made eye contact with another employee and smiled. That was enough to merit a clandestine discussion, because immediately I was called into the hallway. THE HALLWAY! A favorite technique of kindergarten teachers and angry soccer moms everywhere, "May I speak to you in the hallway" complete with beckoning finger motion has got to be one of the most condescending things to do to an adult in public. So we chatted, and I was told that the smile I had shared with that employee was inappropriate because it meant I was adopting that specific employee's bad attitude.


I was thoroughly confused. The DWW continued to talk and it was revealed that the big boss has been having some troubles with that particular employee and didn't want me sharing in the 'tude. During the lecture, I asked if I could say something. I had to ask about 6 times because each time I asked, I got a new speech about how the DWW is in charge and I need to remember that (got it, thanks). I was also told that if I was trying to give advice, it wasn't welcome because "I've been running a business for ten years and I don't need any advice." (Yep, clearly you've got it all figured out. No more learning the education field...?)

I assured the DWW that it was simply an observation of how I perceived our communication. I said I found the way the DWW speaks to me and to others extremely condescending and insulting. The DWW, after much floundering, finally decided on the argument that I should get over it, not take it personally and realize that a lot of people out there are too busy to worry about how they are coming across to their employees. Really? That's your argument? "I'm too busy to worry about being a decent human being." My favorite part was actually the statement that as the boss, "I shouldn't be expected to change my personality for you. But if I observe something about you that needs changing, you should do it immediately. That's just how the business works." No, that's just how YOUR business works. The DWW honestly believes the business model of "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to" is appropriate, but any problems I have, I should just "get over" as part of the job description.

I disagree, and my Master's Degree in Instructional Leadership disagrees also. The best leaders are those who set the precedent, not the exception. Level 5 leaders, the ideal leadership model, are based on humility and professional will. They are not icons trying to make a show of their leadership. They lead from within, not above. If employees like their bosses, they will generally work harder because it doesn't feel like "work" in the negative connotation. Micro-managing, publicly demanding and constantly requiring check-ins, check-outs, triple checks and so on creates an atmosphere of mistrust, as if the boss doesn't truly believe that the employees can do their jobs.

Ok, so now I know that part of our problem stems from a difference in opinion about leadership styles. But it also stems from the fact that the DWW is incapable of self-analyzing. Meaning: the DWW is having personal and professional conflict with another employee, but rather than firing said employee or just "getting over it" as I was instructed to do with my issue, the DWW takes out frustration and annoyance on all other employees and doesn't realize it. Here's how I know this (enter today's wierdness).

I think the DWW actually attempted a round-about apology to me today. STOP THE PRESSES! I was called into the hallway (a second time. I hope mom doesn't find out or she won't make me my after-school snack) and was basically told several more times that there are issues I don't know about, don't take things personally and just do my job because that's how it works in "the business." Then, I had the conversation a THIRD time behind closed office doors. I don't know if my telling the DWW that the condescending tone is offensive actually sunk in after a few hours or what, but in a passive aggressive sort of way, I think that was a kind-of sort-of apology for being a huge jerk. I'm not sure if the apology is accepted yet. Time will tell.

On a side note, I found out recently that the Devil Wears Wal-Mart's address is literally 666. Coincidence? You decide.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sociopath: noun

"A person...who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience." - Sociopath.

This link will take you to an excerpt from "The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout, Ph.D. It talks about how sociopaths are unable to feel empathy towards other people, they love to be in charge of a small group of people and find ways to make those people feel bad about themselves, they are quick to blame people for mistakes, they have an air of self-importance and they can easily turn their fake charm off and on according to the situation.

This, my friends, perfectly describes The Devil Wears Wal-Mart. I figured it out (as they sing in the Pajama Game), and it only took me three weeks! That's got to be a record. So, my summer job has me working for a textbook sociopath...fantastic! That would explain why I sobbed for 10 blocks, 3 avenues and a subway ride home today after fixing a mistake that the printer made. Yes, I failed to notice it when I picked up the printing this morning, so I guess I should have sat at the printer and flipped through 40 booklets to make sure every single page was exactly correct. Silly me for thinking that A: the printers would do their job correctly and B: the 8 documents I DID look through, which were perfectly fine, were a sufficient test sample. And of course only 2 out of the 40 documents were slightly wonky, but that was enough to merit a lecture about responsibility and "doing what I tell you." This goes along with the empathy issue. The DWW is unable to recognize that people have lives outside of the office and could possibly get distracted, make mistakes or have an "off" day. I am working for this loony-bird full time while also taking a graduate class for my second Master's degree and interviewing for new jobs in the fall (because ain't no way I'm working here a day over contract). Busy? You betcha. So I apologize that I didn't have time to listen to your 45 minute voicemail this morning on my way to work. I was busy...doing work!

This responsibility lecture came right after I was asked if I knew how to use a highlighter. Do I know how to use a highlighter? That's like asking if I'm confident in my knowledge of the alphabet or if I am capable of using my hands. Hi, I'm Rachel. I formally studied piano for 18 years, so yes, I am confident in my highlighting skills and I am in full control of my muscular dexterity, thanks. Simply stunning.

My favorite interactions with the DWW yesterday included excessive name-dropping and insistence that I need to check my voicemail even when I'm on the subway (a physical impossibility, but sure, why not?). The name-dropping was particularly funny because it was a person that we had never heard of and did not care about, but the DWW made sure to mention it every time a new person entered the room, which was at least 5 times. Oy!

"What a piece of work is man." - Shakespeare

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Great Paper Caper

Today, on The Devil Wears Wal-Mart,

Let's refer back to the top quote from last week, shall we? I believe it went a little something like this...

"Stop worrying about doing things correctly and just do what I say."

Ok, so if I'm trying to be a good employee (which I begrudgingly am, with valiant effort at not losing my dignity or my sanity) then I should follow this sage advice, right? So today my assigned task was to make copies of our entire script, educational materials and study guide for our entire creative team. That's 7 copies of a GINORMOUS document choc-full-o musical goodness, people. I was told to take care of this task in the office, as it was the only thing assigned to me today. So I'm printing away, minding my own business, when another office patron (from a different company. We're in a shared space - NYC style) gets angry with me because "[insert company name here] is doing these huge printing jobs again after we specifically told you not to." Notice the keyword - "again." As in, this has apparently been a running theme around the office, a theme which my boss conveniently forgot to mention to me, the lowly worker bee. So I apologize profusely, quickly quit my printing job and allow my grumpy office friends to complete their printing jobs. I wait a bit, then continue printing because I have to bring the documents to the "big meeting" tomorrow. 762 pages later (yup, a ream and a half of printer paper, gone. Apparently my boss isn't one for saving the trees), I had completed the job. During that time, my grumpy office friends had apparently called my boss to say, "Hey, quit using our printer as your own personal Kinkos." So, in turn, my boss calls me. And so it begins...

The DWW proceeds to tell me that it is my fault that my grumpy office friends are grumpy, that I should have called the minute I realized that anyone was remotely upset and that I have to use "better judgement" in the office. First of all, the people in the office were grumpy because you selfishly used the office goods and services in a way you weren't supposed to, but you set me up to take the fall for it. And now I'M grumpy because you made me look like a jerk, when really I was just adhering to quote #1 from the previous week and trying to DO MY JOB!!!!!! Next, do I really need to call you "the minute" someone is upset? If that were the case, I would be in a perpetual state of on-the-phone-with-you, because everyone is upset with you ALL THE TIME! You are ridiculous! And finally, you might want to be careful instructing me to use better judgement, because better judgement would probably involve me quitting, spilling a cup of coffee on your jorts and then stomping on your big toe on the way out the door, just for good measure.

Wait until you hear the DWW's solution to this office animosity. Simply reduce the amount of daily printing generated by our office? Of course not. Purchase our own heavy-duty printer to keep up with demand and stay out of everyone else's way? Ha! No, no. My instructions from now on are to "just space out the larger printing jobs over the course of an entire day so nobody notices and we don't interrupt anybody." As in, print 762 pages...5 pages at a a span of 6 hours. Yep. I was actually instructed to use good old fashioned deception to keep doing exactly what I had just been told I couldn't do. And I absolutely love how second-grade playground this plan is. Let's throw rocks at little Tommy while his back is turned, then when he turns around we'll whistle, kick the dirt and pretend it wasn't us. I think they're going to notice that I go over to the printer every hour on the hour, and that the paper supply is depleting just as fast as it did today. The DWW would probably tell me that I am overestimating the intelligence of everyone in the office, and that there is no way they would notice because they are all idiots. The condescension coming from every word breathed by this individual is astounding. Let's hear it for World's Greatest Boss.

Whew, deep breaths. So after that nonsense went down, I did actually go apologize to the grumpy office friend that was particularly offended by the excessive printing, and made sure that friend knew that I had no idea it wasn't allowed and it wouldn't happen again. They proceeded to tell me that they knew it was because the Ruler of Crazytown had decreed it, and they were not mad at me. Advantage: Rachel.

The icing on the ludicrous cake today was that after all of that, I had to cart a finished copy of the script up to 90th street to hand deliver it to the DWW, because of course the DWW couldn't be bothered with venturing more than a block from its natural habitat...and was also having a super-important meeting (a.k.a. lunch with a friend) that couldn't be interrupted. So, 5 extra subway dollars and 45 minutes later, I was free.
Here's to tomorrow's adventure. Is it August yet?