Monday, April 27, 2009

Going Toastal

I drove in early Sunday morning. As I drove into the partially full lot, I figured that I would get some paperwork done before jumping in to the day. When I kissed Judy goodbye, she told me that she wanted to clean the house a little and take a shower before joining me. "See you around noon.", I joked as I left her in bed.

Just a few minutes after opening some bills, Trin texted me a short quick text....we are packed. I quickly came inside and began to access the situation. One of the girls told me that we needed someone at the door as one group of diners had just walked by the line at the door and grabbed a table right after leaving eaters stood up. So, I placed myself at the greeter podium and began to take names. After getting all there on the list, I quickly called Cindy who was in the back room to see how far away that she was. She told me that she was at Safeway and would be there in just minutes. I told her just how busy we were and to be prepared to just jump in.

The three busboys walked in the door together a few minutes early and I put them all to work immediately. I had the greeter start sitting a group in the back room and instructed her busser to get their drinks as we began the busiest Sunday that we have had this month.

Without Judy, I bounced between the front and sorting out dishes in the waitress station and I must admit feeling the pressure of the day a little more than usual as a line began to build at the door and the tickets seemed to come up all at the same time at the pass bar. The two cooks in the kitchen were performing great and were shortly joined by a third that completed the team. Casey showed up shortly there after and the whole group was complete. Five waitstaff, Five cooks (Three on line, one prep, and one baker), Three dishers, three bussers, the cashier, and me. Two of them being my kids, Casey and Trin. Trin is filling in for our cashier, Kara who recently gave birth to her first child. Kara is a great kid of whom all love both customer and crew and I know that she will make an awesome mother.

The pressure was intense until Judy joined us around ten or so and she quickly relieved me in the waitress station freeing me to help out in other parts of the floor. I noticed that the cook responsible for the toast was struggling a little with that part so I jumped into the line and began running the toaster and attempting to bring them back to speed.

Toast has always been and continues to be a problem when we are the busiest of which I have talked about before. Often times, if someone does not get their toast in time, the are much more critical of the rest of their plate. Seemingly something so simple becomes one of the hardest parts of getting the completed plate out. I scanned the many tickets on the line and began to stack up the various breads, while dropping them in the top of the conveyor toaster, pulling the finished product out of the bottom, buttering, slicing, and placing them in the pass bar in somewhat of an order. Standing over the toaster with the heat of it hitting me in the face, I got a unique needed glimpse of what our cooks go through in their entire shift. When the busy crew on the floor complain about not having enough air conditioning, these cooks must work over hot grills, fryers, and that glowing toaster while having only a swamp cooler to cool them down. And with the nights dropping below freezing, I have had to turn off the water to the same thus hampering their cool even more. During busy days like today, Judy does her best at keeping them cool by keeping their drinks going and almost always spiffing them a smoothie during the middle of the hardest times.

As soon as I had completed the stack of bread in front of me, there seemed to be another group of tickets ready for more. This went on for what seemed to be an hour or so before I was able to bring them up to the latest ticket on the long line along the bottom of the pass bar. I then left the kitchen with a unique appreciation for our cooks at a time that I must sit down and look at their much needed raises that they deserved back in January but we were not able to give because of that stinking minimum wage law that I have complained about before.

I then jumped back into the other areas as the busy time lasted until around just after noon when the last rush arrived from what we lovingly call the second service rush. Even after that, it remained steady until after one or so before we were able to reduce some of the staff. I retreated back to the office, finished off the bills, completed Saturdays receipts, and watched the last of Bulls / Celtics game as it went in to double overtime. Casey came out to let me know that our lunch was ready. He watched with me and soon, Judy was at the door. She smiled as she saw we were both watching the game and told us that she was not going to wait for us even though we told her that their was only seconds left in the game. She knows better. With the game over, Casey and I joined her at the counter for very needed refreshment. I sometimes don't realize how hungry I get until I sit down to eat. Today was one of those days.

After lunch and with the crew reducing down, I jumped in my van to run a variety of chores including the bank, office supplies, cell phone store, and picking up some candy for the counter. At the cell phone store, the cashier noticed my hat and asked me if I worked at Jake's. "Yes", I returned. "I just love that place!", she explained. "Thanks", I answered as she rang up my purchase. "Do you cook there?", she asked. My mind went back to my time over the toaster earlier that day. "Yes", I answered, "And sometimes, I clean the bathrooms, or wait tables, or run the register.". She stopped and looked at me with a funny look. "I own the place.", I said feeling very proud of that statement but trying not to brag as I am fully aware of the fact of it's popularity is not all me but a crew that works very hard. She then began to tell me of all of the dishes that she loved. I told her of my newest item that I am working on called the Lava Burger which is basically a stuffed burger having the cheese and other items in the middle instead of on top. "Yum", she said, "I am going to have to try that one.".

I arrived back just in time to help the crew finish off the day, set the alarm, and lock up the place. As I walked around the building double checking the locks, turning off lights, and insuring heated items were off, I was overwhelmed once more with the fact that this business was now mine. Five years have gone by since I first was informed of the coming doom of the truck stop. Five long but very short years. I hope never to lose the gratefulness of what this community and this crew has done in keeping this business alive.

I went home and sat out back with Judy for a few minutes before retreating to the TV room, putting my feet up, dropping my head, and napping until Casey joined me with a pizza for supper while we watched the Blazers lose a close one in Houston. Shortly thereafter, I pulled myself to bed.

I remember sometime during the busy times of the day, talking to a man at the counter who asked me who wrote this blog. He said that he enjoyed reading the perspective from the inside of the business. I thanked him and told him that I would probably write on my hour that I had just had over the toaster in the kitchen. I then went on to tell him that usually one of two things needed to happen for me to write in the blog. Either I was inspired by an event or I just couldn't sleep because of thoughts of the day. That is my reason tonight and since I feel the tired coming back on, I will retire again to my bed and make ready for a new day.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Race Night

We had quite a few cars in last night and I can feel the anticipation for a good summer of cruises.

Our first big event is coming fast. May 20th is race night. The following is the PSA that was sent out last week. We are looking forward to this big kick off event for the summer.


Jake’s Diner’s Third Annual Race Night

On Wednesday, May 20th, Jake’s Diner will be holding it’s third annual Race Night BBQ.
Dragsters from Madras drags and Circle track cars from Madras Speedway will join with local cruisers for a big car show in Jake’s parking lot. Madras Drags and Madras Speedway officials will be on hand to answer questions regarding their upcoming season.
Jake’s will be holding one of it’s famous BBQ’s starting at 5:30 and “The Taelour Project” will be performing in the parking lot from 6PM to 8PM.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ugly Golf

I don't remember the year that it all started but it must have been shortly after the turn of the century and at the latest, 2002. Mountain High had closed down it's golf course and Judy and I were looking for a new place to walk. We drove down the ditch road close to where we lived in Deschutes River Woods and walked the front nine holes of the now defunct course.

I remember walking by one of the old sand traps that still had a rake in it. Judy saw the rake and said, "Hey look honey, someone left their rake all the way out here.". I told her what the rake was used for and we both had a good laugh. Later that evening, I called my buddy, Frank Patka, up and told him that I had a place that I wanted him to see. I brought a couple of old clubs with me and a few old balls. With that and our sometimes warped imagination, a new sport was formed that we appropriately called "Ugly Golf".

This sport became my retreat. A sort of solace from the storm. And I did not realize just how important it was until 2004, when the closing of the old truck stop hit me. That year, as the worry of the possibility of it happening weighed heavy on me, I would grab Frank and get away for a couple of hours. On warmer days, we would ice up a couple of drinks and have a cold one while we talked about the game and my up coming dilemma.

We set our own rules. After all, we were the founders of ugly golf. There were no longer any holes, so we used the sand traps as our goals. In case of no sand traps, we used the long faded greens, that we called browns do to the loss of their color. Since we are not the greatest golfers, we set our own rules about hooking or slicing. We allowed the golfer to throw his ball back on to the fairway which we later renamed the roughway when the weeds started to get longer. We scored by hole. The one who got the hole in the shortest strokes won it and gained a point. We ended up allowing for three clubs. A driver, a long iron, and a short iron.

As the years progressed and the game went on, we even lovingly named most of the holes after eventful outings. There was the hole of legend, where Frank stepped up and drove around 200 yards. I was up next and hit my ball perfect that it actually hit his and knocked it off to the side a little further past mine. And the infamous cell phone hole. Frank was chipping up to the brown and his office manager called him. "Listen to this.", Frank said as he placed his cell phone right past his ball so his employee could hear the ping of his hit. With a swing, Frank hit his cell phone instead of his ball. He was quite fortunate that the phone still worked after the hit. And there was the sputnik hole where our buddy, Billy hit his ball over 360 yards but what made the drive so impressive was that he hit it over the top of a huge Ponderosa Pine so it was like a 360 yard chip.

We would finish off our game at the old hole five. The island hole where the brown was an island surrounded by water. If you got your shot on the island, you won the hole. From there, if your score was tied, we had what we called a chip off. There was a circle in the middle of the island caused by a motor cyclist who had cut a cookie. We placed our ball in the circle and chipped to the large tree at the back of the island. The one whose ball landed closest to the tree was the winner and won the ugly cap until the next round. One of the girls at work took an old cap of mine, glued a plastic golf ball on top and sewed "Uggly Golf" on the front. I still have the cap in my office drawer to this day.

My best round came the day that I was told of the demise of the truck stop. I called Frank up and told him that I needed to get away. In my state of shock, I was unconscious on the course and won every hole. It just goes to show how sometimes we think to much when we golf which actually hurts our game. As the coming weeks and months progressed, I found myself out at the course quite often and am so thankful for the solace that it gave me in those very trying times.

There were some other very memorable games in those few years that we played. Once, Frank and I hit our first balls and as we started down the course, a man walked out of the woods with a bow and arrow at his side. We froze not knowing what the man had in mind. We soon found out that he was camping out there and wanted to know if we knew someone who might want to buy his bow and arrows. We spent that round throwing out stories of psycho archers hiding in the bushes stalking our every move. It actually kind of freaked us out a little and we were very relieved to see him back at his camp as we made our way back up the other side of the course.

Another time, we brought three others out and half way through the course, a huge storm hit. We huddled under a tree while the rain poured down and the lightning was at it's worst. When the storm did not subside, we played in the downpour soaking us to the skin. But we were avid ugly golfers and were not going to give up or give in and were determined to finish off the game. We ended up after the sun had gone down, tying up at the last hole. In the dark, we all chipped off and on our hands and knees determined that Frank's ball was the closest to the tree. That game was the first and last for one of our friends that we had invited out on our much loved adventure.

The course has long since grown over so much that it is very much harder to play except in the early spring when the weeds are knocked down from the past winter but the course is still there. Our old clubhouse (the toilet on the sixth hole) still stands but has been vandalized and tagged by taggers but the memories still and forever will remain. And those years and the escape that this sport gave us will be forever and lovingly be ingrained in my memory brought back up and refreshed last night as I copied over some old videos to disc. Judy had come along with us in the spring as I got away while preparing the new building for the move. Frank along with our other ugly golf buddies, Terry, Billy, and Justin were video taped enjoying that favorite sport.

And years later, I realize just how important it was during the most trying of times. It became one of the relief valves of my life. An item that we all need from time to time.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Max (Poopy Butt)

Max came to us years ago much like the other cats that have been in our life....a stray. The others have always been cute little kittens, however, and Max was a fully grown, filthy, mistreated stray. I say mistreated because his tail has a dramatic bend in it where it looks as if it has been slammed in a door or something.

Max would sit outside the door at our house in the woods and beg. Judy swore that she was going to ignore him till he left. A week later, she was feeding him and telling me that he was just going to be an outside cat. Another week later, after Trinity had cleaned him up with some dry cleaning solution that she had purchased from a pet store, he was named, inside, and sleeping contently on the bed.

Max has a personality unlike any cat that I have ever known. He almost seems to be able to talk and often times grumbles at me when I let him in kind of like chastising me for making him stay out so long. When he talks, I sometimes chide him with the statement, "Can't you hear the words that are coming out of my mouth.". Other times, his words seem to be just pathetic cries when his voice even cracks.

Max's only other demand than to let him in and out at his whim is that his water dish be up to the top at all times. He will cry at you and look at the dish until you fill it up. With a grumble like thanks, he will then drink.

He also will often times ask to go out and then come back to the slider and stare back in at you like he used to when he first joined us. Then when you open the door, he will either turn and walk away or just look up at you as if to say, "I really don't want back inside, I just wanted to see if you would open the door.".

He will let you know when he wants attention by climbing up in your lap and plopping down. Then if you don't show him the attention, an arm will soon go up with a paw touching towards your face letting you know that he is there and ready to be petted.

I liken him to Garfield who he looks somewhat like. His personality is somewhat Garfieldish also. We are there to serve him and dogs are just stupid slobbering idiots.

He has one annoying trait, however. At times, he gets dried poop up underneath that disfigured tail. I am always the one called upon to handle that problem of which has become progressively harder to deal with as Max does not like the practice one bit.

Last week was such the case. I took him in to our small bathroom downstairs and made ready to do my duty. Placing Max between my legs and laying a hold of his tail, he knew exactly what was next to come and he was bound and determined for it not to happen. He let me know in no easy terms to let go of his tail or suffer the consequences. I let go.

I told Judy that I needed two others in order to do it. Casey and Trin volunteered. Casey grabbed the back of his neck and held him down. Trin tried to grab his back two paws that still had claws while I readied to grab his tail, pull it up, and extract the dreaded dry poop. Max soon let us know that it didn't matter that he was outnumbered, he was not going down without a fight and fight he did. Trin could not keep his back legs together so I grabbed them with my right hand and told her to hold up his tail. He twisted and turned until he was in striking distance of Casey's hand and snapped at it, making Casey let go and we all then released the now psycho cat who grumbled at us and ran away.

The next morning, I stared at the lounging cat on the downstairs floor and developed a plan. With my tissue held in my right hand behind my back, I began to talk to Max and stroke him with my left hand. This Max enjoyed and he stood to insure that my stroke could go all the way down his back just like he liked it. I knew that sooner or later as I petted down towards the lower part of his back that he would naturally raise his tail and when he did, with stealth like accuracy, my tissued right hand zipped around, grasped the dried on poop and pulled. With a yelp, Max jumped up into the air and sped off while I held up the wrapped tissue paper that enveloped the targeted extraction and yelled, "Got ya!".

Max stared at me from underneath the table as if to say, "OK, you win this time but the next time won't be quite so easy.". And I am sure that it won't.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


This week has been one of those crazy roller coaster types of weeks with lots of ups and downs.

On Monday, mainly up with Casey and Jess showing up. Judy and I drove to Brothers in her convertible. Our goal was to sneak by them and then follow them back into town. At Brothers, I felt they were not far away so we drove to the top of the next hill where we met them. Judy could not hold herself in and began to wave and giggle in glee. Jess saw her and they stopped at Brothers where we met Hartford for the first time.

Monday night, I won at poker again. I have won quite often lately after not winning in well over a year. Someone actually told me the next day that maybe I should let someone else win before others decide that it is not worth their while to come out. I just smiled.

Tuesday was spent in much frustration trying from time to time to get my new computer to work for me. I had come up with a few ideas, none of which worked.

Wednesday, I decided to go to Costco to purchase the newest edition of Microsoft Office to try and solve my problems. While there, I ran across another program that will move one computer to the other and that promised to be able to move Office also. It did not work. I called on company who then told me that I should call Microsoft who then told me that I should call the first company.....grrr.

Thursday morning, I kind of snapped. Over something seemingly small but small things can make for much bigger problems. In this case, my mind was occupied with the computer and other business problems when I was informed that we were almost out of ticket books. Now, you might think that to be a small problem but it is not and here is why. We are only a day out of a weekend and I need to ask for a rush order on the ticket books. I went out to Cash and Carry to get some to get by in the mean time and could only get tickets that were much smaller and thus will be harder to read by the cooks which will hinder the orders from coming out as fast as I want them to. If we go into the weekend with the smaller ticket books, our service will be slowed. Others had problems and questions which made my already shrinking brain work even harder. The end result was I got short with a couple of employees thus causing bad feelings and Judy eventually sitting down with me, holding me hand, and asking me to just get someone in to fix the computer for me. I think the girls asked her to get me out also for a while.

So, Thursday afternoon, I went over to Costco and purchased the latest version of Microsoft Office 2007. I remember thinking that 2007 was a couple of years back and how long would it be before this expensive program is now outdated. I also pondered on the fact that all main owners of Microsoft are the part of the richest people in the world and I was now making them richer.

I went back to the office with an hour to spare to pick up Jay from School. The office program would not work. So, I needed to call Microsoft customer service yet again after calling it everyday of the last week at least once. I was first told to calm down by the initial lady who asked for my information for the third time after the computer phone had already asked for the same info twice. The info being a 25 digit code for the software. She then asked for my address and I knew she had it on file already but she was only confirming that I knew it (at least in my mind). When she began to give me parts of it that I had not given her yet, I said, "See, I told you you already had my address.". "You need to calm down.", she said. "Calm down?", I returned, "I have been working on this problem for over a week and I keep getting the run around by all of the software companies. Now that I have purchased your software which is what you wanted me to do in the first place, I need your help not just another run around.". She informed me that I now qualified for free support and that she needed to get me a number for the problem that they would solve. I thought, "Great, one more number to write down.".

She then passed me on to a service tech from either Pakistan or India named Shakhur. As you can probably imagine, my blood pressure was now raising even higher. I struggled with the language accent and had to ask him to restate things over and over. He finally realized that the best approach would be to take control of my computer. He walked me through the steps to do so. In on sequence, he asked me to type ewreyone. "Ewreyone, what kind of word is that and how do I spell it.". He sounded frustrated himself as he gave me the letters. "First E....then We.". "We, what letter is we?", I asked. "You know, the one before W.", he returned. "Oh, everyone. I get it.".

Anyway, an hour later and 60 of my 1000 minutes per month on my cell phone used up, I know had my computer up and running six days after buying it. Fortunately, Trin stopped by and agreed to pick up Jay from school.

Friday went by kind of fast leaving me somewhat in a blur. I stopped by in the evening to check on the crew and found that they had sent one of the wait staff home because it was slow. I was tired and did not want to come back in but told them that if they got busy, to call me.

I then went home and sat down to the Blazer/Laker game. I nodded off throughout the very exciting game that was nip and tuck through out and went to bed somewhat happy after the Blazers won.

I awoke a while back wondering if the rush order on the ticket books ever came in yesterday. I guess I soon will find out.

Oh, and by the way, I know longer have any slippers thanks to my new pal, Hartford.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hartford and me

With the arrival of Casey and Jessica has come a new and very unique being into our lives. His name is Hartford and he is a cross between a Chocolate lab and a Chesapeake retriever.

His life seems to mirror the dog Marley from the movie Marley and me. Like Marley, he was named after a singer. In this case, Johnny Hartford. For those of you who are not aware of who Johnny was, he wrote 'Gentle on my mind' for Glen Campbell and was frequently a guest on his TV show of old. He was a very accomplished singer/songwriter of whom Casey and Jessica both love.

Also, like Marley, he was adopted to be a companion of both Casey and Jessica and they look at him like their child. I recall when Casey was visiting us last how just before he left how he was devastated when Hartford got out and was lost in Denver.

I have wondered and watched Hartford with a whole different perspective especially after watching the movie just last week. I wondered how he would react to his new environment and have not been disappointed in my observations of both him and the present pets in our household.

We have a small miniature Pom named Mia and three cats with totally differing personalities named Max, Bella, and Asya (belonging to Trin). Everyone of them has taken to Hartford in a different way.

Now, Hartford seems to me to be very close in personality to Marley. He is big, strong and quite often either bored or inquisitive. He immediately wanted to play with Mia but that scared the pants off of her which has turned her very defensive around him. She seems quite unhappy that this big lug has come in and invaded her space, chewed up her small bones (she tried to reciprocate last night with his large bone and could not chew on it's massiveness let alone even move it an inch), and has taken some of the attention that she has garnered full control of in her house since she first arrived here. Whenever he comes around, she lets him know with an intense bark just how unhappy she is.

Bella is our quietest cat. She has always been very shy and reserved but equally loving when she allows you into her world. She disappeared the day Hartford arrived. That is at least until she needed me to help her get by him and out to her garage and cat box. I had gone to bed early that evening and around 11, awoke to her nudging me with her nose. When I rolled over, she just nudged me again. I then got up, put on my bathrobe, and carried her past this new beast (I say that lovingly) and to her sanctuary in the garage.

Asya seems to get along with all and everyone. She did not know what to do with this very large panting mass of fur that came into our house that afternoon. She immediately arched her back with the fur on her sides smoothing and pointing upwards to join the pointing hair on her back. She looked like she had grown a Mohawk haircut. At first, she did not want any part of him. Then, she seemed to see how harmless he was and kind of enjoys teasing him. Jessica was enjoying watching them interact just yesterday. She said she did not realize just how clumsy Hartford was until she saw him against the stealth Asya who can dart around and swat him from behind before he even realizes that she has moved.

Then there is Max. Max is kind of a Garfield of a cat. He even reminds me of Garfield in how he acts. He never reacted in fear of this new creature but seems to deal with him with a somewhat arrogant disdain. He will walk through the room, jump up on his perch and watch this big dog do his very stupid antics and seems to have that look on his face that says, "I think you are pretty dumb. Do anything you want to do but know this. This is my house and my people and if you get in my way, you will regret it.".

Now, for Hartford's reactions. They are not unlike what you would expect from a young big dog that does not know his own strength and has been taken out of his own unique world and thrown into this very new environment with all of it's new sights, smells, and experiences.

I watched him the very first night as he played with a couple of small squeak toys that he was given. He liked them both and wanted them both at the same time just like a little child. He was frustrated when he could not get them both in his mouth. That is until he figured out how he could squeak them both. He had one in his mouth and was knocking the other to try and get it into position to mouth it also when his paw caused it to squeak. He seemed to enjoy his ability to squeak them both at the same time.

He seems to have taken to me with an unsureness. He will stand and watch me just staring. I think he realizes that I am the dominant male in this house and is not quite sure how to react to that and to me. Last night, when I arrived home, he came out to greet me. I got down on my knee to talk and pet him and he came running but then stopped in his tracks as if he were scared, made an immediate turn on the rug that with his massiveness and claws made me wonder if my carpet could handle such a maneuver and ran back into the kitchen. He peered around at me and when I called him reacted in the very same way. I decided for my carpets sake that I should not attempt it again.

Now, the real test will be when he meets Frank. Frank is well known for getting down on all fours and playing with any canine friend. I am just not sure if I want that playground to be my house or better yet, whether my house could handle it. I will just have to let you know how that one goes.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Let the flood gates open

I was awoken early on Sunday by Casey who wanted me to see what the status on the Wyoming roads were. I checked the website only to see that the gates on the freeway were still closed tight. I suggested that he stay right where he was until I could see them open. No sense, sitting on the road in sub 10 degree temps in the rig waiting.

I got ready and went off to work. The girls were getting busy a little earlier and I jumped into the fray while keeping a side eye on the net and the gates.

Around nine, our time, I noticed that the gates were all of a sudden open and I called Casey to let him know that he could get on the road. A half hour later, I looked back at the web cams. One web cam showed the road going the other way towards him with lines of trucks as far as the eye could see. All of the truck traffic from the west coast had been built up since Friday night and was now heading east in mass. I called Casey to see if he was on the road and he said no. I suggested he hit the road as soon as possible fearing that he get caught up in something like that going the other way. An hour later, I checked the cams only to find that long line of trucks was still just that a long line of trucks as far as the eye could see for a whole hour!

The next few hours were spent busy in the diner and talking back and forth with Casey getting progress reports. On his call from Rock Springs, he informed me that they were going to try and make it all the way that day. I just asked him to be careful.

An old friend of mine, Jerry, stopped by to talk. Jerry used to do all of our stainless work in the old place before he retired. We have quite a few mutual friends in the business and he is considering writing a book on his experiences. I shared with him my blog showing him that we had yet one more thing in common. It was great talking with my old friend but the business of the day came first and I was soon called upon to help and Jerry left promising to return again in the future.

Frank stopped by to see if I would help him sing to an old friend, Ann, for her birthday that day. He had already written a song and we went out to the office to work on making it work. Judy joined us as we perfected his song written to the Marty Robbins song, El Paso. She then went in and ordered something for the both of us for lunch and Frank joined us as we finished off the song and then left with me promising to join him around five at his office for one last run at it after he had retyped the song.

Jayden gave me a call to let me know that he was bored. "Papa, could you come over and hang out with me this afternoon?", he asked. "Sure, I will.", I promised. I helped finish off the last rush of the day and called Carrie to let her know of my intentions. She told not to worry about coming over as her, Jay, and their neighbor, Carlos were out for a walk.

I drove home to take a short break and sat out back with Judy talking of what was soon to come with our new guests only hours away. I decided to go down to the hardware store to look for a garbage can for Casey to keep our fenced back yard clean from his dog, Hartford. I could not find what I wanted and realized that one of our old pickle buckets would work out just fine, so I drove to the diner just in time to help the crew finish with their clean up and close down. I busied myself with washing the windows in the back room as the girls were finishing off their last diners. I spied a couple that I had not seen in years and met them as they left out front. One of the greatest pleasures of running the diner is meeting up with old friends like that and this had been two times in one day so it kind of made it a red letter day. Casey coming home could only make it even better. We finished off the clean up and I went home just for a second to give Judy a kiss and I was off to Frank's office to prepare for our performance. We were to meet up with the party at Greg's Grill at Six.

Frank and I laughed as we put the finishing touches on the song and practised that along with a couple of others that I had put together in my head to work up to our finale. We were calling ourselves "Strictly Oldganic" (a spin off of Strictly Organic and a name we had come up with last fall on the golf course). Armed with our sunglasses and Mexican sombreros, we left for our engagement at Greg's.

We marched into the grill with our Hawaiian shirts and Mexican hats and began to turn eyes as we marched straight over to the waitstaff who must have been warned of our coming and shuffled us off to our waiting room. The room shrieked with laughter and Ann's surprise as we quickly broke into our act. We blew through our first two songs that introduced us and our intentions to a laughing and clapping crowd. We then prepared for our finish. Now the first two songs were in my head and Frank just followed along but the song that we had worked on was now typed out on a sheet that we held in front of us. My problem, that I now discovered was that my sunglasses are not bifocal. I must have looked a sight peering down at my words as I sang from underneath my dark glasses that sat on my nose. Finishing off the song which had snippets from her life, we received a rousing ovation and a hug and kiss from the birthday girl, Ann. Ann used to do our books at Jake's and her daughter, Kathy, who set this all up still does the same job for Frank. Kathy gave us both hugs also but the real treat was a hug from Ann's youngest granddaughter, Satori.

Our chore over, we laughed and joked with diners as we departed the restaurant. Frank told them that we would gladly work for tips but were not invited to stick around so we left and stopped by Carrie's house on the way back. Carrie was out on her BBQ cooking supper. We visited with Jay, Carlos, and Carrie's new dog, Lola who seemed somewhat happy to see us. Carrie was finishing off her supper and had cut a banana lengthwise and was BBQing it in it's skin. It looked quite interesting.

After dropping off Frank, I stopped by the China Doll for some supper. I dished out my food, cracked a beer and shortly after finishing dropped off for an hour or so on the couch attempting to watch a movie. Casey woke me up from Ontario. He wanted to know the distance and I brought it up on the computer. I agreed to leave the front door unlocked for him. A few minutes later, he called again to let me know that they were staying there instead and I helped him find a motel before finding my bed and some much needed sleep.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Having one of those days

First, a little background. Back in the Eighties, when I first started working for Jake's, I received a couple of degrees from COCC. One of them was their original class in Computer Science. With the aid of the original PC that was used to start the now large computer software company, ORCOM, I built the original accounting software used by the truck stop. Along with Art Sanchez (who still teaches for COCC), we coauthored the original payroll program of which he used to help garner his Masters degree at the University of New Mexico. That summer while we worked on the program, he gained the first hand knowledge that he used to teach the first PC class at COCC. My translation is I have some Computer Geek in least I used to. I did all of that while running the then small Jake's Cafe. When we built up the business in the cafe so large that we needed bigger digs and Jake's Diner was born, I was given the option of either running the diner or staying on as the computer manager. You all know what I chose.

So, to the present. On Friday, I went out and purchased one of those new super mini mega computers at Best Buy. The hard drive on my PC had gotten so full that I could not defrag it and it had began to freeze up on me. I was concerned of crashing it and the cost of replacing the drive was about the same as purchasing the new machine so since the new machine was also so much faster, the decision was easy. I spent Friday evening, setting up the new machine and placing it next to my old one on my desk. I used an HDMI cable to plug it into my computer monitor which allowed me to run my computers side by side with only toggling between the two on my monitor. The smallest part of the hassle is that I now have two keyboards and two mouses which can be confusing at times.

I got up early on Saturday morning determined to transfer over the various programs that I would need to run my applications on my now new mini mega. My biggest need was to move over the email and the word processing software. Since both were in the Microsoft Office program, I felt that I would not have much problem there. I was wrong. Days later, I still don't have them moved over and I am very close to purchasing the latest Office program in hopes that it will solve my problem.

As I pulled out some of the hair that is still left on my head trying to solve this little dilemma, the diner began to get busy. As I tried to concentrate on my computer problem, a knock seemed to be constant on my door. Things were needed at the register, they ran out of crayons, they needed a price on a special order that was not on our now two pages of small print extras menu, a customer wanted to see me up front, there were complaints that the room was too hot....I think you all understand.

Once, when I was up front helping sort things out on the pass bar during one of the larger rushes, I noticed that the cooks were somewhat out of sync on some things. I then watched waitresses drop things and others grab the wrong plate. We all laughed and said that everybody was having one of those days.

In the middle of this all, Casey called me from Laramie, Wyoming. He and Jessica had stopped there the night before on their way back from Colorado. It had snowed all night long and they had shut down the freeway both ways from Laramie and they were stuck. He wasn't sure what he was going to do and was concerned that he would not be able to find a motel that would take them and their dog. He was having one of those days. I told him to look at the bright side. He was now going to be able to watch both of the NCAA basketball games.

Jim came up to me sometime mid morning and told me that he was going home. "I am having one of those days and am hitting a wall", he said. "I need to go home and rest a while.". Now, since he is now working seven days a week, I gladly told him to get all of the rest that he needed.

We started to slow down just a bit and Judy called to let me know that she was not able to get our computer at home to turn on for her. She told me not to worry but I needed a break and figured I would come home for a short one. I drove home and fixed the problem then sat down for that short "away from work" time to try and refresh my mind to tackle the computer problem at work. My time was very short as Trinity called asking what price to charge for substituting avocado and cottage cheese for hash browns and toast....yet another extra price to add to our growing list. I try to keep adding them to the list for consistency sake. I understand customers frustrations when they come in one day, are given a price, and then come back another day to see that price change. You see, figuring out these small changes takes some quick thinking. You must have the costs in your head and you sometimes have to determine the extra production costs also which can be very arbitrary. In other words, there is no real science just estimates. I admit that I was by now a little frustrated myself and when Trin couldn't hear my answer, I spoke louder and she said, "You don't have to yell. Are you OK, daddy?". "I am just having one of those days.", I countered. With that, I felt I was needed much more at the diner and returned.

As it slowed down that afternoon, I drove away with the idea of just stopping at the bank and then home to put up my feet. I was called on my way to the bank by one of our cooks husbands who is working on the rock in front of the building. The rock was never secured properly and he is helping me to get it secured before it falls down. "Did you get me the red head lag bolts?", he asked. I answered no with confusion since I was sure that he was going to get those since I had no idea what they were. "Lyle, are you losing it?", he said, "Remember, I told you to just go to Home Depot and ask for Red Heads. If they don't know what you are talking about, just get some lag bolts for concrete.". "OK, I will find them.", I answered.

I stopped by the bank and talked with the girl at the counter while she counted Fridays deposit. "How are you doing?", I asked. Looking rather frazzled, she said, "I am having one of those days. We have been slammed and I am exhausted.". I smiled and said, "Well today will end and you will go to sleep and tomorrow will be a better day.". She thanked me and I sped off to Home Depot for the Red Heads.

Arriving there, I found the Red Heads. They are a brand of lag bolts and they had a whole section devoted to them. Nail in, Screw in, Fat, Thin, Long, and Short, I stood there not having any idea which to choose. I called Stacy up on the phone and we quickly determined the size that he would need and I took my purchase to the check out.

I ran into an old friend who was working on his deck. "How are you doing?", I asked. "Not that good", he said, "I keep running into problems. I think this is my fourth or fifth trip down here for parts. I am just having one of those days.". Remembering the bank, I dropped my same pearls of wisdom. "Just remember, today will end, you will put your head on your pillow and go to sleep and tomorrow will be a better day.". He shook his head and thanked me, "Yes, it will.".

I then drove back to the diner and dropped off the Red Heads and the change order that I had gotten from the bank. I went back out to the office and continued to work on my computer program. I called Microsoft, pushed all of the needed buttons to finally get to a real person only to be told that their programs were the propriety of the first PC that I had purchased. They would help but only for a cost. They were nice enough to give me the number of the PC company. I then maneuvered through their push buttons only to find that the company only helped during business hours (not sure when that is) and then turned me over to a answering machine that I am sure will never be answered. Frustrated, I decided to go home.

Now, while working late on Friday and since we were a little busy at the time and I had to go south to drop off something of Jay's, I decided to stop by the Hawaiian restaurant for my supper. I had eaten half of it and was looking forward to heating up the other half that evening. I arrived home to find Judy cooking up some veggies that I thought would go well with my left overs. But, the left overs were not to be found. The only thing that I could figure was that Judy had cleaned some stuff out of the fridge and thinking that my stuff was old, threw it out. I got back into my car and returned to the diner. The evening sales were not very busy and I felt that we would probably have a bit of Prime Rib left over so I had the cook cut me off of piece. I went back home, got some of Judy's veggies, cracked open a beer, and put my feet up to watch the second basketball game. After filling my stomach with the much needed food and washing it down with the beer, I fell asleep with the game on in front of me.

I slept until the phone rang, however. It was Ted, our cashier telling me that they needed my help. I said OK and went downstairs to tell Judy where I was going. As I put my shoes back on, Trin called in a panic. "We need you, Dad!. Trin was pulling somewhat of a double with a short shift on both shifts. "I am on my way.", I said.

Arriving back at the diner, I quickly bussed tables, sorted food, delivered food, chatted with customers, and basically filled in. I did have a couple of ideas on my computer and quickly tried them only to find them futile also. One of our regulars stopped me as I was walking by his table. "We have changed Trinity's name to Speedy Gonzales.", they said, "You need to tell her to slow down.". "You tell her.", I said, "she doesn't listen to me much. I am just her dad.".

Keith showed up at he counter and we all seemed to call back to the kitchen at the same time, "Keith is here!". Keith is an old and dear friend who goes way back to the old Jake's days. He has Alzheimers and his wife Marjorie gives him lists of things to do each day to keep him using his mind. I stopped and chatted with Keith and we both wondered about another old friend, Frank and how he was doing. We agreed to just go by his house in the near future to find out how. The odd funny thing there is that Frank contracted the same decease before Keith. I remember Keith and I talking about it as Frank's wife had asked us both to watch out for him. Now, we watch out for Keith. He eats the same thing for breakfast and supper. Oatmeal for breakfast and a waffle with eggs on it for supper. We make him eat even if he says he is not hungry. An agreement that I made with Marjorie.

Now, at the same time, I was informed of a couple of customers who steal our jellies everytime that they come in. They always ask for a to go container for their leftovers and while no one is looking, they dump all their jellies in with them. So, I took the opportunity to stop and talk to my old friend, Keith,while keeping an eye on the jelly stealers. BTW, they noticed me watching, gave up and left with just the leftovers. I had told the girls to take the jellies off of their table when they come in but they were on a waitresses side that did not know.

Keith slid over his ticket of which he had some stuff written on the back. He had wrote "a small bottle of rubbing alcohol and a oral thermometer.". It was obviously the list that his Marjorie had told him over the phone. "Can you read this?", he asked, " I think I need to get a rectal thermometer.". I laughed and said, "No, Keith, she wants an oral thermometer.". Since it was written on his ticket, I offered to rewrite it on a coaster for him. "By the way, buddy, what are you driving tonight?", I asked. "I think I am in my truck.", he said. "What kind of truck is yours?", I asked. "Not sure, but I know it is white.". I looked out the window and saw his white Toyota out front. "It is a Toyota!", he said proudly as he showed me the Toyota emblem on his key ring.

I handed him his coaster with his list. "Did you remember the rectal thermometer?", he asked. "Oral", I corrected. He ate his supper while I busied myself around the room and stopped back by when he called his wife to ask her if she wanted anything else. He had brought her some Clam Chowder on Friday and she had loved it. I took the phone and told her that the chowder had sold out. We figured out an order of spaghetti and I had the cooks put that together while I readied his coffee to go. "I need to go to Safeway and get that rectal thermometer.". He said as he prepared to leave. "Oral", I corrected and he smiled and headed out the door.

By now, the evening was late and the tide had slowed down, so I got in my rig and pulled around to watch Keith as he headed down for Safeway. I then followed him down to the store as their were a couple of things that I needed.

I ran into Keith in the middle of the store. "Fancy meeting you here, buddy.", I said. "I got the rubbing alcohol and am now looking for the rectal thermometer.". "Oral", I once more corrected. "Oh, can you read what is on my list?", he asked. "Yes, I wrote it.". "Oh, yea, that's right.". We walked over to the thermometers and their was only one there. I flipped it over to find that it could be used for both oral and rectal. We both laughed as I told him that he was in luck because this thermometer went both ways. "Thanks, you are a nice man.", he said. "You are my friend.", I returned, "Say Hi to Marjorie for me.".

We both checked out at the same time and I returned to find the game long over with. I watched a movie that I had taped. It got to the last five minutes and then just stopped. Obviously, the timing was off at whatever station that I had taped it on. I looked to see if it was going to come back on so that I might tape it again and I could not find any coming times. With one more frustration under my belt, I then decided to take my own advice. Put my head on my pillow, go to sleep, and wake up to a new better day.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Signs, Signs, everywhere there's Signs

Four years ago, when I first moved into my present building, the previous business had a small sandwich board sign sitting down on the corner of Purcell and our access road across from Costco. One of the first things that we did was take that sign and repaint it with a coming soon sign for Jake's. I would have rather put the sign on Hwy 20 but felt that I should not rock any boats and left it where it was.

The sign gave immediate results with both TV and radio calling me to ask about the coming move. But, shortly thereafter, I received a call from the City of Bend. They asked me if that was my sign and I said yes. They told me that I needed to move it. When I explained why I had done what I had done, they informed me that they understood but that I needed to move it immediately as it had caused an accident. I laughed inside at that statement as my imagination brought up my sign reaching out and grabbing a motorist who in turn lost control of his car. I asked how the sign caused the accident, I was told that someone was reading it and hit someone else from behind. When I asked her how I could advertise legally that I was relocating, she asked me to move the sign over to Hwy 20 and then come on down to the office and purchase a temporary sign permit. I gladly agreed and immediately moved it out under what was to be our permanent sign on 20. I then went down that afternoon to submit the permit and pay for it. I sat in the waiting room patiently waiting for the sign man. It was getting close to five PM when someone noticed me again and asked me who I was waiting for. When I told them, they informed me that he had just left for the day. They took my permit and told me to wait until I had heard from him to pay for it.

Six weeks later, after we were up and running and our new permanent sign was in place, I was called by the city. They said that they were working on my temporary sign permit. "I don't really need it anymore.", I told them and let them know that my permanent sign was up and approved. The lady from the city told me not to worry and that she was just going to throw the permit away. I said, "OK".

Years ago, when the present day sign ordinance was put into place, I stood opposed to it's passing for various reasons one of which was the inability of a business to make it's sign stand out more so that it could be easier to see in a sea of signs and thus give the ability of the driver to keep his eye on the road more. I also felt that if a more stringent sign ordinance was put into place that businesses would figure out more creative ways to get their information out to the driver and that is exactly what we see out there today. We have the signs on vehicles such as ours which has now even progressed to the small billboards that some have put on the back and top of their various vehicles. We have people walking around in various funny outfits. And the unemployed hired to just stand on the corner and hold up a sign for a various business alongside others who are just asking for help.

I have gotten a kick out of the latter from time to time with a few of the various creative ways that the pan handlers have used to generate funds. One man sat on a box down on Greenwood in a suit with his more professional looking sign in front of him. He had worked hard with stencils to make the sign and had put handles on the back to help hold it. The problem was as he sat there with a smile on his face greeting the cars that drove by was that he was holding the sign upside down.

Jerry, the homeless homeless helper had one of the more creative signs when he wrote "Smile" on one side and "God loves you" on the other. He would greet people with a toothless smile of his own while flipping the sign over and over.

But, yesterday brought a few smiles to my face as I drove around Bend in my moving sign handling various chores. As I drove out of Costco, I noticed a couple huddling seemingly blocking each other in the cold wind. She was holding a sign that was asking for help while his was advertising for a company that was offering loans that you did not need to qualify for. Does anyone else see the irony in that one?

Next, as we were driving down Third street, we came upon a man dressed like the Statue of Liberty. He was so cold that he was jumping around flipping his sign and you could not read what his message was. I assumed that it was for the tax service behind him that had a similar looking sign on the building.

But, the one that brought the best laugh to us was down in front of the north Albertsons. A man was standing with a sign down to his side being lectured by a woman who had her finger in his chest while she barked out her pearls of correction in a seemingly demonstrative way. The man was squirming under her chastisement and I noticed his sign as he stood with his head down listening to her that read, "Why lie, I just want a beer". I told Judy what it read and she laughed. "Honey, we need to go get him a beer.", she said. When I asked why, she returned, "He is going to need one after she gets done with him.".

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A button is pushed

Those that know me know that I am slow to anger....that is at least when it comes to one of our customers. I can count on my hand the amount of times that I have let one of them get to me to where I get angry back. Today, I had one of those times.

The last time that it happened was when a customer stopped me and complained that the waitress had forgotten his refill on his Pepsi. I told him sorry and went to the kitchen and retrieved him a new drink. As I approached his table, he told me that he didn't want the drink and that he wanted it taken off of his bill. "Why?", I asked and reminded the man that we had gotten his drink as soon as we found that it had been forgotten. "Because, you probably spit in it.", he returned. "What?", was all I could say. "I know how you guys work.", he said. Now, we were having one of those very busy days and I was kind of tired and he just pushed the wrong button. "How dare you accuse me of that." And with that, I grabbed the ticket off of his table, showed him the door, and told him to leave. He smiled a winning smile and did as I asked.

A customer that had heard it all consoled me. "You should have made him pay.", they said. "He wasn't coming back in anyway.". That customer had said something that made sense to me so today when something similar in nature happened and I could tell that the angry customer was not going to be coming back again, I stuck to my guns instead of making the concessions that I had intended on giving her as I came to her table. She was angry and was telling me how she was never going to step foot in our door again. I just shrugged and said, "OK".

Minutes later, she is yelling at our cashier as I walked into his station. I tried to talk to her but her feet were firmly set. I should have just walked away but instead I asked her why she was so upset over the charge on her food. We had given her everything that she requested and her request was one that I had never heard of before in my thirty years of restaurant work. She had requested that the cook hand crack her omelet and separate two of the egg out of the four. When the cook messed up and separated them all, I had him redo the order so that the woman would get exactly what she wanted. When I related that to her, she told me that it was my problem and not hers. My button was pushed and I told her that we had given her a very fair price for the food that we had given her. With that, she opened the togo container that she was taking home with her. "Does that corn beef look crispy to you?", she demanded. "I asked for crispy hash and you couldn't even do that right!". Defeated, angry, and shaking feeling the blood pressure pounding in my head, I turned to Chris and said, "Charge her.". I then walked away. She then threw ten dollars at Chris and said, "That is all you guys get." and then spun around and left the building. It took me hours to calm down. Even now, hours later, it bugs me.

I know that our quality is good and our prices are fair and that you can't please everyone but when you run across that one, you just don't feel good about it. And you wonder if there was anything at all that you could have done that would have made this situation turn out right.