Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I Love my Ducks?

I took the girls and Jay to the Virginia game at the new arena in Eugene on Sunday. We packed up the car right after Jay took a quick needed shower from his Lacrosse practice.

The new arena is beautiful and there are no bad seats. Ours were in the top row just behind the Oregon bench. We had a great view of the floor and though I could not make out the names on the back of their jerseys, I pretty much knew from sight or from the announcers shouts who they were as they played.

Just before the game, we were all told to stand, take off our hats, face the flag, and honor it with the national anthem. Now, that was one thing I could not see from my perch was the flag. The reason was that a side board that showed stats throughout the game was blocking it. I looked to see where the crowd was looking and my eyes moved past the Duck bench. What I saw made my blood boil. A line of players were standing facing towards the flag.....but many of them were looking down at their feet. They seem to be fidgeting, anxious for the game to start. I wanted to scream out but from my distance, they would have not heard. The coach was standing behind them. I am not sure if he had his hand over his heart or not but in my mind, I was yelling....."Get those guys in line! Honor our flag!"

I turned and found the flag but my experience had been tempered with the thought of these young men....and their ungrateful poses. Throughout the game it gnawed at me. It almost seemed fitting that they lost. Someone should tell them....but who?

After the game, we stopped for gas and food and arrived back in Bend around 7 or so. That night, when I could not sleep, I drifted around the net and looked for analysis of the game. As I opened up the sports page, I was taken by the article of Jeremy Shockey of the Carolina Panthers and how he had called out certain Houston Texans for the same thing that had bugged me at he Duck game.

The thoughts of how I had felt flooded through my mind and I set myself off on a mission. First to discover who the athletic department head was. I knew that Mike Bellotti had taken the job for a very short time a couple of years back but had left quickly. So, I searched and found that the new man's name is Rob Mullens. I then searched for an access email but only found the website for the Ducks. So, I went to goducks.com and searched finding only the contact page. It said that I could email the athletic department so that is where I made my stand.

The following was my complaint:

Now, I want to preface this with a statement. I am a die hard true blue (er green and yellow) Duck fan. I have been for as far back as I remember.

I took my kids to the recent Virginia game and sat in section 205 behind the Duck bench.

As the national anthem started, I could not see the flag so I looked around to see where the people were looking so that I could pay tribute to it myself.

What I found, however, shocked me to the core. The line of Ducks had many of them staring....at their shoes! I stood and watched as they shuffled and squirmed, looking down and not up at the colors that we all should be giving honor to.

I know the coach could see this as he was standing behind them.

There are very few things that could make me turn my back on my beloved team......this is one of them!

Please......Please......Please......have the coach inform them of where their respect is due.

I am sure that you had enough cameras going that you should be able to see what I am talking about.

As a patriot and a Vietnam vet, I implore you to look into this situation.

Lyle Hicks

I punched the send button and went back off to bed. I received the following reply from whom ever screens the emails for the website:

Lyle, thank your feedback. We have forwarded your email on to the appropriate sources for further review.

I am a bit perplexed as to who the appropriate sources are (desk clerk?) and what their further review will be (round file?).

I will assure you of one thing, I do not intend to let it go. If we do not teach our children the due respect for our flag, our country, and what we have fought for where shall we go and what are we doomed for?

This same point was driven home by the chaplain today at the beginning of the Band of Brothers meeting. He encouraged the over 100 strong meeting to teach their children and their grandchildren the true story of our country, what we stand for, what we have all fought for, and why. This is not being taught in our schools and can only be taught by us.

Now, I can't see myself going to any more of the games this season, but rest assured, I will be watching for this whenever the cameras of the televised games show them. And I hope that their are others who will also make this stand and hold our youth accountable.

Thank you, Mr Shockey for the encouragement. Your stand will lead to others.

May God bless America!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tis the Season

We are only a little over a week away from Christmas. Wow, how the year has passed. This is the season that most people feel the desire to give. The man on the street corner, the bell ringer in front of the store, or the various organizations whose responsibility is to help such as food banks or shelters.

But, what of the season just afterwards......The coldest time of the year. What do we do then?

Back in 1995, I remember reading an article that a friend had written where he ended up giving his Christmas bonus out in a variety of ways to people who he met who he saw needed it more than him. I was warmed and inspired by the words that he wrote.

In January of the next year, I was driving home from work and had parked on the south side of Albertsons and was getting back in my car after my purchases. As I started my car, my lights fell on a figure huddled against the wall. His crouching body with head down showed me that he was trying to stay warm away from the wind that was howling around the building.

I sat there, my car at idle, and stared at the figure. My daughter sitting next to me broke my silence when she spoke, "You are going to do something, Dad, aren't you?". She knew me well and I slipped out of my warm idling car and crouched down next to him. I still recall his haunting eyes as they looked up at me from under the dirty ball cap.

I asked him when he last ate. He stated the day before, he thought. Reaching in my pocket, I extracted a business card and wrote on the back. I told him that the diner was only a block or so down the road, invited him to it, and then told him that he could go to the truck stop side afterwards and get a shower if he wished.

The next morning, a smiling cleaner face met me in the truckers lounge as I arrived at work. I saw him from time to time after that and we always greeted each other. While I don't know what ever happened to him, the incident caused my mind to begin to wander on the subject and a food and clothing drive began from it that I named MOW for Middle of Winter.

Customers began dropping off warm clothes, blankets, sleeping bags, and food. Others left money that I used to purchase more sleeping bags since they were the thing most in demand. Originally, we ran this drive from January to March each year.

As the years progressed, the drive remained but evolved. At first, it was St Vincent de Paul who did the distributing. Then I met Capt John from the Salvation Army. I came to know and love him and his family and while he was here in Bend, they became my distribution point. We also shared a love of football and the same teams, The Oregon Ducks and the San Diego Chargers. I stopped to see him in Newport last September when Judy and I were there visiting bragging that I now knew Dan Fouts just so I could watch his envious reaction.

Then came the Band of Brothers and Chuck Hemmingway who leads Central Oregon Veterans Outreach (COVO). Last year, we agreed to use them as the main distribution point and something else happened. While I pulled the bins sometime in the spring, the supplies never stopped. Most every week, someone drops by clothes or supplies and every Monday, Chuck or someone else takes them down to the COVO office where they are distributed directly to the ones who need them the most.

My friend, Brian Standiford, who is the service manager for Smolich Hyundai in front of us even brings back brand new sleeping bags on a regular basis helping fill this need that is year around but especially prevalent in the coming colder months.

I used this story when I addressed a Christian Businessman's group that meets at the diner last week. It is my hope that it might inspire other thoughts and ideas just as the article had laid the foundation for this so many years ago.

Yes, it is Christmas Season.....the time when we are inspired to give. But remember, this is only one month. There are eleven more afterwards and each one will give us opportunities. And, I would add, our responsibility to make the best of them....and hopefully make a difference in this world.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A busy season

The Christmas season is traditionally a busy time for us all. Besides the normal business, there are parties to prepare for, parades to be part of, Shopping, and decorations.

But, this year, I have had to add something new to the list, bookkeeping. Our bookkeeper, Summer, is on maternity leave so with the help of Casey (who has never had any training), I am attempting to keep up this very important part of the business at a very crucial time of the year.

It has brought me back to my roots in the business, however. Back when I first started working for Jake's in 1982, I only worked the fuel islands for a couple of months before I was brought up into the office to assist in the books. I was taking accounting classes at COCC back then so the new job became a practical application for my classes and also helped me gain a pretty good foundation for my first management job there when I was promoted to Restaurant manager.

It seems so many years ago but I remember much of it so well. A few years later after beginning computer classes, I even wrote the first accounting package for the business. Jake allowed me to purchase an old XT model computer. In fact, it was the computer that Oregon Computers (now ORCOM) first started their business with. They had upgraded to the new AT and we purchased their original computer, printer, and home made printer stand complete with carpet lining to help muffle out the sound. Even though the computer was upgraded a short time later, the printer remained our main printer for many years to come.

I recall how I had never really used a ten key before and how I practised over and over until I was able to use it without looking at it. I was placed in a room with their then main bookkeeper who seemed to be there for window dressing. She spent much of her time on the phone, or doing her nails, or ......talking. She often took an extended lunch break sunning herself on the roof outside of the office. I soon found out that I was actually hired to take her place and she was sent down to the fuel desk in a promotion of sorts.

I am so thankful for those years that laid out the foundation for understanding the business that I would later come to call my own. Back then, I couldn't decide if I wanted to attempt to become an accountant or a computer programmer. I didn't realize that God had something totally different in store for me.

When I took the business over, I attempted to keep the same structure that was laid out so many years ago which included a vacation benefit and end of year, Christmas bonuses. I wanted the crew to feel comfortable and wanted to show them that I was committed to more than just profit.

After we moved to our existing building, we added something to the Christmas part by holding an annual Christmas party. Jimmy will produce the main course (Meat and Potatoes) and the crew will bring a dish of their own. It made for a good time to give them their bonuses and allowed Judy and I to add something new to our tradition. We call it the 'Judy & Lyle appreciation awards'. It has become the vehicle to have a little fun while we take time to show them that we care for them as a family not just as employees.

So, each year, we sit down the week before the event and attempt to come up with something either funny or flattering regarding each and every one of them. This has become even more trickier as the years go by when you try not to just duplicate something that you have used in the past.

Today is the day and we have spent the last week preparing for the event. Each year, we have tried to give it a different flavor and this year, I think our games should be very entertaining. We have also invited a couple of our friends from the Band of Brothers who help us out with the meeting and have become greater parts or our extended family. I believe the highlight of the evening just might be one of our new games. We will ask for 12 volunteers (Judy will pick if we don't get any), place them in a line, put candy canes in their mouths, and sing the twelve days of Christmas. It should be very entertaining and fun.

Last year, a local businessman stopped in for supper thinking we were open. I invited him in, placed him in one of the booths, got him some prime rib, and allowed him to watch our festivities. He later told me that he really enjoyed himself and that it would be something that he would not soon forget.

While going over the list of employees this past week, I was overwhelmed at the number who either came with us so long ago or started shortly there after. It is my hope and desire that this event will show all of them that even though I push them during the year, I care for all of them deeply and appreciate the fact that they have stuck with Judy and I for these years.

Merry Christmas everyone. May your holidays be happy ones.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Small Business Saturday

I watched the ads last week promoting this event. American Express was the who started it all and it certainly, in theory is a great idea. I believe that they even promised a credit on your account if you used your card at participating businesses.

Maybe that was my problem since I don't take American Express cards. I stopped taking those years back when I got tired of their high charges and the fact that they sat on the money for a day or so longer. Those are both detriments to small business and I found that the few people who made comments regarding my dropping the card said they used the card only because they received greater discounts from it at restaurants adding fuel to my assertion that American Express was in deed not very small business oriented.

So, I guess it would surprise no one to know that Small Business Saturday was my quietest Saturday of the year.

Now, there were other variables involved also such as a rather nice day and a football game (Oregon/Oregon State). As a matter of fact, after the game started, business just died.

My day actually started at two chain stores. My buddy, Frank and I drove out to World Market to get our free TinTin ornaments and ended up getting a coffee at Starbucks right next door while we waited (Frank had earned some free coffee there online). We sat in our car drinking the coffee and a large van pulled in next to us. A man decked out in camo gear jumped out with a ragged TinTin tshirt showing out from underneath his jacket. He was the first in line.

Now, usually you see women as the primary shoppers but when it comes to freebees, I think it is the man who is the primary there. We walked up to the line shortly before the store opened up. A couple of women were talking and I thought they were together until one of them told us that she was just talking to the other since they were just about the only women in line. A quick scan of the line validated her claim and my conclusion.

Arriving back at the diner with my prizes (an ornament and a free movie ticket), I went about helping the servers buss tables while Frank stopped and chatted with some of the locals at the counter.

Two young men asked for me at the register and I went up to meet two of the Mountain View Cougar Football team members who thanked me for supporting the team. I congratulated them on their win the night before and told them that my grandson and I had followed the game online since it was not broadcast on TV. They showed me their picture in the paper and I cut it out, had them sign it, and placed it up by the register. Next Saturday night, this always great local team will be playing Sherwood for the state title.

After working most of the morning, I headed home to join Frank, Jason Blodgett, Carrie, and Jayden for the Civil War game. Football and Pizza took over our afternoon.

After everyone left, I headed back to a still quiet diner to check on the evening meal. We bake off Prime Rib every Saturday for the evening special and I kicked myself for not cancelling for the week, knowing that this Saturday would probably be a little shy compared to others.

With a supper of Prime Rib tacos in me, I called it an early night wondering what small business in Bend might have benefited from the day. Maybe one of the better local pizza joints or the local sports bars for the game.

Please don't get me wrong. The concept of the day is great. I believe that the back bone of our country is small business. My problem with the day lies in the promoter not the promo tee especially since as a small business, I rely on my local traffic for my survival and appreciate every person who walks through our door.

Happy Small Business Saturday, folks!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanks Giving

I awoke, laying in my bed thinking of the last minute things that needed to happen for the day. We were stepping into new territory, an evolution of the event that we started six years back now was moving on to a new venue....The Bend Senior Center.

I showered and readied myself still checking things off in my head. The last thing that I wanted to do was to find myself driving back and forth getting things that I had forgotten about that were needed to pull this event off.

I arrived at the diner to find it buzzing with action. The guys were loading Jerry Bugge's trailer with all of the food that was soon to be consumed by hopefully happy Seniors. I am very grateful that Jerry loaned us his trailer. We had taken over the equipment yesterday and the food this morning. Two trips was all that was needed and all because of his huge trailer.

Kevin was on the line cooking off last minute stuff and he prepared me some breakfast as I put together the register and credit card system that we would need. I took a look at the reservation list and realized that I needed to prepare a list for the ones that we needed to pick up and for all of the deliveries.

I sat down at the counter with Gary and John (two of our regulars who had come in through the kitchen to have their morning coffee. Before I had finished, I was informed that everyone was ready to go and the trailer had been buttoned up. I walked out the back with Gary and John whose coffee was on the house as we had no register system. They smiled and waved as I jumped up into Jerry's large truck and fired it up. I was the only one with 'trailer' experience so became the driver for the load.

I arrived at the center and slid up close to the kitchen door. The crew was waiting for me and had the doors to the trailer opened and were offloading before I had even crawled out of the cab. I grabbed the register area gear and made my way to the lobby to set it up. The center had strung a phone line over to a desk in the entry way that we were to use as our cashier station. After a few shifts and moves and an extra power bar, I stood back and stared looking to insure that it was set for the most efficient use.

I then stepped into the dining room area which was set with the tables and chairs for our guests who were to arrive in a few hours. The tables seemed to be a almost perfect amount. We had 20 tables set out that would set for 160 seats. Since we had reservations for 80 per hour, that would lead us with extra seats in case some seniors wanted to linger a bit. This later turned out to be just the case as some of our 12 o'clock guests stayed until after 2.

I walked through with Richard Smith and showed him the various areas that we were soon to use to make the seniors at home. A table was set up by the main entrance with coffee, cakes, and baskets of apples. The TV was on with the pregame show for the upcoming game. The pool tables were uncovered and ready for play. It all felt good and warm and ready.

The trailer now empty, I drove it to the back of the lot and Richard drove me back to the diner. While he drove the large pots of coffee back to the event, I prepared lists on my computer to make the deliveries easier, printing out maps when needed.

I noticed the time and began to get a bit nervous as it was now 10:30 and I was set to talk to the volunteers at 11......and my mind raced with last minute thoughts.....last minute 'what ifs'. Jayden called to ask to be picked up and I made a quick call to Trinity for her to get him as I just didn't have the time. Richard arrived back to inform me that we would need more croutons as the bread company had only given us half of what we needed. A side trip to Safeway made us end up at the center just minutes before I was to address the help.

I took one last look through all of the stations, looking for anything that seemed out of order. With my paperwork still tucked under my arm and my anxiety level at it's peak, I grabbed a group of my friends who had showed up and we circled for a bit of mind relief in the form of a prayer. I had wanted to say a prayer with all of the volunteers but opted to this group not wanting to dilute the day with any negatives that might come from any volunteer who did not believe as we did. The day was a day of thanksgiving and needed to have this as it's foundation. It all felt so right as we stood in that circle with our heads bowed and I could feel my anxiety wash away.

I brought all of the group together and thanked them for coming, reinforcing our goals of the day. I tried to look them all in the eye so that they might better understand the passion for the event. Thanksgiving is a day for family. And all of these seniors who were soon to arrive were just that today.....our family. I made one last statement before we broke up into our respective groups. If you find yourself not knowing what to do at anytime during the day, look for a senior who is not smiling and do something to make them smile. Make the day, their special day.

The COCOA volunteers broke off to their stations and I brought around the Jake's volunteers to go over last minute things with them. I was not sure who I was going to use to guide the seniors as they came in the room and to insure our larger groups could sit together. I smiled as I looked over at three of our volunteers from years past and realized that one of them was just perfect for the part. The daughter of the group was the one who had juggled olives a couple of years back while her boyfriend and Frank had caught them in his mouth. I asked her if she would take control of the flow and her dad smiled and stated that I had picked the perfect person. "I know", I smiled back.

Going over the cashier station with Nita, Frank's girlfriend who had agreed to cashier for the day, I realized a couple of things that I had missed. I sent Trinity back to the diner for the items and then headed down the hall to go over the deliveries with Pam from COCOA who had Meals on Wheels volunteers who were ready to make them.

Pam took control of the sheets and insured me that they would be handled at the prescribed times. I was so thankful that she was so willing to take that pressure of and I could turn my attention to the guests who were now arriving.

As Judy and I looked across the room, the first thing we realized was that it seemed so quiet and didn't have that 'homey' atmosphere of the diner. I felt that mainly it was because the space was so large and the tables so spread out. Judy mentioned that it needed something and I felt that something might come into play once the band began to play. And it did.

Soon after Paul and his band began, even the server line began to sway with the music. A couple got up and danced in front of the band. Yet another senior got out of his chair and did a little tap dance. I looked across the room at smiling happy faces and it just felt right.

Trinity came and retrieved me as someone from the Bulletin had arrived and I sat and talked with her for a few minutes about how all of this had gotten started. She asked if she could interview a couple of seniors and I said that I was sure that would be OK. I told her to make herself at home with us all and did notice her from time to time during that first hour.

Making my way from station to station, everything seemed to be running so smooth. There were complaints that the band was too loud which was handled easily with a small downturn of the main control on their amp. Then the breakers in the back of the kitchen kept tripping and that was resolved when we moved our heat tables to separate circuits. Those were actually the only two problems that I recall that I needed to help resolve all day. More than one volunteer stated that they could tell that we had put some thought into our preparation.

I walked out onto the main floor to look around and realized something that made me smile even more. Frank was out on the floor making faces smile but there was yet another Frank there also. Frank Spernek who plays poker with us on Mondays and who I have come to realize that is just like us in the 'fun' mode. The next hours musician was walking the floor and both Franks were singing along with his music while they poured coffee. I stepped up as Frank S was harmonizing to one song and joined in on the next one....Sloop John B. As we bellowed out our harmony, seniors around us smiled and clapped. I noticed the Singing Sosas were getting ready to take over for the third hour and had turned to listen. Jeannie Sosa later told me that she did not realize that I could sing. Rousing applause came as we finished our song, bowed to our audience and then went on our way.

I could feel my blood sugar begin to drop so I grabbed a roll from the table and snuck behind the line to the turkey server. "Could you place a couple of pieces on this?", I asked. She turned around startled that someone would be coming behind her for service and seemed almost ready to say, "No" when she realized it was me and smiled, laying out the white meat on my prepared roll with pickles. That is my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal. A roll with freshly baked turkey and pickles. It is so delicious and brings back memories of past days.

The day rolled by not as quickly as past years but with all of the smiles and thank yous along with the hugs and kisses from thankful seniors. One lady stopped me as I walked by her table. "If you had not done this, we would be eating frozen dinners in front of the TV. Thank you!", she said.

All day long, only one face did not smile as I walked around but I soon noticed that Frank was with him....and he was smiling.

As the last hour wound down, I drove the truck back over into place and we began to break down. Helpers broke down tables and chairs as last minute eaters were still eating. I stopped at the table of one of them and reassured the woman that we were not trying to hurry her. "Please take your time and enjoy", I stated. She cupped my face in her hands, kissed me on the forehead, and gave me a hug. With that jesture, she melted my heart.

I stopped to see an old friend and his father who were enjoying their meal. I pointed across the room to Judy and told them that she was my wife. He looked at me in shock. "I am so sorry.", he said, "She is the one that I tried to pick up on when I came into the room.". "No problem.", I returned, "I can see you have good taste in women.".

Judy and I loaded up the cash register area and the remaining ice cream into her car and returned it to the diner. By the time we returned the truck was nearly loaded, the floor now clear, and the kitchen almost clean thanks to the help of some of the Band of Brothers who had showed up to help.

I drove back to the diner where the remaining crew helped bring out the perishables and items needed for the next day. Jimmy showed up right behind me after stopping at the police station with some of the left overs. That too has become part of the ritual of the event. Our leftovers are taken to the Bend PD who have to work on this holiday so that they can partake also.

With the items put away, the restaurant buttoned up, and security set, Jay and I headed home around 6:30. "It feels like almost midnight.", Jay said. I had to agree, it had been a long day.

My mind wondered to all that I had seen and experienced in the day. I recalled walking by a table where a man there stopped me. "Did the TV stop by for this event?", he said. "No", I answered. "They should have.", he said, "This is great.". "Yes, that would have been nice", I countered, "But that is not what this is all about.". He looked up at me and asked, "What is it about?". I smiled back and said, "You.". I saw a tear in his eye as he grabbed my hand and thanked me. If nothing else had happened that day, that one event, in that one moment, my day had been completed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

T minus 2.....and counting

The T stands for Thanksgiving.....or Turkey. Which ever way you call it, it is by far our largest outreach event of the year.

It all started with a conversation with Jimmy, our kitchen manager. He had done a similar type of event in his restaurant in California. He saw a need and wanted to help fill it. The need was seniors who no longer had their family around them and were now alone on this special family holiday.

He did an 'at cost' meal and ran his restaurant for the day with just his family. His family members would also deliver to ones who could not get out. I loved one of his stories of delivering to a man and then watching a bit of football with him as the man enjoyed his meal.

I decided that we would attempt to do the same thing up here the first year that we were open in our new building. That was 2005 and the event was pretty successful with around 300 or so attending.

Every year, the event seem to grow more as more seniors found out about it. Last year, we served over 450. The problem was that was just too many. We had traffic jams in between hours when seniors waited for open chairs while other seniors did not want to give them up because they were having too much fun.

The day, while productive, was exhausting. As usual, I sat at my desk the next day and wrote out things to try and make the next year less stressful and yet still handle the need. I had just wrote down the words, 'reduce the numbers', when I looked up at my computer screen and saw an email from the Central Oregon Council on Aging (COCOA). The director was asking if I would be interested in working together with her on an event in the future.

A light went off in my head as I typed my response. I told her, "Sure, what about next Thanksgiving.". With only a few back and forth messages, we had laid the foundation for this years event. She was fairly sure that she could get the Bend Senior Center for the day as it was usually closed that day and she had volunteered her delivery unit (Meals on Wheels) to make our deliveries better (Last year, I had three different delivery tandems going out with their personal vehicles and delivering out of the back of pick up trucks.).

Through the year, we conversed back and forth a few times and in September, we helped them out with a Veteran event set at 9-11 and held at the Elks lodge. From there, we began to focus on this up and coming event. We had already received an OK from Bend Senior Center but now they had also agreed to jump on board with the event and be Co-Partners with us.

We had already been receiving phone calls back in September from excited seniors who wanted to get their names on the reservation list. So, early in October, we started putting together the final polishes on our evolved event. We decided to attempt to turn the center into a sort of 'mini' resort for the day. The main floor would house the meal with sittings for 160 and reservations for 80 per hour. That way, if seniors wanted to linger a little, we could still easily set others coming in.

We also decided to change the serving to a buffet style. The hors d'oeuvre table had already been that way but now, we would do the main line in the same way. I began calling the entertainers from years past and asking them if they were interested in coming back. Jimmy looked over the kitchen and began his preparations. Everything just seemed to fall into place.

COCOA and us combined our volunteers and began to put them into their prospective places and last minute preparations were made. Jerry Bugge, the husband of Mary (one of our waitresses) loaned us his enclosed trailer so Jimmy could began loading it with stuff days before the event that we would be needed for the service. One extra entertainer, (Steve Neff, a singer songwriter whose family had lived in Gilchrist when I was growing up) made one more than we needed for the main floor but agreed to come into the entry way and entertain there.

So, it will look something like this: The entry way will be filled with couches and chairs with coffee and cakes for seniors to sit around and be 'family' for one another during the day. They are free to stay as long as they wish. A cashier will be present there and collect the money for the meal stamping the hands that will go into the main floor at there prescribed times. A TV will be in the pool room that has two pool tables. I call that the 'man' room where seniors can either watch the football games or take turns playing pool. Coffee and snacks will be available there also.

The main floor will have an entertainment stage where some bands will play while other entertainers will opt to just walk amongst the crowd. A table for salads and hors d'oeurves will be on one side while a buffet line serving turkey, ham, and all the trimmings will be on the other side. Yet another station will have drinks while a forth will house desert featuring our buddy, Richard Smith who each year cuts and serves the pie and ice cream.

And, I am happy to say that Frank will be there. Frank Patka has become an 'asked for' part of the event. I have had seniors who called in for reservations ask me, "Will Frank be there?". He has become well known for forming conga lines through the main floor or catching olives that were juggled from another volunteer (a feat captured by the television station a couple years back). Frank thought he might be out of town but his business has kept him close by and has agreed to join us.

Sysco foods, Food Services of America, Eberhard Dairy, Franz Bakery, Farmers Coffee, and Childers Meats have all agreed to help us out allowing us to lower the price from previous years to an easier $7.50 per person and others have donated money to pay for seniors who can not afford that. All tips and left over donations will be given to COCOA and thus rounding out the event to make it an event for seniors that will end up benefiting them in other ways also.

I know there will be glitches....there always are but this years event just feels so right. As if it were meant to be. Maybe it is.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Lots of things have happened recently and right now, we are getting ready for next weeks Thanksgiving meal. Moving over to the senior center will have it's challenges but I really feel this will turn into one of those red letter type of events.

Last Friday was the Veteran's day parade. I am so honored to be able to call Bob Maxwell my friend. Bob and Bea rode with Judy in the rumble seat of her car. My father and grandson rode up front with Judy.

I also consider it an honor to be close with Dottie Dolan who Trinity got to drive through the parade with. Dottie is the wife of Mike Dolan who was the man who got the local veteran day parade started again by walking down Wall street with a flag. Mike was a great man who passed on a couple of years back.

Then there was John Spence. I first met John through the Band of Brothers. John was the first American frogman. John is a quiet man with a certain humbleness about him. I was able to get one of our local guys and businessman, Harry Fagen, to cart John through the parade in his really cool Weezel. That is kind of like a jeep with tracks on it.

The parade went off well and we were blessed with a sunny day so what more could you ask for.

Yesterday, as Zin and I talked in the entrance of the diner getting ready for the days Band of Brothers meeting, a familiar voice struck out behind me. "Good Morning, Lyle" came the greeting as I looked up at the face of the man that I have always considered to be my favorite sports figure, Dan Fouts.

Dan, when he comes into the meeting often just sits over with his great Uncle Stu and we mostly just leave him alone wanting him to feel at ease in our meetings and not having to be up front like he has to be so many times.

But, today, Dan has volunteered to field questions from the group and who could turn that down. I knew that today's meeting was going to be one to remember.

After a couple of announcements, Zin gave Dan the microphone and Dan opened up the meeting for questions. A few were fired at him regarding some of the guys favorites including the Niners who Dan said that after working one of their games had come to realize that they were the real deal.

I looked for an opening and then snapped out, "So, what is wrong with this years Chargers?". With a smile, Dan returned, "Next question......Lyle, you didn't raise your hand.". Later, when someone stated something about the raiders, he said once more, "Next question.". Both non answers drew laughter from the group.

He did go on to talk about the division race that the Chargers and Raiders (his nemesis) are in and how crazy that division race is right now.

He answered questions on Tim Tebow stating that if he ever learned how to throw the ball, he will be one hell of a quarterback. He did go on to say that in the trenches, Tim was the type of guy you would want with you. He plays with allot of heart and strength and leaves it all out on the field.

He also explained how he does not see the Ducks playing in the championship this year simply because of the group of teams in the mix and the games that they have left. For instance, if Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State, then they probably jump Oregon in the standings and something similar could be said if Arkansas happens to be able to take out LSU. He said that the Rose Bowl is still quite an accomplishment of which all agreed.

As the meeting wound down, Dan and Stu ducked out the door to miss the rush. I thanked Dan and he returned with "My pleasure, Lyle. I will see you again when I am in town.".

I walked back into the meeting with a grin on my face. Just how many guys get to meet their sports idols. And then reduce that number to how many guys are on a first name basis with the same.

Bob Maxwell, Dottie Dolan, John Spence, and Dan Fouts. Such an honor to know them but even a greater honor to call them 'Friend'. I am truly blessed.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Food Shows

When I first started out at Jake's, the two main companies that sold to us were smaller, in state companies. I believe their names were Pacific Fruit and Portland Wholesale. Now they are part of national companies, Food Services of America and Sysco Foods.

I remember the first food shows that I went to. It was in an ice cold warehouse somewhere down by the river in Portland. I wished that I had worn warmer clothes but I came home with bags of goodies and had learned quite a bit about making deals for products.

I believe food shows must have just been starting back then as I was wooed to come to them. I was given overnight stays in nice motels, lavished with gifts, overwhelmed with samples, and enticed with rebates for the business. It was kind of a Disneyland effect.

I remember one local show back in the 90's where they were giving away prizes to the purchasers. I had learned how to 'work' the system pretty well by then and ended up with a bag full of tickets. I won so many prizes that I began giving them away to the people around me as I wanted the grand prize.....a trip to the Oregon coast. Judy and I enjoyed that trip, staying right on the ocean at Depot Bay.

As the two companies got bought up by their now larger ones, the enticements for coming to their shows grew. One show, we walked away with not just a TV but two smaller ones for our kids. In another, I gave my young kitchen manager a 30 inch TV and VCR. It was a nice homecoming present for his young family. Still, in another show, they got you to buy more product by giving you minutes in a money box. There were bills in the bottom and they turned on blowers that blew the money all around you. Your job was to grab as much as you could in the time allotted. I had gotten to know the owner of the food brokerage giving this one away and he showed me the tricks of getting the most before I went in. I ended up paying for our trip to the coast with this one.

At the same time, the more local bread company out of Eugene, Williams Bakery was working hard to get and keep our business from the Portland based, Franz Bakery. Every year, they would take me to Oregon Duck games and even after the two companies combined, the Duck games were still there and Blazer games were added. At one time, I was given my choice of both.

Back then, the 'fringe' benefits were unbelievable. I knew of one local grocery store manager who was given box seats in the games and I can only imagine what he would have received in the food shows.

Jake's owners encouraged me to go to as many shows as I could as I would always bring them back at least 6 - 700 dollars in rebates for product, one time I even earned them over $1000.

Then, somewhere in the later 90's, things changed. It was as the companies began to get larger and larger. The Bread company CEO changed to a more 'numbers' man who realized that he could sell just as much by taking care of the larger chain restaurant leaders and the spiffs for independents started to come to a screeching halt.

Almost overnight, the games were cancelled for us and even for the local bread managers. I believe the tickets were given to the more district managers of both their business and the ones of the chains.

At the same time, the now huge food purveyors found that they could squeeze money from the brokers themselves and the show spiffs began to wane. It was still worthwhile to go, however, in most cases. The big shows were getting bigger but somewhat manageable with the companies asking us to bring only a couple of representatives and no children to the show. I could still wrangle some pretty good rebates of 3 - 500 and could come away with some pretty good samples.

Somewhere along the line, they started letting anyone into the shows. I found them to be much harder to work. So, I began preordering our product and just not going to the packed shows. This did not work well for them as they wanted me there so I was told in order to get my show rebates, I needed to be there.

So, one of the companies had it's big Portland show on Wednesday. Judy and I got up early and headed over the pass. We did enjoy the fall drive with the leaves turning and arrived at the show at around 11 or so.

The show was packed. We were lucky to get parking spots not to far away and met up with our local salesman as we walked in the door. He told me not to bother trying to get any more 'points' from anyone other than our two largest buys as they were just not giving out many extra points. So, I marked those two on my map as we began going down the isles. Now, there were plenty of samples to be sampled right then and there but most of the packaged samples were wrapped up tight with tape. They were for visual only as now large groups and families roam the floor, many of them just looking for these free things. These now large groups caused yet another problem, clutter.

Just walking down one of the isles was became a challenge of it's own. I saw one larger chef who had sweat pouring off of him, his hair matted with it from just fighting the crowd. I bet, in certain ways, it was cooler in his kitchen than it was out on that floor. We were bumped, jostled, and pushed. One lady who had managed to get herself quite a few of the elusive free samples dropped her bag right in front of me, tripping me with it. Now, getting a bit frazzled, I told Judy that I felt like kicking the bag.

We stopped at the two larger purchases and I made my way into them to receive as many extra points as I could. Usually, these guys would load up pages of points for me but today, there stickers were much lighter. One mentioned that they had much less to deal than they had in the past. I thanked him for what he did give me. The second gave me one sticker. I looked at him with a inquisitive look. He mentioned that he saw our price deviation sheets eluding to the fact that I was given a better price than most on his product. I did not argue that fact nor did I counter that the agreement was made so that I would purchase other products exclusively also. It was just not worth it.

By the time that we had gotten to the last two rows, Judy and I were pretty done. We decided to walk down the middle of the isle and look both ways. If we saw something interesting, we would decide if we wanted to fight the crowd to see more or just reach in and grab a info sheet that would allow me to explore more online. That didn't work so well either as the middle of the isle seemed to be where the families would gather and just 'talk'.

By the time that we finished the show, we both felt like we had worked a full shift. I had four or five samples in my bags along with a puzzle and a spat that I had won on a wheel spin. I did stop at a wheel that had Blazer gear on it, thinking that I might try and win something for Jay. But, in order to spin the wheel, I needed to purchase Blazer tickets. "Why should I buy tickets to something that may not happen?", eluding to the soon to be cancelled season if they cannot agree to terms. "Because they are fully refundable.", came the smile back. After looking at the prices (ouch), I decided that I would rather just watch them on TV.

We made our way to the person who counts up the points. "Congratulations!", she smiled. "You have earned 1700 points. Wow, that is one of my larger point totals today. You can use half of them now on gift certificates to Fred Meyer or on our prizes here and you will receive the rest when you purchase all that you have promised to buy.". "I would just like that as a rebate when I finish up with my purchases. Would that be OK?', I asked. "Yes", she said as she worked her calculator, "You will receive a check for $170. That is if you purchase it all." Since I had overbooked to insure the best possible rebate, I knew that figure would be more like $120 or so.

As we walked out the door, I was working things out in my head. $120 minus gas alone was now $60 not to mention wear and tear on the car. The fresh air on my face as we exited felt incredible. We walked back to our car to head home spending over two hours in that packed building. I realized that I had not gone back to the Coke booth to get us a drink for the way home. I looked back at the building and told Judy that I was just not up to fighting that crowd just to get a free coke. We stopped for gas in Troutdale and I bought myself a coke. Judy, on the other hand, had not been able to get herself enough free samples to feed herself and ducted into the local subway for a sandwich for the way home.

We arrived back in Bend around 5 or so. We both called it an early night as the next day we would be driving back to.....Portland. But this time in a much more relaxed atmosphere. A day trip with some of our Model A friends. A much more relaxing enjoyable day trip. I kind of think that food shows might be coming to an end for me.

Monday, October 17, 2011


I was reminded on Saturday morning about the Vietnam Veteran's annual dinner that evening. I had forgotten all about it and called Judy to see if she wanted to go. I was kind of surprised as she normally does not like going out in the evening.

I later called my buddy, Zin, to see if he was going and we agreed to save seats for each other there. So, when Judy and I arrived, we had two seats waiting for us amongst some of our close friends. I was seated across from Judy with Zin and his son, Mark on one side and Loren ( a close friend and Iwo Jima survivor) on the other.

I feel very comfortable with this group of people and enjoyed greeting and talking with them prior to the meal. I noticed Dr. Carnahan as he walked in the room. They had a photographer and he was taking his picture. The doc is one of the most highly respected men that I know. I owe so much to him.

The photographer was walking around the room snapping shots and he stopped in front of me and took my picture as I smiled at him. I remember wondering why he took a pic of me but shined it on as he seemed to stop at quite a few people.

Terry (VVA president) opened up the meal with the pledge and a prayer was spoken. Then my friend, Tony spoke of the meaning of the POW table over in the corner. My mind drifted on how hard it would be to have a son who was never found. You would always wonder what happened to him.

Then, Terry spoke of something that they had decided to do as a group earlier that year. They had decided to honor a member. A sort of veteran of the year. Someone that they could show appreciation for their efforts in the group. He said that two names had come to the top of the list and that their was so much passion for both of these individuals that they decided that the first year would be shared between them.

As he spoke, my eyes drifted around the room at the special people that were there that were deserving of such an award. I looked at my buddy, Zin and all of the hard work that he does for many organizations. Chuck, the head of Central Oregon Veterans Outreach and how hard he works to give a hand up to down trodden vets. Jim Gunn was another that I thought deserving....or Taz. Doc Carnahan certainly had to be one. I would definitely be voting for him.

So as he spoke the first name, I almost feel off of my chair. It took a second to really set in. He had spoken my name. I looked up at Judy with what must have been a shocked look and then felt somewhat embarrassed with all of the clapping and the smiles directed my way. Terry was motioning me to come up to the podium and join him as he spoke the second name: Dr. Carnahan.

The honor and the surprise was incredible. But the honor of having my name next to this man who I love and respect so much on a plaque that will be hanging on the wall of the VFW hall forever in even more so.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I am secure?

I got an early call from Jim. The phone lines were down and so was the ability to use the credit card machine. I recently changed to the Bend Broadband system so I called that all familiar number. I went through their extensive menu only to find dead ends. I could not find anyone. I started just bouncing around until I finally was able to speak to an operator.

She informed me that the offices were closed and that no one was available. I told her that I was a business and that my service was down. "You might try rebooting your modem.", she stated. "Isn't there a 24 hour line for businesses?", I asked. "No", she said, "You will just have to wait until the office opens at 9."

I drove down to the diner and reset the modem thus bringing everything up. It seems that the company had upgraded which caught some modems off guard including mine. I then had a thought. Why didn't the alarm company alert me? I walked out into a nearly full diner. We had quite a few hunters in on their way to camp. After helping out, I called the alarm company and asked them if they knew my status. "You are alarmed. The alarms were set last evening around 9PM.", came the answer. "That's funny.", I said, "I am up and running with a full house.".

The one problem had brought to light another. Without the phones, there was no security.

I was at the office of Bend Broadband at 9. While I waited for my rep, I sat and talked with a sweet little lady who was in with her husband. They were confused over how to operate their system. I felt for her as she stated, "I wish I could still use my old crystal set.". My business rep came out to see me, apologising, with a 24 hour hot line number. I shared with him my discovery and he agreed to get together with the alarm company if it had anything to do with his system.

I then called the local office of the alarm company and discovered something that I did not know. Most every alarm is via phone lines and they have no way of knowing that the lines are down. "I don't like that at all.", I said, "Do I have any options?". They said that I could go cellular and that after the cost of the box, it was $10 more a month which covered the cost of the cell service. That was a no brainer to me and I immediately ordered up my upgraded security.

It was only 10AM and I had already solved two fairly big problems. Now, if I can just find that just right waffle recipe.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I got the power

Judy and I drove to the Powell Butte on Saturday. We stopped by the car show just as the awards were being given out and the show began to break up. I walked around talking to car friends and noticed Al Halligan's truck was there. I looked around for Al, and when I couldn't find him, left my card on his steering wheel so that he would know that I was around.

As we walked back to our car, I heard someone shouting my name. Turning around, Al was waving to me so we walked back.

"I have something that I need to show you!", he said with excitement. "This is great and I thought maybe you and I might go into business with it.".

We walked back to his tent area and found a well built man standing with his wife. "Show Lyle how that works.", Al said. The man had a rubber like bracelet on his right wrist. I had kind of heard of something like that before....seems like it used magnetic pulses or something to sort of balance you.

Now, I am always open for new things but am a bit of skeptic at the same time. "So, if I use this will my body transform itself into yours?, I asked. The man laughed while his wife made some sort of remark about his belly.

"No", he stated, but let me show you what it will do.

He had me balance on one leg with my arms straight out from my side. He then used two fingers on my left elbow to throw me off balance. He had me hold the band in my hand and using those same two fingers could not throw me off balance....in fact, he could not even using his whole hand with force. I seemed to have gained extreme balance all of a sudden.

Then, he had me stand straight with my hands to my side. With the band in my hand, he pushed down on my left hand with all of his might. He could not bring me down. Then he had me hand away the band. This time, he brought me down in seconds. I had super human strength with the band.....incredible!

I was sold. If he would have had a band, I would have bought it on the spot. "Does it work for other things?, I asked. "All sorts of things", he stated and went on to tell many stories of the effects of the band.

As we left, Al yelled over. "I will get in touch with you, Lyle. We are going to do this together."

All the way home, Judy and I talked excitedly about the product. I had asked the guy if it would help anxiety and he said for sure. I could just see it working for my PTSD and us able to do things in life that we want and yet cannot do. "We could take that trip to Utah!", Judy said.

That night, I decided to go online and see what was out there. This is one time that I am very thankful for the web and it's information. I discovered not only was the band a fraud but how this man had persuaded me into thinking it so powerful. It all has to do with your center of balance. When he used his two fingers, to pull me over, he put more pressure on the inner finger thus pushing me outward. When he wanted me to balance better, the pressure was on the outer finger thus pushing in towards my center.

The same goes for the strength test. By pushing inwards, it looks like I am very strong. The next time, he pushes down, he uses an outer push and brought me down. It is all so subtle that you don't notice.

So, last night when the cool kids showed up, Al and his wife, Roxanne were with them. Al had his band and was telling me how that guy at the car show was pushing him to sell the product. So....I asked Al if he would allow me to show him something.

We did the same test as the man had done. But, I did the opposite. With the band on, Al seemed to have no balance and no strength and when he took it off, he had both. "OK, I thought it was too good to be true. How did you do that?", he said. So, I showed him the guys secret.

"Wow", Al explained, "The guy would have had to show me this sooner or later. I could never sell something like this that would defraud someone. How can he live with himself while doing that?".

Now, I have told you this story to tell you of other powers that are out there. In this case, the power of friendship. I had let the pressure of the day get to me and was feeling a bit blue. I did not want to go down to work but it was Wednesday and the crew might need help so I did. I just wanted to go home and to bed.

But, as I sat with Al and the rest of the cool kids (Ricki named them that), my spirits began to lift. We joked and laughed and then the guys all stood around the cars swapping stories. Al left me with his band so I could wow some customers and I suddenly realized.....I no longer felt blue. I was actually uplifted just standing there amongst my friends.

As we broke up, I made a statement, "Guys, I just want to thank you all. You have really made my day!". I don't know if they realized just how much they had. "Go out and sell some bands!", Al joked as he got in his car and drove away.

I watched them as they left and then walked back into the diner....a contented and happy man.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

For Whom the Bell Tolls

I know that I can be hard a times. Especially with sales type people. I believe that one has to be a bit to be in business. But, at the same time, some of my greatest and deepest friendships have been with the same. You will find me very easy to deal with when I am being served and serviced right and....I can be a bear when there is a problem that is not being addressed to my standards. My standards? I guess you would say that they are what I would be doing if I were in their place.

On a daily basis, I walk the floor with a pot of coffee talking with our customers. I am looking for more than just empty cups. I am looking to insure that each and ever customers experience is the best that it can be. I listen for key words and phrases that might lead me to inquire deeper. For instance, if ask how their meal is and they say 'fine', then I will inquire further. Sometimes that means they like it but many times it means they had a problem of some sort and I want to know what it is so I can solve it. I want that customer back.

I often talk business with my buddy, Frank, who seems to get a kick out of some of my stories both in the front and in the back of the house. He says my way of dealing with salesman that are not servicing my business up to my expectations is that I will encourage and prod from a distance. If I don't get what I want, I get a little closer and encourage more. Somewhere along the way, my encouragements get more demonstrative. He said, the problem comes when all of a sudden, I am in their face and they wonder what changed Dr. Jeckyl into Mr. Hyde.

That being said, let me tell you my waffle story. It actually starts quite a while back. When I was managing Jake's back in the early 90's. I always wanted waffles and had called my friend and mentor, Jack Mangin from the Pilot Butte Drive In (the man who created it). Jack came over and showed me the ins and outs of waffles and introduced me to the company who makes the best. The Carbon Waffle Company. Their malted waffle mix is absolutely the best.

All went well until my delivery man and I had a problem. I don't recall the problem but I do recall that our personalities clashed. The problem was resolved when I called his company up and discussed it with them. I did not want the man fired, I just wanted to get what I felt was good service. That phone call seem to resolve the problem and I was told that Shawn was still there so I felt that all was good.

Now, fast forward to the more present. A few years back, I walked into our storeroom to find a huge amount of waffle irons. It seemed that the salesman was just dropping them off and not picking them up. Trying to be the good guy, I called the company (Waffles Northwest who distributes for Carbon) and told them that they might want to pick them up. Unfortunately, that salesman was not doing what his business wanted him to do and he lost his job. I kicked my self for not talking to the salesman first. He was a very nice man who we seemed to get along with well.

The next salesman was different. And he immediately began changing things. The first thing that he changed was he began charging me for my irons. I remember challenging him regarding that and he told me that it was company policy. I reminded him that the company provided me with irons for using their product exclusively. He told me that the only person who could override that was not him, but Shawn. Shawn? The same Shawn who had delivered back in the 90's and I had a problem with? I asked him if Shawn was now the manager. "He is more than that.....he is the owner.", came the reply.

I was shocked remembering back but went on to contact Shawn about the issue. I recall the conversation as I felt that he seemed to either remember me from before or he had just not changed his style. He told me that many customers were abusing his irons and that he had to charge for that abuse. I told him that my crew does not abuse and that we only need irons when they get used too much. He said that he would leave it up to Chris, our new salesman, and if Chris felt that my crew was abusing, he would charge. If it was normal wear and tear, there would be no charge.

We went on quite well....until this spring. I was working the line on a Saturday when I noticed some of the waffles coming out a bit too brown. When I inquired, I found that the timer bells on the iron were not working. My first step was to have Jim talk to Chris about fixing the bells.

A while went by and I had the same thing happen again. When I asked the cooks about the overly brown waffles, they made mention that the bells still did not work. So, this time, I called the company direct. I left a message stating that I wanted the bells fixed. No call was returned and to my surprise we received timer bells in the mail. Jim installed them but we had to really play around to get them to ring true.

I then received a bill for shipping on the bells. I called the company to complain and was told that I had ordered the bells. "No, I didn't.", I countered, "I said I wanted the bells fixed.". I then informed them that I would not be paying for the shipping on the bells.

So...this summer, I started seeing overly brown waffles once more. And, to my surprise, found that the bells on the iron were not working. I called the company and received no word back from them. And so, I took the next step and called the Carbon Waffle company. I believe I also emailed them so that they would know that I really had a problem. I was soon called by Chris, the salesman. I told him that I was getting a bit frustrated over all of this and that I wanted my timer bells to work. He said that he had sent me bells and I told him that they did not work. I remember getting a little frustrated with him and telling him that I wanted him to fix the bells, the next time he was over. I do know that my tone was firmer as I was on my cell and after I got off, one of our cooks said, "Remind me not to get on your bad side.".

His next time here was on the 24th of September. And on the 25th, my bells did not ring. I looked for the bill to see if there was an explanation and found something else. A charge for a new iron. Now, I remembered back that on the month before, he had refused to deliver an iron saying he was out.

And, so, I ratcheted up to the next level. I looked online for any other distributors. Waffles Northwest had the only rights in the area. I contacted my other purveyors and had them begin to check into their programs. No one had malted waffle mix. I called Waffles Northwest and left a message. I sent emails to them and to the Carbon Waffle company. When I did not hear back, I saw a number on the side of one of their boxes and on Monday morning, called the Carbon company. I was told that they would inform Waffles Northwest. I said that I had already done that but they were insistent that they needed to do that so I conceded.

I asked the line cook who had been on when Chris delivered if anyone had looked at the irons and their bells. I told him that I was surprised that he (the cook) had not said anything to Chris. "I don't talk to Chris. He is a jerk.", came the answer.

That afternoon, Chris called me. Now, I am the bear that Frank talked about. I could have easily been diffused by a simple apology and a promise to get the problem solved but Chris became quite confronting. "I fixed your bells. They work!", he demanded. "No, they don't!", I countered. I asked him if he did not promise to fix the bells this time around and he countered with "I sent you bells". The conversation got a bit heated with Chris telling me that I always seemed to have problems with him every time he stops by and with me saying that I only had one problem but now had two as he had charged me for the new iron. He stated boldly that it was Waffles Northwest policy that all irons be charged for if they were overly dirty or misused. Since I knew that my crew keeps pretty good care of the equipment, I asked him if that meant the latter. He then accused me of twisting his words. He said, "I can't deal with you anymore. I am passing you over to Shawn.". I said, "Fine". Hanging up the line, I dropped my head and attempted to relax. I had let him push my buttons and had let my anger build. I have never liked the feel of anger.....especially the after effects. I tried to compose myself and ready for the next call. But....the call never came.

Early this morning, I stopped by Frank's office to chat. I shared my waffle story with he and his crew and they uplifted me with their laughter over my story. Frank asked me what I was going to do since Shawn had not called me. "I don't know. I think I am going to call the main company again.". I asked Frank if he thought that was a good idea and he agreed that even though it wasn't the best, it seemed to be the only option.....that or stop selling that brand of waffle.

So, I called the hot line again. This time, I talked with a young man. At first, he thought I was having problems with my mix and he began his normal explanation of how to properly mix the mix. "You are not listening", I interrupted, "My problem is my timer bells don't work. And I cannot get anyone to fix them.". He agreed that the timer was important to get the best quality waffle. I then went on to inquire about the waffle iron charge. He said $25 was pretty cheap. Some companies charged $50. "But, the program states that the irons are provided.", I countered. "Look", he said, "I promise you that I will contact Shawn and we will get this problem resolved. He will call you today.". So, I hung up and waited for the call.

Around 1PM, I received the call. "Hi Lyle, this is Shawn from Waffles Northwest.". "Hi Shawn, I am glad you called". "Well, you won't be. I am done with you. I am giving you a 30 day notice. I will be in your business at the end of next month to pick up my equipment and I will no longer be servicing your restaurant.". "I am sorry you are doing that", I stated. "I am sorry you went over my head.", came the answer. "All I wanted was my timer bells to work.", I said. "That problem is easy.", he angerly stated. "Just clean the bells and they will work fine. You know well that the problem is over spraying that clogs up the bells. All you would have had to do was take them out, clean them, and put them back in. They would work fine.". I could see that this conversation was not going to turn out good and that if I continued that I would just get myself all worked up so I simply thanked him and hung up.

I sat there at my computer looking up Carbon's mission statement that states how important the customer is and how they endeavor to delight them by exceeding their expectations. Had my expectations been that out of line? And then I read articles where it's president stated that their salesman would provide and service irons free of charge for simply using their product. I guess nothing is as simple as it seems.

So, today, I guess I get busy. I have to decide what the best step to take is. I know that their seems to be no other waffle mix like Carbon's. It is simply the best. So, I guess I call the company back up and look at what my options are now. I probably will bring up those articles that I read but I know that probably doesn't mean much right now. They don't know me. They do know Shawn. And, Shawn is their man.

So, for whom the bell tolls.....I guess it tolls for me.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Balloons

I was just about to go to bed when my phone started its song. I looked at the caller ID and my heart sank.....as it read "Alarm". That told me that the alarm company was calling me. I looked at the time....9:48. It didn't make sense. Did someone hide in the bathroom or something? Were they trying to set the alarm and messed up? I was already up off the couch as I answered and was told that the motion detector in the back room had gone off and that the police were on their way. "I am too", I stated. "How long and what are you driving?" "Five minutes and a white Nissan.", I answered as I already had my shoes tied and hat on.

I shouted to Judy the word that we both dread. "Alarm". "Please be careful.", she answered. "Are the police on their way?". "Yes, I will and yes, they are!", I shouted as I raced out the door.

Thoughts flew through my now very active mind of previous calls and the damage that I had found when I had arrived. I hoped for the best and prepared for the worst. Then it hit me. The area of the motion alarm. I remembered just hours before when Judy and I had supper with our Model A friends. Some of them had left me a bouquet of balloons. I had decided to just leave them in the back room until today. They must be swaying in the breeze caused by the air conditioning.

I called Judy so that she would not worry and then quickly called the alarm company and was answered by a friendly female voice. I told her who I was and that I was responding to an alarm. "What is your address?", she answered. "2210 NE Hwy 20....you can't have that many alarms going off right now.". "What is your security code?", came the canned response. "****", was my response. After she was sure I was who I was, she then let me tell her that I thought I knew what the problem was. "Could you please let the police know that they don't need to come.", I asked. "Yes, we will and thanks for calling us back.", she responded.

I arrived to find two police cars outside the building. "Sorry guys!", I stated, "I know what the problem is. I am OK.". One of them decided to come in with me of which I greatly appreciated as I knew that I could be wrong but was pretty sure of myself.

Sure enough, as I entered the back room, there they were.....swaying in the breeze. I reset the alarms and walked out with the officer. "I will be here in the morning with my wife.", he stated. "We are looking forward to sharing one of your omelets.". I asked him when in the morning and he said that it depended on when he got off. I thanked him for his quick response and we both agreed that we were happy that it turned out like it did.

I shoved the balloons into the back of my rig and headed home. As I drove, I called the alarm company on my blue tooth. The same female voice came on and I told her who I was. "What is your address?" "My address is 2210 NE Hwy 20 and my security code is ****.", I stated. She thanked me for calling her back and wished me a good evening. The adrenaline rush now behind me, I suddenly was very tired and headed off to bed after putting the balloons on the dining table.

I was awoken by the yapping of Mia. Her bark told me that something was not right in the house. I jumped out of bed knocking my nearly full glass of water off onto the floor as I grabbed my bathrobe and shot down the stairs to find Mia........barking at the balloons.

So, thank you Speedy, Teresa, Marv, and Pauline for the thoughtful balloons. Thank you East Cascade Security for your call. Thank you Bend Police Department for your quick response. And thank you, Mia, my home security alarm. And thank you , Judy for informing all on facebook of my mini birthday demise. It has definitely made the beginning of my day very eventful. I can only wonder what the rest of the day will be like.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Life

I want to preface this post with something. When I do post about the annoyances in my life, they are meant to be in an anecdotal way. I am very happy with the life that I have been given. It is not perfect (far from it) but who's life is? Make no mistake, however, I appreciate every blessing that graces my path and know without a shadow of a doubt that I am blessed.

I think that the measure of a person is not always what he accomplishes but how he handles the things in life that are put in his way. Does he let things get him down or does he attempt to laugh at them. I try and chose the latter.

My buddy, Frank, laughs at me when I stop and see him and tell him of the things that are going on in my life. He says that Jerry Seinfeld would have a field day with me. There always seems to be something going on with my business or in my day to day life that is.....interesting. That is also one of the reasons that I love it.

For instance, the lady who came in last week with a complaint. I was away and one of my wait staff met her at he door. She came in with a to go box filled with hashbrowns that she wanted redone. The waitress opened up the box to see hashbrowns that had been half cooked and scattered.

"These are not our hashbrowns.", the waitress stated. "They most certainly are!", demanded the lady, "I just bought them here.". "Do you have an receipt?", the waitress asked. "No, I didn't ask for one.", came the reply. "Well, is this the box that they came in?", asked the waitress. "Yes, this is exactly what you gave me just minutes ago.", replied the lady who was now beginning to get quite annoyed.

The waitress asked her to follow her to our hot box area where we put together all of our togo orders. She showed her a stack of styro boxes and then pointed to the card board box that the lady was carrying. "We don't use those kinds of boxes. We have nothing like that here. Are you sure that was the container that they came in?", asked the waitress. "Of course it is. What has happened to the quality of the food around here, anyway. Your hashbrowns used to look so nice.", came the reply.

The waitress then pointed to orders that were about to go out. The hashbrowns portions were squared off and brown. "These are what our hashbrowns look like. Those are not our browns and that is not our togo box.", the waitress stated. The woman stared at her angrily. "Are you going to give me credit for these hashbrowns or not?", she asked. "No, I am sorry. I could if they were ours." was the reply. "Well, I am never eating in this place again.", she yelled as she turned and walked out the door.

The occurrence gave the staff quite a bit to talk about and I made my self ready for the possible phone call from this disgruntled woman and was hashing around in my head just how to handle it. After all, it was just hashbrowns. It would not hurt us to cook her up an order. I know there is a principal of sorts to this but it was not like it was a steak or something.

I chose to leave it for what it was.....a good chuckle for the crew and regulars. I would handle the call as I saw it when the lady called. But, no call came.

Then, a couple of days later as I sat at the counter with some friends who had stopped by, one of them said that she needed to talk with me in private. We went off to the side and she told me of a lady from her church who had called her on the phone. The lady asked her what had happened to the quality of the food at Jake's, specifically our hashbrowns. I smiled as I listened and then pointed to the table that was closest to us. "What do you think of them?", I asked. She looked over at the plate that had just been delivered to two smiling patrons. "Well, those look good.", she replied. "That is what our hashbrowns look like.", I stated, "Would you please ask this lady to contact me. Give her my cell phone number. I would love to talk with her.".

To date, no call has been made. Customer service isn't always about whether you are right or wrong....but more how you handle the situation. But, I would sure like to know where she bought them from.

Now, from that, I had a situation from the other side of the counter the other day. I was out with my Model A friends and we stopped for some treats at a local ice cream store. Now, I know that the sheer numbers of us probably frustrated the young servers a bit and I did feel for them as I know what it is like to have a bunch of people come in when you are not prepared.

I saw a picture of a nice ice cream cone concoction on their board. Wanting to keep it simple, I pointed at it and said that I wanted just that. I asked for it in the same type of cone. The young man pointed at three sizes in front of me and asked me which one that I wanted. I said the small. He made up the ice cream and placed it in a small bowl. "I would like a cone like it shows on the board.", I asked. He looked at me with a blank look and then placed the small bowl in the next size up large bowl. "Here", he stated. So, not wanting to cause a fuss, I took the bowl while Judy's smoothie was being made. I watched him as he poured a small amount of liquid in the pitcher of ice. I knew their was not enough liquid from making my own but said nothing until the young man tried handing me a glass with solid ice chunks in the bottom and a sort of mixture at the top.

"This is not a smoothie.", I stated. "Well, I ran it through three times....this is the best I can do.", He said. "No, it needs more liquid. It is not a smoothie.", I said. Disgruntled, the young man poured a small amount more of liquid in the mix and put it back in the blender. While it blended, I paid my bill......$5 for the smoothie, by the way.

I could see the smoothie was still not mixing and when one of the other young men were close to me, I asked him if he could teach my guy how to make the smoothies. I felt that it was probably his first day or something. Well, I hit a raw nerve. The boy blurted out, "He already knows how to make them......we are busy, can't you see!". I could see and I felt for his frustration so I just left it. Our server handed over something that looked like a snow cone type of drink. "This is not a smoothie.", I stated as I took it and handed it to Judy. The young man looked at me and stated before he turned to help someone else, "Our smoothies suck!".

And....he was kind of right. Everyone who had ordered a smoothie had the same thing. I was left with the thought that I know that when I am not around, things can happen. It is a part of human nature, in a sense. I hope, however, that if someone does have something happen that they do not like, that they will tell me. It is the silent customer that scares me the most.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hanging with Jay Pt 2

Every year, Jay and I go to a Duck game. It is my birthday present to him. I always let him pick the game and then I go out looking for the best seat for the price that I can get. This year, he chose Nevada.

After searching around, I managed to get two seats on the south east corner of the field, 8 rows up.

We arose around 6AM and drove to Jake's for breakfast. We then drove to our friend, Sam's house to follow him over to the game. Sam has season tickets and always tailgates prior to the game. Jay had told me how much fun he had last year going with Sam and asked if we could tailgate also. Sam had changed his spot this year and was with the Boy Scout group across from the stadium and I had found that we could also purchase parking there.

We followed Sam in and were stopped at the gate to pay for our parking. They agreed to let us park next to Sam so we followed him in. We were stopped three times along the way and had to persuade each one to let us continue on. The last one was adamant that we were not to park there. 'This area is for season ticket holders only.", he stated. Finally, he gave in with a "It will be your problem if you are caught.". We drove in and parked next to Sam in the middle of a field. All around us was shade but we were right out in the hot sun. Jay and I got out our chairs but our next problem became very obvious. Jay was struggling with the dry grass and his asthma. Fortunately, Sam's wife, Nancy had a bottle of pills and loaned us a couple to help him deal with his sneezing and breathing problems. While they didn't totally stop his symptoms, they made him able to deal with them.

We sat and talked as the boys threw the ball around. Sam and Nancy cooked up some breakfast sandwiches and we ate while we waited for the start of the game. The shade looked so inviting that a couple of us retreated to it while we waited and watched the boys as they set up a pick up game with some local kids. The only problem that I had was the language coming from the college group next to us. Both sexes were flying the F word as if it were a common word.

Soon, it was time for us to start our trek in so we locked up the car and walked out to the road. We were in a totally different area of the field than we normally sit so we walked around the outside of the field to find the closest entry. Jay was wearing our ice chest back pack but we had forgotten to pack in the snacks that I had packed for us. At least, we had water. I checked my wallet and realized that I only had $7 and checked the price of a hot dog...$4.50. I hoped that I would be able to use my card but knew that I would be OK as I had eaten just before going in.

We found our seats and realized that the people in front of us had purchased the in stadium seats that are put in place before each game. These took some of our leg room away which was a bit frustrating as the people never came to the game. We tried taking off the seats but found they were zip tied on so we just settled in and made ourselves comfortable.

The Nevada team was warming up in front of us and some of their die hard fans walked by us to yell at their team. We also watched the Fox Sports team as they did their pregame interviews just a few feet away from us. The stadium began to fill and the atmosphere became electric as the people began to ready for the first home game of the year.

As the game began, Autzen began to rock as only Autzen can. An excited grandson held up his hands in an O and yelled as the first kick off began. You can watch the games on TV but there is just nothing like the atmosphere of a live game. It wasn't long before Oregon had the game well in hand. The crowd yelled as they scored in mass. One of their new freshmen scored right in front of us which gave me my good shot of the year.

Jay asked for a dog mid way through the second quarter so we walked back and were disappointed to find that no food booths inside the stadium accept cards. Since a young man can not go to a game without a dog, I had enough for his and that was the important part.

The second half brought much more room around us as many left at half time not interested in the blow out that was ensuing. But, we had paid the price and it was our only game so we stayed there soaking in all of the ambiance and getting our money's worth.

After the game, we followed others out on to the field to round out the experience. We attempted to walk out where the team walks as it was a much easier way to get to our car but were stopped by security and told that we needed to find another way out. That meant up the long stair case to the top and back down the ramps on the other side. A task but also giving me my allotment of exercise for the day.

As we walked back to the car, a group of college girls ran by us giggling. We followed the girls into the parking lot and I cringed as one of them began spouting that F word again. I mentioned to Jay how much that bothered me. One of them must have heard as she turned around and apologised. "She is just drunk." came the explanation. It did give me pause to talk respect with Jay however. I can only hope that some of my words will stick in his head when he gets that age.

We had brought some smoked beef in gravy with us along with buns and Cole slaw so Sam quickly heated up the pot and we all sat around eating sandwiches and waiting for the traffic lines to dissipate.

Soon, we could see the traffic started to get lighter so Jay and I took our leave and headed out. We stopped at the mall and the Duck store to get the rest of Jay's birthday present and picked ourselves up a smoothie for the ride home.

We had noticed the fires on the way over so I decided to take the McKensie pass to see if we might be able to see them better. Sure enough, at the top in the lava flow, we could see the billow of one of the fires and actually see flames of another. We arrived there just as dusk and Jay and I walked around enjoying the dusk vision of things and the utter quietness of the spot.

Arriving back at the house a very tired grandpa and an equally tired grandson called it an early night. Another great adventure and more quality time. Jay recons that our next great adventure needs to be deep sea fishing......I am not sure that I am ready for that one just yet.

Hanging with Jay Pt 1

The alarm rang far too early. I left the house shortly after 5 and drove to get Jay who was waiting for me sleeping on the couch. I did not have to do any coaxing today....he was excited. We were going crabbing. This all started last spring when we were visiting the coast and stepped out on the pier just south of Newport. "Papa, can we go crabbing?", he begged, "Please!". I promised him right then and there that we would before the summer was over. Since he was going back to school the next day, today was the end of summer.

Jay dropped off to sleep in the car seconds after settling in his seat. As I drove down the road in the dark, I looked over at his sleeping figure. He has grown so much in the last year that I almost can't call him 'my little buddy' anymore.

After passing through Sisters, I ran into the smoke from the large fires on the Santiam. I changed the air in the car to internal to help block out the smoke hoping that it would not cause him problems with his asthma. But the darkness and the smoke began to cause me problems. My anxiety issues were beginning to kick in.

I struggled and attempted to overcome them using the relaxation methods that the doctor was getting me to practice just for this type of an event but found that they methods only seem to enhance the issues. I broke into a cold sweat as the voice inside my head told me to run.

I looked over at the young sleeping body next to me. I knew he would be disappointed if he woke up and we were heading back home. He had no idea the battle that was going on inside of me nor how could he? The two sides to the battle became apparent. One was the anxiety that told me that I needed to turn the car around and go back to my 'safe' place and the other was the love for this young man sleeping in the chair within reach of my hand. I reached over and rested my hand on his shoulder feeling the rise and fall of his breath. I loved him so much.....how could I disappoint him.

Sweat poured off of my brow and I began to cramp up as my body started to feel the signs of my struggle. I prayed silently for relief and worried that I would soon become physically sick from the worry that ravaged inside. But, I kept pushing on..figuring that I could always pull over if I was going to get sick.

I began concentrating on things that Jay and I have done in the past and of all of the fun that we have had. The memories began to soften things a bit, kind of bringing my mind into a sort of happy place.

The sun crossing the horizon burst into my rear view mirror bringing my mind into the present. With the waking of the day came the waking of Jay. "Where are we, Papa?", came the voice from the rolled up body next to me. "We are on top of the pass, son.", I returned.

The sun became blocked by the mountain now behind us but the light brought a better perspective of the area around me. It did not close in as it had been and somewhere on that road, the switch inside my head switched off. I don't recall the moment but do remember the feeling......I knew I was going to win this battle and we were going to have a great day.

We passed the time talking of football, fishing, and other 'guy' stuff and I handed him the stack of papers that I had printed off of the internet to teach him what we needed to know about crabbing. You see, I had never done it either and had no idea what I was getting into. I only knew that he wanted to do it and that I had promised to take him. The two crab traps that Ron, one of our employees, had loaned me were in the back along with gloves, a bucket, and some zip ties that Ron had told me to bring with me.

As the sun rose into the sky, so did our moods as we came closer and closer to one of our mutual favorite places, the Oregon coast. The first glimpse of the waves on the beach always lifts your spirits and as we drove through Lincoln City, the fog bank just off of the coast played with the air around us as we drove in and out of it's cloud that darkened the sun.

I had checked the tide tables the night before and found that we would be arriving at Newport right around high tide. The times of high tide and low tide are called slack tide and I was told that they were the best time for crabbing. I had also looked up and found a small store on the south side of the river to get my license for fishing at. Jay did not need a license just yet.

We stopped at Safeway for some breakfast of bagels and a drink. We picked up some chicken legs for bait at the same time. With the breakfast and a cup of Starbucks 'Salted Carmel Latte', I was ready for the day.

We admired the coast and talked of different times and things that we had experienced along the way between Lincoln City and Newport. After crossing over the bridge, we drove straight to the small store and garnered the piece of paper that gave me permission to go catch some crab.

We each grabbed a trap in one arm and a chair in the other. Jay took his chair out of the bag. 'It will be easier to carry if you leave it in the bag and drape the handle over your shoulder.', I instructed but the growing young man had other ideas. "I will be OK, Papa.", he stated. I don't argue in these cases but do use them later when I am trying to get my point across. We had only gotten part of the way down the pier when he gave up and left his trap. "I will go ahead. You stay here, Papa, OK?". He ran down the pier with his chair in one hand and our drink bag in the other. I walked slowly keeping an eye behind me on the left behind parcel. He was soon running back past me to get the trap and we met at the end of the pier....a relaxed grandfather and a now sweaty and heavy breathing but excited grandson. "Do you think that would have been easier if you would have carried that chair over your shoulder in the bag?", I asked. "Probably.", came his shy but smiling answer.

He was so excited as we set ourselves up to cast out our first trap. I let him do all of the work, reaching in and placing the bait inside the inner box and I helped him zip tie up the side of the trap. One problem became immediately apparent as to how I was going to cut the tie when we brought them back up. I also realized that we did not pick up a measure to insure that we had legal catches.

I left Jay on the pier and drove back to the store, getting the small plastic size chart and a pair of wire cutters to cut the zip ties. I arrived back at our spot just in time to raise the first pot. An excited young man had already talked to a couple of other crabbers and informed me that we had our traps on the wrong side of the pier. The tide was beginning to go out and we needed to change sides or chance getting the trap caught on the pier below as the tide drew it under.

Jay started giggling as we the first trap broke through the water below loaded with crabs. Our first catch. I had Jay hold it at the water line as I took a picture of it. He struggled getting it out of the water so I took the line and helped him raise the first basket and lowered it to the pier. The first thing that I noticed was the clicking noises that the captured crabs made.

I cut the zip tie and let Jay check out the captured crabs. We could only keep the crabs that were 5 1/2 inches and that were male. We had studied the pictures and this became pretty easy. Jay drug female after female out of the pot. As he carried one over to the edge, it's claw grabbed his finger through the glove. "Ouch, this hurts, Papa!". He managed to shake it off and it tumbled into the water. "I bet it did", I returned. He had just learned his first lesson on how to carry a crab.

We zip tied the trap and moved it over to the other side of the pier. Jay threw it in as I snapped his picture. Then we hoisted up our second trap. This one too was loaded with the clicking crustaceans and Jay laughed as he realized that we had caught our first legal male crab. After a picture, Jay placed it in the bucket and we reset the trap and cast it out also.

I moved our things over the to the new side of the pier and then noticed Jay. He was sitting in his chair with the bucket in front of him just gazing down at his new prized possession. He had caught his first crab. It was as if he was bonding with it. I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped a couple of shots. "Are you going to name it?", I asked. In previous adventures, he had named fish that we had caught so I thought it appropriate to ask. "Nope.....I am going to eat it.", he answered.

With each hoist of the trap, we became more seasoned pros at this sport. "This is the easiest fishing that I have ever done.", he announced.

Around 12:30, we called it a day. I wanted to have the time to get the crabs cooked and iced down for the trip back home. I had intended on getting home by five or six as some of my buddies wanted to get together and play some fun poker.

We drove down to the small crab store that we were told about just south of town. Leaving the bucket next to the crab cooker, we went into the little restaurant behind and enquired on what we needed to do. We found that they would cook the crab for $5 and clean each one for us for 50 cents more. We paid for the service and ordered up some lunch. Funny, neither of us wanted fish and we both ended up ordering up some corn dogs instead. "We have the best fish in town", the server smiled as she must have been laughing inside over these two guys who were crabbing but did not really like crab.

Around 2 or so, we carried our catch out of the store and iced it up for the way home. The lady in the store had been gracious and showed us how to clean our crab for future reference.

A tired but excited grandson talked all the way over the pass but it became evident that I was going to be late for the poker. We stopped in Sisters for a bite to eat at the new Hawaiian shop behind the market that my friend, Stan, who owns the building told me about and then headed the car home arriving around 7.

I dropped a happy young man off with his mom and headed home with one of the crabs for Judy's supper. We had caught three keepers and Jay kept the two larger or his mom and friends.

After arriving home, the day just seem to hit me. I was so exhausted from the day that my stomach was off, so I took a shower and just crawled into bed....totally tired but happy. I had won a battle, enjoyed a day with my grandson who I love so much, and had done something that I had never done before in my life. Sleep took me seconds after my head hit he pillow.