advice, airlines, dog rescue, dogs, pets, rants

A rant about the CDC’s new rule about importing pets…

If you are a regular reader of my blogs, you know that I have two adorable furry family members. At this writing, our dogs are Arran and Noyzi. Prior to our acquisition of Noyzi, we had another dog named Zane, who sadly died of lymphoma on August 31, 2019. The featured photo today is of Zane and Arran on August 2, 2014, when we flew from Houston, Texas to Frankfurt, Germany on a Lufthansa flight.

Bill and I have always had dogs. Next month, we will celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. Our dogs have been our family members, because we were not able to have children. Although I don’t require an emotional support animal, I do rely on my dogs to keep my company when Bill travels. Prior to the pandemic and, more specifically, the new CDC restriction on bringing animals into the United States, it was a pain in the butt to move abroad with pets. Now, it’s become a real hassle for people who have to return home from living overseas. I fear that this new rule may cause a lot of pets to be abandoned. Here in Germany, that is bad news, since Americans already have a terrible reputation for abandoning their pets when it’s time to move. It really sucks for those of us who are dedicated pet owners.

This morning, The New York Times ran an article about the new rule and how it affects people who travel with their pets, or Americans who live abroad. I am a subscriber to The New York Times and have gifted this article, so you should be able to click the link and read it for free. I am a member of a Facebook group for people who are “PCSing” with pets, and there’s been a lot of worry about how to get dogs and cats safely to places abroad. Many of the people traveling with pets are young folks who don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on hiring pet shippers. And many of the people in Germany or other countries with pets brought their animals before this new rule suddenly went into effect. I have noticed that the government has, sort of, been trying to gradually phase in the most draconian parts of this new rule. But they still pose a huge problem for a lot of people who make their living abroad.

My dogs have always flown as “excess baggage”, which means they flew on our flights in the hold of the aircraft. That is the most economical way to transport pets. When Bill was still in the Army, our dogs flew on United Airlines and Delta Airlines respectively. Last time we flew with dogs, back in 2014, they flew on Lufthansa, which is a wonderful airline for pets. The luggage hold on Lufthansa is light and temperature controlled, and the animals are loaded at the last minute, so they don’t have to sit on the tarmac. But the United States government has a rule that makes using pet friendly airlines tricky for people who are flying on the government’s dime.

Because of the Fly America Act, people who are flying on taxpayer funds must use an American carrier for as far as possible. At this writing, only a handful of American carriers are still allowing pets to fly. Some people can get around that rule by booking their flights on a codeshared flight. Say you’re flying to Germany. To comply with the Fly America Act, you should be booking your flight on United or Delta. But you can book a Lufthansa flight through United and still be in compliance. Of course, thanks to COVID-19 and the new CDC rule, it’s gotten much harder to book flights. Some airlines won’t fly animals in the baggage hold anymore. Some will only fly small animals in the cabin, which can be problematic for those who have pets who are too big. Military servicemembers can sometimes use the rotator (Patriot Express) to fly their pets, but spots are limited and book up very quickly. I have read a lot of horror stories from stressed out servicemembers trying to figure out how to get their pets home.

Many people have used pet shippers to fly their pets. I suspect that if and when Bill and I have to move to the States with pets, we will have to use a shipper. Noyzi is a big dog, and he will probably need a special crate. He isn’t very heavy, but he’s tall and long bodied, and there are very specific rules on the sizes of the carriers that can be used. I have been saving money, because I’m sure he’s going to need to go cargo with a pet shipper, and that costs several thousand dollars, as opposed to the couple hundred per pet charged when flying them as excess baggage. Flying with a shipper is also a hassle, since it involves the dog going through a different part of the airport and possibly not coming on the same flight. We are currently fortunate enough to be able to afford a shipper, but not everyone is.

All of this is a real pain for anyone with pets and living abroad, but what is actually prompting me to write this morning are the negative, ignorant, and dismissive attitudes I’ve seen in some of the comment sections on the articles I’ve seen about this new CDC rule. I get that a lot of pet owners have done some “crazy” things, like bringing their emotional support kangaroos or peacocks on planes. I also understand that there’s been some very bad press about animals dying because they were transported in weather that was too hot or cold, or because someone put them in the overhead bin (which is just plain stupid). But there really must be a safe, affordable, and accessible way for people to travel with animals. Especially if we’re serious about not abandoning pets at shelters. This new rule is going to cause issues from negative troop morale to hostile host country relations. It will probably also result in a lot of wonderful pets dying or being abandoned.

So many comments on The New York Times article were from people who wrote things like, “It’s just an animal” or “Good! I hate flying with pets!” or “Americans who live overseas shouldn’t have pets.” This self-centered attitude is really distressing to me. I don’t have a problem with my dogs flying under the cabin, but it should be safe and affordable. And people should not be so narrow-minded and shitty about people who need to move their pets. A lot of these self-entitled twits are the same ones who condemn other people for needing to rehome their pets. It would be nice if people, in general, would have more empathy and understanding for those who aren’t like them. I get that some people have allergies or don’t like animals. I don’t like dealing with some people or their kids… some of them give me a rash or a pain in the ass. It is what it is. Flying is a hassle for everybody.

One lady kept writing about how when she was a “military kid living overseas”, her parents didn’t allow her to have pets. She implied that those of us in that situation should “suck it up” and live without pets. I finally had to offer her a cookie and a reminder that as a military “brat”, she should know that military families are diverse. To some military families, pets are beloved companions who make life easier and more worthwhile. And while it may not be practical to have pets when there’s a chance one could move overseas, life happens to everyone. Sometimes people in civilian jobs get the opportunity or find that they must move abroad. There should be a solution for those people, too.

In my case, I was not able to have children, and I’ve followed my husband to several different states and twice to Germany for his career. The career I planned for in public health and social work, back when I was single, has turned into blogging. I know a lot of people don’t think my blogs are worth anything, but they give me a reason to get up in the morning. My dogs help keep me sane and happy, especially when he travels. I don’t have a lot of human friends. We rescued Noyzi from Kosovo, where he lived outside with a bunch of other dogs. He wasn’t being abused in that environment, but he’s much happier having a family. Every day, we get to see him evolve and become more loving and trusting toward us. It’s very rewarding for us, and, I imagine, for him.

When we moved to Germany with Zane and Arran in 2014, the rules were already stricter than they had been in 2007 and 2009, when we flew with our previous dogs. Now, they have become downright oppressive. We made the choice to move here in 2014 because we wanted to live in Germany, but it was also the only place where Bill had a firm job offer after his Army retirement. It was either move to Germany, or be unemployed and soon land in dire financial straits. The move was a good one for us, but thanks to this new rule from the CDC, we’re going to have to do what we can to stay here for as long as possible. Abandoning our dogs isn’t an option, and it shouldn’t be something people are forced to do over well-intended, but impractical, rules imposed by the CDC.

At this point, Germany is not on the list of high risk rabies countries, nor are other countries in the European Union. But because of the CDC’s new rule, a lot of European airlines are not wanting to transport animals. They don’t want to deal with the hassle. And who can blame them for that? After January 2022, it’s going to be a lot harder to bring animals into the United States, because only three “ports” will allow them to enter– Atlanta, JFK in New York City, and Los Angeles. That will cause backups for sure. I truly hope this rule will be amended or abolished at some point soon. Otherwise, Bill and I will have to stay here until Noyzi crosses the Rainbow Bridge. At twelve years old, we may not have to worry about Arran for too many more years… although he’s proving to be a real scrapper in his old age.

Rant over for now… tomorrow, we go on vacation, and the boys go to the Hundepension. Hopefully, it will go off without a hitch, and I can write some new content about actual travel.

Edited to add: Here’s a link to a book review I wrote about a lady in Virginia who, along with her mom, adopted dogs from Turkey. Military and government employees aren’t the only ones affected by this ruling. She rants about the new rule in her book, too.

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advice, rants

Blog X?

More than once, I’ve mentioned on this blog that I like to keep things light when I post about my travels and food adventures.  I have a pretty good sense of humor about a lot of things and I have another blog where I tend to vent my spleen when I get upset about something.  Most people who read this blog are looking for restaurant and travel tips or simply want to look at pictures.  That’s what I try to provide here.

Today I feel the need to address an issue that’s come up repeatedly since I started sharing this blog with people in the military community.  I know a lot of people don’t like that I call myself the “traveling overeducated housewife”.  Some people seem downright offended by the name of this blog.  And there have been many times in the few years since I created this blog that I’ve sincerely wished I had come up with a different name for it.

Yesterday, I shared my post about date night restaurants and it was mostly well-received in the community.  I got a lot of likes, mostly from women, whom I hope will have a chance to try some of the places Bill and I have enjoyed since we moved back to Germany in 2014.  I was feeling pretty good about the positive feedback until I got this comment from someone.

“Traveling Over-educated House Wife.” Ugh…I hope she at least has children.

You know, I have gotten my share of crappy comments from people about the name of my blog, but this one really struck me as a low blow.  So now I’m going to set the record straight, for those who are interested.

First off, this travel blog is a spin-off of my main blog, The Overeducated Housewife.  I started that first blog in March 2010 on a whim.  We were living in Fayetteville, Georgia, having moved there in September 2009 from the Stuttgart area.  My husband was working at Fort McPherson, which was due to close the following year.  We knew we’d be moving again in early 2011.  Since that would be the middle of Bill’s assignment at FORSCOM, we knew that our time at Fort Bragg in North Carolina would also be short.  The chances of my being able to find the kind of work I went to school to do were slim to none.

It struck me that I’d gone to college for seven years and, thanks to all the moving we were doing, would probably not have the chance to use my education the way I thought I would.  I have always liked to write and never thought I’d end up being a housewife with three college degrees.  That’s why I decided to call my first blog The Overeducated Housewife.  At the time, I saw it as sort of a facetious comment on my situation.  I never dreamed people would pay attention to it or that, one day, I’d move back to the Stuttgart area and have many readers in the military community.

When I started writing my first blog, I didn’t share it with anyone.  I kept it a secret because, at the time, I wanted to stay somewhat anonymous.  I wasn’t even the first Overeducated Housewife blogger.  I’ve seen several other blogs with that name, though those bloggers apparently lost interest, had children that took up all their time, or found jobs.

As for the reason I don’t have children, not that it’s anyone’s business, but I did want and plan to have them.  Just as I had expected to have a career in public health and social work when I went to graduate school, I also fully expected that one day I’d have kids.  Unfortunately, having children was not in the cards for me.  I got married when I was thirty years old.  I am Bill’s second wife.  He had a stepson and two daughters with his ex wife.  They had some serious financial problems and she claimed pregnancy was very hard on her.  She talked Bill into getting a vasectomy when he was 29 years old.  At the time, it seemed like the most responsible thing to do, so Bill agreed.  A few years later, they divorced.  She remarried and had two more children with her third husband.  Meanwhile, Bill was left unable to father children without medical intervention, which after his divorce, he could not afford.  Sadly, Bill’s daughters are estranged and haven’t seen or spoken to him since 2004.

During that same year, Bill managed to have his vasectomy reversed, courtesy of the Army.  I remember how excited I was because it looked like we might get to have kids after all.  Although the reversal happened eleven years after the vasectomy, it looked like it was successful.  For a couple of years, we tried to start our family.  However, during those years, we were pretty poor because Bill was paying child support and still recovering from the financial difficulties he’d had in his first marriage.  I was trying and failing to find steady work, although I did make money as a freelance writer.  At that time, we couldn’t afford to seek more help conceiving.

Then Bill got deployed, which further put our ability to try to conceive on hold… and we started the series of moves that has led us to where we are now.  Since 2007, we have moved six times.  It’s hard to build a career in the field I studied when you have to move all the time.  And, to be honest, we are now in a financial situation where I don’t really have to work.  We have plenty and, frankly, there are many people out there who need steady work more than I do.  Moreover, since I haven’t worked in my field since 2002, I doubt anyone would want to give me a job anyway.  Certainly not in Germany.

I don’t necessarily enjoy housework, but I like writing and I’m good at it.  I also like making music and I do that, too.  I don’t have the conventional career I thought I was going to have.  But, you know what?  Life is good.  And no, I don’t have kids, but I do have dogs.  I don’t have a steady paycheck, but I do have the time and ability to see places I never expected to see.  I have my health and a good relationship with my husband.  I don’t have to spend all day in a cubicle.  Certainly, if I had known this was what my life was going to be like, I would not have gone to graduate school.  Who wants to pay off student loans for degrees they can’t use?  I don’t need graduate school for what I do every day.  So I see myself as “overeducated” in that sense.  But if I’m basically worthless because I’m “just a blogger”, why would anyone want me to breed anyway?

I don’t begrudge military, government, or contractor spouses who have home based businesses because I see them as being productive.  Blogging is one thing I do to be productive.  I share the blog to share information, but I try not to be a pest about it.  Not everyone enjoys my writing, but at least it’s something to do.  It beats going out and slashing people’s tires, right?  Or hanging out in bars looking to hook up?

I have mostly gotten over the fact that I won’t ever be a mother.  I can even laugh when someone makes a thoughtless comment wondering why I don’t have children– as if having children would make my life more worthwhile or justify my existence.  I have somewhat come to terms with the fact that I won’t have the career I thought I was going to have.  It’s taken me a long time to get to this point.  I won’t lie, either.  Dozens of likes on my blog post about date night restaurants kind of pale in comparison to one person’s thoughtless and rude remark about my lifestyle.

Anyway… that’s why I call myself The Overeducated Housewife.  When I came up with the name, I never expected that would be such an issue for some people, but I guess it is.  Had I known the name of my blogs would cause angst for others, I would have come up with a different name.  On the other hand, I have a feeling that people would complain regardless, even if I had just named my blog “Blog X”.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to pass the wine and bon bons while I shop for Coach bags and watch reality TV…

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advice, anecdotes, rants

Why do people question my travel plans?

I usually save my rants for my main blog, but I’m going to put one here because I’m ranting about a travel issue today.  Bill and I are headed to Vienna this afternoon.  We will be flying on Germanwings.  This will be our fourth Germanwings round trip flight, but the other three were before the tragic crash that happened last month.  Although logically I know the chances of us crashing today are slim to none, I made a little crack on Facebook about how I hope the crew on our flight is feeling stable.  If not, it’s been nice knowing everyone.

Again, it was just a joke.  I am positive we’ll be fine and, later today, I’ll be enjoying a nice meal in a Viennese restaurant.

Most all of my friends wished us a good trip.  Some said they looked forward to photos.  A few reminded us to see the famous Lipizzaner stallions at the Spanish Riding School or learn to waltz.  And then it happened.  Two guys, both fairly opinionated, questioned our decision to fly to Vienna.

One guy, who has told me before that he is not as well traveled as I am, suggested that I take the train because it might be more convenient and fun.  Given what happened to a Germanwings flight last month, I did consider the possibility of taking a train.  However, we soon found out that it would be more expensive and take longer than flying.  Using the train involves going either to Munich or Nuremberg.  Having recently gone to Regensburg by train via Nuremberg, we know that there is no high speed ICE train that goes to Nuremberg, so we’d be on a slower train for a couple of hours.  There probably is an ICE train to Munich, but it would still take longer than flying.  And again, it’s not that inexpensive, though I do find train travel to be less irritating than plane travel is.

Another guy, who has lived in Germany and tends to be a do it yourself-er, suggested that we drive because “Vienna is only four or five hours away.”  I wanted to ask my friend to take a look at a map.  Vienna is on the extreme Eastern side of Austria.  If we encountered no traffic and didn’t need to stop anywhere, it would take about seven hours to drive there from Stuttgart.  And we don’t actually live in Stuttgart.  Stuttgart is nicknamed STAUgart for good reason.  Traffic around here is terrible.  So add another hour for that and perhaps one for lunch, vignette buying, gas, and what not.  Then you have to find a place to park.  Besides, Bill hasn’t yet gotten his international driver’s permit.  Chances are good that he’d never be stopped, but the one time you do get stopped and don’t have one, you get a big fine.  No thanks.

It just boggles the mind, though.  I mean, do people not think I’ve considered other ways of getting to Vienna other than flying on Germanwings?  I could have taken another airline, but that would have involved layovers and in most cases, more money.  I’m going to throw caution to the wind and fly today.  We have beautiful weather.  And God willing, I will live to tell about it!

In fact… I already have an invitation to karaoke tonight…  😀

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rants, restaurant reviews

My review of Outback Steakhouse…

No, I didn’t like it…  and in fact, I haven’t been back in the four years since I posted this review.  I am rehashing it because it was an entertaining review that sparked funny comments.  Wish I could import the comments here, but maybe someone will come along and contribute new ones.

Outback Steakhouse… why an Australian themed restaurant makes me passionately miss Europe #1200

Jan 19, 2010 (Updated Feb 2, 2010)
Review by   

Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating:Very Good

  • Food and Presentation: 
  • Ambiance and Decor: 
  • Quality of Service: 

Pros:Good food. Serving size was fine.

Cons:Obvious rushing through the meal coupled with constant upselling.

The Bottom Line:Although the food was good, the service was mediocre.  Way too much pressure to eat and run.

My husband Bill and I just had a very disappointing meal at Outback Steakhouse. We are on the road this week, so I expect to be writing a slew of restaurant reviews. There happens to be an Outback Steakhouse in the depressing sea of parking lots and strip malls behind our hotel in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Bill and I decided to swing by tonight for dinner.

This was not our first trip to Outback. Bill and I visited a location in northern Virginia a couple of times and found the place crowded, but basically okay. The food was always good, anyway. And the food tonight was basically good, too. So why was I missing Germany all the more after we were finished? Because our experience at Outback Steakhouse was yet another reminder of just how plastique and rushed the experience of dining out in America can be, especially at chain restaurants.

On your mark…

We arrived for dinner at about 6:15pm. The Outback was jumping, with most tables occupied by ordinary folks out for a steak or a bloomin’ onion. The dining room was brightly lit and I could hear music over the din of the crowd. A hostess led Bill and me to a booth near the kitchen. We had barely been seated a minute when our server approached us and asked us what we wanted to drink. She chirped about the drink specials, let us know that happy hour was going on, and suggested her favorite drink– a Mai Tai– though she added that it would be charged at full price. I was in the mood for a beer and so was Bill. I got a Yuengling on draft, while Bill opted for a Foster’s Lager on draft.

Get set…

Our waitress was back in a flash with our drinks. She was pitching appetizers, but having dined at Outback before, we knew we’d never be able to eat an appetizer and an entree. I decided on a ribeye steak while Bill opted for a 9 ounce sirloin. Our meals came with two sides. I had a baked potato and a Caesar salad while Bill had garlic mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. Our waitress brought us one of Outback’s trademark little pumpernickel loaves with whipped butter. Before I’d finished the first tiny slice of bread, a food runner was dropping off my Caesar salad, which had the distinct appearance of having been pre-made and chilled.

Go!

After I’d had a bite or two of my salad, our waitress came back and asked how the salad tasted. While still chewing on a leaf, I said it was fine.  We hadn’t finished half of the loaf of bread when the server dropped off another one for us, which we didn’t have the chance to touch. I managed to finish most of the salad just in the nick of time, for another food runner was back with our meals. Once again, our waitress asked how the food was when I was mid bite. A couple of bites later, the manager stopped by for an obligatory visit, asking us how everything was and letting us know we could call on her if we needed her. Thanks, boss.

Now… Outback meals, like so many other meals at American casual dining restaurants, are quite large. It takes time to eat them and not get indigestion. But apparently, nobody informed our waitress of that fact, since we were halfway through our dinner when she asked us about dessert! Bill and I knew we’d never be able to eat dessert, but even if I had been inclined to partake of a sweet ending, the waitress’s insistence on rushing us certainly killed the urge. She seemed to be in a big hurry to get rid of us, though she somehow managed to smile the whole time. She even smiled as she cleared Bill’s plate while I was still chewing and had about a third of my steak left. If that wasn’t a clue for me to hurry the hell up, I don’t know what was.

Lasting impression…

Our tab came to just under $45.  Our waitress had decorated it with a smiley face and a cutesy “Thank You” with the total circled. As she set the check down on the table, she mentioned a survey that Outback Steakhouse had going on. All we had to do was go online and fill out the survey and we’d get a free bloomin’ onion on our next visit. Now, although I’ve tried and enjoyed bloomin’ onions before, I’ve come to realize that they’re basically nothing but balls of fat, so I never order them. But I did want to fill out that survey, because I definitely had something to say.

The survey

Less than an hour after Bill and I had sat down to dinner, I was back in my hotel room booting up the computer.  I took Outback’s survey and suddenly saw the root of all the turnin’ and burnin’ that was going on at that restaurant tonight. The survey had questions like whether or not the server had suggested an alcoholic drink to go with our meals (what if we were teetotalers?), whether or not the manager had stopped by (what if we’d rather talk to each other than have a forced convo with the manager?), and if our server had suggested dessert (oh yeah, she definitely did… at an inopportune time). I left a detailed comment, acknowledging that I had once been a waitress myself and understood the concept of turning tables. I know that restaurants make a lot of money on alcohol. I understand that somehow corporate America thinks it’s important for the manager to stop by every table for an obligatory and forced greeting. But when I go out to dinner, I’d like to be able to taste my food and enjoy my meal without having to satisfy the corporate powers that be. Having another ten or fifteen minutes to enjoy my meal would have made a big difference in my overall experience. Moreover, I didn’t understand the need to rush. The restaurant wasn’t even full.

Why casual American chain restaurants make me miss Europe

One of the wonderful things about European dining is that servers get paid a living wage. So there’s no need to turn n’ burn and no pressure to GTFO as soon as the last bite is swallowed. Some folks might be sitting there reading this review, thinking we asked for it by going to a chain restaurant like Outback. Chain restaurants do exist in Europe, but servers there seem to understand that dining out is a luxury and people are paying for the pleasure of being able to have a nice meal without being rushed. And turning and burning goes on in nice American restaurants too. I know this because I worked in a fine dining establishment and was encouraged to get people in and out ASAP.

Another thing that turns me off of American chain restaurants– hell perhaps even a lot of Americans in general– is that there’s a lot of fake niceness. People asking how your meal is… people asking if they can do anything for you… all the while smiling and talking in a sing songy voice with an undercurrent of passive aggression. And it smacks of insincerity.  At least in Europe, most folks are honest about how they really feel, even if they sometimes come off as uncaring or even blatantly rude.  I would rather deal with someone who’s real about their feelings than someone who tries to snow me with BS.

Come on, corporate businesspeople, I know most of the servers/salespeople/managers don’t give a flying fig about how I’m really doing. They want to get me in and out; sell me a product and get me to part with my money; and hope I don’t return anything. Most of the time, I try to oblige them because I try to be a nice person and, having worked in retail and food service myself, I understand where they’re coming from. But tonight’s experience really pushed the limits of my tolerance.

It’s not just Outback

I had lunch at the Olive Garden today, yet another popular American chain restaurant. Actually, even though it was lunch time and I was dining alone, I had a much nicer experience there, though there was still a lot of fakeness. The food was good; I was visited by the manager but I wasn’t nearly as rushed and nobody tried to ply me with liquor. But it still smacked of corporate American malarkey…

Please forgive the rant from an American…

I guess my two years in Germany really spoiled me. Four months back in the States has me plotting to go back to Europe, if only for the excellent food and wine and the ability to actually taste my food before I shovel it down my gullet, even if I’m not in a fine dining establishment. No wonder there are so many heavy people in the US (myself included). We don’t even get the chance to digest anything before we’re being hustled out the door. Thankfully, I brought antacids with me for when the heartburn invariably kicks in.

To sum up…

I thought the food at Outback was fine, but the service and attitude of the staff needs some work. When I go out to eat, I don’t like to be herded in and out of the restaurant like cattle. I’m a person, dammit, spending precious disposable income on what amounts to a luxury.  Of course, having taken Outback’s online survey, I can see that just like sh!t, bad attitudes roll downhill and, unfortunately, ultimately rub off on the customer.

For more information: http://www.outback.com

Recommend this product? No

Kid Friendliness: Yes
Vegetarian Friendly: No
Notes, Tips or Menu Recommendations Steak
Best Suited For: Large Group

Here are the comments from that review.

Here are the comments from Epinions.  One comes from an Italian native who got a kick out of my rant.

Re: Re: Re: from an OB waitress
by tennis_player
Jenny,

“Good on you” for becoming truly sophisticated enough to enjoy the ways of Europe and fine dining in a leisurely manner!

I, too, waited tables as well as tended bar, janitored, hosted, cashiered and even cooked for about 15 years in my early life so I can well appreciate this whole thing about not being rushed from the customer’s side and the table turns from the management side – but there is no question that the European way is so much better.

There, everybody wins! And waiting tables is a noble profession!

Jim Feb 2, 2010
10:35 pm PST
Re: THAT was an excellent lunch!
by vicfar
Yes Bill, European life can begin to redeem even the worst sociopaths…look at me, I am on my way to redemption after only three years in Belgium. And it’s not the Campari with soda on the side. I think it’s the Westmalle beer and the divine chocolate…..Hell, I even stopped harassing the waitresses!

Vic
Feb 2, 2010
10:53 am PST
THAT was an excellent lunch!
by cuculuain
And, Jung be praised, it was blessed Synchronicity to see those fresh-faced, albeit ignorant, “Sons of Helamin” walking amongst us heathens! That was a fine bottle of wine from the Languedoc…a region well known to all us self-respecting Gnostics!

I did, of course, skip the “liver, fava beans and big Amarone!”. Not much of a sociopath I’m afraid… Feb 2, 2010
10:06 am PST
Re: Re: from an OB waitress (Delete your comment)
by knotheadusc
Vic,

We did visit France a few times… and… believe it or not, Bill liked it even more than I did. The sociopathic American soldier is a Francophile! Imagine that! I think it was the wine that did him in, coupled with foods that he loves and I don’t so much.

I think you would have gotten a kick out of watching him at a Parisian restaurant we found for lunch one day. I started with a glass of champagne and a smoked salmon appetizer. He ordered a bottle of lovely red wine from southern France to go with his chicken and mushroom dish. And while we were eating a couple of harried Mormon missionaries walked past our tableside window. Bill had to laugh because he was once a Mormon, though he was never a missionary… and he knew those poor young lads in France would never be able to enjoy a meal like the one we were having that day.

I think when we finished, I had a chocolate dessert, while he had some outstanding coffee and a plate of French cheeses…

Yeah, I’d say we sort of became European snobs! Feb 2, 2010
5:20 am PST
Re: from an OB waitress (Delete your comment)
by knotheadusc
Yep, that’s what I figured! I used to wait tables too, so I do understand the concept of getting people in and out. And now that I know for sure that’s Outback’s philosophy, I’ll be sure not to go there if I want to enjoy dinner. If I need to eat fast, then I might consider it… the way I’d consider any fast food restaurant. Or I’ll order takeout. Feb 2, 2010
5:13 am PST
Re: from an OB waitress
by vicfar
If I can intrude…honey, you are doing great. Most Americans are quite happy to fill their oversized belly in 45 minutes and get the hell out. They lead busy lives. Jenny has become a decadent European snob: after all those months in Germany (can you imagine if she’d been to France??), she is beginning to sound just like me 🙂

Vic Feb 2, 2010
3:21 am PST
from an OB waitress
by cmhsr
Hello! I am a waitress at an Outback Steakhouse and from the looks of it, your server was everything the company trained her to be! Haha. We are told to ALWAYS suggest an alcoholic beverage, recommend upsells (horseradish crumb topping? Like to add stuffed shrimp?), and to ask about dessert halfway through the meal.

Yes, halfway. I too thought that was ridiculous when they emphasized that during training. In fact, I still don’t ask about dessert until I see my tables are finished eating or close to it. I have learned through experience that, though it may slow my rotations, I get better tips if I allow people to eat at their own pace. And it also makes my job that much less frantic. But I digress.

About your waitress hovering, we are told to always check back immediately after each course goes out. The time frame is 2 bites to 2 minutes. So she definitely was on top of that! In fact, you’d be amazed at how precisely the dining experience at Outback is laid out. We have target times from everything from greeting customers to turning tables, and trust me, we are pressured from managers to always speed it up. Right now the average goal is 45 minutes. Feb 1, 2010
10:16 am PST
Re: Re: Re: This was a riot…. (Delete your comment)
by knotheadusc
;D is a smilie. My name is Jenny. 😉 Jan 25, 2010
7:19 am PST
Re: Re: This was a riot….
by vicfar
D(?),

if you had waited on me, you would have taken the Campari back to the bar with a smile, and then told the bartender about an as*hole European who’s going to get a Campari in his face if he does not cut it out!

My mission in the US was to teach American bartenders how to serve a Campari, and I must say I have failed after 25 years of efforts.

My mission in Belgium is to teach people how to be nice (and even smile). This isn’t any easier….

Cheers V. Jan 25, 2010
3:34 am PST
Re: I agree! (Delete your comment)
by knotheadusc
On the flip side, Bill and I have run into some European servers in America who were awesome… and very interesting. Not surprisingly, they worked in fine dining establishments. Jan 21, 2010
2:53 pm PST
I agree!
by tennis_player
You said it right and hit most of the right buttons!

One issue that I really appreciate about dining in Europe is – THE CUSTOMER/DINER IS THE ONE THAT DETERMINES WHEN THE MEAL IF FINISHED – NOT THE WAIT STAFF OR MANAGEMENT.

I hate the feeling of being rushed in order to get their table turns!

I have a slightly different take on the European wait staff. He is right about being able to joke around with American wait staff but I think the difference is the more casual aura in the U.S., where it is more formal in Europe so the kidding and having fun may be frowned upoon as being unprofessional.

I found that if we dined at an off hour and could engage the wait staff in fairly lengthy dialogue, they, too, could be quite interesting and less formal. We learned a lot about the local culture this way as they are quite proud and pleased to share information about their town, their family and local traditions.

Jim Jan 20, 2010
11:34 pm PST
Re: This was a riot…. (Delete your comment)
by knotheadusc
Vic, somehow I knew I’d hear from you on this issue. Don’t get me wrong. There are some wonderful restaurants in America, complete with excellent food AND free parking. But these damn chain corporate restaurants where everything is done on an assembly line are for the birds.

LOL… If I had waited on you in the USA, I may not have told you to stuff it in words, but you would have surely seen it in the expression on my face. I’m not very good at faking it in ANY situation… one of the many things my husband loves about me.

;D Jan 20, 2010
12:21 pm PST
This was a riot….
by vicfar
you do sound like a snobbish Schicke Deutsche Frau. Indeed, you sound like my German girlfriend when we eat in the US, except she does not possess your colorful vocabulary (not even in German)!

I agree with you, but see, with American waitresses you can have fun: you can correct the spelling on the menu, correct their pronunciation of the (foreign) dishes, which they always butcher, or send back your Campari three times because it’s not correctly prepared. They are good sports, and mostly afraid to argue with you, whereas Europeans tell you to stuff it. I know I am bad, and these people are only doing their job the way their stupid boss tells them to, but that’s me. At least I am having fun…

Indeed the experience where I miss the US the least is…DINING!

Where I miss the US the most is: PARKING!

I wish you plenty of happy parking experiences in Atlanta….:-)

Cheers

Vic

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rants

In our new house…

And if you’ve followed The Overeducated Housewife, you probably know how agitated I am.  This move has been one cluster fuck after another.  But I do have some photos and short stories to share, once I get my mind back into writing.  Right now, I’m using a hot spot that offers limited access to the Internet, because no one is available to install the ‘net until next week.

We stayed in a series of hotels and motels while on the road.  All of them were varying degrees of pet friendly, so I’ll have plenty to say about that.  For now, let me just say that I hate moving and I’m grateful that we’re in Texas now.  Hopefully, the next move won’t hurt so much.

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rants, USA

I can’t help being American…

A couple of days ago, I got into an interesting conversation with a couple of German women who married soldiers.  One of the women is 24 years old and very opinionated.  She was complaining about America and Americans.  Frankly, given where she lives, I’d probably complain too…   The area around Fort Bragg is not exactly the most picturesque place in the country.

Anyway, she and this other lady, who must live near Fort Carson out in Colorado, were bitching about our country.  They went on and on about how so many Americans never travel, are uneducated, uncultured, and generally inferior.  I interjected that many Americans don’t travel for any number of reasons.  It takes a lot of time, money, and frankly, effort, for Americans to travel.  A lot of Americans don’t own a passport because they take time, money, and effort to get.  And America is such a vast country that just about any climate or scenery you could ever want, you can find it without going abroad.

I am the last person to say that people shouldn’t travel.  I love to travel and will do it as long as I can afford airfare and fit in the airplane seat.  But… I can see why so many Americans don’t travel.  It’s a big hassle.  Just getting through security at the airport is a grueling and potentially humiliating exercise.  It’s expensive, uncomfortable, and then once you get to where you’re going, you run the risk of being treated badly by the locals, who may have anti-American attitudes.  Who wants to pay thousands of dollars for that?

The two women backpedaled when I wrote that I hoped they didn’t think all Americans were the way they were painting us.  They quickly excepted me from their generalizing!  I reminded them that if they really thought Americans ought to travel more, they should do their part by being welcoming and kind.  Yes, I understand that there are a lot of “ugly Americans” who make no effort to understand the local mores or be culturally sensitive.  But assuming that all Americans are like that is not the answer.

Honestly, I think a lot of people like to insult America and its citizens, but few of them ever take the time to look at things from the other perspective.  I know that every time I’ve gone abroad, except for when we moved to England (because I was a toddler at the time), it was beaten in my head to be culturally sensitive.  “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, right?  But rarely do I see that same attitude being practiced among people who come to the United States from abroad.

My German friends were complaining about how in America, they have fewer personal freedoms than they do in Germany.  I thought that was an interesting comment, since when I was in Germany, I noticed a lot of rules and regulations.  They were reasonable rules, but there were a lot of them.  For example, it’s forbidden to own Nazi era paraphernalia, especially if you mean to promote war or hatred.  My neighbor wanted to add on to her parents’ house, but the local government denied her and her husband the right to do so.  If you get pulled over by a police officer who suspects you of driving drunk, your blood will be tested.  You can’t opt out, like you could in America.  If you are found guilty of driving drunk, you will lose your license and you will have a hell of a hard time getting it back.  For more on this, check out this article.

If you do something unorthodox, on the whole, Germans are quick to speak up about it.  Yes, America has its share of freedom erosion, but I don’t know that it’s any worse or better than other places.  And I don’t know that Germany is “free-er” than the USA is.  I think we have freedoms the Germans don’t have… and Germans have freedoms that we don’t have.  Whether one is more free than the other is depends on your perspective.

I think what may be going on with these women is what happens to a lot of people when they move far away from home.  After the cultural high, there’s sort of a depression, which happens when you start to miss home and being with people who are like you are.  It happened to me in Armenia and Germany.  It didn’t happen when I was in England because I was too young to know the difference.  For all I knew, England was home… and frankly, it could have been had my ancestors not moved to the USA.

I refuse to apologize for being American.  I am American because I was born here and my parents were born here… and their parents were born here.  People in our ancestry made the decision to come to America for whatever reason.  Otherwise, I’d be European like they are.

Anyway… those are my thoughts.  I can’t help being an American.  It doesn’t make me an inferior or bad person.  Moreover, we’re not all assholes.  Pass it on!

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airlines, rants

People who recline on planes…

Oddly enough, today I’ve run across two articles about people who recline on airplanes.  This happens to be one of my pet peeves.  I’m short and I have short legs, but it still annoys me when the person in front of me on a plane reclines.  I know it’s their “right”, since the seats are capable of reclining.  But everybody is packed in the plane like sardines and reclining takes away some of that space.  Plus, it makes it hard to get out of the seat to go to the bathroom.  Then when you have to hang onto the seat to stand up, the recliner gives you a dirty look.

I never recline, even on long haul flights.  I find that it doesn’t make me any more comfortable than I would otherwise be.  Plus, I know it annoys me when people recline, so I don’t do it to other people.  That being said, what is even more distressing to me are the comments people leave when they read these articles.  They get incredibly rude and show a disturbing trend toward uncivil behavior toward other people.  Case in point, this article from Slate.com…  And this one from the Smarter Travel blog…   The comments and passion generated over this issue leads me to think that most people are selfish assholes.

I did find it interesting, though, that some enterprising person came up with a device to stop people from reclining and smashing his knees.  Knee Defender hooks onto the tray table and makes it impossible to lean back.  I have to admit, I’m tempted to get them, except I don’t like to fly with my table down anyway.

We have a couple of long haul flights coming up in May.  Makes me wish I had a medical connection to give me some Ambien and knock my ass out so I don’t care if people lay back in my lap.

What I think is funny is that the people who made Knee Defender also made little printable notes you can pass to the person in front of you, letting them know that you’ve taken away their ability to recline.  I don’t know how I’d react if I got one of those things. Since I never recline, I guess no one would ever have to use them with me.

Probably the rudest experience I ever had on a plane was in April 2010.  We were on a very delayed flight and people were pissed off because we were stuck in St. Thomas at the airport all day.  The flight was kind of rough and the seat belt sign was on for most of it.  The lady who was sharing our row had a tight connection, so when we landed, I stepped out in the aisle to help her get her stuff down from the overhead bin.

Suddenly, I heard a voice from behind me say, “Excuse me, Ma’am.  We need to get through.”

Before I had a chance to move, this woman and her two overgrown teenaged sons literally pushed me into the row of seats.  I was absolutely fuming.  I actually glared at the woman and said, “Do you think you’re the only person on this flight who has a tight connection?  What the hell is wrong with you?”

It took Delta about ten minutes to open the door, so she probably missed her flight.  It would serve her right.

I hate flying.  I love traveling, though… so what can I do?

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