Saturday, March 5, 2011

My Play Premieres

Dear Diary,

After seeing me on Oprah, the media rushed to the opening of my play this past Thursday. Reporters, photographers and cameramen crowded the alleyway where someone left the door to that building garbage room unlocked a few weeks ago. The door was still unlocked so that's where I staged my play in which I act out every year of my life and I play all the characters. I let everyone through the unlocked door and charged everyone eighty bucks. It is a sixteen hour play after all.

My parents were in attendance so I was nervous since in my autobiographical piece, I modify the accuracy of a few events for dramatic cohesiveness. Basically, in my play, my parents donate me to NASA, fidgety and obsessive that NASA might still be sending "those poor monkeys" into space. I also play my father with a limp and an eye-patch, with the uncovered eye being a false eye that keeps rolling to the back of my head. It's excruciating to play. Especially as I keep falling off the stage.

After five minutes, the entire audience left in one big group. I assume it's because the first seven years of my life are performed in a baby language that only I understand. Of course, I had no clue everyone had walked out; I only discovered the empty chairs when, after sixteen hours of playing over one thousand and four characters (and two space monkeys), the expected standing ovation never came. I stood there in the spotlight, sweat drenched, for over an hour before I exclaimed, "Come on, that deserves a bit of an applause!" I finally decided to walk down from the stage into the audience.

ME: Are you guys hiding?

It was already one in the afternoon the day after the play began. I had to get some sleep since my next show was at eight that night.

I got home at one thirty and devoured a huge lunch (I hadn't eaten in over seventeen hours). I turned on my computer and noticed that my junk mail folder was full from not being checked for seventeen hours so I read every e-mail message carefully before deleting it just to make sure they weren't from a close friend who had recently decided to change their name to Viagra.

I then read my regular e-mail and sent out commentary on all the forwarded jokes I received. I critiqued whether I liked the tone of the humor, if the joke was appropriate for children, and how I would end the joke if I had written it myself, with some of my self-created endings / punchlines lasting over two pages. Afterward, I went to Facebook and poked back all my six hundred and thirty-eight friends. I also harvested my crops on Farm Ville. I was shocked by how much work there was to be done after being away for so many hours. I also had plenty to do on Café World and Rabbi Ville.

That’s when my wife walked in at seven in the evening after picking our two-year-old daughter from daycare.

MY WIFE: What are you doing? You’re supposed to be getting ready for your play. It starts in an hour.

ME: Oh man...

MY WIFE: My parents are coming to see it tonight and my sisters and my brother. You better be on time. They paid a lot of money to see you.

ME: I still haven’t had any sleep yet. I’m just going to have a disco nap.

MY WIFE: You get yourself on the bus now.

ME: I’m just going to put my head on this desk and I’m going to close my eyes.

MY WIFE: My family paid eighty dollars each. Get going!

ME: I haven’t slept in thirty-six hours and I just performed in a sixteen hour play!

MY WIFE: I don’t care! That’s not my fault! You get going!

ME: Man, I hate this! I hate being a star!

MY WIFE: That’s the showbiz life you chose. Now get!

I sulked out the door. It was raining. When I arrived to the alley with the unlocked door, more than fifty people holding umbrellas were already lined up for my show, including all my in-laws with my wife.

ME: Why didn’t you give me a ride?

MY WIFE: Secretly, tonight, I'd like to pretend that I'm not married to you. Please, just tonight, let me have this. Please...

I turned the knob on the unlocked door. The door was locked. I slammed the door with my fists.

ONE PERSON: Can I buy my ticket? I heard about this show from Oprah.

ME: Just everybody hold their horses. I can’t get in. I’m locked out.

MY FATHER-IN-LAW: Well, Eric, did you pay your bills? Why are you locked out?

ME: Can everyone just shut their mouths for a minute while I try and get in here?

I banged even louder on the door.

ME: Let me in! I’m begging you! Please! Please!

The door opened.


ME: Yes. I have a show in here tonight.

BUILDING SUPERINTENDENT: A show? Are you the guy who left tarp and crap everywhere?

ME: Yes, that’s my stage.

BUILDING SUPERINTENDENT: All that stuff went out with the garbage this afternoon.

ME: What about my props?

BUILDING SUPERINTENDENT: It’s the garbage room; everything’s gone.

ME: You get my stuff back! You hear me!

BUILDING SUPERINTENDENT: What are all these people doing out here?

ME: I’m going to call the cops.

BUILDING SUPERINTENDENT: I’m the one who’s going to call the cops. You broke in here. Scram before I kick your ass.

The superintendent shut the door in my face. I turned to everyone. The rain continued, but harder than before. I heard thunder.

ME: Well, a show is what you came to see and a show is what you’ll get.

I started my show, and my wife and her family left after two minutes, shaking their heads to themselves. Some people stayed. I had to stop the show a few times because of passersby who paused to gawk but refused to pay for a ticket. I chased them away and then came back to perform. I continued for sixteen hours, every now and then chasing passersby away. I was so tired; I was forgetting lines and making stuff up as I went. I made one of the space monkeys die so I wouldn't have to play him anymore. I may have even chased paying customers away, threatening them. I had no clue what I was doing.

I ended up curled up in the corner of the alleyway, rain soaked, hugging my shivering body, and unable to control my chattering teeth.

ME (to whoever was still there): If anyone has access to Facebook and Farm Ville, I think my strawberries might be spoiling. And little Jeff Lowenstein has a bris today.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

My Interview with Oprah

Oprah, moments before she introduced me.
Dear Diary,

I was on Oprah for a few moments yesterday as part of a show about innovators and inventors. Oprah interviewed me regarding my part in the creation of the new Starbucks logo. She introduced me from an armchair on stage.

OPRAH: We have with us today the man who designed the new Starbucks logo! Come on out, Eric!

The audience applauded and cheered as I walked out onto the stage toward the armchair across from Oprah's.

ME (to Oprah): I'm sorry. I'm not here to talk about the Starbucks logo. My people very specifically told your producers not to even mention the logo or Starbucks.

OPRAH: I'm not sure...

ME: I was led to believe that this interview was about the play I wrote. I feel really betrayed.

I looked around, incensed.

OPRAH: Please have a seat.

ME (still angry): Gayle... where the hell are you?

OPRAH: Sit down. Please. Let's just talk. It's fine. You can tell us about your play.

I sat down across Oprah.

ME: I'm sorry, Oprah. It's not you. It's just that I had an agreement. I can't believe how unprofessional this whole show is. Anyway, I'm sorry about those nasty things I told Gayle backstage. Gayle, I'm sorry. That was truly revolting. I should be ashamed. And I would be right now if I didn't want to rip this entire set apart.

OPRAH: Eric... Eric... just tell us what this play is about?

ME: The play stars myself as myself as I explore every year of my life. It's a one-man show and it's sixteen hours.

OPRAH: And it ends with you creating the new Starbucks logo and becoming a success?

ME: No, it ends at the end of my life. It ends with me dying.

OPRAH: Dying?

ME: That scene lasts for two hours. It's just me on my deathbed. No movement, no sound.

OPRAH: But you haven't died in real life yet.

ME: There's lots in the play that hasn't happened yet. Trust me, as the scenes unfold on stage, they are as much of a revelation to me as they are to you all.

OPRAH: Where is this play playing?

ME: Well, right now, it's playing in the basement of a building. I was just walking down this alley one day, chasing a cat I wanted to be friends with...

OPRAH: You mean a person when you say a cat, right?

ME: No, I mean a kitty. Like with fleas. Anyway, I was trying out all these doors, seeing if they were locked or not.


ME: I don't know. Just to see if they're locked or not. Anyway, one door opened and it was a stairway to an empty basement with garbage and stuff. For all I know, that door's still opened so that's where we'll have the play. Anyway, I've set up a stage with some wood and tarp and I'll just sell tickets at the door.

OPRAH: When are you doing all this?

ME: The play is running indefinitely as long as people don't mind garbage falling from chutes around them. It doesn't bother me none.

OPRAH: What is your play called?

ME: Oprah.

OPRAH: Really?

ME: Yes, my name is Oprah on my birth certificate. You're not the only person in the world named Oprah, you know. I know lots of Oprahs. My play is called Oprah, but the full name is The Oprah Winfrey Show.

OPRAH: Eric… thank you…. for being here today to tell us about your play.

ME: Winfrey is my middle name.

OPRAH: Thank you, Eric.

ME: You can call me O.

The camera began moving away from my face as I swiped some crumpled loose leaf paper from under my shirt.

ME: Oprah, I have your next book pick from your book club. I know you're going to love it because I wrote it. I only have one paragraph but that's only because I couldn't come up with anything more.

OPRAH: We'll have to talk about that another time.

ME: Let me read you the first sentence.

I read my handwriting from the sheet of paper.

ME (reading): The year I become lovers with Oprah is the year she shot a man in cold blood. I could tell she had murdered before. Why? Because she told me she planned to kill more people, and would have taken out Mother Theresa if she were still alive…

OPRAH (to the camera): We'll be right back after these messages…

ME (still reading): I told Oprah, "Please stop this killing spree. I think you should at least stop stalking that family from Little People, Big World." That's when Oprah broke up with me because I didn't have room to stash two hundred and seventy-six "free" cars.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The New Starbucks Logo

Introducing the brand new Starbucks Logo for 2011 which I designed.

Dear Diary,

I'm still at the temp agency, wishing I had a job at Starbucks. After I'm done a shift, I usually end up standing on the sidewalk, staring into the window at the King Street Starbucks, watching all those lucky people working inside, sometimes with a tear dripping down my cheek. I usually end up banging my fists on the glass and then running away into the street, making cars screech their tires to avoid me as I trip and roll across the pavement.

Sometimes, through the window, I even watch other blessed souls getting interviewed, wishing that was me at the little round table, talking about how exceptional I am and how much I'd love to have a job where I could drink coffee all day and eat pastries and chat up the customers and put on one-man plays about my childhood and adulthood and my future old age with a two hour death scene of me in bed, just lying there, saying nothing. But no one could talk or order anything during my deathbed scene; it would only ruin the atmosphere. The play itself would run eight hours, playing daily, and twice on weekends.

Since my job interview, no one's called me, and that was almost four months ago. I've been furious so I've refused to walk into a Starbucks and give them my business.

Yesterday, after a few minutes of staring, I stepped inside. Slowly… I just couldn't help myself. I couldn't believe what I was allowing myself to do. I walked up to the lineup at one of the counters. When it was finally my turn to order, I slowly permitted myself to look up at the menu. I had tears in my eyes; The Prodigal Son returned. There, up high, were all the things I adored and obsessed about but had been doing without for four months.

CASHIER: Sir, what can I get for you?

I didn't respond. I looked down at the glass display cases with all the treats and pastries my desperate, wanting mouth had denied itself since October.


I yelped like a puppy finally adopted. I gulped hard.

ME (barely audible): I'll have a panini.

CASHIER: Pardon me?

ME (still barely audible): A panini.

CASHIER: Anything else? Something to drink?

ME (almost under my breath): I think so… I'll have two of those bagels, toasted, five scones, half that cake, some more paninis…

The cashier listened as I continued to order and sob.

ME: Please hurry. Please…

Everyone on staff behind the counter worked on my order. I had bagels toasting, sandwiches pressing, beverages steaming. The line-up of fidgety customers behind me burgeoned as my order was being set up on the counter like a buffet. I couldn't believe I was finally going to have this dream Starbucks feast all to myself. At last… It took an eternity for the staff to put it all together.

CASHIER: That'll be two hundred, twenty, and fifty-two cents.

I reached into my pocket as I grinned happily.

ME: No problem. It'll be worth every penny.

My pocket was empty.

ME: Hold up. Where's my wallet?

I pulled my hand out of my pocket and stared at it. It was bare.

ME: Oh God, I just remembered. I didn't bring my wallet today. I just didn't need it because I wasn't going to buy anything. I mean, I haven't been going to Starbucks lately so why would I need any money?

I walked away. Some male, shift manager raced after me.

SHIFT MANAGER: Who's going to drink all these drinks? And eat all this food?

ME: Not me. I don't have that kind of money.

The shift manager turned back toward his staff.

SHIFT MANAGER: Who okayed this ridiculous order?

As the staff were accusing and pointing at one another, and the line-up of anxious, angry customers continued to bloat, I slipped away toward the tables.

A large group of suits was seated at a table with Keith, the store manager, and Allison, the assistant manager, both of whom had led my interview four months ago.

I hovered a few inches away, listening in.

KEITH (to me): Sir, can we help you?

Allison took a good look at me.

ALLISON: You seem familiar.

ME: You interviewed me a few months ago and never called back, so you'll have to excuse me but this is awkward for me. Just being back in here is weird for me.

I lingered, wondering when they were going to start up their conversation again.

KEITH: What can we do for you? We're in the middle of an important meeting here.

ME: Don't mind me. I won't snicker or do fart noises or do something stupid like that.

A man in his sixties spoke up.

SUIT IN HIS SIXTIES: We're from head office in Seattle, traveling the world to all the largest Starbucks, and talking to managers about developing our new logo coming out this Spring.

ME: New logo? This is the first I've heard…

KEITH: This isn't the time…

ME: My entire life I have been craving something. I don't know what it's been. It's just that an emptiness lives inside me. I know I felt it from the minute I was born because I don't ever remember not feeling it: the emptiness. I don't ever remember what it felt like not to have it, deep down in the pit of me. Just this big, vast vat of empty. And nothing could fill it up. Lord knows my mother and father tried. With love, with toys, with outfits and hats. In school, my teachers were at a lost as to how to proceed. I was despondent, depressed, the colors of my pants and tops rarely matched. I had no interests. I didn't love anything. My entire life, I just didn't care. Christmas meant nothing to me. Birthdays meant nothing to me. My first kiss, who cares? I didn't even know what Chanukah was. Nothing ever meant anything to me. Then in the nineties, something happened…

WOMAN SUIT: You filled the emptiness…

SUIT IN HIS SIXTIES: With a cup of Starbucks…

ME: No, I saw the Starbucks logo and I laughed my head off. Who the hell wants a coffee from Battlestar Galatica? That's so tacky.

SUIT IN HIS SIXTIES: What are you suggesting?

ME: Lose the name Starbucks. It sucks, but leave the mermaid. She speaks to me.

WOMAN SUIT: In what way?

ME: She literally talks to me. Especially after fourteen double-shot espressos. She sings to me like Lady Gaga and then I wake up beside a sewer grate at four in the morning.

WOMAN SUIT (as an epiphany): That's it. Just the siren. We just need the siren. It's bolder. Iconic. Why didn't we think of that?

ME: You mean that crazy, opera singing, fish chick, right? The one who lies to me with promises of spiritual salvation? She brings me back here every time.

The suit in his sixties slammed his hand on the table.

SUIT IN HIS SIXTIES: The search is finally over.

He turned to me.

SUIT IN HIS SIXTIES: Son, you've just made yourself a whole lot of money.

ME: Can someone buy me a coffee?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

This Christmas, Hug

Dear Diary,

A few days after Lorraine and I got fired from our gift wrapping gig, we were sitting across Paulie Johnson's desk. Paulie is our rep at the 'Good Enough For You' People temporary placement agency. He's balding, his tie and top shirt button are always undone, and he has ever-growing sweat stains below his armpits.

PAULIE: Guys, the mall threatened never to use the 'Good Enough For You' People agency ever again.

Lorraine, who's four feet nothing, petite as a child and in her mid-thirties, spoke up.

LORRAINE: Paulie, as far as I'm concerned, we are all better off if you never mention that mall in this room ever again.

Paulie shook his head, incredulous.

PAULIE: They are a huge client of mine.

LORRAINE: They're also a huge pain in the "sun don't shine" area. Move on Paulie. I say move on.

PAULIE: Don't tell me to move on. Lorraine, you lost me the mall. The mall.

LORRAINE: I hate it when people repeat themselves. Move on.

PAULIE: And this new kid...

Paulie pointed at me.

PAULIE: I don't like the look of him. He's too quiet. He's like a little hamster in a cage waiting for just the right moment to snap a chunk off my finger.

LORRAINE: Just keep your fingers out of his cage and you'll be fine.

Lorraine and I were sent to another mall to work a T-shirt booth specializing in Justin Bieber T-shirts and bath towels. The booth's owner was an elderly Russian man named Kaspov and he smelled of cigarettes. The three of us were swamped all day.

Late in the afternoon, our customers began shoving one another, jockeying for better position. There no longer was a coherent line-up of people. Everyone was grabbing at the merchandise. The three of us couldn't work fast enough; folks wanted their Bieber and there was nothing we could do about it.

I couldn't keep up with the hectic pace. Our booth was rocking back and forth. I began chucking T-shirts and towels and people flung money back at me. I fell over the counter and tumbled into the crowd.

I screamed.

Lorraine reached out but she couldn't get to me. She climbed to the roof of the booth.

LORRAINE: Stop! People stop! Justin Bieber wants you to stop!

Everyone calmed down.

ONE CUSTOMER: Is that true? He really wants us to stop?


Lorraine raised her mobile phone up high.

LORRAINE: I have him on my cell phone.

People screamed, wailed and reached for Lorraine, trying to pull her down to snatch her mobile phone.

LORRAINE: So help me Paul McCartney, I will stuff your Silly Bandz into your nostrils and yank them out your bum.

Everyone froze, not sure what was more important: Justin Bieber or Silly Bandz.

LORRAINE (panting): We are doing our best over here and I haven't heard one 'thank you' or a 'you're welcome'. What is wrong with you people? It's Christmas! These are just T-shirts. First it was Kenny Rogers, then Boy George and now it's Justin Bieber. What I find unsettling is not your taste in music, it's your taste in men.

I climbed up beside Lorraine.

ME: Folks, Christmas is a time of sharing. And caring. If you're with someone you love, give them a hug. Do it right now. They're what's important.

Everyone was hugging.

LORRAINE: And I'm sorry but giving someone a Justin Bieber towel is no way to show love. Trust me.

People were talking with one another, laughing and really caring.

KASPOV: And folks, we are sold out.

The crowd erupted. I saw a flame go up one side of the booth. Lorraine grabbed my hand and pulled me away. We were running for our lives as everyone trashed the mall around us.

LORRAINE: Every Christmas, this town loses a mall.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gift Wrap Your Life

Dear Diary,

I'm getting work through a temp agency I read about in the want ads. They're called 'Good Enough For You' People. I like that name. I like it a whole lot. That's why I called them.

The first thing my rep at the agency wanted to do was test my typing skills. His name is Paulie. Paulie told me their average temp worker can type 50 words per minute. During my timed minute, I was able to type half a word, but it wasn't spelled right.

Yesterday, they found me a position wrapping gifts in a mall for the Holidays.

I was one of only two males at our wrapping booth. All eight of us 'gift wrappers' wore red aprons and Santa elf hats. I loved it! Lorraine, the only other temp worker (also from 'Good Enough For You' People), was positioned beside me so we were kind of like a team. Lorraine is Italian-Canadian, just over four feet tall, with tiny hands, skinny legs and a child-like face which is odd since she is in her thirties. She also looks like she's wearing kids' clothes – she's that tiny (in fact, yesterday, her sweater sported a picture of The Wiggles). When she first arrived at the gift wrapping table, she asked the regular, full-time, mall employees a battalion of questions.

LORRAINE: Okay, so where should I allow everyone to place their gifts? Are there some people we should refuse service to? Like people going to weddings, birthdays or funerals? Does anyone have any allergies I should know about? Can everyone let the customers know that even though I'm single, I'm not available – my apologies, everyone. I have a small bladder and I need to pee every ten minutes so I may need one of you to stand behind me as backup as the need arises, and also to hold my 2 liter bottle of water. I don't know about you but I need constant hydration. Do you mind not standing so close to me? When I get focused and I get wrapping, there's no telling what I'll wrap.

All the gift wrappers were sighing and rolling their eyes at her. Our boss was the other male at the table.

OUR BOSS: Okay, everyone from the temp agency, just follow the mall employees on how to wrap gifts. Remember, time is of the essence.

LORRAINE: Amen to that! Everyone, you can also follow me! I don't usually give anyone anything this time of year, but I know my way around paper and a big pair of scissors!

The gift wrapping table was hectic with a long line going through the entire mall. Lorraine and I rushed to get all our presents wrapped.

WEALTHY LOOKING MALE CUSTOMER: Excuse me, I don't think this is the present I came here with.

LORRAINE: How am I supposed to know? It's all wrapped up now.

CUSTOMER: Well, it was an iPhone 4 for my daughter and this box is way too big for an iPhone 4.

LORRAINE: Well, someone did bring a big box from the dollar store. Some cheap paper model toy, I think.

CUSTOMER: So where's my iPhone?

LORRAINE: It might still be in this box. No one knows right now; it's all wrapped up.

CUSTOMER: This is unacceptable.

LORRAINE: Well, just give your daughter this box and find out on Christmas morning if it's an iPhone or a paper piece of crap.

CUSTOMER: I want to talk to your boss.

LORRAINE: Listen, your iPhone is long gone, and we're busy. I suggest you scram; I've got a lot of nice gifts here to wrap, not like the paper model garbage your daughter's getting.

OUR BOSS: What seems to be the problem here?

LORRAINE: Oh, nothing. This customer was just leaving with the junk he's giving his daughter for Christmas. What a dead beat.

OUR BOSS (unemotional and efficient): Lorraine, you need to go. I'll call the agency to send someone else.

Lorraine stared up at our boss' name tag.

LORRAINE: Is your name really Valerie?


LORRAINE: Is it okay if I just call you Val?

VALERIE (with sarcasm): Is it okay if I just call you Lor?

All the red-apron-ed, full-time, mall employees chuckled at his comment.

LORRAINE: Not if you want me to strangle you...

Valerie's face went red. Everyone was quiet.

LORRAINE: With your pantyhose.

VALERIE: Get out. Both of you.

LORRAINE: That's fine. Staring at you all day and thinking about how unhappy everyone in your life must be was starting to depress me.

Lorraine and I made our way to the staff room to gather our belongings.

LORRAINE: Eric, stick with me. You'll learn a few things.

I couldn't help but worry as I put on my coat.

ME: Will the agency still get us work? Are we done at 'Good Enough For You' People?

Lorraine didn't answer me. I looked up and discovered her piling everyone's winter coats into her Popsicle stick-like arms.

ME: What are you doing?

LORRAINE: Let's go!

I raced after the itsy-bitsy Lorraine as she spirited down the hall with a mountain of winter gear. Once we were on the top floor of the mall, Lorraine looked down the wide open atrium at the gift wrapping booth on the first floor.

Lorraine lobbed the pile of coats into the open space, and the coats glided down like glorious, giant, puffy snowflakes.

LORRAINE (in a deep, jolly boom): Merry Christmas! Ho! Ho! Ho!

Everyone in the mall looked up as Lorraine and I stepped away.

Lorraine was beaming, on top of the world. She winked up at me.

LORRAINE: Welcome to the winner's circle.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My Job Interview at Starbucks

Dear Diary,

Here's how my job interview with Starbucks went down on October 21st at 11:30am.

I sat at a table at the King Street location across from Keith, the young manager, and Allison, the even younger assistant manager.

MANAGER (KEITH): How would you define good customer service?

ME: Well, first, let me start by saying this: I think Starbucks should get out of the coffee business.

MANAGER: Pardon me?

ME: If your baristas didn't have all these complicated coffee requests from your lunatic customers, employee morale would go through the roof.

ASSISTANT MANAGER (ALLISON): And what should our employees do if they're not making coffee.

ME: Well, let's say you have a customer who goes on vacation and they lose something in the water, like an earring, and their pair of earrings is ruined because they're missing one earring. You'd fly out your barista across the ocean and your barista would deep sea dive and find the earring that the customer lost. It'd be exactly like that old lady on Titanic. Another business I can see Starbucks exceeding at is rotating the wheels on trains.

Allison, the assistant manager, looked at me with incredulity in her eyes.

ASSISTANT MANAGER: That's interesting...

MANAGER: Eric, let's just pretend that Starbucks stays in the coffee business for the foreseeable future.

ME: Okay, I'm all for pretending...

MANAGER: Good. How would you react if a customer returned a cup of coffee to you, saying that they didn't like it?

ME: Well, that's a good question. Good question. Well, let me see... I think I'd take the cup and taste it myself. I'd have everyone behind the counter taste it, and then everyone in the staff room. I'd have all our customers at the tables taste it, and then I'd go out on the street and have everyone there taste it. Then I'd have everyone fill out a questionnaire about it, answering questions like: what kind of finish did the coffee have? Did the flavor linger on your tongue? Did it taste like Encore? Then I'd bring it to a vote: is this a good cup of coffee or not? Should it be awarded a medal? Then I'd have our customers at tables draw medals on paper and cut them out and color them gold, silver, bronze and then we'd award the medals to different coffees.

ASSISTANT MANAGER: What would the customer who returned the coffee be doing during all this?

ME: What was the question again... about the coffees and the medals? I forget.

MANAGER: Maybe we should ask a whole new question.


MANAGER: Eric, what would you do if you believed another team member wasn't pulling their own weight?

ME: Mmmm, what would I do?... I would call them out on it, and say, "You're not pulling your own weight... in fact, starting tomorrow, I think you should do my job and everybody else's job and all the customers' jobs." Like, let's say we have a customer named Joe who's dancing in the Nutcracker – I would make that team member who isn't pulling their own weight go to the Nutcracker show and dance for a few hours, see how they like being in those shoes. I'm sorry, what was the question again?

MANAGER: Eric, if I could be candid, I really don't think we have something to offer you here. I'm sorry, it's just that you're not what we look for in a Starbucks team player. You come across as eccentric... and disturbed, and possibly dangerous.

ME: Well, would you consider hiring a friend of mine, and then maybe I could collect a finder's fee from them?

MANAGER: Let's just say I would not hire anyone who knew you, ever. Eric... if you could leave this table... right now... it would make this less awkward... for all of us.

ME: All right... no problem.

I took my paper cup of coffee and began moving away.

ME: Thank you. Thank you for this opportunity.

The two managers just nodded and smiled, with an unsmiling look in their eyes. I sat at the table next to theirs. I stayed there from 11:30 in the morning until closing at 11:00 in the evening, just nursing the same cup of coffee, allowing myself a tiny sip now and then. As they moved about their busy day, I just stared at the managers and their employees. I never even got up to go to the washroom. So, please, if you visit the Starbucks on King Street, don't sit at the table by the newspaper stand.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Other People’s Job Interviews

Dear Diary,

This afternoon, I entered the Starbucks where I'm supposed to be interviewed tomorrow. I saw a young man and a young woman in Starbucks uniforms talking to one another at one of the tables.

ME: Hi, my name is Eric. I have an interview here tomorrow.

They both looked up at me, eyes wide.

YOUNG MAN: Hi, I'm Keith, the manager and this is Allison.

YOUNG WOMAN: I'm the assistant manager.

I shook their hands.

ME: So pleased to meet you both.

MANAGER (KEITH): Eric, we have one of our candidates waiting to be interviewed right now, so I guess we'll see you tomorrow.

ME: Yes, yes, you will. And you'll also see me today because I'm in here hanging out, enjoying myself with some delicious coffee.

MANAGER: Okay, you do that. Bye for now.

ME: Not really bye because I'll be over there, having fun with my drink.

I walked toward the counter and lined up to order coffee.

Moments later, paper cup in hand, I was searching the room for a place to sit. I saw that the two managers were still at the same table, interviewing a girl who looked seventeen.

I approached the table next to them where a middle-aged woman was sitting. I asked her if I could sit with her. She looked over at the empty tables, appearing annoyed but saying nothing back to me.

Once seated, I listened to the interview taking place between the manager, the assistant manager and the seventeen-year-old girl.

MANAGER (to the seventeen-year-old girl): How would you define good customer service?

SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL: I would define it as being a good listener...

As the seventeen-year-old continued, I spoke out loud to the lady across from me, speaking over the interviewee.

ME: I think good customer service is when people listen to one another. Share experiences. I believe good customer service is rare in this world and that it should be cherished, and it should be relished, and it should be worshipped. I think we should build shrines where we worship some being which represents customer service. And we could sing, "Ahh ahh, customer service. Ahh ahh, I pray to thee." We could start a collection for this deity and give it all kinds of sacrifices. On payday, we could even give it ten percent of our wages. People have forgotten the God of Customer Service. If there was a name I could give to this God, it would be Custy.

MANAGER: I think we should move this interview across the room.

ASSISTANT MANAGER: I think that's a great idea.

The two managers and the candidate moved toward a table on the other side of the room.

I excused myself to the middle-aged woman and walked over to the milk/napkin station next to the table where the interview was moved to.

ASSISTANT MANAGER (to the seventeen-year-old girl): What would you do if someone wanted to return their coffee because they didn't like it?

SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL: Well, I would ask them...

As I stirred my coffee, I talked over her, shouting to a male stranger standing in line across the room.

ME: Well, I would ask them...

The male stranger across the room looked at me, scared, like I was about to hurt him.

ME: I would say, "How dare you even suggest that the coffee here doesn't taste good. We are Starbucks"...

Everyone in the store was now staring at me.

ME: "We are the best company that's ever existed. And you know what, you can take this coffee and you can pour it down your pants because you're not getting another one. Not from me, you aren't."

Both managers were staring up at me from their chairs.

MANAGER: Eric, would you mind leaving us alone?

ME: No problem. I was just fixing my coffee. I've got to go to the washroom anyway.

I slipped through the washroom door beside them.

MANAGER (to the seventeen-year-old): How would you respond to a situation where another team member wasn't making coffee the way they should be or just not performing in the manner you believe is up to Starbucks standards?

SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL: I consider myself a team player. Before approaching the manager regarding this issue, I would first approach the team member in question...

As the seventeen-year-old continued, the door to the washroom opened just a crack.

MY VOICE (from the washroom): Sir, you've got quite the healthy pee stream. Let me just say, first off, I consider myself a team player all the way. So if anyone was not working up to standard or was making bad coffee, I would help them hide the evidence. No one would ever find out that the bad coffee had been served. If they were taking money from the till, or skimming off the top, or embezzling, I would help them fudge the numbers in the books. I'm a team player. If I found out they were running an illegal drug operation in the back room, I would help dismantle the security cameras back there. If someone killed a customer, I'd help them bury the body. I'm a team player. I'll murder someone for you.