Category Archives: Stories

The Worst and Most Awkward Breakfast and Brunch in San Francisco


complicated_breakfast

I ate breakfast at 78 different places in the Bay Area last year.* Want to know what memories have been seared onto my brain lobes due to horror, disaster or sheer awkwardity? Read on.

Most Awkward

Mel’s Drive-in – multiple locations (I was in the SOMA one) – $$
Shockingly, the food was not terrible here, but my experience was overshadowed by a language barrier incident. The Italian (or possibly Brazilian) man sitting five feet away from me was trying to order and spoke almost no English. He pointed at the menu and asked for an omelette. Then this happened:

Waitress: What kind of cheese do you want?

Man: Omelette – yes I want omelette.

Waitress: But what kind of cheese?

Man: (points at the menu) Omelette, yes!

Waitress (slowly, like he is willfully misunderstanding her): We have American, Cheddar and Swiss.

Man: Yes! (now agitated, getting hungrier and more embarrassed)

Waitress: (emphasizing each word) But – what – kind – of – cheese – do – you – want?

Man: YES, Omelette please! (on the brink of despair)

Waitress: What — kind — of — cheese — American — Cheddar — or — Swiss?

Man: (pointing emphatically at the menu, getting ready to curse America and everything it stands for): YES!

Me: (embarrassed, indignant and uncomfortable) Just choose for him!

Waitress (looks at me questioningly and raises her eyebrows): Okay, guess I’m going to have to do everything for this one. (pauses) What kind of toast do you want?

Me: (falling over dead)

Waitress: I guess he’ll just do sourdough.

Most Disappointing
Rose’s Cafe – The Marina – $$

Put simply, this place sucked. The food was overpriced but average, and even tasted as smarmy as the service. Only come here if your yacht’s broken down and you can’t escape. Rose’s Cafe, you can suck a lemon.

Unfriendliest

Cafe de la Presse – Union Square – $$ 

I’d been wanting to come to this place for a while because it looked fancy and shiny and pretty. So I was excited about eating here, but it ended up sucking, so that sucked. I sat down near a window that happened to be open. Keep in mind that this is the morning in San Francisco where the air feels like a damp fridge. I was cold so I asked them to shut it and the waiter sighed and went to close it while he told me, “Ma’am, we are trying to cool down the restaurant,” like I was the dumbest person in the world. He left a crack open.

Most Forgettable

I wrote down the name of this restaurant as “The other place in Burlington.” The only other note I have about this is that it was “forgettable.”

Worst Smelling

Munch Haven – Civic Center – $ 

While the first thing you might notice about this place is the questionable name, the second thing you’ll notice will undoubtably be the smell – something like egg grease, cigarette smoke and dirty shirts. On the plus side, there were pictures of styles of egg dishes (fried, scrambled, sunnyside up, etc.) as well as the different kinds of cheese you could order. This is probably very useful for people who don’t speak English (see note on Mel’s).

Really?Most continually disappointing yet bafflingly popular restaurant

The Grove – multiple locations – $$

This restaurant will woo you with its fine appearance and tasteful furnishings. It says all the right things and makes you feel special and you’re optimistic that things will work out. Then, on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd date, it ditches you in the middle of a meal, sticks you with the bill and you find out later it stole your wallet, phone or passport. And the meal wasn’t that good either. Stop dating this guy. No fourth date.

Saddest
Joanie’s Happy Days Diner – Fisherman’s Wharf – $$

Happy days had turned into sad mornings the Friday I visited this restaurant. I remember the sound of the fridge humming, the television turned to Channel 6 news, fluorescent lighting and a mysterious sense of guilt. Maybe some more patrons would have made me feel less lonely. Was it my fault for visiting at 7 am, right when it opened? I think not.

Runner-up: Chestnut Diner – Marina/Cow Hollow – $

*Full list of breakfast places here: 78 Breakfasts in the Bay Area

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Remember Deb? She’s No Longer Cute, But I’m Trying to Love Her.

Deb

Then

On August 14th, 2013, I wrote about Deb, my little succulent, and how much I love her and was glad to have something in my life that I could celebrate instead of myself. I purchased her a beautiful new pot, with colors on it and I’ve watered her once so far, just like I was told to by Karen the plant lady, her surrogate mother.

Since then, Deb has grown up a little bit. Her tender thick leaves have spread to the sides of the pot and show no sign of stopping. In fact, she’s in danger of outgrowing her $20 home. No longer  is she perfectly spaced and symmetrical – time spent growing in a room with uneven sunlight has left her looking lopsided and gangly and, dare I say, awkward.

Yes, Deb has reached adolescence, that unpleasant phase between 10 and 30 (in human years) when kids just aren’t cute anymore, when they don’t do everything you want them to, and when they grow too fast and occasionally break things.

I never appreciated how hard it must have been for my own mother to watch with horror as I transformed from a brilliant and adorable 2 year old with golden hair and an irresistible smile into a moody 14 year old that insisted on wearing clothes from Hollister and spent large amounts of time picking at her acne. All of the sudden, this precious child realized some things were cool and other things weren’t and that the uncool things were to be reviled and the cool things to be worshipped without reservation. All this is in addition to a strange propensity to wear the same sweatshirt/clothes for days on end and refuse to shower after working out before napping on the futon and soaking it with sweat. Yes, this was my adolescence and it wasn’t pretty.

Now.

Now.

Nevertheless, I believe my mother continued to love me though she cringed, and that is what I’m determined to do with Deb. I’ve already whispered this to Deb in the language of echevaria elegans, but I’ve translated it for the benefit of my human readers.

Deb, my succulent one, though I only adopted you one month ago, I feel now closer to you than I’ve felt to any other plant. When I first saw you, I knew you were to be mine and mine alone, with the perfect way your leaves extended and reached for the San Francisco sun. You were compact and adorable, and so I paid the 5 dollars and took you home where you now sit next to the globe.

Deb, I know you can’t see yourself, but you’ve changed. Your leaves have elongated and grown less even – part of you appears to be growing faster than others, and you’re lopsided and less attractive to look at. I could call you cute still, but it would only be a lie. Now you just look like a normal plant. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, Deb.

I know this is just a phase and that you’ll grow to be more beautiful than you ever were, and until you do, I will care for you just like I cared for you one month ago, just as if you were still the petite echevaria elegans you used to be.

And you will always be mine.

Love,

Emily

Practicing Handshakefulness: What I Learned at a Geeky Networking Event

Don’t watch!

The other day I went to an event where most people had friends and I knew no one. I cleverly disguised this, however, because it’s hard to meet people when you start out by saying, “I came alone.” I immediately got in line for something, because lines are by far the best places to mingle. The guests are trapped, subject to any conversation topic you might bring up, just waiting to be entertained. It’s perfect.

After hanging around in lines, I ended up leaving the party and getting a drink with a group of new friends, failing to get all of their numbers with one exception, and resigning myself to the fact I’ll never see any of them again. It was a valuable experience, and I learned two things. One is that wearing a piece of crazy clothing makes it easier for people to remember you, especially if it’s a cape that allows you to blend in with walls and then scare them. And the other, more important thing I learned is that you shouldn’t look while you shake hands with someone, no matter how weird or uncomfortable it is.

Here’s what happened. As I and my group of new never-to-be-heard-from-again-techie friends were leaving, I went to give handshakes all around. I “put ‘er there” to a young man who is beginning his job at a well known Bay Area start-up that has revolutionized how we interact (hint), and as I gripped firmly I noticed that something had gone horribly wrong with the handshake. I felt pressure, but only on the outer rim of my palm. It was like his hand was hollow or weak muscled on the interior. Puzzled, I took a peek to find out what was happening.

This was weird. I had no idea that staring at handshakes is unusual until I was doing it, and it was weird. Immediately, the soft techie geek took notice and asked me what I was doing, to which I quickly replied, “Nothing.” And he said, “You were looking at the handshake,” an accusation I dodged by saying, “No I didn’t.” Seconds later, I walked away with two strange nerds and never saw any of them again, yet.

A fedora-wearing-boy who was possibly still in high school accompanied me back to the train station with a man who builds inflatable robots at work. I told the fedora I would text him about contra dancing and he seemed rightly skeptical.

As I got on the train heading home, I thought that maybe not getting any of their real information except for fedora’s was for the best. And after all, it is San Francisco, and I’ll probably find people just like them at the next nerdy event I attend. This is my ocean and I’m on the lookout for bigger fish to cling to and shake hands with properly.

*The term handshakefulness is not my own. It was created by the 30 Rock writing staff.

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Ye Olde Craig’s List Scam

Everything’s normal…..

You might know the feeling. You’ve been crashing at your friend’s apartment for a couple of weeks and you’re desperate for work. Your top five visited pages are all Craig’s List, the world is measured out in dollar signs, and you’d rather someone spit in your mouth than overpay for a cup of coffee.

Your mind becomes numb as you troll Craig’s List, and even the dubious sounding Candy Puff girl “marketing” position begins to have some appeal, and this is a position that involves selling single cigarettes and gummy worms to an inebriated and gropey post-techno crowd.

The end result of your enthusiasm/desperation is that you apply to dozens, possibly hundreds of jobs in a couple of days. You wait for anyone to call or email you, just to know that you exist. Anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, and rampant peanut butter eating fill your day.

This was me just one week ago. I had shut myself into my friend’s room and become a Craig’s list zombie. When places called or emailed me back, I invariably had no idea who or what they were because I had applied to so many different positions. Nevertheless, I always pretended I was happy to hear from them specifically and yes I was very interested in learning more about the position.

One day, a place named “PMC” called.  Actually, two different people called within minutes of one another in a very obvious and potentially embarrassing (for them) recruitment error. Despite this initial warning sign, and the fact I had no idea what position I had applied for or what company this was, I went right ahead and responded to their call. They were interested in me.

According to Melissa, her managers had received my resume and wanted to speak with me in person. Great! I said, still clueless about their company and the position. She went on to say that this was an entry level position, and they were looking for people they could train into becoming managers. Perfect! said I. So we set up an interview time and she told me a few things to remember, one of which was to wear business professional attire. See you then! I said.

And then the doubts started. What was this place? What did they do? Why did they have to remind me to wear professional attire to an interview? Why did they want people with no experience? It all seemed a bit….odd. Later that day, I looked up the address they gave me and one of the first items that popped up revealed that this was very likely a scam.

Woah.

It was my very first Craig’s List scam. I was fascinated and thought it could be a great blog fodder opportunity. Maybe I would show up at the interview in my prairie dress with a resume that said I went to clown school and subbed as a P.E. teacher in my home town of Alsida, Louisiana. Would they still “hire” me or send me away after seeing the crazy in my eye?

Alas, we will never know. I cancelled the interview because of laziness and fear of being clubbed with a baseball bat. But the housing search yet lies ahead, and hundreds of emails sent to Craig’s list addresses. Should danger come calling again, I will greet it in modest clothing and with a pen ready.

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One High-Schooler’s Fight Against Brainwashing

The best and brightest. Scowling and/or faceless. 

When I was a senior in high school I became convinced that the administration was brainwashing us.  I don’t recall what I was reading at the time, but 1984 and Brave New World had rocked my world pretty hard in middle school and from then on I knew people wanted to be inside my head.

My conviction began with an assembly that threatened school pride.

It was midmorning on a Thursday the week of the big game against our rival, South Classen.  War drums pounded as all 2000 some high-schoolers of North Memorial slowly poured into the gymnasium and were segregated by class.

The assembly was meant to be forty five minutes of pure adrenaline, incendiary statements pouring into the bleachers and inflating the students’ zeal. At the assembly’s climax, the principal would stand and conduct the entire student body in a war chant, each section rising when indicated and bellowing with all the spite and sincerity we could muster, “NORTH PANTHERS BEAT SOUTH” or something like that, with each class taking a different word.

But this rally was different. While the majority of the student masses was hubbubing energetically, one section remained unimpressed: the seniors. This was not our first rodeo, and we no longer believed the hollow promises of the administration. Nothing had changed in four years, regardless of any game’s outcome. We still had acne, got annoyed with our parents, and didn’t know how to talk to our crushes (some things never change).

The gymnasium was buzzing with excitement, the word “NORTH” still echoing in the rafters. It was our turn to yell, to show our school pride, our communal virility and patriotism. At the same time, an anonymous whisper trickled through the senior section, “Everyone sit down…no one say anything.” As the baton pointed to the senior class, the world held its breath.

Silence roared as the seniors did nothing. No one spoke, moved, or giggled. It was awesome.

Red faced, the administration quickly moved on, but the senior class knew it had scored an incredible victory and impressed the underclassmen with our apathy.

Technically, I did not attend this assembly, choosing to protest against school pride through a furious nap. But I was  inspired by the story when I heard it the next day, especially because of the storm of anger the school administration proceeded to vomit at us.

“You will bow down to the god of school spirit!” they bellowed. “You will be a part of Memorial North and worship your school! We will take away your prom and your grinding should you refuse!”

The outrage buzzing through the administration was electrifying. We had struck a nerve. I finally realized that we had been blinded by petty intra-school rivalry. This was our opiate, meant to keep us calm in the face of gross injustices such as the fact we couldn’t wear bikinis to class. I wanted to mount a resistance, print out pamphlets, hold meetings, and do everything it took to beat the administration and throw off their yoke, whatever that meant.

One day, I began talking excitedly about the uprising with a fellow classmate. I waxed poetic about the need to resist and the false reality we were being spoon fed by the administration. Of course, I sounded completely insane, and classmate told me as much, mocking me every time I saw him for weeks.

I soon forgot my passion for anti-school-spirit—I was graduating soon anyways. Looking back, I still remember how obvious it seemed to me that the administration was distracting us from a greater reality but I think I just wanted my life to be more interesting than it actually was. And that’s when I started vigilante crime fighting.

*some details altered because my memory is bad

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