djonn: Self-portrait (Default)
2017-03-31 02:00 am

When Free Food Attacks: A Tale of Darkest Suburbia

You’d think that two free restaurant dinners in one day would be grounds for celebration.  In practice, it didn’t actually work out that way….

It so happens that, after the closing went through on the condominium that’s now Lone Penman Headquarters, the realtor on our side of the deal sent along a respectably generous gift card for one of the new online restaurant-delivery services.  For a one-person household who (a) doesn’t drive and (b) occasionally works multiple graveyard shifts in sequence, this was an especially happy gift, and I have been whittling away at that gift card balance with good results.

Until this past Wednesday, that is, when I placed an order for a shrimp ravioli dish from a nearby Italian place, one from which I’d ordered happily before.  As on the prior occasion, the delivery driver actually beat the estimated delivery window by 15 minutes or so, and handed me a hot takeout box (the entree) and a sturdy small-sized pizza box (the extra side of focaccia).  I thanked him, closed the door, headed for the kitchen, and was actually dividing the entree — enough for two meals, as before — into a bowl and a plastic storage container when I realized that Something Was Wrong.

I had gotten not shrimp with ravioli, but shrimp risotto.

And sadly, I am not at all fond of risotto.  Also, even good risotto tends not to travel well.

The ensuing online chat conversation unfolded like a classic series of good news/bad news jokes.  The chat agent promptly got on the phone with the restaurant…but I couldn’t get the right entree sent over, because there wasn’t a driver available.  They were happy to refund the entree price…but we ran into enormous trouble trying to verify that the refund had actually landed on my electronic gift card (neither the delivery service or its gift card vendor had a way to look up the stored balance without the long alphanumeric code on the paper card I’d originally been given).

And by the time I looked up from typing a highly annoyed email to the gift card vendor, two hours had gone by, during which the shrimp-risotto-not-ravioli had been sitting out on my counter getting cold.  I sighed, tossed it (between not liking risotto and the food safety lectures one hears about not leaving hot food out, I wasn’t going to take chances), and went off to take an abbreviated pre-work nap.

Now, one of the few shortcomings of the shiny new Lone Penman HQ is that while the bus stop is a mere five-minute walk from my front door, and the bus ride to work takes maybe seven minutes, the buses stop running much too early at night for someone working a graveyard shift.  And the weather is not yet good enough to commute via bicycle.  I have therefore taken to riding the last bus up to the relevant intersection and hanging out in one of the available hangouts until it’s actually time to report to work. The night in question being a Wednesday, the McMenamin’s was closed by the time I got there, and I was too hungry to be satisfied with Taco Bell, so I went into Shari’s, thinking that at least I could get some dinner there.  [There is also a Mysterious Seedy-Looking Sports Bar in one of the shopping centers that no one ever talks about.  Someday I may explore the Mysterious Seedy-Looking Sports Bar.  Last Wednesday was not that day.]

And indeed, I ordered a small plate of fish & chips, ate the salad that preceded it, took a bite of fish, and was just picking up an herbed French fry…

…when there was a dramatic BLINK, and all the lights went out.

“We’re sorry,” came the sad but still cheery voice of the Shari’s night manager out of the darkness, “but we have to kick you all out into the street send you all out into the parking lot.  You can’t be here when there’s no power.  It’s not safe.”

“On the other hand,” she added, in a cheery but still sad voice, “whatever you were having tonight is on us.”

I managed to snag a couple of the herbed French fries before following the crowd of customers out of the restaurant into a night which was now not just dark, but extremely dark — it wasn’t just Shari’s that had lost power, but everything for at least several blocks in all directions, up to and including street lights and traffic signals.  And as matters turned out, the outage only lasted perhaps half an hour.  I was able to clock in on schedule at work, and the computers were up and running again.

But what I’m going to remember most about that particular night is having been given two free dinners, and only being able to eat half of one of them.

djonn: Self-portrait (Default)
2017-02-28 09:46 am

Prompt customer service for the win!

Major brownie points to the membership staff at Oregon Public Broadcasting this morning.  Following my mother's move a few months ago, I'm in the process of notifying all manner of people and organizations that various mailings should be redirected or discontinued...and it took a mere seven (7) minutes for OPB to turn around an emailed request with a reply from an actual human being that the relevant action had been taken.

Sometimes, customer service really is just that good.
djonn: Self-portrait (Default)
2017-02-21 10:27 am

And awwaaayy we go!

The movers/packers are here, and it is time to close down the 'Net for migration.  We will return to Darkest Suburbia on the flip side (from the scenic environs of suburban Beaverton).
djonn: (Peter Iredale)
2017-01-10 01:19 am

Admin: Darkest Suburbia gets a makeover

Actually, two or three makeovers, but we'll get to that in a moment:

The least significant in absolute terms (but the one with the most immediate visible impact) is the quick cosmetic makeover I've done on my Dreamwidth journal style in the wake of recent migrations.  I'm reasonably pleased with the new look, though if something is acting peculiar as you read this on the DW side, do let me know.

The weather has also been somewhat more than usually exciting, as my more local readers are already aware; Portland has had two impressive-for-us snowstorms already this winter and the forecasters are hinting darkly at another flurry on the horizon -- which may or may not arrive just in time to strand my monthly SFnal book group in the Beaverton branch of Powell's overnight.

Then there's the bigger news: after 25 (gasp!) years in my present apartment, I am actually preparing to move to a different part of Darkest Suburbia.  A combination of factors -- a change of workplace (same job, different location), a concurrent move on my mother's part, the state of the Portland rental and housing markets, and some other familial considerations -- means that I'm about to shift status from Apartment Dweller to Condominium Resident.  This has the inevitable pluses and minuses: in absolute terms, I'll sacrifice a little bit of square footage, and the new place is a second floor unit (more stairs).  But I'll have a much larger kitchen space, the new neighborhood should be more bicycle-friendly, there's a high-grade movie theater in (longish) walking distance, and I won't need to change buses to get to the aforementioned Beaverton Powell's.

Now I just have to pack 25 years' worth of books.  And declutter.  And try to sell off a comic book collection, and etc., etc....

If I'm a little scarce online for the next few weeks, that's why.

djonn: Self-portrait (Default)
2016-09-02 03:40 pm

A noisy afternoon in Darkest Suburbia....

Of course I was just getting ready to go catch a bus when the sirens began yowling.

Just west of the driveway for my apartment complex: four police vehicles, one fire truck, lots and lots of not-really-moving cars, and no really obvious sign of what's going on.  Some kind of traffic issue, by the look, but evidently a little farther west than I could tell from a quick look.

I guess I'll surf the 'Net for another few minutes....
djonn: Self-portrait (Default)
2012-10-26 11:38 pm

Service With a Smile: A Tale of Darkest Suburbia

There are, at one of the big regional shopping malls in the greater Portland area, two "quick casual" franchises located next to one another. As it turns out, I stopped into both of them earlier this evening and came away with such sharply contrasting experiences that I can't resist sharing. So:

First operation: mildly busy, as I might expect earlyish on a Friday evening. I enter, peruse the menu, and approach the counter to order.

The girl at the counter pulls a pen and a receipt pad (yes, an office/retail receipt pad, not a restaurant-style order pad), and explains that their computers are down, so they're taking down all the orders by hand. That's fine, I say. Then the girl supplies the kicker, sounding regretful but sincere: "and there'll be a wait of maybe half an hour, will that be all right?"

I blink, and am sufficiently boggled that my question comes out wrong. "The computer slows you down that much?"

"No," the girl explains, still sincere and apologetic, "the computer's *down*, so we don't have any way to communicate with the kitchen. When it's working, what we punch into the register goes straight back to the kitchen."

I blink again, because this operation has a semi-open kitchen -- I can see cooks in the work area behind the order counter, a mere few steps from the cash register, cooking people's dinners. And while the restaurant is far from empty, it's nowhere near full, and there's not a long line at the counter.

I consider possible responses. Should I rant angrily? No; escalating the situation isn't likely to solve the problem. Should I try to explain how cavemen short-order waiters and line cooks do this sort of thing all the time without computers, much faster than half an hour per order? No; from the conversation so far, I can tell that there isn't a clue-bat big enough to get that point across. Also, I'm hungry....

So I excuse myself politely, and go next door to the other franchise. Where I peruse the menu, order at the counter, and receive a vibro-pager; "this will go off when your order's ready; you can pick it up at the next counter down". As I finish paying for the meal, the vibro-pager goes off.

"Whoa," I say, collecting my beverage cup and strolling down to the pickup counter -- where the server is dishing up my soup as she explains that they're out of the bread they normally use for my sandwich, and tells me what she does have available. I pick an alternate, and they promise to bring the sandwich out to my table, since the vibro-pager has already done its thing. "We'll find you", the girl says. And they do, almost before I've finished arranging my soup and drink. The contrast is remarkable; at the second restaurant, everyone's communicating using *both* technology and traditional methods, and the service even when they're addressing a problem is admirably efficient.

I'm not naming either chain here; franchises can vary widely in their levels of cluefulness within a given chain, so it wouldn't be fair to either to generalize upward from my experiences. I'm just fascinated at the juxtaposition of critical clue-failure and plain common sense in the present instance.
djonn: Self-portrait (Default)
2011-10-08 11:38 pm

It Came From One Floor Up (a Tale of Darkest Suburbia)

There is a pantry/closet in my kitchen, next to the refrigerator, in which I keep a great variety of things.  There are old cardboard boxes, decks of playing cards, boxes of papers, a small cooler chest, my collection of Christmas supplies (tags, ribbon, stockings, gift wrap, etc.), aprons, decks of cards, light bulbs, the backup paper towel supply, assorted surplus groceries (I probably have enough boxed pasta just now to last me until approximately next Memorial Day) and my vacuum cleaner.

It is, in short, very full, though not so full as to produce a Fibber McGee effect.  Imagine my startlement, therefore, when I opened the pantry door late this morning...

...and a cat leaped past me from inside the pantry. )

djonn: (woods)
2011-09-04 11:19 am

Tales of Darkest Suburbia

As I may have mentioned once or twice before, I am in fact a resident of Darkest Suburbia (for metaphorical values of "darkest").  While I'm technically inside the Portland city limits by a few hundred yards, my neighborhood is interspersed with some moderately dense forest and steep hillside.  Forest Park proper is over some of the hills and on the other side of a freeway, but you definitely don't have to go over the hills and far away to find woodlands -- and, correspondingly, woodland creatures.  Indeed, some months ago I spotted a raccoon in my back yard.  And when said raccoon noticed that I was watching it, said raccoon cheerfully clambered up onto my back porch and came over to look at me through the glass window in my back door.  This is a little friendlier than I like my woodland creatures, notwithstanding a childhood in which I happily read about a raccoon named Ranger Rick in one of the magazines my parents ordered for me.  After making a brief investigation of my back porch, the real live raccoon went on about its business and did not return.

Or so I thought.... )