Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ah, The Night Shift

Night shift, second shift, swing shift-- it has many different names. Call it what you will, it generally means that someone is just starting his or her shift just before, or possibly even after, you have finished your work day and are readying to head home for the evening.

This has been my life for the past 9 months-- and I've learned that it's not always easy.

I've always been a night owl-- for as long as I can remember, I've loved staying up late, and sleeping in.  But, I've never had to do it while working 40 hours a week, and let me tell you: it's a different ball game.

In fact, there are several problems that plague Night Shifters more than their early-rising Day Shift counterparts.

These include, but are not limited to:

1) Sleep disorders. 

2) Weight gain.  The average night shift worker gains 2 pounds per week.  In fact, the obesity rate among night shift workers is much higher than it is among people who work regular shifts.  Many night shift workers gain approximately 20 to 30 pounds during their first months of working nights.  This, of course, comes with an increased risk of diabetes, among other health concerns.  

3) Digestion/Gastrointestinal issues.  People who work the night shift are up to 150% more likely to develop stress-related gastrointestinal issues.  They are less likely to eat a nutritious meal, since they don't have the opportunity to eat at home with their families, and pretty much all healthful take out options are non-existent.

4) Cancer.  Recent studies suggest that night shift workers may be at an increased risk for cancer.  The current thought is that it has something to do lower levels of melatonin, which may increase cancer risk.

No one really seems to think about it, but in actuality, Night Shift workers kind of struggle a lot.  Sure, we don't have to wake up early on Monday morning, but we also don't get to go out on Friday nights.  Yes, that can be annoying, to be cooped up in an office while everyone is enjoying the close of the work week.  But, truthfully, that is just cosmetic, it doesn't touch on the actual trials that plague people who work night or graveyard shifts (cancer definitely is worse).

Indeed, in my 9 month tenure on the night shift, I've found it much more difficult to make healthy decisions when it comes to food. Think about it: when you're at work, and you want to go out for food, you have a plethora of options, many of which would be decidedly more healthy than simple fast food.  Perhaps you want a sandwich at subway, or a salad at the local salad shop-- that's pretty easy to do.  You're much more able to make healthful choices.  But, the night shifters?  Not so much.  By the time it's time for our lunch, all of the 'healthy' options are closed, and our only choices are fast food.  I don't need to run down the ingredients/nutritional information for McDonald's salads here for you to know that they're really not all that healthy.

So, you're able to choose a healthy lunch, or pack a sandwich, and then go home and make a dinner which you'll get to eat fresh.

Not so for the night shifter.  I've been making healthier choices and have been preparing all of my meals, but let me tell you that when you cook something and don't serve it immediately, but instead pack it up in Tupperware and allow it to sit in the fridge before you even eat the first serving definitely loses something in translation. Every meal is like leftovers.  So, don't take those fresh meals at your dining room table with music or the television going in the background for granted, because not everyone gets them.

In addition to all of the actual things that can go wrong with your body when you work nights, there's another one that seems to irk me even more: the stigma.

For instance, one of the most problematic things for me, as a night shift worker, is how little I feel I'm understood by peers-- my sleeping habits are made fun of, laughed at, or even met with disdain. I can't tell you how many times since I've started night shift I've felt embarrassed to tell someone how late I slept.  But, the thing is: I shouldn't be.  I shouldn't be embarrassed because I am on a different schedule.

However, all too often, when someone finds out how late I've slept, the fact that they don't realize that I'm on a different schedule becomes painfully obvious.  

"Oh, well, I slept until 1pm."  It's almost inevitably met with "Wow, that must be nice," or some sort of look that seems to insinuate that I must be lazy to stay in bed so long.  No, I just went to bed at 6am. 

I know, it sounds nice, and you're jealous, but I also spent the entire night working/being awake.

For some people, I get that envy.  Maybe you have kids--maybe you don't get to sleep through the night, and you never get to sleep past 6am because your kids wake you up.  Those people expressing envy, or "that must be nice," I get.  I get that.  But, to the rest of you on a normal schedule that condescend when you hear that I slept past noon-- kindly shut it.  

I work the same number of hours a week that you do (40+), and I struggle with all of the aforementioned stuff that just doesn't plague those on the day shift, so stop acting like sleeping late makes me lazy, or lucky; I'm not, and it doesn't.  

About the only thing it makes me a night shift worker.  Also, really tired, usually.  Have you ever tried to sleep during the day?  It's pretty bright, the sun being up has a tendency to do that, I guess. Also, it's pretty loud with the birds chirping and what have you, not to mention all you day shifters traveling about to your jobs, lunches, etc., etc., etc.

I miss being day shift sometimes-- I long to go home and cook a hot meal and enjoy it while it's still hot.  Or to get a normal circadian rhythm going.  Oh, and I definitely don't want to get cancer.  But, I think that pretty much goes without saying.

But, this is my life for now--so I'll focus on the positives of night shift: things are quieter around the office, for one.  Fewer distractions, fewer people going in and out of my office.  And I don't have to deal with all that fabulous L.A. traffic the same way you day shifters do, so there is that.

It's not all bad-- but someday, I hope to see the sunrise when I'm getting out of bed while I'm starting my day, not into it while I'm ending it. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Tips for Servers

This is a pretty controversial topic.

Recently, an article has been making its way around--as articles/blogs are apt to do.  This particular article is about servers and customers, and supposes to advise how to NOT be a "horrible restaurant customer." Read it here.  

Now, while it's the only one I'm linking to, because it is the one that originally roused my ire, it's not the only one of its kind.  In fact, I've seen several similar articles re-posted in the annals of Facebook by several of my server friends.

And let me just say: I get it.  I totally get it-- some people are rude, and jerks, etc.  And, before you ask, NO I've never been a server.  (By the way, your obsession with whether or not I have worked in a restaurant is just as fervent as my obsession with sitting in a booth--heaven forbid I want to be comfortable! And heaven forbid I have an opinion on something without having experienced it first-hand). However, I have worked at Quizno's and Baskin Robbins, and Bath and Body Works, and the Body Shop and various other places of employ, and I've been cussed out over roast beef, banana splits, lotion, perfume oil, etc.  So, before you go saying that I couldn't possibly understand, imagine a large man screaming at me over roast beef after having stood in front of a hot... conveyor belt thingy during lunch rush hour, and recognize that I may actually get it, at least a little bit.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand-- the article.

Now, I consider myself to be a pretty good restaurant customer--I tip well (at least 20%) for good service, if I pay with a gift card, I tip on the total amount of the bill, I make up my mind quickly, I don't sit at the table for an hour after I'm done, I am polite, and I say 'please' and 'thank you,' and I do it with a smile.

So, imagine my surprise when I read this article and discover that I actually can be considered a 'horrible' restaurant customer because I sometimes do things like say 'I didn't like it,' when the server comes to take my food, or I ask for napkins and then ask for a refill when the server comes back because I forgot I needed a refill the first time around (which, actually, why did you not just ask me if I wanted one anyway, seeing as it's unlikely I drank a whole cup of soda before you got back with the napkins--or, entirely possible I guess, considering some service I've gotten at restaurants. Whatever).

Or, and this could be my favorite reason I'm a horrible customer: I ask for a box for my leftovers.  *Gasp* How dare I ask you to bring a box for the food I didn't finish to my table!  Yep, this one is definitely my favorite.  Like, honestly, why do you care if I"m not going to eat it later?  I bought it, and it's therefore my right to do with what I please.  Maybe I'll take it home and it'll sit in my refrigerator for a week until I throw it out.  Maybe I'll feed it to my dog.  Maybe I'll see a homeless person on the street on the way home and give it to him (this has happened more than once). Maybe I'll use it as an offering to my tiny little Buddha statue.  Who cares? It is legitimately none of your business--and the only reason you should ever be PISSED OFF about bringing me a box for the food I paid for is if I act like a jerk about it, which I never do.  So shut up, and bring me a box.

I get it-- there really are terrible customers.  But, guess what? There are some really terrible servers, too.  I have never, in my life, as the article suggests, READ A MENU WRONG.  I learned to read in Kindergarten, and I've been doing it pretty consistently since then, so, yeah, I didn't get a HAMBURGER instead of a CHEESEBURGER because I read the menu wrong. I got it that way because you wrote it down wrong-- or the cooks made it wrong.  And heaven forbid I ask for cheese-- we've all been warned about what happens when you send food back.  So, I suck it up.  I eat my HAMBURGER (which I find totally gross, by the way), and never even mention it.

And how dare I ask you what your favorite dish is?  Especially if I've never been to the restaurant, and you probably have had at least a FEW things on the menu.  How totally rude of me. 

(Yes, I realize this article about which I am ranting was written in response to another one [linked to in the article I linked to], but the first one was decidedly more respectful in tone and content.)

Anyway.  I get it.  People can be really rude!  It sucks!

But, in the nature of fairness, since so many blogs and posts and articles are being written about some pretty innocuous things that customers do that make them HORRIBLE, TERRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD CUSTOMERS, I thought I'd return the favor, and compile just such a list in the reverse.

So, I present to you-- a [partial] list of what servers can do to NOT be horrible restaurant servers (because--while this list is not meant to be taken entirely seriously--and as much as you all hate to admit it, they do exist, and they exist in far greater quantities than I think you realize)!

1.  Don't call me 'sweetie,' or 'hon,' or any sort of diminutive cutesy name you can think of.  I don't know you, and it creeps me out and, quite frankly, makes me feel patronized and talked down to.  Sure, you're trying to foster familiarity, but you're not a little old lady who has called everyone 'honey' since she was 50.  You're a server who is my age, likely younger.  So, it's not actually cute or personable.

2.  Don't touch me.  If I reached out and touched you, you'd probably be like 'what the hell?!' and think 'omg, why did this person just touch me while I was trying to take her order?!' then you'd go home and add it to your list of ways to not be a horrible customer.  So, yeah.  Hands off.

3. Don't come up to my table, look at my empty plate, and ask: 'are you done?'  There is LITERALLY no food left on my plate.  Of COURSE I'm done.

4. Don't ask me if I liked the food if my plate's empty.  I ate it all; I liked it.

5. Don't flirt with my boyfriend.

6.  Don't tell me you're busy.  I know.  I have eyes, I can see that the restaurant is teeming with people.

7.  Don't read me the specials.  I guarantee you, I don't care.

8.  Don't get all pissed when I'm at dinner with friends and we ask to split the check.  Did you honestly think that wasn't going to happen?

9. Don't be rude.  Grab a dictionary and look up the word 'hospitable'--does it mean coming to the table with a sigh or a 'tude so that I know that the LAST thing in the world you want to do is actually serve me?  No?  It doesn't?  Shocking!

10.  Don't come to work sick.  Seriously.  

11.  Don't tell me to 'holler if you need anything,' and then show up at my table looking annoyed when I do catch your attention.

12.  Don't question my food choices.  Once, when I was at Chili's, I ordered the chicken crispers, and the waiter asked if I'd tried them and I said that I had, and he didn't hesitate to tell me that they were, in fact, gross.

13.  Don't ask 'how was your service today?'  I don't go up to coworkers or clients and say 'how did I do today?'

14. If I'm not allowed to forget stuff (ketchup, napkins, refills...), neither are you.

15.  Don't tell us about your day job.  I don't care that you act and sing on the side or have a band that you started with your college roommate and his girlfriend.  I don't care if you just moved here from Minnesota-- I don't care if you're studying marine biology at the local state school and your big dream is to work with Great Whites.  

16.  Don't walk up to the table to ask a question right as I take a bite of food.  Do a little recon, and maybe circle back so I can finish the bite I've just attempted to ingest.

Needless to say, I could go on... and on... and on.... and on.

But, that's not really the point.  The point, actually, is this: I'm a good customer-- and I am so sick and tired of these posts circulating suggesting that I'm not, because I do a few things that you apparently find annoying.

Yeah, you have to laugh at the whole 'I didn't like it' joke many times a day-- so what?  We all have to do things at our jobs every day that aren't necessarily our favorite things to do.  And I always have to laugh at the asinine jokes you make, too.

People work every single day at jobs they don't like, they live paycheck to paycheck, they deal with difficult, annoying, and rude people, and to top it all of, they don't even get tips for it. (P.S. Servers make minimum wage in my state, so none of that here).

Recently, I haven't been eating out very much-- and the few times I have it's been In-N-Out or Chipotle, but articles like this one make me not want to go out.  Why should I spend an extra 20% of my hard earned money tipping you when you secretly seethe at how horrible I am?  Any answers?

Yeah, probably not.

A tip is not a requirement; it is supposed to reflect the standard of service received.  I am often reminded in these articles that servers have to tip out at the end of the night to bus boys, cooks, etc., so I should dig deeper into my pocket!  In the same breath, I'm told that not everything that happens is a server's responsibility-- for instance, could be a cook's fault, etc., so that obviously shouldn't affect how much I tip my server.  Um... what?

Okay, so which is it?  It can't be both ways.  I either tip based on the fact that these tips will reach parties that may be responsible for good or bad service, or I don't?

I know people can be jerks-- no one wants to receive a business card or religious quote or fake money for a tip.  But no one wants to be told that they're a terrible customer when the definitely aren't. However, it appears there is no happy medium when it comes to servers who choose to write articles/blogs/etc.  

So, while servers continue to write these articles, and other servers circulate them on social media with echoes of "OMG. YES. THIS." and the like, good customers like me--who are nice, polite, tip well, and don't cause trouble--realize that we'd just as soon make our own food at home.

Go ahead--cut your nose off to spite your face.

[disclaimer: anonymous comments that are rude will be deleted].

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Yes, I'm Afraid of That

Last weekend, I did some baking! (Which reminds me: I've created a new page for the food I've been cooking, so if you're interested in that, stop by--I've been updating pretty consistently.  If you see something you'd like a recipe for, let me know!)

Anyway, I made pizza and garlic knots from scratch.  They were delicious, but that's not really the point.  Then what is the point? I imagine you're asking-- how does baking tie into a post that seems to be about phobias/fears.  Well, one word: Yeast.  I had to make the dough for the pizza and the garlic knots, and in order to do that, I had to use yeast.

Which I kind of have a slight fear/phobia of.  Even now, just thinking about it, my heart is racing a little quicker, and I'm getting a little nervous, and there's a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach, and my breathing has changed.  For some reason, I'm slightly afraid of yeast.  It just... creeps me out.  The way it makes things rise, that it would get HUGE if you put a lot of yeast in.... that the longer you let it sit, the more it expands.  Okay, I actually feel nauseated now, since I'm so creeped out. Seriously.

Needless to say, I conquered my aversion to and fear of yeast in the pursuit of delicious pizza and garlic knots.  Mission accomplished. Though, based on my reaction just now to simply the thought of yeast, I don't think 'conquered' is the right word--more like... set aside.  I called a truce with yeast for one night, and I'm glad I did.

This fear was new for me, though.  I've done some baking (mostly cupcakes and things like that, though), so yeast hasn't really been a consideration.  Until it was--and it was then that I realized just how creeped out I am by yeast.  I mean, I think I was always vaguely aware of it, but this just caused it to rise to the top of my consciousness (pun intended).

So, this got me thinking-- am I the only person out there with a fear of yeast?  I googled the term in several ways (including 'yeastphobia' and 'yeastophobia'), and pretty much all the results had to do with a baker's fear of yeast since it can be difficult, but none had to do with the actual fear of yeast.  

I then happened upon a thread on a message board talking about different fears.  On it, someone left a comment talking about mistaking fears for phobias, etc.  Which led me to google that, and it turns out there are varying opinions about what makes something a fear and what makes it a phobia.

Some people say a phobia is something that interrupts your daily life-- for instance, you may be afraid of dogs... but people with a phobia of dogs will avoid going to the park because there might be a dog there.  Or, you may be afraid of spiders, but people with phobias of spiders will not enter a room in which they even think a spider may reside. Which kind of makes sense. lists the definition of fear as: a specific instance of or propensity for such a feeling: an abnormal fear of heights. 

And it lists the definition of phobia as: a persistent irrational fear of a specific objectactivity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it. 

However, it also lists phobia as a synonym for fear.  

Bottom line: There are people that insist that fears are intensely different from phobias, but one of the most helpful things I found was this small article (Read it here), but basically, it describes a phobia as a fear that is exaggerated or of something where the threat is non-existent.

So, is my crazy fear of yeast a phobia?  I'm not sure-- I did end up using the yeast.  But the threat is certainly non-existent.

This yeast phobia/fear isn't my only odd fear.  While many people can say they have arachnophobia, agoraphobia, coulrophobia, and many, many others (see some of them here). My phobias (I'm going with phobias, I guess), are much less common. 

Google returned no one else that expressed an actual fear of yeast. 

Another phobia I've had for a long time is paper shreddings.  They freak me out, and make me experience elevated heart rate, quick/shallow breathing, and make me nauseated.  Yes, shreddings... run some paper through a shredder and you have created one of my worst fears.  Not the shredder, the shreddings.

Of course, a google search returns no fellow paper-shredding haters.  There's plenty of people afraid of shredders, but not so for the actual shreddings. 

Anytime I relay this particular fear, people need clarification.  The issuance of such clarification is followed by a very strange look, and almost inevitably an expression of the desire to throw some paper shreddings on me and see how I react.  I always respond with a polite laugh, but pardon me if I don't actually think your desire to torture me is funny.

(For the record, you'd need a large amount of paper shreddings to actually make me panic... though a small bag full would definitely get my blood pumping).

But, really, what is it with that?  Whenever someone tells me they're terrified of spiders or clowns (a fear that is arguably as ridiculous as mine), my first reaction isn't to express desire at putting them in a room with a bunch of spiders or clowns.  So, why is your reaction to do the same to me with my totally weird and out of the box fear okay? Answer: it's not.  But people will continue to do it anyway.

That's odd fear number 2 (though, really, it's #1, since I realized it existed for me sometime before my Sophomore year in high school).

Again, there's not a name for my fear, though the closest thing I've found is Papyrophobia, which is a fear of paper.  I don't technically have a fear of paper-- but, I do have a fear of paper in a certain state.

Another thing I'm afraid of is the pool snake-- you know that thing that cleans pools automatically?  The thing that has a memory and will stop working properly if you coil it up (it'll only go in circles). Yeah, that creepy thing terrifies me.

This, I believe, is probably closely related to my intense fear of robots.  That's right, robots.  Roomba (that creepy robotic vacuum thing), furbies, you name it, I hate it.  If robots ever become a 'thing,' I will totally be that one person who doesn't have a robot.  I'll be that one person chopping her own vegetables and driving her own car. I'm not sure that this phobia has a name, but I do believe it might be able to be classified under the sweeping umbrella of technophobia.  I do not care how much I hate vacuuming, a Roomba will never be in my house.

And, finally, we have the fear of seaweed (no, it's not funny to throw it at me at the beach, nor is it funny to express a desire to do so) or algae.  These fears do not have a technical name that I can find, but might be classified under 'phytophobia,' though I'm not scared of all plants-- just seaweed, algae, and plants that grow on/over things, that coil around trellises, etc.  Oh, and I also find it intensely creepy that a plant will find light.  Like if you put a sprout in a shoe box, and create a maze, and then cut a hole in the top, the little green sprout will eventually be poking out of the hole, and will have grown through the maze, finding the small light from the hole you cut. You tell me that's not creepy. Some people would probably see this as metaphoric--and poignant and powerful.  Not I.  It's just plain creepy as far as I'm concerned. So, yeah, actually maybe just phytophobia would cover it.

So, while there's not a strict answer about what makes a phobia different from a fear, I'm going to call mine phobias, since the things I am afraid of pose no actual or real threat... ever.  And, because my reaction to these things is disproportionate to the thing itself.  I definitely have "persistent irrational fears of specific objects that lead to a compelling desire to avoid them," so despite some nay-sayers out there, I'm going with Phobia.  

So, here is my current phobia list (with names I've made up):

1. Yeastphobia.
2. Papershreddingphobia
3. Technophobia (more specifically, Robotophobia)
4. Phytophobia.

I know I can't be the only one with weird/unusual/not mainstream phobias out there! Is there anything weird you're scared of?  Or just a phobia, in general?  It doesn't have to be weird, but it'd make me feel a little less crazy.  Emphasis on 'little.'

In other news: A new book review has [finally] been posted!