Sunday, June 26, 2016

I Get to Meet the Coolest People

Of course the biggest perk of my job at the airport is the phenomenal money I make for what I simply do. It's not brain surgery but even took me a minute to feel comfortable and is pretty physical and fast paced. I've never done fine dining and quickly found out that even after being a server for almost thirty six years, had quite a bit to learn.

So learn it I did.

I even got to work with two of my three kids while there. TJ moved to Orlando but still work with my bestie, Massey and she has totally knocked it out of the park.

We've met some really big names and gotten to meet people from all over the globe but the ones who stick out the most in my mind are the people you've never heard of but have impacted me the most.

Case in point...

The host came up to me tonight at work, told me I had a man seated at table 220 and that he was blind. There were two Air Serve employees assisting him while in the airport but both sat at a different table away from him while he had dinner. I greeted him, immediately noticing the absolutely beautiful service dog laying under the table. He ordered a drink and when I brought it back told him was directly in front of him, guiding his hand to the glass. He was probably in his early thirties. I asked him what he was interested in eating and verbally guided him through our menu. He chose what to eat and after taking his order told him his guide dog was beautiful and had been sniffing both my shoes the entire time he was ordering, obviously smelling the three pups I owned. He smiled and said "His name is Mario".

Mario was a Yellow Lab with a light brown nose and happiest eyes I've ever seen. This guy's eyes may not work but Mario's sure did and more importantly worked for him.

I asked him how old he was? He said seven.

Mario trained for two years and had been with him for five.

Talk about Man's Best Friend!

We chatted more and told him I was a huge dog lover. I told him the hardest thing about seeing all the beautiful TSA dogs , Homeland Security dogs and Service dogs was not being able to touch or love on them.

By this time, Massey walked by as well while cleaning tables and stopped to admire...not touch. She told him he had a gorgeous pup.

He said "I've been told he has the most soulful brown eyes".

Whoever said that to him was spot on.

Then he suddenly called Mario into service and told him to sit up.

He did.

Then he unhooked Mario's harness and said "Go play".

And he did.

Massey and I both loved and hugged on him as he immediately turned into one of our own three idiots, spinning around in a circle one way and then the other. A younger couple (watching and listening to our conversation) was seated at a table a few feet away and Mario went over to wag hello as they both smiled and petted him as well.

Then just like that, the harness was put back on and Mario curled up under his owner's feet to lay down.

I thought that was amazing... until the next thing happened.

I saw one of the Air Serve guys get up and walk over to the guy's table telling him it was time to go to his gate for boarding so  took the guy his check, telling him what was on it and how much it was. His tab was sixty seven dollars.

The customer got out his wallet, pulling out one bill at a time, feeling each with his fingers from corner to corner and handed me three twenties a ten and a five saying "Here's seventy five dollars, keep the change".

I was blown away.

It seems each different denomination bill has slightly raised marks along the corners and he read them with his fingertips.  I've handled cash on a daily basis for almost forty years and never noticed any difference in the feel of a bill.

I was flabbergasted and not just with the extra eight bucks he'd left me on top of the eighteen percent added gratuity but with how when one sense is lost others are intensified.

I thought about that guy the rest of the night, as he left the restaurant with Mario leading him, while having one hand on one of the Air Serve guy's shoulder because of all the foot traffic and constantly changing obstacles.

I thought to myself, there goes one terrific human being.

Those are the kind of people I've been lucky enough to meet while working at the world's busiest airport.

That's a "Life Changer" moment.

The problems and challenges we've been through these past ten years, pale in comparison to his and almost make me feel like a wussy.

It's been a total reaffirmation of what a lucky person I truly am, even with all the twists and turns along the way.

At least I could see, and now see more clearly.

It's not about what you have, it's about how you use what you do have.

I have a little over two months left at the greatest job I've ever had and can't wait to meet every fascinating person I can along the way.

Always, always try and remember that.

Til next time, COTTON

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Pacing Myself...Old School Style

I took this selfie today and realized my job is aging me quicker than I'd like. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my job but is one tough physical workout if done the right way. There are a handful of slackers who rely on me being the work horse, doing not only my job but half of theirs too. Guess you can call me 'The Enabler'. I enable them by always having glassware and silverware polished. I enable them by always,  always going to the expo window to run food when the chef calls for food runners. Trust me, when he calls for runners... they run, away from the expo area.

That's okay too.

In mid September after I leave, they got a huge shock of reality coming.

I've been there almost two and a half years and this is the busiest I've ever seen the restaurant.They're not gonna have a fifty six year old woman working circles around them anymore.

For the most part, I am in pretty great shape for an oldie. I weigh in at 100 lbs (took me two years to get back up to three digits) and at least always look neat, clean and in a  pressed shirt. But waiting tables for almost forty years is a lot of wear and tear on your body. Not to mention weekly yard work six months of the year.

My right shoulder kills me after weed eating, my left knee still sporadically goes out from the time I won the speed skate for mothers at the skating rink when Massey and Zach were in elementary school and that mom tried to bump me like we were in a Roller Derby.

About once every two years my back goes out for about a week. Last time it happened had to wear a velcro back brace under my work uniform shirt for two weeks, which doesn't mesh well with my hot flashes.

Last time Tim was home, he told me for about the hundredth time that I needed to stretch every day.

I'm lucky to just make it to work on time; ain't got no time for stretching other than that big yawn I make when tumbling out of the bed and heading towards the shower for work, but know he's right.

Now I'm gonna go retro.

Back in the eighties when Jane Fonda came out with her blockbuster workout, I climbed right on the band wagon. The first copy I had was on a vinyl LP record given to me by a friend. Nothing to look at, you just listened to Jane and did what she said to do. I was a bit embarrassed after finally buying the VCR tape and realizing  was doing half of it the wrong way.

The first ten minutes were devoted to stretching and still to this day remember the stretching part, verbatim. "Knees soft, shoulders back".

I searched Amazon the other day and bought her original workout CD. Cost me eight bucks but will be the best eight bucks I ever spent.

I still remember the first time I made it through the entire workout. I was exhausted but felt better than I ever had the next day.

I've dragged my daughter into my latest venture with me, telling her how much better I felt after jamming out with Jane Fonda and Peggy Lipton for an hour.

My daughter has no idea who Peggy Lipton is but loves her daughter, Rashida Jones.

So to get myself through these last couple of months of working like a mule decided to go retro and make my body feel better. I'm making Massey do it with me.

My video came in the mail today.

I hope I still have some leggings somewhere!

Is it sad that I'm excited about getting a workout video from 1982 in the mail... or is that a good thing?

Now if someone can just show me how to play a DVD on a Playstation3, I'll be in business.

It's hard living in the Jetson's age when you were born in the Flintstone's.

Til next time COTTON

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Awesome Day

So it was back to the Crazy House aka the world's busiest airport after a spectacular day off with tons of stuff done.

Got busy right off the bat and one of my first tables was a man and wife with a teenage daughter. Their flight had gotten changed and had a couple of hours to chill. Really nice family, the husband looked just like a young Jack Nicholson. After two hours of chilling asked for the check. The minute I saw his credit card, I thought to myself "I know who this guy is, or do I"? The name was Michael Lukovich. I kept thinking, Mike not Michael.


I went back to the table and asked if he was the political cartoonist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution?

Well slap me ball was him!

Let me say he was one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. Totally engaging and his wife and daughter were just as delightful. He actually said "Do you have a piece of paper because if you do would be glad to do a quick drawing of you."

By this time, Massey had been introduced to him as well and he chatted with her while I dropped a couple of checks and ran a few drinks to other tables. Lucky for me, business died just as quickly as it started.

That's one of the crazy things, we'll be packed then all leave at once. Worked out good for me tonight. He told me to sit and just look at his forehead. My only request was to make me look younger and not like Donald Trump. Two minutes later he handed me this...


He had asked Massey what's something funny about me while I was taking care of exiting tables. She told him I loved to cut grass on my Johnny Dear and he was probably my favorite child.

How cool is that??

Then just as soon as the restaurant emptied and after he left (leaving me an extra $30 tip) it filled up again.

I got cut around eight thirty and checked my phone while in the restroom. Tim had sent me a text telling me to look at a house my brother had found for us, $25,000 under our allotted budget.

Then my night got even better. It was perfect for us. Plenty of fenced in yard for our goofy dogs outside of the screened in pool and plenty of  house with no carpet, lots of open space and a fabulous back and front yard for me to putz around in.

I knew immediately. This is the house for us.

This should be our new home, the one we'll (hopefully) grow old together in.

Guess I'll be taking Johnny Dear with me!

If someone had told me my life would be this good four years ago when I fell headfirst  into our kitchen table after letting all three dogs in the back kitchen door out of a rainstorm and slipping on their wet muddy paw marks and too broke to go to the emergency room but instead had a son still living  with us who had enough of his own money to go buy a first aid kit and butterfly bandage my cut head back together, would tell you you were crazy!

Then the job of a lifetime fell into my lap and four years later, we are steam rolling ahead full force. My husband has moved up and up, then up again in his new job. I'm finishing one which has worn me out but provided exceptionally well.

When your back's against the wall, fight like a crazy lady... so I did.

 I fought back...and won!

You may be right, I may be crazy but am one lucky, crazy gal.

Without these two, it wouldn't have happened. Lucky once again, I do have them.

My thanks run deep, far and wide. God had a plan and lucky for me I had family and friends.

If this is a dream...please don't wake me up.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Slight White

I have the greatest job in the world. Unfortunately I only have three months left there but plan on enjoying every minute I have left.

Hands down, I've had the greatest management team... ever. Total professionals and not bosses but leaders.

I was devastated when my mentor left first.

He is the main reason I succeeded at Ecco. He watched and corrected every mistake I made when just starting and urged me to learn and grow as a server. I was terrified of him at first but now appreciate his persistence and attentiveness. We still remain good friends to this day and always will.

Then our general manager left as well. Awesome guy with tremendous knowledge and the amazing ability to not sweat the little things but fought for us employees every step of the way, and every day.

I used to call my mentor, Damir the bad cop and my general manager, Bryan the good cop. They were a perfect team and still miss them.

Then our Sous Chef left, once again breaking my heart. We used to often joke about all the union employees playing the system like a drum, using all the call out options and times they could miss work before getting written up simply because they had a contract which allowed it. We called them "Government Workers".

During all the turnover, we got a fill in manger who has since come on board full time.

He has the greatest smile in the world.

I call him the Cheshire Cat.

He's an ex marine and calls it like he sees it. It's my favorite quality in him, considering I work with a few government workers. His attitude is always "Gung Ho" and is the easiest person in the world to make smile. When he first started there, he was sitting at the desk on the computer about ten feet away from me in the back of the kitchen. I had a big bag of Skittles and held it out to the guy standing next to me (a host who happened to be African  American) and said "Skittle my Nittle?"

Will, our new manager leaned back in his chair from the computer, looked at me and busted out laughing.

Then I heard we were finally getting a third manager, much needed.

I was at the host stand one day when a slender man walked in with a notebook under his arm, stood to the side and asked to see a manager. I asked if he was our new manager and once he said he was, offered him my hand to shake and welcomed him aboard the crazy train.

Come to think of it, I may be the craziest person on board but have always been pretty nuts and kind of like it that way.

He's demure and quiet, totally professional and turned out to be one of my favorite people on the planet. He's definitely slender and with all the management turnover has probably lost another ten pounds while working at the crazy house.

We are corporate so get mystery shoppers all the time who come in to eat and grade us on our performance and quality. Some are from Fifth Group, some are from  the concessionaire who owns our contract and some even from the airport authority.

We've had so much fun with descriptions they give of our managers. Damir, my former manager is from Bosnia but was called called Latino. Bryan, my former GM was called older gentleman with gray hair (he's in his early thirties).

But the shoppers have had a field  day with Mark, our slender manager. One shopper called him a petite man.

This was back when my oldest son, TJ still worked there with me. I read the report and turned to TJ asking if petite was the stupid person's polite term for gay?

Next report, they called him a slight white male.

Boy, that one stuck and has been his nickname ever since!

Bless his heart, he takes it all in stride and in his usual professional manner.  He's one of the smartest men I've ever worked for and knows something about everything and then some. He can't be rattled, even by the onslaught of flight delays and the restaurant filling up within three minutes time. Angry customers? He deals with it like it's nothing and they leave satisfied and happy.

If you need someone to lend an ear, he's right there. If you need help, he's already helping and asking what more you need.

He treats everyone the same and even nods with compassion when he knows they're yanking his chain.

I so miss Damir and Bryan but luckily still have Will and Slight White.

Will, told me the other day that a warehouse guy (African American) brought up a product shipment to the restaurant and was trying to tell him who he had talked to before. The guy said "He was the pale faced guy".

So now Mark is "White Slight Pale Face".

I was at work today and saw this selfie on Mark's phone. I demanded he send me the pic. Massey absolutely loves him too and is one of the people I'll miss most when us Clampetts leave. Best selfie...ever!

She sent me this photo of him in the restaurant the other night when she was working and I was off, captioned "Spot the Slight?"

It's been a journey and lucky for me have met some pretty awesome people along the way. I'm a very lucky person to have landed in this place. They treat you well and if you give it your all, take you into their heart and treat you like family.

Three more months and I'll be done here but this job will always be the highlight of my serving career.

Once you work with the best it only makes you know and realize, now you can do anything!

Til next time...COTTON

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day

I was around ten when this picture was taken of me and my Diddy at the beach one summer while on our family vacation. It's one of my favorite pictures ever and have it framed, hanging on the wall in my kitchen. I'm not sure why my bathing suit is tied all the way over to my left side but still remember that suit as well as those plaid trunks my Diddy wore for about twenty years.

I remember that day like it was yesterday. Asked him to go out and swim with me in the ocean, he agreed and hand in hand we walked toward the shore line. He went out beyond the breakers and just as he always did, swam laps back and forth in the Gulf for a bit. Then also did what he would every time after that, float on his back in the salty buoyant water with both arms out to his sides.

All this was done while my Momma sat in her chair under the four post wooden sun shelter. She never learned how to swim and never got wet above her ankles. She'd carry a wet washcloth to the beach with her in a little plastic baggie to cool herself off with and stayed  sand side but always watching us out in the Gulf.

I grew up in the best family unit ever. I can't remember my parents ever having one fight or really even an argument. My Momma died when I was just seventeen. I remember Diddy saying before her funeral that he still loved her as much as he did when they married in the early fifties.

Not many people are lucky enough to have two parents raise them in the utopia of a happy, loving home environment. I was one of the lucky ones, that's for sure.

We were also blessed enough to have Diddy around until he turned seventy seven. He was healthy as an ox (as we say in the south) and still an avid tennis player. One of his frequent tennis partners was even eighty one.

They just don't build 'em like they used to.

Diddy contracted West Nile Virus in 2002 and died in ten days.

Looking back, I think it was meant to be.

God took him quickly because who could ever want this wonderful man to suffer for years from dementia, cancer or any other lingering illness?

Certainly not me.

My husband and I have been together almost thirty years. The first twenty five were a piece of cake. The next five almost took the cake.

But we survived.

A little worse for the wear, some angry words exchanged when overwhelmed by debt and even occasional finger pointing.

Nobody ever said it would be easy, in fact never heard the word "easy" come out of the minister's mouth when marrying us.

So I had a great father growing up.

Then I married man who is a great father.

The past five years have been tumultuous at best, but if you never have bad times how will you know when you have good times?

And then just like (not really) that... it's all coming together again after two years of living apart.

Tim has a great new job and has moved up faster than I've ever seen him walk. I also fortunately got a great job as well to help get us through his living a thousand miles away.

Here's one incredible thing I've learned over the past half decade.

If not having money is the worst thing that ever happens to you, you're pretty lucky...especially when you have sibs like I do.

Raised by the best, supported by the rest.

As my tenure at the world's busiest airport comes to a close decided to pay it forward once again. Massey and I went to the Sock Shoppe yesterday and bought all the dads we work with three pair of cool looking socks. Put them all in gifts bags and gave them out at work. The hugs I got from each of my co workers absolutely and hands down made my day.

Life is all about Karma. What you put in you get out. What goes around will  come around.

 Til next time...COTTON