Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Best Buy, Worst Buy

© 2009 Leighann Lord

It was all my fault. And when I tell you the story, you’ll agree. You’ll shake your head and say, "Yes, Leighann. You brought it on yourself. What were you thinking, going into Best Buy and expecting good customer service? You know better than that." Yes, I do. But I thought, "How wrong can I go looking for a simple item?" I found out.

I went into Best Buy on Sixth Avenue and 23rd Street in Manhattan looking for a padded case for my netbook. My one year old Acer Aspire One is only 2 1/2 pounds and it tickles me no end that it's petite enough to put in my purse.

A friend said, "You should really get a padded case for that. If your purse falls," which it often does - gravity loves a heavy bag, "You could kill your Acer." True and it would be a small consolation that I could buy a new one cheap. What I can't afford is the time it would take reinstalling programs and backup data. Plus it was an excuse to go shopping.

I tried Staples, a luggage store and Tek Serve, the local Mac spot. All of the cases were way too big since they were meant for full size laptops. That's how I ended up at Best Buy. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they actually had a decent assortment of net book cases. I'm a hands on shopper so I took my netbook out, slipped it into several cases, narrowing it down to two. Although I liked the look of the second one, the cardboard packaging was attached in such a way that it prevented the zipper from being opened all the way.

When a sales associate appeared and asked if I needed help I said, "Yes, I'd like to see how well this case fits my netbook, do you have an open one I can try?" The employee (and I assumed he was an employee since he was wearing a royal blue shirt) shrugged his shoulders and laughed! Not a knee slapping laugh, but an audible chuckle, and said, "No. I don't have, like, a floor model."

See? My fault! I expected him to say, "Oh, let me open this one for you," especially since it was the more expensive of the two. I don't know if this guy works on commission but logically if the company makes money, the store stays open, he stays gainfully employed. But clearly this was not upper most in shrug-chuckle boy's mind.

Just so we're clear, this was not a matter of hunting down a manager, getting a key and unlocking a hermetically sealed security case. All he would have had to do was peel back two tiny pieces of scotch tape. God forbid! Doesn’t the blue shirt doesn't give you the authority to break tape and make a sale?

My Dad said, "What were you doing in Best Buy? They're too expensive. I could’ve made a case for you." I shuddered with visions of bubble wrap, cardboard and duct tape. "You should have asked for a manager," he grumbled. My Dad, retired with time to burn, doesn't hesitate to carry his concerns to the top of the food chain. He'll chat with supervisors, write letters, and take road trips to the home office to visit with district managers. Mr. Lord does not abide shoddy service. He is the Keyser Sose of retail.

"You're too nice," my Husband said. "I would have loaded up a basket with expensive equipment, found a store manager and said, 'This is what I'm NOT buying because of THAT employee.'" I wish I could’ve thought that fast. But I didn't. I’m ashamed to say I let it go. I apologize to my fellow shoppers. Because I said and did nothing this guy will go on giving sub-par service. One of you will be shrugged and/or laughed at.

But if Best Buy can't give me good service on a little thing, I'm not going to give them the chance to disappoint me on anything bigger. I've got an old Dell Inspiron that's on it's last legs. It weighs a ton and carbon dates back to the late 90s. So I'm overdue for a new laptop. Guess where I'm not going.

Leighann Lord is a standup comedian. See her perform 10/30 - 31 at Gotham Comedy Club with comedy legend Jim Mendrinos! Get your Tickets Now! Check out her other upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bikram Doesn't Blow, But It Ain't in the Budget

© 2009 Leighann Lord

I wish I liked cheesecake. Every time I watch "The Golden Girls" it seems like there’s no problem that can't be solved by chowing down on a generous late-night slice of cheesecake. But try as I might, I can't seem to develop a taste for it. I feel the same way about yoga.

Yoga, like cheesecake, has a devout following and makes people feel good but I haven't had much success. I have a few dusty yoga DVDs (subtext: drink coasters) in my house. They’re probably great if you already do yoga and, with basics firmly grasped, are looking to supplement your practice.

My bookshelf boasts a pristine copy of "Yoga for Dummies." This proves that at one point I was serious about thinking about maybe trying yoga, again. But alas yoga isn't a theoretical thing. It's a get-on-the-mat and do it thing. And I have, with less than inspiring results. I often joke in my act: "I hurt my knee doing yoga. I hyper-extended it. Now I can't 'drop it like it's hot.' I have to carefully set it down at room temperature."

I want to like yoga. I really do. I have friends who swear by it. They claim it gives them flexibility, energy, vitality, tranquility. I could use a big dose of all of that. And so I try yoga every few years thinking it will be different. Maybe now I'll be "ready." In my ideal version of myself, I am effortlessly calm, cool, and collected. I imagine that Yoga will help me achieve and maintain that. Yoga will quell my angst, anger and general impatience with life. And then the sweet voice of the instructor dashes my hopes with an impossible request: "Close your eyes . . . take a deep breath . . . contort your colon into the shape of a pentagram . . . please stop crying, you're disturbing the other students . . . "

This time it's my Husband who's invited me to take a yoga class with him. And not just any old yoga, Bikram Yoga. That's the hot one. Ninety minutes of yoga done on the surface of the sun. I tried it and it didn't totally suck. I love the heat and was careful not to over do it. Yoga is deceptive. You think you're not doing anything so you push it and the next thing you know, you're doctor says you have a partially torn meniscus, courtesy of the tree pose. That'll be $800. Namaste.

It was a big class. Apparently hot yoga is hot. This instructor was patient and kind to the new students. My body did a decent job of keeping up, but my mind? Not so much. Between listening, doing, judging, critiquing, my inner monologue wouldn't shut the hell up. "Are we having fun yet?" the instructor chirped. "No. No, we're not."

Bikram Yoga, developed by Bikram Choudhury, is practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees Celsius. Uh huh. I suspect Bikram's air conditioning broke down one day and he just went with it.

As we struck yoga poses in the heat, images of southern plantations sprang to mind. Is Bikram Yoga like picking cotton without the whip? But instead of a measly 90 minutes the slaves did it all day long. Lucky them. If only their owners had known how healthy working out in the heat could be. The slaves would have had to pay for the privilege.

I optimistically wondered what would happen if I really like yoga this time. It won't be just books and DVDs. There'll be gear: yoga clothes, yoga mat, yoga retreats, yoga friends. I am keenly aware that yoga isn't just a workout it's a life style and I'm not sure if that's in the budget. I'd have to squeeze it in between my food, clothing and shelter lifestyles.

Mostly though, my mind wandered over more pertinent concerns. "Oh dear God! Am I doing this right? Are my hands, feet, legs, arms, head, colon, breath in the right place? I hope I don't look ridiculous." That's what's so difficult about adult learning. We're way more self conscious, cautious, inhibited. There's a certain level of arrogance too. We think being good at one thing, should make us good at everything. Did we learn nothing from Michael Jordan's ill-fated move from basketball to baseball?

Childhood isn't just the last likely location of our innocence. It may also be the last time we can feel free enough to look foolish while trying new things. It's as if the pain and awkwardness of puberty is so scaring, we all vow -- Scarlet O'Hara style -- never again.

It's difficult for a classic Type A personality to relax and go with the flow but I'm trying. I force myself to focus. I tell myself it's okay to look foolish. I'm probably not the only one. If the universe can survive that, so can I. And maybe, if Bikram Yoga works out, there's hope for cheesecake.

Leighann Lord is a standup comedian. See her perform 10/30 & 31 at Gotham Comedy Club with husband and headliner Jim Mendrinos! Check out her upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I Can't Hold My Bread

The Great Bagel Debacle
© 2009 Leighann Lord

I think I've developed an allergy to wheat, specifically bagels. I am devastated because bagels and I go way back. They’re what I lived on when I was in college. The year I arrived at school, the cafeteria was shut down by The Board of Health. My dining options were vending machines or local restaurants. The latter would devour my meager college student budget. That's when I discovered bagels. They were cheap and filling. Eaten at the right time of day, I wouldn't have to buy anything else. A bagel a day, kept the abject poverty away.

I don't have a doctor's diagnosis to back me up. I'm still waiting for Congress to get back to me on the whole health care thing. My evidence is purely anecdotal. Every time I eat a bagel I get super tired. I'm talking steak and potatoes tired. A nap isn't optional, it's mandatory. I can't focus or function until I lay down and let the fatigue have it's way with me. So while most people can't hold their liquor, I can't hold my bread.

I'm also dismayed because the list of things I can't eat seems to be growing:

Anything Served in a College Food Court.
Admittedly, collegiate food has vastly improved over the years. Anything is a step up from vending machines. But by the time I get to a campus to do a show, everything is closing and I'm getting the dregs of the day. A sandwich on almost stale bread or a prepackaged freezer burned salad is not my idea of a healthy dinner. Nothing seems particularly tasty when you carry it away on a plastic tray.

Anything Sold by a Street Vendor.
This stuff is probably never good for you, no matter how old you are, but it's convenient. It seems over time, however, that our ability to process street food in a discreet way makes it a less desirable option. Ice cream trucks were ruined for me when my parents asked: "Where does the guy go to the bathroom and wash his hands?" Thanks, Mom and Dad.

Anything on a Bar Menu/Anything Fried
I'm hard pressed to think of anything on a bar menu, besides alcohol, that's not fried: chicken fingers, cheese sticks, nachos (fried just not on-site), spring rolls. Spring rolls are tricky. How can a food with Spring in the title be bad for you? It's a culinary Jedi mind trick. "This is not the healthy food you're looking for." Now while fried food doesn't make me sleepy, I can feel the pimples forming on my face as I'm chewing.

Burger King French Fries
Because in comparison to McDonald’s, BK’s fries are just plain nasty.

Again, none of this is by "Doctor's orders," yet. But if you're paying attention, your body tells you, long before any medical professional, what you should and shouldn't be eating. You and your colon have a conversation. "Really? You're gonna eat that? You know we can't handle that. How about a piece of fruit? Wait, is that organic?" My body is in league against me. If my stomach objects, my colon sustains and I am found in contempt.

My Parents on the other hand have an extensive list from their doctor of what they can't eat. This makes going out to dinner difficult. Apparently anything "commercially prepared" is code for: "This is going to kill you."

We've got a bad three-week run where my Parent's wedding anniversary, is followed by my Husband's birthday, which is topped off by my birthday. Woo Hoo! Good times if you can eat ice cream cake three weeks in a row. And let me assure you, just because you can doesn't mean you should.

What's cruel is that almost all of the "bad" food smells good and tastes even better. Bacon smells like love. The primrose path to gastrointestinal hell is: smell it, want it, eat it, regret it. Perhaps the human olfactory sense will evolve to the point where it can tell when food -- natural or processed -- is a no no. If it smells bad, it is bad. If it smells good, dig in.

"What’s that smell? Hot dogs and cupcakes? Yuck, but that tofu is making my mouth water. Can I get that on a bagel?"

Leighann Lord is a standup comedian. See her perform 10/17 at the Tribecca Performing Arts Center as part of the New York Underground Comedy Festival! Check out her upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bottoms Up! Not So Fast

Last night for the first time in my comedy career someone sent a drink up to me while I was on stage. Puzzling, since I don't give off a "Hey let's do shots during the show" kinda vibe. That’s probably because I don't drink. I'd actually prefer it if the audience didn't drink either as my material is best appreciated by the lucid and full facultied.

It probably didn't help that the act on before me had not one but two shots sent up to him while he was on stage, which he drank. On stage. Equally puzzling, but then again how many other professions allow you to literally drink on the job?

Ironically, I had just finished telling a joke about NOT being a very good drinker and why I gave it up, when a beveled glass of a strong smelling brown liquid was passed up to me from out of the darkness. A young lady, whose birthday I had acknowledged, sent the drink to say "thank you." I thanked her, put the drink down on the stool behind me and moved on with my show. Well, that was the plan.

Much to my surprise a portion of the audience began chanting, "Drink, drink, drink, drink!" Nothing like feeling the peer pressure of an alcohol-fueled mob. Thankfully I'm made of stronger stuff. I humorously, but firmly, refused and continued on with my show.

I am well aware that this is antithetical to the popular image of stand-up comedians. We're all heavy drinking, pot smokers who sleep till noon. Quiet as it’s kept, some of us do manage to pull it together before 11:30 a.m.

There are those in the business who contend that imbibing before a show makes them funnier. And it does, in the same way that alcohol makes it easier to pick up women, have difficult conversations or operate heavy machinery.

Given how alcohol interacts with my body chemistry I fear the audience would be laughing at me, not with me. Not a big deal you say? It was to Stephen King’s "Carrie." If that’s the reaction I wanted to elicit I’d quit standup and reminisce over puberty.

After the show, another audience member made it a point to come up, shake my hand, look me straight in the eye, and tell me how much she appreciated me NOT giving into the audience pressure to drink. "I'm really glad you didn't. And you handled it with such style." I was glad to hear that someone dug it. I have a sneaking suspicion that The Chanters did not.

To be completely honest, it's not that I don't drink at all. I just don't drink when I'm working. I'm a workaholic. Ergo, I don't drink. But in the end, drug of choice is relative. Had The Birthday Lady sent up a hot handbag, I’d of asked for a double.

Leighann Lord is a standup comedian. See her perform 10/2 - 11 and 10/17 on the New York Underground Comedy Festival! Check out her upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.