Chicken Soup Stories I

This is the story of my neighbor Rosemary, her son Stefano, a large jar of the most delicious chicken soup and my son who I will not name as I have promised that mom the writer will not do this as mom has been given permission by said darling older son to write about silly stuff he did when he was little but not stupider stuff that is current.

My darling didn’t come home for the holidays as promised, having been out of the US since a Birthright trip in June of 2015, when he was planning on a few weeks or perhaps a summer of backpacking, but ended up working and playing (mom suspects more playing but don’t tell him I said that)  across Europe and the Middle East, especially as my son likes Eastern Europe because it is cheap and one can live quite well on minimal $$ and afford to party every night (yes, I know that too) and live right in the middle of the trendy, happening area, and I know you complain that once you get to know them, the girls are too stupid for you, but I suspect it is  just that their language skills are adequate for everyday stuff, but not for the deep, philosophical and intellectual conversations you enjoy.

Mom is also quite pleased that her scion has learned at such a tender age that women who are, “10’s” are full of drama and incredibly self-centered (usually) and really not worth the trouble and aggravation they bring, and I do agree that some girl who decides to provide you with a long list of everything (in her brilliant estimation) that is wrong with you and then claims she was just being honest, isn’t exactly a keeper, and might even be the sort that in the middle of your date, before the evening is over, you tell her that you are feeling sick from something you ate at one of their local food stands (yes, food poisoning in a foreign country sucks, doesn’t it?)

Your mom, who traveled when she was young, but not as much as you – lacking parental financing, and not able to travel easily behind the then Iron Curtain, only got food poisoning from a restaurant once, and that was an all- you- can- eat Asian place  (including sushi) in Pasadena.  Why don’t we call it like it is, an all-you-can-puke-and-poop-your-guts-out culinary establishment?  When the kids were little I wrote for a local newspaper and did features including restaurant reviews, and boy I really would have loved to have done that one, although the paper rarely covered anything in LA environs.

Yes, I know you told mom that she would hate restaurants in Eastern Europe due to the high standards she has from her previous work relative to the extremely low standards of service in those parts.  I also get that your foreign friends who are used to abysmal service wonder, “What is wrong with you, you spoiled American who expects to receive food ordered within the same calendar year and considers it should be the appropriate temperature and also be consistent with what your ordered – not something else – and your food arrives with a smile and some pleasant banter, and not as if you are some solitary confinement prisoner having their meal shoved at them through an opening in the bars.”

That really was quite a well-thought out solution to long waits in restaurants, and I am so proud that your University degree in Political Science from one of the “California Ivies,” has prepared you so well for life in a global civilization.  I think your creative plan to knock on the kitchen door and offer to make your own sandwich and even make the sandwiches for your entire party of four or five did you say?  Tell the staff, fine, you can go back to your smoke break, your gossip break, your cocaine break or whatever nefarious deeds you are committing behind these closed doors besides making the sandwiches we ordered.  I know you are no cook but learned to at least make sandwiches, and not only that, you learned to do a pretty good job as that was part of your position teaching English at some elite resort that you teachers had to make those rich Koreans who sought to learn English in an immersive environment outside London, you had to make them lunch, but at least it was no gourmet fare and not the ethnic food your students might have been used to.

 

I guess these Korean adults – that was an adult English immersive experience, were not as disconcerting as that extremely wealthy Polish teen (these programs are for wealthy elites in rather poor countries who want their darling teen charges to improve their English as well as their accents while speaking the language) who at 16 told you that the minute she set eyes on you, she knew she loved you.  I asked some of my European friends if this was an issue of their culture being more open as far as expressing their thoughts?  You know we also had crushes on our teachers, I know I did, but none of us would dream of openly expressing our love to a person who grades our papers and gives us exams.  We would find out their phone and call and hang up, which I suspect might be far less troubling to the unwitting targets of our love.  Yeah, I know you said there was a pedo caught in grooming activities that they fired and made sure none of the other programs hired him, and maybe that declaration of passion made you a bit uncomfortable?

I do understand and sincerely empathize that the lack of decent service in eating establishments has been quite an adjustment for you and your elitist attitudes, but hey, you never have to worry about seeing a Walmart or the People of Walmart (mom is also a bit allergic to these sorts who wear their jammies to shop, and that is not so bad as some seem to have neglected to get dressed at all.)  Son, that reminds me of when I was working for my wonderful Big Macher doctor, (and I decided for curiosity to look him up via Google around 2011 to see  what he was up to and where his career had taken him and was sad to discover he had died in 2008 of cancer at the age of 66.)

We would hire from this overpriced private school that trained medical assistants, medical techs, people who knew know the autoclave the equipment, general support staff. It made sense that my boss chose to hire nearly exclusively from them, as once he put an ad in the paper and like a million calls came in, most not even in the ballpark of what we were looking for, and they would jam the phones so patients couldn’t get through, nor important calls for doctor, and you know this was way before cell phones, email and other conveniences we take for granted.

So, I decided, to save the medical staff undesired work in vetting all these applicants, I would vet them and send the best two candidates on to the person who wanted to hire someone.  I did not do this for doctor as I wanted to save him time so I would send one person, my best pick for his approval, and he approved as you know how Jewish men, even if they own multi-million dollar medical practices, will do whatever a Jewish woman tells them as they are trained that way.  I know his wife ordered him around too, and I was certainly much nicer about it.

One thing that really pissed me off, I mean royally, was this school that we were helping so much by hiring their graduates, failed to follow my instructions when I said, “Send me over your best candidates for x position we are hiring for, and I mean maybe 3 or 4 at most.”  But you know how it works.  The overpriced private school promises to help students find work, not that they promise them they will be hired, so they send me every graduate in that specialty.  Gosh, if you charge so much for your private program, do you think it might be possible that you teach your students how to dress and behave at an interview?  It also wouldn’t hurt if you assess their English skill level and direct them to remedial education if so required.

I suppose this experience highlighted the worst job candidate I ever interviewed, and I basically ended the interview the moment I saw her with, “Thanks, I will look at your resume and call you.”

I was thinking of saying, “Excuse me, I think you might be lost?   See, this is a medical office and the bar is downstairs.”  Victoria, the most street-smart and snarky person in the office, I would say took it a bit further. Her suggestion, “I am sorry Monica,” or whatever her name was, “We are looking to hire a medical assistant, and this office doesn’t hire for positions that are not legal in the state of Illinois.”  Just to let you know, if you come for an interview dressed inappropriately the office staff will have fun at your expense once you leave, and with this one, we really did.

Monica (or whatever her name was) was black, and her, “uniform,” if you could call it that, was way low-cut and she had rather large, umm, you know what I mean.  She had a lovely, curvy figure, and her clothing was tight, short and slit, and she wore lots of makeup and jewelry.  I think she must have been confused that we were looking for a Dominatrix?  Is that the sort of training those overpriced private programs provide?  I can imagine Monica slunk back to her private school director and claimed we were racist and didn’t want to interview her due to her race.  But I never heard any crap from their school as obviously, they needed to be on good terms with us.  Our office manager explained our policy to me quite succinctly.   She noted that this practice does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or national origin.  We didn’t even discriminate against a person’s sexual orientation even though this was not required at the time.   In fact, the boss told me all he cared about was they could do a good job and were a good person.  However, this practice admits that we do discriminate against persons who fail to put their clothes on when they show up for an interview, as I wonder how such a person would show up for work?

There were some overweight ladies who came to interview (no problem with being overweight) but please don’t forget that maybe you are no longer a size 8 and now a 16,  so please wear the proper size and don’t have the fat rolls sticking out all over the place. There was one lady who ate a sandwich and slurped a diet coke during the interview.  She left crumbs on the chair behind her that I had to clean up.  I should have asked her for a bite perhaps?  Maybe I could have suggested she call her mom to come in and clean up after her, or perhaps the school should send their clean up person?

There was one sad situation, and it was not the fault of the nurse who hired her, as Sonia was a really sweet girl with a great attitude and good clinical skills according to what the clinical staff said.  All was going fine until Sonia got to take her turn watching phones, as we all took turns, not just the support staff, just not the doc of course.  So we return from lunch and saw the messages Sonia took, and her language and spelling skills were so poor nobody could even understand them, which is certainly problematic both for clinical and business side staff, but at least we had the numbers to return the call and ask what they needed when they called.  No, this is not like doctor’s bad handwriting, and I was accused of secretly being a doctor as my handwriting was almost as bad as the boss.

I offered to help Sonia improve her language skills, as I had tutored foreign students.  Boss said no, and he was right, that the salary he pays me shouldn’t be used to provide remedial English training to an employee; that wasn’t a good use of resources.  So doc said that she was a sweet girl who really tried hard, so (nurse had to do this not me  -no way) let her go gently and give her a good recommendation, and her paycheck and a bit more added, but I saw Sonia run out of the office crying and felt this didn’t have to be.  So I copied a simple English assessment that would take a candidate perhaps 15 minutes, and one of the support staff would grade it and if the score was not high enough in my estimation (all candidates, even those born in  the US had to take the test, as language skills are important and often deficient.) The test failing candidate would be told by someone else, not me thank God, that her language skills were not sufficient for our purposes, and perhaps she would like to improve those skills and apply again at some later date?

Probably the most notorious thing about our office is that it was located right across the hall from a nail place called, “Lucille’s.”  What is so significant about that?  Well, Ann Landers of syndicated newspaper fame – I think the younger generation is aware of her name, and her twin sister was Dear Abby?  Well, she got her nails done at Lucille’s, and people would bribe the staff at Lucille’s to have a nail appointment at the same time Ann Landers was coming in.  I bet they really did well for themselves on this.  Now, I would never pull a stunt like this, but Victoria did, and she didn’t even need to bribe, as one of the nail techs was a patient and Victoria, “adjusted,” her co-pay.

Not that I planned this, but I came out of the restroom and was washing my hands when Ann Landers also came out and washed her hands at the sink beside me.  She was quite tiny I recall, less than five feet, and very petite, white hair, well-coiffed, light blue, obviously tailored and very expensive suit and pearls I think.  We briefly glanced at each other and I said nothing.  When I got back to the office I told Crystal the front desk person.  She was so excited and asked if I spoke to her, like did I ask her advice with some great problem in my life?  No way, I figured she had a right to use a bathroom and wash her hands just like anyone else.

Back to my kind, caring, wonderful, late big macher boss.  He would give me a ride home in his top of the line brand new gold Mercedes, as if I worked late he didn’t want me taking public transportation home in the dark, and it wasn’t really out of his way to drop me off.  He could have just put me in a taxi, but mom suspects that doctor enjoyed having mom answer his car phone while he was driving, especially as I was so skilled at said job, and between you and me I don’t think he would allow the secretary/insurance biller to answer his car phone even though she often answered phones in the “real,” office.

Car phones were a new and upscale thing and few people had them in the 1980’s, but I suspect not as upscale as me answering his car phone, “Dr. Macher’s office, may I help you?”  Imagine, how A-list is that, you must have arrived as not only you are one of the early adopters with a car phone, but you just happen to have a secretary in your car to answer said phone?  I think it was doctor’s cousin, his CPA who was calling and asked, “Are you in the car, I  hear traffic?”  Now I certainly wouldn’t say this to a patient or any of doctor’s professional relationships, but I had met doctor’s cousin and we joked around a bit recently.  He said, “Claire, is that you?”  I answer, “Yes, what can I do for you, Larry?  This is Dr. Macher’s gold, top-of-the-line, brand new Mercedes annex to our WaterTower Place office.”  We were all laughing so much at this incident that doctor missed the turn off for my street, quite a  lot I think, and had to turn around to take me home.

BACK TO THE SUSHI MISHAP IN PASADENA

I knew it was the sushi as I had decided to only eat the sushi and not the other cheaper stuff, while my two other companions who also ate the other food and less sushi didn’t get as sick as I did, but all three of us were sick for like a week, and I had flown out from Chicago and was visiting my old friend Susan from Denver in her home.

Susan was a friend from Denver, born in Hong Kong, and her mother, who was mildly schizophrenic (is there such a thing?) panicked when her husband died in Hong Kong of a heart attack and believed that his business associates or enemies had murdered him, thus arriving on her doorstep, so to speak.  Susan’s mom was an interesting person, to say the least, and once she was cooking and I asked what she was making and she told me she was cooking for the (my) dogs.  I thought that was quite considerate.  I wonder if Jezebel my anti-therapy puppy likes Chinese food?  You would have liked it, Jez, as Susan’s mom, even if she had some unusual ideas about things (like her parents who were long dead had spoken with her on the phone recently and were planning to visit.)  So, what is the problem with that as she had to prepare a big feast for their arrival?  I know Susan wasn’t happy she had put on some weight following her mom’s decision to remain in the US.  Susan, you are a very talented artist and great friend, but I think you know you can’t cook, not even Chinese food as we all remember when you added salt to food you already put too much soy sauce in.

It might have been a bit more problematic when Susan’s mom told Susan’s boyfriend that her daughter was planning to kill her.  So boyfriend Karl replies to Susan’s mom, “Okay, you said Susan is planning to kill you, is that correct?”  When the mom affirms this statement, he asks, “So, am I going to kill you too?”  The mom shakes her head.  Okay, we know Karl has some negative traits and that is perhaps why you finally divorced him many years later, but while Karl may be cheap and lack an oral editor (as in the time he mentioned I looked fat following the birth of my first or second child, I don’t recall.)  But one thing we all can say without any doubt is that Karl was no Jack the Ripper.

It is funny when I was talking to Rosemary the other day to hear she gave her son the same advice I gave you about sneaky girls and never trust them with you know what I am talking about, you little good-looking rich American suitable for baby trap guy.

So, mom gets a pm on FB that darling older son got a job offer in Estonia and who knows when he will be back as his friend in the military will meet him somewhere in Eastern Europe so they can do the tourist thing and whatever nefarious things they have planned.  Mom is not stupid and was young once too, although then we had the Iron Curtain preventing me from traveling to exotic locales like Belgrade where you showed me that photo of a table full of excellent sushi that cost you the equivalent of $5  (not sneaky stuff with thinner, narrower, shorter cuts of fish on the rolls that they use less fish to disguise the downsizing as you are desperately seeking sushi on your rice and sauce-filled, “special.”  Yes mom understands you want to get a chance to see your good friend D, who mom likes very much except he voted for He Who Shall Not Be Named, and it was too bad that when you were in Warsaw or Budapest or somewhere nearby when he had training exercises in Ukraine, and you had not seen each other for a long time, and his superiors wouldn’t give him even a weekend off to see you, in fact, not even a few hours for God’s sake, and security prevented you from being allowed on the base.

When my neighbor Rosemary came over a couple nights ago as she had heard via her daughter, who is your FB friend who you went to private elementary school with, that your mom was very ill with a UC flare and hadn’t eaten in perhaps 6 weeks and her last full meal – not even really full, just a bit of everything to taste, was Thanksgiving.

LET’S FINALLY GET OFF THIS RABBIT TRAIL/RABBI TRAIL AND GET TO THE SOUP STORY PLEASE

If you are some rotten, sneaky little 9 or 10-year-old, and your mom or your friend’s mom has said, “you guys have to play somewhere else, not this house, as I have to study for a test, write a paper and clean this house for guests coming over tonight,” and you and your little friend decide to conspire together for some reason.  I don’t recall, like there was something, I believe some new trendy video or whatever, at your house, that you wanted to play with it and not go play outside or at the friend’s house, BE SURE YOUR SIN WILL FIND YOU OUT.

See, according to darling son, it was Stefano who came up with the brilliant solution to tell his mom, “we can’t play at his house because his mom is very sick,” and my lovely son agreed to this subterfuge.  I mean, what could go wrong?  You both knew that busy and stressed parents are sometimes quite stupid when it comes to believing all the crap their kids come up with because who would even think those little darlings know how to lie, cheat and steal, and aren’t one bit troubled by such ethical lapses if new video games are a factor?

Darling son, don’t put the blame all on Stefano, as did we forget when you were (how old I don’t recall?) and mom said no Grand Theft Auto and you took money out of her drawer and asked your dad to stop at Comp USA which went out of business a long time ago, and you told dad you had your own money and got him to buy said video game that mom said absolutely no to?  Mom could not return video as you had ripped it open but maybe if I called the store and explained they might have taken it back?  No, you didn’t get to play it but sure I know you probably did at the home of one of your nasty little friends whose parents aren’t so, well, observant.

TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES

What neither of these upstanding future citizens considered was that Rosemary, out of the goodness of her heart, took time out of her busy day to make chicken soup for the “ailing,” mother of her son’s friend.  Late in the afternoon, Rosemary arrived with a big jar of that delicious soup, sorry Rosemary I forgot to ask for the recipe.  So, son, your mom was a bit confused as to why Rosemary was standing there with that big jar of soup she just made, and Rosemary was a bit confused as to why your mom didn’t appear to be sick or sound sick, especially as you two had described in glowing detail how deathly ill I was.

Rosemary said, “I hope you are feeling better, I heard you were very sick.”  Your mom answered Rosemary, “I am not sick, where did you hear that?”  Oops, I think someone is in deep, deep doodie, and not the kind that your friend’s white Akita would frequently leave on our lawn as he seemed to think his toilet was the neighbor’s yards across the street, although he seemed to not like to potty on his own lawn or the lawns of the neighbors on their side of the street.  To each his own, I say.

So, Rosemary is standing there with that big, heavy jar of soup, and I can imagine what is going through her head, as well as what is going through mine.  So Rosemary says, “Well, would you like the soup?”  I mean, she made it after all for me and I like chicken soup.  So I gratefully accepted the soup and had some later, and such a big jar lasted for a few days I think.  I bet Rosemary, Stefano and my obsessively honest and upright son may recall this ancient history, with fondness I hope.

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