Archive for the ‘Random’ Category

The Problematic 3%

January 30th, 2012 | Rachel

Ok, real talk.

I’m a pretty easy going person.  I stay cool under pressure (too cool, I’ve heard), and I’m never in a rush.  I’m open-minded and reasonably patient.  I also like (or am neutral about) almost everyone.  In fact, if I had to quantify it, I’d say I like about 97% of the people I meet.

I credit Match-dating for greatly enhancing my interpersonal skills.  I remember moving to New York City after graduating from law school and being really frustrated with my inability to talk to other people.  As my college boyfriend could attest, I was very guarded throughout my early-adulthood.  I think I sat mute through the first two or three dates before I finally opened my mouth.  I could speak freely only with people who had known me long enough to earn a key into my inner sanctum.

Anyway, something about being thrown into one-on-one social situations with complete strangers and having to engage them for an hour or two while simultaneously revealing enough of myself to determine any substantive compatibility revolutionized my social abilities.  No joke.  Suddenly, I was meeting people everywhere I went.

It wasn’t just limited to dates.  My entire social network grew exponentially as I made myself more open to other people.  If you’ve ever been to one of my parties, then you’ve seen how my “group” of friends is more like a spiderweb that branches out in a lot of different directions and is constantly growing.

So… yeah.  People.  I like almost all of them.  At the Three Green Ducks, I would often come to the defense of particularly ornery customers that everyone else hated but that I found interesting.

The problem is with the people I don’t like.  For 97% of the population, I can sincerely respect them as fellow human beings and find something to appreciate.  For the remaining 3%, however, it is like a switch goes off in either my head or my heart and I absolutely can’t stand them.  I don’t want to talk to them.  I don’t want to help them.  I don’t even want to look at them.  My gut reaction is to shut them down and get them out of my life as fast as possible.

This is not a good thing if I am going to be a part of the customer service industry.

After working at the Three Green Ducks for about five months and having a handful of negative interactions with customers who were truly horrible people but, alas, were still customers, I had a flash of personal enlightenment.

I realized I needed to turn my ego down a few notches and get over myself.  Part of the reason I quickly jump to detesting someone is my ego feels threatened and my personal defense mechanism springs into action.  Unfortunately, those defense shields don’t leave room for compromise or any higher cause, such as making a sale or the business’s reputation for customer service.

I resolved to not take it personally the next time someone came in with a bad attitude that historically would have rubbed me the wrong way.  I noticed one of my co-oworkers was a particularly good example of how to handle problematic customers.  The ruder they were, the sweeter she would be.

This turned out to be a good conscious exercise.  Instead of unintentionally growing angry to the point I snapped, I intentionally turned on my biggest smile and sweetest voice.  The customer’s bad attitude became fuel for my own patience and positivity.  And it was a challenge, which is always fun.

Toward the end of my time with the Three Green Ducks, I mentally started pretending like the bakery was my own bakery and it was my personal and professional reputation on the line.  This made it a lot easier to remember and exercise principles of good customer service.

When it all boils down, the entire dessert-baking industry exists to bring people happiness and pleasure.  People purchase baked desserts to celebrate special occasions, to express love or other positive feelings, or to simply enjoy the moment.  There’s really no point in introducing any negativity into the transaction, and if a customer comes in with a bad attitude, then it is my job as a vendor and customer service agent to make sure they have a positive experience (if it is possible).

Even outside of the business, I hope to be more open and patient with that 3% of people.  Seeing as how I am starting from scratch in building my California network, I will have plenty of opportunities to practice.

Rachel and the Backpack

September 7th, 2011 | Rachel

Davina and me (with backpacks) on a train to Tibet — January 2011

I recently weathered Hurricane Irene at my own apartment in Murray Hill (New York City).  This is the same apartment that was featured in Time Out New York magazine last fall, and if you are friends with me on Facebook, I probably harassed you into voting for it in a CB2 contest.  Thanks again if you voted.

The hurricane, which was really just a torrential rain storm, gave me lots of time to sort through the clothes and other belongings still in that apartment.  I had a new sublessee take over my room today, so this was the last opportunity I had to grab anything I am going to need during the fall.

Steve and I have been talking a lot about camping lately.  We are planning on taking a trip out to California next month to look at houses, drink wine, and camp underneath the redwoods.  My backpacking backpack was still at my apartment, so this morning I loaded it full of light-weight jackets and long-sleeved shirts and headed to the bus stop.

Of the luxuries in life I took for granted before moving to the city, dishwashers, garbage disposals, and cars are at the top of the list.  Having a car would have made all of this apartment switching a piece of cake.  Instead, I had two options: pay for a cab — which costs the equivalent of working two hours at the bakery — or take public transportation.  I splurged on a cab when I was hauling a large suitcase and my KitchenAid mixer (hooray!), but I forced myself to take the bus and the subway for the other two trips.

I’m sure I was an interesting sight this morning, dressed for work in a black and white polka-dotted dress and with a Kate Spade bag on my arm and a large backpack on my back.  As I waited for the bus, I prayed that it would be empty.  One abrupt stop on a crowded bus and I could single handedly take out a dozen people.  It ended up being somewhere in the middle.  All of the seats were taken but the aisle was almost clear.  I made my way to the back of the bus and cautiously turned around to face the front, taking great care to not swat anyone across the bus with my backpack.  The passengers around me eyed me cautiously.

Behind me, a woman moved from the middle of the five-seat back row to the end, opening up two seats together.  “Would you like to sit?” a man asked me, gesturing to the empty seats.  He didn’t seem to know the woman but he seemed to share her concern for me.  I politely declined and said it would be too difficult to put my backpack back on if I took it off.  A few stops later, another pair of seats opened up, and again I was asked if I wanted to sit.  Again, I declined.

The bus took me to the corner of 34th and 7th, where I descended into the subway.  I squeezed through the turnstiles and walked down to the far end of the platform where only a few people were waiting.  With a heave and a grunt that was probably a little too loud, I dropped the backpack onto a bench.  The noise attracted several suspicious glances.

When the train arrived, I carried the backpack by its side handle into the car, stepping over the feet clad in Converse hightops belonging to the angsty college student, and parked myself and my belongings in the corner.  My backpack was partially blocking the door that led to the adjacent car.

After a couple of stops, a man started talking.  “Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, sorry to bother you.”  I was on the 1 train, and it seems like every time I have been on that train over the past month there has been someone asking for money.

There are a few varieties of panhandlers in the New York subway.  Some people sit silently with a sign.  Others sit and ask for money as people walk by.  Still others actually come onto the subway and walk from car to car asking for money.  Often they will say something about themselves or why they are asking for money.  A fourth category, and my personal favorite, are the people who share some sort of talent — such as singing, dancing, or playing an instrument — and then solicit money.

Sometimes people get creative and wear costumes.  One day I found myself on a train with a guy dressed in medieval clothing and playing a lute. My all-time favorite is a trio of gospel singers I encountered in the Time Square station while waiting for the 1, 2, 3 train.  That is the only time I’ve ever seen a subway platform full of people applaud at the end of a performer’s song.  I missed my train just so I could listen to them a little longer.

There are a few regulars on the 1 train, such as a mariachi band, a singing quartet, and a jazz flautist.  It was the flautist — faux flautist — that stepped into my subway car this morning.

Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, sorry to bother you.  Now… I don’t have a cowboy hat or a guitar or  fancy dance moves…

I wish I could remember his whole shpeal.  I’m not going to do it justice.  In previous versions he introduced his flute as the “Wonder Stick” or “Magic Wand” or some other ridiculous name.

I play the jazz flute, and all I have to offer are some sweet, sweet melodies.  So sit back, and enjoy the ride.

The irony is that he can’t actually play the flute.  He sounds like he found a flute on the sidewalk one day and figured out how to make a noise with it.  Then he learned a couple of scale-like progressions and now attempts to pass it off on the subway as jazz.

Meanwhile, the subway door beside me opens and two teenagers enter the car.  I pulled my backpack closer to me as best I could, but they didn’t seem to care it was there.  For a few minutes, we all sit quietly listening to the spastic fluttering of the flute, followed by a dramatic pause and a deep breath, and then more spastic fluttering.

The subway door opens again.  A gruff voice starts saying “Excuse me.  Excuse me.” as an old man barreled into the car.  Again, I pulled my backpack out of his way and apologized, but it wasn’t enough for him and he started pushing my backpack into my legs with his foot.  “Get out of my way,” he growled and gave my backpack a swift kick before pushing his way through the rest of the car.

One of the teenagers, who also had to jump out of the old man’s way, yelled after him, “YOU ARE RUDE!” and then asked me if I was ok.

Who says chivalry is dead?

The teen spoke to his friend in Spanish as we all watched the man barge his way through the subway car.  The two of them looked like they were thinking about going after the old man, who had sat down on the other end of the car and was eating a container of soup.  Fortunately, they didn’t, although I appreciated the solidarity.

By this time, the self-appointed flute player finished his “song” and was doing the rounds asking for money.

Quarters, nickels, dimes, pennies, euros, francs, shillings, anything that even looks like money… I’ll take it.

He reached my end of the subway car, and I could tell he was heading for the door, so I again tried to move my backpack further out of his way while apologizing.

“Honey, you don’t need to apologize to me,” he said.  “I will gladly step around for you.  I’d give up two seats for you.”

Um… thanks?

Got Too Much Mint?

August 10th, 2011 | Rachel

I am straying a little bit from the theme of this blog (whatever it is), but I am so pleased with a batch of homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream I just made that I wanted to share the idea and recipe with you.

My hanging window herb garden is doing great.  The sun is a little too intense for my dill plant, but everything else is growing quickly… especially the mint.  I noticed that the leaves that weren’t getting direct sunlight were turning yellow and falling off, and the plant was getting so big, it was blocking its own sunlight access.  I can only drink so many mojitos, so I needed a project that would use a substantial amount of mint.

I was on the city bus coming home from work when the inspiration hit: mint chocolate chip ice cream!  Fortunately, Steve already had an ice cream maker, so all I really needed was the cream and chocolate.  I read through a lot of recipes, and this is the one I liked the most.  Since mint ice cream is supposed to be refreshing, I stayed away from the recipes with egg (which would make it a custard) and cream cheese.  Having tested the recipe, I can personally attest to its accuracy.  I will note that the amounts of mint and sugar are flexible.  I used about a cup and a half of mint, and my ice cream was plenty minty.  I also cut the sugar a little bit — as I do to most recipes — and I didn’t miss it in the finished product.

Fresh mint from my hanging window herb garden

Nice and clean

Recipes varied on whether you have to remove the stems.  I tasted a stem and did not find the flavor to be pleasant, so I picked the leaves off of the stems.

Infusing the cream with mint… after heating the cream and mint, I left it in the fridge for 24 hours, which was probably too long.  I think a more appropriate length of time would be six to twelve hours.

Mixture is ready for churning.  I love Steve’s ice cream maker… you don’t need salt or ice.

Essential ingredient

Homemade Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream!

This recipe was so simple and delicious that I am already thinking about what kind of ice cream I want to make next.  We’ve been selling a lot of pie at the bakery, and I think I want to try cutting up a slice of pie and mixing it into a batch of vanilla or sweet cream ice cream.

How about you?  Got any good ice cream recipes I should know about?


Dinner Is Better Shared

May 23rd, 2011 | Rachel

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate my alone time.  In fact, if I don’t have regular interludes of solitude, I will either lose my mind or become very, very grumpy.

Still, cooking for and eating with another person is a heightened experience.

First of all, cooking for someone else is like giving them a present — only it is cheaper, and it doesn’t add to the ever-growing pile of crap that we all have in our homes.  If you do it right, they’ll probably enjoy your home-cooked dinner more than that lotion set anyway.

Second, cooking for someone else just feels good.  Perhaps it is a recessive southern gene I inherited from my grandmother, but ever since I discovered in law school that I can cook a decent meal and people like eating my food, I have felt a need to make people eat.  I’m totally going to be like the mother in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

The other useful thing about making food is its bargaining power.  People are more likely to do you favors — or to not mind doing them — if there is homemade food involved.  Throw in a bottle of wine, and they might even spend a whole evening clearing out your closet.

My friend Carey was sweet enough to come over and help me pack up my apartment for the summer.  Carey doesn’t always wear big straw hats, btw, although I think she should consider adding one to her own wardrobe. :-)

I cooked us a dinner of chicken with a white wine sauce, green beans, and, of course, French onion soup.  With our dinner (and while we sorted, folded, and packed) we drank a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.  A little heavy for our dinner, but it was all deeelicious.

Carey also patiently waited while I fretted about what to take with me this summer (the dress made the cut, while the Mui Muis did not).

I think this will be my last blog entry state-side.  Next time you hear from me I’ll be over in my adopted motherland.

Au revior!



March 22nd, 2011 | Rachel

Since this blog is in its infancy and I am trying to figure out what to write about and how to do it, I am going to do several short entries on French things that I love.  The first that comes to mind is my all-time favorite movie, Amelie.
Although most of the movie was filmed in Paris, Amelia’s father’s house was located in Eaubonne, which is about half an hour outside Paris.


What other French movies should I watch?  Someone recently recommended L’heure d’été (a/k/a Summer Hours).


Amelie has a strange feeling of absolute harmony. It’s a perfect moment. A soft light, a scent in the air, the quiet murmur of the city. A surge of love, an urge to help mankind overcomes her.