business, complaints, rants

I’m not loving it at the Golden Arches… another COVID related rant.

I have a bunch of travel writing to do, and I am definitely going to get to it. But before I dive into travel blogging, I have to rant about something that happened yesterday as we were driving home from Austria. I’m sure some people reading this will come to the conclusion that I was being a “Karen” (a term I loathe, by the way). If you want to think of me in that way, it’s your privilege. However, I think my complaint makes some sense… especially if you live in Europe, where COVID rules and regulations change at every border, and at the whims of whomever is in charge.

Alright… so now that I’ve issued a disclaimer of sorts, here’s my story.

Bill and I just took a trip that took us through Germany, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia. In every place, there were different COVID-19 rules in effect regarding mask wearing, vaccines, and what not. In Austria, if you have been vaccinated, you don’t even need to wear a mask, unless you’re on a bus, in a grocery store, or visiting a medical facility. In Slovenia, masks were supposedly required, but very few people wore them properly, or at all. Same with Croatia, where almost everyone who wore a mask had it under their noses or chins. Croatia and Slovenia are supposedly COVID “hot spots”, although the places we visited were almost completely devoid of people.

In Germany, masks are still required indoors, and some regions have rules that are stricter than others. In Bavaria, for instance, customers are supposed to wear masks. However, a surgical mask is evidently not enough. You’re supposed to wear a FFP2 mask, which is thicker and looks like a coffee filter. Because they’re really thick and close fitting, I can’t stand to wear them. So I don’t. That’s not a problem in Hesse, where I live, because here, a surgical mask works. And people, on the whole, are less anal retentive in Hesse than they are in some of the more southern regions of Germany.

Anyway, I guess Bavaria had loosened up on the masking protocols over the summer, because on our way to Austria on October 26th, we stopped at a roadside McDonald’s for lunch. We had to show the cashier that we were vaccinated, and of course, we wore masks. However, I, and many of the other people in the restaurant, wore surgical masks, and no one said a word about it. No one said anything at the rest stops we used in Bavaria, either, going to or coming back from the more southern countries we visited.

On the way home yesterday, we ended up stopping at the same McDonald’s for lunch. I hadn’t wanted to stop there again, but when we tried to stop at a different roadside restaurant, there was no parking available for cars. The spaces were all taken up by tractor trailers. The next available stop was the same one we visited on the way down to Austria on October 26th. Again, we visited that restaurant not two weeks ago and had no issues, even though I wasn’t wearing the much vaunted FFP2 mask, nor were many of the other people in the restaurant.

I wasn’t smiling with my eyes… that is for sure.

We walked into the McDonald’s, which was pretty empty. To get to the counter, we had to walk past the restrooms and up a flight of stairs. We approached the cashier who, without saying “Hello” or “Welcome” or “Kiss my ass” or anything, pointed to me and said I needed a FFP2 mask. I probably gave her an extremely annoyed look. Then I turned to Bill and said, “Nope. Forget it. Let’s just go.”

FUCK.

So we turned around and left the McDonald’s. Then we went to the neighboring Burger King and got lunch there, although we decided to eat it in the car. I probably will never return to that McDonald’s, because I will always remember the rude way that cashier in an empty restaurant told me it wasn’t enough that I have been fully vaccinated and was wearing a medical mask. I also needed to be wearing the coffee filter for the ten seconds I would be face to face with that woman, who was, herself, along with her fellow crew members, wearing a simple surgical mask.

I actually did have a brand new FFP2 mask in my purse, but I realized that in order to comply with the rules, I’d have to leave the restaurant, take off my surgical mask, put on the FFP2 mask, then go back in, climb the flight of stairs, show my vaccine certs, and then sit down at a table, where I would promptly remove the mask so we could have a rather crappy lunch. It seemed like an unnecessary and pointless exercise, when all I wanted to do was pick up some food and quickly eat before I turned into a hangry Godzilla.

Frankly, that exchange, while likely in compliance with Bavaria’s current COVID-19 rules, was very off-putting. The experience of eating at a McDonald’s is, in and of itself, pretty off-putting, anyway. It seemed absurd to me that just 24 hours earlier, Bill and I visited a beautiful restaurant in Salzburg, where we wore masks inside and were advised we could remove them entirely, once we showed the hostess proof of vaccination.

I realize that the cashier was just doing what she was ordered to do, and I did, after the fact, read that the rules changed again as of yesterday morning. I know that working at McDonald’s, even in a civilized country like Germany, is probably not the most fun job there is, and I know it doesn’t pay very well. I don’t know how much anxiety was involved for her in pointing out to me that my medical mask wasn’t suitable. My guess, given that it was Bavaria, is that she probably enjoyed enforcing the rules. She probably doesn’t care that we left the restaurant disappointed and unsatisfied. However, if enough people end up doing that, I’m not sure how long that restaurant can stay in business.

My complaint isn’t even so much with the cashier who was following the rules, as it is with the fact that the rules in Bavaria differ so much from the rules in other areas. Since that restaurant is at a truck stop, it serves people who are coming from all over Europe, driving from places that have different rules that change by the region or the ever changing hospital rates. A lot of them may not be aware of or prepared for Bavaria’s quirkier rules which, to be honest, are probably not much more than optics that make it look like Bavaria is doing “more” to stop the spread of the virus.

Seriously… stop and think about it for a minute. Bill wore a FFP2 mask, but it’s one he’s used repeatedly for I don’t know how long. Those masks cost significantly more than surgical masks do, so people tend to reuse them for long periods of time, which hinders their effectiveness. Changing out the masks is also something that people don’t necessarily think to do, even if the cost of them isn’t a burden. People tend to put them on for as long as required, take them off, and stuff them somewhere convenient for quick and easy compliance.

For that reason, I am convinced that this rule is just about optics and trying to “look” more aggressive. It’s probably a political move more than anything else. As long as you wear the “right” mask, it doesn’t matter that it’s months old. You just have to look like you’re in compliance. I’m sure my fresher surgical mask was less polluted and probably “safer” than Bill’s nasty, overused FFP2 was. But because his was a FFP2, he was deemed as following the rules in an otherwise empty restaurant, while I didn’t pass muster.

The disposable masks also create pollution. I’ve seen quite a lot of them tossed on the ground. And it also doesn’t look like the FFP2 masks are even that much more effective. Though Bavaria has required the heavier masks since January 2021, they’re obviously still having issues with the spread of the virus. That’s not going to improve until more people get vaccinated or develop antibodies. The stupid mask procedures are just a Band-Aid, especially when they are arbitrarily enforced, and not required of staff members.

I didn’t argue with the McDonald’s cashier. I didn’t flip her off, threaten her, swear at her, or even say anything particularly snarky. I just looked really annoyed and said, “Nope. Forget it. Let’s go.” Then we turned around and left, not having done any business with the huge American monstrosity that is McDonald’s. That pretty much means that McDonald’s doesn’t offer a product worth jumping through hoops for, nor did the cashier’s less than friendly and welcoming attitude make me want to cooperate with her. So we went to their competitor, instead. The food wasn’t any better there, but at least it satisfied my hunger long enough to get us home before I went full on Godzilla.

And now, I’m thinking I won’t be voluntarily doing any business in Bavaria until this COVID bullshit is mitigated. Nothing against the Bavarians, but there are other places I can visit where I don’t have to jump through endless anal retentive hoops to accomplish the most basic activities of life. Sheesh… I know I’m complaining, but give me a break. I come from the United States, where people are actually coming to physical blows over COVID rules. Americans aren’t the only ones, either. Some Germans are starting to get fed up, too. Recently, a German man shot and killed a cashier at a gas station because he felt constrained by the rules and was upset about government overreach Sadly, some Germans who are similarly fed up were laughing and cheering about the murder.

I also read a fascinating story yesterday about how some American McDonald’s employees in Bradford, Pennsylvania are fed up with the crappy working conditions and low pay there. Almost the entire day shift walked off the job. I can’t blame them at all for that. I don’t know if it’s better to work at a German McDonald’s… it probably is. The food is only marginally better, anyway. I do think it’s kind of funny to be so concerned about FFP2 masks when McDonald’s is unhealthy on so many levels. Properly worn, the FFP2 masks supposedly protect the wearer from viruses, but then they get exposed to the food at McDonald’s.

To be clear, I certainly don’t think it’s appropriate to resort to physical violence or kill people over face masks… but I’m not going to voluntarily accept being forced to wear a FFP2 as a condition of doing business, unless that becomes the norm everywhere, is required of everyone, and is consistently enforced. Bavaria and its hyper-controlling powers-that-be can just stick that shit where the sun doesn’t shine… and that sure does describe my disposition yesterday, as we left the Golden Arches for the more welcoming Burger King next door.

Come to think of it… it’s healthier all the way around not to visit the Golden Arches. Maybe I should thank the Bavarians for that. 😉

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complaints, condescending twatbags, nostalgia

The home of the Whopper…

This morning, I woke up at about 3:45am. For once, it wasn’t because of Arran. I think my body has simply gotten used to being up in the wee hours of the morning. Also, I ran out of Advil PM. It’s probably good that I don’t have any Advil PM, since my body could probably use a break from it. Once I started moving around, it was time to drop my morning deuce, which totally woke me up. So here I sit, at about 5:30am on a day when my biggest plans involve vacuuming the house (a chore I HATE). I could be sleeping, but I can’t sleep. I’m all bright eyed and bushy tailed. By noon, I’ll need a nap. That’s my usual mode these days.

I spent last night watching movies from around 1980– specifically, Little Darlings, Meatballs (from 1979), and Private Benjamin. I couldn’t help thinking that those movies are now about 41 years old. I remember when they were in the theaters. Yeah, I was a little kid at the time, but I have a long memory and I had cable TV. I downloaded so many movies yesterday, which I tend to do when I’m super bored. Boy, was life in the early 80s blissful, even if we did constantly worry about nuclear war with the former Soviet Union.

I’ve been bored as hell since Bill has been away. And now it looks like he’ll be back tomorrow, as originally planned. So I have one more night to watch shitty movies and have potato chips for dinner. Yesterday, I had a burger for lunch, but I was forced to use a German hamburger brioche (and seriously, they can and DO do better than this…)

Where’s the beef?

You have to be a certain age to get the above joke. In the mid 80s, the Wendy’s fast food chain had a very popular ad campaign and their slogan was “Where’s the beef?” The commercials starred Clara Pellar, who went on to appear in the film, Moving Violations, a movie I thought was funny when I was 12. It was so funny to me, I saw it twice in the theater with the neighborhood pervert, who used to show me porn and told me his groin was “The home of the Whopper”. “Home of the Whopper” was the slogan for Burger King when I was a kid. It was on the facade of every restaurant. But when I think of it, I’m reminded of our neighbor, who had stacks of men’s magazines that he didn’t mind sharing with the little blonde girls who lived next door (I wasn’t the only one, or even the first).

My burger yesterday brought back memories of this ad in sharp relief. The burger was kind of small, but the main issue was the humongous bun. Like I said, this isn’t necessarily typical of German hamburger buns. Our local Rewe has another kind that is much better– better than the American buns and Bubba Burgers at the commissary that our German neighbor covets.

I had the burger for lunch because there’s not much else in the house and I can’t be bothered to go to the grocery store. I wasn’t in the mood to eat the leftover chili I made over the weekend. Bill is more of a chili fan than I am, though I’m better at making it than he is. I made it over the weekend because we had all the stuff for it and it’s easy. I put it on the stove and let it cook for a few hours. No muss, no fuss. I’ll probably have more of it today.

I woke up this morning and started reading the daily news. I stumbled across a couple of news articles that aggravated me. The comments were even more annoying. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that people get on my nerves for a lot of reasons. One thing that really irritates me are people who are free with their opinions, but their opinions are only based on headlines and not actual content. So many people react to headlines without reading first. And then I waste time reading their outrage about something that was covered in the article and it would have spared them (and us) the irritation if they had simply taken a minute to read– even if all they read were comments by people who did take the time to read the article before popping off with uninformed opinions.

Another thing that vexes me are people who feel the need to opine with eloquence, yet haven’t taken the time to learn proper vocabulary. I can’t tell you how many times someone has reacted with outrage that someone’s “flaunting” the COVID-19 rules. The word they should be using is “flout”. And, you know, I get it… a year ago, when COVID-19 was a new nightmare for us all, most people had little reason to use a word like “flout”. We didn’t have rules like wearing face masks and social distancing and all of the rest of the shit we’ve had to deal with over the past twelve months. And truthfully, the words flaunt and flout are fairly similar, both in spelling and meaning.

BUT– it’s been a year… and one would think that anyone with a computer and Internet access could take a moment to consult an online dictionary. Here’s an interesting discussion of the difference between “flaunt” and “flout” according to Merriam-Webster. While you will probably find that flaunt and flout are similar in meaning and the dictionaries will even say so, there is a difference in the meanings of these two words. When you’re “flaunting” something, you’re showing off without any regard for what others think. Whenever I think of the word “flaunt”, I’m reminded, of all things, of an episode of the 80s era sitcom Gimme a Break, when the nerdy character Julie Kaminsky gets all dolled up in an effort to join her prettier sister’s sorority. She takes off her glasses, puts on a sexy dress, makes up her face, and prances around… and says, “I’ve got it, and I’m going to flaunt it.” (11:00 in the below video)

If you’ve got it, flaunt it, Julie. Atta girl.

To “flout”, means to ignore convention, disdain the rules, and show contempt for regulations. From the above article I linked:

“…if you decide that you just don’t care what people think, and that you are going to use flaunt to mean “treat with disdain for convention” you are flouting that prescribed usage; if you do care to observe the distinction, and make sure that everyone knows that you know what it is by using flaunt and flout all the time, then you would be flaunting your knowledge of a usage prescription.”

And while most native English speakers will understand you if you say, “That idiot on the plane who refused to wear a mask was flaunting the rules,” many educated people will silently disdain you for incorrect usage. If they’re already on edge and really cranky and irritable, like I am, they might even write a derisive blog post. Merriam-Webster’s excellent article adds,

“…although we include the recent sense of flaunt, this does not mean that we are suggesting you use it in such a fashion, and most copy editors, usage guides, and grammatically inclined pickers of nits would judge you for doing so. Some of them might even snigger. We never would do such a thing. But we might raise our eyebrows, make a quick note on a citation slip, and record your usage as evidence.”

They would never do such a thing, but I certainly would. That’s because all of the virtue signaling busybodies are annoying the fuck out of me, and I don’t even meet them in real life. I stay home most of the time, and rarely encounter other humans, so no one gets the chance to chastise, confront, or challenge me for my habits. Instead, I just run into them online in the comment sections, where people suggest jailing anti-maskers for LIFE on attempted murder charges. I think that’s taking things a bit far, don’t you? I mean, what’s next? Bringing back drawing and quartering? Shooting rule breakers in the head? Exiling them to Siberia or some penal colony in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?

It’s nonsense, and I’d really like for these people to just fuck off. I mean, I get that people are frustrated and angry. It sucks when you do your part to follow the rules and other people “flout” them. I will also agree that freaking out on an airplane is bad behavior that needs to be addressed. But I am also tired of people who have tunnel vision when it comes to other people’s opinions and can’t have a reasonable discussion without folding their arms, thug like, and suggesting that people who resist, or even just state that they hate, wearing face masks ought to be beheaded or something.

In my neighborhood, no one wears a face mask unless they’re about to get on the bus or go into a shop. People are mostly belligerently cooperative here. I mean, many people do hate the fucking face masks and they don’t pretend not to. I suspect that as soon as someone in charge says we don’t have to wear them anymore, the Germans will be discarding them with much gusto. In fact, I regularly see them discarded on the ground when I take my walks. There are rule breakers in hyper-anal-retentive Germany, too (hyper-anal, except when it comes to the nude spas… which I really miss. 😉 ) But they do cooperate, and wear the fucking things when they are required, for the most part.

I actually like that attitude. Germans get that there are rules and they understand why the rules exist. But they don’t have to like them, and they (with some exceptions) don’t try to shove them down other people’s throats. Here, there is a spirit of community, and people do things more for the common good– for the most part, anyway (unless they are my ex landlady). But you don’t see too many chirpy people preaching about how the masks work or showing off their Google School of Public Health knowledge while they berate the anti-mask “flaunters”. Here, cops will write tickets for the rule “flouters”. Or, at least that’s what I’ve heard. I don’t go into public unless I’m forced. I don’t hear or read too many speeches about how face masks work, even online. It helps not to speak German.

I keep getting ads from the airlines and cruise lines, trying to entice me back on board for a trip somewhere exotic. Sure, they want butts in seats or in staterooms, paying fares and revving up the economy. But you know what? I hate wearing face masks. Flying was a big enough pain in the ass before the face masks were ever a thing. Now we have people saying we ought to wear two masks, and so many folks are bragging about how they’ve been doing that all along. And I just think that as long as the face mask rule is in effect, I won’t fly (or cruise) unless I must. Like, if we have to move back to the States or elsewhere and flying or sailing is our only option, okay. I’ll put on a mask and get through it. But I am lucky enough to live in a place where we can drive to a lot of interesting locales. We also have a nice new Volvo that can get us there. That’s what we’ll do, because frankly, I don’t want to pay money to have to deal with the rule “flouters”, anal retentive law enforcement, travel officials, or other overbearing folks who think rule breakers should be disemboweled or something, and masks on planes are here to stay forever.

You may think it’s just fine if I don’t travel on public transportation. I would even agree with you. But I guarantee you that if enough people feel the way I do, something will have to be done to make flying safe without forcing people to wear masks. Otherwise, business will suffer, and we can’t have that. I don’t want to spend money to sit on a plane with flight attendants and other passengers acting like hall monitors, watching everything everybody else is doing with Gestapo like attention to detail. I’d rather stay home, and out of any altercations.

I keep reading about how many people won’t fly unless the masks are vigorously enforced. But it also goes the other way. There are also many people out there who won’t fly as long as the masks are required. In my case, I figure that if the masks are necessary, it’s probably not that safe to use public transportation anyway, at least for non-essential travel. If I’m in my own car, not only do I not have to deal with other people’s bullshit, but I also am the master of my domain. And I don’t have to share arm rests, endure dirty looks (except from other drivers), smell other people’s farts, or have some busybody scrutinize how well my face mask is fitted or the quality of it, like people scrutinize other people’s kids in their car seats.

Let me just add, as I close this post, that I don’t tend to post these thoughts on social media. Why? Because invariably, someone who thinks they’re smarter and more evolved than I am will try to tell me how life is. They won’t actually read or listen to my thoughts on this issue. Instead, they’ll cross their arms, close their minds, and call me “childish” or “foolish” or explain how masks protect everyone else from my cooties (Yes, I KNOW!) I don’t need to read or hear that shit again!

I’m thinking about the future, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing to do. Otherwise, I might consider how much I’m hating the present and decide it’s really no longer worth the effort of hanging around here. I have to have hope that this situation will improve sometime… and to me, that means not having to wear a fucking face mask or having some twerp getting in my face about what I should or should NOT be doing or wearing in public, when being maskless was just fine only thirteen months ago and had been fine for my entire life up until March 2020.

For the time being, I will simply do my best to stay out of the way… and perhaps find other things to read. And it may take a long time until I come out of exile, since Germany’s Astra Zeneca vaccine roll out is like a really bad case of constipation and I am at the bottom of the priority list on the Army posts for a Moderna vaccine. At this rate, maybe I’ll get the shot by Christmas.

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