reviews, sex

Repost: A review of the Hitachi Magic Wand… 

I wrote this review for Epinions.com back in 2007, when Bill was deployed to Iraq, and just before we moved to Germany the first time. As you can see, I didn’t like it as much as a lot of others did. This review actually ended up in my getting some unwanted correspondents. However, this was one of my most popular reviews. It made a lot of money.

First thing’s first. I am a woman in my 30s (er, I’ll be 50 in a few weeks) and I haven’t seen my husband, Bill, in months. Like lots of women in their so-called sexual peak, I have certain needs. Unfortunately, while my husband has been off defending God and country, my old massager started an irreversible death spiral. As I was shopping for a replacement, I remembered my husband’s comment that the Hitachi Magic Wand Massager HV-250R was the “Cadillac” of vibrators/massagers. Guess he read the ads on the Internet, too. Remembering that little tidbit of information, I decided to purchase one to keep me company until Bill comes home.

What is the Hitachi Magic Wand Massager HV-250R?

Chances are, most people reading this review already know that lots of women use the Hitachi Magic Wand to satisfy their sexual needs. However, I think it’s important to point out that the Magic Wand is actually billed as just a plain old massager. If you look at the packaging, you see leotard clad women using the device on parts of their bodies that are perfectly acceptable for public viewing. Read through the instructions and you’ll find no mention that this product can or should be used for intimate purposes. In fact, the instructions even include a diagram of a fully clad woman marked with positions where the massager should be used. There are no arrows pointing toward the diagrammed woman’s genital region.

This massager is sold by drugstores and sex shops. Attachments are available and sold separately. They looked kind of scary to me, so I opted to just buy the wand. I had high hopes for this product, since it got so many great reviews and seemed to be so powerful.

Specifications

The Magic Wand has two speeds, high and low, which have vibration frequencies of 6000 and 5000 per minute respectively. Designed to be used in North America, the massager uses a 110-120 volt power source and consumes 20 watts. The manufacturers don’t recommend using the wand with an electric converter, which means that when I move to Germany, I’ll have to find a new toy. The Hitachi Magic Wand is about twelve inches long and has a soft, smooth, flexible head. The power cord is about seven feet long. The massager comes with a one year limited warranty and is intended for home use.

My first impressions

Oh boy, was I excited to get this package in the mail last week. I was especially happy because DHL had lost my package in transit and I had visions of some DHL employee playing with my new toy. I was relieved to get my new Magic Wand in a box that showed no signs of tampering. When I pulled my new machine out of the box, I noticed that the plastic seemed a bit lightweight. The power cord was also flimsier than the cord on my other massager.

I plugged in the Hitachi and tried it out at both speeds by just touching the vibrating head with my fingers, something the manufacturers warn that I shouldn’t do. I wasn’t all that impressed with its power, or lack thereof. Later, I tried it as a sensual aid and found that it’s not as powerful as my old massager was when I first bought it. For me, that’s a big drawback, especially since it takes longer to get the desired effect. The Magic Wand uses a motor to make vibrations. The longer you use it, the hotter the motor gets. The hotter the motor gets, the sooner it will overheat. Others may find the Hitachi Magic Wand plenty powerful.

One thing that does strike me as a good thing about this massager is that it’s very compact. Lightweight at just 1.2 pounds, it’s small enough to easily stow in a suitcase. It would be very easy to travel with this massager as long as you’re staying in North America. I also don’t think this massager is excessively noisy, so that’s another plus.

The Hitachi Magic Wand Massager HV-250R is widely available, so even if you’re feeling a little unfulfilled, you can buy it without embarrassment from a number of different retailers. The list price is $69.99, but I wouldn’t pay more than $40 for this massager. Luckily, that’s pretty much what it’s going for these days.

Precautions

I have to admit, I found reading the instructions for the Hitachi Magic Wand very entertaining. Obviously, they weren’t written by a native English speaker, although whoever did write them is very fluent in the language. Here are a few direct quotes from the precautions section in the instructions.

You’ll want to use your massager on your shoulders, arms, back muscles, and legs. It’s not for your chest and certainly not for use around you [sic] thyroid gland (just below the Adam’s Apple)…

The rated maximum continuous use of your massager is 25 minutes. That’s really long enough. Should you wish to use it longer, turn it off and wait about 30 minutes before using it again…

Don’t turn the vibrating head by hand or press it tightly to your body. You could bend the head-supporter, and heavy pressure does not produce a stronger massaging effect anyway…

Never drop or insert any object into any opening. 

Yuk, yuk, yuk…

There are also standard warnings about not using the massager while taking a bath or on inflamed or swollen areas of the body. In fact, the folks at Hitachi even specifically warn that the Magic Wand should not be used on an “unexplained calf pain”. Ouch.

Seriously, this massager seems safe to use as long as the user has common sense. Don’t use it around water, on open wounds, or when the motor is so hot your fingers are burning, and you should be just fine. And be sure to avoid that “thyroid gland”, too… (snicker)

Would I recommend the Hitachi Magic Wand Massager?

It depends. Frankly, I didn’t find this massager powerful enough for my particular “needs”. I don’t like the fact that it’s made of flimsy plastic and has a lightweight and somewhat short power cord. However, I think this massager would be fine for general use on sore muscles. And I also think that some women would find it plenty powerful enough for their sensual tastes. Hell, I find that just reading the instructions is a source of entertainment all its own! But for me, personally, this massager is less like a Cadillac and more like a Dodge Neon.

AND, since it’s a short post, here’s a repost of a blog entry I wrote in 2013, about taking this particular vibrator to the dump.

Taking my vibrators to the dump…

As we’re preparing for the packers to come here tomorrow, Bill and I have been discussing what to do with some items we haven’t been using.  A few years ago, when Bill was deployed, I invested in a “Magic Wand” vibrator by Hitachi.  I was really excited about getting this device, since I’d heard such great things about it.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed with the wand.  Somehow, I also ended up with two of them.  I reviewed the wand on Epinions and ended up getting some uninvited correspondence with yucky, horny men on Yahoo! Messenger.  It was way gross.

So, since about 2007, my vibrators have sat in the bottom of a drawer, bereft of my attention.  I needed something a little more powerful than the Magic Wand and ended up finding something more like a jackhammer for my “special sensual needs”.

I have a few other massaging items that I don’t use anymore… a water bath with jets for my feet, an electric vibrating foot massager, and a cheap chair massager for my back that never fit any of the chairs in our house.  So there’s a pile of massaging items in our bedroom waiting for a trip to the dump.

I’ve been imagining what it will look like when Bill takes these items to the landfill.  One time, when he went there, there were people hanging out at the dump, waiting to see what people were throwing out.  They were delighted when Bill offered them an ugly 40 year old yellow American Tourister suitcase I had inherited from my mom.  They referred to it as an “Ike Turner” suitcase.  I can only wonder what their reactions would be if he offered them my vibrators…

Incidentally, the Magic Wand doesn’t really look pornographic.  In fact, if you read the directions, there’s no discussion of it being used as a sensual aid.  It’s supposedly intended for use on parts of the body that are perfectly acceptable for public view.  But I have never heard of anyone using the Magic Wand for anything other than a sexual toy.  Go figure.

As far as I know, no one who was hanging around at the dump in 2013 wanted my vibrators. I can’t blame them.

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family, funny stories, love, marriage, memories

Pulling passive aggressive pranks that get under dad’s skin…

Today’s featured photo is a screenshot of Carmen Miranda.

Hee hee hee…

I had quite an epic laughing fit this morning. You know when you laugh so hard you feel like passing out, or throwing up, or peeing on yourself? That’s the kind of laughing fit I had. It was all because of Bill. My stomach muscles were actually quaking as I forced myself upstairs to calm down.

Bill and I were having a conversation about the meaning of life. I told him I thought maybe I was born to be his companion and dispense wisdom to him. He said, “You share wisdom with others, too. What about that woman who was on the Montel Williams Show and wrote to you when she saw your article about mycophobia?”

Bill was referring to my weird phobia of mushrooms, that I have had since I was a toddler. It’s a problem that has dogged me my whole life, exacerbated by my mean-spirited family members who did things like chase me around the house with mushrooms and draw shark teeth and fangs on illustrations of mushrooms in my coloring books. I know my phobia is ridiculous; that’s what makes it a phobia. I have an irrational fear of mushrooms, and people have laughed at me my whole life because I can’t even bring myself to touch one, let alone eat one. I don’t like looking at them or smelling them. But, at least I’m not as phobic as I was when I was very little. I used to have full on panic attacks when I found them growing in our yard in England, complete with screaming, hyperventilation, and being frozen in terror. Yeah, I am serious. I don’t do that anymore, thank God, but I might if you try to make me touch a mushroom.

Suddenly, I was reminded of the time I went off on one of Bill’s dickheaded ex colleagues, because he was laughing at my phobia. Granted, we were at a Biergarten, and both of us were quite inebriated, because the party was funded by the loose change left by a departed boss. It was over 900 euros worth of coins, and we didn’t even drink enough to use it all up… When the company lost its contract, everybody was basically out of a job. That was when Bill got hired by his current employer, which also hired– and later fired– his ex colleague. Like I said, he’s a dickhead, so it’s not surprising that he got fired.

In any case, this guy was laughing at me at the Biergarten because I have mycophobia, so I cussed him out in a very vulgar and profane way. It was almost like I couldn’t help myself. The guy’s wife was standing nearby with their young son, who was probably about twelve or thirteen years old at the time. Her mouth was agape in horrified shock at my language. Her husband, though, the dickhead on the receiving end of my tirade, was oblivious, and still laughing at me. I remember leaving the gathering still really steamed. I never forgot that guy, even though I killed plenty of brain cells that night and shouldn’t have remembered the incident.

This morning, we were talking about my mycophobia, and how many people had enjoyed the article I wrote about my experiences. I got a lot of comments on that piece. Bill reminded me that the lady who had been on Montel Williams had even found the post. She wrote me an email about her experiences. Bill said, “I’ll bet that was comforting for her. Someone else has the same problem she has.” Actually, I was comforted seeing her on the show, since she was reacting very much in the same way I used to when I was very young. Montel actually got her to eat a mushroom. He would not have been able to get me to eat one, because he did it by kissing her. I don’t like to kiss people on the lips. I don’t even kiss Bill that way.

So anyway, I brought up his old dickheaded colleague, and Bill started talking about the guy’s son, who had witnessed my profane outburst at the party. The kid is VERY intelligent. I remember that he was speaking near fluent German to our waitress. He goes to a private school and is being taught in a European style. I suspect he’ll someday go to a very fine university. I remembered that he was used to hanging around adults. In fact, I recall that a few years ago, the young man pissed off Bill’s former boss’s wife, who had wanted him to sit at the kids’ table. Dickhead’s son cheekily told Bill’s boss’s wife that he didn’t HAVE to sit at the kids’ table. His DAD had told him he could sit with the adults.

I remember Bill’s former boss’s wife drunkenly vented to me about how insolent she thought the lad was. At the time, I probably responded with sympathy. However, after being around the kid a few times, I realized that he was right. He was basically 13 going on 30, and didn’t need to be hanging out with kids. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more “adult” child in my life.

Bill said that the boy is very clever, and likes to get under his dad’s skin by doing passive aggressive things that are also hilarious. He told me that one time, the dickhead was describing how his son had deliberately pissed him off. As dickhead told Bill the story about his son’s passive aggressive antics, he was kind of chuckling. But it was clear to Bill that he was also still kind of pissed about what his son did. This is where I started laughing so hard that I literally thought I was going to faint.

via GIPHY

Oh my GOD!

Bill said that dickhead is homophobic, and he didn’t like it when his son acted in an effeminate way. He would go out of his way to discourage his son from doing “girly” things. So one day, after a shower, the boy wrapped a towel around his whole body (as opposed to just his waist), and put another towel on his head, turban style. Then he started dancing around his dad like Carmen Miranda would, just to be annoying.

The mental image of that was so funny to me, especially as I imagined dickhead’s reaction to it, that I about fell apart with laughter. I haven’t seen or talked to either of those guys since the night I cussed out dickhead, but I remember how bright the kid is… and what a dickhead his dad is… and I have a feeling that he probably pisses his dad off regularly! The thought of that delights me! I say, all smart-assed passive aggressive kids unite! Kudos to the boy for even knowing who Carmen Miranda was!

The only passive aggressive thing I used to regularly do to my dad, was deliberately ask him questions whenever he sang or hummed in front of me. I did that because I hated it when he sang and hummed, and asking questions forced him to stop singing. His voice was like nails on a chalkboard to me. I don’t know why. A lot of people thought my dad had a lovely singing voice. I was definitely not among them. I used to get in trouble because, when I was very little, I would put my fingers in my ears whenever he sang solos in his many choral groups and church choirs.

I probably didn’t like his singing because he would often try to sound like someone he wasn’t, like when he would mimic opera singers like Luciano Pavorotti. My dad was not trained, and didn’t even read music. He could sing on key, but he was not an opera singer. So, to me, he just sounded like he was very constipated when he would try to sing like Pavorotti. And I really didn’t like it when he hummed. It was very annoying to me. My reactions to my dad’s singing voice are a major reason why I didn’t start singing, myself, until I was 18 years old. Even then, I only did it for a college general ed requirement. It took awhile before I would do it publicly.

But in spite of my disdain for his singing voice, my dad often got solos in church, so I endured a lot of his performances. He further pissed me off when I decided to study voice as a means to help me get over clinical major depression. I deliberately didn’t tell him about the lessons for a long time, because I knew what he would do. Sure enough, he got wind that I was taking voice lessons and decided to take lessons from the same fucking teacher. Yeah… we had a rather rocky relationship.

Bwahahahaha!
Or maybe I was laughing because I thought of this hilarious scene from Three’s Company.

I sure did need that laugh. It was like a full on circuit of sit ups– my muscles actually hurt. Last Sunday, I spent the day pissed off at my cousin, and at Bill, because he went TDY. This Sunday, the endorphins are rushing because I had a much overdue belly laugh… If I could do that every day, maybe I’d lose my beer gut.

I don’t know how the dickhead and his son are getting on these days, but I have a feeling that the lad could be a chip off the old block. It delights me to think that he does creative and funny things to get his dad’s goat. I wish I had thought of something that genius when my dad was still living. It would make for great family story lore. And now, I’m going to be laughing about teenaged boys dancing like Carmen Miranda for the rest of the day. It’s like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon!

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celebrities, dogs, funny stories, Germany

“Won’t you be our neighbor?”… My inner Mister Rogers

At about four o’clock yesterday afternoon, the doorbell rang. Since it was Martin Luther King Day and Bill was home, he answered the door. He was soon faced with a grim faced German man he’d never seen before, who started speaking to him. Bill said the man was a bit odd and even seemed slightly out of it.

Our older dog, Arran the beagle mix, started barking, as he always does when strangers come to the door. Bill couldn’t hear our unexpected visitor over the barking, nor could he really understand what the guy was saying, as Bill’s German skills are somewhat basic, but less basic than mine are. One word he did hear and understand was “Tierschutz” (animal protection), which immediately caused us some concern.

Bill told the guy that he speaks only a little bit of German. The guy got pissed and went to our landlord’s house next door. Bill then came up to our bedroom to tell me what happened. As he was explaining the bizarre scenario, the doorbell rang again. Thinking maybe it was the landlord coming over to tell us what was wrong, Bill answered it, and it was the same grumpy guy. This time, he seemed somewhat apologetic, although he didn’t actually apologize. He said something along the lines of “Your dogs are always inside.” Then he gave Bill a dismissive wave and stalked off.

I always get agitated when someone presumes to yell at me, or at Bill, for that matter. Especially if I’m in my own home, minding my own damned business. I told Bill that he should have borrowed my Mister Rogers cap, which is a bizarre Chinese creation that was offered for sale on Amazon.de last summer. I see that it’s now no longer available. Small wonder.

I bought the cap on a whim. I’m wearing it in the featured photo, which was taken right after I got out of the shower yesterday, hence my slight resemblance to Nick Nolte coming down from a GHB bender, circa 2002. One of my friends said I am better looking than Nick Nolte is. I was flattered by that, since Nick Nolte was People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” in 1992. When she reminded me that 1992 was thirty years ago, I replied that, just like Nick, I was also sexier thirty years ago.

That photo of Mister Rogers has circulated quite a lot around the Internet. I once even made a meme of it, which I posted below. Mister Rogers was almost surely unaware of what his two middle fingers were indicating when that photo was taken. I see from a video on Dailymotion that it comes from a song he did with little kids, back in the day…

Hee hee hee!
Actually, I think this image is even funnier than the one with both middle fingers. I wish the enterprising Amazon.de seller in China had offered this, instead.
I made this meme years ago… The quote is by George Carlin. I think Mister Rogers and George Carlin would have made a hell of a team!

Bill and I handle these types of intrusions very differently. Bill is much more polite than I am, and he always attempts to speak German. When someone uninvited rings my doorbell and starts speaking rapid fire German to me, I usually interrupt them in English and tell them I don’t understand them, even if I do. Nine times out of ten, the people who do that stuff are either trying to sell me something or looking for odd jobs… or in a couple of unfortunate situations, they were people up to no good, casing the house to see who lives there and if they’re home.

Upon considering what the guy said, his strange demeanor, and the sort of half-assed non-apology the guy later gave Bill, we eventually determined that maybe the fellow is someone who lives in the neighborhood, but isn’t someone with whom we’ve ever interacted. We think he was upset that our German next door neighbor, who lives in the house on the other side of us, was leaving her adorable, but loud, Labrador dog, Tommi, outside. Tommi barks a lot when he’s outside. It is definitely noticeable, but it doesn’t bother me much. It’s not like he’s out there all day or anything. I think she or her mother puts him out there for a short time once or twice a day. While he’s out there, he lets everyone know he’s bored, lonely, or whatever.

It’s actually against the law in Germany to leave dogs home alone for long periods of time, and if they make excessive noise, some folks will call the police. We have been pretty lucky, as our neighbors have all been relatively dog friendly, even though we have usually had beagles, and beagles can be very loud. Now that we have Noyzi, it’s really only Arran who raises hell on a regular basis. Noyzi usually stays pretty quiet, unless he’s watching pet grooming or fox hunting videos. But I’m usually home with the dogs, and they aren’t allowed to be outside unsupervised.

Bill dresses down Arran for counter surfing. See? We do discipline our dogs!

Bill said he was sitting on the toilet and heard the man speaking to someone before he rang our doorbell. Perhaps it was the people who live across the cul-de-sac from us. Maybe he asked them who has dogs and they pointed to us. I don’t know if he knew we’re Americans and maybe figured we don’t know the rules here, or he just wanted to yell at dog owners who might be the culprit of his annoyance. But it was still a weird situation, as Bill didn’t understand him for three reasons– Arran was barking, the guy was rambling, and he was speaking German. And the cranky guy didn’t give Bill a chance to step outside to talk to him without Arran’s input.

Then, after he got frustrated trying to talk to Bill, the guy spoke to our other neighbors, who also happen to be our landlords. My guess is that our landlord, or someone in his house, told the guy that we never leave our dogs outside alone. So when he rang the bell the second time, he said “Bei Ihnen (unintelligible) immer”, which confused Bill, until he later translated it to “Bei innen (unintelligible) immer” (something like, “your dogs are always inside”). Then the guy gave him a resigned wave, and left.

It’s true that our current landlords are pretty laid back, and they get paid well to let us be their neighbors, but they’ve actually told us that they rarely hear our dogs. When we still had Zane, they were louder. Zane would go out in the middle of the night to pee and get on scents, which caused him to bay on occasion. But Noyzi doesn’t bark a lot, and Arran really only barks when someone rings the doorbell. He doesn’t even bay a lot when we walk him anymore. Tommi, on the other hand, is only around a year old. He’s young, energetic, and adorable, and yes, he barks like a big guy. I’m not surprised the sound carried.

Tommi was adopted after our neighbors lost their very sweet elderly Labrador, Levi, whom they adopted from an American who couldn’t take him with him when he moved. Levi was a WONDERFUL dog… very friendly, well-behaved, and a perfect citizen. I think our neighbors fell in love with Labradors, which aren’t necessarily popular over here. Unfortunately, Levi got very sick with cancer and died while he was having surgery to remove some tumors in his stomach. I’m sure Tommi will eventually become as sweet, obedient, and adorable as Levi was, but he’s still very young and rambunctious. Even our wonderful beagle Zane, whom I think had some Lab in him, was a holy terror when we first got him. After about six months, he morphed into the most wonderful family dog. It was like magic. I have every reason to assume that will happen for Tommi, too.

I suppose I should, in part, thank the pandemic for yesterday’s chance meeting with an apparently angry neighbor. COVID-19 has really altered our lives. Most of the years we’ve been in Germany, we’ve taken every opportunity to travel over long American holiday weekends. Nowadays, we’re more inclined to stay home, mainly because travel has become so complicated and annoying, even though Bill and I are both thrice COVID vaccinated. This year, we also need to get Noyzi updated on his vaccines, which will happen today.

I shared this story on Facebook and people loved my Mister Rogers hat. But only one person wanted to know where I got it, and NO ONE seemed interested in why I have it! One friend, who happens to be German, said it was because she’s no longer surprised by the crazy shit I say and do… and wear. For the record, I was inspired to buy the hat because of my dad. I’ve already shared the story about my dad and his middle finger woes.

The short version, for those who don’t want to click the link, is that my parents took me to visit the Waterside Marketplace in Norfolk, Virginia, back in 1984 or so, when it was still new. The Waterside had a really cool hat shop that had all of these funny baseball caps. I wanted one that had a little felt dog on the brim and a plastic fire hydrant. You could pull a string and the dog would lift its leg on the hydrant. Sadly, I didn’t have any money and my parents didn’t want to indulge my proclivities for being obnoxious.

Dad did make a purchase, though. It was a black baseball cap that had a bright yellow stuffed felt hand with the middle finger raised, big as life. My dad, who was never one to swear and was unaware of what the middle finger meant, bought the cap. He said he was going to wear it to his next Rotary meeting and say, “I don’t agree with ANY of you.”

My mom said, “You are not going to wear that, are you?”

“Sure! Why not?” Dad said with a laugh.

“You are NOT going to wear that in public!” my mom said, her voice edged with resolute firmness.

“Yes I am.” Dad argued.

“Do you KNOW what that MEANS?” Mom demanded.

“Doesn’t it mean ‘go to Hell’?” Dad asked, somewhat chastened.

“Uh uh.” Mom said, leaning over to whisper in his ear.

Dad kind of blanched sheepishly, and that was the end of his big idea to shock his conservative business friends and pillars of the community in Gloucester, Virginia.

Meanwhile, I thought it was funny that my mom didn’t want to define it out loud, since even at age eleven or twelve, I knew what a middle finger stood for, even if I didn’t know what “getting laid” meant. So I said, “Hey guys, I know what it means.”

The profane middle finger hat was kept under the driver’s seat of my dad’s car for many years, never to see the light of day. I wish I had stolen it from him. I thought it was hilarious, and I haven’t seen one like it being sold anywhere since the 80s. When I saw Mister Rogers’ middle finger on a hat, though, I figured that was close enough. And since it’s no longer available, I guess that hat was just meant to be mine…

Incidentally, my dad also suffered from PTSD, which was brought on by his time in Vietnam. Sadly, he almost lost his middle finger to injury when he had a nightmare and jumped out of bed one night, punching the wall. He didn’t take care of the injury properly, and came very close to needing an amputation. Yikes!

For an update on this post, click here.

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funny stories, memories, nostalgia

Repost: “You want a bun with that?”

Here’s a repost from August 2018 as I wait for my stomach to settle.

Today, I think I’ll write something silly as opposed to something depressing or controversial.  It may not seem like it in most of my posts, but I actually have a pretty great sense of humor.  When I was younger, I had a male friend in college with whom I used to spend a lot of time.  His name is Chris.

I’m still friends with this guy, by the way.  I just don’t get to see him anymore because he’s in Virginia and I’m in Germany.  When we were in college, though, we were kind of inseparable.  We spent hours hanging out and, when he was a drinker, we often got drunk together.  He quit drinking when we were juniors in college.

Anyway…  located right next to our campus was a McDonald’s.  I didn’t eat there very often because I never had any money.  But one night, my friend went there with some of his buddies.  I believe they were all inebriated and likely pretty obnoxious, too.

This wasn’t Chris and his crew… but the idea is kind of the same.

Chris went up to the counter and ordered a cheeseburger.  The guy who took his order apparently got an attitude and said, “You want a bun with that?”

Chris, who was likely feeling no pain, said, “What kind of a question is THAT?  Of course I want a BUN with that!  Who the hell orders a burger without a bun?”

The guys who were with Chris were gently trying to extricate him from the situation, but he was still cussing as the dude handed him his order.

Actually, I can think of a few funny situations involving Chris and fast food.  One of his favorite things to do when we were in college was act like he was going to throw up.  He’d make a fist and sort of hesitantly place it to his mouth, then start fake hurling.  He said he’d always wanted to try that at a fast food restaurant.  He wanted to go up to the counter and act like he was going to puke, then sort of settle down and say, “Can I have another burger, please?”

The funny part of this scenario is that he’d then revert to acting like the no nonsense female worker behind the counter.  Her eyebrows would be raised, unbelieving, and her eyes would be downcast.  And she’d say, her voice laced with attitude, “Do you know how to work a mop?”

Then Chris would revert back to his fake puking self and say, “I just want another burger, please.”

Chris, acting as the female worker, would say, “Do you see anyone else standing back here?  Who you think gonna clean up the mess if you toss your cookies all over my clean floor?”  With a wag of her head, she’d continue, “Now, you know how to work a mop, I’ll give you another burger.”

The little scenario would usually kind of end at that point.  Sometimes, I’d join in and play the fast food worker.

Chris also told me once about how he and his mom went to a McDonald’s once and saw some woman cleaning with a toothbrush.  Chris’s mom, who died in 2009, said, “Chris, I think that woman is a halfwit.  Why is she cleaning like that?”

This isn’t to say, by the way, that I think people who work in fast food are halfwits.  I don’t think that at all.  There is no such thing as truly unskilled labor.  I just laugh when I remember the way my old friend would do these imitations and act out these scenarios, especially in places like McDonald’s, where you’re liable to run into anyone…

This topic comes up thanks to the hamburger meat in our refrigerator that needs to be consumed.  I probably ought to go vegan, but I don’t see it happening at this point in my life.

LOL… that woman says what my mom used to say to me all the time when I was growing up.

Yes, kids, this is what we did in the 1990s, when Internet for everyone was still just a pipe dream.  I kind of miss those days.

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book reviews, business

Repost: a review of Freeman Hall’s Retail Hell: How I Sold My Soul to the Store– Confessions of a Tortured Sales Associate

Here’s a book review I wrote for Epinions in January 2010. I am reposting it as/is.

I once had a stint working as a retail sales associate. Luckily, I worked in a mens’ shirt store, where the customers didn’t tend to be too demanding. I spent about seven months doing that job until I was blessedly delivered from retail hell by a stint in the Peace Corps. I think my little taste of working retail was enough to last me the rest of my life.

Freeman Hall
, author of Retail Hell: How I Sold My Soul to the Store– Confessions of a Tortured Sales Associate (2009), did not have as much luck as I did breaking away from retail slavery. Hall, who is very much an out of the closet homosexual, writes that he loves stylish clothes. Working in retail was one good way to be able to afford them. After all, the one fabulous perk of working retail is an employee discount. Of course, Freeman Hall never planned to spend years working in retail. His real ambition is to be a screenwriter. But he still has to pay the bills and he wants to look good doing it.

Hall goes to hell

So Freeman Hall heads over to the personnel office of a big department store he refers to as “The Big Fancy”. He is hoping for a job in housewares or maybe men’s clothing. He gets a job selling handbags. Not purses, mind you– Hall explains that the “p-word” is akin to the filthiest expletive at The Big Fancy– but handbags, very expensive designer handbags made by Kate Spade, Coach, and Marc Jacobs, among other big names. These are the kinds of bags that run hundreds or even thousands of dollars. And Freeman, who is the only male sales associate in handbags, gets a commission for every single one he sells.

But– in order to make his commissions, Freeman Hall must deliver excellent customer service to every one of the many different types of strange and difficult people retail stores attract. Hall has all sorts of irreverent names for these people, all of whom are women and regular shoppers at The Big Fancy. There’s the Nasty @$$ Thief, the Snot Monster, Picky B*tch, Discount Rat, and, of course, Shoposaurus Carnotaurus, just to name a few.

Hall must deal with some very distasteful and somewhat shockingly bizarre scenarios, as well as obnoxious co-workers. In one disturbing chapter, he writes about covering someone in the swimwear department while she went on her lunch break. While Freeman and another woman were in swimwear, they were visited by a skinny woman who had taken six swimsuits into a fitting room to try on. Later, the woman came out of the fitting room without her swimsuits. Freeman and his colleague were annoyed, thinking she’d left the suits in a pile on the floor. If only the pile she’d left had been that simple to clean up…

Hall also writes about about the store management’s many wacky ways to keep the associates sales pumping. For instance, Hall explains the eight flights of stairs he and his colleagues must climb and descend before and after every single shift. The eight flights of stairs were a feature at most of The Big Fancy stores in the United States because the store’s founder wanted sales associates to get their exercise. Sometimes management would decorate the stairwell or pipe obnoxious music in it to help the associates gain enthusiasm. They would also hold ridiculous pep rallies in an attempt to boost sales along with attitudes. Apparently, their efforts to boost spirits fell far short of their goals.

My thoughts

I’m of a mixed mind about this book. First off, having once worked retail, I had an inkling about Hall’s experiences, although his were much more bizarre than mine ever were. Some of Freeman Hall’s stories are hilarious and he does have a delightfully snarky way of expressing himself.

On the other hand, some of his descriptions of his customers and co-workers came across to me as very mean spirited. After awhile, that aspect of this book grated on my nerves. Now… don’t get me wrong… I have worked retail and been a waitress. I know how hard it can be to work in a service oriented job, particularly when it involves spending money on luxuries. People can be brutal to sales associates, treating them like slaves and talking to them as if they’re less than human. Oftentimes, managers and co-workers can be just as bad as the customers, making an already stressful work environment even worse.

But there must have been something else attractive about that job besides the employee discounts, because Hall stuck around for a number of years, collecting his anecdotes for this book. He never really explains what it was, besides paying his bills and buying designer clothes, that made him sell handbags for as long as he did. I guess, in a way, this book is sort of like the ultimate payback for the way Hall was treated as a retail slave. I guess I can’t really blame him for writing this book, which is sort of a retail version of Waiter Rant a book I recently read by Steve Dublanica.

I predict that a lot of people who have worked retail will relate to this book and laugh out loud reading it. I also predict some people will get tired of the endless carping jokes and wish for a little more humanity. After all, while a lot of us have worked in retail, almost all of us have shopped retail. As I read this book, I sort of cringed, wondering if I had ever inspired a retail worker to come up with a mean spirited nickname for me. I also wondered, in the wake of Hall’s often very snarky rants, why I should feel sorry for him, especially given the fact that so many Americans would love to have a job… any job.  And lots of people in retail would love to have a customer… any customer.

Overall

I did like this book, but I can’t say I loved it. Maybe I’m just getting too old to read stuff like this. I probably would have loved reading this when I was still in my 20s. Freeman Hall has a gift for storytelling and some of his descriptions are hilarious. I could practically hear him talking through his very colorful words and vivid depictions. But in the end, I think I was overcome by the constant crassness, which is why this book gets four stars instead of five. My mother would be so proud to finally see this day come.

And here is a link to Retail Hell Underground, a place where there are many hellish stories about life working in retail.

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