(parenthetically speaking)

a random gal’s random thoughts about nothing and everything in general

I Only Do It for Money Anymore July 11, 2009

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Hey, baby, what'll it be?

When I first started this blog, I was obsessed by the number of hits I got. I’d check the stats several times a day, and actually battled my brother—who started his blog, jonwbecker.wordpress.com, at about the same time—to see who would rule the Internet. (On about his fifth post, he got more than 1,000 hits, while I’ve just now reached 1,243 hits total, so he obviously KO’ed me in the first round.)

These days, I don’t bother to check how many hits I’ve gotten. In fact, it’s been exactly 66 days since I even added a new post.

What happened? I get paid to write now, that’s what happened. You see, when I got laid off from my editor job back in February, I started freelancing full-time, which means that people actually pay me to write for various magazines, websites, etc. So the simple truth of the matter is that I’m not really motivated anymore to sit down at my computer and write something unless there’s the promise of a paycheck in it for me.

Does this make me a writing whore? I guess so. But I prefer to think of it as the cobbler’s wife who went without shoes. That I’ve used all my energy and creativity in writing the stuff I’m hired to do, that I don’t have much else left when it comes to writing for the sheer joy of it.

But writing for pleasure does help keep one’s professional writing fresh and inspired, so paycheck or not, I’m going to try and add a new entry here every now and again. So stay tuned. In the meantime, if you’d like to check out the stuff I get paid to do, log on to my website (www.mediabistro.com/jillbecker) for copies of recent stories or check out my Examiner.com column (www.examiner.com/x-7514-Atlanta-Hotels-Examiner). You can also follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jillbecker.

Maybe you even have something you want to pay me to write. If so, just leave a comment for me here with your contact info and I’ll be in touch.

 

The Bicycle Thief March 6, 2009

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Jimmy Carter saving energy by using good old-fashioned pedal power.

Somebody stole Jimmy Carter’s bicycle. True story.

I was watching the Jon Stewart show a few weeks ago and he had the 84-year-old former president on. They discussed, among other pressing topics, peace in the Middle East and the recent inauguration of Barack Obama. Strangely enough, the two seemed to have a genuine rapport. Carter seemed especially tickled when, at the end of the interview, Stewart gifted him with two new bicycles to replace the ones belonging to Jimmy and Rosalynn that had recently been stolen from The Carter Center here in Atlanta.

What? Someone actually stole Jimmy and Rosalynn’s bicycles? Does this strike anyone else as odd? I mean, how is it even possible? Don’t the Carters have constant Secret Service detail? And wouldn’t The Carter Center be zipped up as tight as a drum with security cameras everywhere? It just seems so … implausible.

My sister-in-law actually works at The Carter Center, so I asked her about it a few days later. She wasn’t sure, but she thought the bikes had been taken from a small storage shed somewhere on the grounds where they stored lawnmowers and stuff like that.

I tell you, these are either the dumbest or the smartest criminals on earth. I’m leaning toward the former, mostly because I wonder if they even realize what they got. I mean, do they even know the bikes they took belonged to the former President and First Lady? If so, how much do you think they can get for them? Are we going to see them being hawked on craigslist one day, in an ad that might read: “One pair gently used bicycles once owned by Prez and Mrs. Carter. Men’s bike is a red 10-speed sporting a Habitat for Humanity sticker. Ladies’ bike is green and has a woven basket handy for carrying peaches”?

 

Snow Day March 2, 2009

It snowed in Atlanta today. Lots. We’re talking accumulation here, people. snowy-atlanta

Snow reminds me of my childhood. Well, part of my childhood. When we lived in Pennsylvania. I was probably around 7 or 8. We lived in a small house at the top of a hill out away from the city (our address was Route 1). It was an idyllic little spot next door to a hay field (where we’d fly kites) and not far from a friend’s farm (they gave us a baby pig as a pet). In winter, we’d slide down our driveway on cookie sheets and use the shell of an old VW Bug as our fort during snowball fights. We’d eat cupfuls of fresh snow with chocolate syrup poured on top.

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Man-Man checks out the snowy scene from the safety of the screened porch.

Snow’s fun when you’re a kid. As an adult, not so much. Sure, there are times when as a grownup snow is great. Like when you’re going skiing. Or it’s Sunday and you just want to snuggle up by the fire and eat chili and read a good book. It’s when you have to get out and drive in it that it becomes a problem. Or maybe that’s just because, since I was old enough to drive, I’ve never lived in a place where the drivers had any idea how to content with ice and snow. Like today, I heard siren after siren, the emergency vehicles whizzing to and fro to rescue Atlantans who don’t realize that when it comes to weather like this, the motto is, “With snow, go slow.”

Lucky for me, I don’t have to commute to work braving treacherous roadways packed with people who don’t have the slightest clue about how to drive in wintery conditions. I don’t have to bundle up in a coat, hat, gloves, and a scarf. I don’t have to scrap the ice and snow off my car and wait for the windows to defrost. I simply walk from one side of the house to the other, turn on my computer, and, voila, I’m ready to go.

Yup, snow’s great for kids. And the self-employed.

 

Keep your butt in the car, dammit! February 6, 2009

Smokers S U C K! There, I said it.

Of course, I’m generalizing, and I’d be the first to complain if someone out there was universally disparaging all middle-aged white women with an unhealthy affection for Popeye’s fried chicken, but I see a pattern here. And enough is enough!

What burns me up about smokers (no pun intended) is that they seem to think that cigarettes are somehow invisible. But let me set you straight. Not only can I smell your noxious cancer sticks 100 yards away, but when you carelessly toss your cigarette butt on the ground, it’s called littering. And it’s just plain disgusting, thoughtless, and rude. 3212564613_52f91d950d_b1

And I’m not afraid to tell you so. I mean, I will go Christian Bale on someone if I see them even think about not properly disposing of their nasty little habit. It’s literally my biggest pet peeve. And believe me, I have a lot of them. (Which may help explain why I’m over 40 and still single. That and the Popeye’s fried chicken.)

In fact, I’m sort of surprised I haven’t gotten a beatdown after one of my outbursts. For instance, one time my brother and I were in downtown Atlanta at a Thrashers hockey game, and after the game, as everyone was filing out into the MARTA train station (which is already a little sketchy in and of itself), I made a comment to this big, older dude who shamelessly tossed his butt on the ground not five feet from a trash can. Well, let’s just say it’s probably a good thing there were a lot of people around that night. (Too many witnesses, if you know what I mean.) P.S. My brother never said anything, but I think it’s safe to say he was horrified, and probably embarrassed, by the whole incident, but when it comes to this, I just can’t hold my tongue sometimes. It just blurts out.)

Another time, as I was getting out of my car to go into this Blockbuster store in Austin, a woman in the SUV next to me stuck her hand out the window and flicked her lipstick-stained cig onto the pavement right in front of me. So I bent over, picked up the butt, handed it back to her, and said, “Excuse me, ma’am, I think you dropped this.” Like it had been all accidental on her part. Because if anyone is smart enough to know better, I figure it’s supposed to be the people of Austin, Texas.

And then there was the infamous scene at the movie theater in Fort Worth, when my mother and sister and I were in line to buy tickets, and my mom made the mistake of not walking over to the trash can to properly dispose of her half-smoked Virginia Slim. (Which was only half-smoked because we were bugging her about smoking in such a crowded place anyway.) But it wasn’t me who went off this time. It was my sister. And all I can say is that I wouldn’t want to be a smoker and run into my sister in a dark, butt-filled alley.

What brought this whole rant on took place as I was driving in to work yesterday and I saw this guy toss his Camel stub out the window. (At least he looked like a Camel smoker—all hard and sallow and stubby.) And it got me to thinking that I hadn’t actually seen anyone littering like this in a while (relatively speaking, that is). Were smokers becoming more conscientious? Were my dreams coming true? Was the world becoming a better place? Sadly, no. I realized it had just been so cold out lately that no one wanted to roll down their window to flick their butts.

Except this guy. Who, I can only hope, will get his someday. Until then, people, don’t be a butthead. Keep your butts to yourself!

 

When Good Service Goes Bad January 9, 2009

In my head, I’m always bitching about bad service. Maybe a cashier didn’t say thank you when she finished ringing me up or the guy at the drive-through forgot to give me a straw, or — my personal favorite! — the person behind the counter didn’t even bother to get off their cellphone while they were helping me with my transaction. I’m a HUGE believer in good customer service and feel strongly that it can literally make or break a business.

Through no skill of my own, but rather through my job, I’ve been lucky enough to have been hosted at some pretty swanky hotels, restaurants, spas, and even on a private jet once, and as such, have been treated to some examples of personal service and attention like you can’t believe. But is there a point at which good service turns bad? My brother Jon — who just happens to be the smartest guy I know — thinks so.

2729979786_de6147988c_m4My brother and his wife were dining at a semi-posh Atlanta restaurant recently and they could barely take a sip of their wine without a waiter refilling it or could hardly start a new sentence without someone popping by to ask how they were doing. As a couple with two small children (as precious as they may be), they look forward to an evening out as a way to escape all the chatter and chaos and want nothing more than to be able to sit back and relax for a while. But apparently this dinner was anything but relaxing. “I hate good service!” my brother told me afterward.

There does seem to be a fine line between good service and service that’s just a little too good. But I’d rather have annoyingly good service versus annoyingly bad service any day!

Which reminds of an incident last week, went I went to the AT&T store to buy my new iPhone. The woman helping me was knowledgeable and helpful and everything was going along perfectly well until we were wrapping up the transaction and she let me know that someone might be calling me and asking me about how I was treated that day. At this point, she looked me straight in the eye, reminded me of her name, and said, “Be sure and give me a 5. A 5 is what I need. A 5 will give me a great rating. Remember, when they call you, to give me a 5.” Not “Please give me a 5” or “I’d be flattered if you gave me a 5,” but rather a “Give me a 5 or else!” I wanted to say something back to her like, “Don’t push it, beeaatttcch!” but I just smiled and walked out the door. She should know, though, that when AT&T does come calling, I’ll be making up my own damn mind about what score to give her, and it certainly won’t be a 5. I guess good customers can sometimes go bad, too!