Thursday, March 26, 2015

Toddler Dinning

If you have never shared regular meals with a toddler, imagine The Hurt Locker taking place in a cafeteria. Everyone is on edge knowing that the slightest misstep will result in flying shrapnel. Most of your meal is spent utilizing your peripheral vision to monitor the child’s progress because direct eye-contact could have disastrous consequences. If they are actually eating well and they catch what they interpret as a look of approval, an immediate hunger strike will be implemented. If they are not eating well, they will use the opportunity to request a different entrée that you just ran out of.

When presented with a new delicacy, my son will visually inspect the item for several seconds before giving it a tentative lick. If the food in question is found to be worthy, a nibble is attempted. Then perhaps, he will take a full bite. At any point during this process, he may issue a full abort. This entails immediate expulsion from his mouth followed by cleansing his tongue with a napkin.

For months I told myself that my son was not picky, he simply had a discerning palate. While some might view his culinary methodology as excessive or even neurotic, I was convinced the behavior was simply the result of his practicality and lack of compulsion. Sure it can be annoying, but at least he contemplates what he ingests unlike some of these unwashed Philistines.
This theory was invalidated several weeks ago while on an afternoon walk. Without so much as a moment’s hesitation, he picked up a rusted bolt from the crosswalk and popped it into his mouth. I had once watched this child agonize for three minutes over whether or not to eat an organic grape and now he was in danger of choking on a metallic shard he found in a water puddle. I have since realized that the only sure way to keep your child from ingested dangerous items is to present them as food. I am fairly certain that we could forgo the child-safety locks in our home as long as we place the cleaning products on a plate and ask him to give them a try.   

While in-home dinning can be challenging, there is nothing quite like the thrill of eating out. When you will be breaking bread with someone in their terrible twos, the first item of business is to case the restaurant. Where are the exits? Are the tables decorated with breakable items? Is there an open booth next to an HVAC closet we could request?

Once your location is scouted, the ordering process must begin in haste. Parents of toddlers do not have the luxury of perusing the menu for twenty minutes, so when the server shows up to get the drink order they better come to play. Our order varies some depending on the venue, but here is the template:

“He will have the kid’s (insert cheese-based entrée here) with a side of (something he loves at home but will not eat in public) and the flimsiest plastic child’s cup you can locate. And can you bring us a case of napkins and a box crayons that he can throw on the floor?

The away game is the worst because you know the other patrons are observing you with the same peripheral vision trick you use on your toddler. When the meal goes sideways, I always imagine that our fellow dinners are discussing our obvious parenting missteps. They smile at each other and pretend to be oblivious to the fact that the high-chair next to them has transformed into a grilled-cheese catapulting apparatus.

The exception to this are other toddler parents because the only thing better than your child being the best behaved in the restaurant is your child being dethroned as the worst behaved in a restaurant. This is known as the “not my kid” lottery. This changes your whole demeanor as a parent. Instead of avoiding eye contact, you start wearing a smug grin that says, “My kid doesn’t seem so ill-mannered now does he?”  Cocky parents might even cast their own disapproving look toward the misbehaving munchkin. But beware, every two-year old will play that role sooner or later.

Once, my wife and I were at a Mexican restaurant with our son when he decided to mount an insurrection. There was screaming, crying, and we nearly lost my wife’s iPhone to re fried bean submersion. I actually chased down the waiter for the check and was standing in line to pay while my wife was back at the table packing up the family. It just so happened that an acquaintance had been dinning at the same restaurant and was in line behind me. We chatted and moment and I mentioned something about being ready to pay and hit the road. She replied, “Tell me about it, I could hardly hear myself think with that kid screaming. Did you hear him?”I admitted that it had been even louder where I was sitting and that my wife and I could barely talk.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Lactategate 3

I was hoping a third chapter to this saga would prove unnecessary. I was wrong. After having been told that the mailroom had been instructed to simply return my check for $15.59, I waited patiently for the fiasco to end. It was not to be. After a little more than a week, the check of destiny had not yet graced my mailbox. I yet again dialed the number for my provider and inquired as to the status. I was placed on several brief holds while the associate “got me some answers.” When he came back on the line, here is what happened:

Them – Sir, we are unable to locate the check that you sent us.
Me – What do you mean? Are you saying that you never received the check or that you received the check and it has been misplaced?
Them – It appears that the postal service lost it. Don’t worry though, I have placed a request for the check to be canceled and a new check issued. As soon as that is completed, we will get the new check out to you.
Me – Do you know when that will be?
Them – We can ask that you be notified when it occurs but I have no way of knowing when that will happen.
Me – So let me get this straight. Your new plan is to issue a new check at some indeterminate point in the future and turn over possession of that check to the same courier agency that you accuse of being inept enough to lost the original check?
Them - (slight pause) Yes…
Me – Well this can’t miss.
Them – I understand that you are frustrated and we appreciate your patience. It will just take some time. You will get a call very soon once the check is cut.  
I then decided to go for broke and ask about an interesting item listed under my specific plan in a section labeled “My Benefits.” Under In-Network Inpatient Services there was a line that denoted that a Maternity Delivery (Inpatient Physician Services) would not be subject to the traditional $250 co-pay for a hospital admittance. This was curious since my wife had experienced an inpatient maternity delivery at an in-network hospital.

The parenthetical “Inpatient Physician Services” line was somewhat perplexing since our plan does not require a co-pay on any physician services. Furthermore, is it even possible to have an Inpatient Maternity Delivery at an In-Network Hospital performed by an outpatient physician?
This line of questioning led me only further down the rabbit hole:

Them – Sir, that benefit would only waive the co-pay on the physician’s fee for an in-network maternity delivery. It does not waive the co-pay on the facility in which the physician delivers the child.
 Me – But the parameters of this plan do not allow for any situation where I would ever owe a co-pay to a physician.
Them – I see what you are saying, but this benefit does not apply to you.
Me – But when I login under my exact credentials, it appears under the header “My Benefits.” That means that you guys are specifically touting a hypothetical exemption from a fee that doesn’t actually exist and listing it as a benefit.
Them – I am not sure why you are seeing that but…
Me – If you guys are going that direction I really feel like you could go all the way and market that you will waive all fees associated with Leprechaun heart-cath. The entire In-patient benefit matrix is needlessly complicated. In fact, any situation involving an inpatient facility (whether it be in or out of network) costs the exact same. So instead of 8 lines of mythical co-pay exemption you could simply have one line that says You Go To Hospital = You Pay $250 Co-pay.
Them – That is certainly something to take under advisement. Is there anything else I can for you today?

I have since made yet another call to them since I did not hear back that the new check had been cut. I was told that it could take up to 14 business days to cut the check, at which point an as-yet-unnamed employee in an as-yet-to be determined department will call to alert me. They will presumably then hand this check to the United States Postal Service. All I can say is that if I open the envelope and there is a duplicate check for the $10.40 I already have; there is an elevated probability that my insurance provider will be the recipient of a Medela Molotov Cocktail.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Culinary Inspiration

One of the culinary trends I enjoy most is affixing uplifting sayings or Bible verses to the packaging calorically-dense desserts. My first exposure to the trend began with the Edwards brand of pre-packaged frozen pies. During the manufacturing process, a bible verse would be stamped onto the bottom of the metal pie pan so that once you had finished consuming their product you were treated to an excerpt of scripture.

I am sure these were strategically chosen (as none of them concerned gluttony) but my parents always found it a delightful bonus to an already delicious dessert. The Edwards brand was acquired by Schwan Food Company in 2001 and sometime thereafter they phased out the practice. There is a modest social media campaign to re-instate the Bible verses, but as of this writing it has yet to gain much traction. Personally, I suspect that their lack of support is simply because it is difficult to goad people into action after they have eaten an entire pie.

More recently, the practice has shown up in locally-owned bakeries. My wife and I often purchase cupcakes from a business down the road from us; and they always hand-write inspirational messages on the underside of the pastry box. I suspect that the purpose of this is twofold:

1.      It reminds the customer that the items they are consuming were indeed crafted by hand, thereby distinguishing these treats from the mass-produced offerings at their local grocery chain.
2.      It temporarily distracts me from the inevitable onset of type 2 diabetes directly resulting from my dietary choices.

Depending on who is penning the quotes, they can run the gamut from a reassuring “there is no greater way to thaw the soul than by exposing it to the warmth of friendship” to the completely circular “he who seeks warmth need merely to be warmed by what he seeks.”I always wonder if there was ever a situation where one of these bakery employees became disgruntled and sabotaged the motivational messages. How many customers would open their box of cinnamon rolls and find themselves faced with "Ask Us About Our Failed Health Inspections" or "Kill Whitey!"

Anyway, I began to feel that other culinary products could benefit from this personalized packaging. In that spirit, I have come up with the following:

  • Ramen Noodles – For the Love of God Stop Changing Your Major
  • Canned Chili – You Are Out of Toilet Paper
  • Name Brand TV Dinners – Don’t Worry. She’ll Cool Off…
  • Fruity Pebbles Cereal – Prepare to Poop the Rainbow!
  • TV Dinners that Refer to Their Main Course as “Wyngzs” – Was This Your First Time Eating Lemur Meat?
  • Cage-Free Farm Fresh All-Natural USDA Organic Eggs – The Outer Packaging Was a Misprint, These Hens Were Water-Boarded With Antibiotics & Forced to Smoke Menthols at Gunpoint.
  • Velveeta – Yes, It Is Unnatural That I Don’t Require Refrigeration

  • Hillshire Farms Deli Meat – We Both Know You Are Just Using Me for the Free Tupperware
  • Store Brand TV Dinners – Are We Still Pretending This Separation is Temporary?
  • Tyson Chicken Breasts – Of Course We Gave Them Growth Hormones, That Last Cut of Meat was the Size of a Miniature Harp
  • Hot Dogs – Processed in a Facility that also Processes Tree Nuts & Schnauzer