How to shock a fast food server


People who work in fast food pretty much see and hear it all. There is very little you or I say that they haven’t heard before.

Recently, I had an exchange with an African American worker at a nearby McDonald’s that left us both nearly speechless. I had just stopped in to use the free wifi and catch up on emails, so when it was my turn to order, I approached with my customary, “May I please have a small black coffee.”

“There’s that word again,” she replied.

I stood there in stunned silence thinking my use of the word “black” offended her. A checkmate of the eyes ensued for several seconds as I grasped for my next words.

Thankfully, she broke the silence with, “Please. I hardly ever hear that word and it’s so pleasing to the ear when I hear it.”

I explained that my niece who works in fast food recently told me that her biggest pet peave is when people come up to the counter and say “I want….”

Having worked in a number of service roles in the past myself, I try to be pleasant with service workers as a rule. However, my niece’s perspective helped me realize that I need to bring my A game in manners whenever I interact with fast food workers. Plus, I’ve been trying to model better manners for my teen daughters; even though they weren’t with me on this occasion.

I challenge you to give it a try. Next time you’re ordering food from a fast food worker, see if you can shock them by using your best manners. Extra credit: address the person by the name on his or her name tag when you thank them.

The work ethic of teens these days


Those of us of the Gen X generation and older often pass judgment on the teens of today with statements like these:

  • They have it so easy.
  • They don’t know what hard work is.
  • Where’s the work ethic?

I’ve been guilty of the same sort of prejudices.

Recently, my teenage daughter turned that all around for me. Less than one week after her 17th birthday, she reported to work for her first job: at 5 a.m. – on a school day! She’s lifeguarding at the neighborhood Y. The pool is outdoors. It’s January. We live in Phoenix. But still, it’s chilly in the morning, and on this morning it happens to be raining.

“Lifeguarding is not work,” some would say. “All they do is stand around and twirl a whistle.”

Having seen the effort she has put into it, I can now contest the previous statement. Lifeguarding is skilled labor at a minimum. Prior to even being granted an interview, she was required to give up two full weekends and two weeknights for the prerequisite training. She now knows every aspect of keeping others safe at the pool: first aid, CPR, dealing with panic, hypothermia and more. She paid a handsome sum out of her own pocket for the training with no hint of being reimbursed. She passed a series of in-class quizzes, plus two water tests, and a grilling of an interview with both her manager and the manager’s manager.

Today was her first day on the job. I was awakened at 4:15 a.m. by the sound of her getting ready. Although she’s pretty self sufficient, I got up to see if she needed any last minute help so she could scoot out the door on time. She was good. She had prepared everything she needed the night before: Clothes for work, clothes for school, her lunch, and gear for swim practice after school.

To say I am proud of her would be an understatement. But, the purpose of this post is not to brag about my daughter, although I could do so all day long. My hope is that you will join me in looking a little deeper into the plight of today’s youth. In many ways, they face far more challenges and obstacles than many of us did when we were growing up. Let’s show them our respect with words of encouragement and gratitude. Thank you!

Cruising Arizona’s Apache Trail


I had a free weekend in mid-January 2014, so my oldest daughter and I took to Arizona’s open roads and checked the Apache Trail off our Arizona Bucket List. The roughly 5-hour loop begins just north of the town of Apache Junction on the eastern edge of Phoenix metro. Most of the drive consists of fairly navigable two-lane blacktop. It’s the 25 or so miles of dusty, washboard road that will keep me from rushing back.

Prior to moving to Phoenix in 2012, I spent 17 years in the Denver – Boulder area of Colorado and did plenty of driving in the Rocky Mountains. So, I am fairly adept at handling steep, winding roads. However, I wasn’t prepared for just how steep some of the sections on the Apache Trail would be. In particular, Fish Creek Hill requires you to ride the brakes almost non-stop as you descend over 1,500 feet in elevation in just a couple miles. Even riding in my vehicle’s lowest gear, the decline was too steep to cruise without the use of brakes. As a result, many drivers, including me, pulled off about two-thirds of the way down the hill to let the brakes cool off – and take a few pictures.

I will let the pictures below tell the rest of my story; however, if I had to name a highlight it would be the awesome splendor of Apache Lake – a Goldilocks sized reservoir sandwiched between Roosevelt and Canyon Lakes along the Salt River. At one point, we backed my truck onto a small driveway on a bluff overlooking the marina area and sat on the tailgate to chow down our picnic lunch. As we resumed the drive, I was awestruck by the towering cliffs shooting out of the glassy, narrow channel on the lake’s eastern end. The visuals ignited dreams of bringing my family back in warmer months to cruise the lake in a rental boat.

Views from the Apache Trail (click any image to enlarge):

My new year’s resolution: Dropping the F-bomb


I know what you are thinking.  Why would anyone want to make using the F-word a resolution?  That’s just it: I don’t want to start using the F-word. I want to drop it from my vocabulary altogether. Image

For many of you, this may sound like a trivial resolution.  However, use of the F-word has become all too commonplace for me.  Although few people in my social circles have heard me use the F-word, it has become a word I rely on far too frequently in my vocabulary – especially when I’m alone.

Many times, I use it only when I’m talking to myself, such as when I’m driving or going about my work day. I use it as a noun, a verb, an adjective, a pronoun, and often as a complete sentence.

It always sets me back when I hear somebody that I respect otherwise, drop the F-bomb in the course of conversation.  One day, it occurred to me that others probably have similar reactions when I use it. And if negative talk has any impact on moods (I believe it does), then I might be able to improve my overall mood by nixing the F-word.

In any case, the word is never used to express anything positive when it comes out of my mouth. My hope is to eradicate it from my lexicon altogether, since it does not benefit me in any way. Effective immediately, I will cease to use the F-word.

Challenge: Give the gift of your full attention


Challenge for the week: Give the gift of your full attention.

Give the gift of your full attention. That’s a gift few people give. That gift alone will make others want to be around you and remember you.

You can’t connect with others if you’re busy connecting with your stuff, too. Put your stuff away. Don’t check your phone. Don’t glance at your monitor. Don’t focus on anything else, even for a moment.

Have you heard about the free travel services on Craigslist?


We’re on a tight budget these days but determined to do something fun out of town with the kiddos for Spring Break.  Since we’re new to Phoenix and only a six hour drive from the LA/Hollywood area, my wife and I decided we could work a thrifty road trip into the budget.

Beautiful pic of Santa Monica pier by Dan Adamato
Beautiful pic of Santa Monica pier by Dana Damato (www.danadamato.com).

So we put some dates on the calendar and began to plan. The trouble with searching the web for things to do is that most of the search results include options that cost money. I knew if I could talk to some locals I could find some cheap or free ways to entertain our tween-aged daughters.

Since we don’t know anyone who lives in LA, I posted this plea for help in the “Frugal” message board on Craigslist/LA:

Looking for help from locals. We’re hoping to find a studio tour or filming of some sort to experience that is free or cheap. Any tips?

The crowd came through in a big way. Here are the responses I received in just the first 48 hours:

  • Craigslist has an event calendar for every city,  click on a day in calendar at left side. http://losangeles.craigslist.org/
  • Google free tv tickets Los Angeles. We saw the Jimmy Kimmel show and Jeopardy. The Science Museum in Exposition Park is free. Natural History Museum is cheap. Ride the Blue Line to Long Beach. Take the Red Line to Union Station, walk to Olvera Street and Chinatown. Red Line also to Hollywood Blvd. Gold Line to Pasadena.
  • Call the Burbank studios to get tickets to Leno.
  • Universal has a theme park tour, but I think it costs.
  • Google free tv tickets Los Angeles. We saw the Jimmy Kimmel show and Jeopardy.
  • The Science Museum in Exposition Park is free.
  • Natural History Museum is cheap.
  • Universal city walk – it’s a few miles north of downtown LA (on the subway too) its free to walk around the stores and browse. the biggest cost is parking. but its about $80 a person to enter Universal City theme park next to it.
  • Drive to Santa Monica beach. You have to see the ocean plus the Santa Monica pier is a boardwalk classic the main cost is finding parking at the end of the 10 freeway.
  • Walk around Hollywood & Vine. See the stars in the sidewalk with Grummans theater handprints, and Kodak theater walk into souvenir stores see all the hucksters on the sidewalks, some impersonating stars.
  • Drive up to Griffith Observatory. That’s where they film lots of movies you’ll have a good view of downtown L.A. and the Hollywood sign nice science museum there too; parts are free.

Thanks, Craigslisters. This oughtta keep us busy!

You want baseball? You can’t handle the baseball!


About this time last year, when I was living in Colorado, I proclaimed to my Facebook friends, “One of these years I’m going to go to Phoenix for a couple weeks and attend as many MLB spring games as I can. Just not this year.”

At the time I had never been to the Phoenix area and we had not yet discussed moving here. (Another post for another time.) That was also before I realized just how much baseball action takes place in Arizona. Every spring thousands of people flock to the Phoenix area for to catch glimpses of their favorite players up close during Major League Baseball Spring Training. It turns out Spring Training is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

In the past five years or so, I have become a fan of the complete game – the players, the stats, the rules (written and unwritten), the coaches, the umps, the fans, the reporters, the stadiums. I love it all – minus paid parking. I study in the off-season by reading biographies, magazines and geeky books like “Watching Baseball Smarter.”

So this year I’m committed to taking in as much baseball in person as I can. Back in January I mapped out what the spring would look like on a calendar. I started with the MLB Spring Training calendar – six or more games per day from the end of February through March. On top of those games, I overlaid the World Baseball Classic, then Arizona State and University of Arizona games, plus a baseball experience like no other.

Photo of vintage base ball game at Warren Field, Bisbee, AZ
Vintage Base Ball Tournament at Warren Field in Bisbee, AZ. Photo courtesy of Friends of Warren Ballpark.

Would you believe the oldest active baseball stadium in the U.S. is also in Arizona? Yes, even older than Boston’s Fenway Park. Had to book a family trip to Bisbee in April. We’ll catch one day of the Copper City Classic Vintage “Base Ball” tournament on Saturday. They play by 1860 rules in old school uniforms and the umps wear beanies and bow ties.

On our way home Sunday, we’ll stop in Tucson to watch the defending national champion (2012) Arizona Wildcats play the Cal Bears – a 2011 College World Series team – in another classic ballpark: Hi Corbett.

I took in my first Spring Training game with my teenage daughter this past Sunday. It was windy and cold and she wanted to leave early. I coaxed and coddled her to stay through six innings. Day two of my 2013 baseball binge is today: day one of the four-day round robin Coca Cola Classic Tournament in Surprise featuring ASU, Arkansas, Gonzaga and Pacific.

As if plotting out all the baseball games going on isn’t challenge enough, I need to work in my full-time job and my part-time role as taxi driver for the kiddos, plus their sporting and school events and the occasional family meal.

I’m not sure how I’ll handle all this baseball but I’m going to give it a try.