Dad at 40

Fitness, Nutrition, Parenting, and Life

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Losing my S!*% at Luby’s Cafeteria

So, I have been relatively quiet these last two weeks or so. It has been a busy time with South by Southwest in town. I will write more about that soon, as I have some really great stories to tell about my experiences this year. However, this story is about something much more personal to me.

Many of you may think this is ridiculous. Some of you may wonder why I even choose to eat at this restaurant. I have heard a ton of stories about it being a dinosaur from a bygone era. But, it was a dinosaur that I was familiar with. My mother would often take me to the theater in Harlingen, Texas and right after or before, we would stop to get a bite to eat at Luby’s Cafeteria.

To this day, my mother loves Luby’s. That is until yesterday. So, I relay this warning to you all as a courtesy. And before you go lambasting me about I get what I deserve for going there, please remember that a large number of people use Luby’s – especially the elderly who grew up with that food as a generational thing. This is why my story is so disturbing.

Yesterday, March 17th, I decided to join my mother and son at Luby’s. Was it my ideal choice? No. I prefer other food. However, in a pinch, it beats a burger. Now, the last time I went there, my food was mostly cold. I chalked it up to a bad day. The manager dealt with the issue and got me hot food. Bravo for him. But yesterday was a totally different story. Truly.

We get in line to get our food. My son went to sit with his little brother in a booth. As I am standing in line looking at what I want to eat, I glance over to the back kitchen area. I see a large, probably 6’2″, heavy-set guy with reasonably sized (and hairy arms) elbows deep in a huge vat of macaroni and cheese.I was immediately revolted. I pointed it out to the assistant manager. He looked back and turned to me and said that he was wearing gloves. Gloves! Ok, well, that was still gross, but gloves would make it better I thought. Then the guy stops mixing the macaroni and turns to wash his hands. No GLOVES!!!!

SO, I complain again. The manager (the same gentleman I met before in the hot food incident) explains to me that the guy washed his hands before and then mixes the macaroni and then washes his hands again. It was safe.

I am not going to lie. I was dumbfounded. I did not want to make a scene or embarrass my mother. So I told the assistant manager that if they were going to do something so disgusting, to do it behind the scenes and out of the view of the public.

I ended up not being able to eat my food. The thought of this guy elbows deep in the macaroni really grossed me out. I got a full refund on my meal and called corporate to complain. Corporate was dumbfounded. This was not our operating procedure they told me. They would report it to the area manager. Great. I did my part. About 20 minutes later I get a call from the manager at the Luby’s telling me how grateful he was for my feedback and that it would start a conversation about hand cleaning procedures. He also told me how gloves were not going to really make a difference and it was about hand cleaning. He then went on to list other things Luby’s made by hand and that they were proud of making things by hand. I seriously wanted to puke and I tried to explain to him that it was unsanitary. I explained my position that you can wash your hands and still have gunk under your finger nails. He simply said they would have a conversation about better hand washing.

I get it. I do not work in the food service industry. I was not trained in their specifics. But here is my inexperienced and non-food service educated response to them. HELL NO!!!

How about this? Let me really wash my feet well. Then let me mix up the macaroni and cheese with my feet. How about that? Pretty arbitrary? Right? No? I would probably be told by them that is ridiculous. And they would be right. Just as ridiculous as a guy elbows deep in a vat of macaroni!!! I am not sure if I am more grossed out by what I saw or what I heard. Rather than say we made a mistake and that vat was thrown away and that is not how we make our food, he actually told me they make a ton of food that way, they are proud of their hand made tradition, and they will improve their hand washing techniques.

Here you go Luby’s (some thoughtful feedback):

  • hand washing never quite cleans our skin because the water can never be hot enough to truly kill bacteria
  • to truly kill bacteria on our skin, medical specialists use betadyne (that red stuff) instead of alcohol or anything else – this is done to ensure a truly clean surface
  • how does hand washing prevent arm hair from falling off
  • is there truly a way to ensure that someone follows an exact protocol to wash hands
  • if a guy goes almost elbows deep in food, you would expect him to wash up to his biceps (did not happen in this case)
  • by being elbows deep in food, he had to bend over it, which means sweat, drool, dandruff, or anything else can fall into the food
  • how expensive is it to buy a large wooden or metal spoon (and that does not invalidate the made by hand mantra)

I mean, WTF. You see, the problem with this experience is it got me to thinking about the food we eat. It really grossed me out. I know that perfectly sanitary conditions can never be truly achieved. I am not foolish. But this blatant violation of my trust put that fact in my face. It slapped me around a bit with it and eroded my trust that restaurants make safe food (thanks to Chipotle and now Luby’s). It left me feeling very uncomfortable about what I saw and how my food is prepared at any restaurant. Generally, food is prepared out of our line of sight for this very reason. I am sure if we saw how horrible it looked, we would never eat out again. Yesterday was so difficult because Luby’s threw in my face those deep seeded fears that food is probably not prepared as well as I would hope it is. And while the manager was nice and thankful for the feedback, the poor dude did not realize that he simply made it worse by telling me that gloves were no solution and they would basically keep doing what they were doing.

My 76-year-old mother was grossed out too. She stated she would never eat there again. I am grossed out. I will never eat there again. My 18-year-old son is grossed out. He will never eat there again. My 3 month old son will never touch their food. Four generations of diners lost in one 30 minute period. And, I say to all of you, if you eat there…please stop. It will be fine until it is not fine. You may feel sick one day after eating there. All the equipment will be clean. All the food prep stations will be clean. Hand cleaner stocked up at all the washing stations. All inspections passed. History is great with sanitation. But just remember, somewhere…some guy is elbows deep in your food.

Gross…………………

 

 

Little Voices = Bad Choices

So, I was looking at my car about 15 months ago. My son was not yet a thought in my head. However, the idea of not having a fun car was. This little voice in my head chimed in and said “Get a new car!” so off I went to the dealerships to look at options. What to get? What would be fun and reasonable?

But before I begin, I should note that I am 6’8″ and car shopping is in interesting exercise in finding fit, form, and function that works for me. Add to that the possibility of a future child and you have some interesting things happening.

My choices at the time:

Nissan 370Z – Yeah…no. Great car. But, no. First off, it is pretty expensive and it is downright claustrophobic. Despite being a great looking car with performance to boot, I just could not justify this car to myself.

Ford Mustang – Sweet ride. Had been recently redesigned and looked amazing. Problems at the time – dealers were not letting you test drive them. They were too hot an item. Strike one. Sitting in the thing, it is small. Very cool, but small. The back seat could be used for a puppy. Not a baby, but a puppy. A small one. Strike two. Inflated prices. They were marked up the wazoo and I was not interested in buying an expensive car with a new and untested design. Strike three.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe– The Genesis is a nice car. Make no mistake. It was nice. I thought this was a serious contender. But again, for a guy my size it was really small. I was concerned that I would not be comfortable. Just not something that I was going to enjoy in the long run. But, if you are shorter and want a lot of car for your money, then the Genesis coupe is an awesome deal.

Mercedes C or E Class Coupe – I had owned a CLK once. It was a great car. Awesome for a guy my size with room to spare. I will say that I miss that car. However, the challenge of being a Mercedes owner is the cost of insurance and repair on a luxury car. Plus, it is a sitting target for thieves. No, I do not think roving bands of thieves run around town seeking out a random Mercedes coupe to vandalize. But of all the cars I have owned, it is the only one I ever had vandalized, so my perspective is biased here. A new or slightly used one was still hella expensive and not something I wanted to drop all my money into.

BMW – Nope. Just nope. Never liked Beemers. Not to say they are bad cars, just not my cup of tea. Why? I am not fond of their interior. So, ruled out quickly. The interior had not changed much from what I remembered. So, not a good fit.

Audi Coupe – Great car. But really pricey. Not as comfortable as I had hoped. So, not a good fit. Again, I am sure people shorter than me would love it. But it was not my thing.

Dodge Challenger – Ding ding ding. The winner by a wide margin. But, it was a Dodge and I was not sure if I would enjoy it. Still, old school American muscle. It looked great. More importantly, it was big and comfy. It had all the perks I would possibly want. They loaded these things. Great deal too. Of course, the little voice said this is the car….this is the one. Buy it. A more calm and collected voice, my wife, was telling me that I should really get a four door. But no, I was getting old and this was my last hurrah. I wanted the Challenger. Hellcat? SRT? Shaker? Nope. Just the V-6. Rode great and had plenty of power. Awesome choice. I even convinced myself it would be easy to get a baby in and out of the backseat.

 

Dodge Challenger

My mid-life crisis car.

So, fast forward about a year. The car was great. I loved every minute of having it. For a V-6, it was more than enough car. However, enter a small child. A baby. Ok, now I want to murder that little voice that said get this car. Why? Because that little voice is insane. I shall never listen to that little voice again. So men out there, do not listen to that little voice. Tune it out. Put on headphones. Do whatever you have to do so it does not win out.

Having a carseat in a car like this is torture. You literally have to be an Olympic gymnast to get into the back seat to put a child in. Honestly, it would be easier to teach my 8 week old to hop in the car and strap himself in than getting in and out of the car. It was a painful lesson in practicality. I share this with you all because I hope that no one makes the same foolish mistake I did. Sure, I loved that car. But it was not practical at all.

So, what was my solution. Well, here I go again to find a new car. Fun times. What to get? Well, SUVs are not my thing. I still did not want a fuddy-duddy car. So, I had to find something that would be cool and fun and large enough to accommodate my family. Yeah, this was going to be fun. Where would I find a car like that? Hmm? Where? What? And yes, I realize these are first world problems, but I am sharing my experiences with you, good and bad.

So, I found this other car – a Dodge Charger. Imagine that. A what? Charger? The same car I could have had 15 months ago and saved myself a few thousand dollars in stupidity tax. Yeah. That car. Well, stupid people should pay a stupidity tax and I am no exception. One new car later and I have the space and comfort that I should have been thinking about from the start. Luckily, I am in a position to absorb this hit without it killing me. But I know many people are not. I hope that this post helps someone. I also hope that I made the right choice. It feels right though, so I am lucky. But yes, my more improved four door experience. And I stress this – four doors are important with a baby!! if you take nothing else away from this…get four doors!!!

Dodge Charger

My second mid-life crisis car.

 

 

Sleep -Saying Goodbye to a Dear Friend

Sleep is critical at any age. If you do a little research, you will see that the more you sleep, the better. Many professional athletes insist on sleeping at least 12 hours. Sleep is when our body repairs itself. So, I look back on my 20s and 30s and cringe when I think about all those days that I only slept 4 hours or less. Don’t get me started on my lack of sleep during my Navy days.

At 42 now, I cherish sleep and what it does for me. It is a valuable tool in my anti-aging arsenal and one of the things that keeps me sane and, I like to think, young. So, having a new baby really just wrecks the hell of out that. And listen, we men are pretty lucky because babies generally want their mothers. Although, you dads out there that for some reason are raising your babies on your own….my hats off to you and you know even better than I do how hard it is to function without sleep. But, I digress, we men are generally pretty lucky because we get more sleep than mom.

Sadly, the last couple of nights have been really hard on me. My son has been really, really, really fussy. There is nothing like laying your head on a pillow to fall into a deep slumber because you are tired as hell only to be gently and sweetly woken from your much needed slumber by the piercing wails of a baby. So, I found myself online last night looking for sleep solutions for my son. All this brings me to my actual review:

Instant Baby Sleep – you will find this product online. I guess it is not so much a review as a word of caution. All the online reviews for this thing are marketing tools. Each one. So, I like to think – SCAM. But, when you read them, it clearly says not scam. Which, screams to me SCAM. There is a shaky video or two on YouTube, which says to me SCAM…since it is only a minute or two long. At $29.97, I would not recommend you spend the money on something with no guarantee. More importantly, it offers no refunds. The company is headquartered in South Africa. Hey, South Africa is a great country I am sure, but why don’t I just light a $10 and $20 dollar bill on fire and call it good. You have been warned!

8 Minute Sleep – so, this one I actually tried. Here is the beauty of this, it is actually free online. These cats are cool enough to post it on YouTube, all ten hours of it! Try before you buy. Now, that is a company I can have a little faith in. You may be asking why spend the $5 to $8 bucks on it if it is free online. Well, I was lucky enough to be connected to wi-fi at home and able to stream via my YouTube app. The purchase is if you want to buy the audio file separately. This allows you to put it on your phone.

Since I used the audio file, I will say this, my son was crying inconsolably (yes, that sounds dramatic, but it is true). I fired up YouTube and used their Baby Sleep Miracle – Pink Noise option. It sounds like static and I really wish I had not just watched Poltergeist a couple of days back, but after about 3 minutes my son just stopped crying. It got to the point where the wife sat up worried that something happened to him. He was in a deep sleep. We left it on for the entire night. About 4 hours later he woke up because he was hungry and needed a diaper change. But, 4 hours of sleep!!!

Now, can I say with any certainty that it will work every time. Nope. Will it keep a baby that is in pain or suffering from colic asleep? Not sure. But did it work for us last night for a while. Hell yes! So, that is enough for me. 8 minute sleep earns my $8 and my gratitude.

I stress this to you all, I am not some corporate shill trying to take your hard earned money. Real dad here writing a real review of something that worked for me. Besides, it is free on YouTube, so you do not even need to buy it.

Good luck out there…I hope that you all have great success with getting sleep.

 

 

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