Monday, April 15, 2013

“In the cherry blossom's shade there's no such thing as a stranger.” -- Kobayashi Issa

4/10/2013 – 4/14/2013 Miles MPG Average Speed  
  1810 48 60  
image A Note About Mileage:

I ran a little experiment on this trip.  Usually I drive a bit over the speed limit – so around 74 MPH on the 70 MPH stretches of the interstate where traffic is light.

This time I set the cruise control at 65 MPH from Orlando to Savannah – and averaged 53.8 MPG for that stretch. 

Driving listening:

 


4/10/2013 – 4/14/2013 Priceline Retail $ Savings % Savings
Inn At Mulberry Grove (2.5-star Savannah) $46.11
$34 bid
* * *
Sheraton Reston (3.5-star) $43.88
$36 bid + $10 bonus cash
$138.88
$124 base rate
$95 68%

* I’m not counting any savings for the Inn at Mulberry Grove.  As I describe below, the hotel was so bad that I can’t view it as a bargain.


Dining

Panera J. Christopher's Luke's Lobster  


Wednesday

Wednesday was a travel day – I left town after work to drive part of the way to DC, planning to stop in Savannah for the night and have a shorter drive on Thursday. 

So normally I wouldn’t even right anything about Wednesday, but I had dining and hotel experiences so bizarre and unacceptable, that I decided to relate them.  If you don’t want to read my complaints, just skip to Thursday. Smile

Panera Bread on Urbanspoon Why am I blogging about a Panera Bread? After all, Panera is a chain and with that comes a consistent experience, right? 

Well, my experience at this particular Panera demonstrates a managerial failure of such staggering scope that I simply have to relate it.
image I was nearing Jacksonville and decided to stop for dinner – deciding on Panera because I wanted something quick, but better than fast food.

So I ordered and paid, then sat down to wait for my food.  This Panera has a new (?) system I haven’t seen before.  Instead of getting a buzzer
panera and picking your food up from the counter when it’s ready, the device tells the servers what table you’re at and they bring your food to the table.

I sat down, pulled out my phone to read  a book while I waited … and waited.

After a while, I looked at the time and saw that it was 7:27, so I pulled out my receipt and checked it.  When I saw the time on the receipt was 7:01, I actually assumed their register was wrong.  A few minutes later, I walked up to the pass where they were delivering the food and saw that they had an expediting screen that listed ticket numbers and how long they’d been waiting.  My ticket was #13 and I’d been waiting thirty-seven minutes.

So I went back to my table and stood there for a bit, watching the pass.  Food was coming out and no one else had been waiting as long as I had.  I was more curious as to how this had happened and what would happen next at this point.  When servers picked up food, they checked the screen – I assume to find which table a guest was sitting at – so I was really curious as to how no one had figured out that someone had waited thirty-seven minutes.

After a bit, I went back to the pass and took a picture of the screen, because I figured no one would ever believe that I’d waited forty-five minutes for food at a freakin’ Panera Bread, and went back to my table which was quite near the pass.

At this point, one of the servers saw me take the picture and I heard him point this out to the manager and tell him that I’d taken a picture of the screen.

Now, put yourself in this manager’s position.  You’ve just been told that a customer in your store has been waiting for forty-five minutes and took a picture of the screen that proves that.  What do you do? 

A) Immediately go to the customer’s table and apologize for the wait, assuring them that they’ll receive their food shortly.

B) Send the guy who pointed it out to you, whose job is to drop off full plates and pick up empty plates, to apologize to the, probably irritated, customer.

If you chose B, then you’ve been to the same customer service school as this guy.

I thanked the server for telling me, assured him that I didn’t think it was his fault, and told him that I would like to speak to the manager.  I watched as he returned to the pass and told the manager this.

Now, put yourself in this manager’s position.  The customer who’s been waiting forty-five minutes for food as specifically asked to speak to you.  What do you do?

A) Immediately go to the customer’s table and apologize.

B) Wait until the customer’s food is ready, deliver it yourself, and apologize.

C) Stay behind the pass and send the server to tell the customer you’ll refund his money, visit him soon, and his food will be out shortly.

Do I have to tell you?  Yeah, C.

So a few minutes later (at the fifty-eight minute mark), the server brought my food.  I thanked him for it and he told me the manager would be coming.  So I ate my food.

When I had finished, I had still not spoken to the manager.  I stood up – he was still working at the pass.  I looked around and decided that $12.50 was not worth the time it would take me to walk over there, get his attention, and get the refund – especially when he had made it rather clear that what he was up to was far more important than dealing with me.  So I left.

Once on the road, I called the store and asked to speak to a manager.  The woman who had answered told me she was the manager and I became confused – I’d thought the guy at the pass was the manager.  Maybe I had misjudged things.

I explained to her what had happened and found out that they had two managers working.  I was … shocked.  Two managers on duty and neither had bothered to come to my table?  Wow.

She explained that she hadn’t known about the situation and the other manager was very busy, but she was sorry and would be happy to refund my money.  I explained that after waiting an hour and facing a long drive, I had left because I didn’t want to spend more time on the issue.

So, next management training quiz.  A customer has just called you, told you they waited an hour for food, had taken a picture of the expediting screen at forty-five minutes, asked to speak to the manager and then waited twenty minutes without getting to speak to one, and left rather than waiting for a refund because he had a long drive.  Do you?

A) Apologize again and ask for his address so you can refund him via a gift card.

B) Say you can understand him not waiting and reiterate that you didn’t know about the situation and the other manager was very busy.

Just … wow.

So let me make it clear: I was more amused than angry at waiting an hour for my food.  If the manager had showed up when it was pointed out to him and apologized, I’d have had a good laugh with him about it.  I waited fifty-eight minutes for food at Panera Bread … come on, that’s funny!

But he didn’t know that.  Most people would have been irate.  A lot of people would have been spitting-pissed at that long a wait.  And he sent some poor kid out to deal with that possibility. 

Dealing with your store’s mistake is the job of the manager, not the kid picking up dishes.  And with two managers on duty, there is no excuse whatsoever for one of them not to be dealing with the issue.  Unacceptable.

Anyway, I got back on the road and headed for Savannah.  I’d booked the hotel in Savannah only that morning – up until then I’d been trying to get a room somewhere in South Carolina for the night, but couldn’t find anything at my price point.  I switched to Savannah, figuring I could get a pretty good deal near the airport again and wound up with something off I95 at Savannah North.

I arrived at the Inn at Mulberry Grove a bit before 11:00 PM and checked in.  After 10:00 PM the front desk is behind protective glass, which did not give me a warm-fuzzy about the neighborhood – but they did have a young girl working the desk, apparently alone, so I can understand wanting to be safe. 

Along with the keycard came the TV remote … I’ve never seen that before, but apparently it’s how they keep track of how many rooms they have left.  Okay.

The first thing I noticed about the room was that it had an odor.  Nothing really identifiable, but vaguely unpleasant.  I was disappointed, but knew I’d get used to it in a few minutes, so not that big a deal – then I drew back the bedcovers and noticed some dark stains through the sheet, so I pulled that back too.

20130410_224620

I can understand not being able to get juice stains out – but maybe put them at the foot of the bed? (I didn’t check that – afraid.)  And, yeah, the yellow stains maybe mean it should be replaced.  I checked the other bed, which half of it was okay, but the pillows …

20130411_064423

Between two beds and six pillows, I did manage to find two pillows and half a bed that I wasn’t entirely uncomfortable spending the night with.  Yes, I could have gone back to the front desk and complained.  That would have taken time – at least half an hour.  Go to office, explain, get new key, move bags, return old key and TV remote, etc.  If I’d been staying multiple days, then I would have asked to be moved, but could live with it for one night, in favor of getting some sleep before my 6:00 AM wakeup.  So I went to take a shower …

20130410_225331

My first thought was that a previous guest, so despondent at the thought of sleeping in that bed, had slit his wrists in the tub and grasped the curtain with one bloody, claw-like hand in his final moments.

Then I stepped into the tub and realized that a far more plausible explanation was that a previous guest had simply slipped in the damn thing, split his head open on the side, and left that mark with his final, dying efforts to reach help.

Please note: I have no personal knowledge of death, by suicide or misadventure, at the Inn at Mulberry Place.  I merely speculate with the available evidence.

Much as I speculate that the mirror frame in that room has not been cleaned since those damn Yankees sank the CSS Georgia near Old Fort Jackson.

20130410_230215

There were a lot of other maintenance issues with the room – chipped paint, wall stains, etc – but these were the worst.  I called the hotel Monday when I was home and also emailed them the photos.  During the call the manager seemed to be more interested in making this about me not having asked for a change of room that night than addressing what is clearly a fundamental problem with maintenance at her property.

Even after I stated clearly that I wasn’t looking for a refund, she seemed intent on justifying not giving me one.  I don’t care about a refund for one night in that hotel – I care that it’s represented as a 2.5-star on Priceline and clearly isn’t deserving of that rating.  I care about the possibility of winding up in this hotel next time I go to Savannah.  And I care about trying to bring these type of things to a hotel’s attention and being asked if, maybe, the pillow was yellow from bleach stains …

Now, I’m not a chemist, Miss Hotel Manager, but … oh, hell, never mind.

Thursday

By coincidence, my mother and step-father were in Savannah for the week, so I met them for breakfast early the next morning.

J. Christopher's on Urbanspoon We met at J. Christopher’s on Liberty Street.  I had the Eggs Christopher, an Eggs Benedict variant with smoked turkey instead of ham, with bacon and tomato. 

The smoked turkey kept the salty, smoky flavor of the ham, but probably made it a bit

20130411_073800

healthier; the tomato added the acidic bite that compliments the richness of the Hollandaise; and the bacon … well … it’s bacon.  Bacon doesn’t need a reason.  This was a really good dish, well-prepared with just the right amount of Hollandaise.

I also tried some of the blueberry-granola pancakes my mom ordered and they were good as well.

Back on the road, I made it to the DC area around 5:00.  I was staying in Reston, VA and planning to take the train in to the city.  Given the time, I went straight to the station at Dunn-Loring, one stop from the West end of the Orange line.

image

DC has a wonderful subway system.  The trains are clean and comfortable, with padded seats; they run frequently and on-time; and you can virtually anywhere you want to go and be within a couple blocks of your destination when you leave the train.

Thirty-some minutes after getting on the train in Dunn-Loring, after changing to the Red line at Metro Center, I exited at Gallery Place – about 100’ from the entrance to the Verizon Center where the Capitals were about to play the Carolina Hurricanes.

20130411_183338

Up I went.  Past the 100-level, lower-bowl seats.  Past the Club seats, where’d been in Raleigh for the Hurricanes home games there.  Past the Skybox level.  Past, in fact, everything – to the highest, cheapest seats available, above, even, the freakin’ Jumbotron itself.

The Jumbotron which, ten minutes into the game, displayed the bewildering statistic that the Capitals had managed to play ten minutes, at home, without a single shot on goal!

image

Not being a particular fan of either team, though, I was able to just enjoy the game and not worry about who won, although I do tend to root for the home team, just because.

After the game it was back to the subway and out to Virginia to get my car and head to the hotel – which the Sheraton was much, much nicer than the Inn at Mulberry Place and only $2 a night more.  Smile with tongue out

Friday

I actually had a purpose other than vacation for this trip, so Friday morning was spent taking care of that, and I wound up getting into the city-proper around noon.  I exited the subway at the Farragut West station near Farragut Square.

image

This is a congregating spot for food trucks and I was hungry for lunch.

20130412_121107

Two sides of the Square were bumper-to-bumper with trucks serving food of all kinds.  I went with a Korean truck and bulgogi two-ways, regular and spicy.

20130412_122707

I chose double-salad instead of salad and kimchi.  I’m willing to get a bit more adventurous with my food choices as I age, but I draw the line at recipes that involve burying your jar of cabbage in the ground.  Maybe in my fifties.

The food was good.  The spicy had both heat and flavor, but the heat wasn’t overwhelming.  But after a few bites I was interrupted.

An older woman sat down next to me, mentioned that the food looked good, and asked me which truck I’d gotten it from.  I told her and confirmed that it was good, but I could tell from her appearance that she was probably homeless. 

We talked for a few minutes about Orlando – her asking if Disney had much different rides than when she’d been there years ago, me mentioning that Orlando had grown a lot and how ridiculous the ticket prices were now.  I said that the food was pretty good, but a bit spicy for me, closed the container and put it on the bench beside me. 

A few minutes more conversation and I checked the time, made my excuses, and left, leaving the food on the bench.  When I looked back from the edge of the park she was eating it, which is pretty sad to think of in our nation’s capital.

I walked toward the Mall, detouring along the front of the White House to see who might be protesting.

20130412_124716

There was only the guy who’s been there forever and one other group – so, politics aside, what’s really changed so much from the days when there were crowds of protesters in the park all the time and why aren’t they still there?

20130412_12493020130412_124937

Once on the Mall, I walked through the World War II Memorial, headed along the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial.  Most people don’t know that everything West of the Washington Monument was originally part of river and swamp – there was a wharf along Constitution Avenue.

20130412_131613

20130412_131633

They’re doing work on the Monument’s facings with some serious scaffolding.

20130412_132049

20130412_132935

20130412_133307

Say what you will, you will never convince me that these are not the greatest speech ever given by a President.

20130412_133505

From the Lincoln Memorial I went through the Vietnam Memorial and then over to the National Academy of Sciences.

20130412_141749

The Einstein Memorial outside the NAS is so different from the others in DC, and, having just read a couple biographies of him, I think it would make him smile.  The floor in front of him is set with metal buttons in a star map centered on Polaris.

The NAS doesn’t have a lot of exhibits and is as frequented as other places, but they do have some interesting things.  Like a map of the technologies necessary to get to the VCR and an example of pre-RADAR aircraft detection.

20130412_142241

20130412_142919

I crossed the Mall to the Tidal Basin and headed along it toward the Jefferson Memorial.  It was a nice walk underneath the cherry trees, which were still mostly in bloom.

20130412_145648

20130412_145916

20130412_150518

I’m probably on a list somewhere for taking a picture of the helicopter …

20130412_150802

20130412_151214

20130412_152227

Back to the Mall, where headed toward the Capital and stopped at the Hirshborn Museum – most of the Hirshborn is modern, but they do have Rodin’s Burgher’s of Callais properly displayed.

20130412_160100

Some museums display each of the figures separately, but they’re meant to be together as a single piece. 

From the Hirshborn, I went to my Mecca the Air and Space Museum. 

20130412_164145

That’s not a model … that thing went to the freakin’ Moon.  Air and Space is one of the most awesome places in the world.

20130412_165357

That’s the beginning of commercial space flight right there, which means it’s the beginning of real, serious travel into space and beyond. 

20130412_170132

From Air and Space I walked to L’Enfant Plaza and caught the Green line to the Navy Yard-Ballpark station for a Nationals game.  I have never before been to a baseball game.  I know … but I wasn’t a sports fan growing up and Orlando didn’t have a baseball team anyway. 

20130412_174304

20130412_202339

I had a hot dog and Cracker Jacks because I was at a ballgame.  No peanuts except the ones in the Cracker Jacks, though … which the prize in Cracker Jacks kind of sucks these days. Sad smile

I learned that baseball is the exact opposite of hockey, but it’s interesting enough in a strategic-way for me to want to go to another game.  Sitting somewhere other than the outfield, I think. 

It definitely is more conducive to socializing than hockey, with the breaks spread out instead of long breaks between periods.  And, from what I observed, there’s far more beer consumed … at least in the outfield.

I still think it would be more fun if the players were allowed to check.

Saturday

Back to the Mall early to go to the other Smithsonian buildings.  There was a large crowd from the Cherry Blossom Festival going on.

20130413_105657

20130413_105807

20130413_110234

I started in the Natural History Museum for the dinosaurs and the Hope Diamond.

20130413_112455

From there I wandered around the Mall for a bit.

20130413_121504

And then made a brief stop at the American History Museum to see the Philadelphia gunboat and the Star Spangled Banner.  No photos of either due to exhibit restrictions, but worth the visit. 

I don’t care much for the tune, but the Star Spangled Banner itself is moving.  To fully understand the meaning of what Francis Scott Key wrote about it, you have to understand the context of the time – when lowering the colors (flag) meant surrender of either the ship or fort.  For the flag to remain flying while the British ships withdrew meant something for a young country.

From there I had time to go through part of the National Gallery, certainly not all of it, before that night’s hockey game. 

Sometimes at work I know just how this guy must feel …

20130413_134653

The nice thing about art museums is that they typically have a lot of comfy seating, which makes for nice break.  Even gangnam-style.

20130413_145421

Luke's Lobster on Urbanspoon I had lots of time before the game to look for someplace to eat, but the first few places I found interesting didn’t open until 5:30 for dinner. 

But around a corner on E Street, I found Luke’s Lobster and it both looked good and had good reviews on
Urbanspoon.

I got the “Taste of Maine”, which is a sampler consisting of half each lobster, shrimp, and crab rolls.

20130413_160540

These are served “Maine-style”, with the bun toasted, just a bit of mayo on the bun, cold seafood, and a lemon butter drizzled over it.  Simple and delicious.  The crab was the best of the three, with the lobster a close second. 

For dessert I had their Cherry Blossom Ice Cream Sandwich – cherry ice cream between chocolate chip cookies.

20130413_162723

For entertainment while waiting for the Verizon Center to open for the game, there was these guys outside the Gallery Place subway.

And then another band showed up around the corner.

The Capitals have some odd fans, but I had a better seat for this game.

20130413_175902

20130413_181033

That’s “Crosby Sucks”, which is taking a rivalry with the Penguins a bit far, in my opinion.

20130413_183215

A long way to drive to see Stamkos and the Lightning play, but that’s how it worked out.

After the game, it was back to the hotel for a few hours sleep and then the drive back to Orlando.

No comments:

Post a Comment