Friday, June 29, 2007

Consistent Customer Service

To the Intercontinental Hotels Group Guest Centre

Someone speaking for your establishment has found fault with my attitude and I'd appreciate your assistance in my education regarding this matter. I am not sure that I have the correct e-mail address for this sort of letter, so in addition, I will be posting this inquiry on various Internet sites while awaiting a response.

The morning of June 24th, after a wonderful evening touring Alexandria, Virginia, I and my friends had been looking forward to joining a number of others for breakfast at "Chequers" in the Crown Plaza Old Town, formerly the Radisson (901 N Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA 22314).

Because we knew it would be a large gathering, the hotel had been thoughtfully informed, weeks in advance, that our group of 20 or so would be arriving for breakfast at 9 a.m.

Arriving fashionably late, around 9:15, I thought nothing of our passing ungreeted through the lobby to ascend the steps to the restaurant. I'm sure the people at the desk were doing something infinitely more important and it is probably not a policy to smile and greet guests as they pass.

Neither did I give more than a passing thought at the time to the woman at the restaurant desk who also failed to look up, make inquiry or even acknowledge our presence as we paused before deciding to simply continue unguided into the restaurant proper.

I scanned the room and moved toward our party, catching the eye of the only visible waiter along the way, indicating that we were joining the group.

The waiter quickly assisted in helping us pull more tables into a row, poured us coffee and disappeared.

We sat chatting for a while with our friends, occasionally looking up fruitlessly to see if the waiter would be returning soon, perhaps with menus, some sort of breakfast buffet information, or even a glass of water.

Our friends became equally baffled by his absence and assumed that perhaps the breakfast buffet was the only source of nourishment. How much did it cost? Who knew? How do we indicate we'd like something? We didn't know and remained helplessly abandoned.

Acting on the assumption that the breakfast buffet was the only way we could eat, we risked moving to the line to view what was offered and actually reached for a plate before noticing large, heated bins of nothing but scraps and crumbs of food that indicated what had at one time occupied the bins. We were not alone.

People, both from our party and complete strangers, stood patiently, hungrily and hopefully with their empty plates, giving the establishment the benefit of the doubt that soon someone would come and restock.

It was a pitiful sight, really. Almost like the orphans in Dickins' Oliver Twist -- "You want more?!" I say "almost" because we hadn't had any yet. We didn't want 'more,' we wanted 'some.'

I decided to look for someone, anyone, who might have any information for us. The waiter was still missing and the woman I'd originally passed at the the restaurant desk had also escaped to perhaps the same place. Apparently, it was only the two of them providing this abundant void of service.

I thought luck was with me, however, because in my search for service, I did find a breakfast menu on a ledge that indicated alternatives to the breakfast buffet. With my trophy in hand and the prospect of an omelette in my mind, I passed back through the buffet area and the waiting crowd of people who were eagerly circling a mournfully small plate of French toast sticks that had just arrived via the restaurant desk woman.

Ah! There she is. She seemed a bit harried, but acknowledged my indication that I would need the assistance of "the" waiter. I then returned to the table to await his reappearance. And wait. And wait. And wait.

By the time he did return to our table, I was greatly disgruntled and unwilling to try to extract any kind of service from the establishment. Given my experience thus far, how long after ordering food would it arrive? I wasn't willing to risk further disappointment.

My two friends with whom I'd arrived had, however, nibbled from the breakfast buffet and were obligated to make payment. So they returned and waited at the vacant restaurant desk to pay.

And waited. And waited.

Not wanting to leave an unpaid burden, they descended to the hotel front desk and spoke with J. Simms, who claimed no responsibility for the restaurant and offered absolutely no assistance. When asked if he could locate someone to take payment, he responded, "I don't like your attitude."

My friends were politely asking for assistance and trying to make honest payment for partaking of a poorly stocked breakfast bar and absolutely no hint of customer service and the front desk person doesn't like our attitude?

To summarize:
The hotel knew of our arrival in advance, yet still the restaurant was negligent and understaffed.
The breakfast buffet was a wasteland of orts.
The hostess or cashier acted as neither and can only be called the unresponsive woman at (or absent from) the restaurant desk.
The desk clerk was unhelpful and accusatory.
In all my worldly travels, I don't believe that I have ever encountered such a lack of service in the field of customer hospitality.

Considering that "InterContinental Hotels Group is dedicated to providing consistent customer services," please forgive my ignorance in asking what kind of attitude should we have cultivated from our experience at your establishment?

You can respond directly to me at or post your comments under this same letter at my Web log (blog), .

Thank you for your thoughtful response,

Chuck Walker

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wanted: Replacement Homosexual

I wouldn't say that I'm flamboyant, (perhaps others will say that for me) and I'm not sure one could tell just by looking at me that I'm gay. Although a thespian, I'm not what one would call "straight-acting" (but I have played one on stage). I'm just your normal homosexual.

One time a woman I know from the train was throwing a holiday party at her home and was happily insistent that I attend. "Chuck, you have to come to my party! I won't take no for an answer."
"Sure," I said "can I bring my husband?"
"I don't care!" She announced, waving her drink, "Bring your wife."

Okay, we've established that she was drinking. So I'm not surprised she confused the noun gender or even that she forgot about the whole conversation, which was repeated - almost verbatim - twice more in the weeks approaching her shindig. What does surprise me is that after polite conversation with my husband at the party she turned to a mutual friend, "I didn't know Chuck was gay!"

How could she NOT know?

Later, that same month, I was determined to be out of the commuter parking lot before the man who normally holds that position. I wore a loose tank top, shorts and hiking boots for the sprint. It was quite an event, (enough for another entry) and many of the commuters on the train pressed against the window to watch.

Guy-1 commented that "He," he said, meaning me, "looks kinda gay dressed like that." and when another rider quickly confirmed, "You didn't know?" it pretty much changed the dynamics of our future conversations.

Once Guy-1 knew I was gay, anything he'd say that could possibly (in his head) be misconstrued as having even the slightest interest in the queer nation, had to be immediately followed with a nervous assurance "But I'm not gay."

"Hi, Chuck. I'm not gay."
"Okay, Guy-1."

I've had to constantly reassure him that I'm happily married, he's not my type BECAUSE he's straight, I have no interest--how many times and ways can I express that I'm not going to jump him when he least expects it?

When people know you're gay - they'll act and react in a variety of ways - complete comfort, morbid curiosity, violence, hidden interest, fear, indifference, secret camaraderie, condemnation, etc. -- a list as long and diverse as there are people.

Overwhelmingly, though, it's men who are the most uncomfortable.

Guy-2 used to press himself as close to the wall as he could when I passed down the narrow train aisle. "Hey, hey! Not too close, huh? I'm not like that!"

I started doing the same thing when he had to pass. "Hey! Keep your distance. I'm not straight and I don't want to catch it. Just keep moving. No means no!"

Do they believe that because they are so (in their minds) incredibly attractive, homosexuals couldn't keep control in such close proximity and would immediately attack? Are they insecure within themselves? Is their perspective only a demonized stereotype?

"Well, Chuck, how should I know? I don't know any gay people."

Yes, you do! You are surrounded by homosexuals - the topic just doesn't come up. Some people take great precautions to keep closeted because they fear repercussion from ignorant people. But look around you! They say one in ten people is gay. That means it's a good bet that 10% of the people you know is - you know what. And if you know what, then you know gay people. At the office, at the bank, at the bar-you just don't know that they're gay because they don't play the stereotyped, demonized role that you get from movies and pulpits.

It bothers me some people can be just plain ignorant and it bothers me that some people choose to remain closeted in fear of those ignorant people. How else will the ignorant people learn?

Here's what I do -- be myself. I know that there is a very real threat, but I'm a confident, comfortably out homosexual in a very public setting, and because of this, I have helped to change some minds about gays -- even Guy-1 and Guy-2. And that's a start.

I'm not going to be on the commuter train for much longer - so, we need someone else to step forward and be the token homosexual. How else will they learn? Please apply in person, 2nd car from the end, upper level, bring beer and a joke of the day - but don't be too good looking or witty - I need you to pale in comparison to the memory of me.

Friday, June 15, 2007

College Expen$e$ so Far

Not counting living expenses - The total Fall 2007 College fees and tuitions (So far)is - $2,980.25
Total C.W. Scholarship Donations + $1,050.35 (Thank you!)
Total University Scholarship + $464.00
Left to pay by August 13th - $1,465.90

() Do all those loose pennies in the bottom of your purse make it harder to find your keys?

() Do you have too many coins in your car ashtray or cupholder?

() Is there an ugly, unwieldly change jar taking up space in your home?

() Are you plagued with a sweaty and uncomfortably heavy amount of pocket change at the end of your workday?

Let me take those awful, nasty, ugly, sweaty, sticky, dirty coins off your hands.

Or, if you're itching to spend some of that tax refund, LOOK NO FURTHER ! You can send a donation to anyone with an e-mail address. Click on the PayPal Icon over there on the right and send a pittance to

Where will it go?

$35.00 College Application Fee
$100.00 Tuition Deposit
$125.00 Advisement and Registration fee
$45.00 Campus Parking decal
$18.75 Used Book
$18.75 Used Book
$7.50 Used Book
$9.75 Used Book
$9.75 Used Book
$14.25 Used Book
$34.50 Used Book
$45.00 Used Book
$335 (5) New Books
$2,282.00 Fall Tuition (Minus $100 deposit above)
$??,???.00 Living expenses

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Diving into or Going Over the Deep End Today

I never really thought about how big a day today is or how tense or stressed I might be, but apparently my subconscious was all over it.

I dreamt a LOT last night.

It was all very Anime. Escher-like college building constructs that were fraught with danger--steep inclines, water hazards, sheer drops--that all impeded any sort of smooth traversing. Islands that floated in the air were kept tethered to the Earth by chains and kept dropping boulders.

"That Woman" (if I may borrow from A.C. Doyle) was an ever elusive prey. If one were to interpret dreams, this would be the person who had the power to make everything go smoothly, but was never available, difficult to identify, heavily guarded and always saw me coming.

I'd been after the college for months to let me talk to someone - anyone - I have questions, I have special needs. I'm not a clueless teen. I'm a non-traditional student.

Okay, I'm an anal-retentive, old fart who has done my homework.

Taking what I know has transfered - I know what I need to take.
Take the list of what's being offered in the fall
Subtract anything extraneous or must be taken after some prerequisites.
Now the hard part - build a schedule from the pitifully few that remain.

I'd prefer a full 18 credit, MWF schedule, so I could still work a flexible job.
Two courses are only offered at one time, so I have to build around those.
There are next to no good Lit courses offered, and...and...and...

Long story, less long - I have my 'dream' schedule - and I've been watching those classes fill up for weeks and weeks.

Turned away at every request, I'm sure I've been a nagging, simpering, begging pest.

Now today - a complete stranger will look at my file for the first time and puzzle all that out for me? I don't think so.

I'm torn. Should I just sit at the advising table, wasting valuable time as someone else takes that last available seat in Survey of the Exceptional Child -- getting the bored I'd-rather-be-golfing-but-am-doing-you-an-extreme-favor look and listen to their lecture ...


...Should I hand them my nicely printed schedule with the current enrollment numbers and say between gritted teeth,

"Listen, buddy," I'll say, grabbing the sweet-smelling grandmotherly lady by her frilly lapel, "you don't know me and I don't know you, but you have something I need and you're going to give it to me."

Frantic - she tries to maintain the delaying tactic "Now, young man, if you'll just take a . . ."

"THE ALTERNATE PIN ! WHAT IS IT?" Beads of sweat roll down my spine as I see in periphery a bookish looking transfer student head to the registration computer.

Wildly looking left and right for some kind of savior "But, you'll have to . . ."

"THERE'S . . . NO . . . TIME !" I punctuate each word with a slap across the face and pull her up to eye level "Do you see that man over there? LOOK AT HIM ! In all liklihood he is, at this VERY MINUTE" my voice rises "taking the last seat in a class I NEED!" I drop my voice to a whisper "And if you think I'm being ugly now, by God, just you wait 'til I have to come back for an override form. Now," I say, straightening her collar, "give me the alternate pin."

"Here, here it is." She whimpers, reaching into the skirt pocket next to her ample bosom. "555555! Is that what you want?! TAKE IT! I've always hated advising days." She cries.

But her face, her fear and her tears are already forgotten. I have what I came for, what I've been searching for for months. The pin number that will allow me to register.

And now only one thing stands in my way - students whose last names come before mine alphabetically.

NOOOOOO ! ! ! ! !

Monday, June 11, 2007

Studies Show . . .

For those of you who thought that same sex marriages would ruin it for the rest of you, guess what?

It's not the homosexuals that'll do you in, it's the heterosexuals who shack up that's ruining it for you.

But let me toss in another 'guess what.' It's improving the divorce rate!

The 'sanctity' of marriage now, officially, is a moot point.

U.S. Divorce Rate Lowest Since 1970

By DAVID CRARY - AP National Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - By the numbers, divorce just isn't what it used to be.
Despite the common notion that America remains plagued by a divorce epidemic, the national per capita divorce rate has declined steadily since its peak in 1981 and is now at its lowest level since 1970.

The study above points out another 'guess what' that I can't help but aim at all the ultra-conservative, not left, extreme religion type folks -- get this, an educated and working wife actually helps stabilize the marriage.

HA ! Don't you just love it?

But wait, there's more....

If you don't want to be plagued by critical thinking, you can find a study to back up any theory and attribute it to any cause.

President Bush's nominee for surgeon general, Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr., offers another example.

16 years ago Holsinger wrote a piece about gay sex being unnatural and unhealthy. He stated "The rectum is incapable of mechanical protection against abrasion and severe damage ... can result if objects that are large, sharp or pointed are inserted into the rectum . . ."

It is my theory, that Holsinger was inspired by the very large, sharp and pointy and unlubricated pine cone that somehow became lodged in the same area of study.

THIS? is a nominee for the surgeon general?

Are we going to get a new "caution" message on the happy meal toys and razor blades? Does anyone NOT know that putting sharp, abrasive and pointy things in your body COULD cause damage?

Gimme a D!
Gimme a U!
Gimme an H!

Can we get a big "DUH !" here?

Why do you think that people trim the gerbil's nails? -- but I digress.

Okay, he's trying to make two points 1) Unhealthy and 2) Unnatural.

As for number 1, I say, I don't know what YOU are sticking up there, buddy, but if it's sharp and abrasive, I think you're not very clear on gay sex. Let me help you out with two words of advice . . . Astro Glide.

My response to 'point' number 2, homosexuality has been observed in more than 1,500 species.

Soon, I think, we'll discover that french kissing while wearing a bikini does not make you pregnant.

WHERE does Bush find these people?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Form of Admission

While chatting with a lawyer friend this morning I discovered a new silly part of the legal system. It's called a "form of admission." On this form is a list of allegations that the person to whom it is directed must either admit or deny.

Here's the silly part--If you fail to deny an allegation it may be taken that you admit it.

So, of course, all the high school questions immediately pop into my head, i.e.,

Admit____Deny____ You still beat your wife.

If you admit it - well, shame on you. If you deny it, you're admitting that at some point you did beat your wife. If you fail to respond, it's assumed that you beat your wife.

Now consider this question...

Admit____Deny____ You support our troops.

It's been on my mind for a while now. Ever since war with Iraq had begun, the death toll began to rise and the military recruiting commercials increased in frequency. The commercials that say something along the lines of "College . . . career training . . . manhood, etc., talk to your kids about joining the military."

I'll have to admit--my thinking about this stems back before the Iraq war, to my own time in the military two decades ago - why I was there and why it disagreed with me.

I'm a non-violent person.
I don't believe that might makes right.
I don't believe in mutually assured destruction to keep the peace.

But I do know that there are many, many, many people who stand on the opposite side of the fence who will impose their will because they can. And the only reason we are not overrun by them is because we have people who will stand against them.

Without a military force or even a police force, the kinder, gentler people would be at the mercy of anyone with a stick.

So, here's the question--You support the troops. Admit____Deny____

What does that even mean: support the troops?

I wouldn't even dream of saying no, because that plasters UNAMERICAN across my forehead. A scarlet letter U that lumps me with terrorists. "You are either with us or against us" Bush has said.

Why can't it simply be "You are either with us or not?"

You support the troops. Admit____Deny____

If I say I am in support of the troops, then am I saying that I also support Bush and agree with why the troops are there? Do I support interrogation tactics? Do I support their treatment of prisoners? Do I support every bullet fired?


Why ARE they there?

"Eleven years ago, as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi regime was required to destroy its weapons of mass destruction, to cease all development of such weapons, and to stop all support for terrorist groups. The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism, and practices terror against its own people. The entire world has witnessed Iraq's eleven-year history of defiance, deception and bad faith.". . ."In addition to declaring and destroying all of its weapons of mass destruction, Iraq must end its support for terrorism. It must cease the persecution of its civilian population. It must stop all illicit trade outside the Oil For Food program. It must release or account for all Gulf War personnel, including an American pilot, whose fate is still unknown." G. W. Bush - October 7, 2002

"This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we're in.". . .
"We're carrying out a new strategy in Iraq -- a plan that demands more from Iraq's elected government, and gives our forces in Iraq the reinforcements they need to complete their mission. Our goal is a democratic Iraq that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them security, and is an ally in the war on terror.". . ."With Iraqis in the lead, our forces will help secure the city by chasing down the terrorists, insurgents, and the roaming death squads. And in Anbar Province, where al Qaeda terrorists have gathered and local forces have begun showing a willingness to fight them, we're sending an additional 4,000 United States Marines, with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out. (Applause.) We didn't drive al Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq."
G.W. Bush - January 23, 2007

Was Hussein's dethroning and death a preemptive strike - or was it retaliation for 9/11? In the beginning, it was played as if Hussein had direct involvement with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but later it was simply Saddam's regime posed a risk that the world could not afford to take.

-"The United States has no right, no desire, and no intention to impose our form of government on anyone else." - G.W. Bush - February 2, 2005

but now

-"Our goal is a democratic Iraq . . ." - G.W. Bush - January 23, 2007

So, do I support the troops? Admit____Deny____

How can I tell? From the reasons we were given then, or the reasons we are given now? I simply do not know. (If you fail to deny an allegation it may be taken that you admit it.)

-Saddam Hussein
-al-Qaida and bin Laden.
-Democratic reform.
-Idealogical struggle.
-No honor in retreat.
-Radical Islam.
-Terrorists, insurgents and roaming death squads.


If I say I support the troops - will it give some kind of meaning to this?

U.S. Military Deaths by month:
June-2007 - 17
May-2007 - 127
April-2007 - 104
March-2007 - 81
February-2007 - 80
January-2007 - 83
December-2006 - 112
November-2006 - 70
October-2006 - 106
September-2006 - 72
August-2006 - 65
July-2006 - 43
June-2006 - 61
May-2006 - 69
April-2006 - 76
March-2006 - 31
February-2006 - 55
January-2006 - 62
December-2005 - 68
November-2005 - 84
October-2005 - 96
September-2005 - 49
August-2005 - 85
July-2005 - 54
June-2005 - 78
May-2005 - 80
April-2005 - 52
March-2005 - 35
February-2005 - 58
January-2005 - 107
December-2004 - 72
November-2004 - 137
October-2004 - 64
September-2004 - 80
August-2004 - 66
July-2004 - 54
June-2004 - 42
May-2004 - 80
April-2004 - 135
March-2004 - 52
February-2004 - 20
January-2004 - 47
December-2003 - 40
November-2003 - 82
October-2003 - 44
September-2003 - 31
August-2003 - 35
July-2003 - 48
June-2003 - 30
May-2003 - 37
April-2003 - 74
March-2003 - 65
Total - 3495



What do you want me to say?

I am not against you.

I am for life.

I don't know enough to be with you.

I support the safe return of the troops.

You have failed to deny the allegation it may be taken that you admit it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Family Thicket

Many people place a great importance on lineage. It is my assertion that it doesn't matter where you come from, it's who you are now that is important. I guess part of my assertion comes from my difficulty in charting a family tree without utilizing extra dimensions.

My father divorced three times.
His 2nd wife married three times.
His 3rd wife divorced three times.
My mother married (I think) five times.
All but three of all the marriages combined resulted in children.
One of my sisters has three children from (I think) three men.
Two of my brothers I've never met - might have children, I dunno.
One half-sister could be a full sister - [The woman that mom claims is the father (yes, that's right) has serious doubts.]

Is this good enough for Springer?

Which gets me to my thought for today -- I wonder . . . how DO they get you on those tell-all shows, when YOU'RE the one whose dirty laundry will be aired?

If someone ever says to you "Oh, Honey, let's go see a live taping of Jerry Springer," your air raid sirens better be going full blast.

Some warning signs that you're a great candidate for a tell-all show are:

Your children all look like the milkman.
(And you're sterile.)
Your girlfriend insists on blindfolding you before nooky.
(You thought it was kinky, but have ever actually seen her naked?)
Your husband likes to water the lawn in heels.
(Claims the stillettos aerate the soil.)
You live in a trailer.
(Blanket statement here, I know - my apologies.)

Really, how does a person get on one of those shows without suspecting something?

Bait and Switch "Wait, this ain't Disneyland."
Altered concsiousness, i.e., drugs, bat, etc. "Whoa, my head. Hey. Where are we?"
Surprise "Are your eyes still closed? Just a few more steps..."

Readers, your mission is to
1-click on the comment bar below and
2-give me scenarios on how to get someone on the show
3-without them knowing what's in store for them.

Friday, June 01, 2007

10 Reasons Chuck Is Not Gay

In response to the Top 10 Reasons Skidmark's Gay, this scandalous comment and accompanying photo just came in from our reporters in the field.

For fair and ethical reporting, I present it as is without edits or rebuttal.

10 Reasons Chuck Is Not Gay

10) He does not wear pink.
9) He drinks domestic beer.
8) He likes boobies - on women.
7) He does not use hair products.
6) He does not shave anywhere.
5) He thinks that Babs is not a talented artist.
4) He listens to country music.
3) He eats at truck stops and not for the "hawt" truckers that frequent such places.
2) He doesn't own a flower shop.

and the #1 reason Chuck is not gay:

1) He spent most of his time in army bases while enlisted in the navy.

Now these ten items may not be enough to convince you, however, when the "gay" guy has groped more women on the MARC train than the collective group of heterosexual males, one has no choice other than to conclude that Chuck is NOT gay.