Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Folsom Weekend 2005

I have a good friend who lives in San Francisco and he's been wanting me to come out, so I figured I would go out for a long weekend and thought I would time it with the Folsom Street Fair, the west coast premier leather event. I had only heard tales of the strange, and hot, weekend from other guys and I figured I would go out and check it out for myself.

Here are some highlights:

- It was about 1130PM when we climbed out of the BART station coming from SFO when we turned the corner and promptly saw some bum pissing in a doorway of a downtown building. Nice. Welcome to SF.
- Lunch at the SF Museum of Modern Art cafe where, while sitting there eating and chatting and have a gay ole time, I noticed not 1, not 2, not 3 but 4, FOUR, big burly hot men in line at the ticket office for SFMOMA. They were obviously in town for the weekend. But they get serious bonus points for going to the MOMA on a leather weekend. Needless to say J and I scarfed our food so we could stalk them through the museum. It turns out they were not from the US as they were speaking a language I couldn't follow (which only ups the hotness factor), but they were obviously paired. I really hate the Ken & Ken thing. It so works against me. Anyways, the museum was nice but some of the stuff was a bit out there for me. A room that had letters of the alphabet kind of scattered on the wall. Yeah, I don't get it.
- Dinner in the Castro at this diner called the Baghdad Cafe. Kind of cool and we had a table at the window so it was great people watching.
- Going to the Eagle Friday night which was hosting an art auction for one of the AIDS organizations in SF. It was a very interesting crowd. The muscle boys, the old school leather types, the twinks, some military looking, some rubber types, etc. There was one guy in a full silk mask, a velour skin tight shirt over his huge chest and very nice biceps, and then black and white horizontal stripes tights. And over the velour shirt were nipple clamps and a metal chain between them. Hmm, how interesting. Needless to say he was getting more attention than me.
- Getting a sneak preview of the new deYoung museum in SF. It's absolutely amazing. The building is wrapped in perforated copper. It's got a interesting shape that kind of flows into the Golden Gate park which is where it is located. J works there, so he took us on a little tour. The formal opening is in mid October, so some of the galleries were still being set up. It was very cool. Some of the pics are from the deYoung.
- Getting tickets from a friend of a friend of a friend of J's to a private party on Saturday night hosted by Raging Stallion Productions, the porn company. Talk about surreal. Porn stars walking about. Very hot men, in leather, everywhere. Chi Chi LaRue (a famous drag queen porn star producer) was the DJ. The music was good. The liquor was flowing. And it was just unbelievably hot. You hear about parties like this but never expect to go to them. OMG it was just unreal. It was a mistake to leave it when we did. The other dance party we went to was lame.
- Going to the Folsum Street Fair on Sunday. While it is mainly gay, there were so many straight people (with kids no less!). And while there was plenty of nudity, I saw more breasts than dicks. And people, just because you can walk around naked, doesn't mean you should. Though there were a couple of guys who were walking around naked who were casting an awful long shadow if you know what I mean. The different porn companies had booths. Lots of AIDs awareness and support groups. Lots of BDSM booths. Really, if you buy your own personal stockade, do you put that in the living room? And everytime I saw someone getting spanked, it was a woman. So just an interesting time. It was hot and sunny and I have some interesting tan lines. ; )

On the plane back, I was looking at the United inflight magazine which does these "3 Days in X" type stories. So I came up with my own for Three Perfect Days in San Francisco (preferably with my future husband).

We arrive Thursday night and have a romantic dinner downtown some place nice. It's an early night for us.
Friday: We hit the wine country. Napa, Sonoma. Via limo of course so we can drink and have a good time. Friday night we hit some of the bars in the Castro.
Saturday: We hit not only the SF MOMA, but the deYoung, and then spend the rest of the afternoon in the Golden Gate Park. After a disco nap, it's time to party and dance.
Sunday: Brunch (of course) and then we slip into our leather attire and wander the Folsom Street Fair together where people stop us to take our pictures since we're so hot. Then after the fair, we hit the Eagle for the Sunday afternoon beer bash. Then it's time to go back to the hotel, change, and head to the airport to catch the red eye back to DC.

Hey, it's my fantasy. Don't spoil it for me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

In Case of Emergency . . . . .

There's a full page ad in the Washington Blade this week titled: "In Case of Emergency." It seems to be a recurring theme these last couple of days.

My sister was in town last week for some defense acquisition boon-doggle and we got together for dinner. The conversation slowly made it's way to 9-11. My sister and her husband were both working up the street from me in Rosslyn. Then the word of the attacks came, she called down to him and said, "We're going home now." That's the way she is. She takes charge and moves out. They hit the streets before the traffic got too bad, picked up the au pair and my nephew at gymboree or something and made it home. I, on the other hand, just stayed at work. I had only been on the job for a couple of weeks, so running back to my condo in Arlington didn't seem to make sense. That afternoon as I "worked" (seriously, who was really working then?) I watched the stream of people, thousands of them, walk across the TR bridge, past Rosslyn and on to 66. The city just emptied out and people were making their way as best they could.

Katrina was the big reality check for emergency preparations. Like most people living in the shadow of the White House, I pretty much assume that I'm a goner if there's a real terrorist attack. Hell, the government won't even re-route chlorine tankers to reduce the risk to DC. But in the off chance I survive the first minute. I'm kind of screwed. Let's face it, between the federal government and the district government (I'm not sure which is the pot and which one's the kettle), I'm pretty much on my own. Emergency evacuation plans? Emergency shelters? If there's a city wide (or better yet regional plan), I'm not aware of it. So there's a down check for "provide for the common defense" and "promote the general welfare." And I'm fairly certain at that point the "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity" will not be a top priority for the government at that point.

Emergency preparedness hasn't been a priority in this country for a while and I'll admit that I bought into the mix of delusion and denial. I live a "just in time" type life style. Sure I've got some food in the house. But not enough to last me more than a day or two. Surely Whole Foods will be open, right? Bottled water. Um, no, not really. Damn, and with no electicity the vodka will get warm. Ugh. First aid kit? I'm sure it's here somewhere.

So I started getting serious. The bottle water, storing some food, a new first aid kit, face masks. Joe, in an excellent series reflecting on 9/11, mentions keeping cash around. Yeah, the credit card is good, but if there's no electricity, cash will be key. And Jimbo and I have the same escape route: via bike on the C&O Canal. I don't have a tent or sleeping bag yet, but I will soon. Jimbo mentions grabbing your passport, ID, etc and putting them in a plastic bag. The one thing I will add is to put a scanned copy of essential documents (deeds, licenses, adoption papers) as well as any financial info (like a Quicken back up) on a USB thumb drive that you can slip into your pocket as you get the hell out of dodge.

So that's my plan. If you haven't been thinking about an emergency plan, you should. Your life may depend on it.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Discretionary Spending Diet

Oh Quicken, how you mock me. Every month I enter my checks, my deposits, my trips to the ATM, and I balance my check book. Yes I actually balance my check book every month. And every month I have a little reminder of all of the crap that I pay for. Going through my VISA bill is like a little trip down memory lane and most of the time it's what I expect, and sometimes, it's the "What the hell did I buy that for?" Putting everything into Quicken helps me put all of my purchases into in perspective. And one of the things I've learned is that I've had three (yes three!) week long vacations this year and none of them were cheap. And for the past couple of months, to pay off my VISA bill, I've had to dip into my home equity line of credit (which has a lower interest rate than my credit card). Which is not good. So it's time for a diet. A discretionary spending diet. It's time to bring my lunch to the office, not eat out so much, and refrain from spur of the moment spending. I make a pretty decent paycheck, but I think my list of "necessities" needs to be re-evaluated again. Suze Orman, who for some reason rubs me the wrong way, talks about how we bleed money sometimes, the daily Starbucks coffee, the newpaper, a bottle of water. We sort of leak money as we go about our day. So it's time to plug that leak, atleast a bit.

Speaking of plugging a leak, I did not see W's speech last week. But like most people, I expected him to throw money at the problem. That's what the government does these days. I often wonder if there is someone deep in some office in DC who's got the master Quicken file for the federal government and if he ever gets tired of just seeing red. And I wonder if that guy and the guy over at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving who works the night shift printing out more and more money to pay for W's and Congress's Triple Titanium VISA ever get together to commiserate over a beer. I expect the conversation goes like this:

Guy number one: "We're over budget again."
Guy number two: "That's okay, I'll just print more money."
Guy number one: "But printing more money isn't the right answer, we need to cut spending."
Guy number two: "But that's hard. Printing money is easy. We can worry about balancing the budget later."
Guy number one: "But if we don't do the hard part now, it will only get harder."
Guy number two: "But printing is always easy."
Guy number one: "But we'll never solve the budget problem this way."
Guy number two: "Don't sweat. The next guy will fix the problem. In the meantime, let's have another round. It's on me."

And they'll get together every night and have the same conversation. Sort of like a scene from "Waiting for Godot."

And I'm not sure whether I should laugh or cry. Laugh at the utter absurdity of the reckless spending, or cry at the financial ruin we will be passing on to generations to come.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Public Trust

When I was at the Naval Academy, one of the Naval Leadership professors talked about public trust and he said that the US military has the highest public opinion rating of any organization in the United States. Better than the President, better than Congress, better than the Supreme Court. And it’s not to hard to believe. Our government has been wracked by scandals (Watergate, Iran-Contra, Monica-gate, etc), bad decisions (internment of Japanese-Americans, Jim Crow laws, the Tuskegee Experiment, etc,) and poorly executed duties (the war in Vietnam, the war in Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina) and there are more, and probably better, examples to describe how the US government, in all of its branches, has through it’s own actions and inactions, raised doubts and concerns and basically failed in the public’s trust. Despite all of these issues, the US military has retained its position as an institution that the public trusts.

But in recent months, I’ve begun to doubt how long the US Military will be able to keep public’s trust. The military is the instrument by which the executive branch implements a lot of its policies and can shroud them in a cloak of secrecy.

My first example is the treatment of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay. The US government (as executed by the military) is holding hundreds of enemy detainees who we have stripped of many basic human rights. There are military tribunals where there are no civilians present and the detainees are represented by military lawyers. In fact, I’ve read that some lawyers asked to be reassigned rather than support the tribunals which they considered unfair and unjust. Without any additional information, are the American people just supposed to trust the military?

The US Military is also supporting the ban on the taking of pictures of coffins returning to the US at Dover AFB. After WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the first Gulf War, I’m confused as to why there is now this restriction, however neatly it is wrapped in the cover of respect for dignity of the dead. These soldiers returning home to the US, drapped in the US flag, have all the dignity in the world. They have gone off to serve their country and have paid the ultimate sacrifice. To prevent the American people to stand witness to their sacrifice and honor them is dis-heartening and suspect. Why doesn’t the government (as implemented by the military) want us to see these caskets draped in flags? Today I also read that the government is now requiring journalist to be 300 yards away from the military led victim recovering operations in New Orleans. That’s three football fields. Again, there has to be a question why. After 9/11, there wasn’t this type of restriction. And of course, the easiest answer is that the government doesn’t want the American public to see how poorly they’ve executed the war (so no pics of coffins) or how poorly they responded to Katrina (so no pics of the victim recovery ops). While the loss of life lost in Iraq and Katrina is staggering, they are just numbers. They go in one ear and out the other. But pictures will make these numbers real. And while this is all part of the government’s plan, it’s being executed by the US military. How long before the taint of these deceptive actions finally stain the military?

Recently there have been questions about the role of the military in regards to Hurricane Katrina. Apparently there were National Guard units at the New Orleans Convention Center, with weapons, who sat around and did nothing to stop the horror that was going on in the other parts of the center. When questioned why they didn’t help out, the battalion commander responded that they were never asked to help and that they were preparing for their next mission. They knew the horror that was going on in another part of the convention center and yet since they weren’t asked to help, they didn’t. While the National Guard troops there may not have been trained in crowd control, they should have atleast tried. The National Guard isn’t part of the active duty forces, but they wear the uniform and need to represent it properly. The military expects you to think on your feet, see the next objective and adapt as necessary. And that didn’t happen, and people were beaten to death and women raped because the troops didn’t even try to stop it. Would you trust the military ever again if you had been in the Convention Center and had seen people beaten, killed, and raped and knew soldiers were nearby doing nothing?

There have been two other recent issues where the military has been deliberately deceptive with information regarding soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. First was the case regarding the death of Pat Tilman, the former professional football player who joined the military after 9/11. It took over a year for the Pentagon to tell the Tilman family the truth. And just earlier this week, the Pentagon admitted that it knew for a year that an Army 1stLT wasn’t killed in action and only just told the family the truth last week. You’ve given your son, brother, husband, or father, to the military to serve his nation and he’s made the ultimate sacrifice and what you get are lies in returns. Why would you ever trust the military again?

I’m proud of my time in the Navy. And I’m proud of America’s armed forces. On the whole, they do an exceptional job. But after these recent events, I’ve taken off my rose colored glassed and started to ask questions. The American people give their money and their sons and daughters to the US government and the military and they expect the truth in return. Over the years the American public has learned to expect less that the truth from the US government (and how sad is that), but they still look at the military with respect and trust. I just don’t know for how much longer.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I Spy Rectus Abdominis

We are all creature of habits. And as a gay man in the Navy, you never looked at a guy for too long. If you would see someone attractive , you would quickly look away to something else. So it's hard for me to look at a guy and just stare at him. It's not right. And in the gay world one of the big things is eye contact and I really suck at that.

But I'm getting better.

During the bike trip at one of the stops we made, we ran into another biking tour group (they were camping instead) and we started talking to the tour guide for that other company. He was tall and skinny, like most bikers, with curly, messy black hair. He was of course wearing the requisite biking shorts and a biking jersey. But because of his tall, long body, there was maybe a 4-5 inch gap between the jersey and the biking shorts which almost looked like low-rise biking short if there is such a thing. So there was this tiny bit of exposed lower abdomin. It was tight, pale, and it had just a little bit of fur on it. And I COULD NOT STOP STARING AT IT. Thankfully other people were talking to him and I just stood there looking at it. And I kept thinking, look somewhere else, anywhere else, MUST STOP STARING. But I couldn't. He finally turned to walk back to his bike, and while his derriere was amazing, the spell had been broken and I had control of my facilities again.

Tonight, I went to the gym for my workout with my personal fitness nazi. Tonight a new guy was there working out. Tan, dark hair, little bit of a gotee, really nice biceps. But I really try not to be the typical gay man and cruise guys at the gym so I reverted back to my Navy days. Eyes in the boat. But for some reason, we would move to do different exercises and he and his trainer would follow us. At one point he was laying down on a bench and via the mirror I could see that there was this little gap between his orange shorts and the tight little white tank top he was wearing. And again I sort of froze. My trainer thought I was resting, but I was again paralyzed looking at his tight, tan, and a little furry lower abs. My trainer rescued me when he dumped a 60 pound dumbbell on my leg and said, "Inclined Presses." Gee, can't I just sit here and look at his pretty abs?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Micro-Manager Man!!

I had a bad flash back today to my Navy life.

Then: Captain #2 onboard the USS Reeves was one of those screamer type Captains. His middle initials were AC, so we would call him "Anti-Christ" when he wasn't around, or "all chuckles" when he was. It was a form of code the junior officers would use.

I had several jobs onboard the Reeves, but the worst job I had was First Lieutenant. 1LT in the Navy isn't a rank, it's a position. It's the officer in charge of the Deck Division and responsible for the care and maintenance of the outside of the ship, the anchor, the small boats, stuff like that. And my Commanding Officer's philosophy was that a ship was judged by how it looks and how it communicates. And since how it looks was my responsibility, I got a lot of quality time with the CO where he would indicate additional opportunities for me to excel. (and if you didn't get the HEAVY SARCASM in the last sentance, read it again until you do)

So after the perpetual beatings I would recieve, I developed a split personality: the Captain's Whipping Boy, or (cue Superman music) Micro-Manager Man! I've come to save the day by telling you exactly what to do! Hooray!

I would shuffle through the wardroom and one of the JOs would ask who I was that day and I would stand dejectly with my shoulders down and say with a sigh, "The Captain's Whipping Boy" or if I was in an almost good mood, I would stand up straight, chest out, and say loudly, "I'm MICROMANAGER MAN!!"

The CO was just so good at just piling crap on me. And as a defense mechanism, I came up with the daily list. It was a list off all of the things my division was working on and how many men were what things. So when the CO would track me down to complain about something, I would turn to him and say. "Yes, Sir. That's a problem. I've got 3 men in the paint locker, 4 men over the side painting forward, 4 men over the side painting aft, 3 men up in the bosun's locker, 4 men cleaning berthing, 4 men doing maintenance on your gig and the motor whaleboat, 3 men doing maintenance on the anchorwindless, 5 men chipping up the worn non-skid on the helo deck, and 2 men supporting a working party for the galley. If this needs to be done now, please let me know what you don't want me to do today, and I'll have my men work on this instead." He hated me when I did it. But more often than not, he say: "It needs to get done." And I'd say, "Yes Sir, I'll add ito the list and we'll have someone start working it tomorrow."

Now: Another ugly telecon with my customer. Conflicting guidance. Accusations about what we are doing. We're not fast enough, good enough, etc. You can't build a house in a day to go back to my earlier analogy. And you'll never build anything if you can't actually do the work without getting redirected on a daily or sometimes hourly basis. He kept pushing me to give him information that I couldn't without guidance from him first and he just wouldn't give it to me. And then he would ask a question. I would answer. Then he would ask the SAME question again and I would provide the same answer. And I could tell he was getting mad. But if I'm not answering the question the way you want the question answered, then give me a hint as to what you are really looking for. And I'll admit that I can get pretty f&*king stubborn some time. So I wasn't backing down and he kept asking questions that he knew we weren't/couldn't answer. And then it all came down to, you've got X number of people, what are they all working on? AGH!!!!!

Let me tell you, I've got electricians, plumbers, guys who hang dry wall, architects, heating and airconditioning guys. They are all trying to build the new house you just asked for (the one with no roof, no doors, and no windows but hey it's what you want) as well as renovate the house you already have. The one with all of the loud complaining renters. The ones you told us to keep quiet. Electricians can't hang dry wall. Plumbers can't design a house. If we had . . . . . . wait for it . . . . . .wait for it . . . . a PLAN then we could figure out when we need what type of person and get it done. But that's just not going to happen.

Well I think I've effectively beaten that analogy to death. And it's not very pretty, isn't it.

Oh well. In better news, my sister comes into town tomorrow night. So that's cool.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Trip Report

Yes, I do a trip report after each major adventure. It's kind of a way to capture the feeling and excitement the trip and it helps me better remember the trips this way.

Anyways, here's my trip report for Biking The San Juan Islands.

And some more pics from Seattle and the islands:

Flowers at Pike Place Market

Similk Bay on Fidalgo Island.

And me on Orcas Island.

You can read more about my various travels at my
website (which I know sucks and needs to be updated, but I barely have time for blogging!). So deal.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Biking the San Juan Islands

Well, my search for internet connection on some of the smaller islands wasn't very successful, so I'm back and working on the trip report. Here are some of the cool pics from the trip. More later, but here's a quick taste of the trip.

Here's Dad. He's 75 years old and just amazing.

Me getting ready for a ride.

Me on the whale watching cruise.

One of the Orcas that came close to the boat.

Eastsound, Orcas Island.

Lime Kiln Lighthouse on San Juan Island

This was truely and amazing trip and I'm going to put the whole trip report up on my website in a day or two. Plus, while I was riding on the bike, you have a lot of time to think, and I did that. And I'll probably be sharing that as well.

Monday, September 05, 2005

LaConner Washington

I blog tonight from LaConner Washington. Where you might ask? LaConner Washington. Don't ask, I'll get to it in a second.

IAD. Inconvenient, Annoying, and Depressing. Can I tell you how much I hate Dulles? I had to park in like far eastern bumf&^k parking lot. Had to wait over twenty minutes in the hot sun with like 40 other people for the stupid shuttle. I fought my way onto the shuttle and while I do feel guilty about cutting off the poor family with multiple children and multiple car seats, the good news is that there are plenty of flights to Orlando and Disney World isn't going anywhere. I get to the terminal and the line at United is forever so I do the curb side check in. I swear there must have been over 500 people in the security line. It's been like 4 years since 9/11 and the security process at Dulles is still SNAFU. And then once you get to your terminal, it's dingy, dark, with low ceilings. It's just depressing. But I made it to my gate and plopped down in the cattle car section for my flight to Seattle.

Yep, it's that time. Time for the yearly vacation with Dad. My sister has given my parents granschildren, so this is the burden I must bear. After Costa Rico, Peru, Denmark, and Maui, this year we are doing the Pacific NorthWest. We're on a Backroads trip biking the San Juan Islands. We did the Backroads trip to Denmark and had a good time, so I thought this might be fun/interesting.

Dad arrived a little later and then we took to the bus to downtown. Where as I am checking us into the hotel, Dad discovers that he's lost his wallet. Yep, nothing like a little drama to start off the trip. I asked the hotel to call the bus company and amazingly enough they found it and returned it. The one weird question I have is, "So you're on a trip, you lose your wallet. How do you get on the place to go home? You have no ID, so how do you get on the plane?" An interesting question that I hope to never have to figure out the answer to.

We spent Friday night and Saturday in Seattle just walking around and doing some sightseeing and some shopping. Okay I did the shopping and it was mostly window shopping since Dad's patience for shopping is extremely limited.

We met the rest of the tour group this AM and then took a bus to beautiful LaConner where we met the tour guides. After lunch we took a short 16 mile ride around Skagit Valley. The weather was okay, and best of all, the terrain was flat. And I mean FLAT. A great warm up ride for the challenging hills to come. It really is peaceful here and quiet. Not a lot of traffic on the roads as we rode across the valley passing field after field. Fields of what you might ask? Well, I'm so glad you did ask. It seems the local farmers have caught on that a lot of us city foke come up here so they put out signs for what the crops are. Thanks, but I think I could have figured out "Corn" by myself. We also saw "Spuds", "Cabbage", and "Green Chop (Cow Feed)." It was kind of funny and weird.

Tomorrow we cross over to Fidalgo Island and then take a ferry over to Orcas Island. Should be fun. More blogging as connectivity permits.

Oh, how am I getting along with Dad? Dad's got an interesting form of ADD. It's SC-ADD. Self Centered Attention Deficit Disorder. He constantly interrupts to tell non-interesting, non-funny stories about himself. Even after asking a question to me. But he is telling me a lot of his war stories from Vietnam and Korea. So that's cool. He's never really shared that information with me before.

Oh, and he's only made one disparaging comments about homosexuals. Not too bad. And no I'm not out to him. But soon.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

SPWA: Stupid People With Attitude

I work in an office building in Rosslyn across the river from DC. Our building has the usual mix of different companies and organizations in it. Interestingly enough, at the basement level, in addition to the almost requisite deli, the builiding also houses the Graham Web Hair Academy. So everyday I see the swarm of student stylists decked out in black (it's like a uniform almost) with the most insane hair colors and styles. You can go down there and get your hair cut for like $5, but um, no thanks.

At lunchtime, the little waifish thin girls all storm into the deli in a little tizzy to get their food and then sit out in the courtyard and gossip I guess and I rarely pay them any attention. Usually I'm focused on getting my food and then going back up to my desk. Yes I know that's just as sad, but maybe a bit more productive.

Anyways, the deli has specials and the first special is the same every day. And I mean every day, for like the 4 years I've been going there. It's a Philly Cheesesteak, Fries, and a Soda for $5.99. Not a bad deal, if you want the cholesteral clot.

So I wander into the deli and there are two "student stylists" in front of me. SS #1 asks for just a side of french fries. SS #2 asks for a Philly Cheesesteak and a side of fries.

The little mexican lady behind the counter looks at her and goes, "So you want #1 special."

SS #2 looks at the special board and says, "No, I want a Philly Cheesesteak and some fries."

The little mexican lady behind the counter has a bit of an accent, but I can understand her pretty well. But she's confused as I am at this point, and says again, "So you want #1 special."

SS #2 responds, "No, I want a Philly Cheesesteak with Fries."

The lady respond, "#1 is a Cheesesteak with fries."

SS #2: "I know, but it comes with a drink and I don't want the drink."

The lady is confused and I decide to try to be helpful:

Me: "You know it's cheaper if you just get the special and don't get the drink."

At which point SS #2 turns to me and says snottily: "Thank you. I
know that."

I stare at her in amazement and she tosses her hair behind her shoulder as she dismisses me.

The lady behind the counter has caught all of this mind you and rolls her eyes at me. I smile back at her.

As luck would have it, I'm behind SS #2 when she pays for her food. The lady behind the counter very clearly marked on the container: $4.99 for the Cheese steak. And $2.00 for the french fries.