The New Way to Order Fast Food

You can file this under first world problems, but there is a current fast food trend that I don’t particularly care for. I have experienced it at places ranging from Taco Bell to Chick-fil-A and I personally don’t see much benefit to it. Maybe you know exactly what I am talking about…

Chick-fil-A may have led the way with this fast food ordering technique but I am not pleased that it is spreading to other chains.

Have you turned into a fast food drive-thru to see an employee standing outside holding a tablet? They are typically staged before the menu board where you would typically order your food. You roll down your window and they greet you with something along the lines of “What can I get you?”

To which I reply, “Um, how about a menu?”

I then get a bewildered look from the employee that implies I should know the entire Taco Bell menu like the back of my hand.

Call me a cranky old man, but I don’t like this new ordering format that is becoming increasingly common. I don’t know if it is supposed to be faster or if it is supposed to convey a better commitment to customer service but it kind of irritates me. When I order food, I like to see my options. I like to take a breath and browse the different offerings on the colorful and illustrated board. When the first thing you encounter is a human with a head set expecting you to know exactly what you want to order it is a little off-putting.

On Sunday we went to Panera. We maybe go there once a year. I know an air conditioner manual better than I know a Panera menu. But there we were stopped 10 feet before the menu board talking to a young woman who wanted to take our order. Having been through enough of these orders at other restaurants, I knew she probably didn’t have a menu on her but I still asked.

“Well, I guess you could drive up there if you really needed to,” she pointed to the menu straight ahead, implying that I was perhaps the worst person ever.

Sidney was already embarrassed by me so we just did pretty much guess and check with her as we decided on what we wanted. In the end, all we wanted was some soup. After narrowing it down to chicken noodle, she asked us if we wanted a large. Sidney answered “yes” but after thinking to myself wait a minute I asked the employee how much that would cost.

“$18.40.”

I would have spit out that soup if I had some in my mouth at the time. That is another major flaw of this new ordering system. Not only do you not know what is on the menu, you don’t know what items actually cost. For someone like me, who is price-conscious, this is super annoying. I will pay $18.40 for a large pizza—not for a large container of soup.

As you can imagine, Sid was less than pleased with my inability to get with the times. She told me that from now on I just need to go inside and place our order if they have an employee outside intercepting customers. And believe me, I will gladly do that. It will save me frustration, Sid embarrassment, and the employee annoyance.

Am I alone? Again, I don’t want to make a huge deal about this but I do want to know the method behind the madness. I welcome any enlightenment from my readers. Don’t Blink.

Back to Martin Stadium

It was November 20, 2004. My dad, brother, and I hopped in the car and drove to Pullman for the Apple Cup game between Washington State and the University of Washington. We sat in the end zone of Martin Stadium on a snowy and bitter cold evening. On that evening the Cougars would end a 7-year drought to the Huskies and win a thrilling double overtime contest, 28-25.

I didn’t take this photo but this is the scene that I still remember in my head from attending the 2004 Apple Cup.

As someone who grew up going to Washington State Cougar football games with my dad, little did I know that would be my final one for a long time. When I watched that Apple Cup game I was a senior in high school and my life was about to change. I went off to college, started my professional career, and lived far away from the state of Washington. Sure, I could stay up until 2 a.m. watching some of the infamous “Pac-12 After Dark” games that involved the Cougs and took place in Martin Stadium but it hardly replaced being there. As I would lay in bed watching those games, I would tell myself that one day I wanted to watch a game there again.

After 17 years, I finally had that opportunity this past weekend. Not only did I watch the Cougars pull off a thrilling victory over the Stanford Cardinal, but I got to do it with the same crew that I watched my last WSU football game with—my dad and brother.

This past Saturday, my brother, dad, and I watched our first game inside Martin Stadium together since the 2004 Apple Cup.

The three of us knew the significance. When we piled into the car on Saturday, my dad asked us if we knew the last time the three of us went to a Coug game together. There was no hesitation. My brother and I both replied with the Apple Cup and we recounted some of the memories and smells (yes, smells) from that night that will always stay with us. We reminisced about our Cougar football history together and then prepared to make new memories.

We could not have asked for a better day. Just like the previous week in Missoula, it was sunny and unseasonably warm. The three of us walked around campus, soaked up the sun, hung out in the fieldhouse like old times, and then entered the hallowed gates of Martin Stadium.

My dad and I pose for a photo inside the fieldhouse prior to the WSU vs. Stanford game on October 15, 2021.

After loading up on concession stand items, we found our seats and literally basked under the glow of, first, the sunshine, and once night fell, the stadium lights. I geeked out the whole time. From the team entrance to the flyover to Butch to the “Welcome Home” tradition to the fight song to the “And that’s another…(Cougar First Down)” cheer it was so incredibly awesome. Mind you, over the past 17 years I have watched numerous college football games in different settings, including the SEC and ACC variety, but nothing is ever like your first love…and for me that is WSU. To finally watch a game in the stadium that played host to some of the very best Saturdays of my childhood after so long was a little emotional.

The view from our seats during the second half of Washington State’s victory over Stanford on Oct. 15, 2021.

And to watch it with my dad and brother made it even that more special. Man, we had fun. That game was so good and we were so invested in every down. For the Cougs to pick up the win in the fashion they did just seemed like it was meant to be.

After Washington State’s thrilling 34-31 victory over Stanford, my brother and I posed for a photo.

I didn’t take this past Saturday for granted. I know for a fact it won’t be 17 more years until I watch my next football game in Martin Stadium and I can’t wait to continue to build more memories in the town and place that will always hold a special place in my heart. Don’t Blink.

Dan Kleckner Thursday Rundown

I am munching on some Cub Scout caramel corn right now and it is so good. I need to stop snacking and start writing! Easier said than done. Okay, let’s get going…

Dan Kleckner Signing Off – Growing up in Spokane, my family would always see KHQ news anchor Dan Kleckner in one of two ways…either inside our house via the TV or in the pews for mass at St. Thomas More. He was Mr. Consistent and a local Spokane celebrity who always represented his community well. When I returned to this city 15 years after leaving for college and starting my professional career, I was heartened to see that Kleckner was still in his KHQ anchor post. You don’t always get that with local news personalities. Tonight, Dan Kleckner signed off for the final time in his 40-year journalism career. I will miss his talent and professionalism.

Dan Kleckner signed off from KHQ tonight.

Professor Beau – I don’t know how I feel about this photo but it is definitely a different look for Beau so I decided to run it. Earlier this week my dad put his reading glasses on Beau while the little guy examined a pamphlet. He looks very….academic? Again, don’t know if I really care for this side of Beau but there you have it.

Meet Professor Beau!

Soda Fountain – If you ever go to the Grocery Outlet in Spokane Valley, you will find a shelf that has canned soda for $.25. You can usually find some eccentric flavors, most likely promo inventory that didn’t sell. The other day I picked up a can of Major Melon Mt. Dew and a can of Frost Bite Mt. Dew. I tried Major Melon during last February’s Super Bowl but only in bottle form. I had never tried Frost Bite until I cracked open the can a couple nights ago. The verdict? Mellow taste that deserves to be tried!

I recently bought some unique Mt. Dews.

New Marquee – Back in 2018, I identified the light up LED marquee box as the best inexpensive holiday gift of the season. I had received one in 2017 and used it heavily throughout the year. In fact, I used it heavily for the next three years after that as well. But the $10 gift eventually succumbed to wear and tear putting me in the market for a new one. Sidney delivered on my birthday when she upgraded me to a color marquee with a whole library of emojis. Heck, it even comes with a remote control that allows you to switch on different effects like strobe and flash. Sid tested out the new toy by drafting a message that honored yours truly.

I am the owner of this new light up marquee box.

Unicorn Dreams – Three years ago on this date, Sidney brought home a unicorn. Well, a unicorn costume that is. Sloan fit inside it perfectly and got to break it in for a couple weeks before Halloween. What will Sloan and Beau be this year? That is still up for discussion!

Sidney and Sloan share a laugh on October 14, 2018.

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Okay, I managed to put away the popcorn once I hit my first topic. But now that this baby is done I think I am going to reach for the bag again. Have a great weekend! Don’t Blink.

Dying Twice

More than three months ago I mentioned that I am doing Fr. Mike Schmitz’s Bible In A Year Podcast. What a blessing it has been! Yesterday was Day #285 as we navigate through Sirach. A couple verses from Tuesday’s reading inspired Fr. Schmitz to address a certain theme.

The verses were…

“How can he who is dust and ashes be proud” (Sirach 10:9)

“He has removed some of them and destroyed them, and has extinguished the memory of them from the earth” (Sirach 10:17)

These verses obviously address pride and make us think twice about developing a heightened sense of self. Fr. Schmitz is a famous priest who has a large global audience due to his ability to leverage his digital presence. Despite that, one of his spiritual mentors told him not too long ago, “No one will remember you after you die.”

A raging ego does not reside inside of Fr. Schmitz. Even with his crazy popularity and the souls he is saving each day, this humble priest agreed with the opinion of his spiritual mentor.

Fr. Schmitz then made it hit home. He asked: How many of you know the first name of your great great grandfather? What about your great great uncle? Just a few generations removed and I personally couldn’t identify the names of my great great grandparents. We really do have short memories, huh?

It gets even more sobering. Fr. Schmitz then said that we all die twice on earth. The first death is when we take our last breath before physically dying. The second time we “die” is when our name is uttered for the very last time. This could come 10 years, 50 years, or 100 years after our physical death. But let that sink in. There will be a time when our names will be completely extinct from this world.

With all that said, it is not wise to walk around like a big deal nor to make it our mission to build a legacy while on this planet. Eventually it will all be for naught. Rather, build for eternity. Don’t Blink.

Our Birthday Photo Tradition

When my birthday rolls around, I do a little more than eat candy bar cake, write a blog post about turning a year older, and drink a celebratory beverage. I also take a photo with my wife. Since our dating days, we have always snapped a photo of us together along with a birthday cake.

For tonight’s blog post, I thought I would very briefly stroll down memory lane of each birthday I have had the good fortune of spending with Sid. For those counting at home, that is EIGHT.

2021

A few days ago we celebrated my birthday at my parents’ house.

Our tradition continued with my most recent birthday.

2020

This was the first birthday we spent together in Spokane and it was also my first birthday with Beau. My mom made her famous ice cream pie.

In 2020, we spent our first Oct. 8 together in Spokane.

2019

Little did we know how things would change in just a couple months. I would soon accept a job at Washington State University and Sid would give birth to Beau followed by a NICU stay. This was the first ever store-bought cake (thanks, Publix!) we had for one of my birthday celebrations.

A look at our birthday photo from 2019.

2018

Sidney made a homemade lasagna for this birthday and her parents dined over with us. Definitely one of the more mellow birthdays.

The photo may be blurry but my memories of that birthday were not.

2017

My first birthday as a daddy! We look surprisingly well-rested in this photo.

We have the glow of new parents!

2016

Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc on my birthday plans in 2016. We couldn’t even get to a grocery store to buy cake mix because the conditions were so bad. We pivoted and settled for brownies as that was the only thing we had in the cupboard.

Thanks to Hurricane Matthew, we swapped a birthday cake for brownies.

2015

 

Sidney made me an ice cream pie on my birthday in 2015.

2014

Look how young we look! This was the first birthday we spent together and my first introduction to Sid’s delicious candy bar cake.

Who are those young kids?! Our first birthday spent together in 2014.

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This tradition is not meant to end soon. As long as there is cake (or brownies), there will be a birthday photo of Sid and I. Don’t Blink.

A Montana Homecoming

Although the University of Montana held its Homecoming back in September, it was my personal Homecoming this past weekend. My birthday wish was to go to Missoula and my wife and parents made it happen. Sidney was my travel companion and my mom and dad watched the kids so we could enjoy an adult weekend in the Garden City.

It was a sweet homecoming as Sidney and I visited Missoula to watch University of Montana football and to enjoy other experiences too.

On Saturday at 5 a.m., we hit the road. I was a tad bit excited to visit Montana and have the opportunity to watch the Grizzlies play football. Consider this…

It had been more than four years since I last visited the city where I went to college and started my professional career. It had been EIGHT years since I last watched a Griz football game. And it had literally been FOREVER since I was an actual paying fan at Washington-Grizzly Stadium sitting in a seat with a chair back (I attended football games as a student for three years, worked on the sideline as a student intern my senior year, and then worked in the press box for five seasons as a professional).

What a thrill it was to watch a game as a fan inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium. This is a photo I took from our seats.

The conditions could not have been more perfect. On a brilliant, sunny fall day in Missoula, Sid and I got to experience Grizzly gameday in all its glory. We walked across the footbridge, tailgated, ate stadium food, cheered on the Griz, and relished a victory. No stress, no expectations, no pressure to please 26,000 people.

Missoula is a special (and gorgeous) place. I took this photo from the top of the M on Mt. Sentinel.

But speaking of people, that was the other cool thing. I got to see so many folks who I had not seen in eight years. And these weren’t just “ordinary” people…many of them were individuals who had great influence on me and helped me get to where I am at today. To be able to introduce them to Sidney was truly an honor.

I had the pleasure of seeing many people from my time in Missoula, including my first ever professional boss, Christie.

Besides the Grizzly gameday experience, I also had the pleasure of doing a couple of other special Missoula things with Sid. On Sunday we attended mass at St. Francis Xavier, the parish I belonged to for most of my tenure in Montana. I knew Sid was going to be impressed with the beauty of the church and it surely didn’t disappoint. Neither did the music, preaching, and sense of holiness within that 120-year-old building.

I took these photos of Missoula’s St. Francis Xavier on Sunday.

Shortly after mass, we ventured over to Mt. Sentinel to hike the M. Sidney had set a goal to make it up the mountain and she smashed it out of the park. We ascended to the top and admired Missoula during its peak beauty in the early fall. What an amazing moment to share with my wife.

Sidney and I triumphant on the top of the M.

I am very thankful I had the opportunity to go back to Missoula and support the University of Montana. To make the journey with my wife and see so many outstanding individuals and partake in so many signature Montana experiences is something I won’t soon forget. Don’t Blink.

My Presidential Birthday

Finally, a birthday I can be excited about! As a former United States Presidents childhood prodigy and overall history buff of the highest office in the land, I have looked forward to this milestone birthday since I turned 30.

Today I celebrate the beginning of my “Presidential Year.” I am now 35 years old and that means I am eligible to run for the Presidency of the United States of America (scary, right?). Thankfully for all of you, it is not an election year.

Sidney made me this candy bar cake for my 35th birthday.

It’s okay, all that matters is that I am eligible. And that is a good thing, because if this birthday didn’t carry the presidential distinction, I might be focusing more on how old I just turned. Although I didn’t sweat my birthdays during the first half of my 30s, celebrating the big 3-5 is just a little different. I have aged out of the coveted and youthful 18-34 age demographic and that stings just a little bit.

But should it bother me that I am no longer part of an arbitrary age group defined by deep pocket advertisers? If it did, I hope my readers would recommend a therapist. Truth be told, I realized for myself several years ago that age truly is (sorry to use a cliché) “just a number” and birthdays are meant to be celebrated, not dreaded.

So here I am on my 35th birthday—content. No, wait, that word doesn’t do it justice. I am happy. As with previous years, I point to the same things: Family, faith, and career. When I blew out the candles tonight, all three were as strong as Beau’s desire to thrust his hand into my cake. Talk about the best birthday present possible.

Commander-in-chief eligibility or not, I am pretty fortunate as I embark on my latest trip around the sun. Don’t Blink.

Past Birthday Posts
Turning 34
Turning 33
Turning 32
Turning 31
Turning 30

Home Is Where the Heart Is Thursday Rundown

Good evening, friends! I appreciate you taking the time to read my first Thursday Rundown of October. I don’t want to waste too much of your time tonight so let’s get started with this evening’s five topics…

House Blessing – A couple weeks ago we had a very special visitor to our home. Fr. Jeff Lewis, pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church (Spokane Valley) and our family priest, paid us a visit. At our request, he came to bless our house. After an opening prayer, he went to each room in the house sprinkling it with holy water and applying sacramental oils. The house blessing is a way to protect our home from both internal and external forces while inviting the Holy Spirit into our residence to promote sacred family life. Thank you, Fr. Jeff!

Fr. Jeff Lewis with us at our house blessing.

Fun in the Fall Sun – It wouldn’t have been possible to dial up a better Autumn day than what we had last Saturday. The distinctive smell of fall was in the air but the abundant sunshine made for a warm day in the 70s. We took advantage of the pleasant conditions by taking Sloan and Beau to a Whitworth football game. Sloan played the whole time in the complimentary jump castle while Beau roamed around on the stadium’s grassy hill. Sid soaked in the sun and I enjoyed myself some Division III football. The Pirates came away with the win and we all went down on the field afterwards.

Sloan and Beau had a great time at the Whitworth football game and capped it off by going on the field after it was over.

Favorite Emoticons – On this date seven years ago, I wrote about the top five face emoticons I use the most during texting. The list has shifted a little bit over the years as my honorable mention emoticon is now easily in my top five. Exactly a year later, I would write about my favorite non-face emojis. Although it was kind of fun writing those posts, I really enjoyed what I wrote a day after my first emoji post on October 8, 2014. In that post I wrote about the coolest work tradition that ever existed. Back when I worked at Coastal Carolina University, there was a period of a few years when our graphics team would make elaborate, themed cards for UCOMM staffers on their birthdays. Come on, scope out the post to see some of their work.

I am a real big fan of emoticon faces.

Weird Sight – I came across this article about some guy who dressed up as Michael Myers from “Halloween” and went to the beach to roam the shore. The guy said it was a joke but the cops didn’t think it was funny because they arrested him. Part of the reason may have been that he was carrying a knife (although it turned out to be fake). I sympathize with the guy to an extent because there was a period in my life when I would dress in costume and show up in random places. Granted, I didn’t dress up as a disfigured serial killer. With the scary clown phenomenon from several years back, people are probably a little more sensitive to these types of things.

“Michael Myers” getting arrested by police.

Frosty Cereal – I am going to do everything I can to get my hands on a box of Wendy’s Frosty cereal this December. This is no joke…this will be an actual cereal in a couple of months. Although it looks like a cross between Coco Puffs and S’Mores cereal, Wendy’s wouldn’t team with Kellogg’s if the product wasn’t decent. The part I love the most is that a coupon for a free Frosty (with a Wendy’s app purchase) can be found inside each box.

If I can find it, I will buy it.

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That should do it for tonight. I am more excited than usual this evening because an especially fun weekend is almost here. I am signing off for now but I will be publishing a special blog post tomorrow. Don’t Blink

Stationary Movies

I remember one night in 2014 sitting in my Myrtle Beach apartment watching a movie called “Locke.” Even after seven years it still sticks out to me for one major reason: The entire film took place in a car.

To add even more to the solitude of “Locke,” there was only one character on-screen the entire time. This particular person happened to be the talented Tom Hardy as he played the role of a construction foreman making a desperate 90-minute drive to be present at the birth of a child conceived from a one night stand. Throughout the film he engages in numerous phone conversations with people ranging from his wife to his mistress to his son to his co-workers to medical personnel.

I watched “Locke” in my Myrtle Beach apartment in 2014.

If I realized the entire film would unfold in a car, I probably would not have rented it (yes, it was in 2014 and I got it from a Redbox). Nonetheless, I ended up enjoying the movie. However, with that said, my preference moving forward was still to watch films with multiple settings and on-screen actors.

Fast forward to October 2021 and I found myself watching a similar conceptualized movie. Sidney and I gave Jake Gyllenhaal’s Netflix movie “The Guilty” a shot…and we were glad we did. In the film, Gyllenhaal is an LAPD officer demoted to 911 operator as he faces litigation. Clues for why he was given his new assignment and why he is in hot water are revealed throughout the film but it doesn’t come full circle until the end.

As you may have guessed, “The Guilty” takes place entirely in the 911 call center. Compared to “Locke” it almost seems like “The Guilty” boasts an ensemble of on-screen actors but you really only see a few of Gyllenhaal’s new 911 co-workers.

Sidney and I watched “The Guilty” this week and enjoyed it.

The plot revolves around a call Gyllenhaal receives from a woman who appears to have been kidnapped. As the movie rolls on, Gyllenhaal employs unconventional strategies to save the woman, secure her kids, and neutralize the kidnapper. We were on the edge of our seats the entire time.

But again, just like with “Locke,” I don’t know if I would have been so enthusiastic to watch it if I knew the whole movie took place in the 911 call center. With this the second movie that turned out to be quite good, I think I might have to adjust my attitude when it comes to these types of films. Perhaps I don’t give my attention span enough credit. I have a preconceived notion that I need beautiful landscapes, special effects, and a cast of rotating characters to make a film worth watching. That has proven to be wrong.

However, I have a feeling it has less to do with my concentration than it does with superb acting. Both Hardy and Gyllenhaal gave outstanding performances, allowing the unconventional style to thrive and their talents to shine. If you have Netflix, give “The Guilty” a watch.

To all my movie buffs out there, are you familiar with any other films that use a single on-screen actor in a limited setting to tell an engaging story? If so, let me know, I will at the very least Wikipedia it. Don’t Blink.

RIP Plastic Grocery Bags

I know this sounds like I am putting myself in front of the environment, but I wasn’t overly excited by the statewide ban on single-use plastic bags that went into effect on Friday. The ban means that in the state of Washington, businesses can no longer offer the plastic grocery bags that most of us have grown up with our entire lives.

Judging by the expressions of Sloan and Beau on the first day of the ban, they weren’t overly excited about it either.

My less than enthusiastic attitude isn’t because I am having a personal crisis figuring out how I will now carry my groceries out of the supermarket. Rather, I am bummed because I will no longer be able to use them for the myriad of miscellaneous ways I employ them once I bring them home.

Basically, I have placed a major overreliance on plastic grocery bags for the following reasons…

To carry my lunch to work
To hold an extra change of clothes
To pack my toiletries during travel
To dispose of Beau’s diapers
For use as mini trash bags

I bought eight bags on Friday. After I purchased them, the Walmart clerk placed them on the rack for us to use.

A couple of these uses really irk Sidney. She finds them tacky, which is likely why she wasn’t impressed by the situation that took place this past Friday. Let me explain…

The ban is meant to encourage people to use their own personal tote bags for their groceries. If you don’t want to make that investment, grocery stores now offer reusable plastic bags for 8 cents. These new bags are thicker and use recyclable material in their production.

On the first day of the ban (Friday, October 1), we went to Walmart after work to pick up a few groceries. We made it to the front of the self-checkout line we were in. While Sid scanned our items, I flagged down the bag lady who was going from self-checkout line to self-checkout line selling the bags.

“I will take 8, please,” I told the lady.

“Yes, sir,” the lady replied as she counted out the bags and typed in the code at our register to apply the charge.

I took a photo of our checkout screen after the Walmart clerk typed in the transaction.

“Why did you buy 8 bags?” asked Sid, indicating that only a couple bags were needed for the amount of groceries that we purchased.

“We need them for Beau’s diapers this weekend,” I replied.

“They make bags specifically for that purpose,” Sid responded, annoyed. “Perhaps this is the kick we need to start buying them.”

So perhaps we will. But let me go on record by saying that the new reusable grocery bags are heavy duty and I consider the 8-cent price a bargain. However, I do realize that isn’t the point of the ban.

The new bags are heavy duty, and, in my opinion, worth the 8 cents. But I know that’s not the point.

It will be interesting to see how this ban is embraced statewide. I wonder where our family will stand a year from now. Will we be bringing our own tote bags into Safeway? Or will we be hanging onto the original eight bags we bought at the end of last week (assuming I didn’t use them for diaper disposal)? Whatever the outcome, I just hope grocery store bagger clerks still have a job. Don’t Blink.