Friday, June 25, 2010

Four from the Past (All Follow-ups to Previous Columns)

On a blazing hot summer day like today, I'm inclined to laziness, which means taking the easy route of revisiting some topics I've dealt with before, starting with one from the cooler days of mid-spring, ending with the one from just last week when it was already pretty much like today.

First, from my column of May 7 on the new Georgetown Safeway:

Safeway Revisited.
I've been back a few times, and am still a fan, though a bit of the thrill has worn off. That happened on my second visit, after the opening week hoopla was over and the greeters, aisle-guides, and checkout ushers were all gone, and shopping returned to being a more humdrum experience of negotiating a maze of aisles while checking off a long list of needed grocery items, until the cart was full and it was time to stand in the checkout line, get checked out, and haul the stuff home. This is not the fault of the store, of course: It would be unreasonable of me to expect all those first-week added helpers to continue to offer personalized shopping assistance on an ongoing basis. However, I must report that my most recent trip to the Georgetown Safeway did include a bit of serendipity: I was told I had been randomly selected to receive a gift from the bakery department and was then offered my choice of a free carrot cake or chocolate cake. I took the carrot cake and shared it with the Rosedale Annual BBQ Picnic on June 20. It was all gone within minutes, while I was still on my main course, so it must have been good!

Second, following up on a discussion-within-a-discussion in the Wedding Gifts Column, Part II (May 21):

Who Needs So Many Vases? There were two comments on vases as wedding gifts in that column, both decidedly negative. What do you do with that unique, artistic vase you've received if you happen to think it's ugly as dirt? This, apparently, is a common enough problem that it cropped up again in Ask Kelli's June 23rd column, and she said it's fine to return it if you can figure out out where it came from. I certainly agree with that advice, but the problem with the vase-not-from-the-registry is that you are unlikely to be able to discover its origins, at least not without having an awkward and potentially feeling-bruising conversation with the giver of the gift. Now being 22 years past the window of receiving opportunity for wedding gifts, I'm not very likely to be saddled with an unshapely vase for that reason, but just this week I seem to have ended up with the "what do I do with these vases?" question, all the same. You see, my adult daughter has a summer job with the Commission on Presidential Scholars, which last week put on a four-day series of events honoring 141 of the nation's top high school students. There were dinners in their honor, receptions, a photo op with the President, official tours of museums, and more. At each of these events there were floral arrangements on the tables. After some of them, the staff members were told they could take the flowers -- in their vases -- home. My daughter took advantage of this offer twice. The flowers have since faded, but I now have two leftover vases.
They're not bad, actually, but they're nothing special either. One is a clear glass cylinder, the other an opaque glass pitcher. I also have a half-dozen other vases that once held Valentine's Day flowers, Mother's Day flowers, birthday flowers. Right now they're taking up a lot of room on a back shelf. I guess I could add them to the next Value Village pickup. But I'm wondering, do these things even have a thrift shop resale value? Perhaps I should just put them in the recycling. I'm thinking that vases are becoming like wire hangers -- but at least those you can return to the dry cleaners once you have more than you want to keep. Maybe one of our local florists could establish a drop-off collection so that glass flower vases can be reused. If anyone knows of a florist that already has such a program, please let me know! Just send the florist's name and address to alllifeislocal @ and I'll do a follow-up in a future column. (Well, since this is already a follow-up to a follow-up, that would be a follow-up cubed.)

Third, a follow-up on my column of June 14, on my overnight stay at a hotel in New York City:

Reviewing hotel reviews.
After giving a thumb's up to the Park Central Hotel in my column, I decided to give the hotel a good write-up on Trip Advisor, the biggest and most popular customer review site. Before posting my own mostly positive review, I thought I'd look over the last four or five pages of reviews already on the site. Most were like mine, generally good, but I was surprised to read a few that made an overnight stay in the hotel sound like a descent into the lower depths of hell. These were not just negative reviews but reviews that included words like "BEWARE" and "Worst experience ever." (To read the actual reviews, look for those by: desertcrow, freqtravels_10, cricket 4445, bnormant, and sstfam). It seemed impossible to me that someone could have had such a terrible experience at a place that I, along with most other customers, had found clean, well located, well maintained, and competently run. Some of the causes for complaint in the intensely negative reviews seemed to me to be things that were either trivial or things that could have been fixed with a call to housekeeping (burned out light bulbs, for example) -- and even if not fixed promptly, hardly the sort of thing calling for such outrage on the reviewer's part. In most cases I found myself mentally taking the management's side, wondering if the customer had given the hotel a fair chance to put the problem right, or even whether the complainer was representing the situation accurately. (I especially rejected those negative reviews that included a slam to the "outdated d├ęcor" of the hotel's lobby, which struck me as attractively "retro." In my own review of the Park Central, I noted that having obtained the room at the bargain price of $100 per night, I was not expecting perfection, but, having found the room clean and comfortable and the service pleasant, I was quite satisfied by what I got for my money. In some future column I expect to come back to the problem of how to read between the lines of a business review, including how to detect when the reviewer has some personal axe to grind against the business, and how to recognize when someone is simply shilling for a friend or relative in the business. (Both of these are something we have to deal with everyday as listserv owners.)

And finally, a follow-up to last week's column (June 19) on the woes of World Cup soccer played to the ceaseless whine of vuvuzelas:

World Cup Cacaphony Continues. (Bet you can't say that three times fast.) The people at have at least made it possible to laugh at the noise: And while you're there, you might get a chuckle out of this other soccer parody, as well: I wish I could add a follow-up note here with the answer to the main question posed in that column: Where is there a sportsbar, either in Cleveland Park or in the vicinity, that is showing the World Cup matches with the vuvuzela noise technologically erased from the soundtrack? Alas, no one supplied an answer, and I suspect that is because there isn't one. Not too late, though, if you know of someplace and are willing to share it with the anti-vuvuzela brigade, Cleveland Park division; just send it to alllifeislocal @

Published on the Cleveland Park Listserv on June 25, 2010.

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