Sunday, March 24, 2019

Dog Of The Week

Eying the Mason jar filled to the brim with white entry slips, I hand the leash over to the staff behind the front desk. Tucker, our eleven-year-old Puggle, has already dashed to the back.

Tucker loves doggie daycare.

I peer at the snapshot of the “Dog of the Week.” This week it’s a Bulldog, his thick tongue out in defiance. Is that a gleam I see in those doggie eyes?

I sigh, turning to the staff. “Gee, Tucker has never been Dog of the Week and he’s been coming since he was a puppy.”

“Really?” one of them says. “We adore Tucker!”

“It’s random, you know,” another pipes in. “Customers fill out the entry slips with their dog’s name and we pull one from the jar every Monday. It’s a fresh start every week.”

“Yeah, I’ve done the slips, but Tuck only comes when we’re on the road, so my odds aren’t as good as the daily borders.”

The young blonde staffer with a purple streak looks up from her computer.  “Yeah, some of the regulars fill slips out every day they come.”

“Really?” I say, reaching for a slip and a pen, my competitive mode already rearing its ugly head. “Every day, huh?”

“Some of them,” she smiles.

“Let’s see,” I say, filling out the slip. “Today’s Saturday. You pick the winner on Monday morning. My chances are good this week, right? Or, do you get a lot of check-outs on Sunday?” 

A black lab bursts through the door with his owner clinging to a tight leash. “Coco!” the staff says in unison. Coco’s tail wags wildly when one of the staff comes out from behind the counter and takes his leash.

I move to block the jar from Coco’s owner’s view as she hands over neatly bagged meals to the blonde. One less entry slip…

“So,” I say to the two remaining staffers after Coco’s owner is safely out the door. “I’m such a loyal customer.  Been here since Tucker was a puppy. How has he missed being “dog of the week?”’  

I fold Tucker’s entry slip and place it in the jar on top of the others. “Here’s Tucker’s entry slip,” I tell them. “Right here on top. You know,” I say with a wink,” right here on top. Easy to pick.”

“It’s not rigged,” they laugh.

These women behind the desk are great. They know me by now.  At the beginning of October, they’ll ask what Tucker will be for Halloween. The doggie daycare contest is looming and, for me, it’s an all-out war to have Tucker win that thing.

“Oh, of course!” I say. “I know you guys run an above-board place here,” I add. “I’m not one of them,” I gasp, with a devious smile.

I’ve followed the college admission cheating scandal, obsessed with the stories. Who does this? How do they sleep at night? Their children were admitted to college on a cheat – through the “’side-door!’”

“I was never like this with my kids,” I tell them.  “You know, like one of those awful parents with the college scandal, trying to get my dog the coveted spot!”

“You are so funny,” they laugh.

“No, really! It’s true! There was no “side-door” to college for them and certainly no donated building! And, I can’t even remember what they were for Halloween. My kids say I got this way after they left. Now, it’s all about Tucker.” 

Do I detect doubt in their expressions? 

As I leave, I toss another reminder to them.  “I sure hope Tucker wins some week….”


Two weeks later, I’m notified. 

“Congratulations! Tucker is Dog of the Week!” 

And, I wonder, where can I get a “My-Dog-Is-Pet-Of-The-Week” bumper sticker?

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Scene At The Capitol Grille

Our small gathering for a drink has taken on a larger feel. I’m crushed against a waist-high side table amongst a sea of wide-eyed interns and government aides. It’s a young crowd. The men are dressed in rep ties and slim suits. The young women are lugging over-sized totes, mostly black, and similarly dressed in suit-type work attire. The chatter is deafening. It’s all politics and glasses clinking. They’ve arrived to celebrate the swearing-in of Andrew Wheeler, the new EPA Administrator.

I’d known someone important was heading into the bar when two security detail guys sporting clear coiled wires behind their ears with eyes moving right to left, entered the restaurant.

We are at The Capital Grille, the “real” one in the chain, located minutes from the Capitol steps.  

“It’s packed in here,” I hear someone say. “Why here?”

“They won’t turn away a Trump guy,” another person answers over my shoulder. “It’s a chain. Too risky if they were to celebrate his appointment in a fancy restaurant,” he adds. “He may be turned away. You never know these days…”

I am in DC with my husband, Hank, on business. He and his colleagues have spent the day on the Hill, lobbying for regulations on flood insurance. Not as steamy as the Cohen hearings, but floods happen…

Just when I lift my glass to my lips to take the first sip, a woman with a thick ponytail slips onto the stool next to me; her over-stuffed tote smacks my arm. My drink sloshes down the stem of my glass, soaking the napkin and the tip of my shoes.  “So sorry,” she says to me with a side-glance, then turns back around to address the woman next to her. 

This is Washington DC. Push. Jam. Shove. It’s a get-your-voice-heard kind of town.

Why did I order a martini in a stand-up situation like this, I think, holding a half-filled martini with the olives now leaning against the side of the glass, deflated above the line of liquor?

I’m in a circle of conversation with half an eye out the window, waiting for Hank to return to the group. He’s at CVS down the street with our friend, Keri. She used to work for an ophthalmologist and has taken Hank to get the right eyewash after he got something gritty in his eye.

“Lots of construction going on around here,” he’d told me earlier. “It happened on my walk back from the Capitol to the hotel. Can’t seem to get it out,” he’d said, his eye red, the lid, puffy.

A metaphor, I’d sighed, lifting his lid softly to look into his eye to try to find the grit that was so irritating.

Andrew Wheeler, the new EPA guy, shakes hands, slapping a shoulder and a hug with one of our group. “Congratulations on your swearing in today,” our friend says, patting him on the back.

He then introduces us all to this new Administrator.  A rumpled guy, more modest and endearing than one would think, given his status.  

“No matter our politics, or that we may differ,” our friend says, turning to us after Andrew has moved on. “I worked with this guy. Every year on my birthday, Andrew came into work with homemade brownies for me. That’s who he is. He's a guy who cares.”

“You’re close friends?” I ask.

“Yes,” he replied. “Politics aside.”

I place my drink down on the side table as I catch sight of Hank and Keri through the frosty window. Beside me, the security detail is busy speaking into their microphones. Soon, Hank is beside me. “I feel better after the eye wash.”

I thank Keri who has joined us.  “Who knew your old skills would come in handy.”

The group discusses today’s event on the Hill and my mind wanders to one of the senators who spoke to us last night, a fellow from the South. An African American guy whose grandfather made sure that he had the newspaper propped up for reading at the kitchen table when his grandson had returned from school.

He’d wanted to teach his grandchildren the importance of reading, knowledge. Although his grandfather didn’t know how to read, his grandson didn’t know that.

“There’s so much hope in this country,” the Senator told us, “you can rise,” he said. “You can come from nothing and, well,” he said, “become a senator.”

“Where’s your drink?” Hank asks, pulling me back into the now.

“A martini in this mess?” I laugh. “I’ll wait ‘till dinner.”

Just then, another colleague of Hank’s bursts through the door, cheeks flushed, his Burberry scarf slightly askew. I make room for him in our small corner. “Ok,” I ask him. “Someone said that Michael Cohen is staying at our hotel. Is that true?”

“Yep!” he said.  “He was chatting people up just now waiting for his car.”

Pulling out his phone, he shows me a picture of him with Michael Cohen.

“Oh. My. God,” I say, taking a closer look. “He really was staying at our hotel!”

As our group head out to dinner at another restaurant close by, a suited staffer begins putting “Reserved” placards on the bar and counter tables as we vacate them.

And I wonder, who’s coming next…