Saturday, September 15, 2018

Boy, did someone put me on the wrong mailing list. I'm flattered to be included, but I don't come close to qualifying for what they're selling. Here's what I'm talking about - a brochure that arrived in the mail recently from Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Truth be told, I can just about afford One sea, much less Seven. I've received brochures from other cruise lines before, some of them with offerings within reach, but this one showed me that I know less about the world, and about how the well-heeled travel.

Here's a sampling of their "Exotic Hideaways" for 2019. Some of these places are unfamiliar to me. Maybe you've heard of them, maybe you've even been to them. If so, I salute you for your spirit of adventure.

Let's start with their top of the line. It's 19 nights (I guess that rounds out to 20 days) on the Seven Seas Mariner from Bali to Sydney. Highlights are the Timor Sea  (never heard of it), several stops in Australia - Broome, Exmouth, Perth, Penneshaw (aka Kangaroo Island!!). I forgot to mention - it starts in Bali. That's an island in Indonesia. So, figure it out. 19 nights in the Mariner Suite for $35,000. Or, if you're having trouble making ends meet, get the Penthouse suite for $29,000. The Mariner figures to be  roughly $1800 a night. Meals included. And clean sheets. And French wines. Still. $1800 a night is more expensive than most New York hotels (regular rooms with a king bed and 2 sets of towels, anyway).

Not interested in Australia? No problem. Try their Singapore to Bangkok voyage, starting  at $16,000 for 16 nights, and going up to $28,000. By the way, that's for the Mariner Suite, which is 900 square feet. The Regent Suite, should you need more space, is 4500 square feet. That's bigger than my house! I'm sure you could play pickle ball in your room if you get bored. On this cruise, you visit Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, and cruise the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.
These sound like locations for a Tom Cruise movie.

I could go on, but you get the idea. I should mention there are several amenities included with these cruises. A sampling: Unlimited shore excursions. Unlimited beverages, including fine wines and booze. In-suite mini-bar, replenished daily. Just in case you're trying to escape your personal problems. Like how to pay for this if the market tanks while you're at sea. And maybe the crowning jewel - unlimited WiFi. So you can stay in your 4000 square foot cabin and watch YouTube all day while the South China Sea glides by outside your window.

I've got to be honest with you. If I had bought a load of Microsoft or Apple 20 years ago, I'd probably be sending in my registration right now. Doesn't matter which cruise. They all look appealing. In fact, I'd probably book two or three cruises for 2019. Only problem would be what to do with my dog. I couldn't leave her for that long. But maybe...maybe...a cabin for two? Unlimited Milk Bones? A frisbee to play with in my very large cabin? That might just work.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Wallet That Wouldn't Die

You can file this story either under "Dumb Moves" or "Hope for Humanity." Maybe both. Your call.

It concerns a wallet. My wallet. A couple Saturday's ago I went to the movie with friend Harry. Afternoon movie at Chesterfield Mall, aka The Land of Empty Stores. After the movie, as we walked to the parking lot, we decided to meet at Barnes and Noble, about a half mile down the road, for coffee and some stimulating conversation. We're good at that. Harry went to his car, I went to mine. I had put my iPhone in the same pocket as my keys and my wallet, which makes for a very crowded pocket. Don't ask why everything was stuffed in one side. That's just how I did it. When I got to my car I couldn't get my keys out, so I put my wallet on top of my car, got the keys, jumped into the car and pulled out. 

Yep, you guessed it. Wallet on top of the car. I got to B&N, met Harry inside, and realized I didn't have my wallet. "I left it in the car," I told him and went out to my car. Totally wrong. That's when I realized I had left it on top of the car. So I sped back the 1/2 mile to the Mall, found the parking spot where I had been, looked around. No wallet. "I'll just check at the Cheesecake Factory," I thought. Someone found it and turned it in there (it being one of the few open businesses). As I drove down the row to the Factory, my cell phone rang. A woman. A stranger. "Are you Gerry Mandel?" I told her I indeed was. "I have your wallet," she said. "I found it on the road." She was across from B&N, at Trader Joe's, actually at Smashburger, which I had no idea where that was..or even what it was. "Stay there," I told her. "I'll be there in 3 minutes."

And I was. We found each other - she in a blue car, me in a red car. She handed me my "stuff" - the wallet and a handful of cards, id's, photos, etc etc. She explained she had picked up what she could from the road, a dangerous proposition since the cars move quickly along that stretch of highway. "I couldn't find your driver's license, or any other credit cards," she said. Turns out she was from Michigan, just visiting, and had seen my wallet in the road. And endangered her own life by picking up the contents. She even handed me the  $20 bill I had. I tried to give it to her. I would've made it a ten, but didn't have anything smaller. She refused it. "Pay it forward," she said. She walked into Smashburger and I got in my car and headed back up the road.

Hang in there. It gets better.
I parked along side the road near the area where she said she had found the wallet. I put on my blinkers and started scouring the median and roadside. Which had to be a pretty pathetic sight. This old guy walking up and down the road, looking for who knows what as drivers flew by, probably thinking that poor old coot oughta be in a home. Back and forth I walked...until I saw a plastic card in the middle of the road. I retrieved it, in between the cars and pickups. My driver's license! Now all I needed was my MasterCard, the one I use to charge everything so I can get a free airplane ticket to somewhere I may want to go someday.

That's when a Chesterfield cop pulled up behind my car. "Great," I thought. "They'll tell me I can't be wandering around on the median, or can't be parked on the side." A young woman officer walked over to me. I gave her my most sincere and helpless smile and a slight wave. "Hi. Do I have to move my car?" I said, assuming a negative outcome.

"We got a call at the station," she said. "Someone reported they'd seen a wallet in the road. I'm here to help you." I could have hugged her. But I'm sure it would've been taken the wrong way. She spent about ten minutes walking around with me. Then she said, "If you can't find it soon, I suggest you call the credit card company and cancel it." She said it nicely and she was right. But canceling a card creates its own problems. "I'll just look a couple more minutes," I said. She said "okay" and "be careful." And left.
By then, Harry had joined me in the hunt. Nice to have company on the median. I told him thanks but I think I'll wrap it up, get a new card. 

I had almost given up when two young women who had just gotten off work at the Cheesecake Factory were walking along the road, across from the median where I was. They saw me looking. One of them held up a card. "What's your name?" she shouted. I told her. I spelled it. I said "MasterCard." "This is yours," she said, crossed the road and handed it to me. I could have hugged her, but...well, you know. I thanked her profusely and offered her the twenty dollar bill. She took it. Hesitantly, but took it. For her and her friend. I had paid it forward, I guess.

So that's my story. Good people still abound in our society. There still exists a strong element of morality, of doing what is right, even though it may be inconvenient or even dangerous. You don't hear much about these people, but they are there. More than we realize. Small acts of concern and compassion that help define us as human, even when evidence occasionally leads us to different conclusions. I don't know the names of any of these people who helped me. What I do know is they have renewed my faith in the goodness of people. Maybe not everybody, certainly, but enough to help us get through the rough spots. A belated "thank you" to those beautiful strangers.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Dinner and drinks at a fine restaurant, Marx Brothers style

First of all, I'll admit the meal was not bad. Actually quite good. It was dinner with two friends, Julie and Steve, at a popular seafood restaurant in Clayton, Missouri. We were seated at a quiet table after only a 15 minute wait past our reservation time, not bad for a busy place on a Friday night. The bar scene was incredibly lively and joyful. TGIF still has significance even in this day and age.

It was the getting to the meal that ended up being a slapstick scene from a Marx Brothers or Steve Martin movie. Follow me closely on this. Our waiter was named James. Some friendly banter after he appeared at our table revealed he was a wanna-be actor and screenwriter. He had even spent some time in LA, trying both, writing a play (who writes plays in LA? You go to NY for that!) and not finding much acceptance as an actor. One thing for sure: He wouldn't ever get a part as a waiter. That's just not within his range. Tell you why.

James the Waiter (I use the term loosely, so you can follow the action) shows up with 3 glasses of water - one for Julie, one for Steve, one for me. My wife isn't with us this night. He sets down 2 of the glasses. So far, so good. Then he sets the 3rd glass down on the dividing line between 2 adjoining tables. They are not of equal height so guess what. Right. The glass of water falls over, soaking the adjoining table (unoccupied), the table cloth, the wine list. James recovers nicely and, with a giggle, swoops up the soaking mess, dispenses with it. Then he returns to take our drink order. Smooth sailing from now on, you're thinking. Oh, so wrong. Steve orders his Pinot Grigio. Julie orders a Bombay gin martini, on the rocks. I order a Tito's vodka gibson, straight up. James doesn't write it down. It's locked into his mind. He returns several minutes later with our drinks. Pinot...okay. Julie's martini is served straight up. My martini is served on the rocks. Sorry, James, I say, We need a do-over here. He apologizes again, laughs again, and takes our 2 martinis back to bartender hell. Minutes later he returns. Julie's martini is fine. Gin. On the rocks. My gibson is straight up, as ordered. But there are no onions. My drink is naked. "James," I say, "where are my onions?" He dashes off, returns - with a large plate bearing one onion on a toothpick. In a good natured way, I tell him I really need more than one onion. Maybe two. He brings them. I put them into my drink and take a sip. All is well, I'm thinking. But I'm wrong.

My drink is not a gibson (that's a martini with onions instead of olives). It's a gimlet, which is vodka with Rose's lime juice, a cloying sweet drink that went out with the Charleston. My mother drank gimlets, which is probably what did her in. I scream for James . He scrambles off and, several minutes later, he brings a beautiful Tito's vodka straight up. But no onions. "Sam, you forgot the onions." He's off in a flash and returns with 3 onions on a tooth pick. I dip them into my gibson, take a sip, and...ahhhhhhh. All is right with the world again.

It has taken only a half hour to get our drinks right. I hesitate to ask Steve if his Pinot has gotten warm. He doesn't complain. We toast to happy days, good health, and less comedy at our table.

I see a plate on our table with olive oil and other stuff swirled in with it. It sits alone. There is no basket of bread next to it. I point to the plate and ask James, "What is this?" He tells me it's oil and spices to dip our bread in. "Bread. Aha!" I say. James forces a smile and says, "I'll get you some bread." Which he does, several minutes later, fresh from the oven, which is why it took so long to get here, at least according to him.

I'd like to say it ended there. But listen to this. We ordered (mussels, sea bass, salmon), all served hot and delicious. But Steve finished his salmon before Julie and I had finished. James was right there, doing his alert waiter thing. He whisks away Steve's plate and asks him if he'd like a dessert menu. That's when I stop laughing at these antics and warn James. "Don't touch another plate until we've all finished eating, James. Not another plate. And don't mention dessert until our plates are gone." He backs off, a little surprised by my intensity. 

A lot of restaurants in St. Louis instruct their waiters to get those plates off the table "as soon as you can." I don't know why. It's just a really dumb move, in my opinion. It makes the people who are still eating their main course feel like they're late, they're slow eaters, they've gotta move on, eat fast, finish now and pay the bill. Fine restaurants I've been to in Big Cities have their waiters wait until all at the table have finished. That's class. If I want to eat and run, I'll go to Miss Sheri's Cafeteria.

Looking back, the three of us agreed it was a most unusual dinner. We had lots of laughs.  Fortunately we are good sports and were in no hurry to go anywhere. One thing for sure - we'll always remember this dinner. And I'll make sure I explain clearly to any server what a gibson is, and what it is not, even to the point of embarrassment. If the waiter doesn't know, at least the bartender should know. 

Yes, I'll go back to Oceano, some night when I'm feeling down and need a few laughs. I just hope James is still working there. And has gotten a role in some low-budget movie, maybe as a pickpocket or a musician, but certainly not as a waiter. Unless it's a comedy.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Disappearing Letters, Distinctive Mailboxes: A Conundrum

The mail. Now that’s a word which has changed in meaning and importance.
The mail used to be eagerly anticipated. The mailman (before there were mailwomen) might bring good news from a distant relative, expressions of  “I miss you” echoing a romantic evening, a note of congratulations or “send money, please” or “You’re invited to help us celebrate…” The thrill of the unopened envelope was a daily possibility.

Think about the last time you received an actual letter in the mail. Been awhile, right? I’m talking about words-written-or-typed-on-stationary-in-an-envelope-with-a-stamp kind of mail. I think the last real letter I got was from my cousin Myron, who passed away four years ago. He wanted to borrow some money, to tide him over until he got back on his feet. It went unanswered. Myron had never even been on his feet. Family and money - like oil and water. I don’t count letters from Hillary and Donald and Claire as real letters. Not even Whitey Herzog, who writes the most sincere letters about a hearing aid he's pitching, guaranteed to get me back into the conversation. Sorry, guys. Those letters also go unanswered.

This lack of a written diary of our daily lives worries me. What will future historians be able to cobble together about us? Only little parcels of information from emails, tweets, instagrams, and Facebook comments. Not a lot to go on. I have a book of the letters of Abraham Lincoln. Also of Tennessee Williams. The latter is actually more than I want to know about Tennessee. Here’s a historical fact: Two former presidents - John Adams and Thomas Jefferson - exchanged 150 letters between 1812 and 1823. This, incredibly, followed twelve years of silence between them caused by a bitter political feud. But once they made up, the letters flowed like Sam Adams beer. That’s an average of one letter per month, more than I used to write to my mom when I was in the army.  

But we still hold expectations of getting a letter in the mail. I’d even like to get another one from Myron. Actual fact: The sole representative of the people who deliver the mail is the National Association of Letter Carriers. That’s really their name. Founded in 1889, they claim to be “the only force that fights to protect the interests of city letter carriers.” This is not a complaint about our postal service. I think they do a terrific job. I just think the NALC might seem more up-to-date with a relevant name. Maybe National Association of Postage-Paid Carriers. Just a thought.

While I’m on the subject of mail: Consider the lowly state of the mail box. Maybe even yours. As you drive down your street, notice the mail boxes. It seems everyone buys theirs at the same store. A redundancy exists that chills the soul. I don’t understand it. People spend big money on their homes, yards, patios and pools and driveways and - yes, even their awnings and trees. But mailboxes? Bland and black, ignored and ill-conceived, even though we visit them every day. 

There are a few exceptions. Not far from my house live two families who I don’t know but greatly admire.
They exhibit pride in their mailboxes. They have impeccable taste, a sense of worth and, yes, a sense of humor. They have discovered that your mailbox can say a lot about you. Their mailboxes transcend the utilitarian into the realm of art.

I doubt if they get more personal letters than the rest of us. But that isn’t the point. Chances are their mailboxes are stuffed with the same materials we get - flyers, brochures, magazines, statements, overdraft notices, lost dog postcards. But it doesn’t matter. Unlike people, it’s what outside that counts. It’s the messenger, not the message.

These public servants were called letter carriers. Then the letters disappeared. Now they are postal workers. They do their job well. But I wonder how many of them miss the thrill of delivering a personalized envelope, hand written, of imagining the delight they bring as they listen for that shout, “The mail’s here!” And the letter awaits, in that distinctive mailbox that says, “I still care.” 

There is still one individual in my family who looks forward to the daily appearance of our mailman. She doesn't get many letters, maybe an occasional catalogue from PetSmart or Drs. Foster and Smith. Which is okay, because she's a slow reader. What she does get, however, is a treat. A Milkbone. Sometimes two or even three, if the mailman's in an expansive mood. 

Here's a suggestion. Next time you think of someone you care about, sit down and write them a letter. Even a note card. Something in your own handwriting. When you put it into the mailbox, I know you'll smile to yourself and realize you've done something worthwhile. And rare. And greatly appreciated. Guaranteed.

This article originally appeared in the autumn issue, 2017, 
of County Living Magazine.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Incredible Epic of Hughie and Willard

A song popped into my head recently, a song I hadn't thought of in a long time. The trigger might have been something my wife said about our plans for the evening, like “I hope it’s not another rainy evening.” We’d had a lot of rain recently. And just like that - wham! - the melody and lyrics surfaced, like a long lost-friend waiting to be summoned.

The song is “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey.” The lyric line is “Remember that rainy evenin’ you threw me out.” The next line contains what I consider to be four of the most perfect words ever conceived in song, poetry or literature. “…with nothin’ but a fine tooth comb.” Just look at those last four words: “A fine tooth comb.” They hold a high position in my “favorite phrases” list. 

“A fine tooth comb.”

Think about it. You can see that comb, feel it, almost smell it. A black plastic - or if it’s an Ace, hard rubber - comb. Probably plastic, considering the dire situation of Bill. In fact, a couple of teeth in the comb have been broken off. One of the disciplines of effective writing is attention to detail. This is wonderful detail.

“A fine tooth comb.”

The poor guy, thrown out by his angry lady, with that one sad item. The good news is that Bill has hair. Or a beard. I’ll go with hair.

I’m not saying these are the four most inspired words ever put into a song. Lorenz Hart (of Rodgers and Hart) created some awesome lines and rhymes. Cole Porter was no slouch at phrases. Plus Sondheim, Dylan, McCartney, Wonder - it’s a lengthy list. But the guy who wrote this song nailed the essence of lyrics that will live forever. When he decided poor Bill Bailey would spend a rain-soaked night on the streets, looking for a hot meal, a warm bed, a smile, a friend, a ray of hope, he created a scenario for the ages. Bill is doomed to wander lonely streets, soaked to the skin…with nothing to his name but a fine tooth comb.

Believe it or not, there was actually a guy named Bill Bailey. His real name was Willard Bailey. He lived in Jackson, Michigan and frequented a bar where a young man named Hughie Cannon played piano. Willard and Hughie became friends, and discussed their lives and their wives. Willard was married to a woman named Sarah, who didn’t like Will spending so much time in that bar. This gave Hughie an idea for the song. He wrote the music and lyrics in 1902. Since “Willard” didn’t really fit with the phrasing of the song, he changed it to Bill. And thus, “Won’t you come home, Bill Bailey” was born. 

Why a comb? You know the answer. Hughie needed a word to rhyme with “home.” That’s a real challenge. The options are few. Dome (with nothing but your hairless dome?). Foam (a mug of foam?). Gnome (nothing but your garden gnome? egads) Loam. Poem. Roam. He picked the right word and the rest is lyrical history. “Comb” rhymed. The addition of “fine tooth” is sheer genius. Attention to detail.

How did this all end? Hughie sold the rights to the song to a New York publisher. Probably didn’t get paid much; a familiar story. Sadly, he died from cirrhosis at the tender age of 35. And Willard? He and Sarah divorced years later. Willard died in 1954 and Sarah in 1973.

I fervently hope Willard owned more than a fine tooth comb when he was called home. He and Hughie have my utmost respect. I can never hear “rainy evening” without thinking of them.

Here is a link to one of the most unusual duets to ever sing this song. Ella Fitzgerald and Jimmy Durante. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

武蔵屋呉服店 and Spring Fashion: A Colorful Time of Year

(Originally published in the Spring 2017 issue of County Living Magazine.)

Spring arrived early this year in St. Louis. You probably remember that first day of Spring when the temperature hit 86°, following a winter of virtually no snow. I have three unopened bags of ice melter in my garage to prove it.
My subject today, however, is not weather, climate change or the end of humanity. It’s Fashion. To be more specific, Hawaiian shirts, aka Aloha shirts. This is the time of year when we put the woolens and insulated garments away and bring out the lightweight cottons, rayons and silks, right? And nothing says Spring faster than a colorful Hawaiian shirt.
I’m happy to say that these distinctive garments are still in style, as long as you’re open-minded about style. I used to wear Hawaiian shirts frequently in college and my carefree single years. Then I got married and was gradually weaned away from them.
It’s difficult to explain the style’s longevity. Some sources trace its origins to the early 1900’s, but there’s general agreement that the shirt began hitting full stride in 1935 out of a shop in Honolulu run by a Japanese gentleman named Miyamoto (that’s his name up there in the title). While looking for information to add credence to these musings, I discovered a most impressive website. It’s The Museum of Hawaiian Shirts ( Really. Their mission statement: “To celebrate the history, art, and design of Aloha shirts.” These obviously are much more than shirts.
Not everyone looks good in one
They are works of art, collectors’ items, clothing of rare vintage and cultural significance. By the way, this isn’t only a “guy” thing. Women wear these shirts as well, the only difference being a lower cut, y-neck style.

My first exposure to Hawaiian shirts was negative. My dad had a friend named Sid. He smoked cigars, talked like a bookie (which he was), and wore Hawaiian shirts. My mom hated him. As a result, I hated him, even before I had ever met him. When I finally did, he was smoking a cigar, talking like Tony Soprano and wearing a bright blue shirt emblazoned with big-busted women and palm trees. I’ve never been able to shake that image of him. It took years for me to overcome that early influence and develop a fondness for this colorful garb - sans cigar and wise guy talk.
When I Googled “Hawaiian Shirts,” a world of color and design opened up to me, a virtual “Open Sesame” of style. Also a world of prices. You can order a shirt for as little as $5 (plus shipping) or as much as $179. Here  are a couple that will set you back a few bucks:
From Saint Laurent for $850
a Saint Laurent for $850 (but it’s free shipping!) and a Hale vintage from the 50’s for $2400 (plus $8.95 shipping).

a Reyn Spooner for $2500
And if you’ve got really big bucks, consider a rare “Map of Hawaii” Reyn Spooner shirt for only $2500. What is a Reyn Spooner, you ask? It’s a fashion design company that was founded in 1956. I have no idea what makes this one shirt so special. If I was in Trump’s cabinet, I could buy it.

If you need a shirt right away, several stores here carry them. The Mother Lode of Aloha Shirts, however, hangs in the re-sale shops. Used clothing, if you will. I visited Salvation Army, Goodwill, and the ScholarShop (which will be closing any day now) though there are others, such as Plato’s Closet and Avalon Exchange. Also garage and yard sales. You get not only low, low prices, but a built-in “spirit” of the previous owner, a sense of transferred  joie de vivre that will certainly enhance your outlook on the world. I get the feeling that these shirts were donated by grieving widows who cleaned out late hubby’s closet ASAP. But that’s just my imagination working overtime.
A note about this photo: I am wearing my extremely fashionable hat and shirt. The hat is from 2015, a birthday gift from Gregg, my son. The shirt is from 1998. I had a blues band (The Taylor Young Blues Band) and bought 6 of these shirts for the guys in the band. We looked better than we sounded. But hey, it was the blues. “Sweet Home, Chicago,” with the Aloha visual.

Here’s a closing fashion tip: Add some color to your life. Guy or Gal. Go Hawaiian this Spring and Summer. Shout “Aloha.” Order a pina colada. You’ll be amazed at how good it makes you feel.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Your Call Is Important To Us. Really.

(Originally published in County Living Magazine, Early Spring 2017)

It all began in 1896 when Mr. Bell spoke into a strange looking device. “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” Watson heard and came running, quite excited. Over the past 120 years, we have evolved to the point where the leader of the free world tweets his thoughts to millions from his smart phone. I guess that’s some form of progress. 
Yes, the telephone is one of the most powerful and versatile tools ever invented. Better than the microwave, power steering, and even the cotton gin. I’m not sure what the cotton gin is but my history book said it was important. I was going to add Slinky in here, since I saw one at a History Museum exhibit recently. But Slinky has limited uses. Like one.
I imagine a segment of our population doesn’t know what a dial telephone is. In fact, they may not even be familiar with the word “telephone.” They use smart phones, iPhones, cell phones, Galaxy, and things I’ve never heard of. Whatever you call it, whatever is in your pocket or within reach is still, at heart, a telephone. A communications device. Also a recording device. Sound and picture.
Here’s what got me into this telephone frame of mind. Recently I learned something about phone calls that surprised me. Pay attention. This is important. Your phone call can be recorded without your knowledge or approval. That’s right. Forty-two out of fifty states, including Missouri,  legally permit the other party to record your phone conversation.
I started thinking about this when I called a credit card company about an item that showed up on my statement, an item I didn’t remember buying. I dialed (strange word, “dialed”) the 800 number, which took me efficiently through my options, which I made note of because “the menu had changed recently.” How often do they change these menus? Seems like every 48 hours. This was after I pressed “1” because I don’t speak Spanish, except for “la cerveza” and “donde esta el bano?”(“Beer” and “Where’s the bathroom?”).
When I got to my destination, I was greeted with this news: “This call may be recorded for quality and training purposes.” You’ve heard that before, right? We’ve known of it for several years. Only now, after I completed my inquiry - it was for two bags of Irish oatmeal, called porridge, that I bought on Amazon - I hung up. That’s also a quaint notion. “Hang up,” as in “Replace the receiver on the cradle.” Anyway, I began to wonder about my recording session. 
How would they use my call for “quality purposes”? I talk pretty well on the phone but I wouldn’t call it quality conversation. Maybe they look for unusual attitude or unexplained hesitations. Is it my quality they listen to, or their employee’s quality?  And what about that “training purposes” thing? “Training who?” I wondered. I picture a classroom full of eager “sales associates” hanging on my every phrase, the instructor replaying my words while pointing out how nervous I sound underneath my glib remarks, obviously worried if someone has hacked my credit card or I was overcharged and had no chance to get a refund. You never know. 
But mainly I wondered if they had the legal right to do this. If perhaps they needed my agreement to be recorded. A few minutes with Google and I had my answer. Yes, they can. And only one party need agree. I also found out the real reason for this intrusion. It is to insulate the company from lawsuits. “Quality and training purposes” sounds a lot friendlier than, “If you’re thinking about suing us, don’t. You’ll lose.”
Look, I’ve got enough things to worry about besides my recorded calls. In a way, it’s nice to know I’m creating some kind of legacy. Maybe they will issue a “Best Phone Calls of the Year” someday. I’m sure mine will be included. Especially the one about porridge.

Breakfast Tip: This might be the best oatmeal you've ever had. I got it through Amazon. It's really made in Ireland! Try the variety with fruit bits in it too. Great way to start your day.