Sunday, September 30, 2007

Going Back to Cali (Part I.)

I've been meaning to blog about my California trip for a couple of weeks. But work and family has me so busy that I can hardly ever sit down and just write my own stuff. But that's going to have to change. For one, I want to blog more. And secondly, I need to start doing some serious writing, writing that will turn into dollars. And I mean a lot of dollars... So, I'm going to have to find some kind of way to not let work and family dominate my life. (I believe in miracles.)

Well, a couple of weekends ago, I decided at the last minute that I wanted to hop on a plane and go see my WCBF (west coast best friend). When she was living in NYC, I would go and visit her at least once a year. Well, she moved out to LA in January and my ECBF turned in to my WCBF. (All you east coast folks should know that I currently have an opening for a best friend in the east. Any applications?)

I digress...

Well, the first interesting thing that happened as I was planning for my trip to Los Angeles is that my five-year-old nephew, Joseph, asked me, "Ann, who's going to fly on the plane with you?" I quickly stated, "Nobody."

Joseph obviously didn't expect that answer. I could hear the wheels of his little mind grinding. He looked up at me and said, "But you're blind. You can't fly by yourself on a plane."

Interestingly, Joseph's opinion is pretty popular. Probably 99% of the folks that I know that know that I travel alone don't like it. And trust me, these folks don't mind telling my 30-something self (Early 30’s… LOL) that they think I shouldn't travel alone, but never volunteering their sighted eyes to travel with me.

Here's the thing, I really don't like to travel alone. But I refuse to sit up and wait on somebody else to go where I want to go. If I was waiting on the sighted folks that have an opinion regarding my traveling practices to go on a trip with me, I would have never been most of the places I've been and intend to go for the rest of my life.

Let me clear up something for all the people that worry about me on a plane... I'm not really in any more of a disadvantage than all the sighted passengers on the plane. If the plane goes down, 20/20 ain't gon’ help nobody. Plus, if the plane was about to crash, trust me, a heart attack would take me out long before the impact.

Secondly, when I arrive at the airport, there are staff there that can guide me to the plane. And when the aircraft lands, there are people there that guide me to the baggage claim or the passenger pick up.

And for all of you folks that are wondering... Most of the time, I am going to visit someone. So, whoever I'm going to visit usually picks me up from the airport. There are only a couple of trips that I hop on a plane, catch a taxi when I get to my destination, and go somewhere completely by myself. But don't ever think that I won't do that if I got to be somewhere.

In fact, I plan to travel by myself more in the real near future. Once my speaking career flies off, I'll be flying too.

Well, this particular entry went into a different direction from what I intended. I still haven't talked about the actual trip. Well, I'll hit that in my next post.

Much love and high in the sky traveling,

Miss Braden

Friday, September 28, 2007

Update Regarding the Cheesecake Factory Debacle

Last Week, I posted a letter that I sent to the Cheesecake Factory
that basically blasted them for a awful, yet pricey experience that I had there over the weekend.

Well, I'm not feeling completely satisfied, but I am glad to report that someone from the Cheesecake Factory's guest relations contacted me to discuss what I detailed in the letter. Well, the young woman was quite apologetic. And I have to admit that she sounded quite sincere. Her employer should be quite proud of her. This young lady spoke to me in the most sincere, humble, gracious voice a person can use. AndI'm not going to say it worked, but I certainly felt compelled to decrease my angst for the restaurant.

Plus, she said she was going to send me some gift cards. And you know that certainly helps the heart, pocketbook, and the tummy feel more gracious and inclined to forgive.

She said I should be receiving a letter and gift cards in the mail. Let's see how they try to fix this one up. I'll be sure to keep you guys updated, especially you, Renea.

Peace out,


New Update: I got my $100 giftcard in the mail. Maybe the Cheesecake Factory ain't so bad after all. LOL

BTW: I mentioned within the comment section on another post about the flying cockroach that visited us when I was eating lunch at the Red Lobster. Well, the Red Lobster guest relations sent me a $15 gift card to cover the lunch that I didn't get a chance to eat because of my lost appetite, thanks to the humongous roach.

I've learned from being apart of the Afrosphere that writing a nice little letter really does produce results from time to time.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Blind For Real

Last week, I was standing in front of the entrance of the mall, waiting for my sister, who had walked away to give someone directions to the nearest hospital. As I was waiting, this clueless woman walked up to me and asked me if I could please help her read a telephone number off a sheet of paper she had in her hand. She said, and I quote. “Ma’am, can you please read this number for me. I can’t see if this is a 5 or what. I might as well be blind.”

Well, I knew that my response to the lady was going to embarrass her. But I had to go ahead and break the truth off to her,but in a polite manner, of course.

I tilted my head to the side, smiled, and said, “I’m sorry; I can’t read that for you. I’m blind for real.”

The lady nearly fainted. She was all embarrassed and everything. The next thing you know she started apologizing over and over. “I am so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

While she was apologizing over and over, I was laughing over and over.

I don’t know why I was laughing at the woman in her face. I already knew she was going to be embarrassed once I informed her that she was asking a blind woman to see something for her sighted behind. But I couldn’t help it. It was just funny to me. So, I laughed.

Thankfully, my sister walked up and saved the woman from her failing eyes and my shameless giggling.

My life is so not boring. The unique experiences never stop coming.

A Letter I sent to the Cheesecake Factory

This afternoon, I thought it would be a good idea to take my mother, who has been recovering from a stroke to dinner and to visit with family, who she hasn’t seen since her disabling stroke. We decided to go to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, which is about 25 miles from my home. She has never gone. But it's one of my favorite restaurants. I was confident that my mother would enjoy the food, the service, and the atmosphere of your fine establishment, the same as I have for many years. Sadly, shortly after arriving at the Cheesecake, not only were my mother's expectations shattered, I, along with my father and sister, were highly disappointed as well.

For starters, we were seated by a very nice, yet interesting young man. After he sat us, he offered each of us menus. Being that I am totally blind, and I frequent your restaurant often, I asked the host to bring me a Braille menu, a service that I know you guys have available for your blind customers. Well, he said, "A Braille menu?" I replied, "Yes, a Braille menu?" Strangely enough, he repeated his initial question about two more times. He said, “What is Braille?”

Finally, my dad informed him that Braille is for the blind. My dad further explained that Braille is what the blind read instead of print. Boom, the host got it. His response to the lesson he had got from my father was an apology and an admission of his ignorance. And I mean that literally. The host actually smiled and chuckled and said, "I'm sorry... I'm quite ignorant." I’m glad that he understood that his lack of knowledge is indeed ignorance in its finest display.

Well, the young man brought the Braille menu out. And I decided to look over the fact that we had to spend a couple of minutes educating the host regarding blind people and Braille. Plus, I wanted to get to the food. I figured I would let that entire interaction slide for the moment. However, I was making a mental note to contact your corporate office and suggest that you offer diversity and disability awareness to your staff. (Contract me… I’ll be glad to do it.)

The second thing that happened in your fine establishment was what sent me over the edge. The waiter came out and asked our drink orders. Then this young man, that you guys have hired to do a competent job, brought the drinks back to the table, but failed to place them on the table. He dropped a glass of tea on my mother's shoulder, causing the heavy glass to strike her and then the tea wasted all over her shoulder, chest, stomach and lap. That accident was out of line. My mother's outfit was ruined and also her experience.

However, I can deal with accidents. Although we don't expect waiters to do such a thing as he did, I understand that we, humans, are not perfect. But what drove me to utter anger was his response. He tried to play it down and act like it was nothing. He kept saying, "Oh, the drink wasted. It's okay... I'll get another one." It's okay? You'll get another one? I would think that he would be profusely apologizing for the fact that my mother was sitting in a nice restaurant soaked by a glass of tea, long before her food order was even taken.

Then what put the whip cream on the cheesecake, this waiter that was hired by you to do a professional wait job, said and I quote. "Do you feel refreshed now?"

I was outraged. Here was my mother, a newly disabled woman due to a massive stroke, being taunted by a waiter that had wasted a glass of tea on her. Did she feel refreshed? What?! Refreshed?! I found that so called joke to be rude, insensitive, and utterly disrespectful.

I immediately asked for the manager. Well, the manager came out; I explained what had just transpired. Well, the manager only apologized to us for the waiter’s “little booboo. After the manager seemed to offer us nothing other than an apology, I told the manager that my mother’s dinner should be on the house. I explained that she doesn’t get out often due to illness and extensive disability, and that she was soaked in sticky tea, which was making her cold. Well, the manager agreed to discount our ticket by not charging us for my mother’s meal.

Well, it took forever for the waiter to come back and take our dinner orders. And then after he finally took the order, it took even longer for the entrees to come to the table.

My mother was freezing at this point. And I was fuming for a few reasons.
A. I was mad that it was taking so long for the food to come.
B. I was mad that my mother was cold and wet while she was waiting for the food.
C. I was mad that we had to either go back home for her to change clothes, or I had to go inside the mall to buy her an outfit in order to continue with our plans to go and see my mother’s sister after dinner.
D. I was mad that I was mad. FYI, my experience at the Cheesecake Factory is expected to be pleasant and enjoyable. I didn’t plan to spend my evening angry. I left my house, planning to spend money, not unhappy emotions.
E. I was mad that my father and sister, who were also first time customers in your restaurant, were annoyed by the level of service. I had hoped that they would also enjoy the dinner and experience.

Finally, our dinners were brought to the table. As I expected, the food was great. I’m so glad that I was not disappointed with the food. Likewise, my family also enjoyed the food. My mother continued to complain about being cold. But she also mentioned a few times how great her dinner tasted.
After finishing our meals, we hoped to enjoy a slice of cheesecake at the table. But because my mother was still wet and cold, she wanted to go and sit outside in the warm air to try to dry and increase her body temperature. So, we had to further alter our dinner experience by ordering our cheesecake to go.

My mother and father went outside, and my sister and I stayed behind to order the slices of cheesecake.
I clearly told the waiter to please hold the whip cream on my cheesecake. What did he do? He brought out my cheesecake with whip cream all over it. When I pointed out his little mistake, he stated and I quote. “Oh, it automatically comes with whip cream. I can take it back and have them to scrape it off. But otherwise, that’s how it comes.” Well, I’ve been coming to the Cheesecake Factory long enough to know that the whip cream is added on the cheesecake before they bring it out. But I didn’t bother to tell him that. I just agreed to allow them to take the whip cream off for me.

The waiter took a long time to bring the scraped cheesecake with the whip cream residue on it back out to the table. And he took even longer to bring out the check. Once he brought out the check, I saw that my mother’s ice tea that was wasted on her was still on the ticket, as well as my mother’s cheesecake. I was fuming. I felt that the waiter should have made sure that the ticket was correct before bringing it to us.

Well, I had to ask for the manager again, who agreed to make the adjustments. At this point, I felt that all of our dinners or at least our desserts should be free. All of us were completely inconvenienced by this experience. All of us were going to have to either go back home or go to the mall or get my mother something to wear. And yes, I told the manager that. But he just said that he would go ahead and take off my mother’s tea and cheesecake.

I gave him my credit card with the ticket, so that he can take care of the purchase. When he brought back the receipt, my mother’s wasted tea was still on the receipt. Because I was fed up, I frowned, signed the receipt, grabbed our to go bags, got up from the table, and nearly fell as I was taking a step from the table. I almost slipped on some of the tea that I suppose didn’t all waste on my mother. I was livid at this point.

After the valet brought us our car, each of us decided to just go home. Our evening was ruined. We were minus $100. But we had a bad experience at the Cheesecake Factory added to our psyche.

The reason why I’m writing is because I am gravely disappointed in your management and staff at the Cheesecake Factory in The Woodlands, Texas.
Disappointed to the degree that I would actually sit down and write a letter… Something that I never do…

When a family decides to dine at the Cheesecake Factory, they are fully aware that they are getting ready to spend some money. But you decide that the experience, the food, and the service is worth the money that you’re going to spend. When you know that each person’s dinner, drinks, and dessert will be no less than $25 to
$40, you expect a great time. Well, at least I do, and I’m sure you too.

Honestly, I don’t feel like my $100 bought me a good time. It bought me good food. But my experience and service sucked. And what I do know is that the prices on the menu at the Cheesecake Factory not only includes the cost of the food, but also the cost of the service at the Cheesecake Factory, which I found to be appalling.
I think that the manager should have at least offered each of us desserts on the house. Each of us was inconvenienced by what the waiter did. Obviously, your management and staff felt like our satisfaction was not important. I presume that they don’t care if we never patronize your restaurant again. So sad…

FYI, I do expect to get a response from this letter. If I don’t, trust me, I’ll never eat at the Cheesecake Factory again. Plus, I will inform all of my friends, who come to the Cheesecake Factory and liberally spend their hard earned money, to not come to your restaurant. It will be clear to me if I don’t hear from someone in your guest relations how you truly feel about your customers, especially your disabled ones.

I thank you in advance for dealing with this matter in a reasonable fashion. I also thank you for considering diversity/disability awareness/sensitivity training for your staff. Trust me, they need it. I hope to hear from you soon.


Angela L. Braden

Monday, September 10, 2007

Recommended Blog of the Week: The Thinking Black Man

This week, I would like to encourage all those who stop by my spot to check out a blog that I find to be both refreshing and insightful.

I was first attracted to this blog by the very title of the blog. "The Thinking Black Man" What a thought! There's nothing I find more attractive than a thinking black man.

So, I was so inclined to take a look at the brother's blog. And what I found is that the brother really is a thinker. And he does a darn good job at articulating his thoughts. And better than that, he provokes us to think. All the criteria for a great blog...

So, check out . I don't think you'll be disappointed.


Friday, September 07, 2007

What Goes Around Comes Around

When I was a young girl, around eight-years-old, I did some pretty ridiculous things. I’ll never forget going to my grandmother’s house everyday after school. My mama and I had to go pick up my little sister, Paula, before heading home. My mama would hop out the car and head to the front door of the house. She couldn’t wait to see her beautiful baby girl. But I, on the other hand, could wait. I had more pressing business than to see my little sister. I would jump out the dingy, gray, 1978 Thunderbird and run up the side of the Easter egg yellow, wood framed house until I found the sea of grass that extended behind the house. I could always find some kind of interesting insect to observe and then kill. I don’t know why I got a kick of watching them in their habitat, and then positioning my small, eight year old foot, that I’m sure was like the size of King Kong’s foot to the tiny insect, right over their frail bodies. Without any hesitation my foot came crashing down like the twin towers, taking the insect as my helpless victim.

In particular, Ant beds always intrigued me. When I was looking for an insect to experiment with, I would scan my grandmother’s huge, grassy backyard. I was always amazed when a mountain of dirt was methodically erected overnight by a colony of diligent ants. What would I do? Well, I hate to admit it. I would find the biggest stick that had torn away from one of the three towering, pecan trees, and then I would walk over to the hill of dirt, study the insects’ architectural perfection, and bury my stick right in the epicenter of the ant’s well-crafted high-rise. Then I would start stirring the molded dirt until it would loosen and fall apart. I would look down and see more red than I would brown. Millions of ants would come pouring out of the terrorized community. Those terrified, yet angry citizens of the now destroyed bed would start charging with their red uniforms on, ready to save their families and ready to annihilate whatever has disrupted their utopia. As soon as the ants had covered the lower half of the stick, I would drop the stick and run back up the side of the house until I made it to the front yard. I don’t know why I would run so fast and so far away. I guess I couldn’t watch the agony continue.

Every summer my father would load us into a rented Lincoln Towncar and make the journey from Texas to Louisiana. I couldn’t wait to get to my aunt’s house. She resided in a nice home in rural Louisiana. You could find all kinds of insects to bother in her yard. As soon as we pulled up to my aunt’s house, I popped open the door and jumped out of the blue, luxury car. Then suddenly, I realized that I didn’t leap into grass. I looked down and both of my feet were buried in the widest, tallest ant bed that I had ever seen. My toasted brown skin was being quickly painted with red, red ants that is. The ants were charging up my legs and approaching my knees. Then suddenly, my brain was alerted of the many bites I was receiving. Pain ripped through my small body. I screamed so loud, not only did my family jump out the car to see what was wrong, everyone in my aunt’s house ran out to see who was responsible for the high pitched, horror film screams.

My father swept me up under my arms and ran me over to the side of the house where the water hose was. He started spraying water on me to make the ants get off of me. My aunt ran out of the house with a towel. She started knocking the angry ants off of my body. By this time, ants were exploring and biting my entire body. The ants were biting my stomach, back, neck, ears, lips, and even my scalp. My mother and my aunt rushed me in the house and stripped the infested clothes off of me. My aunt ordered my cousin to fill the bathtub with water and a dash of alcohol. Once the tub was full of the water, my mother and aunt baptized me in the lukewarm water. The remainder of the ants that had been successfully holding on to my body were now floating and drowning in the tub of water. My aunt got a cup and started scooping them up and pouring them into the toilet.

The ants’ war against me had stopped, but the pain continued. My body felt like someone had poured gasoline on me and threw a match my way. I now understood why they called those little red ants, fire ants. My mother and aunt nursed me back to my normal self. They rubbed alcohol on my bumpy body four times a day for a few days.

After a few days, I was better. Evidence of the ants' victory was going away, but my respect for the ants and nature had expanded greatly. I thought about those ants that I tortured so often in my grandma’s backyard back in Texas. Amazingly enough, their distant relatives in Louisiana taught me a lesson about life, respect, and cohabitation.

I learned to respect everyone and everything that resided in our world’s community. I made a vow that I would never exert my power over anyone or anything that I thought was less powerful than me. I learned to never disrupt anyone or anything’s happiness. I also learned that what goes around comes around. The memory of the million of ants that were covering my body helped me remember those invaluable life lessons.

Note to my readers: This blog entry was not about my blindness inparticular. However, it is a snapshot of one of the lessons I was able to learn when I could see. (Boy, am I thankful that I got a chance to see when I was a kid.) Another reason why I wanted to post it is plain and simple... I like the above essay. And I wanted to share.

Well, you good people have a beautiful day. I hope and pray that you find satisfaction and peace in this troubling world.

Love and peace,

Angie Braden,
Former Ant Bully