Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Turkey days and stuffing dreams....

2 posts in one day is pretty darn good, if I do say so myself, and I do.

I just wanted to wish all of my readers a VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING. If you're new to the blog from Wellsphere, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving as well.

I am thankful for a wonderful husband (NAH - that's you!) and two loving and supportive families. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you, my allergy-support group of sorts, and grateful that my thoughts seem to interest you. I am thankful for a good job, a roof over my head, and a hot meal every night. I may be young, but I'm quite content with my life in a way that I never could have dreamed. I wish the same for all of you. Enjoy your turkey and football, and take a moment to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you (attention my loved ones: A LOT!)

~Allergic Diner


Here's what gets me about menu labelling. If I don't see an ingredient in the listing of what comprises a sandwich, and I don't see the ingredient in the picture of the sandwich itself, then I'm going to assume said ingredient is NOT in what I'm ordering. With me so far?

Here's what I ordered last weekend at Chili's. Cut and pasted from their website menu (this is also how it looked in the printed version.
Mouth-watering smoked turkey, Swiss cheese, mayo, lettuce & tomato.
We were out with another couple, friends of NAH's from work. Both of them are good people, both completely familiar with my allergies, and both would walk out of a restaurant in a second if I couldn't eat there. That has absolutely nothing to do with this story, but it's a nice thing to be able to say about people, so I'm putting it out there regardless.

Anyway, when I ordered, I was a little nervous because our waitress was not writing things down (order by Jedi mind trick, perhaps?), and she was young. As I've expressed before, I really have a bias about young waiters and allergy-awareness. I know not from where it stems, but its there. So sue me. I showed her my med-alert bracelet and stressed the importance of leaving everything off my sandwich but the turkey and mayo. Both friends said to her, "please be very careful with her order, she's being polite but she has severe allergies." I reinforced this and explained that please, were a tomato to touch my sandwich, if the kitchen picks it off and then sends it out, I will still get sick. She seemed to understand. I was incredibly nervous, and the wife leans over to me and whispers "Would you rather go elsewhere?" I figured we'd give it a shot.

Imagine my surprise when about 15 minutes later our waitress came back to the table with apologies, but that she was resubmitting all our orders b/c mine had come out with the evil tomato, and she wasn't letting the kitchen just remove it from the sandwich. She even resubmitted wife's quesadillas, so they'd be served piping hot. Problem solved, attentive waitress, and it should have made for the perfect meal.

About a half-hour after we ordered, our meals were served. Mine had some sort of weird spice all over it. On the turkey, not just on the outside edges, so that I could not remove it with a knife. Everybody else started eating, but I spent close to 10 minutes scraping the turkey and all the spice off of my sandwich. I ended up with a slightly-mayonnaised roll. Now, it was a tasty mayonnaised roll, but I was really hungry and that simply wasn't going to cut it. After I explained what had happened after dinner, we went to the nearby supermarket and picked me up some snacks for the rest of the evening.

Why didn't I send it back? Well, after remaking it for me once, and having been told nothing about spice (because there was nothing on the menu or in the picture that looked/sounded even remotely like spice), I didn't want it to return to the kitchen a second time. I didn't want my dining companions to have to wait another half-hour for their food, or worse, to have to sit and watch me eat after they were done.
Not a big deal, but I have learned an important new question, "No spice is listed here. Is there any in this item?"

It was a most informative evening.

Your Allergic Diner

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Continental Airlines, I await your response

I'm used to hearing about peanut allergies on airplanes, but I have never seen the issue of pets on airplanes addressed in the allergic community. If there are stories and/or links that I am missing, please let me know.

Recently, as you know, NAH and I went to Vegas. The experience with Continental started badly, and was then fixed by some very competent and congenial customer service representatives. We were originally flying out of Philadelphia, with a connecting flight through Cleveland. Before we left the house for our trip, we checked the flight status only to find out it was delayed close to four hours,and we were going to miss our connection. After about an hour of phone calls with various customer service people, we were in the car on our way out to Newark, to fly direct out of there to Las Vegas. Like I said, bad beginning, good end result.

When we arrived at the terminal, there was a woman travelling with a very small dog in a carrying case. Cute puppy, well behaved (i know this b/c he was walking around our gate at the terminal), but I was quite perplexed. What was I going to do if I ended up next to her? My reaction would be far worse if she kept the case on her lap, but as a plane is pretty much several hours of recycled air, what was I going to do? Take enough Benadryl to knock me unconscious and just pray I didn't get blowfish syndrome?

Luckily, I was not seated next to or in proximity to the woman, the puppy slept the whole flight, and we all made it to Las Vegas safe, sound and blowfish-free.

But I was intrigued. For a peanut allergy, they inform the passengers, so how do they handle pet allergies? Shouldn't I have been notified in advance of boarding the plane that there would be a dog on board? What if I hadn't seen him in the terminal?

So I sent the following letter to Continental this morning,

Flight out of EWR to Las Vegas on Thursday, November 6, 2008. Flight was fine - this is NOT a complaint.

To Whom It May Concern:
I was recently on a flight run by your airline. When I got to the airport, I noticed that there was a passenger traveling with a small dog. I have a severe pet allergy. While I was lucky enough not to be seated next to or in proximity to the passenger with the canine companion, had I been, it would have been problematic.
Does Continental have an allergy policy? I am aware that if there is a peanut-allergic person on board, then your staff will notify the rest of the passengers. Is there a policy in place for when people are allergic to the pets travelling on your airline?
I’m a freelance writer who reviews companies for their allergy policies, and I’d be happy to share Continental’s policy with other allergic consumers. I have read your FAQ on travelling with animals, but it does not address pet allergy concerns. Please contact me at your earliest convenience. I’m sure my readers would be interested to hear how an airline handles pet allergic-patrons.

So now I wait. I will keep you apprised. But quite frankly, it' s just one more reason to stop travelling! Staycation, here we come!

~Allergic Diner

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Joining the sphere of wellness

Good evening, dear readers. You may have noticed the nifty little badges on the side of my blog. I was invited by Wellsphere to become one of their featured bloggers.
I waited to tell you, as I have been invited by some rather shady websites in the past, but this one seems to be quite above-board. I especially like their community features. What better place to get allergy information than from fellow allergy sufferers (and some hand-picked, really smart doctors?). This website exemplifies the benefits of what we can do for each other, simply by sharing information.
I'm proud to be a Wellsphere Health Maven, Featured Blogger, and Patient Expert. Find me here, or find me there, but definitely check them (ME!) out!


Your Allergic Diner

Thursday, November 20, 2008

That Darn Cat....also titled "Why I'm an Idiot"

If I were a character in children's literature, I'm relatively certain I'd be, "The Big-Hearted Idiot." Let me explain why...
All my life I've been allergic to cats and dogs. Never as severe as in the past several years, but allergic all the same. In the past three years my pet allergy has gone through the roof, and the moment my face gets near a dog or cat, presto! Instant blowfish. If it were only as simple as keeping my face away from an animal, I'd be more inclined to visit my friends with pets more often. Other factors that make or break an allergic reaction include, but are not limited to, cleanliness of the house, cleanliness of the pet, friendliness of the pet (a dog that doesn't want to sit in my lap causes a far smaller reaction than one that does), etc.

Now I want to tell you a story. The story of the big-hearted idiot. This is my story, my friends.
About two weeks ago, on Monday evening, NAH came home from work and left the garage open, b/c it was garbage night. As he was in the house collecting the garbage, I heard crying coming from inside my garage. It was growing louder and louder, and increasingly more frantic. If I'd had to place bets, I would've told you there was a small goat being strangled in my garage.
When I opened the garage door, there was a very frightened cat sitting there, asking to come in. Not really asking, so much as trying to dive-bomb herself into my house the moment I opened the door. I quickly shut the door and called NAH (who himself grew up with a cat). Together we got a small bowl of milk and a small plate of tuna and took it outside.

He/She/It (?) Ate hungrily for a while, and we sat on the driveway while it did, trying to figure out what to do. The cat, when finished, jumped right into NAH's lap, purred a thank-you and promptly fell asleep. We noticed immediately that the cat was declawed, and had a perfectly smooth coat, ergo, she was someone's pet. No collar. When she woke up a few minutes later, she ran into our garage and frantically tried to get back into our house. So, we let her in. And yes, allergic parents and non-allergic parents, it was stupid. And I'd do it again (so there!).
See, a coworker of mine told me once that you don't adopt a cat, they adopt you. We spent that first night at the windows, hoping somebody would be outside looking for her. Nope. We knocked on every door on our block, hoping somebody would know to whom she belonged. Nope. So we had a house guest. NAH ran out to Petsmart, picked up food & a litter box, I started on Allegra and my inhaler, and we said a silent prayer that we'd find her owner before we left for Vegas.

Day 2 - Called every animal shelter and vet in a 30-mile radius. She hadn't been reported missing. Not helpful. Posted fliers around the entire neighborhood, at the local polling stations, with vets, animal shelters, etc. Nobody called. Allergies getting worse, breathing getting worse. Your allergic diner was growing increasingly frightened. I couldn't very well take someone else's pet to a shelter, so we were just going to have to keep her(like I said. I'm an idiot. But my heart is in the right place). In the midst of this, allergic mom calls from her vacation to check in and see how things are going (knowing nothing of the cat). "You're wheezing," she says to me. "Must be the connection," I said to her. She didn't buy it. We walked the cat around the block that evening trying to see if she'd go up to one of the houses,or recognize anything. She simply kept running straight up our driveway and back to our house. While I was pleased that she was happy there, I was getting a little worried. Again, asked around the neighborhood, but nobody seemed to know where she belonged. In the meantime, the cat owned our house. It was really quite funny. She took to a chair in NAH's office and would spend HOURS curled up on it, purring and rolling around.

Day 3 - took her to the local vet to see if she was microchipped. She wasn't. But we learned she was a she, in good health, and relatively getting up there in age. Local vet had no record of having treated her. We both sent frantic emails to everyone we worked with explaining the vacation situation and requesting the possibility of "foster parents" until we could locate her owners? Night of Day 3, it finally happened. Despite my attempts at preventive medication, I woke up with an asthma attack, gasping for air. I think I woke NAH out of a dead sleep by grasping at his arm while choking. It was official, our friend had to go. (Mind you, we weren't letting the cat upstairs or in our bedroom, and I was still having so much difficulty).

Day 4: Just as I resigned myself to the possibility of having to hand her over to our local no-kill animal shelter, I got a phone call from NAH -- "Her name's Delilah." -- Owner found! Yes!
The kicker? They lived four doors down. We'd knocked on their door 5 times over the course of the four days. Never reached them. Put a flier in their door on day 2. Nothing. Trust me when I tell you, this is not a cat who knew what to do outdoors, so she either wandered too far and got lost, or they just didn't care. I love people. Really, I do.

Regardless, Delilah went home, we did a very good thing. I spent the evening before we left for Las Vegas de-catting the entire house (it was very nice to come back from vacation to a spotless home). I know it was stupid, and like I said...I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Interestingly, this seemed to solidify for NAH that we can never get a pet. I still refuse to say NEVER, though I will also never pay the thousands of dollars for the non-allergic cats they are breeding, but that's a story for another post. Have a nice weekend!

Your Allergic Diner,
The Big-Hearted Idiot

Friday, November 14, 2008

I would never feed these guys to the lions (which is only funny if you read the previous post)

Let's balance out the bad Las Vegas customer service story with a good Las Vegas customer service story, shall we?

The trip to Las Vegas was a birthday present for NAH. We were able to go because we found inexpensive airfare (which in this economy is NOTHING to sneeze at, my friends). We hadn't been out to Vegas in several years, and were looking forward to it. When we were out there years ago, NAH loved the Luxor hotel. It's a gigantic black pyramid, complete with a sphinx, and a host of other Egyptian-themed decor. I found a decent rate there and booked us into it, specifically requesting a non-smoking room.

I'm asthmatic. Not a shock. I have no problem with people who smoke (their body, their right), I simply like to not inhale their smoke. I am intelligent enough to realize that in Las Vegas, I will inhale smoke perpetually, so my attempt is to simply not to inhale smoke in my sleep. I think this is quite fair.

When we arrived in Las Vegas, it was close to 1 a.m.. We were given our room key and told we were in a non-smoking room on the second floor. Here's where it gets interesting. The lower-floored Luxor rooms overlook either a part of the casino, or the busy, heavily-trafficked lobby.
We were given a room that was directly over a bank of slot machines, and across from the elevator. We proceeded to dump our things and go out with the friend for a quick bite to eat, and returned to the hotel at close to 3 a.m. I smelled smoke in the room, figured it was our clothes from the restaurant, took a shower and fell asleep. (Important non-asthma related side note, the Luxor has gotten rid of most of the Egyptian-themed interior in place of a more-modern, less-themed decor)

I woke up gasping at 7 a.m. and quickly got up, got ready, left the room (and a sleeping NAH) and took myself to breakfast. I told NAH NOTHING. It was his birthday, and I had an inhaler, and really, it's Vegas, what could they do? It's sort of a smoking kind of place.

When we met up with friends later that same day, NAH was joking about hearing the Wheel of Fortune machine (which loudly proclaims "Wheel OF Fortune!! when someone hits a bonus spin) as he was waking up. When he walked away, I told our friend about the smoke wafting up from the casino floor.

He looked at both of us incredulously and then marched us over to the concierge. "My friends here have a room on the second floor and need to be moved. Not only can they hear the slot machines, but his wife is asthmatic and there's smoke wafting into the 'smoke-free' room from the casino floor."

The concierge pointed us to a manager, and in LESS THAN 5 MINUTES we'd been moved to a smoke-free room on the 27th floor. No fussing, no treating us as awful whiners, just a smile, an accommodation, and an "is there anything else we can do to make you more comfortable?"

From then on it was a clean-air vacation, no asthma problems. We were so grateful that I sent the Luxor a thank-you note. It's always nice to know that superior customer service still exists! We even got to take the "inclinator," their elevator that ascends the pyramid-shaped floors as opposed to moving straight up and down.

All in all, it was a lovely hotel experience.
Thank you LUXOR!
Your Allergic (and asthmatic) Diner

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


MGM Grand is just a neat hotel. They have lions in the hotel. They're behind an enclosure, but it is just a cool thing to see lions in a hotel. That being said, I'd like to feed one of the employees at a sandwich shop called 'wichcraft TO THOSE LIONS.
On our first full day out and about in Vegas, we met up with a friend who wanted to go to MGM. He wanted us to eat lunch at Seablue, a restaurant in the MGM Grand of much acclaim. As is our luck on vacation, it was closed. Next door was this nice little sandwich place, and as he wanted to use his MGM dollars to treat us to lunch, we went there.
I'd like to pause at this point in the story and tell you that the following was entirely my fault. I screwed up, badly. However, the manner in which it was handled by those in the customer service industry? Abominable.
We ordered sandwiches, and I ordered a good old pb&j, figuring that was the safest thing on the menu (who knows what spices are on the outside of the roasted turkey? And really, meatloaf and bacon? why not just charter me a private shuttle to the hospital?). As they're ringing up, I very quietly say to NAH "I've got nothing to worry about, right? I mean, how can they screw up peanut butter so I can't eat it." He VERY intelligently replies, "Really? It's not worth just asking to make sure?"
So I asked. After the fact, and against all the advice I usually offer on this site. I was tired, I was jet lagged, and I was hungry. None of which is an excuse for letting my allergy alert down. Again, this was my fault.
The response to my question of our cashier blew my mind.
Me: "This is just regular peanut butter, right? Nothing fancy?"
Now, at this point our friend makes me feel like some sort of social leper and states emphatically, "BECAUSE IF IT ISN'T, SHE'LL DIE." (I understand the point he was trying to make, but that's not how I handle things.)
Cashier: "Oh, this peanut butter is heavenly, we roast our own peanuts and mix in a ton of whipped butter. It's fabulous."
Me: "Ok, I'm sorry, I can't eat the butter, and I know I should've asked that question ahead of time, I'm going to need to change my order. I'm REALLY sorry (and I was. I also wanted to crawl into a hole and die because at this point everyone in the place, though it was small, was staring at us)."
Here's where it gets handled badly.
Our friend's comp had already been put through. So now we had to get a manager on the phone to reverse the comp and input the order again. As I'm apologizing profusely, the woman next to the cashier very snidely says to her, making sure that I'm in earshot, "Why the f$@* would someone order a peanut butter sandwich that's allergic to peanuts? What kind of f-ing sense does that make?"
Now, our cashier looked at me apologetically, and seemed kind of embarrassed over her coworker's snit. She got the manager on the phone, reversed the comp, and I asked for a completely plain roasted turkey sandwich. Imagine my surprise when her coworker, a minute after my order, serves me a turkey sandwich with roasted peppers and a ton of seasoning. This time, I said, "I'm sorry, but I asked for this plain."

Her: "Plain? As in you want nothing on it?"
Me: "Plain. Just turkey and bread."
Her: "Really? Do you even care if it's heated? (and then yelling) HOT OR COLD?"
Me: "Cold is fine" (Because at this point, I wanted the earth to swallow me up).

So I ate a cold turkey sandwich, after cutting the ends of the turkey (which were heavily seasoned) off. It was not good. And as I said at the beginning, this is all my fault. But it was handled VERY badly.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Off and running again....

Well, NAH and I are leaving for Las Vegas tomorrow for a long weekend and a reunion with friends! I will be back next week with restaurant reviews, allergy info, etc....

Viva Las Vegas!

Your Allergic Diner

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day 2008

From time to time I mention my two favorite words on this blog that are NOT allergy related. Civic Duty. Election Day 2008. I don't care for whom you vote, just that you exercise your right to do so.

I'm the Allergic Diner, and I approved this message.