Archive | July 14, 2012

The Soda Shoppes In Laconia — Definitely NOT Worth The Wait.

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

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by Anura Guruge


We are quite au fait with ‘The Soda Shoppes‘ in Laconia having been there quite a few times over the years, albeit mainly for ice cream while attending an event (e.g., Laconia Multiculutral Day) at Rotary Park. Today, however, after one of those kids build programs at Lowes (in Gilford, and this week was Kung-Fu Panda) we went there for brunch — having a ‘gift certificate’ (from restaurant.com) which was only redeemable at a very few establishments around here. [Next time I get a restaurant.com gift card I am going to throw it straight in the trash. It is a useless card that is more hassle than it is ever worth.]

Well, all the servers were wearing shirts that proudly proclaimed that logo: ‘Our service is fast no matter how slow we are!’ Well, they are deluding themselves.

I would like to say that the food compensated for the unnecessary wait. It did not. It wasn’t bad. It was solidly average in terms of taste, size and presentation. This place is NO ‘Red Arrow Diner‘!

To me, the worst thing was that none of the servers seemed to be enjoying being there. Yes, it was a beautiful Summer Saturday and I can fully appreciate that they wished they were out there having fun with their families. But, there is nothing worse in terms of a dining experience than a diner where the servers are ‘solemn’ — and I use that word just to be kind to them, though it really is an euphemism in this case. Having two large screen TVs showing (I think) the Discovery Channel just added to the general atmosphere of malaise. It was noon, but it wasn’t that busy.

Around 12:30, the doyen of Laconia’s undertaker profession, now quite a senior gentleman, walked in most likely for his lunch. And to me that summed up the whole place and the tone of the proceedings. It is a pity. I think it could be made into a fun place — sans the stupid waiting. Maybe the managers should go and check out the ‘Red Arrow‘ or even the ‘Tilton Diner‘. Alex Ray would have a fit if this was one of his establishments.

Back Volunteering As A Granite State Ambassador (GSA)

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

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by Anura Guruge


I ‘passed’ my 2-day, SNHU run, GSA certification course, in Laconia, in the Spring of 2001. So, I have been a GSA since then. I was fairly active during the first 18 months, typically volunteering Thursday mornings at the Laconia Chamber of Commerce. It was the then director of that Chamber, the larger-than-life, Kinney O’Rouke, who got me involved with the GSA.

Kinney O’Rouke at our Gilford house in 2003.

It was the first warm day of Spring in 2001 and I was at the Laconia CVS in my daughters bright yellow 1995 Corvette (with its distinctive WOWNH plates), with the hood down. As I was about to pull out, this tall, ruddy figure, in a Hawaiian shirt walks up to my window, looks down at me, over his tinted glasses, and asks: ‘where are you from?’. In my case that questions has multiple answers. But, I could tell that Kinney was after ethnicity. He grilled me for a few minutes. He established that I was self-employed and worked my own hours (albeit quite a lot of them). Then he says, nary any compunction: ‘I have a 2 day class starting next week, in Gilford. I want you to attend. We need more people like YOU.’ That was the GSA certification class. It was a blast. As is invariably the case when I attend any kind of class (which thankfully is very rare since I turned 18) I was the ‘trouble maker’. They even made me switch seats the next day. But, I do remember winning a rather fancy moose cap from Molly Hodgson Smith, who had something to do with NH tourism at the time, for getting the answers right on some questions she posed. Over the next two years Kinney changed my life, most times without actually telling me beforehand. Shortly after the GSA course he had me inducted into Laconia Rotary. Kinney was the then President (and to be fair he was, in my case, just trying to fill his designated quota of new members). A few months later, in August, I was congratulated by another member for being elected the new ‘Sergeant-at-Arms‘. Another cute Kinney move. He needed a Sergeant-at-Arms and had me co-opted at a Board Meeting without even asking me beforehand if I would be interested. I was Sergeant-at-Arms for over 2 years, even after Kinney ceased to be the President.

Somewhere around 2003 I stopped the GSA volunteering. There was too much going on in my life. Time has always been a premium. I try to use every spare minute that I can salvage on writing and research. Between 2003 and 2011 I wrote 7 books – and managed to become an expert on papal history! So that is where much of the time went, though during that period I also ended up having two additional kids.

A couple of months ago, upon receiving a flyer, I agreed to volunteer at the upcoming HopFest on July 20, 2012. That got me thinking. I felt bad that I had not done any GSA work. So, I e-mailed them. They were, as ever, very nice. They didn’t chastise me for having gone missing for so long. Just wanted to know when I would start. Well, that was today. I did ‘3 hours’ at the Alton Bay information Center. It was fun. I like the interaction. I have a lot of fun. As has been noted, I am a ‘way off the scale‘ extrovert. Psychologist actually have a scientific definition for extroverts and introverts. Introverts are exhausted after public interactions; extrovert re-energized. Interacting with strangers has never made me tired.

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