Monday, June 13, 2011

I did that embarrassing thing my grandmother used to do

Never Done: I did that embarrassing thing my grandmother used to do

I remember when I was a kid and we would go out for lunch or dinner at Howard Johnsons with my grandmother, and she would order coffee. Because she knew what was coming. My grandmother would ask the waitress if it was a fresh pot. The waitress would say yes. She would bring the coffee. My grandmother would taste it and call the waitress back because it wasn't hot enough. The waitress would bring a new, presumably hotter cup. My grandmother would taste it, and say it was too strong, and ask for an ice cube to water it down. Then she would taste it again, and ... you guessed it: it was too cold again.

Can you picture how this was for the rest of us? How we would cringe, and apologize behind my grandmother's back? How my mother would try to persuade my grandmother not to -- just not to -- and how my grandmother just didn't seem to be able to stop herself?

Well, I was her today. Sort of. Some friend and I stopped for ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery, whose name is inspired by the Walt Whitman quote: I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine. The flavor selection was gorgeous, and I asked for tastes of three flavors: root beer, maple bacon, and chocolate stout. Right off the bat, I didn't love the root beer, the stout was wonderful, and the maple bacon base was lovely, but there was no bacon in my little bite. So I asked for another, so I could tell if I'd like it. The next taste came with one little piece of bacon, and I really liked the combination, and ordered a small cup. When my cup came and I started to eat, there was so much bacon in each bite that it was just overwhelming. (And I was using one of those little tasting spoons -- not a full-sized plastic spoon.) My friend immediately started to figure out how to share hers with me, but my mind was going in another direction: I was trying to screw up the courage to ask her for a new cup.

It wasn't easy -- a voice in my head told me that TWO tastes should have been enough for me to know whether I would like it. That I shouldn't cause trouble. That I should offer to pay for the second cup. That it would embarrass my friend. But another voice in my head told me it's not good to eat something I don't like, and that it's OK to ask for what I want, and that I am not likely to become my grandmother because of all the years I worked in food service. So I screwed up my courage and I asked. The scooper went to ask the owner, and they conferred for so long that I decided to offer to pay for the new cup. When she came back, I preempted her by making my offer, but she had come back to say it was fine to switch. I wanted to protest, but quickly realized that would be even more neurotic than just thanking her and choosing a new flavor, which is the path I chose.

It was pretty painless (at least it was for me) I think in part because I was practicing the mide (middah) of Calmness: Words of the wise are stated gently. (In this case, the words of the wise were stated gently by and to myself, which is often harder than stating them to someone else.) And I suppose it was also made relatively painless because I was essentially rewarded with wonderful chocolate stout ice cream and a date with friends. Hopefully it was made relatively painless for those around me because I only ate one bacon-filled bite before returning it. And also because I tipped 50%.

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