Monday, October 14, 2013

Hot Stuff

It’s funny what brings out the best and worst in people.  In my lifetime I’ve seen our nation pull together in the face of unspeakable tragedy.   I’ve witnessed neighbors helping one another out during  natural disasters.   I’ve experienced small kindnesses that were uncalled for but certainly appreciated. 

Then the Sunday breakfast buffet happens and it all goes straight to hell.

We brunch now on Sundays, thanks to a new policy Mr. Newman has implemented.  He tells me it’s a great opportunity for us to get out and bond, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion it’s due, at least in part, to the fact that I only cook on Sundays.  I’ve tried to redeem myself since ‘The Wok Incident of ‘98’, yet my efforts still don’t seem to measure up.  I envision delicious, beautifully prepared meals that would make Gordon Ramsey jealous, yet the results are merely those that would make Chef Boyardee cry.

Anyhoo, I love brunches and am completely on board with the new policy.

Yesterday we opted for our regular joint around the corner.  It’s not fancy, but it’s consistently good.  We arrive early in order to beat the church crowd, because there’s nothing more terrifying than hungry Baptists who’ve been cooped up for a couple of hours without snack options.

Mr. Newman hits the omelet station, while I stride gleefully toward the buffet.  I’d all but skipped dinner the night before, saving up for a full plate of huevos rancheros, biscuits and gravy, and any other little not-good-for-me delectable I can get my hands on.  My glee is stifled somewhat by the woman in front of me.  She takes her time, lifting lids, spooning out contents, looking over them, and then putting them back in the tray.  Her plate is already full, and I wonder if she understands the concept behind a buffet:  you fill your plate, sit down and fill your pie hole, and then go for round two.  You don’t start contemplating round two until you’ve completed round one.  The man behind me starts tsking, which only seems to slow her down even more.  ‘Passive aggressive much?’  I think to myself as I finally fill my plate and take a seat.

I shake off the weirdness and prepare to dig in; however, there’s a problem:  no Tabasco sauce.  I can’t eat eggs without it.  I can’t eat anything without it these days, come to think of it.  I absolutely love the stuff and would drink it straight from the bottle if society allowed it.  ‘She literally burned up her insides’ is what I’d like for my obituary to read.  I leave the booth and hit the ‘Help Yourself’ condiment shelf.  No luck.  I see Tabasco on tables, my fellow patrons enjoying what I’m doing without, yet I can't muster the courage to approach them. Most of them are buried deep in their phones, I-Pads, or newspapers.  No one smiles.  As a matter of fact, they are the dreariest looking lot I’ve seen a long time.  I stand, waiting, biding my time until the Hot Sauce Gods smile, and when they do I grab a lonely little cap-less bottle, perched upon a cluttered, human-free table.

Mr. Newman arrives at our booth with his own story:  evidently there was a scene involving an overly bejeweled woman and a shortage of tortillas.   Two of the joint’s best workers were called over, insults were exchanged, eyes rolled…a bona fide spectacle.  We congratulate ourselves on our lack of pettiness, and then I share my plight regarding the Tabasco.

The subject then turns to death which, judging from our fellow patrons, is no surprise, really.  Recently, friends of friends have passed on, as have extended family members.  We conclude that no one really knows what to do in such situations.  The wrong questions are usually asked.  Priorities become misplaced.  Feelings get hurt, and by the time the heavy grieving stops, you must take pause to try to figure out just what the heck happened.  ‘Some people just aren’t sentimental,’ Mr. Newman muses. 

‘And some are just thoughtless,’ I add. 

‘Nothing a person can do about it, though,’ he counters.

‘Sure there is,’ I reply.  ‘Harbor a grudge and let it seep out slowly for years to come.’

‘That’s healthy,’ he smirks.

‘That’s my way,’ I respond.

I empty the remaining Tabasco on what’s left of my eggs, and realize that as much as I pride myself on my amiability, I’m no better than tskers and take-your-timers at the buffet.  ‘That’s okay,’ has flown out of my mouth so many times that people take it as truth. Most of the time it is the truth, but there have been a few occasions in which I said it in order to avoid any sort of confrontation.  As a result, I’m now the type of person who stands around like a fool, my food getting cold, because I’m too afraid to ask for condiments for fear of rocking someone’s Sunday morning boat.

‘You need speak up for yourself and tell people how you feel,’ Mr. Newman says to me, and not for the first time.

‘I wouldn’t have any friends left if I did,’ I chuckle, while making a mental note to do just that…and to carry my own Tabasco with me.