Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Humble Pie



"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."
-J.R.R.Tolkien

Spouse and I simply love to eat. We especially like Thai or Indian food but if we find the right restaurant we will eat just about anything set before us. We, as a rule, tend to eat at the same time every day and even going slightly past the hour gnaws at our insides and makes us feel quite faint.
A couple of years ago we entered a Chinese restaurant with a colleague of Spouse's. The fellow had recommended the place to us as a restaurant he frequented, and the entire menu was in his native alphabet. We two could not read it and relied solely upon him to instruct us on the tastiest choices. The menu was not on convenient single sheets of paper but printed on a board hanging behind the counter.
"What does the menu say?"enquired Spouse hungrily.
The friend suggested, curiously, that we all eat the same thing and thus save time in ordering.
"Well, at least let's see what is on the menu," insisted Spouse. "Then we can decide."
The colleague hesitated. I was intrigued. His hesitance was peculiar for its apparent lack of meaning. After all, it was a simple request.
"Well..." he trailed off, all of a sudden squinting at the menu. I suspected that I knew why, but I could not alert my Spouse in order to end the matter discreetly.
"It's hard," he said. "The writing is too small." He shrugged.
Spouse, ferociously hungry now, shook the matter like a rag and would not let go.
"But the menu is right there! Even I can see the words, I just can't understand them."
Spouse's stomach grumbled furiously. Mine muttered in response.
"I don't have my glasses with me," said the colleague desperately.
"Come on," said Spouse jocularly; he had never witnessed the man wearing glasses.
"No, really, I think the words are too small."
Please let it go, I urged my Spouse inwardly.
It went on like that for a time until the poor fellow had no choice but to concede. He admitted, sheepishly, that he could not read the words on the menu because he was no longer familiar with the language and the characters of that alphabet.
After an awkward pause, we all dismissed the matter entirely and pretended that it had not happened. We went on to have a very lovely lunch, following the colleague's suggestion that we all have the same thing.
He ought to have simply told us in the first place instead of covering up for his perfectly reasonable deficiency: not knowing us particularly well at the time, he could hardly have known that my Spouse and I were always famished and forever ready to eat.

2 comments:

Beth said...

Funny! A few years ago an industrious young chinese couple opened a restaurant in Dixfield. This small town is not an inviting business climate and they gave up after a little more than a year. But when they had their one year anniversary my daughter who is took chinese in college made them an anniversary card in their native language. They were very touched by the gesture. From the time, every time she was home on vacation, she would go down and talk to them to practice her language skills. We were all sad when they had to call it quits.

TheElementary said...

Your daughter sounds wonderful- that was so kind of her and no doubt they will always remember that. I'm sure her kindness lessened the pain they went through.
Thanks for sharing that, Beth. Why don't those good stories make the news and make us all feel better once in a while?

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