Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Thursday, October 16, 2008

On Speaking Up

"Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct."
-Thomas Carlyle

Upon meeting Spouse seven years ago this December, we went immediately to a little cafe for some sustenance. The tiny institution was positioned in the heart of a city I knew well, a city at the epicentre of all the book hunting and shopping and waitressing I had carried out over the years. I had sat and sipped tea in the cafe many times, occasionally with Mater, but was not on familiar terms with the staff, who were forever changing faces.
Spouse, at my suggestion, ordered some succulent wild salmon with boiled potatoes- he wished to try some authentic Irish food- and I asked for a sandwich of some sort.
My plate was emptied within a few minutes; Spouse, though ravenous, ate with meticulous care. We hardly, I think, spoke to one another, so concentrated were we on our appetites. It is the same even today: whenever Spouse and I dine out, our discussion is limited to those adjectives usually reserved for delicious morsels. It suits us well enough, and we heartily comment on the food on our return journey.
As I swallowed the final bite of my sandwich, a waitress materialised and scooped my plate off the table with a practiced turn of her hand.
Next, to my great alarm, she swept up Spouse's plate, with a considerable portion of wild salmon still sitting on its surface. I saw her trained hand reach out, I saw that she intended to snatch a plate of good food away from a hungry man, and I could bring myself to do nothing about it. I was mortified, immobile and useless in my chair; in part, I think, I did not want to offend the waitress, or correct her at her work. I watched as she threw, for good measure, a couple of used napkins and some scraps on top of the precious fish, at which point I saw that there was no turning back.
As for Spouse, who was looking around the cafe with the air of an awed traveller, it took the poor fellow a few heartbeats to understand what was happening, but by then it had happened, and concluded.
I was of course very sorry, and continued to exclaim my regret for the woeful lack of action. I wailed that I ought to have spoken up, fixed the matter before the plate passed any further over my head.
Spouse made a slight joke about it, suggesting that it hardly mattered at all, and we promptly went home to Mater, who spun a lovely meal that evening- and who even let Spouse eat the last crumbs from his plate.
I never could shake the inclination that I, as an ambassador of sorts between my country and a wide-eyed tourist, had been reluctant to express dismay when I noticed that an error, however trivial, was in the midst of forming; and as such I blame not the waitress but my own self for neglecting to voice those very thoughts.


tangobaby said...

We all have those regrets: not speaking up when we could have, not really saying what we meant to say. All we can try to do is learn from our disappointments, self-inflicted or otherwise, and try not to make the same mistakes.

Don't be too hard on yourself.


Ruth L.~ said...

Love this reminiscence. Funny how we have them . . . and they never fade, they won't fade. I loved this snapshot of one of yours. It reminds me of a story my 87 year old mother told-- although she'd not remember it now-- of my father posing his fork over a morsel on her plate. She stabbed him with the tines of her own fork. A story they told, and laughed about often, as I grew up. Nice post.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Tangobaby, it didn't do any harm, anyhow- Spouse didn't mind! :) But I felt bad. What a waste of food!

Ruth, that's a fine story, and quite reflective! I could just see it, pointed fork and all :) I can't tell you how great it is to see you dropping by here- you're very welcome to my world of "snapshots" :) I appreciate your use of that word to describe my musings.

Unknown said...

We are all too hard on ourselves!

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Kip, I think so too. I wrote about it, so now maybe I can forget :)

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