What’s for supper?
Being out of your element can be an interesting—and sometimes unpleasant—experience.
My daily route to work is a nine-mile stretch of road that is so flat and treeless that you can see the lights of towns 15 or 20 miles away on a dark night. The people here drive pickups and talk about tractors and horses. A “night on the town” means a 60-mile trip to Lubbock to take in some barbeque and a movie. It’s who we are and what we do, and I guess I just figured the whole world was that way.
A few years back I was asked to join an advisory board for a pharmaceutical company. This was, of course, quite an honor and it meant spending some time in the northeastern United States. The plane tickets arrived complete with hotel reservations and papers for a car rental. They were even footing the bill for my wife Kerri to come along.
The hotel was so big that it could sleep almost as many people as there are in my hometown of Lamesa. The company spared no expense: a hotel room with two bathrooms, unlimited room service, little pieces of candy on the pillow, a newspaper delivered to your room every morning and unbelievable dining experiences.
On our first night there, we were told that a car would pick us up and take us to a restaurant for dinner with the other advisory board members. I told Kerri that we might want to dress up a little. She put on a nice pant suit and I slipped into a pair of khakis with a pressed wrangler 20X shirt. A man met us in the hotel lobby and drove us about three blocks in a limousine to a French restaurant.
When we were seated with the others on the advisory board—all of whom were wearing suits or evening dresses—uncomfortable was the word that kept coming to mind as they brought us menus and filled our water glasses. Our dinner companions were strangers to us, and none looked like they’d be able to discuss tractors or horses.
I opened the menu and saw French … the entire menu was written in French. I don’t read French at all. I sat there for a minute trying to think if I even knew one word in French. Nope, not even a cuss word. Kerri made the discovery about the same time I did and started kicking me gently under the table.
Not wanting to appear any more ignorant than I already felt in my khakis and white socks, I smiled politely and pointed to two items on the menu as the waiter graciously jotted down our order.
“What did you get us?” my wife whispered from the corner of her mouth as the tuxedo-clad waiter moved on to collect everyone else’s orders. “I have no idea,” I whispered back. “Just smile and eat it when it gets here!”
About 20 minutes later, the food arrived. My plate was adorned with two brown piles of something surrounded by some green leaves. Kerri’s was red and, when it arrived, the waiter struck a match to it and the food burned brightly for about 15 seconds until the flames burned out.
As bad as the conversation was, the food was worse. I could barely choke it down. When no one was looking, Kerri slipped hers off the plate and into her purse. I had no choice but to eat mine because, well, her purse was already full.
When the evening finally ended, I asked the waiter on the way out what we had eaten. He smiled and said that Kerri had eaten some kind of raw fish and I had eaten “ze liver from ze duck.”
What are the odds of pointing to two things on a menu and getting raw fish and duck liver? I don’t know, but it kinda makes you wish for nine miles of flat road and a 60-mile trip to Lubbock where you can read the menu and wear white socks.
Bo Brock, DVM, owns Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas. His latest book is Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales of Humor and Healing From Rural America.