Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why Life Is Great

Primus--"Pudding Time" (mp3)

So, we're sitting at Rib and Loin, having finished a mid-week supper. But things are strange. First, we're at a barbecue joint, and none of us has eaten any barbecue. My wife and I went for large, meatless salads, and my daughter ordered a combination of "sides" like okra, mac 'n cheese, etc. So you know it's an odd set of circumstances when a family of three (other daughter still at college at the time of these events) goes to a place full of fatty pork and lots of fried things and orders the light(er) offerings. You just don't say, 'Hey, I'm trying to eat better. Let's go to Rib and Loin.'

Plus, Rib and Loin has about the best sweet tea in the world in huge, all-ready-to-go styrofoam cups with lids, lemons, and straws, but we fiddle with that, too. My wife and daughter order "half and half" (half sweet, half unsweet) and I just get plain unsweetened tea. If this meal were gasoline, ours would be cut-rate, part-water fuel that wouldn't start an engine in the world.

But then, a waitress, not ours, walks up, with a lunch tray filled with smallish, to-go, styrofoam containers with lids on them.

"Here," she says, "Would you'all like one?"

"What are they?" I ask.

"Banana pudding."

"You're giving them away?"

"Yes, we have a new policy: if it gets close to closing and we have a bunch of banana pudding left over, we just pack it up and give it away to customers for free."

"Well, heck," I say. "I'll have one."

"Me, too," say my wife and daughter and our light, healthy barbecue joint meal is shot to hell as we rip the lids off, tear open the cellophane to remove the plastic spoons, and dig in. And it's good.

The waitress moves on to the next table, a couple of older gentlemen. I don't pay much attention, being too into my own pudding, but it's clear that she's having to do a lot of explaining, she's going through the whole giveaway program and how it's free. The man facing me is having a lot of trouble with it. He asks another question that I can't hear and she answers, still trying to give him the pudding. She's got it in her hand and she's holding it out to him, sealed plastic spoon on top. He pauses for several more seconds, then makes his decision.

"Nah, I got puddin' at home."

STOP. For some reason, that statement has struck me as just about the funniest thing I've heard in the last three weeks. I say it all the time. We say it to each other. He was so serious about it. It was such a considered decision. It carried the weight of moral correctness. And having made it, he went back to his conversation, went about his business, while everyone around him either wolfed it down or took it home to loved ones.

It makes you wonder, doesn't it? Was there a little old woman waiting for him with the best bowl of sweet stuff any of us could ever hope to dip our fingers in? Had he promised her he'd wait? Was there just a little left and she was saving it for him? Or was it just an easy excuse, a way to say no? He certainly did agonize over it.

There is a lesson here, and the lesson is this: if you've already got puddin' at home, it's not right to take free puddin' from someone you don't even know, no matter how tempted you might be to do so.

I saw Daniel Webster conquer the Devil. I saw Shoeless Joe Jackson turn down the bribe. I saw Michael Douglas walk away from Glenn Close and back home to Ann Archer, leaving both no reason to ever make a film called Fatal Attraction and a very happy rabbit. Just Say No starts with a plastic spoon that never comes out of its wrapper, never scoops a perfect mix of custard, vanilla wafer, and banana.

But this is my letter to the world. Dear Wife, Family, and Friends, if ever I am out and about and somebody is giving away free puddin', regardless of whether I have some at home or not, I'm havin' it. I'm just not that strong.


Daisy said...

Fried okra and that's my kind of health food!

Bob said...

Crap! I hope you're not going to tell me the bacon bits on my salad weren't healthy either.

Anonymous said...

If you have Ann Archer at home, why in God's holy name would you say yes to Glenn Close?

@ Daisy: only in the South does Mac and Cheese qualify as a vegetable.

Billy said...

The danger of dancing around and through metaphor is this: Is your conclusion about puddin', or is it about the subject of a Roger Alan Wade classic?

I'm pretty sure you went from puddin' to Anne Archer and back to puddin'. But this is only because I know you. Otherwise I'd think you just welcomed any hottie with a charitable heart to give you the opportunity to fertilize her eggs.

Bob said...

Puddin', Billy. Just puddin'.

troutking said...

Just to make the metaphor clearer:

Daisy said...

@John: one of the many reasons I hope I never live anywhere else!

@Bob: last night I was introduced to French fry salad. Have you had this before? Tasty!