The juice connoisseur

“So what comes with the quesadilla?” he asked the waitress.

It was after midnight and the dude was getting his food comped by the poker room.

“Vegetables and cheese,” the server. She was patient.

“Can you have them put extra vegetables in it?” he asked and received a nod. “And light on the cheese?”

I sat sipping on a cheap beer and didn’t say, “Sir, if you take the cheese out of a quesadilla and add more vegetables, what you have is a vegetable sandwich, and one that’s not going to stick together very well.”

He ate what the server brought, and did so like a dog enjoys its food. He lowered his nose to the plate and scooped huge chunks of guacamole and vegetables into his face. It probably helped him that he was good looking, sort of rugged, and had the chiseled jaw of a guy that always went light on the cheese. Still, he looked like an animal, and I had a hard time liking him.

Later, he ordered a cranberry juice and then chastised himself. “I should’ve ordered pomegranate juice,” he said ruefully.

I was annoyed that he was drinking juice at all.

When his drink came, he took one sip and screwed up his face.

“This is not cranberry juice,” he said “It’s sweet. It’s like fruit punch.”

“Probably cranapple or something like that,” I suggested.

“It’s not cranapple,” he said, like I’d suggested that maybe his bottle of Mad Dog was a fine wine. “I know cranapple. This is like fruit punch.”

“Then maybe it’s fruit punch,” I said and drank my beer.

The guy literally stood up from the table, held the glass between his thumb and forefinger, and carried it to a table ten feet away. He came back. It was as if he was physically offended by the drink’s presence.

“That was not real cranberry juice,” he said. And then he spoke passionately about how he always receives real cranberry juice, how he couldn’t believe they would bring him something that tasted like fruit punch. If this sounds repetitive, it’s because it was.

The server reappeared and looked as if she wanted to show him what real cranberry juice tasted like. “Could I have a pomegranate juice?” he asked. When she said yes, he stopped, her, “What was that you brought me before?”

“Cranberry juice,” she said.

“That was not cranberry juice,” he said. “It tasted like fruit punch.”

This went on for some time, long enough for me to think the guy probably had a childhood issue in which his mom brought him fake cranberry juice just before she left to run off with that guy she met at Weight Watchers.

I know other people like this. They are people who go to a restaurant and order the house white because they have no idea how to choose a wine, and then–invariably–send the wine back because “it’s terrible.” They are people who angle to find one thing wrong with their meal–baked potato undercooked, vegetables overcooked, fingerprint on a fork–so they have an excuse to call the manager and get the meal for free.

There are few places in the world where you should expect everything to be perfect, and if you are dining at a place that has commercials on during reruns of the Amazing Race, you are not at one of those perfect places. That is, you are somewhere where you should expect the cranberry juice to suck.

See, me, I like the finer things in life. I love a five-star meal, a 25-year-old scotch, an international business class flight. I am fortunate that I get to enjoy these things from time to time. And perhaps it’s because I do have access to the occasional luxury that I don’t expect much from the normal things in life, the goods and services I receive the other 98% of the time. If the cranberry juice is from concentrate, I probably expected it, and if it’s real juice, then I’m happy to be getting better than I expected.

That’s what life is about, if you don’t mind me using an idiot I sat next to at a poker table as a soapbox. We have to manage our expectations. Most things–really, most things–suck. We live in a country where–even if they are thankful for the work–no one is really happy to be working the job they are working. We live in a country where two or three major corporations control what kind of food we put in our bodies. We are part of a generation that grew up believing homogeneity was a virtue, and hence we expect–no–demand a sameness in our life that, when denied, leaves us feeling slighted.

Not me. I expect things to suck, and when they don’t, I am happy about it. I expect things to be boring and the same and I celebrate when they are not. It takes just one trip to K-Mart to know Target is a much better store. It takes just one bite of an Olive Garden meal to know it will never compare to Tito’s Ziti Bolognese. Happiness, I think, comes in knowing we can’t expect everything to be good, and better, and perfect. Moreover, when we expect things to be routinely the same, we are bound to be disappointed.

Maybe that’s a defeatist attitude. Maybe my attitude perpetuates mediocrity and makes those people with high expectations suffer. Maybe it’s my fault. But, damned if I didn’t smile when the server brought the guy his pomegranate juice.

“I can’t believe they watered this down,” he said. “I just can’t believe it.”

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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5 Responses

  1. Dr. Chako says:

    For a curmudgeon, you sure do have the right outlook on life.

    2 days!


  2. BloodyP says:

    My wife and I argue about this all of the time, but I believe you can boil life down to this simple equation:

    Pessimism > Optimism

    Life is hard. I would rather be pleasantly surprised sometimes than disappointed most of the time.

  3. Astin says:

    Probably cranberry cocktail. Real cranberry juice is sour, bitter, and hard to drink straight up. Pomegranate is nearly as bad. Maybe he had a urinary tract infection…

    The beauty of pessimism is that one of two things can happen – things can go as you expect, or you can be pleasantly surprised. Way better than the results of an optimist.

    Aim low – it’s harder to miss.

  4. MGM says:

    Incidentally, I am happy to be working the job I am working. Just sayin’.

    And research has shown that pessimists are “realists.” Pessimists tend to predict things much closer to what is reality than optimists do. Not that they have more fun in life for doing so, or anything like that. Just sayin’ again.

  5. Da Goddess says:

    I’m a juice snob. I hate to admit it, but I am. This means I rarely order juice at restaurants. I’ll get something horribly syrupy and sweet, like a coke, instead. It’s much harder to be disappointed with that. Unless the soda is flat.