You can’t live sixty-odd years without experiencing both the good and bad that life has to offer. You can’t escape loss, and only if you are lucky will you escape tragedy. But life rewards us, too, with unimaginable joys. The birth of a child. The breathtaking fjords of Norway. Flying over Siberia in the dead of night, mesmerized by the ghostly stillness of the ice and snow thousands of feet below.
But it is also true that you can’t escape the absurdities of life. Here is one example from our repertoire of absurd experiences, the story of the “pecan-stuffed pancakes topped with bananas.”
One morning not too many years ago, the two of us decided to go out for breakfast at a local eatery. Joan ordered chocolate chip pancakes, and Greg ordered the “pecan-stuffed pancakes” topped with banana slices. When the order arrived, the chocolate chip pancakes were as advertised, but the “pecan-stuffed pancakes” were a no-show. Instead the waitress served Greg a plate of plain pancakes topped with walnuts and banana slices.
“This isn’t what I ordered,” Greg said politely to the server.
“What do you mean?” responded the waitress, confused by the question.
“I ordered pecan-stuffed pancakes, but these pancakes are only topped with nuts, and they aren’t even pecans. They are walnuts.”
At first, the waitress seemed perplexed, but after a second explanation by Greg, said she would take the pancakes back to the cook. When she returned, her reply was:
“The cook said that this is the way we make them.”
Greg showed her that the menu had advertised “pecan-stuffed pancakes” not pancakes topped with walnuts. The waitress returned to talk to the cook. When she came back again, she apologized and said that they didn’t have pecans, didn’t make the pancakes that way, and would shave a few dollars off the bill if Greg was willing to eat the pancakes topped with walnuts and bananas. Greg decided to drop the issue and eat the pancakes. That settled the matter. Or so we thought.
When it came time to pay our bill, Joan pulled out a coupon (of course) that gave us some money off. But the waitress told us we couldn’t do that because we had already gotten money off of Greg’s pancakes. Huh?
Greg asked to see the manager which required a run-through of the whole he “ordered pecan-stuffed pancakes” scenario. Greg argued that the money off the pancakes should have nothing to do with using the coupon for the whole order.
And so Greg won. We got to use the coupon and get money off for what was basically receiving the wrong order — which, by the way, tasted fine. He had just hoped for those “pecan-stuffed pancakes.”
The restaurant, however, had the last laugh. On the cashier’s receipt was written: “Customer didn’t like the pancakes!”