Monday, September 15, 2014


One of the interesting things about being a doctor is the exposure you get to a representative cross-section of the community, probably more so than many other professional jobs.  For example, if I was a corporate tax lawyer I'd mostly be interacting with people from the top end of town, and if I was a social worker, I'd mostly be interacting with people from Struggle Street.  But as a doctor, particularly as a doctor in the emergency department, I've come to realize that people from all walks of life have heart attacks, fall over and break their hips, and get fruit lodged in their rectum over a long weekend.  Not usually all three at once, but sometimes, usually in reverse of the order listed.

This fact should have immunized me against the potential for, or at least possibility of extreme stupidity.  But it still astonished me when I run into someone incredibly obtuse in my day to day life.

Recently I was in a cafe with my Smaller Half.  We ordered some coffee and, because we wanted something to eat but didn't want to spend too much, we also ordered some fruit toast.  The girl behind the counter looked at us in disgust and contempt, as if we'd asked for a mug of warm vomit, and asked us what we meant.  Admittedly, my Smaller Half is not of Anglo descent, so she doesn't really have the right to just waltz into a shop and order stuff using our language, so a brief period of confusion is understandable.

My Smaller Half repeated her request for fruit toast, politely at first, then in sentences increasingly bereft of such ornaments as courtesy, subordinate clauses, or verbs.  Finally she was reduced to tapping her finger on the glass case where the (as yet untoasted) fruit toast was displayed, saying "Fruit toast?" in the same tone of voice that explorers used in 1950's action serials when talking to the natives - "You likey? You likey shiny beads?" and the poor shop girl was using her tongs to prod the muffins, the custard tarts, the dead blowflies, anything and everything EXCEPT the fruit toast in a desperate attempt to decipher what we were asking for.

Finally something registered in the shop girl's tiny brain and she gestured at the fruit toast - "That? That's raisin toast."


Anonymous said...

If only you had the forethought to carry around Stephanie Alexander's "The Cook's Companion" - then you could have read authoritatively to the poor little shop lass in a loud, yet kindly voice about the difference between f for fruit and r for raisins.

I hope you set half and then sent it back in the grounds that they weren't raisins at all, but sultanas!

PTR said...

I would have, but I have no idea what the difference is between a raisin and a sultana. Or a current, for that matter.

Care to enlighten me?